Sunday, October 31, 2010

v2, d195: Yiptures

Apparently, you can't post about a homemade Yip Yip Costume without providing pictures.  As a relative neophyte in blogger ethics, I did not know this. I'm very glad that I know it now.

This is a pretty cute father-and-son shot.  Robbie loved these outfits.  I think I mentioned that yesterday.  Did I mention that he had to be covered with a fleece blanket of his own so he could run around and yell "YIP YIP YIP YIP YIP" with me?  It was pretty cute, and I wish we coulda gotten video.


Okay.  Mildly closer-close-up.  Whoa. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

v2, d194: Yip-or-Treat

Awesome Halloween costume idea 2010: Tarvis and I go as Yip Yips.  I've actually been cooking this one up for two months or more, but managed to keep it secret from anybody who'd be at our Halloween party.  I spent a couple of evenings looking up instructions for how to make a good Yip Yip costume. I found several sites, and they all said pretty close to the same thing.  It sounded do-able, but relatively (and surprisingly) complicated.  Up until last night, I wasn't actually sure this idea was going to work out at all.  It did, however, and I'm pretty happy with the way the costumes ended up looking and functioning.  And Robbie loved them.  My actual construction process was so much simpler than everything I found online, so I'm going to share my "How To Make a Yip-Yip Costume" instructions here.  Remember, this is just a way that worked for me.  There are lots of ways to make this happen, I'm sure. 

Step 1: Gather the following supplies: 3-4 yards of fleece (varies depending on height), 1 yard of a black mesh-like fabric, 3-4" Styrofoam balls, two pipe cleaners, two small pom poms.
Step 2: Let your wife make a Yip Yip costume.

That's it!

Okay, I know that sounds bad.  I have to say, however, that up until about dinner time last night, I was planning on making this myself.  I had a tentative plan and everything.  I had the directions pulled up on the compy.  And while Tarvis and I were looking at it, Kim came over and said, "Here, if you just did this...and this...then you'd just have to do this..." and she pretty much took it over from there.  And she was really seeming to get excited about it.  So while part of me really wanted to say, "No, sweetheart, you don't have to do this," the wiser part of me was able to recognize what was going on and say, "Wait, she likes doing this.  She wants to do this.  This is going to be fun for her!  It would be stupid to take it back.  Besides, she'll make it better than you would have."  So I let her go.  It turns out, my wife likes sewing projects!  I knew that, but I had figured that, with everything else going on lately, doing something like this for me would be another burden for her.  But it wasn't.  I think she enjoyed it. 

So there you go.  Happy Halloween, friends.  And I'm glad that, for every "Hey this is a funny idea we should do it" person like me there is in the world, there's some "It would be fun to help that funny idea happen" person out there wanting to put in a little bit of legwork. 

Friday, October 29, 2010

v2, d193: "I'm the ace up the sleeve of humanity's last hope!"

 Good news, everyone.  We may not be so helpless in the War for the Seas as we all thought. 

It's time to fight fire....with Awesome.  Behold:

Seriously.  How do we get these guys to our side?  Get our best negotiators out there.  I'll even stop making fun of Aquaman if it'll help.  Those squiddly little monsters won't know what hit 'em.  Literally.  They'll be like, "Wait, was that a small octopus?  'Cause it looked like it transformed into a nuclear tank missile, the abominable snowman, and three tiger sharks within a ten-second span.  Curses!  Foiled by that Awesome Butt-Kicking Friend of the Humans!!!"  Write your congressmen.  We need to get on this, post-haste. 

All joking aside: is not our God amazing!  The artist (and the dormant scientist) in me is overwhelmed by the diversity and creativity present throughout His creation. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

v2, d192: Spider-bite

Okay, so here's what went down last night with my son's scary allergic reaction to the something-bite.  Once again, you might not want to read ahead, because it was pretty freaky.

We were playing outside on the back patio.  I was about to head off to the church to work on carnival stuff.  I came in and Robbie was standing in the doorway, wiping his feet off on the towel, when suddenly he starts crying.  Not, like, one of those whimper-into-a-full-fledged-tantrum cries, but a sudden howl, and he's rubbing his hand against his shirt.  At first, he said his tummy hurt, so I told him to go ahead and go to the restroom.  Once he was there, though, he said he didn't have to go, and his tummy didn't hurt, but his hand hurt, and he was scratching it like crazy.  He never stopped crying.  I looked, and it was a little red and it looked to me like he'd been stung.  Kim put some of his anti-itch ointment on hit, and he said it was burning him, so we washed it off in cold water.  He said that was better, but he kept screaming and saying, "I wanna scratch it!  I wanna scratch it!"  We told him not to scratch it, and we got an ice pack for him after giving him a children's Tylenol and his Benadryl.  This whole time, he was asking to be passed back and forth between us, begging us each to hold him, to rock him, to hug him, and when it was clear we weren't making it better, he'd ask for the other.  If one of us left the room, he wanted them to come back.  He wanted to wash it again.  He wanted the ice pack again.  The ice pack was too cold.  He wanted it.  It was too cold.  He wanted hugs.  All the while, he just never stopped crying.

My first thought was spider bite.  But not an ordinary spider bite, because my mind generally tries to figure out worst-case scenarios first, so I went to one of the "bad" spider bites.  A brown-recluse, maybe.  So I kept trying to look at the bite--when I could pry his wrist away from his constant scratching--but it never started looking a whole lot worse or infected, so I didn't worry too much about the brown recluse.  Still, it was something bad, because he didn't stop screaming, so I thought maybe it was a wasp sting after all. 

That was when things got scary.  While still crying, he started to say "I want to lay down!  I want to lay down!"  Now, with very young children, the doctors generally tell you that you don't really need to start worrying unless the child begins to behave uncharacteristically.  That's how we first discovered Robbie's food allergies.  If you've ever been around my boy, you probably understand how strange a behavior "I want to lay down" is for him.  The kid NEVER wants to lay down.  I've seen him fall asleep sitting straight up once.  "I want to lay down.  I'm TIIIIRED!" he shrieked. 

I asked if he wanted a treat while Kim cradled him.  He said yes.  I got him a cup of potato chips--one of his favorite snacks.  He wouldn't touch them.  His skin started getting very warm to the touch as he asked for blankets to cover him because he was cold.  Now I'm freaked out.  Turning down chips and getting feverish symptoms?  Something is seriously wrong.  Kim calls the doctor as I take Robbie in my arms.  At this point, he's stopped struggling.  His entire upper body is just sort of flopping around like a wet noodle.  His eyelids are dropping and his eyes are rolling around a bit.  I try singing to him, I try talking to him, I beg him to stay awake.  "I don't wanna," he says, and suddenly his head flops completely to one side, his eyes closed.  I gently nudge him back into a seated position as his eyes slowly flutter open and he whines, "I wanna lay down."  He's still crying, but it's a very exhausted moan instead of a howling cry anymore.  In fifteen minutes, my ballistically energetic little boy is lethargic, freezing, burning, pale, and fading.  I haven't been this scared in YEARS. As we waited for the doctor to call us back, a part of me wondered if I was right, and it was one of the "really bad" bites that we had, and I was in danger of losing my little boy.

The nurses Kim talked to over the phone suggested we give him Benadryl.  She said we had.  They said that there was the culprit; Benadryl makes children drowsy.  Only he'd had Benadryl before.  And he wasn't drowsy, he was suddenly losing consciousness! 

