Saturday, December 31, 2016

'Keep Them Coming Till I Say Not To, Or Until You Throw Me Out . . . '

NEW YEAR'S EVE ON CHEW AVENUE 
(1962)
By Arnold Schnabel
It's New Year's Eve, it seems we've made it,
If only barely, through another year;
The terror, if not gone, has abated
Into a dull and grey persistent fear.
My mother’s sound asleep by eleven,
So I go to the VFW,
Shove to the bar of this drunkard's heaven,
And say, "Pat, if you please, I'll trouble you
For a Schmidt's, backed with an Old Forester,
And keep them coming till I say not to,
Or until you throw me out; whatever;
Do what your conscience says that you've got to."
I take that first sacred drink of cold beer:
"Happy new (let’s hope it’s not our last) year."

A TIP OF THE HATLO TO DAN LEO

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

A Delicious Serving Of Satire-Covered Bon Mots From The Late Great Jon Swift

Al Weisel, widely known in the blogosphere as Jon Swift, was the best satirist this side of . . . well, Jonathan Swift. Sadly and unexpectedly, Al left this mortal coil in 2009. Only the good die young, as they say, and he was a mere 46.
Al was a tireless supporter of small blogs like Kiko's House and I was honored innumerable times to have him link to my posts, usually so he could skewer someone with a faux conservative wit so sharp that some of his victims didn't even know that they were being filleted.  What that he had lived to see the coming of Donald Trump.

My thoughts invariably turn to Jon during this summing-up time of the year, and the keepers of his flame have again included my deathless prose in their annual blog roundup. 
Here are some excerpts from my Jon Swiftian favorites, which have a timeless quality as befits great commentary:
Why isn't anyone reporting on the War on Hanukkah (or Hannukah or Chanukkah -- I never really was sure how to spell it)? Recently, I went to see my town's Hannukah Bush and was outraged that they were calling it a "Holiday Tree." It's not a "Holiday Tree" it's a "Hanukah Bush" (or Chanukah Bush - not sure which) Unfortunately, the forces of political correctness and inclusion are bending over backwards not to offend Gentiles. This country was founded on the values of the Torah and its sequel. Then I was shocked to see pictures of President Bush lighting a Menorah (is that how it's spelled?) on December 6! Hanukkah doesn't begin until December 25. . . . Is he taking the day off on December 25 or something? I think we are owed an explanation. (12/17/05)

Can someone please explain to me what Jack Abramoff is guilty of? Abramoff donated money to polictical campaigns and lobbied members of Congress on behalf of his clients. What's wrong with that? The only thing Jack Abramoff is guilty of is practicing democracy and if what he did is against the law, then millions of Americans who donate money to political campaigns are in danger. In fact, the prosecution of Jack Abramoff is clearly unconstitutional and represents another sad example of the criminalization of politics. (1/5/06)

Is bipartisanship really such a great thing? Aren't bipartisans a little like bisexuals--people afraid to make a commitment? I suppose it's better than President Clinton's "triangulation," which I believe is a translation of the French word menage a trois. Maybe such things work in France, but I don't think they work here. During the Clinton and Reagan administrations we had divided government, which I think was very confusing for people. Lobbyists had no idea who to give campaign contributions to and they sometimes had to split their limited resources between two parties. (1/31/06)

But while [President Bush] has been making great strides in shoring up democracy at home, it appears that in Iraq we are installing the wrong kind of democracy. The new Iraqi Constitution sets up just the kind of weak "liberal" democracy that the President has been making efforts to reverse in this country, with all of its bothersome checks and balances on presidential power. The result of dispersing too much power and equality to the people could lead to an unstable government that would precipitate a Civil War in Iraq. (5/4/06)

It seems that any effort we make to appease critics of Guantanamo have only backfired anyway. Some of the men who were released have begun to wage a PR campaign against the United States, another insidious kind of asymmetric warfare. One of the men we released is now claiming that he was tortured at the prison, which, of course, the Bush Administration has repeatedly said in no uncertain terms that we don't do, although if we wanted to torture, we wouldn't be subject to the laws of the Geneva Convention (a treaty some other administration signed anyway) because these detainees aren't lawful combatants, so theoretically we could if we wanted to, but we don't because it is against our principles except in certain circumstances. In the end, however, we may discover that the only way to save the principles that make our country great will be to sacrifice them. (6/12/06)

Once someone has died, it's a lot more difficult to attack them without people thinking you are being unseemly. While it was very courageous of [William] Bennett to do so anyway, his words have opened him up to a torrent of criticism, the kind of criticism that [Gerald] Ford avoided by dying. Bennett realizes that it would have made him look a lot better if he had picked on a 93-year-old man while he was still alive instead of the day after he died, but Bennett cares more about this country than he does about what people think of him personally. It's too bad that Ford was not as brave as Bennett is. (1/3/07)

Keeping the minimum wage at the inflated rate of $5.15 an hour for a decade has been a terrible drag on our economy. The number of millionaires in the United States, for example, grew only 11% from 2004 to 2005, to 8.9 million. It now takes an entire day for a CEO to earn what the average worker earns in a year. . . .Compared with most countries in the world the U.S. minimum wage is extremely high. Of course, there are some worker-coddling welfare states that have higher minimum wages. In France, Great Britain and Australia, the minimum wage is more that $10 an hour. But when compared with countries like Botswana, Latvia and Papua New Guinea, we are significantly overpaying our workers. (1/30/07)

Last week millions of nervous Americans gathered around their televisions to see if Sanjaya Malakar, the 17-year-old Indian-American contestant with the face of an angel and the voice of . . . something else, would finally be kicked off of American Idol. But once again Sanjaya defied all expectations and common sense and survived another round in the contest that defines this country as much as Nascar, the Superbowl, presidential elections and monster trucks. It is finally time to acknowledge that the inexplicable and frightening Sanjaya juggernaut has reached crisis proportions and something must be done about it before it is too late. (3/24/07)

I don't care if Alec Baldwin's daughter is 11 years old or 12 years old or however old she is, she is a disgrace and her treatment of her father is beyond the pale. . . . Apparently this "rude, thoughtless little pig," as Baldwin called her, who doesn't "have the brains or the decency as a human being," either doesn't know or doesn't care how her inconsiderate actions affect her father. While not answering the telephone when your father calls may seem trivial, even the smallest of cruelties can be very hurtful to a parent. Fathers are extremely vulnerable and children should be very careful about what they say and do to them. Above all fathers need to know that their children love them. What Alec Baldwin's daughter did to him is the kind of thing that could emotionally scar him for life. (4/22/07) 
Robert De Niro's endorsement of Obama would not be problematic if he had only made films like The Godfather Part II, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. But how does Obama explain Meet the Fockers? Or Showtime? Or The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle? Has Obama distanced himself from those terrible films? By accepting De Niro's endorsement does he in turn endorse the practice of aging actors' mugging for the camera and becoming little more than parodies of their former selves? Is he also soliciting the endorsement of Al Pacino? (2/28/08)

Conservatives have always hated McCain for his support of immigration reform, campaign finance reform and moderate judges, and his opposition to torture and the Bush tax cuts, until he changed his mind and kicked his principles under the Straight Talk Express, though not soon enough for most of us. But after he picked Sarah Palin, conservatives took another look at McCain. That was when we noticed that McCain is really, really old and sometimes he doesn’t look all that well (wink!). And then it dawned on us: McCain will probably die in office! We may not be all that happy with McCain, but we are practically giddy at the prospect that he won't last that long. He could even keel over right after the Inauguration. (11/2/08)

Thanksgiving celebrates the day that Pilgrims and Indians sat down to eat together before the gay secularist Indians divided this country and tried to foist their atheism and savage decadent culture on the God-fearing pilgrims. The pilgrims were rightly appalled by Native American culture where transgendered "two-spirit" people or "berdache" were accepted as normal members of the tribe. . . . The pilgrims did not care what Indians did in the privacy of their own teepees, but they did not want their children exposed to this immorality. So the pilgrims were forced to defend themselves, just as Proposition 8 supporters, under assault from gay activists, must defend themselves now. (11/27/08)

Conservatives must face reality the way Bush and Reagan did and realize that the only way to preserve our ideals may be to sacrifice them for a time and reluctantly accept government checks. Once we have gotten back on our feet again, then we can go back to doing what we do best: condemning lazy welfare queens and berating the poor for not raising themselves by their own bootstraps. (12/4/08)

It's different when unmarried teenage mothers come from conservative, wealthy Christian families. Although it would be preferable if her child had a father, even a white trash one, [Bristol Palin] will still be able to raise her child with the kinds of values that liberals, poor people, gays and non-Christians would not be able to give to their little bastard children who are destined to become our future criminals. Why are conservatives so reluctant to point out this obvious fact? (1/12/09)

While Obama seems like a nice young man, kind of like a young Sidney Poitier, is handsome and polite, seems well educated and articulate, and even brought Republicans candy and flowers, [Rush] Limbaugh was not fooled for a minute. If Obama succeeds, who knows what kind of man America's daughters will bring home to dinner next? Since Obama is trying to seduce Americans by giving them hope, Limbaugh knows that we Republicans must have our own message of optimism and hope. (1/30/09)

Friday, December 23, 2016

'It’s Christmas . . . For Those Heaven Bound And Those Forever Banned'

CHRISTMAS AMONG THE DAMNED
(ca. 1963) 
Their eyes blear,
their voices coarse,
they wander from tavern to bar,
full of fear
and cheap remorse;
they know death is not far,
and that the Lord on high
will not come for them;
He would rather drop
a bomb on them;

He does not heed their grumbling,
He does not hear their curses,
He does not hear them mumbling
as they scrabble through their purses
and their wallets made of plastic
for the price of a glass of Ortlieb’s
or, tripping the dark fantastic,
perhaps also a shot of Schenley’s.

These are the damned, these
who seek but know not pleasure,
damned once,
damned twice,
damned thrice,
and damned once again for good measure.

Their eyes bloodshot,
their noses bulbous and red,
their flesh carbuncular,
where it is not the color
of the belly of a week-dead
flounder,
yes,
these,
these are my friends.

I see them at Pat’s,
at the Huddle,
and at the Green Parrot;
I see them at the VFW,
and at the Knights of Columbus;

Some of them even have wives
or husbands as the case may be;
many of them have children,
even grandchildren
(unlike bachelor me);
they all have homes of some sort
a rowhome, apartment, or rented room,
most have jobs of some kind,
working at the Heintz factory
or at Philco or Tastykake,
but this is their real job,
sitting in a bar, staring at
the TV playing I'm Dickens, He's Fenster,
sitting silently,
or talking petulantly,
this is their calling
and their place,
in the legions of the damned.

Yes, some sit silently on their stools
but most will talk at the slightest
provocation, or even if there is none,
even if they have nothing to say
which is nearly always,
because the hell they carry within
loves to overflow into the hell
outside them.

At last the bartender, last call
long called, stands in his coat by
the door. “This is not a hotel,”
he yells. “You don’t have to go
home, but you can’t stay here.”

One by one they shuffle through the
door and out into the cold,
into the night, from one hell
into another, and off they stumble,
to rowhome, apartment or rented room.

Gay colored lights are strung 
outside the windows of the modest homes,
and along the shops on Fifth Street,
for it is Christmastime,
the anniversary of the birth
of the Savior, of someone’s savior,
but not theirs, not these,
who are beyond saving;
no.
It’s Christmas on the streets of Olney,
and a gentle snow begins to fall,
on these the damned who have
nothing to look forward to
but another hangover.

It’s the eve of Christmas Eve,
the cold wind licks their faces,
the snowflakes find their way into
the collars of necks whose scarves
have been left in the sawdust of the
barroom floor.
A shortcut is taken through Fisher Park,
but the scrubby grass is slick and wet;
a fall is taken down Dead Man’s Hill
where the children love to sled
on their Flexible Flyers:
down, down he tumbles, down and down,
until finally he lands at the bottom,
in the slush and jagged ice,
where, in pain,
which means at least not dead,
not yet, he lies on his back,
howling at the universe,
the snow rushing down
heedlessly into his face,
and somewhere among the rowhomes
on Nedro Avenue, a dog replies,
howling also, and then another on
Sixth Street, and yet another on Spencer,
and soon a whole chorus of dogs join in,
drowning out the screams of the human,
or of what once was human.
Yes, it’s Christmas,
for God and man and dog,
for those who are heaven bound
and for those forever banned
from paradise.
This is Christmas,
Christmas among the damned.
A TIP OF THE HATLO TO DAN LEO

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Musings On The Winter Solstice: 'The Fire Star . . . The Sun, Comes Back To Us'

MATTHEW TAUZER
And so at last the days grow longer.  The additional hours of darkness this autumn passed have been physically telling for me, which would be unusual for this four-season guy until you consider what's been going on: The cyber Pearl Harbor of an election and the collective Nothing To See Here, Move On yawn of our so-called leaders in response.  And Sylvester Stallone won't even get to be Minister of Arts for Cheeto Jesus.  N'y at-il pas de justice?
§  
It was an unusual autumn in another respect: the virtual absence of the usual reports of deer hunters' rifles echoing through our valley. 
This is because there aren't any hardly any deer.  
While I respect the right of people to shoot game for food -- and there are too many people hereabouts who live deep in the woods, barely scrape by and must supplement their meager diets with wild game -- the vast majority of hunters with their expensive sighted rifles, lavish Cabela's kit and immense over-accessorised pickup trucks are in it for the thrill of the kill, and that I don't respect.   
Deer hunting is a linchpin of the tourist industry and so popular that schools and government offices still close on the opening day of the fall rifle season (there also are bow and flintlock seasons), but this year all hunters could do was stand around in their spanking clean international orange garb and brag about whose pickup truck had more chrome before retiring early to the nearest bar for rounds of beers and shots.  There simply are no more bucks to be slaughtered to speak of, while the doe season was severely limited so that population could be replenished and in a few seasons the bang-bang carnage can begin anew.  
"Our" doe hasn't reappeared yet, but we have to assume that she is okay. 
This beautiful lady, who is unusually blond for a white tail (Odocoileus virginianushas been coming out of the deep undergrowth on the mountainside behind our retreat for the past few years in the late spring to show off her foals (two this year) to us and graze at the foot of the yard on our wildflowers before slipping away to hide during hunting season.  She returns after the New Year when bow season is over and we put out cracked corn and a salt lick for her when there is substantial snow cover.
§  
In times of great stress -- like now, for example, we turn to music to sooth the soul.   
And so we have tix or are lining up tix for these artists/groups in the next few weeks: Rusted Root, Ben Folds, Ladysmith Black Mambazzo, Wayne Shorter with Weather Report & Beyond Reimagined, Joey Alexander, Stanley Clark and Ron Carter, and the Alvin Alley American Dance Theater.  Oh, and that unpatriotic Hamilton on Broadway.
§  
My dear friend Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés lives in the Colorado Rockies.  She has written:
"This is a great night and day: Winter solstice; the time when the light comes back more and more for longer and longer glancing across Planet Earth to us, the Fire Star, that is, the sun, comes back to us. 
"In our family the old people would put on their galoshes over their butchkors and bring in fresh and oh so cold water from the well pump outdoors and we would feast on something yellow, orange and/or red, the colors of the sun! most often the banana peppers, the lantern peppers and the cayenne hot hot hot peppers we’d canned in late summer and put up in shining glass Mason jars on the rough sawn boards in the dark cellar. Consume warmth to bring warmth was their backwoods homeopathy. 
"You too, drink clean and eat fresh today, warmth to bring warmth . . . as here, winter is still deeply upon us. Yet . . . the sun, our sun, comes . . . "
The coming year will be a special one for Dr. E: She is editing the 25th anniversary edition of her seminal Women Who Run With The Wolves. 
Woman or man, if you want to get back in touch with the real world -- please give this fine book a read.  There may be no worthier and more important goal in 2017 than reconnecting with what really matters.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

'Truth' Itself Writes The Book To Reveal The 'Inner Truth' About Who Won The War

(SEMI-PLOT SPOILER ALERT. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.)  
I have long been a sucker for novel-within-the-novel books because of a fascination with alternate realities.  In this respect, Philip K. Dick's sci-fi classic The Man in the High Castle is superlative. And Amazon Prime's eponymous miniseries is even better. 
Set in 1962, some 15 years after an alternative ending to world War II, the novel and miniseries on which it is based center on intrigues between the victorious Axis powers, who have divvied up the U.S., with Japan ruling the West and Nazi Germany the East, with a neutral zone in between, as well as the grinding routine of daily life under the resulting totalitarian regimes. 
The novel within the novel is an alternate history within an alternate history in which the Allies defeat the Axis, although in a manner different from the narrative drummed into us.  The novel in the book is just that, while it is a series of newsreels in the Amazon series. 
I would heartily recommend both the book, which while flawed still is a terrific read, and Amazon miniseries, which is superbly cast and photographed.  A second season of the miniseries has just debuted, and events of recent weeks have added a certain unwelcome pungency to it.  Wonder why that is?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Election 2016: An Homage To George Orwell, Vladimir Putin & Donald Trump

