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Archive for October, 2010

The fact that election day comes so quickly on the heels of Halloween should neither be surprising nor overlooked. I have no idea if they held elections in the Emerald City, but I’m sure if they did, Dorothy’s three traveling companions would have thrown their hats in the ring. I can imagine the Scarecrow running on “The Corn Is Too Damn High” ticket, the Tin Man would have proclaimed that the government was too creaky  and if elected he would oil the wheels of government and get things rolling again, and the Lion would have based his campaign on bringing courage back into government.

In the real world, most of the people running for office lack any brains, have no heart and are all cowards.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want you to get the impression that I dislike politics. No. The truth is, I HATE politics and all politicians!

I think your typical politician is like a Ken doll – meaning not being anatomically correct if you get my drift.

All politicians are liars, phonies, self-absorbed cry babies, and boring as hell.  I think most of them run for office because they actually couldn’t get a real job.

My life has neither been supercalifragilisticexpialidocious nor goddamnawful under one party over another party. I’ve struggled under democrats in charge as well as when the GOP was in office.

And if anyone believes any of the promises made by any office seeker they need to send me a check for $5 and I promise them I’ll show them how to make a million bucks on the internet overnight.

Now to the officer seeker’s defense I must say that there is no way in hell we can expect an elected official to actually accomplish something. And that’s especially true of career politicians. I mean, how can we expect congress to agree on something for the good of the people when human nature abhors agreement. Just think about those times you and a group of friends were trying to decide what to do on a Friday night. Was everybody happy with the decision to go to the movies? Of course not. Some people wanted to go bowling, some wanted to hit a bar and some wanted to do absolutely nothing.

In my uneducated opinion, government is like a 2687 pound Shitzu on steroids – cute but would turn on you in a second. How in the world do we expect someone with even the noblest of intentions to control a dog that size? And if you take the analogy to the next logical step, consider how much shit such a dog (government) would produce!

We don’t need to elect political seekers to office, we need to find us some good dog whisperers – real people who can talk that dog back down to size and  real people who think government needs to be manageable if it is to have any chance at ever being ‘man’s best friend.’

Trick or treat is okay for Halloween, but haven’t we been tricked by politicians for far too long?

I say that on election day you go into the voting booth with a big pooper scooper. And don’t give the dog a treat until it obeys OUR commands.

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Once-upon-a-time I wrote about a special Halloween on the YBR.  I take the liberty of blogging it here.

What’s not to like about Halloween?   When I was a kid I thought it had to have been a big mistake.  My little mind couldn’t fathom why adults, who made sure you ate all your vegetables, did your homework, took out the garbage, washed behind your ears and got 46 hours of sleep a night, would encourage you to dress up in some outrageous costume and go door-to-door begging for candy…and then be allowed to eat as much of it as you wanted!

Although the mixed message I got as a kid, didn’t make any sense, I never questioned the superior adult wisdom at the time because why would I risk ruining a good thing.

And while most of my Halloweens were uneventful, there was one Halloween from Hell that haunts me to this very day.

I was ten and I couldn’t decide whether to go out as a hobo or a ghost.  My choices were limited because my frugal father didn’t want to spend two bucks on a store-bought costume made out of material he said was less durable than Kleenex. I flipped a coin that Halloween night long ago, and the ghost costume won.

My mother, who had elevated worrying to an art form, had heard the weather was going to be particularly cold and rainy on Halloween.  So, before I donned my well-ironed sheet, I had to put on a pair of thermal underwear, sweat pants that were two sizes too big for me, three bulky sweaters and a snowsuit.

When I was all finished dressing, I looked like the Pillsbury Dough Boy.  Worse than the way I looked was the fact I could barely move.  I was so constricted that my joints were inoperable.  I had to hop down the stairs.  I couldn’t even bend over to pick up my trick-or-treat bag.

My mother opened the front door and noticed it was drizzling. Not missing a beat,

she sprang to the hall closet and before I knew what was happening she was stuffing me into my bright yellow rain slicker and buckling me into a pair of 40 pound rubber boots.

