Friday, April 25, 2008
I'm going to see Thomas Friedman, the author of The World Is Flat, in a couple of weeks. This week, he was presenting at Brown University, and he was the latest victim of a pie attack.
A lot of people have taken the pie to the face. Can you imagine how scary it would be to be attacked with pies? Actually, I think it probably would be pretty scary.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
My parents had been here before, but my dad’s latest toy was his GPS navigator. He put in our address as the final destination, told my mom they’d arrive by 7 p.m., and off they went.
About four hours into the trip, we called them for a progress report. They had just passed Rockford and were beginning to work their way through Wisconsin. According to the GPS, they were right on schedule. What could go wrong?
We called them again around 6 p.m., assuming they would be near LaCrosse and about ready to cross over into Minnesota. As it turned out, they were well on their way to Eau Claire.
Apparently the GPS had failed to mention that when I-90/94 splits, they needed to follow I-90, not I-94. And while they knew it seemed wrong to be heading north on I-94, they hadn't brought a map, and it didn’t dawn upon them that the GPS would lead them astray. After all, a GPS is foolproof, right? Just set the directions and go.
In what specific ways does technology blind you?
“Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology.” – John Tudor
Singer Mariah Carey views her body as a temple, even going so far as to insure her legs for two million dollars. While a lot of her fellow divas, such as Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, and Christina Aguilera, have had children, Mimi has declared that having a child "would leave me feeling violated."
Mariah has an interesting way with words, and to use a word like “violated” to describe the process of childbirth does make one pause for a moment. To be sure, what childbirth does to the mother’s body could easily be described as violent and tramatic, but a violation? A synonym for “violate” is “defile,” and both words carry with them a sexual connation. But does a child really make a mother “impure” or “dirty”? And does consensual sex that results in childbirth actually constitute “sexual abuse” as the word violate implies?
Far be it from me to suggest that everyone should have children, but perhaps it would benefit everyone to study the meaning of words – if for no other reason than for the “nostalgia” of it, as Mimi herself might say.
What word would you use to describe childbirth? Using that word thematically, develop a childbirth story – either from your own experience, or from someone’s experience close to you.
"I like trying to get pregnant. I'm not so sure about childbirth." - George Eliot
One of our culture’s running jokes is the idea that all women go to the bathroom in pairs. Why do they do that? The movie Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle posits that women like to out-gross each other with the bathroom noises that they can make, but at least in the movie, each woman maintained the privacy of her own respective stall.
But before we visited Robert Frost’s New Hampshire farm, it never dawned on me that outhouses typically had two holes. Did people back in the day really go to the bathroom together? Were standards of bathroom privacy that much different? Personally, I can’t imagine dropping a deuce right next to someone else, no matter how intimately I knew the person.
As it turns out, there’s a fairly simple answer for why outhouses have two holes. One hole is smaller than the other, designed for children so that they don’t fall in. After all, who wants crappy kids?
Write about something you do in private that you wouldn’t feel comfortable doing with other people.
“If I want to be alone, some place I can write, I can read, I can pray, I can cry, I can do whatever I want - I go to the bathroom. “ - Alicia Keys
My gut tells me, “You’re fat. Instead of drinking that next six pack, why don’t you work on making a six pack out of me?” I’ve ignored its words of warning for years, and now I wear 3XL shirts, and I don’t want to be one of those people that ends up wearing tent-sized attire.
Knowing what to do and doing it are two separate things, of course, and that’s the rub. Often times, people believe more education is the panacea, the solution to all of life’s problems. “We need to educate people about [fill in the blank].” But do we really need to educate people about the dangers of smoking, the stupidity of drunk driving, or how eating at fast food restaurants 20 times a week is actually equivalent to slow suicide?
No. Education isn’t always the answer. The answer is listening to what we already know, and acting upon that knowledge.
Think about the one thing you know you need to do (or stop doing) but haven't. Develop a plan of action, outlining step-by-step the process that will lead to your success. Who can you call on to support you in achieving your goal?
“Learn to let your intuition – gut instinct – tell you when the food, the relationship, the job isn’t for you (and conversely, when what you’re doing is just right).” – Oprah Winfrey
"The road to health is paved with delicious powdered donuts." - Bret R. Fuller
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
You can have a bigger penis, the ad promised. Guaranteed to add three inches.
One of Jason’s friends was having a birthday, and this would be the perfect gag gift.
But Jason’s parents were quite protective, and he knew that if he sent away for the item, they would be sure to open the package – whether it was addressed to him or not. And how does a 12 year old explain a novelty penis gift to his mom?
No problem, I said. Just use my address. My parents would never open a package addressed to a neighbor, and then I could take it over to him with no questions asked. So why did my dad decide to open the package? Something a bit suspicious about the return label maybe? I don’t know. All I know is, when I returned home from school one day, dad motioned me over to a package addressed to Jason. Oh crap, I thought.
