Thursday, July 31, 2008

It's A Paradigm Thing...

A few months ago I got the chance to meet my friend Josh's niece, Elise. Aside from being a ridiculously beautiful child, she is also deliciously precocious and a a way that intrigues you so much that you can't possibly be frustrated with her, while at the same time fearing for her parents sanity when she hits teenager-dom. I adore her.

Since meeting Elise, her darling little sister Chloe, and their fantastic parents and spending a great day with them in Baltimore (my first time in the Charm City) I have started reading their blog occasionally on my routine web perusals and I am endlessly entertained by the shenanigans of these kids. The other day, however, I saw something that made me think a little bit about differing paradigms and how my upbringing differed significantly from this little girl that I identitify with in a lot of ways...

What intrigued me were some video clips of the family's recent trip to Costa Rica. In the first clip Elise is holding a small lizard, which she proceeds to give very tender and repeated kisses (in spite of being nipped on the lip by the mini-dino...maybe he's already got a lady-lizard friend). What can I say, the girl loves reptiles...her dad's got to be so proud. In the second clip, Elise is holding a small garden snake while her dad looks on. Mom, manning the camera asks what she is doing and Elise responds repeatedly "I hold the snake...I hold the snake..." (You really should see this for can see the video here...many thanks to Juli and Ben for letting me post the link).

On seeing this I was so shocked at the fearlessness of this little girl, particularly given my own experience at her age with snakes...time for another flash from the farm...

See here's the thing...I grew up in south central Montana on a cattle ranch closer to the middle of nowhere than anything else. For those of you who haven't had the opportunity to visit the illustrious locale of Toston, Montana, you should know that the sagebrush hills enclosing the Missouri River valley where I lived are FULL of Diamondback Rattlesnakes. As a 3 year old, I knew no difference between a harmless garden snake and a 6 foot rattler capable of dispatching small mammals of various sizes and ferocities...that may or may not be a real word...just go with it.

Whereas Elise was happy to "hold the snake" all I knew at her age was "kill the snake." I got it from all only real understanding about snakes was that my dad smashed their heads with shovels, my grandma accelerated and braked over them until they were nothing but slimy skid marks on the road, my mom lobbed stones as big as her head onto their bodies until they stopped slithering, and my grandfather blasted them to scaly bits with his shotgun...and all the while they told me "snakes are dangerous, you will die if they bite you, WE KILL SNAKES." * You can see where my biases against said serpents come from...and why I always seemed to relate to Indiana Jones...

So it occurred to me that at that age if you had asked me to hold a snake, I probably would have screamed bloody murder and reached for the nearest blunt instrument (probably a damn hammer...but that's another story in and of itself). This is not to say that I was a scared little kid...after all, I was taking on hundreds of pounds of charging 'Grade A' American Angus at the age of six...much to my father's chagrin...please ref the Cat Story...It's just a matter of growing up with a different mindset.

I think one reason I like Elise is because we are a lot alike; independent, a little serious, each fearless in our own way, and, no doubt, making our parents very worried for what lies ahead (still probably more true for me than not...). I also realized how much a person's environment influences their worldview...Where I will always shiver a little at the thought of actually letting my skin come in contact with snake scales that are actually still on a living breathing snake, Elise will be Dr. Doolittle-ing it up with all sorts of slithery critters.

As for me and my Stanfills, however, we will probably continue teaching our posterity the virtues of the business end of a shovel in human-snake encounters**...sorry PETA, it's nothing personal...just a matter of paradigm.

*My family is not violent by nature, quite the opposite's possible that snakes just don't really bring out the Stanfill's best side

**To illustrate how the anti-snake biase has pervaded Stanfill Family culture, I will refer you to my cousin Emily and her husband Michael's blog where you can request a copy of Emily's entrance essay to BYU...specifically about her first experience with grandma's preferred snake killing tool...grandpa's gold's classic, and may have been the original inspiration for writing about the snake paradigm.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Desperate Attempt at Art...

Here are a few pics I took while we were in NYC for the 4th. Mostly some of my desperate attempts at producing something that resembles art. Again, lacking a good photo editing program, so the colors leave a bit to be desired (the watermark template doesn't help, so use your imagination). Enjoy.

These were in a community garden maintained by volunteers in Riverside Park

The Sailors Memorial Above Riverside Park

How did they get that tree to do that?

The World, in Tree

Steps below Riverside Park

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Few Things I Never Thought I'd Do...

I spent last weekend in the Big Apple with some friends to celebrate the 4th of July, and get out of escaping to an even denser urban jungle (?). I know, when we stopped to consider it, it didn't make a lot of sense to us either...but then again...a lot of things happened this weekend that didn't exactly add up...

On the 4th of July we headed out to Coney Island. This was quite the experience. Coney Island hit its peak in the 1920s and, from what I can gather given our experience there, has gone dramatically down hill since then. The main body of the island is taken up by a run-down amusement park bordered by a boardwalk and the shore. It has been my experience that places with boardwalks tend to be inherently seedy (what it is about providing a planked walking surface next to eating establishments and sand that brings out the weirdos I have no idea...I'm still in the early stages of formulating a theory involving lead paint, pirate fetishes, and clowns...), and Coney Island's boardwalk is hands down the worst I have ever seen.

Perhaps I should back up...the reason we went to Coney Island in the first place was not, in fact, to solidify a theory on why creepy people have taken to inhabiting former gems of prohibitionist-era Americana, but to watch the annual Nathan's World Championship hot dog eating contest. Yep, that is the one activity that worked itself firmly into our agendas for the weekend. Not only did we choose to spend the birthday of our country watching strictly average individuals gorge themselves on highly processed psuedo meat products, but we went specifically to cheer on a JAPANESE guy. I'm not gonna was a blast. In truth, I do not have the words to adequately describe the full experience...luckily for you my friend Josh does. So I will refer you to Josh's Blog (no need to read this) to get all the baloney-laden details. Suffice it to say, I have been astounding my co-workers with my newfound knowledge of the rules and regulations of competitive eating...and I am pretty sure I never want to see another hot dog again...not until next independence day, anyway.

Maybe it was the guy with the rattail haircut that he clearly hadn't touched since 1992, maybe it was the "Shoot the Freak" booth where for a small fee you can take out your aggression on a live target (read skinny, underpaid high school kids from the Bronx) with a paintball gun, maybe it was Madame Cha Cha's Cafe (not even gonna go there...), maybe it was the alcohol flowing freely at 10 in the morning, or maybe it was the tiny fluorescent Wal-mart bikinis on the leathery, tatooed biker mamas...either way as we wandered up and down the boardwalk trying to find something redeeming about this tragically decrepit slice of beach front, I suddenly felt like I was standing in the center of a particularly creepy Slipknot music video (don't google these guys...the picture should speak for itself).
I have to say, on some levels, it was a little sad...What was once a place of lighthearted fun and entertainment has turned into what can only be described as...well...let's just say if Dante had known about Coney Island Francesca and Paolo would have been out on their ears and hell would have had a new playground. Needless to say, we watched the hot dog eating contest (speaking of Dante...third circle anyone?) and hopped the train back to the blessed normalcy (?!?) of Manhattan.

We spent the afternoon sleeping off the whole Coney Island experience and got up to go to dinner on the outer edges of Korea town. This, or course, was fantastic (what did you expect?) and we indulged in a fantastic dinner of hansik while enjoying the most appropriate of dinner entertainment...Discovery Channel's "Dirty Jobs" playing on the flat panel TVs mounted to the restaurant walls...yeah...I didn't get it either. Afterwards we joined the masses for strictly so-so views of fireworks over the East River. We opted to duck out early and beat the subway traffic...stopping on our way home for gelatto and finishing the evening with a laptop viewing of "Talladega Nights." Shake & Bake.

Saturday was spent trying to beat the rain with my most bestest friend from college, Marne'. It was wonderful to see her and the latest edition to the Stott family, Ms. Aubrey. Aubrey is an angel and has completely shot all my expectations of how a child will behave when carted from one end to the other of a major urban center. Great.

After dropping off Marne' and Aubrey, we met up with the rest of our group for yet another phenomenal dinner at a Japanese grill. Again...I have no words. Afterwards we headed out to Queens to check out a Korean bath house and spa. I was in heaven. While this place had definitely been Americanized a bit (the better part of the bathing areas were coed, meaning swimming suits required...lame...) it was still a great way to chill out and relax. We stayed until midnight, drove home, and passed out...very full and very clean. It doesn't get much better than that.

In the past, when I have visited NYC I have always been very ready to get out after about three days, but on Sunday morning as we packed up, I found myself a little loathe to be leaving what had been something of an urban haven for us that weekend. Much laughing was done, much eating was pursued, and many memories were made. It was a great weekend, and when I returned to the office on Monday and my coworkers and I went for our morning breakfast run the question came up "So, what did you do this weekend?" all I could do was shake my head and laugh...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Something New...

Okay, so no big news yet, just wanted to get thoughts on the new blogger template. I was getting a little tired of the canned blogger background and spent more hours than I care to admit sorting through Pyzam's roughly 2500 templates. Ultimately, I decided on this one. What do you think?