Letter to Kate McKinnon (Departing SNL)


Dearest Kate,

It pains me to see you leaving SNL, more than it pained me to see so many other favored personalities go over the years. In just a few brisk years, you went from being an odd duck to a woman I both fear and love at the same time; fear you when you decide to play outspoken old men and audacious lesbians; love you when you’re more lady-like (ha) and just generally and undeniably funny. You’ve worn so many faces…you should probably have a statue at the studio.

[Don’t expect me to name any of your characters; I cannot remember their names. But, I enjoyed the pet (cat) shop saleswoman who always had a slightly dumber partner to show off cats…your desperate last-call bar fly who occasionally resorted to using plastic wrap for protection (though I had no interest in seeing you swap spit and tongue rolls with so many other bar flies)…your German leader who frequently referenced her “oo-mails”…and whatever sort of artsy foreigner you were, paired with Cecily Strong, wearing those equally odd yet intriguing black-and-white outfits. I believe I have a picture I snapped with my camera, while sitting by the TV. Your outfit was odd. But, overall, you looked nice…yea, sure, Cecily looked great, too; I love her combo.]


And, here you are…on trial, apparently, instead of Amber Heard, who currently is still in a courtroom somewhere.  [This was for a Ghostbusters promotion?]

Kate McKinnon

July 8, 2016 – Hollywood, California, U.S. – Kate McKinnon stars in Ghostbusters and Saturdaynight Live

[And, where, when, why was THIS one taken?  You probably don’t consider yourself a model…but you do just fine.]


Why does anyone leave the cast of SNL? Amassing quarrels with the boss? Getting too funny/rich for your own good? What is the reason?

I know you’ve done a few commercials. You’ve been in a movie or two. So have a number of “alumni.” I guess this is all routine. You start out a budding funny face, hoping to get more than a skit or two on SNL. Then you get outside work and get kicked to the curb, replaced by people with greater ethnic balance to aid the show’s “fresh” rating for being “open to all kinds.” ‘Gotta keep working the PR to keep SNL alive.

Oh, Kate. Why does this wound me so deeply? Clearly, you’ve opted to give up on men. Yet, here I am, a heterosexual man deeply infatuated (if not in love) with your wit and charming face (when you look feminine). [I don’t need to see any scary sewer clowns or possessed politicians/campaign assistants.]

Like I already said, there have been other women to leave SNL and wound my heart. But, none of them hold a candle to your array of characters. Others may have had one or two running gags to secure their place in my heart. But, you’re just a fountain of possibilities. And, that doesn’t come along, often.

You’d likely do well with a variety show of your own, if you could swing it. I think you’d give 1970s-1980s Carol Burnett a run for her money with the right cast. Could you rope in Dana Carvey and Mike Meyers? [I know; Maya Rudolph tried and didn’t do very well. But, you’re not her.]

So, where DO you go from here? I’m going to sound like a guy you meet on a street corner, near one of those steaming sewer vents and traffic lights. You got a place to stay? Where ya headed? I’d like to know. I really don’t want to see you disappear. And, commercials won’t cut it for me.

Please, stay in touch, if you could…if you would.


Writingbolt, a dear fan (and wishful-thinking boyfriend)

[With our wits put together, we’d knock the whole world senseless with laughter. They’d wet themselves and go into a coma. And, we’d rock the bedroom, too.]


Mistakes That Cannot Teach


When I was younger, I was seemingly raised to be a tense and worrisome perfectionist. I grew up worrying about every little scrape I might get and every red mark on a piece of homework and test. It didn’t occur to me until my teens that my family was trouble for my otherwise carefree soul.

I read about the “scarlet letter” and thought that was only something that happened to people from another time and place or when you did something so scandalous that people thought it was a sin. But, not every “scarlet letter” comes from sin. It can come from more common peer pressure, just for being different. And, it can be placed upon yourself when you feel like something you did wrong cannot be undone.

I’ve heard more than once that it’s okay to make mistakes because you are supposed to learn from them. But, how do you learn from a mistake that cannot be amended?

If you fail to do something at a once-in-a-lifetime moment, how can you learn anything? If there is such a thing as reincarnation, odds are you won’t remember the mistake you made–if the opportunity reappears for some strange repeating-life reason–unless you get hit with deja vu in time to spare the repeat mistake.

If there is only one of something in a game or your world, and you miss, break or lose it, it’s gone. If it’s “only a game,” there’s a chance you MIGHT be able to start over, retrace your steps and get that rare opportunity, again. But, it’s not guaranteed in every game. Especially with modern video-gaming, there are times when an opportunity cannot be reset, when an event or brief chance to get something comes and goes away. You didn’t see the notice? You didn’t participate in the week-long event? It’s gone. You missed it…and all that came with the opportunity.

What do you learn from that? If you came across another one-of-a-kind person, item or other opportunity, how would you know it’s that rare or precious until it’s gone? Would losing one one-of-a-kind something enforce you to grab everything and everyone that comes into your life from the moment you know you missed one? Wouldn’t that just as likely make you excessively tense and greedy and lead to hoarding? You could end up with a home full of stuff and a social life full of people you don’t need just because you felt a need to secure each and every one/thing that came within reach.

Some would say forget calling the incident a mistake. So, what then DO you call it? A…MISSED OPPORTUNITY? Is that any better? Do those two words sound better than the previous one? I missed an opportunity; let it go. I made a mistake; let it go. Is there a difference?

It might seem tolerable to make such a mistake when it doesn’t affect your body and/or soul. But, what if it does? What if that once-in-a-lifetime mistake costs you a part of your body and/or leaves you handicapped? What if your mistake resulted in making you a monster or doomed you to an afterlife of torture? Or, what if it leaves you penniless and…soon enough…homeless? Sure, some who wind up homeless find a way back to “riches,” if Hollywood and professional-sport survival stories are true. But, that’s not a guarantee (for everyone).

Just out of curiosity, would you say Adam and Eve ate the forbidden apple (from the tree of knowledge in the Garden of Eden) because they were told it was a rare (and forbidden) opportunity or simply because they were hungry? The story seems to suggest they were curious about the forbidden tree or made curious by the serpent (not to mention God, who supposedly told them about the tree and warned them to avoid it) which ultimately coerces them to eat the apple.

Gee. They missed an opportunity to preserve their innocence and lost their paradise by eating some apple. Lesson learned. Right? MMmmm…I don’t know.

Surely, there were a number of apples in that tree. Was there only one moment in which Adam and Eve were safe to reach the tree? Could getting an apple have been like robbing a bank at which there is only a brief period when no security guard, camera and/or seal is protecting the loot? Was the tree or its apples going anywhere? Did the tree wither away or get up and leave the garden if Adam and Eve hesitated?

When Adam and Eve ate the apple, they “learned” about nudity and humility and were made to believe they had committed a terrible sin; the guilt-filled thoughts were put into their heads. When they left Eden, they had to learn how to survive, a second time/way. But, how could they learn from their biggest mistake if it never reappeared? It’s not like God was the sort of father who said, “I hope you’ve learned your lesson.” And, after that verbal bit, he just lets Adam and Eve back into the house. Adam and Eve didn’t get temporarily put in a corner or sent to bed without supper for one night.

Is there a second story about meeting a serpent in which Adam and Eve turned their noses and refused to be fooled, again?

There is a way to put all of this out of mind and attempt to return to that innocence Adam and Eve once knew. There is a saying. Life goes on…until it doesn’t…until it ceases, whether you did wrong or right.

Adam and Eve’s “mistake” did not end their lives but it took away their home in Eden. Life went on, bringing them a couple of crazy kids who couldn’t live together for long. And, many years later, here we are.

Is anything worth calling a mistake or missed opportunity? We have SOME control. Yet, even that remains uncertain. We can avoid things that do harm. But, we cannot guarantee avoiding one thing won’t cause another.

Maybe, the next time you do something “wrong,” whether it’s in a one-time-only video game or something closer to home/your precious life, you could dismiss the thought of guilt with three simple words.

Life goes on.

Well, not every life story ends like Disney’s Frozen. Does it? The people we hurt don’t always forgive and/or survive the harm we cause. Spirits of the fallen don’t magically reappear in visible (blue) form to smile and forgive us (even if some of us are fortunate enough to have visions). Some “ice” doesn’t seem to melt. Can we all just…let it go?

If only putting these “little stumbles” out of mind was easier. But, if it was…easier…we might become exceedingly careless and ruin everything for everyone even quicker than we already seem to be doing.

Now, you might be wondering what prompted me to write all of this at this time. Or, I just made you curious, like the serpent in Eden. Well…it’s a video game I (foolishly) played. I made a mistake. [Some would say it was a mistake to even start the game, like Jumanji.] And, the only way to undo that mistake would be to erase all the saved data and start over…which would cost me countless hours of retracing my steps. At least, there is that chance. But, is it worth the time and effort? Still, I awoke this morning, thinking what a mistake I had made, and I couldn’t let it go.

I have made other mistakes, in video games and life, mistakes I cannot undo/fix, and it seems impossible to learn from them. I’m not going to have “another opportunity” unless I repeat this life…and I surely don’t want that, even if people in TV shows and movies say “I would do it all over and wouldn’t change a thing.” No. I cannot imagine reaching the end of this life and being okay with reliving it unless the end was so miraculously blissful that the value of the prize was worth the torment. Instead, as much as I try to forget the mistakes, they remain with me. And, maybe that’s a mistake, too. But, it’s what I do.

