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Friday, November 28, 2014

Acquisitive Nation

That’s what we are, particularly at this time of year and ESPECIALLY today. Christ on a Master Card, the onslaught of catalogues began earlier this month. Christmas candies and decorations were up in the local grocery stores the day after Halloween! Stores have been advertising BIG BLACK FRIDAY SALES EVENTS for weeks now.

It’s as though the vast engine of commercialism is breathing BUY, BUY, BUY into our very pores. And it is.

In case ya hadn't noticed, the siren song, the call to shop is a painfully hard call to resist.

The Amazing Bob and I didn’t exchange prezzies last Christmas and that, for both of us, felt mighty damned odd, wrong even. Unsettling. This year we’re going to buy each other a wee bijoux or some such. He needs a new wedding band. I need new slippers.

Do I need a big, expensive, surprise gift? Does he? Nope. Maybe it’s the habit of a lifetime of goodie filled Christmas mornings. We want something to open while quaffing our peppermint flavored Christmas coffee and snarfing our gingerbread men.

As a kid, my mother gave me socks and underwear. Imagine being eight years old, opening a brightly wrapped box only to find white cotton briefs and knee socks. There were packages containing a needed sweater or a new shirt for my Catholic school uniform too. Disappointment City! At least until I hit my teen years. As usual. Mother and Daddy would ask what I wanted for Christmas. While the question, for mia madre, was strictly pro forma, for the old man it was serious. I asked for an album — Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme and I got it! I’ll tell ya right now this shocked me down to my toenails. Every year after, I’d ask for an LP AND I’d get just what I asked for — the latest Elton John, Paul Simon's first solo effort, Handel and Rossini! It was wonderful.

gratuitous Rocco pic
Of course this makes me sound awful like an awful kid, just terribly ungrateful (I was). I needed socks and underwear. Hells, after I’d moved out on my own and mother would ask “what would you like for Christmas” I’d specifically request socks and underwear. Those suckers cost money AND they don’t grow on trees (if you hadn’t noticed).

BUT, as a wee kiddle, I wanted toys.

Here’s something that my Helen’s starting to do with her girls — she’s giving them an event, a mini vaca, a class where they can learn how to do something that fires up their respective imaginations. Most recently, we had a weekend in northern Vermont and New Hampshire. Madison had said she wanted to learn how to do origami and there was a class at the library in Hardwick. Added to this was a visit to the Museum of Dead Things and a trip into the astounding, fiercely handsome Franconia Notch State Park to see The Basin.

So, she’s giving gifts of experience, learning, fun and memories not things.

Smart. Double plus smart.

As for what any of us do on this big black shopping weekend — well, I’ve said it before and have little to add. Buy from independently owned businesses and check out these fabulous craft folk (do we call them artisans now? Isn’t that the en vogue term?).

OR be a rebel and don’t spend a dime. Enjoy your friends and fam, eat leftovers, watch old movies, play Scrabble, walk on the beach/through the snowy wood. Just be.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Ode to a Smelly Cat

WHAT?!
The Amazing Bob, rudely driven from the gentle arms of Morpheus the other night, felt compelled to rat out the responsible party in verse.

It was not much past midnight when
   The smell began to bloom
It started in the litter box
   And crept from room to room
I don't know what the cat ate
   That soured inside her gut
And turned into those noxious fumes
   That blasted from her butt

 I opened all the windows though
   The night was freezing cold
I could have been a millionaire
   If stink had turned to gold
Then I cranked the fan up high
   And lit an incense stick
Our unrepentant girl
Stuck my head outside the door
   And took a breath real quick.

 The cat curled back up in a ball
   And slept without a care
While fleas dropped dead around her bed,
   Each gasping for some air
My wife and I, we staggered 'round
   Lighting candles as we went
Cursing all the feline race
   To the maximum extent.

By the A.M. the stink had cleared
   From our little domicile.
We shut the windows all back up,
   cranked the furnace for awhile.
Just before I went to bed
   I snuck up slow
Brought the cat down to the porch
   And threw her in the snow.

OK then — truth time. TAB most def did NOT toss the cat out the door into the snow. First off, he never EVER would do such a thing. All my cat doormat-ish behavior? Learned from him. Oh yes it was! Secondly, no snow yet here in Valhalla. Yea!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Turkey Eve

The forecast is calling for one to three inches of snow tonight. If you’re traveling today, please do it early. Traffic’s gonna be nasty as hell even without those pretty white flakes blinding you while deliberately and devilishly throwing themselves under your poor tires.

