Monday, December 31, 2012

So Long 2012





The Blog would love to write a truly curmudgeonly post about the artifice of time and our need to mark the passing of the solar year as the end of all things that sucked and a new and, presumably better 365 days ahead.

He would love to snark about the fact that so many will spend this evening working their way toward beginning the new year with a massive hangover and how that is probably not the best way to get a better new year started.

He could go on about what a general cluster fuck the past year was, from the clown car that was the 2012 Republican primary campaign to the corporate suicide of Hostess. From the Mayan apocalypse that wasn't to the fiscal cliff that we didn't go over.

He will give a quiet nod to all of the innocent lives lost or damaged by a handful of madmen with access to high end weaponry and body armor and the batshittery that came from the NRA and their ilk, in response.

He could mention that there is no evidence to suggest that anything is going to get better in the new year.

But, DAMMIT, he just can't do it.

The PC is as hard wired as everyone else is to, if not believe, at least hope, that 2013 will be a better year than 2012 was.

Whatever other resolutions we all make for the new year, that we probably will give up on in a week or so, (The PC MUST lose weight in the coming year. And a lot of it! We'll see. The fact that he can no longer get his hands on Hostess Sno-Balls might just help.)

Can you, my blogglitts, resolve, along with me, to do something, anything, to make the year 2013 a better year than last year?

Can we all make this our one, unbreakable resolution?

In that vein, allow me to share a photo from FotB George Takei...


Have a Happy, Healthy, Safe New Year!

"Make it so!"


One more thing (off topic)...

123 pageviews yesterday! That is a new record! And I didn't even have to include a pic of Kate Upton in a bikini!


                                                                 But, here is another one, just in case it helps.
Yayyy!!!

And welcome new member Susan!

Maybe in 2013 The Blog will get some members who are not family, friends, co-workers and high school crushes.

But, I appreciate all of you have joined up!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Helium






Here is a little something that The Blog bets you didn't know.

America is suffering from a helium shortage.

A shortage of crisis proportions!

At least, that is what we are being told.

The most that most of us know about helium is that it is a lighter than air gas. It is an element on the "Periodic Table of Elements." It makes balloons float. And, if you take a hit from one of those balloons, you will talk like a munchkin for a minute or so.

Mrs. Blog, being a school teacher, is a regular consumer of helium, not to talk funny, but to inflate balloons for birthdays, graduations and other classroom celebrations.

For many years, she bought disposable tanks of the gas from the local party store.

Several years ago, the parents of a class bought her a refillable 50 psi tank.

At the time, and for several years, the cost of refilling a tank was about $25. About ten dollars less than the disposable 25 psi tank.

About two years ago, the price began to climb.

By the beginning of 2012, the price to refill that tank had climbed to $60.

Her helium supplier, a local welding and gas place, told us that there was a shortage that was driving the price up.

There came a point that the supplier told us that Mrs. Blog should probably look for another supply source, who might be able to charge less than they could.

By late spring, she was back to buying 25 lb. disposable tanks from the party store for about $35.

By Halloween, things got weirder.

The party stores were running out of the disposable tanks. And, soon after that, even their own balloon counter was finding themselves without the gas.

"Wow!" thought The Blog. "It isn't just petroleum based products that we are depleting. We are running out of helium, too!"

Now, The Blog has no idea where helium comes from. He has taken the various suppliers at their word.

Which brings me to two weekends ago.

The Blog had the rare opportunity to visit, so close that I could touch it, the docking site of a Goodyear blimp.

                                              The BlogDad posing in front of his company's competition's mascot.

And, a conversation with the blimp's pilot.

An interesting guy.

He got the piloting job because of his experience as a sailor. Because, piloting a blimp is more like sailing than flying a plane.

It makes sense. But, who knew?





The Blog asked the blimp captain how the helium shortage was affecting the blimp business.

The captain chuckled and his answer was eye-opening.

"A.)" he said," Goodyear stockpiles helium, buying several years worth of supply at a time. So our cost has remained stable, for now. B.)" he continued, "There is no shortage of helium. There is a shortage of refineries."

"Until about six years ago, helium refineries were a public utility. The U.S. owned about 60 refineries. They were owned by the federal government, making helium cheap and plentiful and keeping prices stable. Under Bush, the refineries were sold to private companies. Those private owners shut down all but 14 refineries, slowing production and driving prices up."

He continued.

"Helium prices are now being artificially manipulated to create high profits. Just like California's oil refineries have manipulated gas prices the last few months."

Are you, my blogglitts, getting my point here?

Gas, oil, electricity and yes, helium are products that used to be under public control.

Those things now exist to profit a very few.

Some things should not be "for profit."

Do my right-wing friends get that?

Probably not.

But, there are some things that the government can do, more efficiently and for the benefit of the common good than private, for profit corporations.

Utilities, postal service, healthcare insurance, and yes, helium.

It is past time to wake up to that fact.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Lincoln

The Blog finally got around to seeing the Steven Spielberg / Daniel Day-Lewis film "Lincoln" today.

(Thanks to the BlogDad for picking up the tab for this!)

The great Steven S. makes two kinds of movies...

Fun filled actioners like "Indiana Jones" and "ET," and "important films" like "Shindler's List" and "Saving Private Ryan."

"Lincoln" lands in the latter category.

By no means an action film.

A few scenes mirror his work from "Private Ryan." Horrifying scenes of the true carnage of war.

But, mostly, a whole lot of talk.

But, what brilliant talk it was!

The film reminds us that, not only was Abraham Lincoln something of a tragic character in our history, he dealt with much of the tragedy in his life with humor and wit.

The film also reminds us that there was a time when the Republican party were the good guys, the liberals (even while calling themselves "conservatives." Because they actually were) and, even, radicals. A party that would not recognize today's Republican party, the reactionary, obstructionist party of Mitch McConnell, Scott Cantor, Fox "News," Grover Norquist and Rush Limbaugh.

Daniel Day Lewis' performance as Lincoln is sublime!

Tommy Lee Jones, an actor known for playing grumpy old men, delivers his grumpiest old man performance, ever. With relish.

FotB Sally Field delivers as Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln. ("One D was good enough for God. The Todds needed two." -- A. Lincoln)

The film's cast of hundreds seemed to employ every actor in Hollywood, from "Animal House" and "Rizzoli & Isles" star Bruce McGill to action bad ass David Strathairn. From "The Dark Knight Rises" "Robin," Joseph Gordon-Levitt to movie and TV weirdo Jackie Earl Haley. James Spader, Hal Holbrook to FotB Gregory Itzen are all on board.

The only people who seemed to not be included are Sarah Silverman and Carrot Top.

And, oh, what make-up and hair work!

As a member of the I.A.T.S.E. Local 706, "Lincoln" gets my vote for the Oscar for make-up, if I was actually an Oscar voter! (Which, I am not.)

If you get the chance to see this movie, take it! The Blog highly recommends it!


Friday, December 28, 2012

Guns

Okay.

The Blog lied.

Not taking the week off, after all.

Because something has gotten under his skin.

Some of The Blog's right-wing friends, (and as I have said before, yes, I have right-wing friends) have, since the horrifying tragedy in Newtown, CT, spent a great deal of time and energy defending the whole concept of gun ownership.

According to them, the answer to gun violence is...

More guns.

The Blog loves his gun loving friends, dearly.