Tell me it’s a mistake, and I’ll add your complaint to the pile. Or, help me to forget the troubles and to find a happier path through what remains of this life.

Some days, I find myself looking at other animals in nature and wondering how much simpler life would be if I was one of them. How simply wonderful and carefree it must be to live life as a squirrel, hunting nuts and seeds, building nests and chasing mates. Then…I start to wonder if they don’t say the same thing about us humans. And, what if the life we think is simpler is just as vexing as our own?

Ain’t humanity grand? We are all just so darn grand special with our abundance of thoughts. Thanks, mom and dad, for eating that apple. [Happy parents’ day. Ka-runch.]


Biographical Mind Blown


Yesterday was Mother’s Day. But, I wasn’t feeling very…festive; which is normal for me, lately, considering how “low” I’ve becomes in holiday spirit from a growing disgust with merchandising and demand to cultivate an economy for the benefit of people who are not me. That about sums up the feeling in so few words.

So, I’m totally not into Mother’s Day, just getting through the day with family coming, going and calling (on the phone). I disappoint my mother one more year; big deal. [Don’t even get me started on our relationship as mother and son.] And, as the night wears on, I find myself drawn to TV and this one channel that seems to be featuring a serious of biographies on famous names that have come and gone.

Last night, it was all about authors. My mind was quickly and repeatedly blown by all of the revelations that came with reviewing the lives of people I have read little about, writers of books I struggle to read and digest with any enthusiasm, with the exception of A Christmas Carol, which I consider almost as great a work as the book of Genesis in the Bible. [Just hearing that would probably stoke the fire of Dickens who wished his works would all be as grand as a colorful Bible with text, pictures and a grand cover design. Was the previous a run-on sentence? I wonder; anyway.] I learned–or, at least, think I learned, provided the information provided wasn’t skewed in any way to favor the interests/outlooks of those giving the presentations–so much about Dickens and less about Poe and Hemmingway; I felt like a kid at Christmas, sitting up all night just staring at the night sky from a frosted window, thinking about all that was and might have been. I imagined myself hugging a big, colorful storybook full of pictures and fancy penmanship and found myself drifting into rapid-firing thoughts, just as I did as a wishful kid, wondering what I could achieve with my own creativity.

Though each of the three authors I just mentioned lived in separate “neighborhoods” and different times (though there is only a slight separation between Poe and Dickens), they had similar outcomes and experiences. They were all discouraged by the world around them. Life, at the time, as it often seems now, was dismal and disappointing. It was a struggle for anyone who wasn’t seemingly handed money, status and power…or for anyone who didn’t have the sort of brain that looked at life as a simple matter of buying and selling.

These famous authors were not the sort of people who managed money well and, though ambitious once they were sufficiently prompted by publishers and neighbors, didn’t have the mindsets to turn their creativity into a profitable business model. They didn’t have the capacity for buying a social-media start-up after starting a delivery-based business or making cars just to get enough fire going to then take ownership of a grocery-store chain. Instead, they had a far more humble fire to be creative and show off their work which clashed with a machine that could only do so much with its own mindset and limited technology. The businesses these talents had to work with to get financial stability did not agree with them and tried to mold the talents into cogs (in the machine). They had families which either suffered from slaving just to get by (or out of debt worth imprisoning a parent) or died too soon from plagues (and war).

In that hard, miserable time, they found a desire to create something. And, once someone took notice of their talent and prompted them to do something with it, they became seduced by a dream and, soon after, miserable, in some ways, from what became their reality. As much as they enjoyed knowing people liked reading their creative works, they hated how the publishing business worked, how it tried to curb and cut apart their creations, how it denied the fullness of their creative genius to be shared with the world. They hated dealing with anything outside of being that creative engine. Kids and wives went from being something every normal person had to have to being a chore and hassle to maintain, a reason to fear going into debt and becoming a public scandal (because now you were famous and going broke with a family you could not adequately support, just like your parents and their parents before them). Their lives became all about turning torment and just about every waking thought they had into something worth reading and visualizing (if you didn’t have access to drawings from “Boz” which was Dickens’ artistic alter ego, so he didn’t get in trouble for poking fingers at other people with his sometimes harsh caricatures).

Even if the publishers were not putting pressure on them, they put pressure on themselves to do more, to make even better work than they had already crafted. At least, Dickens did; he was like Thomas Edison crossed with Stan Lee (Timely/Atlas/Marvel Comics); he was a zealous inventor of stories, even though many revolved very closely to his real life and circumstances. He had aspirations of re-inventing himself which unfortunately ended with an incomplete mystery novel. He died from a stroke in his 50s, trying to feverishly finish something he had not previously written, a new direction in literature.

I am not sure if Hemmingway felt all or much of that; I didn’t hear enough of his story. But, he certainly was not happy with how he turned out and was aging while trying to be consistently creative. And, he was so unhappy with the rest of the world that he ended his own life before he could become the old man on the sea, the very things he put and made famous in his creative output…unless he felt old, already, and was ready to cast himself into the sea because the world was so disappointing.

Another thing I found in common with the stories was a seemingly ignored, simple guideline all the talents could have followed to “stay afloat” and lived productive lives. It’s something that makes me continually wonder why those who have recently become so rich don’t ever stop grasping for more and simply enjoy what they got from what started as a seemingly simple “small” enterprise. These famous authors got the greatest attention from what seems like their smallest, simplest works. And, this is the key thought I want to convey to those who have the patience and capacity to process what I have to say here, today.

What’s the most famous thing you know Dickens wrote (if you even know that much)? A Christmas Carol. It’s only been made into a half-dozen slightly different movies over the past century, not to mention published numerous ways which would make Dickens’ head spin, when you think about how he struggled to get publishers to do what seems to come so easily these days. And, for what is Edgar Allen Poe best known? The Raven, which, in terms of his body of creative works, is a mere trifle of his talent.

Yet, those trifles of creative wonder, grim as they may be in at least one case, were enough to light the world ablaze with interest. It wasn’t the authors’ longest, driest work and output from reality that got the world’s attention. After all, they were unknowns living those lives they put on journal pages. No; it was a small, delicate sample of their talents that was enough to please the masses…at least, until the masses cried out for more, like little Oliver Twist (who was another metaphor for Dickens, who was said to be a child that contributed to his family’s poverty by consuming and wanting more from life than his family could provide, not because he was a spoiled, greedy child but because he was a growing fountain of creativity that demanded fuel to grow and prosper). And, if any creative soul could comprehend and settle for that small output and live off of that, they’d probably reach old age with a smile on their faces and arms full of happy family members. Instead, whether it’s their own unveiled human ambition or how they are prodded by masses and/or “the machine,” they slave away at their craft until they are overworked and more depressed than the bleak worlds they start in and which became settings in their works.

Those “old guys” were offered a chance to be published in small doses, in “magazines,” which were less expensive to print and more affordable to the masses who used what little money they made and free time they had from labors to read and/or page through something somewhat literary. The average reader that brought them fame was not someone with a ton of money or good business sense nor anyone who could afford a lavish hardcover book with golden accents, colorful paintings and a fabric bookmark. Wealthy people only managed books; they didn’t take time to read works of “fiction” (even if that fiction was “close to home”).

Okay. I’m going to be quite honest and put this on the table, right now. I only caught the very end of Hemmingway’s story, most of Dickens’ story and a chunk of the first half of Poe’s story before I had heard enough to go to bed with dread. So, most of what I have to say is inspired by the tale of Charles Dickens.

What was Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol? Essentially a bank manager…a BOOK-KEEPER. He was hoarding his “talents” (which could be translated into money) and spending all of his time and energy on keeping tabs on people’s money. He had lost his capacity for charity/generosity…until he goes through an ordeal of conscience and wakes to redeem himself just in time to save Christmas, which was probably a fairy tale to Charles Dickens; and that’s what he wanted to craft with that story, a fairy-tale book families could enjoy in a warm, friendly setting with a crackling fire and all of the holiday trimmings. He was both a representation of the money-minded management that creative folks clash with and a representation of Dickens as an old man, afraid of debt and poverty, curled up in his tiny, cramped home, ignoring the outside world of responsibility and family and love he struggled to fully grasp and understand, just as Scrooge fell in love only to lose that love when his interests took him away from her.

Then you look at Tiny Tim and Tim’s family, and you start to see how Dickens was there, too. He was Tiny Tim, barely able to stand on his own two feet until he got financial assistance. He was Bob, the father, who, like his own father, struggled to support a family he had no business starting yet couldn’t resist acquiring.

I don’t know who the Ghost of Christmas Past might represent in his life other than, maybe, his mother, who little about was said in the biography I watched. Maybe she was a kind, delicate, disciplined soul who tried to steer Eb’/Charles in the right direction while his mind was elsewhere. But, the Ghost of Christmas Present is definitely a representation of the “wealth” and glamor we see just about every Christmas season with a hidden surprise in the form of two scary, starved children, children of haste and ignorance. That moment when the spirit sheds his friendly Kris-Kringle smile to reveal those frightful youths under his robe is probably a grand metaphor for the fear Dickens perpetually felt, praying he would never end up like that, like he had already experienced as a kid with parents who didn’t invest or effectively save money. Dickens’ own children were said to be sort of hasty decisions he later regretted a bit when he no longer felt the same love he first felt when he met his wife, a woman who was willing to do anything to please him, rather than clash with him, but who couldn’t do anything to improve his outlook on life or give him a reason to stop trying and just be happy with what he had. Instead, though he was said to be a generous, kind guy and somewhat loving father, he devoted too much of his time and energy to writing stories and died before what we’d consider retirement age…and before he could finish his latest work, leaving the world an un-resolved mystery…though his life now seems rather plain to see in his creative output.

