Saturday, May 31, 2008

Making Fun of Tragedy -- Invitation to Write #74

For Writers:

I was in study hall when I first heard the rumor that the Space Shuttle had blown up. Was it true, we asked the teacher? And soon enough, we discovered it was. The entire school felt like a very sober place for the rest of the afternoon.

By next morning, the jokes started. Someone asked where the Challenger astronauts vacationed. The punch line: All over Florida. This was just one of the jokes, and this was 1986, way before high speed Internet made being tasteless uber-easy.

Looking back on it now, it’s amazing to me just how quickly jokes like this spread. Some of the jokes were morbidly funny, and I’m sure people used the tasteless humor just as a way to cope with the tragedy. Others probably just repeated the jokes because kids will be kids and don’t always know any better.

I honestly don’t remember anyone telling 9/11 jokes, but a quick Internet search shows that they’re out there. One 9/11 joke website even says, “After five years, you can laugh! It’s official!” What exactly are we supposed to be laughing at?

Should any subjects be “off limits” to jokes? Why or why not?

“Men show their character in nothing more clearly than by what they think laughable.” -- Goethe

Soul Searching -- Invitation to Write #73

For Writers:

A vampire cannot see its reflection in a mirror because it doesn’t have a soul, but for those of us that are mere mortals, we apparently have the power to look at our souls every time we gaze into a mirror.

So when see your reflection in the mirror as you brush your hair in the morning, do you see your soul? Or do you just see your physical body? What exactly does a soul look like any way?

I’m not a Biblical scholar by any means, but the word “soul” translates to “breathing creature” in Hebrew and “life’s breath” or “breathing” in Greek. As an experiment, go to the closest mirror right now and blow on it. Is what's left on the mirror the essence of your soul? Or is it just a bit of water vapor?

What does the concept of "soul" mean to you?

“Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place.” – Zora Neale Hurston

Fur Mowing -- Invitation to Write #72

For Writers:

Our cat Flem didn’t always lick herself bald. For the first few years of her life, she had a very healthy-looking coat. She was also about ten pounds thinner, but no amount of food rationing seems to help her drop the extra weight.

Now Flem weighs in at 20 pounds, and the bald patch on her tummy continue to grow. It’s a terrible thing for a cat not to be able to lick her taint, but that’s what it’s come down to. She cannot clean her naughty bits, and we think this is why she obsessively mows down the fur that she can reach with her tongue.

Camille is no help, either. Flem will gladly give Camille a bath, but Camille is quite a princess, and she never returns the favor.

Do you want to know what kitty dingle-berries look like? Come over and see for yourself. It ain’t pretty, but the smell is delightful.

How far would you go for your pets? Would you put yourself in harm’s way? Live with pet allergies? Spend thousands of dollars at the Vet’s office? Put up with kitty dingle-berries and stained carpets?

“I gave my cat a bath the other day… they love it. He sat there, he enjoyed it, it was fun for me. The fur would stick to my teeth, but other than that…” – Steve Martin

How Much Is Friendship Worth? -- Invitation to Write #71

For Writers:

My closest friends go back 20 years, to our high school and college years. Of course we now live thousands of miles apart, and we hardly ever keep in touch. A lot of that’s my fault. Even when I live in the same town as my friends, I don’t do a very good job keeping in touch.

Being married only complicates friendships. You want your spouse to like and approve of your friends, but there’s something possessive about friendships, too. That is, I don’t want my wife to like my friends too much. They are, after all, MINE.

But as I say, the dynamics change, and friends are no longer yours and yours alone. Couples tend to befriend other couples, and then when couples have children, they befriend other couples with children. For married couples with children, it’s almost impossible to keep friends that are single and childless.

How many close friends do you have? Is it worth the effort to keep them? Why?

“True friendship consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and value.” – Ben Jonson

The Time of Your Life -- Invitation to Write #70

For Writers:

I was stuck and I knew it. The problem was, I worked 40 hours/week in a paper factory, and by the end of the shift, I was simply too tired to figure out my how to escape. My take-home salary was just about $1000/month, which was just enough to pay the rent and put food in the fridge. But into my third year of employment, when the company asked if I wanted to go on voluntary layoff, I was torn. That would mean going on unemployment for up to six months at just 60% of my salary. How could I afford to do that? I reluctantly declined.

A few weeks passed, and a lot of people took the offer, but the company still needed more people to "volunteer." They asked me a second time, and I decided I couldn't afford to decline again. They were actually offering me the chance to escape, and the government was going to pick up the tab!

For the next five months, I had the opportunity to think a lot about my future. I applied for a graduate assistantship at the local university, and I practiced my job interviewing skills. When the end of the voluntary layoff period came, I would have some things lined up, and I'd be damned if I was going back.

By the time I got the call back that summer, I actually did go back to work at the factory for a couple of months, but I did so with the knowledge that I'd won my assistantship, and I'd be entering graduate school in the fall; and just a few short weeks back at the factory, the local community college -- where I'd bombed an interview the year before -- offered me a couple of sections to teach. This was the beginning of my future, and I owed it all to having the time to reflect, as well as to think forward in a way that I never had before. I wouldn't be forced into factory work ever again.

Is there a time period in your life that made a real difference to your future plans or success? Describe it, or describe another time when you found a way to climb out of one of life's pits.

"The secret of success in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes." -- Benjamin Disraeli


Why does evil always have to be so damn cute?

Jesus and His 12 Zombies :)

Click on the image for a bigger view. :)

Turning into Your Parents -- Invitation to Write #69

For Writers:

I'm in my 30s, and I still find myself wondering, "Why did my parents do that?"

