So, yeah. I quit talking on Yahoo instant Messenger a couple of years ago. Well, longer ago than that, really. But I still have this one friend, let’s call him my Best Girlfriend Forever (because that’s what I call him), who likes to chat on it.
He doesn’t like Skype, and he insists on using Messenger even though the only time I’d see his messages were when I’d check my Yahoo mail once a month or so, since I only used it for shopping and I absolutely never checked it because so much spam comes to that account it’s impossible to find real correspondence there anymore. Actually, one other friend who moved to Baltimore several years ago, and whom I hardly ever hear from, uses Messenger, too, and I’m embarrassed to say that I miss his messages most of the time.
So just for these two friends, let’s call them my Best Girlfriend Forever and That Guy Who Moved to Baltimore, I reinstalled Yahoo Instant Messenger when I got a new laptop. Just for Kicks. And for them.
Of course, only my BGFF knows I have it installed. I’m invisible to everyone else. Tonight, though, somehow and for some reason, I was visible for awhile. Out of the blue comes a certain troll I had not chatted with for several years. Like, since I had used Messenger back in the days of the Virgin Training School. The conversation, predictably, went like this:
winteret: Hi Aramink… the last time that we chatted I had told yo that I was fascinated with bellybuttons since each one is as unique as a fingeprint. You were beginning to tell me about yours…
aramink_rust: I doubt that. Mine is uninteresting. I mostly use it for lint storage. I also use it as a focus for meditation and contemplation.
winteret: That’s great. What type do you have?
aramink_rust: Lint-filled. I already told you.
winteret: Lol… so you have an Inne?
aramink_rust: Sometimes I take the lint out when I want to contemplate it, but when I have no other place to store the lint I have to contemplate a navel orange instead. It can be a problem.
winteret: You’re such a tease…. what coin size and how deep is it?
aramink_rust: Oh, I wouldn’t take money for it. If I sold it, where would I store my lint?
winteret: Oh come on now… please stop being sarcastic…
aramink_rust: Who’s being sarcastic? Not every container is suitable for lint storage, you know.
winteret: What does your knot look lke?
aramink_rust: My knot? I’ve never examined it.
winteret: Your knot is the pattern located at the bttom of your bellyhole. What does it look like?
aramink_rust: Um… I’m thinking it looks like, well, a belly button.
winteret: Every bellybutton is as unique as a fingerprint… the outer rim, the inner walls and the pattern (knot) at the bottom of the hloe. What does yours look like?
aramink_rust: There’s a lot of lint in the way. I’d pick it out, but I think I need a crochet hook. I can knit a sweater with all the lint I have crammed in there.
winteret: do you like having it tongued?
aramink_rust: What?! You just asked if I like having it tongued! Fucking freak-ass fucktard! You want to turn my collection of belly-button lint into boiled wool! I just know you do!
winteret: Mmmmmm… do you do any bondage?
aramink_rust: You want to tie me down with my own belly button lint! Shit! You’re freaking me out, Dude! I mean, how crazy is this going to get? Next you’re, like, going to want to have belly-button buttsecks! Ew!
winteret: What’s wrong??
aramink_rust: What’s wrong? WHAT’S WRONG? You’re tying me down with boiled wool made from my own belly-button lint, you’ve threatened me with belly-button buttsecks, and you want to know what’s WRONG?
winteret: What type of gag do you prefer to be gagged with?
winteret: mmmmmmmmmmmmm… I thought so
So tell me: What do you do with your lint while having smokin’ hot belly-button buttsecks?
Spring is a miserable time of year.
First, there’s the weather. The damnable, changeable, hot-then-cold-again weather. The tornado, thunderstorm, wildly fluctuating barometric pressure, what the hell do I wear today, blustery, windy, knock me on my ass, fifty degree temperature spread in a day weather.
Then there’s the plants. You think it’s warm. There has been a recent series of beautiful warm spring days so you go to the local nursery and buy plants. You know, those tender annuals or baby herbs or vegetables just sprouted that make your mouth water with the promise of zucchini to come and tomatoes heavy on the vine. You put them in your car. You ferry them home. You place them where you want them and tamp the cool soil around their delicate stems, and after spending a day soaking up natural Vitamin D you go to bed, tired but fulfilled from a day playing the farmer, only to wake up shivering because you turned off the heat and the indoor temperature now matches the outdoor temperature of about 27 degrees and all the work you did yesterday is for naught. You vow next year to give it a week even after the frost-free date before you buy so much as a single packet of parsley seeds, knowing full well that spring’s siren song of false seduction will lure you to the nursery for that fateful waste of valuable money on plants doomed to die by the next sunrise.
The very worst part of spring, though, has to be the trees. Tall, bare-limbed, they stretch themselves and shake off the winter by emitting tentative tendrils of leaves, and before even the first leaf is full formed, the oaks go into full rut.
Oaks are horny bastards.
Because of the oaks, heinous fuckery most foul is visited upon me. Each fall the acorns hit my deck sounding like scatter shot, someone’s Daisy BB gun with an automatic clip, a terrorist squirrel at the helm of a acorn-grenade launching Gatling gun, firing hell bent for leather at my precious darling deck which never hurt anyone. Acorns are the demon-spawn of oaks. To create those diabolical children, the oaks engage in a springtime orgy that makes Bacchus himself blush at the pure wanton sex those oaks put out there for all the world to see.
The mighty oaks are masculinity personified. Baring their knotted chests, in Spring they take a deep breath and grimace, and from every pore pop squiggly spermatozoa, wiggling and waggling at other oaks, daring the other oaks to take a breath themselves and shoot back tentacles of spermatozoa in a war of silly string battle-inspired posturing and thrusting. It is indeed heinous fuckery most foul, as the foul squigglies waft their pollen and fill my unsuspecting gutters with their decaying carcasses.
Victims of these oaken battles of male dominance are cars, covered in a greenish yellow dust that hides the metallic grays and greens and reds. Victims also are the furniture, helplessly stationary in their designated positions, the flat planes of which act as a breeding ground not for acorns but for that same greenish yellow film that coats unprotected patio furniture and wafts into the cracks of car windows someone forgot to roll up.
Victim also are my sinuses, and Jack’s, and the sinuses of my receptionist (who I think has had a sinus condition since November). The virile oaks seek to splash their splooge on every available surface, in hopes that all the world will turn into acorns proving their masculine Darwinian fitness. In Spring, we walk through breezes of tree splooge morning, noon and night. Those damnable trees believe, like so many Arab IMers, that the world is a woman, open and panting for their splooge to fall fertile on something and make an acorn of it.
There is a scene in Christopher Moore’s classic Fluke: Or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings in which a pair of female oceanographers are studying sperm whales, and upon seeing a mating pair are delighted at their rare good fortune – until, that is, the female whale moves one way and the male moves the other just at the moment of his ecstasy. The two women are drowned in a sea of sperm whale splooge and instantly turn lesbian, seeking never again to encounter such a substance again.
That is also the novel in which I first encountered the term “heinous fuckery most foul,” uttered by a caucasian Rastafarian surfer called Kona.
My nose is stuffed so much I can’t sniffle. My cough barks deep within my chest. Today, I identify totally with those two female oceanographers. If I never experience tree splooge again, it will be too soon.
The oaks are virile indeed.
One of my favorite blogs is “Strange Maps.” I admit: I’m a map geek. The maps are really fascinating, I promise. Each map is accompanied by a well written, well researched article that lists its sources. I’ve never failed to learn something from these posts.
