Archive for February, 2012

FROM THE FRIARS CLUB #11

And this is my favorite from the eleventh segment of The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes (category under the letter, K):

A lonely stranger went into a deserted restaurant and ordered the breakfast special.  When his order arrived, he looked up at the waitress and asked, “How about a kind word?”

She leaned over and whispered, “Don’t eat the meat.”

FROM THE FRIARS CLUB #10

And this is my favorite from the tenth segment of The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes (categories under the letter, J):

An old Jewish man is talking long-distance to California when all of a sudden he gets cut off.  He hollers, “Operator, giff me beck the party!”

She says, “I’m sorry, sir, you’ll have to make the call all over again.”

He says, “What do you want from my life?  Giff me beck de party.”

She says, “I’m sorry, sir, you’ll have to place the call again.”

He says, “Operator, ya know vat?  Take da telephone and shove it in you know vere!”  And he hangs up.

Two days later he opens the door and there are two big, strapping guys standing there who say, “We came to take your telephone out.”

He says, “Vy?”

They say, “Because you insulted Operator Twenty-eight two days ago.  But if you’d like to call up and apologize, we’ll leave the telephone here.”

He says, “Vait a minute, vat’s the rush, vat’s the hurry?”  He goes to the telephone and dials.  “Hello?  Get me Operator Twenty-eight.  Hello, Operator Twenty-eight?  Remember me?  Two days ago I insulted you?  I told you to take da telephone and shove it in you you know vere?”

She says, “Yes?”

He says, “Vell, get ready–dey’re bringin’ it to ya!”

VOLUMINOUS VIEWS OF VERONICA LAKE

FROM THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS #9

Another question from Gregory Stock’s book is this:

By controlling medical research funds, you are in the position to guarantee a cure will be found in 15 years for any disease you choose.  Unfortunately, no progress on any others would be made during that period.  Would you target one disease?

The best questions are those that require the most thought for answers.  And this is definitely one of the best questions in Gregory Stock’s book.

And after giving this much thought, my answer is yes.  So much progress has been made in the treatment of diseases we can see.  But what about those we can’t–diseases of the mind, mental illness?  Mental illness is physical illness, every bit as much as cancer and heart disease.  It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, and in most cases it is inherent.  Psychiatry is the last frontier of medicine.  So little is known about psychiatric illness, as compared to other forms of illness.  Shock treatment is still used, in many cases.  And none of the medications for mental illness cure it–they only give the patients some control over their lives.  Further, psychiatric medications have such unimaginably horrible side-effects that they’re barely worth taking at all.

I know this because I suffer from mental illness.  There are many types of mental illness, including schizophrenia, clinical depression, bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, just to name a few.  My primary illness is obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).  Both my parents have obsessive-compulsive disorder, though they’re too proud to admit it–and I clearly inherited from them.

However, though I had symptoms of OCD in my early childhood, my illness didn’t really surface until November, 1985, when I was nineteen.  And this is typical–often, a person with mental illness isn’t seriously affected until his or her teens or twenties.  But from then on, his or her life is hell.  Mental illness is a lifelong state of agony that cannot possibly be understood by those who don’t have it.  Of course, there are degrees of seriousness–my parents’ OCD isn’t nearly as serious as mine.  But it is still hell, for anyone who has it.  It interferes with a person’s life in such a way that it’s difficult to maintain a job, to form and maintain relationships with others, and even to be at peace with oneself.

In short, mental illness makes one’s life virtually unbearable.  Many are quick to judge suicide victims, but they have no right to do so.   In 1989, I attempted suicide and failed.  And to this day, I wish to God I had succeeded.  Hardly a day goes by that I don’t consider attempting suicide again.  But once you’ve tried it, and failed, it’s even more difficult to try it again.  Because no matter what method you use–it’s never sure.  Even a gunshot to the head can fail–leaving you brain-damaged, a fate worse than death.  So I know I’ll never attempt suicide again–because there are far worse experiences than death.