THE NATION 
It is fitting in a grotesque sort of way that the big story in the wake of the Through the Looking Glass Election of 2016 is not the outcome changing hacking of Democratic Party assets by Russian intelligence services backed by a legion of fake news providers with Donald Trump's "victory" being a mere footnote, but the other way around: Trump "won" an election he actually lost by nearly 3 million votes and the mere footnote is that he "won" because of the Kremlin pogrom to deny Hillary Clinton the presidency, which he unashamedly supported, while the White House and U.S. spy agencies dawdled, the FBI meddled and the news media and fake news enablers like Facebook and Twitter snoozed. 
You would have scoffed had you been told before the November 8 cataclysm that Trump would be the next president because of a sinister Commie cyber plot that read like a bad sci-fi movie, but that is exactly what has happened.   
There will not be a national redo, and even the recounts in three states that Clinton lost by less than a percentage point will not alter the outcome, while the stain on the American system of electing its leaders, not to mention American democracy itself, will be indelible.   
And that's just for starters. 
As unprecedented as this madness would seem to be, there is an historic antecedent -- the 9/11 attacks -- only this time the homeland attacked itself despite again having ample warning as it did on that September morn 15 years ago.   
Despite government malfeasance before, during and after the terror attacks that lapsed into outright criminality, we were told to buck up and move on although report after report whitewashed the Bush administration's culpability, there was a crackdown on civil liberties in the name of fighting Al Qaeda, and war was declared against Iraq that would take many tens of thousands of lives, provoke an immense refugee crisis and further destabilize the region although Saddam Hussein was a mortal enemy of Al Qaeda and had nothing to do with 9/11.   
We also were told to buck up and move on when:
* The Reagan administration secretly sent weapons to Iran, a state sponsor of terrorism, in 1985 as part of the Iran-Contra scheme.  Reagan couldn't be impeached, we were told, because America was still getting over Nixon and Watergate although only a few years later Bill Clinton would be impeached for a blowjob. 
* The Supreme Court in 2000 jumped the extra-constitutional shark and meddled in a presidential election, ruling that the winner was George Bush, who "won" because the Republican-controlled election apparatus in Florida was as fixed as the high court majority turned out to be.
* The very moral foundations of our democracy were subverted by a secret post-9/11 program of dark-site prisons and the use of Nazi torture techniques no matter if the victims weren't terrorists, which they often were not. This yielded no valid intelligence but did tank America's standing abroad.
Is it merely a coincidence that all of these outrages were perpetrated by Republicans?   
Nope, and that leads me to note one of more noteworthy if sadder aspects of the time in which we live: Barack Obama has been much too nice a guy in the face of eight years of unrelenting Republican mendacity and has been much too slow to move on investigating stolen election claims.  No matter, because his look-at-the-brighter-side style of governance will soon be that of an ancien régime. 
And yet again, we are being told to buck up and move on as a kleptocrat for whom character assassination by tweet is as reflexive as eating French fries, is on the verge of becoming the first chief executive to juggle the responsibilities of being leader of the free world with being executive director of a reality television show and leveraging the presidency to expand his family business.   
All the while, Trump is revving up to sell out his base in restocking the swamp he promised to drain with a HUD pick who doesn't believe in discrimination, an HHS pick who wants to kill Obamacare and gut Medicare, a Commerce pick who is a fraudster billionaire, a Labor pick who believes in depressing wages and opposes paid sick leave, an EPA pick who denies climate change, an Energy pick who once wanted to abolish the department, an Education pick who despises public schools, a Secretary of State pick who is a fellow apologist for Vladimir Putin, an Attorney General pick who is a racist, deeply hostile to immigrants and wants to turn back the clock on marijuana decriminalization, and a White House security chief who traffics in right-wing conspiracy theories.   
How do we know that the CIA is right about the Kremlin's pogrom to deny Clinton the presidency? 
Because Trump, who has more Russian connections than St. Basil's Cathedral in Red Square has towers, is denying it so vehemently as the first crisis of the many his rump presidency will encounter looms large -- a clash between he and leaders of his own party over his fondness for a monster who exerts an increasingly autocratic grip on the former Soviet Union and with his election replaces the American president as the most powerful man in the world, and his solicitousness toward Russian foreign policy interests, including an oft-repeated promise that as president he would not necessarily abide by the U.S.'s long-standing commitment to go to the aid of a NATO nation in the Baltics if it were attacked by Russia. 
So many outrages, so little time. 
Under other circumstances, it would be heartening that Republican leaders are joining Democrats in calling for a bipartisan probe into the election being thrown to Cheeto Jesus by Russia, which put Democratic organizations and operatives under a more sustained and determined assault, according to the CIA, and while Republican organizations were targeted, it sat on those emails.   
But any investigation that might skate too close to the truth, which necessarily includes the backstory to the thousands of innocuous Clinton emails so vigilantly outted by FBI Director James Comey a mere 10 days before the election, will be neutered and probably would have been even if the president-elect was not a lump of clay that Putin looks forward to molding to his own specifications.   
And so America, it's time to buck up yet again and move on.

Cartoon du Jour

RICHARD CODOR

Sunday, December 11, 2016

On Friends Lost: 'Ere The Bonnie Boat Was Won As We Sailed Into The Mystic'

GEORGE SAAD
So there you are approaching your 70th year floating merrily down the stream, needing to reach for the paddle only occasionally, while filling bird feeders and trying to stay on your feet in the winter and weeding vegetables and working on your tan in the summer, making sure the dogs and cats get plenty of head scratches and your true love fresh cut flowers no matter the season, keeping your hand in the writing game with a blog post here and a book there, when the phone rings.

"Our old friend So and So is dead," the caller says solemnly.
Far too much of that going on these days.  But at the risk of seeming maudlin, my thoughts turn to friends departed with the waning of the year, and I'd like to remember them: 
Bob Andrews, Beth Gulledge Bailey, Nancy Bennett, Ralph Borgess, Becky Buckson, David Carruthers, Jasmine Clower, Michael Crowley, Joe Cunane, Dale Dallabrida, Paul Damico, Tom Daniels, Eddie Day, Mark Delmerico, Doug Eppes, Andy Ercole, Nick Fallon, Larry Fenza, Michael Frettoloso, John Gregg, Bob Grimm, Brad Grimm, Willie Hemphill, Brenda Ireland, Redz Ireland, Dave Kibler, Pattie Kibler, Shannon Kibler, Jerry Kirk, Wendy Knoedler, Jim McCarthy, Muggs McGinnis, Donna Manning, Collette Molloy, Tom Molyneux, Alan Murphy, Larry Newbold, Mario Pazzaglini, Dale Peck, Prairie Weather, Doug Prior, Paul Salcido, Rochelle Samuels, Mark Scherer, Rob Schmitt, John Southard, Bob Stewart, Paul Storm, Genny Porter Swan, Alan Teel, Nick Tuke, Ed Wesolowski, Bill Windley.
Folks who passed since this was last posted in December 2016 are in boldface.  Please forgive any omissions.  
§  
If I could have only one song with me on the proverbial desert island, it would be "Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison.  It has been a steady companion since I bought his great Moondance album in 1970. A snippet of the lyric: 
We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won 
As we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic  
And when that fog horn blows 
I will be coming home, mmm mmm
And when the fog horn blows 
I want to hear it
I don't have to fear it . . .
Too late to stop now 
"Into the Mystic" -- the words and melody ethereally flowing together as one -- is about a spiritual quest.  (I know that’s true because Wikipedia told me so.)  But over the years the song has become much more -- an affirmation of life for me, and I would like to think for my generation, should we choose to embrace its sentiments, as well as an anthem of lives lived as we float down that stream, merrily or otherwise, after leaving this mortal coil.

I am honored that my path intersected with friends departed, and I am a better person because it did.  The fog horn has blown for them and they will be coming home.

It is indeed too late to stop now.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Tales From The Creche: Or Why Santa Claus Always Has To Be A White Guy

Does anyone know if people in other countries fight over Christmas like Americans do?  No, I didn't think so.   
For one thing, these countries tend to be more . . . uh, mature than the U.S. and don't get as uppity over religious correctness, let alone whether one group or another is trying to kill the celebration of the birth of the Christ Child, which is a favorite right-wing meme despite the fact that Christmas is a pagan holiday.  Or clogging the courts with frivolous lawsuits such as those by creche-contrary atheist groups over displaying Nativity scenes in public spaces.     
Then there are Seinfeld fans who want space reserved for a Festivus pole, Flying Spaghetti Monster devotees who spoof creationists, and the truly hard-core who want to erect "Santa Claus Will Take You To Hell" signs.    
We can blame that false news trailblazer, Bill O'Reilly, for contemporary War on Christmas convulsions.  It was 10 years ago that the Fox News commentator opened an early December show with a segment called "Christmas Under Siege" during which he claimed that all kinds of stuff was being banned that wasn't and asserted that the "secular progressive agenda" included legalizing drugs, euthanasia and gay marriage.  Oh, and by the way, Santa Claus always had to be a white guy.    
What I do think is needed is a war on bad Christmas songs, and I would start with an abomination called "Christmas Shoes."   You know the song: A poor kid saves his allowance to buy his terminally ill mother a pair of shoes so she'll look nice for Jesus if she packs in on Christmas.  I'll take Handel's "Messiah" any day.     
While we're declaring war on Christmas stuff, how about poorly made toys?   
You haven't lived until you are confronted with a Some Assembly Required task in the wee hours of Christmas morning, my own particular hell being filing metal burrs from every nut on my young daughter's first two-wheel bike in an unheated workshop in the first hours of a below-zero wind chill blizzard. 
So much for good will toward men. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

Answer This Question & You Will Be Able To Understand Why Cheeto Jesus Won

It has been nearly a month since election cataclysm.  In that time, there have been tsunamis of recriminations and mea culpas, fleeting apologies from the mainstream media, deep embarrassment on the part of more honest pundits (myself included), ample evidence that the Democratic Party has its collective head up its ass, fledgling ballot recount efforts and pushbacks all playing out like so much background music, or perhaps the screeching of a discordant string section, coming from Trump Tower, which figuratively and literally is the new seat of American power.    
Yet all of this tacking and yawing, hemming and hawing and kicking and screaming fails to reveal the answer to the question of the moment; hell, the question of the millennium: How could Donald Trump have won? 
The answer to this question will reveal all: 
How could 46 million people vote for a man who has never done an honest thing in his life?  Who is an unashamed racist, nativist, misogynist and narcissist who built his fortune on the back of poor working stiffs and a cult of celebrity, has no patience or understanding of the nuances of domestic and foreign policy, and all that aside is a vile and pathetically borish boy-man incapable of growth, comprehension or compassion? 
Your answer is? 

Thursday, December 01, 2016

'Well, Mr. Potter, He Died A Much Richer Man Than You'll Ever Be.'

Seventy years ago on Christmas eve, George Bailey was at the end of his rope and was about to jump off a bridge in Bedford Falls, New York.  So began the beginning of the end of It’s A Wonderful Life, a movie that I never tire of seeing this time of year.
Even when I was at my most cynical, It’s A Wonderful Life was never simplistic, a label that feckless critics pasted on the Frank Capra-directed film upon its 1946 debut. On one very lonely Christmas Eve, it helped me through a long night, while with every passing year its message continues to humble and inspire me.
That message reverberates even more strongly today given the horrors that seem to visit our lives with such numbing regularity: Each of us, no matter how insignificant we may seem, has the power to make a difference.  And that the true measure of our humanity has nothing to do with fame or money, but with how we live our life.
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen It’s A Wonderful Life, check your TV listings or webstream it from Netflix. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so.
Oh, and have yourself a happy holiday.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Blogging Anniversary: Eleven Years Of Disturbing The Narrative At Kiko's House

DAMON WINTER / THE NEW YORK TIMES
It occurred to me . . .  that it had not been by accident that the people with whom I had preferred to spend time in high school had, on the whole, hung out in gas stations. ~ JOAN DIDION
I've struggled -- okay, not a lot, but enough -- to find a common theme in the blog posts I have selected as representative of the breadth and depth of Kiko's House over the past 11 years.   That theme, I suppose, is that the world has very much departed from the narratives to which we have always been accustomed, the ones we were nurtured on as youngsters, were reinforced in our textbooks when we were students, later still by politicians and other supposedly smart people when we were all grown up, and we comfortingly took to our graves.  Until the world began spinning off its axis. 
We stopped blowing our horn about milestones at Kiko's House a few years ago.  For one thing, it was a tad narcissistic considering that some current affairs blogs have more visitors before breakfast on a slow day than we've had in our entire lifetime.  And while history has a really annoying way of repeating itself, there also has been a certain redundancy to many of our posts.  

All that noted, November 2016 is a milestone.  We're now not only 11 years young, but we've passed the 2 million visitor mark.  Those visitors hail from 200 or so countries, including Milwaukee.  And there have been over 10,000 posts.  This is number 10,609, to be exact.  

Visitors seldom leave comments, although there have been conspicuous exceptions.  A post on the epidemic of cancers in American golden retrievers has received over 200 comments -- an extraordinary number for a smallish blog.  This post has, completely by accident, become a Wailing Wall for people who have lost their beloved dogs to cancer and have reached out to share their experiences.  And an instance where blogging can make a small but important difference in people's lives. 
Kiko's House has been photograph oriented from the jump, and we've run over 800 standalone images from photographers the world over in addition to images embedded in posts.  But the photo above shot by Damon Winter of The New York Times in Chester, Pennsylvania a month before the 2008 presidential election rises above the rest because it is such a striking visual metaphor for Barack Obama's travails -- and America's, as well -- an all too frequent topic here that lurched into warp drive during the year as the axis spinning accelerated with the ascendancy of Cheeto Jesus.
I would also like to point out that we're still being fed the same old narratives despite the ice cold national shower we took on Election Day.  And like Joan Didion, the people I preferred to spend time with in high school hung out at gas stations.
-- Love and Peace, SHAUN
CRIME & PUNISHMENT: A TALE OF TWO CITIES (September 28, 2006) Earlier this week, Cashae Corley, a five year old riding in her mother's car in the Strawberry Mansion neighborhood, became the 287th murder victim of 2006 in Philadelphia.  Eighty miles to the north, a homeless man in the Bronx became New York City's 409th murder victim.  That's one murder for every 5,200 residents in Philadelphia, a city of 1.5 million people, and one murder for every 19,000 residents in New York, a city of 8.1 million. This means that you're about four times more likely to end up in the morgue in the City of Brotherly Love  than the Big Apple. Why?
N.J. HOSPITALS CRISIS: CULLEN WAS NOT THE PROBLEM, HE WAS A SYMPTOM (October 28, 2008) Charles Cullen is every hospital's worst nightmare: A deranged nurse who methodically murders patients by giving them hard-to-detect overdoses of medications.  Cullen, who was arrested in 2004 after a 16-year crime spree made considerably easier because a severe nursing shortage enabled him to go undetected as he moved from hospital to hospital, told authorities that he murdered as many as 45 patients at hospitals in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  
THE SAGA OF THE CEDARS: WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD CONSERVATIVES (January 5, 2010) Harvey and Harriet Cedars are not just the breadwinners in a typical conservative Christian Republican family.  They're hard working middle-class folks who have been going through some very hard times but were confident that their president, his government and the Supreme Court that he has molded over the last seven years were on their side, which is to say God's side.  This has been good enough for the Cedars because they knew that God was on their side -- their God anyway.  Then things got all crazy.
WOULD JESUS HAVE TORTURED? (September 29, 2010) The smell of autumn is in the air on this Sunday morning, that intoxicating aroma of decaying leaves, ripe apples and bedewed grass brilliantly illuminated by the sun in a cloudless azure blue sky. But there is another smell as well and it is not so sweet – the smell of hypocrisy as the faithful file into a conservative Christian church.
WHY THE AMERICAN DREAM IS DEAD (March 28, 2011) Sadly -- and for me bitterly -- the American Dream is not merely on vacation because of a return to difficult economic times. It is dead. And while it is fashionable to blame feckless politicians and greed mongers for its demise, we all share responsibility as we take ever less responsible for our country, as well as ourselves.
11 YEARS AFTER THE 9/11 ATTACKS, THE GREATEST U.S. COVER-UP REMAINS INTACT (September 11, 2012) Eleven years after the 9/11 catastrophe, the Bush administration cover-up of why the terrorist attacks were carried out despite the White House, CIA and FBI being repeatedly warned of them still holds. Not only has the final word not come out about this malfeasance of enormous and arguably criminal proportions, hardly any word about it has.
THE TRUE STORY OF THE MOST POWERFUL MEN IN AMERICA & A GANG RAPE (February 19, 2014) This is the story of how the three most powerful men in America were responsible for the gang rape of a 14-year-old girl, who was burned to a blackened char, and the murder of her parents and sister. The enablers of these heinous crimes were President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, who conspired to invade Iraq for bogus reasons, then starved the Army of the men and materiel to get the job done, which led to a lengthy occupation that triggered an Al Qaeda insurgency and a protracted civil war.
'I WAKE UP TO THE SOUND OF MUSIC SPEAKING WORDS OF WISDOM, LET IT BE' (April 4, 2014) Many years on, I look back on a life in which music has been a nearly constant companion.  But until recently, as relatively well read as I am on music, musicians and even a little music theory, I never considered my own role -- the role of listener.  Why does music feel so good to me?  Why do I feel so much?
FIVE YEARS ON: WHY THE PALIN BIRTH HOAX STORY STILL SHOULDN'T GO AWAY (May 28, 2014) Rumors, innuendo and inconclusive photographs do not a true story make, but the fact of the matter is that five-plus years after the birth of Trig Paxson Van Palin, there is no proof that Sarah Palin is his biological mother and evidence he may be her grandson. 
POLITIX UPDATE: WHEN THINGS FELL SERIOUSLY APART & THE CENTER DIDN'T HOLD (September 8, 2015We'll motor past how the brilliant Yeats, as prescient as he could be, foresaw this political season and the coming of Donald Trump nearly 100 years ago in his classic dirge for the decline of civilization, but today even the best in the overcrowded Republican field seem to lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity, and surely some revelation is at hand.  Or so we should fear. 
WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE: HOW TINY ELDRED BEAT GIANT NESTLE (June 9, 2016) We live in the age of the corporatocracy, and it is a strange time indeed.  Corporations have gifted us an astonishing array of goods, but also have been agents for great harm.  Often more powerful than the governments who are supposed to regulate them, corporations rule our lives in subtle but extraordinarily manipulative ways.  While they can make our lives better, they also are able to destroy them.

    IMAGE CREDITS: (CRIME) JIM MacMILLAN/PHILADELPHIA DAILY NEWS; (9/11) NATIONAL PARK SERVICE; (MUSIC) "THREE MUSICIANS" By PABLO PICASSO; (TRUMP) DONKEY HOTEY; (ELDRED) ALYSSA MEADOWS