Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Away in a Manger

As a kid I would listen raptly as the priest on the altar told the story of the first Christmas. You have to admit that Catholics have the best stories. Popular favorites like the loaves and the fishes, the prodigal son, the wedding feast at Cana, and bringing Lazarus back to life always held my attention, and do to this day. But for me, the best story in the Catholic faith revolves around the holy family and the birth of Christ. The story has something for everybody: wise men from the East richly dressed and riding exotic camels in search of the boy king; astrological mystery in the form of a star to guide them; a treacherous politician (Herod) pretending to want the child found so he could worship him when, like all lying politicians he meant to do harm; archangels, shepherds, animals, and something we can all relate fully booked around the holidays.

The story has been told in many forms. Besides the written word, we have glorious music (Away in a Manger, The First Noel, What Child is This); there are beautiful artistic recreations such as Rembrandt's Adoration of the Shepherds, Giotto's Scenes from the Life of Christ, and Raphael's The Holy Family; and of course one of the most valued and still practiced traditions in Christianity...the manger or creche displays in private homes and, until recently, public places. Within the past ten years or so, public displays of the manger, or even things that are not overtly religious, like Christmas trees, have come under attack from those who profess to be offended by them. They cite the constitutional principle of separation of church and state as their justification.

The framers of the constitution were a pretty sharp bunch and the idea of having a "national religion" flew in the face of one of the reasons America was founded...religious freedom. Their instinct were right on this issue, however, I think they would be appalled to see how it was being wielded by morons who live to pee in other people's punch bowls. While we don't advocate a national religion in our constitution, we do champion religious tolerance. A Christmas tree or a manger display in front of town hall hurts nobody, especially if 90% of the townspeople want it there. But what do we do? We let the minority and their hired gun lawyers steamroll us so that the tail wags the dog.

Every year the editorial pages of our newspapers publish letters on this debate. Most of the letters from non-Christians seem to be in favor of live and let live. There are a few who are so horribly offended by these symbols they they can't rest until they are taken down. Why should my celebrating my holiday offend you? If you had a religious tradition for celebrating your Jewish, Moslem, or Buddhist holidays, I certainly wouldn't be bothered if you wanted some symbolic public display of your holiday. I would wish you happy whatever and hope you had a wonderful day. We are becoming too compliant with the wishes of a vocal minority in this country, whether it's the way we celebrate our holidays or some of the other pet causes of the politically correct. Isn't there enough stuff in the world to justify our indignation without whining about my Christmas tree?

To anyone patient enough to have read this through, and in the spirit of tolerance for all faiths, I wish you peace in your life. May whatever God you pray to bring you and your family health, happiness and prosperity. As for me, I plan to have a very Merry Christmas.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Week in Review

That party animal Albert Einstein once said: "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits." Al got it so right; stupid knows no boundaries. The proof from this week's news alone:

Celebrity a-hole and politician-wanna-be Alec Baldwin got his dumb ass thrown off an American Airlines jet this week for refusing to fasten his seat belt when directed to do so, refusing to turn off his i-Phone, locking himself in a bathroom on the plane so he could continue to use it, and abusing flight attendants. If there was ever a poster boy for celebrity stupidity, Alec is it. Shortly after tweeting his indignation, it was announced that he shut down his Twitter account. I guess he heard from a lot of people who reminded him of what we all already know: he's a world class jerk.

Newt Gingrich and other desperate politicians are making the pilgrimage to New York to kiss the ring of "kingmaker" Donald Trump. How f***ed up has our political process become that the Combover Kid is now the one people look to for guidance on who we should elect as President! This guy continues to come up smelling like a rose despite flirting with bankruptcy after using other people's money to create his house-of-cards empire. He was at his smarmy worst when presiding over that putrid reality show The Apprentice. Sitting there with his lemon meringue hair, he would sneer: "You're fired." It was moments like that I understood Elvis shooting out the TV screen when Robert Goulet came on.

What's with the Transportation Safety Administration? I totally understand and applaud their mission of making flying safer for passengers, and I'm fully prepared to put up with whatever measures they believe to be reasonable in support of this goal. What I don't understand is their lack of judgment in strip-searching and humiliating women in their eighties with obvious health problems. Now I am the first to admit that I look like a terrorist. My Italian features could easily be mistaken for Arabic, and every time I board a plane, I am prepared to be patted down. But come on guys, let's use a little discretion and spare these poor ladies, who are probably already nervous and confused at the prospect of flying, the indignity to which you have been subjecting them.

New York police report that even more than cash, fancy electronic gadgets are now the preferred target of thieves. They repeatedly advise the public to keep these items out of sight to avoid being victimized. So what do the crackberry heads do: they sit there mesmerized by their blinking toys in complete disregard of the warnings. I'll admit that I feel a grim pleasure every time I read about one of these idiots getting ripped off. They are allegedly intelligent people who just choose to ignore any common-sense rule that might inconvenience them. Too bad you can't download an "ap" to fix stupid.

Let me conclude with a word about those media goddesses, the Kardashians. Not a day goes by that we don't have their tawdry little lives shoved down our throats. Kim's sham marriage to Chris Humphries, Khloe's resentment of Chris for driving a wedge between Kim and her sisters...please raise your hand if you give a rat's ass. Yet these mega-hos dominate the entertainment pages and have built up a multi-million dollar empire despite having no talent except self-promotion. There is only one solution: round up the most rabid Kardashian fans and lobotomize them.

That's all for now. This is your angry reporter signing off.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Fear of Shopping

These days I do a lot of shopping online. Shipping is usually free and often no sales tax is charged, so I prefer to sit here with my Drambuie on the rocks and just click on what I want. A few days later, a nice delivery man brings it to my door...what could be simpler. I use PayPal so I don't have to reveal my credit card numbers to every store I buy from. Yes, people warn me about the dangers of shopping online, but I'll risk identity theft any day rather than go into a store around Christmas. Pushy crowds, clueless store "associates" and long cashier lines take the joy out of shopping.

When the stores open at the start of the day, all the merchandise is stacked neatly. An hour into the shopping day, it looks like a tornado blew through. I watch people pick up items that are not the size they are looking for and just toss them aside. Jerks open sealed boxes to see what's inside and then jam the contents back in sideways when they decide they don't want them. Then we have the lovely "professional returners who buy an article of clothing, wear it once, and bring it back for a refund. And let's not forget the lowlifes who will intentionally inflict some minor damage on an item and then try to get the department manager to reduce the price because its "damaged".

Shall I continue? How about security tags that take a team of demolition experts to try to remove at the register. Or the dreaded "price check" when some gum popping kid retreats into the bowels of the store trying to find out the cost of the shirt you want to buy, the only one by the way of the dozens on the shelf that did not have a price tag. While you wait, this kid, who has the attention span of a moth, forgets her errand and goes to lunch. And no visit by me to a retail store would be complete without the register tape running out and having to be replaced. The bewildered cashier looks at the empty spool as if she was being asked to defuse a nuclear bomb instead of putting in a new roll of paper. Off she goes to find "Donny" who apparently is the only one in the store capable of jiggling the thingy.

Speaking of returns, let's not forget the joy of having to bring back a purchase. When I buy online from reputable stores, a merchandise return is relatively hassle free. The store sends me a return bag or box, usually postage-paid, and I drop it in the mail...done. Compare that with a store return. There is usually a long line and not enough help. People have the gall to return stuff that looks like it was dragged behind a bus from California to New York. They get all huffy when the store clerk has the audacity to question the debris in the box that they claim was "like that when I brought it home." Yeah, right.

Then there is the sole, overly friendly associate at the returns desk who decides to chat up every old lady in line who, having nothing better to do, is more than happy to spend ten minutes describing her latest medications to Miss Congeniality. "My, Mrs. Crabtree, I swear I don't know how you remember to take all them pills." "Well honey, my Elmer got me one of those little pill boxes with the days marked on the outside, and that makes it ever so easy." Meanwhile you're standing there in your coat, hat and scarf, drops of sweat running down your back and thinking: "I'd like to take every pill in those bottles and shove then down your gullet you thoughtless old hag."

So you see, I really don't do well with store shopping. Scroll, click, delivered and done. Looks like I'm running low on Drambuie.


LOOKING FOR A WORTHY CHARITY? TRY THESE FOLKS: Children's Craniofacial Association