The Last Storytelling.

by Mark Zaugg 20. October 2007 23:33

I'm from a family of story tellers.  Structuring thoughts into stories is something I remember from generations on both sides of my family. 

I assume this is something that happens in all families.  The passing of lore, of shared memory, of myth and fact and family dinner stories.  You know.  The good stuff. 

One of the things I remember from growing up is that I wasn't allowed to watch a lot of superhero-type shows.  It seemed so unfair - my friends watched whatever and I got left out.  Oh sure, I could jump around and kick the air in front of me with the best of 'em, but I really didn't know whom fought who and what the outcome was. 

Naturally, I snuck as much superhero stuff as I could.  And most of it was pretty lame.  But hey, I was a kid. 

On the other side of parenthood, I see my kids taking in a lot of stories.  Most of which are crap.  Of course.  I'm truly unsure if Saturday morning cartoons are better now than they were when I was a kid.  I think I'm more inclined to just believe 95% of everything is crap. 

One of the ugly trends I see continuing is having my kids overcharged and hyper-stimulated after watching the sixth or seventh good vs. evil battle in a row.  Of course, the white hats always win - although they don't always wear white hats any longer.  There's no collateral damage.  There's little price to pay other than digging deep into the protagonist's soul to find the faith and confidence that was always there.  The black hats skulk away, vowing to fight again another day.  Nothing ever really changes, the characters come back the next show to perform another variant of the same plot.  Then the next show comes on and it's a new batch of characters performing the same plot.

Of course, the majority of the crap I'm seeing is the "Power Rangers" mentality.  Characters going out and pummeling other characters using fancy martial arts moves, flying back and forth through the air sending flying kicks at each other.  The problem is, it shows a very narrow view of martial arts.  All emphasis on the screaming, flying fight and nothing on the meditation and the spirituality.  Nothing bigger than the immediate conflict.

Life is not a constant conflict of the moment.  Well, not a good life.  Handling the minutia of the mundane day to day living is critical because it is in that day to day living that we spend most of our lives.  There's nothing wrong with telling stories on the extremes, but we need to make sure we tell stories with other storylines. 

Let's go back to grade school.  Remember those all those types of conflict that you can have?  It's pretty basic.  Man against himself - that's the internal conflict I live every day.  Man again another.  Man against society.  Man against nature.  Man against God (or some reasonable facsimile we call superheros).  We have a lot more choices than the same humdrum epic battles betwixt good and evil.

Now the one thing I'm not saying is that everything I read is Don Quixote.  In fact, the last book I read was passed up to me from my daughter.  Don Quixote has stood the test of time for 400 years and it remains a great book - one of the best I've ever read.  Eragon probably won't be revered in 2409, but it's a perfect story for a maturing young lady with a dragon fixation.

Tonight I picked up a movie to watch with the kids without really knowing what I was picking up.  It's a bad enough idea to send me into a video store in the first place.  It's a doubly bad idea to send me in looking for "family" entertainment (the kids like Spinal Tap, don't they?)

Okay, I'll come clean.  My Lady-love gave me a list of three or four movies and I couldn't find one of them.  I panicked.  I managed to find a copy of "The Last Mimzy" on sale and I vaguely remember seeing an add or something for it.  My kids will watch anything.

The plot moved more slowly than I would have liked.  It plodded along setting up the story, sometimes driving home a point much more bluntly than necessary.  There was phenomenal talent with a hand in the making, and points really shone, other parts fell apart as if they were unattended.

I really appreciated Rick Norwood's reveiw quoted in Wikipedia.

In films, of course, emotion is everything, and so The Last Mimzy has carefully expunged all of the ideas from the story, and replaced them with the New Age nonsense that passes for ideas these days. They have also taken a very personal story about one family and a box of toys from the future and turned it into an epic story in which childlike innocence saves the human race.

The story was watered down, laden down with modern politics (Department of Homeland Security?  Hopefully that will be dated in a year or two.)  and suffered from a large special effects budget without the wisdom of when to use it or the storyline to back it up.  On the face of it, the whole movie was quite mediocre.

On the other side, it had some great music (always a bonus for me) and it was truly an epic tale that could pull in both the kids and I with a good, basic story.  Best of all, it still was imaginative without the spinning, hacking, slashing manic super-kung fu put in to (lamely) build tension.

A nice try on a good story.  Glad I picked it up, glad the kids got into it, hope it inspires the kids to read the original story and figure out it's more than the movie was.

Conversations I almost had had... ALIENS.

by Mark Zaugg 29. September 2007 22:31

So my son is playing Alien Assembly Required (yes, Virginia, the web does have some very good kid friendly areas) when he says to me, "I'm going to make these aliens with no arms and no legs.  They're floating above the ground - see?  They're meditating."

Once again, I'm not sure if he made a mistake or if he's smarter than me.

Happy Holidays!

by Mark Zaugg 27. August 2007 00:41

Well, that was good.  

It's been ages since I've been out camping.  Probably the last, best camping I've done lately was the Zarquil Zonar's Wonderful Weekend in the Woods series of camps.  

The basic premise was you grab a bunch of buddies, you grab a flat of beer each, and you go out somewhere, build a fire, and spend a weekend not thinking about the opposite sex (Rule 4), keeping the fire alive by bringing a log when you (ahem) leave a log (Rule 11, I think) and - most importantly - keeping SGR in the dark about everything (Rule 7).  

Well, this was a lot more simple premise.  Grab the kids, go out to the mountains for a week and show them some of my favourite places.

I decided a while back to head up to Mosquito Creek to camp.  I had easy access to a series of great hikes we could do in the daytime that weren't going to be too hard on the kids - while giving me choice for a few more difficult hikes that were a little more rewarding.  After that, we could head down near Banff to relax.  

It almost worked.  

Our first day out we went up to Bow Glacier for an easy hike to see just how well the kids would do.  The kids brought along their hiking boots and I figured we were safe as can be for a simple hike.

We rounded the Num-Ti-Jah Lodge just fine as we passed the bend of Bow Lake.  "How are your socks, kids?  How are your shoes, kids?  How are you feeling kids?"

Invariably the answer was "Good."  Well, that is until I heard, "Daaaaad, I've got something in my boot."

One massive blister left us with only short, easy hikes the rest of the trip.

That was okay.  We went up to Moraine Lake which remains my favourite place on earth.  We dawdled through the mountains a little more than I initially planned, but we got up to the more "Touristy" spots around Lake Louise and Banff.

Thursday was the highlight for the kids as we went to the Banff Hot Springs.  We spent a lot of time at the Cave and Basin, especially looking at the Banff Springs Snails.  Then two hours soaking in the upper springs.  Aaahh..  goodness.

Great time.  I'm looking forward to it next year.

Photos are posted, you must be a registered user to view them.  Have fun - we sure did.

A Watery Weekend

by Mark Zaugg 24. June 2007 21:48

Water.  Giver of life.  Salvation in a desert.  Cleansing.  Purifying.  Requisite for all things living on earth. 

A weekend revolving around water restores one to one's own being. 

Yet another significantly overbooked weekend that on a bad week would have the lot of us running about like chickens with their heads cut off.  And once you click that link you will know that even mere mortals can sometimes beat the odds. 

Our plan was to go up to Water Valley for their Celtic Festival.  The only problem, we got out the door a little late to begin with, we went north and then west instead of west and then north, and it was raining by the time we got there. 

Okay, fine.  We found a geocache in Cremona and then drove to Cochrane for lunch at Lord Fin's (caution - Lord Fin's website may or may not be acting up at the moment).  Mmmm....  Good lunch.  Just in time for the hail storm.  HAIL?  Poor Dragula...

Back to Calgary, pick up the sitter, introduce him to geocaching, then my Lady-love and I are off to see Roger Waters.  That's one of those tours I never expected to catch until, well, pigs flew.

I'm breaking the concert review to it's own entry..  That'll follow..

