Thursday, January 25, 2007

Half a Fish Tale

Half a Fish Tale
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

"Shh! Be quiet or you'll scare the fish away."

"Because fish can hear sounds outside the water."

"Yes, Honey, like thumping the boat."

"Yes, like your sister did."

"I know she did it too. You both did. That's why I said to stop."

"But they can still hear, even underwater."

"Because they have ears."

"No, not ears like ours."

"Yes, Sweetie, that would look pretty silly."

"They look like little holes up near the top of their head, slightly behind their eyes."

"We didn't bring your brother because he's too young to go fishing. He's with Mommy. I thought it would be fun if it was just the three of us."

"Well, he can't swim, for one thing."

"I know you're all wearing life vests. But I don't want to have to watch three kids in a boat while we're trying to catch fish."

"Because trying to keep you from fighting at home is hard enough. I don't want the added problem of water safety too."

"Because it's -- Hey, Honey, you got a bite!"

"Set the hook."

"No, don't set the pole down. Yank on it."

"Harder."

"Oh no, it got away."

"No, Honey, don't cry."

"You did fine. That was great."

"Don't worry, we'll catch some."

"Because sometimes fish don't get a good bite on the hook, so when you set the hook, it pulls out of his mouth."

"No, we can't keep the fish as a pet."

"We're not catching goldfish."

"Bass."

"Because they're too big to fit in the fish bowl."

"They're about 12 inches long, and they weigh two pounds."

"You eat them."

"What do you mean, yuck?"

"You like fish."

"Yes you do. You like it when Mommy makes salmon, right?"

"Salmon are fish."

"They are too!"

"I have an idea. Let's -- Sweetie, you got a bite! Set the hook!"

"Great, now reel him in."

"I don't know if he's a boy fish. I call all fish he."

"I don't know. I just -- keep cranking!"

"Wow, look at that one. Good job, Sweetie. Okay, I'll net him -- uhh, her."

"You take her off the hook. Do you have your needle nose pliers?"

"Good. Got your glove?"

"What do you mean, real fisherman don't wear gloves?"

"Says who?"

"Oh, he did, did he? Well, you just tell Grandpa that he can just -- hey, I got a bite!"

"Let's reel this bad boy in here"

"No Honey, he's not a bad boy. He's just a fish."

"Because my fish is a boy fish."

"No, Honey, not like Nemo."

"No, we're not eating Nemo."

"Because Nemo is an ocean fish, for one thing. Bass are lake fish."

"Sweetie, I'm busy at the moment. Can you take your own fish off the hook?"

"What do you mean, you did?"

"Already? Wow, that's fast."

"Here he comes. Almost there."

"No, I don't want the net."

"I'll just grab him."

"Alright, her. Where's my glove?"

"What do you mean, back there?"

"Why didn't you tell me it fell in the water?"

"Never mind, I know a trick."

"Here he com--"

"Stop laughing."

"No, it's not, it's a wood fish."

"Those aren't leaves, they're fins."

"Alright, alright, it's a branch."

"Yes, I know that's not a fish."

"It's not that funny."

"Lots of people catch branches."

"Sure they do. I remember one time I caught a branch, and it was thi-i-i-is big! I brought it home and built a desk out of it."

"No, not really. Whenever I catch a branch, I just throw it back."

"No, Honey, that wasn't a lie. It's a fish tale."

"That's when a fisherman exaggerates about the size of the fish he caught."

"Because it's not a lie."

"Because it's not."

"It just -- Hey, Honey, you got a bite! Set the hook. Yank on it like I showed you."

"Good job. Keep reeling him in."

"Sorry, her."

"Sweetie, would you help your sister take the fish off the hook?"

"Please?"

"But I lost my glove."

"But, but. . . fine, I'll do it."

"Let me get ahold of it. . . right here under the gills. . .Ewwwwww! It's SLIMY!!"

"Man, the things I do for you girls. Just remember this when you want to get your driver's licenses."

"Okay, we're going to be out here for a while. What do you want to talk about?"

