Connect negatively charged electrodes to their earlobes and turn on the power. Or with candy.
I really, honestly try to do something relatively silly every day: creatively, fitness-wise, father-ish, whatever.
I’ve been fascinated for a number of years about the idea of writing personal tall tales. It’s a tough thing to explain why this is and where exactly this fascination blossomed into a full-on obsession, but I can tell you that the seed was planted when I watched that movie “Big Fish” a number of years ago.
It was an OK movie. But what stuck in the cavernous gaps of my poor little brain about it was the notion of tall tales, and the idea of how they could wrap themselves around ordinary people.
A quick recap of the movie “Big Fish” for those who may have missed it or have foggier memories than little-ole-obsessed me: Enter present-day protagonist and son of the primary movie protagonist. He is dealing with the impending death of his father. The father (the aforementioned primary protagonist a’la a series of flashback narratives) is a guy who has spent his entire life being a larger-than-life character in a series of grandiose tall tales he has constructed, re-told, adapted, and stretched over the years from the folds of an otherwise modest life. This is a larger-than-life character the son (trapped in a literal and reality-based world-view) struggles to reconcile with the glimpses of the everyday ordinary man he thinks he knows. The dad nears the end, the stories are recapped and re-told one last time for the sake of catching up the audience, some of the reality is pried loose, and (spoiler alert) father and son have a moment of understanding just as the dad dies in a flight of metaphor and one last tale tale invented by his son.
Again, it was an OK movie. And again, the story was a nice tear-jerker-kinda plot. But what really has stuck with me the last number of years since I first saw it –and about the only reason I really remember the film, actually– was that it sparked this notion of the tall tale in my head… and I can’t really shake it loose.
But What the Heck is a Tall Tale?
Wikipedia sums it up nicely: A tall tale is a story with unbelievable elements, related as if it were true and factual. Some such stories are exaggerations of actual events, for example fish stories (‘the fish that got away’) such as, “that fish was so big, why I tell ya’, it nearly sank the boat when I pulled it in!” –Tall Tale, Wikipedia
Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan are a couple of big character stories that I grew up with.
Most people are probably very familiar with the notion of tall tales as a kind of general storytelling or folklore: y’know Johnny Appleseed or Paul Bunyan are a couple of big character stories that I grew up with.
And many other people have probably blurred the edges of their own storytelling –relating adventures back to their family and friends– to create slightly bigger tales than reality would support. I’m sure we’ve all done just that, actually.
But I’ve been thinking –pondering for a long time, as I just noted– and the idea of purposely constructing these tales is quite interesting to me.
How Would That Work, Exactly?
A few years ago I penned a few random ideas as a kind of “Family Mythology” framing out a couple of vague stories that might form the seeds of some tall tales.
It’s not that life is boring, but rather that the lessons we’ve learned from life often loom in our memories larger than they really were. We exaggerate and self-aggrandize not because we are narcissistic but rather that we have ideas in our head that have come from spaces and events that don’t seem so important as to warrant those ideas. It’s not that they couldn’t have come from such things, but years and decades later in the telling real life lessons often warrant the reaction “you got THAT from THAT?”
as an experiment in storytelling combine a handful of my own real life lessons into tall tales
I was not trying to supplant that reality, but rather as an experiment in storytelling combine a handful of my own real life lessons into tall tales, stories with the grains of truth made to seem boulders: seconds or minutes of panic stretched into days and weeks of turmoil, oddball characters morphed into multidimensional archetypes, and small mistakes or misunderstandings ballooned into life-altering trials.
The result –I hoped– would be a collection of short stories that I could tell along the way. A collection of stories that capture the imagination, inspire a curiosity for the reality that’s layered within, and preserve a nugget of family history. Thus these were my…
Four First Attempts at Tall Tales
The Rats of the Berlin Zoo is the story of a three-day chase through the streets of Berlin pursued by the Rat Brothers, a gang who sought to drag me into the dark depths of the city for reasons I didn’t understand at the time. (A tall tale of facing fears.)
The Goollish of Oh-Street is the story of my year spent learning the language of an angry and disturbed creature living the caves beneath my apartment,a creature who only emerged from his lair at night to shout at the sky. (A tall tale of standing up to misconceptions.)
The Raindrops of Wellington is the story of a week spent stuck inside a broken elevator: nine very different people from very different places who’s only means of escape was to agree on the means of escape, something that we couldn’t quite figure out. (A tale of uniting for a cause.)
The Battle of the Sky is the story of my secret training and subsequent battle, when I fought back a hoard of mind-enslaved businessmen with naught but an electronic sword and the power of punnery. (A tale of going down with fight.)
Of course, these are just the seeds of the ideas. There is much more left to write and in their writings it is bound to be an effort of multi-revisionary-ever-more-exaggerated storytelling… but then that’s subject matter for another post. Stay tuned.
Wouldn’t it be funny? I mean, imagine what it would mean to our very understanding of the universe. Scientists would have daftly spent billions to build particle accelerators and Large Hadron Colliders, and it would all be for naught. Trillions have been spent paying the salaries of educators and researchers, quietly sitting in their offices contemplating the space-time and string theory and writing papers about it, giving seminars, going to conferences and eating cocktail shrimp at scientist receptions. It might all be pointless: they might have just needed to go out for a run.
I Google’d the term “why do street lights turn off when I walk past” because I figured it would return more hits to use the word “walk” as opposed to the word “run” and mad-search-skillz are the real key to discovering the mysteries of the universe in our connected age.
What’s the chance that someone has proposed a theory? Near certain. Yeah: Near certain.
Now, just throwing this out: If I had to invent a completely random reason to explain why — why, as I was running out in the freezing cold last night, dashing out the moderate distance of seven kilometres (a little more than 4 miles for you imperialistic folks) and, get this, that no less than four street lamps flicked into darkness at the precise moment when I, little-ole-me, was running under them — blink! — light then darkness — my completely random theory would go something like this:
Ok. Let me think…. I wasn’t quite ready… ok… right. It needs to sound technical and complex, but not too crazy.
…when real physicists are talking about real physics…
Umm… quantum. Yeah, that’s it… definitely something quantum (because it sounds cool and sciencey…. science-equse… science-ish?) Perhaps something to do with quantum fields or probability standing waves in the Higgs Field (because I’ve sort of half been listening and reading when real physicists are talking about real physics and I can kinda fake it by stringing random science words together.) Those are connected ideas, right?
Soooo, yeah… quantum Higgs disruptions, fluctuations, flutters, bumps, jiggles, wiggles… something that due to… what? What…? Hmm… my brain, maybe? The electrical signals in my brain creating a temporary disruption in the atomic configuration of…
I’d get bored of this theory pretty quickly, I think.
And I’d have a hard time explaining why it didn’t affect the two hundred other street lamps I ran under over the course of my meandering route through the chilly residential neighbourhood.
Funny is more of an apt description for what our minds will convince us of when we need to find a pattern or an explanation for something.
…inexplicably, psychic, paranormal phenomenon-affected folks.
My Google search for the term “why do street lights turn off when I walk past” resulted in an abundance of hits but a dearth of logic. Someone else has long since beat me to the wacky theory department. Like this one: SLIders (yes, the caps on SLI is deliberate because it stands for Street Light Interference) are — or so the top hits proclaim — inexplicably, psychic, paranormal phenomenon-affected folks — “special people” — who can disrupt the electrical fields of technology at a higher rate than us Muggles. But then… hey… I personally knocked out four street lights on a meagre seven klick run last night. Perhaps I should get tested.
Did I mention confirmation bias? It’s another wacky theory. It’s a wacky theory about how our brains ignore the heaps of contrary evidence that refute our own personal explanations for things we don’t really understand. Like, as I already said, there were two-hundred other lights that didn’t go out. And it was twenty-below zero. And street lights go through a off-on-cycle to prolong their life, probably more-so in cold weather. And I have a magnetic personality that… OK, that’s a red herring.
So, I was out running last night. Seven kilometres. I was virtually alone, save for the patter of my feet on the snow-covered side walks. It was dark, and no less than four street lights flicked off as I ran under them. Must have been the cold.
I’m not exactly sure what the intended message was, but I know what I learned today… people like free stuff, even if they have no idea what that free stuff might be. We are consumers and the best deal, of course, involves a four-letter f-word.
A couple hours ago I wandered down to witness the opening of the Free Store in Edmonton’s City Center Mall. For the last day or so, the space (a long since-closed GAP) with it’s frosted over windows has been enigmatically advertising “100% off” sales and “Buy None Get One Free” events. All of it: One Day Only…?
It was due to open, one day only, at 10 AM this morning to give away precisely eight-hundred free items of undisclosed… well… anything. It was a big secret. A marketing… something or other, I guess.
Or maybe it was awareness? “Give away some local merch and get the word out. Eight hundred things? That’s not really that much cost to build a swell of interest.” Someone else might have proposed.
“How many people can we get out to this thing?”
The answer to all those was answered when at 10 AM this morning hundreds — possibly eight hundreds — lined up, plugging up the spacious corridors of the mall, clogging the second story glass pedway over the chilly winter road, and trailing back into a neighboring office tower.
I wandered the line and noted all sorts: moms with strollers and young’uns in tow, students, folks in business suits, quasi-celebrities (aka… TV personalities) and… well, no one I could butt in line with anyhow.
Tweets followed: coffee mugs, local furniture, t-shirts were shelved neatly in the store. People were being let in in controlled groups. I wait across the way, phone-cam at the ready. I saw a woman carry out a gawd-awful pink, steel-tube-legged side table. Really? The first guy out apparently (according to a tweet) took a coffee mug. Exciting, huh?
Are 800 people wrong to be drawn like moths to a flame at the word free? I can’t say. I was there (not in line, but there) because like everyone else my curiosity just got the better of me. But, it was… well… an interesting experiment by someone. I just wish I knew their hypothesis… and if it was right or wrong.
So says the folks at Shaw: our signal is weak. And thus our Internetz be broke. Indeterminately. For a while, apparently. And I, with so little else to say this evening, am blogging via my droid and a(n occasionally) more reliable 3G connection.
I should read a book.
I should do something creative.
I should turn my brain off and watch a movie.
I should go for a run.
I should clean the bathrooms, do the dishes, or organize my office.
I should go to bed early.
I should put on some quiet music and just listen.
I should make cookies.
I should play a board game with my wife.
But, I’m probably going to obsess over my broken internet connection instead, fiddling with the digital cranks and levers inside my modem, until I realize it’s past my bedtime. How silly am I?
If you want to leave Karin, my wonderful and happy-go-lucky wife, a birthday message then today would be the day. She doesn’t have a blog to on which to comment (silly girl!) and she won’t be at home this evening to receive phone calls.
Happy Birthday Karin!
Some How-Karin-Spent-Past-Birthday Entries:
2005: Sick, but eating Sushi in a new house.
2004: killing lobsters slowly
2003: bee-day bash
2002: Weekend / This Morning
from the fishy business department
I was at the pet store at lunch, looking into the fish food situation. Blue, who has been eating voraciously lately, is not quite out of food — but he may be some day. He has also been very busy building little bubble nests at the top of the water, blowing little globule of air that stick to the single branch of the plastic plant that sticks out of the surface. It was my original intention to see if there was any floating plastic foliage that would amuse him a little bit more.
Instead, I found a sale on a little aquarium decoration that looks like a tiny stump of wood with an assortment of weird plants growing out of it. All plastic. All very minature so that it fits in the teenie-tank.
I dropped it in around lunchtime. Snail-Bob clearly loves it — or is simply oblivious to anything new in his environment. He’s traced nearly every bit of the surface and scoped it once over.
Blue, on the other hand, is not amused. He has been cautious all afternoon, tucking himself into the corner or as far away from the new contraption as fishily-possible. Then he hovers there, tilted upwards at a twenty-or-so degree angle, and stares at it. Then he turns and stares at me for a while, probably considering what he would do if I were just a little smaller. Occasionally, I’ve caught him circling the plastic-wood log, flaring at it, like it’s some sort of evil intruder that can be scared off.
Alas, some day (possibly tomorrow) he’ll be friends again. He’ll figure out that it’s not an enemy — it’s another hiding spot — and then I’ll never see him again.
I thought the snail was dead this morning when I came to work. This was, of course, a major disappointment because (a) it’s always sad to lose a pet, and (b) Lenore had requested a photo of the silly thing — and a dead snail isn’t a very good photo subject no matter how you look at it.
He wasn’t dead.
I scooped him out of the bottom of the tank and let him sit in a plastic cup for a couple hours. By lunch he was merrily crawling around the edges of the cup looking for whatever it is that snails look for. Quite healthy. Quite snail-ish.
Rather than dead — it turns out — I think that Blue is a bit of a bully. The fish had not only been flaring at the snail, but had been pecking at him too. The snail had reacted — and quite appropriately I might add — by sucking up into his shell, dropping to the bottom of the tank, and playing dead. And now, since dropping the little golden invertibrate back into the tank (and feeding Blue too) I’ve seen some very interesting fish behaviors as the betta checks out his tank mate with a little more courage and curiosity than he had on Friday.
It’s Wild Kingdom, right here in my office.
Sometimes I like to look for the patterns of things. I think it might just be some primal evolutionary remnant of some larger geek-path chromosomal marker.
For example, and admittedly it’s not a very good one, I’m drawing convolutions from people-thoughts: I finally got in touch with Gene last night. Gene, never introduced here previous, was my uber-studious university roomie for a couple years. I called him, because he called me, because, well, who knows. I called him back because I had recieved an email from Doug, the very nearly Dr. Doug, Phd in astrophysics, who I had written an email to just last week.
The connection there is that we are all mutual aquaintances — and that’s as far as I’ll push that line… Also, I would lament on the emotional pain involved in having super-successful (academically, at least) friends… but, well…
I had written Doug last week, mostly, not entirely but mostly, because I had just fired up my new gmail account and wanted to send it for a whirl, and I had fired up a gmail account because another totally disconnected group of people made mild-mannered contact and aided that process in itself.
(See any patterns, yet?)
The ultimate stretch here is — and ultimately there is no weighted significance to this whatsoever — is that group A has indirectly resulted in the contact with group B by party C (or, your’s truly)…
Bing, bong, boing! But whatever…
Patterns, right? And patterns are what shape this silly life. Or maybe, I’m just drawing conclusions where there are vague, unimportant references to my quasi-reality. It could also be that I’m stressed, overworked, and have nothing interesting to write about in that state…
I’ve been on a sort-of-quest for a few weeks now. Actually, despite my repeated insistence that I was going skip the whole new years resolution thing, this quest has been a sort of resolution — a resolution that has stuck and is actually working. The quest is this: I’m going to finish all the books I’m reading at the moment.
I think Jess may have covered this in one of her rants. It has to do with books, and words, and reading — so (at least) I imagine if anyone would have ranted about this in some form, it would have been her. Regardless, as it stands, I am currently reading no less than fourteen books.
Call me scatterbrained. Call me crazy. Call me lacking in any sort of focus. But the fact is simply that I often pick up a book, read for a few days (intermittently), and then pick up another book and do the same thing. The problem, as I see it, has three major issues:
1) My unbridled curiosity which compels me to start new a book before I’ve finished the previous;
2) A lack of focus, which is not so much about loosing interest in a novel or tome, but shifting interest to something more immediate, and;
3) My memory which seems to allow for all this silliness by storing the plots and levers of all these books in my brain “until further required.”
Now, literally (no pun intended), I am reading books that I started while in college, which — for you peripheral readers out there — was a good eight years ago. Fiction, non-fiction, deeply philosophical, or silly. They’re all there with little paper bookmark ends sticking up like grass growing on my bookshelf.
So my quest: no more STARTING new books until I’ve narrowed the “in progress” list down to a maximum of five. (Hey, I’m not exactly going to deprive myself.) So I’ve been reading: picking up a book, locking focus, and reading it to the end. And it’s not easy. There are stacks of neat things I’ve found, turned over in my hands, and thought: “if only…” But alas. It’s not to be so. My countdown is on. And I’ll be through yet another volume by the end of tonight. What’s that then? Thirteen? I forget.
The odd thing is: it’s a little bit — almost — liberating. It’s like cleaning off one’s computer hard drive, dumping old files that are no longer required. Bits of my brain seem to be freed up to think about other things. I guess reading really does make you smarter.
sharyl missing.in.action for a whole week, blogs in reference to whether she has yet made any money off her site: Oh yeah and for Jeff, no, I have not made any money off this site… yet. Although I think Brad would think he deserves a cut of anything I make.
brad’s ears perk with interest: well, if you insist. But I won’t take more than about ninety-seven percent.
On the status of Karin
Brad was a bad nurse this evening, and let the silly girl walk to Starbucks for a Chai Latte. We barely made it home, and Karin wen’t to bed to recover. Hopefully a good night’s rest will bring her back to the health-related place she was when she felt compelled to leave the apartment (after being trapped for three days) and wander to the mall. She wanted to go to work tomorrow, but I might need to play the heavy (a few hours too late, aparently) and take the car keys when I leave.