-The winner of the last poll was KITT and yes that was the right answer. Keep up the good work!

-Next weeks blog: How to make life easier in 3 easy steps.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


   I just got back from the home of Rico, Sonny, and, cocaine.  While exploring the colony of Cuba known to some as Miami I had several epiphanies. The first being that if I am successful financially there are plenty of beautiful young ladies in Miami who are willing to sacrifice love in order to have a comfortable lifestyle. Seriously though it was amazing to watch couple after couple walk by us on Lincoln Ave- the man would easily be in his mid to high 40s and his escort was 30 at best. Yet another reason why I don't need to be in a rush to get married. Granted this also means that I need to be able to make it rain with Benjamins, but this is just a minor setback.
   The second revelation came while sitting down and breaking bread or more accurately stone crab with my friend Van. I told him how I really enjoyed my time in Miami, but I wasn't sure I could ever live in a place that had so many Jersey shore look-a-likes. He said he understood my concern because there were a plethora of douche bags roaming the streets, but he said "look on the bright side, since you aren't a D-bag you'll be a rare commodity. " And that's when it hit me that every aspect in life can be turned around to be either made good or be used for evil. I'll give you two examples of people my friends and I talked to- they are talking about the exact same thing, but with two completely different outcomes.
    Crocket: Miami is alright I guess, but it bothers me that it's always so hot and humid here, you never get to enjoy the seasons, even the ocean feels like bath water. But it's not the weather that really bothers me, it's the people, or should I say the foreigners. Can't anyone speak English here? Don't they know we are in America? You drive down the street and you'd think you were in Nicoragua with all the buildings painted in clown colors and all. I think what really gets me the most though is all the drugs and the clubbing here. All night long people are stumbling out of the clubs into traffic high on who knows what- I need to get out of this town!
    Tubbs: Miami is the best! Can you believe how wonderful the weather is here? It's warm all year around and I never have to wear a jacket, and unlike the beaches out west the water is warm and inviting. But it's not the weather that I love most it's the people. They come from all over to live in this city. It's truly a melting pot of culture and food. I don't even know what language half the people I meet are speaking, but I love hearing their foreign tongues. You can drive down most streets and be transported to another land and soak in all the brightly colored buildings. Ok, I changed my mind what I really love is the night life. This city never sleeps! Some clubs don't even open until 4 in the morning. I love this town... and drugs.

All this talk about recreation brings me back to the simpler time of my childhood and the ever memorable Van Orden Summer Vacation. The last two weeks of July every year the Caterpillar plant in Decatur, Illinois would shut down for maintenance and Louie Van Orden would pack all of kids in one vehicle and start the long trek to Zion (for those of you non-Mormon readers that is Salt Lake City, Utah). This wasn't so hard at first when the Van Orden clan consisted of mom, dad and a couple daughters, but soon enough they stopped having girls and started having six boys. Driving across the country with a family of 10 is no easy task, and my father new he needed a vehicle up to the task.

As many of you probably remember the luxury van was fairly popular back in the late 80s and early 90s. Before SUVs became the sheik way to get around- family's with 2 or even 3 kids would purchase an enormous van just in case their kids had the desire to do kart wheels in the back. I remember in middle school I was so happy that other kids I knew were getting a van just like mine, that is until I actually went inside one. I  couldn't believe my eyes when I saw that the windows all had velvet shades, in place of benches there were soft captains chairs, and they even had a sweet 6inch TV hooked up to their mobile VCR.
    Louie's chariot on the other hand was made for one purpose only- transporting bodies. That's not completely true, my dad knew that if he was going to drive for two days with a bus full of kids he needed a place for them to sleep, so putting his engineering degree to work he constructed a bed in the back where normally the forth bench would go. The bed consisted of a plywood board with a layer of foam all wrapped in maroon vinyl to match the interior. My dad elevated the bed a couple feet with 2x4s so that he could put all of our luggage underneath. My father used to always joke about how lucky he was to drive a BMW to work (Big Mormon Wagon). Of course this same cheesy humor continued as we drove across the country. Every year he would tell one of us "I saw you pee on the railroad tracks" - gross dad no I didn't! "Sure you did". he would exclaim as he pointed at a passing train. "See.. Union Pacific. I saw U, P on the railroad track". My father seemed to do lots of strange things while driving and I'm not sure if it was to keep us entertained or just to keep himself sane. Every time we passed Caterpillar trucks or cows he would honk his horn and wave- he never did tell me why he did that, but he sure seemed to love those dumb animals.
      As you can probably imagine 8 kids in one van equals a lot of bathroom breaks. Somehow my little brother Quince's lack of a entire heart also translated into having the smallest bladder known to man, and one year my dad got tired of stopping every 5 minutes on the side of the road for his kid to go potty, so once again he put his engineering skills to use and made us a portable potty. It consisted of a used plastic gallon ice cream bucket. I would love to say that something else was involved in this creation but that was it. Do your business and shut it back up, and yes the plastic was clear. Let's just say I will never look at generic ice cream the same way again.
      Feeding us all along the way was another hurdle, because taking us out to eat, even at McDonalds was out of the question. So the normal course of action consisted of stopping at a rest area and breaking out the cooler to make sandwiches and stretch the legs a bit. But when the cooler ran out of food we would have to stop in a town and resupply. This was actually one of my favorite parts of the trip because my mom would usually get those mini boxes of Frosted Flakes and Honey Nut Cheerios that you could lay sideways and use the inner wax paper bag as the bowl. Technology never ceases to amaze.
    Entertainment along the trip consisted of books on tape and yanking an imaginary chain up and down as hard as you could in order to get the truckers to honk their horns. We also tried seeing a license plate from every state, but we usually give up after the first 20 because we figured what would be the point of all our work if we never saw Hawaii and Alaska.
      We knew we were close to our destination when my dad would start singing the Skyline high school fight song. All of us kids would have our faces glued to the windows because the endless corn fields of Illinois had magically transformed into enormous mountains while we were asleep. Vacation for us consisted of visiting with relatives and working on our grandmother's orchard. This was always an on going joke that the Cutler side of the family really new how to let loose and work. My mother wasn't the only one in her family to have several mouths to feed, her mother had ten kids and each one of them had their own herd, so I was never lacking in companionship while I was there. It was strange at first because my cousins and I didn't really know each other, but after a while it just became the friends that you saw once a year.
       It wasn't until I was in high school that I discovered other families went to island beaches, Disney Land, or big cities on their vacations. My fellow classmates would brag about how they spent Christmas in Hawaii or spring break in New York City. I was so envious and couldn't stand the fact that my vacations were spent trapped in a box driving 60 mph down I-80. Well since those days I've been to plenty of beaches, Disney Land, and countless number of big cities, but nothing beats the adventurous Van Orden road trip.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Horse Racing: America's Pasture Time

    My first memory of horses came as a young boy listening to the book on tape version of The Black Stallion. A movie about how a mostly naked boy and a completely naked horse became friends on a beach, and with the help of Mickey Rooney win every horse race in the universe. Of course the natural reaction for a boy my age was to project himself into the story- which meant that every time the outside temperature reached a balmy 64 degrees I was taking off my shirt and running around the house. These memories eventually faded and I had no more interactions with the equestrian race until our third grade class trip. When we went to visit the Amish in a field somewhere in Illinois. The Amish are famous for making handcrafted goods like fine oak tables, quilts, and beards. But since they abstain from the use of electronics and motor vehicles they were dependent on horses for transportation and apparently money, because they sold rides to kids on dieing mare for three bucks a pop. Coming from a family with 8 kids I didn't have the disposable income to afford horse rides or giant Amish jaw breakers. Such extravagant thrills were only for those rich kids who ate hot lunches at school, or who could afford sweet shorts like Umbros.
    But since those days as a child I have learned my lesson. In order to enjoy the finer things in life like horses and nice threads you have to avoid taking on extra baggage known as dependents. Hence we arrive at our present day when this past weekend my single friends and I were able to go to the Keeneland Race Track in Lexington, Kentucky for the Blue Grass Stakes. The ironic part about the finances of races is that it's actually ridiculously cheap to get into the races- only $5 dollars for general admission which puts you right on the track. The real costs of racing comes in the form of obtaining a suitable outfit for the affair and of course any donations you might be inclined to give the race track for letting you pick a no good Irish stag that decided to prance around the track instead of run!
    But of course while these donations can be very painful to give they also make each race that more exciting, and give each spectator reasons to rise and shout obscenities at the passing ponies. You rarely see this much excitement at other sporting events- unless the score is close at the end of regulation- that or when cheer leaders shoot t-shirts out of a potato gun. At the track they don't even have music or an organ playing to get people pumped up. Speaking of which- it is kind of ironic that the only place "Donna-na-not-ta-nah CHARGE!" would be appropriate would be at a horse race, yet it is somehow absent. (yes that was the correct phonetic spelling of the Charge theme played via pipe organ)
    For those of you who have never been to a race, the food fare near the track is of the finest quality. They serve the only best franks, fritters, and kettle chips. Known everywhere else in the world as hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and potato chips. I'm sure the clubhouse was serving mint juleps and steaks, but I would rather spend my time with the common man and even more time with the common woman. Why- because they are down to earth, they think parasols are for sissies, and she's cheaper to feed.
     The races start at 1:00 in the afternoon and occur about every 30 to 45 minutes. The races them self last only about a minute and a half max and then everyone waits for the next build up of anticipation. They diagnose the last race and council together about who the next winner will be. I happened to bring my recording device with me this weekend and was fortunate enough to catch a couple snippets of conversations- I've copied them on my blog so that you can get the feeling of what it is like to be at the races between runs. The first conversation is that of the ladies and the second is of their male counterparts.

Kate: Ugh. Can you believe the nerve of that tramp wearing a black dress out here?
Jill: I know- right. You'd think she was going to a funeral. Doesn't she read Cosmo?
K: Or that hat, it's so Derby.
J: Hahaha. It's just too easy with some girls.
K: So I'm thinking about placing money on Candle In the Wind. 
J: Are you kidding? I was about to say the same thing- that is my FAVORITE Elton John song!
K: Yeah me too- I cry every time it comes on the radio, because it reminds me of you know who.
J: It's just so sad that Diana had to be the last pretty princess. What happened to this world?
K: She was more than just beautiful on the outside- did you know she did a lot of work for victims of land mines?
J: Isn't that the saddest! Those kids will never be able to grow up and put bracelets on their wrists or toe rings on their poor little toes.
K: Tragic. I sure hope Jim wins today because I want him to take me out to dinner tonight.
J: And if he doesn't win?
K: I guess I'll skip out on dessert. (evil cackling ensues)

Jim: Alright man- if you were a horse and you could carry any one person living or dead into battle who would it be?
Bill: Chick or Dude?
J: Umm.. dude because if I'd say chick you just go for you favorite actress, and I'm sick of hearing about Miley Cirus.
B: Fair enough. Ok I got it- Clint Eastwood. More specifically I would be the horse that carried the Outlaw Josey Wales.
J: Interesting pick. The southern rebel who went on a rampage and spit on everything he saw. I like where your mind is at Bill.
B: And you?
J: I'm going to go a little off base on this one and go with Micheal Knight played by the Hoff, and I would be KITT.
B: That is cheating and you know it Jim- you said  "horse" and KITT is a bulletproof Trans Am with missiles. If you choose KITT then I pick Luke Skywalker's X-wing in A New Hope.
J: Whoa now Bill, slow your roll. Give me a chance to explain. You see KITT is not just any mode of transport- no he is an autonomous being just like a horse. In fact that's why the show is called Knight Rider, because David Hasselhoff is a modern day Knight and KITT is his trusty steed for the 21st century.
B: Well I'm going to be the trusty steed of the 54th century when Luke Skywalker kicks the Empires tail!
J: Sorry Bill, but we both know that happened long ago, and the X-Wing didn't have a mind of it's own- that was R2's role and he is by no means...
B: Oh shut up- I think I see our next winner.
J: Which one? Candle In the Wind?
B: No, no, two o'clock- the chick in the little black dress.

Have a great week everyone. See you at the races!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Reality Bites

   As most of you know by now the movie The Hurt Locker won the Oscar for movie of the year, and this makes me very angry. My civilian friends keep asking me why I'm so mad, because most of them enjoyed watching it.  Simply put it's because the movie is full of lies, exaggerations, and ugly people. 'But it's a movie' they say, 'of course it's not realistic'. That's strange.. because the back of The Hurt Locker box says 'Powerfully Realistic'. Yet this movie is about as far from realism that a movie can be (this claim includes all movies about time travel, and vampires, but excludes any movies starring the Wayans brothers).
    Don't get me wrong here- I'm not a stickler for all military realism. The military uniforms in the Transformers are a ridiculous hodgepodge of different branches, but no one cares because America is fighting off evil giant alien robots, and nerds like Shia Labeouf are getting with impossibly hot women like Megan Fox (still not convinced that she's not an evil alien robot here to destroy monogamous relationships). The point being that  it's not the realism, it's the claiming to be real that disturbs me. Although I will say that there is occasional fantasy movie that breaks rules of logic as well. X-Men 3 is a prime example of what I like to call fantasmical stupidity.
    In the climactic scene of the movie Magneto rips up the entire Golden Gate Bridge and relocates it so that his minions can cross the bay to Alcatraz and capture the mutant boy wearing a livestrong bracelet Let's assume for a moment that Magneto has developed his power over the metallic elements enough to move a 4200 feet long and 746 feet tall steel bridge a couple miles. Plus the bridge was full of cars and trucks at the time making its weight approximately a billion tons. The Alcatraz prison on the other hand, which is surely reinforced with steel just like the bridge, is only 3 stories in height, and if my calculations based on google maps satellite imagery are correct then it can't way more than a thousand tons. So if Magneto is SO powerful why didn't he just rip up the foundations of the prison and take it to his evil hideout instead of relocating a bridge for an obviously suicidal frontal assault? Fantasmical stupidity at its finest- and that is why X-Men 3 will never live up to its predecessors.
     When I first thought about writing this blog entry I considered writing a list of all the mistakes the movie makes, but my list became way too long and boring. Instead I decided to describe just how outlandish The Hurt Locker is by writing my own movie script, but this one is the medical equivalent, I call this version The Hurt Locker: McDoogie Returns with a Vengeance

Scene 1:
Time: It's Go Time!
Place: Decatur Memorial Hospital

Doctor McDoogie: Alright nurse what do we got?

Nurse 1: His heart was removed by a medicine man while his body was put into a pit of burning lava. It doesn't look good.

McDoogie: I don't like your attitude nurse. Now get me a juice box.

Nurse 1: Yes doctor. But wouldn't you like to put on your gloves first before you start operating?

McDoogie: If this guy is going to die I might as well be comfortable while I'm working on him.

Nurse 2: Doctor what meds should we give him.

McDoogie: Do what you think is best.

Scene 2:
Time: 3 hours later
Place: Plane flight to Washington D.C.

Flight Attendant: Is anyone on this flight a doctor. We have a medical emergency.

McDoogie: I'm a heart surgeon. What seems to be the problem?

Patient: There seems to be a tumor growing out of my ear.

McDoogie: I'm going to have to operate right now. Stewardess I'll need your best cutlery and a juice box.

Flight Attendant: But you're a heart surgeon, shouldn't we just wait a few hours and get him to a hospital so that someone who is trained to work on brain tumors can help this man out?

McDoogie: No.

Scene 3
Time: Weekend
Place: McDoogie's home

Mrs. McDoogie: Honey I'm so glad you are home. Samatha has been waiting all week to play with you.

Samatha: Hey daddy wanna play Operation with me?

McDoogie: Sure.


Samantha: Yeah I won!

McDoogie: This is lame - I'm going back to work.

The End
       For those of you who never saw the movie or don't ever plan to- my entire family both immediate and extended- trust me when I say that the script you just read was the exact replica of the movie. Silly right? If McDoogie didn't convince you that The Hurt Locker is ridiculous surely nothing will.

      CNN would have you believe that there are a few in the military who actually liked The Hurt Locker As always the liberal media is leaving out all the facts. Those veterans that they polled who enjoyed the film fall into three categories.

1. FOBbits- the military slang for those who never leave the F.O.B. Forward Operating Base, and thus have no concept of deployment reality and are therefore sissies.

2. T.B.I.- Traumatic Brain Injury. Some vets have been hit so hard from explosions their brains are not functioning correctly, thus The Hurt Locker reminds them of their moms blueberry pancakes.