When Scrooge has his epiphany, what does he do to redeem himself? He buys a big turkey and has it delivered to the only remaining group of people who might yet open their arms to him (aside from that party with his nephew who I still find a bit questionable in terms of how they forgive Scrooge while perpetually whispering and snorting). He makes a donation to the charity-seeking gents, putting aside his doubts about their intentions and/or business ethics/model. And, he finally spends time with other people for a day. It’s a somewhat humble, generous and wishful ending to what is otherwise a chilling omen, a slow yet brief boil to cast off misery and fear in exchange for warmer thoughts, a prayer to salvage a life and holiday season rather than get swallowed up in financial concerns which peppered Dickens’ life and era. In a way, Dickens is saying we need to all forget about the cost of living, prompted by some vexing specter, and find happiness together. A Christmas Carol, I think, is his way of leaving his family with a kind note, letting them know, no matter how miserly he may become/seem, he still wishes for a happy holiday setting, not a commercial spectacle drenched in a demand for presents and any kind of spending that would leave a family in poverty.

The biography presenters tried to say the “demons” in Charles Dickens’ life, the fear and reality of poverty, the disassociation from family and conflicts involving social and economical status, were Charles Dickens’ muses, that the spirits were deserving of credit for Dickens’ creations. But, I somewhat disagree, even if the previous statement sounds true. He had the creativity planted in him from birth. The “spirits” were merely unpleasant influences spawned from circumstance and location, often enough leading him into confusion and disappointment. They might as well have been coworkers or bosses in his life, voices of peer pressure and temptation, not inspiration (at least, not encouraging, uplifting inspiration).

Had Charles Dickens lived at time or in a place and/or family with greater “financial stability,” surrounded by good friends, he surely would have written different stories reflecting some of those circumstances. Any “demons” in his life were not welcome co-writers. I don’t think he’d want a doll or statue that looked like one of those kids hidden under Present’s robe unless he sought to torture/punish himself; nor do I think he was a macabre author who took pleasure in exploring dark forces. He had to paint some people as sinister and corrupt. But, he didn’t end a story with the villain being glorified. There is no Christmas Carol Part Eighteen with Scrooge or the Ghost of Christmas Future going on yet another violent/cruel rampage. I don’t think Dickens would have intentionally written a miserable, scary story just to give people a fright. I don’t think he took pleasure in horror. But, I suppose, he had the potential in him, being the creative fire that he was. Just as I feel I have the potential to write better horror stories than all those “stupid” ones people continue to chase/see just to snicker at how dumb the “heroes” are; I don’t aspire to write a scary story and add to the horrors already crowding our world. Nor do I care to add something “stupid” to the video-rental libraries/shops…because what would be the point? There’s already plenty of “stupid” and wasted resources. I’d choose, like Dickens, to write a scary story that ends with a lesson, a fable of sorts. And, the basic lesson, regardless of content, would be you deserve what you get if you don’t heed the warning signs.

Unlike Scrooge, Dickens didn’t come out of his workshop/dungeon and say, “Hey! Enough of this business. Let’s go grab dinner and have a holiday party!” He died from a stroke while laboring to finish one more unique story to dazzle the masses. He died restless to produce and never quite satisfied.

[Yet, again, he didn’t die craving more wealth or fame. He had both, to a degree, but always feared debt/poverty. He wanted more from his creative work. He constantly wanted to be more dazzling, more entertaining, more understood and appreciated, more worthy of praise, not rich. I can just hear him saying, “Okay! I’m a talented guy! But, surely, I can do better. Surely, I can give you something better than what I already did. That was…something. But, the next one will blow your mind. You just wait.” Despite all that he had received, Charles Dickens continuously hungered for more as if all the world had to offer wasn’t enough to keep him warm on a cold winter’s night. The world’s warmth and understanding was no more satisfying than his own family/love life, yet it kept him busy.]

Like his Oliver Twist (wanting more porridge), as a child, Charles Dickens wanted more from his life. He wasn’t sitting in a room bathing in his wealth like a less miserly Scrooge. He was plotting his next great work of fiction and imagining what sort of wonderful, big book it could be. He’s like the Little Mermaid (at least, how we see her in Disney’s animated form. She has plenty of “stuff” (common elements in life too many eventually ignore) but wants more out of her life; she has an inexplicable desire for…something…for a passion missing in her life.

If you ever had to read a Charles Dickens book in school, you likely had something that would disappoint Charles Dickens, a dense but lifeless paperback reprint without pictures or fancy text. He supposedly wanted his books to be like a fancy Bible. He wanted pictures–which he drew as “Boz”–and all the fancy colorful trimmings that would make a nice, big story book worth sitting on your lap. It just was too expensive for his publisher(s) to reproduce for the audience that actually invested in books. And, if you live in the USA, you wouldn’t get much respect from him, anyway. He visited once and decided the USA was crap compared to England. Yet, he was grateful for the fans and anyone willing to buy his books and magazines.

Dickens was a child of humble beginnings with parents who lit a fire in him, whether they were aware of it or not. He didn’t want the life he had, it was placed in his hands like freshly laundered rags. And then, he was told to make something of himself…and he did. He just didn’t know when to quit, when to be content (and retire/relax).

Love, like his final unfinished book, remained a mystery to him. His family failed to provide and retain enough warmth to satisfy him. His first love interest was from a higher social class which ultimately rejected him, breaking his young heart until she returned to him as a broken, overweight woman, starved for a kind heart…and Charles Dickens rejected her. His second love interest bent over backward to cater to him, and this only frustrated the man who had such a fire within him that he desperately needed a partner with the same passion. He had married and sired kids as many do. But, as nice of a father as he tried to be, a part of him grew to dislike all that came with marriage. His love life became a heavy tax on his creative energies.

In his own humble yet infamous way, he was a microcosm of the monopolies that plague our modern world, a warning to those who refuse to be content with what they are given or even what little luck they initially have/find. Instead of having a little luck and sharing the wealth, Charles Dickens did all that he did to “stay afloat” even if it seemed like he was floating on the air of his own yet-budding fame.

When you are pursuing wealth (or fame, approval, etc.) like an insatiable monster, you are blind to the discouraging truth. Eventually, you reach a point where you look back and see how small and out of reach the real world is, and you lose the will to live. You run out of oxygen like a human being thrust into deep space without an air supply and pressurized suit to keep you alive. Right now, there are ravenous giants gobbling up enterprises. But, eventually, even they, like the giants before them, will fall. And, no measure of wealth will satisfy the fire in their hearts nor redeem them when they’re gone.

A small, humble representation of one’s talents is all that is needed to establish positive attention and fuel a lifetime. If only we could accept that and not pester others to be more than what comes effortlessly, driving countless lives to a premature and bitter end.

Writingbolt…inspired by Charles Dickens…aka Ebenezer Scrooge…aka Tiny Tim…aka Oliver Twist…aka David Copperfield…aka Boz.


The Cozy; My New Talk Show


I’m starting a new talk show (to compete with all of those other gab-fests hosted by a pack of restless, uncomfortable women who cannot stop clearing their throats, blinking and/or talking over each other).

I call it…

The Cozy

It’s hosted by women I’ve grown to admire (and myself); women I consider inspirations. Some you may recognize (if you are age 40+ and/or have parents who expose you to a variety of television/cartoons). Some you might wonder who the freak they are. But, that’s typical with these talk shows. Right? You don’t know everyone. Some you might know if they didn’t get a bewildering makeover. Some you’ve never seen because they are only known from rarely publicized sources and/or exclusive TV/internet channels.

What makes this show special? Other than what I just said, I’m not sure, yet. Maybe nothing. Maybe it’s just my own personal variation of the present lot. We will see.

For certain, there will be less noise and commotion (because there will be no video and/or sound…ha!). And, there definitely won’t be anything so superficial it has to come from California. Though some of the women might be “airbrushed,” I won’t allow shiny faces supplied by plastic surgery. Some lips might look like they have been Botox-ed, but I assure you they are all natural. If there is any advertising, it will likely be from the host site for my blog…unless I come up with some witty parody ads. I’m not one to promote “swag” you’re just going to toss on a pile, anyway, when the next fad/craze or falsely-advertised “better option” comes along. You only get honest opinions, creativity and wit from my show.

You’ll notice the initial feature imagery shows the hosts sitting on wooden barstools. I don’t consider those cozy seats. But, you work with what you’ve got. They came with the scene. Maybe I’ll get around to replacing those with a digital painting of a plush sofa (provided I can get the image quality to match the characters). For now, the stools keep the conversation sober. Without them, the hosts might get a little TOO cozy and either fool around or fall asleep.

[Disclaimer: This whole thing was inspired by some tinkering with images from a video game called Miitopia. I couldn’t get the characters quite right, even with the elaborate customization features. So, I did a little extra “body work” with another art program.]

Feel free to suggest guests and/or guest-hosts to appear on the show. And, like any good talk show that indulges in audience participation, feel free to grab a microphone and start a discussion in the comment section (below).

So. Let’s get Cozy.



Art Space Unlimited…Except for Some; the Unfair Balance in the World of Artists


Back in January, I posted a piece about artists living a cursed life. In short, most artists get insufficient respect during their lifetimes and an insane amount of attention after they die, which often enough turns into crazy appraisals of artworks without the stories behind the works and, in the case of someone like painter Bob Ross, questionable merchandising.

