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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Kitschy Christmas Decorations

Now is the time of year that everyone puts up his or her holiday decorations. The main official holiday is Christmas, but hey, with the retail season starting sooner and sooner, we might as well include Halloween, Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

Our decorations are very modest: a green candle in every window. We’ve bought an outdoor string of lights, but we haven’t used them yet. We bought the string before we realized that we didn’t have an outdoor socket. So we’ll keep them stored away until we can afford an electrician to install an outdoor power source.

But some people go way over the top with their decorations. One in particular is in King of Prussia. The property is a very nice parcel of land with tall pine trees and a number of shrubs in front of the house. At holiday time you can’t see any of this for all the strings of lights draped the entire length of the trees from the top to the bottom. Then there are the plywood cutouts.

The cutouts at one end of the yard commemorate the Nativity scene. There’s a manger with Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child. All this is fine, but there are other plywood cutouts commemorating another little known holiday which I’ll call Pixars Greatest Hits. There are cutouts of Monsters Inc, The Incredibles, and Chicken Little – all with cutesy dialogue balloons that tie them in with Christmas. Then there are cutouts of The Simpsons and Harry Potter. The Harry Potter portion is particularly poignant with the three main characters wishing seasons greetings from everyone at Hogworts.

Okay, let’s dwell on this last one for a moment. Basically here we have three little Wiccans extending holiday wishes from their school where they study witchcraft, the supernatural arts and sciences. THEY DON’T BELIEVE IN CHRISTMAS!! IT DOESN’T WORK!!!

Where is the plywood cutouts for the cast from “The Jazz Singer”? Granted the pop culture references may be lost on a 78-year-old movie, but it makes as much sense as Harry Potter. Yes, yes, I can see it now, cutouts of Warner Oland as the Rabbi father, Eugenie Besserer as Momma Rabinowitz and Al Jolson as Jackie, down on one knee with arms outstretched! Yes, yes, and their dialogue balloon could have Jackie saying, “Oy vey! It’s Christmas!”

This could work! Maybe I could do it at my house...once I hire the electrician to install the outside power outlet.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006

This year I am grateful for the following:

I am grateful that today I will be able to get together with the people who mean the most to me in this life. Specifically, this would be my mother Anne, my brother Don and his family, Marlene, David and Danny.

I am grateful that I, and those close to me, have been given the courage and strength to make a difficult choice to let go of someone dear to us during the last year.

I am grateful that I live in a country where my blog rantings are not answered with a knock on the door in the middle of the night, and my subsequent disappearance when I answer that knock.

I am grateful for the creative outlet I have found in writing my blog entries.

I am grateful that I am still able to meet my financial obligations, and that I am constantly made aware of other opportunities awaiting me.

I am grateful that Meredith and Stephen are in my life, wonderful companions that make the rest of the day tolerable. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to know Kelly, if only for a short time.

I am grateful for all the years my father, Raymond Thomas, was in my life. I will always remember and strive to use the life lessons he taught me. This will be the best way I can honor his memory.

I am grateful that, all things considered, I am still a reasonably healthy middle-aged man.

I am grateful for the roof over my head, and all the food I need.

I am grateful that I am able to help those less fortunate than myself, always wishing I could do more.

Finally, I am grateful that I have a wonderful companion in my life who knows how to make me happy, tolerates my bad moments, gives me strength to get through the day, encourages me when I’m down, does not fear to tell me what’s on her mind, and gives me a swift kick in the butt when I need it. I love you, Anne Marie.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Casino Royale

James Bond is back in his first adventure. If that sounds strange, imagine the problem his fans have coping with the idea that, after 40 years of spy adventures, we are finally given his back-story. Here we see his transformation from cocky, arrogant, newly minted –OO agent, to the cold, ruthless, male-chauvinistic super spy. In all these years we have never pretended that he is someone to look up to, but we do love his style.

This latest installment of the James Bond franchise is faithful to the Ian Fleming novel of the same name. This is an accomplishment in itself when you consider that such earlier entries as “Moonraker” and “The Spy Who Loved Me” claimed to be based on those same name novels, but took only the title and threw away the rest for the movie versions. Otherwise, this new film has most of the elements of the novel. Yes, the game of baccarat has been changed to poker, but there is still the graphic torture scene, and the twist ending survives.

