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Archive for December, 2015

Texting “Oh For Cute” (OFC)

24 Dec

I’ve never heard the phrase “Oh, for Cute” anywhere but in Minnesota. It’s not something new and hip, like artistic types using the phrase, “Yeah, yeah, yeah” in rapid fire succession to express unmitigated and emphatic agreement in the coolest way ever. I’m no linguist – unless there is a way to twist the definition into “somebody really liking linguini” – but I do enjoy listening to language and phrases.

I started thinking about phrases the other day when a friend – in this instance, I’ll use the made up name of David Swirnoff – pulled me aside (it was really only a verbal pull aside because we were talking on the phone) and told me that I use the phrase “at the end of the day” a lot. Dear and good natured readers, this is the kind of honesty that I really like to hear. This is coming from the person who for many years has impersonated all of the slightest mannerisms or speech patterns of all his friends. Once I asked a friend what I did or said that he could mimic.

He said, “Nothing.”

“Really? Nothing?”

He responded that I didn’t really do or say anything interesting that he could put his finger on. Then I realized it was because I was too busy doing impersonations of other people all the time. Maybe this would have been admirable, had I made a good living at such a thing. But I had not. I then decided to tone it down a bit. And tone I did. Now, I mostly listen and become amused – inside my head – by the words and mannerisms of my fellow beings.

A few years ago, when I started to text, I became intrigued with the phrases and the acronyms for the phrases. But I didn’t catch on quickly. My text messages seldom use acronyms and can run into the paragraphs. I hate to report, but I had the wrong meaning of LOL for almost one year. I thought it meant “Lots of Luck”. Usually if someone texted LOL to me after one of my texts, I assumed they were wishing me “Lots of Luck” with my problem or maybe even “Lots of Luck” with me being able to write less than a paragraph

It wasn’t until I heard it in person by a woman saying LOL after she heard a joke. Then she “Laughed Out Loud”. I immediately got it and immediately found it redundant in this instance. Why would she say it and do it. I then stopped myself from being so judgmental.  Maybe she worked in the subtitling or captioning industry and was just used to showing both forms of communication.

Just a short time ago a friend’s daughter was at our house while the friend ran some errands. She texted me “OMW I’ll be there in 5.” I hate to say it, but my first thought was that she had typed, “Oh my word, I’ll be there in 5.” I never heard her speak like this before. It’s truly and sadly amazing how confused I was as to why she would talk like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. But I just thought it was different. I saw that my wife – I’ll refer to her, for practical purposes, as Cynthia – was included in this group text. I couldn’t take it anymore.

“Why would she say, “Oh, my word” to begin that text,” I said, squinting because my brain hurt so much.

She looked at me coolly (not “hip”coolly, but “cold” coolly). She paused from reading her book and I waited for her eyes to march all the way from the back of a freezer where they had been made cold. Then I saw her cold eyes squint because I was actually hurting her brain.

“OMW means On My Way.” Her icicle eyes slid back in front of the fire that was her book.

“Oh,” I said, leaving off the “my word” part.

So, it was actually me who was the Dorothy. Why, in heaven’s name, would “Oh my word” come to the front of the line in my head? Come to think of it, why did I just use the phrase “why, in heaven’s name?” (WIHN)

Maybe it could be my job to come up with the acronyms. What if there are Scandinavian women of a certain age, texting in Minnesota. I could let them know that they should use “OFC” instead of typing out all of the “Oh, for cute.” Maybe the hipsters had not figured out that the way to vehemently agree with someone via text is to type “YYY” instead of wasting their valuable time slogging through “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”. Maybe I could end my wrap up statements with “ATEOTD” instead of always saying, “At the end of the day.”

But I want to take it a step further. I want to become the overseer of text. If I could win this position I would create a searchable text glossary (I have not even Googled it, but yes, I’m sure it already exists. So please humor me). I will come up with new acronyms like “GHRN” for “Get home right now” – you know, for the teens. But my new favorite will be a phrase that shouldn’t be used often. It’s “MGMA”.

Kind reader (KR), please forgive me if I digress, but I need to relay the origin of “MGMA”. Just the other evening, my beautiful and loving wife – who I shall not mention her name again as to avoid her irritation with my doting – was preparing for herself a hot toddy of sorts. A small glass to take the edge off a winter’s eve. A glass with a scant amount of honey flavored whiskey. This glass was presented on the counter awaiting some cherry juice. This glass was perched next to a plate of crackers and cheese and a glass of apple juice, not far away, for our dear and sweet cherub of a child named Iris.

Iris, being still three months shy of the age of six pulled herself upon one of the stools next to the counter island. While Iris’ mother was peering into the refrigerator, searching for the elusive cherry juice, she asked her loving mother if the drink on the counter was hers. Now, her caring and thoughtful mother had placed her apple juice on the edge of the counter and the wonderful whiskey drink sat back out of reach.

