Monday, May 25, 2009

Tales From The Lebowskis - Great Jaja Adventures, Vol. 3

Those of you who have been following the Great Jaja Adventures series of the Tales From The Lebowskis recurring feature may be wondering, "just what does this man look like?" This is a fair question, dear reader, and one which I intend to answer for you today. Below is a picture of John Lebowski aka Great Jaja from the early 1990's. He is the one on the left. Also pictured is a mysterious stranger (identity withheld for privacy's sake) who decided to treat Great Jaja to a view of a full moon.

Obviously I had to cover up the "moon" in this photo (get your jollies elsewhere, you pervs), so this also doubles as another use for a map of the moon. Bonus!

Today's Great Jaja Adventure was initially promised to be the 2nd feature tale, but was pushed back. So here finally is the latest installment of the Tales From The Lebowskis feature, Great Jaja Adventures: Tree Hunting.

Great Jaja lived through the Great Depression. Part of his life included needing to be able to provide food for his family, from whatever source was available. As such, Great Jaja became skilled at and developed a fondness for hunting deer. Deer are plentiful in the Lebowskis' home state, and in fact sometimes need to have their population culled anyway, due to a lack of natural predators. Anyway, for most of his adult life, Great Jaja hunted deer, and god damn it, old age wasn't going to stop him from continuing doing so.

As he got older, during the early-to-mid 1970's (he would've been in his late 60's or so at this point), he found that actually having to go outside into the woods to hunt deer was just too much damn trouble. He was developing arthritis and didn't have the same vigor he once had in his youth. So he did what anybody would do in his position. He mounted a turret in his bedroom window.

The turret itself was simple enough, just a place to mount his hunting rifle in the window and be able to aim with ease. But this wasn't enough. I mean, it was a long shot from his window to the edge of the woods where deer might show up. It wouldn't do to waste costly ammunition on missed shots. So he managed to rig up a floodlight on his turret. I believe he converted it from a car or truck headlamp, but I'm not certain. He was going to use a deer's natural instinct to "freeze in the headlights" to his advantage. You may think this plan cruel, lazy, cheap, or barbaric. He would say, "horseshit" to that.

The night of his first trial came. He waited near his window to spot deer in the gathering night. Luck was with him! One came into view out of the woods, and Great Jaja lined up his shot. At the right moment, he blasted a few thousand lumens in the general direction of the deer's retinas and fired. He scored a direct hit, but not on his intended target. The deer escaped as Great Jaja delivered a string of obscenities that caused the ghost of his grandmother to blush directed at the god damn shit tree that got in the god damn way of his f-ing, shit shot.

In the next day's light, Great Jaja could see that he had managed to mess his tree up pretty badly. Unsightly buckshot damage peppered the trunk. And not only that, this is the tree that ruined his perfect shot (obviously, it must've jumped in the way)! So, the tree would have to go. He called his son, Dave Lebowski Sr. and had him bring his good friend Leo "Bootywitz" (real last names won't show up in these tales, unless they belong to celebrities) up to the house to remove the offending tree. The two men labored intensively to cut down, cut up, and drag away the remains of the once-mighty gunshot victim.

For most people, this would be the end of the story. Actually, for most people, this story wouldn't have even started. But, let's say it got this far for someone else. In that case, this is where the story would end. Not for Great Jaja. There was profit to be had from this misadventure! He phoned his insurance company to tell them the tragic tale of the tree he and his sister had planted in their youth one lovely Arbor Day (complete bullshit, if you weren't sure) and how it had met an untimely end courtesy of a bolt of lightning (also complete bullshit, as you already know). The insurance people asked if they could come inspect the damage. He somehow kept his composure as he lied through his teeth about how it broke his heart to see it in that state, so he had his son chop it down as soon as possible (hey, finally a part of the story that has some truth to it!).

They bought it. And they paid him something like $1,000. In 1973 or thereabouts. He earned $1,000 for accidentally shooting a tree from his bedroom, forcing his son and his son's friend to chop it down, and lying about it. But of course, he shared his reward with Dave and Leo, the hardworking men without whom the tree's gunshot wound would've remained, mocking him. $10 each. Out of a $1,000 payoff. My great-grandfather, the paragon of virtue.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peggle (Not The Same As Pegging)

Peggle is a game available on Windows, Mac OS X, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, iPod, iPod Touch, and iPhone. Thanks to my recently acquired, super cheap Xbox 360 ($80!) I have been enjoying playing Peggle this week. The game is fairly simple, each stage is a static image upon which an array of moving or stationary pegs and blocks are overlayed, and the goal is to shoot small silver balls from the top-center of the screen and bounce them around like Plinko to break the pegs/blocks, specifically the ones that are colored orange, but other colors help you in different ways. Blue ones are basic, they just give a few points and bounce the ball, purple ones give you lots of points, and green ones are special.

You see, when you play, you play with the help of a slightly anthropomorphized animal companion. They sit at the top of the screen on the ball launcher and occasionally give you useless tips. But they also each have a special ability that takes effect once you break a green peg/brick. For example, the Crab dude puts pinball-flipper claws on the side of the screen for you for a few turns, the pharaoh Cat makes the ball catcher thing at the bottom wider, and the space Alien makes shit blow up. These characters all have (not quite) clever names and themes, but I am too lazy to look them all up on gamefaqs right now, so whatever.

Here are some ideas for new animal helpers for future editions of Peggle. I also took the liberty of MS Painting what they might look like.

Red State the Elephant

Red State believes in the free market, family values, and bootstraps. BOOTSTRAPS. Red State can be a stalwart ally, but be warned: if you're not with him, you're against him.

Special Power: Social Darwinism

Once a green peg or brick has been struck, on the next turn, Social Darwinism goes into effect for 1 turn. If you clear 50,000 points in that shot, you'll get your point total for that shot doubled. If you fail to do so, you'll have your point total for that shot halved. The wealthy deserve the breaks!

Von Poopenheimer the Dung Beetle

Von Poopenheimer is pleased to meet you! He has brought a special present all the way here, just for you! He made it himself!

Special Power: Ding Dong Dung

Once the green peg is struck, Ding Dong Dung activates for the rest of that turn and an additional 2 turns. The longer the ball stays on the screen for a turn, the bigger, heavier, and browner it becomes.

Pimpossible the Peacock

Pimpossible has asked me to make this very clear: he will cut you. Don't think he wont, he will cut your face. As long as he gets paid, we all cool. But don't even test him, he will cut your damn face.

Special Power: Big Pimpin'

Once a green peg is struck, for the next 5 turns there will be 3 purple pegs per turn instead of 1. Strike all three in a turn for a Bling Bling Bonus (2x multiplier!) That's how Pimpossible rolls.

Smokey Cough the Three-Toed Sloth

Dude, just like... chill a minute. Smokey is, like, heh heh, he's like, heh heh, umm... dude, he's like, busy. Hey, are you gonna eat those leaves? I mean, like, if you're not gonna eat them anyway... heh heh heh.

Special Power: Altered Perception

Once a green peg is struck, for the rest of that turn and for 3 subsequent turns, the ball catcher and any moving pegs will move at 1/2 speed. Make sure to have some snacks nearby.

Hugh Mann the Human

What? What's this? The human animal? By all that is sacred, our attempt to create a beast with the viciousness of a lion, the cunning of a fox, the dexterity of an ape, and the social understanding of a wolf succeeded. God help us all, it succeeded.

Special Power: Awareness of Mortality

Once a green peg is struck, for the duration of that turn, and for 1 additional turn, the ball will gain limited movement abilities and will actively seek to avoid falling off the screen. And when it does inevitably fall, it will either weep or scream. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tales From The Lebowskis - Great Jaja Adventures, Vol. 2

Welcome to the second installment of Tales From The Lebowskis! Last time, you were introduced to my great-grandfather, Great Jaja. You were promised at that time that the 2nd volume of Great Jaja Adventures would be the tale entitled "Tree Hunting." I have decided to change the order of the installments, and will be saving Tree Hunting for a later date, after I check some of the facts out with other Lebowski historians. Today's tale is Great Jaja Adventures, Vol. 2: Rasslin' Emergency.

Great Jaja loved professional wrestling, or "rasslin'" in his vernacular. This was odd, because Great Jaja hated most entertainment that he didn't find believable. He hated the film Jaws because, "without the shark, there's no damn picture!" So it was surprising to his friends and relatives that Great Jaja would enjoy professional wrestling, a sport that is not only fake, but makes no secret of this fact. When confronted with this, Great Jaja would always just reply, "I'd like to see you get in the ring with them, see how fake it is then."

He believed, until the day he died, that once Hulk Hogan had his limo driver bring him to Great Jaja's house to wave hello on the way to an important match. He believed this because one day he got a phonecall from his grandson Stephen Lebowski (more on him in a moment) informing him that just this would happen as a reward for years of rasslin' fandom, and moments later a limosine pulled in the driveway. The window lowered just enough to allow a man's hand to reach out and wave. Great Jaja asked if it was really Hulk Hogan. The hand gave a thumbs up. He offered the venerable Mr. Hogan a drink. The hand waved a refusal, then was joined by a second hand adorned by a wristwatch, which the first hand pointed to, indicating a lack of time to enjoy such hospitality. "Alright then, Hulk. Good luck rasslin'," dismissed Great Jaja. The limosine carrying his granddaughter's husband in the back, borrowed an extra day from a wedding rental, drove off into the distance. We're all assholes in the Lebowskis, kind of. But we're lovable.

One day, my father, Steve Thirty, aka FST (F-ing Steve Thirty, a nicknamed coined for him by a delightfully irate and comical restauranteur) and Stephen Lebowski, aka Hulka (not Hogan. Just Hulka.), the abovementioned grandson decided to take ol' John Lebowski aka Great Jaja up to the city to see some live rasslin'. Professional wrestling was not then considered the high art it is now, and the arena was really nothing more than a gymnasium with rows and rows of folding chairs packed tight around a wrestling ring. It should be noted here that Hulka and Great Jaja are/were both very large men. Great Jaja was of average height, but he had what we might today call a bit of a badonkadonk. And Hulka, well, his nickname is Hulka for a reason. He is mountainous. My father, FST, is of average size, perhaps very slightly shorter and a bit more fit than most.

FST, Hulka, and Great Jaja found three seats near the front. Much to my father's distress, Hulka and Great Jaja took the two outer seats, leaving only the center spot (barely) available. My father wedged himself between these two family-sized helpings of Lebowski, clamping his knees together and holding his arms more or less sarcophagus-style across his chest. He readied himself for what would be a long, uncomfortable evening of tolerating his in-laws' favorite fake bloodsport.

As the show went on, as shows are wont to do, my father noticed Great Jaja beginning to gently rub his (my father's) leg. At first he wrote it off as nothing, an unthinking movement of an elderly man. But the rubbing continued. My father silently caught Hulka's eyes and indicated the troubling motion. Great Jaja's eyes were fixed straight ahead, on the match, his face an impassive stone wall. Hulka contained laughter and shrugged; even if he COULD do something about this, it was too entertaining to interrupt. My father's distress increased as did the speed and force of the rubbing motion. Within seconds, the rubbing could only be described as frantic, and my father, dumbfounded up to this point, finally turned his head to address the issue.

Before he could utter a word, Great Jaja turned to him with panic in his eyes. "Jesus Christ, Steven," he said, a tremble in his voice, "I can't feel my leg!"

That's it for this installment of Tales From The Lebowskis. Stay tuned for more tales, including more Great Jaja Adventures! And coming soon, clear a spot (it better be a big damn spot) for Hulka to take center stage in his own tales of misadventure!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tales From The Lebowskis - Great Jaja Adventures, Vol. 1

Let me start by squelching some hopes. This post has nothing to do with the cult classic (and personal favorite) film, The Big Lebowski. As those of you who have been following my blog are aware, I post under a pseudonym. Many of you probably think this is silly, and some of you have in fact told me so. That's OK. I have my reasons, and they're good enough for me. Since I am not consulting the individuals involved in today's (and future) tales, I figured I would extend them the same courtesy and conceal their true identities. My mother's maiden name is not Lebowski, but it's close enough and certainly indicates the correct ethnic heritage that her surname carried. And it is a total geek bonus for an Urban Achiever like myself to take this name on.

Anyway, that explained, I would like to introduce you to what will be a continuing feature of Shorts Below Freezing: Tales From The Lebowskis. My family is insane. I know that everybody says that, it's a painful cliche (accent mark, get on there. Come on, please?) at this point. But my family, at least the Lebowski side, is insane in the way that actually makes for pretty good stories. This is the first of many tales from the Lebowski family, and the first of several starring my great grandfather, Great Jaja. Jaja is a Polish word for grandfather, FYI. I will warn you, some of the language used in this story is, um, not politically correct. Great Jaja came from a different time, and the stories would lose their potency if the language was changed. If certain profanities or ethnic terms offend you, my apologies.

This first "Great Jaja Adventure" takes place in the late 70's or early 80's, probably in the 1978-1981 range. Any Lebowskis reading this, leave a comment with the proper year if you know it! Racial tensions were higher then, and stereotypes about people of color were a bit more freely expressed and accepted, especially by individuals who were a bit older, from working class roots in a town with about five (5) black residents, all of whom were related. This is the backdrop for the first Great Jaja Adventure: A Trip to the Springfield Bus Station. Readers of this blog are probably already aware of the unique character and charm of Springfield today. Subtract 30 years.

Great Jaja had volunteered to accompany my aunt, his granddaughter, Patty Lebowski to the bus station to pick up her older brother, his grandson, my uncle, Dave Lebowski, Jr. who was returning from a semester at college in Albany. Patty was, at the time of the story, in her late teens, possibly as old as 20 or so. She recalls being a "cute little white girl" at the time. This is significant because it is part of the reason she felt very uncomfortable upon their arrival to the bus terminal. They were the only white people there, the only non-black people in fact. Today, this may not matter much. To them, then, with the pervasive sense of racism in the culture at large, it was a big deal.

They were early, and Patty wanted to find a seat and remain as inconspicuous as possible while they waited (you know, like how if you put two polar bears in the corner of a photo full of panthers, you might not see them (yes, you would)). This was fine, for a few moments. But then Great Jaja had an announcement to make, ostensibly to Patty, but loud and unspecific enough that the message was fair game for all to hear. "I gotta take a piss," he informed Patty/everybody. "OK, fine, go!" she hissed in a stage whisper, hoping to let the attention of the room fade from her as quickly as possible. "Alright, goddamnit," he chuckled as he waddled to the men's room. Waddled, by the way, is fairly accurate. The older men in the Lebowski family seem to develop a distinctive swaying walk as they age, I believe due to pain in the knees and hips. It looks kind of like a penguin waddling, but slower.

Great Jaja vanished into the men's room and a minute passed. Two minutes passed. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes. Patty grew more and more anxious, assuming that something awful must've happened to her grandfather. Fifteen minutes. Here she was alone, the only white person left in the Springfield Bus Terminal, a cute, defenseless girl. She'd be completely alone and vulnerable. Twenty minutes. She steeled her nerve and resolved to ask a stranger to go in and check on him. But before she could, out waddles Great Jaja, laughing loudly with a huge black man a full head taller than him, and probably 1/3 his age. "Jaj! Where the hell have you been!?" Patty demanded of him. "Oh, Jesus Christ, I bet you thought I fell in!" Great Jaja replied, loudly. Patty did not think this was funny. "Jaj, what happened? You were in there for like 20 minutes!"