I recently watched part of a PBS (TV) special featuring various “artists” who were making an effort to share their artwork with the world. Let’s just leave that as the simple summary of the program. Now, I watched three segments before I lost my cool.

The first featured a white-haired man with an accent I couldn’t quite identify. Apparently, though I’ve never heard of him or seen any of his (exceptionally large) work, he has filled some rather spacious plots of land and museums with spectacles worthy of Willy Wonka. One of his creations involves a set of conveyor belts transporting bricks of soft, melting wax to a big pile/mess of the stuff. [That’s art, ay?] Another–I presume in the same building–involves a corridor flooded with the same reddish wax. He was also featured with what looked like a giant apple-shaped building and the metallic bean which I have actually stood beside in Chicago, Illinois. [Is that his work? I guess I didn’t pay close enough attention; I was too bewildered by the sheer amount of space and liberty this guy has to create and feature his work. Also, he apparently has a small army of “oompa loompas” to craft things somewhat toxic for him. Is that an artist at work or the architect of the pyramids?]

There was something oddly unsettling about this segment. The guy kept featuring pieces with a distinct vertical crack, a reddish gash with a dark mysterious void at its center, a shape that sure seemed to resemble a certain part of the female anatomy.  This prompted memories of a horrid art-school tour I took in my crucial teens, when I was looking for direction with my own artistic talents. The place was littered with obscene works. And, my own portfolio, a sampling of my yet limited life’s work, was carelessly brushed aside by the guide. [If there was ever a moment to turn Hitler, that was it. You can thank your lucky stars I didn’t start the next Holocaust, sending unworthy artists and careless consumers of art to the gas chambers.]

The second segment featured a (brown-skinned) African gentleman** whose “portfolio” was far smaller and less jaw-dropping than that of the previous man. This more modest and humble artist had what seemed like a fraction of the time and space to discuss matters of social justice, primarily pollution of a particular environment where “minorities” reside. His gallery space included a number of movie/flat-TV screens no bigger than a home-movie screen. His entire presentation was like a whisper in a crowd. It was small and not the least bit awe-inspiring.

**I feel a strange need to be specific, considering people no longer meet a single description for any nationality.

The third segment, the one that really popped the cork on my infuriation, was about an older woman who likes to collect pieces of debris from demolition and disaster scenes and turn them into simplistic pieces of what she calls art. Essentially, she’s putting a hunk of cement, pipes and wiring (the size of a T-Rex) on a few supportive pegs, splashing it with paint and other questionable decorations and sticking this enormous piece in a spacious museum chamber. What a wonderful use of museum space; filling an entire gallery with one hunk of some other building that no longer exists which no longer looks as it originally did, which might be considered historical preservation of a relic. She’s not contributing to one of those museums you find in Europe, housing fragments of ancient Greece. No. She’s splashing colors on hunks of unnamed structural damage and taking up space which could be used to house countless other sculptures, paintings, etc.

I take you back to the story I have heard about the famous Pablo Picasso. The guy supposedly filled houses with artworks and relocated when one was full. He didn’t create things that took over buildings or portions of cities and/or parks. He created works you could put on walls and sit in a small room where you might read a book and enjoy the colorful company. But, if he filled houses with his work…does that mean he wasn’t spreading the love of art? Was he just hoarding it all because he didn’t think anyone was worthy of looking after it until he just could no longer protect everything like a pharaoh in his tomb?

Now, there is no way I’d ever want to do what the third featured person did. I see no logical or creative reason to “recycle” a hunk of demolition/destruction without breaking it down into simpler elements and crafting something you could fit through the average household door…not require a crane and probably a construction crew to transport to some spacious warehouse/museum facility.

And, I don’t see myself ever doing what the second person did. As much as I might inject matters of social justice into my own work, I wouldn’t just make a simple video documentary and fill a dark room with screens. I’d use metaphors and a pinch of creativity/humor here and there…something you might see from an author like Roald Dahl, the BFG. I’d craft an experience with impact yet without overwhelming dread and/or despair. No one needs to go through the bleak experiences of another to understand what happened; I don’t need to simulate losing an ear to imagine how dreadful Van Gogh’s life must have been.

But, a small part of me cannot help envying the first guy. How does any artist achieve such status? How does he acquire an army of crafters to fashion what he imagines, risking their lives, not his (as I watched some work with gas masks while he stood elsewhere just talking at length about his “genius” like a pompous windbag. [I seriously think the guy was a bit perverse with an ego overly inflated by some underhanded dark influence.]

How does this stuff happen? How does the world get so twisted (yeah, upside-down, even) that you might think suicide is a wise decision? How does anyone get the permission to amass an army of laborers to craft questionable, useless objects which are probably visible from outer space?…while other artists are left to rub coins together, cut off body parts and live miserable, otherwise unproductive lives in solitude?

It boggles the mind. And then, it blows what’s left out every portal of the human anatomy.


Why Do White Runners Even Try (to Enter the Olympics)?


Why do white (Caucasian) runners even try to enter the Summer Olympics?

They have no chance to beat the ethnic powerhouses that pound around those tracks, often making it look effortless in the end, better than champion racehorses. Every year, you see the pale runners drifting further and further behind their darker-skinned competition. The former look like white wallpaper in the background. They are lines on the track being trampled by the dark horses who might as well be kicking up dust as they speed to victory. You could say the competition is dark; or it’s a dark horse’s race to win.

So, why do white runners bother to try?

I’m inclined to say it’s purely for the freedom to say, “I was there when ___ won.” They simply want to get the exercise and the chance to run along…er…behind some star runner. Imagine you had the chance to be with your favorite athlete as they excelled at their sport, not in the stands, the bleachers, the ring-side seats; but right behind them in the center of the action. That would be the only logical reason to try (and know you have no chance to win).

What do you readers say about this?


Response to Must Dad call new wife ‘the love of his life’…; from Ask Carolyn (Hax)


Ask Carolyn (Hax) column originally titled “Must dad call new wife ‘the love of his life’ around his kids?”

There are two letters to this particular column. The second ends with a line that triggers my pet peeve with this advice columnist.

Resentful is the non-gender-specific offspring of a deceased mother and a father who, after four years of solitude, has paired up with another woman, a woman he chooses to regularly call “the love of my life.” Resentful, upon hearing those words, including in the presence of children (possibly their own, possibly nieces/nephews, possibly both), becomes angry and hurt because those words were once the rightful description of their birth mother (and the grandmother of the children present). Resentful seeks a way to convey the anger to their father who persists in questioning why Resentful has reduced time spent with him. In other words, it’s a tense situation that won’t improve without some form of peaceful negotiation.

Carolyn essentially advises Resentful to speak up rather than silently withdraw, bottle the anger and leave Dad wondering until his heart permanently breaks from the disconnect. Carolyn also states that feelings from both sides may not be entirely as they appear in the column/letter. The father might still value Resentful’s birth mother but politely use the phrase to honor his new flame as the next phase in his on-going life. And, Resentful is choosing, in a way, to let the circumstances upset him/her, rather than simply accepting the choice made by their father.

Raising a Teen is a frustrated single? mother who has a tense relationship with her 17-year-old son and a number of fellow-parent “friends” who politely try to sympathize though their own kids are younger. Raising, somewhat like a teenager, feels the other parents (friends) just cannot understand all that goes through her head upon dealing with her own near-adult son. Memories of her ex, the boy’s father, who retains a bitter relationship with his own mother, trouble her. She wants to scream.

Carolyn somewhat subtly tells Raising to curb her anger and reconsider the advice and/or support of those other parents, even if they don’t have the exact same circumstances. And, if that’s not sufficient, if Raising still cannot calm down (possibly because some emotional responses are just too much for some people, possibly including Raising’s “friends”), she should seek professional help (therapy, I am guessing). [Can I scream, now?]



What Carolyn (and I just) said. The quick and easy answer is to bite the bullet and put your feelings on the table, ideally getting an honest confession from your father (not pressuring him to change his choice of words just to please you).

Right now, your anger/resentment is so vivid and fierce, like a raging fire; you cannot handle peaceful negotiation. So, I’d suggest taking some kind of trip/vacation on which you can process your feelings and digest our words/advice. It doesn’t have to be a long trip; just a day or two…probably two.

You need to calmly speak with your father to clarify his truest feelings. This could be challenging, considering he may be reluctant to say his feelings for your deceased mother are as strong as those he has for the new woman, for fear of upsetting that new woman…which is fair to say. And, if you cannot control your own fiery feelings, you might spoil the opportunity to assess the situation (which is why, I suppose, you reached out for advice).

How can someone new ever be a fully honored and accepted part of his life if he must constantly replay/relive emotional matters of his past? Would you expect him to say he loves two women, one deceased and one living, equally at every family gathering? Would you expect him to set a place at the dining table for the deceased and his new love interest?

I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I didn’t see things from your side, as well. I have similar resentment for things my family chooses to do which trigger some unpleasant historical thoughts/feelings. Imagine being a rape victim and having your family party with evidence from that painful experience at the scene of the crime while they talk casually about the culprit. [No, I have not been raped…at least, not in the dictionary-definition sense. I’d say I’ve been sort of spiritually and mentally raped (or deeply offended and rattled by people I was told to trust). I just use that as a sort of metaphor/example of what’s still troubling me.]