But, yes, he also thinks of them as "gun nuts."

That's right.

While The Blog loves you all... you, my gun fetishizing friends... are nuts.

Claiming that the answer to gun violence is more guns is like claiming that the answer to drug addiction is more heroin.

The Blog is all in favor of gun rights. As I have said before, the Second Amendment is settled law, and The Blog supports that.

The thing that has gotten the PC's panties in a bunch is the recent criticism of certain pro-gun control commentators like Michael Moore, Michael Bloomberg, Rahm Emanuel, Rosie O'Donnel and President Obama, for having armed security.

While, according to the gun nut's posts, "Regular folk (aka: suckers) do not have thier {sic} own armed security details."

The Blog is "regular folk."

And in the 30 years that he has lived in some marginal neighborhoods and worked in some seriously dangerous places, he has never felt that he would feel safer if he was packing heat.

The Blog has armed his home with a baseball bat, a dog and a decent alarm system. And he couldn't feel more secure.

The fact is, if an intruder entered The Blog's home at 3:00 AM, a gun, safely locked up and unloaded, would be less than useless.

Like the mom of the Connecticut shooter, guns in the house would pose a greater danger to family and home than to any bad guy.

That's a fact.

The thing that the above list of well known people have in common is this, they are all public figures who have all received death threats from... wait for it... right-wing gun nuts.

Get it?

On that note...

Allow me to leave you with this song, from the inimitable Roy Zimmerman.

Enjoy the song, and think about the message.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Membership Drive


The Blog has nothing new to post tonight. He is taking the holiday week off from righteous indignation.

But, his stats indicate that many people around the world are reading the blog.

So, I am asking you to do me the favor of becoming a member or follower of "The Premature Curmudgeon."

Unlike PBS, HBO or Showtime, I cannot offer you any perks for joining up. No T-shirts, tote bags, mugs or mouse pads.

Although, if enough of you sign up, The Blog may just go to Caf├ęPress.com and make that happen.

If you have enjoyed my blog over the past year, become a member and tell your friends!

Thanks!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

As Christmas Day Winds Down...

At about 6:30 PM, tonight, The Blog hugged his visiting family members "good by," drugged up Mrs. Blog (who was suffering from severe back pain as a result of yesterday's 3 and a half hours in a dialysis chair) and tucked her into bed. The BlogDog joined her under the covers after devouring her nightly "Greenie™," leaving me, your humble PC to blow out the candles, rinse off the dishes, look back on a wonderful day filled with family, food, drink and gifts. Exhausted beyond the point of sleep.  Too wired to just call it a night and go to bed.

The Facebook newsfeed is a pleasant collection of pictures of trees, meals and family time.

That's nice. But, after 20 minutes, I had "Liked" every post that I could.

So, just a bit less than one year from the start of The Premature Curmudgeon blog, The Blog himself spent a couple of hours unwinding by reading past posts from the beginning.

I don't want to compare my stuff to an institution like "Saturday Night Live." But , like "SNL," for all of the "misses" (in the case of The Blog... typos, lazy posts and derailments of the train of thought,) there have been some posts that, if I may say so myself, are pretty damned good!

Not the least of which was The PC's prognostication, as far back as February, that Willard "Mitt" Romney would be the Republican candidate for president and that he would be unelectable.

If you are new to the blog, or, if you weren't here from the start, I would like to invite you to take some time to check out The Blog's archives.

Read.

Enjoy.

Be offended.

Have some fun with me!

The "comments" sections are still open on all blog posts. Chime in!

The Blog's stats show that I have readers from all over the world.

I would be thrilled if all of you would take a minute to become official "members."

And, I hope that your holidays were happy!

Let us look forward to, (or, face with trepidation and dread,) the new year.



Grinch

{*Note* It has taken me a couple of nights to put this post together. Working to get it posted before midnight.}

As we have established in past posts, The Blog is an unapologetic secular humanist.

Or, if you prefer, a Godless, atheist, liberal.

Whatever.

We have also established that this atheist loves Christmas.

The music.

The giving.

The receiving.

The lights and decorations.

The Advent Wreath.

The stories, the movies and the T.V. specials.

The PC has lamented the fact that some who identify as Christian are so wrapped up in "The Reason for the Season" that they miss the point.

Now, The Blog would never presume to speak for Jesus.

But, he suspects that if J.C. could speak directly to the sanctimonious, "CHRISTmas" crowd, he would say this....

"It's not about the person, people! It's about the message.

Peace on Earth. Goodwill toward all."

"And, yeah, I mean ALL. Not just men."

With that in mind, The Blog would like to say a few words about what he believes is the best secular Christmas story, ever.

                                            Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."

For a whole lot of info about The Grinch, give the wikipedia page a gander.

Can you see why I consider this the best Christmas story, ever?

Message before the man. The way The Blog presumes that Big J.C. would want it.

Neither God nor Jesus is ever mentioned in the story.

Santa Clause is mentioned (and impersonated) but never appears. Suggesting that in Whoville, as in the real world, Santa is a symbol of the message of Christmas.

And, okay, maybe a way to keep the kids in line for, at least, one month a year.

And that message, one more time, is "Peace and goodwill."

The story of The Grinch is the ultimate story of redemption.

Yes, it has been told before.

In The Blog's second favorite Christmas story, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

(It has just occurred to your old PC that Jim Carrey has played both The Grinch and Ebenezer  Scrooge on screen. Coincidence? I think so!)

The original Dr. Seuss book was published two years before The Blog was born. I assume that it was successful then, but, as The Blog was a mere Blogling at the time, I didn't really become aware of the story until 1966 when it was made into an animated special, directed by the only animator, at the time, up to the task of adapting Dr. Seuss. Chuck Jones. The Warner Brothers director was not only responsible for the best Bugs Bunny cartoons and all of The Roadrunner episodes, he has also tackled Seuss' "Horton" stories as WB shorts.

The TV special starred Boris Karloff as both the narrator and the voice of The Grinch. Possibly the most understated portrayal of the green guy that would ever occur!




And, oh! That song! Sung by the improbably named Thurl Ravenscroft, his basso profundo voice also known for his work for Disney ("Grim, Grinning Ghosts") and as Tony the Tiger.




Others lent their voices to The Grinch over the years, including Zero Mostel and Hans Conried.

Which brings us to the movie version.



It is fashionable to hate the movie version. But, I don't hate it. I thought that it was really well done.

Directed by Ron Howard and starring Jim Carey, they did what was necessary to make a story that took 30 minutes including commercial breaks to tell into a feature length movie.

But, it was beautifully made! The sets, costumes and make-up. The best of Hollywood!

I can't fault Jim Carrey, too much, for chewing the scenery. That is what he does.

And Taylor Momsen, adorable moppet that she was, was a little too old to play Cindy Lou Who ("who was no more than two.")


                                                                             Whoa!

Wait! No!


                                                              THIS adorable moppet!

Sorry. Google images came up with that first pic first. And The Blog is wondering how so much time has passed that Cindy Lou Who is now hot.

The Blog is feeling old!


Most recently, The Grinch has appeared on stage, on Broadway and on tour. Still chewing scenery. Still fun!

It is almost midnight, Christmas Eve. Time to wrap it up before Santa comes.






Merry Christmas to all of my bloglitts!

Don't overdo the Who pudding and go easy on the rare roast beast!



