The High Countries

because it’s all paperweight…

Jack and the Twoderful Beans

Inflationary Language

Growing up in a Dutch home meant growing up to be strong. Not just physically strong, with beatings from the cousins around every turn, but mentally strong as well. Dinner table discussion rivaled any great sporting event and getting a word in was like stealing a raisin from a speeding blender. If you didn’t respect your elders, there was discipline on the other end of the stick, and don’t even think about speaking the word ‘bored’ — there’s a weekend of chores, no question. When we ate, we ate like strong men. When we worked, we worked like good farmers. And when we laughed, we nearly embarrassed those around us, I’m sure.

Nothing came so easily as laughter around our house. The entire family was raised on great humor and had strong enough backbones to laugh at themselves, making holidays and birthday’s unfortunate days of target, rather than embrace. I was raised on the classics of my generation, sure, just like any kid: Saved by the Bell, Family Matters, Tailspin, but none of these experiences came close to what it was like sitting and watching a few select shows with my father.

My dad is a strong man. He has massive hands which are generally referred to as ‘mitts’. His legs may look little bigger than a stork’s, but they stand tall on his 6’4 frame and are guaranteed not to be noticed when he’s speaking. I wish I could say that my father is a blatantly caring man – he is, don’t get me wrong — but that’s not nearly the first thing you notice as he walks into a room. Twenty-five-plus years as a Washington State Trooper and you’ll see why he talks with an unabashed ‘boom’. Its true, his hands and frame make him domineering, but his laugh…oh, his laugh… that’s something different entirely.

Only a couple times have I ever heard my father laugh to tears. Once was during an episode of M*A*S*H that, which, for the life of me, I can’t remember. All I can remember is Hawkeye making sarcastic remarks and next thing we know, we could barely breath. There we were; I’m looking at dad with tears in my eyes and pain in my side, mom is grabbing the counter because she’s laughing at me and Dad has his head down, hands calmly on a pillow, caught in utter hysteria. It really was a beautiful moment, none of us able to speak, the TV still playing whimsically in the background. Even as I write this, I smile, knowing all along how much literal pain I was in — it was bearably unbearable.

The only other time I saw my father’s tears of painful laughter was during a Victor Borge Sunday-afternoon special. My dad had seen a similar show as a child and therefore wanted the entire family to partake in the event. And so, like good, responsible children, we gathered around as it began.

The skit was funny, quite funny really, as Victor beautifully played and generously made fun of his own talent. We laughed throughout the entire piece, but the pinnacle, without a doubt was Borge’s story of Jack and the Twoderful Beans. Borge figured that since money inflates, so too should words and coined his now famous, “Inflationary Language”. ‘To’ would become “Two”. “Foretold” would be “Fivetold” and so on…

My Dad and I talk about this story to this day, both getting thoroughly entertained by both it’s comic genius and the memories it stirs…

Read below, or watch it here.

Twice upon a time there lived a boy named Jack in the twoderful land of
Califivenia. Two day Jack, a double-minded lad, decided three go fifth three
seek his fivetune.
After making sure that Jack nine a sandwich and drank some Eight-Up, his
mother elevenderly said, “Threedeloo, threedeloo. Try three be back by next
Threesday.” Then she cheered, “Three, five, seven, nine. Who do we
apprecinine? Jack, Jack, yay!”
Jack set fifth and soon met a man wearing a four-piece suit and a threepee.
Fifthrightly Jack asked the man, “I’m a Califivenian. Are you two three?”
“Cerelevenly,” replied the man, offiving the high six. “Anytwo five
elevennis?” “Not threeday,” answered Jack inelevently. “But can you help me
three locnine my fivetune?”
“Sure,” said the man. “Let me sell you these twoderful beans.”
Jack’s inthreeition told him that the man was a three-faced triple-crosser.
Elevensely Jack shouted, “I’m not behind the nine ball. I’m a college
gradunine, and I know what rights our fivefathers crenined in the
Constithreetion. Now let’s get down three baseven about these beans.”
The man tripled over with laughter. “Now hold on a third,” he responded.
“There’s no need three make such a three-do about these beans. If you twot,
I’ll give them three you.”
Well, there’s no need three elabornine on the rest of the tale. Jack oned in
on the giant and two the battle for the golden eggs. His mother and he lived
happily fivever after — and so on, and so on, and so fifth.

July 18, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment | 2 Comments

Another Eruption of Incomprehensible Beauty

A volcano in Chile erupts lightening, ash and beauty in June 2008.

National Geographic—Photograph by Carlos Gutierrez/UPI/Landov

Dear journey-men and journey-women of the High Countries.  I come to you with a pen that was generously offered by the colorful mind that paints these pages with insight for you all to consume.  My hand is a bit timid as I have much to live up to, for I do not do this on a regular basis and in fact have only gone so far as commenting on blogs.  I hope my contribution to this place is exactly that — a contribution — and not, well, a subtraction.  So, I dive in…

As a child of the Italian-dominated gene pool of the Luedke family I have grown up with a knack for the artistic, the visual, and in a walnut shell — the creative.  As a kid, I used to draw into the wee hours of the night trying my darnedest to get the ninja’s shadows the right opacity and that Warhammer 40,000 soldier’s left arm the right flipping size (SO frustrating).  Of the three boys, I was the one who would take out the video camera when the potato gun was being launched to make sure that not only was the event documented, but more importantly, that it looked good and sounded great when the music track was added.  I have a knack for taking pictures and had an absolute BLAST in my Black-and-White Photography I and II classes at Brophy Prep High School.  I am as straight-laced as they come, yet find himself eagerly anticipating flushing out the intricacies of the interior design of my first place with my wife — yes, even down to picking wall colors.  I could go on and tell you about my degree in motion-picture production and my job in television development but I think you get the point…I love to create.

