Kansas City Renaissance Festival

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Kansas City Renaissance Festival

We rode for what seemed like days.

Leaving the stony, desolate landscape of the small village from which we hailed, we headed west from Kansas City to embark on a quest to seize new adventures in far away lands. Several twists and turns were laid to waste in our path, and our relentless pursuit soon turned to pleasure when our eyes caught a glimpse of what rested on the horizon. There, like a chalice shimmering of gold, we saw before us a lively kingdom hosting a mystical festival. We would soon learn that the local townsfolk called it the Kansas City Renaissance Festival.

Renaissance Festival

We stowed our metal chariot in the stables and took to our feet to make our way to the town gate. The Royal Guard stood fast, armed with a strange looking weapon which rested in the palms of their hands. I had never seen anything like it before; it was like a small crossbow, yet it emitted a blinding red light! We traded a small amount of local tender for a pass that would grant us access to the town for the day. The Royal Guard held our passes to their weapons as we entered the town, and, to my surprise, their weapons spoke! This place truly was extraordinary.

My party was bewildered at what we saw. In one direction, a troll with a massive spiked club spoke to humans half his size. In another, creatures of the Fae could be seen performing mesmerizing dances in perfect synchronization. We traveled to a gathering of peasants being amused by a trickster doing simple parlor tricks.

His sleight of hand did not fool me as he turned six cards into six more, and then into six more once again. He used another trick where he asked a young serf girl to pull a card from the deck, and told the audience he would later identify her card after a series of complicated shuffles. It was not until he took the card and transformed it into a giant sized cloth version of itself that I became suspicious. This man was no trickster; he was a master wizard!

“What is this SORCERY?!” I exclaimed, attracting gazes from the crowd. Had this taken place in Uther Pendragon’s Camelot, he would have been charged with treason and burnt at the stake for practicing forbidden magic. But alas, it did not, and at least for this day and night, the wizard would live to cast his spells for at least one more unsuspecting audience.

An entrancing melody caught me by the ears and reeled me into the Royal Glade.  The tune was unmistakably familiar; I thought I had heard before it in my dreams of the future. In these dreams, a man by the name of Fibonacci would lead me through a black and white realm, and after some time, shades of red and yellow would begin to spiral and filter through to my reality. As I stood there in the Glade, I watched as two aerialists used a ring to repeatedly balance themselves on thin air, achieving infinite impossibilities. As they finished with their routine, I noticed that one had a tiny metal crank at the small of her back. Was she a mechanical being? Was she from the future?  Was this the future? The lines of reason had been drawn, and I felt so far above and beyond them.

Not far from the flying dancers was a competition to test the most dexterous of warriors. Several archery targets lined in a row invited those who thought they were the best to prove that they were the best. I looked to one of my companions, Kyle the Clever of Lawrence, and metaphorically threw down the gauntlet. I had not come prepared for a siege, and thus was out of my full plate mail and was unprepared to issue the challenge formally. I readied my longbow and sent my first arrow down range. I could see it warp as it glided through the air, and it stopped abruptly when it struck the outer ring of my target. Kyle’s crossbow bolt matched my arrow, and after a few rounds we were even and down to our last shots. I pulled the bow string tight, raised it to my right eye, breathed out slowly, and let it fly. I missed high. With a sly grin, Kyle loaded his last bolt and fired away. The kill shot hit dead center, and with it he bested me and lived up to his childhood nickname.

The contest had made us tired and weary, and my party found that we could hear strange noises coming deep from our bellies. Another companion, Ryan of Westport, made a life saving suggestion, “Dude,” he said, addressing the whole group with the use of a singular noun, “let’s go get some turkey legs.” Intoxicating aromas met us at the shop, and we indulged in carnivorous sport. We ate like kings and we felt like kings. Judging by the horrified looks of disgust from the surrounding townspeople, they were fearful that we were kings plotting to overtake their lands. Foolish peasants!

It was well past midday by now, and we ventured to Shadowgate Downs to find what was advertised by the town square criers as a spectacular jousting tournament. Not unsuspectingly, we would be there as spectators to witness the spectacle.  Two titans clashed before us, their strength and will shattering their wooden lances like small frail twigs. One in particular, the King’s Favorite, was taking a significant beating, and how he could live through such punishment was intriguing; perhaps he had been enchanted with enhanced fortitude by the aforementioned wizard. SORCERY once again looked to be running rampant through this kingdom.

A scary moment occurred when the opposing knight caught the King’s Favorite on his back and in a spot of vulnerability. In an instant, he turned his aggression from the King’s Favorite and toward the King himself, and in unspeakable words he directly threatened His Highness and the crown.  It was not long before the King’s Royal Guard stepped in and the knight folded to his knees in remorse. His squires fled through the grandstands in fear, and in vigilant inspiration I tried to chase them on foot. They disappeared into the crowd and escaped, but little did I know that it would be the least of my concerns.

The ground trembled. Buildings shook and the sky turned to an uneasy grey. The smell of smoke filled the air, and the sound of a thousand footsteps reverberated throughout. The kingdom was under siege! The battle was unfolding before my eyes at Shadowgate Downs!

A barbarian army outfitted with the most stalwart foam weapons ever forged made their way to the battlegrounds. The army was a motley crew; unbearded baby-faced dwarves no taller than my belt stood next to formidable aged men. They were lead by a commander who exuded foam weapon expertise, and the almost unnoticeable flush colored bruise-scars of previous conflicts told me he was a veteran of many, many wars where men had succumbed to foam.

He roared. They charged. No blood was shed.

The battle raged on like a gluttonous fire. Peculiarly, not one combatant would take more than a single strike before casually fleeing the battlefield. Seemingly unharmed and unhurt, the entire invading barbarian army was defeated, and a blanket of peace once again fell over this mystical kingdom. Before us stood our exhausted heroes, each still wielding the oddly shaped weapons they had used to keep us safe from their enemies. They had earned our unending thanks. They deserved our prideful cheers. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!

Merely a few minutes later, the town seemed to return to normalcy. The streets and shops were again bustling, and playful music filled the air. We stumbled upon a pair of well-dressed noblewomen who were greeting visitors in the streets. Much to my surprise, and to my delight, it was none other than the kingdom’s beautiful princesses! How they felt so safe in the streets after having their home invaded just moments ago, I do not know. I, once again, suspected there was SORCERY at work.

Billy Falcioni

They spoke softly and offered kind words to us travelers, and one asked us how our time at their festival had been. I wanted to say that we had been having a better time than Mercutio the Meadhound at a tavern during single silver piece night, but that would have been preposterous given that she did not know Mercutio or his drinking habits. “It’s been pretty fun,” I told her instead, “although, this place is huge and I got lost a few times.” She laughed and directed me to where I could find the town gate when my companions and I were ready to leave. After inviting us back, the princesses went on their merry way, and so did we.

No longer overhead was the Sun, and it began to creep closer and closer to meet with the horizon. My party had its fill of adventures for the day, and the lone objective of our quest turned into traveling back home. The Royal Guard still protected the gates with their strange crossbows, and we nodded to them as we left for the stables.

We rode away in our metal chariot back east to our village, and as I watched the glow of the festival fade out in the rearview mirror, I thought about the many stories I would have to share with our fellow Kansas Citians.

I would speak of the faeries and of the flying dancers, and I would revel in our clever champion and in our turkey exploits.

I would enthrall others with ballads of the spectacular jousts and of the vicious siege.

I would tell tales of their royalty’s kindness and the hospitality that was shown to us travelers.

But mostly I would tell people about the SORCERY.


Fair to Midland – Arrows & Anchors

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Arrows & Anchors

Arrows & Anchors immerses listeners in a world they never fathomed imaginable.

Fair to Midland’s fourth studio album, released by E1 Music and produced by “Evil” Joe Barresi (Tool, Coheed and Cambria, Bad Religion), seamlessly blends a backbone of hard rock with intricate leads and sprinkles influences from hand-clapping pop to country folk.

Darroh Sudderth’s ranging vocals leads an audience everywhere from the gutter to soaring above cloud nine, and Cliff Campbell’s playfully rhythmic but full bodied guitar work somehow keeps them grounded the entire time. Jon Dicken lends bass that is dynamic and tasteful in a sinfully perfect tone, and Brett Stowers leaves it to wonder how one guy with only two arms can emphasize every right note and still remain totally locked into a song. All the while, Matt Langley’s keys overlay beautiful and sometimes unnerving melodies that give each song a very particular identity from the next.

Whiskey & Ritalin starts with a gut churning combination of pick slides and drum head abuse that serves as an audio wind-up that seems to be released like a haymaker when the song breaks into its first full band riff. It sets up the rest of the album to be chugging metal through and through, but the haunting intro and supercharged chorus of Musical Chairs makes it clear this album will take a different turn.  The foot-tapping Uh-Oh is so infectious that a vaccine is due out later this year, and the banjo ridden – yes, banjo – Amarillo Sleeps on My Pillow strangely suggests Doc Holliday may have known what a talk box and a wah-wah pedal was. A Loophole in Limbo is airy and slightly dials back the intensity, but still leaves no doubt that it is a rock song.

Fair to Midland

The second half of the album offers the same unique listening experience as the first, and does not disappoint on lyrical content that is both thought provoking and mystifying.

Short-Haired Tornado: “If you have yourself a son I’m gonna tell your baby boy that Father Time’s chock full of lies so don’t jump in just yet.”

Rikki Tikki Tavi: “If I build the Ark, will you wait for the water?”

Golden Parachutes: “They’ll be skipping stones with your bones when these ants know where to find you.”

Bright Bulbs & Sharp Tools: “He fights like hell because he wants to glow and would tackle the Sun to be a bright bulb.”

Coppertank Island: “Remember this: it’s just two cents. Two cents never made you rich.”

A track that can only be described as “epic” bookends the album.  The Greener Grass is a linear masterpiece that strays from repetition while telling a very dark story in a stream of magnificence and elegance. Weighing in at over 8 minutes long, it is hard to believe it can snare a listener’s intrigue for the whole duration, but it never fails to do so.

Fair to Midland’s Arrows & Anchors is highly recommended and receives 4.5 X’s – an imperfect score only because it has an ending.

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Reebok Dictator

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When I used to think of Reebok, I certainly did not think of quality slow pitch softball bats.  If you are the same way, I suggest you rethink your stance.

In the beginning of this year’s spring softball season, my brother was persuaded by a sales representative at a local sporting goods store to pick up a Reebok Dictator.  He got the white ASA version of it for just over $120 on sale. Despite the deal, it was still a fairly large chunk of money to spend based on a salesperson’s word.

Before I continue, please let me share the fates of the three most recent bats my two older brothers and I have gone through.  Simply put, the way we treat them is illegal in 49 states (Missouri is the odd one out – everything is legal there).

  • Worth Mayhem – bent at a 10 degree angle after 7 hits in batting practice
  • Worth 3DX – flattened barrel after 2 games
  • Mizuno Wrath – broken into two after being used in 4 games

The first hit with the Reebok Dictator was taken by yours truly.  My brother took it out of its plastic wrapping, handed it to me, and said, “Go forth and dictate.” I remember thinking the feel of the bat was good as soon as I held it, but it was not until I took my first swing that I was impressed with the quality.  I hit a deep fly ball that cleared a 300 ft fence by about 20 feet.  I am no power hitter and was not trying to swing for the fences, but the bat rewarded me with the solid contact I had made on the ball.

Fast forward to the end of the same year’s fall season.  The bat had become a team favorite, and practically everyone was using it for every at-bat of our triple headers.  It was probably for this same reason that it had lost some of its pop, but it never bent, cracked, or broke on us.  Next on our agenda is to go out and buy a new one for the next season.

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Fuck-Up Stickers

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Consider Ohio State, Florida State, and Georgia.

These three college football programs share a common bond besides their uncanny abilities to be perennially overrated.

If you are ever unfortunate enough to watch a contest of grit on the gridiron between any of these schools and their opponents – or, God forbid, between two of the three – then you would bear witness to the single greatest folly in the entire world of sports.

Yes, that’s even still considering you, futbol.

Attached to the super overinflated heads of these “student”-athletes is constant reminder of how awesome quarterbacks, halfbacks, and wide receivers are and how incomprehensibly worthless linemen and those skinny white guys (read: kickers and punters) can so perfectly be.  Well, it’s about time everyone found out what I’ve known all along.

Pride Stickers are stupid.

I would go into a detailed argument, covering all premises and steering clear of any fallacies, but I’ve decided to spare you the barrage of syllogisms.  Instead, please accept this picture of Pride Stickers being enjoyed thoroughly by a bunch of Mormons as proof of my previous statement.


If there is one principle which every man from every faith can embrace, it is that if the Mormons like it, it must be badEven the Mormons believe this.

So, pray tell, what is the antidote to this plague on my precious pigskin? I introduce to you Fuck-Up Stickers.

I am adamantly in favor of a system which publicly points out the flaws of these high profile college students.  Humility does not come in a more sobering form than public embarrassment.  Instead of receiving a sticker for making an outstanding play, I propose a system that rewards failure with stickers that emphasize the fact that a player has made mistakes that will not be accepted.  Since these players are getting paid under the table anyways, I do not think it is too unreasonable to ask them not to fuck up, even if it is in such a way that could be viewed as a metaphorical exclamation mark.

The system is simple.

If a player does something wrong, they receive one Fuck-Up Sticker.  These faults can include penalties, dropped passes, missed blocks, or anything else a coach would really like point out as being important not to do in the future.  Once a player has accumulated a sum of these stickers, the only way to get rid of them is to play fundamental team football.  The amount of stickers removed and for what is left up to the coach’s discretion.

Picture this:

A college football team is seconds away from taking the field.  As the players are huddled in the tunnels waiting to run the Cheerleader’s Gauntlet of Death, they are all on a search to find the most sticker ridden helmets in order to give words of encouragement to their most struggling teammates.

“Pay close attention the snap count changes. Catch the ball first, then turn and run with it.  Keep the ball to the outside.”

Now, imagine the overwhelming motivation a player would receive from looking at his own helmet and seeing 15 Fuck-Up Stickers.  He would remember what he has done wrong in the past and would realize how important fundamentals are in the game of football. Thoughts of teamwork would echo inside of his head, and as he took the field being welcomed by the roar of his home team crowd, one thought would linger.

“Man, I really gotta quit fucking up!”

Ted Rising for Heisman

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University of Kansas quarterback Ted Rising is a man who makes the bigger men around him look like littler men.

For the past two seasons he has absolutely dominated the Big XII, easily leading it in passing yards, rushing homedowns, field goals, and three pointers.  His generosity on the field is unmatched, and he has led his teammates to many conference records.  His top two receivers, Kerry Meier and Dezmon Briscoe, rank 2nd and 3rd in all-time Big XII receptions.  They trail only the 1st place holder, Ted Rising.

His generosity on the field doesn’t stop at his teammates.  In 2007, despite beating him in every single category, Ted Rising willingly gave the Heisman Trophy to University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.  A year later, he again gave away the Heisman, sending it to Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.  Ted Rising was sure to step out of the spotlight both times, and would take measures to make the award winners’ deservingness look authentic.  There were many games where Ted Rising would edit live game film while simultaneously playing the quarterback position in order to make his own performance look poorer.

Ted Rising is more than just a passer, though.  He is widely known for being extremely elusive in the backfield and it is rumored that he can only be caught when he wants to be.  Evidence supports this theory, as the only person who ever sacked Ted Rising was himself.

There is no mistaking that he is of Heisman caliber, especially since he’s won it twice already.  But this year, something must change. It is our professional opinion that he should be selfless and keep the award.  Ted Rising is the paragon of what an athlete should be.  When he steps foot onto the field, he plays not for the name on the back of his jersey, but for the name on the front of it!   He gives so much to the University of Kansas each time he dons that crimson and blue jersey with the number five cleanly stitched onto the back.  It is time for us, as the classiest fans in the Big XII, who would never tear down three goal posts in one season, to repay him.

The next time you are watching the Kansas Jayhawks play, whether it is in person or on a television set, and you see Ted Rising score a homedown from center ice, be sure to let him know of your appreciation.  Bellow his name at the top of your lungs in a bestial roar.


Only then will he finally realize that he needs to let himself be known as a three-time Heisman Trophy winner.

Ted Rising for Heisman.

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