Still looking for that perfect Christmas gift? These won’t help.

[Warning: This blog post contains gift ideas of an explicitly stupid nature and may not be suitable for some readers. Particularly anyone who might actually consider buying one of these items for a friend or loved one.]

It’s time for a special holiday feature: Gifts That Say Santa is Getting Senile.

As always, we spared no expense when it came to assembling a team of gift experts with the talent and skills necessary for this helpful feature. And, as always, we wasted those talents by spending our entire operating budget of $32 on lottery Scratch-Its. As a result, our plan to provide you with exciting Christmas gift ideas quickly deteriorated into this list of really dumb products that, if given as gifts, will surely lead to more than one hospitalization this holiday.

So, let us begin!

Are you a whiz in the kitchen? Do you have a knack for creating culinary masterpieces? These next two items were designed to turn an average meal into the kind of dining experience people will be talking about for years…

…with their therapists.

We’ll begin with the amazing Octodog Slicer ($15.99), which can turn any ordinary hot dog into an octopus. Simply take your Octodog,

insert a Frankfurter and….viola! (i.e., Wha-LA!) An eight-legged meat bi-product that your guests will stare at indefinitely.

If THIS doesn’t make you hungry… Yeah, me neither.

For added excitement, throw in a set of Wiener Dog Corn Holders($6.99), which are just like regular corn holders, except that these look like the front and rear ends of a wiener dog sticking out of your corn cob.

Not into cooking? Well, this next item is something everyone can appreciate.
How many times have you said to yourself on a hot summer day: “Man, what I wouldn’t give for a small, battery-operated fan that looks like it’s being carried by a Sumo wrestler…?

As it turns out, for only $14.99, you can have your very own Sumo Fan! This incredibly life-like figure looks just like the real thing. Except that he’s made of hard plastic, stands less than six inches tall and, for some unknown reason, is holding a giant fan.

The point is, I warned you these gift ideas were really stupid.

Next, we have the gift that says: Honey, I think our love took a wrong turn. Ear Lobe Directional Signals! ($6.99) Light and easy to use, these battery-operated signals attach to any set of standard ear lobes and, with the flip of a switch, can immediately warn others that you are extremely weird. This is particularly useful at the supermarket during the holidays, when lines are long, isles are full, and nervous store managers — upon seeing your flashing ear lobes — will do anything to get you out of their supermarket as quickly as possible. 

If that still doesn’t get you your own express lane, add a Disco Ball Mouth Piece ($5.99) to your ensemble. This rubber mouth piece flashes changing patterns that can be seen up to 30 feet away every time you bite down — even if it happens to be on the end of a night stick!

Do you know someone who loves to hike but who, unfortunately, also has an inexplicable desire to play golf? Give them a set of Camouflage Golf Balls (3 for $10.99) and set both worlds on a collision course of fun! Imagine the hours of enjoyment they’ll have (depending on their slice) hiking through the woods looking for a nearly-invisible golf ball. And even if they keep the ball on the fairway, once it leaves the tee it’s as good as gone anyway because its camouflaged! 

Where did it go? 

Only the groundskeeper and his lawn mower will know for sure.

This brings the only item on the list I’d actually consider buying: Bacon Strip Wrapping Paper ($4.99 per roll). That’s right. Gift wrapping paper covered in bacon strips. I don’t believe any further explanation is necessary.

This next item is the perfect gift for that special someone who should really see a psychiatrist but can’t afford one: Sigmund Freud action figure ($5.99) It’s the gift that says how much you care, but that you’re really tired of listening to their whining.

Our next gift solves what has been an age-old problem for men, which is that many of us LIKE a good daiquiri but see them as a “woman’s drink.” For this reason, there is the Gas-Powered Blender ($229.99) Any man will feel rugged making a daiquiri in the bowl of his 25cc gas-powered blender. With just a yank of the start cord, you can grab onto the handle bars and use the throttle to shift from blend to frappe — all while leaving absolutely no question (particularly in the eyes of women) that you are, indeed, a total man.