For instance, there’s the one that shows how King Cotton picks Presidents, something near and dear to my heart since my family has grown cotton in Arkansas since before the Civil War and is pleased to hold sway still over national politics. (Sorry, I will not entertain questions about how many slaves my ancestors owned. I hate to be prickly, but that is usually the tactless question immediately asked when I mention our history of cotton farming.)
Also on the political front was the map that showed clearly what illegal immigrants were aiming for when it came to the Absolut Perfect Mexico. Scary, huh?
Believe it or not, though, there’s humor in maps, too.
The “Strange Maps” blog featured a very special post on The Semi-Colonial State of San Serriffe, a place that is near and dear to my writing, punctuation-loving heart.
There are maps of strange and wonderful places such as Elleore, a kingdom 12 minutes ahead of Copenhagen. I never discerned whether they have Daylight Savings Time in Elleore, or if at some point they fall 48 minutes behind Copenhagen.
Then there are the bizarre maps of the modern world, such as the “Smart Medicine” infomercial map that located Australia off the coast of Baja California and situated Africa between Maine and Ireland, eliminating Iceland and Greenland entirely, and
a map of the “Special World” that only the hospitality industry inhabits.
Wonderful antique maps crop up occasionally, like the map that inspired Christopher Columbus to believe he could sail from Spain to Cathay in three weeks, overlaid on the true map of the world.
Midget truck drivers didn’t show up in Chigger Hollow every day. In fact, there weren’t any midgets at all in Chigger Hollow, so when one did show up it was momentous.
The semi pulled into the parking lot of the Chat ‘n’ Chew convenience store about 4:30 in the afternoon. Norma Rae started a fresh pot of coffee. Usually truck drivers could be counted on to buy a couple of cups, even if it was late in the afternoon. Hearing the water begin to drip through the grounds of the Biff Brand coffee, she perched herself back on the duct-taped vinyl stool behind the counter and went back to her True Confessions magazine.
Out of the corner of her eye Norma Rae noticed a woman coming into the store. The woman was followed by a child. Norma Rae didn’t take much notice because the State Trooper from up at Possum Grape had told her in casual conversation that women and children don’t tend to be convenience store robbers. Men were the ones to watch out for, and if a man came in alone, followed by another man, and neither one parked where she could get a description of the car or the license in case of their quick getaway after a robbery, she should take special notice and ease the handle of the shotgun close to the edge of the shelf underneath the counter.
Popping the top on another Coke Zero Norma Rae turned the page in her True Confessions. “I Was a Teenage Pasta Wrestler” looked to be an interesting article. The picture of a pretty girl with a pouty mouth, who looked for all the world like Rhonda Sue Ellis, the valedictorian of Chigger Hollow’s Class of 1995, just with blonde hair, was inset on top of a black and white photo of two women completely covered in ragu and grappling with each other to the cheers of abnormally handsome young men who hung on the perimeter of the wrestling ring.
The woman came to the counter with a large cup of coffee and a package of chewing tobacco. Without looking up, Norma Rae scanned the two items. “Four eighty-seven,” she said, holding her hand out and sneaking another look at the black and white photo. Was the woman on the left wearing a top? Was that a mushroom in the spaghetti sauce or were her nipples hard from the excitement of the contest? She took the five dollar bill from the customer and handed her a dime and three pennies. Norma Rae was well into the first paragraph of the article when someone cleared his throat.
She looked up. She didn’t remember seeing anyone come in after the woman, and she had been alone in the store. She peered over the display of breath mints and beef jerky but didn’t see anyone. She went back to True Confessions.
This time a cough made her look up. No one was standing at the pay counter, which stood as high as her ample chest when she wasn’t sitting on her stool. Norma Rae remembered everything Danny Kitchens, the State Trooper from Possum Grape, had told her and she eased the butt of the shotgun toward the edge of the shelf below the counter.
“Hello?” she asked uncertainly.
“How much for two drumsticks and half a dozen biscuits?” a man’s voice asked. Norma Rae jumped.
“Drumsticks are eighty-five cents each and biscuits are five for two dollars,” she said. It must be a short guy, because he was apparently hidden behind the tall display of Slim Jims. She moved off her stool and peered around the display. She didn’t see anyone.
“I want six biscuits, not five,” the voice said.
“Six biscuits are, um…” Norma Rae cursed herself for forgetting where the calculator was kept. She was terrible at math.
“Are they the same price whether I buy five or if I buy, say, three?” The voice seemed to be getting impatient, but Norma Rae still couldn’t figure out where its owner was standing.
“Well, no,” she replied, her tone conveying her obvious opinion of such a dumb question. “Five biscuits are two dollars. Three biscuits are less than that.”
“So are three biscuits a dollar twenty?”
“How should I know?” she snapped. She stood on the foot rest rung of her stool and leaned out over the counter, hitting her head on the cigarette display above the cash register. “Damn!”
A cup of coffee appeared at the check out counter. Norma Rae leaned out again. This time she ducked. The voice belonged to the kid. No, to the midget. The kid was a midget.
“I’ll have to ring it up to get you a total,” she said, staring at the man. Despite his stature he was the most perfect specimen of virility Norma Rae had ever seen. Muscular arms reached up to slide a package of Mentos onto the counter next to the coffee. The arms were attached to a wide chest bulging with well-chiseled pectorals, which were clad in a tight navy blue t-shirt.
Norma Rae could not help but let out a breath of amazement. “Oh, wow,” she said eloquently, her eyes wide with awe.
“What, you’ve never seen a dwarf before?” the man asked. His eyes had narrowed and his lips curled into the manliest sneer Norma Rae had seen since Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” video on MTV.
“No! Oh! I mean, I’m just surprised is all,” she managed to babble.
“Are you going to let me buy chicken and biscuits?” the Perfect Specimen demanded.
“Oh! Yeah! Um, do you want spicy or traditional southern?”
“Southern. And I want six biscuits.”
“Do you want any mashed potatoes or turnip greens with it? Bessie Maydar makes the greens and they are to die for. She mixes in just a little mustard greens and some hot sauce while they’re cooking and they come out good enough to make you feel born again without ever going to church.” Norma Rae knew she was babbling but she couldn’t stop. Now why did she tell this Perfect Specimen of Virility Bessie’s secret ingredients? Bessie had sworn her to secrecy on the back porch while they were each into their fifth margarita one night. And “born again?” Where the hell did that come from? Norma Rae was Seventh Day Adventist, and except for the occasional cuss word she was true to her faith.
“How much?” Evidently this Perfect Specimen of Virility was on a budget.
“Ninety nine cents.”
“Not a dollar?”
Norma Rae shook her head. The power of speech was rapidly exiting her brain the longer she gazed on his biceps.
“My name’s Norma Rae,” she said. Then she realized that not only had the Perfect Specimen of Virility not asked, but that he seemed surprised that she would even share the information.
“I’m Willy,” he said.
“So do you want the greens?”
“Okay, fine. Two drumsticks, six biscuits, and a side order of greens,” said Willy the Perfect Specimen of Virility.
“That’s five forty five,” said Norma Rae after punching the order into the cash register.
Willy gave her a ten dollar bill. She gave him change.
“Are you going to get my food?” Willy finally asked, and Norma Rae realized that she was still leaning across the counter staring at him.
