Dan the Man

October 27, 2010

Big Diesel. Hollywood. Shug Night. These are my father’s aliases. His namesake, Daniel the prophet, only had one — Belteshazzar.

My dad, Dan, is similar to Daniel. He’s loyal, generous and inquisitive. He also makes grandiose statements, loves giving advice and ends up in some interesting situations.

I’m not sure why my brother calls my dad Big Diesel, but the name fits the personality. Why? Well, Big Diesel has his own way of doing things. Rather than messing with his desk chair, Big Diesel keeps it at midget height, his chest level with the keyboard; he turns his laptop sideways to read unusually formatted documents; and carries his reading glasses in a plastic sandwich bag. Big Diesel.

Like Daniel the prophet, who walks in a fire to save his friends, Big Diesel is extremely loyal. Why not long ago he participated in a three-day, 60-mile MS walkathon to support his friends. No one in our family has MS and until moments before the race, Big Diesel wasn’t walking much. When he started training (I’m guessing a week, two weeks before the race), he got a huge blister on his heel. Rather than letting his friends down, he cut a hole in the back of his shoe to accommodate the blister. Big Diesel.

Daniel the prophet prays for his people while wearing sackcloth and sitting in a pile of ashes. I don’t think my dad’s ever done that (it’s possible), but he has his own sense of style, which is why we call him Hollywood. Hollywood is a very good skier, but his skiing attire — black jeans, $2 Ray-Ban knock-offs, flapping jacket — is all 80s and if Hollywood gets a phone call, he will stop mid-turn to answer it. Hollywood loves his flip phone and has special greetings for everyone who calls. They include: “Yo.” “Mr. Brown.” “Hel-lo.” “Hey Ives.” “This is Dan.” His tone varies with each greeting and when he’s done with you he says, “It was good talking to you.” Click. No goodbye. Conversation over.

Inference is a Prophet Daniel and Big Diesel/Hollywood specialty. The prophet interprets dreams, Hollywood interprets people. For a while, Hollywood knew all bad drivers were either “on drugs” or “punks.” “Methheads” got worked in there for a while, but I think that prophecy has dissipated.

Hollywood could be a writer. He loves telling stories and creating conspiracy theories. This is how his final alias, Shug Night, was born.

For some reason Hollywood started a conversation about the Biggie/Tupac beef, of which he knows a lot (he watched a special). It’s impossible to talk about Biggie and Tupac without theorizing Biggie’s death. Shug Night admits producer Suge Knight had a role in the situation.  However, Shug Night’s says gangs are the real reason Biggie got shot. He blames the “Knights and Crips” a rivalry that, to my knowledge, doesn’t exist.

I just got off the phone with Shug Night. I had to verify the spelling of his name. I though it was “Shrug Night” (because he shrugs his shoulders a lot) but it’s Shug. Why Shug and not Suge, like the real Suge Knight?

“I just shortened it up. His name wasn’t cool enough for me.”

I read The Book of Daniel with greater enthusiasm than the other books because it made me think of my father. If churches could relate personalities like Big Diesel, Hollywood and Shug Night to the prophets, I would consider parking my butt in a pew.

Stopping Point: The Book of Hosea

Sympathy for the Devil

October 26, 2010

Here’s a christian favorite: “The Lord works in mysterious ways.”

He sure does. I dozed off during today’s reading. I blame Gog, a man with an interesting name and dull tale. When I woke up I thought, “What the hell am I going to write about today? All I’ve got is Gog.”

To stay awake during the rest of the reading, I turned on Pandora and wouldn’t you know, the first song was “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. When I finished reading, I got an email from a reader about Stones’ front man Keith Richards quitting the Bible in 2008 because “it was boring.” Coincidence? I think not. God wanted me to find inspiration in the devil.

Before boring Gog, I read “The Valley of Dry Bones.” Anorexics existed during Biblical times (many people nearly fasted themselves to death in the name of the Lord) but this valley is full of bones, no flesh, no organs, no fuzzy faces. Bones.

God breathes life into these bones, thereby creating new humans. How, might I ask, does this exclude reincarnation as a possibility for Christians? What if God screwed up and breathed souls into animals or trees? I’d like to delve into this topic, but I’m brain dead and it’s almost Halloween so let’s get back to the devil.

All God has to do is breathe life into bones. The devil, on the other hand, has to personalize purgatory for every sinner. That, my friend, is quite a task. I am not bothered by the prospect of spending eternity in inferno. Extreme heat is not on my Top 100 List of Irritations. When I go to hell, the devil’s going to need to customize a chamber for me, Ivy Hughes, and it should include the following:

Old people eating liquids

Barking dogs

Morbidly obese people in motorized scooters

Snakes

Politicians (there’s some overlap here)

Glenn Beck and his stupid university

Bjork

Mark Zuckerberg

Raw chicken

Those are just a few samples from the list I’ve been compiling for about a year and that’s just me. My husband’s chamber would include wet socks, mismatched socks, Oprah and unsolicited contact with bodily fluids.

Imagine how many people are in and will go to hell. Imagine customizing purgatory for each and every one of them.

In “Sympathy for the Devil,” the Stones say the Devil “stole many a man’s soul and fate.” Imagine managing all of those stolen souls? The Devil only gets one holiday — Halloween — so make sure it’s a good one.

The Rolling Stones : Sympathy For The Devil (live) HQ

Stopping Point: The Book of Daniel

*We’re adding faces and opinions. Thursday our first guest blogger, Laura Talley, creator of the Redheaded Skeptic, will contribute to ThumpMe. If you’re interested in contributing or have suggestions for contributors/subjects, please leave a comment or contact me at ivy.hughes@gmail.com

I thought about Job all weekend. There is, I’ll admit, a bit of an attraction there. He’s sort of like the diseased, depressed, sackcloth wearing dead guy that got away.

Predictably, I’m drawn to his despair, a unifying isolator that can supersede centuries, nations and ideologies but not the individual. When desolation brings Job to his knees, he says:

“I have no strength left to save myself; there is nowhere I can turn for help.”

Had I been an oppressed B.C. concubine or prophet, Job could have turned to me. I carry other people’s burdens well and identify (monthly) with the absolute collapse of spirit. However, if I had been around would Job have asked me — his new girlfriend — for help? Probably not. His unwillingness to share his feelings may have ended our relationship, but raises a phenomenal question: Why the hell is it so difficult to ask for help?

Is it because we don’t want others to think we’re weak or is it because we don’t know how? For me, it’s both.

Years ago I got a massive cut and eventual raging infection in my shin because I refused to ask my husband to get something from a top shelf (shhh, he doesn’t know about Job). My friend recently threw out her back because she refused to ask someone to help her lift a 40-pound concrete block. Clearly it’s much better to feign strength and end up in a hospital than it is to ask for help and function normally.

My friend and I could have asked for help but chose not to. Unfortunately when Job and I really need help, we don’t even know how to ask for it, let alone refuse it. Job and I just suffer. We tear out our hair, curse life and toss dirt on ourselves, or something like that.

Now if Job was alive and we were friends/friends with benefits, I would ask him for help but only because I know we emote similarly. Unfortunately, Job and I run with a crowd that’s not particularly adept at organization. We do not gather once a week to meet, discuss and share. So, when I’m headed into a Job-like state, I have to look to the grave for help. I have to look to Job, J.D. Salinger and John Kennedy Toole.

Job and I would disagree on his return to God, but I can see why people who don’t know how to ask for help turn to prayer. Prayer is anonymous, saving both parties from the pain and discomfort of expression. Prayer has no physical space. It can be submitted in the middle of a football field or from the deep hollows of a dark room. Prayer is the easiest way to ask for help because it’s the most private, non-intrusive way to do so.

Prayer also brings people to church, a structural access point where people are given the opportunity to meet others that that may relate to a particular woe. It’s like a big self-help group.

I wish Job were here so we could start our own group. Our crowd shies away from structure so we’d have to get a bit more creative, maybe an annual festival like Lollapalooza for the down trodden. We could call it “Whohoo! Suck.” We could have two stages. One for the manic — techno, bright flashing lights, ATM machines, access to on-line shopping, mirages — and one for the depressed — one gigantic bed surrounded by water tower sized boxes of tissues, Radiohead’s “How to Disappear Completely” on repeat, no light.

Radiohead How to Disappear Completely Music Video Kid A

Or, we could orchestrate weepups, monthly gathering for the Twitter depressed to talk about feeling worthless.

The problem, of course, is getting those who would benefit the most from the group, to the gathering.

Stopping Point: Psalms 1-20

15 Minutes of Fame

July 28, 2010

I’m noticing that as my peer group ages, particularly if diminishing time includes reproduction, it trends toward organized religion. People state various reasons for the return — renewed faith, trauma, fear of death — but I believe the overarching reason is tucked in the subconscious and can only be defined as an overwhelming desire for fame, an eternal recognition by the masses that yes, they are SOMEONE SPECIAL.

People don’t like to use the word famous as it relates to their desired legacy. They prefer to be “remembered” yet for most, finite remembrance by a universally insignificant amount of people (nuclear family for most, extended for a few), is almost tragic.

