Category Archives: Advice

Improvising Adulting

Person on the street:  You look like you’re in your 40’s.  At this point in life is a man wearing graphic tees to work like a woman your age shopping at Forever 21?
Simpson:  I’ll have you know I wear graphic tees to work so that I can be confident that I’ve not put on my shirt inside out or backwards during my morning flurry to get ready. If I can see a cartoon, I’m ready to take on the world. They’re grown-up Garanimals.

VSH-PSA: Parking Brake

Don't make our mistakes.  The empire you save, just might be your own.

Don’t make our mistakes. The empire you save, just might be your own.

Tax Season

Quick post from the Vote Simpson/Hemstead accountant Stephanie Munnyloz, to all of our subscribers and supporters:

“To: VSH Supporters and Dependents

From: Stephanie Feindur Munniloz, U.C.P.A.D.D.S.

Re: Taxes

Please tell your hordes of followers (yes I’m using that term sarcastically to represent the 4 simpering morons that buy in to your bullcrap) that they are running out of time to file their taxes.  In fact they are down to two days here.  Get on it.  Also let them know that if they need help, my team of nearly certified accountants and dog walkers are available for last minute hail mary tax preparations.


Stephanie Feindur Munniloz, U.C.P.A.D.D.S.

P.S. This applies to you two knuckleheads too, you know.  Simpson, is it possible for you to write a password down for your retirement account?  I know people “make you edgy” but for God’s sake can you PLEASE call customer support and get this resolved by E.O.D. Monday the 13th?  Hemstead, I looked it up, and this thing you call “Mr. Bungle” is not a registered therapeutic device, nor is it doctor prescribed and therefore I can’t deduct it no matter how many times you underline it.  Please tell me what it is so I can see if it is deductible in some other column.

P.P.S. Just a reminder that you jackaninnies ARE NOT TO COPY AND PASTE THIS EMAIL INTO THE WEBSITE!  I cannot stress this enough.  DO NOT COPY AND PASTE THIS EMAIL INTO THE WEBSITE.  Do you remember what happened in 2010?  What am I saying, of course you don’t.  Suffice it to say that you do not want a repeat of 2010.  DO NOT COPY AND PASTE THIS EMAIL INTO THE WEBSITE, just let your increasingly unamused audience know about tax day on the 15th of April and that we are available to help.  That’s all.  NOTHING ELSE.”

Stephanie also sent us a photo of herself she thought might be helpful for our TL;DR group.


Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm

Shit just got real: my brain aneurysm.

Good friend of Simpson/Hemstead finds herself fighting with her body and her own mind when she discovers she has an aneurysm in a tricky place.

As you know, Hemstead has suffered from, and rallied back against a stroke in recent years, so this looming fear of WhatIf is close to our hearts.  A good read, from a good woman.

Relevant Things

Relevant Things

Eight years ago today my father passed away.  Or is it seven?  Sometimes it’s hard to keep track, in all honesty.  2006.  Let me do some arithmetic on my fingers… yes, let’s stick with eight.

Eight years ago today my father passed away.  He passed after struggling for years with several illnesses including three kinds of cancer, COPD, and Parkinson’s disease.  He was on hospice care and had lost the ability to speak or stand, so it’s difficult to explain how his death was still a surprise; but that’s exactly what his death was to me.

Most of you regular readers of this irregularly updated blog know that both Hemstead and I lost our fathers, Hemstead far earlier than I, and you know that we both tend to mark the anniversary of their deaths/birthdays with at least some subtle  post.  Me, I often just re-post the piece I wrote for the Good Man Project a few years ago and be done with it.   Time and a healthy dose of introspection has given me wonderful peace with my father’s illnesses and his passing.

This year however, I find myself thinking about the immediate time following his expectedly unexpected death more than usual.  A friend of mine told me he recently lost his mother, and while not exactly the same age I was, or the same circumstances, he’s close enough in the latter that it has encouraged me to open up that box and re-live some of what I went through to try and offer support and possibly insight.

He mentioned that he had broken down at work and started sobbing uncontrollably for 20 minutes, and then cleaned himself up and finished up.  He said it was bizarre and unsettling and he didn’t much care for it.  It made me think of that exact moment I experienced that exact same feeling.