Men, there’s no reason to avoid making foo-foo drinks anymore! Not when you can throttle down on those daiquiris like a MAN!

And while we’re on the subject of gifts for men, how about a Glow-in-the-Dark Toilet Seat ($21.99) or pair of Mop Slippers ($6.99)? While the toilet seat is pretty self explanatory, the slippers, I should clarify, have mop-like fringe on the bottom so that you can clean up messes with your feet. (Wives: The toilet seat and slippers aren’t sold as a set, but, depending on your husband’s aim, you might want to consider it.)

Next on our list is a gift for that special someone who’s always wanted a complete set of hardwood furniture but couldn’t afford it. Well, now you can make their dream come true with the Grow Your Own Furniture Kit ($2.95), which includes:

One walnut seed. 

But from that seed you can grow a tree with enough wood for: 1 chest of drawers, 1 dining room table, 2 nightstands, 6 chairs, 1 rocker, 1 foot stool — and 82 toothpicks (Note: Actual number of tooth picks may vary.)

And finally, we have the ultimate stupid gifts:  Walking Sushi ($2.99) Frighteningly, it’s exactly what it sounds like: A plastic wind-up toy that looks like sushi and walks across the table.

Imagine the laughs you’ll get from the chef at the sushi bar!

This is the perfect compliment to yet another gift direct from the orient, the Pocket Zen Garden ($4.99). Just like the popular zen gardens of Japan, where people (and some cats) find tranquility by placing objects in areas of sand, this version is exactly like those.

Except really, really small.

However, it does come with real sand, some colored stones, and a really tiny wooden rake — which, I should mention, happens to be just the right size for…

You guessed it!

Your Sigmund Freud Action Figure!

There you have it. This year’s list of potential relationship-ending holiday gift ideas. 

Use it in good health.

Or, at the very least, not without a good health plan.

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Are you a writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir? Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead.  Find out more HERE

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Never turn your back on a turkey

Inquisitive?

Naw, this bird is just sizing you up.

In my early days as a reporter at Siuslaw News, I was once given the assignment of visiting a local turkey farm to write up a special Thanksgiving piece. As it turned out, “special” wasn’t really the right word after becoming the victim of an unprovoked turkey attack. In my defense, there were five of them (technically known as a “gang” of turkeys) involved in the assault, which started because of my proximity to a preening female turkey named Lucy who had apparently snubbed her suitors in favor of me.

Possibly because she was confused by my chicken legs.

Whatever the reason, the male turkeys didn’t take well to this and decided the best way to handle the situation was to join forces and — one by one — take turns flapping their giant wings at my [censored]. Before I knew it, I was being circled by an agitated turkey gang and wishing my editor had assigned me to something less dangerous, like maybe a Blind Axe Throwers convention. 

The reason I was in this situation was because I was a journalist committed to getting the story, even if it meant risking my own safety by putting myself in harm’s way on the front lines just like those reporters in Ukraine, South Africa or Black Friday shopping at Walmart.

OK, fine. So it was a turkey farm.

And yes, I was under the watchful eye of a highly capable turkey wrangler named Dirk: a man confident in his ability to “throw down” against even the largest bird, including, once, a stray ostrich that had gotten confused and wandered over from a nearby farm. As Dirk explained, he knew something was wrong almost immediately when he noticed, “One of the turkeys looked way too big.”

That’s when he swung into action and, drawing on years of wrangling experience, diffused the situation by calmly approaching the bird… gaining its trust… and then suddenly throwing it into a headlock.

“And when I woke up, the ostrich was gone,” said Dirk.

Secure in the knowledge that my back was covered by Dirk the Turkey Wrangler, I had entered the large pen of turkeys in hopes of getting firsthand experience, which I could use to enhance my story (or possibly my obituary, depending on how quickly things deteriorated.) I should mention that I had been made aware of the potential dangers that arise when turkeys adopt a mob mentality, then signed a waver releasing the farm of any liability should I be: Injured or otherwise decapitated.

“Don’t you mean ‘incapacitated?’” I asked.