We finally let him lay down on the couch.  I had to cover him with three heavy blankets before he would stop complaining about being cold.  He writhed for awhile, clutching his yellow bear.  I asked him if I could get him anything else.  He said he wanted a car.  (For the record, this was the moment when I started to think that maybe he was going to be all right after all)  I went to his toy box and got his favorite Doc Hudson (of Pixar's CARS fame) and gave it to him.  He clutched the bear in one arm and Doc in the other while the doctor finally called back.  She said we had two options: watch him at home, or take him to the E.R. if we were really concerned.  Well, given the fact that he appeared to be getting worse every two minutes, and he was now really pale and lethargic, we decided to head out and worry about dinner later. 

The first time the entire evening when Robbie started to perk up was when I told him we were going to the hospital.  "Oh," he said, suddenly sounding like a shade of himself, "okay!" 

I carried him out to the car.  I kept an eye on him to make sure he was still awake.  However, the adventure of going to the hospital seemed to have brought a lot of life back to the boy.  He pointed out the American flags we'd pass on the way (this is a new favorite pastime of his.  Think of it like Where's Waldo, only easier and you don't need to have the book to play), and he and I talked about the many different colors we'd see as we drove by objects.  I just wanted to keep him talking, and it worked.  We chatted the entire way to the hospital.  His speech was still slurred (which, again, is pretty unusual for him, because while he often uses nonsense words, he's pretty clear about them), but you could tell he was on the upswing.  By the time we got to the hospital, he was just about back to his normal self.  He still needed to be cradled while the nurse took his vitals, but once we got back to the observation room he was chatty, playful, and excited.  You couldn't tell anything had happened.  The doctor came in and asked a lot of question and then suggested we stay for a few hours to monitor him.  He said it was likely an allergic reaction, though we didn't know what had caused the biting so we weren't sure what specifically he was reacting to. 

After about an hour in the observation room, Robbie was ready to leave, but we told him we had to stay a little bit longer.  A couple of nurses came to chat with him for awhile (I don't believe they were technically nurses, but I've forgotten their official titles.  One mentioned she was there to help make the situation a little less stressful for the patients and the moms)  Robbie was an absolute charmer with those ladies.  He sang for them, he told them stories, told them ALL about our last summer vacation...they stayed and talked to him for about fifteen minutes.  Then one of the gals brought a few books for him to read.  That kept us busy until it was time to go. 

Oh, forgot to mention: on the way to the hospital, Robbie had found a Whattaburger.  He got very excited about that Whattaburger.  So that's how we kept him from getting too gripey at the hospital.  I told him that, if he was good, we would run by Whataburger on the way home. 

When the doctor asked if we were ready to go home, Robbie said 'YES!'  He then said, "We gonna go to Whattaburger Daddy?"  He didn't understand why we had to wait for our paperwork when the doctor had just said we could go.  Kim finally got him to understand we were waiting on our papers.  The nurse who brought our papers bent down to Robbie and asked, "Are you ready to go home?"  Robbie's reply was a definite, "No.  We are waiting for our papers." 

Anyway, the doctor said that reactions like Robbie's sometimes came in two waves: the initial wave had already hit, but sometimes a second wave would come four to six hours later.  On rare occasions, though, they had been known to hit a full day after the initial reaction.  So I sweated it out a little bit today, wondering if we were going to go through any of that again.  Nothing of the sort.  If you saw Robbie playing in my office building just after work today, you'd never know there was even a scare last night. 

It was such a frightening experience.  But, in a bizarre way, it was also nice to have an evening together.  You know, once we got past the terror of the first hour and the unfortunate dinner practice of "Cheetos and Famous Amos for dinner followed by 10 p.m. Whattaburger run."  You make do with what you have in stressful times.  And time spent giving hugs, sharing chocolate chip cookies, watching my son sing or tell stories, or reading books to him is always precious.  Even if it is spent on a hospital bed. 

Now, I'm behind on my church carnival work, but that'll work itself out. 

These things generally do. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

v2, d191: E.R.

If you read this, you probably already know (at least vaguely) what went down tonight.  If you don't know, then you probably just got a little spooked seeing a blog post titled "Sick" followed immediately by one titled "E.R."  Hijinks ensue.

My darling little boy had to go to the emergency room today following a severe allergic reaction to something that bit or stung him.  It was really scary.  I haven't been that scared in years.  But he worked his way through it with seemingly no lasting effects, so we managed to be in and out of the ER in a mere 2 hours.  It was so much better than our last visit to the children's ER.  (Incidentally, I never want to see the inside of the children's ER again.)  And then we went to get Whattaburger, because I told Robbie that we could get Whattaburger if he were a good boy in the hospital.  In the two hours of sitting around for observation, I tell you what, that promise was what kept him going. 

He was also charming the heck out of the nurses.

We got back around 10:30.  Poor little guy spent so much time looking forward to those fries, but he was too tired to eat more than half of them. 

Anyway, I'm beat.  I'll have more details tomorrow, though they were/are a little scary, so I'll understand if you don't want to read.  I'd just like to have a record.  That's what blogging is for, right? 

Many, many thanks to everyone who prayed for us and sent encouraging texts all evening long.  May you all be blessed. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

v2, d190: Sick

Monday started out all right.  Then, just after lunch, I could tell it was coming.  I was going to crash.  Total systems failure.  Too many days with not enough rest and too much going on.  Sadly, this is (recently) the only way I get the rest I need.  (Equally sad was that I had actually planned on Monday being my day to catch up to avoid this crash, but at the last moment had been thrown on to a meeting Monday afternoon that required my being at work anyway)  Sure enough, by about 2:30 I was starting to feel a bit dizzy and exhausted, by 4 I could tell I needed to lie down, and at about 9:00 last night, I was gone.  Completely exhausted, leaning on things to keep upright, head pounding, throat sore, every muscle in my back was aching; I went to bed.  Woke up an hour and a half later and felt just awful.  Burning up and freezing at the same time.  Having trouble forming coherent thoughts.  Had I thought of it at the time, I would have sat down to write something.  Would have probably become the only marketable piece of prose I'll ever compose ;-)

Today was lots of lying down.  I think I slept about 11 of the hours from midnight to 1 p.m., and I didn't spent too much time on my feet the rest of the day.  Downed 1.5 liters of Odwalla orange juice (which ended up being 1,120 % of your required daily Vitamin C).  Feel better-ish.  However, if you see this tonight, please send up a quick prayer that I'll make it through tomorrow morning's show.  If I still feel terrible after the show, I'll come right back home and go straight to bed.  I'll have to, because I have to be at church tomorrow night to get things ready for the carnival.

Anyway, I'm now sweating pretty significantly which, according to The Internet, is a good sign.  So, off to bed, and hoping for the best!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

v2, d189: Birthday Mad-Libs (for my WIFE!)


Tomorrow, I want to dedicate a post to Jason and Kat and their wonderful wedding.  Today, however, I must write the most difficult Birthday Mad-Lib yet: the one for my lovely and precious wife.

See, normally I try to find a Mad-Lib that is at least pseudo-appropriate for the person being honored.  This, however, is difficult for me when it comes to Kim, because the most appropriate one I could find was called "The Love Letter," and obviously it made for a very awkward love letter.  And I don't want anything I write to/for my wife to be awkward.

Then I remembered that, at their core, Mad Libs are supposed to be random and silly.  So I just picked a random one.  Once again, the bold words are all words that remind me of the subject of the Mad Lib in some way, shape, or form.

The Restaurant

Last night I visited the prettiest restaurant I have ever been to. It was located right in the middle of a plain just outside of town. The name of the place, "Clever Kimberly's," was lit up with big garish purple lights. The seats were beautiful and intelligent and the couches were less than precious, but the atmosphere was gentle nonetheless. A year or so passed, and then a waitress came up to me and said, "Hi, I'm Decisive, and I'll be your server. May I take your order?"
"I love you!" I said. "It's about time. I've been sitting here for a year! I'd like a bowl of apple, the cheesecake and chicken and peaches dinner plate with extra chicken and peaches, hold the peas, and a tupperware of water."
My food came promptly -- it took about a month, by my watch. I must say, I enjoyed the meal, especially the chicken and peaches, though I spilled some water on my dress. I had the leftovers put in a crockpot so I could take it home. I'm going back tomorrow.

NOTE: The use of the word "plain" was only because the program specifically asked for a geographical terrain.  Also, I would not want to sit in an intelligent seat, no matter how beautiful it was.

I love you, Darling.  Happy birthday!

Friday, October 22, 2010

v2, d188: "Score the gooooooal, Houston!!!" Or...or not, as the case may be...

A few observations from my first Aeros game since last January. 

*Dave gave me free tickets.  Dave is awesome and nice. 

*Okay, we've got the Kiss Cam, which I think is pretty sweet for the most part.  (Don't know why it's not part of the intermission instead of the game, but whatever)  And we've got the Smile Cam, which is less exciting, but I get it, because a dentist paid good money to get his name on the Jumbotron, so, smiles, teeth, brilliant.  Now we've added Air Guitar Cam, and suddenly it feels like we have one Cam too many.  Especially if AGC and SC are going to come so close together.  Look, we need to drop a Cam.  Just not the Kiss Cam.  'Cause I like that one.

*I don't understand the part of the game where we scream for which of the three song choices for the night they'll play in the second intermission.  We don't hear the whole song, because they usually play it at the end of the intermission.  Also, they occasionally play one of the songs we didn't vote for anyway.  I don't get it.  What's the point?

*Starting the "Hey Bishop!  You suck!" cheer right after Bishop made three awesome saves makes you look dumb.  And I'm pretty sure it doesn't do much to take the goalie off his game.  But you go ahead and cheer for yourselves. 

*Speaking of Bishop, he's one tall glass of water.  You can't convince me that big of a man can be knocked so forcefully to the ground by having a small guy brush by him in the crease. 

*That said, on the whole the officiating was pretty good tonight. 

*They had the little kids scrimmage during the first intermission.  It was highly awesome.  The first goal was scored when a kid on the black-jersey team shot the puck and the rebound bounced out to a kid in a white jersey, who promptly put it in.  Since both nets were manned by neutral coaches as goalies, I'm not sure which team was supposed to be shooting at that net, but the kid in white celebrated like he'd just won the Stanley Cup.  Several of the kids in the black also celebrated.  From that point on, it seemed half the kids in white were going for the opposite goal, but a few of the kids in black were targeting that goal, too.  And vice versa.  It was a really confusing scrimmage.  At one point, the coach knocked the rebound back behind the net, and the puck never made it back into scoring position again the rest of the scrimmage.  Cute as all get-out, though.

*I'm really stinking tired. 

*I don't think Anton Khudobin should be credited with the loss for this game.  I think the defenseman who could neither clear the rebound nor take his man out of the play on the game-ending 2-on-2 should somehow get credit for the loss.  Good game, Dobby.

*I still wish Khudobin's nickname was Hootie instead of Dobby.  No disrespect meant to house elves. 

*The upper deck seats are actually not too bad.  I wish they opened them up more often.  (I realize they Aeros don't generally draw well enough to justify that, but still.  Would be nice to find a seat for less than $17 regularly) 

*Tonight's "Dance for your Dinner" promotion was the lamest dinner dance-off I've ever seen.  Yet that seemed to be the turning point, because before DfyD the Aeros played like they were hung over, and afterward they pretty much carried most of the rest of the game. 

*The loss stings, but Peoria's a really strong team.  I don't understand why Aeros fans were booing after the final buzzer.  The boys played a strong game and got shut down by a hot (and huge) goalie. 

*I freaking hate the Bayou City Wings Minute. 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

v2, d187: Push Comes to Shove

On the surface, yes, this is hockey related. Really, though, it's not. Go with me here.

Okay, wait, first everybody should go check out this Puck Daddy post entitled "The most adorable youth hockey goal celebration ever?" 'Cause it just might be.

All right. Now, just like everybody else in the hockey world, I need to touch on the Rick Rypien issue. In case you missed it, a Vancouver Canucks player got tossed from a game in Minnesota recently and, on his way out, he turned to shove a fan who was clapping sarcastically. (The fan claims all he said was, "Way to be a professional" just before Rypien shoved him. Rypien had to be held back by teammates. The fan has said he's looking at legal options after the assault.

Rypien will be suspended. He has been, actually, and has already missed one game. The length of the suspension will be decided after he meets with league officials. Player-fan altercation is something that rarely happens. And the league doesn't want players messing with paid customers. And it's bad press.

And it was just stupid.

Today, however, I read this blog by Justin Bourne. Bourne agrees that this particular incident was ridiculous and stupid, and that Rypien needs to be punished for his actions. He also makes it clear that violently interacting with a customer is never acceptable.

He asks, however, where the line should be drawn. The sentiment seems to be "a fan can say whatever he or she wants to a player at any time. The players should just shrug it off. That's the nature of the beast. He knew what he was getting into when he wanted to be a hockey player." And to an extent that is definitely true. Taunting is part of sports. Entire fanbases frequently target a specific player and tell him that he sucks. At Aeros games, we make a point of letting the goalie know every time he's let a goal in. At Denver Bronco games, the fans all cheer "INCOMPLETE" derisively whenever the other team drops a ball. Once, at an ice hockey game at OU, my friends and I started counting the number of goals scored every time the Sooners netted one. (Had we known it would go all the way to twenty-one, we probably never would have started. Sorry, KU goalie)


When one man is cornered--say, he's in the penalty box for two minutes or more--and another man or woman begins hurling personal insults--not things like "You suck" or "You're an idiot" but slurs against his wife or his family, or references to a troubled drug problem that is in his recent past--is it hard to blame the guy for snapping and reacting? Again, physical aggression is still not warranted, but can you really expect any man to just sit there and take it in the face of that level of personal attack?

According to the comments following the post (Internet comments are a good place to go if you want to despair for humanity, by the way), yes. Yes, players deserve that kind of treatment from us, the fans, because A) we're paying lots of money to sit close to them, and B) they make a lot of money to entertain me. All this rhetoric about having a thick skin or it coming with the territory basically boils down to "I have a right to treat this man like trash because he is rich and I am paying his salary. And a lot of folks were outraged that Bourne would even suggest that players had a right to stand up for themselves in ANY situation.

This is where, to me, the problem shifts away from sports fans and athletes and becomes a Heart of Man type issue. Because, when you look around, we don't just treat athletes that way. We treat actors that way. We treat singers that way. We treat elected officials that way. Bosses treat employees that way. Employees treat interns that way. It is my right to be a monster to you, because our circumstances have put us in such a relationship that you have no right to fight back. I'm a good person, and you are just (a basketball player/the coffee intern/a preacher in some church half a country away). 

