Archive for September, 2008

Silently Fighting Stupidity

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I will be silent for one week, my friends, as I’m not in stupidity-fighting mode. One of my closest and dearly loved stuper (short for a suffocatingly stupid person) fighting comrades passed away a few days ago: my grandmother. Granted, she was ninety-one, but I still find it quite a shock to my system.

I have always had the good fortune and pleasure of living within short distance of my grandparents and mother. I could not have asked for anything better than that.

My grandmother was a strong-willed, wise, loving and fearless person. Whenever my sister and I were victimized by stuper relatives, she was the one we went to for support. She always told us the same thing,

“You should love everyone!”

Then she’d pick up the phone, call the idiot transgressor and let them have it. In a firm, yet nice and oddly reassuring fashion. She was our shield.

At the end of the week, I will attend her funeral services. I am summoning up all my fortitude and mental stamina. Some of you veteran readers may recall what happened at my grandfather’s memorial when I inadvertently entered a parallel universe. This time I plan to be better prepared.

Life is a state of consciousness.


Health and Stupidity

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

There’s nothing like an ill-timed cold sore, prominently displayed on the bottom lip, to put life in proper perspective.

I considered wearing a veil on the lower half of my face, but the sudden wardrobe shift would only heighten the curiosity of stupers (short, yet again, for corrosively stupid persons) and likely attract them in droves.

In the distant past, I’ve suffered from head-splitting migraines, vigorous teeth clenching, even a dime-sized cyst most inconveniently placed, front and center, atop my chest, as well as frayed nerves. My wall of sanity wobbled. I practically rolled out a welcome mat inviting meager minds to freely plant their idiot seeds inside my head resulting in my irritation. Without fail, every time I allowed such a disturbance, something unpleasant, a disorder or minor but vexing disfiguration, paid me a visit. I call this period, The Straightjacket Years.

As my wall became more durable, I freed myself from needless suffering and unsightly blemishes. Yet, as I sit before you, my lower lip is hosting a cold sore.

My dearest, most practical readers are probably frantically waving their arms right about now, trying desperately to get my focused attention and point out that fever blisters or cold sores are actually caused by a virus not a stuper. But I know better.

It’s true that such viruses lie dormant until triggered by fever, cold or other viral infection, exposure to sun and wind or…stress. And what kind of empty-headed, wholly dysfunctional, Darwinian nightmare promotes stress? The stuper kind.

I don’t know how many of you actually appreciate what I just did: subtly stated a hypothesis, provided evidence and confirmed it in a matter of three seconds.

When we are subjected to the inane antics of stupers or their verbal bullets, the key is to get the bullets to ricochet off yourself and hit the dullard back squarely between his glazed eyes, hopefully stimulating frozen brain cells. Either that or find a way to neutralize the assault so that you remain unaffected.

In my latest bout involving stupidity and the cold sore, the stuper involved was myself once again. My own stupidity cleared a space for the virus to land.

A few days ago, I assisted Son #2 with a Physics Lab. Physics was the only course in high school for which I received a less than exemplary mark. In all fairness, it was my last semester; I’d already been accepted to University, and I had more exciting causes to champion.

A lab that was supposed to take sixty minutes, took us four, frustration-filled hours. By hour two, I’d developed a hair-trigger temper, a sudden, alarming perfectionist complex and ultimately, a cold sore two days later. If I’d stayed open-minded and patient, we would have been fine, and I would not have regressed to stuper standing. But I panicked, undermining my own sanity and promoting stress. Now I bear the degrading stamp of the cold sore for all to view.

Many modern ailments are the result of mental distress and disturbances. Our state of mind affects our health and produces maladies. I offer Exhibit A: Myself.

Our negative thoughts and emotions permit the entry of germs and viruses into our body in what is referred to by medical experts as lowered resistance. The opposite is also true.

Often issues that seem momentarily important change over time. Was it more important for me to enjoy time spent with my child or to build a mechanically correct replica of a calorimeter out of Styrofoam cups? It’s imperative to evaluate situations with clarity and wisdom in order to stave off stress and maintain sanity.




A Vote Against Stupidity

Saturday, September 20th, 2008

While the Country is in the midst of Wall Street bailouts and government negotiations to take over hundreds of billions in bad loans, I calmly and steadfastly continue to wage a ceaseless war against stupidity and stupers (short for unvaryingly stupid persons). Unfortunately, this has taken me more time than planned this past week, so in lieu of my usual post, I provide you with a news brief that features yours truly.

1.2758 of my dear 3.5 readers have questioned my bid for the Presidency. This short report should put all inquiries to rest:

Now you can sleep at night.

An empty head is not really empty; it is just stuffed with rubbish. Hence the difficulty of forcing anything into an empty head. ~ Eric Hoffer

Thinking takes effort.

The Inner Stuper or Ending Personal Stupidity

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

You are so dumb! Worthless, in fact. No one’s gonna read that!”

“Buzz off,” I reply, without looking up. I continue writing.

What makes you a so-called expert on stupidity? By the way, have you looked in the mirror? Is that a crevice between your brows or just a new wrinkle?”

“I said get lost! Now!” I speak more firmly this time. “I ain’t got no time for you.”

(Sometimes I slip into insufferable slang in order to really drive home a point).

Had you viewed this heated exchange, dear readers, you would have seen me, quietly sitting in front of the computer, using my best posture and thoughtfully engrossed in my writing. No, I did not run to look at myself in the mirror.

The barb-thrower was none other than yours truly. The brief, verbal wrestling match emanated from my own head: my inner negative critic and me. I usually don’t allow him to be heard, but I did for the sake of this post. This disparaging alter ego exists in many of us, excelling in planting fears and anxieties, magnifying insecurities and creating low self-esteem that makes us doubt ourselves. It’s the stuper (short, once again, for an impertinently stupid person) in each of us.

I call this vitriolic voice, Ling, thanks to a stupernatural encounter, many years ago. When I was in my early twenties, a psychic, Matilda, approached me, laughing uncontrollably. Matilda explained,

“There’s a chubby, Chinese guy standing right behind you. Ling’s so funny!”

At the time, I was standing alone. Apparently, Ling was an apparition only a psychic could appreciate. I decided to humor her. “What’s he saying?”

Matilda only continued laughing, erupting into such elongated hysterics, I gave up and walked away. But I took Ling with me. He became the personification of the nasty, disruptive voice existing in my consciousness that tries to bring me down. Ling seemed like the perfect name. Miserable, argumentative, pudgy and possibly a member of the Communist party, always greedily criticizing and complaining with his mouth full, trying to wreck havoc by relentlessly pushing me off track. Appearing whenever I felt vulnerable.

“You look fat in those pants!”

“How can I?” I reply calmly. “I weigh the same as I did in high school.”

In the early days, I let Ling do his job. My confidence was undermined. I routinely called myself an idiot, wondered how I’d ever get the job I wanted, felt I was never good enough and so forth. When I managed to get the dream job, I was paranoid that I’d lose it.

Everyone wants your job,” Ling hissed. “Did I mention that you’re freakish to be having such a conversation?”

And so it was until one day, I decided to talk back to that irritating inner voice.

“I’m not listening to you anymore. If you’ve got something positive to share, then we’ll talk. Otherwise, farewell.”

The self criticisms didn’t go away that easily, but slowly and vigilantly, I silenced the intrusive inner commentary. I pictured my mind as a bus with me as driver and all the little denunciations as passengers, trying to take over the driver’s seat. If I let them, my bus would crash. My aim was to reduce the wretched, whining passengers until all the nasties were thrown out. So if I heard a negative thought, I’d see it as an undesirable rider and hurl him out by the seat of his baggy pants, while working on convincing the rest to proceed in a positive direction. It worked.

We owe it to ourselves to speak kindly in our minds. Our happiness and personal progress depends largely on our own efforts. We should strive harder to train our minds to think positively to develop the best in each of us.

Guard your mind.


Stupidity Forgets Names

Saturday, September 13th, 2008

How many times have you forgotten a person’s name moments after you’ve been introduced? Don’t worry, such forgetfulness does not necessarily make one a stuper (short for an abjectly stupid person). However, if you continually (a minimum of three times) persist in forgetting a person’s name, getting it wrong or mispronouncing it after being reminded each and every time, then you are indeed wholeheartedly and wholeemptyheadedly a stuper. I should add that if you forget a unique or challenging name (for instance, Hephaestus or Saoirse), then continually is redefined to mean persistent forgetfulness a minimum of twelve times. Note, also, that this implies regular contact with the one whose name is neglected.

My friend, Ben, has an easy name. A deaf, one-eyed mariner could get it, even with a twitch in his good eye. I suppose there are those that could mispronounce it, giving it a long e sound in the middle or thinking the n was silent as in “know” (I realize I’m really stretching here; I do try to look at all options). But after being corrected, an authentic human should get it right.

Ben attended a local fundraiser and gave his name to a new acquaintance, Peter. Ben also wore a nametag clearly printed “Ben.” After they chatted, Peter said,

“Nice to meet you, Steve!”

Peter was not inebriated and appeared mentally sound, according to Ben. When they conversed, Peter spoke coherently and did not behave like a stuper.

Ben saw Peter a few days later at a meeting they both attended. Peter again called Ben, “Steve.”

Ben told me,

“I informed Peter very clearly that my name was not Steve. I told him slowly and clearly that I was called Ben. We talked for a few minutes, said goodbye and once again Peter said, ‘Bye Steve!’ I repeated my name firmly, but politely. The next time I saw Peter, I was still Steve. I’ll be seeing Peter again since we move in the same circles. I like talking to him, but I also like being called by my own name. What am I supposed to do?”

You can see how Peter got the names confused. They’re so similar. Steve and Ben. Jay and Jake. Ken and Kent. Ben and Steve. Anyone could trip over those. If that anyone is a stuper.

Stupers suffer from a preoccupation with themselves, meaning they listen to others intermittently, if at all. It’s selfishness, really, caused by a lack of understanding as well as disinterest. Short of gifting Peter with a long, thick chain to wear around the neck which Ben could soundly yank each time Peter called Ben by the wrong name, I suggested Ben take Peter aside and try this monologue:

Ben: Hey, Pete, it’s good to see you! It’s me, Ben! I was just telling myself, you know, Ben, you really should take Peter to lunch sometime. But then, I thought, Ben, Peter’s a busy man…

My point is that in order to get a stuper to remember your name: repeat. Then repeat again. And again, but do it at intervals or it may be too much for the profoundly vacant mind to process. Also, in Ben’s case, he could attempt to create a picture for Peter in this manner:

Ben: My name is Ben. You know, like the Big Clock. I actually think I may be a direct descendant of Ben Franklin. Do you know who sang that hit song, “Ben?”

These pictures may take form, stimulating the stuper mind to utilize his idle memory. In this way, Peter may actually remember Ben’s name.

If any of my dear readers should find themselves forgetting the name of a new acquaintance, I suggest truthfulness.

“I’m sorry, what was your name again?” or “Am I pronouncing it correctly?” 

People do like to hear their names spoken. Why not make a point of getting it right? It takes a little thought and immediately elevates you to the status of a thinker.

If we think kindly, we become kind. If we think cruelly, we become cruel. If we don’t think, we become stupers.

Just think.



Editorial Stupidity

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

How many of you know what a Slip N Slide is?

I used one today, and I didn’t get wet. I didn’t even mess up my carefully coiffured hair. Because my Slip N Slide occurred, not on a long sheet of thin plastic flanked lengthwise by a heat-sealed tubular fold that attaches to an ordinary garden hose, making the surface very slippery, but inside my own head. It was a turbulent ride.

It started this morning when I received an e-mail rejection note from a nameless editor at Smithsonian magazine regarding an article proposal I’d sent them via their website. The mistakes in the e-mail practically sent me to the emergency room and clearly revealed who’d responded to my web proposal. Witness the subject line:

“RE: Wep Proposal”

What is a “Wep” proposal, dear readers? A stuper (short, once more, for an unblushingly stupid person) had struck again. Please note that the P key is nowhere near the B key on our keyboards (however, this may be significantly different on the keyboard of a stuper).

Never mind that he/she also misspelled the title of my piece. I was under the impression that Smithsonian put forth a magazine read by thinkers; those who had a mind and used it. I presumed that the people behind the scenes were thinkers as well. I am so naive.

Just in case “Wep” was a meaningful word, and I was the stuper, I looked up the definition on the Internet and here’s what I discovered:

Wep: Security protocol for wireless local area networks, blah, blah, blah…

I scrolled down and, towards the end of the definition, read this:

Used at the two lowest layers…

Ah ha! Now it made some sense. Someone who only utilized the two lowest layers of their brain had responded to my web proposal.

There were no errors in the boiler-plate, three sentence response. The only mistakes occurred outside the body of the e-mail, in the few parts that required some effort  – my title and the subject. I realize that the assistant to the assistant to the underling editor’s secretary probably read glanced at my piece, as they do get a multitude of queries, but even so, I dared hope for a dash of editorial finesse. I can be so demanding.

Thus began my downward mental slide. I took tiny steps backwards, tripping down a steep hill, my arms helplessly flailing, broken windmill-like. I began to harbor negative thoughts and included a dash of outrage for extra emphasis of my plight.

Fortunately, it didn’t last longer than a few minutes. I’ve learned to switch gears rapidly in order to accomplish my goals.

Go to fullsize imageThe best way to snap out of a negative mode is to take action. I don’t mean, in this case, track down the idiot assistant and make him/her write “Web” 5,000,000 times, tempting as it may be; I do mean take positive action. Send the article somewhere else (which is what I did) or work on making your piece even better. I think my writing skills have progressed, thanks to the many rejections I’ve received. I’ve often managed to get articles that were initially rejected by undoubtedly idiot editors (I am not bitter!), published elsewhere, probably because I worked a bit harder on making them better.

Negative interactions should make us think of ways to improve ourselves. Lapsing into a rage, despair or irritation does not = progress.



When Stupidity Spends My Money Before I’ve Paid

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

A few months ago, a foxtail, the size of a pumpkin seed, became embedded in the paw of our young German Shepherd, Barbie. Barbie put on a brave face, insisting it didn’t bother her; meanwhile, the paw started to swell. A trip to the veterinarian was necessary.

I was grateful it was Barbie and not our Aussie Shepherd, Rio. Rio loathes the vet. He loathes other dogs, cats, rabbits and all animals at the vet’s office. He loathes people in and around the vet’s office; the beige linoleum floor particularly gets on his nerves. Thus, Rio stays in the car. The vet must come to him, and even then, Rio will allow himself to be touched only after the vet showers him with treats. Rio loves bribes. Could be he was a civil servant in another life. Rio, whom we adopted from a shelter, may have been the victim of stupers (short, yet again, for abominably stupid persons)or worse; his questionable behavior stems from leftover scars.

At the vet’s office, Barbie sat nicely on the floor. She politely permitted the receptionist to pet her; she thought the linoleum floor felt cool and didn’t complain. And she pleasantly greeted the other dogs and their owners. In short, she willingly cooperated…until she met Dr. D.

Dr. D appeared innocuous enough. Picture a short Santa without the beard and red get-up. Barbie decided this pudgy fellow would look much better somewhere else…like in another building, and she proceeded to convince him of that. She barked, growled and did everything in her power to display her wayward feelings toward him. Consequently, she had to be sedated.

I left and returned hours later to pick up my little friend. I did. Then I waited to pay the bill. Dr. D happened to be sitting behind the receptionist. He was on the telephone. His conversation went like this:

“Louie? Dr. D. here. Go ahead on that remodel. I decided to expand the family room, after all. (Laughs) Yeah, I need lots of room for the grandkids. I know it’s gonna cost more money, but let’s use the Portuguese, hand-painted ceramic tile…”

And so on. I started to sweat. Just how much did one foxtail removal cost?

I ended up paying enough to tile the entire family room, with leftover pieces to use as decorative trivets for a large dinner party. Barbie gave me a groggy, “I told you so” look. I vowed never to return to the money-hungry Dr. D again.

Any professional who cannot wait for his clients to pay and exit before announcing how he was going to use the money is a stuper. Dr. D displayed thoughtlessness and preoccupation with material gain rather than concern for his patient’s well-being. If he’d just taken the few minutes he’d spent on the phone with his contractor and used them instead on Barbie and me, all of us would have felt satisfaction. And Barbie would have remained his patient.

Think first, last and always.


The Hours of Operation of Stupidity

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

One of my favorite childhood memories, besides being ignorant of the very existence of stupers (short, once more, for earnestly stupid persons) recalls visits to a breathtakingly beautiful and serene sanctuary. This Shangri-La showcased a swan-laden lake, flanked by soft pathways winding around lush green gardens sheltering fragrant, multi-hued flowers. Did I mention the quaint windmill chapel? The gurgling waterfalls?

The Self-Realization Fellowship and Lake Shrine is a haven that welcomes people of all faiths, promoting quiet introspection and appreciation, as well as escape from the raw frets of everyday life and exasperating bouts with stupidity. The Center is to seekers of harmony and tranquility what Las Vegas is to chain-smoking, whiskey-toting, greasy-pawed gamblers.

Fast-forward a few decades.

Husband, Son #2 and I happened to be in Los Angeles, near the Shrine. We paid a visit. It was even more stunningly picturesque than I remembered. I felt a major comforting, spiritual vibe.

A few months later, Husband and I once again paid the Shrine a visit. We arrived at 4:15 p.m. on a gorgeous Saturday.

“Sorry,” said the nice, droopy mustached, parking lot gatekeeper. “I can’t you let in. We close in fifteen minutes.”

“You close at 4:30 on a Saturday afternoon during the summer?” I asked just to make sure we understood each other.

“We close at 4:30 everyday,” the sweet, young man declared with a friendly grin.

Two days later, on Monday, we returned in the late morning hours. They were closed. The gates are locked every Monday.

Several months after that, I happened to be in the vicinity and tried again, persistent seeker of peace that I am, toting Mom and Son #2. I gingerly drove into the parking lot on a bright Saturday, around noon. The very pleasant gatekeeper waved one hand in greeting while the other displayed a large sign like this,

“We’re having a special event today,” he graciously announced.

“So you’re closed?” I asked, with little surprise and several tons of annoyance.

“Only the parking lot is closed. You’re still welcome to visit,” he laughingly explained. “Just go out the driveway, make a right, then make another left on the first street on your left and there should be parking two or three blocks down.”

This is the part where I tell my dear readers that I did a donut with my car in the freshly asphalted, ample-size Shrine parking lot, but alas, I did not. My highly impressionable teen for whom I must perpetually set a good example sat in my vehicle, as well as Mom, who probably would have enjoyed the amateur automotive theatrics. By the way, there were plenty of empty spaces in the lot.

For those of you unfamiliar with Southern California, permit me to explain why I would not and could not park up the street or anywhere outside of the Shrine grounds. The Shrine is located on Sunset Boulevard on a blind corner. Sunset, at times, is the rough equivalent of the German Autobahn. It’s true; I sought peace, but I did not want to rest in peace just yet. Crossing Sunset without benefit of traffic lights or police escort was on my never to do list.

A soothing mecca should be readily available to the spiritually needy. Otherwise, what’s the point? This slice of paradise in the city was not easily accessible by the proletariat or anyone overloaded by stress. But more importantly for now, what is my point?

In modern times and throughout human history, a struggle has existed between humans, their activities, desires and ambitions. Why the struggle? Because most of us seek answers outside of ourselves. Of course, stupers don’t even seek answers. But the rest of us do. I felt I needed to be in a particular setting to find harmony. But peace of mind is something that already exists within each of us.

Mental tranquility can’t be won over by brief or superficial efforts. We need to weed out bitter thoughts on a regular basis and plant loving ones instead. Then we create our own lush gardens that follow us wherever we go.

Think only the best thoughts.