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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, November 23, 2015

The War on Christmas from Within

The end of year holidays in western culture will be a challenge for me this time. This is understandable as it will be my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without Mom. There is at once a sobering reality that old traditions will not be enacted again, if ever. Yet, this potential nose dive into melancholia will be tempered with the excitement of starting new traditions.

On a personal level, this may mean a dinner out at a nearby oriental buffet with friends, as opposed to the old tradition of a home cooked feast with family. Ah, but what happens when half of the family have gone on to their Great Reward and the other half is too busy starting their own new tradition to carry on the home cooked feast idea with the sibling?

No matter! Sushi bar it is!

On a larger scale, members of this august bastion of western culture have already embarked on a new tradition: namely, let’s start a new Christmas tradition by acting less like Christians at the most holiest time of the year. The most noteworthy example of this new tradition happened last week, when every Republican member of the House of Representatives voted to make it more difficult for refugees from Syria - all refugees from Syria - to settle in the United States. They were joined by 47 Democrats.

Don’t worry, we’ll be starting the paperwork to disown them shortly, but this new tradition of ethnocentrism at the holidays is worrisome. Yes, nothing says "peace on earth, good will to men" like old fashioned bigotry! 
See, new holiday traditions are exciting! Yayyyyyy!

All this is in response to the attacks by terrorists in Paris on 11/13. ISIS or ISIL claimed responsibility for the event, so naturally all people of Syrian nationality came under suspicion. Newsflash to all right thinking people everywhere: this jump to conclusions should not have happened naturally. Of course it didn’t happen naturally; it only happened because the most faithful-to-God among us are allowing their fears of other cultures to overcome our rational thoughts of our national psyche. Excuse me, but isn’t faith suppose to supplant fear and make us all better human beings, not just to ourselves, but for the entire human race?

Now, all the people of Syria, who have seen their lives crumble around them due to a civil war, who if they choose to stay will either be killed by the current regime or ISIS, will now have very few places to seek refuge because nations of the west which are supposedly steeped in Judeo-Christian values are suddenly going to shed those values and deny the downtrodden people of the world the chance, the most basic human right of survival? 

I really hope this new tradition does not catch on.

Until this year, I dismissed the idea of a war on Christmas declared by secular western society. I believed that this so-called conflict was dreamed up by a ratings crazed producer at an unnamed American news network called Fox, but this year I’m thinking that there really is a war on Christmas. This year, it is the Christians themselves declaring war on their own values, by denying refuge to the less fortunate people everywhere in the world. The conservatives among us are so fearful of another terrorist attack that they are willing to abandon their faith in God and dishonor the memory of the man whose birth we celebrate at this time of year.

I don’t why this is happening, but I believe that is what’s happening.

Let’s go back to the concept of "peace on earth, good will to men." Christians of the world, these words were not placed together just so they can be strung on a banner over our Black Friday shopping sprees. It’s more than just six words on our holiday greeting cards. It is a concept, a very real concept, of extending peace, friendship, human rights to all who we encounter in this life.  

This means good will to those beyond Christianity. This means Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and all the other believers and non-believers of the world. Yes, even atheists.

(Thank you for reading. And as we go to the bottom of the first inning,  it’s terrorists one, Jesus coming to bat.)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Here We Go Again

Intolerance, disguised as extremist religion, has struck again. This time the location was Paris. Now the world is getting behind the French to respond to the terrorist attack, which the French President Hollande has called an “act of war.”

Support for decisive action is already strong in this country. The social media outlets - and in particular Facebook - are overflowing with calls for supporting the French in their fight against ISIS. This is good, considering that America has been the lead country in a coalition fighting ISIS since 2014.

Oh, you didn’t know we were engaged in combat activities? Surprise! I would have thought that the news reports of our unmanned drones hitting the ISIS leadership would have been a dead giveaway, no pun intended. Don’t be surprised if in the coming months the United States starts assuming a more assured war footing as we take steps to contain ISIS.

As well we should, because, well, not that many Americans want to admit to it, the ideology known as ISIS is pretty much our invention. The current Republican field of presidential hopefuls loves to paint ISIS as a product of President Obama’s foreign policy that appeared overnight. In reality, this blood-thirsty off shoot of al Qaeda was seeded by the Bush II war in Iraq. While the Bush Administration struggled with its exit strategy, a political power vacuum in Iraq allowed ISIS to be nurtured/simmered/boiled/festered/whatever to the cancer which it is today.

So thank you, Darth Cheney and Sith Rumsfeld, for your contribution to world terrorism.

So now, we go forward and meet ISIS' challenge with whatever we got. And we do have a lot to give…

The news from Paris was shocking and depressing. The good news is that many countries are uniting in a common cause against hatred. Yes, it does feel like 9/11 all over again, but perhaps this time we’ll get the job done right. Warrior Queen beat me to the punch by posting the "La Marseillaise" scene from Casablanca, and it seems to be a perfect way to show solidarity with our fellow world citizens beaten back by the forces of evil. 
As I reviewed it this morning, I noticed for the first time Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa as she watches her husband Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) lead Rick’s orchestra in "La Marseillaise". At first, she looks worried that the Nazis in the café may drag him away; then, resignation that her husband as a leader of the French Underground is going to do what he has to do for the cause. This gives way to a seconds long transition from a look of “here we go again” to inspiration that his fight is a fight worth waging.

See for yourself.  Indeed, here we go again.
(Thank you for reading. Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of France.)

Sunday, November 08, 2015

This Was Supposed To Be A Movie Review…

…but my plans for the weekend veered off course from my week long anticipated attendance at a local theater showing SPECTRE. My original plan for the day included doing overtime to get caught up on the job, then the movie and an after movie dinner at a southwest grill chain. (Warrior Queen was otherwise engaged in a lunch date with one of her Internet knitting friends.) 
Unfortunately, it is the hectic time of year at my job when hundreds of our clients and thousands of their employees are going through the annual ritual of open enrollment. My company handles the questions of these employees as they choose their health insurance coverage for the next year. Medicare recipients also have to enroll or re-enroll if they are changing their coverage to a different plan type (for example, traditional Medicare to a Medicare HMO).  

The combined schedule of these open enrollment periods brings a tsunami of phone calls which results in bedlam, chaos, and frequent periods of self-loathing. The end result of this intense concentration of communication will be that each one of us will be weeks behind in our work. This subsequently brings on stress to catch up which can last for months. It took me six months to get caught up after the last time I had to take open enrollment calls.

The pressures of this week caught up to me after my shift on Saturday. I wasn’t feeling up to a movie and simply went home.

Sorry, Mr. Bond, but I have a headache.

Just as well; I doubt that my condition could withstand the aural assault of an action film with car chase squealing rubber, crunching of colliding metal, lots of explosions of various items and locations, punctuated once or twice by the sounds of a female experiencing an orgasm as she is seduced/serviced by the main character…all in Dolby®, THX®, or Surround® sound, or whatever the current sound technology exists at this time. So now you know how often I go to the movies, since I don’t even know the name of the current innovative technology.

It was a hectic week and the next few weeks promise more of the same. And in the middle of this first week of the month we had elections for local offices. It was here that I had a day long period of dread: I thought I had voted for the wrong party.

This was the first election in which I’ve participated since my eye surgery in the spring. Ever since, I’ve had wonderful far range vision, but I have required the use of glasses to see anything within 18 inches. I do not carry these readers everywhere with me. I have several pairs at home in various points where I know I will most likely use them:  the computer station, the dining room table where I sort my mail, and usually on a table next to my La-z-Boy®. I also keep a pair at work so I don’t have to worry that I have a pair on me when I leave for work every morning.

I know how my mind works, and as my Dad always said (and since his passing, Warrior Queen has been more than happy to remind me), “You’re lucky to have your head fastened on!” Otherwise, I might forget to take that with me.

