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

My Photo
Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day - 2006

Many hamburgers and hot dogs will be eaten today, and many retail outlets will make millions from sales that have nothing to do with remembering the sacrifices of the servicemen and women who have served America through the years. We set aside this day every year to honor their dedication and their heroism just so our concept of freedom can be preserved. This is the right thing to do because it seems that many of us miss the point of Memorial Day.

I for one do believe in the ideals of America: the freedoms, the democratic process, and all the other concepts that make our country so great. In the most ideal situations, I can walk the streets of the United States without having to answer to any authorities about where I am going or why. I don't have to worry that anything I say or write will be used against me as grounds for persecution, exile or death. I can feel secure that these ideals will keep me safe from enemies both within and outside our country's borders. "The most ideal situations" is the key phrase here. The last five years have not been the most ideal situation for our concepts of freedom.

Many of us do not separate the American ideals from the policies of the leadership that would be in power during any given time. Many Americans see this as one and the same. It is not one and the same. I believe it is possible to enjoy the freedoms offered by our country, and still criticize those leaders in power when I think they are doing something wrong. If the readers of my blog have not picked up on this recurring theme in my entries, then I am doing something wrong.

Our current leaders may call critics like myself unpatriotic or giving aid and comfort to the enemy. I know where my love of my country stands, and I know I am not aiding any enemy of our nation when I exercise my right to speak out. This exercise is one of those freedoms I mentioned earlier, and I will continue to use this right every chance I get.

So while I may disagree with the reasons why the serviceman and women currently serving our country are doing the jobs they are doing, I cannot disrespect their efforts or their sacrifices. I cannot hold these individuals in contempt or hatred because I know they believe in the same American ideals that I believe in. Many may not understand my logic separating the individual from the ideal, but I don't see a problem with that. The right to disagree is another freedom that the men and women in uniform stand up and fight for throughout the world. It their efforts result in their making the ultimate sacrifice, then we owe them our gratitude and our prayers on Memorial Days of the future.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My (First) 2006 Vacation

It’s my first vacation week of the year, and since we’re saving our money for the second vacation of the year, this week was spent at home doing projects that haunted me the other 51 weeks of the year. I had 25 projects lined up and I completed 18 of those. I ruled out a few others as over ambitious (negotiate a lasting peace between Israel and Iran) or too much like hard work to do on a vacation (think of something nice to say about George W. Bush). Nope, not happening!

I spent quality time with the cats, Meredith and Stephen J. Meredith got very vocal about one of my vacation activities as the following illustrates:


Meredith: Meow! (Translation: “Daddy, please turn down the Abba!”)

Me: “But Meredith, Daddy doesn’t get to play Abba this loud when Mommy is home. Besides, you know how I enjoy hearing Agnetha’s voice rattle the windows.”


Meredith: Meow! (Translation: “Daddy, if I hear Dancing Queen one more time, I will puke a hairball in your shoes.”)

Me: “Meredith, you wuss. You should really learn to appreciate the beauty of 1970’s Scandinavian rock and roll.”


Meredith: Snorg! Snorg! Snorggaaaahhhh! Meow! (Translation: “I warned you, Daddy.”)

Stephen J., on the other hand, was much quieter and gave me no trouble at all, except for the time he ordered white pizza with catnip topping from Dominos. This pizza concept is quite ingenious when you think about it. It can give the cat the munchies and satisfy the food craving at the same time.

Other than these two incidences, my week has been very quiet, restful, and productive. Yet my mind is already thinking ahead to the uncompleted projects which can be done in the coming weekends and next year’s vacation at home. For this year, I have just enough time to clean out my shoes and save my Abba CDs from the bonfire Meredith is building in the living room.

Me: “That’s the last straw, young lady! No catnip pizza for you!”

Monday, May 22, 2006

An Appreciation: Monday Mornings

(This is hopefully the first of an open-ended series of essays extolling the virtues and advantages of various unpopular subjects.)


Ah, Monday mornings, how do I love thee? Don't expect me to count the ways, because it's only 4:40AM and my brain is not awake, yet my body moves through the darkness of my house. I stumble past my cat, Meredith, who even now has chosen this moment of the day to become a gray blur, racing up and down the stairs from some unknown enemy or to some unknown sanctuary. Then I step around her stepbrother, Stephen J., a domestic shorthair resembling a miniature black puma, who is rubbing in front, in back and in between my legs. Somehow my senses do not betray me as I make it to the bottom of the steps without doing a cartwheel or breaking my neck.

Ah, Monday mornings, the start of another workweek. Another chance to do something good and noble in the world, although at this moment my noblest task is to open a can of cat food while keeping the puma at bay. He insists on jumping up on the counter before I can spoon the meat into a bowl. I succeed and put the bowl on the floor, when I see his little sister. She is ready to start her Monday morning. She sits on the end table and stares at me as if to say, "Where are my treats? Why isn't the sunporch open yet? You've been up five minutes already and you can't get these things done?"

Ah, Monday mornings, while I praise you, I know there are those who condemn you as the invention of the devil, a time to be cursed and to be hated. One of these people is AKA my wife, Anne Marie. Oh, Monday mornings, I have tried to convince her that you are no worse or no better than the other days, but she won't listen. She prefers to gripe, groan, and grunt about the evil that is about to befall her: the beginning of a new workday. I know deep in my heart that someday I will make her see the error of her ways, and that she will one day (preferably a Monday) greet your arrival with all the joy and enthusiasm which she reserves for a box of chocolates. Until then, I must keep my feelings for you to myself. For now, adieu!

(Next Appreciation: Our Friend, The Income Tax)

Friday, May 19, 2006

Finger Pointing Forum

The following is a transcription from the National Finger Pointing Forum on the high energy prices.

MODERATOR: Oil companies, you stand accused of gross abuse of the capitalistic system, raking in obscene record amounts of profits at the expense of the American consumer. How do you plead?

OIL COMPANIES: Wooooo-hooooo! Par-tay!

MODERATOR: Let the record show that the defendant doesn’t really care what the consumers think.

American Car Companies, you stand accused of conspiring with Madison Avenue to put an energy-draining vehicle in every driveway in America. You used every tool of propaganda known to man to convince the American consumer that they just had to have their precious SUVs, while at the same time you show little or no research into developing vehicles which run on hybrid or alternative fuels. How do you plead?

AMERICAN CAR COMPANIES: What can we do to put you into this Sherman tank today?

MODERATOR: Let the record show that this defendant isn’t taking the problem seriously.

GOP Congress, you stand accused of wasting the last 12 years of the peoples time chasing after political enemies when you could have enacted legislation to raise the mileage standards on cars built here in the United States; you also could have enacted legislation that would have encouraged the energy industry to pursue development of other fuels which could have decreased our dependence on foreign oil. How do you plead?

CONGRESS: Well, there you go again, spin, spin, spin, but my opponent would rather spin, spin, spin, and furthermore spin, spin, spin.

MODERATOR: Let the record show that these defendants are pleading not guilty. No matter, a higher court will hear their case in early November.

George W. Bush, you stand accused of waiting until gas prices reached crisis levels for the American people before you proposed realistic initiatives to lessen our dependence on foreign oil. This problem should have been priority one, day one of your first term. How do you plead?

GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, let me just say this, as I have said before, which means I have stated this previously, that I understand that people are paying more at the gas pumps. That means that I do know what they are...

MODERATOR: Bailiff, please gag the defendant. He’s giving me a migraine.

Lastly, the American Consumer, you stand accused of allowing yourself to be seduced into thinking that global oil supplies would last forever and that you were entitled to all of it. You allowed yourself to believe that ownership of gigantic, gas guzzling, pollutant-spewing vehicles was your God given right. Yet you insist that you are not part of the problem when in fact you are an integral cog in the vast machinery of excessive consumerism. Whew! How do you plead?

AMERICAN CONSUMER: Did anyone see “Lost” last week? My Tivo malfunctioned.

MODERATOR: [a heavy sigh] Somehow I’m not surprised. There are so many directions on which to blame this predicament, but I’ve run out of fingers to point. We all need to think about this, people. We can’t keep waiting for the other guy to solve the problems for us. I wish I could think of a more credible example, but Michael Jackson said it best when he sang that the best way to start solving our problems is to start with the man in the mirror.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Television Ga Ga

In what has to be the final straw for niche marketing, a new cable channel geared for infants –that’s right, those human beings that are too weak to lift their heads up to see what’s going on –is set to debut. I assume the programming will be designed to appeal to those with an infantile mind. I can just imagine what their daily programming schedule will look like.

7:00 – 10:00 AM Sleepy Time. Lullabies and visions of soft cuddly animals, some hung from a rotating mobile are featured.

10:00 – 10:30 AM Feed Me! Cry loudly and the woman who you will eventually call “mother” will come in and bare all to feed you. This program might also be very popular with drunken frat boys who have blown off their morning classes.

10:30 AM – 1:00 PM More Sleepy Time.

1:00 – 1:30 PM Poopie Time! Exciting diaper changing action when you cry loudly again for that same woman that fed you earlier.

1:30 – 4:30 PM Sleepy Time Matinee.

4:30 – 5:30 PM Jerry Springer. No surprise here.

5:30 – 6:00 PM The Evening News. This would be done in such a simple manner that even a day old child (or even a typical Fox News channel viewer) could understand the day’s events. The screen would show a bulletin board and a baby sitting underneath it. A one-word summation of the story would appear on the board; for example, “Mideast.” The baby sitting beneath the board would point to the word and start crying. For a weather forecast, the word “sunny” would appear on the board and the baby would laugh. Likewise, a drawing of a cloud denoting rainy weather would flash on the board and the baby would cry again. For national news, a photo of the President would be projected on the board, sending the baby into uncontrollable hysterics.

6:00 – 6:30 PM The Evening Bottle. The lady that fed and changed you earlier returns to the screen with a big bottle of warm formula.

6:30 – 7:00 PM Poopie Time - PM. More exciting diaper changing action.

7:00 – 8:00 PM Baby Calisthenics. An entire hour comprising the following dialogue: “Come on...roll over...that’s it! Roll to one and over! Good baby!”

8:00 – 9:00 PM American Idol. Once again, no surprise here.

9:00 PM — 7:00 AM Baby After Dark. A free form potpourri of episodes from Feed Me, Poopie Time, and Sleepy Time. Classic episodes of Teletubbies are offered for older infants and drunken frat boys.

Okay, enough! Who was the numb nut at the FCC that approved this concept? Shouldn’t we let the wee ones develop their cognitive skills and allow them to explore their new world with touch, smell, taste, and hearing before we expose their precious little eyeballs to the radiation waves emanating from the cathode tube? Must we start setting them in front of the electronic baby sitter before they learn how to crawl? Quick, babies, crawl, crawl away as fast as you can from the boob tube! Hurry!

Good, now there’s room for me to sit and watch Feed Me. I wonder if I should invite the boys over from Alpha Omega Alpha?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's Wrong at the Movies Today (Part 2)'s not the picture clarity, it's not the 99% lack of original ideas in today's Hollywood product, but it's the commercials! Agggghhhh! Why should I plunk down ten dollars to watch a piece of film that I could see for free at home on television? Never mind that I don't watch much television to begin with. It's the idea that my movie going pleasure should be interrupted just so someone can sell something to me. The whole concept is rooted and wallows in greed, pure and simple!

Comedy writer, actor, and author Kevin Murphy suggested that moviegoers rebel against commercials at the movies. In his book, A Year At The Movies, Murphy recounted his experiences when he devoted an entire year to viewing at least one film per day. He reviewed a few of the films he saw, but mostly he commented on every aspect of the movie going experience. He wrote about theater seating, the concessions available, going to a multiplex, watching a film by himself using a portable projector, and of course the (then) new phenomena of showing filmed ads (commercials) with the trailers. His suggestion for this practice was a rebellion of sorts: "vote with your feet" and go to theaters that do not show commercials.