The mother responded “Yes” to the question and there was a moment’s pause. The pause was followed by Iris screaming as if she had been burned. In fact, the mother quickly turned and found that she had been burned. Burned by the quick taste of whiskey going all the way down her throat. Iris cried immensely because the whiskey tasted nothing like apple juice.

The entire family ran into the kitchen to see what was happening. The mother explained to Iris that Iris drank her drink by mistake. Gobs of tears splattered all over everything, like some pathetic sad drunk.

When the siblings arrived at the scene, Lila, the eldest, asked Iris what had happened. Iris slowed her tear rivers for a moment and caught her breath long enough to say, “Mommy gave me alcohol.” This would have been unquestionably less traumatic and social servicey sounding if it could have been “MGMA.”

I will continue to work on understanding the meanings of texts and creating new texts for those not represented fully by the texting general public. At the end of the day, I see this as my job, ATEOTD.


Star Wars Hype

17 Dec

It’s like being 13 again. This time around with a wee bit more hype. When the first Star Wars came out in 1977 I was an anxious newly teened boy.  I don’t remember any hype other than the normal new movie advertisements, and then I started hearing movie reviewers talking about Star Wars. They compared it to old-fashioned good guy / bad guy movies. They compared it to cowboy movies – it was just good clean shooting at other people fun – but way better. Just beams of light. Ok. Relax Star Wars nerds; I’m sure it’s way more complicated than that.

Then it was compared Flash Gordon. These were all important comparisons. See, good and kind intergalactic reader, I had no wheels, man. I was 13 and lived ten miles from the Rhinelander Theater which was actually Rouman’s State Theater. I needed my mom or dad to buy into this very small amount of hype to get me a ride to the theater.

Rouman’s State Theater was built in 1921 and owned and operated by two Greek brothers. Their nephew ran the theater in the 1970’s and his children run the multiplex that was put up around 2000.  I was not originally sure of Mr. Rouman’s ethnicity. There was not a lot of variation, aside from your Polish, German and Irish, in this ethnicity parched region. Was he called Mr. Rouman because he was a Roman? Was Rouman another word to describe Greek? In fact, I always thought his last name was spelled “Roman”.  But as I got older I found out that he had nothing in common with Romans – whom I associated with a keen ability to guard things.  For example, he was not good at guarding the door. If you were old enough to walk and give money for a ticket, you could get into an R rated movie.  Maybe a positive spin was that he was not so “judgy”.

My younger brother saw the Jaws 3D movie at the State Theater (I’m not really sure why he would have seen it anywhere). When his pair of flimsy 3D glasses came apart causing the blue side to fall out, he went to Mr. Rouman to procure a new pair. Mr. Rouman, in his staccato English, told him, “It still works. Cover one eye. It will work.”

Flash Gordon was the clincher. My dad had grown up watching Flash Gordon. I had watched repeats of Flash Gordon. I liked Flash Gordon, in that they were battling in space and on other planets. The thing I didn’t like about Flash Gordon was the way those old serials from the 1930s were made. You see, they were trying to figure out how to create suspenseful cliffhangers.  It was story-telling 101 for this new medium they were trying to figure out. I didn’t like that at the end of one segment, if Flash’s space ship was headed for a crash, they would just crash it. Now why would I come back to see if that really didn’t happen. And in the beginning of the next episode he would come ever so close to crashing – but not. I hated being lied to, but there was nothing else on my three channel television. It’s sort of how today’s political parties still work – only with two channels.

I envisioned this new War of Stars movie trying to trick me in the same way, but by the 1970s there were new ways to trick people. Spoiler alert: Like having a dude almost make out with his sister.  By the 1970’s and moving forward, there were also more effective ways to end stories that you knew weren’t really going to end. But how do you get people to remember to come back and see more of the story three years later?

With regard to hype, the 1970’s may well have been the 1930’s as compared to what 2015 hype looks like. But here’s the honest to goodness truth amicable reader, I love the hype. There are a certain amount of people who have no interest in seeing the new Star Wars, and that’s fine. It would be really weird if everyone wanted to see Star Wars. Like, who would run our stores and businesses?  Luckily there are not enough theaters to hold all the Star Wars viewers on opening weekend.  That could be a national code red, with everyone in a theater. Our defenses would be super down. Although I don’t know if you will be much help in a crisis if your response is to make sounds like “Schrvmmmmmm! Kwishuuuuuu! Vrummmmmmm FVISH! while swinging some kind of imaginary sword. So, it’s really ok that everybody isn’t into Star Wars.

