Archive: history

Petrified Forest National Park

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Ten months ago I took a job with a production company to get a crash course in the film business. The job is going pretty well, except for the thing that impedes me at every job I’ve ever had, which is that I don’t really like having a job very much.

 

I love earning a paycheck so that I can spend it traveling around the world, which – to my constant surprise – is not something employers desire. So whenever a gig offers the chance to go somewhere, especially if it contributes to my foolhardy national park adventure, I jump at the opportunity. Suddenly I become a model employee.

 

My boss needed a coffee table picked up from her cousin’s storage unit in the middle of Arizona. Google Maps had the storage unit two hours from Petrified Forest National Park, so I packed a backpack and took off to hang out in the Sonoran Desert just in time for a mid-June heat wave.

 

The first thing I noticed after my LAX to PHX flight was that every Arizona bathroom I entered – from the Phoenix Airport SkyTrain to the national park pit-stops – contained an insulin needle disposal bucket. It was kind of nice to know that if I picked up a light case of diabetes on my adventure that dropping off my copious accumulation of sharps would not be a problem. I picked up the coffee table in a pleasant mountain town called Payson. It was sort of like Phoenix’s answer to Big Bear, except there were a lot more places to buy assault rifles. So far my impression of the local experience is an insulin needle in one hand, AR-15 in the other while I ask the park ranger to kindly stamp my national park passport booklet.

 

Getting out of an air conditioned car so you can look at old tree fossils in the Arizona desert is one of those moments that makes you question your life choices. There’s no actual forest in the Petrified Forest, which I had to explain to a disappointed biker. He kept looking at the sparse shrubs and tumbleweeds asking if they were part of the forest. I was braced for my disappointment in advance.

 

Three hundred million years ago when Arizona was in a rainforest on Pangea, some trees fell into a river. The few trunks that didn’t disintegrate got wedged in the riverbed, where, over the course of few hundred million years, they filled with silt, copper, carbon, micah, quartz, crystals, iron and manganese. The river, rainforest and Pangea are long gone (never forget Pangea), but these tree fossils are now mutated into rocks that reflect beautiful colors in the relentless Arizona sunshine.

 

And that’s pretty much the main attraction. There’s a cool painted desert lookout, some old adobe houses and petroglyphs (Native American graffiti), but the park ranger assuaged my guilt when I arrived at the visitor center. I was deeply apologetic that I only had three hours for the park, but she couldn’t have been friendlier when she told me the average time that visitors spent was a two hour drive-through. She just seemed happy that I was there. It was like an old relative who I see once a year. “A short visit from you is better than nothing.”

 

And if I’m going to tie this whole thing together, it would be that not every national park has a spectacular vista or jaw-dropping attraction. They’re not all Yosemite. But they tend to offer one specific thing better than anywhere else. And if I’m going to go for one hell of a stretch, it would be that I might not be the most inspired employee at every company I’ve worked for, but maybe if I can do one thing really well I’ll actually find some success. I’m the tree-rock mutant fossil of employees, and that is sitting proudly on my resume as I begin my next job hunt.

 

And sometimes the best part of going to the smaller national parks is knowing I don’t have to go back. That was the best part of West Texas, was that I never have to return to West Texas. And now there is another excellent national park with a niche and unique attraction notched on the belt. With many more national parks to look forward to visiting that, someday, I’ll never have to see again.

 

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The Week Podcast 3.13.2015

The week of March 13th 2015 in two minutes. Republican senators make pen pals with Iran, the secret service fails a driving test and Oklahoma frat boys sing on a bus.

Max Lance Stand-up at the Comedy Store

How Have Serbians Preserved An Entire Ethnicity of People Who All Look Drunk?

I know the obvious answer to this question is that they are, in fact, all drunk, but it seems pretty impressive that an entire Eastern European nation that has existed for millennia can manage to be filled with an entire population of citizens who all appear as though they’ve been drinking at Sonny McClane’s since noon.

Every time the World Cup offers a close up on any of their players or fans, you could switch any of them out with a bad Jim Bruer impression. I’ve been left trying to figure out the evolutionary advantage of having an entire group of people with glossed-over droopy eyes, long faces, hollow cheeks and not much of a sense of humor. Yet an eagerness to murder you at the first slight of their proud culture.

Seriously, this is a country

Could it have anything to do with the fact that the entire country is populated with nearly identical last names? To get a Serbian name, it seems like you could just add the letters, “ic” to the end of your name. Starting with the Lakers’ Sasha Vujacic, the members of the Serbian soccer team include: Jovanovic, Zigic, Ivanovic, Pantelic, Kuzmanovic, Obravic and Subotic.

As a side note, it’s worth noting that none of these are my favorite World Cup name of the tournament. There is a player on the South African squad whose surname is Tshabalala, but when the announcer says it, it sounds like he’s saying, “Shamalama.” I don’t know how to express my disappointment that his full name is not Shamalama Ding Dong. There is, however, a sweeper named Kim Dong-Jin on the South Korean squad, but this – like the South Korean defense – just doesn’t get the job done.

Anyway, back to the Serbs. And I should preface this by mentioning that my experience with Serbs are as follows: hazy knowledge about the start of World War I involving Franz Ferdinand; something bad when down there in the 1990s and it involved other countries; some Serbian guy with bad body odor (as opposed to good body odor: Axe body spray) in a Milan youth hostel.

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They seem like a deeply religious group of people who follow a sect of Catholicism that no one has ever heard of, and one that advocates murdering all thy neighbors. This is why I can’t figure out how Serbians were involved in ethnic cleansing in the 90s. Doesn’t your ethnicity have to be sort of “clean” before you can try and wipe your local minorities from the map?

