arteejee

A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.

My Photo
Name:
Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, December 05, 2016

Merry Malaise and Happy Neurosis



This year it is more difficult than ever to get into the spirit of the season.  By this time in past years I would be half way through signing my Christmas cards.  As of today this year I haven’t even started the first card.

I have been hoping that perhaps the seasonal music selections from the wireless would help lift my mood.  The annual assault by the media to “celebrate” the holidays hasn’t worked its total magic on me yet, but I’m giving it time to influence my mood in small doses.   Given that, I have resolved to be more proactive this year against two songs which I tired of years ago.   I am now turning off the radio whenever I hear the guitar licked jingle bell intro to Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer and Andy Williams warbles the irrelevant hickory dickory dock (Happy Holidays).

Still I do get sentimental about The Christmas Song, particularly Nat King Cole’s version.  The back story to this song it that it was created when southern California was suffering through an intensely hot summer.   The young composers (Mel Torme was one of them) tried to fill their composition with images of freezing cold to overcome their heated circumstances.  The results are smokin’, as in “What the hell were they smokin’ when they began their ode to cold, colder and coldest with the words ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…’?”

We still have three weeks to go before the big day and I have performed one of my annual holiday traditions:  watching It’s A Wonderful Life on network television.  This has never failed to get me in the holiday mood in past years, although this year I feel the incredible urge to push Clarence Oddbody AS 2 (Angel Second Class) out of the way so I can throw George Bailey off the bridge myself.  Yes, this is where my mood is in relation to this holiest Christian holiday of the year.

I hasten to add that this story is also smokin’.  As in “What in hell were they smokin’ when they named their child Zuzu after naming the others Janie, Pete and Tommy?”  Where in the wide, wide world of middle class midwestern America (read: white) culture did this come from?

Of course, we would tempted to update George Bailey’s saga much like Dean Martin referred to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as Rudy the Red-Nosed Reindeer.*  In our new version, George Bailey’s campaign for mayor of Bedford Falls is threatened when Old Man Potter’s grand nephew (Old Man Potter was alas too mean for anyone to want to procreate with him so that he would have direct descendents) stumbles across a cache of e-mails George allegedly wrote about what he really thinks of his savings and loan customers.  The love of George’s life, Mary, does not work as a librarian, but rather spends many days picketing Planned Parenthood.   

And, no wait, I know this is all blasphemy, but trust me.  I’m just saying all this as a way for me to work through my holiday despair.   I refuse to embrace the hatred and fear that so many in the Christian community are suddenly approving.  The malaise is overpowering.

Okay, It’s A Wonderful Life didn’t work its usual magic on me this year.   Still I have time to work on adjusting my attitude.  I only hope that everyone else is willing to do the same.

*Add this to my list of songs which should be shut off whenever I hear it on the radio.

(Thank you for reading.  Don’t talk to me Clarence.  I’m not in the holiday mood yet.)

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016*



Since November 8 I resigned myself to the idea that I could not get into the spirit of the holiday season.  However, the initial shock of this year’s election has worn off and the usual November rush of taking open enrollment calls took my mind off the world at large.  This month usually ends up speeding through as a blur and everyone at my job is usually three weeks behind in our cases.  This translates into a lot of opportunities to make up the work for the remainder of the year.


Also known as sweet overtime at time-and-a-half.


So I find that I am thankful for a few things.  At the risk of sounding like I’m taking it all for granted, I’ll say that I am thankful for the usual suspects.   A good home, an opportunity to do good in the world and get paid just enough to satisfy my needs; my wife, my cats, and my sanity…and not necessarily in that order.


The sanity will become a particular challenge in the coming months and years.  Despite the polls, kvetching about the Electoral College, protests and dread of a conservative slant to our governing, I suppose it behooves me to be thankful for all of it.   Regardless of the winners and losers, we should agree that there was once again a clear victor: democracy.  Our peculiar brand of American democracy triumphed again.  Many people in the world don’t even have the choice of who runs their lives.  We should be and are grateful.


I am thankful for cable television, that brand of anything goes entertainment which was once the upstart child to the major networks.  Once there were community standards which ruled what certain things could be broadcast and what could be taboo.  It started as subscription networks in the 70s (HBO) and has since slowly encroached so that everything tawdry and indecent can be celebrated alongside the reverent and profane, or at least what was considered profane back in the era of VHF television.


Still, there is an odd feeling about this medium.   It can elevate the ghastliest of people to near sainthood (witness our President Elect), yet we have not seen a commercial for cigarettes since 1971.  Don’t’ get me wrong:  I abhor the product, but the commercials were so damned entertaining!  Go figure!


Cable television has and will continue to allow me to escape my ill-conceived and mislaid dread of things which are beyond my control.  For example, today one of the networks is running back-to-back showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I will escape reality and perhaps view Rocky Horror at least once more before the day is out.  I may even try to teach our basement cat Oreo how to do The Time Warp. 

There, get that image out of your mind.  I dare you!


This marathon makes me long for the days of Comedy Central’s Turkey Day Marathon of wall-to-wall episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000.  Ah, those were the days!  I am grateful that we MSTies have had countless hours of enjoyment since the 1990s.


Given recent events I did not think that there could be anything new to be thankful for this year.   Then I had an epiphany.   So now I will give thanks for the social advances we attained in the last eight years.


The notion of same-sex marriage is an abomination to some and a symbol of the last great civil rights struggle for many others.  In the last eight years, we have seen remarkable strides forward on this front and the notion that marijuana should be legalized for legitimate medical purposes.  True today we are staring in the mouth of the beast which may reverse this progression, but this will be the challenge for all of us.  While many of us in the blogisphere rightfully dread what might happen to our friends and family, we also need to acknowledge (albeit begrudgingly) that this political blowback is a normal reaction to progress.  The pendulum of social justice is swinging away from the progressives, and we can only hope that it will swing back in our direction soon.


In any case, I am grateful for the progress we did accomplish in the last 8 years.  We proved to ourselves that we could do this, and we can pray that we won’t have to redo it.  If the worst case scenario happens, then we know we can do it because we have done it before.  We are now experienced, thank you very much Mr. Hendrix for asking.  


I know: I am a heterosexual white male who, theoretically, has nothing to fear for my own personal standing in society.  My type has always been at the top of heap…and, honestly, where has that gotten us?  In any case, that is not the point if we are honest with ourselves and TRULY want all to be included in all opportunities life has to offer. 
   

We have only the challenge to convince our brothers and sisters that their revered, narrow way of thinking needs to be broadened.   We should be grateful for the challenge.


Happy Thanksgiving to all!


*Or Giving Thanks and the Coming Madness


(Thank you for reading.  Um, anyone up for a serving of Manos: The Hands of Fate?)

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Moody for the Holidays



The Thanksgiving turkey is in the oven and I am enjoying the nostalgia which the aroma of the roasting meat brings to my mind.

The food itself — the main course, the stuffing, gravy, cranberry sauce, baked lima beans, cole slaw, sweet potatoes, rolls and tomato juice — is inconsequential for my real motives.   After all, I’m doing all this cooking for just…me.  We have not invited anyone to share in our feast.  To be fair, no one, not even my brother, invited us for their Thanksgiving dinner.

Having guests over today would not have worked anyway.  Warrior Queen is under the weather, and (truth be told) I haven’t really invited her to share the turkey dinner with me either.  Yes, this situation does make for a certain awkwardness being we both live under the same roof and all, but hey, this is her choice.

Warrior Queen hates turkey. I will enjoy the meal itself today and, if she is feeling better later, she can enjoy the Thanksgiving entrée of her choice: a single serving lasagna.   Oh, she has expressed some interest in having some stuffing and she is certainly welcome to as many crescent rolls as her heart desires.

What?  Did you think I intended to eat my feast in front of my bride without offering her a morsel?  Please!  What do you take me for?  An insensitive conservative?

As I mentioned above, I have other motives for preparing a meal for at least 4-6 people.   This is part of my plan every year.  I spend so much at our local grocery store to qualify for a “free” turkey, cook it for one meal, then repack and freeze the leftover meat and stuffing for innumerable lunches or dinners throughout the rest of the year. 

Sometimes I’m able to have enough turkey meals for myself until it’s time for the grocers to offer their “free” Easter ham.   And then the whole process is repeated.  A large chunk of meat is brought to the house, cooked for a holiday meal which only I enjoy. (Yes, Warrior Queen is averse to the holiday ham as well.)  Then I repackage the leftover slices and random chunks for use as breakfast or sandwiches until it’s free-Thanksgiving-turkey-giveaway-time again.

Oh yes, I did mention nostalgia.  The roasting fills the house with a good old time quality of memories from my childhood.   Mom would have taped cardboard cutouts of Pilgrims and turkeys throughout the house in the weeks leading up to the feast. She would also break out the Currier and Ives Olde Curiosity Shoppe china which we only used for holiday dinners.

Dad, being the professional meat cutter, would prepare the turkey and personally oversee the roasting.   Then he would make the gravy from the drippings left behind when the bird itself had been lifted out of the pan. Then the entrée, vegetables and side dishes would be brought into the dining room.

Small glasses would be filled with an appetizer tomato juice cocktail.   We would fold hands, bow heads, give thanks and consume the banquet.  This is the way it was at our house for several decades.

Mom and dad are gone, and little brother will most likely be busy with his in-laws for the holiday.  This leaves me to recreate those old family gatherings as best I can with the Currier and Ives china and tomato juice appetizer.  Yes, it will be a lot of food for one person, but I will be in a better frame of mind, safe with my memories, and away from the uncertainty of current events.

Otherwise I’m not in a holiday mood!

(Thank you for reading.  Bon appetite, America!)

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Is It Over Yet?



Can I do it now?   Can I take my hands away from my eyes now?  You kids promised a nice surprise and I can’t take the suspense any longer.  I have to look.  Okay, one, two, three, and OH MY JESUS EFFIN CHRIST!  WHAT HAVE YOU KIDS DONE TO OUR COUNTRY?*

I was hoping that you would vote for hope and optimism, but no, you gave in to your fears.   Now we are at risk of turning back time to another era when bigotry and racism were seen as part and parcel of the American fabric.  People abhorred it even as we shrugged our shoulders with a silent “It is what it is”.

I know many people say that it never went away, and I know that’s correct.   The notion of a “post-racial” American society was a cruel punch line we pretended was true as the first African-American ascended to the Oval Office eight years ago.   America’s black community did not see many changes in their lives.  Fortunately they and many others outside those communities continued the fight through the years.

This is the cynical mood Warrior Queen and I have been in for the last few months of the election.  We hoped, we now know it was hope against hope, that our fellow Americans would reject the notions of fear of a rank amateur and vote for a seasoned veteran of the political landscape.   It’s a small consolation that the veteran is on track to outpoll her rival (votes are still being counted in California) by several million votes.   Still her rival is now recognized as the President elect.

Suddenly this consolation feels like salt being poured liberally into an open, gaping wound.

We, in our despair, have been commiserating with like minded individuals in the blogosphere.  Many of us are still in shock and probably will conduct our daily lives zombie-like for the foreseeable future.  So be it!  If we conduct ourselves in a trance or with our eyes wide open, we must continue on and fight the subtle fight.

I’m contemplating a monthly donation to Planned Parenthood in the name of women who are seeking diagnostic help against cancer.  The champions of defunding this charity seem to overlook the important work they do for women’s health.  My God, their blindness is horrible.

I believe my monthly contribution to the Southern Poverty Law Center will be put to good use defending the progress made in the LGBT community during the past eight years.  The defense will be needed.   The hate crimes are already on the rise, and the damned President elect hasn’t even been inaugurated yet!

At this time, I am thinking about one of my favorite lines from “Blazing Saddles”, in which Slim Pickens makes the astute observation that we virtually wipe out one culture (the American Indian) just to turn around and allow another culture (African American) make headways into mainstream (read: white) society.  I can update and paraphrase the spirit of his words here:

Now if that don’t beat all.   Here we take the good time and trouble to knock down every vestige of hatred we can find and for what?  So we can elect a man with more bigotry and venom in him than any other man elected before him.  I am depressed.

Depressed, yes…but determined to fight on!

*As a middle-aged man approaching sixty, I feel comfortable spouting off like the crazed elder at a family gathering.  Overall my peers have children who are grown and have children of their own, and what the hell.  I think I deserve to rant.

(Thank you for reading.  Janey, if you can read this, call us!)