We don’t know what the afterlife — if there is such a thing — will bring, but fame is a possibility. Let’s say you’re 60 and decide you’ve got about 20 years left to “make a mark.” Let’s say that so far your only “mark” is a one-sentence quote in an archived local paper. Wouldn’t the very idea of having an unlimited amount of time to become “known” among many be very compelling? What if even after all that time, your legacy was whittled down to a paragraph? Would you still do it?

The First Book of Kings discusses the life and conquests of Israel’s most influential kings including Solomon, who is known for being “richer and wiser than any other king” one “the whole world wanted to come and listen to.” I suppose he was sort of like Oprah. Even though he was considered a “great,” when he dies only a small paragraph is devoted to his life. The same goes for the other kings mentioned in this section including those rarely recognized, such as Zimri.

This pattern continues today. The 2010 TIME 100 list of  the people who have most affected our world includes some household names — Barack Obama, Sarah Palin, Ben Stiller (he is listed as a “hero”), Oprah, Lady Gaga, Conan O’Brien and Prince — but how long will their fame last? Certainly longer than Louise Brooks and Gustav Mahler, but not by much. If they’re lucky, their lives will collapse to a paragraph in a mass-produced high school history book. But everyone wants a paragraph and many will look to a fantastical afterlife to get it.

Many times people say they don’t want to be famous. They’d rather “influence” others. I believe many do, but influence is often a smokescreen for fame. Influence in its true sense, which I see as an altruistic means to help others, isn’t flashy, not even when it touches fame.

How many of these people could you talk about (intelligently) for more than five minutes?

Zaha Hadid, Elizabeth Warren, Douglas Schwartzentruber and Larry Kwak, Michael Pollan, Atul Gawande, Jaron Lanier, Victor Pinchuk, Lee Kuan Yew, Deborah Gist, Kathleen Merrigan, Steve Jobs, Tim White, Lisa Jackson, Elon Musk, Edna Foa, Jaime Lerner, Paul Volcker, Amy Smith, Matt Berg, Amartya Sen, Michael Sherraden, Sanjit ‘Bunker’ Roy, Tim Westergren, David Boies and Theodore Olson and Sonia Sotomayor.

These people happen to be the 25 “thinkers” on the 2010 TIME 100 list, which gives them more exposure than most other 21st Century “thinkers.” But they’re still not household names because influence isn’t sexy, fame is.

Perhaps if we let go of fame and focused on influence purely as a means to improve the lives of others, the number of people returning to church as a means to get one last shot at fame, would vastly diminish. If you’re goal really is to influence, there’s no need to cling to eternity. If you’re goal is fame, and you’re not Lady Gaga, hold on tight and don’t miss Sunday mass.

FYI. This video explains how they made the TIME 100 list.

Note: I will be publishing again this Friday, July 30. To keep on track I need to get through the Second Book of Kings this week. Next week I’ll be back on the Monday/Wednesday track.

Stopping Point: Second Book of Kings


Passing on Passover

July 12, 2010

I realize this will devastate the Jewish community, but I will not be converting to Judaism. The Old Testament is largely at fault as it’s full of names and places I will never get straight. I’m also not that hot on Jerusalem, a sentiment my husband says is “ignorant” and therefore may require revision.

Even though I don’t want to be a Jew and am looking forward to the New Testament, I’ve enjoyed several pieces of the Old including the Book of Judges. The majority of the Book of Judges is about killing, taking land and killing. Naturally, I can’t remember the names of the murderers, lost tribes or pillaged lands, but I remember the means to every end. They include a left handed stabbing with a double edged sword; an enthusiastic hammering of a tent peg into a skull; an oxgoad beating; a natural beating via thorns and briars; lighting people on fire (this happens a lot); death by flaming fox tails; dead donkey jawbone bashings and collapsing structures for the sole purpose of crushing skulls.

The Book of Judges also introduces us to our first sociopath, a wayward Levite who makes up for selfishly murdering his wife by generously distributing her chopped up body to each of the 12 Tribes of Israel. I believe Judges records our first gang rape, but I’d have to go back and check because something similar may have happened last time homosexuality was discussed. I have major issues with this and am logging all violence related to homosexual activity.

The Levite is fascinating, but I’m awestruck by Samson, who ripped a lion apart with his hands and then ate honey from its innards; and indebted to Deborah, who created a two page “song” that reads like a text book, proving that people have been subjected to musical train wrecks since the beginning of civilization. In other words, I finally found a song less palatable than “Money Can’t Buy You Class,” by New York real housewife Countess Luann de Lesseps.

This is entirely unrelated but I came across extraordinary hat while searching for photos of Jerusalem. If anyone wants to send me one, I promise to search eBay for a matching oxgoad (a stick-like weapon) and wear both to work.

Stopping Point: Samuel

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