Germany’s ethnic cleansing was at least based on them being fit, tall, blond and blue-eyed and they wanted to get rid of ugly and unfit Jews. But the Serbs? How can they claim genetic superiority when they all look like the middle-story on Cops. It’s pretty depressing when someone with an unpronounceable name who looks like he’ll be stuck at a traffic stop to sing the alphabet backwards while touching his nose is accusing you of being genetically inferior. Could it be that I have never witnessed an actual Serbian woman? This would explain the short temper, but fail to explain the breeding.

So to the Sasha Vujacic’s and Nemanja Vidic’s of the world, continue making your country proud. And when Man U or the Lakers win, or you’re playing for your home country, raise a drink to celebrate. No one can tell whether you are drunk either way, so enjoy.

The Kyrgyzstan Revolt Is What Happens When Citizens Are Denied Vowels

The explosion in tensions in Kyrgyzstan this week showed how susceptible governments are if they oppress citizens and command a weak police presence. We have all learned that you can’t keep citizens from the vowels they deserve.

I’m not exactly sure where Kyrgyzstan is located. I tried searching for it on Google Maps, but instead I got an error message with a whole bunch of question marks. A regular search on Google asked me if I meant Kansas, and when I clicked on that I found that the state of Kansas is undergoing relative peace, thanks to sufficient vowels.

It is finally time that the governments of countries like Kyrgyzstan realized that their citizens won’t stand for this opporession under consonants. The citizens have united under their leaders, Rtnzkkz Jnklxfrt and Gnlwsqqqqq Brfvtlkn;ppt, to force the government to cave in.

The oppressive regime of Euaiu Aouiie has been accused of hording all the vowels for himself and going to great lengths to ensuring that United Nations shipments of vowels funnel back to the government. He has been accused of puppeteering children stricken with names like Hvrfgl and Lmpbrsc to appear as though they are refugees. Once they receive U.N. aid, agents of the government soon appear to take the As, Is, Os and Us for the government.

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Have we really forgotten the important shipment of the letter “I” that saved Tajikstan from what was almost certain to become a civil war? There still remains a prominant statue of the letter A, which the young nation of Kazakhstan needed to earn its independance.

We all need to look within our own names and households and see what we can donate to the Kyrgn people. Perhaps if we could name our children Stacy instead of Staci, Tracy instead of Traci, would could donate those extra “I”s where they are more needed. Yes, this is a huge sacrifice, but why should we have letters that are always vowels, instead of some of the time, when some countries don’t have any?

We have pulled together in the past, and now find ourselves rich with a surplus. The Dutch seem to have horded all the vowels, currently in hiding in Haarlem and Amersfoort, but if we don’t stand up to our friends, where does that leave us in the world?

Do Architects of Crappy Landmarks Dream That Their Structures Will be Destroyed in a Michael Bay Film?

The Bayonne Bridge connects New Jersey douche bags and Staten Island douche bags

The Bayonne Bridge connects New Jersey douche bags and Staten Island douche bags

The pinnacle for an architect is no longer recognition and awards, but rather it’s getting your structure destroyed in a Michael Bay disaster movie. I wonder if the architects of crappy structures and landmarks – be it in major cities or crappy towns across the Midwest (I’m looking at you, Cincinnati) – dream of this during construction.

Slate did an article last week on movies always blowing up the same landmarks: http://slate.com/id/2222015. It seems to be the same buildings in every disaster movie: Empire State Building, the White House, Golden Gate Bridge (somehow still standing when Star Trek takes place. Just to have it be destroyed), the Statue of Liberty and the Washington Monument. I’m sure something would get destroyed in L.A. if anything iconic existed in L.A. I don’t feel like aliens are going to travel thousands of light years to destroy In and Out Burger.

But what about the lowly World’s Largest Ball of Yarn or the World’s Largest Ball of Twine or that ridiculous Ferris Wheel in London that always gets neglected for destruction for Big Ben?

I think it would be more meaningful if the aliens came to Earth and destroyed some stuff while making a point about the state of modern architecture. Yeah the symbolism in destroying the Statue of Liberty is more significant, but does that really pass for a metaphor right now? Ending your freedom by destroying the symbol of freedom? Can’t you come up with something just slightly more clever?

I think it says something more significant if you have a master race destroy the Pompidou Center and the Disney Concert Hall in an ardent stance against Postmodern Architecture. Aliens can be snobs too.

The closest we ever came to achieve this goal was in the Tom Cruise version of War of the Worlds. The aliens travel all the way to Earth and what New York-area bridge do they destroy? George Washington? Brooklyn? Verrezano-Narrows? Nope, they destroy the Bayonne Bridge, connecting Staten Island and New Jersey. Nice. Aliens waged a war with Earth, but took out the vital pipeline of Jersey douche bags and Staten Island douche bags. That’s an alien race that I can get behind.

Sports Histories

Whenever two teams are going to face off in the playoffs, the newspapers and broadcasters inexplicably offer the historical records between the teams. 

It makes no sense to me when the paper explains that, say, the Orioles are 8-4 against the White Sox in playoff series since 1912 coming into the upcoming matchups.

Is the result of a 1928 best-of-nineteen series really going to play a factor in the performance of how nine Venezuelan 20-somethings do against nine other Venezuelan 20-somethings?

“We got them beat. Our pitching’s solid, our bats are alive and we’ve got home turf.”
“Yeah, we’ll get our team’s revenge from that 1911 Honus Wagner homerun through the four wickets.”

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