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Archive for January, 2014

brains

The recently elected President of the Emerald City delivered his first State of Oz speech before the legislative body of Oz. Following is President S. Care Crow’s speech in its entirety…even the boring parts.

A scarecrow, a tin man and a cowardly lion walked into a bar. The tin man ordered a rusty nail and the cowardly lion ordered a Shirley Temple straight up. The scarecrow abstained because he didn’t want to fall of the wagon and risk having his stuffing fall out.

Enough of my scarecrow humor. It’s time to get serious. Or perhaps I should say it’s time for you ass holes to get together. What a disgrace you are. You run around rasing money so you can get re-elected to a the house or the senate, only yu do absolutely nothing when you take your oath of office. You should be ashamed of yourselves. I know I am ashamed of you. And to think I was the one who didn’t have any brains.

You blowhard Depublicans blame the idiotic Remocrats for the sorry state of Oz. It’s time to get your head out of your ass and take a long hard look in the mirror and see who you really are. The Remocrats think we’d be all better off if we closed the gap between the rich and the poor. The Depublicans think we’ll be going to hell in a handbasket if we allow any form of social reform measures to be enacted.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that less than 1% of Ozians control more than 87% of the wealth.  Far too many Ozians live well below the poverty level. Thousands of little Ozians go to bed hungry every night. But I ask you, will legislation set things straight? Can we legislate what some people define as economic fairness? Is it the government’s job to raise the taxes on the filthy rich?

Look around you. You were elected to serve, but how many of you are being served?  You have constituents who can’t afford a loaf of bread but you men spend $45 on a haircut. Many of you have been in office for so long you actually believe your press releases for God’s sake.  It sickens me to see you turn everything into a photo op. I want to wretch every time I see one of you on camera talking gibberish.

Oz is not a land of equal opportunity, let alone even a land of opportunity. However, we’d be deluding ourselves to believe that we can level the playing field by simply running a bulldozer over the rich. The pockets of poverty are deep and we need to do something about it, but not by filling those pockets with loose change.

We’ve already identified one of the fundamental causes of poverty. A lack of education. But sometimes I think we’re throwing good money away when all we do is spend it only on our schools. Until we change the mindset of those areas identified as poor, our young people will never rise above the poverty level if they go home to buildings where drug dealers rule and where violence is a way of life.

As long as the poor don’t take any responsibility for their poverty, as long as the poor blame the rich for their poverty, and as long as the poor believe they deserve to be taken care of the poor will never take their rightful place in society.  The rich don’t need to be taxed more, they need to have their attitude taxed. Instead of looking for loopholes and opening off shore accounts, they need to believe that by investing in programs that will help eradicate the causes of poverty, we will all benefit.  The rich need to believe that opportunity is not theirs and theirs alone. They do need to shoulder some of the burdens of helping us get Oz back on track.

Tomorrow I will take the first step in enriching the lives of all Ozians. I am going to ask all of you to resign from office and promise to go away. I will then call for a general election where only honest people will be considered for office. Unfortunately the field will be very narrow.

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joy(Photo: www.allwlpr.com)

Neither Dorothy nor any one of her three traveling companions went to see the Wizard to ask him for happiness. In fact, I can’t recall happiness ever being a subject of conversation in The Wizard of Oz.

I was lost in thought and thinking about happiness the other day on the first day of about the umpteenth college class I’ve taught. I looked out at a sea, well maybe not a sea, but perhaps a lake of fresh faces looking up at me with a blank stare. The 20 stares spoke volumes even though not a word was said. Despite the fact that I was being paid to “teach” these students, all I could think about was their happiness.

And then it hit me. I think we make too much out of being happy. In truth it’s not at all what it’s cracked up to be. I think we’ve lost our way our way on the YBR looking for happiness in all the wrong places. I think we are a sad people living in a sad world. And because nature abhors a vacuum, we try to fill in the empty spaces of our life by seeking happiness thinking that we’ll find it by living lives at break neck speed, going from one party to another, by living life on the edge, or by thinking we can find happiness in a bottle.