As to the question, I would target obsessive-compulsive disorder.  There is no mental illness worse than another, but I would naturally target the one from which I suffer most.  Yet in doing so, I would be opening a door for the end of all mental illness.  Because if a cure were found for obsessive-compulsive disorder in fifteen years, so much more would be learned about the brain itself–particularly the chemistry of the brain–that cures for other types of mental illness would soon follow.   

And since the brain (not the heart) really is the central organ of the body, advances toward cures for cancer, heart disease, and all other diseases we can see, would almost certainly be made, in the process.

LOOKING BACK AT “LISTENING WITH MY EYES”

I wrote the following autobiographical piece in 2008, and it was published in a literary anthology that same year. 

LISTENING WITH MY EYES

Scott ____

     I just like the title.  It fits–I’ve always been totally deaf in my left ear.  I sit before the screen, nauseous from four cups Java Delight coffee, and two cans of Steven Seagal’s Lightning Bolt.  The Soundtrack from Interview with the Vampire rests in the CD player.  But the DVD slot lies empty–so many movies, I can’t decide.

     My left ear is pointed, like Mr. Spock’s, as if to indicate its uniqueness.  That doesn’t work, though–no one notices.  My singles-group acquaintances still wonder why I can’t hear the waitress.  Some, like Barb, subtly ridicule me:  “Over there, Scott!  She’s talking to you, Scott!”  Barb is a gorgeous redhead, covered with freckles.  But that’s all.  I may lose any chance with her, writing this, but have none anyway.  Simply put, her personality fits her name–Barb.  If you’re half deaf, you can hardly make out anything in public–the good ear does not compensate.  I try lip reading, but can only identify bleeped-out profanities on TV.  Still, I practice, in restaurants, at parties–yet end up missing it.

     I wish to God I’d have been there–wouldn’t anyone!  Uncle Robert stood in the greeting line at a church.  Dozens shook his hand, so many that, when a man finally said, “My wife just died,” he replied, “Well that’s great–congratulations!”  It wasn’t until many hours later that Uncle Robert realized his mistake!

     Crowds confuse!  The only way I enjoy them is drunk!  Even at these readings, I forget names, and hope I won’t be tested!  One’s name, according to Dale Carnegie, is the most important word of all.  He’s right–who doesn’t look up when an employee with the same name is called, at Wal-Mart or Albertsons?  But there weren’t even two billion people, when he wrote that book.  Now, there are six billion, and by 2050, there’ll be eleven billion.  That’s a lot of names.

     I’ve never been scolded or scorned for lying, only telling the truth.  One summer, my family and I encountered a jubilee, near Fort Morgan–crabs, hundreds of them.  We quit, after scooping up three hundred, with dip nets.  At a gas station, on the way back to our rented cabin, we met a man with a dozen large Spanish mackerel.  Dad worked a deal–fifty crabs for all the fish.  “It was great!” I chirped, to the stranger, “We got three hundred crabs!”  He looked at Dad, but let it go.  After we got back in the car, Dad said, “When are you going to learn to keep your mouth shut, Scott?”

     Well, I’ve finally learned.  I keep secrets from him!

     I dreamed I had sex with Grandma–at age forty-two.  Would you think better of me if I typed, made love?  Sex, alone, is not love.  Peter Gabriel sings, “Only love can make love,” and I agree.  But we humans are incestuous, by nature–although subconsciously.

     This is why the first taboo is incest, not cannibalism.  Still, I loved her, most of the time.

     Grandma ____, in whose house I live, had a better figure than Grandmother Pyle, who was petite–not my favorite type.  Grandma wasn’t as pretty–at least in the typical sense.  She didn’t have a perky nose.  But she was beautiful, nonetheless–Mom says she resembled Loretta Young.  And she was a real grandmother–generous, humble, good-humored, and kind.  Grandmother Pyle was aloof, self-righteous, rigid, and condescending.  My family thinks otherwise, of course–especially because Grandmother Pyle happened to die on November 1st, All Saints Day!

     I finally selected a DVD–a dark comedy called Black Sheep.  The promo on the box reads:  “There are 40 million sheep in New Zealand…and they’re pissed off!”  I’ve seen half, and am quite amused, as expected.  People equate darkness with evil, among other things.  But God has a dark side, so they have no right to do so.  A Hindu passage reads, “Lord…lead me from darkness to light.”  In this case, darkness is ignorance, and light knowledge.  But a Bible verse reads:  “…Moses left the people, and went into the darkness, where God was.”  If you want to see the dark side of God, watch a nature documentary.  There’s a national park, in Canada, called Wood Buffalo.  There, wolves still thrive, along with bison, their prey.  Wolves eat the sick and the young.  But when none are available, they eat healthy adults.  They do this by surrounding a bison, as it crosses a stream.  They eat it alive, which is the only way.  Each wolf tears strips from the bison, until full.  Yes, God has a dark side.  And it is not to be loved or hated–only accepted and respected.

     Kat von D., a tattooed woman, smiles over me, from my den door.  I never would have thought she would, because I was turned off by tattoos on women.  But this woman, covered with them, is just too beautiful to shun!  In fact, tattoos on women no longer disgust me.  Lifting her skirt, Kat reveals Beethoven–front and side view.  Unlike most celebrities, today, she is not underweight–but perfectly formed.  In fact, she looks like Grandma, in her youth.  Maybe that’s why I dreamed of her, maybe not.  Kat’s long hair is black, just like her dress, her bra, and her shoes.  Her belt is red though, to match the rose in her hair.

     As with music, film, and literature, I live through phases with women, which eventually connect into circles.  Now I’m in a brown phase, in which all my fantasy-girls have brown (or black) hair, and brown eyes–and blondes, whom I used to favor, seem bland!

     Even real women fit this mood–as proven at a dance Friday night.  This time, there were women my age, and younger!  Still–old, charming, better-dressed men made their moves on my selected brunettes, before I had enough Guinness Draught to do so!  I hate being forty-two–older women call me too young, younger women call me too old!  Maybe this is the dark side of God, at work–as if to overtake my dark side!  And only another Hindu passage sustains me:  “You have but the right to perform action; you have no hold on the results thereof.  May you not seek the rewards of action, and may you never engage in wrong action.”  I have no hold on the results of my actions, thus I am comforted.  For resigning oneself to the moment attracts peace.

     My last hearing test revealed deafness in my right ear, specifically toward high-pitched sounds.  The doctor suggested that next time, if I have the same results, I get a hearing aid.  Well that was years ago, and I’ve never returned.  Why should I–what good is bad news?  And I don’t need a hearing aid yet.  This could be something inherent–my sister, Elaine, is now deaf in her left ear, though she’s never been around incessant noise.  But in my case I know the cause–my stereo.  I enjoy music from every place and time.  And whether it’s soft or hard, light or heavy, I always need abundant volume–the only way I can fully experience the music.  Thank God for remote control–it enables some adjustment.  But I always end up at the loud end.

     We all need ritual.  Mine is drinking to music, after every meal–coffee or tea.  In fact, I accompanied my morning coffee with more of the Interview with the Vampire soundtrack, less than an hour ago.  This is the third round of the same CD.  I do that with each of them, until it gets boring.  Sometimes I play it again, weeks later, sometimes I don’t.  As mentioned, I live through phases.  I think everyone does, really.

     My television’s quite safe, though.  It only goes to sixty-three, on the volume scale, though I keep it at sixty-two to avoid damage to the set.  Black Sheep still rests in the DVD slot–I haven’t finished it.  This movie is easier to hear than most–probably because there are no parties.  Just as in real life, I have a difficult time making out what is said in movie crowds.  But I refuse to employ subtitles, unless of course a film is in another language.  The reason:  If I start using subtitles, I’ll never stop.  It’s like that with my weight.  I am morbidly obese, but realize that, if I got in one of those scooters at Wal-Mart, I’d never get out.  With most DVDs, I only understand seventy-five percent of what is said.  And that’s when I listen with my eyes.

     What if I lose all hearing in my right ear?  Well, I’d rather be totally deaf, than even half blind.  And the music–it will remain, in my mind.  Even when strolling, I never use a Walkman anymore.  Melody after melody plays in my head, without one.  In fact, most of the time, any day or night, my life has a soundtrack all its own.

     Yet now I see sunlit oaks outside my living-room window.  And this, perhaps, is how listening with my eyes is best defined.

YE SHALL KNOW THEM BY THEIR FRUITS

Last night, I encountered an unintentionally hilarious bumper sticker:

Stop, drop, and roll won’t work in Hell!

And it got me thinking of other such slogans I’ve encountered here in Pensacola, Florida (nicknamed the Buckle of the Bible Belt).  What do these people hope to accomplish with such garbage?  It’s certainly not appealing to non-Christians.  My mom always says, “You can draw more flies with honey than with vinegar,” and the above bumper sticker slogan is certainly vinegar.  It’s meant to terrify, not to attract.  People who display such garbage are not, in my opinion, truly concerned about your soul.  Rather, they are control-freaks who enjoy frightening you into submission to their twisted religious doctrine.  And it is just more evidence, to me, that Jesus had nothing to do with Christianity. 

Paul (whom I’ve never liked, even when I was Christian) states, “…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”  Really?  Then why are Christians (people “in Christ”) no different than anyone else?  Why do they produce just as much evil as non-Christians?  And why do they suffer just as much as non-Christians?  Another bumper sticker I’ve encountered attempts to answer these questions:

Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.

This one refutes Paul’s statement–Christians aren’t “new creatures”, after all.  But they are forgiven.  Of course they’re forgiven no matter what they do, simply because of what they believe.  Likewise people who are not Christian are not forgiven, no matter what they do, simply because of what they believe.

In the Gospels, Jesus teaches that you can know people by their fruits.  If they’re rotten fruit trees, they produce rotten fruit; if they’re good fruit trees, they produce good fruit.  And all my life, I’ve seen alot of rotten fruit produced by alot of devout Christians.  The following are a few more examples–feel free to add to this pathetic, yet darkly amusing list.

If you don’t stop using my name in vain, I’m going to make the traffic slower!

Islam is of the Devil!

Where are you going when you die, Heaven or Hell!

Prepare to meet God!

Know Jesus, know peace–no Jesus, no peace!

Jesus didn’t die on the cross so you could hunt Easter eggs!

Find Jesus before he finds you!

THERE’S GOT TO BE A LIMIT

I was in the mood for Audrey Meadows and Joyce Randolph (Alice and Trixie on The Honeymooners), and was going to post a photo spread of both.  But I could only find one sufficiently large picture of Audrey Meadows, and none of Joyce Randolph.  So I scratched that plan.  Then I noticed something–the one picture of Audrey Meadows I’d downloaded was a Cosmopolitan cover, and I was shocked at how innocent it was! 

I’m by no means a prude, but there’s got to be a limit!  There are many reasons the United States, an empire in all but name, is falling, just as all empires before it.  Overexpansion of its military, outsourcing of its economy, depletion of its natural resources, failure to secure its borders, neglect of its social infrastructure, and its reluctance to employ capital punishment for capital crime (what I call the American Injustice System) are just a few.

But there’s one we least like to admit–moral decadence.  As a freshman in college, I remember a lecture about the fall of Rome–specifically Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  The professor listed the causes in Gibbon’s book (actually a multi-volume text).  One was “sin and debauchery”.  He argued against this, however, noting that moral decadence was a factor of the Roman Empire, from the beginning.  And he was right.  The Roman Empire was always morally questionable.  It was sexually perverse (though not nearly as much as the Alexandrian (Greek) Empire before it) and savagely violent (the most violent civilization in human history, in my opinion).  Perverse sexuality and unnecessary violence are how I define “sin and debauchery”.  But moral decadence had little to do with its fall, since that had always been present. 

