Saturday, January 30, 2010

Near the Beginning...:
#23: New Rule

Near the Beginning: New Rule
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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Near the Beginning...:
#22: Bone Loss

Near the Beginning: Bone Loss
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Friday, January 22, 2010

My Fellow Americans...

I don't even know where to begin... My dander is up for two completely unrelated topics:
  1. Corporate Free Speech???, and
  2. Hak-Shing William Tam of San Francisco
Between the Supreme Court and an "expert witness" on gay marriage...

One does wonder where one finds the time...

1. Corporate Free Speech?: When was the last time you hugged a corporation? When was the last time you saw a corporation burn a flag? When was the last time you were standing next to a corporation in line waiting to cast a vote? Never.

Ever since Theodore Roosevelt was president, there was a reason campaign finance laws restricting corporations donations and activities have been curtailed in American politics: because corporations were running the government instead of the other way around. From big oil (even back then) to the railroads, from the factory floors to the boardrooms, corporations were waving checks in front of politicians and saying, "Vote our way, or else..." Or else could have meant "We'll fund your opponent"; "We'll withhold our endorsement"; "We'll pay for radio ads and television ads that say you did this or that"; or, even worse yet, "We'll hand you a check for such and such an amount if you simply sign here..."

Here's the thing about businesses in America (you know, those entities which are so frail and poor and restricted by the free market, taxes, anti-trust laws and the like): They are in the business of making money. NOT, it should be noted, such a bad thing, until you consider that Money is the only thing corporations are about! The only reason they sell things is because we want the things they are selling--but is a society built simply on the exchange of goods? Do you think women gained the right to vote by buying only Wonder Brand Wonder Bread? In fact, if a corporation were to engage in anything "non-profitable," that part (or the whole!) of the corporation dies! If it can't be made into a good, packaged, or sold as a service--it doesn't serve the interests of the company, ergo it doesn't matter. Corporations exist at and by our discretion, by our willingness to purchase their goods or to work for them producing their goods. Corporations do not exist for the worker, the individual, the American citizen; they exist for money. WE the PEOPLE are the ones who fight for rights, enforce laws, vote for our leaders and not because we are trying to "maximize our profits" or "secure our bottom line," but because we want a better life, to pursue happiness, to feed our children, play in the park, hang out on the boardwalk, garden at our leisure, or, in the case of some individuals, work all the time.

And the Supreme Court, by a 5 to 4 vote, just sold your vote. "Oh, the ads will be more honest now," I heard one commentator say on the radio. "No need to hide behind half-truths and such." Baloney! If you believe that, I have an electro-magnetic force field holding a microwave in orbit around Jupiter I'd like to sell you. (It's teal!--the microwave, not the force field...) Chief Justice John Roberts is quoted as saying, "The text and purpose of the First Amendment point in the same direction: Congress may not prohibit political speech, even if the speaker is a corporation or union." Excuse me? The First Amendment, your high and revered douche bag, is in the BILL OF RIGHTS, which is expressly for INDIVIDUALS! Another bright bulb in this mess is Gregory Casey, president and CEO of the Business and Industry Political Action Committee, who is quoted as saying, "The Supreme Court's ruling frees American business from the yoke of second-class citizenship. ... The reason American business is active in politics in the first place is to influence public policies that impact the prosperity of its employees and shareholders." Excuse me? "Second class citizenship" for a CORPORATION? When was the last time Reebok or McDonald's applied for a green card? When did Pfizer pledge allegiance to the flag? Who ever saw Greco or General Electric or WalMart apply for a drivers license? CORPORATIONS ARE NOT CITIZENS, they are ENTITIES led by SPOKESPERSONS in the BUSINESS OF MAKING MONEY. End of discussion! But then the dude said "influence public policies that impact the prosperity of its employees and shareholders." He should have left out "employees" but kept "shareholders," because that's really what it's about: When a company is in financial trouble, what happens? Employees get laid off, wages go down, pensions are scrapped, perks scrubbed, and why? So profits stay up and shareholders continue to make money! That's it! Nothing more, nothing less! There's a REASON there are laws protecting individual and workers' rights, and it's not because it's profitable! Child labor laws are due to society, non-discrimination laws are in effect because of society, corporations are only allowed to run and exist if they follow the rules of the society, NOT the other way around! But that's exactly where we're back to. As political analyst Michael Sandel says of corporations, they cannot "sacrifice individual interests for the sake of the common good, and the ability to deliberate well about common purposes and ends." And why? Because they exist only to make Money. Nothing more, nothing less.