“Yeah — that too,” said Dirk.

Standing in the middle of the pen a short time later, the turkeys didn’t seem to be paying much attention to me. This prompted me to engage them so I could get a better feel for their personalities. I crouched; bobbed my head; gobbled a little.

“Ummmm, I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” said Dirk.

At that very instant one turkey, Lucy, extended her head above the others.

“Yirp. Yirp. Yirp.”

As I discovered, this is turkey talk for, “Just because we are two completely different species doesn’t mean we can’t be lovers.”

I suddenly realized I had the attention of every turkey in the pen, particularly five who had been strutting around, chests puffed out, trying to win the affections of “Lucy.”

“Too late,” Dirk said helpfully. “Cover your privates!”

“WHAT..?!?”

Next thing I knew, I was surrounded, dust and feathers flying while trying to avoid five aggressive peckers going after my, well…

I’m happy to say I survived, thanks in part to Dirk’s quick thinking, which was to yell “Get out of there — but keep your privates covered!” over and over until I could get back to the gate.

Admittedly, the experience left me shaken. But it hasn’t keep me from having turkey on Thanksgiving. 

Although I’m still wearing an athletic cup…

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This story was originally published in Siuslaw News in 2015. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Although I should’ve changed mine too, just in case those turkeys are still looking for me…

Are you a writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir? Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead.  Find out more HERE

Bad hair is better than no hair… uh, right?

Sometimes, a long look in the mirror is more frightening than you expected…

I start each morning by taking a long look in the mirror and reminding myself of the goals I have for the day, whether it be “Take out the trash,” “Be the change you want to see in the world,” “Chew your food before swallowing,” “Don’t run a social media platform into the ground in less than a week” or, as with this morning, “Dude, do something with that HAIR!

In my defense, I am growing it out for our upcoming community Christmas show where I play an Elvis-like elf named (what else?) “Elfis.” I will also be dying my hair black which, while adding a level of believability to my character for those three performances, will undoubtedly fuel rumors that I am suffering from a midlife crisis every day between now and opening night. I briefly considered just wearing my Elfis jumpsuit any time I have to go out but, as my wife thoughtfully explained, “That is a really terrible idea.”

I’ve simply accepted that my hair will remain taking on a life of its own, growing like a nesting tribble on my head for the next three weeks. But as they say, “When life gives you melons, you might have dyslexia.”

Or that other famous saying, “When life gives you lemons, blah, blah blah.” In that spirit, I used the tornado hair to my advantage by utilizing it in one of the writing tip memes I share for my editing service each day.

How can this be a writing tip and not a promotion for Hair Club for Men, you ask? (You know who you are.)

By comparing a bad hair day to a bad writing day! [Insert thunderclap here]

I know what you’re thinking: How can I get these insightful writing memes in my feed every day?!? (Or possibly: What are the names of his social media sites so I can avoid them and any more hair pictures?)

It’s easy! Not the hair, but finding (or avoiding) my pages on Instagram or Facebook. And because I’m a marketing genius despite the growing pressure on my brain caused by follicle tendrils invading my already undersized cranium, you can also find the link to my editing services website — get this! — on my social media pages! For those who have been following me for a while (Don’t worry, it’s our little secret), you can see I’ve come a long way since promoting my first book back in 2013 by offering a bite of my blueberry scone with every purchase.

The corners went fast. Coincidentally, it was also the number of books I sold during that first festival.

What does all of this mean, aside from a potential endorsement from Hair Club for Men? It means every one of you who made it past the initial photo of my frightening Don King hair is now a witness that I’m NOT having a midlife crisis despite my ever-growing mane of (soon to be) jet black hair. When the rumors begin to spread in our small town, I’m giving you a heads-up that you may receive a phone call or DM from a complete stranger in Florence, Oregon asking to verify this.

