Thursday, April 28, 2011

Jaded emo-hipster royal wedding haters

We get it.  You are too cool for school.  You'd sooner rip off your little toe than watch royal wedding coverage. You don't care, but you care enough to tell everyone how much you don't care.

I even saw a person online speculate that this coverage was a "plot" on the part of the "corporate media".  In case you didn't know, if you want to make something sound super sinister, use the adjective "corporate."  I do not care for corporate liver.  A corporate nail punctured my tire.  Corporate tornadoes ripped across the South yesterday.   Actually, that last one isn't far-fetched ... I'm sure they will be blamed on "global climate change" that is caused by "corporate greed."

But I digress.  I digress frequently.

The royal wedding is newsworthy.  I can understand if some guys aren't that excited.  Deep down, you're probably thinking, "That playa is a PRINCE ... and now he's ball and chaining it."  For those of us that are older, we remember Charles and Diana's wedding.  We witnessed the ensuing chaos and tragedy.  We're ready and hoping for a happier ending.  We watched this kid grow up and, let's face it, the woman he chose seems likable.

Now's the time for you to grumble that the concept of the monarchy is outdated.  Like it or not, they bring a ton of tourism to England.  The newer, younger members seem more down-to-Earth.  The man getting married will one day be the King of England.  On a side note, I often see people complaining about the monarchy in England ... but they don't rail against the monarchies in Belgium, Sweden or Malaysia.

But I digress.

There's no doubt that as an international human drama of historical significance, this wedding meets the requirements of being newsworthy. 

Also, I admit, it has "girl-factor".  Yep.  We were raised with Disney princesses.  We like love stories.  We're hoping this will be a romance for the ages that will restore some faith in the idea that there's really a match out there for everyone.  Kate's a woman from somewhat humble beginnings, and she caught the eye of a future King.  "Some day my prince will come..." and all that jazz.

So ... relax.  It will be over soon.  In the meantime, instead of getting your proverbial knickers in a twist ... grab your remote and consult TV Guide.  No one's forcing you to watch.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Grandma's AMAZING sugar cookies. You're welcome.

3/4 cup butter (softened)
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon real vanilla (I like Watkins clear double strength)

Beat above ingredients together until fluffy.

Mix together and then add to the above:

1 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt

Then slowly add 4 cups of flour (all purpose)

Dough will be soft. Roll large teaspoonsful into balls and place on ungreased cookie sheets.

Flatten the balls with a glass (with a decorative bottom) dipped in sugar.

Bake at 350 degrees for 13 minutes until the edges are golden.

Watch closely, because they are very pale when they are cooked, but if you leave them a minute too long...the things burn.


The trouble I see.

I've been doing some thinking about a certain program I viewed on my tee vee set.  I enjoyed the show.  It was a documentary about a reclusive tribe of people in South America.

Sometimes I like to stand on the roof at my grandmother's place and look at the large sky.  I also have a vista of very rural countryside.   These are often reflective moments.  I have lived other places of course.  Places urban and even foreign have been on my life roadmap.  I find I haven't really changed at the core of me.  I'm curious and believe that, instead of killing the proverbial cat, curiosity actually keeps a person moving forward.

We can become jaded and rooted in somewhat stagnant theology that  "there's nothing new under the sun."  While it may be true, there's stuff that's new to ME.  There's always a truth to be revealed, or an epiphany to be had, or a new way to look at something.

California, for instance, is America...but the topography and the way people have settled on it is fascinating. I
 stood transfixed in front of all kinds of different flora there.  I was even mischievous in Malibu.  I called my cousin in Illinois when I was there and said, "I'm standing in the Malibu McDonald's...there are no celebrities here eating burgers."  Of course that would be fauna.

There are always people.  They are the constant in life.  All kinds of people.  Short ones, skinny ones, fat ones, tall ones...males and and adults.  Diversity, but sameness, no matter the locale.  Smiling, crying, yelling, laughing, whispering antical people.  Different, but knowable.

The trouble I see is that we seem to be racing towards sameness.  I genuinely like diversity.  I want to go to Italy and eat pizza and see people talking with their hands.  I want to go to India and eat curry and see cows in the street.  I'd like to visit New Orleans to see the French influence and enjoy Cajun culture.  I'd like to see Carnival in Brazil.

