Eden M. Kennedy

mission accomplished, pal

Eden M. Kennedy is the co-author (with Alice Bradley) of the book Let's Panic About Babies! (St. Martin's Press).

A former college-radio DJ, Mrs. Kennedy has driven cross-country six times in a 1973 Volkswagen Bug and enjoys standing on her head.

Currently she works a straight job and is just about finished writing her first novel.

Filtering by Category: Reading

Whatever Makes You Different Makes You Pretty

I’ve been going through my drafts folder and inadvertently publishing ten-year-old posts about caulk and LeBron James, which is kind of a funny glimpse back into the mind of the person I still, basically, am. I saved the title of this post on September 19, 2007, and “whatever makes you different makes you pretty” was probably a notion that struck me while I was doing the dishes or photographing action figures pretending to talk about Downton Abbey. (I only have the dialog from that particular post I was paid to write for Babble.com, and sadly they’ve taken it down. I wish I had backed up the photos I took of the entire cast of Twilight action figures I once purchased so I could pose them talking, in character, with Hulk and Iron Man about the new maid who was lying about her past to Lord Grantham.)

My mom having a good time by a lake in Minnesota in the early 1950s.

As far as brain secretions* go, however, “whatever makes you different makes you pretty” has some merit. It might have come out of remembering the time when I broke my nose, and after it healed it had a bump in it. My mom wanted to pay to have the bump removed. I declined her offer, because I sort of liked the change, to be honest. I liked feeling that my face had been roughed up a bit, that pretty wasn’t as important as the lesson I learned about my own ego after being a showoff on a bike and having my face ground into a stucco wall. My mother’s own nose was scarred after a childhood run-in with a door frame, and she never seemed to mind the way it looked. She had a tiny bit of a pug nose. Maybe she owned that nose of hers, maybe she realized that was part of her work, not to be bothered by the scar from a split nostril. She also had one eye that was half blue and half brown.

If we listen to the Taoists, we’ll see that when some things become pretty, then others become ugly. If you start dividing things up into good/bad categories, all you’re doing is creating a lot of suffering.

* Uchiyama Roshi said,

“Thoughts are the secretions of our brains, the same way as stomach acid is the secretion of our stomachs.” The brain is a bodily organ with a job to do. It digests the impressions it receives the same way the stomach digests the food it receives. We don’t pay close attention to every little thing the stomach does to get on with its work, and we don’t need to pay close attention to what the brain does either.

But we’ve all developed the habit of being obsessed with the content of our thoughts. It’s not easy to break that habit. People often want to learn some special technique that will change that habit.

This is part of a larger discussion on meditation technique that I found really useful. It’s also useful if you’re working on impulse control, or just being a more peaceful person.

Anyway, I finished reading True Grit yesterday, and every time I think about the end I start to choke up. It’s so good, honestly. I might read it again as soon as Jack finishes it, because I pressed the book into his hands with the kind of silent gravity that made him look taken aback and assure me that he’d start reading it right away. Because he’s probably going to spend the day on the couch taking his antibiotics and watching football anyway, so he might as well turn off the sound and read a novel instead, right? Ha ha, yes, that’s the way husbands work. I just rolled my eyes so loudly I could hear cartilage crunch.

in which I continue to be back

The process of becoming Extremely Online again is going just fine, thank you. I updated my About page to reflect that fact that Let’s Panic went out of print last spring, after seven years of unrivaled success in the pregnancy-and-parenthood-expert mockery section of your local bookstore that probably closed two years ago. Actually, it feels like independent, brick and mortar bookstores may be on a bit of an upswing. That is my perception, it’s what I sense from my tiny perch on this stool in my attic office overlooking a hedge and three garbage cans.

I have that sense because now that I’m on a break from writing I am reading actual novels again, stories printed on paper, like some sort of literate person. I just finished Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, and have finally begun reading that classic True Grit. Neither book is all that recent, but I think any author would hope that their published work would last in the public consciousness at least as long as it took for them to write it. Even if the financial return isn’t that great, it seems like the energetic output you make ought to balance out somehow. Said the woman who just spent six years writing a novel and has been waiting five weeks to hear what her agent thinks of this latest draft.