As an incentive for your help, I still have some scone left over…

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For any writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir, Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead.  Find out more HERE

For better or worse, this elf is OFF the shelf

“Prissy,” “Elfis” and “Sarge” who, unlike my wife’s character, doesn’t swoon or faint whenever I shake my hips — which is probably a good thing…

It’s been two years since I slipped into my sequined, teddy bear-caped, light-up jumpsuit (not to be confused with a different outfit my wife likes me to wear sometimes) to portray “Elfis,” a recurring character each year in our local production of the Holly Jolly Follies. My favorite reason for playing this Elvis-like elf (besides all the ‘nanner sandwiches and hip wiggling) is that I get to play opposite my amazing wife, who portrays “Prissy,” my sweet and completely lovable girlfriend.

Oh, and whenever I shake my hips, Prissy swoons and faints. This is compared to real life, when my wife just asks if I need some prune juice from the store.

The Follies is part variety show, part inspirational holiday story, woven together through the antics of the elves. Because of the large lapse of time since our last production, I had some concerns about re-discovering my “inner Elvis” although, thanks to working out regularly the last two years, my “outer Elvis” has left the building. Playing this character requires a Tennessee accent mixed with Elvis’ own unique speech cadence. It also includes a lot of hip shaking, hand gestures, Elvis poses and a clean shave.

Not to mention having to wear these shoes…

No arch support, traction or even room for Odor Eaters in these babies…

When we showed up for the cast read-through I was a little nervous, wondering if my inner Elvis would, like riding a bicycle, come naturally despite being dormant for so long.

Or if — also like riding a bicycle — I could ride headfirst into a parked car.

I listened as characters “Ruby,” “Sarge,” “Tinsel” and “Prissy” said their lines in perfect elf delivery leading up to my first words: “Well, if I know anything about Santa, it’s that he likes people to figure things out for themselves. That’s how we learn the most important lessons in life — uh-HUH!” (Swivel hips and strike pose)

Our full compliment of elves reacting to a magically appearing apple, which was similar to the reaction they gave to my magically disappearing beard…

I’m happy to say my inner Elvis (not to be confused with “little Elvis”) popped out like an old friend, complete with Tennessee drawl and the King’s distinctive cadence — albeit a little exaggerated because, well… theater. I’m also happy to say that my hip swiveling didn’t lead to an emergency chiropractor visit or even a slathering of Aspercreme.

We’ll be rehearsing through Thanksgiving before moving into tech week and then opening night Dec. 2 at our community event hub, the Florence Events Center. If you happen to be in Florence, Ore., that weekend (or want tickets to livestream the show from anywhere), I hope you’ll grab a seat and kick off your holiday season with the Follies.

Or at the very least, send your wishes to “break a leg” and prayers that I don’t break a hip.

Although, with all these rehearsals, my hip shaking is getting pretty darned good. In fact, I think my wife — while not exactly swooning and fainting — might’ve actually faintly swooned…

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For any writer embarking on the journey of turning their manuscript into a published book or memoir, Easy Writer can help assure your manuscript is tuned up, strapped down, shiny clean and gassed up for the road ahead. https://easywriternovelmanuscripteditingservices.com

I’m sorry, where were we..?

Sooo where were we..? Let’s see, last time we talked I had dark hair. And was flexible enough to sit headfirst on an ergonomic chair. That’s not so say I couldn’t do it now. It’s just that I’d need to see a chiropractor or, preferably, have one standing by after being dislodged using the jaws of life. I’ve lost some weight, gained a future son-in-law, slowed down life in general while speeding up my road to retirement.

I’m also sporting some ink in tribute to my friend Jason, shaved my beard, celebrated five more wonderful years with my amazing wife, finally got a Harley, survived a pandemic…

Let’s see… what else… what else…

I know I’m forgetting something…

OH YA! I retired from the Siuslaw News a little over a year ago.