Friday, December 21, 2012

December 21, 2012


How is everyone doing?

Everyone still here?

Good.

Another Armageddon survived. The third in two years!

The Blog gets it that "end of the world" theories are fun to contemplate.

They make great Facebook memes and provide a good excuse for a party.

(Because, what other reason could there be to have a party in late December?)

But, the day has passed. We are still here.

Tomorrow we are all going to have to go pay our overdue credit card and cell phone bills.

We will, also, have to do our Christmas shopping.

We did get one really bad movie out of it.

                                                                            I'm talkin' to you Cusack!

Shit.

But, okay fine.

It's time to move on.

So, a couple of random thoughts....

After a week of silence and a deleted Facebook page and Twitter account, the N.R.A. via VP Wayne La Pierre staged a "news conference" (no questions from the press, thank you.)

In a surprise move (place sarcasm font here) La Pierre placed the blame on the Sandy Hook massacre on "video games and the liberal media," explaining that gun violence had nothing to do with, um, guns.

In fact, according to La Pierre, the solution to gun violence is.... wait for it.... more guns.

Jesus wept.

------------------------------------------

Lindsey Lohan is in trouble again. The Blog does not know why, and, frankly, doesn't care enough to find out why.

------------------------------------------

"Week Six" without Hostess.

America's nightmare continues.

The Blog doesn't give a shit about Twinkies.

                                                                    But, he is jonesing for some "Sno-Balls."

------------------------------------------

We are well into "The Age of Aquarius."




"Harmony and understanding," they told us.

The Blog thinks that "Hair" may be based on bullshit.

-------------------------------------------

Congratulations are in order for the F.O.B. Stephanie Lynn, on her engagement.

That is all for tonight.



Tuesday, December 18, 2012

God, a Dog and the United States Postal Service

"Our 14-year-old dog Abbey died last month. The day after she passed away my 4-year-old daughter Meredith was crying and talking about how much she missed Abbey. She asked if we could write a letter to God so that when Abbey got to heaven, God would recognize her. I told her that I thought we could so, and she dictated these words:

Dear God,
...
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick.
I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.

Love, Meredith

We put the letter in an envelope with a picture of Abbey and Meredith and addressed it to God/Heaven. We put our return address on it. Then Meredith pasted several stamps on the front of the envelope because she said it would take lots of stamps to get the letter all the way to heaven. That afternoon she dropped it into the letter box at the post office. A few days later, she asked if God had gotten the letter yet. I told her that I thought He had.

Yesterday, there was a package wrapped in gold paper on our front porch addressed, 'To Meredith' in an unfamiliar hand. Meredith opened it. Inside was a book by Mr. Rogers called, 'When a Pet Dies.' Taped to the inside front cover was the letter we had written to God in its opened envelope. On the opposite page was the picture of Abbey & Meredith and this note:

Dear Meredith,

Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help and I recognized her right away.

Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by.

Thank you for the beautiful letter and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I'm easy to find. I am wherever there is love.

Love, God

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The above is a post that has been making the Facebook rounds, lately.

It is a sweet and moving story.

If you read it without your eyes getting, at least a little bit, wet...

...then fuck you. You would have to be an unempathetic robot to not get emotional reading it! You probably don't like "A Charlie Brown Christmas" or "The Grinch," either.


                                                                        Your heart must be two sizes too small.


If that is the case, you probably aren't reading this blog anyway.

So who am I talking to?

Wait. What?

Oh! Right!

Getting back on track...

Here is the part of the story that isn't mentioned. The poster may not know this. You might not, either.

In virtually every city that has a Post Office, (which is all of them) there is a group of USPS employees who volunteer their time and some out-of-pocket funds to read every single letter that is addressed to God (and Santa Claus) and write responses to the most sincere and moving letters.

Those post office employees read these letters and respond to them on their own time, and pay for things like the Fred Rogers book mentioned in the post.

The Blog has talked about the awesome value of the USPS and why it should not be privatized in a post some months ago.

Postage is going up again, in a couple of months. To a whopping 50¢ a letter.

When that happens, right-wing bloviators...


                                                                             and a comic strip duck...

will pull out their usual anti-post office propaganda.

When that happens, remember this post.

United States postal workers are heroes, in their own small way.

They deserve our support. 

Spiderman versus Batman? A Debate...






Enough about politics, religion and guns, for now.

Let's address the truly important questions.

Who is the better superhero?

Spiderman or Batman? Who is cooler?

This is a response to a blog post that you can read here....

Go ahead! Read it. I'll wait....

Okay. Welcome back...

First, "...No Spiderman TV show?"

Beg pardon?

You call yourself a lifelong Spiderman fan, but you don't know that Spidey had a TV show for two seasons from 1977 to 1979?



                           Here it is!

The Blog can forgive the general lameness of the spandex and screen print costume  because of two words...

Mirrored Lenses!

Way cool!

Now, let's move on to the "10 Reasons..."

1. "He spins webs..."

     The whole spinning an organic web substance from his wrists thing was an                   
     invention of the Sam Raimi movies. And, since that was used as a hilarious and      
     insightful analogy for pubescent, premature ejaculation, it was sort of the   
     antithesis of "cool." And, it was abandoned in the reboot.

     In all other incarnations, including the comic books and animated TV series,   
     Spidey's web shooters were gadgets.

    And, while it is impressive that a high school student invented such a thing,
    Wayne Enterprises may have experimented with something like that, but the   
    science supports grappling hooks and "Bat-Ropes" as more plausible.

    And, about that webbing... Who had to clean all of that shit up when Spidey was 
    done? The NYC taxpayers, I would guess. Batman's ropes are reusable and do  
    not litter the streets of Gotham.
   
    To be fair, Peter Parker must be in touch with his feminine side. NTTIAWWT! 
    But, only the female arachnid spins webs.

    Just sayin'.

    Webbing vs. Bat-Ropes... A draw.

2. "He has a girlfriend..."

     Yes, he does. Mary Jane "M.J." Watson. He married her, eventually.

      Before M.J., there was Gwen Stacey.

      That's cool. Peter Parker is a kid. He's too young for any sort of permanent  
      relationship. He will, eventually, earn his permanent relationship with M.J.

      Mazel Tov!

      Bruce Wayne is young, rich, handsome and, considering his nighttime   
      activities, just not ready to settle down. He plays the field. As far as "fanboy"   
      fantasy goes, that way trumps Spidey's serial monogamy.

     And, in the end, two words... Selina Kyle.

     That's right! Catwoman!

     How do you like him now?

     M.J. vs. Catwoman... Point to Batman.

3. "He isn't  wearing underpants on the outside..."

     This is true.

     In the early "Black and Gray" days it seem to be the case.

     As a fashion statement, that puts him in good company with Superman and  
     Madonna.
    
     But, at least Bats is wearing underpants.

     According to "The Amazing Spiderman" star, Andrew Garfield, his Spidey  
     costume was so tight, he couldn't wear underpants.
 
     In a rubber suit!

     That is gross, sweaty and TMI!

     Point to Batman.

4. "He can kiss upside down..."

      Point to Spidey.

5. "He isn't afraid of spiders or bats..."

      Young Bruce Wayne was afraid of bats. He grew up, dominated his fear and     
      now calls bats his friends.

      Spidey was bitten by one spider. No fear. Just an encounter. It is never
      mentioned again.