With that said, about two weeks ago I was humbly reminded once again of something that has proven to dismantle any pride built upon these lofty attempts of this thing I call “creativity”.  It fully enraptures my puny mind and will continue to do so until the day a daisy grows on my belly.  I had received an e-mail from my dear older brother Troyton and, as I opened it’s contents, never did I think my jaw could be so deadly heavy.  I stared in awestruck silence at the string of images glowing before my eyes and only one thought pierced the silence, “I’ve been left behind.”  Thankfully, as I began to put together words and read about the wonder I was observing, I learned that I had, in fact, not been left behind.  What I was seeing was just a 9,000-years-due volcano in Chile, exploding with an incomprehensible display of power, destruction, and beauty all in one single performance…no big deal.

After reading on, I learned that this was a volcano colliding with an electrical storm in Chile on May 3rd, 2008.  A National Geographic photographer — Ronald J. Thomas — conveniently captured this show and now, will never work another day in his life.  Mr. Thomas, an atmospheric physicist at New Mexico Tech, who also co-authored the study of this storm said, “…we saw a lot of electrical activity during the eruption and even some small flashes going from the top of the volcano up into the cloud. That hasn’t been noticed before.”  Martin Uman, co-director of the University of Florida Lightning Research program pointed out that, “It’s the first real look at the details of at least one kind of volcano lightning—though of course every volcano might not be the same.”  Oh good.  Uman also noted in regards to the lightning increasing in frequency and girth as the ash and lava carried further from the mouth that, “the implication is that it has produced more charge than it started with. Otherwise [the plume] couldn’t continue to make lightning.”  In layman’s terms: We have no shaboygan’ clue what just happened.

Explaining the unexplainable.

National Geographic—Photograph by Carlos Gutierrez/UPI/Landov

You see, this is what gets me — here is a “simple” volcanic eruption, something that has occurred millions upon millions of times on this earth and the minds that have dedicated their lives to these things are virtually back at square one.  Well, they DID mention that not one volcanic eruption might be the same (have fun studying the rest of your life Dr. Eruption) and in fact, it would prove more fruitful of your time to go steal a tank and destroy an all-glass building.  Don’t even ask, just do it.

I will forever long to witness one of these eruptions in the flesh.  Watching a most impressive display of creativity and wonder on a still screen sweeps my mind away to the place it belongs — nestled on the ash-covered crust.  Oh, what it will do to me when I see it live — sound, trembling earth and all.  Don’t worry, I will bring my camera.

By Todd Stevenson

July 14, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, Faith | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jesse Jackson: “I wanna cut his (Obama’s) nuts off…”

Jesse Jackson Obama's Nuts...

As time unfolds, the Reverend's words may prove more telling than his legacy.

Distinguished quests,

I realize that understanding, mercy and tolerance are flourishing ideals of this postmodern world. I am keen to the fact that most ill-spoken quip can be extinguished with a simple apology, half-witted explanation or conniving, cover-up lie.  By now, I am sure you have all heard that Jesse Jackson did some quipping of his own this week. In our by-the-second news world, this email is legions of seconds too late and reads like yesterday’s classic novel, I’m sure. All tardiness aside, hear me out.

After reading Bill O’Reilly’s book, The O’Reilly Factor, I can say that its main point was the emphasis of dialogue. By whatever means necessary, Bill always tried to have dialogue with most guests. And even in some of his most heated moments — like with Heraldo Rivera — cooler heads usually prevailed. When guest would choose not to come on the show, nearly each time, with enough persistence, they’d make ammends. Hillary and Bill Clinton, Eminem, Reverend Al Sharpton – all finally succumbed, whether to pressure or realization and appeared on the show in one way or another, save one: Reverend Jesse Jackson.

At the time of print, the Reverend had yet to appear on the show. He had not given rhyme or reason for his impartiality towards Mr. Reilly and never once returned a call personally. He didn’t want to talk. He didn’t want to be anywhere near him, maybe for good reason. Each time the Reverend came up in news, Bill was there – ready to give objective view — sometimes on polarizing and seemingly fallacious topics (such as the death of Stanley “Tookie” Williams). With each new news day came more criticizing, grandstanding and stake-driving from the Reverend in response to any and all of The Factor’s coverage. “There’s always a place at the table for dialogue”, Bill would say, adding, “…but it seems the Reverend can’t find the time.  Maybe next week.”

Years have come and gone and although the Reverend has appeared on The Factor (with topical guidelines overflowing from his team’s notepads), never once has the Reverend been the poster child of what he preaches. If there’s people around, tolerance will be preached, but when the mics go off – the dialogue apparently changes.

The courtesies that Mr. Reilly patriotically offered to Mr. Jackson – listening ears, and open mind and a patient tongue – were once again offered publicly to a man that, by his own teaching, would not deserve such a service. Reverend Jackson’s (and it kills me to say that) words echoed through the halls of the causes he so fervently claims to champion against: hate, anger and envy. Could anger ever be more inopportune?

Outside of the sound bites uncaught by hot mics, the point is this: The Reverend Jackson — a man who so adamantly strives for the public stage by which to boast his own tyrannical and illogical fight against racism — has just become the apple of his own eye. Its the modern-day allusion to David’s conversation with the prophet Nathan.  Jesse Jackson’s entire life has been his crusade to place damnation on the masses and wash his hands of any guilt.  After his comments on Monday, and by his own actions, his legacy takes true form.

July 10, 2008 Posted by | Entertainment, News, Television | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment