Contemplations from the Marianas Trench

from the Marianas Trench

The Contemplations

The Contemplations are the children of my intellect, such as it is.
The opinions herein are solely my own.

Chemical Warfare

I don't know why we are worried about Iraq. I've discovered that chemical warfare is terribly important and I'm all for research. The problem is that traditionally when we think about chemical warfare we assume we are trying to kill people. And yes, we probably are, but I'm not a traditional thinker (duh), so when I think about chemical warfare I think of bugs. With good reason.

I have just had the most horrible, humiliating experience of my life. I understand that many people have a lot worse experiences and this may seem trivial to some - but there are going to be plenty of people who will never come within five feet of me again. (I've already tested my mother - she's not one of them but my older brother beat a quick retreat when I brought them up - and, of course, everyone started scratching their heads).

The Contemplator family had lice.

I've been assured this is a common occurrence. Common? I lived more than 40 years without an occurrence. Whose definition of common are they using? I've been assured it has nothing to do with dirt or uncleanliness - but all the instructions say to make sure to wash your clothes and bedding... And they say two applications seven days apart will get rid of lice. WHO ARE THEY KIDDING? Those suckers breed faster than rabbits. They are like rabbits on Viagra. So at this point we have more chemicals in our hair than Sadaam Hussein has in all of Iraq.

The ONLY thing I've heard that seems to be correct is that they are very contagious. One day only one Inspiration had them (and I'm thinking of taking the honorific of "Inspiration" away from her) - the next day two had them. At that point I was still feeling very self-satisfied. "You poor things... No, don't blame your sister, it's not her fault, someone gave them to her..." The next day the Contemplator had them. Thereafter everyone was blaming everyone else. Everyone was swearing at everyone else and quarantine and STAY OUT signs were on everyone's door.

So in the interests of those of you who may run into the Contemplator or get the critters another way, let me set the record straight. Selsun Blue DOES NOT work. Vaseline DOES NOT work. Mayonnaise DOES NOT work. RID works if you use it every day until you can see NO trace of the critters and then use it a week later. Tea Tree Oil Shampoo works once you have MOST trace of the critters out of your hair (keep in in 10 minutes and use it daily until ALL trace is gone).

And for those who rightly, love their pets more than their children: you DO NOT get lice from cats or dogs and they do not get it from you (hence they are now the Inspirations and the former Inspirations are the Contaminators. Maybe SOMEDAY - when they are millionaires and I need retirement funds, I will forgive them).

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998


Bigot: a person who holds blindly and intolerantly to a particular creed, opinion, etc. This from the Complete Reference Collection - which also says it derived from the Norman expression By God! I suppose because if one had to say "By God!" after saying something it meant they were so opinionated about it they felt God must be too.... Bigotry obviously has a long history. I doubt the Normans invented it - they were probably just very good at it. Ask any Saxon.

There are many types of bigotry - racial, political and intellectual to name just a few.

Racial bigotry disturbs me the most. To my mind there is only one race. The subdivisions of race we all commonly accept were created by European scientists - no doubt they would have been different if someone else, say, the Chinese had created them. We would then have Chinese and barbarians - probably a more accurate assessment of the state of the world and people at one time than the divisions we now use.

Political bigotry is just as arbitrary. The definitions of conservative and liberal are fluid, by country and time. Political parties change their views even more often. In fact the major political parties have deserted me a few times since I became of legal age to vote (since the Civil War, thank you). At the age of 18 I thought party loyalty was a good thing - but it was supposed to work both ways! I have decided the only way to maintain party loyalty is to become an Independent - because no one speaks for us. As soon as someone does I shall probably have to change parties again.

I used to be an intellectual bigot. That was until I got a car and figured the mechanic knew a lot more useful stuff than I ever would. I thought doctors were pretty smart too - until I discovered they know absolutely nothing about lice. They don't know if animals and humans can pass lice between then - they certainly don't know how to cure it! No - the experts on lice are the chemical companies. THEY know lice - that is, they know there is a lot of money to be made trying to kill them. Following the tenets of Sun Tzu (The Art of War) - they learned about their enemy. If you want to know about lice go to Pfizer's web site.

No, I've decided the type of intellect I admire is the "Jeopardy" intellect. I'm now impressed by anyone who is good at Jeopardy. To heck with useful knowledge.

My grandfather was a brilliant man. He was the President of a publishing company. He was not only brilliant, he had the ability to raise the level of conversation no matter who he was with. Yes, that includes family. Thanksgiving is not the same without him. I rarely heard him say anything bad about anyone, but when he did it was usually a reference to their intellect. Of Ronald Reagan my grandfather said, "You can walk through the waters of his mind without getting your feet wet." I suppose you could call my grandfather an intellectual bigot.

I, on the other hand, loved Ronald Reagan - because I am a humor bigot. I don't want to talk to anyone who can't laugh at themselves, their children, life in general and my conversation (whether it's funny or not). I've laughed and I've cried at all of these things and laughter is better. Yes, laughter is better, By God!

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998

Salem and Witches
Or Living Well is the Best Revenge

For the last gasp of vacation before school, the Contemplator took Inspirations Two and Three to New England. We stopped at Mystic Seaport (a highly recommended spot - though the Inspirations weren't as interested as I was in how the sextant works - they lost interest as soon as they realized the "sex" part wasn't what they expected). We also went to Salem. I visited Salem around twenty years ago and enjoyed it a great deal. I enjoyed it even more this time - and it has grown tremendously.

Although Salem has become a tourist center it has not become a tourist trap. This is a very fine line to tred and no doubt other people would define it differently than the Contemplator and Inspirations, who spend as much time in gift shops as checking out the attractions (which are in turn defined differently by each of the Contemplator's family. The Inspirations are, after all, teenagers. It's why the word "sextant" caught their attention...)

Salem's fame dates to 1672 and the Salem Witch Trials. My ancestor, Increase Mather, was one of the leading figures in the Witch Trials. He was a leading divine of the day and if he was not entirely comfortable with the trials he later became their leading apologist. He'd probably have me on trial if he were around today...

Nineteen people were tried and executed based on teen hysterics. As a historian I must say why it happened is subject to debate. The fact that it was teen hysterics, for whatever reason, is indisputable. Now that I have teenagers I appreciate the fact much better than I did twenty years ago. I am also reassured that, although the Inspirations have their moments, they have petit mal hysterics, not GRAND hysterics.

Thinking that my great-great, etc. grandpapa would not much care for my independence, the Inspirations and I discussed what would happen today if someone was accused of being a witch. Which brings me to our visit.

Witches abound in Salem. They practice the Wicca religion and sell tons of books, jewelry and all the things tourists and serious scholars are interested in. In the best buy category is a pot labeled "Ashes of Obnoxious Teenagers". Naturally there are already lots of ashes in my pot. Before you call the police to report an internet confession let me reassure you no one is missing.

Salem is a wonderful place. You can read ANY sort of book (witchcraft, astral projection, etc.) and wear ANY sort of clothes. Tolerance is a wonderful thing. There's nothing like economic profitability to encourage tolerance.

I've read a lot about Wicca since my visit. I find it very appealing. The primary tenant is to harm no one - including yourself. If everyone followed such a tenant the world would be a much better place.

However, in my area people do not know the difference between a pentacle (a good thing) and a pentagram (a bad thing). OK - the pentacle is a five pointed star with the point up and the pentagram has the point down. And by the way it should be silver because that gives the most protection. Wiccans are NOT Satanists and they do not practice living sacrifice.

I suppose people will continue to be uneducated and intolerant about wiccans and witches in places other than Salem until the witches start to make money....

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1996


I was contemplating repression at first - repression of persons by race, religion, etc. However, given the news it is apparent I was contemplating repression on too broad a scale. No one is repressed any more - certainly not politicians. No one represses anything any more - certainly no the press. Am I the only one in the country that was offended that oral sex was the lead story on the news? All those programs people use to block X rated sites from their children just blocked out every news site in the world. To heck with the kids, wish I used one for myself..

My contemplation of repression made me depressed.

Because I am not keeping up with the current news, I sifted through old news and there it was - it turns out the reason I am depressed has absolutely nothing to do with the current state of political affairs (no pun intended), it has to do with the fact that I'm on the Internet. People on the Internet are more depressed than their contemporaries. Given that this was a scientific report, this may not be what the report actually said, but that was the headline.

At first this offended me. The implication is that because I spend time on the Internet I am loosing touch with reality. Well, O.K. I like that idea. What's wrong with that?

Then I began to wonder what sort of questions they asked. Maybe they were something like this:

  1. Which depresses you more - that you can't get a reliable connection to the Internet or you can't get a reliable connection with your teenager? Answer - OF COURSE that I can't get a reliable connection with my ISP. Inspiration One has a car. Teenager + Car = Absence. Conversations are now brief at best, and yes, they are interrupted just as often as my Internet conversations are "Sorry, the phone's for me". But I am not powerless when it comes to the Inspirations - I can threaten to take the car for a time. This brings instant attention. What am I going to threaten the ISP with? I'll take my business elsewhere? Ha, Ha, Ha...
  2. Which depresses you more, when your ISP does not perform or your children? There are great similarities here - the Inspirations give me busy signals when I want something done too. "Can't right now, have to (fill in the blank)." I don't even get an excuse from my ISP when I receive a busy signal - just the ubiquitous message, "The computer you are dialing in is busy, try again later..." Sooner or later - when the Inspirations want something - they will pay attention to me. My ISP can ignore me forever. Another obvious answer.
  3. How many Internet friends do you have and how many local friends do you have? How often do you talk to your Internet friends and how often do you talk to your local friends. (This, of course, assumes you never e-mail our local friends). I have a lot more Internet friends - that's why it's called the WORLD Wide Web... I talk to them more because I can mail them any time day or night and they can reply any time day or night. If I called a local friend at 2:00 AM she would not be very happy. My Internet friends are probably on the Internet just as late as I am and happy to get mail that isn't spam. No, they can't be happy, they are clearly depressed from too much Internet use.