"Babies?! Uhh, I think that's something you should talk to Mommy about."

"Because I think that's a conversation every Mommy should have with her daughters."

"Because I don't -- oh look, I got a bite."

"Yes, I did."

"What do you mean, the pole's not bending?"

"Well, it's a super strong pole. It doesn't bend that easily."

"Shh! Don't talk, or you'll scare the fish away."

"Especially about that."

Thursday, January 18, 2007

PETA Hates Animals

PETA Hates Animals
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Despite their name, I think the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) doesn't like the very animals they're trying to protect.

That's why they kill many of the pet cats and dogs they receive.

In fact, two PETA employees are on trial for 31 counts of Cruelty to Animals and three counts of Obtaining Property By False Pretenses for allegedly killing animals and then illegally disposing of their bodies.

According to a story on WVEC-TV's website, Andrew Benjamin Cook and Adria Joy Hinkle were arrested in June 2005 after police found them throwing trash bags containing the bodies of 18 dead dogs and cats into a dumpster at an Ahoskie, North Carolina shopping center. Police then searched the PETA-owned van and found another 13 dead pets.

Staff from the Ahoskie Animal Hospital and the Bertie County Animal Shelter told police the two PETA employees had collected 31 animals, including kittens and puppies, and promised that PETA would find adoptive homes.

I've heard that all dogs go to Heaven, but I don't think that counts as an adoptive home.

"It's hideous," Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA, told WVEC. "I think this is so shocking it's bound to hurt our work."

Really, Ingrid? You think this is going to hurt your work? This, and not the "Got beer?" campaign you geared toward minors? Or the time your own Bruce Friedrich said PETA wished for the painful and deadly foot-and-mouth disease to strike the U.S. cattle and dairy industry? Or the time you guys asked Hamburg, New York to change their name to Veggieburg?

You people are so far beyond hurting your work, a story about how PETA employees allegedly killed kittens and puppies won't make much of a dent. It's like spilling a glass of water on the Titanic.

PETA claims they collect animals and then adopt them out to loving families. They just don't tell you about what they do with 90 percent of the animals that aren't adopted or recovered by their owners.

According to records from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, PETA received 2,145 animals in 2005, and killed 90 percent of them in its Norfolk-based facilities. Meanwhile, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals only put down four percent.

The state average is 43 percent.

In other words, PETA's kill rate is more than double of the entire Commonwealth of Virginia's. Oh, they defend their practices as being humane. In fact, according to PETAKillsAnimals.com, if you write to them about this issue, they'll send a letter back to you explaining themselves.

"[M]ost of the animals we receive are broken beings for whom euthanasia is, without a doubt, the most humane option."

Hardly sounds like "Ethical Treatment" to me.

So I wasn't surprised to hear that Colorado Governor Bill Owens called PETA "a bunch of losers" and "frauds."

During a January 4 interview on KRFX-FM in Denver, PETA spokeswoman Reannon Peterson refused to help the two morning show hosts raise money to help feed and rescue more than 340,000 cattle stranded by several recent blizzards.

Workers had been airlifting bales of hay to the stranded animals in the hopes of preventing massive starvation. Hosts Rick Lewis and Michael Floorwax were trying to raise money to save the cattle, as well as the ranchers' livelihood.

After she launched into a tirade about how the ranchers wouldn't be in this situation if they had treated the animals differently, Peterson was repeatedly asked how an organization that was supposed to care about animals could let thousands of cattle starve to death.

Her answer? "Why are we so worried about keeping them just so we can kill them in six months so they can become a steak dinner?"

I'm no expert, but I'm guessing it's so they won't die a painful and lingering death.

It's at that point that Governor Owens, who had been sitting quietly through the whole interview, exploded and called the group "frauds and losers."

"Don't send money to PETA. That's the message," he said on the air.

It seems to me that PETA is more about sensationalism and raising money than they are actually helping animals. They throw red paint on fur coats, rather than buy and rescue the animals from the farmers. They kill pets rather than try to adopt them out to families. And they would rather let more than 300,000 cattle needlessly suffer than do something to help them.

If they truly wanted to help the animals they claim to support, they would use the money they raise to pay for the rescue, housing, and care of every animal they find, whether it's mink, cattle, or dogs and cats.

Just don't let Cook and Hinkle near them.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ask Your Doctor How Awesome Chipotle Is

Ask Your Doctor How Awesome Chipotle Is
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

Call the neighbors and wake the kids. It's time for Lake Superior State University's annual List of Words Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-Use, Over-Use and General Uselessness.

At the beginning of each year, LSSU (official motto: "Hey, we're over here!") releases its 32nd annual list of words it wants to ban from our every day usage. And I agree with this year's list for the most part. (For the entire list, go to www.lssu.edu/banished.)

I have covered the banned list for the past few years, and detailed the latest linguistic losses from LSSU's literary lance, although not so alliteratively. Each year's entries include words that have been overused, incorrectly used, or are just plain stupid, and should therefore be banned. And this year's list is no exception.

In fact, you might say the list is "awesome." At least, you would if LSSU hadn't nixed this one, although I disagree with their choice. I happen to love the word.

LSSU originally gave it one-year moratorium when it was banished by their famed Unicorn Hunters in 1984 ( along with "gnarly," "totally," and "to the max"), with the hopes that the word would be "rehabilitated until it means 'fear mingled with admiration or reverence; a feeling produced by something majestic.'"

(Example: "I think Erik Deckers is awesome.")

However, I think LSSU should have left this one alone. I use the word frequently, and always mean 'admiration, reverence, and majestic' when I do. You're getting married? Awesome. You're having a baby? Awesome. We're having steak tonight? Awesome.

Unfortunately, many of LSSU's contributors feel the word is now a re-offender and should be banished forever. But don't worry, Awesome, I'll fight for you with my last overly-cliched breath, because I think you're just, well, really neat.

"Pwn" or "pwned" is a casualty that hails from the online gaming world. It's actually a typo, where someone types in "I pwn you" instead of "I own you."

"It has been overused to the point that people who play online games are using it in every day speech," said contributor Tony Rowley of Corunna, Michigan.

"Dude, I 'pwn' you!" these gamers shout to each other as they work at their shopping mall kiosks. "All your base are belong to us!"

But being taunted by 30-year-old sci-fi geeks is better than being involved in an armed robbery or drug deal "gone bad," especially since that phrase was also given the axe. I would think that any armed robbery or drug deal "went bad" from the outset, since it was originally an activity being carried out for nefarious purposes. It only gets worse if someone dies as a direct result of it.

Still, if someone is on the wrong end of said armed robbery, they should "ask their doctor" if hot lead slugs are right for them. Okay, maybe they shouldn't, since LSSU banned that phrase too, calling it "the chewable vitamin morphine of marketing."

It's one of those phrases that serves as both a warning and a marketing call to action. The drug companies don't want you to spend sleepless nights wondering if you should buy the drug, but they also don't want you to ask just any clod for pharmaceutical advice.

"Boy, I'm sure glad that commercial told me to ask my doctor whether them heart pills is right for me. I was gonna ask Big Earl down at the fillin' station."

You can't ask your doctor whether "we're pregnant" either, because LSSU has grounded that phrase for nine months. "We" ain't doing anything, they contend. "She" is the one doing all the work, what with the growing stomach and mood swings. "He" just did that thing at the beginning, and then sits around and watches TV for the next nine months.

Or as Marlena Linne of Greenfield, Indiana said, "I'm sure any woman who has given birth will tell you that 'WE' did not deliver the baby."

"Chipotle" also took a hit. The word, which is commonly misspelled on restaurant menus as "chipoLTe," is nothing more than a roasted jalapeno. It's also the name of my third favorite burrito restaurant.

But LSSU has thrown this one out because, as contributor Rob Zeiger said, "Now we have a 'chipotle' burrito with 'chipotle' marinated meat, 'chipotle' peppers, sprinkled with a 'chipotle' seasoning and smothered in a 'chipotle' sauce."

Sounds chipot-alicious.