“Oh, god!” she exclaimed, hopping down from the stool. Now she was really embarrassed. She had taken the Lord’s name in vain in front of the Perfect Specimen of Virility and she was acting like a dummy. Shit! She hurried to put the chicken and greens in a Styrofoam container, and put six biscuits in a small paper bag. She climbed back up on her stool and leaned out to hand the container and the bag across the counter and down to those wonderful waiting arms, which she could imagine wrapped around her in a bear hug so tight it would make her groan.
“Can I get anything else for you?” She asked hopefully.
“Nope.” Willy reached for the coffee and Mentos, arranged his load, and headed for the door.
“Wait!” cried Norma Rae.
The Perfect Specimen turned around.
“Come back soon,” she murmured weakly.
Willy the Perfect Specimen nodded solemnly and went out the door. Norma Rae didn’t even realize she had failed to charge him for the coffee and Mentos.
to be continued….
I am as the American Colonies were in 1775.
I know you all want to know how I could possibly be like the American Colonies were in 1775. “The simile is a stretch,” you think. You are wrong.
It will require a bit of a history lesson, so get out your notebooks and pens and pay attention.
Two hundred thirty-two years ago today, a man in Philadelphia began distributing copies of a pamphlet he had published anonymously at his own expense. The man, known as Tom Paine to his friends, had emigrated to the colony in America from England only two years before.
By the time he fortuitously met Benjamin Franklin in 1774, Paine had so far failed at everything he had ever done in life. He failed out of school at the age of twelve. By 19 he had failed at his apprenticeship to his father, a corset maker, and had gone to sea. He failed at that and returned to land work for the British government as a tax collector. By the time he was 32 he had been fired twice from that job, the second time because he agitated for higher wages, inciting others with his essays and leaflets to demand more money.
Once in Philadelphia, Paine began writing essays and contributing to a local magazine. He was a popular writer, and was widely read. He became a success.
Philadelphia’s air was full of anger and resentment against England when Paine arrived. The colonists in America felt that England was abusive towards them and despaired of Parliament even granting them self rule. Ten years before Parliament had reined in the quasi-independence that had previously existed for the colonies on the other side of the Atlantic. In repealing the Stamp Act, which was despised by the colonists, Parliament passed the Declaratory Act of 1766, and claimed for itself the “right… power and authority to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America…in all cases whatsoever.” Successively more restrictive laws were passed, and rebellion was imminent as 1775 turned into 1776.
For some reason, though, there had not been a formal rebellion against England in the colonies. As angry as the colonists were, they didn’t rise up and take arms against their English overlords. There were skirmishes here and there, and demonstrations and the like, but no organized, armed rebellion. We look back on it today and wonder, “What were they waiting for?” It’s hard to see why they wouldn’t take action.
Paine believed he knew how to package the idea of an armed rebellion so it would be more palatable to the colonists who might be sitting of the fence when it came to the issue of separation from England. He thought he had a way of convincing them to get off their dead asses and rebel. He had a way to stop them from procrastinating any longer.
And now we come to how I am like the colonies.
Hello. My name is Aramink. (Hello, Aramink.)
I am a procrastinator.
I have lousy time management skills. I let things without deadlines linger on my desk, hoping they will go away. They never do.
I am a procrastinator. Like the American colonies in 1775, I am sitting on my dead ass doing nothing (playing on Multiply) when I should be doing something constructive, something like writing, working, paying bills, balancing my checkbook, cleaning out closets, making my bed, taking a nap… well, maybe not taking a nap, but the other things certainly should be done.
The colonists were sitting around, complaining about taxes, about soldiers eating them out of farm and home, and unfair laws, just like I sit around and complain that I’m not getting out and getting things off my desk. Something had to shake up the colonists enough to actually do something about what they enjoyed complaining about so much.
Thomas Paine’s pamphlet, Common Sense, lit the colonies on fire.
The pamphlet appeared January 10, 1776. Over 150,000 copies were sold almost immediately. Through many reprintings throughout 1776, as many as six million pamphlets reached readers on both sides of the Atlantic.
Not only did Paine write the argument that won support for the rebels among farmers and educated businessmen alike, he discussed naval strength and set out a model for the new government of a country called America. He set out a plan of action for the colonies to take so that they could wrest their independence from England. It wasn’t until the third edition of the pamphlet, published February 14, 1776, that he set out this plan, but by the time the plan was proposed, the ideas in the pamphlet had already planted seeds of rebellion in very fertile ground.
Perhaps you’ve never read this famous pamphlet, which is credited with starting the American Revolution. How did Paine stop the colonists’ procrastination and propel them into action? He focused them on the bad guy. He identified King George III as the enemy of the American Colonies and he laid out a plan for getting rid of the yoke the king had clapped on the neck of the colonies with the passage of the Declaratory Act of 1766 and those successively restrictive laws aimed at strangling the autonomy of the colonies in America.
Why did it take ten years, from 1766 to 1776, for the colonists to act?
What stirred the colonists to action? Thomas Paine giving them a target and a plan.
What stirs me into action? Deadlines. When I don’t have one, I get nothing done whatsoever. I have no Thomas Paine to stir my passions into action.
I am a procrastinator.
Yesterday I was talking to Katie about stuff I want to do but haven’t gotten around to doing. I had a laundry list of things. She laughed at me as I added more and more things to the list. “You’re a procrastinator! She declared. I admitted as much. I’ll deny anything until presented with incontrovertible proof. She had the proof.
Then she gave me an assignment.
“This afternoon, do three of these things on your list,” Katie commanded. She was kind enough to specify which three, and I was grateful. “I’m going to check with you later,” she warned.
It was about 2:30 and my eyelids were getting heavy. I had dealt with Book Club drama for two straight days and I was sleepy. I went to take a nap.
I woke up about 5:00 and returned to my computer. Oh yes, I remembered my assignment. I had to make two phone calls and mail something. Those were my tasks. I yawned and poured myself another glass of cranberry juice. Then I got an IM from Doc.
“I understand you were supposed to accomplish three tasks this afternoon,” he said. He had been talking to Katie!
I stammered. I hemmed and hawed. I did those things at least as much as one can possibly do them in an IM conversation.
“Are they done?” Doc asked. I could tell by the tone of the letters he typed that he was about to get serious with me. No, the font didn’t change. I could just tell.
I dialed the phone. I made the first phone call.
“I’ve done one,” I told Doc.
I hung up and dialed the phone again.
“I’ve done two,” I reported.
“You’re tardy on those two,” he advised me sternly, and then noted that I hadn’t done the third one at all.
“But I took a nap!” I whined, hoping for leniency since Doc is known to be fond of naps himself.
No luck. He remained stern and even got Katie into an IM conference with us.
Katie pronounced punishment. “You have to do what you didn’t do, and you have to write a blog about procrastination,” she decided.
“But I have another blog planned for tomorrow,” I protested, thinking about how I hadn’t finished my blog about Thomas Paine and his pamphlet, Common Sense.
“You must post your procrastination blog by 6 p.m. tomorrow,” Katie commanded.
Katie is a formidable mistress. I felt like a naughty kid. Doc was probably laughing at me, but he was at least pretending to be stern, too.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said meekly.
Guess what happened.
I didn’t get my Common Sense blog written last night, so it wasn’t ready to be posted this morning. And I had to do this procrastination blog, too. Today is the anniversary of the publication of Common Sense, so I really need to post that blog today, but Mistress Katie says I have to post the procrastination blog today, too.