How sick is this???  Since when is it ever okay to talk to another man or woman in this manner?  Or in just any manner you want?  Are you seriously paying $250 for the privilege of treating another human being like an animal for a couple of hours?  Did you work your way up the corporate ladder so you could try to make your subordinates cry?  So hey, that famous guy cheated on his wife.  You now have the moral prerogative to call him worthless as a human being?  Or look, that guy just got over a drug addiction that lost him his family.  It'll be fun to wave it in front of his face, because he can't touch us!  He's just another one of the animals in the zoo! Ha ha, can't touch me or you'll be the bad guy on every TV and every blog in North America! 

I am stretching this a little.  But only a little.  I actually find it deeply convicting.  We all get terribly wrapped up in our entertainments.  We allow the lives of our heroes to become entertainments in themselves.  Any good hero needs a good villain, so we set up villains for our little dramas.  And we want to see them fall.  Because they deserve it.  Because they're the bad guys. 

Look, Rick Rypien was wrong.  Clearly.  And he was pretty stupid, too.  Tiger Woods was very wrong.  LeBron was unbelievably self-centered and childish.  The guy who always dismissed my comments as "intern drivel" was wrong.  The pastor burning Korans in Florida is pretty disgraceful, too. 

And if, in any moment, I ever thought myself to be better than any one of them, I have become the least of these. 

Remember that people are people.  Remember that hurts really hurt, no matter who they happen to.  Many of us deserve what we have coming to us; many do not.  And it's not mine to say which is which. 

Remember something about casting stones.  And live, whenever possible, as sons of peace. 

I'm not sure if I've made my point here, or even if I had one to begin with. And I know none of my readers are probably very strong offenders in this instance.  But, if anything else, I hope this window to the soul of the hockey world serves as a reminder that we are, every one of us, fallen beings in need of the grace of God.  If there is any good in me, it is of Christ and not myself.  But that's another blog for another time. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

v2, d186: "Wait, strike that. Reverse it..."

In other words, much to do and very little time to do it in.  So you get a sorry substitute for blogging tonite.

But I think we'll be all right in the long run. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

v2, d185: More Movie Memories

Continued from two days ago.

--Remember your first time... I went to see Phantom of the Opera with my dear friends Holly and Sherri and Lovell.  This is relevant because Sherri has only ever loved two men in her entire life: Batman and the Phantom of the Opera.  What do these two men have in common?  Lots of things, actually, but I'm thinking of: Joel Schumacher.  The man who gave the bat-suit nipples, reduced Bane to a grumbling ogre who said things like "MONKEY WORK! GRRRRR!!!!", gave us three thousand bad Mr. Freeze "cold puns," and basically made a mockery of the entire Batman franchise.  Sweet, dear Sherri probably didn't sleep much the night before this movie, out of both anticipation and dread.  Fortunately, the movie met with a resounding "It was okay, it wasn't too bad, that was actually not bad" from probably it's toughest critic.  Sitting by her in the theater was a joy, however.  Also memorable: it was $1 day at the zoo, so we all went to the zoo first. 

It was December.  In Kansas.  It was about 30 degrees and windy.  We spent the majority of the zoo trip running from indoor exhibit to indoor exhibit.  Because we were brilliant. 

--Another thing stolen from Hannah's blog: Snakes on a Plane.  Somehow, over the course of the summer of 2006, SOAP went from "That's a stupid and horrible idea" to "That sounds awful, but in a 'so-bad-it's-funny' sort of way, maybe we'll rent it" to "Definitely a dollar theater feature" to "SAMUEL JACKSON CALLED MY PHONE! WE ARE GOING TO THE MIDNIGHT SHOW!"  Dave, Jason, and I all decided we'd go ahead and go for it, and we made our own T-shirts.  In a really courageous move, Hannah caught wind of the plan and decided to join us, despite only having been in the company for about a week and a half and not really knowing any of us at all.  (We had an extra shirt and a marker) 

I think it's going to go down as the most unique experience I've ever had in a movie theater.  The energy was electric.  Spastic, but electric.  I've never seen a crowd, even a midnight crowd, cheer so loudly through a movie.  The guys dressed up like snakes chasing the guys dressed up like planes really just sorta characterized the whole mess. 

Bad movie, by the way.  Don't see it.  Really, don't. 

--The only movie of my adult years that could possibly match the hype I felt going into Ninja Turtles or Jurassic ParkMiracle.  The story of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.  I didn't care that it was a Disney movie.  From the first time I saw the poster hanging in the lobby of the Warren, I knew I was going to be there opening night.  Everything I read about the movie prior to its opening was actually really encouraging.  It looked like they were taking this fantastic sports story and doing it right.  I spent the entire week before the movie opened counting down the days.  (And the hours, as the week drew to a close) 

Kim went with me to our usual "Date Mall" in OKC for the showing.  Kim graciously agreed to go along, even though she didn't then (and doesn't now) give two flying flips about any sports.  I figured that, as a hockey movie, the film wasn't going to sell out in north Oklahoma City. We planned for an eight-something showing so we could get home before 11:00 or so.  Kim has never been a night owl.  I sometimes joke that, before she married me, she'd never seen 10:30 p.m. in her life.  (It's an exaggeration; she actually had once or twice)  Got to the theater and my heart sank.  "SOLD OUT" the little red lights flashed.  The only open show started well after ten.  Since the movie was about two hours, that would put us getting home incredibly late. I'm sure the disappointment was evident on my face. 

Then, my sweet, thoughtful girlfriend absolutely shocked me.  "We can stay for the later showing."  My jaw dropped.  "Are you sure?" I asked.  "Well, we came out here to see this movie, and you want to..." she trailed off. 

We stayed.  And it was awesome.  I saw the movie twice more in theaters, once the next day with a group of buddies and once at the dollar theaters.  Both times, somebody I was sitting with temporarily forgot it was just a movie and stood to cheer. 

But the first time was my favorite.  :-)

Monday, October 18, 2010

v2, d184: Shuffleblog

You know the drill by now.  Hit shuffle on the iTunes, start blogging till the song is over. 
#1: 101 by the W's

One more cup to make it through,
Three more hours to go 'till the paper's due.
One more page is all I need,
Eyes so red I think they're gonna bleed...

This is a song about writing term papers in college.  No joke.  I like to think I wasn't a total slacker my first year of college when it came to paper-writing.  I'm pretty sure I spent a good amount of time getting books from the library (a thing that simply isn't done anymore), taking notes on notecards, and starting a first draft a week before it was due. 

Actually, you know what, I don't think I ever became a slacker regarding paper writing.  I tended to do everything the night the paper was due, like the guy in the song, but it wasn't because I was too lazy to do it ahead of time.  It was because I knew I could pull off the job in the hours before the paper was done, and so I found something equally valuable and useful to fill those earlier hours with.  Like rehearsals.  Or reading.  Or building lasting relationships and learning to be a man. 

This is something that sorta sucks about college.  You have a ton of equally important tasks, both academically and personally, and only four years to complete them in.  You could take it at a more leisurely pace, but wait, you can't afford it.  (Note: Yes, there are exceptions)  It's really nearly impossible to commit yourself to excellence in any one area without sacrificing one of the others.  Or maybe it is possible and I just failed at that particular aspect of secondary education.  Whatever.

Anyway, I made good grades and good friends, but I picked up some bad habits that I've been working against since then.  I guess that's life.

