A site of satirical musings, commentary and/or rhetorical criticism of the world at large.
- Name: todd gunther
- Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States
Sunday, December 30, 2012
The last entry for the year, and what a year it has been! Obama was re-elected after an election season which I swear began sometime during the War of 1812. Now the boys and girls in Washington are dealing with the fiscal crisis which they created in 2011. Many hoped that Obama would be a lame duck president at this point, but damn the voters, they were tricked again!
Will the House Republicans embrace the virtue of compromise? Will a deal be struck in the Senate? Or will we all have to pay higher taxes and endure service cuts due to the dithering of a do-nothing, stubborn Congress? At this point (this is being written during a snowy Saturday afternoon in southeast Pennsylvania), the situation looks gloomy for a deal to be made in the next two days.
It is usually traditional at times like this to reflect back at the year just passed, and look forward with optimism for the future. Or we can let the whole thing devolve into snarky satire.
Optimism? Sentimentality! Ha! Snort! Come on, you know me better than that! Bring on the snark!
Before we do this blog’s grand finale for the year, I should thank those who unknowingly inspired my blog writing this year: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Rush Limbaugh, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Michelle Bachmann, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, all the boys and girls at Fox News, and just about any other Tea Party conservative that dared to espouse their intolerant philosophy this year. Ladies and gentlemen, where would I be without you? I look forward to your continued contributions to our national debate next year.
Thank you also to my most loyal readers Janey and Bob. Thank you both for your comments and insights.
Thanks also to everyone else who looked in and lingered for a few minutes. Come back soon and leave a comment. I promise I don’t bite…too much.
Thank you once again to my editor, Anne Marie, and our two ladies, Meredith and Nyla, who are the joys of our lives!
Now, the promised grand finale for 2012: a first for this blog, a video tribute to our forthcoming economic disaster which is now waiting in the wings of our destiny. Should we greet the coming financial apocalypse with cries of despair, or laugh with a song in our hearts? Eh! Might as well laugh, or as we used to say in college, “Smile and wave, boys, smile and wave.”
I believe Vera Lynn sums up the looming situation nicely; images courtesy of Stanley Kubrick. Please enjoy!
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Silver Hitchcock Is 40 on the Hudson
I am finishing the year with several long weekend vacations, and I am spending some of that time at the movies. Strangely, they all seem to be chic flicks. For example:
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK
A drama with some comic overtones about several psyche damaged individuals whose lives intersect at just the right moment.
- a man (Bradley Cooper, a Philadelphian born and bred!) is recovering from being committed after a truly aggressive act of violence on his wife’s lover;
- his father (Robert DeNiro) an obsessive-compulsive with his own history of aggression and his passion (a deep understatement in this case) for the Philadelphia Eagles;
- and a very attractive young widow (Jennifer Lawrence) who has tried every depression medication without success, and attempts to work through her grief by sleeping with everyone in her office. Of course, this also leads to her getting fired, which just gives her another reason to be depressed.
The story leads to a deal which will enable the husband to communicate with his wife (particularly tricky since she has filed a restraining order) and the widow to fulfill her dream of participating in a dance competition — which is a big time chic film device if I ever heard one. And, oh yes, somehow the Eagles making the playoffs figure into this also, which compels me to issue this disclaimer. Eagles fans: Silver Linings Playbook is a fictional work. Any similarity between the Eagles real life performance and this film is purely, outrageously coincidental.
THIS IS 40
A comedy about growing older and still being vital. A couple entering middle age (Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) at nearly the same time try to keep everything together at home while both of their careers hit bumps in the road. He is an indie record producer who sees a small market in reviving the moribund careers of musicians from the 1970’s; trouble is, the market is so small that his business can’t succeed. The wife has her own problems dealing with the two employees at her boutique, one of whom may be skimming money from the books. Mix in her fear of getting older as she turns 40, and you have a whiny, cursing, shout fest with some humor boiling up from time to time.
Writer/director Judd Apatow uses his real life family in the piece. Keep an eye on the youngest Apatow, Iris. She may get an Oscar nomination for her role as the youngest daughter, Charlotte. Comic actor veterans Albert Brooks and John Lithgow are on hand to represent a generation older than the main characters, and who seem to have their lives more together than the married couple approaching 40.
The film was entertaining, but not overly impressive.
HYDE PARK ON HUDSON
Another film bio of FDR, this one told from the point of view of another mistress (and cousin), Daisy Suckley. Bill Murray does a fine job playing Roosevelt — flaws and all — in the tradition of Ralph Bellamy (the best portrayal of FDR in Sunrise at Campobello) and Edward Herrmann (also nicely nuanced performance in the television mini-series Eleanor and Franklin). The story holds the audience’s interest as it concentrates on a visit by British Royalty King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (the current Queen Elizabeth's parents) to Roosevelt’s Hyde Park estate.
The production is exacting in detail in period costumes and props, and then fails miserably in reconstructing the setting of these historical events. Okay, so the people at Hyde Park refused the producers permission to film on the grounds, (yet they are more than happy to exploit the film in anticipation of the extra crowds they believe will be spurred to visit the estate after they see the film), which meant that the British production had to be filmed in Great Britain. Alfred Hitchcock was denied permission to film the climax of North By Northwest on Mt. Rushmore, but a Hollywood mock-up didn’t hurt his film one bit.
No problem, so why didn’t the producers go the extra step, hire some British carpenters who could reconstruct a replica of Hyde Park (they really only needed a façade propped up by two by fours) which actually resembles Hyde Park and not the cream colored stucco house which was used in the film. Oh, right, there are pillars and palm plants, but the Hyde Park I know (and have visited several times) has stone ivy-covered wings on each side of the main house. Where are the wings?
I know the setting is just a backdrop for the events that were really important for world history. It was more important at that point that both sides saw eye-to eye long enough to defeat a common enemy, namely widespread unemployment in the British carpentry industry, I mean, Adolf Hitler. Still, if you want us to believe the story about yet another FDR mistress, then at least splurge on a convincing set.
Arguably a chic flick about two artists deeply in love with each other, even as they are tempted by others and work on Psycho, the 1960 film which forever changed the direction of the horror film genre. It is a love story at its core, challenging the participants at every step. The husband (Anthony Hopkins) always on the prowl for the perfect Hollywood blonde; and the wife Alma (Helen Mirren) lured into a tryst with a Hollywood screenwriter. In the end, true love triumphs and Psycho proves to be the crowning achievement of Alfred Hitchcock’s career.
A few wonderful scenes dot the plot landscape. The revelation that Hitchcock as director had a peeping tom hole into the dressing rooms of his leading ladies; a macabre joke played on Janet Leigh (Scarlett Johansson); Hitchcock’s air performing a symphony as he stands outside the theater door, and hearing the audience reacting screams crescendo and fade during Psycho’s famous shower sequence, and Alma’s Oscar worthy, smackdown monologue fired at her husband on what she had to endure being Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock. This last scene ends poignantly with a full on view of a speechless Alfred, and a slow fade to darkness, an area where the director often led his audiences, leaving his vision to be played out within the confines of their imaginations.
(Thank you for reading. Excelsior, anyone?)
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Happy Holidays (To My Mother and Her Well-Meaning Internet Friends)
Once again, we must acknowledge the holiday season, perhaps at our peril. Once again, we must acknowledge that many people believe that their cherished holiday is slowly being dismantled by the alleged “war on Christmas.” And once again, I feel compelled to either calm (or roil, depending on your point of view) the waters of controversy.
I had hoped to lay this subject to rest last year (See War and Christmas 12/24/2011). Alas, Fox News is still being as divisive as ever and its viewership is convinced that America is getting further and further away from God because of how we celebrate Christmas today as opposed to the past. I will cite two cases.
Case One: This year my mother forwarded an e-mail, which in turn, had been forwarded from a number of her friends via the Internet. It was a series of photos of Christmas trees. Each photo is captioned with the words “This is a Christmas tree.” The tree in the first photo is tastefully decorated, and the trees in the subsequent photos are more elaborately decorated. As the decorations become more elaborate, the font in the captions gets larger and — perhaps this is my imagination — more strident. The e-mail concludes with the statement: “These are not holiday trees! These are not Hanukkah trees! THESE ARE CHRISTMAS TREES!”
Case Two: My wife, as office manager of a small manufacturing firm, answers all of the incoming phone calls directed to the office’s general mail box. At this time of year, she, like many other companies in North America, will greet the caller with some sort of phrase in keeping with the holiday season. She has chosen to use the words “Happy Holidays” in a sincere tone when she answers the phone. One of her callers responded in a tone which she described as arrogant, “IT'S MERRY CHRISTMAS!”
Okay, people, let’s settle down. Just because some members of the population choose to use words like “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” doesn’t necessarily make them heathens intent on nuking the day of Christ’s birth. It is simply intended to acknowledge that there is more than one culture on God’s good earth, and some of these other cultures don’t believe in Christ as the savior. It is also an acknowledgement that these other cultures have their own holidays to celebrate around the same time of year. For similar reasons, many municipalities have chosen to call their pine icons in the town squares holiday trees instead of Christmas trees.
Please allow me to be the bearer bad news. Those of us who consider themselves Christians must face this fact: WE DON’T OWN DECEMBER! In fact, no one cultural or ethnic group owns this time of the winter solstice. Admittedly, this is the holiest time of year on the Christian calendar. It is the time of year when Christians make a special effort to extend the positive qualities of Christ’s teachings to everyone we meet. I truly believe in the seasonal mantra, “Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men.” Unfortunately I am not convinced that others within the Christian community want to extend these wishes to members outside of the community, i.e., non-believers and those who believe in other faiths.
Using the word “holiday” instead of “Christmas” should not be a cause to be offended. For those who found it prudent to bite my wife’s head off when she wished them the best of the season, or who are outraged because of how trees are named, I must ask this question: Why are you so insecure about your religious beliefs? I really don’t expect an answer, because it’s a question each of us can ask and answer ourselves. Why should the use of one word bring warm thoughts and the other raise blood pressures, as long as the use of either is delivered with the sincerity of a season dedicated to bringing peace and brotherhood to the world?