That’s why I am comparing my procrastination with the inaction of the American colonies prior to the publication of Common Sense.
Thomas Paine set out a plan for rebellion and independence, and Katie told me I have to set out a plan to eliminate procrastination from my life.
These parallels between me and the American colonies are just downright uncanny, aren’t they?
Here’s my plan:
- I will read my email first thing in the morning and respond to it all.
- I will write the rest of the morning, unless Jane is here, and in that case I will write unless Jane has other work for me to do.
- I will break for lunch and actually eat somewhere other than over my keyboard.
- I will check my email immediately after lunch and respond to it all.
- I will run errands and get other things done as my list dictates (see below).
- I will read and write some more, as time permits.
- I will make tomorrow’s list by 5:00 every day.
- I will then allow myself to play online.
It may not be as good a plan as Thomas Paine’s was for rebellion, but it will probably help me to stop procrastinating.
I wonder if I should sign out of Messenger, too. I mean, I’m normally invisible, but I’m always here. If I hadn’t been on Messenger before 5:00, Katie might never have given me that assignment in the first place, and I might not have had to figure out how to combine a blog on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense and procrastination.
It’s worth considering.
I have to buy a car.
Last night I had a dream about it.
Here’s what’s going on:
I leased it the year I was 42. It was a significant year. It was a year of changes. When I turned 42, I wasn’t aware how monumental and auspicious the year would prove to be. It was the year I got my dream car. It was the year I got up the nerve to plan and execute my divorce. It was the Year of The Answer. (Yes, that was yet another obnoxious reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – the book, and possibly the radio show, but definitely not the movies.) It was the year I got happy and stayed that way.
The lease on my dream car expires in April. By the end of April I will be giving up my ridiculously expensive, ridiculously large, dream car. If I can find an XJ6 in Jaguar Racing Green with an excellent mechanical record, maybe I’ll get it. Chances are much better that I will buy something much smaller and much less expensive.
The problem is, I have no idea what to get. I don’t even know what kind of car I want. I’ve toyed with the Jaguar XK series – the little convertible. If I can find one that’s about 5 years old, I can afford it.
That one is a bit shiny for my taste. Perhaps one of these, instead:
And that brings me to the dream.
The dream wasn’t so much a dream as it was a nightmare.
First of all, it involved these very tall bankers dressed alike in their dark suits, all of whom were displeased with me. There were at least a dozen of them.
It seems I had been on a buying spree. A car buying spree. I had bought no less than four cars, and I maybe, somehow, might have bought a fifth.
There were apparently some TVs I had bought, too, which makes no sense because despite the fact that I seem to have a TV in every room of my house, I’m not much of a TV watcher. I mean, I turned on the History Channel in the sewing room the other night and it was the first time in the two and a half years that I have lived in this house that I had turned on a TV downstairs. I was given all of the TVs in my house except the flat panels I bought for the living room and Jack’s basement when we moved in. That’s right – I have about 4 cast-off TVs, machines other people don’t want. Go figure. Most of them aren’t even hooked up.
Anyway, back to the cars. I was the owner of a baby-shit yellow Lincoln Continental. I hate Lincolns. My mother has driven one ever since she graduated from green station wagons with genuine imitation wood grain paneling (yes, the ubiquitous Country Squire of our youths) and my grandmother drove a Town Car all of her adult life. I wouldn’t have one if it was given to me.
I also owned a Buick Riviera in this dream. Not a new one, mind you, and definitely not one of the cool classic ones with the bubble in the rear window that made the trunk look like a rudder.
No, in my nightmare, with bankers looking on disapprovingly, I owned one of the ugly boxy 1980s Rivieras with the trunk that angled down a bit. It was white, with red interior. (Why do I remember this crap from my dreams?)
Then there was some sort of sporty something-or-another that was actually kind of nondescript.
And for some reason I had an MR2 that was all tricked out with a Ferrari package. It was smokin’ hot, but apparently I had wrecked it several times and the bankers were a bit hostile about that. I don’t know why. I got it repaired.
Anyway, the bankers were all about me returning all these cars to the various dealers from whom I had bought them, and then I was supposed to get something sensible. I had to return the TVs, too, which were these big, boxy, 1970’s models that were really heavy.
Obviously I’m stressing already over what car to get when my Jag goes back. Maybe I’m stressing over the world going to HD, too. I don’t know about that. I haven’t really given it that much thought. Considering how prominently those old TVs featured in this dream, though maybe I ought to give it some thought.
But the car really is an issue. Jane, my lovely assistant, has pointed me to some nifty little convertibles. There’s a 380zx or something like that she’s really pushing on me.
I just don’t know. I want something fairly good on gas, small, and maneuverable. I will miss the incredible handling of my Jag.
I’m thinking a little red Karmann Ghia might just be the thing…..
~~My sister may never forgive me.~~
Jack and I went to my sister’s for Christmas dinner. When we got there, Sis put a pork tenderloin in the oven and we gathered around the tree to open gifts. Sis’s two boys, ages 15 and 13, were there, as was my mother. We spent a lovely hour ooohing and ahhhhing over what everyone got and gave. It was a very nice time.
We were almost through opening gifts when Sis got up to go check the tenderloin. She was gone for a few minutes. The rest of us waited to open any more gifts until she returned.
We were chatting and laughing in typical Aramink family fashion when Sis tip-toed back into the living room and tapped me on the shoulder. “Come here,” she whispered.
I got to my feet and followed her into the kitchen.
“Have you ever cooked a pork tenderloin?” she asked.
“Yes,” I told her. “Lots of times.”
“Good. I have something I need to ask you, then,” she said, and opened the oven door. She reached in and pulled out the roasting pan holding the meat.
“Is it supposed to look like this?” she asked.
I gaped. I blinked.
Sis put the pan down on the counter and grinned at me real big. “Shhhh,” she said.
We walked back into the living room, and Sis beckoned to Mom.
I couldn’t help it. I was about to die laughing. When Gran headed into the kitchen, I did my best to keep three large teenage boys at bay, thinking they were too young and … ahem… tender… to witness what their mother had prepared for Christmas dinner.
I was unsuccessful. The boys barreled into the kitchen just as their grandmother was in the act of looking perplexed at the slab of meat that faced her. Gran glanced up with a quizzical look. For a second I thought she didn’t get it.
Then she burst out laughing.
The boys crowded around. “What is it? What’s so funny?” they demanded. Their mothers and grandmother were laughing too hard to tell them.
Sis headed down the hall to the bathroom before she wet her pants. When she came back, she suggested that a creamy Bearnaise sauce would be a lovely accompaniment.
That set us off again. Sis headed back to the bathroom.
We females of the family enjoyed every bite. “Mmmmmm.” “Yummy.” “This is delightful,” we said.
The boys, for some reason, opted for a meatless Christmas dinner.
And now, for the crucial question:
If a pork tenderloin is circumcised, does that make it kosher?
“It’s a good Rule,” I said defensively. “And I’ve been meaning to read it anyway. You took it from my pile of books, remember?”
My Rule about reading the book before seeing the movie applies to all three boys. (All three? Yes, all three. It applies to my sister’s sons, too. Andrew is four months older than Jack and Austin is two and a half years younger. We call them the “cousin-brothers” because they spend so much time together. Hey, we’re in Arkansas. My sister and I co-parent well.)