And, if you can possibly manage it, avoid shopping this weekend. Be a rebel and stay home (or wherever you’re staying). Enjoy the folks you’ve traveled mega hours and miles to be with. If enjoying the company’s not in the cards, well, the Bears and the Lions play at 12:30, Eagles and Cowboys at 4:40 and the Seahawks go against the 49ers at 8:30.

OR take a long ass walk — work that food coma out of your system. Stride off that second helping of pecan pie! Here in Boston it’ll be 39º and sunny. Brisk and beautiful! If the snow's off the roads, me and that glorious new trike will be out there.

Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.
~ Erma Bombeck

America has developed a pie tradition unequivocally and unapologetically at the sweet end of the scale, and at no time is this better demonstrated than at Thanksgiving.
~ Janet Clarkson, Pie: A Global History

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relations.
~ Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance

I celebrated Thanksgiving in an old-fashioned way. I invited everyone in my neighborhood to my house, we had an enormous feast, and then I killed them and took their land.
~ Jon Stewart

Thanksgiving Day, a function which originated in New England two or three centuries ago when those people recognized that they really had something to be thankful for — annually, not oftener — if they had succeeded in exterminating their neighbors, the Indians, during the previous twelve months instead of getting exterminated by their neighbors, the Indians. Thanksgiving Day became a habit, for the reason that in the course of time, as the years drifted on, it was perceived that the exterminating had ceased to be mutual and was all on the white man's side, consequently on the Lord's side; hence it was proper to thank the Lord for it and extend the usual annual compliments.
~ Mark Twain

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. It is surprising how contented one can be with nothing definite - only a sense of existence.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Here in Britain, of course, it's Thank Fuck We Got Those Weird Jesus Bastards On The Boat Day.
Warren Ellis

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

This is Gonna Keep On Happening

In today's Globe there's an oped by retired federal judge and prof at Harvard Law Nancy Gertner.

She notes that:
 Although many are saying that the decision may have to do with race, it is more likely that Wilson is not facing charges because courts have decimated the law that holds officers accountable for excessive force, rulings that make incidents similar to Ferguson all the more likely. 
~~snip~~
The touchstone for evaluating police conduct was its “reasonableness,” a balance between a defendant’s rights and public safety. But “reasonableness” is notoriously imprecise. And courts can tip the balance: In Plumhoff, the Supreme Court gave special deference to the officer’s version of what happened, because officers make split second judgments, under tense circumstances. The message: Shoot first, think later, and you can count on being exonerated. 

This is a particularly troubling given the “stop and frisk” programs that target young African American men...
Let's see now....there's the 12 year old boy who, on Saturday, was shot and killed by a police officer:
A Cleveland officer was less than 10 feet away when he fatally shot a 12-year-old boy carrying a pellet gun near a playground, and video of the shooting is clear about what happened, police said Monday.
There's John Crawford III who picked up a toy gun in the store where it was being offered for sale and, well, that was all he needed to do to sign his death warrant.

And then there are the Open Carry yahoos who seem to mostly rock a pretty pasty shade of pale. And, by the by, those aren't toy guns they're toting in those pics.

Perhaps the most haunting and bizarre is a jittery (video) clip posted last year by Robert Pratt of Michigan. In the video, Pratt carries a shotgun while walking his dogs through suburban Plainwell. Two police cruisers intercept him at the curb, and four officers surround him for a long, tense conversation. One of the cops is James Pell, whom Pratt greets by name — Cassandra Pell, the officer’s daughter, was Pratt’s girlfriend. The officers try to reason with Pratt, asking him to go home and put his gun away, because it’s unnecessarily frightening his neighbors. Pratt says he is “just exercising rights as a U.S. citizen” and that he would continue to openly carry his gun in the neighborhood because “people need to be aware of laws.” He cites the specific state laws and city ordinances that allow him to carry his shotgun.

This June, Pratt used that same weapon to shoot and kill Cassandra Pell, and then to commit suicide.
 So, lemme see if I have this right — if you're black or brown in America you can't have so much as a peashooter on you without risking death by cop. But it's a toy, you say. Doesn't matter. If your skin tone is in the brown versus peach Crayola range, you're toast. If you're a white dude, well, the nice officers will have a civilized chat with you and send you home.

