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George Washington and I Blow Up a Hostess Factory

One day my mom bought a statue of George Washington from the home and garden store. She thought it would be a nice addition to our house. The only problem was, the house was a mess, so we had to keep the statue in my room. And it’s not that I hold anything short of reverence for the father of our nation, but there was something unsettling about those stony eyes staring at me … all night long. In my most vulnerable moment, I may or may not have taken a hammer to it.

What was my surprise when the stone crumbled away, revealing the secret within. The reason it looked so life-like was because it was sculpted around the real George Washington, who was staring right back at me!

I asked, “How are you still alive?”

“My constituents wanted to preserve me for a future time when I would be needed again,” he said, “so they dipped me in carbonite.”

“Oh,” I said, “I think that happened to Han Solo too.”

“Tell me, what national crisis calls for my generalship? Have the British returned?”

“No.”

“Are we at war with France?”

“No.”

“Surely there must be a dire reason to awake me from centuries of slumber.”

“Sorry, it was an accident. Would you like a Twinkie?”

“What’s it made out of?”

I didn’t know, so I read the ingredients on the box. “Enriched wheat flour, sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sodium acid pyrophosphate …”

George barred his wooden teeth. “Americans eat this garbage?”

“All the time.”

“What have we become, a nation of fatties?”

I didn’t know how to answer that, so we did some research and learned that two-thirds of Americans are overweight and one-third are obese. Diet-induced maladies, including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis are at all-time highs.

“I see why I’ve returned,” said George. “I must lead the war against bad eating habits. Are you with me?”

I was.

The war was really fun. First we went to the music store and bought a portable snare drum and bell. Then we walked through the neighborhood. I played the drum while George rang the bell and shouted, “Eat your vegetables!” We handed out fliers listing the harmful ingredients in junk food, though not many people were interested.

As George became more determined, we picked up some carrots and cucumbers at the grocery store and stuffed them into mailboxes. Some people got mad, so we had to run from house to house. But the most exciting part was when George procured some explosives. (I never asked how he got them. I mean … he’s George Washington!) We waited until midnight, and then we put on some ski masks and blew up the Hostess factory.

That was when things got ugly. A police officer saw us running away from the scene (because neither of us knew how to drive a car), and we were put in jail. Still, George kept his head high. All night long, he told me stories about harder times at Valley Forge and crossing the Delaware. He said he was proud of me for serving my country, and I felt really good.

The next day, we met with a judge. He didn’t know what to do, because I was a minor, and George was … George Washington! So he decided to let us off the hook if George renounced his terrorist allegiances by eating a Twinkie.

“Don’t do it, George!” I cried.

George fought an inner battle, but in the end, he took a bite of the Twinkie, saying, “A Twinkie is a sometimes food.”

After all that adventure, we decided that America wasn’t ready for the return of George Washington, so we went to a carbonite specialist, who preserved the father of our nation for another two-hundred years. But before the great man sank into the lonely, steamy pit, he looked up at me and said, “Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

“I will,” I promised.

Eventually my mom returned him to the home and garden store. It was hard to say goodbye. There are some who might call our war a failure, but as for this American, before I indulge in high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil, I think of George and listen to my conscience … because I really don’t want to end up with wooden teeth.

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I’m Carried Away by a Hawk

When I was six, I had to present a report on a species of birds. I chose hawks, because they’re vicious predators who rise above the competition and swoop down to take what they want … like me. Furthermore, we lived by a mountain, and now and then we could see a hawk circling around the sky, a perfect opportunity for observational science.

According to my research, hawks loved to eat birds, lizards, mice, and other small animals. In fact, they’ve even been known to carry away dogs. This got me thinking. Our dog, was so heavy, I couldn’t even pick him up. And I lifted weights. So if a hawk could carry away a big, heavy thing like her, then why not me?

As soon as I had this exciting realization, I ran outside and waved my arms. I even saw the hawk, but she wasn’t interested. I happened to know that hawks especially love to eat rabbits, so I put on some bunny ears and hopped up and down. That caught her attention, which got me thinking. Hawks are also known for carrying their prey way up high, then dropping them to their deaths. This made me slightly nervous, so I did the logical thing and played dead.

Moments later, the hawk dived down, clutched me in her talons, and whisked me into the sky. It was neat. And I must have been a pretty good actor, because she didn’t drop me to my death. Instead, she carried me up the mountainside to a great big nest at the top of a fifty foot cliff.

I still tried to play dead, but then my rabbit ears fell off, and the jig was up. The hawk screeched her consternation at being duped, and I, being well-educated in hawkology, screeched back. To translate, I said, “I’m sorry to have deceived you, but I felt it necessary in order to conduct a proper interview. I’m doing a report on hawks, you see, and I’d like to ask you some questions.”

The hawk was flattered. She said that she always wanted to be interviewed. She showed me her eggs and her rabbit skulls. I asked her if it’s true that hawks push their babies out of nests to teach them how to fly.

“It is,” replied the hawk. “Would you like to me do it to you so you can learn to fly?”

“I don’t think that would work,” I said, “because I don’t have wings.”

“Oh, it’s not wings that make you fly,” said the hawk, “it’s the hawk diet. Here, just have a few bites of this rabbit carcass and you’ll be able to fly.”

“I’m pretty sure you need wings to fly,” I said.

“What do you know about flying? I’m a hawk!”

I decided that the hawk had a point, so I ate some of the rabbit carcass. It was awful. Then I stood at the edge of the nest, and the hawk pushed me off. It was really scary. I flapped my arms, I tried to think happy thoughts, but I just couldn’t fly. Luckily, there were some springy trees to pad my fall, though not without some scrapes and bruises.

The hawk met me at the bottom. “That was some excellent flying,” she said.

“I just fell,” I said.

“Oh no, you were definitely flying.”

“I’m pretty sure I didn’t fly.”

“What do you now about flying? I’m a hawk!”

I decided that hawks aren’t very smart. Though in her defense, when she saw my bruise, she felt really bad and offered me a rabbit skull as a get-well gift. I politely declined. “Can you take me home now?” I asked.

And so she took me home. “Maybe next time we can play at your house,” she said.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said.

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Download My New eBook for Free (Today Only)

Gideon Cover-smallAs I promised to fans at the LTUE Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium last weekend, I’m giving away ebooks of my new Young Adult, Urban Fantasy novel, Gideon Versus the Gods of Cool, for free. I’m looking for beta readers to give feedback before it goes to the publisher. Please let me know what you think and, if you like it, leave a review on Amazon. Your reviews make a big difference in the success of the book. And any feedback you can send me, even if only about grammar errors, is appreciated. If you absolutely hate the book, let me know! This will help me gauge my audience, and I’ll graciously thank you for your time. But you only have until midnight tonight to download the eBook, so don’t snooze!

Download from Amazon

Gideon Greenwich, a delinquent nerd, is given two choices: join the football team or be expelled.

To be “initiated” into the team, Gideon attends a violent fraternity party, where he has a startling discovery: the jocks are being controlled by an evil god of sports! As the conspiracy unfolds, it appears that the entire school has been hijacked by otherworldly beings posing as teachers. To resist their dark powers, Gideon must look beyond social cliques and team up with star quarterback Doug Rock and the beautiful cheerleader Cynthia McDaniels.

Together, the unlikely friends take on the god of sports, the goddess of fashion, and the god of popularity. But defying the “gods of cool” takes courage, a willingness to look stupid, and mind-bending adventures through paralell universes.

In this thoughtful and hilarious critique of high school life, National Award-winning storyteller Stephen Gashler will make you question what it means to be “cool.”

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Come to Our Free Mid-winter Concert

26197891_1655463567826390_2482441952407977067_oTeresa and I have been following a number of new years resolutions, such as eating only whole foods, exercising more, and taking our music more seriously. Specifically, we’re hoping to perform a concert every month. Today will be our first one for the year. It’s in Provo, it’s free, and there will be food. We would love it if you could come.

Find deliverance from the dismal, deathly dearth on winter with a free evening of magical, marvelous music by award-winning husband and wife duo, the great and glorious Gashlers. They’ll pull out the old cello, guitar, and banjo to flabbergast your faculties with frabjous fantasies. Recommended for hearty humans of all ages. Refreshments provided. See the Facebook event.

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The Greatest Gift a Man Could Give A Woman

pexels-photo-63576I was pondering on the question, “What is the greatest gift a man could give a woman?” And then it came to me, so surely and suddenly that there was no reason to consult an actual woman. What a  woman thinks the answer might be would invariably pale beneath what I know the answer to be.

The greatest gift a man could give to a woman is a live, spontaneous, and unannounced recreation of the music video of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” The more it scares her, the better it would be.

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We’ll Take Your Treasure Away

For your viewing pleasure, the Gashler Family song and dance troupe will now present an epic clash between Vikings and Christians (another piece from VALHALLA – A NORDIC ROCK OPERA), featuring the vocal talent of Jenni Goodman, Bridger Beal, and (of course), Teresa and I. One of these days we’re going to get a real studio. This is all getting a bit tight in our master bedroom.

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Can Modern Dances Possibly Get Worse?

pexels-photo-341858On Friday night, my wife Teresa and I attended the world’s largest cake fight, held at the UCCU Center at UVU. When I saw the banners advertising the event, I was an instant sell. Teresa and I had also attended what was, at the time, the world’s largest water balloon fight at BYU. It was glorious. So I didn’t have to think twice about the lovely prospect of standing in the midst of a thousand cake missiles. We even purchased premium tickets so that we would have the privilege of being the ones to hurl the cake.

I admire the people who made this event happen, a service to the community that was undoubtedly a labor of love. And what a labor it must have been to clean up such a mess! By the time the last wad of cake was hurled, the floor was covered in a thick, gray sludge, so oily that one could slide around. As we evacuated the building, covered in frosting, everyone had a smile on his face, and it was clear that such a celebration of life had made the world a better place.

Having said all that, I wish to expound on the horror that preceded the bliss. This is in no way a criticism of the good people who put this wonderful event together but of a broad, societal phenomenon. I wish to speak of what is now termed music and dancing.

The event started at 8:30 PM. The official description was vague, so only upon entering the building and speaking to some of the coordinators did we realize that the cake fight wouldn’t take place until midnight. While this was disappointing, our children were spending the night at their grandparents’ house, so why not enjoy a good three hours of dancing?

When we entered the indoor stadium, however, we found the music off-putting. The DJ was blasting heavy … gangster stuff. While I ask you to pardon my ignorance of the proper terminology, I think you can imagine a grinding, distorted bass, relentless boom-booms, and angry, shouting, male vocals. Somewhere in the vicinity of rap, hiphop, and dubstep, these in-your-face slams, blasting at ear-splitting decibels, could have a certain appeal … under the right circumstances … for a limited time. While not our cup of tea, we could at least enjoy moving our bodies to a common beat until something more in line with our preferences came along. After all, there were still three hours to go, and with such a vast world of music to draw from, we looked forward to the classic hits, the jazz, the slow dances, the party songs, and maybe even a little country.

Only the boom-booms just kept going … and going. Interesting to note, over the course of the evening, I don’t recall hearing a single instrument. Every sound was synthesized. Every vocal was pitch-corrected and heavily processed, almost robotic. The sounds were disheveled, chaotic, crazy. When, on occasion, we made out the lyrics of the current angry gangster … they were horrible: rude, profane, sexually explicit, degrading to women.

Though Teresa and I were only inches apart, the cacophony was so loud, we soon grew hoarse from shouting to each other just to talk. We had to get away. Moving to the other end of the stadium wasn’t enough. To find somewhere quiet enough to think, we had to go to the end of a hallway, into a stair well, und up a few floors. Even there we weren’t free from the omnipresent thumps of the bass, but at least we could talk.

IMG_20171117_233449304

As we passed the time, a lot of people would go up and down the stairs, and we overheard conversations. One was about all the “grinding” that was going on in the dance. In the tight crowds, men were forcing themselves against the dancing women in front of them. Lovely.

From time to time, Teresa and I heard the beginning of something we actually wanted to dance to. A-ha’s “Take on Me”, Europe’s “The Final Countdown” or the Champs’ “Tequila”. We ran back into the stadium and started busting out our swing moves. But within seconds, the merciless DJ’s would corrupt the classics by mixing in more boom-booms and … gangster stuff … until the songs were nothing but the latter. Teresa and I would then walk back out, deflated.

In our defense, the music wasn’t really danceable. It sounded as if it was made by drunken chimpanzees banging on garbage cans. How were supposed to move to such chaos? I mean, no one else was really dancing. They were just doing their mosh thing like a throbbing amoeba.

I know I must sound snobby. But believe me, I tried to dance to this stuff. Wanting to experience the rave culture, I spent many songs in the midst of the moshing crowd, waving my arms, hopping up and down, and trying, whole-heartedly, to submit myself to the gods of fornication. But I just couldn’t find the appeal. I realized, then, why older generations have never been able to connect to modern music. (And yes, clocking in at a whopping thirty-four years, I was one of the oldest in this crowd of young, beautiful college students. There were a few older couples at first, but when they discovered what the night was about, they took off running.)

The reason that older generations struggle with embracing popular music is because they know too much. We know that there used to be a thing called chord progressions. It used to require instruments to make music. In the days of yore, vocalists used to sing, and lyricists were required to have something to say (besides about sex). All in all, the music was supposed to move the listener, inspiring them with emotions (besides anger and … well … sexuality isn’t really even an emotion). When one reached the end of a song, there used be a sense of conclusion, catharsis, progress. Music didn’t have to be “cool.” It could be warm. It could make people feel good. You could move to it, because it had a sense of direction.

As Back Eyed Peas apply put it:

“They don’t want music,
They don’t know how to use it.
All they want, a boom boom boom boom.”