“Have fun,” she said as she ushered me out the door.

Not only couldn’t I move, I couldn’t see because the small holes I was supposed to look out of had shifted, thereby greatly limiting my field of vision.  It took me over fifteen minutes to make it to my first house which was less than 50 feet away.

Even though I did make a few attempts to hurl myself on the stoop, there was no way I was going to make it up to the top step.  I had to wait for a bunch of kids to do the dirty work for me.  A group of five kids in store bought costumes rumbled past me at the bottom of the stoop and rang the door bell.

“Trick or treat,” they all screamed in unison.

I screamed it too, hoping my ghost-like voice would be heard by my next door neighbor.  I knew I had failed to get her attention when the kids rang out in a chorus of ‘thank-you’ and heard the door click shut and the saw porch light go off.

I had my work cut out for me if I expected to fill my bag with candy.  That’s when I decided I would only go to houses that had no stoops or porches.

I was pleased with my decision, and after an hour of trick or treating I had an apple, a bag of popcorn, a cracked lollipop and a cup cake.

Meanwhile, most of my friends had already gone home to empty their trick or treat bags and were out again hitting many of the same homes for a second time. Still, I held my reserve and like the good trooper marched forward into the fray.  And then it happened.  I had to go to the bathroom.

I calculated my rate of speed and the distance I had to travel to get back home and realized I would be 27 years old by the time I made it to the bathroom.   I opted to hold it in and hop like hell from house to house, which I did to the amusement of my neighbors.

With my trick-or-treat bag “under-flowing” and my bladder “over-flowing,” I began my urgent retreat home.

Perhaps I didn’t see it because I was looking at the world through a sheet, but I failed to notice that there was a wide crack on the sidewalk..

As fast as you could say “Jack-o-lantern,” I was down on the ground in a heap. I looked like a speed bump. All my goodies were strewn about like the fallout from a piñata.  Little feet passed me by in quick succession. My muffled cries were drowned out by the now howling wind.

My brief life passed before my eyes.  I thought it was all over until I heard the pitter-patter of soft footsteps coming up from behind me.

“I’m saved,” I cried out.

I lifted my head to see who my savior was and came face-to-face with a basset hound that must have had garlic for lunch owing to the odious smell of his hot breath. The hound proceeded to lick my face with reckless abandon before he devoured my soggy cupcake.

And then…the coup-de-grace.  The little overweight dog lifted his leg and peed all over me.

I started to laugh.  And it was my laughter that saved me because a passing adult heard me and stood me upright.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” I answered.  “Couldn’t be better.  It’s Halloween and I just love Halloween!”

The following year my father broke down and bought me a store-bought Superman costume.  The elastic strap on the mask broke before I got to the end of my driveway and the cape got caught on a sticker bush.

I made a quick retreat to the house and came out dressed like a hobo.

 

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And I thought I was the one without a brain. I can’t believe how many people haven’t caught on to the greatest disappearing act…ever. Even Houdini would have been amazed at the feats of prestidigitation currently being performed at grocery stores around the world. 

No, the world isn’t shrinking, but most products you’re accustomed to buying without blinking an eye are definitely shrinking.

In Oz there’s an expression: Don’t raise the bridge, just lower the river. And that’s what’s happening in your world. In your hard, economic times manufacturers have been forced to resort to a slight of hand. Instead of raising the bridge (the cost of an item), they’re lowering the river (reducing the size/weight of a product.)

And the funny thing is, most of you out there are literally buying into their shenanigans! For years a candy bar was a candy bar. When the economy was good, candy makers introduced jumbo-sized candy bars and justifiably charged more. (I’m not a dummy. You get more, you should pay more.)

Well, to offset the high cost of ingredients, candy makers introduced what they called the ‘fun size.’ I ask you, fun for whom? Not the consumer. No, the consumer looks at the bag and it says it contains 20 fun size Milk Ways, but do you ever look at the weight of the bag? Of course not…20 is 20. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Last year’s 20 fun size Milk Ways weighed .5 oz more than this year’s bag.

