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Don Hertzfeldt’s Billy’s Balloon (pictured above), where a red balloon, for no reason whatsoever, beats the crap out of a little kid, pretty much metaphorically sums up the sorry state of affairs in the world at the moment. Just this morning, before heading to church (I do attend, this may surprise some folks), I was riveted by Pope Benedict XVI when he “mentioned Syria in particular, calling for an end to the violence with “an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation” and humanitarian assistance to refugees.”
I think that despite our differences, many can agree that the Pope’s Easter call for peace is a social conscience winning message; he hit this one out of the park.
The news is often so bad that it overwhelms. For this reason, my husband and I have developed a ‘safe word.’ The term safe word has, to the best of my understanding, a sexual origin. It is a word that two consenting adults pre-agree on to stop any and all sexual activity immediately if one or the other person wants to stop. Stop what? Well, anything. I can liken it a bit to Scuba diving. If one or the other partners in a buddy couple does not wish to dive for any reason at all, and it can be because the sky is blue, the couple does not dive. Period. This practice can prevent unfortunate mishaps and deaths, such as the case of Chris and Chrissy Rouse, the father-son dive pair who both died in a tragic decompression incident. When I last read the story, I believe that Chrissy initially stated that he did not really want to dive that day. (Divers please correct me if this is wrong).
Our safe word is “Elephant Film.”
Here is the rule. When one or the other of us starts yammering on for way longer than any living human can expect to endure, about [insert litany of horror here], the other says, “Elephant Film,” and all talk stops immediately. Elephant Film is our pre-agreed upon safe word, not for sex, but, believe it or not, for the news. I developed the term, with some help from Mason. Because constant talk of Barack Obama was threatening our marriage, at least from my standpoint. It was either come up with a safe word or else.
Where did Elephant Film come from? Well, one of the best Christmas presents I have ever received came from my older brother one year: The BBC Planet Earth series on DVD, which I sat and watched, repeatedly. In that segment is a clip called The Lonely Elephant. Here is the clip:
In this 45 seconds of horror, an elephant becomes separated from its mother, in the desert, becomes lost and follows the wrong path to die, hungry, thirsty alone and suffering in the dust.
Mason refuses to watch this clip. He says, “I can’t watch it. I will not watch that clip.”
“Fine,” I say. “That is our safe word then. Elephant Film.”
Elephant Film can save a marriage. Here is how it worked, just this morning:
Me: Where are the coffee filters?
Him: We don’t have any coffee filters.
Me: (A while later) I went ahead and used a paper towel. From that roll we have, you know, in the bathroom. I tore it into a couple of strips. It should work, but, that other coffee maker we got out of the dumpster quit working. I used the other one we found. Remind me to look for a new backup coffee maker just in case.
Him: You threw it away?
Him: It had that gold filter in it, you know. You could have used that. That’s why we never buy filters. Did you forget about the…
Me: Elephant Film, Elephant Film.
Him: Rush Limb…
Me: Elephant Film.
This Elephant Film safe word is probably worth thousands of dollars in futile marriage counseling. The other thing we enjoy doing, is looking for stuff that is bad, but not necessarily horrible. This morning, Mason found it. It is an actual, real, first sentence of a sports article that he found online this morning. Outside of the Bulwer-Lytton wretched writing contest, where real honest-to-God good writers pretend to be bad, this guy has penned the most hideous first sentence to any article I think I have ever read. It says:
AUGUSTA, Ga. — On a day when Augusta National needed no more magic, when the trees kept perfect posture, the sun glistened and the greens ran like Usain Bolt, the Magical Masters Man began pulling rabbits out of hats.
Phil Mickelson shot 66.
My hand to God. And this guy gets paid.
Me: That sentence is quite possibly the worst first sentence I have ever seen. It’s like watching a ship sink. Bulwer-Lytton all day long.
Him: Astonishing. Make sure it’s not snark before you put it online.
Me. Unbelievable. I don’t think it is snark even. Usain Bolt? Lord God.
Example from the “Lyttony of grand prize winners:”
For the first month of Ricardo and Felicity’s affair, they greeted one another at every stolen rendezvous with a kiss–a lengthy, ravenous kiss, Ricardo lapping and sucking at Felicity’s mouth as if she were a giant cage-mounted water bottle and he were the world’s thirstiest gerbil.
–Molly Ringle, Seattle, Washington (2010 Winner)
People actually work hard to come up with this stuff, but the sports writer is a natural, I think.