You don’t like what your father is doing/saying. You don’t want to hear it. The healthier response would be to take the previous advice and defuse the bomb in your chest; if your father can convince you he still values your mother, even if he uses those particular words to address/introduce the new phase of his remaining lifetime, you have nothing to resent. This situation isn’t exactly a drug-abuse intervention, so you cannot pressure him to quit for his own health. Yet, the second-hand smoke–so to speak–is upsetting yours (your mental/emotional health). If he cannot see how the words upset you, that’s just as unkind of him if he doesn’t step forward to address the situation. “Honey/Son? Is what I am saying bothering you? Why? Let’s talk about it.”

Your choice to withdraw and spend less time with your dad isn’t too unreasonable. It gives you some control over the situation, unlike being the child who gets imprisoned if he/she turns against his/her parent(s) in some emotional conflict. You are not required to go along for the ride you have no interest in taking. You can step away/stay at your own home.

But, not resolving this matter only causes the resentment to fester in the wound. Your relationship with Dad won’t improve by biting your angry tongue and avoiding him. Once or twice, it might feel good to have that control. But, year after year, it’s sure to eat you alive…until he dies. And then, what will you do/feel? Will you let him go to his grave without a kind word…because he lived the (second) portion of his committed love life in a way that upset you? [I’m asking myself similar questions as I sort out what I will need to do when my (disappointing, to say the least) parents pass away.]

Carolyn commonly advises people to seek professional therapy. But, she did not in this case. Strangely enough, I am wondering if something similar wouldn’t benefit your situation. If you could arrange a talk with your father and some sort of mediator with no emotional ties to the situation, someone who you’d trust to serve as judge/counselor, you might stand a better chance at sorting out the details and putting your anger to rest.


Raising a Teen,

In your current state of mind, I doubt me saying “I feel your pain” would suffice, considering I am not a parent of a 17-year-old boy or any children, for that matter. But, I know that desire to scream when those we seek for sympathy and advice (though we are slow/reluctant to accept and/or follow it) don’t satisfy our desires for one reason and/or another. You are the sort who starts sentences with “Until you have…” and clenches her fists (and teeth) when someone who isn’t your twin says anything that doesn’t agree with your comfort zone. Differences in circumstances, for you (and, often enough, myself), are like pollen and dust to someone (like me) with seasonal allergies. And, I might be just a tad like your ex, considering the tense relationship I have with my own parents, both of them.

I’ve consulted people I’d like to call friends for advice and sympathy in matters troubling me; and, often enough, their responses lack something to satisfy my desires. This tends to anger me. And, when I contact these “friends,” they often claim I sound angry. I get worked up about certain matters…about a lot of things…more than the people I contact, it seems, ever do. They don’t seem as 3-D as I feel; they are more like cartoon/movie characters written to respond a certain way than people who can adequately relate to and help with my situation. In short, I’m “too much” for most people. And, once this is conveyed by the person I contact, contact is abruptly ended…not usually by my choice but by the other person. And, that only makes me want to cry and scream even more. What does one who is “too much” for so many do with that volcano of feelings?

The easy answer for many is to say, “You need to seek professional help.” And, to that, I respond GET LOST! Tell me how many people have come to you for sympathy/support or just someone to keep them company. And, how often did you tell them their problems/requests are too much for you? Did you tell them to get professional help for reasons other than resolving a mechanical problem (like fixing a leaky pipe or replacing a faulty appliance/computer)?

Gosh. “Professional help” must certainly be rich with all that business being thrown their way. It makes me wonder why there aren’t as many commercials for crisis assistance services and psychiatrists as there are for lawyers just waiting for someone to have a terrible vehicular accident or intake a hazardous drug/chemical; I suppose it’s because few if any are being told to go have a near-fatal vehicular accident or ingest a hazardous substance.

Tell me why a professional stranger, who has no prior experience with you upon which to base their assessments, who requires payment for every minute of their time (which sounds a bit like prostitution), is better than someone you sort of or sufficiently know taking the time to help you through your difficult time/situation. Isn’t the latter the definition of a good friend? Instead, you are supposed to lay out every important detail about what has been going on in your life (and omit what isn’t important, while swamped in emotional baggage), tell it all to someone new who can only give you an hour of their time maybe once a week if not once every other week, and expect them to have more sympathy than the people you call friends. That sounds…insane.

I cannot even discuss my health concerns and prior experiences, at full length, with my “primary care provider” before my “session” has expired. At best, I imagine a professional could steer you toward some other form of assistance, like a family/group therapy program or recreational activity you might (enjoy) with your son, provided he would participate with you in that activity. And, I suppose, that’s slightly better than telling you to get help elsewhere.

Wait; did I just give professional advice without a license? Hmm.

But, a therapist cannot remain professional and still be a good friend (as previously defined)…can they? They only have so much time and many others who need their help…because so many, who cannot handle helping other people, are providing these therapists with an ample supply of clients. A professional cannot be that person you call in the middle of the night when something’s bothering you (or even at a more reasonable hour, if you could be that respectful). I really wish I had such a friend, right now. But, I don’t. And, I’m guessing, you don’t have one, either.

I may have a difficult time processing some emotionally/mentally “heavy” situations. I may also not be the best source of advice/counsel, considering I can be harshly honest (or blunt) without intent to upset/hurt anyone. I don’t take pleasure in upsetting people, but it happens…often. If I don’t say something miraculously inspirational, usually making good use of a metaphor, I say something that disturbs the other person(s). I don’t smile in response, like some wicked people I’ve known do. I’m…sorry I upset someone. Yet, saying I am sorry won’t resolve the situation I just caused.

I like to think I take on more emotional conflicts than most people would; I like to think I am a decent counselor/therapist. I like helping people when and where I can, even going above and beyond what comes easy to most. But, considering I am dealing with a ton of my own mental/emotional baggage on a fairly regular basis, it’s not as if I can address the problems of another person with a clear slate/state of mind. A professional tends to limit their time to an hour with each client. I’m inclined to spend more than that with each person (being someone who is not a man of few words); which is one reason I would not be the most/best professional helper.

Now that I’ve sufficiently gone off-track with self-therapy, let’s get back to your situation. Hopefully, what I’ve just said will ease the tension in your shoulders a bit and you will agree we have similar feelings/experiences.

You and your son currently do not get along (well). You neglect to give any specific reasons/examples of those conflicts. And, your ex’s relationship with his mother troubles you.

Is that because you fear the son will take after his father? Is it possible your troubling son has already said something about his father to fuel his clashes with you? Is that so unreasonable?…for a son of divided parents to sort of side with the one he favors? Is that so abnormal that others–even those who don’t have the exact same circumstances–cannot relate/sympathize in some way? Divorce isn’t new or taboo. Separated parents are not new, either.

Considering you call the other parents (you mentioned) friends, I have to question/wonder how they earned that title. They don’t satisfy your needs. And, I’m betting you don’t do enough to please them, even if you feel you do plenty. It’s possible they don’t adequately appreciate and respect your output. You clearly don’t appreciate their output. So…how are they friends?

I’m inclined to think too many call undeserving people “friends” just to feel as if they are not entirely isolated in this world. I know I’d feel like a basket case if I couldn’t say I considered at least one person a friend…of some sort. I will come right out, right now, and admit I do not currently have a single close friend. There is no one I can trust with the depths of my soul, and that is quite discouraging. But, I do have what I’d consider very shallow, somewhat superficial, flimsy, fair-weather contacts, people I can reach by phone and/or email. And, yes, some of those contacts make me want to scream, now and then…especially if anyone stops “trying,” says I’m “too much” and/or tells me to get professional help.

If your “friends” are cardboard cutouts merely filling the places of people you’d prefer to have in your life, the desire to scream certainly makes sense. Imagine waking up to a world inhabited by only cardboard people (and yourself). That sounds awful.

I have no advice for how to improve your friendships other than to look elsewhere (for better friends). I’d take the advice I’ve been given about joining a club or exercise class at which you might meet people with similar interests and–ideally–outlooks. But, I have yet to follow that, myself, for whatever reason I am reluctant to confront.

You could listen to Carolyn–if I correctly understood her words–and take what you get from your “friends” without throwing it back in their faces. Accept the fact they don’t have the exact same situation yet offer what they can/will in response; and, if that’t not good enough, consult someone else…which you did by reaching out to an advice columnist. And, like those professionals we’re being told to find, she only has so much time and space to satisfy your needs…not enough to fill an hour of your day.

Similarly, you could alter your way of thinking about the problem by avoiding and/or derailing thoughts about the ex who doesn’t get along with his mother. Do all that you can to silence those voices in your head that say, “Like father, like son.” Avoid any movies and/or TV shows that use those words and tell stories of sons acting out the way their fathers once did. Your son is an individual, even if he is part you and part ex. He can be his own special person, if you treat him that way. But, if you feed him the same fertilizer and water you gave your ex, he will probably resemble that ex.

Is there any reason your son SHOULD feel/act the way your ex does/has? Are you, in any way, responsible for your son’s behavior? Can you admit that much? [And, if you can, that would have been helpful information to include in your letter…as well as the first step to resolving the conflict.] Taking responsibility for one’s part in a conflict is far better than accepting zero blame and simply expecting your son to change. Expressing awareness of how you may have upset the relationship (even if you cannot find any intent on your part) you have with your son could compel him to express similar feelings and bridge the gap.

What more can I/we say? Plenty, I suppose, if we spared the time and effort. But, I don’t have a concise, concrete, fool-proof solution. Who does? I don’t know.


My New Greek Deity Identity


Occasionally, my thundering brain veers into thoughts of Greek mythology, how the gods are associated with the planets of our solar system, how the planets/gods fit into Western/solar astrology, influences, descendants, etc. I think about the stories I’ve heard about the Greek gods, what defines them, what they represent and how all of that might impact my daily life. [Yeah. It’s a lot to process; being me.]

