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

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Location: Southeastern, Pennsylvania, United States

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008

I have been looking forward to today for quite some time. More precisely, I have been looking forward to this day since my recovery from heart surgery began in early October. Today I can say with 100% certainty that I am grateful to be alive!

I apologize if this sounds like some cornpone cliché that you might find in a Hallmark card, but my sentiments are sincere this year. I don’t know how close I came to having a life-changing heart attack, but today I know I am lucky to be alive in this day of modern medical advancements. The medical treatment I received during the course of my recovery has given me a renewed outlook on life. Today, I will celebrate this realization with those that I care for and that have cared for me the most during my life.

I am grateful for the wonderful blessings of turkey and stuffing we will receive at our dining table today, even though I know not everyone at that table will share my appetite for the traditional dishes. I can hear the cries of “What’s wrong with having lasagna for Thanksgiving!" now. To this I will answer that there is nothing wrong with lasagna. However, I will point out that frozen lasagna dinners were not a species indigenous to the Bay Colony when the Pilgrims broke bread with the Native Americans in 1621. Otherwise, we would surely be having pasta with our pumpkin pie.

I will be joined at dinner by my mother, my brother and his family, and of course, my wonderful wife, Anne Marie. I am grateful that they share their lives with mine. I know I’ll never be able to repay all of them for their support, help and guidance.

I am also grateful to be living in this country at this point in our nation’s history. We are really, truly at a major cross road in America. Our first African-American president will be inaugurated in a matter of weeks, and he is showing every sign of forming a bipartisan government. Whether or not these appointments will be effective in solving the crises facing our country remains to be seen. For now, we can be thankful that we live in a country where such dreams and opportunities are possible, and can be achieved by any one of its citizens.

Finally, I am thankful for all of you reading this blog. Thank you for your attention and your occasional comments. I appreciate knowing that there are some people in the world who not only tolerate my skewed musings on the world, but also agree with them sometimes. I hope this day of thanksgiving rewards you with many blessings today and throughout the year.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Some Advice for the Big Three

Dear Big Three Automakers:

Hi! Hope you’re having a good weekend, or at least that it’s better than the week you had. Yes, I did see the footage of the three of you - all dressed so well like it was your first job interview. Unfortunately, you weren’t after a job. You were only asking for money from Uncle Sam to help you out, just until the end of the year.

The ladies and gentlemen of the US Congress listened very carefully to your concerns about your industry and all the millions of hard-working, blue collar, unionized Americans that will be out of work if your companies fail. They watched as you (figuratively) held a gun to the head of a UAW worker, vowing to take him with you if you went down. (I hope you realize that you can only hold your hostage until 5:00, at which time you’ll need to pay him time-and-a-half!) They listened carefully and closely, and then made fun of your corporate jets. Well, it just goes to show how much respect you rate in the halls of power.

To be honest, it serves you right!

Look guys, I might as well be honest with you: nobody respects you now. You’ve led an industry that was crying out for modifications and improvements, like improved gas mileage and products that are powered with alternative fuel sources, and what did you do? You kept championing bigger, gas-guzzling vehicles because you were convinced that is what the American consumer wanted. In reality, the American consumer was seduced by the lords of Madison Avenue, who used every trick in the book to convince us that, yes, we had to drive those big dinosaurs, or we would looked upon as abject failures of our status-seeking society. Of course, the lords of Madison Avenue were just answering to orders that came from...YOU! My, this modern consumerism is a vicious cycle, isn’t it?

The part that is really sad about all this is that your competitors — your foreign competitors — saw the writing on the wall and offered consumers better mileage and alternative fuels. They saw the writing on the wall years ago and acted accordingly. Now, suddenly, you wake up and notice that your profits are non-existent. So you came to Washington with the explanation that you don’t know how this all happened, but it won’t stop you from begging for money so you can develop your new competitive products that will save American industry. Oh, please, spare me!!!!

I don’t know why I’m doing this, but as a concerned American, I feel I should offer some advice to you to help you the next time you go to Washington. No, I don’t have an economics degree from which to draw my words of wisdom. Instead, I’ll use something that you obviously don’t have: common sense.


No one will take your vows of austerity seriously if you yourselves are not prepared to cut your own expenses. Why should the blue collar assembly-line worker take the fall for you when you’re still tooling around in your $20,000/hour corporate bird? I will acknowledge that General Motors has gotten the ball rolling on this score with its announcement that it is cutting its fleet of jets from seven to five. Nice gesture, GM, but it’s just a start. Cutting down to five jets helps; cutting down to zero jets would be more helpful.


You know the one I mean. The one that told you, “Yeah, sure, fly down to DC in your own plane. It’ll show that you’re truly in touch with the plight of the average worker.” I wouldn’t be surprised if these were the same people that told Sarah Palin, “Sure, go ahead and pardon a young tom at a turkey farm. Then linger around for questions so that the cameras can get a nice view of tom’s fellow gobblers getting the ax — literally, and graphically!”


Yes, I realize that the Japanese ritual suicide is a bit drastic, but it shouldn’t be taken off the table. After all, you were the ones in charge all these years when your industry was led down this self-indulgent, wasteful path to economic destruction. Somebody should take the fall.

Okay, okay, I know, suicide is immoral. Would you consider voluntary resignations - effective immediately, if the government gives into your demands? We may all have to settle on this as your punishment for crimes against capitalism. If it comes to this, then I can only hope that your golden parachutes are made of lead!

Happy landings, fellas!

Friday, November 21, 2008

A Quandary of Bond

Attending a movie is now a religious experience for me. How else can I explain my sudden impulse to cry out JESUS H. CHRIST when the adolescent refreshment stand attendant informs us that the price of a nacho combo (a small dish of nachos, with perhaps a cup of melted cheese, and a medium drink) is $11.50! Or while digesting the first action scenes from the latest James Bond film, I find myself praying for a shot that lasts longer than .010 of a second so that my pre-MTV-editing brain can comprehend what the hell is going on. Unfortunately, my prayers went unanswered while I watched “Quantum of Solace”, nacho-less.

Okay, it’s no “Goldfinger”, but we have to realize that the current Bond is not the Bond our fathers enjoyed. Daniel Craig’s Bond is a shark — a killing machine -engaging villains and dispatching them before he can get any information out of them, much to his superiors chagrin. Someday, he’ll get the hang of this intelligence gathering thing, but in the meantime we’ll just have to use our pocket calculators to count all the bodies Bond leaves in his wake.

“Quantum” is not a great Bond movie, and at least one critic has complained that it’s not a great movie. True, but then again, I wasn’t expecting to see “Gone With The Wind”, “Casablanca”, “Citizen Kane”, or even “North By Northwest”, when I laid down my eight bucks for “Quantum”. I like to think that I kept my expectations in check with reality. On the other hand, the critics did raise some legitimate concerns. Now, it’s my turn to pile on my observations.

Critics have also noted that “Quantum” doesn’t have enough of the typical Bond girl. True, he beds one girl and we only get to see her bare back in one shot. Oh wow; even Beavis and Butthead would be disappointed. In keeping with Bond film tradition, she doesn’t live to see the closing credits — she ends up resembling some poor creature caught in the Exxon/Valdez oil spill (shades of “Goldfinger”)! Yecch!

Bond is obviously nursing a broken heart, and we are lucky enough to suffer through his journey to closure with him. The only other Bond woman in the film only rates a passionate kiss at the end when he drops her off at a Bolivian train station. That’s all she gets! No farewell tryst, no “let’s hide from the authorities who are waging a world-wide search for us while we make love,” no nothing. Honestly, I was expecting to see Robert Redford as the Sundance Kid emerge from the train depot and exclaim, “Bolivia! Ha!”

Then there is M (Judi Dench) who, unlike previous Bond superiors, seems to be micromanaging our favorite super secret agent. Okay, I get it that the most recent stories show Bond at the beginning of his 00 career, and that he might need a bit more hands-on supervision than the other agents. On the other hand, do I really need to know that M is getting updates on Bond even while she is drawing her bath water? In the old days we would see M once at the beginning, and then Bond would be on his own. Come on people, stop with the hand holding. Bond is a big boy now!

Another criticism focused on the Bond villain, in that he wasn’t “villainy enough”, whatever the hell that means. He definitely wasn’t sinister like Blofeld, or my all time favorite Bond nemesis, the gay hit man team of Mr. Kidd and Mr. Went from “:Diamonds are Forever”. He didn’t even have a physical anomaly like LeChiffre, who couldn’t cry with teardrops, but rather blood drops. Quantum’s villain only seemed as sinister as any other megalomaniac venture capitalist that doesn’t stop at mergers or hostile takeovers, but rather resorts to outright murder. Oh, maybe that is the message we are to take away from this, given the state of today’s global economy: beware of capitalism.

In reality, all this doesn’t matter to the undiscerning James Bond fan. Place our hero in a few chase sequences, throw in a nude or even semi-nude doll, round it out with an action-packed climax between Bond and the villain, and we’ll be satisfied that we got out money’s worth. Even if we are disappointed, we always know that we’ll be rewarded in a few years with a new adventure at the Church of Bond. That’s right, fans, because as the closing credits state:



Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Penguin Patrol

Every other Wednesday, Anne Marie and I dine out with her knitting group. My wife has led this group for three years, and it is made up entirely of women. It is open to anyone interested in the yarn arts, but it so happens that no male knitters have joined the group yet. I initially went along with her to lend financial support (by buying dinner for the two of us), but somewhere along the way the membership took me into their hearts and appointed me the group mascot.

Usually I sit quietly by myself and absorb the various conversations going on around me. Sometimes the ladies talk about yarn and knitting patterns, but often the talk turns to politics, world events, or whatever else is going in our lives. At the most recent meeting, I got drawn into a fascinating conversation about Antarctica, of all places.

It seems that a sister of one of the members, Eliza*, has an opportunity to travel to Antarctica just after Christmas. The trip is a leadership seminar (or at least that’s what the brochure said), but the more I heard about it the more I was convinced that it will be a stripped down camping trip for the heartiest of survivalists. I have heard about Eliza’s sister and her exploits before, and I have no doubt that she will survive the trip quite nicely. She has an adventurous spirit and could actually be Wonder Woman in disguise.

Eliza explained that Antarctica would be in its summer season at this time of year. That sounds nice until you consider that this means the temperature rises to a balmy -30 degrees Fahrenheit, as opposed to the coolish -100 degrees from the winter months. Regardless of the season, I know that it’s still too cold to keep the outdoor pools open.

At some point, the discussion veered away from Wonder Woman’s training for this one week trip to more basic topics like what she will need to do with human waste. Apparently, each person is responsible for gathering up their own crap and disposing of it properly. Yes, folks, you read it here first: Antarctica has its own curbing regulations.

This realization led to speculation as to who enforces these regulations. After a few more minutes of discussion, we concluded that there is only one species up to the job: the penguin. They’re perfect for the job!

Aside from having evolved to a point where they can survive this harsh environment, they have nothing but time on their hands, or rather wings. After all what else do penguins do except fish for food, sleep, make little penguins, and wait to be discovered by either French film documentarians, a producer from Pixar, and/or Berkeley Breathed. I surmise that these tuxedoed fowl are tired of waiting for stardom opportunities — Breathed himself recently retired Opus — and are now watching for and ratting out any tourists who dare to foul their environment.

I wish Eliza’s sister all the luck with her trip. It truly does sound quite exciting, and it will be an experience she’ll cherish for the rest of her life. I just hope she doesn’t run afowl (forgive me, I couldn’t resist) of the local aviarian authorities.

Finally on a more personal note: we miss you, Opus!

*name changed because I felt like it!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mixed Signals from California

To The Great State of California:

Hi, Cali! What’s up? I just wanted to write a short note on behalf of all progressive-thinking people in America and thank you for your efforts in helping Barack Obama get over the top in electoral votes and propel him to the White House. It was a momentous day in our country’s history and your contribution played a large part in that victory.

Unfortunately, we must also note that, while you helped a minority win the presidency, you also put the screws to another segment of society. Your voters passed Proposition 8, which bans gay marriage and nullified all the gay nuptials that had been consecrated within your borders. I can’t help seeing a mixed signal here. Let me get this straight: you said it’s okay to put an African-American (not colored, Ms. Lohan) into the White House, but we don’t want homosexuals procreating. Is that truly the message you want to send?

I find the mixture of tolerance/intolerance a bit disconcerting. Many of you obviously believe that you voted for the proposition to uphold the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. Are we in the heterosexual community that insecure about marriage that we deny basic legal rights to consenting adults who want to build a meaningful relationship with each other? If we are insecure, then I wouldn’t blame the gays and lesbians. I would rather subscribe our insecurities to the great institution of divorce.

Some members of the gay community have already sent their gratitude to you for reaffirming their “second class citizenship” status. This is how they see this struggle. They don’t look at gay marriage as just simply a ceremony to get though before they get it on with each other. No, they see it as a civil rights struggle as much as the African-American community viewed it forty years ago.

Many of you believe that an overall law allowing gay marriage isn’t necessary to outlaw discrimination. Some of your advocates state that there are already laws in existence prohibiting prejudice against gays. Okay, if these laws do truly exist, then please quote me these laws, chapter and verse. Regardless, if these laws do exist, it hardly seems to be the point. Obviously, these laws aren’t being enforced well enough to satisfy the proponents of gay marriage.

So now the backlash begins: protests are already being staged across the country. Some of these protests are directed at one of the main supporters of Proposition 8, the Mormon Church. This is curious that they would want to support a measure limiting marriage to one man and one woman, given their polygamous traditions. Oh well, just another strange part of this issue that can’t be easily explained.

The protests could only be the beginning. Someone in the gay community is bound to suggest economic sanctions against California any day now. Watch out, Napa Valley! I’m not so sure that an economic boycott will work right now, what with the rest of the global economy in the tank. After all, who’s going to notice that wine bottles are collecting dust on liquor store shelves when Americans are being thrown out of their jobs and their homes?

I do have one idea that might drive home the message of tolerance. California, you may force us to take away something very precious to you. Of course I’m talking about your marijuana crop — all of it, medicinal and otherwise. I realize that this is a harsh punishment, but you must learn the lesson that prejudice stinks! Keep this in mind, California, the next time you go to the polls for something like...oh, immigration reform for example. You may believe you’ve acted justly in the name of morality, but you certainly won’t have that nice buzz in your head.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Short Notes – November 2008


It is hard to believe that gasoline prices, which peaked at nearly $4.20 in southeastern Pennsylvania earlier this spring, are heading lower and are now approaching the $2.00/gallon threshold. Be still, my heart! Although the price is declining like the rest of the economy, I think this downward slide blows more holes in the oil company executives argument that the price spike was all due to supply and demand.

I know that American drivers changed their habits and have been buying less gas, but I doubt that we have cut our consumption enough to justify a nearly $2.00 drop. Would those same oil company executives now have us believe that the demand for gas dropped world-wide? Are they now expecting us to think that all those new customers in China and India suddenly lost their passion for the horseless carriage, and went back to their oxen and yak-driven carts and bicycles?

I would find this very hard to believe if it was the case. My personal feelings are that the gasoline prices jumped to record prices this year because of supply, demand, and as much greed as the market could bear. Naturally, we’ll never hear the oil companies admit that.


Yesterday, the President and Laura Bush invited Barack and Michelle Obama to the White House to facilitate a smooth transition between their administrations. From all reports, all went well between the President and Barack in the Oval Office; the White House even released a photo of them chatting away all nice and cozy. A similar photo of the ladies talking in the private residence was also released to the media.

Once again, in a year of unprecedented events, we have what I believe is a political first: an incumbent, lame duck President having his successor from the opposing party over for a talk. For example, I don’t recall W's parents showing the Clintons around then White House. Naturally, I’m skeptical as to Bush’s real motives for the invite.

For example, Obama’s people are already compiling a list of Bush’s executive orders that they will overturn after the inauguration. Could Bush have been all smiles with friendly slaps on the back to Barack - all the while knowing that his staff was pushing through more policies weakening environmental, economic, and abortion policies - and thus create more work for Barack’s staff in January? The President is going to be sneaky to the very end! I can only speculate.

Official reports state that the two men talked about the economy and the wars in the Mideast. I have to wonder what happened un-officially. Did Obama ask the President to hold one end of a measuring tape while he measured the windows for new Oval Office curtains, as per Michelle’s request? Did W plead with Obama to grant him safe passage out of Washington on Inauguration Day? Will we have to set up an underground railroad just so President Bush can return safely to Texas? (That last sentence is an example of historical irony. Enjoy!)

What we do know is that there were no embarrassing faux pas between Obama and Barney, the Bush dog. As you may have heard, Barney, finally fed up with the liberal media, nipped a White House reporter last week. Even though Barney wrote a paw-written note of regret to the reporter, the Bush family will need to keep an eye on their pet. As any pet owner can tell you, once a conservative dog gets a taste of liberal meat, then there’s no going back to Kal-Kan.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Great Moment!

We’ve done it! We as nation have finally done it! We’ve been able to hold an entire election this century that didn’t have to be referred to a bunch of lawyers for recounts, motions, counter-motions, suits, counter-suits and appeal after appeal.

I’m kidding! That wasn’t the greatest achievement from Tuesday’s election, although this will be the first time a lawyer-less election has happened in the 21st century. No, a great moment in American history happened when - at around 11:00pm on November 4, 2008 - Barack Obama was declared the first African American to win the White House. I am like many Americans who never dreamed that we would see this happen in our lifetimes. Yet, it has happened, and many of us are grateful that we were here to witness the great moment.

It seems incredible that this milestone was reached a mere forty years after the civil rights movement dominated American society, resulting in legislation to eliminate racism in everyday life. We have found that legislation isn’t enough to combat this scourge; racism is a struggle within the heart of all humanity. It is a struggle many of our fellow human beings will have to contend with for years to come. Bigotry and prejudice will outlive all of us, but for now we can take comfort in the fact that — because of Obama’s win — the words “all men are created equal” are more than just ink symbols on an ancient document.

The moment happened so quickly that I would’ve missed it if I had blinked. I followed the results all night, switching back and forth between the different news networks and a marathon of “House”. The medical drama kept me entertained; man does not live by mind-numbing political analysis alone.

When the great moment did happen, it came as a general declaration away from the red and blue graphic of the continental United States that all the networks used. There for a while, it looked like McCain was catching up; he went from 95 electoral votes to 142 on the maps, while Obama’s electoral count stalled at 207 for what seemed like an eternity. In the end, the western states of California, Oregon and Washington put him over the top.

There was cheering in Chicago’s Grant Park when the announcement was made. The mood in Phoenix, where John McCain waited for the results, was not as happy. McCain showed that he was a savvy political warrior with class to the end. His concession speech acknowledged a good fight, the historical significance of Obama’s election, and a call to his (disgruntled) supporters to rally behind the new leadership to move the country forward. McCain himself will probably rest for the time being, while his running mate, Sarah Palin, will retreat to her home state. I fear we have not heard the last of her.

