Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Presenting my son and his warped sense of humor: Dante's Stupido

What would you write if you were a high school male who hates to write papers and were a sophomore reading Dante's Inferno and your Language Arts teacher asked you to write your own version of the nine levels of hell?

Presenting my son and his warped sense of humor:

Dante's Stupido

In tribute to Dante, I created a version of Hell in his style. My Hell is based on the severity of ones stupidity. In Stupidity Hell the protagonist is guided by Charles Darwin. I chose Darwin because he represents the weeding out of stupid people from the gene pool, mainly because of the book series in his name, The Darwin Awards. When they reach the gates of Hell, they are met by none other than Dr. Phil. He is the judiciary figure. When a sinner/idiot gets to hell Dr. Phil berates them and then tells them their sentence. He is the judge because, if you have seen his show, he hates stupid people and does everything he can to knock some sense into them. Albeit he sometimes hurts some feelings but, who cares of the feelings of the damned.

In the first Circle of Hell we find those who managed not to hurt anyone with their stupidity. Such examples are: people who follow the pop magazines and really care what happens between Brad and Jen, people like the "Lizard Man" who tattoo and disfigure themselves to the point that they are barely recognizable as human, people who buy ripped, stressed, or paint covered clothing, and people who insist in talking out loud in AIM or L33T-speak. Those last have a particularly fitting punishment. They are forced to listen to an English grammar textbook read aloud by a stuffy professor from the 1800's while simultaneously watching n00bs play Counterstrike and World of Warcraft.

The second Circle of Hell is populated by those who hurt animals with their stupidity. One example is a group of Japanese scientists who for some reason need bile and so rather that synthesizing it in a lab (which is fairly easy), choose to painfully extract it from live bears. Another is Peter Meyer who as part of his "art" show allowed visitors to pass goldfish through food processors. There are Chinese people who as part of superstitious and outdated beliefs, consume unspeakable animal parts to increase their virility. Another of these is that of the elderly unnamed woman who, after bathing her poodle, attempts to dry her in the new microwave oven in which the dog promptly explodes. Her punishment is quite the opposite of her pet. She is put into a decompression chamber in which pressure is extremely high and then brought down suddenly. There she experiences sensations quite similar to those of her puppy, but hers are brought on by an outward force pulling out rather than an inner force pushing out.

In the third Circle of Hell live those who's stupidity has brought harm to themselves. Participants include: all winners of Darwin Awards, the college kids who decide to have "Hurricane Parties" during a hurricane, professional athletes who use steroids and then complain when they get cancer, and smokers. Smokers enjoy the wondrous experience of being burned alive while constantly choking on the black tarry smoke of their own burning flesh.

In the fourth Circle of Hell we have those who have hurt friends with idiocy. The friends we hope to never have, who are guests of the Jerry Springer show. Pippin is here, from Lord of the Rings, who carelessly or inadvertently becomes an enemy informant when he looks into the seeing stone. In attendance is Brutus, who stupidly betrayed his greatest ally. Not only did he lose all influence he had in the city but eventually his life after he helped instigate the revolution against the man who was his most loyal friend, Caesar. The last person is Odysseus, who foolishly ransacked the Temple of Poseidon before he was to make a long sea voyage. (Real Smart). Odysseus must endure the punishment of "Waterboarding" in which he is tied upside down to a vertical plank of wood and water is continuously poured over his feet to rush down over his body and face, eternally simulating the sensation of drowning.

In the fifth Circle of Hell are those whose stupidity harmed their families. We have religious fanatics who do not believe in modern medicine and refuse to let their families benefit from life saving technology. We also see here the upper echelon of Catholic priesthood who ignore or even protect pedophile priests, as well as Martha Stewart who promoted an unobtainable ideal for homemakers. In their own greasy corner we have such luminaries as Ray Croc, the founder of McDonald's who helped brainwash families that a "happy meal" was a healthy choice. Ray gets repeatedly julienned and deep-fried in his own version of McHell.

In the sixth Circle of Hell we find those fools whose ignorance has harmed other races. Columbus and the other European explorers who discovered new lands but did not respect the new races they discovered as well. Mel Gibson and his famous drunken honesty, Samuel Bowers and David Duke - two of the most famous white supremacists of modern times and last but not least, Borat Sagdiyev. Borat not only managed to insult the people of Kazakhstan, but also took the world opinion of America and it's culture down another notch. He is trapped in a room of his own fans and forced to listen through eternity to them doing bad imitations of him while he naked wrestles with his "producer".

The seventh Circle of Hell is populated by people who have harmed an entire nation. The first of which is Kruschev and his circle of USSR premiers who ran their country into the ground and have left their mess to be cleaned up by their heirs. Next find in the seventh circle the corrupt African leaders who not only confiscate foreign aid packages, but also refuse to acknowledge the truth about AIDS and they don't educate their population on the ways to not spread the disease. Also here is Emperor Hirohito of Japan, who initiated the attack on Pearl Harbor that started the chain of events that led to the Atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Lastly is Kim Jung Il. He has completely alienated his country from the outside world and has condemned them with his foolhardy nuclear aggression. It is well known that he is very fond of his tech toys, many of which are American made. iPods, fast cars and all the materialism that communism protests against are some of his guilty pleasures that he often uses as rewards for support. For his sins, he will live in a total void, in a sensory deprivation tank in the middle of a white padded cell with his only stimulation being the theme song of his mock character in Team America: World Police singing "I'm so ronery" over and over and over.

The eighth Circle of Hell are those whose stupidity has harmed on a global level. The first of which is Pandora, whose need to satisfy her curiosity cost the world. Next is our favorite President, George W. Bush, tipping the scales with his bold move not to sign the Kyoto Treaty. Third are the officers of 3M and other chemical companies who give us ScotchGuard so that we can clean stained couches and carpets more easily, but saturate the planet with potentially toxic Clouroflourocarbons that will be much more difficult to clean up. Henry Ford may have given us the assembly line and the affordable automobile, but at what cost? The need for gasoline to run our cars has had disastrous effects on our environment, not to mention the pollution of burning all those petro-chemicals. Mr. Ford, for his sins to the environment will endure the Chinese water torture, with a twist: drop by drop will fall on his forehead - drop by drop of acid rain.

The ninth Circle of Hell are those whose stupidity has harmed on a cosmic level. Zaphod Beeblebrox, president of the galaxy ... enough said. The American and Russian space programs who have been the biggest cosmic litterbugs are also in the ninth circle. Here you will also find all the past presidents and vice presidents of NBC, ABC, CBS and all other television and radio stations because their constant radio signals going out into the universe might destroy entire civilizations on other galaxies. Finally we find in his own lovely theater, Ronald Reagan, who sent WMD's into orbit and allowed radioactive waste to be jettisoned into space. "Ronnie" is forced to watch the new Star Wars movies (Episodes I, II & III) over and over with liberal Star Wars fanatics that only cease their incessant harping about his politics to make snide comments about the movies.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Better than a Life Coach

O.K. maybe that is an exaggeration, but I am loving my personal work motivator.

This little gadget helps me be more productive when doing tasks, especially the dreaded declutter duties. I just set it for a 5 or 10 minute countdown and it beeps when the time is up. I hit it twice more and it resets for the same amount of time. Why is this so great?

The first reason is that I can get so much done if I make it a contest of sorts. I do what I call the "5 minute Pick Up" I set my timer and rush around seeing how much I can clean one room in 5 minutes. When the timer beeps, it is time to move to the next room.

The second reason is this. Put me to a domestic task and I develop a different form of A.D.D. - I call it Domestic Attention Disorder or D.A.D. for short. I have a problem with procrastination and I also have a problem with digression. I put things off, but then when it is last minute pressure to do whatever it is, I get started and then get bogged down in the details.

Do you ever decide to clean out a desk drawer or closet and you lose yourself in the "shiny"? You know, a messy drawer and you start to pick, pick, pick through the clutter - A box of new pencils, KEEP. A post-it note pad, KEEP. Three wrinkled grundgy post-its that are no longer attached, TOSS. A mint out of its wrapper, HMMM-toss or eat?-TOSS. And then you see something shiny, maybe a button that was on a baby coat and you take a mental reunion moment that turns into more than a minute. Or the button belongs to a current coat so you decide to go sew it back on and you go into the laundry room to grab your sewing kit, but you see a shoe that goes in your son's closet so you put down the button and pick up the shoe to take to his room. You head to his room with the shoe, but then turn around to see if there is anything else that goes to his room. So you see a basket of clean clothes that you should fold first and you put down the shoe and start to fold the clothes, but decide they should go back in the dryer for a bit. You want to add a dryer sheet, but the box is empty, so you head to the kitchen to write "dryer sheets" on your grocery list and so you head to the kitchen and there isn't a pen next to the grocery list. So you go to get a pen, but the first two you try are dried up and don't write. You take the dead pens to the trash and notice a crayon mark on the trash can and put down the dead pens to go grab the kitchen cleanser ..... two hours later you have made 7 round trips through your house but still haven't finished the drawer and can't think of a thing you actually got done.

D.A.D. has struck once again.

Then I found this timer and I hang it around my neck and let it aurally zap me every five minutes to stay on task. So far, it has been really helpful. Maybe not as helpful as a life coach, but it is a lot cheaper! I got my Polder 898-95 Clock, Timer and Stopwatch at and it is the best $15.00 I have spent in a loooong time.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Forty-One Roses: Endings and Beginnings - Part 3

This is what I asked Amber if she would help me with....