We should very briefly acknowledge the first version of “Casino Royale”, a mess of a movie that has been charitably described as a spy spoof. It has been reported that elements from the first “Casino Royale” inspired the creation of Austin Powers, the spy spoof for our generation. That’s probably the nicest way to remember it.

In the new version, we learn why he treats women the way he does, and why he takes his martinis shaken, not stirred. It turns out to be a matter of self-preservation. When Bond tells a woman “I love you,” it is actually fate saying to the woman “You are going to die a violent death very shortly.” See for yourself! Read the original novels and see what happens to Vesper Lynd or Tracey di Vicenzo, who was actually happily married to Bond for a few minutes in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” He takes the hint very quickly that his chosen profession doesn’t lend itself very well to the nine-to-five grind with the wife and children awaiting him at the end of each day.

This new “Casino Royale” is very different from the other films. It has a whole new texture to it. It’s rough and graphic – we actually see Bond with scars on his face – and he dresses his own (multiple) wounds. As his fans may recall, the old Bonds would engage in all sorts of fights and barely show a bruise. Once in awhile, we were allowed to see our hero in a cast, or bandage, but very seldom bloodied. The new Bond bleeds, profusely on several occasions.

The action sequences are exciting as always, but even here the new toughness that “Casino” brings makes some of the earlier entries look like Hanna-Barbera cartoons. This doesn’t necessarily make the new “Casino” a superior Bond, or a candidate for my all-time favorite. (I’ve got that narrowed down to three.) Still, it goes a long way to answering many unanswered questions about Bond’s character. Now we can enjoy his future adventures all the more.

Of course we are always assured that our man will have new challenges to face. The end credits always tells us that –


Saturday, November 18, 2006

Angry Wildlife

There was a serious of attacks on stingrays several months ago following the tragic death of Steve Irwin. People were catching them just to torture the poor animals out of revenge. A little over a month ago the stingray community fought back. One of their numbers jumped into a boat and stung an elderly man. While the incident was written off as an unfortunate accident, I can’t really blame that stingray for wanting to even the score, if that’s what its intention was.

After all, the stingrays had a lot of bad press earlier this year. I doubt if the stingrays of the world united in a jihad against humanity – this was the only suicide attack I heard about – but I fully understand if they were angry with us. I only mention this now because I fear that another wave of angry wildlife may be lurking in my own backyard.

Earlier this week, we had two trees removed from our property. One, a maple, was already dead and rotting; the bark on one side had been replaced by a coating of mushrooms and fungus. The other, an oak that was easily twice as high as our house, was dying. I could easily have lived with this tall, ill, specimen looming dangerously over my home for a few more years, but the tree service offered a multiple tree discount.

The oak was my favorite. It provided me shade in the summer while I rested from the garden chores. The thousands of leaves that grew on it each year would fall to the ground and give me something to do during my otherwise boring, autumn weekends. Okay, I won’t miss the leaves, but I’m sure the tree’s absence will impact the local wildlife.

I understand where I see a tall tree, the local birds see protection from predators - AKA Woobie, the neighbor cat, and our cats, Meredith and Stephen. I realize that what was just a nice source of shade for me would be condos for any number of squirrels. I know that the pain-in-the-butt-in-the-fall leaves to me were a quick source of munchies for our local deer population.

Unfortunately, all of us will have to learn to live without our favorite oak. I’m quite sure that the wildlife will not take this lying down.

I assume some of the animals will try their best to adjust to this disruption to their environment. Perhaps they will get therapy for adjustment disorder, which unfortunately I won’t be able to reimburse them. This will probably tick them off to no end. It’s at this point that I think they will resort to violent protest.

The protest will probably start with the angry chirping from the robins and mourning doves. Then the squirrels will sit on our roof gutter and pelt us unmercifully with their winter stash of walnuts. When we leave the house in the morning, the deer, frustrated that their nice leaf treats are no more, will probably take their anger out on the bird feeder stationed near the tree. This will prompt even angrier chirping, perhaps even obscene cooing, from the local bird population.