Should we make a mad dash to "diversify" everyone into set of acceptable characteristics and practices decided by an organization, government or committee?

So imagine, if you can, my thoughts after seeing a special about a little tribe in South America.  Imagine, if you will, that it's fundraising month on PBS.  The announcers talk about the show we just watched:

"Well, Rob...we certainly have much to learn from the Weebee tribe.  Isn't it amazing that they have the rich oral religious tradition?"

"Yes, Jane.  They want nothing more than to wake each day and live in harmony with their God.  The families are strong and they support each other.  The elders are revered."

"And Rob, the sense of community is remarkable.  While they are mistrustful of the western world, they were very friendly and welcoming to the documentary crew.  They explained the various duties of the tribe members."

"You're right Jane.  They are a fantastic culture.  They have their wedding celebrations and other ceremonies where they sing and dance.  The villagers make wonderful meals from the game that has been hunted.  The children are free to run and frolic until the time comes for them to mature into the adults who will contribute to the important ceremonies and tribal life."

"If you'd like to support more progams like this on public television, call in and make a donation..."

And you take out your billfold, because, doggonit, those Weebees are fascinating!

You feel erudite and special.  You feel kind of warm inside to know that this great group of people are here on this Earth.  You think it's important to preserve and be informed about their way of life.

But it doesn't really occur to you that the things that were highlighted in the program, those traditions that were made glorious and reveled in, are some of the very things that seem to be under attack in the Western World.  The sense of community.  The practice of religious traditions.  The importance of family.  A respect for the elders.

So how is it that we admire, lionize and recommend the values of the Weebees, feeling so enlightened as we praise them, but there seems to be such discord in the ranks of American culture?  Why is there such a tendency to scorn religion?  Why do some folks poo poo the idea of the importance of family?  The Weebees celebrate their holidays and we are transfixed.  American Christians celebrate their holidays and are often criticized or even told that their traditions aren't real.

Many people disrespect the elderly and disdain them for holding old-fashioned values. 

The culture of the Weebees is to be preserved, but the culture in the West needs to be changed.

Don't misunderstand me.  I love the melting pot.  I enjoy diversity.  I, too, recognize wrongs in the past that needed to be righted.  It just seems to me that we celebrate some traditions when we see others practicing them, but we seem somehow to vilify those same things in our own environment.

If it's laudable for the Weebees, why is it wrong for us?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Pelosi tells Republicans to be more like Democrats...problem solved!

I think that by now, we've all noticed the left-wing's strategy for the next election.  They aren't going to bring IDEAS ... they are going to bring indictments.  They've been told to use the words "extreme" and "radical" when referring to their opponents.

And here's Nancy Pelosi decrying the Republicans and urging her "friends" to "take back their party."

Seems to me that the party did pretty well in the last election.  Of course, Nan lost her position, so she might have a different take on events.  What was the last election about? Some would have you believe that it was about racism, greed and Godwin.  It was about this.

It is as a result of massive government spending and expansion of government power...(See:  The Insurance Bill, GM bailout, bank bailouts, student loan takeover ... etc.) that many Americans took to the streets to stop the national car ... now in the ditch ... from careening down the ravine.  It truly seems that, to some liberals, no government expansion is a bad government expansion.

Liberals like Nancy DO need to begin to understand that it is not government that was meant to solve every problem.  Empower the private citizens to solve problems.  Instead of simply shaking our heads when we hear yet another story about a government program that is poorly run, riddled with fraud, and financially unsupportable we need to find our righteous ire and demand accountability and efficiency.

The most telling part of Nancy Pelosi's statement was THIS comment:  "To my Republican friends: take back your party. So that it doesn’t matter so much who wins the election..."

Oh Nan, you really are asking for the kind of business as usual that has the citizenry absolutely fed up.  It does matter who wins elections.  Remember elections having consequences, Madame ex-speaker?  Remember back when the left was vociferously protesting Bush and even burning him in effigy in your own city?   

Were you chiming in then to tell people to simmer down?  Of course not.  But when annoyed citizens showed up at town hall meetings and were upset about what was happening in Washington, you called them "unamerican" and even the White House disagreed with you.