Open it, he said. I did, and there it was: a condom with a three inch piece of Styrofoam for the user to insert inside. Someone got screwed alright, but it was Jason for paying 10 bucks for that stupid gift. Luckily, my dad found it highly amusing, and hopefully Jason’s friend got a rise out of it as well.
Describe the most unusual birthday present that you’ve ever given or received.
“You can only be young once. But you can always be immature.” - Dave Barry
I couldn’t believe that my mom spent $300 on a CD player. It was the Sony Boombox I had been asking for, and for Christmas 1987, it was mine. Or so I thought. Actually, mom had intended it to be the “family’s present," but I quickly claimed ownership by stealing it back to my room.
One of the first CD's I ever bought was KISS’s Crazy Nights. I played it constantly, and for whatever reason, KISS was a band I really could identify with. So did my neighbor, Jason, and he always bought Metal Edge and magazines of that genre. We'd pour through the pictures of our favorite bands and look at the t-shirt ads. That’s when I decided to do something daring. I would buy a KISS t-shirt.
My parents wouldn’t approve, I knew, so when the shirt arrived in the mail, I started wearing it in secret. I also started washing my own clothes so that mom wouldn’t see it in the laundry. At school, some of my teachers were surprised to see me wearing a t-shirt that only "druggies" wore, but I was proud to break the stereotype.
Soon enough, I grew careless, and mom found the shirt. My parents sat me down for a chat, asking me why I’d wear such a shirt. Simple: I liked KISS. No other reason than that. The secret was out, but to their credit, they let me keep wearing the shirt.
What secrets do you keep hidden? Explore one through writing.
“A writer should have this little voice inside of you saying, Tell the truth. Reveal a few secrets here.” - Quentin Tarantino
We knew we were having a baby, but at that point, we still didn’t know the gender. Either way, I didn’t think it would matter to me, but curiously, I found myself going to the sports store to buy gear and equipment. I bought footballs and basketballs, and I started thinking about little league. Unconsciously, I was preparing myself for a son.
Soon enough we would learn that we were having a girl, and of course girls play sports, too. But I had to laugh at myself. Although I like to consider myself an “enlightened” male, there was apparently something deep inside me that wanted, or at least expected, to have a son.
It goes without saying that I love having a daughter, and in many respects, it’s quite a relief having a girl rather than a boy. And who knows? Perhaps she will still be on the football or wrestling teams in high school. Considering who her parents are, that outcome is quite more likely than her developing into a Barbie-type cheerleader.
If you were having a child, would you rather have a girl or a boy? Think deeply about your response. You initially might think, as I did, that it doesn’t matter to you, but look for “clues” that suggest that maybe it does matter. So honestly, if you could select the gender of your child, would you?
“Little girls are the nicest things that happen to people.” – Allan Beck
“I am fond of children – except boys” – Lewis Carroll
A number of years ago, I experimented with living in the dark ages. Have you ever lived without a TV in the house? I did it for about a year, and I can’t say that I was any less happy. But we live in a culture where a TV (or three) in every house is the norm, and in the days before the Internet, not having a TV did make it more difficult to stay up on current events – at least current events related to TV viewing.
And I still remember how absolutely shocked I was the first time I went over to Linda's apartment. Her TV only had a 13 inch screen, and that to me was almost a “deal breaker.” How could I date someone with such a small TV? I joked to her that watching her TV was about as satisfying as watching the radio. It’s funny looking back because after all, that screen was little bigger than the screen on my current Ipod.
For years I thought a 25 inch screen was a good-sized TV, but that was before the days of cheap large-screen LCDs and Plasmas. We currently own a 42 inch Plasma, but 50 inches is now my goal, and TV makers are always bringing larger-sized screens to market. Pretty soon we’ll need a bigger room in the house to handle the new massive screen I lust to buy.
Today, think about your TV viewing habits. How much time do you spend watching TV on a daily basis? Is your viewing planned, or do you generally just flip to see what’s on? What do you think about people that don’t have TVs?
“Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other.” - Ann Landers
“I find television to be very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go in the other room and read a book.” - Groucho Marx
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
If it's late at night, and you suddenly notice the aroma of mustard gas and roses, it might be Kurt Vonnegut calling from beyond the grave.
I deny the fact that he's dead. Surely he's living on some tropical island right now, neighbor to Hitler and Elvis.
Anyway, there's a new collection of Vonnegut essays just released. I haven't read them yet, but I urge you to pick up a copy.
Some reviewers have said that this collection isn't his best, but even bad, dead Vonnegut is better than 99% of any good, living author writing today...
My wife’s saying is: “Life is good.”
I totally agree with her, but whatever happened to down time? All of my days are over-booked, and even when I make time for relaxing, I always over do it. For some reason, I think I can cram everything in to one 24 hour day, but it never seems to work out.