I wish I could reassure all of them that we will replace the tree in the spring. That sounds like a long way off, particularly when the harsh winter cold has yet to reach us. In the meantime, I will keep the bird feeder as full as I can, and duck my head when I leave my house. If all else fails, I could always threaten the varmints with a stingray. That should make them think twice.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Jeff’s Garage Sale

Call them whatever you want – garage sale, yard sale, junk sale, whatever – it’s one of those events in which somebody wants to get rid of unwanted stuff, but feels it’s too good to throw in the trash can. These sales usually happen during the warmer seasons of spring and summer, but some can happen whenever the need for money arises. One recent sale has the Philadelphia arts community up in arms.

The seller, we’ll call him Jeff, needs some money. He doesn’t need it for the usual reasons people have these sales. He’s not looking to buy a car, or furnish his house, or finance a vacation. No, Jeff is more ambitious than that. He wants to add two floors to his hospital. That’s two floors, two ceilings, four walls, doors and windows, furnishings optional.

The object of the sale is the Thomas Eakins painting “The Gross Clinic”. It’s a very familiar work for those people who know about Eakins. It wasn’t well received when it was first unveiled in 1875, but down through the years it has grown in stature so that it is now considered Eakins masterpiece. The board of trustees for the Jefferson University Hospital (Jeff’s full name), have decided that they are not in the art business, and have found buyers in the National Gallery and something called The Walton Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas.

No, not the poor Waltons that lived off their Virginia farm, and were polite enough to say good night to each other with every sunset. The Waltons in question are the multi-billionaire retailers bent on world domination (italics mine). Yes, those Waltons.

Many people don’t have a problem with Jeff’s motives or their right to sell the painting. They do feel slighted because the local art community wasn’t given a shot at bidding on the Eakins work before the deal was finalized with the buyers. Fortunately, the art community has been given forty-five days to raise money for a counter-offer. I hope they’re successful, but when I heard the news I could only think, “Thank God Jeff doesn’t own the Liberty Bell.”

I can just see that ad in the papers now:

For Sale: world famous antique metal icon of freedom. Slightly defective. Serious inquiries only. Will accept best offer.

Yes, I’m grateful that the federal government owns the Liberty Bell. The US government doesn’t need the money as badly as Jeff. This is true despite the fact that it’s been acting like a giddy teenager armed with Daddy’s credit card with an no spending limit for the past six years and running up record budget deficits...


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Rumsfeld Witch Hunt – Canceled

It is with deep regret that I announce that the witch-hunt to run Donald Rumsfeld out of Washington will have to be canceled. The reason is that the bugger has announced his resignation. This is more than we hoped for so soon after yesterday's trouncing by the Democratic Party, but it takes some of the fun out of it for us.

After all, we go to the trouble of planning and arranging these events; the least the victim can do is show a willingness to go through with it to the bitter end. People have had to live through Rumsfeld’s shenanigans during the last five years, and these same people expect some sort of payoff. I won’t use the word revenge; it’s such an ugly term.

Somehow, I’m not surprised that this happened after all the preparations people have made. We set aside dates, cancel all of our appointments, make financial arrangements for travel to and from protests, and perhaps even arrange for bail money. Then there is the cost to purchase materials for protest signs, and time has to be set aside to make these signs. These signs aren’t always ready-made available for purchase. Go ahead, go to Wal-Mart and see if you find any Rummy Must Go signs. They’re probably out of stock already!

Oh, I nearly forgot about the torches! You can’t have a good old-fashioned run-the-bum-out-of-town event without a torch light parade of angry citizens, preferably at midnight! These things can’t be found at Wal-Mart every day! You have to order them in advance!

All this doesn’t matter now. It always happens this way. You plan to go, you buy the tickets, you mark your calendar and then inevitably, Michael Nesmith decides not join the rest of the group on tour! Oh, sorry. I’m getting my witch-hunt confused with a Monkees reunion tour. I have no idea where that brain burp came from.

I think it’s wonderful that the Democrats have taken over the House again, but I still feel cheated. I was so looking forward to seeing someone in the Bush administration hounded from office the way the GOP tried to run Clinton out. Hey, Karl Rove is still working in the White House. Hmmm...!

Boys and girls, don’t put away those torches yet! We may get to use them after all.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Proposed Cure for Political Ad Hangover

Another election season has come and gone, and depending on your political persuasion you are either jumping for joy, or sulking in the bittersweet taste of democracy. Regardless, the political ads, negative campaigning and mud slinging are gone for another year. You know the ones to which I’m referring - the ads that make “The Jerry Springer Show” look like “The Wonderful World of Disney”? In case you’re suffering from the political ad overload, then I suggest you sing the lyrics printed below to the tune of “Happy Days Are Here Again.”*

Sing the song over and over until (a) the feeling of political nausea subsides, or (b) someone close to you beats you senseless with the nearest object they can find because they are sick and tired of hearing you sing this song over and over. In either case, the memory of all those attack ads will be a distant memory, if you remember anything at all. Please note: some of the lyrics have been changed to suit this situation. Sing loud! Sing proud!

Happy days are here again!
No more mud on my tv screen.
I won’t hear any more pols a’scream!
Happy days are here again!

Radio ads called the other a liar,
All they did was throw nasty logs on the fire,
Now I won’t have to listen to things so dire!
Happy days are here again!

The ads and posters will soon be gone,
Their empty promises we can shun,
Until the next election!
Happy days are here again!

Media's bright and clear again,
Let us sing in harmony again,
Happy ads!
Happy words!
Happy days are here again!

*With sincere apologies to the author, Benny Menoff.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Destination Virginia – Part 3

Once we settled into our hotel, we fell into a daily routine of continental breakfast in our room, sight seeing, and for those times when we had exhausted ourselves, or hadn’t motivated ourselves to get out of the room, we were forced to watch daytime television. Here now is a day-by-day breakdown of our vacation.

SUNDAY - walked into historic Williamsburg and saw as much as we could. We had our evening meal at a sports bar, Bones, within walking distance of our hotel.

MONDAY – picked up rental car, picked up our Historic Triangle tickets at the Williamsburg Visitors Center, shuttled to Jamestown where the great weather allowed us to tour the ships moored on the James River. In the evening we celebrate my birthday at a seafood buffet, Captain's Galley. Meanwhile, on the Jerry Springer show, a gay male decides to confide to his transsexual lover that he has cheated on her/him and that the other woman is carrying his child. Hilarity ensues!

TUESDAY – rain! We return to Jamestown to do an exhaustive tour of the new museum. That afternoon, I take a swim in the hotel pool, and we dine at an Italian restaurant, Milano’s, for our anniversary dinner. Meanwhile, in Chicago, a young male goes on the Jerry Springer show to tell his fiancée that he is still willing to marry her, as long as she allows him to keep sleeping with his ex-girlfriend. He is the only person in the entire world that thinks this is a good idea. Needless to say, a catfight breaks out between the ex-girlfriend and the fiancée.

WEDNESDAY – good weather again, and we take the shuttle to Yorktown on the eve of the 224th anniversary of the victory over the British forces. Many activities are planned for the weekend ahead and much of the town is in disarray as preparations are made for the celebration. We eat dinner at Second Street Bar and Grill, where Anne Marie arm-wrestles the manager for the right to pay the bill. Management wins. Meanwhile on the Jerry Springer show, a change of pace: a woman confronts her best girlfriend about sleeping with her husband. The girlfriend counters that she’s not the only one he’s been with. Whatever! I don’t know what the security detail on the show is paid, but whatever it is, it isn’t enough!

THURSDAY – we spend the day in Williamsburg with a long, relaxing lunch at the Kings Arms Tavern as the high point of the day. We learn about the difference between ketchup and catsup during our meal. Tomatoes were once thought to be poisonous (!) and until this was proven untrue, a sauce derived from mushrooms (!!) was used to spice up food. Later, souvenir shopping and more swimming in the hotel pool. Meanwhile, on Jerry Springer, a man confides to his fiancée that he has been sleeping with her mother, who, if memory serves me correctly, resembles a water bison. Needless to say, there will be one less Mother’s Day card sent next year.

FRIDAY – we tour the Yorktown battlefield by car, and eat lunch at a Chinese buffet. We play a round of miniature golf before returning our car. Meanwhile, another clueless male believes that a nationally syndicated television show is the best place to confront/confide to his girlfriend/fiancée/wife that he has cheated on her. The existence of such a thing as the Jerry Springer Show in an advanced society confounds me. Yet, I can’t turn my eyes away even as I wish that someone in Congress would propose a Constitutional amendment outlawing daytime television.

SATURDAY – we check out and board our train for Philadelphia and home. The Jerry Springer Show is not scheduled for broadcast today. The republic survives and peace reigns!


Friday, November 03, 2006

The Politicians Comedy Tour

The following is a transcript of auditions for a proposed comedy tour featuring today’s leading politicians.

JOHN KERRY: Why did the chicken cross the road? Because it wanted to go to Iraq, because it has the brain of a chicken!

(Take two!)

JOHN KERRY: How many service men does it take to screw in a light bulb? Oh, I mean, swift boaters! How many swift boaters does it take to screw in a light bulb?

(Take three!)

JOHN KERRY: Damn! I mean, you want to see my impression of the President? Here goes, hrmph, “Duhhhh!”

(Okay, thank you. We’ll call you if we have an opening. Next!)

GEORGE W. BUSH: We can win the war in Iraq!

(Hahahahahaha…this guy’s brilliant! He’s killing me! Hey, I think Fox has an opening for a situation comedy. Are you available?)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Destination Virginia: Part 2 - Native Tribes

Our recent vacation in Virginia coincided with the opening of a new museum at the Jamestown Settlement. The permanent exhibit covers the founding of Jamestown in 1607 and its significance in state and national history up through 1699. It traces not only the events that happened there, but also the people involved in the area during this time period.

The museum begins its exhibit with the pre-history of the area, or how the peninsula came to form millions of years ago. A significant part of the exhibit explores the Powhatan Indian culture: who they were, how they lived, and what happened to them after the English colonized the area. The cultures of the English and the first slaves imported from Angola are given similar minute attention in the exhibit.

The museum was quite breath taking, but it reminded me of the cultures that exist today that are often overlooked. This point was driven home to me when we viewed the slew of political ads on our hotel room television. The ads are more numerous this time of year because of the upcoming mid-term congressional elections. They advertise a culture which can be an important part of American society, yet sometimes be totally divorced from all sense of reality. Of course I am referring to the political tribes that exist in our country today.

Their tribes shouldn’t be labeled just Democrats and Republicans, or even liberal and conservative. Rather these tribes take their names from the way their members respond in a debate, an exercise that we all know is an important part of the political culture. I shall call these tribes the Di’nots and the Di’toos.

As an example, one member of one of these tribes could start the debate with a statement: “Members of the chamber, I wish to call your attention to my worthy opponent from the district of Wussylvania and his habit of hiring call girls to entertain at functions he holds for his constituents.” The accused then will usually reply with something like, “I wish to respond to my esteemed colleague from Beararmnia, and his statement regarding my functions. I must say, sir, that you are wrong, and I have never engaged in this practice.”

It is at this point that the first member continues the debate by saying, “I believe you have done this in the past, and that you may do so again in the future.”

The accused responds by calling out the name of his political tribe, “I did not!”
The first speaker then has no choice but to call out the name of his tribe, “Did too!”

Eventually the debate disintegrates to the point that the participants just call out their respective tribal names.

“Did not!

“Did too!”



By this time everyone else in the chamber has forgotten what the subject of the debate was in the first place. It’s just as well, because God knows, they probably had no intention of resolving the problem (whatever it was) in the first place.

This is an example, boys and girls, of your government at work! If this example doesn’t prompt you to go out and vote next Tuesday, then I don’t know what else I can do for this democracy.