The Rule came about because my sister and I knew that if they didn’t read the book first and they saw the movie, they’d never bother with the book because they’d think they knew the story. I bet I can get a few confessions from my friends – perhaps one or two of you saw movies when you were supposed to read a book for school assignments.(To Kill a Mockingbird, maybe? A good movie, yes, but a much better book. Since it’s the only book Harper Lee ever wrote, I think we owe the author the courtesy of reading it. Go ye forth and buy it now, Wench commands thee!)
You see, there’s a sneaky thing Hollywood does. It doesn’t make movies of books. It makes movies based on books. There is a huge difference.
The fact was never presented more clearly to the boys than when the first Harry Potter movie came out. Despite J.K. Rowling’s close supervision of the project and her input, the movie just wasn’t like the book.
“Neville didn’t have much of a part at all,” complained Andrew, the older cousin.
“Hagrid keep changing size,” said Jack, unimpressed by the special effects.
“They found the keys too easily,” Andrew groused.
“That chess game was lame,” agreed Jack.
“I liked it,” offered Austin. He was too young to have read any of the books by the time the first movie came out, so he had no problem with it whatsoever.
My sister and I had taken them to the movie together. We both laughed. “See? This is why we say always to read the book. The book is always better than the movie.”
“But why is that?” The kids were really disappointed.They had read this wonderful book and the three that came after, and were absolutely riveted by the story and the characters. The books had already told them what Harry, Hogwarts, and Diagon Alley looked like.
“Why is that? Because your imaginations are much better than anything a movie can show you,” we answered. “Even the best movie-maker is limited by what he can do with the actors and special effects. Your imagination has no limits at all. Anything can happen when you read.”
“The lake wasn’t as big as it should have been.”
“The casting was terrible.” (They were a little older and more discerning about such things.)
“The vermin in the pits weren’t as scary as they were supposed to be.”
“The climb up the mountain didn’t have the same significance.”
“I liked it.” Austin, again, wasn’t old enough to have read the book.
“Why haven’t you read it before now?” I asked. I had given him the trilogy for some past Christmas after reading a rave review.
“I tried once. I just couldn’t get into the first book. I put it down and haven’t tried again.”
I do that, too, I must admit. Sometimes I pick up a book and it’s just not the story or the style I’m in the mood for at the time. I put it down meaning to get back to it eventually, but it collects dust for a long time waiting for me to approach it again.
When he returned The Golden Compass to me last night, I asked Jack how he liked it.
“It was good,” he answered. “It’s sort of an anti-Narnia. But it did take me some time to get into it. It was slow at first.”
“Do you think the movie will be good?”
“Sure,” he answered.
“Even though all books are better than the movies made based on them?” I grinned, feeling a little smug and superior, pleased at the chance to drive home my point that books beat celluloid hands down.
“That’s not always true,” Jack said.
“Give me one example of one movie that was better than the book!” I demanded in surprise.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. The movie was better than a book by Robert Heinlein?”
“It was, Mom. I mean, I just don’t like the way Heinlein writes.”
I gaped. Who was this child, this alien being, this life-form from some other planet? He doesn’t like the way Heinlein writes? This… this…. creature… standing in front of me couldn’t be something composed of my DNA.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I managed to gasp.
“No,” he said. “I hated the book Starship Troopers. The movie was good, though. They changed up the plot and the characters so that they were better.”
I’m still dumfounded.
When he was about 10, I gave him a copy of Heinlein’s The Star Beast,assuming that he would fall in love with the Lummox just like I did.
“It’s boring,” he announced halfway through, just as the two kids took off to the hills with the beast to hide her from the hoards of scientists and media.
“You’ve just gotten to the most exciting part of the book!” I objected.
“I’m sick of that book. I’m not reading it any more.”
I backed off. I didn’t want Heinlein to be an assignment, but he had to read him. He just had to.
I gave him The Rolling Stones, knowing that he would be delighted with the twins Castor and Pollux, and that he would even get the mythology reference. He didn’t even open it.
Again, I backed off. Maybe he really wasn’t ready for Heinlein. Maybe when he was older…
Recently he asked to read Stranger in a Strange Land.
“Hell, no!” I said.
“Are you kidding? That book has tons of sex in it!”
Jack’s face went through several different expressions before he settled on defiance. “But you keep wanting me to read Heinlein.”
“Yes, but you aren’t starting with Valentine Michael Smith and Jubal Harshaw. Nor are you starting with Lazarus Long.”
“Mike Smith is the Man from Mars, and Jubal is his lawyer. Lazarus Long is his own grandfather.”
“Time travel, baby. But at 16 you aren’t yet old enough to grok the Martian version of god or love, and you aren’t yet old enough to find out what Lazarus and his maternal ancestors do for entertainment during long spaceship rides.”
“When will be old enough?”
“Old enough for me to give you Stranger in a Strange Land? About the time you register for the draft,” I retorted. That’s in a couple of years. “About the time you are old enough to order a draft beer legally,” I revised.
I bought a copy of Time Enough for Love and left it conspicuously on a table. It disappeared. I saw it in his bathroom, a bookmark about halfway through it. He started it. I’m not sure if he ever finished it. Hopefully my strategy will work and he’ll swipe Stranger from the bookcase and read it under the covers with a flashlight just because I was so shocked and said he couldn’t. Hopefully he will learn that Heinlein’s place at the apex of the pantheon of science fiction gods is deserved. If he doesn’t, I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all of his chromosomes came solely from his father’s side of the family.
I hope Hollywood never makes a movie based on Stranger in a Strange Land.
Sometimes I do things purely to amuse myself, and I don’t even tell other people about it. Let me share something with you that amuses me so much I do it every chance I get.
Since 9/11 we have not been allowed to have sewing scissors when we fly. I used to take embroidery with me on long flights. It passed the time and was something I could do with my hands while I talked with my traveling companions. My hands are rarely still.
Embroidery scissors are tiny but have very sharp points. If a hijacker tried to take over a plane I was on, I planned to reach out with my scissors and get his attention. While he was screaming about his stabbed shoulder the he-man passengers could subdue him and save the plane.
Since 9/11, though, I use a round thingy that has a sharp blade accessible only by a thread. It would be useless against hijackers.
Even a nail file is a no-no on a flight these days. Sandpaper emery boards are all well and good, but a quick-thinking wench with a well-aimed nail file could also get the attention of a dangerous hijacker and help to save the day.
To amuse myself, I take a covert defensive weapon past the TSA checkpoints in airports. Dangerous and ill-advised, you say? Maybe. Then again, the weapons I take are cleverly disguised and if I’m caught I could act innocent and surrender them with guileless charm.
I fly with my hair twisted up in chopsticks.
That’s right. Chopsticks. The things we eat Chinese food with.
Not the kind they give you at the local Chinese takeout, made of soft sandalwood or plastic, no – the cruelly pointed kind that could inflict some damage if applied with enough force.
My first passage through the TSA checkpoint with chopsticks was purely unintentional. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I had been allowed on a plane with lethal weapons.
My favorite chopsticks were actually purchased in China, and they have very sharp points, perfect for picking up that single grain of rice. They are made of very hard wood.
Doesn’t my hair look cute in chopsticks?
Aren’t those points sharp?
Since I realized that chopsticks are great devices to ward off hijackers if I should happen to be on a plane with such evil people, I have taken to traveling with my hair twisted up just like in the picture. I could do the same hairstyle with knitting needles like my Italian great grandmother no doubt wore.
