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, July 30, 2009

Teachable Moments over a Beer

Some readers have probably been wondering if I would ever comment on President Obama’s faux pas about the controversial arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr. by white police officer James Crowley. Well, wait no longer!

Now that more information has been released about the incident, it is a good time as any to comment intelligently about it. As opposed to last week when people started weighing in before they knew all the facts...not that I will mention any names. Anyway, now we can tally up all of the damages caused by the incident.

THE ACTION: an angry tirade on racial profiling directed at a police officer already well versed in the subject?

THE COST: handcuffed in your own home with a charge of disorderly conduct!

THE ACTION: losing your professional cool against an accusation of racism when you arrest a distinguished African-American on a charge of disorderly conduct in his own home?

THE COST: widespread condemnation and demonization of yourself and your fellow police officers in the media!

THE ACTION: answering a question about this incident before you know all the facts, and considering the question is from a reporter working for a television network hostile to everything you do?

THE COST: widespread condemnation and demonization by the media, loss of stature in popularity polls, and heightened hostility towards your health care reform plans!

THE ACTION: inviting an old friend, the distinguished African-American gentleman arrested for disorderly conduct in his own home, and a new friend — the white police officer who arrested your old friend in his own home — to your house for a beer?

THE COST: priceless!

For everything else there is...

THE COST: plenty of opportunities for “teachable moments” in “post racial” America!

(Thank you for reading! Please raise a glass in the name of tolerance!)

Monday, July 27, 2009


It is our sad duty to report that Gidget the Chihuahua had to be euthanized after suffering a stroke on July 21. She will be remembered for her work in the Taco Bell commercials from 1996 – 2001. It was her face we saw looking quizzically up at us when she said, “Yo quiero Taco Bell.” She was 15, or 90 years old in human terms.

Actually, it may have been her face we saw, but the voice was done by a male Argentine actor. This makes Gidget the latest in a long traditional line of cross-dressing animal actors. Lassie is the most famous example of a female character being portrayed by a male dog. Please don’t get me wrong: there’s nothing wrong with cross-dressing if it makes one feel like a more complete person or, in this case, animal. It does, however, offer an interesting tidbit of information about their lives which we could use to enrich our own knowledge of the world around us.

On the other hand, some animal actors stayed within the confines of their original gender. Rin Tin Tin, for example, was dead butch! The studio even published publicity photos of Rinty with his “wife” Nanette and their puppies.

Speaking of Rin Tin Tin, here’s an interesting bit of information about his life. Did you know that he died in the arms of iconic screen sex symbol Jean Harlow? In case you don’t know who she was, boys and girls, let’s just say that Harlow was the Marilyn Monroe of the 1930’s. Um, okay, if you’re not sure who Marilyn Monroe is, then let’s just say that she was the Anna Nicole Smith of the 1950’s! I hope that brings us all up to speed now.

Unfortunately, I now realize that I’ve veered way off the main topic. Please allow me a sentence or two to trace my steps back to the subject at hand. Okay, American sex symbols who died young...animal actors...cross-dressing animal actors...dead cross-dressing animal actors...Gidget! Oh, yes, I was writing about poor Gidget.

Another interesting aspect of Gidget’s life is how her passing is being handled by the media. For example, The Los Angeles Times did a straight forward obituary that concluded with a statement by her handler that "the Chihuahua was typecast which limited her employment opportunities in Hollywood." Okay, honey, let me point something out to you: your client was a SMALL DOG! It’s not like she was destined to play Shakespeare in the Park.

Besides I’m not exactly crying in my beer over the fact that Kirsten Dunst may or may not have won out over Gidget for the part of Mary Jane in the Spiderman franchise.

On the other hand, The Philadelphia Inquirer took a different tact in reporting Gidget’s going to the Big Dog Kennel in the sky. The Inquirer portrayed Gidget’s career — with tongue planted firmly in cheek - as exploitation by the Man to sell some fast food. How Karl Marxian of them! This may be a novel way of summarizing her life’s work, but hey, nobody ever said capitalism was pretty! Somebody had to put Kibbles’N’Bits on the table somehow!

The Inquirer report also mentioned that the Taco Bell commercials were culturally insensitive. Oh, really now, aren’t we taking this a bit too seriously? After all, there could be worse ideas proposed to market American products. For example, it’s not as bad as if Stepin Fetchit was ever hired to hawk Kentucky Fried Chicken. Now THAT would’ve been culturally insensitive!


Thank you for reading. Please remember to curb your chalupa!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

My Darn Cat

I’ve had a few disagreements with members of the animal kingdom this week. The first conflict happened in my neighbor’s pool on Sunday. I was doing laps when I noticed a wasp hovering near the water’s surface. Since he/she was at the center of the pool, and I was swimming around the pool’s edge, I felt I was out of harm’s way. No such luck! As I finished one lap, I felt a sharp sting on my chin.

After a few moments of cursing and splashing water on the wound, I went hunting for my assailant. I found him struggling in the water near the other side of the pool. My first impulse was to splash the water down on him and put him out of his misery, but then I realized that this would be wrong. After all, the wasp is still one of God’s creatures.

So I splashed the water around him so that he was carried over the top of the pool and onto the ground. At this point, I grabbed a foam tube floating nearby and, with a mental apology to God, tried to dispatch the little bastard by beating him to pieces with the tube. Unfortunately, he was either too nimble for me, or the foam tube is a very poor weapon for homicidal purposes. The last I saw of him he was flying away from the pool, a little wet but still very much alive. I resolved to banish all wasps from the pool for the remainder of the summer, and I don’t care if he hires a lawyer to fight his exile.

My second conflict was with my own cat, Meredith, but I must admit it was partly my fault. She disappeared Monday night and, despite a frantic search of her usual hiding spots – under my bed, inside the living room couch — we didn’t see hide nor hair of her little gray self. We finally assumed that she was somewhere in a part of the basement where we don’t normally allow her to go. This part of the basement has a lot of crawl spaces which we just assume she never get to explore. Unfortunately, the door to that part of the house was left open by persons unknown...all right, I confess. It was me...and Meredith took advantage of my carelessness.

We called her name countless times, which every cat owner knows is an exercise in pointlessness. Cats refuse to come when they are called. Somehow it is beneath their dignity. Dogs do it, and lord knows that’s reason enough not to do it. Still, I will make this appeal to any cats reading this to please reconsider this very cruel game played on humans down through the centuries, namely hiding while your owners search and yell your name all over kingdom come. After all, we do feed you, water you, give you treats on demand, and even clean your #@&!% box for you. The least you can do is show some compassion when you see your owners slowly going insane from fretting about your whereabouts.

Neither Anne Marie nor I slept very well until we knew Meredith was safe, but that didn’t happen until 12:30a Tuesday morning. Anne Marie brought her up from the basement, her brother Steven licked her head like he missed her too, and we all retired for the night. Since then, Anne Marie and I have taken every opportunity to remind her that she was a bad girl and she should never do this again. Unfortunately, this is the second most pointless activity any cat owner can do, namely lay a guilt trip on a cat.

It simply can’t be done. You can say things to them like, “You know it would be very considerate and thoughtful of you to come out of hiding and present yourself when you know we’re looking for you,” but it goes right over their heads. At times like this, they’ll stare at you with wide eyes as if you’re the largest rodent they have ever seen and they haven’t figured out yet how to pounce on you. They won’t cock their heads, though. Dogs do that, and lord knows that’s reason enough not to do it.

So anyway, Meredith, you are hereby notified that you are grounded for the immediate future. I don’t know what this means exactly, but you can rest assure it is not as pointless as kicking a wasp out of a pool.

(Thank you for reading. Please keep your box clean at all times!)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Walter Cronkite

It was a defining moment, not only in broadcast history, but, as it turned out, American history as well. It happened in the middle of the afternoon on November 22, 1963, in a New York City television studio. The newsman read the written statement that President John F. Kennedy had been declared dead at 1:00p Central Time. Then, that newsman, Walter Cronkite, removed his glasses to glance up at a clock on the wall to confirm the elapsed time since the president’s death. His eyes didn’t show any visible signs of grief at that moment, but they nevertheless displayed a weariness that had probably not been seen on a television news broadcast before.

Up to this point, the news was delivered somewhat cold with little or no emotion. Now, just by removing his glasses, Cronkite showed the entire world that broadcasters were also human, subject to the same emotions and opinions as the average man in the street.

Cronkite lived a good full life of 92 years before he passed away on the evening of July 17, 2009. In that life, he rose through the ranks of broadcast journalism from reporting sports scores on radio to coverage of wars and political conventions, and finally to revered news anchor. He became more than just respected by his fellow broadcasters, politicians, and world leaders. He earned our trust.

He was the first news anchorman in the early years of television; indeed, a producer at CBS coined the term to describe Cronkite’s duties in front of the camera. In that role, he conveyed the image of a man older than his actual age, and with it all of the wisdom usually associated with an older person. It was this image that defined the term news anchor, and television viewers were comfortable with this image.

The image proved problematic for female television journalists who smacked their heads into the glass ceiling of the broadcasting industry which tried to compete with Cronkite’s grandfatherly style of imparting information. For some reason, the industry decided that a grandfather type could be more trustworthy than a grandmother type. A few age discrimination suits later and the influence of journalists like Barbara Walters in more recent years has hopefully put this thinking to bed once and for all.

The news cycles were much simpler when Cronkite took the reins of the CBS Evening News in 1962. People got their news from newspapers in the morning, their weather and traffic reports on radio and early morning news shows. There might be a mid-day news show, but most often than not, the most coveted spot for television journalists was the early evening, just as most Americans returned home for the their suppers.

This was where Cronkite not only grew and flourished, but he created and defined the job of the news anchor for years to come. The words he used to report the stories, combined with his commanding baritone delivery, and the inflection of that voice could determine the public’s opinion about any given issue. He would be modest about his contribution to public opinion. After all, he was just doing what journalists are supposed to do: tell a story.

Now the news cycles don’t take morning and afternoon breaks. They’re ongoing, omnipresent, 24/7, one part information to give us the story and 99 parts entertainment to fill the rest of the time. The television news industry has grown away from the early days of information only please to a multi-headed monstrosity, where television news executives obsess over the rating points won or lost because their news anchor is wearing his cardigan sweater a certain way.

This was not the television journalism of Walter Cronkite, whom we trusted like a member of our own family. We believed his view of the story, and we never questioned if it was influenced by the slant of the network that owned the show. We truly believed him at the end of every broadcast when he told us good night with the words, “And that’s the way it is.”

And that’s the way it always should be. Rest in Peace, Uncle Walter.

(Thank you for reading. Good day and good luck!)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Liberal Thoughts on Justice and the Legacy Asterisk

One of my loyal blog readers, who noted the pro-liberal leanings of my writing, has asked when am I going to write an entry about how Barack Obama is slowly turning the United States into a socialist country. Well, believe it or not, I am currently working on a response to this question which I hope will satisfy both my fans and critics. However, I must remind everyone: I am not affiliated with the Fox News Network. In other words, I am not obligated to be “fair and balanced”. The answer to my reader’s query will be, “Sorry, Joel, not today.”

Instead, I will offer a thoughtful debate on the pros and cons of investigating the most recent charges against the Bush Administration. Naturally, we have to consider all of the parties involved in this debate. First, there is the wonderfully elegant, morally upright, and otherwise poised for absolute political perfection Obama Administration. The second party is Congress, a bipartisan, bicameral group of individuals who are always at odds, either together as one or as a multiple of separate interests, with the Executive Branch, no matter who is in power. The third party is the late, lamented, despicable, Constitutionally-challenged Bush Administration. obligation to the concepts of “fair and balanced.”

At issue now is the revelation that former VP Dick Cheney instructed the CIA to lie to Congress about the existence of a certain surveillance program carried out in conjunction with the "war on terror". One commentator pointed out (on the liberal Keith Olberman show) that the Bush Administration was set up wherein the Commander-in-Chief Decider would tell his subordinates what his goals were, instruct them to do whatever was necessary to achieve these goals, but for God’s sake, don’t tell him what they were doing to achieve these goals. This way the Decider could really be in the dark about what was going on and truthfully say that his administration was not doing the horrible things that the liberal media was accusing them of doing.

It’s an interesting theory but, even if it is proven false, George W. Bush will go down in history as the Chief Executive who perfected the deer-caught-in-the-headlights facial expression. History may judge him harshly, but we have to give him props for this. There, see, I can write something nice about the Bush Administration. I bet you didn’t think I could do it, but there it is in black and white.

Anyway, Congress is in an uproar over these latest revelations and many of them (coincidentally Democrats) are calling for hearings, investigations, and indictments. They have a point; after all, this may be an indication of criminal activity on the part of the Bush Administration. In a perfect world, we could not, and should not let any crime go unpunished. It would be in the Republican's best interest to pursue justice too, since any crimes which go unanswered would surely give members of the Obama administration a free pass to circumvent the Constitution...but I doubt that this point is currently being considered.

However, let’s put this into perspective. Throughout American history, members of Congress have promised voters anything just to get their support, showed favoritism for financial contributors ahead of the public good, accepted bribes, and misled constituents...but God help YOU if you lie to THEM. Apparently, there is a legality issue involved. Also, for some reason beyond my understanding, they take lies very personally. Go figure!

President Obama is resisting the calls for investigation, since it may distract from his ambitious domestic agenda, and I believe he has a very valid point. We need to look no further than the Clinton impeachment for a good example. As you may recall, the GOP-led Congress abandoned all other issues just to pursue Clinton’s perjury and, they hoped, to push him out of office. While the impeachment raged on, Americans continued to lose their jobs and their health insurance; Wall Street financiers accumulated their wealth at the expense of investors and raided their workers pension funds; and, oh yes, an evil man by the name of Osama Bin-Laden planned and plotted his attack on the Great Satan. Congress obviously thought they had bigger fish to fry.

As much as I would enjoy seeing former members of the Bush Administration publicly hung by their short and curlies, I must admit that we can’t afford to look away from our biggest problems right now just to pursue justice. It would be a terrible shame to let these miscreants get away with these high crimes, but the Obama Administration needs cooperation from both parties to get his reforms enacted, and demonizing the past administration would surely alienate the Republican members of Congress.

So the Bush Administration may get away with its assault on the Constitution, but we do have one weapon left to us to exact justice: history. When it comes to Bush’s legacy, we could mark it with a big, fat, juicy asterisk and then detail all of the nasty things his people did in a footnote that would take up volumes of paper. Ah, yes, the mere thought of this weapon warms my dear old liberal heart because I know I will have a lot to write about for many years to come.

(Thank you for reading! Please pull around to the second window.)

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

When Stupid (White) People Run Swimming Pools – Part 2

I did not intend to make the Huntingdon Valley Swim Club controversy into a continuing saga, but recent developments beg for an update.

As you may recall from our last episode, a group of African American and Hispanic children attending the Creative Day Camp had arranged swimming dates throughout this summer at the Huntingdon Valley Swim Club. The campers were disinvited and their membership fee was refunded after their first trip. Based on comments made by other club members — and the subsequent ill-worded statement by the club president — all assumed that the snub was racially motivated. Vows of litigation have ensued.

Since last week, the club voted to invite the campers back by an overwhelming vote of 149-1. This, coupled with several club members' on-camera interviews insisting that the club's motivation was concerned with safety and not skin color, gave the appearance that the club was attempting to make amends for its gross error.

Unfortunately, the original perception of racial discrimination won’t go away. The day camp director rejected the invitation to return, saying that the children had been permanently scarred by the events that day. It appears that the camp will move their racial discrimination suit forward and seek justice in the court system. The camp of course has every right to do this, but perhaps it's time to rise above the temptations of human nature and take the high road.

I can’t predict the future, but I will lay out a number of possible results from this lawsuit. The lawsuit may/may not force a change of leadership at the swim club. The lawsuit may/may not make the club members more racially sensitive. The lawsuit will reopen the children’s “scars” every time the filing makes its slow, meandering way through the judicial system. The lawsuit will enable a lawyer (or two) to pay off the mortgage on his/her multi-million dollar McMansion somewhere in suburban Philadelphia, far from the maddening urban crowd living in the City of Brotherly Love.

The Philadelphia Inquirer showed several good arguments for dropping this suit. On one side of the page, African American columnist Annette John-Hall called for the children to return to the swim club with their heads held high. This action, she argues, would give the children a great opportunity to demonstrate to the narrow-minded adults at the club that their old-fashioned racial attitudes are baseless.

On the other side of the same page, there was an article about the Philadelphia school district settling a racial discrimination suit which was originally filed in - are you sitting down, kids - 1970! That’s 39 years! I know people who have lived their entire lives within 39 years. Just a word of caution: you have every right to pursue this matter in court, but you may be welcoming your own grandchildren by the time the suit is resolved.

I realize that the children’s lives are controlled by well-meaning adults who are looking out for their offspring’s best interest. Nobody can argue with that, but the charges of racial discrimination may be muted now by the club’s call to return to the pool. Some of the children have been quoted as saying that they don’t want to go back. That’s fine, and no one can blame them for those feelings, as long as it is their decision and not the decision of the adults in the day camp.

Several children have also been quoted as questioning if the adults at the club knew that we have an African American President now. I’m sure they do, but, unfortunately, the historical gain last November does not necessarily translate into an overnight change in attitudes. We would be wise to remember that President Obama’s overall emphasis is to look ahead to resolve our problems. This is difficult now that many in his party are calling for the Bush Administration to be hung by its scrotums for alleged Congressional misleading...ah, but that’s another blog entry.

Perhaps the children — and adults — should consider looking forward, and accept the new invitation at face value. It does appear to be a sincere gesture, but we may never make any progress in race relations in this country if people aren’t willing to accept the outstretched hand in friendship. Why should we even try to improve relations between blacks and whites if we’re all too suspicious to do such a simple act as forgive those who have offended us?

(Thanks for reading. Please watch your step as you leave the blog!)

Friday, July 10, 2009

When Stupid (White) People Run Swimming Pools

No, my title today is not an idea for the next reality sensation on the Fox Network, but rather an apt description of a local controversy that is about to bust open nationwide. This is it in a nutshell: a day camp with mostly African-American and Hispanic children made arrangements to use an outdoor swimming pool at the Valley Club in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania. The day camp paid membership fees to cover their charges, and on June 29 attended the first of what was to be a weekly visit to the pool throughout the summer.

During the course of this session, several of the children told the camp’s executive director, Alethea Wright, that they heard some club members question what African-Americans were doing at the club. Wright approached club president, John Duesler, about the incident. According to newspaper reports, Duesler seemed apologetic at the time. Unfortunately, the club’s mea culpa seemed a bit shallow a few days later when the day camp received a refund for their membership, effectively cancelling all future swims for the campers at the club.

Now, parents of the campers are considering legal action against the club for racial discrimination. Club members have been quoted as saying that the club terminated the memberships over concerns of overcrowding. One television station, NBC10, has released a statement from Duesler (see below), but otherwise the club has been strangely incommunicative with other media outlets about the incident.

Okay, let’s examine the overcrowding argument mathematically. There were 65 children from the day camp attending the pool sessions. The pool holds 110,000 gallons of water. Even if there are 100 other people in the pool at the same time as the day campers, that still gives each person 667 gallons of water to frolic in. (In case you’re wondering, yes, I rounded up!) How many gallons of water does one child require to entertain him/herself? It can’t possibly be that much to warrant concerns about overcrowding.

Just as a point of perspective, I’ll offer this tidbit of information. It only takes 8 ounces of water to drown. Okay I don’t know why I brought that up, other than more proof of the old adage that “dying is easy, comedy is hard!”

I question one part of this incident as reported. For one thing, the club members use of the term “African-Americans” is suspect. It is my experience with several residents of the Philadelphia area who, I am sad to report, are not as tolerant of other cultures as I believe they should be, would not resort to this wording.

It’s a matter of economics. Why describe a person of African descent with the hyphenated words African-American (which is probably the current phrase considered the most politically correct), when you can use the two syllable, six-letter word that has become infamous down through the nation's history. Yes, I wouldn’t be surprised if the club members actually let the “n” word fly in front of the children and the reports have been sanitized by the press.

Still, this is all a very minor point compared to the bigger problem that any objections to the children’s presence were ever raised at all. Even more glaring is the quote by Duesler justifying his clubs refund of the membership fee: “There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion (italics mine)...and the atmosphere of the club.”