In becoming online again I also made the terrible discovery that all my Yogabeans photos had vanished. I was pretty upset! Once upon a time I’d put a fair amount of work into that site and found a lot of chuckles in the writing of it and in the comments I got, so I never backed any of it up. I trusted the Internet to keep it forever. I deleted every single carefully posed action figure photo from my photo library to free up the space on my laptop.

 You know how sometimes you go to a thrift store and find a thing that you didn’t know you needed and wanted with all your heart until you saw it?

You know how sometimes you go to a thrift store and find a thing that you didn’t know you needed and wanted with all your heart until you saw it?

Miraculously, Squarespace unearthed the whole site somehow and now the whole page is restored! That was Saturday, and now it’s Thursday and I still haven’t downloaded and backed up any of the photos. Will I? Who knows!

I was pretty depressed over the weekend and it took a while for me to grasp the source of it. The news has been terrible lately. Children are starving to death in Yemen and politicians got pipe bombs in the mail and a Pittsburgh synagogue got shot up by a deluded idiot, and also people I know had loved ones get sick and die, and it all leaves behind a lot of intense grief. I took on just a small part of this global and national and personal grief in an unconscious and unproductive way and was quickly swamped by it. “Do I need to get a divorce?” I thought in my darkest moment, wondering if this deadened feeling I had was because I had no one to turn to because my husband had spent most of the weekend doing his own recovery by watching a shitload of sports TV. And then I realized what I needed to do to feel better was mail in my ballot for the mid-term election because fuck all the awful people who shouldn’t be in charge anymore.

If I were in charge I might dress like a bee every day. 

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Not shown are the little bee antennae I wore for the bee ball that night, and I just realized that my slippers were criss-crossed on my feet so the bee prince will never be able to find me now. OH, well.

NaBloSuMo

God help me, it's summer and I've vowed to post something every day for the whole season. I do not invite you to do this with me because it's a terrible plan. It's just that I thought it would be fun to use my web site again, that's all.

Plus, I like the name NaBloSuMo: it makes it sound like you have to fight your way through it.

It's hot as hell today (get ready for ninety-two days of weather reports, possibly) but I walked to and from work anyway, two miles each way, wearing an office-ready twenty-year-old Gap black linen skirt and a this-year-old Uniqlo white linen shirt. Nice in the morning, sticky on the way back home, and slow. I didn't wear sunscreen, just Merrell hiking shoes and a determined expression.

Here's a link to something someone asked me to write about reading Infinite Jest like we all did a few summers back. If you missed it and you need a book to read with a bunch of people starting today, you're in luck!

Me, I'm not reading fiction right now, I just can't, not while I'm writing it (still--this book is taking forever). But nonfiction is perfect and I've been reading some wonderful books about Zen (currently this one).

I have more to tell you but I only just decided to do this so I need to roll things out a little slowly. Tomorrow I'll tell you more.

Here's a photo of some rose petals that fell into a cup of ranch dressing. What's even better is that I later found this on my desk, put there as a romantic gesture. Twenty years of marriage, ladies.

Not dead yet

My god, I've been sick. I'm so healthy most of the time! I must save up my allotment of not-so-hot feeling days and then have them all at once, once a year, when my immune system's feeling just a little too smug. I could see it coming, days ahead, it was like a slow-rolling tsunami. I had plenty of time to cancel appointments and pack, tell my boss things weren't looking good. It hit in the middle of the night, and all my hatches were battened except the one where I had to take Jackson to school the next morning. There I was hunkered down over the espresso machine, making our usual morning coffees, a double cappuccino for me and a 12-ounce travel mug of milk with a shot of espresso for Jackson. (What, he likes coffee. I put half a packet of stevia in his because otherwise he'd demand four lumps of sugar, which = no.) We got in the car.

"Mom? Are you okay?"

"I don't feel very good."

"You don't look very good."

"Thanks, honey."

I was hanging on pretty well, as well as you can hang on when you feel like absolute death. I really shouldn't have had that sip of coffee, though. Nausea was not a welcome companion on our journey. Neither was Jackson's morning playlist of Eminem's greatest hits, even played at elevator-music level.

BITCH, I'M GONNA KILL YOU!

"Mom, are you okay?"

"I don't feel very good."

Jackson put his hand on my arm as we drove. He's such a nice kid.

YOU DON'T WANNA FUCK WITH SHADY (why?) CAUSE SHADY WILL FUCKING KILL YOU

And in my head I'm all, "Help me, God, help me Oprah, help me Tom Cruise, use your witchcraft on me." Except quietly and without punctuation. Helpmegodhelpmeoprah. Tomcruiseuseyourwitchcraft. Prayforusnowandatthehourofourdeath.

It was just comically awful: me feeling like a shit pancake, my son cheerfully programming his playlist of problematic white genius hip hop mayhem, my dog quietly farting in the back seat.

Naturally, I wasn't done. I had to drag my animate carcass to CVS because Alka Seltzer Cold Medicine is the only thing that works, they don't even have to pay me to say that, I will spread the word for free. Buy that shit. When the nice cashier says, "How are you today!" just croak, "I'm so sick" at her and she will give you your change with horrified fingers, it's been proven in laboratory experiments time and again. I'm not even sure what that means.

I guess I must have made it home, and then I woke up and it was 2:00 p.m. And now it's Friday, I think? How are you?

Yes, I was too sick to use a glass.

Fortunately, before all this went down I managed to put up another post at Babble, this one being a review of the latest J.K. Rowling book written in the form of Harry Potter fan fiction. I'm not sure what I'm going to do for an encore, I'm only halfway finished with Gone Girl, but maybe the cast of Twilight will have some opinions on it.

Punctuation is important, even in tattoos

Tuesday night I went out to UCSB with my friend Jennifer to see Rufus Wainwright. It was a great show, it was just Rufus solo, and he seems like a dear person who was born with/has carefully developed a tremendous vocal range as well as nice, shaggy hair and bare feet and a sparkly scarf, and honestly, sitting there I felt like it would have been okay if he just decided to sing all his songs, forever, and I could just stay there and listen and feel like it was a fine use of the rest of my life. If saying this doesn't put too far much ballast in the hull of my Rufus Boat: the man totally refreshed my faith in art. When an artist opens up his or her heart on stage like that -- if we're receptive, our hearts open up in response. Maybe you get that feeling through religion, or shopping, or being in love, but a really skillful songwriter can unlock all those little cabinets inside you. Or cabinets inside me, at least, I don't know what you have inside of you; maybe your big inner ironing cupboard is always ajar, your iron steaming, your spray starch bottle full. (We have one of those old-fashioned ironing-board cupboards in our kitchen -- with no board in it, unfortunately -- so when I was thinking of something you might have in your chest that wasn't what I have, which is 26 sticky little typesetter's drawers, but instead just one, big available thing, ironing board cupboard is what came to mind.) At one point Rufus covered his face with his hand and bent over the microphone and mumbled, "I spend way too much time Googling myself," and we all chuckled at his shameful secret. And then he mumbled even more shamefully, "And then I read the comments." As someone who has lived part of her life on the Internet for -- oh! Next Monday will be my eleventh blog anniversary! So, for eleven years I've been doing this Internet self-exposure thing, and if there's one thing I've stopped doing it's Googling myself. I just don't want to know who thinks I'm an idiot, it's not going to do me any good unless you really have a plan to help me with all my problems, then I'm totally willing to listen. But you're going to have to make an appointment. In conclusion, I don't want to be responsible for any comments that might hurt another person's feelings, so if you read this and feel inclined to tell the world what you really think about Rufus Wainwright, make sure it's in rhymed couplets.

Driving up Chapala Street

Me: "Look at the tattoo on that guy's forearm: Love Laughter Light."

Jackson (cupping his hands around his mouth): "YOU FORGOT THE COMMAS."

On Instagram I am Toasteroven, I forget why

Lastly, because I'm finishing this in a dreadful hurry to get Jackson to school on time: I am reading the new J.K. Rowling book, The Casual Vacancy. Is anybody else reading it? Because I feel like I'm the only person in the world who thinks it's terrific. I will let you know if that opinion still holds when I'm done, but so far, so good.