On my recent trip to Dallas I dug through my purse in the hotel room. To my surprise I found a second pair of chopsticks. These were made of silver. Yes, metal. My purse went through the x-ray machine and passed quickly. Those silver chopsticks were lying in the depths of my purse. They aren’t as sharp as the wooden ones, but they are still metal stakes.
I think if a hijacker attacked us on a plane, I could muster the courage to loosen my wenchly tresses and attack them with my hair baubles. Heck, it’s me or them up there.
Frankly, I’d rather be armed than not
I was just about to leave my office for the evening and head to the Twisted Wench Daiquiri Lounge for an evening libation when I heard their voices.
“I can’t believe you did that to me!”
“I didn’t do anything to you. You did it yourself!”
“Ladies, please,” a male voice interjected. “Wench won’t like it if you are screaming at each other. Let’s just talk to her about the situation.”
Agincourt? Sir Agincourt Finsbury-Pikestaff? Was that the voice of my trusted, loyal operator of the Satellite Virgin Training Academy on the Moon? I wasn’t expecting him, and it seemed he was bringing a problem to me. Usually his assistant, Teri the Boopster, handled routine matters. This must be serious!
I opened the door to my office just as they approached. Yes, there was Agincourt. I couldn’t help but smile to see him. He’s my brother, you understand, and I adore him even if he does quaff a few too many pints now and again.
“Agi!” I exclaimed, holding my arms out for the requisite hug. Instead of the big squeeze he normally gives me, he stopped and gave me an exasperated look. I was startled, to say the least. “What seems to be the problem?” I asked, eyeing the two trainees accompanying him.
One, a tall, slim blonde, clearly had been wearing her long hair in a ponytail. That ponytail no longer looked very neat, though. It certainly wasn’t a look we encouraged out Virgins to display. Great hanks of hair stuck out at odd angles from her head, and red streaks that looked for all the world like claw marks decorated one of her cheeks.
The other, a small brunette, had high color in her cheeks and a bloody nose. A bruise on one of her upper arms was darkening before my eyes.
Agincourt was talking.
“It seems that there was a bit of an accident during the zero-G pole dance exercise,” Agincourt began. He was clearly upset and more than a bit aggravated with his two charges.
Before he could continue the brunette interrupted. “Accident! It was no accident! She pushed me!”
“I was spotting you, not pushing you!” retorted the blonde.
“Ladies, it seems we might need to calm down before we discuss it further.” One thing I had learned in my year of operating the Virgin Training School was that angry Virgins needed to be coddled and soothed. Only after tempers cooled would I be able to make sense of the situation.
I led them into my office. They were grumbling and snarling at each other. I sighed. My daiquiri and the Twisted Wench were looking like a fond dream at this point.
“Wenchy, dear, I am so very sorry to bring this situation to you,” Agincourt said as I brewed a tisane loaded with herbs of comfort and calming properties.
“Hand me that small box of valerian root?” I asked Agincourt. He passed it to me. As I added a large dose of it to the mixture, he started to tell me about the situation.
“Not yet,” I said. Let’s give the girls some tea and let’s us have something a little stronger, shall we?”
He grinned at me. “You know me well,” he chuckled. I was glad he could smile. I was beginning to wonder if this dispute wasn’t taking its toll on him. I poured us both a healthy serving of a lovely, smooth Irish Cream. We took our first sips as the kettle whistled. I poured the water over my herbal recipe and carried the pot to the conversation area of my office. One trainee sat on each sofa, glowering at the other across the gorgeous marquetry inlay of my antique Italian coffee table.
Agincourt again began to speak, but I shushed him. I poured the herbal concoction for the trainees, setting one cup before each of them.
“Drink,” I ordered.
I had them empty one cup and start on another before I let them speak. The silence was difficult at first, but finally the warm drink and its herbal contents did the trick and the two young women began to calm down. I could tell by their slower breathing and the way they sipped slowly at their second cups that my concoction was working.
“Now,” I said. “I would like to hear first from Sir Agincourt. After he tells what he understands the situation to be, you each will have a chance to add to his explanation or correct it as you see fit.” The trainees nodded.
Agincourt cleared his throat. “As you know, the trainees practice the pole dance in zero-G on the Moon. Cyndi has appointed several of the more advanced trainees as assistant instructors.”
“That’s me,” the blonde broke in.
I shot her a warning look. “Sir Agi first, then you will have a chance,” I murmured. She settled back into her plushly upholstered cushions.
“Yes, well, erm…” Agincourt took another sip of his Irish Cream. Finding a bit of determination from somewhere within his glass, he continued. “After demonstrating the move she was teaching, the assistant instructor allowed the student trainee to attempt the move. Unfortunately, the trainee wasn’t quite properly balanced …”
“I was perfectly balanced! She pushed me!” the brunette declared hotly.
“I most certainly did not,” the blonde assistant stated emphatically. “I was spotting you and attempting to adjust your balance and you fell.”
“I fell, all right! I fell right on my nose. If it swells up and no one will offer camels for me, all this training will be for nothing!” She glared across the table at her erstwhile instructor.
“Unfortunately,” Agincourt continued, “After the fall I’m afraid the two got into a bit of a fight.”
I shook my head in disbelief, wondering if “Deportment” would be yet another class we would have to add to the curriculum.
“Why in the world would a fight have ensued?” I asked. I looked at the petite brunette, who I expect swung the first claw.
“Because she pushed me!”
“I did not!”
“Ladies, ladies. Please. Agincourt, were there any witnesses?”
My gallant brother looked uncomfortable. “Well, erm, yes.”
“I was filming the class at the time. I was the one who separated them, and then, of course, got them down here to the school for you to deal with as Head Mistress. Have you any Guinness?”
The subject change was meant to distract me from the fact that a male had been watching my Virgins in training. It was meant to distract me from the fact that my brother had been watching them.
“Oh, Agi, what will I do with you?” I sighed. Both Virgins had fallen asleep by this time. Good. The valerian root worked.
Agi and I watched the video. Here it is. Tell me if you believe the trainee was pushed, or if she fell. Then, in the comments, tell me what I should do about Agi, and recommend to me suitable disciplinary measures for the fighting Virgins.
I was talking recently with a couple of friends who have experience in military and foreign relations. As sometimes happens with us, the discussion turned to politics.
The question was asked, “What do you think about Russia and China conducting joint military training?”
One friend, who has a military background, dismissed the exercises as “showing off.”
“So you don’t think they can amass the power to oppose the US in world military matters?” I asked.
“I think the trainings were a desperation move,” my other friend responded. This friend has worked with the American diplomatic corps in international locations for years.
“Why do you say that?”
“China and Russia consider themselves decision makers along with US on international levels, but in recent years, they have found themselves out the picture and being ignored. They are trying to drawn some attention hoping the world will remember their presences.”
“As though the world doesn’t remember that they are both serious nuclear powers?” I was skeptical.
“They hope, among other things, that if they make a display of comradeship and display their combined military might, other countries will look to them with more respect,” said my diplomatic friend.
“They can only do so much, though,” agreed my military friend. “In the end, they know and everyone knows that we could crush them and their entire military in less than 24 hours.”
“Yeah, right,” I said sarcastically. “Like we crushed Iraq.”
“No war has ever been won faster than Iraq,” declared my military friend.
“What about the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War?”
“No. We won the war in less than eight hours and then we invaded to take out the remaining resistance. It took time to cover the land and actually get to Baghdad, but by then the war had been won.”
