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Jan 08, 2009; wally Asks:

You’ve been very kind, bothering to field my silliness in the spirit of even semi-seriousness. There’s one final news item that’s perplexing me on a different level, and it would add considerably to my appreciation (not that this is any motivation) if you’d weigh in: Investors defrauded by Bernie Madoff, …should they have been able to predict financial woe based on his name alone? It is pronounced Made Off, after all, which is what thieves are sometimes described as having done with money and other valuables. Was this a risk that could have been calculated in a split second? Or, forgetting you’ve got hindsight to go on, would it have been unfair if these people thought they could assess his intentions quickly and correctly when so little information existed?

Stacey answers:

I believe there's always a temptation, when something bad happens to other people, to look for a reason why it could never happen to us. We're too canny, smart, intuitive, whatever. But I think it could have happened to anyone. Madoff was a seasoned con artist who hadn't been caught in thirty years of swindling. His name--it's odd, I know! But lots of people who have funny names are allowed to function in our society.

Jan 04, 2009; The Wonderer Asks:

I am wondering this. If I got drunk or just internet drunk and asked you a question and then decided later it was too embarrassing or revealing, would you take it down from the site if I asked you to? Do you have the power? What if it was a really juicy question?

Stacey answers:

Yes, I have the power. Yes, I would.

Jan 02, 2009; Wag Asks:

Hey Stacey! Happy New Year! It appears that there are people on social networking sites dedicating a lot of energy towards looking back by posting pictures, discussing how cool their band or student hangout or defunct radio station was. This can be sort of fun, and I do find myself drawn into it, but I think it's a bit sad at the same time. One of Jenny Holzer's "truisms" is "Looking back is the first sign of aging and decay." I mean, I know I'm aging and decaying, but I got a lot more new stuff to do and talk about! How do you feel about all of this nostalgia, and is people's pursuit of it keeping them from furthering their lives?

Stacey answers:

Hi Wag! I know, I know, I've been thinking about this too. If you'd asked me a few weeks ago I think I would have said that I liked it, I think it's fun and cute to see old friends dressed like members of Bananarama or to recall their unfortunate rattails. In some ways it is amazing. (Like, on facebook, if you befriend Richard Siken, kick-ass poet of darkness, you can see his Bar Mitzvah pictures!). And I do want to remember the defunct band or radio station or anything that took a lot of creative energy. It's okay with me if an art project is old--that just makes it part of the archive. But if it's not exactly an art project--say, if it was a student hang out--then I only want to remember it a little bit. Not too much, I've since decided. I don't want to wade into the memory and splash around and have to blow dry my hair afterward.

So yes, I'm with you, I think going forward is much better than going back. I think technology sometimes gives us access to information we'd be better off without. I think nostalgia is meant to be vague without too many audio visual effects.

Dec 21, 2008; Not a Tennis Pro Asks:

I liked the tennis pro anecdote. This isn't a question, but I still liked it.

Stacey answers:

Really? I thought I belabored the point. But thank you.

Dec 18, 2008; Simone Asks:

I'm a middle school teacher, and my students occasionally make bad life choices (no way!). I see them do cruel, sneaky, or manipulative things and then lie about it, and I'm expected to respond by giving them "talks" or "lectures" or "advice" or whatever. You know the deal. I'm sure you got some as a kid. But whenever I attempt these talks, I always feel like I'm wasting my breath. Or even worse, I feel like a moldy, loathsome, power-tripping phony. Do those "talks" even work? Did they ever have a positive impact on your life? Did a teacher ever say something motivational or chastising to you that actually changed the way you lived your life? Did you even listen?

Stacey answers:

I think they can work. Not always, maybe not even most of the time, but it's kind of wild, if you're 12, to have an adult who's not in your family look at you and tell you what they see. At that age there aren't competing world views circulating in your head yet--it's just the ideas of your parents with a little influence from your friends. So when someone has another way of looking at your behavior, it can be kind of intense.

The summer when I was 12, my mother kept hounding me to take a tennis lesson--just one. I'd already had many in my life. My parents and sister played tennis, everyone played tennis, tennis was in the air, but I kept postponing the lesson. The thing was, it was hard for me to tell why I didn't want to take the lesson. I didn't really think about it. I was shy, and so used to being pushed into summer activities by my mother, that this was just another instance where I felt annoyed and badgered. But she kept telling me that I'd enjoy it, and that it would be great, and every now and then she'd be right about things like this, even though all I really ever wanted to do was walk around and read books.

So anyway, I take the lesson with a young pro I've never met before, slogging through it with no enthusiasm or skill, until after about a half hour he looks at me and says, "Stacey, do you even like tennis?" Now, this was remarkable for me. No one had ever asked me something like this before. I hadn't ever considered that I might have some choice or preference in matters like tennis lessons, or that an adult would see me as someone who might think to herself, "I don't like tennis." As a kid no one asked me if I wanted to go to school or do homework or do any of the things I was obligated to do, and in a way I hadn't exactly asked myself either. But as soon as he asked I saw that I didn't like tennis, I saw it immediately, and I never took another lesson.

What I love about the tennis pro is that he saw me as a person, and showed it by being vaguely respectful and positive in his comment. If he'd said, "Why aren't you even trying? Come on kiddo, try harder," I'm sure I would have tuned him out. But he treated me like an adult and that was flattering, and he managed to indicate that he was disappointed without criticizing me, and I still think what he said was perfect--a small thing that helped me grow up a little. It helped me inhabit myself a little more. It brought up the possibility that I might say no. Now it's my favorite word.

I'm sure the tennis pro had no idea he made such an impression on me. I don't even think I answered him. I think I just shrugged. So you might never know if you're getting through or not...though someday, if you're lucky, a grown-up student might find you and tell you.

Dec 18, 2008; wally Asks:

Thanks for that. Your psychos-only prediction on this subject will prevent me from obsessing. May I ask, then: What's your favorite monster cereal of all time? Or, if you've opted never to shovel junk food at the breakfast table, which of the monsters (artistically) embodies the otherwise non-existent bridge between fear and cereal most believably?

Stacey answers:

I just want to take this opportunity to say that I don't eat monster cereal or any sugar at all and that the smug, superior feeling this evokes in me is one of the few unambiguous emotions I've ever experienced. As for cereal monsters in general, I can only think of Count Chocula. Are there others? Cap'n Crunch is a freakish little guy but is he monstrous? I'm going to let my unconscious loose on this problem. I'll get back to you as soon as I have a dream about it.

Dec 17, 2008; wally Asks:

Recently began paying attention to developments in the Caylee Anthony case (missing child, if you're unfamiliar) - specifically, coverage on Headline News, where one host in particular (Nancy Grace), or perhaps someone working behind the scenes, has brainstormed and brought us a combination of words ("tot mom") that's shown on screen and repeated an awful lot when the suspect/mother is discussed. Not being up on the whole child-rearing scene, i'm willing to accept that this descriptive little gem gets used nationwide in daily life; but have been alert enough to feel certain that no program reporting on a prior crime of this nature made use of it, because it would have bugged the hell out of me long before now. My concern (and if you don't share it, please reply as if to prevent further obsessing) is that, in the future, when children go missing and their mothers are considered prime suspects, "tot mom" will have become the catch-all used to describe them. But because it's short and punchy, mothers guilty of nothing who wish to identify themselves as such will resent that it carries a hint of criminality, and begin demanding/wearing merchandise emblazoned with "tot mom" in a bid to give it an overwhelmingly positive spin. And from there we're bound to get some periodical announcing nominees for Tot Mom of the Year, and probably Tot Mom: the Movie, etc., etc., you get the idea.

Stacey answers:

I like tot mom. I think the more it catches on, the less criminality will be attached, so maybe we could encourage its use under other circumstances--any mom eating tater tots could also be a tot mom. But then again, now that I've thought of it for twenty seconds, I don't like tot mom as much as I used to. Now it seems calculating, simplified, newspeakish. Let me give it a few minutes to develop. I'm going to have a cup of tea.

Okay, time elapsed: twelve minutes. I don't like it at all. Now it seems to me that a tot mom is the mother of a tater tot, which would make her a potato. But that wasn't your question. But you didn't have a question. Well how about a prediction? It won't catch on for non-murdering moms. There's something about the potato connection that only clicks for murdering moms--like, maybe a tot mom is a mother who would EAT her toddler like a hot, yummy tater tot. That is not most moms. Only psychos are tot moms.

Dec 14, 2008; Wag Asks:

So, did you read my 1.25 page novel? What did you think? Be kind, I'm just a hobbyist.

Stacey answers:

I read it. It was good! I actually printed it out and it was only a page and a quarter but I thought it was a really good start. I liked how the main character was hanging upside down for the entire first page. I hope you try again next year. You can pick up where you left off.

Dec 12, 2008; Pickles Asks:

Do you know of a pill-form opiate which would go well with a cold beer after a long drive?

Stacey answers:

Pickles, Pickles, where are you going on your long drive? To Recreational Drug-use Land? Please use caution. I think any extra pill from your latest dental procedure or uncomfortable medical intervention would do nicely.

Dec 09, 2008; frenzy fred Asks:

Contemplating a purchase of your book (My Date with Satan) I was bemused to discover that there are many copies available for 1 cent on Amazon. More surprising is the fact that there are copies for free that qualify for free shipping. Aside from the butter and egg money earned on the seedy streets of Downtown Tucson what is it you do for a living? This writing gig can't be paying the bills...

Stacey answers:

Well Fred, those are used books. I'm sure you're at least dimly aware that writers, rock stars, movie companies, and even the Disney corporation don't make any royalties from used books/CD's/DVD's/mice. I don't know if you're asking about the value of art or the economics of publishing or just trying to annoy me by telling me that a book I wrote is valued at a penny (well done!). Here's another shocking fact I recently learned: many books are available at the library for free.

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