Archive for November, 2009

If you want to make money, write a book

Monday, November 30th, 2009

“If you want to make money, write a book. If you want to make a lot of money, start a religion.”

–L. Ron Hubbard

tslgAllegedly, in 1948, science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard (author of all kinds of things you’ve probably never heard of, let alone read, such as Buckskin Brigades, Indigestible Triton, and Mission Earth 1 thru 10) made a million dollar bet with science fiction writer Robert Heinlein (author of Starship Troopers, The Puppet Masters, and Stranger in a Strange Land) as to whom could form the next world religion.

Whether or not this is true will never be known.

Whether or not he was successful…well, just ask Tom Cruise. It’s a religion all right. At least in the over-the-top zealot sense. And the money-making sense.

Which is why I’d like to challenge Stephanie Meyer to a ten million dollar bet as to which of us could create the next world religion. And in order to win, I’m already getting started.

I’m definitely looking to some already established religions for ideas and even considering the finer points of psychology, astrology, anthropology, sociology, cryptozoology, gastroenterology, mixology, and scatology.

972780200_3a5b6b547cHowever, despite these lofty goals, at this point I’ve really only focused on my dietary laws. You see, the way I figure it, in order to be a contender and a major force in the religion game, you’ve got to have extensive and restrictive rules for eating. Sure there’s no rhyme or reason, but there’s one guarantee: Following them makes you pure. And who doesn’t want to be pure?

No one, right? Right.

Right, so let’s get started:

1. Animals that have died of natural or accidental causes are spiritually pure. Such causes include (but are not limited to): cancer, tuberculosis, electrocution via inadvertently tramping upon a live electrical wire, colic, swallowing of a Alka Seltzer tablet, murder by a pack mate, flying into a glass window, suicide (see previous?), head-on collision with a Ford F350, and old age. For anything else, please consult your local clergy person (to be put in place just as soon as the tax-exempt religion money starts rolling in. More information to follow.)

2. Birds with beady eyes or alarming squawks are bad news. Don’t eat them.

3. Don’t eat cats or dogs or anything named or once named “Socks”, “Boots,” “Spot”, “Fluffy” or “Old Roy.”

hot_pocket3

4. Hot Pockets? Really?

5. Dinosaurs are a-okay. Eat up.

6. Be cautious around Chinese food served in the shady parts of town. Roadkill is fine by me, but the chef may or may not have washed his hands. So it’s religiously pure, but it may not actually be pure if you follow my logic.

7. You can eat all insects except butterflies, ladybugs, dragonflies and lightening bugs. Why? Because I said so. Who do you think you are to be asking why?

What’s that? Why?

Okay, because I like them. That’s why.

8. Beer before liquor never sicker, liquor before beer never fear.

9. Certain foods must be prepared all or in part by midgets:

  • Wine
  • Cheese
  • Dairy
  • Bread

So make friends with some midgets tout de suite or say goodbye to pretty much everything that has ever brought you happiness. Except chocolate. Chocolate can still be made by heathens and tall people.

10. Don’t swim until an hour after eating. Unless it’s the second Tuesday of the month. Or a full moon. Or raining. Or you ate Cool Whip. Or whipped cream. Or creamed corn. Or anything that ends with ickle (so pickles, creamsicles, icicles, or butter brickle.) Unless you ate all of them together in which case the rule is null and void for three months unless you grow a full beard and do five proper acts of repenting as will defined when I further flesh out this whole religion thing.

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Count to five

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

A child has died.

In the time it takes you to read the first few sentences of this post, another child will die of starvation. In fact, right now in our world, a child dies of hunger every five seconds –  over 16,000 (SIXTEEN THOUSAND) – a day.

I know it’s depressing, and I know there’s nothing that you, whoever you are – no matter how rich or powerful or beautiful or talented or good or kind you are; even if you’re Bill Gates or Angelina Jolie or Mother Teresa or Oprah – can do to fix that. But I’m willing to bet you could fix it for one person. Or maybe even two.

And I’m not trying to guilt trip you or lay it on thick like those ads with the lady who used to play the sister on “Roseanne” and the heart wrenching story about David and how he’s raising all his siblings even though he’s only eleven years old and how he goes hungry because they need food…but it’s probably true. And even if it’s not true or if David’s life got turned around or ended completely, there are no doubt thousands of other Davids out there.

And lest you think it’s an isolated problem in uneducated or backwards countries, be aware that in this country, in the United States, one in seven people do not have enough to eat.

I’ve had this idea to write to write a cookbook for people living on food stamps and welfare to help them figure out how to make $300 a month cover four people and show them how to cook simple whole foods and not force them to eat processed crap and somehow fund the book so that the people who need it can have it for free (because if you can’t afford to eat, where in the hell are you going to get money for a cookbook?), and  on some level I’m not even sure it’s possible (both good food on that budget or the free cookbook), but I have determined that that will now be at the top of my ‘to do’ list when I finally get my current book out to agents. But I digress.

I guess it just occurred to me that today was Thanksgiving, a day when we usually stuff ourselves full of incredible amounts of rich, delicious food, and it maybe was a good day to remember how freaking fortunate we are. And to be thankful. And humble. And grateful to whatever magical force or spiritual power or karma or great good fortune made us the lucky ones. Because somehow I wasn’t born in a desert  in Africa or on the streets of India, and to the best of my knowledge that wasn’t any great calculation or just reward on my part, but just plain dumb luck.

Although I am by no means a guru, I like to think I know a thing or two about a thing or two. And I’ve convinced a few other gullible souls of that. And once in a while, a friend will approach me with concerns about money or want some counseling about or ask for help in achieving abundance. And although I have an advanced degree in business, no one has ever approached me with these issues because they thought I could write them a great business plan (although I probably could) or tell them which stocks to buy (at which I’m not so bright as evidenced by my own dwindling holdings), but more in the spirit of what I guess you could call metaphysical guidance.

And assuming that you would like to have some of this knowledge too, and because I am happy to share it, I will tell you now a secret at the heart of abundance: The mere fact that you are sitting at a computer somewhere reading this and possibly in your own home and hopefully with a full belly or a way to fulfill it means that you are already prosperous in a way that so many of the people of this world will never know.

And abundance starts with gratitude: Gratitude for the exorbitant bills you have to pay; gratitude for the paycheck from the soul-stifling job at Wal-Mart that provides the money to pay them with; even gratitude for the time you had with the car before it was repossessed.

And then, if I haven’t already lost you with that, let me share with you the second paradoxical truth: Abundance comes when you learn to give when it hurts most to give and where it’s the scariest and when you really don’t think you can spare it. So it’s about giving your time,  your attention, your love, your energy, your support, your encouragement, your unbridled enthusiasm, your knowledge, and your patience. And it’s even quite literally about giving money, particularly if it’s hard to give money. (And if you have lots of money and it’s not so hard to give, then it’s not unreasonable to suppose that you may dedicate a lot of time making that money, and thus time is hard for you to give. And so there you find the answer to your own riddle.)

This is the picture from Summer 2008

This is the picture from Summer 2008

And in my case, one month before I left for Europe – knowing damn well that I had no income and wasn’t sure when I would once again have income (and technically still haven’t had income in a year and three months) – I ‘adopted’ an SOS Children’s Villages child. And I did it because it was hard. And my instincts were to cling to what I had and hoard it and look out for number one and make sure I had enough to eat and everybody else could fend for their own damn selves.

But thankfully I don’t often listen to Jerk Vanessa.

And they asked for $25 a month, so I signed myself up for $50. And they asked if I had a country I wanted or a sex I preferred, and I checked ‘wherever it is most needed’.

And my kid is Asseita and she lives in Burkina Faso in Africa (a country I’d never heard of before her), and they send me pictures of her and she has never once answered one of my letters, and I have no idea if the gifts I sent to the village last Christmas made it because in January I got a letter greeting me like I was a new sponsor, and it’s a very one-sided “I give and Asseita takes” relationship and once in a while I see that debit in my bank account and think, “I should cancel that! I can’t afford that!” but the reality is that that is bullshit.

This is the one from February of 2009

This is the one from February of 2009

I am an educated person.

I am an American.

I have opportunity and advantages and I have them because I’m really freaking lucky. And in a strange kind of way, it’s my duty to repay that luck by helping someone – an orphan with no one else to help her – go to school and grow up strong and be able to live in a village in her home country where these amazing women act as mothers to all these children. And I can help ensure that she learns to read despite growing up in a country with the lowest literacy rate in the world. And, by golly, I can make sure she has enough to eat.

And again, ‘technically’ I do not have $50 a month to spare.

And yet I do.
Because that’s the way abundance works: You give, and you find there’s always more. There’s always enough to provide for you, and the more you willingly give of yourself, the more that comes to you in all respects.

Seriously.

Try it.

Even if it doesn’t work exactly the way you think I’ve just described and promised, something else wonderful will happen. It’s guaranteed.

So happy Thanksgiving to you, and even if it’s not Thanksgiving where you live, I sincerely wish you a wonderful, food-filled, family/friend/love/laughter-filled day. And if somehow you’re moved by this and decide to toss a little of your own ‘not quite enough’ into the ethers in order to help one of the 16,000, here is a link:

http://www.sos-childrensvillages.org/pages/default.aspx

I researched all the charities before deciding on this one, and they really are top notch (and even if the kid doesn’t write back, the lovely women raising them do and send you a picture and tell you about their hobbies and likes and dislikes. Asseita likes to sing and dance and last year she liked to play with plastic animals.) Plus, the next time you see David on TV you’ll know that you’re doing what you can, which is really all we can ask of ourselves in life.

Shine on.

Peace and blessings and Namaste,

Vanessa

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You already know this

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

But in case you have short term memory issues or don’t really care enough to remember the little incidentals about me or simply show up to look at the pretty pictures and don’t actually read anything…I am easily amused.

And I will proceed to prove that fact to you again in a moment.

But before I do, let me take you back to a time in the not-so-distant past. A time we thought the world was going to end because of some faulty computer programming written thirty-five years earlier.

A time when we all learned the word ‘hanging chads,’ something we now know to be a little scrap of paper that destroyed Al Gore’s soul, but left him an environmental guru (as well as inventor of the internet).

An era when a little boy named Elian showed up off the Miami coast clinging to an inner tube and captured America’s attention…shortly before being deported back to Cuba and spending the rest of his life bad-mouthing us, joining the Young Communist Union of Cuba, and currently training in Cuban military school. Remember Disneyworld, Elian? Do they have anything like that in Cuba? Mickey Mouse? Goofy? Space Mountain? Didn’t think so.

The era when O magazine first hit the stands, Katie Lee Gifford quit Regis and Kathie Lee, and AOL bought Time Warner, thus sealing both of their fates.

It was also, as you may recall or may just now be learning, a time when Jack Black did not suck.

In fact, he was pretty damn funny then, culminated by his somewhat ridiculous band (and related HBO show) Tenacious D. And there was an episode of Tenacious D that year where they meet their ‘biggest fan’ who has set up a website about them and seems rather obsessed – kind of like Mel on Flight of the Conchords (another great HBO show about a ridiculous band that you should be watching if you’re not already watching it.)

So anyway – and yes, I still remember the original point of this post and am slowly plodding toward it – this is the clip containing a character named Lee. To fill you in and spare you the lengthy version: They’ve met Lee the night before, checked out the website he set up dedicated to them, and become obsessed with him. Way to turn the tables on your stalker! Watch it and learn.

And that is relevant because of this rather hilarious ‘Muscle Milk’ ad (I’m not immediately familiar with Muscle Milk, but I have seen it for sale at the gym. I imagine it’s for babies who want to be really buff.) sent to me late last night, that is highly relevant because of its earnest celebration of the impending holiday known as Thanksgiving.

And because that guy is obviously Lee.

And because he vaguely reminds me of my friend’s boyfriend (kind of like how Bret of Flight of the Conchords reminds me of my other friend’s boyfriend.)

And because this is my first year of appreciating that Thanksgiving can be funny.

(And lastly, just in case you’re not already watching Flight of the Conchords, here’s one of their songs to get you started…)

Oh hell, it’s the holidays. It’s the season of giving. So in that spirit, here’s another one of my most favorite Flight of the Conchords bits:

You know when I’m down to my socks it’s time for business, that’s why they call it business socks…

Jermaine should have been on my list of freaky-looking dudes I have crushes on. If the show is accurate, he’s part Maori (because there’s an episode where they set up “New Zealand Town” in New York City and force him to play the Maori.)

p.s.

The entire time I’ve been compiling this for you, Fu Manchu has been nursing (and there really is no other word for it. There’s a strange, loud, and consistently-timed sucking noise emanating from his head) on my bathrobe. Now I’ve got to wash my bathrobe, Fu.

Thanks for nothing. Weirdo.

p.p.s.

So as to prove my point, there are little bits of bathrobe material caught under his nails.

Don’t commit any crimes, Fu, because those claws of yours are evidence magnets.

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If I had a million dollars…

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

I’d buy your love.

I would.

I might.

Okay, you got me.
I wouldn’t.

I’d quite possibly buy a lot of stuff and most of it I wouldn’t need, but I’d probably take my queues from the super-rich Beatles (as in ‘Can’t Buy Me’ more than ‘All You Need Is’) over the probably-barely-getting-by-anymore Barenaked Ladies and forgo the love buying.

Meanwhile, I must confess that I feel bedraggled and borderline ill. I’m mainlining zinc and  considering another dance with the devil (AmbienCT, which made me puke about ten days ago) in order to get some much needed – if not necessary – zzzzs.

In the meantime, and in the spirit of compensating for over two weeks of doing for others, I spent the day indulging in three of my favorite, pointless activities:

1. Reading cookbooks

2. Watching old episodes of Tony Bourdain’s No Reservations

3. Window shopping online

And the critical word there is WINDOW because I’m not exactly financially solvent at the moment and because I spent two entire days purging a colossal amount of stuff from my closet…and it’s still brimming with a veritable shit load of stuff. Beloved stuff. Precious stuff. Cute stuff. Stuff I love. Stuff I (obviously) can’t part with. And yet the love of new stuff surfaces in the face of so much stuff…

On the surface you might think I’d make a really bad Buddhist, but that’s not the case. Nope. One can love their stuff so long as they maintain awareness that the stuff (both the stuff I have and the stuff I do not have, but would like to have) and I are one. Loving my stuff is self-love.

Allow me to make this a little bit more confusing:

In Buddhism, non-attachment (the ideal state) is the exact opposite of separation. To have attachment, you need two things:

  1. The person who attaches
  2. The thing the person attaches to.

In non-attachment, you’ve unified with the whole universe. There is nothing outside of you. Thus, there’s nothing to attach to and the notion of attachment becomes absurd.

However, because as a species we tend to believe that we are having an autonomous and intrinsic existence within our skin, and what’s outside our bodies is “everything else,” most of us go through life grabbing for one thing after another in an effort to be safe or feel happy.

And the rub there is that we ‘pursue’ happiness because we think it is an external quality, something that lies outside ourselves. And because we think it is ‘out there’ or external, we stress and worry about gaining it…and losing it. Whatever can be found can also be lost.

Which is, in the end, a long-winded way of saying that I am one with the items for sale at Urban Outfitters.com and thus looking at them and owning none of them brings me the same level of pleasure as owning them. Although, admittedly, if I had a million dollars, I would own a few of them.

Like this skirt:

16615460_04_b

And this wallet:

16465973_20_b

And this jacket:

17466178_001_b

And this jewelry holder stacked doll chairs thingamabob:

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And this sweater:

17342619_004_b

But in a totally non-attached way…

Really.

Honest injun.

Cross my heart and hope to die.

I can’t get this to format how I want, so sorry about that. Sometimes (more often than not), WordPress mystifies me.

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Coming soon to an airport near you!

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Completely superfluous and unnecessary processes dreamed up by the United States Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to make themselves appear useful and/or alleviate job boredom!

There must be a rule that you have to be a certain amount overweight (and love beer) to qualify.

There must be a rule that you have to be a certain amount overweight (and love beer) to qualify.

(And guess which one is actually real!)

  • Driver’s license height/weight honesty evaluation – Because if you’re willing to deceive the DMV you fat, lying, 5’4” bastard, who knows what else you’re hiding?
  • Carry-on luggage overhead military press - If you can’t bench press it, we clearly need to examine every single article inside it. Look! A shiny ball!
  • Sbarro pizza slice poison prevention taste test – We’re only looking out for your safety. Sbarro poisoning is the 137th leading cause of airport death.
  • Ass width measurement - Because there’s nothing worse than getting on board and realizing you don’t actually fit, you fat, lying, 5’4” bastard. (In order to prevent claims of discrimination, you’ll find the TSA agents may also measure those with backsides that might be described as a shapely or slender or small or fine. Just doing our job.)
  • Water vapor testing strip administration – because one mutinous vapor can take down a whole plane
  • Palm reading – You may not know you’re a terrorist, but your life line and that mole on your index finger don’t lie.
  • Pop quizzes – “How much cash is in your wallet?” “Have you ever been to Dubuque? How about a rest stop in the state of Arkansas?” “What’s’ a four-letter word for light blue?”
  • “Promptly chug-a-lug that Starbucks in your hand, sir” bladder density tests. Because nobody likes a wet seat, whether drenched with coffee or…other stuff.
  • Pull my finger – It’s amazing what we can get people to do just because we’re wearing cheap, polyester government-issued uniforms!

Seriously though, the vapor strip thing is ‘real.’ As I was walking up to the boarding gate at the Orlando airport last night, my ticket in my outstretched hand, a TSA administrator with a gigantic beer belly stretching the capacity of his button-down shirt to its very limits, appeared out of nowhere and asked to ‘test my water.’ At first I thought he was trying to pick me up and had really, really bad timing, but then I realized he was serious. So after confirming I heard him correctly, I screwed the lid off and watched as he waved a little white litmus strip over the top of the bottle like a magic wand. And absolutely nothing happened. And he declared my water – bought just three minutes earlier from the news stand fifteen feet behind us – a clean, clear, vaporless water-like substance.

This is the Total Recall image I mention below the picture at the bottom.

This is the Total Recall image I mention below the picture right below this one.

Thank god I hadn’t dumped it out and replaced the contents with vodka.

That would have been hard to explain.

Meanwhile, I bet I could make a killing importing those strips into Bermuda.

Those five-legged toads would make me want to test my rain water vapors, and what’s easier to read than a ‘no news is good news’ strip?

White means it’s all right!

I found this image on the TSA blog. It's apparently what they can see with those body scanner things. Remember that movie Total Recall? Wouldn't it be better if they did it like that? Or if not better, then less embarrassing?

I found this image on the TSA blog. It's apparently what they can see with those body scanner things. Remember that movie Total Recall? Wouldn't it be better if they did it like that? Or if not better, then less embarrassing?

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