The last few weeks have been quite amazing for my own life. If I had not had this heart surgery five weeks ago, I may not have been around to witness the Phillies winning the World Series a second time, and an African American elected to the White House within days of each other. Now I can look forward to the next James Bond film in another week, and shortly after that, spending Thanksgiving with my family. All in all, it has been a great time to be living in America, and I am very grateful for the chance to have seen it all happen for myself.


Monday, November 03, 2008

Milestone to Milestone

Today, America, from the local to the national levels, is a country in transition. We have celebrated one milestone on a local level - the Phillies winning the 2008 World Series — and are poised to mark another milestone tomorrow with what will be a history making election regardless who wins. Briefly, I can summarize these achievements this way.


It felt good to write those words, just as it felt good to watch the video tape of the final out from game five of the World Series. I’ve seen it at least ten times now and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing it. You have to understand that this is only the second time in the franchise's 125 year history that we have won the championship. If you youngsters want some idea of what was happening in the world 125 years ago, I will remind you that Chester Arthur was President and instant replay hadn’t even been invented, let alone adopted. That’s how long the Philadelphia Phillies franchise has been in existence.

Now that the parade and the rallies are over, and we’ve had a weekend to celebrate, all of us Phillies fans are going back to resume our normal lives. The challenge now will be for all of us to maintain our “can do” attitude and not allow ourselves to sink back into the inferiority complexes that have dogged Philadelphia natives since William Penn stepped off the Welcome in 1682. We can be proud of not only the Phillies, but for our entire area. We can use that pride to work towards making our area a better place to live — not only for ourselves, but also for the future generations of Philadelphians. To that end, we should note that we can start improving our lives tomorrow with


The day is finally here! It will be a welcome relief to go to the polls tomorrow and mark the end of an election cycle which, correct me if I’m wrong, seems like it started way back in 1964. In case you’re counting, that would be 82 years after the Arthur administration.

It is now time for the undecided voters to make up their minds for this historical vote. It will be historical because either the first African American will be elected to the White House, or the first woman will be elected vice-president. As always, we should base our decisions on the issues, and not on considerations of race or gender.

Despite the independent nature that he has tried to project during his campaign (I refuse to use the overused term “maverick”), John McCain and I disagree on a few issues. He is anti-choice, anti-Amtrak, and anti-me-making-a-comfortable-living-in-the group-health-insurance-industry-for-the-next-twenty-years. I am convinced that his healthcare reform policies would hasten the demise of the health insurance industry and my job. I am too old to be unemployed and without my own health insurance.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, is pro-choice, is proposing a common sense solution for health care reform and his running mate is a frequent Amtrak rider. Okay, granted Joe Biden is a little fuzzy on some historical facts; television was still in the experimental stage when Franklin Roosevelt was President, but hey, that was only fifty years after the Arthur administration — so give the guy a break! I am not voting for Barack Obama because he is African American, but because he is an AMERICAN with good ideas on how to lead this country out of the mess that has become the Bush administration. Obama’s race is just icing on the historical cake.

I would be remiss if I did not give Sarah Palin equal time. The good news is that she is indeed a woman. The bad news is some of her recent appearances on the campaign trail have not been impressive. When a reporter asked her to name the newspapers she reads to keep abreast of current events, she replied, “All of them.” (?!!!)

In her interviews, she stays on the surface of talking points and can’t give any specifics or substance; e.g., when Katie Couric asked her about other Supreme Court decisions with which she disagrees, Palin answered, “I’ll get back to you on that.”

Then there was her description of Alaska being invaded by the disembodied head of Vladimir Putin...I could go on and on, but I think we get the idea. And this woman wants to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? Oy!

Regardless if you disagree with my short assessments, please take the time to vote tomorrow. Each of us has a voice that deserves to be heard.