I've never been so upset by a decision from the Supreme Court before, but they have really dropped the ball on this one, much like when they became involved in Bush V. Gore--FLATLY unconstitutional, despite the spin job of the 5 majority justices.

2. Hak-Shing William Tam of San Francisco. In case some of you may not have noticed, there is a federal court battle playing out about Proposition 8, the voter initiative in California that rescinded the rights of same-sex couples to wed. Whatever your opinion on that might be (as it is rather moot, whether you like it or not), a friend sent me an email in regards to one of the persons who was behind the entire voter proposition to begin with: Mr. Hak-Shing William Tam. My brain was boggled by not only the fact that his trial appearance was put up with, but that his kind of ignorance still exists. From the article:

Tam testified that he spent a lot of time working on the campaign and communicated with its leaders but modestly added he did not consider himself a major player. He said became an official proponent because of his concern that legalizing same-sex marriage would encourage young people to pursue gay partners.

"I think it is very important that children won't grow up to fantasize or think about should I marry Jane or John when I grow up, because this is very important for Asian families."

Under questioning by Boies, Tam also said he agreed with a statement on the Web site for the Chinese-American Christian group that said if same-sex marriage was treated as a civil right, "so would pedophilia, polygamy and incest."

"And that is what you were telling people in encouraging them to vote for Proposition 8?" Boies asked.

"Yes," Tam answered.

Tam said he drew that conclusion after reading an Internet article that claimed incest and polygamy were legal in the Netherlands, a country where same-sex marriages became legal in 2001.

Boies: "You are saying here that after same-sex marriage was legalized, the Netherlands legalized incest and polygamy?"

Tam: "Yeah, look at the date, Polygamy happened afterward."

"Who told you that? Where did you get that idea," Boies asked incredulously.

"It's the Internet," he said. "Another person in the organization found it and he showed me it ... I looked at the document and I thought it was true."
Well, if he found it on the Internet, it must be true, no? No matter where you stand on the issue of same-sex marriage, is such a blatant "I can't think for myself" type ignoramus really someone you want on your side? Saying "I read it on the Internet so it must be true" is almost as bad as saying "I read it in the Bible so it must be true!" Have you people no critical thinking skills?? Does it cross no one's mind that they should stop and think, "Hmm, what web site is this? Are they a credible source? What facts do they have to back them up, and where did they obtain, and how did they obtain, these so-called facts?" (By the way, that teal microwave is still for sale, Mr. Tam. If you've read it here, it's on the Internet, and that's what I claim is important for Asian families! Teal microwaves in outer space!)

So, what have we learned? Oh, yes, corporations are endowed with inalienable rights according to the Supreme Court, and Mr. Tam can't think beyond his Internet connection, which, if you ask me, never fully connected...

Welcome to your country, my fellow American. You'll be pleased to know your leaders have been bought by General Mills, and you can't get married because some yahoo in California thinks it isn't good for Asians.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Today was supposed to be the day we started working out again. It was supposed to be the day we got Serious.

Instead we were sidetracked detained slightly distracted by a size issue with the exercise mats. That is to say, they wouldn't fit side by side in front of the television in such a way as for us both to... exercise properly. Which then started an argument a tiff a conversation about how to best rearrange the living room so as to allow for both exercise mats to be placed in front of the television in such a way as to allow both of us to exercise properly. In turn, we embarked on an exploratory search for a tape measure; graph paper; a lesson in geometry; and a lack of motivation, quickly followed by an appetite.

For dinner. Chicken, salad, veggies, that sort of thing. Ladies and gentlemen, let's keep it out of the gutter, shall we?

Of course, that doesn't mean another effort won't be put in tomorrow. After all, having had a long and demoralizing moment with the scale, both before and after dinner tonight, along with a slight turning of the television and the removal of an end table, we are now all set to turn our bodies back into the smooth, taut, golden vessels of manliness they once were...

Mind you, a little bit of photographic motivation doesn't hurt either...

Speaking of... I think it's time for a little...


Monday, January 18, 2010

That was Sunday and Monday...

Maybe it's just me. In fact, it is entirely possible it is just me even though I know it isn't, and it is, in fact, you as well. But it helps me to think it may just be me, in which case I feel I am able to forgive you if only because I am able to suspend disbelief for the briefest of moments. Of course, in that very brief window of opportunity, you manage to place another foot into the hole that was formally known as your mouth (which will now be referred to as your ass), a hole that has taken on new meanings as you speak into the void that up until a moment ago was your exit strategy and further deteriorated was about to be a beatific moment on my part as I forgave you your idiocy when I had just finished convincing myself it was in fact just me and not you.

I hate it when I'm wrong. Even though it is admittedly rare. I hate it even more when, as I sit here and have whole and complete arguments inside my head as you rattle on endlessly, I never actually get to say what I want to say. Not only because you haven't shut up, but because by the time I'm done arguing my point in my head, I'm too exhausted to repeat it aloud. And not just because I know it never sounds as good verbalized as it did mentalized.

I hate even more so the fact that you interpret my acquiescence as your win, and not as my enduring patience cleverly disguised as too exhausted to repeat mental arguments I have in fact won while you lost in reality the verbal argument that mentally happened.

And now, as I sit here and type and enjoy Goonies in the background while you slumber all over the couch which prevents me from enjoying Goonies in a slightly more comfortable but less blog-friendly couch-like position, it still matters naught. As I've still decided to forgive you, and you have no idea you needed it.

I'll try not to be bitter as long as you try not to be an ass anymore.

This is attainable as long as I still have the energy to have the conversation once you wake up. Which will probably be about my bed time. In which case it won't happen as splendidly as it's happened in my head. And probably won't include any make-up sex either. Due to the aforementioned mental splendidness not appearing in any tangible way in reality, and partially due to bed time, but mostly due to exhaustion.

And that's just Sunday and Monday...

Oh, yes, I may as well mention, the picture is just pretty, ain't it? No special relevance, just a passing happy thought.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Near the Beginning...:
#21: So "Day" Means...?

Near the Beginning: So "Day" Means...?
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Barely Breathing...

I long for bright green blades of grass squished between my toes; desire once again to see the lillies waving on long stalks on a cool spring breeze; to gaze once more upon the Japanese cherry in full blossom...

I'm sure if I were into snow tubing or ice fishing or skiing (or some other type of celebrity-killing past time) I would be a much happier camper in 8 degree temperatures at 10:30 pm in the middle of January... But as I stare out the kitchen window upon a yard as barren and lifeless as Mother Theresa's uterus ever was, I can't help but wish I could attract a little more life to the garden than the occasional cardinal or tit mouse...

To make things worse, my gardening catalogs have started arriving in droves, their annual migration to my mailbox usually a well-spring of joy. It is emptier this year, knowing I will not be ordering anything. And while that knowledge is slightly tempered by the fact that once we're in Florida I'll be able to garden for longer months at a time and grow an ever-more tropical range of plants, as I gaze upon pictures of peonies and other such plants I must say goodbye to, heirloom staples from generations of my ancestors here in Pennsylvania...

Sigh. It's going to be bitter-sweet, make no mistake.

Beaux and Hawthorne lay side-by-side before the coal stove, moving only when forced away from the flames, and I pull my mother's hand-made afghan tighter around my shoulders and lean further into Rich, the original human torch. (Seriously, if I could can just a bit of the heat he lets off, I'd be a millionaire in Alaska...)

This is going to be the longest winter ever...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Near the Beginning...:
#20: Screw the Script

Near the Beginning: Screw the Script
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Saturday, January 2, 2010

I Can't Remember if We Said Goodbye...

Here it is in all it's glory--my extremely nerdy side: My HO Scale model train set, spewed upon my coffee table and couch as I try to decide what to sell on eBay and what to keep. I carefully brought each piece slowly out of its respective box, and I amaze myself with how organized I use to be before I started... "living" with someone... "Electric lights" one is labeled. "Power lines and telephone poles"; "Cars and trucks"; "Cabooses and cattle cars"; "Box cars and tanker cars"; "Shed". Dozens of boxes, large and small.

