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Hyperion August 29, 2003
the Hyperion Chronicles
“Not quite a mop, not quite a puppet”

#147 Potpourri, Volume MDCLXVIII

“I’m sorry, Mama. I never meant to hurt you. ‘Never meant to make you cry; but tonight, I’m cleaning out my (potpourri) closet.”
-Eminem (revised)

If I ever have a kid, I’m in trouble
Our first item today is about the ongoing progress of my website, or more accurately, my lack of progress. Editing work has been continuing at a good clip, and my Webmaster Laureate is working his tail off. The problem is my utter inability to pick a name.

Or to be more precise, find a name that hasn’t been stolen from me by a global conspiracy clearly designed to drive me (more) crazy. I’ve actually settled on over two dozen names, only to find out each time they’ve been taken. (A good place to find this out is at I finally narrowed it down to two choices, both polar opposites, and here crippling indecision set in. I’ve consulted everyone from Stephen Hawking to Gandhi, but haven’t come up with that “Aha!” moment, that would allow me to go forward without taking opinion polls of people I care about. Anyway, the work continues, but as of this writing I haven’t settled on a name. Rest assured the moment I do I will be running through your neighborhood naked.

Mystery Science Theater Moments
The last sentence in the preceding item is an example of something I do often here in the Hyperion Chronicles, make some sort of reference. In this case, I’m referring to the Ancient Greek Archimedes, who figured out how to tell the percentage of real gold by its density (or water displacement) while taking a bath. He was so excited he jumped up and ran naked through the streets yelling “Eureka!” which means, “I found it!”

References are a big part of the columns, with the goal being not to detract from the reading experience if you don’t get them, but definitely to add to it if you do. One of the features the website will have is little pop up windows where all the references are, to explain them to you if you might not have gotten it (and believe, me no matter how smart you are, you didn’t get all of them).

As a token of good faith, though, I am going to start that today, at least a little bit. One of the biggest questions I get asked each column is what the meanings are of my throwaway mottos at the beginning. So, from now on, at the end of each column will be an explanation for what the motto means. Hope that keeps you tided over ‘till the website is done.

Mail Bag
Earlier this week I wrote about the business and culture surrounding death. I expected to touch a few nerves, but even I was surprised by the volume and vehemence of the response thus far. To those of you who were upset, you’re entitled to your feelings (something we believe in strongly here at the Hyperion Institute for Advanced Callimastian/Callipygian/Kickassian Studies), but I wasn’t aiming that column at any individual. This is why I went out of my way to write that at the beginning, at the risk of diluting the power of the piece.

I do have a big problem for the way death is made into such a consumer business, and I think it’s self-serving on the part of many in the business to take actions that are designed to make the grieving process as long as possible (sort of like the diaper people, and their “big boy” diapers). But, however a person gets to feel the way they do, it’s neither here nor there when someone dies, and I don’t think there is any set time someone has to spend grieving. I don’t blame them, I blame the system. Oh, and as for the 23 people (thus far) who asked me who died in my own life, no one. I’m not that reactionary. I just felt it was time to share my thoughts on that subject.

Death really does take a holiday, or at least puts up Beatles posters
In related news, it looks like all is not doom and gloom for the Death Care industry. I have an article from Time Magazine detailing how funeral homes are starting to personalize their services, to make them a reflection of the person; a celebration of his or her life, really, instead of the staid conventionality we’ve come to expect. In this new paradigm, customers can set up their funerals with “themes,” anything from comic books to Thomas Kinkade paintings. Personally, I might break my long-standing vow not to attend any more funerals if someone has a Star Wars theme, complete with ushers dressed as red Emperor’s guards. Of course, this is yet another way to get money from the consumer, but seeing as that’s already a given, I’m in favor of this, for at least attempting to make funerals more fun, and about the life the person lived rather than the end he came to. What a revolutionary concept.

Does this mean it’s okay to think Brad Pitt is hot?
Our next item comes from a news story sent in by a thoughtful reader in Trenton, New Jersey (Yes, there are thoughtful people in New Jersey). You can read it here. What the article talks about is a “new breed of men” they are calling Metrosexuals, defined as:

Of or pertaining to a straight, urban male who is eager to embrace and even show off his feminine side, especially when it comes to expensive haircuts, designer suits, and $40 face cream.

Basically, the idea is that straight men (well, famous ones, but the prediction is this will spill over) are feeling more comfortable acting like women without feeling like they will be perceived as gay. I tested this theory with a couple of people I know up here, and both of them felt the need to disparage said men in order to prove their masculinity. I myself am leery of this brave new world of modern behavior, although I am on board with the loofahs; those are just great! However, one can see the attraction women might have, and therefore the reason some men would feel comfortable going there: namely, to still be a man, but without all the rough edges. Of course, some women like the rough edges (no jokes, please), but there are also quite a few women, I suspect, who wish men would take care of themselves, care about fashion, and want to know what window treatments are (for the record, I’m not altogether sure, not being a Metrosexual yet myself, but I think it’s something windows get when they are depressed). Of course, this behavior comes from the same reason women now wear pants: the modern erosion of the defined roles for the sexes. You can get mad all you want, but this trend isn’t going away.

You can’t be serious!
Our next item comes from the Financial Times (click here and scroll to the bottom). Apparently, in order to help security personnel better find terrorists, Canada is banning smiling and frowning in passport photos. All photos must now have “neutral expressions,” and no wigs, touch up makeup, or any other cosmetic device is allowed. That part actually makes sense, but smiling? As far as I can tell, anyone leaving Canada is usually smiling, so I don’t see how this could work.

Looking for love in all…
Finally, we have an item sent in by a Reader from Stockbridge, Georgia (town motto: “We don’t need no stinkin’ education!”), on a prison website for attracting mates. Apparently, this is big business now, as some people, finding it increasingly hard to have relationships with “normies,” (otherwise known as “citizens”) are turning to the prison population. I’m reminded of George Constanza, who did the same thing, describing the benefits: “I have relatively little competition, no chance of a “popover,” I always know where she is, and…the possibility of conjugal visits.”

The reason I was sent this item is because of the particular prisoner “advertising” herself, one Susan Smith. You may recall Susan was the nice young lass, who, after her sexual relationship with her step-father ended, was so despondent, that she drove her car—with her two young children strapped in the back—into a lake, and then blamed the crime on Whitey’s favorite target, a “black man.” An entire nation was first touched by this woman’s plight, then sickened, as they slowly realized, “That’s her real hair!” Needless to say, Smith was convicted and given life in prison, but even prisoners need love.

However, as I alluded to earlier, I am cleaning out my potpourri closet today, and I’ve actually had this item for quite a while. When I went back at looked at the website (you can find it here), the message had changed. Because of all the publicity, Susan Smith has asked that her picture and personal Bio be taken down. I guess now that so many people know, Susan is afraid of the creeps the might be attracted to the site, and as Susan surely knows, you can’t be too careful.

That’s life in the Monkey Barn,

August 29, 2003

Thanks to the Readers who sent in items

Motto Explanation
In The Simpsons, a commercial for The Muppet Show comes on, and Lisa asks her father what a Muppet is. Clearly not knowing, Homer responds with, “It’s not quite a mop, not quite a puppet.”

@2003 the Hyperion Chronicles


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