But I have to file a complaint against those who are sick of the hype. I have heard that some are tired of seeing Star Wars oranges, Star Wars cereals, Star Wars Target, Star Wars this and Star Wars that. My complaint is that all the things that are getting in on the Star Wars hype are not bumping space that previously held Part 1 of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. The stuff on the cereal box before the Star War themed tie in was probably a toucan in a jungle maze. The Target commercials that reference all things Star Wars were probably talking about another thing at Target with some kind of thing trying to motivate you – like cold or hunger or kitten pictures.

The term “over-commercialization” can apply to Christmas, but the term cannot apply to a movie. You see, I’m here to say that a movie is a commercial item. The movie commercial attention is only taking the place of some other commercially sponsored item. There is only so much time in the day for commercials and you are just seeing more of that time for one thing. I’d rather watch the Jimmy Fallon YouTube a capella Star Wars theme than something Jimmy Fallon does with Madonna, whereas both are promoting something different (and the same – Jimmy Fallon).

Flash Gordon was the clincher to get that parent ride into town to see Star Wars. I was happy to see that the main similarity between Star Wars and Flash Gordon – aside good clean fun fighting in space – was the opening titles coming in from off the front of the screen and other technical things like side wipes. There was not a totally false ending – only unresolved pieces.

I will not be rushing out to see the newest Star Wars this weekend – even though I have a car these days. I will bide my time until the crowds subside. Dear readers, I am an oak tree in the face of hype. My 13-year-old daughter is more like a willow in the face of hype, but Star Wars hype is like Kryptonite to her. She will not be seeing Star Wars until Adele or Taylor Swift are involved. However, my 8-year-old son really wants to see it, with no suggesting on my part.

Since I have wheels now, we may take a road trip to my hometown of Rhinelander and go to the Rouman Cinema and see it in 3D. I bet Mr. Rouman’s kids would give me a new pair of 3D glasses if my pair broke. They, like the hype, have evolved. I bet they’re not unhappy about all the Star Wars hype. Now we just need to see a reinvented and hyped Flash Gordon, and all will be extra well with the Science Fiction space genre.

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford


2015 Rejected Christmas Letter

15 Dec

What follows is the 2015 Christmas letter that was voted down. I thought it would be a waste not to put it someplace.

Spafford / Berger Christmas Letter

 I wasn’t going to do a Christmas letter this year, but Cynthia reminded me that we haven’t done one in a couple years. So, I’ve been tasked with updating you on our 2015. I’ve decided to waste no time in getting this letter completed. In the spirit of the season I have uncorked a fine box of wine and I’m committed (not institutionalized, but rather “focused on completing”).

2015 will be remembered as the year that came after 2014. This is the year that Iris, Hoyt and Lila each took turns at becoming another year older. Man, those kids are sharp. If I weren’t directly related to them in a parental way I may even be convinced to believe the same.

This letter seems to just zip along for you, but it took me an entire glass of wine to get those first two paragraphs down. Let’s hope glass two is more productive.

I can recall that 2015 was the year Iris entered kindergarten. She’s learning the things that kids learn at that age and exceling at recess. Hoyt is in second grade and attends school most days – as far as we know. Lila has gone into the middle school and is learning more about math, science, Adele and Taylor Swift.

Lila and Hoyt have continued to take piano lessons. Iris is excited to begin piano lessons after the Christmas break. She’s may be interested in music or the opportunity to argue with her parents about practicing every day, as her older siblings have demonstrated great skill in this field.

Hoyt has become crazy about playing soccer and has finally become a Packer fan – though no coercing on my parts. Yeehaa!

This wine tastes better than it did on the first glass. I wonder if there is a scientific explanation to for to explain why a third glass of wine would taste better than when the first one was taken down the throat hole. So, this hole year Cynthia taught. Cause she taught summer school and now she is very happy to be teacking as a teacher at the high school level in Minneapolis – where a lot of the kids go to school.  She is very enjoying of it and happy to be working there if she has to be working there.

Oh, geez. I wish I had some cheez, it would be good and help to cleaning my plate – you know in case I want to try a different kind of wine. But this won keeps tasting better and better. My year has been interesting, too, say the least. Actually the least would have been less than that – weird would be less than interesting. Hah. I sort of lied by accidentally saying that first thing. I been working with a software company start-up to help start-up things. And oddly enough before a Happy Thanksgiving! I was lucky to have a stroke. Wait. Lucky even though I had a stroke, I’m ok or just like I was before it – anyway. I feel very fortune cookie, if I maybe too bold in typing that two you(s). I’m a OK, so no need to sweat for me.

We r super dupery happy about the way 2015 went all the way threw the end. The hole bunch of us is looking to Ward 2016 and continuing to continue being a family together and when we go to work and school – like nobody’s bizness. From all of ours family memos to all of you and theirs, what we are going to do is wish you a mary Chistmas and a happy sleepy time after it.

Sal U. Tations (get it?? It’s the man Sal’s name made from the word”saltatiions)“?

fmaily sign it hear.


Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford