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Old as dirt. Twice as gritty.

Where are the clowns?

In a shocking disclosure, news that clowns have been put on the endangered species list has triggered panic in the once-thriving clown industry.
But are the clowns hiding or have they been stolen? Speculation has grown over the whereabouts and fate of these red-nosed creatures.
“We’re not clowning around anymore,” says a clown industry insider, who requested anonymity. “These days, when we try to ‘send in the clowns’, nothing happens. There’s just a space where the clowns are supposed to go. It could be the end of things as we know it. It could result in social chaos.”
Is the species waddling off to oblivion because the red noses no longer fit? Or is it because everybody in the entire world hates clowns?
“Personally, I think there’s a clown hoarder out there,” says renowned clown Buffo, looking nervously past his over-sized shoulder. “It’s hard for us to hide from clown hoarders because they know they just have to follow the animal-shaped balloons to find us,” Buffo’s clown tear, big and wet looking, seems real.
A rush to find replacement clowns has proven unsuccessful. Nobody is stepping forward to fill the clown shoes, possibly because the shoes are too big to fill. When concerned parents push their kids to become clowns, the answer these days is often a resounding ‘no’. Nobody knows why. 
“I don’t get it,” says one agitated parent, “we gave the kid everything, and now he just honks at us all damn day. He won’t put on the orange wig or anything. I dunno. Some people’s kids.”
Clown phobics, on the other hand, seem grateful that the clowns are disappearing. One clown-phobic says she checks under her bed every night to make sure the clowns haven’t taken up residence there. “If they’re soon extinct, good riddance, I say. Clowns scare the bejesus out of me, especially the happy-face clowns. You just never know what a happy-face clown is really thinking.”
Police are asking the public for help in locating the missing clowns, but have had limited success due to people clowning around and refusing to give straight answers. But it’s no joke, according to police. “If someone is stealing the clowns, we need to find that person now, because sooner or later there’s going to be too many pratfalls for the perpetrator to contain. Someone is going to get hurt, and that someone is probably going to be a clown. Clowns deserve better.” 
Clownologist Terri Crane doesn’t think the clowns have been stolen, though. Speaking with reporters, she says the clowns are probably just in hiding. “You know what I think? Everything and everyone has a damn holiday, except clowns. I bet they want a national clown day, and I think they should have it.” She adds that people poke fun at the profession, possibly hurting the feelings of sensitive clowns, “People will say, ‘You are such a clown’ when they really aren't. It's an injustice.”
Police say there’s no reason for panic yet. With the help of a hired clown whisperer, they feel it is only a matter of time before the missing clowns turn up. However, the clown whisperer, who asked not be named, feels that the official response to this crisis has been a case of ‘too little too late’, saying that his whispers might not reach the clowns, who could be hundreds of miles away by now. “Those little cars can take clowns a long way in very short order,” he says. “and we have to face a hard truth: without proper props and balloons, those clowns can’t survive for long.” 
In the meantime, until the missing clowns are located or new clowns recruited, it may mean a rewrite of the last words to an old song. 
    But where are the clowns?
    Quick, send in the clowns.
    Don't bother, they're extinct.


GoPro Jo

I was given a GoPro Hero 3+ Black for my birthday this year. A GoPro is not a regular camera, it is an action camera for adventure-seekers: bungee jumpers, hardcore skiers, rock climbers, extreme cyclists, scuba-divers, and sundry other kindred spirits.

And so, I set it up, charged it and took a picture:
That’s me, sitting at my desk. It’s extreme desk-sitting.
After taking the picture, the camera has been pretty much sitting on my desk. Now, an ordinary camera can sit on a desk with no issues. It just sits there. It becomes a part of the furniture. But a GoPro can’t do that, no. A GoPro sits there and constantly reminds you that you suck, that you are a deadbeat layabout lower-than-pond-scum do-nothing loser. My GoPro was glaring at me with its beady little camera eye, and it pulled no punches. It hated belonging to me.
I had to do something.
I had to find a way to be worthy of my camera.
So, I decided to make a GoPro video. 
Not just any video, though, because I really wanted to impress the camera. I decided the best way to do that was to jump out of a stratospheric balloon and plunge to my death from 24 miles above Earth. It seemed the only sure way to win the respect of my new camera. 
Sadly, the editing people messed up, and accidentally dubbed over the original sound with some bogus track by some guy named Felix. Here’s the dubbed version, watch it but for authenticity, watch it without sound while reading the transcript below.
Ground control: Okay, Jo, you’re 24 miles above Earth. Take your protein pills and put your helmet on. And jump. 
Jo: Umm, okay, just so you know, I’m not Major Tom. And looking down there, I have to say I think I’ll just make a different GoPro video that would be even better than this one. It involves sitting at my desk. Take me down. In the balloon, please. 
Ground control: Oh for  . . . okay, so why aren’t you jumping? Talk to me.
Jo: Because you’ve measured wrong. That’s not 24 miles, it’s at least 24,000 miles. And by the way, what good, exactly, is a helmet going to do when I land on my head?
Ground control: The helmet is rated for high-impact. You’ll be fine. Trust me. 
Jo: @#%$$@$%#$@#%
Ground control: So jump out already.
Jo: Yeah, that’s going to happen. Not. HEY, hold on, tell these bozos to stop pushing me! 
Bozos: *grunt* She’s at the edge, but man, she just won’t let go. *ow!!!* She’s attacking us, ground control! 
Ground control: Just throw a Bernard Callebaut chocolate out of the balloon.
Bozos: Really? *throws* Aaaaaand she’s out!
Jo: WTF!!!!!!!!!!!! I can’t catch it!!!!! Wait a minute, am I OUT OF THE BALLOON??? I TOTALLY AM, OMG.
GoPro camera: Well it’s about bloody time you jumped. God, what a loser.
Jo: Oh just shut up. I wish I had given you away to the kid next door.  
Ground control: Oh stop sweating the small stuff, our guardian angel will take care of you.
Guardian angel: Hell I will. She’s on her own, I’m going for coffee.
Jo: I am now traveling at a speed of 20,000 miles per hour. The sound barrier is broken, and soon I’ll be broken. I’M GOING TO DIE!!!!!!!! OMG, MAKE IT STOP!
Ground control: Hold on, did we remember to strap on your parachute? Damn, I don’t think we did.
Ground control: Just kidding, hahahaha.
Jo: I curse you *gasp wheeze wheeze* my family curses you, and my old faithful normal camera curses you.
GoPro camera: Well, I have a little bitty parachute attached to ME. I guess they got their priorities right.
Jo: You know what, if I survive this thing, I’m going to sell you to the bedridden 98-year old down the road. Put that in your GoPro pipe and choke on it. Asshat.
GoPro camera: Nasty fly-by-day cow. ‘Fly-by-day’, get it? hahaha. I’m a GoPro! I’m a GoPro! You’re going to die but I’m not. Loser. 
Ground control: Okay you two, stop fighting, you’re still in free-fall, save your breath.
Jo: What breath? That stopped ages ago.
Ground control: Then just get a respiratory count, for god’s sake this isn’t rocket science, Jo.
Jo: On sure. I’m spinning like Beiber’s life, I’m going 50,000 miles an hour, and you want me to take my respiratory-freaking-rate? 
Ground control: Oh come on now, you’re totally stable. Well, aside from the hurtling surprisingly fast to your death bit.
Jo: I hate my life. 
Guardian Angel: Well, I’d say you’re about to solve THAT little problem.
Ground control: Uh-oh, looks like she’s going to miss the landing spot. She’s headed for that snake-pit. Okay, let’s pull out, people. The camera has a snake-proof casing, we’ll collect it later.
GoPro camera: Oh cool, who knew snakes could bite through that thick material? When’s pick up? I need a recharge.

The crazy one

My column this week is an ode to my Andrew, my grandson, my kindred spirit. He is a boy who just turned eight last week. 

Since the day he was born, Andrew has been a non-stop source of joy, frustration, and every other emotion imaginable for the hapless band of innocents around him. Our lives have been filled to the brim with him. Often overflowing, in fact. There have been times when we felt sure there must be a dozen little Andrews here, not just one, but we could only ever count the one. 
In the years before he went to school, Andrew was never what one would call a ‘walk in the park’. Thrilling and delightful and fun he was in those years, but as walks in the park go, think mugger.
He is a natural skewer of time, especially in his earlier years. He’d make some days last at least 60 hours. Always on a mission, always with elaborate plans, he packed about a month’s worth of energy into each day. Every day. If we could have just plugged him into the wall somehow, his energy could have kept the lights and everything else burning bright in the entire city.
And even when he had the rare cold in those days, there was no rest. Being sick offended him so profoundly that he morphed into a raging lunatic drama queen with theatrics that would put the most strident premenstrual woman to shame. Stephen King could have used the character for any number of his books. 
Buying him toys was easy, though, and cheap, too, because he wasn’t much into regular toys. If you offered him a choice of a standard toy or a nice new plunger, he’d take the plunger without hesitation. His ‘toys’ over the years have included a plunger, gas can, leftover rope, scrap metal, masking tape, caution tape, traffic cones, and signs. So many signs and cones. And we’ve gone through a good hundred or so rolls of masking tape and caution tape.
Our house was taped up almost daily, intricate patterns that criss-crossed throughout the rooms, a kind of green sticky home security laser system. Jim was taped a lot, often leaving him completely immobilized. On the rare occasion when I was able to escape to get some work done, I would soon hear a plaintive voice calling up to me in my office, “Nan! Nan! Nan? Nan? Nan? Nan? Nan? Nan?” and back downstairs I’d go to return to my destiny of masking tape imprisonment. 
He was, as they like to say in business, a boy who wore ‘many hats’. A helicopter fixer, construction worker, restaurant owner, plumber, doctor, skull (yes . . . yes, a skull), fireman, policeman, Santa Claus, ambulance driver, dog, and sometimes a strange mix of several of the above. His closet contained more uniforms than regular clothes. 
He was a dog for a very long time. He woofed at people. They always kindly woofed back at him.
Outside more often than in, and hiking on his own power up mountains when other kids were still being pushed around in strollers, he has known the effort of climbing mountains and the reward of standing atop them, seeing the world around him with a new point of view. 
He likes to do real work. When his mother was shopping, he’d help the grocery store manager stock shelves. On trips, he’d help the BC Ferries staff load cars. He took the work seriously and did the job well, which is probably why workers always welcomed him. He still likes real work,  but being older means not being as enveloped in the kindness that people generally just offer to very small children. 
The one job he hates is tidying his own room, but he has a Nan (me) for that.
It seemed likely that we’d not survive those frenzied earlier years, living directly in the storm path as we did. But we did survive it. and moved on, and celebrated each new sign of maturity as it came. Still, there are times when I sorely miss all the wonder of his wildly crazy younger boy-wonderness. 
I guess it was inevitable with the start of school and, well, just getting older, that there would be changes. His tastes are more in line with other kids now, which is a good thing for getting by in school. He still has that awesome craziness, but he’s learned ways to harness it, as one must in life. Not too much harnessing is needed, though, because kids are drawn to him, and get caught up in the magic.
He plays with Lego, and other regular things, but with Lego he quickly builds whatever item it is supposed to be, then dismantles it and builds something far more interesting and considerably more elaborate, no slave to convention, he. He likes to dismantle things, his favourite thing is to dismantle dead computers or any dead electronic device. 
And the creative mysteries of his mind still present themselves in the oddest ways. 
Over a year ago, Heather brought home a trout for their supper. Unfortunately for Heather, it was a whole trout, and Andrew befriended it pretty much on the spot. It was not destined to be dinner, because you just don’t make dinner out of a pet. He still has that pet dead trout, it remains quite dead but seems happy enough to be in the freezer. Occasionally Andrew and his mother remove the trout to scrape off the, umm, winter growth of frost, then back it goes. I think the trout will be around for a very long time. It has company now, a little lady trout. She is also dead. I don’t know how to tell a boy trout from a girl trout, but apparently Andrew knows. One day, Jim is going to buy a little sardine so they can start a family in there. One day, Heather will need a larger freezer.
At Christmas, we had to hide our fish because it was whole, and god knows what would have happened if Andrew had seen it before the head was chopped off. I’m pretty sure we would have been eating mac and cheese for Christmas dinner, and there would have been the grandaddy of all dead fish residing in the Old Freezer-Fish Home.
Maybe the gas can doesn’t get as much attention anymore, and the plunger is long gone, and the masking tape and so on is mostly a thing of the past, but the main thing he wanted for Christmas this year was a gas mask. A real one, a WW II mask, not a fake one. And a security camera. He got both, because we celebrate the crazy in him. We know the wonderful places it can take him in life.
So, at the venerable age of eight, he is a more sophisticated version of his earlier self, but he’s still a gentle soul with a soft spot for dead trout. And he’s still the crazy one.
In 1997, Apple Computer put out an ad that seems to have been written about Andrew. How Steve Jobs, whose brainchild the ad was, knew about this boy so long before he was even born will remain one of those mysteries, I guess. 
Here's to the crazy ones.
The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. 
The round pegs in the square holes. 
The ones who see things differently. 
They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. 
You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.
About the only thing you can't do is ignore them. 
Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world . . . 
are the ones who do.

He’s my Andrew, my grandson, my kindred spirit, a boy who just turned eight last week.


Needles abound

It happens every year, typically starting in late fall. You’re reading the news and suddenly there it is, the annual ‘Uh-oh, it’s flu season’ news item. It is as sure to appear each year as the sun is to rise in the morning, as the robin is to eat the worm, as Christmas stuff is to appear in Costco in July.
It is the media’s gentle reminder for you to get your flu shot, because without it, you must surely die.
Each article in each publication in every country in the world gives the details that the clueless public needs to know about the flu, because apparently the public was totally unaware that:
  • It is flu season.
  • The flu is a respiratory infection.
  • You will probably get the flu.
  • However, the flu shot may lessen that chance.
  • If you don’t get the shot you will die but not before infecting hundreds of innocent children and old people.
  • You should wash your hands.
  • But not with antibacterial soap.
  • Which is a whole other annual-event story.
Now, because you are unlikely to have any understanding of what happens when you get a flu shot, the article helpfully provides a picture of someone with a needle stuck out of their arm.
Every. Single. Year.
Every. Single. Article.
In the entire history of mankind, no article about the flu has ever been run without a photo containing an arm with a needle sticking out of it.
Yes, the article could instead use a picture of a kindly looking doctor with a prescription pad, or someone on their deathbed, or maybe just someone looking as though they should be on their deathbed, but no, it has to be the arm with a needle stuck in it.
There’s the standard Classic needle-in-arm image
...along with variations on the theme:
  1. Old person getting flu shot while having massive heart attack.
  2. Child getting flu shot while thinking “OMG” and planning aprés-shot 125-dB tantrum.
  3. Smiling woman getting flu shot while placing hex on nurse.
  4. Eerie Hitchcockian camera angle of boy saying, “Yeah . . . no” while mother gets flu shot.
  5. Man with polyester tie getting flu shot. 
  6. Victim being savagely stabbed with flu shot. 
  7. Person attempting to flee area while getting flu shot.
  8. Extra stabby view of hapless soul getting flu shot.
  9. Woman in yellow top getting flu shot, gets flu anyway, sells yellow top, house, moves to New Mexico to sell tacos for living, blames flu shot.
1. 2. 3.
4. 5. 6.
7. 8. 9.
Here’s the thing, I get it about the flu shot without seeing the arm-with-a-needle-stuck-in-it photo. Everybody in the entire world gets it without seeing the arm-with-a-needle-stuck-in-it photo. 
In fact, I can look at any headline which contains the word ‘flu’ and know word for word what it says without reading it. So can everybody else. Yes, we’ve sure got that one in the bag. 
Nothing will stop the flu or annual flu story, but if a picture absolutely must accompany it, at least go with one that adds a more tasteful and simple message: 

Read more Old as dirt. Twice as gritty. articles

About the Author

This bio was written by Jo Slade. As you can see she has written about herself in the third person. What normal person would do that? They just wouldn't. Who knows how many other persons might be involved in this thing, a second person? Another third? I worry about it. I - she - we - can't even keep it straight, this paragraph is a damn mess, there are persons all over the place. Round 'em up and shoot 'em. That's what I'd do, and by golly I think that's what Jo Slade would do as well.

Biographic nutshell: Jo has been messing around with words for a long time. Sometimes she'll just say words instead of writing them, it saves on paper.

This column: The columns that will appear here are of a highly serious and scholarly nature, therefore it is advised that you keep a dictionary and ponderous thoughts nearby.

If, after reading the column, you find yourself tossing and turning at night, burning with the need to email me, just do it. I answer to [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet presents its columns "as is" and does not warrant the contents.

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