Because so many of us feel trapped in meaningless jobs we quicken our pace and revile in Friday thinking that over the weekend we’ll be happy. But then it’s Monday again.

To make an analogy. Happiness is like the weather. And we all know that the weather is quite unpredictable. It’s bloody hot when we want it to be cool. It’s damn freezing when we want it to be warm. It rains when we want the sun. And it’s sunny when we crave a little rain.

Happiness is about 76 degrees. Happiness is a blue sky. Happiness is being home in a warm house when it’s snowing outside.  Happiness is something that happens to us on the outside. Our happiness fluctuates because the weather fluctuates. It can be sunny one minute and cloudy the next. Just like happiness.

Happiness is too damn hard to sustain. It takes too much energy to try to maintain happiness 24/7.

But joy. That’s a horse of a different color. Joy is like the weather. It’s climate over time. It’s hours of happiness mixed with times of sadness. It’s moments of laughter mixed with a number of tears. It’s saying hello and it’s also saying goodbye.

Joy comes from within. Joy is what sustains us. Happiness can be overshadowed by the fickleness of life, but joy shines forth because it emanates from our very core.

My recommendation?  Relish real moments of happiness, but don’t go chasing after it at the expense of living a full life. Instead of being a happiness seeker, look for joy. And where do you find it?  Remember what Dorothy said when she was asked what she had learned while in Oz?  To borrow from her response: “If you go looking for happiness, you won’t have to look any further than inside your heart because that’s where joy lives.”

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.  – Thich Nhat Hanh

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open_mind

 

Someone from Oz tweeted that the Scarecrow’s brain was up for sale on ebay. Problem. There are over 1,ooo brains up for bid on ebay, and more than 90% once belonged to elected officials. Most of them were described as “rarely ever used,” “almost like new,” “hasn’t ever had an original idea,” and “what good is a brain once you get elected?”

I caught up to the Scarecrow at Ozbucks where a cup of coffee goes for over six bucks. The Scarecrow told me the first sign of a declining brain was spending such an outrageous amount of money on a cup of Joe.

When I asked the Scarecrow what possessed him to sell the brain that he worked hard to get when he travelled the yellow brick road to see the Wizard. Here’s a bit of our conversation:

Me: Why do you want to sell your brain?
Scarecrow: What food is a brain? People who have one rarely use it. And that goes quadruple for politicians.
Me: So you aren’t a big fan of politicians.
Scarecrow: A wise man once said that “in Mexico an air conditioner is called a politician because it makes a lot of noise but doesn’t work very well.” I’d have to add  that politicians are full of hot air. Good for a balloon, but not for the people who go to the polls and vote.
Me: Are you saying that people shouldn’t vote?
Scarecrow: If people didn’t vote, what would they do on election day. No, seriously. Voting isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. Once someone begins climbing the political ladder they lose brain cells, and since nature abhors a vacuum, the lost brain cells are replaced with straw or some other filling. I might not be from New Jersey and I am neither a Christie supporter nor a Christie basher,  but what the hell is going on in the Garden State? People who love the Pillsbury Dough Governor will march into hell defending him against all rational and irrational attacks.  Those who would like nothing more  than to pop the governor in the oven and bake the hell out of him are running around asking for his head on a platter.
Me: So what do you think?
Scarecrow:  I think Christie is telling the whole truth and nothing but the political truth. That means we’ll never know the truth because truth is not a good friend of politicians. He fired someone on his “team,” and on the surface that might have been a smart move, but that little minion actually was caught up with Christie fever and started reading from a discarded script from The Good WifeChristie is a god in the eyes of his loyal followers. To those who believe Christie is a synonym for “vomiting,” they will take Bridgegate and run with it until Christie is out of office and working as a toll bridge collector at the Fort Lee entrance.
Me: Aren’t you exaggerating a bit?
Scarecrow:  Weren’t you telling me a story about local politics that has you thinking twice about the political process?
Me: Yeah. We just got our town tax bill in and it went up $1000. That was a whopping 25% increase. When I looked at the bill and compared it to last year’s bill I saw that our Sewer O an M portion of the tax bill went from $365 to $1380.  When I asked some questions I was told that the town had to install a new sewer pump that supposedly cost $36,000. But our development has 48 tax payers, so that means the town is charging $48,000. So I wondered what the other $12,000 went for.  I went to the acting town supervisor to ask. He wasn’t there, but his secretary said he would call me back.  I’ve been waiting over a week for that return phone call.
Scarecrow:  What’s the big deal?
Me: The big deal?  I think the tax payers in our development should have been told that we were going to be whacked with such an increase. I think they owed us this courtesy. I think they didn’t do it because the former supervisor was running for a bigger county position and this might not have gone over big with the 100 or so voters in our little part of the world.
Scarecrow:  Sounds like you have lost faith in your elected officials.
Me: I never had faith in them, but I would have hoped that they would have thought before they acted.
Scarecrow: Ahh. Thinking requires a brain and since politicians stop using theirs once they run for office, you were asking for a miracle.
Me: Point well taken. So, now that you don’t have a brain, what are your plans?
Scarecrow: I’m going to run for congress.