In recent years, I’ve come to the conclusion I have a close association with the Greek gods Hermes, the messenger/herald/thief/merchant/potentially-faking-healer/athlete, and Hephaestus, the craftsman who has a rather unpleasant history with his parent(s), to name a few conflicts. I can compare my life story with theirs and see strong similarities…so strong I’ve come up with a name for myself, if I was more than I know about myself, if I was more than mere human. [And, quite honestly, what do we really know about ourselves…versus what we think we know?]

So…allow me to introduce myself…as…




No. I am not the offspring of two male gods. I’d more likely say my parents are closer to Zeus and Hera than anyone else. Yet, my father could never be as free with himself as Zeus is known to be. As for my mother, I cannot really find any reason she would not match Hera. There are just too many similarities. But, if this were true, I’d have to hold a grudge against Hera, like Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules, because she is too often obnoxious, discouraging, infuriating and frightening; which is why the name HERMESTUS sounds like “her (she) messed us (up).” My mother is a very potent force that has messed with the minds of my branch of the family; and now my siblings and I are going through some struggles.

Like Hermes, I’ve been known to have a dazzling sense of humor. I’m by no means a good stand-up comic. I cannot think of enough jokes to fill a routine; nor would I be entirely comfortable on a stage under a spotlight. But, I am occasionally gifted with a spark of humor which compels plenty of people to say I am a funny person who should have a comedic career. Personally, I wouldn’t put so much faith in my humor; it’s more like finding gold than milking a cow. And, I don’t want to be milked.

Also like Hermes, I’ve been known to operate under the radar, so to speak. I strongly value honesty but don’t always tell the whole truth, for reasons in certain situations. I don’t enjoy lying; nor do I enjoy cussing. But, occasionally, things happen and adaptation is key. You (I) have to improvise to get through certain situations. It’s crafty thinking in a way.

Crafty thinking steers my attention over to Hephaestus, the craftsman. I’ve never been comfortable working a forge; I don’t have a high tolerance for cold or heat. I mean…I’ll put up with just about any climate until I crack. But, I won’t be very productive if the temperature/environment is uncomfortable. Regardless, I am fully aware of my capabilities as a craftsman. I’m VERY creative and hardly destructive.

I don’t like wrecking or discarding anything, especially my own creations. When I DO scrap something I’ve made or added a contribution, it’s a very emotional moment in which I am mad at the world and myself, which reminds me of the story of Demeter letting the world grow cold and lifeless when her daughter Persephone decides to hang out with the “bad boy,” Hades, in the underworld.

As Hephaestus was born out of frustration, given life solely by a mother who was tired of putting up with her “wandering” husband/brother, I feel my birth was quite similar. While I feel fairly certain it took two parents to make me…not one parent and whatever magic grass she decided to eat one day to cover the male half of the equation…I also feel fairly certain my birth was not normal. Part of me continues to think I did not want to be born when, where and how I was. I think, in the womb, I knew something was not right and refused to come out “on schedule.”

There is an unusual divide between my older and younger siblings. And, I’ve often wondered what motivated my parents to have more kids after a fairly long “break.” Was it simply because the first batch was old enough to care for themselves, freeing up more parenting feelings and abilities? I doubt that. Or, if I’m wrong, my parents must have been so oblivious to responsibility that they simply thought the first batch was doing fine on their own; why not have more. And, if that’s true, that explains why the second batch caused everything to shift into a distressful gear, making my parents quarrel and fuss about every little thing they could no longer control.

Considering my place in the family, making the Hephaestus connection makes sense. My mother was not content with what she already had. She wanted something more/else. But, as a result, I soon proved to be overwhelming and found myself in the middle of countless quarrels between parents. And, if I speak up, if I dare to take a side…well, it doesn’t end well, no matter what I do. Yet, neither parent will admit they are a divorce-worthy couple at a critical stage with me in the middle.

From birth and in my efforts to cope with my forced family arrangement, I developed certain health issues which have impacted my appearance. Hephaestus is said to be a less-than-handsome guy. Check. I certainly feel a lack of the handsome gene, even if some people compliment this or that part of me, from time to time. I can verify my family’s gene pool does not include a healthy physique. My family has had its share of leg troubles. [I’ll just leave that at that, for now.]

I also have made choices that have rubbed my parents the wrong way and resulted in certain living arrangements, not unlike Hephaestus getting his leg broken and thrown under a mountain/volcano where he involuntarily took residence and established a workshop until his family finally urged him to return to Mt. Olympus. I’m not sure what would classify as Mt. Olympus in my family; nor am I sure I’d want to be/live there. [So, I presume that much has not yet happened…and may not happen. If a particular house is my family’s Mt. Olympus, I certainly don’t need more nightmares about that place nor to feel as if I am doomed to remain there. I don’t think any Mt. Olympus should feel like a prison.]

Bouncing back to Hermes…

Athletic? I would not say I am a sports guy…at all. I would not say I am fit to compete in any Olympics. I would not feel comfortable in just about any athletic/gym class or other environment. But, a large part of that feeling comes from how I was raised. My parents didn’t/don’t make much time to instill the importance of physical health. When I was little, it was a rare day when they were free and willing to do something physical outdoors with me. My father and I never were the pair who played catch or talked about sports. My parents were always “too busy,” even though they weren’t matching the standards of more…let’s say financially successful parents/families. One wonders how I can be classified as a really smart guy by my family and countless others when I manage to dazzle someone with something I say…when you think about how often my family, like so many humans on this planet, does something stupid like neglect to keep your kids active and provide a measure of trust/freedom to help them grow adequately (to become sensible, independent adults).

Again, let’s also consider my maturing environment. My family is riddled with smokers who make friends with other smokers. It may seem like a dying habit as of recent, with all the talk about “vaping” and other drugs. But, my family is neck-deep in nicotine and alcohol. Somehow, my mother turned her back to all of it and forced my father to quit. Let that little detail alone sink into your brains. My mother made my drinking/smoking father quit to remain her husband and the father of her children…yet allowed siblings and friends of the family to smoke and drink around us, letting all of that second-hand smoke sink in where it may. ‘Sounds like a healthy place to mature; doesn’t it? You might say I have been living under a smoking crater of sorts. Hmmmm…Hephaestus.

So, when gym class became my least favorite period at school, it should have been no surprise to anyone…if you knew my family.

Fast? Oh, yeah. I can be fairly fast when motivated. I can talk, walk and occasionally run fast. But, like a cheetah, that high speed burns out, quickly. And, my high-speed brain/mouth is not so perfect that it doesn’t overheat and stumble/crash. I’m still…I think…human.

Merchant? I’ve been known to have ideas for merchandising. And, I’ve had many, many prompts to sell creations. Yet, the more I think about mass-producing and placing a price on anything, in a world that is too quick to buy and discard, only to overwhelm landfills of impulse shopping, I lose interest in the concept of retail. I don’t need to be giving my heart and energy to making matters worse. We don’t need more stuff. We need to be more inspired and, potentially, create the stuff we will truly value and use. [Which is where I feel the potential to be more of a muse than a craftsman/factory. I like solving problems, not creating or being accused of them.]

When I have been an ambitious child with thoughts of selling creations, I’ve been shot down by family and a few in positions that could have helped start a business…which only adds to the flip-flop, hypocritical madness that is my life. When you (I) want something to go/work a certain way, opposition arises. And, when you (I) expect something to fall/resolve a certain way, surprises happen to counter my expectations…yet never enough to improve my outlook/expectations to a point where I can expect a consistent flow of progress/success. There is no foundation that assures me any productive business venture would be worth the time, energy and/or heart. I cannot even feel entirely good about creating my own artworks without someone sticking their nose into the “studio” to cause a problem/conflict.

So, sort of like Hephaestus working his forge, people come along asking favors, expecting production of various things. Give me a weapon. Give me something to hang on my wall or wear on my body. But, also, put up with our complaints and criticism and general inability to tolerate who and what you are as a living being, because all we really seem to care about is what you can give us and/or how you can make us proud. And, if you don’t comply, expect to get thrown under a volcano and to endure a lifetime of disapproval as a social outcast.

Ever since my mentally-crippling teenage years, I’ve been socially awkward and aware of my difficulties. In my younger years, I was the quiet “good boy” just trying to please his short-fuse parents who liked to spank more than they cared to have any talks (and actually make sense of something troubling me). I didn’t speak up much because it was frowned upon, whether I was with family or friends. I was ordered to sit and be quiet, like a “good dog.” So, as I grew up and was forced to deal with more and more people who demanded me to have a voice, I became less and less comfortable socially. I started avoiding eye contact, allowing my words to come from my heart and not be influenced by psychological impulses. From an early age, I was well aware of how eye contact can impact emotional response. And, in my teens, I began avoiding most of those stimuli.

Likewise, Hermes is said to speak with his gaze hidden or turned aside/away from who he is addressing, never giving an honest, open stare, lingering in a sort of gray area of truth while still upholding the duty of messenger/herald.

I suppose I could be a decent mailman, if I felt more able to handle the job. I like delivering messages…nice, pleasant, helpful messages, anyway. Not bad news or junk mail. So, then, no; I could not be a mailman. End of discussion. But, that doesn’t mean I still don’t like handing out secret notes, valentines, etc. It’s fun and stimulates my creativity.

My family certainly treats me like a messenger. I’m frequently handed some information and told to either keep it from or to deliver it to other members of the family. My parents, especially, who tend to keep themselves busy without sharing a room or floor of the house, often ask me what other half is doing and to deliver messages. My mother spends most of her time upstairs in a warm room surrounded by clothes and cheap jewelry. My father tinkers in a cold, damp basement, accompanied by a lousy radio and a few fish tanks. Who am I to play this middleman? Perhaps a degree of separation from Hermes, himself.

I would not want to be someone who escorts souls to the underworld, to some land of the dead. Yet, I can see how I might be a sort of therapist/healer who helps others cope/adapt to life’s…er…mishaps…even though I cannot speak with much authority or wisdom other than what comes to me in a moment of divine inspiration, or awen. I wouldn’t likely steal a healing staff to play doctor…but I might persuade a healer to give/lend me some “power” to help another person; sure. I could see that much happening.

Now, I just mentioned wisdom and have more than once mentioned creativity. I have a very personal attraction to the goddess Athena, said to be the Greek goddess of wisdom, art–or “the arts”–and war (strategy, not violence/combat as Ares is said to be). I would like to associate myself with her and go as far as saying I am part/like her. But, I am not sure how to fit her name into my previous merger of names; nor am I sure I can assuredly say I bestow or represent wisdom and/or war strategy. I certainly have a passion for art (in my own selective way) and strategy. And, occasionally, I like to think I have wise notions. But, too often, people refuse to listen and to follow my suggestions; so how can I ever say what comes out of my head is wise? I cannot even use what comes to mind to provide a satisfying life for myself in this world. It’s as if my thinking doesn’t fit into this world. I seem to always belong to another dimension; my ideas are not wanted HERE, even if they get applauded at times. Nice ideas in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s my norm. And, it’s absolutely mind-fracturing.

Would you say I’m justified in being afraid of associating with a goddess of wisdom, for fear she might punish me for assuming intelligence? I’d say my concern is fair. So, I don’t often–if ever–boast about my intelligence. If I do boast, it’s because someone fired me up to think more of myself for a moment; and that’s just me being foolish, listening to praise I should just avoid. [Yet, I humbly lay myself down at the feet of such a goddess because I presume she is both beautiful and talented, inspirational and refreshing.]

Food for thought.

So, if you can think of a way to incorporate Athena into my new name, HERMESTUS, feel free to supply your suggestion either here or in my mailbox. Be sure you can also suggest how I am fit to wear a part of that name and identity. Otherwise, I shall go on thinking…eh…less of myself…yet aware of my potential as a blend of two epic proportions given life by two epic tragedies.

[I get the strange feeling–as I often do–that I’ve written this piece, before, yet cannot find any duplicate in my files.]


Quality; Is It Deceased?


Back in 2003, I bought a new wardrobe, including a few pairs of quality jogging pants, T-shirts and sweatshirts, hoodies, mostly. These are my casual-dress comforts which keep me sane. In 2003, at a local outlet store, I had found the finest garments known to man…or, at least, to me. There wasn’t anything particularly fancy or expensive-looking about these clothes. Yet, they have lasted nearly 20 years without failing. Only in the past two years have I started to notice wear and tear. It started with a rare chocolate-brown hoodie losing a few stitches along the pouch/pocket. That might have been back in 2017. Then, the finest gray jogging pants frayed in places I’d rather not mention, sometime between 2019 and 2020. And, just a few weeks ago, my second favorite, those maroon jogging pants in the photo, developed minor unsettling holes after being washed.

Now, compare that with a pair of jogging pants bought less than 10 years ago. It’s a more “socially acceptable” (if that makes any sense to anyone who isn’t like my family) travel style of jogging pants with non-elastic cuffs. It has been easily discolored and gradually losing its shape and smoothness; it’s at the point I worry about wearing them in public. And, other clothing I’ve purchased over the years, namely jogging pants, have easily torn pockets in the wash, exposing undergarments. I might see a pair lose it’s “new” shine the first time I wash them. Or, a shirt that’s supposed to be wrinkle-resistant comes out of the wash looking like a wavy rag that even an iron cannot save (without risk of burn). How lousy is that?!

Sure. You easily say, “Then replace them!” But, if we are not careful, the landfills we are trying to avoid amassing will become so overwhelming to our increasingly irresponsible species that we flee the planet in favor of all the wealthy industrialists just waiting to get insanely rich off being the ones to colonize another planet.

And, remember what I just said about the Champion clothes from 2003. They have lasted almost 20 years without sign of wear and tear. Looking at them, you wouldn’t be so quick to cast them out into the trash, even if you are fashion forward monsters who feel the need to have new clothes every year you get carted around this planet.

This same conversation could be had about computers. My first computer was not something you’d advertise to the masses as the star computer for gaming, music streaming, etc.; things you take for granted more recently due to all the advances that have become more commonplace. Yet, that first computer was enough for me. It did what I needed. It did more; I just had to discover all of its assets. Then tragedy struck when I foolishly interacted with someone I should not have trusted; the PC got a virus and slowly descended into antiquity. I tried to salvage it with a new hard drive, but the artificial heart was too big for the poor little computer soul’s chest.

[And, sorry, I didn’t dish out $150 per hour to some “tech expert,” at the time, to remedy my situation. If I spent $500 or more to fix the thing, I’d have paid more to save it than it cost me, initially. If you know anything about car shopping, you know that’s not smart.]

Similarly, my next computer was a laptop people had told me would be a disappointment. It wasn’t the latest thing out there and Windows Vista was supposedly on the way out as fast as it was “in.” That laptop was a gem. It had all the basic software I needed–well, except for an art program–to satisfy my creative interests and to probably handle all of the “business” this life seems to require. Then, one foolish night, I had an accident; and, though the “tank” didn’t LOOK damaged, it was clinging to its last breath and unable to perform some basic functions. I was lucky to salvage files with a flash drive.

I quickly sought out a replacement and, after some unnecessary quarreling with family about decision-making, picked something that seemed sensible and not too expensive. But, without the same quality salesmanship I had when purchasing the previous one, it seemed my purchase-by-mail was doomed to fail. I feared it from the moment I doubted shopping online. I feared it from the moment the damaged box arrived on the porch. Fortunately, I managed to get it working with some online assistance; had I not even received that much help, I wouldn’t be here talking about this with you, now. But, I soon realized how much this new model was lacking. It has none of the software the previous one provided for my enjoyment; instead there are notices for what I COULD purchase to add to my inventory. There are little carpet samples that, as soon as you activate them, ask you to buy something and subscribe to keep using it, year after year. I had none of that with the Vista laptop; it was its own useful machine. And, it cost almost as much as the one I now use. In less time than it took me to ruin the Vista model, this thing has had more hang-ups and update issues. [I’ve written about these before, so there’s no point in repeating. You can look back to find those stories.] And, within the last year, one of the mouse-pad buttons has become a loose tooth. [The Vista model was rock solid for 8 years and only failed when I had an accident. This thing is falling apart after 5.]

Had I known how quality would diminish in the next few years, with all that has been going on in this screwed-up world, I would have bought stock in the Champion brand…in 2003…and then probably sold the stock before 2010. Had I known how poorly made my future clothing purchases would be, I would have bought a boatload of the garments I modestly added to my collection. And, the same goes for these “dumb” computers we’re being force-fed every year.

[Let me pause by just saying computers may be the next economy that ruins humanity. After dealing with cash and related crimes for so many years, now, with computers and artificial intelligence, it seems the world needs a new villain (someone other than a bank robber or mafia boss). So, someone created computer brains. Smart…I say sarcastically. Unlike choosing quality clothing, computers don’t offer the same choices. Software becomes “required” and is what it is. You don’t find different quality variants of Windows operating systems. You get Windows This Year, and you live with it til they pitch the next one. What sort of freedom is that? Who is running our lives? Hackers are the latest bank robbers, and the economy pushes everyone to give up paper in favor of digital and AI everything. Do you feel like a lemming on the edge of a cliff? I sure do. Except, I am looking over my shoulder and quietly urging everyone to step back.]

Has it really fallen so far? Quality? Is this the sign of the end?…and end we COULD prevent if we only cared…more? Has the interest in making things we use reliable deteriorated so badly that fewer and fewer care to even try? Is the majority already in favor of just giving up and pitching crap to starving fools?

If you hear a dumb voice–perhaps your own–saying, “YYYUP!” –Shame on you. We cannot just shrug and give in so easily.

But, I am not a do-all deity capable of solving every problem on the planet. I have desires for things to be better but so little control over the matter…at least, I FEEL helpless without any of the connections so many seem to have at their fingertips to make things we DON’T want or need available for sale.

Oh, the latest this and that have brains, now, and they will tell us everything we didn’t want to know; and that’s a reason to dump what we have to get the new models. Mooo! Move along, cattle, to keep the economy of fools going.

When do we–sigh–get smart and reverse course on human stupidity? And, if it’s already too late, when did it start to tip the scale the wrong way? Why does this life increasingly feel like a giant cruise ship headed for an iceberg? Sorry, Leo, your nude drawings are a waste of time when the livelihood of humanity is at stake.

I’ll this rant–though it can never really end until it’s resolved–by sounding like an ER doctor. Do we call it? Time of death? Is quality __________dead?


Response to Wife Says It’s Not Her Fault; Ask Carolyn (Hax)


Ask Carolyn (Hax) column originally titled “Wife says it’s not her fault she hurts husband’s feelings.”

There are two letters to this particular column.  The first, signed by “A,” involves a marriage in which the husband feels sufficiently emotionally bruised and “shut down” by a seemingly unfeeling, “harsh communicator,” his wife.