Another point of perspective is the primary definition of the word, complexion: “the color and appearance of the facial skin.” How unfortunate! How sad! How incriminating!

Okay, you have the threat of a racial discrimination suit staring you in the face and you actually have the cojones to use the word “complexion” in your explanation? Sir, you may not be a racist, but I strongly suspect that you’re an idiot!

Note to campers: the state Human Relations Commission has announced that they will investigate the incident. If you don’t get satisfaction there, you can always look up the Southern Poverty Law Center. Ironically, the Center was created as a result of a similar situation nearly forty years ago.

Note to Valley Club: this incident is about to become a huge firestorm. If Al Sharpton shows up on your doorstep, then you’re definitely screwed. At this point, you’d be best advised to hire a very good lawyer, hire an even better public relations representative, get out your checkbook, and practice writing a lot of zeroes in it.

Thank you for reading. Please remember if you can’t say anything nice, then keep your trap shut!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Job Suggestions for Sarah Palin

Now that soon-to-be-former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin has followed Harry S. Truman’s advice and gotten “out of the kitchen”, she’ll be pounding the pavements for gainful employment soon. Well, we here at arteejee don’t believe in keeping a good woman down — no double entendre intended. Therefore, we would like to make the following list of suggestions to Mrs. Palin.

1. Cover girl for next year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

2. Intern for Rush Limbaugh; make sure his coffee is nice and warm every day and fulfill “other duties” not otherwise specified.

3. Sell her hand-me-down wardrobe from the John McCain campaign on QVC.

4. Intern for Dick Cheney; carry his rifle for him the next time he goes “hunting” for lawyers, and fulfill “other duties” not otherwise specified.

5. Volunteer to watch the west coast of Alaska for any signs of enemy invasion, particularly if Vladimir Putin’s head detaches itself and floats over Alaskan airspace.

6. Intern with the Republican Party re-educating fallen GOP leaders about family values; she can start with South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. Failing that, she could always perform “other duties” not otherwise specified.

7. Monologue consultant for David Letterman. ‘Nuff said!

8. Intern for George W. Bush in working to preserve his legacy in the minds of his fellow Americans. Or she can perform “other duties” not otherwise specified...when Laura is not looking.

9. Professional Tina Fey impersonator.

(Thank you for reading. Please have a nice day!)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Snort Notes – July 2009


Apparently the Academy is giving up on the idea of broadcasting the awards within a three hour time limit. With five films nominated, the average broadcast ended about 12:30 in the morning. With ten films nominated, we can expect a typical Oscar ceremony to last roughly as long as a Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon.

Thanks, Oscar! Those of us on the east coast who have lost sleep for years trying to stay up for the whoooole thing now know who our friends in Hollywood are. We’re better off retiring at our usual time and reading the results the next day.


Poor Bernard Madoff! Ever since he pleaded guilty to bilking his investors out of their life savings, he has been demonized in the media as — in the words of his own attorney — ”a deeply flawed man”. And this is one of the nicer things said about Madoff! The condemnations from his victims make him sound like he’s as evil as Hitler.

Perhaps we should take a moment and remember one thing. Bernard Madoff came into this world just like the rest of us: helpless, full of promise, vulnerable to the pressures of his home and business environment. In many ways, he is no better or worse than the rest of us. Keeping this in mind, maybe we should close our eyes, take a deep breath, and try to think some good thoughts for Bernard Madoff.


Okay, I took a minute to think good thoughts and I couldn’t come up with a damn thing!

Sorry, Bernie! Look on the bright side: with time off for good behavior they may let you out in 2101! If not, hey, see ya in 2159!


Oh, spare us this ungodly media circus! PUT HIM IN THE GROUND ALREADY!!!!!!!!!


Wow! When married, Christian men professing religious right values have a mid-life crisis, they really do it up right!


Geez, what was the hurry? If this recount had taken any longer, then the results could have waited for the next election cycle, which will probably begin any day now.

As for the Republican candidate, Norm Coleman, I suggest he go commiserate his loss with people like, oh, Al Gore or John Kerry. I realize they are both Democrats, Mr. Coleman, but at least they feel your pain.

(Thank you for reading. Please enjoy the remainder of your holiday weekend!)