Take the fact that I’m currently reading fifteen books; I should say, I’ve started fifteen books --without finishing any of them. I typically keep them placed all over the house, and if I have an extra 10 minutes in a particular place, I’ll try to read a few pages from the nearest accessible volume. This isn’t how reading was supposed to be, but I hate dedicating myself to one single book that might take me three months to finish.
What I really lose out on most are sleep and friends as I simply don’t have time for either; perhaps I could combine the two and sleep with my friends? Just a thought, and not a very good one I might add.
In a world where multitasking is a way of life, how do you find time to really relax? If you have a spare 10 minutes here and there throughout the day, do you think it is better to use it to do nothing, or is it better to try to live to the fullest, taking a bite out of life at every opportunity?
“Life is just one damned thing after another.” – Elbert Hubbard
“Everything has been figured out, except how to live.” – Jean-Paul Sarte
Monday, April 21, 2008
The Service Learning conference in Atlanta was over, and we decided to head south. At Jacksonville, I asked Linda if she wanted to go to New Orleans or Key West. She said Key West, and we drove through the night to get there.
Miami almost became our permanent destination. It was approaching 3 in the morning, and my eyes were blurring over. As we came over a hill on I-95, I immediately reacted to the car that was slamming on its brakes ahead of us. We ended up missing a multi-car pile up by literally inches.
We pulled over to the side of the road, and Linda crossed multiple lanes of traffic to see if she could offer any assistance. One person was sitting in the middle of the road, cradling his now dead passenger’s head in his arms – his eyes a blank stare. Linda expressed how sorry she was, and urged the person to go to a safer location.
Meanwhile, cars continued driving upon the accident, and I had lost sight of Linda. From my driver’s seat position on the shoulder, I kept checking the rear view mirror, just hoping I was far enough out of harm’s way to avoid any sleepy drivers, and hoping that Linda would re-join me quickly so that we could be on our way.
Have you ever been in an accident? If so, describe what happened; if not, would you be willing to help if you came upon an accident, or would you drive on and leave it to others to assist?
"There is no such thing as accident; it is fate misnamed." -- Napoleon
In my early 20’s I discovered the concept of Lucid Dreaming. The basic idea is to recognize when you are dreaming, which allows you to control your dreams. I started practicing the techniques, and when I had my first experience with lucidity, I became so excited that I immediately woke up. It required some practice, but I was eventually able to curb my thrilled state to the point that I could continue dreaming.
Think of all the cool things you could do if you were conscious that you were dreaming. You could fly, go to any place in your own created worlds, and meet friends and loved ones -- even those long since dead. Basically, you would have almost limitless power to do anything you wanted to do, including many things that you would never be able to do in waking life.
Keep in mind that I was in my early 20’s. Inevitably, when I realized I was lucid, my dreams immediately became sexual. I could be dreaming about something as mundane as shopping at the mall, for example, and once I realized I was dreaming, I would immediately ask any woman I passed to take off her clothes. All of them did, too, although some of them shook their heads in disgust at my request.
Think about your dreams. What do they say about you?
“I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now? Reality leaves a lot to the imagination.” – John Lennon
In our salad days, my wife and I shared a double bed. It was impossible to reposition without touching, and we both become masters at sleeping on the edge. These days, we spend our nights dreaming on a king-size bed, and we no longer accidently touch. To touch now requires conscious effort. She is the pillow queen, and it’s not unusual for her to have a fortress of pillows defending her on all sides.
When it comes to me sleeping, my wife is an incredibly jealous person. I can fall asleep in a matter of minutes, but it takes her a long time for her mind to quiet down. I dream of her looking at me over the pillow wall as I snore away, lusting to be where I am. Asleep.
Now our baby is a different story. She hates falling asleep, and she fights it fiercely. She shakes her head back and forth, crying out against the heavy weight that pulls her eyelids down. But eventually, even she succumbs.
How do you sleep: on your back, your stomach, your side? Do you have a difficult time falling asleep? Ideally, how much sleep would be optimal for you each night, and are you usually able to wake up well-rested in the morning?
“A good night's sleep, or a ten-minute brawl, or a pint of chocolate ice cream, or all three together, is good medicine.” – Ray Bradbury
I have my daily routine down, and that’s what kills me: the routine part. Although I love my job, that’s what kills me: I have a job that I must go to eight hours a day, five days a week.
Sometimes I daydream about not having a job, about not having a routine life. It’s fun to fantasize about what I would do, for example, if I knew for certain that the world was coming to an end – tomorrow, next week, or next year. If I knew the world was coming to an end, I could just quit my job, run up my credit cards, and go out with a bang.
The people that win the lottery and claim that they plan to continue working just kill me. Don’t they have any imagination? Any soul? Do they really enjoy their routine lives that much? Me, I’d be on a plane to some new place tomorrow, if only my lucky numbers would come up.
Do you feel like a slave to routine? How would you live your life if you weren’t tied down to responsibilities and the daily commitment of earning a paycheck?
"Habit and routine have an unbelievable power to waste and destroy." – Henri de Lubac
“My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram, or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle