A Confederacy of Dunces

Ignatius J. Reilly when he gts a job selling hot dogs from a weenie wagon.  Look out, pedestrians, here he comes!

Ignatius J. Reilly when he gets a job selling hot dogs from a weenie wagon. Look out, pedestrians, here he comes!

“When a great genius appears in the world  you may know him by this sign; that the dunces are all in confederacy against him.”  –Jonathan Swift

This is the quote that begins one of the funniest books ever written, A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

The book is the story of an over-educated sloth named Ignatius J. Reilly who doesn’t like the 20th Century, to put it mildly.  He nevertheless has to get out of his room where he spends his lazy days writing amounts to a manifesto as he mooches off his mother and get a job when a car accident requires the duo to pay damages.  The author apparently based a lot of the character of Ignatius on one of his own colleagues from when he was a professor – then added some hysterical embellishments.

I say no more or I’d spoil the joy of this book.  I’ll just give you a few Ignatius quotes:

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century.  When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

On what’s wrong with the century:

“With the breakdown of the medieval system, the gods of chaos, lunacy, and bad taste gained ascendancy.”

Before going to work:

“The day before me is fraught with God knows what horrors.”

On going to a 1960’s musical at the movies:

“The film I saw last night was especially grueling, a teen-age beach musical.  I almost collapsed during the singing sequence on surfboard.”

There is a play in the works based on this book, and I can hardly wait to see it, since the book is laugh-out-loud funny – yet it, incredibly, almost didn’t get published.  Finding agents and publishers can take quite some time.  It’s all a matter of the right fit, and it rarely happens instantly with the first agent or publisher who’s approached.  The trick is to move right on and try a second one if the first doesn’t work out, or a third, or even a hundreth.

Unfortunately the author of this comic masterpiece became so discouraged over his trouble with finding a publisher that he killed himself.  He should never, ever have given up.

It was Toole’s indomitable mother who found a publisher for this book later, many years after Toole died.  A Confederacy of Dunces, once in print, won the Pulitzer Prize.  It’s made people happy all over the world.  What a difference a day, or two or three, might have made in Toole’s life, if only he’d waited the publishing situation out!

The book even inspired a monument.  It’s set in New Orleans, where a statue of the character of Ignatius was erected in the “Big Easy” in front of the site of the store where, in the opening chapter, he’s standing around waiting for his mother.  Take a look.  And if you’re in the midst of any kind of an uphill battle, stick your chin up and don’t despair.  Remember this hilarious author that we lost too young, John Kennedy Toole.  Keep going.  Like the Commander of the USS Chesapeake once said during a battle in 1813, “Don’t give up the ship!”

Ignatius: The Statue!

Ignatius: The Statue!

 

 

 

Boycott Zara!

Zara's first designer mistake: their Swastika purse from 2007

Zara’s first designer mistake: their Swastika purse from 2007

Warning: this unfolding fashion story is absolutely bizarre.

In 2007, clothing chain Zara made their first designer mistake when they sold purses with swastikas on them.  Take a look.  The photo is above.

The Zara powers that be claimed that when they saw the prototype of the purse in a photograph and agreed to sell it, the swastika “wasn’t visible.”  I could almost believe that line, considering that maybe, perhaps, it might have been an oversight, which can happen sometimes, sure – except for the fact that when the offending purses arrived in the stores, their having a bright green swastika glaring on them would be a little hard to miss.

It gets crazier and worse.

Now they have a new offensive item.  This one is almost unbelievable, surreal, impossible – but now, they began selling striped blue-and-white pajama shirts with six-pointed yellow stars, to children, yet, that are evocative of concentration camp uniforms.

It would be one matter if this Zara company had made just the first outrageous mistake by selling the Nazi purse, but now they’ve manufactured Nazi pajamas, complete with yellow stars.  They claim the star was supposed to be a sheriff’s star, not a Star of David, as was de rigeur on the outfits of the Jewish inmates in places like Auschwitz.  Get real, though, Zara!  Where, exactly, did any sheriff ever wear a striped shirt?  Any striped shirt – let alone one in the full Nazi prison garb blue-white-and-yellow palette?  This is insanity!

Who, exactly, is running Zara?  What’s their agenda?  What kind of financing do they have?  Whose money is behind this store with their Third Reich fashion blunders?

Are they even, truly, “blunders?”

Doesn’t it make you wonder?

Boycott Zara!

zarashirt

 

Lucille Ball: Unofficial English Language Ambassador!

Lucille Ball in top form stomping the grapes in I LOVE LUCY.

Lucille Ball in top form stomping the grapes in a classic episode of I LOVE LUCY.

It’s universal: everybody loves Lucy!

One of my favorite Lucille Ball stories happened when she was in the hospital in California.  Queen Elizabeth was visiting the hospital on a tour and asked how Lucy was.

The Queen of Comedy was floored.  She reportedly naively said, “Queen Elizabeth knows who I am?”

Of course she did!  The entire world loved her, including Her Majesty, the Queen.

The girls’ name Lucy topped the popularity charts in an African country right after I Love Lucy was first broadcast there.  An American store changed the night of the week when it closed in order to watch the show, explaining with a sign to customers, “We love Lucy, too!”

There’s another legend to add to the never-ending list.  So many of the friends I have who come from other countries watch I Love Lucy after they move to New York City – to learn English!  I’m not sure if the show is broadcast in China, but I know some Mandarin-speakers who absolutely adore it.  It’s a show that it’s impossible not to like.  That makes watching it for the additional benefit of becoming at ease with English even more fun.

It’s fantastic that this show from the 1950’s is still broadcast, still putting smiles on faces all over the world, and even has the added benefit of helping people to improve their English.

Brava, Lucy!

Lucille Ball, the Queen of Comedy!

Lucille Ball, the Queen of Comedy!

How to Ruin a “Crazy Maker’s” Day

No, it sure won't!

No, it sure won’t!

Something’s in the air lately.  Several friends have been comparing notes with me on various “crazy makers” they know and don’t exactly love, so I thought the type might just make a fun blog post.
Author Julia Cameron wrote a whole chapter about the crazy makers in her book on creativity, The Artist’s Way.  Everyone who has read that book loves that chapter.  Crazy makers are the impossible folks we all run into every now and again.   They try to basically take over everyone else’s life, or control them, or maybe they hassle them to get attention.  They’re not above emotional blackmail.  Ha, they’re not above anything, really, to get what they think they want – from you.  Sometimes it’s all about misguided love, or the wrong kind of quest for money.  Maybe it’s the strangest imaginable route you’ve ever seen anyone take to try to attain false power.  Well, you get the picture.  Whatever the method they use, though, it’s always and forever a form of out-of-control manipulation.  Worse, it’s all about them…but that, of course, is their weakest point.
Your life isn’t about appeasing such creatures.  It’s about being the best you that you can be.
I find these people to be fascinating, if only in terms of the creative material they can provide – unintentionally, that is – for any and all writers of fiction.  I’m thinking of putting my favorite two into a nice screenplay.  They’re absolutely awful to deal with, but hey!  Unpleasant people can make for more interesting stories than nice ones do.
Here are a few ways I’ve personally employed that you can adopt to drive the one who’s in your life at the moment up the wall and onto the ceiling:
1.  Be Vague.  Crazy makers are my-way-or-the-highway people.  They can’t tolerate anyone who doesn’t do everything exactly like they do.  The more non-committal you are about “their way,” whatever their way is, the less they can stand that.
2.  Say you couldn’t care less about whatever-it-is they’re pushing you for.  This is especially useful with those that want to convert you in some way to their way of thinking.  They won’t be happy with this strategy, so be sure to bring some ear plugs if you use it.  They’ll start yelling.  Then again, if you couldn’t care less, let them hear it!
3.  Ignore their vast rants.  They’ll hurl any kind of an accusation at you as their strategy to try to get you to do what they want.  This can be interesting.  Usually they don’t start yelling about what is actually going on with you but what they think might be.  It almost always reveals more about their state of mind than yours.  For example, the individual I once worked with, many years ago, who hated her own looks used to attack other peoples’ appearances.  The first time it happened to someone in front of me, I figured out more about her than she ever meant to show me.
4.  Deflate their emotional balloons.  Remember the parents of old who would try to get their kids to behave with the ultimatum of withholding ice cream for dessert?  “Do such-in-such right now or you won’t get any ice cream!”  Really?  All any of the kids had to do to get the upper hand back was to say, “That’s okay – I don’t like ice cream.”  It’s not possible to dangle a carrot before someone who doesn’t want one.  Make sure they know it.
5.  Keep your sense of humor.  Like I said, if you are creative, even go so far as to keep a notebook of these kinds of encounters.  Take copious notes!  Never underestimate their power for one thing only: providing you with material.  
Let the rest of their power quests fall flat.  They won’t mind.  They’ll just go on their not-so-merry way to look for an easier mark.

An Image or Two for A Happy Friday

Life's a beach!

Life’s a beach!

It’s been a rather crazy week on so many levels.  I’m not the only person who’s felt it.  Several friends have been having a tough time, too, between the news stories, the way they’re upsetting people, and everything else besides.

Well, it’s Friday, folks!  We’ve made it!  Next week can only be better.  As the translation of the Latin motto of the State of New York, “Excelsior,” says:

ONWARD AND UPWARD!

TGIF and a Half!

TGIF and a Half!

Is This “Social Media Moon Howlers” Week?

More than just the wolves are howling this week!

More than just the wolves are howling this week!

Is it a full moon again already? A polar shift? Mercury in retrograde?

I have been using social media sites since 2008 and never before have I witnessed activity to rival the lunatic fringe scale of this week’s.

For the most part, I use social media for fun. I go on there to have a good time. I create funny wall signs.  Often I try to encourage the politically polarized people to stop insulting one another, even though that’s a “mission impossible.”

I also try to encourage healthy living, since there is one group of people on my page who are going to die of substance abuse if they don’t find another way of living soon. That’s no exaggeration. They’re violent when drunk or high, I’ve seen it in person, and it’s pathetic.  To make matters even more appalling, these people have children and grandchildren.  I recently heard some of the grandchildren have gotten in trouble for substance abuse offenses – so the cycle keeps continuing.

These people also post relentlessly – on public forums – about two matters: 1) their illegal drug/alcohol abuse-of-the-evening, and 2) their paranoid fear that the police/government are reading their emails.  That ought to give you some idea of the level of frying their poor brains have undergone, since this one’s a no-brainer.  If you are afraid of the government or the police yet incorporating something illegal into your daily life, you may not want to put that up on a public forum, since a public forum can be accessed by the government or the police.  I mean, hello!!!!!  How hard is this to comprehend?

As I am one to call things as I see them, I have made lots of Facebook posts to address these desperately ill people, hoping someday that the idea of getting them to choose life over self-destruction will penetrate.  If it doesn’t, well, at least I tried.  I would not want to look back and wish I’d tried.  It’s always better to say damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead and just attempt it.

Try explaining such a concept, though!  Consistently, the same two or three dolts never, ever, ever seem to get it. Whenever I post anything that might help the poor alcoholic who breaks his door down on a regular basis to maybe, just maybe, think twice about his activities, out pop the jackasses who will label me “judgmental” or worse.

That’s right, folks: if you take a decent stand these days, if you try to so much as speak up, it’s you who will be regarded as being in the wrong. If you aren’t accepting of someone’s self-murder-in-the-making, you’re “wrong” for not encouraging their form of Russian Roulette.

It’s insane.

So the other day I posted a status update to address that sad group again. Damn the torpedoes, etc.  It was a post on how they are basically attracting the attention of the police with their status updates.  They’re not just destroying themselves but pushing their luck.  This time it got royally misinterpreted. I was on the receiving end of about ten threatening messages from someone who somehow thought the post was in favor of – fasten seat belts here – the events taking place in Ferguson, Missouri. It got extremely ugly, to put it mildly. I had not said anything about the situation in MO, which I wasn’t even following too closely until a few days later. I have, however, been very focused on the coverage of Robin Williams’ death, which led me to feel more urgency than usual about the substance abusers.

In another direction entirely, a different social media contact, I found out, has been approaching women on my friends list, saying I’m one of his “best friends,” and claiming I would “vouch for” him.  I have never met this guy in my life.  I would never vouch for some online contact without meeting them first or knowing them directly.  I was also increasingly uncomfortable about the violent content of his posts.  He thinks blowing things up is funny.  I don’t.  He sent private messages at one point saying he would like to “take a wood chipper” to another friend’s father, and he thinks that’s “funny,” too.  The straw that broke the camel’s back for me, though, was when he posted about how hilarious he thinks it is to dress up as the Taliban and put fake bomb boxes on planes in an airport.  Does this sound like it’s amusing to you?  I love to laugh as much as the next person, but draw the line at giggling over what are, technically, murder threats and emotional terrorism.  Never mind the police – this guy’s going to attract the attention of no less an entity than the Department of Homeland Security into his life and personal business if he doesn’t watch out.

Most astonishingly of all, this guy carries on as if it’s the tragedy of the Western World whenever people get freaked out by what he says to the point that they block him.  Don’t want to get blocked for violence?  Cut out the violence.  How hard is it?  In this instance, apparently, impossible.  

Good thing I didn’t vouch for him, as it turns out:  he got nasty to the women he dropped my name to connect with online when they would not give him their phone numbers, so you know what that’s all about.

If all this makes me someone who “doesn’t accept” such a person’s “differences,” then I say that’s all to the good!  If you accept this, then what are you?

 

When Nazis Were Afraid of Marigolds

Nazis outlawed orange flowers in Holland during WWII since it was the color of the Dutch royal house.

Nazis outlawed orange flowers in Holland during WWII since it was the color of the Dutch royal house.

This is one of my favorite outrageous World War II stories.

Everyone knows how insane the Nazis were in violating the rights of people, but did you know they also put a ban on certain types of flowers?

Orange is the color of the Dutch royal house.  “Oranje Boven” – “Orange Above” – is a song saluting their Queen.  “Radio Oranje” – “Orange Radio” – was the name of the BBC station that broadcast to Holland, in Dutch, throughout the war.  In the dark days after the Nazis invaded Holland, the Queen and her family fled to England.  Orange suddenly became a much more popular color than it was already.  It was a symbol of resistance.  It meant solidarity with the exiled Queen.

Lots of Dutch people promptly went out of their way to plant not just any kind of flowers, but orange ones, like orange marigolds.

It was the Nazi’s idea of a no-no.

I have to laugh out loud whenever I think of Nazis, who everyone believes, after the fact, to be about might without right, getting all threatened by the planting of a bunch of orange flowers.  They outlawed them.  They actually went and outlawed a certain color of blossoms.

The Japanese were just as crazy regarding flowers when they invaded Korea.  The national flower of Korea was the Rose of Sharon.  You can figure out what happened next: the Japanese promptly banned them.

Is this insane, or what?

It’s said that after the war, in both locations, people planted the illegal flowers again the minute the occupiers left.

That just goes to show you what you’re really dealing with when the wrong kind of conquerors are on the loose, folks: no matter what such louts may be saying on the outside, they’re scared out of their wits of everybody they can’t control on the inside.   Need a smile today?  Picture members of the Gestapo or the Kempeitai quaking in front of some flower beds.  Resistance, to them, even resistance with a bloom,  is one of the most dangerous scenarios of all.   I’d say anyone threatened by the sight of a harmless little flower, to the point they feel they have to pass regulations against them, must already know their eventual defeat is on the way.

All this gives me a whole new appreciation for Roses of Sharon and marigolds.

Rose of Sharon flowers - the bane of the Japanese in Korea.  Unbelievable!

Rose of Sharon flowers – the bane of the Japanese in Korea. Unbelievable!