Murphy even made up a form (suitable for photocopying) which could be filled out by the reader and sent to the theater management explaining why they were no longer patronizing the venue. This form could have been proposed tongue-in-cheek, but marketing firms could use it to inform their movie studio clients why their business is going down the tubes. Murphy's book may be out-of-print, but perhaps could scare up a few copies.

I haven't used the form yet, but I'm very tempted to send it to several local theaters. Until the studios wise up, the film business will continue to suffer their box office losses as long the public have more incentives to stay away from the movies. The industry can cry all it wants about video piracy and competition, but they could help themselves if they take the ads off the multiplex screens.

(And now this word from our sponsor...)

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What's Wrong at the Movies Today

There has been a lot of noise lately about the decline in movie attendance in this country. There were several pointed comments about business being off at this year's Oscar ceremony, and several weeks later a Time magazine article sought the opinions of filmdom's movers and shakers for their explanation. Some, like George Lucas, believe that audiences today want the picture quality offered by digital technology. Others, like Steven Spielberg, believe that the older method of cinematography and editing communicates more heart and soul of the film story to the audience. While I'm not pretending to know all of the facts, I will offer several points to consider explaining the decline of film ticket sales. But first...

Don't forget Happy Hour at Pettywillie's Bar and Grille, home of the Ham and Bud special! That's a ham deli sandwich with your choice of cheese and toppings, and your favorite brew for just $5.00! That's every day between four and six at Pettywillies!

Modern technology is both a blessing and a curse for Hollywood. The filmgoer today doesn't have to leave their home to view today's films. Cable television and the various DVD rental-by-mail companies encourage people to stay home from the multiplexes. There is also a time commitment that many people don't have to view films in the communal setting; people are working harder and longer hours, which leaves very little time for the theater. This is a shame, since there is nothing like the feeling of sharing the emotions from a film with a large group of like-minded people in a public setting.

Offhand, I can think of three such times in my recent memory which gave me this thrill of a shared experience: Goldeneye (particularly the opening scene), Fahrenheit 911, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 - The Movie. It is a warm feeling that can overtake one sitting in a darkened room while images play and dance in front of you and several hundred other people sitting around you. I could go on, but first...

Would you like a safari in Kenya for your next vacation? Or would you rather conquer Everest? Or would you prefer dodging the sharks as you surf the Great Barrier Reef? Pearl's Adventure Travels can get you there in style! Look up Pearl in the yellow pages!

Then there is the money matter. When the average family goes to the theater, they must consider ticket, concession, gasoline, and possibly parking fees. Many times it is probably cheaper to just stay home and rent a video. I believe these are all possibilities that many of us are not going to the movies anymore. I won't pretend to speak for everyone, but I can elaborate on why I don't go the movies. I don't go to the movies because...

But first...


Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bonds vs. the Bambino

Sometime soon, Barry Bonds will reach a milestone when he breaks Babe Ruth's home run record of 714. The milestone isn't the great achievement it used to be since Hank Aaron broke that barrier some thirty years ago, but it will be one step closer to gaining a new home run king in baseball. Unfortunately, this time around the race is marred by allegations that Bonds has used steroids to enhance his home run hitting.

This leaves the baseball commissioner with a dilemma. Should baseball acknowledge the record begrudgingly with an asterisk noting that drugs may have been used? Should baseball just refuse to acknowledge the feat at all given the allegations? Or should baseball just pat Bonds on the back with a "Good job, Barry," and a wink of an eye?

There is no easy solution. Refusing to mark the record will start a lengthy court battle. On the other hand, the boys-will-be-boys attitude with the eyewink would be morally reprehensible. It would send a bad message to anyone who has looked up to the ball players as role models. The most likely outcome will be to mark the feat with an asterisk, but this could become meaningless after awhile too. After all, an asterisk next to George W. Bush's ascension to the presidency in 2000 hasn't hurt his career either.

The fairest way to solve this is impossible: Bonds and Babe Ruth going mano a mano for the home run record. They could both compete with their respective talents, strength and handicaps intact. While the contest could never take place (Ruth hasn't felt much like playing baseball since he died in 1948) we can still imagine.