As usual, I’m going to simply word vomit a first draft out that will change tense and person regularly, then will go back and clean it up later.  So with that in mind, choose to read forward or move on.

The first and most powerful thing I remember after dad was buried were the powerful waves of grief.  Honest grief.  Grief in a way that I had never known it.  Ever. These waves poured over me like tsunamis, but with the warning of an earthquake.  Sometimes they’d last two minutes, sometimes thirty, but always the same feeling of drowning in sadness.  Drowning is the word I hear most often associated with the feeling, and it feels the most accurate in my mind.  I’ll try to describe it as I recall it happening to me. I feel it’s important to not only someone who has never experienced that kind of grief, but also to people who are finding themselves as befuddled as I was by these emotions.

-While there was no real warning, there were signs – what could best be described as a rumble in my ears a few seconds before and shortness of breath, as though the wind was being sucked out of one’s lungs.  These were only moments before, not enough time to really recognize what was happening or react to what was happening in hopes to get to some emotional high ground in time.

-The body goes cold, numb even, and tremors settle in.  It’s that feeling of being really tired to the point where there’s a vaguely euphoric swimming sensation, but in this scenario the euphoria is replaced with dread and loss.   At this point there is no “stopping it”, you’re underwater, rooted in place by your feet and feeling the water get deeper and deeper around you.

-I personally have a distinct memory of my vision getting darker, but I can’t say if that’s not a revisionist memory or not.  But I do know that people suddenly made me feel very uncomfortable, and claustrophobic.  They weren’t helping, and therefore they were obstacles to surviving.  I’d become very short and snap at the people around me in these moments.

These waves of grief would often leave as quickly as they had come, and all of the emotion was completely internalized, but I’d be left with a confusing absence of emotion for a while after.  Well, that’s possibly not correct, I didn’t have an absence of emotion, maybe I just had “normal” emotions?  And that was equally unsettling.  Where did all that grief go?  Am I broken because it’s gone now so suddenly?  If I really cared about dad shouldn’t I still be experiencing all this grief?  The after effects of this grief left a swath of destruction and ego clean-up that far outlasted the tsunami itself.

Then one day, driving from L.A. to my mom’s house, I got hit with one of these waves and I did something uncharacteristic:  I started crying.

No, that’s not accurate, not crying.  Crying is a civilized emotion.  One could argue that the Leave Britney Alone guy was crying and was civilized about it.  No, this was full Spinal Tap, Ours-Go-To-Eleven bawling that would put a hungry infant to shame.  This was the kind of cartoonish bawling that Will Ferrell is paid an obscene amount of money to competently fake for our amusement. This was an unrepentant explosion of directionless grief.

I repeated the same pleas over and over, I bargained with the stoic air around me to make things different.  I drooled, I leaked from my eyes and nose while my throat issued noises I’d have thought better left for a zoo than a man.  I’m not sure how long, but it was from Culver Drive in Irvine to Oso Parkway in Mission Viejo, so I’m going to guess about 10-12 minutes.

And then as suddenly as it came on POOF, it was gone. It didn’t peter out, it didn’t ramp down, it was just… gone.  And again, I was left with a din of silence after the tsunami.  But instead of ego clean up I was left with… nothing.  Peace, maybe?  I licked my lips once with the dumbfounded look of a freshly burped newborn across my face, turned the radio back on, laughed a little and continued driving.

I bawled twice more on my drive home.  The whole thing was refreshing but uncomfortable.  I don’t like crying.  Boys don’t cry.  Don’t show that weakness, and don’t play all your cards.

I pondered the whole affair the next day, because I don’t function very efficiently in a void of data, and I came to a simple and stupid conclusion:  Unfettered bawling is the pressure release valve on the pressure cooker of our emotions.  It’s not a human trait, it’s a mammal trait, and it’s there for a very good, and life-preserving reason.

I know, it’s a pretty stupid “aha” moment, but it was a helluva breakthrough for me.  I slowly started to accept those moments as cooking off a potentially larger problem.  I started to laugh heartily at them, and WITH them.  Slowly the tsunamis of grief began to “schedule” themselves when I was in a car by myself.  I could give myself over to them completely, and come out the other side laughing.  I found that I began looking forward to them.

Eight years later, I’ve not had much use for them, and I seldom find myself tearing up.  Every now and again I’ll get hit by a rogue wave, usually triggered by something.  Honestly, nearly every time that trigger is Harry Chapin’s Cat’s in the Cradle, a song that exists simply to break the wills of men.   But most importantly I’ve learned to embrace them, and roll with the squall rather than to fight against it.

Experiencing grief didn’t make me less of a man, and I believe embracing it made me a stronger one still.

Sorry Again For Our Absence, What Did We Miss?

You might think we’ve been campaigning while we’ve been away from the website; and we would agree that it would have been a good idea.  However, we have been standing outside a Robeks Juice in Culver City for the last month staring at this brain teaser they have posted on the door.

Where the f@#k is the seal?!  We see a cow.  We see a rolling pasture.  We see a sun.  Hell, we even see photons beaming off the sun.  But no f@#king seal.  Seriously, is he a ninja Waldo or something?  One month!  One month we’ve been here.  I need a goddamned shower.  Hemstead forgot how to poo.

Screw this ninja seal, I’m going to Chik Fil-A where there’s no goddamned brain teasers and you can just eat in peace.

Wait, WHAT happened at Chik Fil-A?  Why the f@#k were they fighting Muppets?  Why does ANYONE care if gays have the right to marry?  Does it mean everyone has to get gay married?  Is Kurt Russell up for grabs still?  No?  Then why does this affect anyone?  Okay, clearly we’re gonna have to do a reality check blog about this one here.

We leave for a little while and the country starts imploding.  But at least the B.S. war on women thing from earlier this year is over.

Representative Anakin said what?  Who the hell is that?  Jesus he looks like the crypt keeper!

Okay, clearly both sides of every argument have been running around lynching folk in a social media free-for-all the last couple months.  We’re sorry.  We’re back.  We’re going to help you make sense of all this.

There is no side that wins a war by stooping to the tactics they lament in their opponent.  Sit on that one for a while, look at what you’ve been doing -BOTH SIDES I’M TALKING TO HERE- and we’ll talk to each of you in term.

Let me get a shower in, and let Hemstead change his pants.

Goddamned ninja seal…

The Sorting Hat

EDIT:  If you are already on Pottermore you can skip down lower to the WHERE IT GOES WRONG section if you’d like (but the whole article isn’t so bad), there’s a few questions about the sorting hat experience asked later on.  Please read and comment.  All comments are private until approved by moderator.  Requests for anonymity will be feverishly observed.

A Brief History Lesson

Well folks it’s true, Simpson/Hemstead has found its way into Pottermore!  For those of you who don’t know, Pottermore is the online experience from J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter books.   If you who don’t know what a Harry Potter is, you probably have just arrived here from the 19th century by way of a time/space anomaly. And we do commend you for being clever enough to not only learn how to use a computer, but possibly teach yourself english and find your way to this website.  Welcome to the future!

But before you go along thinking “Harry Potter” is slang for a woman’s doo-dad, let me explain what the phenomenon of Harry Potter is so you can understand what’s coming next:

Harry Potter is a series of books about three awkward 12 year old kids who go to a really exclusive private school for wizards called Hogwarts that many believe to be located in Scotland.  These kids are consistently NOT ONLY left unsupervised, but often times put into harm’s way INTENTIONALLY by the staff of the school, with predictably tragic results.  Also it would appear that one of the pre-requisites for graduation is the murder of at least one of your classmates or instructors in a “winner takes all” pass or fail final exam against the school’s biggest bully.  Not just YOUR class’s biggest bully, but the biggest effing bully the school has ever seen, who kinda hates you and your whole family for trying to kill him.

The world's most hardcore game of "I've got your nose"

These wildly successful books about wizardry, witchcraft, and really spotty supervision begat wildly successful films about wizardry, witchcraft, really spotty supervision.  The films themselves created an almost epidemic level of “when will he/she be 18 so I can stop being confused by my thoughts” throughout 20/30 somethings, but that’s another post.

Hogwart's School for the oddly proportioned teenagers with scoliosis.

And so now the highly successful book series about consistently endangered magically-inclined youths that spawned a highly successful film series about consistently endangered, magically-inclined youths has spawned Pottermore,* the highly successful web experience that recounts the adventures of consistently endangered, magically-inclined youths; all the while allowing the reader/watcher to become part of the experience.