Sunday was off with a stutter as the kids are up and moving before I've had time to instinctively understand the term "caffeine addiction."  Somehow I got up and moving and we got through.

Did some chores around the house as the Lady-Love prepared to "Paint Green the Wall!"  (Wrong!  Paint it again!)

At the crack of noon we were off to the Polish Festival.  What do you want to eat?  Perogies, kielbasa and bigos, if you please.  Mmmm....  Two days of delicious.  I'm going to HAVE to go geocaching just to burn some of this off..

And with that, we hit a couple caches up there.  The kids tell me they want me to promise we'll find two caches.  Well, I'll promise we'll look for two, how's that?

Two finds later, and we grab and dash just as the thunder booms overhead the Children's Hospital.  We dash and still get home dry, on time, and have a relaxed and enjoyable dinner together.  Just in time for the hail storm.  HAIL?  Poor Dragula...

What a great weekend.  We should do this every time!

Spending a little cash for a little cache.

by Mark Zaugg 27. May 2007 22:15

A decent weekend with the kids - not quite according to plan, but when are they ever? 

Friday night we did a quick stop at home, fed the animals, fed the pets, then cracked open the piggy banks for a little practical lessons in the world of budgeting your money. 

Of course, it's a lot easier when you're basically budgeting to shop at a dollar store to get trinkets to scatter about the countryside.  And, of course, all the change literally came from Dad's wallet in the first place.  Still, I think it was one of my more clever ideas of freeing space in the piggy banks and keeping the kids involved in geocaching. 

The kids spent about $8.00 each, give or take, and we took our collective treasure and put them into a Spira lunch bucket and prepared for a day of traipsing about the countryside. 

To go north or to go east?  I was determined that if I was going to go somewhere, I was going to take the Habitat for Humanity Travel Bug to one of the nearby cities that actually had an affiliate.  I favoured going to Brooks and touring the area I grew up.  Fortunately, I only had to say, "Dinosaur Provincial Park" to convince the kids I had the better idea. 

Saturday morning after breakfast we lazily packed the car and the dog and stayed out of my Lady-love's hair as she stained the new deck furniture.  We drove down to Brooks where we saw an amazing Show and Shine, filled up, and trucked on down to the Brooks Aqueduct where we were to find our first caches.

The geocache is called "Romans In Alberta?" and we were hampered by extraordinarily friendly grounds staff who talked to the kids and I so much about the aqueduct and the area at large.  When I told one of the fellows I grew up there he was able to tell me all sorts of details of the area and the people who lived there.  The kids and the dog found another Border Collie and they amused each other while I chatted with the people at the info centre.

It's really hard to poke around and do a serious dig to find the cache itself when you're also torn between just yakking the day away as well.  We gave up after what seemed like an hour on site and moved on.

Next cache was relatively easy.  My son proved once more hey can't walk and drink at the same time, tripped in a hole and cried as he banged his elbow.  I went back to get him back on his feet and comfort him and, lookie here, I just found the cache, guys!  It wasn't sealed very well, so everything inside ranged between moist and wet.  We dried out what we could, sealed it with a fresh ziplock, my son was VERY insistent the pearl bracelet was his gift for my Lady-love, and we were off to Dinosaur Provincial Park.

The shame...  The shame is complete at this point..

We stopped at the top to overlook the park - that all went fine as I took my bearings and noticed the first of three caches was right below us down the hill.  Great, park at the visitor center and we'll hike in.  There's my first bad idea.  Try as we might, we wound up hiking up the side of the road instead of moving into the valley.  We took a couple looks down trying to find a suitable way to the bottom, but it was far too muddy and slippery to bother.  On the other hand, I saw one of the few trees in the valley standing alone and took a mental bearing towards it.  Circling back, we found a set of stairs which took us to the group camp where we were supposed to start according to the directions.