It’s hard to believe my first blog post was 10 years ago last January — and equally hard to believe my last post was 5 YEARS ago this past June. Since then, there are folks who began following this blog who haven’t seen a new post since I was in a red thong. That seems particularly cruel. Sort of like witnessing something horrible — like a Tofurkey dinner — moments before losing your sight. I’m sure somewhere out there is a class-action lawsuit waiting for me…

From: Bill Schlependorf, Attorney at Law

Have you lost your sight since seeing this man in a red thong? Do you suffer from any of the following: Nightmares, anxiety, vomiting, loss of appetite, memory loss, diarrhea, acid reflux or erectile dysfunction (we’ve included those last three just to cover all the bases.) Then you may be entitled to monetary compensation! Or at least a bag of Flaming Hot Cheetos for your pain and suffering…

So what brings me back (fully clothed)? I think I should probably explain why I left in the first place. It wasn’t you; it was me. After becoming editor-in-chief at our local newspaper in 2016, I felt it was important that I give myself completely to the position. I had a responsibility to focus on what was happening in our community and to assure our paper was a non-biased voice offering honest, neutral truth during a time politics was creating division like I’d never seen before. To do that meant putting aside a part of myself in order to be taken seriously in the editor’s seat. It’s hard to do that while writing a syndicated humor column that talks about things like glow-in-the-dark mice and how the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile left me feeling inadequate.

I made the decision to end my column and, ultimately, put the blog on hiatus. I had always intended to come back; I just wasn’t sure when. In the meantime, I served as editor for five years during a turbulent period that included the 2018 mid-term elections, 2020 presidential election and the pandemic. I’m proud to say our coverage won multiple awards, including “Best Editorial” in 2020. In May of 2021, after 23 years at Siuslaw News, it was time for a change and to get back to that part of myself that I’d put aside. I worked as a mail carrier the past year (I was the one in the vehicle with the squeaky brakes) while I decompressed from journalism and figured out what came next.

On Sept. 30, I left the postal service to get back to my writing roots by — how else? — drinking heavily and taking up smoking!

Ok, not really. I launched my own editing business: Easy Writer Novel & Manuscript Editing Services.

Establishing this business was always going to be my end game once I fully retired. But then I thought: Why wait? I can start my own business and put our financial future in jeopardy RIGHT NOW!

Seriously though, ever since I began posting my weekly Nickel’s Worth on Writing and published my book offering writing tips and inspiration, I’ve wanted to move in the direction of being able to help other writers full time with everything from basic line editing and proofing, to manuscript critique and online coaching. Easy Writer is the culmination of 23 years as a writer, journalist, syndicated columnist and editor, allowing me to take what I’ve learned over the past two decades and share it with other writers. And just like Hair Club for Men, “I’m not just the founder — I’m a client!” Which is to say, while I’m offering advice and direction, I’m also back in the trenches working on my third novel.

All this being said, I just want to thank everyone — readers of this blog, fellow bloggers, the person who messaged me asking “WTF is up with your blog, dude?” — for their support and patience while I seemingly entered a vortex five years ago before returning like Steve Rogers in the last “Avengers” movie with grey hair, age lines and a whole other life lived in the meantime.

I have no idea who of the 8,000 or so people who followed this blog are still doing so. If you are, I hope you’ll drop me a line in the comments. If you’re not, I completely understand and will write something for you.

Regardless, it’s nice to be back at the keyboard and this blog, moving onto the next chapter with you. I promise it’ll be a page-turner…

— Ned

October 29, 2022 (Sheesh! Really?!?)

Getting that graduation gift doesn’t mean going for bust

image After reading about how the parents of LuLu Diaz gave their daughter $6,000 breast implants for her high school graduation gift, I couldn’t help but be shocked by the idea of a father agreeing to anything that would make his teenaged daughter more enticing to teenaged boys.

As luck would have it, I actually spent several years in my teens. Because of this I can tell you there are many teenaged boys who still haven’t made it past the “breast” portion of this column. Sadly, some may never finish reading it because, in order to break them out of their current hypnotic spell, it will become necessary for a close friend or family member to light them on fire.

Let’s face it: This is the nature of most men until the aging process inspires a level of physical maturity that dethrones sex as the main motivator. While there is no set timeline for this transformation, most experts agree it begins anywhere between six and eight months after death.