Catching Up with the Kennedys

Last night I finished reading Let's Pretend This Never Happened out loud to Jackson at bedtime. We'd had to skip over some parts, like the backyard gravedigging and zombies chapter (spoiler alert), because even I didn't want that to be the last thing on my mind before going to sleep. Our favorite chapters centered on Posey the cat and Barnaby Jones the pug. Jackson was often breathless from laughter, and I take partial responsibility for him failing his language test because I'd kept him up reading past 10:00 o'clock the night before. When we had read everything and there was nothing left to read I went and read the acknowledgments page, too, because Jenny thanked "Alice and Eden" on it and I wanted to show off a little. Oh, boy, was Jackson impressed. He looked at me in shock, then he jabbed his finger into my chest, repeatedly (or, as he says, repeatively), and said, "That's you!" I told him how Alice and I'd had breakfast and dinner with Jenny in New Orleans last year when she was spending half her time in her hotel room writing this book, and that Alice had reached out to Jenny a lot more than I had since then, and I wasn't sure what exactly I'd done to deserve a thanks, but that I'll take it, even if I am the less-reaching-out part of the Alice-and-Eden unit, because when a New York Times best-selling author thanks you in her New York Times best-selling book for doing God knows what, it still feels pretty fantastic.

Then I held up a beat-up copy of David Sedaris's Naked that I'd snagged from the donations pile at the library for a buck. "I thought we could read some of the stories in here for our next bedtime book. He's funny."

"I don't know." Dubious face.

"What's the problem, then?"

"I don't know," he said again, "I just think women are funnier than men."

And then I fell over and died. I'd say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED but getting him to believe that women are funnier than men was never the mission; the mission has been more of a general "raise a boy who appreciates women and men for their talents equally, without an overlay of sexist expectations." So I may have done a little cultural over-correction by wiring DVDs of 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation into his brain on repeat while he sleeps. Should I put a testosterone patch on his forehead? I hope this doesn't mean we have to watch more Adam Sandler movies.

Selvishness

I am reading a Martha Beck book. I didn't know who she was until recently, but it turns out that half the women I know are super into Martha Beck and her kooky, down-to-earth, life-coaching wisdom. I am digging Martha's vibe, despite the fact that life coaching is not the kind of work I've ever taken seriously. I've met one life coach in real life and she was full of shit, unfortunately, and any time I've read about life coaches their stories make me nervous, i.e., they woke up one morning and realized it was their calling to get other people to pay exorbitant, ongoing sums to wake up and find their callings. Be that as it may, I've loosened up and come to the conclusion that it's probably like any other profession: some people are great at it and give the profession a good name, and the rest of the people who do it fall somewhere on the spectrum between GIFTED and IF THIS DOESN'T WORK OUT I'M GOING TO GO BACK TO MY BOOTH AT THE CRAFT FAIR. (No disrespect meant to the craft fair booth-dwellers among us; the world would be a sad, sock zombie-less place without you.)

So, in this book, Finding Your Own North Star, Martha Beck talks about the difference between your social self, which knows how to get by politely in the world and make you seem acceptable to the general public, and your essential self, which may or may not want to dance with wolves, play naked in a jug band, run a marathon backwards, or leave society altogether and live in a windowless yurt in Outer Mongolia, which I've heard is the most beautiful place on earth.

Martha's idea about two selves coincides somewhat (somewhat) with what yoga has taught me, which is that we have five selves nested somewhat like Russian dolls, deeper and deeper within. Your outer doll-layer is your physical body, a.k.a. the food body (or the annamaya kosha), but beneath this is your energetic body (the pranamaya kosha) which is illuminated by the breath. Then comes your mental/emotional body (the manomaya kosha) which is what makes you feel like a distinct person from all the rest of us, and then within that you have the body of knowing (the vijnanamaya kosha) which is composed of your intellect and your five senses. Lastly and most subtly at the center of it all is the body of bliss (the anandamaya kosha) a.k.a. the causal body, or the soul, "the place of joy, peace, understanding, and union—the Seer itself."

Ideally, yoga can heal them all, but Martha seems to be focusing pretty much exclusively on the leap to bliss. I love her, but I'm not sure how she's going to help me achieve it. She has some great quizzes in the book, and I'm only on chapter three, so I figure if I go for a two-pronged approach (one Martha Beck book + yoga three or four times a week) I'll crack through the illusions caused by the poisonous seed of conditioned existence and start an online life coaching course by the end of the year.

No, but seriously. I have no idea what to do with all this information.

I'm tricky like that

This post is sponsored by Chronicle Books. I like books, and people who read are the kind of people I want to know. I've taken somewhat of a break from posting because I was tired of having opinions on the Internet. There are millions of other people telling you what they think on an hourly basis, and I suddenly felt pretty stupid trying to pretend that my opinions had any more value than anyone else's. I certainly wasn't enjoying trying to be heard above the din; I all but abandoned my gig at Babble and last Friday I finally worked up the nerve to quit The Stir. I just wanted to work, go to yoga, sit in the sun, and check my e-mail once a day. So for three weeks, that's what I did. It was heaven.

The rest of my recovery program was given over to trying to organize our new house (read: wandering around Bed Bath & Beyond with an armful of skirt hangers) and reading books. I read The Hunger Games (not much character development but quite a page-turner); Just My Type (a brisk, anecdotal history of typography); I finished the Mindy Kaling book (which read like a chatty, friendly, and sometimes point-free series of blog posts); I started and then abandoned the first Nancy Drew book (but I mean to check it out again later because it was AWESOME); I read and then became very afraid of The Secret (which may be another post down the road, if I can assure myself that it won't give me nightmares); and I've just started listening to The Glass Castle in my car, which is so absorbing that makes me miss freeway exits.

The other part of my reading-recovery was spent cuddled up with Jackson every night at bedtime. Jackson reads plenty for school, but I've always hoped he'd do a little more recreational reading without us turning off the TV and forcing him to. Here's one of the ways I've tricked him into it.

The Worst-Case Scenario Ultimate Adventure Novels are Chronicle's new series for kids. It's like playing a video game in story mode: you get to choose how you get to the end. Chronicle Books is not the first to come up with this idea (I think Italo Calvino took a shot at it, and those Dictionary of the Khazars books that came in Male and Female editions), but it's still a good idea in a nicely-designed package. Jackson immediately snagged the Amazon one and told me he thought I'd like to read Mars. (Here's a trailer for the Mars book.) If you'd like to win all three books for yourself, leave a comment below telling me what your favorite book was when you were a kid and I'll use Random.org to choose a winner.

UPDATE: The winner is Steph (who loves Roald Dahl). Thanks, Steph, and everyone who shared their favorite books.

Got MLK

In honor of Martin Luther King Day (or, if you depend on Twitter for your research, Martian Luther King Day, or maybe Martin Lutheran King Day), I woke Jackson up and told him he had the day off school to think about peace and forgiveness and racism. Which is timely, because he told me they're going to read Huck Finn in class next year. According to an older kid at Jackson's school, they use the original version, not the "sanitized" one. As a purist, I am sort of glad about that? I dig that they're sticking with the version Twain wrote in all its post-antebellum glory, and I completely trust his teachers' ability to guide a mixed-race classroom through the subtleties, ironies, and vagaries of the text. (I think Twain's pretty blunt, actually. Plus there's plenty of action.) But part of me thinks the themes are too big to grasp at that age. They're gearing up with Tom Sawyer right now, and frankly, Jackson seems more prepared than I was at ten to examine his conscience and inherited beliefs. Huck didn't have much appeal for me at that age; once Becky Thatcher fell out of the picture I think it felt too much like a boys-only story. It wasn't until I wandered into a post-grad course on Melville and Twain and read all of his travel writings that I got fully back on board the Twain train. (I will also recommend Melville's Typee if you're interested in avoiding Moby Dick. It's full of ships and exotic lady savages and longing for simplicity and all that unironic 19th-century stuff.) In the end, he'll read it now and if he's lucky he'll read it again as an adult and it will be a whole new book for him.

(Thanks to a suggestion that Jackson read Origami Yoda and Darth Paper, we made some origami cranes and put them in their origami nests. It's a post-racial way to honor MLK, as we judged these cranes not by the color of their paper, but by our ability to fold them without making them all wrinkly and sad.)