This idea of the amazing shrinking product started years ago when the standard pound can of coffee went the way of the audio tape cassette. Now all cans of coffee look exactly alike, but presto-chango, they are all different sizes.

Two years ago an article appeared in one of your papers, but it never made 20/20 or Date Line. (I wonder why.) Read just an excerpt from that article and you’ll see who needs to ask the Wizard for a brain:

“A jar of Skippy peanut butter, for example, is the same height and circumference it has always been, but now has a hidden, inward “dimple” on the bottom that decreases the amount the jar holds by two ounces. Boxes of breakfast cereal appear to be the same height and width they’ve always been, but manufacturers have reduced the boxes’ depth from front to back, decreasing the amount of cereal they hold. Rolls of Scott toilet tissue contain the same number of sheets as always (1,000), but the length of each sheet has been cut from 4 to 3.7 inches. A “six ounce” can of Starkist Tuna now holds just five ounces. When asked about the shrinkage, most companies point to higher costs for ingredients, manufacturing and fuel. The number of Rolos went from 11 to 10 all in the cause of economy. Dan Howard, a marketing professor at Southern Methodist University, says the only way consumers can fight back against this sneaky way of increasing costs is to refuse to buy from manufacturers who engage in this deceptive tactic.”

And for all you people out there who read the labels on store shelves to compare prices by checking cost per ounce, get a load of this. Ice cream makers have fallen in line and have basically removed the gallon container and replaced it with a smaller one. They couldn’t fool you on that one. But, did you know that the ice cream makers didn’t change the bar codes on the newer and smaller containers. So, you are still paying the same price for the smaller one, but because the bar codes are still tied to the older and larger weight, the unit price hasn’t changed.

I’ll do the math for you:

Old bar code on 1.75 qt. – $4.99 and the unit price: $2.85 per qt.

Same old bar code on 1.5 qt. – $4.99 BUT the unit price (remains, because the program hasn’t been adjusted to reflect the smaller size): $2.85 per qt when it really should be: $3.33 per qt.

Hey. Next time you shop. Use your head and then use your mouth and say: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

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Random photo of God I took randomly.

 

There are writers and there are writers. James Patterson recently published his 1,242nd novel. He is a recognized writer. I on the other hand am not recognized, but I still write…a lot, and sometimes my writings are very random. While going through my computer files I came across something I wrote…and did nothing with…about four years ago.

I had a meeting with myself and I/we decided to post it on the YBR for not other reason than a whim.  Here’s what I wrote:

In the Matter of God vs. the Human Race

If I were God at this increasingly sad time in the history of the world, the first thing I would do is hire a good lawyer and sue the pants off the human race for libel, slander and defamation of character.  I’d point a mighty finger of blame at every religious leader who wittingly or unwittingly uses my name to promulgate a message of hate.  I’d say to hell with the high and mighty that persists in proclaiming their religion to be the one I intended for everyone.  I would ask that my name to be erased from every sacred book until such time that people came to their senses and realized that my love is unconditional, unequivocal, unending…and not, for God’s sake…exclusive!

And while my intention is not to insult the religious sensibilities of any one or any religion, I feel like the character from the movie Network who opened the window and screamed at the top of his lungs: I’m as mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore!”

I don’t have a political or religious axe to grind (in fact, I don’t even own an axe).  I’m just sick and tired at the way the world continues to use God to promote their agendas.  I’m disheartened at the way religious leaders constantly turn to “their” sacred scriptures to prove that they and they alone are right.  When that happens all that might be sacred in their scriptures becomes profaned – an abomination.

The situation in the mid-East is, to use a metaphor, the string of lights that many of us remove from a box stored in our attic every holiday.  They are a tangled mess.  And even though you swear that you were meticulous in the way you put them away, they still come out a tangled mess.

The world, not just the mid-East, is a tangled mess.  And if we’re honest, the conflict that currently exists there is not a new conflict, but rather one that can be traced back to a time when God supposedly was still on speaking terms with the human race.