LSSU is already accepting nominations for the 2008 list at www.lssu.edu/banished. Just go to the website, submit your word, and if you're lucky, your word will be seen far and wide, and written up in next year's Laughing Stalk column.

How awesome is that?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

All this Spinning is Making Me Dizzy

All this Spinning is Making Me Dizzy
Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2007

After the new year started, I looked down at my stomach and realized I had broken last year's resolution. And the year before that. And the year before that.

"I'm going to exercise more this year," I vowed yet again, only this time I meant it.

I was an avid bicycle racer for more than eight years when I was a teenager, so I was sure I could easily whip myself back into shape if I could hop back on the old horse. So I drove down to my local gym to fulfill my new promise.

"I want a gym membership," I said to the guy at the front desk.

"Great," he said. "We've got a one year, five year, and a lifetime membership."

"Hold on there, Sparky. I'm not one to rush into a commitment. Do you have anything shorter?"

Sparky gave me a look usually reserved for people who use the sauna to warm up their cinnamon rolls.

"We have a one week trial. Give that a shot, and if you like it, we'll set you up with something longer."

"Sounds great. Do you have any of those pedaling classes?"

"Uh, I think you want the Sales Training Institute down the road."

"Not peddling, Sparky, pedaling. Like a bike."

"Oh, you mean spinning," he said with a sniff.

"Yeah, whatever."

"You're in luck. We've got one starting in 15 minutes. But I have to warn you, Brigitte can be a real taskmaster."

"Not to worry, son. I was riding 40 miles a day when you were still falling off your trikey."

I found the locker room, changed into my old riding gear, and made my way into the spinning room.

A muscular young woman, Brigitte, was pedaling a stationary bike at the front of the room, while a group of men and women of various fitness levels were slowly spinning away.

"Let me guess, you're Erik," said Brigitte.

"Yep, how'd you guess?"

"Geoff said you used to race years ago. I saw your shiny lycra spandex outfit and guessed it was you."

"I wore this in college. It was my lucky racing outfit."

"Uhh, I don't know if lycra is supposed to be stretched that much. Can you breathe alright?"

"Sure," I said, taking a deep breath. I heard a few seams pop, so I let it out quickly. I walked to an empty bike behind a somewhat large woman and prayed she wasn't gassy. As I mounted my bike, I heard another small tearing sound. As snug as my outfit was, I hoped it was my hamstring and not my shorts.

"Okay class, here we go," shouted Brigitte. As we started pedaling away, I flashed back to my college days when we battled fierce headwinds mile after grueling mile.

"Erik, what are you doing?!" Brigitte hollered.

I raised up. "Drafting. Good riders draft to conserve energy. With Gertrude up there, I'll be as fresh as when we started."

Gertrude turned around and glared at me.

"Alright, class, hill time!" Brigitte shouted. "Out of the saddle and attack that hill."

We stood up and cranked hard. I adopted the traditional side-to-side rocking motion that racers use to speed up hills. The guy next to me stared, mouth agape.

"Good riders rock their bikes like this to get up hills faster, Chester," I told him.

"So why are you doing it?"

I ignored his snide comment, and assumed the tuck position and coasted.

"No resting, Erik! Keep pedaling," hollered Brigitte.

"I reached the top first, so I'm coasting down the hill to conserve energy."

"We're not to the top yet."

"Maybe you guys aren't, but I am. You all ride like a bunch of tourists."

"Stand up and pedal."

Chester snickered. I decided to show him how we dealt with troublemakers back in The Day.

"Brigitte, this guy keeps leaning on me," he whined.

"I'm showing Chester how to ride in a pack," I said, innocently. "It can get pretty hairy in there, and he should get used to having it happen in a race situation. We can't all draft off Gertrude."

Gertrude glared at me again. "One more crack like that and I'll shove your seat--"

"Alright, that's enough. We're here to ride, not to argue. And we're certainly not racing. You need to take this seriously, Erik."

"I am taking it seriously. I'm wearing my helmet and everything."

"Yeah, that's another thing I wanted to talk to you about."