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, October 30, 2014

St. Vincent

Make no mistake: Vincent MacKenna is a cheat, liar, and thief who smokes, drinks and gambles. Don’t take my word for it: these are the words that come out of the mouth of the babe who nominates him for sainthood. Go figure!

To be fair, a lot has happened in Vincent’s life which brought him to this stage. A Vietnam veteran who saw a lot of action, he battles addictions to alcohol and gambling, the latter nearly costs him his health (such as it is) at the hands of an impatient bookie. No one would mistake him for being a lovable curmudgeon. Gruff and cantankerous, Vincent does have a soft spot for an elderly woman, Sandy, passing himself off as her doctor when he visits her in an assisted living facility.

Into all of this enters a mother trying to rebuild her life post-divorce. She is accompanied by a young boy - the previously mentioned babe. An awkward first meeting with her new neighbor, Vincent, leads somewhat circuitously to his becoming the child’s after school sitter. Eventually, Vincent will also become the boy’s mentor in street smarts.

At first hesitant, Vincent eventually warms to this chance assignment. Besides, he needs the money. A retiree always in need of money, Vincent is turned down for a bank loan with a shrug and the classic salutation to resignation: “It is what it is.” Aside from the booze and gambling, Vincent is also in hock to Daka, his lady of the evening friend who advises that her services are no longer available on lay away. And, oh yes, she is a pregnant lady of the evening also needing additional income when she is bounced from her job as a stripper.

The young boy, Oliver, is both naïve and yet wise beyond his years. When Vincent claims that the brain is the most important human organ, Oliver points to his own heart. His parochial school education — where he learns values which his teacher/priest would have you believe are exclusive property of the Roman Catholic Church — is countered by Vincent’s after school lessons. 

There is the lesson of instant gratification: a trip to the horse racetrack. There is the lesson of hard work for the sake of hard work: mowing a yard that is totally devoid of grass. There is the lesson of learning who Abbott and Costello were…and so on.

There are a small victories along the way — Oliver stands up to a school bully, Sandy comes out of her dementia long enough to recognize that the doctor is actually her husband, Vincent, and there is a very nice, profitable day at the racetrack — but by the time this story ends, everyone loses something and accept the life lessons of compromise. Life is what it is, you know.

St. Vincent has all the makings of a made-for-tv Hallmark channel presentation. It can be sappy at times, and veers close to cliché at other times. Taking a young impressionable child to the racetrack as a plot device?   Doesn’t that go all the way back to Damon Runyon? No matter, the ends justifies the means, even if Vincent has to put the racing form to his forehead for divine guidance in picking his horses.

There are great performances from the entire cast. Bill Murray submerges his classic comic persona and allows Vincent’s complex character flaws to surface and wallow in the fresh (?) air of Long Island. The role could have been another classic turn by Jack Nicholson (think As Good As It Gets),  but Murray rises to the challenge, whether he is giving garage lessons in self defense to Oliver (serious Murray) or trying to keep up with Bob Dylan singing ”Shelter from the Storm” (clown Murray).

Melissa McCarthy leaves her fat girl shtick behind in her portrayal of Maggie,  the mother trying to juggle her long hour career with raising Oliver (and perhaps Vincent) while fending off her philandering husband's custody overtures. Her role is one too many people can relate: vulnerable in a chaotic situation with a growing toughness that will serve her well. Chris O’Dowd also does well as Oliver’s parochial school teacher, Brother Geraghty, as he oversees a melting pot of different religions and ethnics in his class. On the adult side, the melting pot is represented by Vincent’s lady of the evening friend, Daka, portrayed by Naomi Watts with a thick Russian accent. 

Jaeden Lieberher plays Oliver wonderfully in his feature film debut. Another role to which nearly everyone can relate: bullied and stolen from at school, Oliver learns the tricks of maturing in the street very quickly. A moment of complete drama (and the first signs of Vincent’s redemption) happens when the older man teaches his young charge that taking advantage of a candy machine is (technically) stealing. Oliver absorbs all of his lessons while retaining just enough innocence to remember that the heart is most important.

We should have a moment of silence and praise St. Vincent. We should hold our copies of the racing form to our foreheads and pray that this gem is not forgotten in the coming awards season. 

(Thank you for reading. And now Bob Dylan will sing music to water your bare yard by…) 

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ebola: Week 2? Month 2?

As a public service, we would like to remind all our fellow Americans that the current outbursts calling for a travel ban for anyone from countries where the Ebola virus has become an epidemic is not the solution to eradicating the virus. For one thing, it won’t work because no one will obey it.

Keep in mind that we are a country of rebels. Many of our citizens resent anything the guvmint tells them. This country was founded on a rebellion. Hell, our most patriotic holiday is a celebration of our forefathers giving the finger to authority. So you really think everyone will just suck it up, nod in agreement that the guvmint is doing it for our own good, and not try to scheme about ways to get around the ban? Really?

We should also keep in mind the great inspiring words inscribed in stone on one of our greatest icons of freedom, The Statue of Liberty. The inscription reads, “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free!” It does NOT say, “Give us your tired, your poor. your ewww! Is that rash infected? You turn around right now and go back where you came from! Now git!”

Governors Cuomo and Christie of New York and New Jersey - erring on the side of caution or extreme mass hysteria (it can be a fine line sometimes) - have ordered mandatory quarantine for healthcare workers returning from the disease ravaged areas of Africa. Healthcare experts - you know, the ones who spend every day of their careers studying these types of things - do not believe that it is a good idea. They argue that Ebola does not become contagious until the victim shows the symptoms. They also point out that such requirements could scare away healthcare workers - you know, the people who spend every day of their careers helping people recover from their ailments.

President Obama has requested that the governors back down from their quarantine threat. The president has been most active in recent weeks focusing on the Ebola problem. He’s even picked a czar to take personal charge of the crisis, coordinating actions among all the government agencies who have a direct interest in solving this problem. Ho-hum! While this czar, a former Joe Biden adviser, may pull off the organizing part, critics have been quick to pounce on Obama’s actions simply because he is Obama. Perhaps the president should have appointed a man who’s built a career from building disorganization into organization. Yes, I’m talking about none other than Obama’s political adversary from 2012, Mitt Romney! Boy, would that appointment get tongues wagging inside the Beltway! 

In any case, we’ll never hear from him again. The czar may become so immersed into the bureaucratic tangle of the federal government that he will disappear from public view. I don’t know how appointing someone with a title which has its roots in (long deposed) Russian royalty will necessarily do anything. Beyond giving the public confidence that somebody is actually doing something about a complex problem which can be beyond the grasp of mere mortals, I can’t remember any lasting accomplishments of past czars. 

Remember the Drug Czar? The Education Czar? I rest my case.

Otherwise. the administration’s handling of the Ebola crisis has paled in comparison to other administrations. The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 nearly decimated the capital of Philadelphia during George Washington’s tenure. That time the President left town on a pre-scheduled break just as the disease was starting to claim lives. Woodrow Wilson had to contend with the Influenza Epidemic of 1917. Wilson wasn’t as lucky as Washington; he had nowhere to run. This influenza pandemic was worldwide and killed millions.     

So far under Obama, one person in the US has died and perhaps a half dozen have been treated and are expected to recover. My point: Washington and Wilson, no matter their other shortcomings, knew how to throw an epidemic! Now under Obama, we’re already panicking!

(Thank you for reading! For those of you playing along at home, the score now is Mass Hysteria, one…Common Sense, coming to bat!)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

This Silly Week

Attention all for a quick poll question: What is the greatest threat to American democracy and way of life today?


the Ebola virus

an electric fan?

The answer should become evident by the time we reach the bottom of this post, but I can’t help noticing that events from this past week got, oh, how would the French term it…oh, yes, silly. Things have been silly for a while, but last week got very silly indeed!

Let’s start with the two really serious events which should be given serious consideration: ISIS and the Ebola virus.

ISIS, the latest terrorist group to push the envelope beyond Al-Qaeda’s wildest dreams, has become more terrifying than the German Nazis (1933-1945) as the most villainous group of people in recorded history. I don’t want to praise them, nay far from it: we have no choice but to acknowledge that their reign of terror established a new yardstick to measure mankind’s inhumanity to their fellow man. ISIS is poised to outdo the Master Race who raised genocide to a science.

We started efforts to contain ISIS, but the media lately have chosen to focus away from the ISIS cancer to an issue which has been recognized as a more immediate threat to US citizens: the Ebola virus. At this time, there are a total of three people in the entire country who have been officially diagnosed with Ebola. They and a few others brought home from West Africa are being treated here. It’s terrible that these individuals have Ebola, but the numbers are not that staggering considering we live in a country of 310 million people.   Now I was never that good at math, but with my calculations I believe that leaves 309,999,997 people unafflicted with Ebola. These numbers do not support the rush to fear being distributed by media outlets.

Ebola is an epidemic in Africa where it has killed over 4,500 people. Panic over Ebola is the epidemic gripping the United States now. The media frenzy is working overtime to cover more aspects of this story than is actually humanly possible. Don’t get me wrong, the virus is newsworthy. Still, the coverage which reached wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling proportions of the virus this week makes one long for the media overdose we suffered during the O.J. Simpson trial.

It may not be too long until angry mobs are running through the streets of America BYOTAP (Bring Your Own Torches and Pitchforks). Ah, but what will the angry mobs be running out of their towns? Who the hell knows. There’s only three people in the entire effin’ country who have the virus! They can’t appear everywhere at once just so people can exact their frustration over the virus on them. 

Many people in this country are advocating banning flights from Africa to stem the tide of the Ebola epidemic. If only it were that easy! One fellow blogger is strongly behind this idea, which is amusing since the town where he lives is almost totally dependent on tourism for its economic base.

It would be nice if we could somehow convince members of ISIS to travel to West Africa where they could contract the disease and we could allow nature to take its course. Well, at least one of our problems would be solved.

Which leaves the lowly, contemptible device known as the electric fan to be the greatest threat to American democracy today! Thanks to the media taking a break from its coverage of ISIS and Ebola, we now know that this device held up a political debate in Florida earlier this week. By the way, this is where the week got very silly.

It seems that former governor (also former Republican and Independent, but current Democratic candidate for governor) Charlie Crist met current Republican governor Rick Scott in a debate. The Scott campaign showed up and realized that Crist had an electrical fan beneath his podium. They cited this as a violation of the “no electrical devices” clause in the debate agreement. Scott refused to take the stage for seven minutes, during which time he presumably stamped his feet and held his breath until he turned blue.

Crist defended his need for the fan for his own comfort. Pundits have speculated that the Scott camp did not want Crist to be comfortable so they can get footage of him sweating under the stage lights as proof that he was not being truthful with his answers. They would then be able to use this footage in campaign commercials for whatever time is left before Election Day.

The electrical device ban was obviously meant to curtail use of communication devices between the candidate and campaign advisers in a remote location. But a fan? Seriously? Why would Crist need a fan under his podium?

Well, I’ll go out on a limb and surmise that, since Florida is geographically the state closest to the equator (where the average temperature is officially termed really, really hot), that overall Florida’s average temperature is very warm. Oh hell, let’s come right out and say it: it’s effin’ hot! It’s effin’ hot under the stage lights in Florida!

Atlanta, which is in Georgia and geographically further away from the equator than Florida, bills itself as Hotlanta. Now if they think it’s that hot in Georgia, than obviously it’s not as cool as Rick Scott believes it is in his home state. Besides, if Scott is that cold, then why has never showed up in public without a full head of hair to keep his scalp warm? Hmmmmmm????

It’s true: the media abandoned stories about a terror group and a terrible disease for a story about an appliance.

Very silly, indeed!

(Thank you for reading! A fan! It blows, it sucks! It’s a fan!)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Suspicions about Oreo

I have been in denial for awhile, but I can no longer put off the obvious conclusion: we have a bigot residing within Chez Gunther. It is Oreo. I’ve concluded that she does not like cats.

The joke's on her, since she herself is a bi-color domestic short hair. She has lived here for five months now and still has not adjusted to the point where she can be in the same room at the same time with her sisters Nyla and Gigi. If she is in the living room and happens to see one of the girls peer at her through the window from the sun porch, Oreo will hiss and flee back to her basement sanctuary. We used to have a cat-shaped wood block on display and she hissed at that too!

This is embarrassing for me to confess my suspicions, since I am a supporter of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Don’t get me wrong: Oreo is a very affectionate cat to her humans. Although given the atrocities mankind has inflicted on each other since we either climbed out of the primordial soup or was cleaved from somebody’s rib (pick your faith), then I must admit that Oreo’s devotion is misplaced. In the long run, she is probably better off loving her fellow felines.

Her hostility is now part of our daily routine. I will bring her breakfast – fish or beef, no chicken - and instead of jumping into her food bowl, she will make a quick saunter over to the basement couch, where we will sit together. She will rub against me, sometimes stand on her hind legs to lick my cheek (the one on the face), and cuddle up against me so I can stroke her fur repeatedly while telling her that she is a pretty girl. For the record, she is black on her back, white belly and mittens, while her facial markings are a half-and-half mixture of both colors.

Our petting session will last until she instructs me that she has had enough. Oreo signals we’re done with (what I believe the French call) a brief psychotic episode. She will reach up with claws out; lash out at my right arm so that she is able to pull my entire limb out of its socket. At this point, I softly tell her (so softly that Warrior Queen can hear me through the closed basement door), “Okay we’ll stop. Go get your breakfast,” while I ignore the blood gushing from the wound.

I don’t want to over dramatize this, but my right arm is my most useful appendage. I write with it, eat with it, dress myself with it, and communicate with Warrior Queen what I think of her with it. In short, I don’t think I could survive without it.

I am not exaggerating! My arm will be totally separated from my trunk and I will slowly hobble up the steps to show Warrior Queen my latest wound. This has happened several times, but WQ has not believed that this has ever happened because, through some miracle or perhaps spontaneous regeneration (pick your faith), my arm is fully restored by the time I reach the living room to show WQ my wound. 
At this point, I say, “Look at what that psychotic bitch did to me today!” Then I’ll see that my arm is not showing any trace of trauma, and I’ll sheepishly use the old Python line, “But I got better!”

Don’t you hate when that happens?

I don’t know if Oreo’s psychoses are Freudian, Jungian, or even Felinian, but she does have issues. We haven’t thought about introducing her to a therapist (yet), but I have a theory about treating her. I don‘t think Oreo realizes that she herself is a member of the species which she most despises. In the spirit of - and I’m paraphrasing Frederick Douglass here - that each of our cats has different markings but they’re all the same underneath, I believe we should make Oreo more self aware of her being.

I’ve thought about placing a mirror in the basement so she can meet the “other” cat in the house and see if she responds with a rub or a hiss. If she gets used to being around this other cat, then she may grow to like it, love it, and in turn love herself and love other cats. Or am I over thinking this?

Of course this experiment might lead to a second heretofore unimaginable possibility. If she looks in the mirror and does not see her reflection…then we’ve got another problem.

Of course this second possibility might explain the black cape she likes to wear…

(Thank you for reading! Oreo, can Daddy have his arm back now?)