It is forty-one roses that we went and picked out at our favorite wholesale flower market. We picked them for their colors and what those colors represent. The darker red roses are actually black roses, they just photographed a deep red and then the flash made them even lighter. The other roses were a true red and white. We also added rosemary from my garden and lavender from Amber's garden. All of our choices had symbolic reasons, and we made the wreath with deliberate intent. For love and remembrance, for dealing with the past, for forgivenes and for letting go.

I first was going to place it on my grandmother's grave. But as I worked on it I realized that I needed to place it in a different location. It needed to go on my dad's grave. So that is what I did. And now I have said some of the things, out loud, that I have waited to say.

And I don't feel the least bit impolite.

Endings and Beginnings -- Part 2

As I said in my previous post, my grandmother's death was more painful than I expected. She was a vital woman, in the best sense of that word. She loved life, lived her life with an enthusiastic YES! at almost every opportunity and challenge. She lived a long life as well. She died leaving a large family who loved her. Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren were at her funeral and her life was celebrated as well as mourned.

I decided to miss the visitation the night before the funeral so I could stay in Austin to be with our son who was leaving shortly to fly back to San Francisco. It wasn't an easy decision, but I thought if I could have asked her what she would want, I think she would have said, "Celebrate the living before mourning the dead." So that is what I did.

I also asked my oldest daughter, Amber if she would help me do something. I was a bit embarrassed asking, because it might seem weird what I wanted to do, but I am not going to let hesitation stop me any longer from doing what seems true for me. I needed to find some way to let go of my past. I had done all sort of intellectual work on my childhood. All sorts of psychological work and mental acrobatics to try and understand on my own why people had behaved how they behaved. And yet, there was still a sad curiosity I have never been able to shake. A feeling like I was holding out my empty hands asking for more but never receiving anything of weight.

I think that maybe this was because I have always tried to find a way to explain away their actions. To rationalize it. To justify it. But the bottom, the base reality I never acknowledged at a deep level was that I felt wronged and betrayed by the people I trusted the most. I needed to acknowledge that part of me was angry and hurt and that it was wrong what had been done to six year old me. Then I needed to find a way to really forgive it (since you can't forgive what you don't acknowledge) and then finally, hopefully, move on.

Endings and Beginnings -- Part 1

Our son Matt and his lovely girlfriend, Nhu, came home for the Thanksgiving break. We planned not one, but TWO feasts for the time he was scheduled to be here and then, the day before they arrived, we got a phone call that my grandmother had died. They decided to delay the funeral until the weekend after Thanksgiving, but it still didn't give some family members the time to get home as all flights the weekend after Thanksgiving are booked solid.

I took my grandmother's death very hard. This was surprising as I wasn't particularly close with my grandmother. She was my father's mom and when I was six years old, my parents divorced. My dad, for whatever reasons, didn't make seeing me and my sister the priority that it should have been. Since he didn't pick us up on his weekends, and seldom had more contact than around Christmas - we very rarely saw that side of our family. They just sort of faded into the background. I missed them as we had been a very tight knit group who spent a lot of time together and I thought of my male cousins the way most folks think of siblings. For a long time I felt the empty space and wondered what was wrong with me that they didn't make a point of including me more often.

In later years we reconnected and I was surprised to find how much I was like my grandmother. We had so many of the same personality quirks and attitudes about things. We both delighted in conversation and a full house of company. We loved to feed everyone and never wanted to waste time washing up when company was still there to chat with. We loved some of the same weird foods and had the same circadian rhythms. We had the same profile and the same mother lion piercing gaze when our family was vunerable to anything. Family was THE steadfast priority.

Most of the family was her steadfast priority. And that unfinished business is why her death was difficult for me. My father died when I was 16 and I never got to ask him why I was ignored, postponed, abandoned.

I didn't have the courage to ever ask. It seemed somehow impolite and I didn't have the words. I kept meaning to have that conversation with my grandmother - ask her the difficult questions - but it was so much easier and more fun to laugh with her and enjoy what little time I made to see her in my busy adult life. I regret not having the hard conversation. I just never could find the words.

Sneezes and Wheezes and Coughs -- Oh My!

Life has been tough lately. But life is also wonderful even when awful. Isin't it?

The fall of 2006 will go down as the worst season in memory for family illness. Everyone has been sick. Viral and bacterial ridden coughing, hacking, nose blowing, exhausting, nauseating, lethargic, headachy, muscle crampy, nastiness. Keep your fingers crossed for all of us that the winter season is a vast improvement on the health front.