My mother visited us this past Christmas. It’s great, I love it when she visits because she’s always so incredibly helpful at pointing out all the things that I can improve. It’s like having a permanent free life coach. You know, like one year I’m too skinny, another year I’m too fat; last year I needed to change my hairstyle, this year I need to shave. Like many, I would be totally lost without my mom’s constant advice and “constructive” criticism. Now I’m the perfect weight with flawless hair and skin, just ask my wife.
Besides her impeccable tastes, however, I love when my mom visits us because she is famous for bringing exotic gifts.
For example, a few Decembers ago, my mom brought a super useful set of items that I didn’t realize we so desperately needed. When I picked up her luggage I was taken aback and sarcastically asked, “Mom, what do you have in these bags, rocks‽” Well, I came home from work the next day to find the floor in our largest room completely covered with chestnuts. So, not rocks this time. It looked like some kind of weird Home Alone booby-trap scenario. My mom said that she was drying them out. Of course, how foolish of me to be confused. It makes perfect sense to fill an entire suitcase with 50 pounds worth of chestnuts, fly them across the country, and then lay them out to dry in your son’s sunroom.
Back to this last visit. This time…
It was rocks.
My mom brought a valise filled with rocks, ceramics, and bamboo. Because, as you know, we don’t have rocks here in Florida so it’s only natural that she would think it prudent to pack enough rocks for us to complete our interior home garden.
When I was a kid, I was sort of annoyed/embarrassed by these eccentric gifts. Shocking I know. But now: I love it. And I can hardly wait to see what she brings next.
So, thank you, mom. You’re the best, and I love you. I only hope that one day I can repay you in some small measure with equally pragmatic portmanteau products.
Also, remember children, never leave your mothers at home alone unless you want your entire living area turned into a makeshift hydroponics system.
Well, at least one of the best characters but that doesn’t make as good of a headline. Does anyone read anything online that doesn’t use extreme, absolute terms like “best,” “worst,” or “Trump?” Maybe I should title this blog post: “What Trump Really Thinks About the New Nebula-Russian Oil Hack Deal in North Korea.” Would that get more views?
Obviously, there’s a lot of great character work in Avengers Endgame. Each main hero has their shining moments. But by the end of the movie, Nebula was surprisingly the character that I found most compelling. About the only thing I could have asked is that Nebula should have been used more in the final battle. A video essayist who goes by the moniker Nando v Movies has done a fantastic job of exploring that concept so I’ll leave it him to tell you more about Nebula needing a closing confrontation with Thanos.
Nevertheless, I believe she has perhaps the most meaningful and powerful story arc of all the characters. And this is why:
Where is Nebula?
When we first meet Nebula in Guardians of the Galaxy she appears to be a fairly simple villain as a henchperson of her adoptive and abusive father Thanos. She seems more machine than woman—cold, calculating, compassionless. But throughout the movies, we learn about the suffering she’s endured. Thanos would horrifically replace a part of Nebula with advanced biomachinery every time she failed in some way. All this, in his warped mind, to improve her—make her stronger, faster, better. In spite of all the trauma, Nebula, like most children, was willing to do anything to please her father, desperate for his approval. So this is where we first find Nebula, a person torn apart and reassembled, constantly reminded of how she’s not good enough.
Who is Nebula?
But: by the time Endgame rolls around we’ve seen tremendous growth from Nebula. We get to learn who she truly is. Like everyone else, she yearns for connection, belonging, and purpose; for a family. I loved all of the smaller, quieter character moments in Endgame like towards the beginning when Nebula is playing paper football with Tony Stark. As with all of Thanos’ children, we see how her life, childhood, and innocence were all stolen. She’s never really had fun. But she has grown and is growing past her past.
This newer Nebula taking shape is clearly juxtaposed in the movie against the former version of herself. Her past self, both literally and metaphorically, comes back to haunt her—tormenting her, torturing her, and even cannibalizing herself for parts. Reminding her of who she was: nobody. The two Nebula’s, old and new, struggle against each other. The stakes: her very identity.
I’ll do you one better, why is Nebula?
We see even more clearly how far Nebula has come when presented face to face with her old self. It’s like when I wake up in the morning and look at myself in the mirror: not a pretty sight, sometimes I frighten myself. The old Nebula is still a prisoner to an abusive cycle. The new Nebula, despite being captured and imprisoned by Thanos, is actually free. This is why Nebula is so great.
Her life was stolen, her body objectified, and her humanity stripped. But the whole time her limbs were being replaced, it seems, she was slowly replacing the parts of her that really matter: her heart and her soul. Through the friendships she’d make and the purpose she’d find, Nebula became far greater than Thanos’ intent. She became better—not a better machine or warrior—but a better person, eventually even a hero. An Avenger. It was the relationships she formed with others like her sister Gamora that helped bring healing and redemption.
And at the end, the endgame of Nebula’s arc, to complete her transformation, she must kill her past self (again, both figuratively and literally). Dead to the old self. Alive to the new. It’s a powerful image and an even more powerful concept. Just like an actual astronomical nebula—a beautiful, shining, colorful space cloud—Nebula becomes truly radiant. Like a gallant parade of unicorn flatulence stretching out across the vast expanse of reality after interstellar taco night.
Here’s the lesson we can learn from Nebula: we are not just our past pains or past mistakes; we are who we choose to be. Neither trauma nor failure have to define us, control us, enslave us. We can grow. We can be better. It is the voice of lies that tells us we’ll never be good enough as we are. But the truth is, who we are is breathtaking, and who we can be is even more. We need not be prisoners to the past any longer. We can become new. My, oh my, look at your fine nimbus and blush. Your light is brilliant, so shine. You too can be a massive, gorgeous unicorn fart floating among the heavens.
“…[she] is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
So, we saw the new Marvel movie this weekend: Avengers Endgame. And it got me thinking… Wow, what an accomplishment for all those involved—this whole interconnected, cinematic phenomenon all started elevenish years ago. What was I doing eleven years ago? What do I have to show for the past decade?
Well, I was in college. And I suppose that when I wasn’t goofing off, I was probably in a class or something. But more specifically, for some odd reason, superheroes punching aliens made me recall a particular incident from a particular adventure that I went on during my Freshman year.
A friend from my dorm and I decided to go on a road trip during a school break: up through the Midwest to Canada and then back down through New England. We were driving my car, and I didn’t own a GPS. This is also before the whole smartphone revolution. So we were doing old school MapQuest printouts and even older school actual road maps to navigate our way across the northeastern region of the United States.
One night, late—like approaching midnight—we were lost. Well, I won’t say lost. I’ll say we simply didn’t know where we were or where we were going. Anyways, somehow we ended up on this backroad in the middle of must have been nowhere, driving through the thick, dark mountain forest of a state that perhaps doesn’t always have the best reputation for being a safe place to get lost in. But so as not to offend anyone, let’s use an alias and call it the Back Woods of the Smaller Skintag Version of Virginia Located Westerly.
All of a sudden, a dim light appeared in the distance: a partially lit motel sign with forbidding dead branches hanging around the property like a cloud of spikes and splinters. Yes, whatever you’re imagining right now, that’s about right. This was the Bates Motel, the Hotel California, the opposite of the light at the end of the tunnel. Look, I cannot possibly express how eerie the atmosphere and just plain creepy the building was.
The parking lot was absent of cars, but the open sign was flickering on. I looked at my friend. He was known as a military, survivor-type on our hall. He wore an army-issued jacket, combat boots, and in his pockets were knives. Why someone needed to carry so many knives with them, I’ll never know (actually, in retrospect, perhaps the greater danger was sitting beside me the whole time). But as I parked, I looked at my friend with bewilderment and trepidation, and he spoke up first, “I’m not going in there.”
As I stood in front of the door, I weighed my options: is it better to die from exposure, lost in the woods, or to be murdered by some motel manager maniac? Before I could really think it through, I was turning the doorknob. The door creaked open, and inside I could see shadows crawling on the walls as just the vaguest sense of any light source penetrated through the bleak darkness. Seriously, no lights were turned on. Sitting by a bar counter, a gruff voice behind a burning cigarette asked if he could help me. I thought, “probably not, I’m just fine, thank you and good day sir, I’ll be going now…”
I could go on, but not to make things overly dramatic, I did eventually get some semblance of directions to navigate back to the highway. Obviously, I’m still alive. Anticlimactic much?