* more likely than not this is what it looks like if you try to log in... it's THAT wildly successful

The general overall experience of it is entertaining, if not a little unintuitive for the beginner.  The first book (all that is unlocked at the time of writing), is presented as chapters along the ornate vines on a golden gate.  Chapters for all the books are found woven into this gate, and it becomes the launching point for your adventures through the books.  The player, or student, relives important details from each of the tomes told through multi-planed digital paintings rife with clickable content and collectable items.  These are things you will ultimately need during your tenure at Hogwarts.  Things like galleons for purchasing items in Diagon Alley or ingredients for potions, or chocolate frog cards.  Each chapter also contains excerpts from the book, as well as some original “behind the scenes” content such as J.K. Rowling’s character sketches, interviews, and occasionally video messages from the blonde creator herself.

Outside of touring the books, the player/student can also learn and make potions for points toward their house (this idea of houses will be discussed later), as well as learn spells to duel other player/students.  Although at the time of this writing that function has never worked and has been down for maintenance. It is a beta release after all.

And that, in a rather large nutshell is the basic idea behind Pottermore, so now let’s get into the cool stuff.

Where Things Start Getting Interesting:

Part of the experience of Harry’s first day at Hogwarts, and chapter seven in Pottermore, is the sorting hat.  In the books, the sorting hat judges the character of a young wizard on their first day at Hogwarts School of the Possibly Criminally Insane and Infinitely Powerful, and puts them into one of four houses; Gryffindor (the brave), Ravenclaw (the nerdy/smart), or Slytherin (the cunning/devious), and Hufflepuff (the emotional core).  These are somewhat like fraternities or sororities, or fraterorities since they’re mixed company. I think it’s in place  to help introduce the Future Sociopaths of Great Britain with a friendly way to compete, hate, and be afraid of one another while being taught God-like powers*citation needed. Picture Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, but where Captain Picard holds gladiator games with the students on Thursday nights.

In Pottermore, the experience of the sorting hat is a series of questions written by J.K. Rowling herself, run through an algorithm that I believe assigns a point value to each answer, and subsequent questions are asked based upon the values tallied in different categories (but I am just guessing, I have no idea.)  Simpson/Hemstead ran through this process and it’s pretty well done, leaving very little room to attempt to fix the results (we didn’t try, we wanted to see where we fit into Rowling’s universe honestly), and asking some fun and thought provoking personality questions to boot.

The interesting thing that has come out of this is that there are many people, male and female, mostly around high school/college age, who are going through severe identity crisis over their house placement by J.K. Rowling.  At first I thought it was kinda funny, the way that people who started support groups after Avatar came out to help them get through the idea that they can’t actually go to Pandora are funny.  But then I started talking with people, people who have lived with Harry Potter since 1998 and grew up into adulthood with Harry Potter as their contemporary.  I came to the realization that in many cases the first culturally significant role-model of their lives who is still AS relevant 15 years later.  I don’t have something from my childhood to compare that to.

Not the same. Crazy delicious, but not the same.

I had Star Wars.  It was groundbreaking.  It created a new mythology and new characters that fueled imagination like nothing in it’s decade.  But I didn’t grow up with Luke Skywalker as a contemporary.  He was older than me.  He lived a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.  I had no means of travel to get to where he was, no TARDIS, Time Machine, or Transwarp spaceship to be found.

And this little beauty won't make an appearance in our timeline for another 8 years

My generation could only WISH.  Also, we only had 3 movies, spread over 7 years to contend with.  Well, that and a shit-ton of marketing, toys, a weird Christmas special, a bitchin’ Muppet Show episode,  and some non-canonical books.

And then this book... Say what you want about George, this dude was raping your childhood in 1978

We had no internet.  We had no books that became movies.  We didn’t have interactive gaming, and easy to access fan fiction.   It was just those three movies, our toys and our imaginations; and for most of us probably countless futile hours straining to roll a Matchbox car or turn the page of a book with gnarled, white-knuckled fingers tensed against our outstretched arms.

In stark contrast, the Harry Potter universe is set in a world that could very easily be our own, and indeed happening as we speak.  Any muggle-born child with an aptitude for magic could find themselves standing on platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross Station sometime around 10:45 in the morning waiting for a very special train.

Beyond that, the Potter generation has had, since 1997 the following:  7 books, 8 movies, 10 videogames, internet forums, fan fiction, tumblr, fan art, facebook groups, myspace groups, fan films, toys, clothing, and now an interactive immersive web experience.  This is a generation that has grown up, part and parcel with Harry Potter as a constant participant in their lives, as an external entity constantly rife with fresh input in some manner rather than the imagination of childhood playtime.  Although I imagine every kid who saw an owl in the woods, barn or even a zoo hoped and prayed it would fly right to them carrying a letter in his talons…

To illustrate the bombardment, here is a list of release dates for the Harry Potter franchise in the US (the first two books released a year earlier in the UK)


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 1 September 1998

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets  on 2 June 1999.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 8 September 1999.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire on 8 July 2000

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 21 June 2003.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 16 July 2005,

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows 21 July 2007.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone  14 November 2001.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, 15 November 2002.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,  4 June 2004.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 18 November 2005.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  July 2007

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, 15 July 2009.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1 19 November 2010

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2  15 July 2011

That is an astounding assault of input!  Look at those numbers: from 1998 to 2011, that’s 14 years, there have only been 3 years WITHOUT a new Harry Potter intellectual property released from the creator of that universe.  11 out of 14 years!  For many in the Potter generation, that’s 50% of their lives, the same as kindergarten through middle school.

Harry Potter is a friend.  Dumbledore a mentor, Hagrid a weird uncle that you only see on holidays and who always is the most fun to be around, and Tom Riddle is that kid in class that scares the shit out of you who seems to hate you for some reason.  You’ve imagined yourself having a feathered messenger drop out of the sky with an acceptance letter.  You’ve fantasized about standing before the Sorting Hat and being placed in Gryffindor (the brave), Ravenclaw (the nerdy/smart), or Slytherin (the cunning/devious).  Just please God not Hufflepuff (the emotional core).  You knew where your loyalties lay, and you knew, without a doubt, where the hat would place you.

Where It Goes Wrong?

In Pottermore, you get closer to that dream of your childhood.  You got a digital letter delivered by a painted owl.  You went to King’s Crossing Station.  You stood on platform 9 and 3/4.  You walked through the shops in Diagon Alley.  Your wand chose you.  And then, you answered the questions J.K. wrote herself.  You  were sorted…

…into a different house.

How could this be?  The creator of the world that has been a part of your life since early childhood told you that you were someone different in her world than you had always imagined.  Maybe you always felt like the hero and were sorted into Slytherin, or maybe you always thought you were the brain and you were sorted into the dreaded Hufflepuff.  It didn’t make sense.  Was it a feeling of confusion?  Betrayal?  Gassy rage?

Where did the feeling come from?

I’ve been asking a number of people this question, both from the Potter generation and from the Skywalker generation to get opinions.  I tried asking the baby boomers but they’re too concerned with making sure Social Security doesn’t collapse they had no time for it, and the Great Generation just says, “are you f@cking kidding me?”  From both the Potter and the Skywalker generations, these are the most likely culprits:

  • The feeling that you are not who you wished you were.
  • A feeling of having been somehow dressed down by a person who has helped shape your life.
  • A disassociation of brotherhood/sisterhood from the characters for whom you have felt a strong kinship.
  • The feeling that this thing that you have put so much love and energy and money and attention into, that you know like you know your own voice, doesn’t love you and know you back the same way.

What are your thoughts?  I’m really very interested to hear your experiences, good and bad with the sorting hat.  The phenomenon is unlike anything we have ever as a culture been presented with, and Simpson/Hemstead is very interested to understand it from the point of view of those who have gone through the process.

Please comment below, please forward to others, and leave your house assignment and screen name as well if you’d like.

Oh, and for those who are curious, we are Simpson/Hemstead.  We are Slytherin.*  And we are called GoldVine100.


*Yes, that’s the house we thought we’d get in.

Simpson/Hemstead Advice: 091511

Tears are the Krakens of the soul.  When shit gets real, RELEASE THE FACE KRAKENS!!!


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