Well, I for one, thinks the human race must have had a sock stuffed in their ears when God was speaking freely, because his message has been lost in translation – literally and figuratively.

If I were God, I think I would call for a moratorium in belief systems and ask people to figure it out for themselves.  I mean, we are the most intelligent form of life on the planet.  I think we have the tools.  I don’t think, though, we have the unselfish dedication to the proposition that all people are created equally (not just Americans) and we all deserve the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (and again, not just Americans).

I’m an accidental American and Roman Catholic.  And there was a time when I thought and spoke like a child in terms of America and Catholicism.  I credit my change in relationship with God to some of the following: a few decades of living here and abroad; an insatiable appetite to learn something new each day; a lot of soul-searching, a lot of listening with my head and heart to hundreds of people who I have had the wonderful opportunity of coming in contact with; and on the flip side, coming into contact with a number of pompous assholes.

You see, I don’t believe in a God.  I believe in God.  And since God is totally unfathomable and beyond human comprehension, I stopped looking for God as if God were something out there lost, like a run-away marble that slides under a couch.  I believe that by continually ascribing human qualities to God, we have reduced God to something less than perfect.  By giving God a gender and an agenda, we have lost the meaning of God.

And of all the reading I’ve done on world religion and philosophy, my adult eyes were open some years ago when I was helping my youngest son with his fourth-grade science.  He was learning all about cells as the body block of life and that human life starts out as a single cell.  After seeing how well he knew the parts of a cell, he looked up at me and asked, “Was God the first cell?”

So much for Teilhard deChardin, Aquinas and Billy Graham.  God had been defined to me by a nine-year old.

Today I still believe that in a cosmic sense that God was the first cell, and his power course through my body, your body, the young Israeli woman in Tel Aviv, the grandmother in Beruit and on and on – past, present and future.  I don’t think we need to go looking for God, because God is as close as the next person.  And if we recognize God in each other, how can we possibly hate each other, because hate is a cell that has lost all hope.

Our cancerous condition today is not because we are human. And that should never be an excuse or an apology for our actions.  Rather, our humanity should be an opportunity to reach our maximum potential – to be Godlike.

It’s not easy because life isn’t easy, but I do believe that if we seize every opportunity to be truly human, we can change the world.  And God knows how easy it is to stumble, but that’s the amazing thing.  As long as we “pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off” we CAN start all over again.

And let’s be honest…for God’s sake.  There’s no way we can expect peace in the mid-East…or anywhere else in the world for that matter…if we continue to harvest hate.  It should not matter for a nanosecond what name you give to God or if you pray on a prayer rug facing Mecca, pray wearing a prayer shawl or pray while you drive in your car on the way to work.

Politics alone can be dangerous.  Religion unchecked can be counterproductive.  But the combination of the two spells disaster.

If I were God, I would whisper in the ear of every soldier-regardless of nationality-in the mid-East and tell them to say “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”  I would ask them to speak in one voice and say to their leaders:  “If you want to fire that missile – fire it yourself!

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The front of our house in the fall.

Of the four seasons I like autumn the best…except when it’s winter, and then I like winter best…unless it happens to be spring because I like spring best…but when it’s the summer, that’s the best season of all. (Boy, if that doesn’t sound like the answer you’d get if you asked a politician what his/her favorite season was.)

The truth is I find something perfectly outstanding about each of the seasons. Each season provides not only some amazing visuals, but they each have their own unique smells and lyrical sounds.

I don’t know if they had seasons in Oz, but I do know that it was not by accident that L. Frank Baum happened to write his story around four completely different characters. As is my nature, I have come to think of each of the four characters as the four seasons.

Dorothy is summer, the season of sun, blue skies and dreams. It’s also the season of great rain storms, lightening and rainbows. Summer is the season of growth and of new beginnings. Once Dorothy planted her house, so to speak, in Oz, she embarked on a great growing season. She started out on her journey as a timid seedling. By the time she overwatered the Wicked Witch of the West, she had blossomed into a young woman who was ready to take on the world.