My only excuse:  There was a very large RV parked across the SW corner of the campsite.  On the other hand, there was a suitable looking path leading to the SE towards the dead tree I saw from overhead, and the tree I had targeted was somewhat to the south and west from there.  We struck out boldly towards where I was certain we'd find the tree we were destined to find.  And the Sandy Hill Creek (I believe that's the name, anyways) was directly in our way.  We find a suitable crossing with rocks we can step across.  Theoretically.  Okay, the kids have hiking boots, I've only got my runners, but we'll get through just fine.  It's not like we're going to have to cross it more than twice.  And I was insistent that they bring dry socks with them and leave them in the car for when we got back.

Arrive at the dead tree, cut down towards the living one.  The path has utterly vanished, any basic path is equally marsh, and my shoes aren't getting any drier.  We end up struggling our way to the big living tree where I was aiming and...  We were 200 m away from where we were supposed to be.  Granted, I still didn't know where that was, but by that point it was actually north and west of where we were.

Doing our best to move west again, we encountered that damned creek three more times.  That is the very definition of "meandering", and "uncomfortable" and "futile to try to cross because you're only going to find a much worse crossing you have to get through next time".  Apparently we ended up on a thickly grown peninsula with little to do but whack our way through the brush to get to yet another steep bank we're trying to coax the dog across.

Well, that's a little unfair.  The dog was more than happy to splash through the middle of the stream.  If it was his choice, we likely would still be there.

Finally I lost my patience and my cool.  "That's it!  We're giving up!  Straight to the cliff and we're getting out of here."  Five minutes later, the mosquitos clouding around us, I hear the friendly chime from the GPS to say, "You're approaching the cache!"  Sign the log and we ran like an Albertasaurus was on our tail.

We were spent and decided it was time to go home.  Like the fool that I am, I didn't turn off the GPS, but instead discovered we were driving right by Rock Lake, the site where I caught my very first fish.  We did a quick tour of Rosemary, where I showed the kids placed I'd lived growing up.  Also a quick plug for R&W Furniture in Rosemary, because they've got a great map of the town.  Pretty much includes all you need right there.  The Rec Centre is all new to me, but most of the town is more or less the same.  Had some of the locals wondering who's gawking up and down the streets, I'm sure.

After that it was just roll home as quickly as we could.  One would say almost a little too quickly.  There's an art to driving the country highways in Alberta...

Great fun!  Next time, we'll hit more near home and get the numbers up a little.  And we have a coin to deposit sometime soon....  Hmm....


by Mark Zaugg 19. February 2007 09:41

When I turned six my cake was a train made from cake made in bread pans.  It was the coolest cake I ever had. 

We played on the front lawn and I made my best friend annoyed because I wanted to run the three legged race with another kid instead.  At the end of the day, Rob was still my best friend and the other kid was still my friend.  But for the life of me, I can't remember his name while "Robbie" comes to mind without a second thought. 

We went looking to get a cake yesterday and the family bakery is gone.  They're mostly sucked into grocery stores now - I was hoping it would hold out but I knew that was to be futile hope in Calgary these days. 

And so? 

I throw a party for my son today.  Invited some of his classmates, and some family friends.  Part of his family. 

The gifts may or may not be remembered.  The party will be.  A good time seemed to be had by all.

What impressed me was the interaction my son displayed.  The kids were like glue.  My son interacted with his friends like..  Like a six year old at his birthday party.  Friends were friends, mix 'em in a pot and enjoy flambed metaphor.  Sure, it took a few minutes for the lot of them to settle in and figure out who everyone was, but they got started and the lot of them acted like they'd forever been friends.  My son ran between the lot of them and kept touching base with every guest that was there.  I'm impressed with how he kept all the others involved.

Great kids.  Great friends.  I'm very proud of all of them.

When I escape the beauracracy and look beyond the frustration of being an EOW-Dad, you can get a lot of faith in our future.  We've got a great crop of six year olds coming up.  How about we put the whole damned country in the middle of a "Let's Play" and let them just take over now for a while?  Let the world come down to who will run the three-legged race with each other.

After all, they're going to be the ones to deal without a family bakery on the corner that makes the good cakes.

Am I just stupid or am I too dumb to figure it out?

by Mark Zaugg 21. December 2006 21:09

I try, oh, how I try.. 