So, Bonds would step up to the plate, looking very solid and muscular in his uniform, with perhaps a syringe jutting out from his back pants pocket. This is Bond’s handicap: the drugs may admittedly boost performance temporarily, but the addiction in the long run would become a liability. He looks at the first pitch, high and outside, then signals for a time out. He steps out of the batter's box, whips out his cell phone and calls his agent to re-negotiate his contract with the Giants! Meanwhile, everyone on the field and in the stands waits, and waits, and waits....

Then the Bambino steps up. His strength can be seen in the muscles in his arms; his talent in the practice swings he takes with the bat. For the purpose of our contest, we will make his handicaps appear for all to see: wine, women and song! The Babe would have a hip flask full of gin in his back pocket, several cigars would peek above his breast pocket, his belly would hang over his belt, and a prostitute would be flung over his shoulder. The Babe has seen better days, but he's ready and willing to give it his all.

In the batter’s box, he swings, connects and it's over the fence! Home run! The Bambino has done it! He half-walks, half-runs around the bases what with all that weight he's carrying (you try lugging a full-grown woman around the baseball diamond and see how fast you go), but he doesn't let anything stop him. Why? Because he has that good old American “can-do” attitude.

The Babe’s performance is very inspiring! It makes me want to go out and accomplish something special this weekend. I know, I can whack some dandelions in my front yard! Meanwhile, Barry Bonds has been put on hold.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Volume of the Silents

One of my interests is silent films, a very unique art form which all too briefly dominated American pop culture. The limitations imposed by film technology at the time forced filmmakers to pioneer techniques in communicating their ideas and entertaining audiences that were used to live performances. Two events this month bring silent films into the spotlight.

One is what I believe to be the television premiere of D.W Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation”. It is historically significant for several reasons. It was the first full-length dramatic film produced in America at a time when most films were still only one reel (ten minutes or so) in length. It was also the all-time box office champion for many years, and might still be the highest grossing film ever if you adjust the figures for inflation. Those two points are about the only good things we can say about “The Birth of a Nation”.

The film created controversy from the beginning, with its inflammatory, highly fictional account of the Reconstruction period. Its racist tone is evident throughout and its depiction of the Ku Klux Klan as heroic vigilantes did not make it the family-feel-good-movie of 1915. Griffith, the son of a Confederate war veteran, clearly had a few axes to grind. Still, it became one of the most influential films in American history through Griffith's story-telling techniques. It is perhaps somewhat fitting that the first film recognized for such vast influence would confront and aggravate the greatest problem this country has faced since before its birth.

Turner Classic Movies is featuring "Birth of a Nation" as part of its month-long examination of the African Americans as caricatures and stereotypes in the movies. "Birth of a Nation" defined the Black stereotype for many people and it seems to be a fitting starting point for this examination. The network promos featured Black historian Donald Bogle and comedian Bill Cosby openly discussing the films impact on American society. The film deserves the controversy it has earned over the years, but history begs us not to ignore it.

The second event is the annual Betzwood Film Festival, May 20 at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. This festival features the work of Griffith contemporary Sigmund Lubin, who produced films at Betzwood near Valley Forge from 1914 to 1922. Coincidentally, one of the festival's featured presentations this year is “Breaking Home Ties”, produced late in Lubin's career in response to Henry Ford’s anti-Semitic writings.

While Lubin was Griffith's contemporary, he never attained Griffith’s notoriety in his lifetime. Many of his earliest films were plagiarized from other filmmakers, although in Lubin's defense this was a common practice in those early days. Lubin seemed more concerned with making films solely as a way to sell his equipment, the cameras and projectors, than he was with advancing the story-telling elements of filmmaking. Possibly Lubin's greatest claim to fame was the production of medical instruction films which used special lenses invented and produced by his company. Unfortunately, these films are now lost.

The Betzwood Festival enables the audience to relive an actual silent film presentation. Keyboardist Don Kinnear accompanies the films just like the piano players did in the nickelodeons from 100 years ago. Sometimes you have to keep one eye on the film and the other eye on Don; his playing is so entertaining to watch. The musical accompaniment is another fascinating element of this lost art form. By viewing Griffith’s and Lubin’s work, we can truly appreciate the volumes spoken by the silent films.