The Scarecrow is autumn and not only because many of us associate scarecrows with autumn, but because autumn is a time for reflection, a time to think and a time also to be thankful. The Scarecrow’s spirit was the color of falling leaves. He knew what summer was, but he reveled in the fall because it was harvest time and all his efforts were made manifest in the bounty that is given by mother earth.

The Tin Man is winter. He was literally frozen in time. His cold exterior belied the fact that he did have a warm heart. The winter is the silent season when you can hear the sound of your own heart when you go out on a walk in the late evening after the snow has stopped falling. Winter is a time to celebrate what has been and what will be in the New Year. And the Tin Man likes the New Year because he didn’t have an axe to grind.

The Lion is spring, from the spring in his step to the fact that he came upon Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man roaring (like a lion)…but eventually living like a lamb, willing to sacrifice himself for others. The spring is the bravest of the seasons because it has to endure cold winds and heavy rain. It has to contend with the fury of mother earth.

Even though the four characters of Oz represent the four seasons, we should keep in mind that those same four characters are found in each of us. We all contain the elements of the four seasons. But even though we are made up of the four seasons, I don’t think we are made up of them in equal parts. Some of us are more summer than spring, while others of us are more winter than we are autumn.

I think it’s important that we understand the season’s of our personality because once we do we’re better able to understand…and appreciate the seasons of our family and friends.

What season are you?

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Over the weekend I watched the movie “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” And while there was nothing particularly bad or wrong with the movie, I couldn’t help but wonder if it had a real point or an intended audience. But that’s a story for another blog. This one is about the subject of “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” – middle school, or in my day what was called junior high.

Junior high, in a word – sucked. Sixth grade was great. It was heaven. Seventh grade was purgatory and eighth grade was hell squared. I felt like I had a bad out-of-body experience that lasted two very, very, very long years.

I hated my locker. Especially on Mondays because I’d have a panic attack when I approached it because I couldn’t remember if my locker combination was 2-12-34 or 12-2-34 or…. And even though my locker was comparatively small…from the outside at least…the inside was another story altogether. The inside of my locker was about the size of Grand Central Terminal. I’d put something in and my locker would swallow it up. I can’t tell you how many homework assignments and notes-home-to-parents that I lost in my locker. Not to mention that peanut butter and jelly sandwich that somehow escaped my brown paper bag one morning in early September.

I also hated the hallways. From what I remember they looked like that scene from a sci-fi horror movie when all you can see at the end of the hallway is this mysterious and foreboding light.

Whoever thought changing classes was a good idea was out of his mind. I had no sense of direction. I was lucky I found my way to homeroom each morning. When the bell rang for first period, I wanted to pee in my pants. The piercing bell sound reminds me of the starting bell at Aqueduct raceway. Where was the GPS when I needed it?

The generic teacher in my junior high

And my teachers? Hmmm. It would be unfair of me to say they were all bad, but the majority of them were…is there a good antonym for ‘outstanding?’ There was on teacher in particular who should not have been allowed near humans of any age. His name was Mr. Humphrey. He was my eight grade homeroom teacher. When at the end of the school year he learned that I wouldn’t be returning to enter the senior high because I had opted (prayed my ass off) to go to a Catholic school, he announced to the class: “Vincent will not be joining you next year in the senior high because he’s going to a Catholic high school. But knowing Vincent as I do, he won’t make it there and he’ll be back in Seaford.”

Way to go Mr. Humphrey! But you were wrong. Not only did I not go back, I thrived at the high school of my choice, and it might be considered a bit ironic, but I was a recipient of a Seaford college scholarship that was awarded at the Seaford HS graduation!

Gym. My God, junior high gym class was abysmal. Gym uniforms were either 20 times too big or 20 times too small. And then you had to wear those god-awful sneakers that weighed a ton and a half. And what did you do in gym class? You dived up into two teams and spent 41 minutes throwing balls at each other.