Nevertheless, moral decadence was a major problem with Ancient Rome.  Though it may not have led to its fall, or even its decline, it certainly didn’t help!  I could focus on the violence in video games and popular music (rap, above all).  But you already know about that–and you already realize the perpetuation of violence through the American media is reprehensible. 

So let’s talk about sex (everybody’s favorite topic).  What I consider perverse sexuality you may not consider perverse.  But have you thought about excessive sex?  Have you thought about the fact that excessive sex in the American media is bombarding children, as well as adults?  I was probably at least eleven years old before I even heard the term, fuck.  Now, that’s one of the first words children learn.  When I was a kid, my great-great aunt remarked about the inappropriateness of the “bump” on the dance floor (in her words, “people bumping their bottoms together”).  Now, that seems innocent.  I can’t go to a bar anymore without seeing dirty-dancing–people practically having sex with their clothes on.  Hey, there’s nothing wrong with that in the bedroom–but in public? 

I could go on and on here, with examples of excessive sexuality in our society, particularly in the mass media.  But I don’t need to do so.  I only need to show you two covers of Cosmopolitan to make my point.

TWILIGHT TRADITION

In keeping with tradition, I’ve just finished watching Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1, on Blu-ray.  Before watching it, I expected to title this post Twilight Breaking Down.  But I was pleasantly surprised by the third sequel–and I look forward to seeing the final installment.

FROM THE FRIARS CLUB #9

And this is my favorite from the ninth segment of The Friars Club Encyclopedia of Jokes (categories under the letter, I):

A married woman is having an affair.  Whenever her lover comes over, she puts her nine-year-old son in the closet.  One day the woman hears a car in the driveway and puts her lover in the closet too.

Inside the closet, the little boy says, “It’s dark in here, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is,” the man replies.

“You wanna buy a baseball?” the little boy asks.

“No, thanks,” the man replies.

“I think you do want to buy a baseball,” the little extortionist continues.

“Okay.  How much?” the man replies after considering the position he is in.

“Twenty-five dollars,” the little boy replies.

“Twenty-five dollars!” the man repeats incredulously, but complies to protect his hidden position.

The following week, the lover is visiting the woman again when she hears a car in the driveway and, again she puts her lover in the closet with her little boy.

“It’s dark in here, isn’t it?” the boy starts off.

“Yes, it is,” replies the man.

“Wanna buy a baseball glove?” the little boy asks.

“Okay.  How much?” the hiding lover responds, acknowledging his disadvantage.

“Fifty dollars,” the boy replies and the transaction is completed.

The next weekend, the little boy’s father says, “Hey, son.  Go get your ball and glove and we’ll play some catch.”

“I can’t.  I sold them,” replies the little boy.

“How much did you get for them?” asks the father, expecting to hear the profit in terms of lizards and candy.

“Seventy-five dollars,” the little boy says.

“Seventy-five dollars!  That’s thievery!  I’m taking you to the church right now.  You must confess your sin and ask for forgiveness,” the father says as he hauls the child away.

At the church, the little boy goes into the confessional, draws the curtain, sits down, and says, “It’s dark in here, isn’t it?”

“Don’t you start that shit in here now,” the priest says.

FROM THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS #8

Another question from Gregory Stock’s book is this:

You have the power to go any distance into the future and, after one year, return to the present with any knowledge you have gained from your experience but with no physical objects.  Would you make the journey if it carried a 50 percent risk of death?

Absolutely!

And if I had twelve hours to prepare, here’s what I’d do:  I’d gather hard copies of all my writings (poetry and prose), put them in a traveling bag, and place the bag next to the front door.  Then I’d withdraw half the money in my savings account, in hundred-dollar bills.  Next, I’d record the transaction, and get dressed in my finest clothes–making sure to pack my wallet, with my identification and cash.  Then I would have dinner at the best seafood restaurant in town (preferably with a friend), and drink at least six beers.  Finally, I’d return home, lock the front door behind me, grab the bag containing my writings–and make the journey.

What if I had no time to prepare–would I still make the journey?

Absolutely!

 


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