There are plenty of reasons for being depressed by the Internet. I had a death threat once from someone who read that I put my dog to sleep because he bit my son in the eye... Not enough people visit my site... My Carolan website was called drab in a review (I knew I should have used that pink background and those animated music notes...) People steal the music I sequence and don't acknowledge it's mine... Not a single spam that advertised, "You can make millions from your Internet site" proved legitimate...

Still, I thought I was a happy camper. The Internet has expanded my circle of friends - all intelligent and witty (in case they read this). The Internet has exposed me to all sorts of information and opinions I would not otherwise have been exposed to (which is both good and bad, but rarely boring).

But when they call to ask me their questions it looks as if I'll end up confirming their findings. On second thought, I won't discuss anything over the phone - it may end up before a grand jury.

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998


I haven't enjoyed Christmas as much since 1977. That was the year I married (1997 was the year I divorced). Before 1977 Christmas was about Christmas carols, presents, turkey and family. After 1977 it was about who were were going to see on what day. To be sure carols, presents, turkey and family were still involved, but getting to that point took much of the fun out of it.

Let's start with Christmas carols. I love to sing and the fact that my family does not always sing well (excluding myself, of course) has never put a damper on our efforts. Mom did a credible job on the piano which kept us mostly in tune. I'm not sure how often we sang them (no doubt if you asked five people in the family you'd get five different answers!) - but I do recall that part of Christmas was Christmas carols.

The Inspirations seem to have lost the music gene (that is the gene that makes you enjoy music - not the one that makes you good at it...). It is a constant frustration to me. I don't mind the rock and roll - as I constantly remind them *my* generation perfected it (and of course, I have to add, theirs ruined it. They roll their eyes just as I did at my parents comments on my music...)

Christmas, however, is not a time for rock and roll. It's a time for the several hundred year folk songs that the church took over for Christmas. I admit they did a credible job of lyrics (they even made a tune about a man bemoaning the loss of his mistresses affections into What Child is This?). I know at least four verses of every popular Christmas carol - and I no longer am able to show off this extraordinary talent! No wonder I don't enjoy Christmas as much.

Presents were much more fun when I was a kid. I couldn't afford my own (or anyone else's - so mom usually helped me with those.) I still can't afford my own but there is such a thing as plastic. I now not only have to buy presents for my parents and brothers - but lots of others as well. And NO ONE is helping me! I used to feel rich after I got Christmas money - now it goes to pay off all the presents I buy! Worst of all everyone knows what they are getting. On the bright side it means there is less disappointment. No more "Gee what a great present! The purple and pink will look great at the office party... Just what I wanted.." However, presents just don't seem as joyful without the surprise.

And cooking. As a kid I never had to cook. And it was just as good when my cooking efforts consisted of the words, "Can I help?" I have only cooked one turkey in my life! You may not think that is a record to be proud of, but this is from a woman who lives at MacDonalds - more to avoid cooking than for the food!

I have decided cooking is like gardening (which I do not do either). Or automechanics (another art beyond my interest and skill). You have to have the right tools. I didn't have a pan big enough for a turkey, had nothing to sew the stuffing in the turkey with, nothing to tie the legs up... and so on. I've decided all that is just for show anyway - so what if stuffing falls out and the legs droop? It will not be a perfect looking turkey, but it will have character most turkeys lack at that point in their lives.

There is still family, but now I have to deal with an ex's girlfriend. They take my kids to her family's Christmas Eve - and I am left alone. They shack out at my ex-mother-in-law's farmhouse for the holidays (she is in Florida), have a perfectly set table, with perfect Christmas lobster - and give cash. I try not to think of it as competition. I suppose I will get used to it at some point. I remind myself that the kids are teenagers and some day, when they are older the cash will have been long spent, I may have a friend to torment everyone with, and it will be my sad turkey that we will all laugh over.

When I think of all of this I don't enjoy Christmas as much as I used to. But Christmas isn't a time to be dwelling on problems. It is a time for joy - a time to remember we are all part of humanity and share a common existence. Countless others have the same love/hate relationship with Christmas. And some might even have a worse Christmas!

And so, Christmas is a time to be thankful for having such things as Christmas carols, presents, turkey and family - and most importantly - wine!

The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998


The Contemplator (Lesley Nelson-Burns) 1998