I guess the point of me telling this story is that sometimes the journey of life can take unexpected turns. Sometimes we lose our way. Sometimes we’re surrounded by what seems like infinite darkness. Sometimes, we come face to face with our nightmares.
But don’t let those realities stop you from taking the journey, from living life. We can never prevent all dangers and disasters. Trouble is inevitable. Safety is never guaranteed. But if we let fear consume and control us, then what’s the point of being alive at all? Don’t just exist. Live. And maybe carry a pocketknife or two.
The movie was pretty good by the way (especially for fans). You should go see it—and think about where the last eleven years have brought you.
Ok… just let me look it up. I shouldn’t have looked it up. There are several definitions here. Who has time for this? Just pick one definition for words people. What’s with all this confusing nonsense of some words having multiple meanings and some meanings having multiple words? First definition: to cheat someone out of something. Oh, I know another word for that: taxes. Second definition: to pass time aimlessly. I guess I’m diddling right now. Third definition: never mind, don’t look it up, you don’t want to know and neither do I.
Anyways, there was this cat with a fiddle who was a diddler. But that doesn’t make sense because a cat who fiddles is rather impressive. That would get all the hits on YouTube; even give Grumpy Cat a run for his money.
Then this cow jumped over the moon. That’s so cliché nowadays. Cows always be jumping over moons, don’t they? You want to impress me, try to kitty fiddle diddle over the kiddie muddle puddle three times fast. And then jump over the International Space Station.
Next, some little dog laughed to witness these sporting shenanigans (I guess the cow was training for the Chick-fil-A Hunger Games). Because why not have a dog giggling with hysteria in this tale about diddle, fiddling cats and Olympian high jump heifers?
And the dish ran away with the spoon. A tale as old as time. Forbidden love. A classic retelling of Romeo and Juliet. What’s in a name that which we call a dish by any other name would still be a plate that we eat off of be it plastic or fine china? For never was a story of more woe than this of Cuisinart and her Sango.
Morals of the story:
Words are confusing because they’re mostly descriptive rather than prescriptive. How are we supposed to communicate with anyone? One says a dish and spoon could never work out. Another says that the labels of dish and spoon are just social constructions imposed upon us by the cutlery-patriarchy. So, I guess, just say what you mean and mean what you say, or something… or if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say I told you so, or never mind, on to the next one.
Don’t just diddle your life away waiting for something amazing to happen like an athletic bovine show. Do something with your life. Now. Take up fiddling or pottery. Just be careful that all of your ceramics don’t fall in love, elope, and bankrupt your business.
My wife and I were recently in the throes of potty training with our charming toddler. And like travailing the thick jungles of an uncharted rain forest, navigating the new land or Toiletdom has been interesting, to say the least. Like a good movie, it’s been full of suspense, mystery, drama, and intrigue. There have been unexpected turns, plot twists, and shocking character developments. The potty pangs are real.
But each day we kept going and did not give up, and neither did she. As we cheered on our child and celebrated each triumph the days got better and dryer. We would remind her over and over again, “You can do it!” And then, when finally the floodgates of her bladder opened up to descend into the bowl of destiny she squealed with delight, “I did it!” Her glimmering glee as she mastered the potty has been truly inspirational.
Perhaps you are enduring the refining fire of a similar forge. Do the days seem dire and the universe ungovernable? Is your patootie simply pooped in more ways than one? Are you in the midst of an inauspicious space as you seem to have had yet another accident in the underwear that is your life? Then let me take a moment to encourage you to take heart.
If you feel like life has dealt you handful of gerbil droppings, then throw them away, that’s gross. If you feel burdened and overwhelmed by all the worries of life, then don’t hold it in, that’s not healthy, just let it all out. If you’re straining with too many demands, then don’t push too hard, just wait, eat some prunes, and try again later. Does everything seem to be full of poop? If it’s brown, flush it down. Just like our toddler, you too can wave adios to your troubles, and say “Bye, bye poopie!”