I found myself staring at the man on the stand, the DJ, who was throwing up his gangster arms before the moshing crowd. “Should we turn it up?” he would shout. “You want more?” Unfortunately, there was no real way for the crowd to express themselves. Whether we shouted, “Yes!” or (as I did), “This music sucks!” The cumulative effect was always the same: more noise. And that was all the validation the DJ needed.

This is why I’ve always hated DJ’s. They have too much power. They alone can subject the minds of hundreds to their bombarding whims. And they just seem so spineless, religiously pandering to the latest consensus of what’s “cool.” I’m sure there’s good DJ’s out there; they just seem to be few and far between. And on this trying night, there were, in my book, three exceptionally bad ones.

As the event appeared to be a competition between them, each was bent on outdoing the other with louder, crazier, and even more in-your-face gangster stuff. And nothing but gangster stuff. The music would frequently cut out as the DJ’s would shout, “One, two, three, four!” But what were they counting toward? It was just more boom-boom.

Boom-boom!

BOOM-BOOM!

During one of mine and Teresa’s first escapes from the hysteria, we were in an elevator with other people. I wanted them to hear me as I made disparaging remarks such as, “I can’t imagine hell sounding any worse than that.” Or, “Each one of those songs crucifies Mozart anew.”

When we were in private, an embarrassed Teresa chastised me. “What good are you doing?” she asked.

I replied something to the effect of, “Does anyone actually like this stuff? Or do they just accept it because everyone seems to think it’s cool? It’s the crowd mentality at its worst, an instance where democracy fails miserably and none of us are as dumb as all of us. The only way to cut the circle is if we speak out. Then maybe others will too. We need to make it cool to express how terrible this music is. I know we’re not going to make a difference, but it’s the principle that counts.”

We had a long talk in the car. While Teresa agreed with me, she didn’t want to be in public with me if I was going to act like this, and in the end, I agreed to keep my feelings to myself. Reluctantly (because it was freezing cold outside), we went back to the dance.

But as the evening progressed with more of the same booming torture, Teresa began to lose it too. With a look of exasperation, she started doing interpretative dances of the crazy sounds, her eyes open wide, her teeth barred, her fingers outstretched. Like the freaky gangster dancers, she got in my face as if hexing me. It was funny. At least it should have been. The whole evening was so sardonic, it was hard to figure out why no one was laughing at the irony of it all.

Toward the end of the long wait, as I was half-heartedly moving my body to the boom-booms, Teresa reached her snapping point. She apologized for chastising me. “You were right,” she said. “People need to speak out against this.” Then, as another gangster man shouted more sexually-charged lyrics, Teresa said, “All I can hear are giant penises. I want to castrate them. All of them.” When, at last, the cake was distributed, she threw it at the crowd with unbridled fury. She said it was very cathartic. In fact, her arm still hurts from throwing a little too hard.

I’m going to end with a quote from my upcoming novel, Gideon Versus the Gods of Cool:

“Gideon imagines it takes a guitar to make that noise, though it certainly doesn’t sound musical. If not for the agonized scream of a human voice – or something that resembles a human – the sound would be indistinguishable from radio static.

“Meanwhile the adherents to this bizarre noise look on in reverence.

“Gideon wouldn’t mind them if they didn’t force everyone to submit their minds to their hellish droning. As is, the relentless noise beats upon him like crashing waves. There’s something alive in that sound, a demonic creature trying to pound its way into his skull.”

As Mozart put it, “Music must never offend the ear, but must please the listener, or, in other words, must never cease to be music.” Unfortunately, it seems, they no longer play music at dances.

On the positive note, I can’t imagine how popular music could possibly get worse. Surely, having hit rock bottom, we’re at a turning point, and future musicologists will refer to our time as a dark age (not because there’s a shortage of good music but because the crowds are too inane to appreciate it). If you’d like to hear less Eminem and more Mozart at public dances, if you also believe that the word dance has lost its meaning and that our swing-dancing grandparents would scoff at this societal breakdown, this reductio ad absurdum, then please share this article.

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StockMusicKing.com – Best Value Online for 100% Royalty Free Stock Music

StockMusicKing.com - Best Value Online for 100% Royalty Free Stock Music

StockMusicKing.com - Best Value Online for 100% Royalty Free Stock MusicI started a side business called StockMusicKing.com, selling all the music I’ve created over the years for plays, movies, concerts, and games. If you make films, videos, video games, or productions that need high quality, royalty free stock music, you need look no further. Once you’ve purchased a license, you can use the tracks for whatever you want without limits. You’ll also be eligible for free updates when I add more music to the library.

You can download my entire library for a very reasonable price. Plus, by reading my blog, you hereby qualify as a member of my fan club, so I’m going to give you a sweet deal. Use the coupon code “halfoffbaby” to get 50% off. Check it out, and please spread the word:

http://stockmusicking.com