Another question which only each of us can ask ourselves and answer: How would Jesus react? Would he favor the use of the word “Christmas” over the word “Holiday”? I believe each of us can answer this because each has a different viewpoint and interpretation of Christ’s work. I myself like to think that Jesus would not care if one word is used over the other so long as we respect each other and treat each other as we would like to be treated. The actions mean more than the words. Maybe I am being a bit naïve, but this is my belief.
Having said this, I find that the attitude of my wife’s caller very un-Christian-like. What happened to the humility of Christians? What happened to the concept of turning the other cheek? Why do we have get into each other’s face about our beliefs and so antagonistic about the beliefs of others?
Okay, so if Christians want to get outraged over something, then here are a few suggestions: children are starving; millions live with injustice and social inequality; many others try to survive in countries torn apart by war, religious strife, or governmental instability. These are conditions that should provoke outrage, not a word choice. My God, if we can’t overlook and forgive a choice of words, then what hope do we as a civilization have to forgive the actions of ourselves and others?
Here’s another perspective. Last week, a young man in Connecticut reminded all of us that our priorities may be misplaced. His cruel, brutal act demonstrated that American citizens have just as much chance of getting killed by bullets as the chance of hearing the words “Happy Holidays” as a greeting. Given this choice, I would gladly, gratefully accept “Happy Holidays” and not quibble over word choice.
In the spirit of extending brotherhood, peace, and justice to all of us I will say: Merry Christmas AND Happy Holidays…as you wish.
(Thank you for reading.)
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Guns: Bigger Than Jesus
Well, America, it’s happened again. A massacre by a gun in a public school followed by the usual period of mourning, with calls for action on America’s gun control laws. I’m not getting my hopes up that the calls will be answered, although there are a few signs of hope that this time things will be different.
This latest atrocity is different for a few reasons. For one, it happened so close — too close — to Christmas, probably the most child-centered holiday of the year. It was also different because the ages of the victims seemed younger – 6 and 7 — than previous American school massacres. The ages this time don’t make them any more tragic than the ages of previous victims, but the pain seems to be felt deeper than ever before.
It is also different for the inevitable gun control debate that has already risen up before the period of mourning ended. Naturally, the liberals are crying out that there are too many guns in this country, and despite laws put in place to delay a purchase, it is still too easy to buy a gun. Conservatives and gun owner advocates have been uncharacteristically silent so far. The nation's gun rights lobby, The National Rifle Association, has not issued a statement and has even taken down their Facebook page. Gun advocates in Congress were invited to America’s premier Sunday morning talk show, Meet the Press, to air their points of view. Of the 31 invitations extended, none was accepted. It is almost as if the pro-gun lobby suddenly finds its position indefensible.
Chick Fil-A champion Mike Huckabee has already weighed in that these incidents have happened since God has been kicked out of the schools. Actually, that’s not quite correct. While a series of court decisions has curtailed the moment of silence (code for pray) at the start of the school day, I don’t recall anyone telling children that they could not stop in the hall between classes and spend a silent moment communicating with whatever spiritual being in which they believe. Seriously, what’s stopping them?
Huckabee also ignores the historical fact that school killings did occur long before any atheists took any school district to court. The Bath School disaster (5/18/1927) still holds the record for the number of children killed, although in this case the killer used bombs, not guns. Also, in more recent times, there was a string of mass murders involving guns in the nation’s post offices. These incidents added “disgruntled postal worker” to the nation’s lexicon, and to punch lines among late night talk show monologists. This last fact begs the question: Mr. Huckabee, when exactly did God get kicked out of the post office?
Huckabee may be correct in that it is not so much that God is not present in the schools, but rather that another idol — the Second Amendment — has taken God’s place in the hearts of many Americans. Yes, I will take this plunge and put it this way. Paraphrasing one of America’s most famous gun murder victims, John Lennon, I will dare say that too many people think the Second Amendment is bigger than Jesus Christ.
There, I said it! Don’t hold your breath waiting for a retraction or an apology. This isn’t the sole reason for America’s gun happy demeanor, but it shouldn’t be discounted from the varied reasons for our epidemic of violence. A rise in mental illness among people, a lack of resources public and private to deal with the same illnesses, a general desensitivization towards violence among the population, more exposure to violence in the media both factual and fictional, mixed in with the traditional ethnocentrism/bigotry can all be contributing factors explaining our love of using guns to resolve conflicts. And oh yes, let’s not forget the too easy availability of semi-automatic weapons that are manufactured for one purpose and only one purpose: to kill as many people in the shortest amount of time as possible.
Too many people have placed a modification of our Constitution (notice the Founding Fathers gave more importance to freedom of expression than possession of guns) where their belief in an almighty spirit should be. No wonder we’re effed up when it comes to guns in this country. Many people will need to reevaluate their priorities and temper their worship of the cold, metal shooting iron with common sense.
It is a tricky, multi-pronged problem which calls for a multi-pronged solution. We’ve tackled bigger issues than this in our country’s history. We can solve this problem, because we are better than this.
So, America it’s happened again, but it doesn’t have to happen anymore.
(Thank you for reading. Dad, we said good bye seven years ago today. I miss you.)