You can do it. You can succeed in this next challenge of life training. You can overcome the rump scoundrels that cause mental constipation, emotional diarrhea, and spiritual incontinence. You too can proclaim from the misty mountaintops, “I did it!” Yes, yes, you did indeed.
As In Life, Such Is the Potty
Oh what ominous porcelain peak that lurks before me?
A forbidding cliff, a fearsome instrument of torture I’m sure.
Must I ascend this frosty alp, this saucy summit?
My bawdy bowels tremble.
My delicate derriere is in dread.
My keister shivers at the touch of the dead cold ceramic.
Oh hindquarters, don’t fail me now.
Take courage and sit strong!
You wayward whoopsies don’t miss the mark.
As posterior plumps on exterior of the galvanized gourd,
Please don’t slip and be sure all exits remain interior.
Behold, this throne of smelly terrors once my bane,
Now subjugated to my will is but a hollow seat.
My caboose celebrates in serendipity!
I’m a big boy now.
Two degenerate ruffians named Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water. Now immediately, I have questions about this story. How are these characters related, and how old are they? I assume they’re siblings and that their parents have instructed them to go retrieve some water from a well on top of a hill. But they’re clearly not responsible or coordinated enough to accomplish this task. So, who do we blame: the five-year-old for crashing the car into the house or the parent who left the keys in the ignition? In America, we blame the car manufacturer and sue them for millions.
Also, why are the watering holes always located in such inconvenient places? Why don’t people just build their homes closer to the water source? Like, water’s important, right? I feel like I’ve heard that somewhere before. I think I learned in class once before that water is essential for a couple of things like coffee, and I drink that all the time. So, if it’s so important, you’d think people would make it easier to get to. Also, conserve water. Don’t brush your teeth.
Then Jack fell down and broke his crown. I’m assuming this refers to his head. If he had a royal crown he wouldn’t be fetching his own water that’s for sure. Alas, if he broketh his head, dost not that imply perchance he’s dead? Oh look, I made a rhyme. This is a nursery rhyme after all. And then Jill, not to be outdone by her brother came tumbling after. Because girls can do anything boys can do but better. Equality across the board, even in massive head traumas.
The morals of the story:
When life gives you a watering hole at the top of a hill, make an epic slip-n-slide.
Life is about who we are, not just what we do. What I do is write nonsensical hot garbage on the Internet. But that hardly makes me special. Legacy is about the lives we touch. Just watch Coco. It’s about the memories that we shared and leave with those we loved—like that time when my sibling and I slipped on a slippery slope (because lots of water) and busted our head making us fall into a coma—so a double fall. Except, I guess I don’t remember cause coma… but someone told me about it later… maybe?
Lessons on why you can’t make affordable health omelets without breaking a few eggs
On a particular occurrence…
There was one rotund and portly gentleman by the name of Sir Humpty Dumpty Esquire the Fifth who had a particular fondness of sitting atop certain ramparts and parapets. Basically, like planking before planking—extreme parkour wall siting. Now, given his stocky nature, it is a mystery to me how exactly he ascended these structures in the first place. He must have been uniquely agile and deft for his stout stature. Or maybe he used a ladder.
Now that I think about it, if your name is Humpty Dumpty, you probably shouldn’t be participating in high-adrenaline, high-octane sports. Like you’re just asking for an accident to happen. Also, was this his given name by his parents, or did he choose this name?
Nevertheless, one day, our plump protagonist sat on a wall, and lo indeed, he had a great fall. So tremendous was the fall that our dear Dumpty was torn asunder and fragmented into pieces. Because apparently, he was a giant anthropomorphic egg or something like that. So then, the king’s posse of ponies and paladins were called in. Why didn’t they just call a doctor or a surgeon? I don’t know. Seriously, horses have hooves—not the greatest combination when placed near a fragile egg. Government efficiency at its finest. Predictably and dreadfully, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men could not put Sir Humpty Dumpty back together again because he was not covered by the in-network health insurance, and eggs do not have a basic right to receive medical care, even when it’s a common, curable ailment. Also, they were terrible at solving puzzles. So, then everyone had omelets.
The morals of the story:
The American health care system is terrible, but you already knew that. So, take care of your body because the king’s horses and men won’t. Maybe consider a medical sharing or health savings plan.
If your bodily constitution is made up of essentially an eggshell, don’t sit on walls.
If you feel certain body parts are a little too round or little too squishy, don’t fret too much. You just do you, you gorgeous specimen of humanity.
There was an itsy bitsy spider. Or maybe it was incy wincy? What’s the difference? Probably has to do with those Brits across the Big Pond trying to colonialize more of our culture just like with their pop star singers and BBC television series. It’s a Second Revolutionary War, but this time, they cast an English actor as Superman.
So, this itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka-dot spider wore a bikini for the first time today because she was feeling rather confident and sassy. But her poise would become a slippery slope indeed. For as she began to ascend one desirable waterspout, the most magnificent and beautiful of all gutter drains, that is when the floodgates opened up and a torrential, watery vengeance descended upon our fair heroine. Alas, she was swept away by the wave and with it her aspirations to climb the socio-economic ladder—giving new meaning to the term “trickle-down economics.”
But then! Arise the sun did, and the floods were evaporated as if nothing but a shadowy memory. Then the vertically challenged arachnid traversed and climbed up the spout again to stand triumphantly with her dignity intact and her eyes (all eight of them) gleaming in the soft glow of sun beams.
Now, one might be tempted to deconstruct this nursery rhyme as merely a more child-friendly retelling of the tragic Greek myth of Sisyphus who was condemned to an eternity of pushing a boulder up a hill just to watch it roll back down again and again. But I believe there is more optimism warranted of our eight-legged legend.
You see, in life, there will be storms. When it rains, it pours, and when you’re stuck in a drain pipe, you’re probably confused about the purpose of pipes (I’ll give you a hint: they’re not for climbing). But it’s not about avoiding the rains. It’s about what you choose to do in the midst of them, and what you choose to continue to do after them. Falling down gives us the opportunity to learn how to stand back up. And getting caught in the rain gives us the opportunity to eat lemon drops and gum drops that taste like smog and soot.
The sun will come out again.
The morals of the story:
Keeping faith that the sun will rise gives us the strength to endure and the courage to face the rains.
Next time, just take the stairs. Or at least bring an umbrella/galoshes/raincoat. No one likes wet socks.
aka: What the curly tale of the three little pigs can teach us about the 2008 housing market crisis
Once upon a time…
There were three little pigs (not those miniature-pigs, mind you—those don’t actually exist; they’re a scam so don’t buy one online—no these were just prepubescent piggies, runts of the litter if you will). Their names were Ham, Bacon, and Prosciutto because they had cynical, millennial pig parents who had prescribed themselves to a life of pessimism and vanity after a financial crisis struck in which a parade of wolves on wall street huffed and puffed and blew down many houses of swine. But that’s another story.
Well, anyways, let’s just skip a bit here on the whole character development thing. So, yeah, one day, the three brother pigs (or sister pigs, I don’t know, whichever or neither, I’m not a sexist pig after all) decided to build them each a home. Because living in a pit of mud had become dull and they said to their old folks that they were too good to stay in that pigsty any longer. What pretentious little piggies.
Now at this juncture, I know what you’re thinking: “Wait, these animals walk and talk?” Yes, animals in these tales are always anthropomorphized for some reason. Don’t ask me why. I suppose because it would be a rather dull story to hear otherwise.
But anyways, Ham, always the shrewd one, decided to build his home out of straw—you know, the stuff many animals like horses and I’m pretty sure pigs will eat. Not the drinking straws due to a global shortage since coffee shops have decided that those plastic tubes of death suck—literally and figuratively. Obviously, he finished first. As they say, if you want a job done fast, just assign the laziest person in the office to do it because they’ll find the quickest way to get it done.
Bacon, however, opted to build his home out of sticks because there’s hardly anything better smelling than some hickory smoked bacon, and this guy was oinking for the ladies (or vice versa; again, not a chauvinist here).
And then there was Prosciutto, a more refined swine. A sophisticated gourmand with a cane, monocle, and British accent for some reason. He built his home out of bricks—you know, like what many normal houses are made of. Actually, he probably didn’t build anything. He probably outsourced and hired a general contractor.
Well one inevitably plot-convenient day, the Big Bad Wolf (I guess that’s his [or her, wait no, it’s a bad guy so definitely a he] proper first, middle, and last name) was prowling around to find another sucker to commit fraud against. He then came upon the three pigs’ homes.
Mr. Big B. Wolf then proceeded to knock on little Ham’s door and proclaimed, “Little pig, little pig, won’t you let me come in? I promise that these interest rates won’t change for the first three years!” The wee little pig then proceeded in a rather rough, rash, and rudely manner to shout, “Not by one hair follicle upon either of my double chin!” “Well, I never!” responded Mr. Wolf. “Then I suppose I’ll just have to huff and puff and blow your house down!” Because I guess that’s a normal emotional reaction from a door-to-door salesman who’s been turned away? And so, he did just that, and the house of straw came crashing down. This event would become known as the Second Great Housing Market Crash of the 2000s.
Now, if this were a melancholier and purist rendition of the classic fable, then Ham’s story would end in the gullet of the beast. However, since we want to remain family friendly in our tale, we won’t even insinuate that the piglets were devoured alive by the blood-thirsty scoundrel. Won’t mention it at all. Instead, somehow, by deus ex machina, the little pig got away and ran to his sibling Bacon’s house.
Lather, rinse, repeat. You know the story. Sticks are also terrible for building livable structures. So, let’s just skip to the next bit.
The Big Bad Wolf was now quite irate at the lack of hospitality shown by the locals. Where he came from, you invited visitors in for a nice brunch—something simple like eggs and bac… never mind. Ham, Bacon, and Prosciutto all hunkered down in the house made of bricks. The Wolf demanded to be let in. Obviously, “not by the hair on their chinny, chin, chins.” Whatever that means. Like does that mean that strangers are normally allowed in if they acquire a piglet whisker to pay a door toll? Is it a triple chin? Either way, the Wolf began to huff and puff and put on another pathetically desperate show but this time to no avail. Prosciutto announced, “We’ll have no huffing and puffing here my good man. This democratic state has not yet legalized use of such substances, and I’m sure all that dramatic Lamaze of yours isn’t for medicinal purposes either.” Nevertheless, Mr. Wolf blew again and again until he passed out due to lack of oxygen to the brain, at which point the three little pigs called animal control and the Federal Trade Commission.
Then they helped themselves to a nice bowl of slop, and they all lived happily ever after. Except for Prosciutto. Because his nice, new home was now overrun and overcrowded with his frustratingly loud and ignorant brothers.
So, now boys and girls, the moral(s) of the story are:
Avoid taking out a second mortgage, and definitely not any subprime loans on a home that you can’t realistically afford.
Also, invest in homeowners and wolf disaster insurance.
Also, also, don’t let strange, hairy people in your house.
Oh, yeah, and something about the foolish pig builds his/her house out of straws and sticks that can break my bones but words will never hurt me as much as a brick to the face, but the wise pig builds his/her house out of actual building materials. Duh.
Oh, dear scorned and neglected one! Day often approached in despair, As the final, sweet moments of weekend expire. A day bemoaned and begrudged; Oh poor, little Mondays.
None want to wake to you, All want to wait for you. Marker of the week, The work begins with you, As sighs and fruffy grumbles float across the office space.
But may it not be oh Dawn Breaker, oh Bringer of New Life! Accused of fussy scruples and pedantic pontificating. Nay! You saucy little rascal. You plucky tortoise who shall win the race.
With new week, comes new focus, new resolve. It is New Year’s resolutions every New Monday. Tis cause for celebration. May we shout and rejoice. Another opportunity draws nigh to be the gladiator champion of productivity.
So pour the robust beans, That scalding, hot elixir of the heavens. Breathe in full and deep the crisp, morning air. Admire the glittering lights of dew resting and waking with the dawn. Seize the day; grasp hold and leave your fingerprints on time and space.