"Oh, Jesus Christ, I went in there to piss and wouldn't you know it, god damn zipper got stuck. I was in there yankin' on that thing trying to get it going and god damn it wouldn't go. Next thing I know that big ol' darkie come in and I say to him, 'you look like a strong young buck, come over here and give this a tug.'"

Let's pause here for a moment. In the middle of a public restroom, at a bus terminal, this senior citizen approached a total stranger and said, "you look like a strong young buck, come over here and give this a tug." While gesturing towards his crotch.

My aunt was similarly incredulous. "You didn't," she uttered, dumbfounded. "Oh sure," he continued, "he had to work at it, but we got it alright." "Jaj," Patty intoned, "what were you thinking? I mean, weren't you worried something... bad could've happened?" "Oh Christ no, I had my ass up against the wall. He couldn't get to my wallet."

That's it for this installment of Tales From The Lebowskis! Stay tuned next time for Great Jaja Adventures, Vol. 2: Tree Hunting!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

A List of Lists?

I love If you are unfamiliar with this page, let me apologize in advance for the hours of your life you'll never get back once you click that link. It is a website of quiz games in the format of lists. For example, one quiz may be to list all the countries in Africa, another may be to list all the films that Adam Sandler has been in, another might be to identify a number of famous foursomes. This is addictive as all hell, especially if you are me and your brain already works this way. Here are some quizzes they have not yet made (and likely never will):

  • List all the ingredients in a bag of Skittles candy
  • Can you recognize the 18th century aristocracy based on these zoomed-in chins?
  • World's biggest assholes (figurative meaning), 1401-2001
  • World's biggest assholes (literal meaning), 1401-2001
  • Most popular names for livestock, 1994
  • Dinosaurs by weight of heaviest known femur bone (kg)
  • Least used three-digit numbers of all time
  • How many Saltine crackers can these celebrities eat in six minutes?
  • Name the musical artists or bands based on the number of times the word "and" has appeared in their songs
  • Guess the video game console based on estimated percentage of players who are virgins over age 25 (at time of console's release)
  • Reddest colors
  • Most popular onomatopoeias for flatulence, 2002
  • Name the leap years in the 20th century
  • Least flattering camera angles of all time
  • Most popular interests/hobbies for individuals with a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome in the USA, 2007
  • Top ten most Canadian countries
  • Identify the letters (Y, M, C, or A) represented by the following costumed men in poses
  • Individuals residing in Heaven according to Rev. Fred Phelps
  • World's tastiest salamis, 1962
  • Quizzes that will never appear on Sporcle as documented by "Shorts Below Freezing"
Post your own suggestions on the comments page!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

In The Name of Justice

As you may have already heard, Supreme Court Justice David Souter has announced plans to retire this summer from his post. Already the political world is abuzz regarding his potential replacement on the bench. Some are suggesting that Obama might want to pick someone who is not a sitting judge, as the Supreme Court is already chock full of former judges, as reported here. There is also talk that the next appointment should be female, so that Ruth Bader Ginsberg will stop snidely referring to the rest of her peers as "a total sausagefest."*

Here are some potential female non-judge candidates that Obama probably will not pick, but in case he is reading this, pros and cons will be discussed for each individual.

Youree Dell Harris aka Miss Cleo

Pros: Ability to predict the future would help Supreme Court make the most informed decisions possible, Supreme Court would no longer be comprised of just straight, white people (yes, I know Clarence Thomas is there).

Cons: If she were going to be selected, wouldn't she know it already? Also, the Supreme Court would not allow competition with their 1-900-HOT-LAWS hotline.

Comments: Apparently she is a professional shaman now, and that's pretty neat. She probably wouldn't want to give that up. Justice Cleo sounds pretty cool though.

Queen Elizabeth II

Pros: Experience dealing with political issues, personal grace and aplomb.

Cons: Not a US Citizen, unfamiliar with US legal system and laws, refuses to change residence and would need costly teleconferencing at all times.

Comments: Her Royal Highness is beloved by her people and looks to be in good health for her age. Also, Scott Thompson does a good Queen impression and this would give him great material to work with. However, some Americans might doubt the Queen's loyalty to the USA, seeing as she is a foreign sovereign.