So Election Day came and I reported to do my civic duty at the polls, when I realized I needed my glasses to differentiate between the columns listing the candidates for each party. Guess what I didn’t have? I panicked momentarily, believing that I could figure out which column was marked “D” (the good people) and which column was marked “R” (insert endless barrage of abusive terms for the GOP here). I pressed all the buttons in the first column, pressed the VOTE button, and for the rest of the day wondered if I did it correctly.

I related my voting travails to Warrior Queen that night, and she convinced me that I had voted for the “other party”. (Cue Shakespearean strike of lightning and dramatic roll of thunder.)  I was horrified at the thought that I had voted for the Republican candidates.

I kept going over the events of my voting in my mind, and wondered over and over how I could have done such a thing. How could I recover from this political slight to my psyche? What would my cats think of me? More importantly, how could I ever look The Huffington Post in the face ever again?

Hand wringing, clenched fist held to the forehead and other demonstrable gestures of melodramatic agony and distressed ensued. I went to bed that night resigned to the fact that I might have to do some sort of penance by watching Fox News - and only Fox News - every day for the rest of my life.

After a fitful night’s sleep, Warrior Queen explained that she thought about the arrangement of the political parties on the polling booth screen and realized that the first column was, indeed, the listing for the Democrats. I was relieved at her news. The dread that had appeared when I thought I had upset the balance of power in my little corner of the world gave way to happy thoughts of absolution and redemption.

In other words, “Whew! That was close!”

(Thank you for reading. SPECTRE will be reviewed…soon.)

Saturday, October 31, 2015

GOP Candidates Say the Darnedest Things: Waiting in the Green Room

(This maybe the first of an occasional series of reports on the GOP’s efforts to take back the White House. The editorial board at arteejee envisions these reports to be entertaining because, as we all know, GOP Candidates Say the Darndest Things!)

So, anyway, the Republican candidate clown car pulled into Colorado this week for the third of a seemingly endless series of debates. In preparation for the big night, the entourages from the various campaigns toured the debate facility, which included a peek at each candidate’s green room, or that room where they would relax and wait for the show to begin.
For those of us who spent some time in theater - professional or amateur, it doesn’t matter - we know the green room is used as a waiting room. Many network talk shows use this type of room for their guests to relax awhile before they appear on the show. In our college theater, the green room doubled as the costume shop, and (for one show) a place where members of the scenery crew crashed after they worked in to the wee hours of the morning building a set which was supposed to represent an ancient Middle Eastern city.*

In any event, the green room can serve multi-purposes. The RNC decided that rooms originally constructed for a multitude of purposes in a venue could all serve as green rooms for the Republican candidates. The managers of the various campaigns reviewed the inequality of the green rooms and were not smiling.

Until recently, front runner Donald Trump got a spacious - or as he would say HUGE - room complete with flat screen television and plush upholstered seating which could comfortably seat his entourage or ten illegal Mexican rapists. Take your pick…

At the other end of the spectrum, Rand Paul got a two room closet with a toilet. Hey, if that were me, I would trade the flat screen tv for the toilet any day. As you may know, I am a middle-aged man with an enlarged prostate. You do the math…

Marco Rubio and his crew got to cool their heels in a room designed as a movie theater. I wouldn’t complain about that either, but I have to wonder what film his entourage would amuse themselves with while they waited for the debate to begin. I’ll go out on a limb and pick Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. Or maybe The Birdcage?

The lone female in the pack, Carly Fiorina, allegedly had a Jacuzzi in her green room. Surprisingly, she did not cancel her appearance with the ten men on the debate stage despite having this amenity in her waiting room. I would not have blamed her if she had tweeted to the other candidates, “Sorry gentlemen, I won’t make it tonight. I’ve fallen into a Jacuzzi and I can’t get up.”

The dust up between the campaigns and the RNC briefly made headlines the day before the debate, but it was quickly forgotten as the candidates turned on the moderators en masse because (to them) the questions were unbecoming of a respected news organization. It's almost as if the RNC pointed at the moderators and cried, “There! They’re the ones who assigned your green rooms! Get them!”

So, with all of the problems facing our country today - international and domestic terrorism, crumbling infrastructure, wealthy class indifferent to the needs of the workers who serve them, et al - they fight over pre-debate accommodations. You bitch about your rooms, you bitch about the tough questions which reporters are suppose to ask. Seriously, kids? You are the ones who desire to lead the free world? 

Maybe it was not so much that the waiting rooms or the questions were unbecoming. Perhaps it is the human beings themselves who are unbecoming of seeking higher office.

(Thank you for reading. Now, where’s that Jacuzzi?)

*Janey, remember Belshazzar?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

At 56

Confession: ever since childhood, I had the notion that I would most likely suffer a fatal heart attack at the age of 55. Of course back then the double nickel seemed like it was a thousand years away, and I figured I would have plenty of time to live a good life in the meantime.

Just goes to show you how quickly a thousand years can fly by…

In any case, I felt compelled in the last year to tell those closest to me — for example, my oldest friend Janey, and this woman sitting in my living room for the last 23 years for another — about my childhood notion. I had wanted to give those closest to me some sort of warning in case my feelings of mortality came true on time. Well, one thing led to another — called day-to-day living — and it ended up that I never got around to telling anyone.

Just as well, because I didn’t die, although my blog writing has been gasping on life support for several months.

I turned 56 at the beginning of a wonderful long weekend; we don’t do vacations anymore, just long weekends. We spent the weekend with friends in Delaware, walked around Rehoboth Beach despite or just to spite our arthritic backs/knees, and generally broke up our routines with the change in scenery.

I found Rehoboth Beach to be a nice little town on the sea. This weekend was the first long block of time I had spent there. I had passed through it at other times without stopping for a long period beyond a lunch with friends a few years ago.

I actually believed it could be a nice place to live someday, but then I realized that I was seeing it in the off season. This is a beach town after all, and their livelihood depends on the in-season tourist traffic. No, my blood pressure would most likely not withstand the stress of the tourist scene.

So this landmark birthday was celebrated at Dos Locos in Rehoboth Beach with a pitcher of sangria shared with Warrior Queen, and capped with a nice free dessert, a sombrero on my head and a chorus of Happy Birthday from members of the Dos Locos wait staff. Obviously, someone (Mark, I'm looking at you!) blabbed about my birth date to the restaurant management. 
In past years, I would try to keep my celebration a secret whenever I dined out on my birthday. I would see this display of congratulations showered on other diners and I imagined that I would die of embarrassment if it ever happened to me. Good news: I didn’t die of embarrassment when it finally happened and it was all over before I realized it. Besides, the dessert — a few scoops of ice cream and chocolate sauce in a tortilla shell - was very good. 
My 23rd anniversary with Warrior Queen happened in the middle of this weekend. I gave her a gift card for her favorite nail salon and a gag gift: a bell which she could ring to hasten the delivery of her morning “happy juice” (i.e., coffee). I intended it to be a gag, but alas, the joke has been on me. Warrior Queen has used it every day since she got it and every day her coffee magically appears. It appears instantly through my pre-planning, starting the coffee maker, and preparing her cup with the proper amount of artificial sweetener and non-dairy creamer. 
This might not sound like much, but making coffee for someone else can be a lot of work when you’re still trying to wake up yourself. But in the end it is a labor of love.

So I am waking up again at 56. My past 55 years was one side of my life. This side of my life will mean going back to the routines of the old life: daily coffee making,   exercise on the stationary bicycle (interrupted weeks ago by the pain of arthritis in the knees), and of course earning a living. The long weekend is over and it’s now time to get back to everyday living which I hope to keep doing for many years to come.  

(Thank you for reading and…oh, there’s that bell again. Coming, dear!)