In short, no one's fooled by this sort of rhetoric.  Pelosi's asking for a change in the opposition party to something more like her party.  That's exactly the sort of thing that has people disillusioned and exasperated with Washington in general.  

As to Pelosi's question about why it MATTERS who wins elections...and why can't Republicans be more like Democrats, I refer her to Henry Higgins.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A deficit of empathy? Or a realization of encompassing greed?

Forgive me as I write and post this; It's mostly train-of-thought. I hope you can follow.

A left-wing blog submitted to multiple sources what I'm sure they felt was a heartfelt distress-cry over the national mood. The gist of it was that, as a country, our children are not in danger from our debt and deficit...but they are in danger from a "deficit of empathy." It was the bleeding-heart liberal rallying cry on full display. "You're meanies...and we're not." 

It made me think of a situation in my own life a few years back. I'd like to tell you about it. 

Times have certainly been lean, but we all struggle. Some are born very blessed, others rise to a certain level of comfort, many are happy with what they have and some are poor. I live in a poor neighborhood. One day, I was cleaning out my car and a neighbor lady came up to me. 

She said, "Honey, can you help me? My car isn't working and I can't get it fixed right now, but I really need to go to the store to get my medication. I'm diabetic. It's just the Walgreen's up the road."

I said, "Sure. Give me a minute to get my purse and I'll be out and take you to the store."

So, off we went to the Walgreen's. I waited outside and when she came out she said, "Would you mind taking me over to the payday loan place over there? And would it be ok to go to the grocery store? I haven't eaten and I'm a diabetic."

I took her to those places and waited outside the grocery store for her. She had a number of bottles of distilled water and some food and was carrying another bag with a couple of bottles as she exited the liquor entrance and walked to the car. I helped her put her groceries in the trunk. Then she wondered if I could swing by McDonald's so she could get a hamburger, since she hadn't eaten...and she was diabetic.

She was very, very thankful and repeated to me several times that people "around here are mean." She said she was going to move back to Chicago as soon as she could because, there, people would be having barbecues all out on the street and they'd invite you over and everything was free. People where I live, well, "they aren't nice people."

When we got home, I helped her into the house with her groceries and she asked me to sit a little and chat. Turns out that her mother, Miss Lily, lives in the same neighborhood about a block away. My neighbor, let's call her Janice ... would occasionally have Miss Lily over to her place since Janice had an air conditioner and Miss Lily didn't. Janice had followed Miss Lily back to the area from Chicago. There's family both places. Janice had certainly had her struggles in life and told me all about them. She also told me about how terrible everyone in the neighborhood is. She said she, "Keeps to herself and doesn't want anyone messing with her."

Janice told me about her favorite thing to do. She just LOVES the gambling boat. Now Janice is on Social Security Disability, but she goes to the boat at least three times a week. She asked if I wanted to go to the boat with her sometime. I said, "I hate the boat. It's just not my thing."

After a chat, I excused myself and went home. This was not the end of the story. Janice decided that I was now her best friend. She'd knock on my door every evening. Usually, she would come in and sit and bitch about everything for at least an hour.

Through her explanations of things in her l came to an internal understanding that this person wasn't really very nice. But could I shake her off? No.

It was hard to put my finger on the exact nature of Jan's character. She invited me over one day to meet her mother Miss Lily and we had a very nice conversation. Another night she knocked and asked me over to listen to some music. Blackstreet and Teddy Pendergrass and a litany of stories about the glories of Chicago.

She told me about a guy she met on the computer. They went on a date to the boat. She had been comped two free buffets, so they had dinner and went to do some gambling. He ran out of money and wanted to go home before she was ready. He insisted, so she told him he was going to go to a cash point and get out $20 to pay her for the buffet he ate or she was going to "bust him in his face." He, apparently, drove to the cash point.

It was hard to know what to make of her. One day we did some grilling and I provided the chicken wings and a salad. About a week later, she told me that she'd been to a church function and she won a whole freezer of steaks in the raffle. She wanted to have a barbeque with Miss Lily the next day. I asked if I could provide anything and she suggested some brats and some pork chops.

I showed up and gave her the brats and the pork chops and she said to me, "These are not the good brats. You better go back to the store and get some of those Johnsonville brats." I told her that I wasn't going back to the store, I'd had the brats I brought and they were pretty good. She was not happy. She had some chicken legs and we ate the pork chops, the brats and the chicken legs ... no steak left the freezer ... and, as I'd noticed was her tendency...she kept all the leftovers for herself...

Over the course of months, more of Jan's particular brand of swagger and aggressiveness made itself known. She'd show up wondering if I could spare a couple of eggs. I met her niece's kids and saw her scream at them. I witnessed her berating her mother...all while she consistently told me how bad people were and how unfair life was to her.

There was a seven-year old girl nearby who liked to see my pet cockatiel when I'd bring his cage outside and one day as Jan and I were talking, she walked by and waved and we exchanged hellos. Jan said, "She ain't nothing but a ho." I said, "She's SEVEN." Jan said, "She follows my little nephews all around. She's a ho. Momma will tell you she's a ho!"

One day Jan caught me going to the car to ask me, "Julie, I need a big favor...I am completely OUT of cigarettes...can you swing getting me a pack of menthols and I'll pay you back?" When I returned and knocked on her door to give her the menthols, she gave them to Miss Lily and Miss Lily said, "Finally!" Jan had a full pack of her own brand on the table by her chair.

At this same time, I had my OWN things to deal with. I had my own disabled mother living a couple of miles from me. But Jan quickly became a somewhat constant presence. Sometimes, I just didn't answer the knock at the door.

But she was diligent.

One day we had a historic storm here. They are called derechos and they do tons of damage. Virtually EVERYONE'S power was out, but mine stayed on. mom's was out and I needed to get her since it would be out for possibly a week. Some of the roads were impassible, but I got to her place and swung by the grocery store on the way back ... You couldn't buy anything from the freezers or cooling cases, but I had previously stocked up and I was able to get some dry goods and some fruit, pop ... snacks... the store was about to close down until the power was restored.

I got Mom back to my place, up the stairs and settled in. Then Jan knocked.

My mom was disabled with residual brain damage from post-operative trauma. She was able to function, pretty much, and lived in an assisted-living facility, but was in no mood for any company after what she saw as a very difficult day, having to pack up for a week...after losing power and having to evacuate her place because they had no generator...

She liked to visit my place, too ... but was most comfortable in her own armchair.

I went downstairs and explained to Jan that my mom was there and she didn't want company because she was in her nightgown. Jan asked me if I could spare a soda. I took down two and we sat outside my door talking a little about the storm. We did a little other chitchat and after a bit Jan said to me, "You know what I don't like about you?" I was taken a little aback...I said, "What?" She said, "You don't take ANYTHING seriously." She meant it...she seemed pissed. I said, "Well, it doesn't do any good to take everything TOO seriously." I just looked at her. She was honestly upset and scowling at me...aaand I'm thinking, "You're outside MY door ... drinking MY soda ... and you're ...." Then I did something I rarely do. I got pissed off. I said nothing.

Then Jan said to me, "You know what else I don't like about you?"

I stood up. I looked down at Jan and I raised my voice, "Whatever you don't like about me you can just take RIGHT BACK OVER there to your OWN house!"

And she did. And she hasn't darkened my door since. And guess what? She's still living there.

I guess Chicago didn't pan out for Jan. But don't pity her ... over where she lives she's got a washer and dryer the church gave her, a new computer with a big screen, a giant screen TV with premium cable and possibly...a freezer full of steaks.

I once told an abridged version of the story of Jan and me on a social site when making the point that sometimes the poor can take advantage and sometimes the poor can be greedy.

I was informed by a sanctimonious liberal that I lacked an understanding...a TRUE understanding of Jan's situation. The problem is, in fact, mine! See...Jan's POOR and if I underSTOOD the poor I'd understand that it's common for them to engage in hoarding and selfish behavior. They can't help it.

Oh. My bad.

See...I think that right now ... as a population ... we are kind of in the place I found myself with Jan. We can never do enough. There's always someone who needs something from us. It's our DUTY to be kind to our neighbors and if we get frustrated, well...dammit ... there's someone to tell you what your problem is.'s never the reality that's the issue. And we can always excuse away the reality as a pathology that you have misinterpreted anyway. It's always OUR fault.

Only, we're getting pissed off. We're a bit frustrated. We MIGHT have to raise our voices ... empathy be damned.