“What do you mean, eight hours? Eight hours from when we got to Baghdad, or eight hours from when we crossed the Kuwait border initially?”
“By military definition, a war is won when one side destroys the enemy’s military and renders it unable to fight. That only took us less than eight hours with airstrikes, before we ever crossed the border,” my military friend explained.
I repeated one of my initial questions. “Could we cripple the combined military of Russia and China as quickly, without nuclear reprisal?”
“Easily,” my military friend asserted. My diplomat friend agreed with a nod.
“Without inviting a nuclear attack from them?” I was very skeptical.
“There is no assurance that we could avoid nuclear missiles getting into our territories,” said my diplomat friend. “Desperation may lead the losing countries to try using their nuclear power, and they might get missiles through before we could destroy them.”
My military friend added, “But we have jets that have never been used in any war, sophisticated weapons…”
“Do you really believe that we are 100% capable of taking out any nuclear warhead directed at the US or its allies?” I demanded. No matter what the technology might be, error-prone humans create the equipment, program it, and operate it.
“Nothing is one hundred percent assured,” agreed my diplomat friend.
“Do you think any country would actually use nuclear weapons?”
“Yes,” asserted my military friend without hesitation. “Any Muslim country that obtains nuclear weapons will use them against us.”
I was still skeptical, but thoughtful. “I prefer to think that the lessons of Japan and even of Chernobyl would cause leaders not to use them, but if the nuclear arsenal of a country got into the hands of fanatics, I don’t think we would be able to judge what might happen. Fanatics just don’t think like we do.”
“Consider, too, that the world population is increasing and there are not enough natural resources to satisfy everyone. It won’t be long before the countries of the world will be fighting over resources as basic to sustaining life as water.” My diplomat friend has already been at the negotiating table on matters of resources and the environment.
“That is definitely true,” I agreed. “But if nuclear weapons are used, then the land affected by them becomes uninhabitable, and resources like water that pass through contaminated lands will be unusable.”
“Right, but some countries may see themselves as having no choice but to destroy more powerful countries just so they can survive. They believe the historically powerful countries are dominating the world and they need to be taken out. For instance, that is what many Muslims believe. They think the only way for Islam and their way of life to survive is if there is no powerful Western influence over their government or their culture.” My military friend feels strongly about this, in case that fact escaped anyone.
“There are plenty of countries that resent our interference in their policies. Venezuela is one. Obviously the Muslim world thinks that of any non-Muslim power. China has been careful to prevent foreign influence and accused England of causing their population to become addicted to opium in the 19th century in an effort to control them,” my diplomat friend pointed out.
“No country appreciates the interference of outside forces,” I agreed, “unless they see that country as an ally that has been invited for a particular purpose – like Kuwait during the Gulf War.”
“The bottom line,” declared my military friend, grinning, “is that we need to destroy the rest of the world sooner rather than later if we want to stay in the driver’s seat.”
“Now you’re thinking clearly!” I laughed.
“Right,” said my diplomat friend. “Instead of annexing the rest of the world, we should just annihilate those other countries. We should learn from the mistakes Rome made.”
“Not to mention the Soviet Union,” I added. “Ancient Greece, ancient Persia, Hitler, Napoleon – all made the same mistake of trying to conquer the world when they should have just destroyed it.”
“Finally you two are talking like people who know what they are talking about,” my military friend chuckled.
What’s disconcerting is that I’m not sure he wasn’t just a little bit serious.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
For the record, here’s Bill Clinton on the issue, from the transcript of the September 24, 2006 edition of Meet the Press:
MR. RUSSERT: What did you think when Colin Powell said, “The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism”?
MR. CLINTON: I think he was referring to the, the questions that have been raised about the original evidence, which plagues him and in which he was, I think, unwittingly complicit. I don’t think—I think it’s pretty clear, based on what all the people that worked for him have said. I think he was most worried about the question of torture and the conduct of the prisons at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. And of course, he weighed in in this debate about the extent to which the CIA or others could engage in conduct which clearly violates the Geneva Convention.
Now, we—as you and I talk, and we hear that they’ve reached an agreement, the senators and the White House, and I hope they have. But Colin pointed out that, you know, we’ve got soldiers all over the world. If we get a reputation for torturing people, the following bad things are going to happen: We’re as likely going to get bad information is good, just for people to just quit getting beat on; two, we’re likely to create two or three or five enemies for every one we break; and three, we make our own soldiers much more vulnerable to conduct which violates the Geneva Convention. That is, we can’t expect our friends, much less our enemies, to accept the fact that because we’re the good guys, we get to have a different standard of conduct. And most people think the definition of a good guy is someone who voluntarily observes a different standard of conduct, not someone who claims the right to do things others can’t do.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you outlaw waterboarding and sleep deprivation, loud music, all those kinds of tactics?
MR. CLINTON: Well, I—here’s what I would do. I would figure out what the, what the generally accepted definitions of the Geneva Convention are, and I would honor them. I would also talk to people who do this kind of work about what is generally most effective, and they will—they’re almost always not advocate of torture, and I wouldn’t do anything that would put our own people at risk.
Now, the thing that drives—that, that gives the president’s position a little edge is that every one of us can imagine the following scenario: We get lucky, we get the number three guy in al-Qaeda, and we know there’s a big bomb going off in America in three days and we know this guy knows where it is. Don’t we have the right and the responsibility to beat it out of him? But keep in mind, in 99 percent of the interrogations, you don’t know those things.
Now, it happens like even in the military regulations, in a case like that, they do have the power to use extreme force because there is an imminent threat to the United States, and then to live with the consequences. The president—they could set up a law where the president could make a finding or could guarantee a pardon or could guarantee the submission of that sort of thing ex post facto to the intelligence court, just like we do now with wire taps.
So I, I don’t think that hard case justifies the sweeping authority for waterboarding and all the other stuff that, that was sought in this legislation. And I think, you know, if that circumstance comes up—we all know what we’d do to keep our country from going through another 9/11 if we could. But to—but to claim in advance the right to do this whenever someone takes a notion to engage in conduct that plainly violates the Geneva Convention, that, I think, is a mistake.
Thanks, Bill. Now, that having been said, I think “Geneva Convention” is too much to have to remember when we’re talking about Safewords.
“My English Teacher is ruining Star Wars,” Jack moaned the other morning.
“What? How is that possible?” I was twirling my hair into Princess Leia rolls on either side of my head in the bathroom mirror.
“Archetypes. Only she says ‘arc-types.’ I think English class is nothing more than a conspiracy to ruin every good book ever written, and now it’s being extended to movies, too.” My 10th grade progeny was glum, very glum.
“Give me some examples of how Star Wars can be ruined just by talking about it,” I said reasonably. “I mean, we talk about Star Wars all the time and it’s never ruined it at all.”
“Yeah, but when we talk about it we don’t get the story wrong, and we don’t compare every character to Jesus.”
“Compare every character to Jesus!” I echoed. “I can see the similarity in Obi Wan…”
“No, Mom. According to a substitute teacher we had the other day, every character in Star Wars is like Jesus.”
“Oh, come on.”
“Really. She pointed out the ‘arc-type’ then she talked about it for awhile then she compared it to Jesus. I swear.”
“Fine. How is Han Solo like Jesus?” I demanded, imagining that roguish grin. I have always loved pirates. I have known pirates, and Jesus was no pirate.