Until then, at least from a father’s perspective, men can’t be trusted. Continue reading Getting that graduation gift doesn’t mean going for bust

A little ‘crazy’ is the kind of sanity we need right now

Free Souls bikers enjoy the Grand Floral Parade with families and tourists/Ned Hickson

By Ned Hickson Editor/Siuslaw News

After returning to Florence in 1996, I spent the next 20 years living in Old Town across from the Port of Siuslaw boardwalk. We grew accustomed to the arrival of the Davis Carnival during the annual Rhododendron Festival and living so close that we could practically high-five riders on the Tilt-o-Whirl without leaving the couch.

The banging together of carnival rides late Wednesday night signaled the beginning of four days of craziness that transforms our quiet community of about 8,000 into a beautiful example of controlled chaos shared by upwards of 20,000 diverse visitors.

For those four days I always marvel at how our community transforms into an unlikely concoction of flower enthusiasts, bikers and tourists, all co-mingling over beers, art, carnival rides, fast cars, bacon-wrapped hot dogs and cotton candy.  Continue reading A little ‘crazy’ is the kind of sanity we need right now

Why a good ergonomic chair comes with a chiropractor

A year ago today I was attacked by an ergonomic chair in our office. The following surveillance photos are proof of how dangerous these chairs can be. Especially if you don’t actually know how to sit in one… 

imageBeing a journalist, I am trained to notice the most subtle signs of something amiss.

A hesitant glance.

A bead of sweat.

A chair that appears to be built backwards.

So, as I walked through our composition department this morning on my way to the news room, I immediately noticed that Peggy’s standard-issue office chair had been replaced with a broken piece of furniture. Who would do this to poor Peggy with the lower back problems? Why not replace her desk with a TV tray while you’re at it? Maybe we could move the copy machine on top of a book shelf so she has to use a ladder!

Poor, poor Peggy.

Then I remembered her mentioning she was getting a new “ergonomic” chair. Using the deductive skills I’ve developed over 16 years as a journalist,  I came to the following conclusion:

This must be her new chair.

I stared at it for a moment, trying to picture how one would ergonomically sit in it. I decided there was only one way to find out — a process that was captured by one of our office’s surveillence cameras…  Continue reading Why a good ergonomic chair comes with a chiropractor

Things I wish I didn’t overhear at the carnival

imageAs I’ve mentioned, during our town’s annual spring Rhododendron Festival, the carnival sets up across the street from our home.

Literally.

If it were any closer, I could high-five everyone on the tilt-a-whirl without leaving the couch.  So each night after work, I walk two blocks home and pass through the carnival, enjoying the fact that the sound of screaming teenagers — for once — isn’t coming from any of mine. I take time to watch the interactions of people, the motion of the rides, the flashing lights, and take in the carnival-specific aroma of frying corn dogs and sweet cotton candy mixed with freshly spewed vomit from the squirrel cages.

Being a writer, this is a target-rich environment of atmosphere, character and dialogue that I store in my memory to either draw from later or, as in the case of what I’m about to share with you, eventually discuss with my psychiatrist or lawyer.

For example…  Continue reading Things I wish I didn’t overhear at the carnival

My commencement speech (that no one asked for)

imageTo the Class of 2017, faculty members, parents, dignitaries, mis-informed wedding crashers, and Visa/MasterCard representatives who have gathered here today:

I am honored to have the opportunity to address this group of graduating seniors and impart the wisdom I have gained since my own graduation from high school nearly 150 years ago.

Standing before you today, I see the anticipation on your faces as each of you comes to realize what sharing my wisdom with you means: Possibly the shortest commencement speech in school history.

Before long, you will step forward and receive the culmination of 12 — possibly 14 — years of education. You will shake hands with some of those who have helped guide you to this milestone. And unless your last name begins with a “Z,” you will return to your seat as the rest your classmates step forward to receive their diplomas. That’s when you will silently think to yourself, “I really shouldn’t have had that second bottle of Mountain Dew.”  Continue reading My commencement speech (that no one asked for)