It's the end of the year.  We're coming up to Christmas concert season.  I've been asking Rebekk what she's been practicing for the concert and she's answered, "I don't know." 

Well, it's gratifying to know that eight year olds today aren't any more expressive than they were back when I was eight, right? 

Well, no biggie.  I've known for a while that the concert at my kids' school was scheduled for tonight. 

The downside:  I've been going full bore at work trying to get a client set up and happy before Christmas so I can get out of town for a while after Christmas.  I'm putting in longer-than-usual hours and forgetting any aberrance outside of my regular schedule.  Yeah, there's been a couple of balls dropped that wouldn't have happened at a normal time.

So I put out an extra effort to ensure that I left work on time to get home, get the car and my Lady-love, and head down there with plenty of time to get a seat instead of being wedged up against the back wall again as I have the previous two years.  A quick scan of the web page to check the time and I'm off:

Upcoming Events
Dec. 21 - Last day of school; Christmas Concert 7:00 - 8:30 pm; Winter Break begins - return Monday, Jan. 8, 2007

Coolness - I have enough time to be down there half an hour early.  Notice there's even less chairs out than last year.  Find a spot.  Sit down.  Read the pamphlet.  Lots on the Grade 5's through 9's, nothing on my daughter's class.  Nothing on my son's class either.  That's.....  curious....

Go to the office.  No one there.  Walk back to the gym, and I see the principal.  That's when I get it confirmed, only Grades 5 through 9 are having a Christmas Concert.  My daughter will have a spring concert.  Sometime in the spring, I gather.

There is a certain sense of logic here.  Note that I said above that the past two years I was plastered against the back wall with the mayhem that was a full school Christmas concert.  Halving the school means more tolerable seating arrangements for viewing.  Breaking it down into Winter and Spring concerts has a definite appeal from a logistical standpoint for the teachers and organizers.  It sucks if you're one of those that has to see their kid perform a Christmas program, but I'm an ol' Humbug and I'm more interested in seeing the kids put on a performance.  Being a big fan of what their band teacher does, I'd rather see him do something amazing with the kids and have them do something really cool and creative as opposed to another ho-hum Christmas play no one in the back can hear in the first place.

My beef lies in the realization that I'm not at the school on a day-to-day basis and I'm simply not "in the loop" of details that get taken for granted.  It's great that everyone at the school knows the Grade 5 through 9 classes are doing the Christmas concert this year, but I'm not at the school!

On the upcoming events, it's listed as the Christmas concert.  I thought I was covered.  After coming home in frustration from feeling like an afterthought, I discover my mistake.

Open the monthly pdf newsletter, and right there, in plain sight, at the top of the right hand column of page 3 of a 5 page document (page 4 appears to be blank and page 5 is a standard CBE boilerplate page) in plain type.

Winter Celebration of the Arts

[non-descript photo of a Christian choir with festive decorations behind them]

Everyone is invited to attend the Celebration of the Arts of students in Grade 5 - 9 Complimentary Courses.  This will take place in the gym on December 21st from 7:00 to 8:30.  Please come and celebrate with your sons and daughters.

Ah.  I need to open the pdf, scroll to the penultimate paragraph of meaningful content, and although I don't really know what "Complimentary Courses" consist of, I can certainly figure out that Grade 5 - 9 will likely exclude my children and by association understand that I probably wouldn't have to exert too much energy to watch my children perform a concert since they won't be there.  Probably.

My priorities don't appear to match the priorities of the newsletter.

So I pose a question:  What do non-custodial parents have to do in order to stay in touch with their children's schools so they can be informed with the events they consider significant?  How does a non-custodial parent balance relentless questioning without becoming invasive and disruptive to the school environment?  How about from custodial parents:  Do you drop the kids off and pick 'em up at the end of the day, or do you have a relationship with the teachers and school administration so you actually get contact and regular information?

I don't get notes and memos sent home from school.  Even when the newsletter has news and information, it doesn't necessarily prove to be inciteful.  I'm at wit's end since I feel I acted as responsibly as possible to stay informed and participate.  Yes, I should have opened the pdf.  On the other hand, I shouldn't have to weed out the one sentence at the back of the newsletter to find out what is happening.

I welcome any and all comments on this one.  Anonymous postings will be accepted, but please be patient as your post may be delayed for spam filtering.

Hello, my name is Mark and I'll be your host this afternoon..

by Mark Zaugg 26. October 2006 08:30

So it's a weekend with the kids, Firefox 2.0 is released, and it's the perfect mix of "something to do" and "let's celebrate for the sake of celebration."  And "Lethbridge had one scheduled, but Edmonton still doesn't."  ;-) 

If you're not aware, the Calgary Zoo has just won a significant award for it's program to re-introduce (pdf warning!) the Swift Fox back into the Canadian wilds.  It's considered to be one of the biggest successes of a re-introduction of a carnivore back into the wild.  Very cool, and the Swift Fox is a handsome little devil, at that. 

So my poor little brain connects (muddles?) "Firefox" with "Swift Fox" and I think, "Hey, let's get the kids to make up head bands and I'll hot glue some construction paper ears and write on them and we'll throw a party.  Out in public, everyone's welcome, just show up. 

So it's become official.  Firefox with the Swift Foxes.  Saturday at 1:00 PM at the zoo.  The Swift Foxes are over at the Cequel Energy Lodge in the Canadian Wilds exhibit.  It's a little back out of the way, so please show at the gates with a few minutes to spare so you have time to walk back to the lodge.  Come as you are, I'll try to bring enough ears for everyone.

How to make an authentic Latin American dinner in 12 easy steps

by Mark Zaugg 16. October 2006 08:42

Step 1:  Mix the ground corn meal and water in a bowl to get approximately the right consistency.  Mess around for the next 20 minutes trying to get it to where I'm happy with the consistency. 

Step 2:   Mess around trying to make the tortilla shells without having them stick like crazy to the tortilla maker. 

Step 3:  Listen to the tortilla press as it cracks loudly.

Step 4: Panic. 

Step 5:  I've got a bowl of corn meal that needs to be used, it takes me far too long to roll the dough, and quesadillas aren't going to be happening.  "Debo hacer frente."  Or something.  It's too late to change course now.

Step 6:  Roll the dough into snakes.  Can't tell me kindergarten wasn't good to me.  I love making plasticine snakes.  Obviously, I still do.  Lightly drizzle with olive oil to prevent them from sticking.

Step 7:  Fry onions.  Mmm...  Onions.

Step 8:  Thaw a package of ground beef.  Really quickly.  As astoundingly quickly as you can.

Step 9:  Discover a can of 'chili style beans' in the cupboard.  Pinto and kidney beans?  Sounds Mexican.

Step 10:  Add corn.  Waitasec, there isn't any corn.  Can I add a can of peas and call it even?

Step 11:  Cover liberally with cheese (this all started off as quesadillas, right?) and bake until the cheese melts.

Step 12:  Serve with salsa and sour cream between two avocado plants and call it Mexican.  The kid's believe me.  They'll believe anything I say.

Rebekk called this "quesa-sagna".  It's a good name for the amalgamation of flavours and styles for a multi-layered corn-meal based concotion of strangeness.

Yes, they want it again.  I sure hope they exchange my tortilla press.

Reasons I love my kids (#4425916)

by Mark Zaugg 2. October 2006 00:04

"Daaaad," my son says, "I can't wear these underpants.  They're too small." 

Awkward moment of silence. 

"Are they pinching?"

"Yeah.  My knees really hurt."


Change is the only constant.

Welcome to the semi-exciting new look, same crappy blogger.

All comments are still moderated, I'll approve everything that isn't spam or offensive.  Agreement with His Dorkasaurus is not necessary.

What has changed is that I don't have 1000 junk accounts clogging up the system that I have to go through one by one.  Yes, you too can set up an account and no longer need to wait for me to notice you posted.  Completely optional.

As always:  Have fun, be respectful.


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