Lunch was the pits. There is nothing good about eating in the prison cafeteria with 2,000 other junior high nut cases. Because I had a problem with my locker eating my bag lunches, I usually stood on a long line and pushed a cafeteria tray along a metal ramp once used in an old Jimmy Cagney prison movie. A thin piece of Spam with a slice of canned pineapple or a slab of overcooked meatloaf with what were supposed to be mashed potatoes were served every week on the same day every week. One was bad and the other was horrible.

I did learn one life-lesson at lunch. I was an eighth grader. I was sitting at my lunch table minding my own business. It was during quiet time, the last minute before the teachers would release the recently fed but unruly horde of 13 year olds. Some asshole whose name I can’t remember grabbed one of my books. He crossed the line. I had been having a bad year and the last thing I needed was for some punk to think that just because I was the ‘good quiet kind,’ that he could bully me.

I told him to give my book back. He didn’t. So I insisted. (I think I was getting loud). With that Mr. Salvatore Mugavero comes rushing over to quell the rebellion. Instead of asking what the problem was, he grabs me by my shirt collar and drags me up to the front of the cafeteria and slams me against the wall. He proceeded to stand on the edge of my shoes and lambaste me – his face being only a fraction of an inch away from my face. He told me that I had detention.

That’s what he thought. The school day ended and I went home where I told my father what happened. My father said I had to go back to school. I asked why. He said because.

I did go back, but through the magic of repression, I have no memory of what might actually happened.

And what did I learn that day? The world is filled with assholes and I vowed I wouldn’t take their crap no matter what.

I am so glad I watched “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid.”

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It’s obvious that people in the Land of Oz worked. I suspect the largest employer in Oz was Emerald City. I can’t help but wonder how on Ozian want about seeking employment. I can only imagine what it must have been like for someone trying to climb the corporate YBR.

Having some personal experience on the subject of looking for employment, I have some observations I’d like to share in no particular order of importance:

Job descriptions: My God, who writes some of those job descriptions? Everyone I’ve looked at in the past few years are verbose, convoluted and downright scary. It doesn’t matter what the position is, the way the description reads, God Almighty couldn’t fit the bill. And then when you look at the expected experience for the job, you’d think they were looking for a combination of Albert Einstein, Bill Gates David Copperfield and Helen of Troy. 

There’s one line though that never appears in writing but we all know it’s implied and it’s this: Must be willing to sacrifice everything, work 27 hours a day and believe in pucker power.

(If you don’t know what pucker power is, you’ve never worked in the ‘real world’)

The resume: The resume has been elevated to a high art form of the lowest kind. There’s more straw stuffed into the average resume than you’ll find in the Scarecrow; hollower than the Tin Man’s chest; and packing all the sound but lacking all the fury of the Cowardly Lion.

A creative resume (shoved in a roasted turkey, baked in a cake, dropped from a helicopter or delivered by a nun dressed like a Ninja) is risky, but if the employer isn’t creative, you don’t want to work there in the first place.

The reply letter: Don’t get me started. Enough with the politically correct HR letter that says: After reviewing your resume we regret to inform you that we have found other candidates whose credentials better match our job description.

Here are some politically offensive HR responses you’ll never see:

1: You are a loser. Even if you were the last person on the face of the earth we wouldn’t hire you.

2: Assuming you can read, did you actually read the job description, dummy? You don’t meet any of our qualifications. Even if the only job descriptor was: must be human, we would have our doubts about you.

3: After looking over your job history we noticed that all the companies you worked for are now out of business. Therefore, take a hike. We don’t want to help you continue your losing streak.

4: Unbelievable. That’s right, we don’t believe a word of your resume.

5: OMG!

6: Your resume brought us to tears. How could someone with a degree from such a prestigious college be so unsuccessful? We’d wish you luck in your job search, but even if we surgically implanted a lucky leprechaun up your butt, you‘d still be out of luck.

7: You’ve got to be kidding!

8: I told your mother you were wasting your time applying for a job here. I wouldn’t hire you to take out the trash.

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