      Point to Batman for channeling his phobia.

6. "He doesn't need a sidekick..."

      According to the early years of Batman's "Detective Comics," Frank Miller's   
     "Batman: Year One," and Tim Burton and Chris Nolan, Batman doesn't need a   
      sidekick, either. He just got saddled with one. And, hey. There is nothing  
      wrong with having a team!

      *An aside... The Blog has always found Robin irritating. An unnecessary
       addition, dictated by a need to appeal to a young demographic. Two
       exceptions...

       The third Robin... Batman first encountered street urchin Tim Drake when the  
        young Master Drake was stealing the tires off the Batmobile.
 
        That is pretty bad ass!

        "The Dark Knight Returns" Carrie Kelly was the first distaff Robin.
   
         Funny how, as recently as the mid 1980s, the idea of a teen girl as Robin was  
         considered "edgy."*

         Point to Batman.

7. "He can stick to a wall unaided..."
  
     See the above about the 1977 TV series.

     A draw.

8. "He is colorful, not dowdy..."

    " To each his own," they say.

       Batman is "The Dark Knight." He works in the shadows in the night.

       Spidey is kind of a show off.

       And, a wise ass.

      Two different style choices.

      Therefore, A draw.

9. "His real name isn't two first names..."
 
     Seriously?

     So fucking what?

     Point to Batman.

10. "He's never been played by George Clooney..."

       This is true.

       And, while Andrew Garfield is probably "hotter" than Tobey Maguire, (In a
       sparkly Twilight vampire sort of way,)  Tobey was far more plausible than
       Garfield as the semi-nerdy Peter Parker.

       The fact is, George Clooney was probably the best cast Bruce Wayne/ Batman, 
       ever. Unfortunately, he was saddled with a God-awful script and a camp-fest, 
       drag queen director.

       Spidey has benefited, as Batman did not, by never being directed by Barry    
       Sonnenfeld, while being played by Neil Patrick Harris.

       Not that there is anything wrong with that.

To be clear.... The Blog loves his friendly neighborhood Spiderman!

But, superior to Batman? Never!

To sum up...

No prepubescent fanboy could ever, realistically, hope to get super powers from a radioactive spider.

But, with enough money and enough training, he could aspire, as unlikely as it would seem to be, Batman.

"Excelsior!"



     

   


    

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Some Thoughts About the Connecticut Shootings

(A note from The Blog...

I started writing this Friday night. Since then, some new revelations have surfaced. I am going to post the following as I wrote it and will insert comments and links to news stories where it seems appropriate. I have also replaced some "todays" and "this mornings" with "Fridays" where the need to be.)

                       ---------------------------------------------------------------------

Newtown.

Sandy Hook.

Names of places so quaint and evocative of idyllic, small town life that they seem almost fictional.

Early Friday morning, the news didn't so much "break," but rather, seemed to seep slowly through tiny fractures in the masonry of reality.

A shooting at a school in Connecticut. Unknown injuries. Identity of the gunman, unknown.

The second shooting of the sort in less than a week. The fourth (at least) in the past year.

How many in the last decade or so?

Columbine High School, 1999

Los Angeles Jewish Community Center, 1999

Virginia Tech, 2007

The Museum of Tolerance,  2009

Fort Hood, 2009

The D.C Snipers, 2010

Gabby Giffords, Tucson, 2011

Aurora, Colorado, 2012

Oregon Mall, 6 days ago

Sandy Hook Elementary School, Friday

(A quick glance at my Google search for "Mall Shooting" shows that several other mall shootings occurred in 2012, including one in Wisconsin and one in Indiana. I should also include the massacre in the Orange County, CA beauty salon about a year ago.)

And America shook it's head and shrugged.

"Another typical news cycle in today's America."

But, as the morning turned to afternoon, the fractures widened and became cracks. And with each new revelation, the story became more and more horrifying.

Twenty first grade students dead. Seven adults, including the school principal, a student teacher, {*insert* Maybe not a student teacher, after all. But a young, new teacher} a school psychologist and the shooter's own Kindergarden teacher mother, dead.  (Or, maybe she wasn't a kindergarden teacher. And, maybe not even connected to the Sandy Hook school. The media can't seem to pin this information down.)

The shooter, a boy in his late teens, dead by his own hand.

According to the shooter's brother, the young gunman "may" have had Asperger's Syndrome and a "personality disorder."

{A fascinating article about the shooter and what is known about him appears here and gives us new, and even more horrifying insight.}

According to the police, the shooter was in possession of two 9mm handguns (a Glock and a Sig Sauer,) and an assault rifle.

All three weapons were registered to the shooter's mother. {Newer reports tell us that she was a gun collector who went to great lengths to purchase and license a number of guns, as, it would seem, a hobby. And, to protect her home from whatever she thought that her home would need protecting from. It would seem that she is what The Blog would think of as a "gun nut," driven by fear and paranoia. She taught her children how to use them. [As she should in a household with guns.] It seems to me that that didn't turn out so well for her.)

Predictably, within the first few hours of the shooting, both sides of the gun debate took the opportunity to politicize the tragedy.

Those of you who know me, or have followed my posts over the past year, know where I come down on the issue of guns. But, my intent with this post is not to argue the politics of guns.

The purpose of this post is not to argue for gun control. I have done so in the past and will do so in the future.

Right now, I just want to make a few random observations and ask a few questions.

What possible reason did a Kindergarden teacher (?) with two sons own two police grade handguns and an assault rifle? {We now know the answer. She was a gun "collector."}  And why were they so easily accessible to a young son with a "personality disorder?" (See the link above.)

Why has the shooter been described as "maybe" having Asperger's Syndrome and a "personality disorder." Why, in the affluent world of Newtown, wasn't the son of a teacher definitively diagnosed and treated?

(BTW... while there are several definitions of "personality disorder" available, psychosis and sociopathy are the big, bad ones. And, while not all Asperger's patients are sociopaths, a great many sociopaths also present with Asperger's. But, before anyone fires up their poison pens, let me clarify that I am not suggesting for a minute that Asperger's was the reason for the shooter's violence. It's the "personality disorder" that concerns me. Some of the world's most brilliant and successful people have Asperger's and have, as far as I know, never killed anyone.)

How did the shooter get such easy access to his mother's weapons?

That seems to be the big question.

We may get those answers as the investigation continues.

Or, we may not.

Believe it or not, The Blog has no less than three personal friends who make their living selling guns to the general public. All three are legitimate, licensed dealers. As far as I know, none of them operate by selling fear, unlike the shop that I posted about several months ago.

But, before Friday had passed, all three of my gun dealing friends had scrambled to defend guns and proclaim that this is a mental health problem.

While I don't entirely agree with the first part, I agree 100% with the second part.

As I said, I am not here tonight to argue. This is a worthy discussion for a future date. Probably soon.

But, two posts from an old college buddy, who got his dealer's license less than a year ago, really caught my eye and I feel compelled to comment on them.

Before I do, let me say, "I get it." Selling firearms is the way you make your living. I would expect you to defend that. You tell us that guns themselves are not the problem, bad people are. And, to some extent, you are right.

But, it is much the same thing as when I say that daytime, informational talk shows exist solely to educate and benefit the public, while ignoring the fact that they also exist to, primarily, entertain the public as something of a freak-show that enriches the production company and the networks.