Gotcha.

The Declaration of Independence says that all men are created equal. Those pretty words are NOT followed by unless you're brown skinned. Ya know, thought I'd point that out in case anyone missed that.

No Justice

There is no justice in this country if you’re black or brown, particularly not if you’ve committed the most egregious of sins — to be poor or simply not wealthy while black or brown.

The grand jury in St Louis failed to return an indictment against Darren Wilson, the cop who shot unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. If you’ve tuned in to Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Tumblr this morning, you know this already.

The always eloquent Mister Charles Pierce had this to say, amongst other things (go read!):
There is something gone badly wrong in the way police are taught to look at civilians these days. This is the logic of an occupying power being employed on American citizens. Ever since 9/11, when we all began to be told that we were going to have to bend a little bit, and then a little bit more, to authority or else we'd all die, the police in this country have been militarized in their tactics and in their equipment, which is bad enough, but in their attitudes and their mentality, which is far, far worse. Suspicion has bled into weaponized paranoia, especially in the case of black and brown people, especially in the case of young men who are black or brown, but this is not About Race because nothing ever is About Race.
 Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station on his Facebook page:
The situation can be summed up thusly, the people currently on TV telling black America to shut up and accept the Ferguson decision are the same exact folks almost face for face demanding that Congress begin their 9th investigation into Benghazi.
How many more Mike Browns, Trayvon Martins, John Crawford IIIs and Eric Garners will there be this year? How many more times will I see all this needless horror, injustice and pain played out? How many more of our friends, brothers, sisters, fellow humans need die for no good fucking reason?

From ThinkProgress:
Today’s verdict was the result of a case built by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. Many had called for the replacement of McCulloch in Brown’s case, citing his connections to the law enforcement community and a father who was killed by a black man with a gun.
Well then, I guess he got his paybacks, eh?

I’ve got nothing more to say about all this at least not right now. I’m just so damn angry. Not surprised but in a steaming rage all the same.

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Soul of November

Olivia doing the I've got yur nose thing with The Amazing Bob AKA Grandpa
Oh look, it’s a rainy, chill November Monday morning! Wheee!

One upside, among many, is that this is a short week for most of us.

Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.
~ Herman Melville

I have come to regard November as the older, harder man's October. I appreciate the early darkness and cooler temperatures. It puts my mind in a different place than October. It is a month for a quieter, slightly more subdued celebration of summer's death as winter tightens its grip.
~ Henry Rollins

That Rollins dude, man — always so bright and shiny. He should prolly cheer down a bit before he explodes from all that euphoric buoyancy.
On an up note, The Amazing Bob and I had a visit with The Adorable Olivia on Saturday morning. Yeah, we saw her folks too but OLIVIA!

This will be her first Thanksgiving. This Christmas will be her first one. Her first New Years is coming. This past Halloween was, yes, the very first one. Do kids ever remember anything from their first year? Do experiences imprint but just as a vague sense of happy or not so very jolly?

Bast knows, I'm lucky to remember what I ate for breakfast let alone something that went down 55 years ago. Not even the fainest sense of chipperness or blahness remains. I see pics from when I was three and four (but not earlier. *gasp* does this mean I was adopted?!) and I look cheery enough.

There's much info and study to be found about childhood memory. The big debate, it seems, being whether kiddles recall anything from before they were three. The answer? Maybe, yes/probably, no but, seeing as whatever goes down in those first coupla years is all pre-language and shit, they can't affix words to it.

OK.

I suppose this means that TAB will have to wait until Olivia's a bit older before he begins teaching her how to throw a curve ball.

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Skitter McMurrer Snow

Four years ago at about this time, Skitter up and moved in with Jen and Oni. Sure, they had a choice in the matter but, c'mon, look at that face! How could they possibly say no to her? OK, I was working on them too, doing the big over-the-top sell job. They already had two cats and were reluctant to take in one more.
Not even one as sweet, cute, fun and flat out fucking adorable as our little fuzzball who was just born a few months ago over in that patch of tall grass in our neighbors yard? This is her home!
Arm twisting was really unnecessary.

So this is Skitter's anniversary of kicking the feral lifestyle. I wonder what I should get her. Her very own kickwheel? Piano lessons? Tickets to La Bohème? Jen tells me that Catnip Treats are always a good bet. Phfft. How is she gonna get any culture if she's stoned all the time?!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Testing One, Two, Three

 I saw another one of those dimbulbed, fact free, prejudice full, Fox “News”/Rush Limbaugh-esque memes on Facebook yesterday. I bet you’ve seen it too. It’s about how those horrible junkie welfare cheats ought to all be drug tested and denied the billions they’re stealing from us taxpayers.

It's right up there with the 1980s bullshit about welfare queens driving caddies and "young bucks" buying t-bones on the government dime.

Ummmm. How’s ‘bout we look at some facts. You know, reality.
The Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union recently showed that drug testing actually cost the state money. The $30 spent per test ended up costing an aggregate of $45,000 more than the state saved in welfare payments.

In Florida, out of 4,086 drugs tests from July through October 2011, 108 welfare recipients tested positive. Florida spent $115,000 on the testing and was forced to reimburse welfare recipients who had lost their benefits $600,000.
~~snip~~
Supporters of drug testing insist that the measures are really about changing behaviors. “Benefit payments that have been wasted on drug abusers will be available for the truly needy,” says Oklahoma State Rep. Guy Liebmann, “and addicts will be incentivized to get treatment."
There is so much wrong with that sentence.

The only thing keeping some poor, down on her luck, young mother from getting assistance is that awful, nasty junkie? Really? Is he driving a big, luxury car while eating sirloin?

AND giving support to addicts is a waste? We should just leave them to die — maybe in the streets so captains of industry and other heroes of capitalism can point, mock and feel superior as they roll their sunny-side-of-the-street affluence into corner offices?

How is denying people with drug probs the money they need for groceries and rent gonna help them get off the smack, the meth? Yes, of those few who test positive, some of those welfare buckos are undoubtedly going to drugs but certainly not all of it.

Wouldn’t you, if the goal is to change behaviors, take those who test positive and get them into treatment programs? Maybe provide education assistance so they can get a better paying gig than Walmart greeter or McDonald’s drone?
Substance Abuse Trends among Welfare Recipients
 Harold A. Pollack, Ph.D., University of Michigan
Psychiatric disorders, especially major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, are more prevalent than illicit drug dependence among welfare recipients. States should screen, assess, and refer to treatment those welfare applicants and recipients who have a broad range of mental health and substance abuse problems that hinder the transition from welfare to work.
Gosh, wouldn’t that be a MUCH better use of taxpayer funds AND actually work towards solving the root prob? Apparently, for today’s shortsighted, microscopically souled, wealth-for-the-wealthy only Republican/Tea party, that's just not a good investment.

From the Washington Post:
House Republicans want drug tests for food-stamp recipients. There’s no good reason for that. 
The drug testing of SNAP recipients is yet another ideological sideshow that disfigures substance-abuse policy. It falsely implies that substance use disorders are a widespread cause of welfare dependence. It also implies, again falsely, that these disorders are highly concentrated among recipients of public aid.
The myth of welfare recipients spending their benefits on drugs is just that—a myth. And indeed, in Utah, only 12 people out of 466—or 2.5 percent—showed evidence of drug use after a mandatory screening. The total cost to the state was $25,000, or far more than the cost of providing benefits to a dozen people. The only thing “gained” from mandatory drug testing is the humiliation of desperate people.
The most colossal failure of this policy was in Arizona, which passed a drug-testing law in 2009. In 2012, an evaluation of the program had startling results: After three years and 87,000 screenings, only one person had failed the drug test, with huge costs for the state, which saved a few hundred dollars by denying benefits, compared to the hundreds of thousands spent to conduct the tests.
 Drug use and addiction isn’t something that happens only to the very poor. No really! Just look at  New York Assemblyman Steve Katz, Idaho Senator Mike Crapo, Arlington Texas Councilan Mel LeBlanc, Mayors Denny Spark and Marion Barry and let's not forget our ex-prez George Bush..

And if you wanna get really real  — let’s look at some of the blindingly wealthy corporations who are sucking long and large on the taxpayers tit. Boeing with $13.18 Billion in tax breaks. Alco with $5.64 Billions worth of subsidies or those poor Koch boys who took an $88 million government handout.

How’s ‘bout, if we’re gonna drug test, we start with these bastids and their pet congress critters.

That Facebook “friend” who showed just how “christian” and truly ignorant she is by posting such a stupid, truth-free meme? Yeah...unfollowed.