“You know how when Luke is making the Death Star trench run? Han swoops in and saves him from evil, just like Jesus would do.”
“Darth Vader. Evil. The evil archetype. Han saves him, just like Jesus…”
“Oh. Ok. So, how is Darth Vader like Jesus?” I’m sending my kid to an Episcopal school so he can learn THIS? I thought. Mentally I shook myself.
“He dies to save Luke from the Emperor and from the Dark Side, just like Jesus died to save us from all of our sins.” Jack said the last part of that sentence in his best televangelist voice.
“Well, then, the Emperor. How is Palpatine like Jesus?”
“We’re just talking about Episode IV, A New Hope. Palpatine isn’t in that one. It’s Vader all the way.”
“He’s not?” I was surprised, and thought on it. “Who else is like Jesus?”
“Don’t even get me started on friggin’ Skywalker. Whiny bi…”
“Jack,” I cautioned him. “Don’t swear all the damn time.”
“Sorry.” Somehow he didn’t convince me.
“What archetype is Luke?” Aha, I thought to myself. Let’s see how much attention he’s paying in class.
“Luke is several archetypes. First, he’s the Hero. He’s The Young Man From the Provinces. The pupil in The Pupil-Mentor Relationship, the son in The Father-Son relationship”
“Wait a minute. Back up. The Young Man From the Provinces is an archetype?”
“I kid you not.”
“Why can’t you just say he’s the naive young person, or the initiate?”
“Oh, he’s also The Initiate.”
“What’s the difference?”
“The Young Man From the Provinces is the character who is taken away from home and raised by strangers, but returns triumphant to wrest the throne from the usurper. The Initiate is a young hero or heroine who has to go through training and ceremony, and usually wears white.”
“Hmmm. Both Luke and Leia wear white, although I think Leia is already initiated, seeing as how she’s already a Senator and all.”
“Yeah, but she’s also an Initiate, and she’s also in The Platonic Ideal, with, well, Guess Who.”
“Luke. Her brother.”
“But we don’t yet know they’re twins. It’s Mrs. Tyler jumping ahead again. We don’t know of any family relationship. And oddly enough, we’re reading Oedipus Rex in History.”
I laughed. “Jack, I am your mother.”
“Uh huh. And there’s an archetype relationship of Mentor and Pupil.”
“Luke and Obi Wan, as well as Vader and Obi Wan.”
“There’s The Devil Figure, or Jesus, if you will.”
“What? Jesus is the Devil? What is this?”
“Vader is the Devil figure, and as I explained earlier, Vader is also Jesus. Therefore, Jesus is the Devil.”
“I can see how Vader is maybe a Jesus figure once he appears after his death there at the end of Return of the Jedi, but how is he Jesus in A New Hope?”
“Oh, we’re talking at the end of Return of the Jedi. She totally ruined the movies for anyone who hasn’t seen it.”
“Someone hasn’t seen Star Wars? Inconceivable.”
“You’d be surprised. More than half my class has never seen the original trilogy.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. What other archetypes is Vader?”
“Well, in The Father-Son relationship archetype…”
“No! We had no idea about that relationship until the second movie! She really did ruin it.”
“She sure did. She said that Like Han, he’s The Apparently Evil Figure with an Ultimately Good Heart. Oh, and he’s also the wayward son in The Father-Son Relationship with Obi Wan Kenobi. And in a way, he’s The Scapegoat, because Emperor Palpatine is really the Evil One and Vader is just trying to please, or to save his love, or is hopeless until he finds hope in Luke, although Obi Wan is kind of a Scapegoat in that he lets Vader kill him so the others can get away.” Jack peered at me. “You do see the Jesus parallel there, don’t you?”
“Yes, I see.” I was taking it all in. My mind was racing.
“And Han is also the archetype of The Outcast, and he has the archetype of The Friendly Beast, Chewbacca, as his sidekick.”
“How is Chewie like Jesus?”
“He’s always willing to put himself in harm’s way for someone else he believes to be more important than he is.”
“That person being The Lovable Outcast.”
“Exactly. Which makes Han and Chewie the archetypal Hunting Group of Companions.”
“What, Like Beowulf and his men or something?”
“Yes. There are other Hunting Groups of Companions in Star Wars, too.”
“The Jawas. The Tusken Raiders.”
“Not the Tusken Raiders. They’re just the Evil Beasts. Grendels, if you want to use the Beowulf analogy. Luke, Leia, Han, the Droids, Chewie, and Obi Wan make a Hunting Group of Companions, too.”
“That makes sense. But how are they like Jesus?”
“Duh! The disciples!”
I grimaced. Dopey me.
“And then there are the Loyal Retainers.”
“Sort of. Really, though, R2-D2 and C3PO are the Loyal Retainers, especially R2. He’s the one who summons help, and who always comes to the rescue.”
“And he’s like Jesus because…?”
“He summons help and ultimately comes to the rescue. Like Jesus summoned help and ultimately came to the rescue in the sense that he provided a path to everlasting life. Do I have to spell this out for you, Mom?”
“No, no. Pray, continue.”
Then there is the Archetype of the Creatures of Nightmare. The Evil Beasts. Those are the patrons at the Mos Eisley Cantina, or the Tusken Raiders.”
“Creatures of Nightmare? At the cantina?”
“Yeah. Because they’re so bizarre, surreal. And then there is the archetype of The Star-Crossed Lovers. Han and Leia, obviously, Like Jesus and Mary Magdalene. And Greedo did too shoot first.”
“Not in the original movie, he didn’t. In the remake, sure, but not in the first version of the movie.”
“Whatever. Leia is the archetype of The Damsel in Distress. She even wears the flowing robes and has the long, virginal hair, like the Virgin Mary.”
“Not like Jesus?”
He rolled his eyes. “She’s a girl, Mom.”
I cleared my throat. “Right. How silly of me.”
“And there’s the archetype of the soft-spoken, sensible Earth Mother.”
“Princess Leia Organa is no Earth Mother! Well, maybe with the long flowing hair in the third movie, in the scene in the Ewok village.”
“Not Leia. Beru.”
“Yes. And no, she’s not like Jesus.” His eyes and his tone warned me not to go there, despite my temptation to do so.
“There are symbolic archetypes, too,” he informed me.
I waited. Jack was on a roll. I knew he’d go on without my prodding.
“Light versus Dark, Heaven versus Hell, Life Versus Death. You see these in the struggle between Jedi and Sith, the Empire and the Rebellion, the serene light blue of Obi Wan’s lightsaber against the angry dark red of Darth Vader’s lightsaber, the lush natural form of Yavin 4 against the mechanized construct of the Death Star.”
“Then there’s the symbolic archetype of Innate Wisdom that doesn’t speak much contrasted with the Educated Stupidity of constant chatter: again, in R2-D2 and C3PO.”
“I can see that one.”
“And there is Supernatural Intervention. That’s another archetype.”
“The Force, you mean?”
No, The Force is the archetype of The Magic Weapon. Supernatural Intervention is when Luke is in the channel on the Death Star and he hears Obi wan tell him to use The Force, and he hits the target using the Magic Weapon rather than more conventional means.”
“So how is Luke like Jesus?”
“He saves the galaxy. I really do have to spell it all out for you, don’t I?”
“I mean, Luke’s probably bigger than Jesus, who just saved one species on one planet.”
“Stop right there, kid. You have no idea of the flap John Lennon started with a similar statement.”