Carolyn chooses to “explain” her opinions in a somewhat confusing way. She agrees with the wife while still trying to stand up for the husband without anything to support her claim. Her choice of words, at one or two points, could drastically alter what comes next in the tense relationship. Her final thought is to mention a relief/therapeutic phone service called RAINN, which I do not know (but will potentially investigate).

The second, from It’s Not You, It’s Me, entails a friendship that has soured as one friend changed into a person the other friend used to feel like and grew to dislike. Key note: The friend seeking advice has been through some measure of psychotherapy; so their views and choices might already have been colored/altered by that experience.

Carolyn presumes a bit about the letter’s author; which makes me wonder if she isn’t drifting off into thoughts of her own failing friendships. Yet, I will admit, the final thoughts are rough…bound to stir some conflicts…but fair. Essentially, the friends are advised to talk out their differences and accept the consequences, whether that means salvaging the friendship or permanently breaking the bond.


A. Ay oh. Oh, A. Is your wife what you’d describe as blunt? Is she a Sagittarius, by any chance? She can’t be a Gemini if she’s lacking a sense of humor or a flair for the dramatic. ‘Just curious. She sounds like a proud Amazon warrior who has little to no tolerance for weakness in battle; someone looking to challenge you in hopes of finding a man worthy of her mighty passion. [And, you seem like the unwilling hunter sent to slay a dragon, cowering in your boots as you limply hold your sword; no offense intended.]

Take Carolyn’s advice without the grain of salt and spare your blood pressure. Stop where she tells you to decide what is next for YOUR marriage. It’s not YOUR marriage to decide. Yes, as your wife so crudely puts it, you decide how to respond to everything she throws at you. You don’t have to express distress or sadness or resentment or any form of hurt feelings, even if that’s the strong impulse you feel. But, not expressing what we feel is a rather cold, calculating move; and what do we know about two wrongs? They don’t make it right. Right?

But, go back to that marriage bit. The marriage is a decision made by two people, her and you. You don’t decide what’s next for YOUR marriage. You decide what’s next for YOUR PART in that marriage; and she will decide what is next for her. Yet, just talking this way sounds like divorce is already on the table. Is it really that bad? Or, is this just surface tension that’s become a bad habit?

Carolyn also cannot validate you. At least, she cannot HAPPILY do it unless she is merely voicing the simplest of support for a remotely appealing underdog. I’ll admit I’ve likely done the same with female writers who light a tiny flame of interest in my heart with their words. Perhaps, you are remotely Carolyn’s type. But, from my perspective, her validation is an empty lawyer commercial; a forced smile and general offer.

Sure, we all need to validate ourselves. But, that validation often sparks conflict we don’t want or need. So, many of us are reluctant to “validate.” We don’t want to make waves; nor do we want to stand up on some soapbox, yelling about how our ideas should matter to someone without more concrete evidence to support our claims. And, when it’s just you versus your wife, and few know the whole story between you two, who can applaud or support your validation? No one.

Your validation falters because you know it could shatter the relationship, something you committed yourself to, something you helped establish. How many business partners would bring down their own HQ building when the partnership sours? How many more would let the building stand and look for some less public legal/financial settlement before slithering away to form other business relationships (and try to forget the past)?

I guess the only true value you can take from this effort to reach for advice is the importance of not letting anyone grind you into dust. You stand up to your wife, your chosen partner, and defend whatever you feel is vital to you as well as the relationship. And, hopefully, the relationship is a loving one. Because, if it’s strictly business, if you feel more like an employee being confronted by a hostile boss, then you are in the wrong marriage. It’s not even a marriage. It’s a harsh “prenup.”

Also, you could grease the wheels a bit by asking your wife how she feels, now and then. Get her to be a little vulnerable (with you). And, ideally, you comfort her in those emotional moments, reassure her with your support so these cold, stone-wall situations don’t even arise. If she refuses to be vulnerable with you–or if you cannot handle the role of emotional supporter–you two have more problems than those conveyed in the letter.

And, if she responds with something like, “This isn’t about my feelings,” consider finding a new wife. I wouldn’t want to be married to someone who shuts down all emotional exchanges in favor of winning an argument. That sort of woman is too fierce and bent on claiming victory, determined to turn her partner into a lap dog and yes man.


It’s Not You? How do I address someone who isn’t the scribe but IS the scribe? I don’t know.

YOU! How about that?

Your time in therapy has altered you in some way. Your perspective has changed enough to let you see a friend as someone you no longer want to be. You’ve been given some sort of supernatural ability to slow time down and spin around your friend like a ghost, allowing you to see a sort of old, familiar toxin spewing from her mouth, like a former smoker watching someone suck on a cigarette and feeling the urge to vomit.

Your reluctance to speak up with this friend (and your need to consult an advice columnist after that extensive therapy you endured) suggests a weak spot in your therapy-honed defenses. You cast off your caterpillar ways to become a butterfly, but you’re still showing a soft, rubbery patch of skin somewhere which would fracture your whole being if you dared to face this situation face-to-face and be verbally honest. Thus, you’re not “cured” enough to ignore the old energy you once felt…still feel. It’s not like you’d ever go back to being…that way. Right? Yet, being around others who are…like that…still/now bothers you. [And, it certainly doesn’t help to encounter anyone who would dare tease you about your reluctance to do/experience/share something you no longer like/approve. Yet, I’ve been there too often; ‘done that. I’ve been pushed, prodded and heckled about things I refuse to relive and/or face again.] Therapy altered you, but it didn’t turn you into a Jedi master or the strongest Vulcan who can avoid all emotional conflicts.

Carolyn is right when she suggests dealing with the unpleasant matters in their moments, versus reducing all of your feelings to one general “I don’t like you, anymore.” That isolated statement is like hanging up the phone or ending email communication without further explanation. It’s like never hearing from someone, again, being left to wonder what went wrong. Except, you sort of said it; you said you don’t like her as she now exists. I suppose even the short, finalizing statement could serve its purpose with less emotional upheaval in person.

Thank you for your candor? It takes a truly solid, mature, enduring person to say something like that. I don’t know many who would confidently say they appreciate my candor. In small doses, some have expressed an appreciation for my honesty, when it serves a need that doesn’t touch an emotional nerve, when the candor doesn’t stir tears or anger. I can be honest about a piece of furniture I don’t like. But, if I am honest about how I view another person’s relationship with another person, I usually cross a line; it’s like pulling a shoelace on someone’s shoe, causing them to stumble. Who wants that?

Carolyn surprises me when she speaks in favor of salvaging the friendship…while you seem intent on ending it. YOU said the friend has become “unbearable.” This letter isn’t about a friend calling you that word. It’s your word about her. SHE is unbearable. [But, it’s sort of true…if you haven’t waited too long to speak up, I suppose, all could be salvaged; the friendship just might, ideally, recover from the emotional upheaval and adapt. I just doubt the possibility, based upon past experience and hearing so many negative cases.]

Sort of going with the flow Carolyn generated with her response to the previous letter, it’s your move to validate your feelings in this situation; let your friend know you are tired of the way she is acting because it’s how you used to feel/behave before facing therapy. And, she needs to validate/respect the process you have gone through, like a friend of a former addict needs to either avoid supplying temptation (by indulging in and/or providing the substance that was the source of the addiction) or end the friendship to continue indulging on their own. If she chooses to and favors being the old you, she may have to do that without you. Are you okay with that? If so, what’s so hard about saying the words?

But, if putting words on the table, in person, is too obvious and harsh for a solution, let’s think about alternatives…..

You could silently stay away from your “former” friend, letting her realize you no longer want to be with her for some reason (without clarifying the reason). Well, on a minor positive note, this would put you on a sort of high ground, letting her come (up) to you and ask what’s keeping you from spending more time with her. You’d still have to engage her with words, eventually, unless you are content to just let the friendship fall into silent bitterness and resentment.

You could put your feelings in a letter and snail- or e-mail that to her. The advantage with that option is you having, hopefully, more time to polish your thoughts and words than you had in writing a mere nine-line letter or “tweet” to Carolyn Hax. Letter-writing can be like turning a close relationship into a long-distance one. Sometimes distance is good; separation can be good. For Catholics, (currently) Lent is a time intended to go without something for forty days, hoping to reunite with that something and feel renewed appreciation/enjoyment after the separation. Sometimes, distance just drains the connection until writing a letter seems like too much work (compared with being able to show up at someone’s door, simply asking for a hug and a teary-eyed chat).

You could invite said friend on one last trial friend-date. And, if on that date said friend decides to be a complete drag and representative of the former you (the you you no longer approve), you can let her know this is the last time you two get to try something fun together…and why. It’s not quite the direct confrontation of the situation…but it eventually gets there, after a bit of emotional therapy and a subtle attempt to reconcile differences. If your friend cannot still prove she is a friend during that fun time together, you have valid proof why you need to end the friendship and not linger after the “breakup” with dismay. The friendship has changed. Be okay with the difference and the opportunity to make new friends who fit the new you. And, be okay with letting the former friend know she is free to spend her time with people who fit the present her, the former you

Give me enough time, and I could probably think of a few more. But, I think the above should suffice.

On the flip side, things you DO NOT want to do with this friend include continuing to spend time with her when she’s behaving in the way(s) that upset(s) you and timidly avoiding all vocalization of your discontent. Letting the problem fester is not the solution; it will only make you feel worse and the task of resolving the matter increasingly difficult…until the task is even more unbearable than your friend.