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rush hour

I rarely comment on the views of network or cable news shows, but after watching tonight’s episode of The O’Reilly Factor, I am spurred to action and not because I disagree with the host, but because the episode was not really fair and balanced. In fact, it took a myopic view of the world when the host proposed that America is becoming a weaker nation because teenagers are smoking weed/grass/pot at a younger age in increasing numbers and also because Americans under 30 are abusing technology with an alarming number of young people sending more than 100 texts a day.

Host Bill O’Reilly went on to add that this was an indication that our youth are trying to avoid reality and that if they continue on this path we will never be able to compete with the Chinese. It appears that the young people of China are ready to deal with reality, while America’s young people would rather escape reality. (To Oz?)

I won’t argue the point of the nation becoming weaker because there are many indicators that today’s young people are maturing at a slower pace, but there is a bigger point that Mr. O’Reilly failed to recognize.

Reality?  I don’t want to embrace reality because what passes for reality today in a word, sucks!  We have a Congress operating at its lowest approval rating in decades. We have a growing number of people who are spending more time figuring out how they can scam innocent people, hack computer programs, lie, cheat and steal, etc.  We have scandals galore in the Catholic Church. We have an increasing number of people who hide behind race, creed and color to do whatever they want to do; we have people who believe a small portion of the public should be responsible for taking care of another small portion of the public.  We have movies, music and other forms of entertainment that not only pushed the envelope but have ripped a hole in it.

That’s reality.  Please, light me a joint!

And then there’s the other adult reality. Instead of people living balanced lives where work is tempered with a life outside the office, more and more adults are working 10, 11 and 12 hours a day six and seven days a week.  The average worker is umbilicallyconnected to the office via the internet and social media.  And it’s no longer an exception, it’s a rule and woe be the worker who doesn’t check his/her email a dozen times when home after a hard  day at the office, on weekends and on vacation.

This is the real world we want our children to enter?  Hey, join me for a joint.

And what the f*** about China?  China’s young people are embracing reality?  Chinese reality is about as far from real reality as I am from being mistaken for Brad Pitt!

China is not a bastion of free thinking. Mao may be dead, but the idea of a nation of billions of people who think the way the government tells them to think, is not reality. It’s a nightmare.

So, America’s young people are lost on the Yellow Brick Road, but you know what? We can’t blame them.  We have not given them much to look forward to have we?

It is going to take a revolution, but not a  military one to change the course of America’s ship. It’s going to take people who don’t pledge allegiance to a politically party or a specific denomination to stand up and speak out.

I guess you could say that “America is going to pot”, however you might consider the phrase.

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