It is our human nature to develop a bit of "Stockholm Syndrome" regarding whatever business provides our paychecks.

My friend "Jim" (not his real name) posted this...


His point is factual.

But, I have to ask.

Who, "Jim," do you suggest should have been armed at Sandy Hook?

The teachers? Like they don't have enough responsibility already? The principal? Ditto.

Besides, have you ever seen the 1982 movie, "Class of 1984?"

In one scene, Roddy McDowall as a teacher at the end of his rope, is dealing with a class of hellions. He pulls a gun out of his desk and starts firing it into the ceiling.

Because, really.

A teacher with a gun will get to that point. And that is not a good thing.

Security guards already wander the halls of our schools. (When I was a kid, only the school custodian and a few stoners wandered the halls of our school. But, I guess, it's a different world, today.)

So, who's left?

Should a bunch of 6 and 7-year-olds come to school strapped? (Yes, that is an ad absurdum argument. The whole argument is absurd.)

He followed up with this "statistic..."

Um, actually, no.

Firearms are the number one weapon used in homicides. Blunt objects, including baseball bats, come in at number four.

Nice try, though.

Okay. I think that that is enough about this for now. We can talk about things like gun control and mental health at a later date.

For now, my thoughts and sympathy go out to the people of Newtown. As I am sure yours do, too.

Next post...

Something frivolous to lighten the mood.

See you then!



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Tonight's Post Delayed

Gathering my thoughts about todays horrific tragedy. It's late, so I will post tomorrow.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Holidays!

This post is a follow-up to THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS post.

The Blog was raised in the Christian church.

The United Church of Christ, to be exact.

Or, as the right wingers like to call it, "That radical, anti-white, anti-American, homo-loving place that the Kenyan, Marxist, Muslim, 'So Called President'  Barack HUSSEIN Obama attended for most of his life."

The Blog's Mom has a degree in theology and has participated in the church in many capacities, from church secretary, to Associate Pastor, to hand-bell choir director.

As a blogling in his late teens, The Blog himself spent a few years as a Sunday school teacher.

The PC learned much from that upbringing. It certainly helped to calibrate his moral compass.

The late, great George Carlin said, "I was raised a Catholic. But, then I grew up."

The older that The Curmudgeon gets, the more he leans toward Atheism.

Not, militant atheism, so much.

I really don't care if our money says, "In God We Trust" on it.

(Although, Jesus might have had an opinion about that. Mark 12:17)

The inclusion of the words "under God" in "The Pledge of Allegiance" don't bother me none.

*Note to Self-- A post about "The Pledge of Allegiance" would be good. Come back to this in the future.*

I don't even care, much, if the city puts up a Nativity scene at City Hall or calls it's tree a "Holiday Tree," a "Christmas Tree," or, as The Blog's own city calls it, the "Angel Tree."

Although, he understands the problem, where the separation of church and state come in. Should Jewish, Muslim, Atheist or other citizens' taxes pay for an exclusively Christian display.

The Blog thinks not.

The Blog's atheistic philosophy does not preclude the idea that, "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

But, "agnostic" is way too wishy-washy a term for my taste.

All of this is a topic for a future post. One that I will probably share when I'm in the mood to REALLY piss a lot of people off.

For the time being, my point is this...

The Blog is an Atheist.

And, despite that fact, like it or not, The Blog LOVES Christmas!

Pretty much everything about it.

Except stringing the lights on the Christmas tree.

Putting lights on the house is fine. Even the chore of untangling the "Gordian's Knot" of icicle lights is just a puzzle to be solved to make the house festive.

The problem with the tree lights, besides the tediousness of the job, is this...

The Blog is allergic to pine trees.

The very act of coming into contact with the pine needles that inject the sap just under the skin (they don't call them needles for nothing) causes the PC's arms and hands to break out in a rash.

Not only that, the pollen from the tree sends The Blog's sinuses into overdrive.

In spite of all of that, your Blog won't give into the temptation to buy an artificial tree.

Because of that pine tree smell. Oh, that smell!

That smell of pine in the house says, "Merry Christmas!" like nothing else can.

And, this atheist refuses to give that up.

                                                          The Blog is, also,  allergic to sanctimonious assholes.

Then, there is the music.

The Blog loves Christmas music.

From the secularist (and, in hindsight, probably very gay) pop of The Mitch Miller Orchestra playing "Jingle Bells" or the songs from the numerous Rankin-Bass TV specials, (not to mention everything from The Partridge Family "Christmas Card" album) to the very Christian renditions of "Angels We Have Heard on High" or "God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen." (Especially when performed by the bombastic "Mannheim Steamroller" or the even more bombastic "Trans Siberian Orchestra.")

And, the sound of a small church congregation singing "Silent Night" at a Christmas Eve service can bring The Blog to tears.

Do you know what "Christmas music" The Blog hates?

The hipster, indy pop crap that, at least, one television advertiser uses each year in their commercials. Catchy? Yes. Annoying "ear worms?" Double yes.

This year's offender... KMart.

"The lights, the lights, the lights that light the lights..." and so on...

Last year's offender was CBS Television, spelling out "Jingle Bells" in an annoying and totally addicting manor.

Fortunately, these songs only occupy whatever lobe of the brain entertains this stuff, for about a month. (Although, thanks to Tivo, they can pop up, unexpectedly until March.)

Also, non-Christmas songs that are treated as if they are Christmas songs.

Why, oh why, is "The Sound of Music's" "My Favorite Things" included in so many Christmas music anthologies? Is it "snowflakes on noses" or "brown paper packages, tied up in strings?"

Kind of a stretch.

"My Favorite Things."

The Blog blames Oprah.

As much as it kills The Blog to give points to Wal-Mart for any reason, their adoption of AC/DC's "Back in Black" as their Black Friday theme a year ago, and continuing through this year, is pretty hilarious!

Where was I?

Christmas trees. Christmas music.

Okay.

Gift giving. The Blog loves that.

Gift receiving. Also good!

What else does the atheist Blog love about Christmas?

Give me a second...

While I think about that, I want to mention that "The Holiday Season" begins with Thanksgiving at the end of November.

Or, arguably, on "All Hallow's Eve" at the end of October.

Through New Years Day.

Or, maybe even Orthodox Christmas, sometime in January.

In that time, the Jews, Muslims and Pagans also celebrate holidays.

So, you see? It's not just "The Christmas Season." It is, truly, "The Holiday Season."

And what a joyous thing that is!

Oh! Got it!

The central theme of all of the holidays between Halloween and New Years Day is this....

Peace and goodwill and a celebration of life.

So, the next time someone wishes you "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings," instead of being righteously offended, appreciate that someone has wished you well.

On that note...

The Blog wishes you all Happy Holidays and Season's Greetings.

Whether you like it or not!

Monday, December 10, 2012

IT'S WAR, PEOPLE! WAR, I SAY!





No, it's not.

Bill O'Reily didn't invent the idea of "THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!."

The last original thing that Bill O' said had to do with mistaking a loofa for a falafel.

The first time that The Blog heard that there was a WAR ON CHRISTMAS was around 2006 while he was perusing that weird book spindle that is always right next to the pharmacy counter at CVS. You know the one. The one that has books with titles like "Twenty Minutes in Hell: A True Journey Into Satan's Realm!" (An actual title.) Or, "10 Ways to Tell Your Children the Preposterous Story of Noah's Ark, As If It Were True!" (Not, I don't think, an actual title. But, something close. I'm spit-balling here.) And anything published by The Blog's friend, Bishop T.D. Jakes.

The paperback pamphlet/book was right there. "THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!: HOW THE LIBERAL PLOT TO BAN THE SACRED CHRISTIAN HOLIDAY IS WORSE THAN YOU THOUGHT!"  Right next to the book that it was a sequel/companion to, "THE WAR ON CHRISTIANITY!" by the same author.

Amazon.com tells me that the author was one John Gibson.

A Google search shows about 80 gazzilion hits on the phrase "WAR ON CHRISTMAS," leading to 80 gazzilion nut job blogs, so I'll just take Amazon's word for it.

So, the idea originated with John Gibson. (Whoever the hell he is.)

So, back in that year, the producers of Bill O's Fox "News" show booked this nutzoid on his "No Spin Zone" so he could promote his piece of shit pamphlet.

Bill O', never one to miss a potential opportunity to cash in by fleecing his rube viewers, picked up that ball and ran with it.

THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS! became an annual, holiday tradition. And Hannity and Doocey and the rest of the hive mind at Fox climbed on the wagon.

Remember, this was 2006. By November 2009 "THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS! " became "OBAMA'S WAR ON CHRISTMAS!

Because, that's how they roll at Fox "News."

                                            Well, except when they throw their annual, corporate "Holiday Party."

Way back in 2006, Bill O' got his pious ass handed to him by none other than David Letterman over BO's assertion that a school had de-Christianized the Christmas carole "Silent Night."

You can read about it, and watch the video, here...

The quote of that night...

Letterman to O'Reilly...

"I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap."

60 percent? More like 98 percent.

Six years later, every hair-sprayed Fox "News" weatherman turned pundit from Sean Hannity to Steve Doocey clings to the WAR ON CHRISTMAS myth, the way that rural Pennsylvanians "cling to guns and God."

Yeah, Obama said it! Deal with it. Because it's true.



But, back to Bill...

Earlier this week, the bloviator spewed this blatant lie, for the viewing pleasure of his credulous audience.

Then, just a couple of days ago,  in the weirdest "No Spin" interview ever, Bill O' told an atheist spokesman that "Christianity is not a religion, but a philosophy." And, Jesus was "just a guy."

Really!

Read about it and watch the video here...

For a minute here, Bill O' seems to have confused Christ and Christianity for Buddha and Buddhism.

Bill's "Christian Republican" base has been strangely quiet about this.

Now, the whole thing has been debated ad nauseam here on the internet, on television, the radio, and in books and magazines. Even in the movies. (Search "Bill Maher" and "Ben Stein" on IMDb.)

So much has been said about "Christmas" vs. "Holiday" that there is no real point in rehashing the arguments here.

So, let's move on...

The Blog wants to share a personal story.

As the WAR ON CHRISTMAS rhetoric began to reach a fevered pitch, around 2007, The Blog's mother-in-law came to the City of Angels for a Christmas visit.

On her "To Do List..."

Eat at In-And-Out Burger, dine on hot dogs at Pink's, and visit the Ronald Reagan Library.

Not because she was a Republican. (She isn't.)

But, because she wanted to take a tour of St. Ronnie's "Air Force One."

So, there we were at the Reagan Library. A tribute to Jelly Bellies and Republican spin.

"Jane Wyman, who? Who is that?"

"Ronnie Reagan, jr.? Who is he?"

"Patti Davis in Playboy? Never happened! And, who is this Davis person, anyway?"

The Blog's mom-in-law, a wonderful, unassuming lady, about 75-years-old, at the time, was wearing one of her mom-in-iaw sweatshirts. A stylish, fleecy number with a Santa Claus applique, sewn on the chest.

A fellow visitor, a woman about the same age as Mom-In-Law, stomped up to her and exclaimed, "Merry CHRIST-mas!!!"

She punctuated the first syllable, "CHRIST" with a poke to Santa's pom-pom nose, right at m-i-l's solar plexus.

Too hard to be mistaken for jolly Christmas fun.

Not quite hard enough to be prosecuted as a physical assault.

The visitor flashed the trademarked "Reagan Republican Smirk" as her trademarked "Reagan Republican glassy eyes" showed a momentary spark of superior malevolence.

Then, satisfied, she stomped away.

The Blog's M-I-L, a sweet and somewhat naive lady, stood baffled, not understanding what just happened.

The Blog stood there, nonplussed. Thinking, "Shit! If that sanctimonious bitch was 20 years younger and a man, and had done that to me, she/he would be walking away with an index finger fractured in five places."

Okay.

Your Old Uncle PC has gotten that out of his system.

In the next post, (Unless something more important pops up.) ...

Atheists, Jews, Muslims, and other non-Christians, and why we love Christmas.

(Here is a hint... Peace and Goodwill. It's not just for Christians, anymore.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sick Sucks!

Being sick sucks.

And, by "sick," The Blog doesn't mean diarrhea, vomiting, headache or a nose full of snot. He doesn't mean an itchy rash, a sore throat, aching joints and muscles, or just feeling "all around shitty."

Although, to be fair, all of those things DO suck... some.

No, by "sick," I mean, "major organs that no longer work the way that they are supposed to."

I mean, "filling your body with over a dozen controlled poisons (aka: prescription meds) every day, several times a day. Many of which have side effects that can be found referred to in the first, actual, paragraph in this post. Just because suffering those side effects is preferable to the alternative, which is sudden (or slow) death.

*A Brief Aside...*

One of The Blog's most favorite scenes from one of his most favorite TV shows, "House, MD." is the one where Dr. House is doing clinic duty and encounters a mall Santa suffering from diverticulitis. House prescribes "two cigarettes a day." House explains that nicotine has been shown to prevent the symptoms of diverticulitis.



                                           This is true! The Blog once read that in The Reader's Digest.

Santa: But, aren't cigarettes dangerous?

House: Pretty much everything we prescribe is.

*End Aside*

By "sick" I mean, "against every conceivable obstacle, getting all conditions in order, (lowering blood pressure, losing enough weight, and passing a psych evaluation,) to qualify to be put on an organ transplant list, so that, maybe, in a decade or so, the patient might receive a new (well, actually, used, but still working) organ.

By "sick" I mean spending four days a week, three and a half hours at a time, hooked to a machine that sucks our your blood and then puts it back, like some kind of robot vampire.

                                                      Which is, seriously, not as sexy or romantic 
                                                                 as some pop culture shit would have you believe!

By "sick" I mean "...going through your day, just fine. Then finding yourself in a hospital Emergency Room, covered in more blood than Carrie at her prom."

                                                                                      Your own blood. 
                                                                         Not the pig's blood that that asshole 
                                                                           John Travolta dumped on you.

That is what I mean by "sick."

Do you know what else sucks, almost as much?

Being the person whose loved one is that sick.

Never knowing when the one you love is going to spend her/his night screaming, crying and moaning in pain, as you stand by, helpless to do anything to make it better.

Catching the wrath of the miserable, frightened, loved one who "hates you," because you sent her to the hospital, rather than allowing her to sanguinate. (Um... that means, bleed to death.)

*Another Aside...*

Warfarin, also known as Coumadin, is an anti-coagulant used to prevent blood clotting.

According to Wikipedia, "It was initially introduced in 1948 as a pesticide against rats and mice and is still used for this purpose..."

Some months ago, The PC went to the local CVS Pharmacy to pick up Mrs. Blog's Warfarin prescription. He also placed four bottles of Diet Mt. Dew (one of the few soft drinks that a kidney patient is allowed to drink, weirdly,) and a bottle of moderately priced Scotch on the counter.

Pharmacist: I can ring up the Warfarin and the Mt. Dew. But, I am not allowed to ring up the Scotch.

The PC: Seriously? I can pay you, here, for the medical grade rat poison and four bottles of shit that metabolizes into formaldehyde (Google "Aspartame + formaldehyde." I'm not kidding.)

*(Note to self... One of these days, write a post about the history of "NutraSweet, the FDA and the Reagan administration. That will be a good one.)*

The PC continues: But, I have to take the Scotch to another register?

Pharmacist: I know. Right?

*End Aside #2*

So. In light of last night's events, The Blog has some advice for the desperately ill...

I get it. At best, you are frustrated. More likely, you are terrified. You will spend the next few hours being subjected to inconvenience and pain.

Given the alternative, you have to accept this.

You can antagonize the EMTs, piss off the nurses and insult the doctors.

In spite of that, they still have only one goal. And that goal is to save your life. The same goes for your loved one, your caregiver, your spouse.

There is a portion of the brain in every one of those people that is thinking, "Fuck you! Bleed out and die. Just don't do it on our watch." 

But, the EMTs, nurses and doctors don't say that. Because it is their job and responsibility not to.

Your loved one, caregiver, spouse doesn't say it because he/she doesn't want to live without you.

So, suck it up. Because everyone around you is doing their part. You need to do your part, too.

*A Note to the Healthy People...*

If you have not done it already, become an organ donor. Check the box on your driver's license or register with your local hospital. Save a life.

The "WAR ON CHRISTMAS" post is still coming. Give The Blog another day or two. The subject is based on stupidity, addressing stupid people. It's all just stupid. This post feels more important, at the moment. So it took priority.

And, to my Jewish friends, Happy Chanukah! 

 





Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Another Delay, But, Check This Out! The Worst/Weirdest Christmas Gift, Ever.

The Blog is working on his promised "WAR ON CHRISTMAS" post.

That post is coming. But, The PC is having too much damned fun writing it. And, Bill O'Reily just can't stop himself. He just can't shut the fuck up.

So, The Blog is peddling as fast as he can.

But, Bill O' keeps adding fuel to the fire.

With any luck, The Blog's rant will post tomorrow night.

In the meantime, let me lay this on you... The Worst Christmas Gift, ever.

Or, at least, the weirdest.

A couple of years ago, Mrs. Blog, a school teacher, received this gift from a student.

                                                                         No, seriously!

Now,The PC does not mean to denigrate the gift, itself.

As "they" say, "It's the thought that counts." And, the thought was sincere.

But, WTF?

Two plastic pigs, climbing over each other, in a totally not sexual way, (right?)  to hold wine glasses.

What does this mean?

I don't know.

If you, my Blogglitts have any thoughts about this, please share them.

Or, if you have a bad gift, or a weird one, share it with The Blog in the comments section.


 Let's have some fun here!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Sorry For the Delay

The Blog spent way too much time, tonight, dicking around on Facebook. trying to, finally, change his "cover photo" to a pic of the young Blogling with Santa.

The good news is, The Blog finally succeeded.

                                                                                    Here it is, if you care.

The bad news is, The Blog's newest post is only half written.

I promise that it will be posted tomorrow night.

Thank you for your patience.

B,B,B, & B (Part Whatever...)

At this point, this is all starting to feel like old news.

The friend who posted the original question has made it clear that she has no interest in what I have to say, and will no longer read this blog.

So fine.

So, a quick summation...

"Papa John" offered a half-assed apology and a major back pedal on his position on "Obamacare" on the Huffington post. Feel free to look it up.

Wal-Mart heir, Alice Walton, posted a press release standing with striking Wal-Mart workers.

Cynical PR move? Or, an admission of a clueless disconnect from the "little people" who have made her wealthy? We may never know.

Hostess shuts down business. Blames the baker's union. Gives multi-million dollar bonuses to their upper level suits while filing  bankruptcy. Hostess owners, hedge fund, corporate raiders, aka "Vulture Capitalists" sell off assets while putting thousands our of work. They don't care. They made their millions.

Costco thrives while paying their employees a living wage and health benefits, and the CEO takes no more than half a million dollars in compensation. Proving that capitalism works if ethics are included in the mix.

You can fact check all of this with a few minutes on Google.

The Blog is too fucking over it to do your homework for you.

Go! Learn! Have fun!

The Blog will be back tomorrow with the post that he has waited almost a year to write. Be here when The Blog rants about the so called "War on Christmas!"

See you then!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Billionaires, Bakers, Bankruptcy and Backpedalling (Part Two)

Now... Where was I?

Oh, right! Sorry. I got distracted by Angus Jones for a few minutes.

At this point, I guess I should continue on with my commenter's, uhm, comments.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with working our way to the top and accumulating massive amounts of wealth...
My friend is absolutely right about this! She and I are in agreement 100%!

There is nothing wrong with working your way to the top. And there is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of ones success.

But....

There is something deeply, morally, ethically wrong with achieving that success or protecting your personal profit margin by short changing the hard working employees who you could not have achieved that success without.

There is nothing right about trading in your mansion for a compound, buying a second personal jet and adding four more classic cars to your collection while laying off employees, cutting the remaining employee's benefits (and tripling their workload) and raising the price of the product you are selling to your customers, because, "Things are tough all over."

The Blog personally witnessed the following conversation between an employee and the company's CFO a couple of years ago....

Employee: How was your Christmas vacation?

CFO: Miserable! We are having our kitchen and dining room remodeled and it has taken longer than we expected. We had to spend the whole holiday at the Ritz Carlton. It was awful.
What makes this exchange galling is that the employee, a divorced mother of two (who was, frankly, just trying to make polite conversation) was, at the time, in the middle of fighting the foreclosure of her house, due to the fact that the CFO in question had cut her annual income by a third the previous year, in order to keep the company's profit margin at status quo.

The employee in this story walked a way, at that point, and cried.

*A quick digression*

In many cases, one of the main jobs of a company's CFO is to keep the CEO out of the loop where employee wages are concerned. In a, sort of, defense of CEOs, many CEOs would be appalled if they knew how little their employees were being paid. On the other hand, that's why they employ CFOs.

*end digression*

Moving on...

I think Poppa John's has great food...
Well, that is a subjective opinion. I think Poppa John's pizza sucks.

To be fair, I'm not a fan of Pizza Hut pizza or Dominos, though both are better, IMO, than Poppa John's. Also, to be fair, I think Poppa John's is superior to Numero Uno, Godfather's, Little Caesar's and Chuck E. Cheese.

But, that's not saying much.

Poppa John does a lot of charity work.
Sure he does. And that's good! So do most corporations and multi-millionaires.

Philanthropic foundations are a great tax shelter. And, it's cheaper PR than any television ad buy. The fact that they get to support some of their pet charities in the process is almost accidental.

Call me a cynic, but it's true.

Philanthropy is a good thing, whatever the motivation. I'm all for it!

Is it fair that he (Poppa John) doesn't want to pitch in a few cents for healthcare?
No. It's not. It is also short sighted. Sick employees are unproductive employees. Full time or part time. Employee healthcare is a win/win situation.

"Poppa John" has backpedaled on his comments. I'll get to that in "Part Three."

See you here tomorrow. 

What's the Deal With Angus T. Jones?

The Blog got online late tonight.

Unlike some bloggers, The PC doesn't write a bunch of stuff in advance, then set a timer to post later.

Because that would be cheating.

(And because The Blog hasn't figured out how to do it.)

So Part 2 of last night's blog won't happen until, hopefully, tomorrow night.

For tonight, a couple of quick comments about "Two and a Half Men" star Angus T. Jones' bizarre YouTube "testimony."

In case you have been under a rock for the last few days, Angus is the titular "Half" man of the wildly successful and, evidently, indestructible CBS sitcom.

A couple of days ago, Jones posted a video on the YouTube channel of the cult like "Forerunner Chronicles," a supposed offshoot of the Seventh Day Adventist church.

I don't wish to drive any traffic to this video or their web site. But, if you want to catch up, a quick Google search will take you there. You're on your own here.

The Blog doesn't pretend to know much about the Seventh Day Adventist church. They have a church right around the corner from The Blog's house. What I do know is that, after several years of claiming that "Jesus is returning soon!" on their marquise sign, they exhibited a wry sense of humor the day after the supposed Rapture last year by adding "Just not on May 21st."

This is pure speculation on my part, but I suspect that the "Forerunner Chronicles" has as much to do with the Seventh Day Adventists as Warren Jeffs' "Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints" cult has to do with the Mormon church.

*digression*

"The Forerunner Chronicles" sounds less like a church and more like a "Young Reader's" series about student wizards or sparkly vampires.

*end digression*

In the video, young Mr. Young calls his show "filth" and asks people to stop watching the show.

A day later, Angus issued a press release "apologizing" for his comments. The apology reads like it was written in a hurry by a panicked publicist.
“I apologize if my remarks reflect me showing indifference to and disrespect of my colleagues and a lack of appreciation of the extraordinary opportunity of which I have been blessed. I never intended that.”
Because calling the show that he has been a part of for the last ten years of his life (and which he is being paid a reported $350,000 per episode) "filth" should not be construed as disrespect.

Emmy award winning television writer, sports announcer and blogger Ken Levine has observed that, "...the next time we see Angus on television will probably be on an "E! True Hollywood Stories" episode or "Celebrity Fit Club."

Angus' Mom is deeply worried about her son's newfound devotion to this organization.

And here is where The Blog has some information that no one else has mentioned.

For all of his mother's hand wringing, she is culpable.

Angus spent his elementary school days, the days of the early seasons of "Two and a Half Men," when he wasn't on set, attending a private school attached to a fundamentalist "Christian" church.

The Blog knows this because one of his teachers at that school is an old college friend of The Blog.
She was fired from the school when she admitted that she had read the Harry Potter novels and thought that they were really nice stories.

Yeah. THAT kind of fundamentalist school!

So, you see, young Angus was well primed to wind up going all Kirk Cameron.

I will say this...

Angus must be one heck of an actor.

In spite of the "filth" that he now derides, he didn't appear to have any problem, this season, when Miley Cyrus was jumping his bones.

My biggest worry is that he may have already turned his $350,000 per episode over to his newfound "church."

But, it happens in Hollywood.

Tom Cruise, John Travolta, Nancy Cartwright and others have all been there.

That's Hollywood.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Billionaires, Bakers, Bankruptcy and Backpedalling (Part One)



In response to the criticisms by The Blog, and others on Facebook, of Papa John's Pizza CEO John Schnatter's claim that he, a multimillionaire, can't afford the 14¢ per pizza cost that The Affordable Care Act would inflict on his personal profit margin will force him to cut employee hours and increase costs to his customers, a lovely young lady, who is not just a friend of The Blog, but damned near family of The Blog, who is predisposed to lean to the right, posted the following question...

She continued....






I thought that her central question was an excellent one. So excellent, in fact, that I asked her permission to allow me to use it as the basis of a blog post, here.

***** Two weeks have passed since The Blog pecked out the above.*****


When the old PC set out to write this post, he wanted to give a well thought out response. Research was done. Sources were found. Graphics were collected.

Thanksgiving week arrived and The Blog went off-line to spend time with his family.

But the world does not rest. Not even over a holiday week. And, Holy Crap! did things get weird last week! So much so that, what I thought would be a pretty straightforward post suddenly developed more twists than an Ira Levin play.


                                                                          Anyone?

So, in the interest of keeping this post from becoming completely unruly, I'm going to try to break it down into two or three parts to be posted over the next couple of evenings.

Tonight, I will try to address the basics of her question. In later posts I will discuss some of the stories of interest that have come to light over the past few weeks. Especially last week.

So, here we go....

Why are people so bitterly outspoken about CEO's and Founders?
Because, 40 years ago, the average CEO made eight times more than his/her average employee. Around 1980, that began to change. CEO salaries climbed while employee wages began to stagnate. Today, CEO compensation is nearly 300 times higher than employee's wages, while those wages have flat-lined in that time. 40 years ago, CEOs and founders still had their mansions, household staffs, expensive cars and such. But, they also treated their employees as valuable assets to their companies, rather than as expendable cogs in their profit machines. Or worse, as thieves, stealing from their "rightful" profits.

The Blog once, personally, witnessed a $40 million a year CEO berate a $20 thousand a year employee for walking on his $80 thousand turkish rug with his shoes on. A bit of a disconnect, no?

And, by the way, those employees pay about 27% in income tax on their wages while their employers use loopholes to pay about 12%. 

It's not like they just woke up one day and inherited all of that prosperity.
Well, sometimes no. But, very often, yes, they did inherit that wealth.

Inherited wealth is far more common than "Horatio Alger" style, success from nothing wealth.

I have observed, over the years, that those rare few who built their success from scratch are more likely to have empathy for their employees than those who inherited their wealth.

Not always. But, generally speaking.

Consider Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, who rose out of "the projects" and has, personally, seen to it that his employees are paid a living wage and receive medical benefits, as opposed to the Walton siblings, who inherited their Wal-Mart fortune from their father (who must be spinning in his grave.) They didn't "work their way to the top." They were born there. And it shows.

(More about the Waltons in tomorrows post.)


Do you really care about their beliefs... on certain issues.
 Yeah. Actually. I do.

It is a sad fact that it is virtually impossible, in today's world, to not do business with people whose business policies are contrary to my beliefs. But, given the choice, I will do business with a company that does right by it's employees and customers over one that does not. Even if I have to pay a few cents more for the product. 

Quality is the only thing that matters to me. 
The truth is that quality is lacking in much of today's corporate climate. Quality is certainly not something that you will get from "Papa John."

My invitation stands. Come visit me sometime and I will buy you a quality pizza made by actual Italians in a hole-in-the-wall pizzeria.

You will never eat a Poppa John's pizza again! 
Success breeds jealousy.
Mitt Romney called this "the politics of envy." And, it is an exquisite pile of steaming bullshit.

The Blog can't speak for others. But, I don't begrudge the successful the spoils of their success. I just want them to recognize that they didn't succeed without the help of us "little people."

It's a matter of basic ethics and, dare I say it, morality.

More tomorrow night...