#2: SHADOW OF DEF by Brave Saint Saturn
Now sit right back as I bust a rhyme
I got the freshest beats and I'm always on time
I'm the baddest of the best, yeah, I'm the king. 
Master of beasts and the cross-fader,
I'll cut off your hand just like Darth Vader.
You step to me, and you're gonna get dissed, homeboy...
Not only is this a really bizarre song, but it's also a really bizarre inclusion on the BS2 trilogy.  Most of Brave Saint's songs are about struggling with all kinds of cheery stuff: depression, loss of friends, loss of family, loss of dreams, loneliness, disappointment, faithlessness, rage, infidelity, wars, pride, artistic frustration, and so on and so forth.  The other songs are usually very contemplative, beautiful, and even haunting worship songs.  And then there are NASA-themed sound bites that give the three albums a story/trilogy (as the band later said, the concept was to create a three-act play with the three albums) feel. 

And then, there's this song.  Which is an electronic/space riff acoustic hip-hop parody anthem.  That features a rap solo by the record company's executive producer explaining the name of the record company.  (5 Minute Walk) 

You gotta love it, though.  It's hilarious and brilliant and quirky and catchy.

And really oddly placed.

#3: LARRY-BOY THEME SONG from Veggie Tunes 2
Who do they call when this world needs a hero?
A man with style and plungers on his head?
It's easy to prove he's just one of the grooviest cats that you'll ever know.
It's plain to see, in fashion he's no zero.
At the wheel of the Larry-Mobile,
Purple and yellow, he's one super-fellow...
I could say many wonderful things about the folks at Big Idea! and their wildly successful Christian pop-culture champion franchise VeggieTales.  But, this is shuffleblog, so I'll just take this opportunity to praise Kurt Heinecke, or the guy who does all the music. 

When Phil Vischer was looking for someone to arrange all the music for their first episode of VT, he kept drawing a blank.  Then, one day while sitting in church and listening to the praise music, he thought Hey, this music is really good.  In fact, it's always really good.  So he asked the music minister from his church to do VeggieTales.  And despite the fact that the man had never done anything quite like it before, he said sure, sounds like fun.

One of the thing that I think sets VT apart from a lot of other children's entertainment giants is the overall production quality, and the music is a HUGE part of it.  I listen to a LOT of VeggieTales because my son is sort of obsessed with the veggies right now, so that's what we play in the car on the way to day care most days.  And I have to tell you, the music--not just the songs, but the underscoring, too--is absolutely top of the line.  I realize that this'll never happen, but I would love to see some of these stories expanded to become fully realized staged musicals.  I'm not talking about the VeggieTales Live! type karakoe-fests, I'm talking about hour-long or full-length musicals in which the music and songs play an integral part in tying together the piece artistically and telling the story.  It's that good. 

I challenge you to go back through old VeggieTales music.  And not the Silly Songs, but the actual episodes.  Pick up the Larry-Boy soundtrack.  Watch their Gilbert and Sullivan episodes.  Any genre they play with, they knock it out of the park.  And I've written too long.  Next song.

#4: EPIC CHASE SCENE from Peter and the Wolf

This song is not actually called Epic Chase Scene.  I don't know what it's actually called.  I have it on my computer from when I assistant directed Peter and the Wolf at our children's theater.  Assistant directing didn't mean a whole lot of direct involvement, though I would occasionally throw out suggestions that the director would use.  It was more of an observational thing.  The show's major strength was Abby's fantastic choreography anyway. 

And then, there was this sequence.  It was the last thing to be blocked, and I remember Kevin, Abby, and I meeting in the rehearsal space one afternoon.  Abby had nothing specific in mind, as she'd already choreographed the whole show (and was planning a wedding, too).  Kevin didn't have much in mind for it, either.  Neither did I, to be honest, but I saw an opportunity to do something artistic, so....  "Hey, you want me to just figure it out?"  Neither had a good reason why I shouldn't, and so it became mine.  At that point, I had one image in my mind: a rubber innertube duck posing as a decoy while the real duck hid behind a bush. 

From there, it all just sorta happened.  I managed to knock it out in about twenty minutes after I got home.  (Actually, while I was waiting for Kim to get ready for our that night, so I was in the living room, dressed quasi-nice, chasing myself around while listening to the same two and a half minutes of music over and over) 
Hopefully, it didn't look like I had worked it out in about thirty minutes time.  The whole thing was quite silly, as most of the show was, and it never quite captured the same look it had in my head.  But it was something.  And I still like it. 

And it got me a gig as an actual director the following season.  So there you go. 

#5: CODE OF THE ROAD by Bleach
Just suppose this old car sputtered down the road (just suppose)

Just suppose this old car, it refused to go (just suppose)
Wouldn't you hope that someone would care enough to stop and help you out?
I'd like to think that someone would care enough to stop and help you out...

Okay, I'll try to keep this one short.

I had a little fender-bender about a year ago.  Totally the other car's fault; it was rainy, and she pulled out across two lanes directly in front of me.  I tried to stop, couldn't in time, and hit her.  Her car was basically fine; mine had its front headlight smashed in.  She was really nice, she felt really bad, we were both glad our little ones hadn't been in our respective cars at the time.  We exchanged information and parted ways. 

As I thought about it, I started to think I really shouldn't call this one in to the insurance.  She was at fault, and she was going to admit to it, and she and/or her insurance would pay to fix my car.  But I was already planning on getting rid of my car the following March.  And it wasn't really terribly important damage in the short-term, anyway.  I knew if I were in her situation, I'd have been grateful if the person had decided not to "tattle" on me.  So I called her up a few days later and said, in effect, "No sweat.  I'm not keeping this car much longer anyway; no reason for you to pay to fix scrap anyway.  But if you really want to pay me back, give me your mailing address and let me send you a brochure for our children's theater, and you can bring your kids to a show and we'll call it even." 

She was pretty much speechless.  And really grateful.  And I was pretty sure I'd made the right choice.

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head,
The stars in the sky look down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay...
Okay, Relient K and I don't always see eye-to-eye artistically. But I really, really love their full-length Christmas album, Let It Snow, Baby...Let It Reindeer.  Though it took me a little while to figure out the title. And I Hate Christmas Parties is so outlandishly emo that I kinda have to laugh at it.  But!  That's okay. 

This album really captures both the bouncy fun happiness of Christmas while nailing the quiet, contemplative, worshipful aspect of the holiday and the event it represents.  I've never heard an album so perfectly embrace both sides of the event that took place one night in a Bethlehem manger. 

But I'm sure you'll get a lot more of me gushing about how much I love Christmas once we get past Thanksgiving :-)

v2, d183: Today, in the Daily News...

Why is there a Jack in the Box popup ad on my old town's newspaper's web site?  I don't even know where the nearest Jack in the Box to Wellington is...

Anyway, apparently the girls' tennis team won the state championship.  First girls' team in Wellington history to win a state title.  First Wellington team to win a state title since football won it all in 2002 (second of back-to-back titles, I think). 

In other Wellington news, it appears the old Chisholm Trail Museum is haunted.  Experts in the supernatural have camped out there several times and have apparently had experiences with ghosts.  So they're taking people on pitch-black tours of the museum while they tell of their experiences for Halloween.  Now look, I don't claim to be an expert in this "sort of thing," but this just seems like a bad idea. 

Hey, there's also a Kohl's banner ad on the site.  Weird. 

The Daily News' twitter hasn't tweeted since February 18th.

Hey, just for the heck of it, I wonder what jobs are being advertised in the WDN?  Let's see...two AVON independent sales reps, an online survey taker, a UPS driver, and a housekeeper for what appears to be an assisted living residence. 

Also also: Gulf Oil Spill is still a tab at the top of the front page.  The latest posting is from August 6th. 

And finally, the "Lifestyles" tabs offers only three options: Food, Home and Garden, and Branded Content.  Now, Branded Content covers a lot of territory, it's true.  Sadly, "Arts" or "Fine Arts" or "Arts and Entertainment" didn't make the cut. 

