Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spam is all your fault


Okay, perhaps not directly.  And maybe not you, specifically.  But please hear me out.

Like most people, I get a ton of spam.  Regarding the spammers behind her own stuffed spambox, a concerned friend once asked, “How do they know I’m overweight?”

The countless offers of penii enlargement, prescription drugs, and stock market tips had been overlooked because they hadn’t applied to her.  When they were pointed out, she was surprised.  Why would spammers do that? 

Well, to a spammer, she is just an email address.  He knows that if he tosses a scam or an offer for some illegal product to enough email addresses, someone somewhere will not only feel that the offer applies directly to them – they will actually buy it.

Obviously, there are enough someones out there to make the business of spam profitable.  If you are one of those someones, I’m not mad or anything, but please stop.

Thank you!

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Kingdom for a Penguin


In the past, I’ve recommended staging a show you would like to watch for guaranteed laughter or smiles.  Although I still stand by this recommendation, I realize there is also a time and a place for something quick and easy.

Like today, for example.

I’ve included a shortcut below, in case you are feeling especially lazy.  However, I have made a point of including quick instructions for finding the same results in the world wide web.  Why?  Because a special little penguin has taught me this:

If you give someone a fish, you have fed him for a day.  But, if you teach someone to go to the fish market, then you have made the world a better, more adorable, and happier place.

Skeptical?  Follow these instructions and learn for yourself.


  1. Open up a new web browser.
  2. Point your browser to Google.
  3. Google “penguin backpack japan”.
  4. Fall in love.


The world is full of fun, cute, exciting, and heart warming stories.  Remember to take the time to fish for them.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Thank you to the woman in Central Square

I met a lovely young woman as I made my way to the Central Square T stop today.

She apologized as she approached me, though I wasn’t quite sure why.  Maybe she needed to ask for directions and was afraid she might be interrupting a conversation I was having with my friend?  She hesitated for a few seconds, smiled, apologized again, and then explained.

She recognized me!

It turns out that she had seen me on CCTV.  (I had been part of program featuring storytellers who gathered to remember Brother Blue.)

Pot of Daisies by Elsa

To the woman in Central Square,

Thank you. 

Thank you for a great example of stepping outside one’s comfort zone to approach someone they haven’t met before.  Thank you for saying Hello.  Thank you for your kind words.  Thank you for pointing out my blue sash (would you believe I hadn’t noticed it before?)

Your timing was absolutely perfect.  I had no idea how much I needed your words until the moment you gave them to me.

With much appreciation,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

See me or Seymour?

Do you or someone you fancy think you look like someone famous?

The other day, I was asked the following question:  “Do you only recommend the movies that you’re in?”

The tone of voice, dripping with something too early in the morning for me to identify, surprised me just as much as the question.  I was intrigued. 

Excuse me?”

At the sound of my voice, X realized that he had clearly mistaken me for someone else.  “Oh, I’m sorry.  I thought you were Philip Seymour Hoffman.”

Hoffman Elsa_hat_small

Okay, so I’ve never considered myself a beautiful woman.  But Philip Seymour Hoffman?  I had to get to the bottom of this.

After some nudging, X woke up long enough to realize how strange it had been for him to confuse the two of us.  “But you’re the reason I dreamt about him, anyway” he insisted, as he fell back to sleep.

I’m not sure how to feel about this.  Any suggestions?  :)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Singing support


Although I’ve never had a conversation with my mother’s father, I feel as if I know him.

Ever since I was young, my mother has shared what she remembers about her dad.  Her stories and recollections have implanted him firmly into my memory.


For example, I think of my grandfather whenever my mother sings.

My mom loves to listen to music and will often sing along.  (My dad, in response, will usually say something to the extent of “That’s an MP3 player you have there, not a Karaoke machine.”)

My grandfather used to ask, “¿Por qué estás llorando?”  (Why are you crying?)  My mother, taking him seriously, would go on to explain that she was singing, not crying.  I have no idea how old she was when she realized he was teasing her.

This week I learned that whenever my grandfather heard my mom stumble in a song – either by forgetting the words, or making up her own – he would console her with a conspiratorial “They don’t know the song, mija.  You do.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Mad Magazine changed my life

Back when I was a kid, Mad Magazine supplied me with an unexpected life lesson wrapped in a multi-panel cartoon.

Here is what I remember -- a series of images depicting insincere conversations.  In each frame, two people stand, holding masks up to the sides of their head.  They face you, the audience; Their masks face each other.

One conversation takes place through the masks.  A completely different one takes place toward the audience.  I don’t remember the actual conversations, but I do remember the the gist of them.  The masked dialogues are cordial and caring.  But the truth comes out through what is said toward the audience. 

I can’t stand this guy.

I found the cartoon funny enough to read a number of times.  At the third or fourth perusal, a thought hit me.  Each person holding up a mask did so because they assumed the mask facing them was real.  A kind of obligation confined them -- “This person really seems to like me. I should go out of my way to pretend I like them too.”

It dawned on me that the masks were leading to a complete waste of time.  What’s the use of having an insincere conversation with someone?

I had a friend in college (let’s call him Ralph) who was lots of fun.  Occasionally, while hanging out with each other, we would run into someone on his I can’t stand this person list.

No matter who the person was or how high on the list they sat, Ralph would enter into a conversation involving statements like “I’m so happy to see you!” and “Why haven’t I heard from you recently?” Inevitably, as the conversation drew to a close, Ralph would add, “We should have lunch sometimeCall me!”

Often this would lead to numerous phone calls that Ralph would then ignore.  “Why does this person keep bothering me?” Ralph would ask, clearly annoyed.

When I asked Ralph why he would request a call from someone he didn’t want to talk to, he explained that he was just trying to be polite.  “What, do you want me to be rude?”

I restrained from pulling up my mask when responding.

Isn’t ignoring a requested call rude?  And what’s so terrible about being attentive and polite during a conversation, but ending it with something like “It was good talking to you” or “Maybe we’ll run into each other again sometime”.  Period.

Misleading others is inconsiderate.  Wasting someone’s time is insensitive.  Taking a gift that could have instead gone to someone appreciative is thoughtless and selfish.

Has it ever occurred to you that this person who is ‘annoying’ you is only doing so because you led them to believe you wanted their attention?  The time they are wasting on you would be better spent on someone who would appreciate their effort.”

Years later, Ralph thanked me for this conversation.

Perhaps we need to put on a brave face.  Maybe we are afraid that if a dear friend understood the sacrifices we were making they would stop accepting our help.  For these and plenty of other reasons, there are times in which donning a mask is the right thing to do

But more often than not, a mask is an entirely unnecessary shield between ourselves and the outside world.  It keeps others from knowing us, and it keeps us from knowing others. 

According to Francis Bacon:

“The worst solitude is to be destitute of sincere friendship.”

This sounds just about right to me.  I believe that one has to put their mask down in order to discover and cultivate this kind of connection.

For this reason, I kindly ask that you take off your mask.  Know me and be known.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A different kind of post



When was the last time you received personal correspondence hand delivered by your local mail carrier?

For many folks, it’s been too long!  But that’s okay, I think I can help.

I have a stack of postcards.

If you would like one mailed to you along with a personal note,  contact me.  Let me know who you are, what address I should mail it to, and anything else about yourself that you would like me to know.


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