My heart tugs as I bring out some of the houses: The white farmhouse with the green roof, complete with chicken shed and small garage in matching colors. I'm not sure if this one was my father's of my grandfather's, but it's always been one of my favorites. The "76" gas station which I know was my fathers. One car still sits in the second bay, waiting for the mechanic who never came back from lunch break. The old white church which I then glued half of a split-level house to the side--I suppose I imagined the pastor of this flock needed a "parsonage." I had also taken white paper and water-colored it, then glued it to the insides to make a "stained glass" effect. The tape holding the paper in place was peeling off now, but the water-colors seemed brighter than ever. Ah, yes, then the old brick church--I had imagined that this was the Catholic church in town. I hadn't known any Catholics at that time in my life (not that I knew of, anyway), but from what I had seen on television and the movies, they had the nicer churches, so therefore this nicer-looking brick church had to be theirs... (Ah, the mind of a ten-year-old...)

Two water towers, both green with blue roofs: one had been my father's and one had been my grandfathers, and while one was slightly taller than the other, my small brain had always been amazed that my father and my mother's father had managed to own the same piece for their respective collections from across an entire state (after all, I had no concept of "mass production"...)

Then there was the first engine I had ever bought myself with my allowance money: A shiny silver-and-red Sante Fe engine with matching caboose. Then the toned-down blue-gray-and-black Baltimore and Ohio engine, also with matching caboose.

I lifted building after car after track after building and placed them around the living room. Some of the buildings crumbled apart in my hands, the glue so old and dried out it was only the dust holding it together. I inspected my horrible ten-year-old painting techniques as compared to the buildings I knew my father and grandfather had put together... I hadn't even remotely been a Picasso. But I had loved it, and tears were springing from my eyes as I gingerly placed each one carefully to the side.

My grandfather died many years ago, about a year before I had even graduated high school, just barely in his sixties. He was undergoing his third or fourth hip-replacement surgery and his heart just stopped. He held on for another year and a half, in a semi-comatose state.

I held the watch tower from his collection and remembered that day in the home: My grandmother, my mother, my aunt Mary and myself. I have no idea where my other four siblings were, or why I had been brought along on the day when they were pretty sure he was finally going to die. I just know it was a seemingly endless day. We all sat at various points around his bed as Grandmom and Mom said things to him and to one another that I was pretty sure he couldn't hear anyway. Nurses stopped in every few minutes and stared at machines, would look pityingly on the scene, assure us that it was "going to be soon," and would exit again, as it if were some type of assurance...

I lift out the train station that I also knew was his, and remember that when he finally did pass, it wasn't how I had always imagined it would be: he didn't raise his arms up or mention a light, or suddenly become lucid for a brief moment to say a proper good bye. He just... Stopped. Breathing, moaning, drooling.

And then here's "Al's General Store." I had bought this at Zern's with my grandfather. He was always taking us grandkids for rides to the farmer's market, taking us out to eat, making a trip to the bank seem like an adventure not to be missed for anything. Going up with he and Grandmom to their small cabin and stopping in a store much like this model named "Al's." Scrappel was always a must on these cabin trips, although if truth be told I turned up my nose at this mysterious meat and usually had eggs instead.

As I sit here and take my time, saying good bye to some pieces which will not make the cut to Florida and reverently re-wrapping others that will, I am reminded of that late spring morning. I remember the sun was shining fiercely through the window, too bright and too harsh for such a day. Mom and Grandmom held each other tightly with their grief, helping one another to let go. Aunt Mary came up and hugged me, but I didn't want to be hugged or comforted. After all, in my mind, my grandfather had stopped living a year and a half ago. I know I had told him a thousand times I had loved him, but as I stood there, and as I sit here now, trying to say goodbye to some of the pieces of his collection in the hopes that another will find joy through building their own model railroad collection, I can't help but remember...

Did I say goodbye? While parts of that day seem all-too-clear, other parts are so blurry as to barely be recalled. Did I say goodbye?

I'm not sure. But I do know, as I lovingly pack up the water towers, the general store, and a few other choice pieces that I refuse to part with, he will not be forgotten as long as we are around. And when I finally do get that spare room and set up my very own model train set permanently, I will remember him again and fondly think of all the wonderful memories and love he passed on to me and my siblings.

With never a need to having to say goodbye...

Near the Beginning...:
#19: About the Birds...

Near the Beginning: About the Birds...
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