This has been your quick tour of the Wellington Daily News.

(*I kid, mostly.  I love my little hometown.  Mostly)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

v2, d182: That's a Great Idea...YOINK!

So, my good friend Hannah recently posted some of her favorite movie theater memories to her own blog. Since I've got nothing better to talk about, I'm just going to steal this idea. 

--There was one movie theater in all of Wellington, and it had one screen, so it showed one movie per week, one showing daily (two on Saturdays).  Unless the Community Theatre had something going on or there was a football game that week, it was literally the only show in town.  Needless to say, if a movie was ever held over for a second week, it was phenomenally popular.  (Unlike certain other entertainment establishments)  Also, because it was such a small market theater (the next closest theaters were half an hour or more away), it took a LONG time to get the more popular movies.  It felt like an entire year after its initial release that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made its way to our little monoplex.  I remember the night we went to see it.  It was the only time I remember people lined up outside the front door of the theater for tickets.  All throughout the movie, hundreds of kids (it was actually a pretty big auditorium) were laughing, cheering, and quoting memorable lines from the long-since memorized trailer.  It was absolutely electric.

Oh, and it was held over.  Twice.

--If e'er anything couldn't be found in our local Wal-Mart, our family would take a trek (maybe monthly?  I don't remember) to Wichita for shopping, lunch, and whatever other business mom or dad may have had up there.  Many of these trips featured a stop at The Palace, which was a huge pink dollar theater.  It had a very cool vibe--kind of this neon retro-classic movie theater atmosphere.  I don't have a ton of specific memories that really stand out other than it was always a treat.  Plus, it was on the outskirts of town, so spotting it was sort of like looking for the tip of the Matterhorn as you got closer to Disneyland.  Not quite as exciting, but same concept.

--After the first Ninja Turtles movie, the next majorly-anticipated film release was easily Jurassic Park.  I remember we were in California visiting our family the week before its release.  I really loved the local morning news program on KTLA.  That week, they had a Jurassic Park feature every single day.  Something about one of the dinosaurs, or one of the actors, or the special effects.  Something.  The hype machine was going full-swing.  We went home, and the Wellington theater (the Regent) actually got the movie within a few months of its release.  It was a miracle!  A lot of people forget what a great movie JP1 really was or how mind-blowing the dinosaurs were at that point in time, even without HD or THX or 3-D.  That night at the Regent was a dream come true.

--I actually knew surprisingly little about Lord of the Rings before the movie came out.  I went with my friend Holly, who was and is a LotR fanatic, and the new Wellington 6-plex.  This is after the Regent was long gone and an old Wal-Mart was converted into a six-screen movie theater.  You'd walk into the "lobby," and it was this huge, cavernous, empty room with a thirty-foot ceiling and absolutely nothing in an open space the size of a grocery store except for a small laser tag course tucked away in one corner and a few 1990s arcade games in the exact opposite corner.  The theaters were all either too big or too small, and none of the seats were comfortable anywhere.  This was the setting where I first saw Fellowship of the Ring.  Despite what was nearly the worst movie theater conditions I've ever heard of, I was blown away. 

--One of my roommates was an MK from Venezuela.  While we were rooming together, the country underwent a major labor strike.  Seemed like just about everybody stopped going in to work.  My roommie told me about a phone conversation he'd had with his mom.  Apparently, the movie theater was still running, but the delivery company that brought the films was not.  Their theater was like the old Regent: one movie per week.  His mom said her primary concern in getting the nation-wide labor crisis resolved was that she was tired of seeing the same movie every week and wanted them to show something else. 

I have more.  I'll finish this later.  

Friday, October 15, 2010

v2, d181: Sing Ho, for a Blog!

One of the many things that has been running me ragged lately is our current kids show, Winnie the Pooh, in which (as I've already mentioned) I'm playing the Bear of Very Little Brain himself.  The entire process has been a joy, and I'm glad to be a part of this production, character, cast, and experience.  I'm very pleased with the result of the past four weeks of rehearsal.  I think we've built one of the stronger shows we've had recently in our children's theater.  My co-stars are all dynamic in their various characters.  The script is by no means extraordinary, but the source material is strong enough and the cast/production team are talented enough that I think we've got a really charming hour of live theatre on our stage. 

On top of that, it's fun, too ;-)

There (in case you haven't already seen it on my Facebook, Abby's blog, or the Players' Flickr) is the cast.  Aren't we endearing?

As for my own work on the show: I think I'm doing a pretty good job.  I can tell there are still some places where I'm missing the mark, and I'm still working on those, but I don't think they're major detractors from the show or the character.  I've discovered I can really relate to Pooh in a lot of ways.  Which many would consider a bad sign.  But there you have it.  Truthfully, though, over the past few years I've been striving to live in more of the "each day is an adventure" world that Pooh resides in: Look around, take it nice and slow, enjoy your friends, help everyone you can, and sing and dance when the fancy hits you.  And let the fancy hit you three to five times a day.  Seems like a good way to live, no? 

Pooh embodies the simplicity and wonder of childhood.  He gets really excited about plans, friends, and snacks.  He will completely derail his day just to help someone else feel better. He likes Cleverness, even if he's not terribly proficient in it.  He knows who he is, and he's comfortable with himself.  He's easily made the fool but rarely embarrassed.  And he regularly composes poetry just because he loves it. He's the sort of fellow who would have probably annoyed the heck out of me eight or nine years ago, but the older I get, the more wisdom I see in the Hundred Acre Wood. 

Okay, I don't want to turn this into a term paper on the philosophy of A. A. Milne's Winnie-The-Pooh stories.  Really, I was just wanting to say the show is up, people are really enjoying it, I'm having a blast with it, I think it's good, and I think I'm not too bad in it, either.  That's all I was going for.  It's late.  I have to get to bed. 

And see what Adventure tomorrow might bring ;-)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

v2, d180: Birthday Mad-Libs

What? You wanted an Eastern Conference Preview?

Eh, I got tired of that.

New Jersey
Tampa Bay
New York R
New York I

Or something like that.

Anywho, I guess it's safe to say my blog is back.  (Woop doop doop doop, back where it belongs)  I think we'll both just have to learn to live with less-than-regular updating.  Clearly, this hasn't been another successful 365-blog, so I'll have to figure out some other goal for a successful "end date" so this doesn't become one of those "eventually get bored and peter out" blogs.

But enough about me!  Today is all about Dave-O.  I can't say enough amazing things about Dave.  He's been a constant encouragement and inspiration since I stepped onto OBU campus as a frosh.  It's unbelievable to realize the things God's taught me through this big, loving, gracious, wise, hilarious friend.

Someday, when I publish my autobiography, I'll go into more detail.  For now, I'm about to leave for Dave's place for a short birthday Outgehangen, so let's jump right into the Mad-Lib!

Hamlet's Soliloquy

To laugh, or not to laugh -- that is the wit:
Whether 'tis nobler in the goatee to teach
The glasses and flip flops of hilarious book
Or to take arms against a suburb of tweets,
And by studying end them. To host -- to share;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural stairs
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a loyalty
Devoutly to be wish'd. To host, to share;
To share -- perchance to give: ay, there's the rub!
For in that sleep of compassion what dreams may dance
When we have wrote off this mortal baseball,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pop culture references of despis'd creativity, the law's delay,
The dependability of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy cooks,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a quick Superman figurine? Who would these fardels bear,
To grunt and rock out under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after faith --
The undiscover'd sea monster, from whose bourn
No writer returns -- reads the will,
And makes us rather play those ills we have
Than think to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make editors of us all,
And thus the charming hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the manly Compy of thought,
And blogs of poetic pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of hulked-out aeros fist. Affable you now!
The good-natured Contentious Dan! -- Nymph, in thy das Biesten
Be all my comics remember'd.

Happy 30th, bro.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

v2, d179: Western Conference Preview

No, this isn't a return to "regular blogging."  However, if I didn't post this, Travis wouldn't know what to expect with the upcoming hockey season.  And I aim to serve.  Plus, I always enjoy writing these, faulty as they may be. 

Last year, I was pretty wicked wrong--but then, a LOT of the experts were also pretty wrong.  It was sort of a wonky season.  I was, however, right on my pre-season Cup pick.  So, ya know.  Two points for me. 

Seems there's a lot more "Eh, I dunno"s than usual this year.  Though that may just be reflective of the quirky nature of last season.  Who knew the Red Wings would be out of the playoffs for 2/3 of the season last year?  Who knew Steve Mason would suddenly suck and the Blue Jackets would be the Blue Jackets again?  Who knew Malkin would score a "disappointing" 77 points last year?  Who knew the Coyotes would challenge the Sharks for the Pacific Division?  Who knew the Flyers wouldn't need goalies and the Habs wouldn't need any forwards over six feet tall to advance to the Conference Final?  (Those were both exaggerations)  Who knew the Avs wouldn't finish dead last???

A lot of weird things happened.  So it's hard to tell if a lot of weird things are going to happen again or not.  Nevertheless, here's my best guess at what we'll see this year.  And what weird stuff could completely throw a monkey wrench into the whole darn thing.


The Sharks are still kings of the Pacific.  (Fortunately there's not a team called the Humboldt Squids)  They've got a ton of offensive firepower on their top two lines and some very capable role-players rounding out their forward ranks.  Looking past the forward lines, however, you can start to see some chinks in the mighty teal machine.  The defense isn't flashy, but it's solid.  It used to be flashy and solid, however.  The two-headed goaltending monster of Antti Niemi and Antero Niitymaki will be good, but I don't think either one of them is as good as Evgeny Nabokov was.  Again, both are good, and this team will win a whole bunch of games this year.  There's too much talent, and the team is going to come out with a bit of steam after getting swept away by the Hawks in last season's WCF.  But I don't think they're nearly head-and-shoulders above the rest of the division the way they have been for the past several seasons. 

It could all change if: If Niemi isn't nearly the same backstop playing behind Boyle, Vlasic, and Murray that he was with Keith, Seabrook, and Hjalmarsson in front of him. A lot of people believe that, while Niemi won the Cup with the Blackhawks, he rarely had to win anything for them. 


Odd that the Kings aren't the kings of the Pacific. 

Anyway, the Kings took a huge step forward last year, and even with the loss of Alex Frolov I think they're poised to be a really dangerous team this season.  I like their depth at forward, especially at center.  Drew Doughty was a stud last season on defense, and Jack Johnson showed signs toward the end of last year plus the playoffs of being ready to step up and earn that vulgar nickname he'd been granted on message boards around the world (initials: JMFJ).  Hm...Drew Doughty and Jack Johnson.  They've also got Davis Drewiske back there.  It's all about the alliteration on the Kings' blueline.  Goaltending looks to be solid with the two Jonathans manning the crease.  American Jon Quick had a hot start last season (sizzled a little as the year dragged on) and Jon Bernier has been the heir apparent for something like four years now.  There are a lot of good younger players poised to have big years in Los Angeles.

It could all change if: Neither Jonathan is up to the task.  Sophomore slumps for goalies are often epic.  If the Kings took too much of a gamble bringing too many kids on too soon.  If Doughty gets hurt and there's nobody to take his place. 


It's hard to tell exactly how the Yotes did what the Yotes did last season.  Their roster isn't packed with star power.  Aside from Shane Doan and Ilya Bryzgalov, they didn't have a bona fide star player all year.  But Dave Tippett is one heck of a coach, and he got the Desert Dogs playing a team-oriented style of disciplined, controlled hockey.  Everybody bought in, and it made all the difference.

The team lost their best defenseman, their top center, and one of their best penalty killers.  That's probably going to hurt.  Bringing in Ray Whitney gives the team a higher caliber of playmaker than they've had recently, so that's a plus.  In addition, the team is hoping a few youngsters like Kyle Turris are ready to step in and contribute.  But the Coyotes aren't going to sneak up on anybody this season.  I think the Coyotes are still going to be strong, but they probably don't replicate the success of last season.

It could all change if: Bryzgalov isn't the league's most valuable player again.  Nobody steps up to fill Zbynek Michalek's shutdown role effectively.  The team starts off slowly and loses some of their swagger from the last campaign.  This is still a team that will live and die defensively.  If the D falters, it's all over.


The Ducks have one of the best lines in hockey.  Ryan-Getzlaf-Perry can take over a game by themselves.  Teemu Selanne still has some sizzling stuff.  In net, Jonas Hiller will win some games the Ducks probably deserve to lose.  And after that...well, it's not quite so pretty.  When you're looking at the possibility of using Sheldon Brookbank in your top four defensively for a while, you've got depth issues.  Losing both Pronger and Neidermayer over the past couple of seasons brought this team down several pegs.  With the Kings, Coyotes, Blues, Avalanche, and others all on the way up, I will be surprised to see the Ducks playing into the playoff race much come this spring.

It could all change if: Hiller plays out of his mind.  Rookie Cam Fowler develops immediately into a major impact player and transforms this blueline.  This wasn't a playoff team last year, and it doesn't look like they got any better in the off-season. 

Dallas has a strong 1-2 punch at center and some capable wingers scattered across their top three lines.  The defensive core shows some potential, but they really need someone to step up into a bona fide #1 or 2 d-man.  Goaltending could be the team's Achilles heel, almost literally, as starter Kari Lehtonen hasn't played a full season in...well...a long time.  And he's been inconsistent when he has played.  Admittedly, that was in Atlanta, and goalies don't traditionally fare well for the Thrashers.  Still.  History suggests that Lehtonen will be hurt at some point in the season.  And the Stars don't have much of a healthy insurance policy.

It could all change if: Lehtonen does stay healthy and plays up to the potential so many saw in him when he was first drafted second overall.  In 2002.  Also, it could change if one of Grossman, Fistric, or Niskanen wakes up as a young Brian Leetch.  The Stars can't take a step back offensively, either, so they'll need someone to develop into a legitimate scoring-threat-on-every-shift sorta guy. 


I picked the Wings to win it last year, and they didn't, so I'm sticking with that. ;-)

Really, though, it's still hard to pick against them.  Once the whole team was healthy (and Chris Osgood was no longer the #1 goalie) this team caught fire last year.  They bring back basically their entire team from last season: a squad that is talented, experienced, and professional.  The Wings haven't taken a year off in fifteen seasons, and there's no reason to expect they suddenly will. 

It could all change if: Jimmy Howard's play goes south.  Again, a goalie with a sophomore slump can absolutely kill a team.  Also--and again, this is said every single year--the Wings are an aging team.  Hasn't really shown its effects in the regular season, and probably won't again.  But if it does, it's not impossible that this team takes a tumble.


They won the Cup, obviously.  And then they jettisoned something like eight players from that Cup roster due to the Salary Cap.  Now, they've still got two premiere scoring lines and a phenomenal top-four defensive group.  After that, they've got a lot of question marks.  Will Viktor Stalberg and Jack Skille fill the voids left by, say, Kris Versteeg and Andrew Ladd?  You know, they just might.  Because this is a talented team, and talented teams can make players play beyond themselves.  But then again, they might not.  Will Marty Turco play like All-Star Marty Turco of a few years ago, or Get-Me-Out-Of-Dallas Marty Turco of the past two seasons?  I'd predict more likely the former, with Chicago's stacked blueline in front of him.  But you never know.  This team has enough talent to make the playoffs even if most of their "what if's" go wrong.  Plus, the Stanley Cup hangover appears to be real for most teams.  But they're going to have to catch a few breaks if they hope to repeat. 

It could all change if: I think I gave enough either-or's there to render this section unnecessary, aye?


The Blues shoulda been better last year.  I don't know what happens.  Actually, I'm not going to be surprised if the Blues challenge the Hawks this year.  St. Louis could be the West's breakout team of the year.  A lot of young talent, a good combination of skill and grit, depth at every position, and a hot goalie who should really shine in his first year as an undisputed #1.  Of course, the team lost two talented offensive forces this offseason in Kariya and Tkachuk, but then again a lot of the younger guys underachieved last year, so it should all balance out, right? 

It could all change if: If they all underachieve again.  If Halak isn't actually Slovakian for "STOP."  But neither of these things should happen. 

The Preds are a pretty good team.  Solid 1st scoring line, good 2nd scoring line, capable role-playing guys on the third and fourth lines, a steady-if-unspectacular group of defenders, and a really talented guy between the pipes.  They're a hard-working group who it's always a pain to play against.  They've been very consistently good for awhile now.  I think we'll have more of the same out of Nashville.  They haven't done much in the off-season to make us suspect that much has changed.  Once again, I expect the Preds to be in the thick of things for those last few playoff spots, and if they get in, then they should give whoever they play fits before bowing out in the first round.  It's nice to know there are some things you can count on.

It could all change if: Pekka Rinne has a bad year, and Mark Dekanich can't be for Renne what Renne was to Dan Ellis.  Or what Ellis was to Steve Mason.  Or what Mason was to Tomas Vokoun.  Strange trend among Nashville tenders. 

Man.  It was pretty brutal in Columbus last year.  After riding the high of the franchise's first ever playoff birth, the whole team pretty much laid an egg.  Rookie of the Year Steve Mason was literally one of the worst goalies in the league.  Shooters think they've found his weak point.  I guess this year we'll see if they're right.  Nobody wants to be "The Next Jim Carey" but Mason is currently the prime candidate.  Meanwhile, we'll see if those talented young offensive phenoms finally give Rick Nash some relief in the scoring department.  Bottom line, this is still a young team that desperately needs to learn through struggling.  A lot of the pieces are there, but they're not quite ready.

It could all change if: Mason is Mason of 2008-09 again.  Two of Nikita Filatov, Derick Brassard, and Jakub Voracek go on pretty major scoring binges at some point this year.  If a young team like this catches fire early, they may be able to ride that momentum through the year and surprise people with a playoff spot again. 

My early Cup pick.  They've got all the ingredients.  Two stellar two-way lines at the top of the order.  Some solid sandpaper on the third line. Six legitimate NHL defensemen.  A money goalie.  And a painful post-season exit to the eventual Cup champs to end last year. This team has spent nearly a decade building to this point, and this could finally be the year they put it all together.

It could all change if: Henrik Sedin or Roberto Luongo get hurt for months at a time.  Otherwise, I don't see much stopping this team, at least not in the regular season. 

The rest of the Northwest is kind mediocre.  Of the rest, I think the Flames'll be best.  A lot seemed to go wrong for Calgary last year.  They played some killer defense, and they've brought back most of that core (well, what was left of it after they were done dealing with Toronto, of course) and their workhorse Miikka Kiprusoff.  The team finished 29th in the league in offense last year, and so they've added some veterans who've had pretty productive years in the past and hoped that they'll rediscover some of their zing playing with Jarome Iginla.  Alex Tangua and Olli Jokinen should both be better than they have been recently.  Tanguay had some good years in Calgary before, so they're really hoping he can click with Iginla like in days of old. Brendan Morrison adds a little bit of depth at center and effectively replaced Craig Conroy.  This team almost made the playoffs despite not scoring, so with a summer to refocus their attention to putting the puck in the next, they should have a good chance at nailing down one of those last spots.

It could all change if: Nothing goes right.  If Jokinen, Tanguay, and Morrison are, in fact, washed up.  If they score like they did last year, this team will likely go nowhere once again. 

What a great season the Avs had last year!  Everybody (self included) predicted they'd finish, at best, 14th in the 15-team conference.  Instead, they made the playoffs and took the Sharks to 6 games.  What happened?  Stellar goaltending.  Surprising offensive production from the team's many "Young Guns."  A balanced attack that could score from three different lines.  Now, it's always hard to tell if a team with this many rookies is going to take a step back or not.  I don't think that the youngsters are necessarily going to fall back a step, but I'm concerned about the team's overall health.  Milan Hejduk still has great hands, but he's not young any more, and he's spent some time hurt the last few years, including the playoffs last season.  Word is he's been held out of some preseason contests due to some soreness.  I don't expect a full year out of him.  Also, Peter Mueller (who came over from Phoenix for Wojtek Wolski) missed the end of last season with a concussion.  Then, his first week back in the preseason, another concussion.  Bad sign.  Two big scorers coming into the year as question marks.  One more strike, and the Avs go from having three lines of guys who can put a puck in the net to two, and they don't have the depth organizationally to field a competitive third and fourth line in that instance.  Plus, the defense is exactly the same as last year's and last year's defense was underwhelming.  I think the Avs are just a bad break away from being on the outside looking in this year.

It could all change if: Obviously, everyone stays healthy.  And somebody takes the emotional leadership of this team and carries the kids on his back.  The Avs started hot last year and sort of hung on to make the playoffs.  They'll have to be more of a battling team to make it back.

Last year, the Wild tried to play a new, up-tempo, high-octane scoring system with a team that had been built to play a puck containment, neutral-zone trapping style.  As a result, they finished 20th in goals for and 21st in goals against.  Oh, and 22nd overall.  With one year of Todd Richard's system under their belt, the hope is that the Wild will be better adjusted to make the transition to run-and-gun NHL team.  With no significant personnel moves, though (Matt Cullen is a good center), you have to wonder if anything's really going to be all that different this year.  If Guillaume Latendresse backs off at all on his surprising goal-scoring total from last year, this team could be dead in the water by the all-star break.  They haven't exhibited a lot of mental toughness over the past year, and their outings this preseason have been inconsistent.  And all losses. 

It could all change if: Niklas Backstrom returns to form from two and three years ago.  He was hung out to dry a LOT last year and his numbers really suffered for it.  Plus, the Wild have had trouble keeping goalies helpful.  If Latendresse, Havlat, and (hopefully healthy) Bouchard have career years, this might be a playoff team.

Goaltending is suspect.  Blueline is lacking.  Forwards are really young.  Edmonton is doing a fine job of rebuilding this franchise.  But make no mistake, they are well mired in the rebuilding process.

It could all change if: The Oilers pull a 2009-10 Avalanche.  If Khabibulin becomes the dominant keeper he hasn't been in years, if the youngsters step in and score in bunches right away, then this team could shock everybody.  That's a lot of ifs, but this team is pretty much in the position the Avs were in last season.  Hey, it could happen.