3. Marines
(Note: There are many scholars that will claim that reasons 2 and 3 are interchangeable, but this logic is faulty because there are plenty of reasons why a Marine's brain isn't functioning properly and should not be limited to just TBI. For example- drugs, abused as a child, hit by a train, licked too many envelopes, crack baby, gasoline fight, former or current resident of Texas, Nickleback, Aids, watched JEM and the holograms as a kid, shot in the face, molested by a priest, American Idol finalist, horrific sunburn, allergic to peanuts, testicular cancer, Yankees fan, or just plain dumb.)
      I guess what's the most troubling about The Hurt Locker is just how little the general public knows about the war and deployments. This begs the question: if that movie can dupe millions of Americans while we are currently engaged in two conflicts what else can Hollywood do? Next thing you know someone will claim that not all vampires are beautiful high schoolers whose skin shines in the sunlight (I'm on to you Libby Presnell).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Forts, Gold, and Plans

   Since I've been here at Ft. Knox, several friends and family have asked me about the gold locked up in the famous reserve vault. No, I have not seen it. No they do not give tours. And no, Mom, I will not at least take a picture of the outside for you. (Those rooftop snipers have beady all-seeing eyes). I do drive by the vault nearly every day, though, and for such an important task of protecting the nation's wealth, the building is frankly disappointing. It's roughly the size of a golf clubhouse, with granite walls and snipers on the roof, of course. The majority of the building is below ground, seven floors, if the rumors are to be believed. When I first realized that the vault was underground, and not an above-ground golden swimming pool like Scrooge McDuck's, it reminded me of an a simpler time in my boyhood when building forts was all the rage. 
     I was about 9 years old and the commies hadn't quite given up on East Germany yet. The Wolverines of Wyoming had fought them off just a few years prior, so I knew quality strongholds were a necessity. And no one really thought that the Rocky - Gorbachev peace talks would hold. I remember having an epiphany on the bus on the way home from school. What is the strongest, most impenetrable fort? My couch pillow, blanket and even plaster board-walled fort was easily defeated. I've got it... we need to build down not up! We could dig a giant hole with one little door and steps leading down to it, where we could do all of our non-commie activities. When I first envisioned this fortress I thought it would be cool to take left over carpet scraps and lay them on the dirt for a nice place to sit, and we could also have shelves to put all of our guns and stuff. Now that I look back on it, my design has a lot of similarities to a cellar.
     I took this new found genius idea of protection and sold it to my neighborhood friends, and we started digging. We had to find a good spot for our fort where no one could see our operations and tools would be readily accessible…which made the garden bed behind my shed perfect. I felt like a regular Tom Sawyer--rallying up the local kids to do his chores. We were making great progress when my older brother Joseph and one of his friends poked in to see what we were doing. I thought we were done for. But after I told him about our ultimate underground hideaway he and his friend actually logged someman boy hours in helping us dig even deeper.
    This operation wasn't a one-day affair, mind you. For several days we would come home from school and go back to work making the fort bigger and bigger. Until finally we couldn't dig any longer. This hole was a monster, at least six feet in diameter and three feet deep. Which means once we put a roof on it, my friends and I could all easily fit inside, as long as we were laying down shoulder to shoulder, that is.
     Disheartened we gave up on the idea of our underground fallout shelter and moved on to more exciting things like blowing up Barbies with fireworks. A week later my mother discovered the child-made crater behind her shed and told me to fill the hole back in. For years it boggled my mind how the dirt that I pulled out of the hole wouldn't all fit back in the hole. Did the dirt grow? If so, is there money in growing dirt?
     Even though my blue prints never panned out, the pit that we dug that week still stands on the top ten list of engineering wonders of the Woodland Hills neighborhood. It was then that I realized my potential to rally people to a cause... and quit before it's complete.

Engineering Wonders of Woodland Hills Neighborhood
(Not listed in order of greatness)
1.  Ammon's underground fortress against communists
2.  Blair's balcony (great for throwing gliders off of and shooting Barbies with B.B. guns)
3.  Dead Man's Cliff (I swear it was a lot bigger when I was younger)
4.  Mr. Brilley's pond and gazebo
5.  Mr. Brilley's rock pile
6.  Mr. Brilley's pasture
7.  Mr. Brilley's driveway
8.  Bubba Morris's jungle lawn
9.  Van Orden's rusty trampoline
10.The bridge spanning the mighty Steven's Creek (also owned by Mr. Brilley)

    Did you know that the value of a gold bar is nearly half a million dollars these days? Did you also know that several countries’ crown jewels, the Magna Carta, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution were stored in Ft. Knox to protect them during WWII? National Treasure 3 anyone? Although I can’t find any discernable weakness in the fort’s perimeter, I’m sure Nicolas Cage can weasel his way in…or at least annoy movie-goers across the country trying.