Stephenie Meyer

Pros: Would stop her from turning out any more Twilight crap.

Cons: Court opinions would decrease writing quality by 78%, doesn't know A DAMN THING about vampires, possibly retarded.

Comments: "Justice Alito glisteningly turned his sparkling head towards Justice Kennedy, who sparkled glisteningly as the light glistened on his sparkling robe." Seriously, there's like several cultures worth of vampire lore and the best you've got is sparkly teen angst?

Hope Solo

Pros: Olympic goalie would improve Court's intramural team's chances this year, awesome name.

Cons: Might take goalie training too seriously and block all decisions from making it through.

Comments: Hope Solo is an incredible goalie and was able to block every shot Brazil made in the 2008 Summer Olympics Women's Soccer Gold Medal match. Brazil! They breathe soccer there for air! I know because my parents are there and they are suffocating because they have not learned how to breathe soccer (my dad likes to watch and play it though). Also, if Han Solo had a daughter, her name might be Hope Solo and that is really cool. If Han Solo does actually have a daughter in some ridiculous Star Wars novel or fan fiction or something, don't bother telling me, I don't care.

Bea Arthur

Pros: Bea Arthur.

Cons: Deceased.

Comments: If Miss Cleo is chosen, maybe she could channel Bea and we'd get two of these options for the price of one! That is a deal you do not find every day, America.

If any of these women are picked, I want a position in the Obama cabinet for being that good a political predictor.

*Justice Ginsberg probably has not actually said this, but if she has, she is even cooler than I thought.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Shorts Below Freezing Now Available In Print!

Shorts Below Freezing is proud to announce that you are now able to enjoy the cool internet stylings of Remus Thirty without a computer! For the first time ever, see it on the page, not the screen.

We've compiled not just the best few entries, but THE ENTIRETY OF 2008's POSTS into one convenient volume for your enjoyment. That's right, you can now order Shorts Below Freezing: The Complete 2008 Collection by Remus Thirty for your home library.

Interested in seeing everything Remus Thirty had to say in 2008? Follow this link to satisfy your curiosity with the ultimate coffee table book for today's reader.

Thanks for your continued support, and enjoy reliving 2008 with Shorts Below Freezing: The Complete 2008 Collection!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A Great Mother's Day Gift Idea!

A while ago, I suggested to Meredith that she get somebody a map of the Moon as a present (while she was on the phone, trying to ignore me). Once I said it out loud, I became enamored of the concept, initially meant to be nothing more than an unexpected, bizarre, and not particularly fitting gift. Here are some reasons why a map of the Moon is a good idea for a gift. (Please note that I am thinking of a map of our Earth's Moon, not any of the myriad other planetary satellites currently known to man.)

  • The moon is really cool. Think about it.
  • Maps make good decorations, and not many people already have this one, so you wouldn't look like a poser.
  • If you are ever on the moon, it will be useful. There's nobody up there you can just ask for directions from.
  • Improved knowledge of the moon's "seas" and their cool names, like Mare Imbrium (the sea of rains), Mare Anguis (the serpent sea), and Mare Crisium (the sea of crises).
  • A visual aid in case you ever need to determine if the moon in the sky is genuine or if it has been replaced with a false moon for some reason.
  • Street cred with astronomers.
  • A source of moon information that does not rely on an internet connection to access, potentially useful if dastardly people, robots, or aliens colonize the moon and use their moon base to sever Earth's lines of communication.
  • If you are yourself a dastardly person, robot, or alien looking to colonize the moon, a map would help you pick a good location.
  • If we ever significantly change the moon, a vintage map would be a nice collector's item.
  • If you don't feel like being bothered by somebody looking for directions here on Earth, you can pull out the moon map and ask them again what address they're looking for, then slowly shake your head and inform them it doesn't seem to be on your map.
You might be thinking at this point that a moon compass would be a nice compliment to the moon map. Don't be an idiot, that's a terrible idea.