Day Twenty-nine

Here are all the quotes that I keep on my MacBook's dashboard.

"You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves."  Mary Oliver

"The truth will set you free, but not until it's done with you."  David Foster Wallace

"'Your father and I just expected so much more from you.'"  Sarah Brown

". . . not until a mother's womb softens from the pain of labor, will a way unfold and the infant find that opening to be born."  Rumi

"Everyone thinks writers must know more about the inside of the human head, but that is wrong. They know less, that's why they write. Trying to find out what everyone else takes for granted."  Margaret Atwood

"Don't worry about what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive."  Howard Thurman

"Build a vivid image in your mind's eye of what you need." "Intensify your commitment to mastering the work you came to this planet to do."  Rob Brezsny

"Which decision makes you the better version of you?"  Evany Thomas

"The primary moral imperative is to think clearly."  Blaise Pascal

"What is the secret of your serenity?" Said the Master, "Wholehearted cooperation with the inevitable." Anthony DeMello

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."  Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Rules for Happiness: something to do, someone to love, something to hope for."  Immanuel Kant

"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best."  Henry Van Dyke

"The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”   Steve Jobs

Day Nineteen

I was at work today looking around for books to add to the Staff Picks shelf. There are a few books that I'm continually putting up there, like The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate and The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing, but when all my favorites are checked out I have to start grabbing stuff that you'd reasonably believe a middle-aged woman whose book club only keeps on their e-mail list out of pity would recommend to you. I was wandering through fiction hoping for inspiration when I found an old Wodehouse novel called Jeeves and the Tie That Binds. The inside flap said rather effusively that P.G. Wodehouse published this book on his ninetieth birthday, and that this was his best novel yet, and also that it was clever, delightful, uproarious, entertaining, and fun. Skeptically, I flipped the book over to see if there was more hyperbole on the back:

Nope! But he could still touch his toes. Best author photo ever.

Word to Your Mother

If memory serves, and it doesn't always, but we can talk about my early-onset dementia/menopausal memory leakage some other time* . . . Jack's mom only sends the Zabar's box on New Year's, Jack's birthday, Father's Day, and our wedding anniversary. But this! Year! It looks like I am finally worthy to receive the Blessing of the Lox and Cream Cheese, GLORY BE TO GOD AND HOLD THE CAPERS.

*You'll have to remind me. I recently got a chance to look through the books that were being culled from a local library because I Have Connections. Side note: there's a wonderful blog about the decision-making process librarians go through when removing a book from a collection and it's worth reading through to see how simultaneously thought-provoking and hilarious weeding out old books can be.

I don't know why thrift and used book stores won't sell old library books but it's nice to know that whenever I go through my next book-weeding frenzy I can just chuck these into the recycling with a clean conscience. I won't, though, because the friction caused by my father's spinning in his urn will result in him burrowing straight to the earth's core, which resulting explosion will make you wonder if the moon was always that close? And why is your skin bubbling? And I'll tell you why you can't breathe, it's because your lungs are those things you keep slapping away from your face.

"It is spring 1626, King Charles I and his young bride Queen Henrietta Maria are guests of honor at a splendid banquet held by George Villiers, the Duke of Buckingham. At the climax of the feast a large pie is set down before the Queen, who is given a knife and invited to cut into the pastry. Before she can do so, however, the crust begins to crack and rise of its own accord. From out of the pie emerges a tiny man -- perfectly proportioned and dressed in a suit of miniature armor. He climbs onto the table in front of the Queen, bows low, and asks to be taken into her service. The little man's name is Jeffrey Hudson. He is seven years old and stands only 18 inches tall."

This is from a different book, about the sinking of the Lusitania. I have a new interest in 20th-century maritime disasters and I'm not going to tell you why because it will trivialize this photo. I can't imagine what those men saw.

I'm not sure whether this is comforting in its banality (small minds rise up generation after generation yet we often progress beyond them) or disappointing (sometimes the small minds get awfully puffed up over their small victories and go on to have bigger ones). Either way, the Beatles live on iTunes now so go suck on that, record-burning teenagers who are probably all dead now anyway.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Terry Jones.