In Rebecca Walker's second autobiography, Baby Love, she spends a lot of time asking the same question. Structured in the form of a journal, the autobiography chronicles her thoughts during the pregnancy of her first child. She thinks she will do things differently than her mother, but as I was reading along, I kept thinking, "Damn, girl. You're going to be no better than your mama!" Yes, her techniques might be "different," and she might go out of her way to avoid the things that her mother did that drove her, as a daughter, crazy. Truth be told, though, she's still going to mess up her kid in some not-so-dissimilar ways.

Why fight it? When you have a child, you join the parent club, and all parents will embarrass, eff-up, and fall short. By all means, don't make the same mistakes your parents made (if you can avoid them), but assuming you had typical, run-of-the-mill parents, don't expect to do any better job than they did. Because quite frankly, I bet you'll be pretty run-of-the-mill as a parent yourself.

Sadly in Rebecca Walker's case, she asked her mom for an apology for how she was raised one too many times, and her famous mother, Alice Walker, apparently decided to "quit" her job as a mother. And Rebecca, through her inaction, accepted the resignation, as if no interaction with her baby's grandmother is a sign of "maturity."

As a parent, you may be able to avoid the "mistakes" your parents made; how do you plan to avoid making your own mistakes?

"When I grow up I want to be a little boy." -- Joseph Heller

To "The Dude" Vikram Adukia: $240 Worth of Pudding

Probably my favorite "The State" clip of all time, $240 Worth of Pudding.

At my college, I started a group called "the Fun Raisers" with the idea of improving morale. And, one of our future plans is to purchase $240 worth of pudding. Instead of a dunking booth with water (how boring), we're going to use pudding.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Ode to Al: A Turd’s Tale -- Invitation to Write #68

For Writers:

Darrell never excelled in school; he was always a really nice guy to me in the halls, but I hate to admit that it never dawned on me that he might be literate. Then one day I was going to my car and I saw him smoking with a few of the heavy metal t-shirt crowd at the far end of the parking lot. One of them was reading something out loud and they were all laughing their asses off.

This wasn’t a crowd I hung with, but I had to know what they were reading. Most people knew I did a little writing (to kill time in Honors English), but I wrote about boring subject matter, like a pseudo-superhero cheerleader character – based on the real-life cheerleader I silently(?) carried a torch for. When classmates were taking the time to stand out in the parking lot reading, I wanted it to be my stuff that they were laughing at.

I asked them what they were reading, knowing it wasn't a story from my Legend of Um chronicles, since I hadn’t released any new material recently. Darrell explained that it was his new story, “Ode to Al.” Al, as it turned out, was a pretty special turd that lived in his toilet. This wasn’t any ordinary turd, mind you. It was the kind of turd that you wanted to show off to your friends, and maybe even take home to mother. Keep in mind, too, that this was 1989, years before South Park gave us Mr. Hanky, the Christmas Poo.

Are writers jealous of each other? Damn right they are, and I was certainly jealous of Darrell that day. Here he was paying homage to a major piece of his life, and all I was writing about was a girl that didn’t know me from Al.

What makes you jealous?


Have you ever had a turd so amazing that you just had to show it off? What made it worth sharing with the ones you love?

“So writing is not just writing. It is also having a relationship with other writers. And don't be jealous, especially secretly. That's the worst kind. If someone writes something great, it's just more clarity in the world for all of us.” – Natalie Goldberg

Watch the Birdie -- Invitation to Write #67

For Writers:

Mornings have always tended to get the jump on me, and this particular day was no different. I used to take pride in the fact that I could leap out of bed, splash around in the shower, brush my teeth and hair, throw on clothes, and race to the car in twelve minutes flat. On my more hungry mornings, I’d even prepare a bowl of cereal – yes, with milk – that I could snarf down while driving.

I wasn’t eating my Wheaties on this particular morning, as I needed to get to school in a super hurry. So as I'm driving down the road, and less than three blocks from home, a bird flies out in front of my car. I hear the “bonk” of the bird hitting my windshield, and when I look in the rear-view mirror, I see it's been stunned, hopelessly flapping in the middle of the road, its right wing clearly broken. The thought flashes through my head: I should turn around and stop. But stop and do what? This was just a small bird after all, not someone’s pet.

Another two blocks, and I’m stopped at a red light, preparing to turn left, to leave the bird forever flapping. To my surprise, someone driving in the opposite direction saw the incident, and pulled over to help the bird. The person stared at me as I drove out of view. And although I might have imagined this part, I'm pretty sure the person was shaking his head in disgust at me, flipping me the bird.

When do you decide to stop to help, and when do you decide to keep on driving?

"Hell is paved with good samaritans." -- William M. Holden

Urinal Musings – Invitation to Write #66

For Writers:

In the average public men’s room, it’s not uncommon for there to be a bank of three urinals. Sometimes there’s a divider between the urinals, but often times there's not. Even when there is a divider, the middle urinal hardly ever gets used, unless you’re at a concert or baseball game or some other high bathroom traffic sort of venue.

Don't use the middle urinal even if the bathroom is empty when you enter. You just never know when someone else might come in, and you don’t want to break the unspoken urinal etiquette.

One thing women might not know is that some of the cheaper urinals splash. It’s always a good practice to point Mr. Bill (or whatever your favorite term of endearment might be) down at the drain. If you just spray the back of the urinal, it’s possible that urine will splash back on your shirt. Then, you have to cover up the incident by spilling a bunch of water while washing your hands – just to make it look like the splash came from the faulty faucet rather than your own high-pressure hose.

What is the strangest, weirdest, or grossest thing that’s ever happened to you (or that you’ve ever seen) in a public restroom?

"There are two things that Jack Bauer never does. Show mercy, and go to the bathroom." -- Kiefer Sutherland

Kevin Rector: This One's for You

Kev -- did you ever watch MTV's "The State"? One of the funniest shows they ever ran. :)