Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Barack the Magic WHAT?"

By now we have all heard this ridiculous version of the song "Puff the Magic Dragon." This is a very beloved children's song written decades ago. Does Chip Saltzman really think this is funny?

For these shallow, small-minded folks - including the most small-minded and big-mouthed Rush Limbaugh - to be this disrespectful to Barack Obama is actually the real joke. Obama is a Harvard and Columbia educated man whose intelligence could run circles around all of their small brains put together. And the only thing outweighing Limbaugh's lack of intelligence is his lack of class.

Thank you, Peter Yarrow, for speaking up and saying that you too are disgusted. As one of the original writers of the song, he certainly didn't appreciate it being turned into a racist joke. In a post on Huffington Post, Peter said:
"The sending of a Christmas greeting by Chip Saltzman to the members of the Republican National Committee that includes a recording of the so-called parody, "Barack the Magic Negro" is not only offensive, it is shocking and saddening in the extreme. It flies in the face of America's deeply held hope for a new era in which common ground and mutual respect characterize the exchanges between our national leaders.

I and my co-writer of "Puff," Lenny Lipton, have been eagerly awaiting an end to the mean-
spiritedness, outright disrespect and bigotry that was commonplace prior to this last presidential election. What might have been wearily accepted as "the way it was" in the campaign, is now unacceptable. Obama is not a candidate. He is the President-Elect, and this song insults the office of the Presidency, the people who voted for him, as well as those who did not -- and taking a children's song and twisting it in such vulgar, mean-spirited way, is a slur to our entire country and our common agreement to move beyond racism.

It is almost unimaginable to me that Chip Saltzman who sent the CD, would seriously be considered for the top post of the Republican National Committee. Puff, himself, if asked, would certainly agree."

If Saltzman is elected to this post, it will say volumes not only about a lack of intelligence, but a lack of character as well. Bigotry is never funny and certainly should not be rewarded. In respect to our next President of the United States, this is completely unacceptable.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Weird Things You Hear

I went to a favorite used bookstore today, two days after Christmas. The store was incredibly busy - even in this economy people still like to read and buy books, especially used or cheaper ones. The lines were long and the shelves were overflowing. I came in with a couple bags of books to sell. It is always painful to part with books, but I did find one to buy too.

As I was getting ready to check out, a fellow shopper was heading out the door and talking to his friend. He said he really wanted to find a particular book that was said to be "a cross between 'Marley & Me,' and 'The Silence of the Lambs.' " This sounded so odd to me. Could two books be more different? I loved the endearing story of the rambunctious Labrador Retriever in the first story, and the second example was a well-crafted thriller that grabbed your attention until the end. So how would someone be able to mesh these two stories into one?

I really should have followed the guy out the door. As strange as the concept sounded, it would have at least satisfied my curiosity - or at least allowed me to glance at how this story would be done.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

As I write this on Christmas Eve, it continues to snow on top of the couple of feet already on the ground. I love the snow at night - it sparkles and falls quietly, peaceful in a usually noisy city.

One of my favorite Christmas Trees is in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It lights up the city and brings crowds of people to see it. The massive tree glows of different colored lights and it too brings a quiet peace to that city.

Whether you celebrate Christmas, or Chanukah, or Kwanza - my wish for all is for Happy Holidays and a very blessed, happy, and healthy New Year. May 2009 bring the joy and peace that the season brings each year.

Rockefeller Center, New York City
(Photographer unknown)

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Shoe Throwing Games

We've all seen the shoe throwing incident a few times by now. Of course, there are so many Americans that would like to have done the same and were - quite honestly - rooting the guy on. It isn't like he pulled out a gun. It showed the true frustration we have all felt over the mess this guy has made of EVERYTHING! Do we really blame the Iraqi journalist for doing what we all felt like doing? Especially when Bush is doing some kind of victory lap in a country that we shouldn't have been in in the first place, and has been messed up beyond belief. Seriously, victory in this situation isn't even possible.

Bush, in his usual smirky and smart ass way, just laughed it off. He didn't bother to read up on the actual meaning of what throwing a shoe at someone and calling them a dog means in that culture. Just as he didn't bother to look at that culture in the first place.

The funniest thing is the video game that was created just hours after the incident happened and all the people playing it...

As far as I'm concerned, the guy should not serve any time. He did throw something at a world leader (and I say that lightly), so give him a fine, maybe a slap on the wrist. But do this realizing that most of us would have much rather given him a firm handshake and a high five.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Let it Snow?

Living in Minnesota in the winter can be quite a challenge. The weather can change so quickly we often joke that we don't know how to dress. In the week before Christmas, it is colder and snowier than it has been for years. The last few days have been treacherous driving, slippery walking, time spent trying to push stuck cars out of thick ice, and frigid temperatures. I woke up this morning to a temperature of -6 degrees (yes, below zero), with a windchill of -37! My car whined when it started as if to say it was a little too cold for it too - even in the confines of the garage.

I admit, I like the snow. Although the driving is nerve-racking at times, and the shoveling is hard on the back - it is beautiful. It can be so peaceful and quiet at night. But to have this much, this soon in the season - with temperatures so cold - is a little unsettling.

It is indeed beginning to look at lot like Christmas, maybe too much so? So, forgive me if I hear the song "Let it Snow" and frown just a little bit. And forgive me if I shake at the cold temperatures, no matter how many layers of clothes I have bundled up in. Alas, it is all part of the territory in this very tundra-like state. I try to see the positives and hope that maybe December will be our worst month and not the beginning of a very long, cold winter.

In the same spirit, I couldn't help but laugh at this truck driver. He too was trying to make the best of all this powdery stuff. He gets major points for not only celebrating the season, but for doing it in such a fun way:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fixed News and Hall & Oates

It is best to watch different news stations and get different viewpoints as they are all a little biased. The one I don't care to watch is Fox News, or "Fixed News" as they are often called. It is the television equivalent of "The National Enquirer." With sensationalistic babble that is always way out of proportion, I only know a couple of misinformed people who watch it. The quotes these folks pull out of thin air are always quite - there is no other way to say this - crazy.

There was only one token liberal on Fox, Alan Colmes, who was continuously used as a punching bag by everyone else.
Although he was obviously outnumbered, he put up with much more than I would have. He was the better half - although a weak one -of the news duo of Hannity and Colmes.

Another duo more familiar to me from the 1980's was Hall & Oates. They reunited for this song "honoring" Colmes on the "The Daily Show." I do believe they have redeemed themselves (even from the Swifter commercial) with this hilarious take on one of their old songs:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"A Thousand Splendid Suns"

As with most writers, we read....and read. I often look at reading as not only an enjoyable past time, but also look at authors as mentors who stimulate ideas and help us to use our imaginations in an intelligent way.

Books can reach you on many levels, especially well-written books. The book I finished recently, "A Thousand Splendid Suns," by Khaled Hosseini, did reach me on many levels. Set in Afghanistan, and spanning a thirty year period, it was educational and helped me to see a culture that is very different from my own. Focusing on a friendship
amidst a great deal of pain and loss, it reminded me of the incomparable tie of friendship. The way women were treated - and still are in many areas - allowed me to realize the fortunate upbringing I had being born in the United States - where I've always had freedom and have never been treated as property. Lastly, written by a true storyteller, it reminds me of how good writing can really touch you. I hope to read many more stories by this author in the future.

The book's title was based on a poem by
Saib-e-Tabrizi, a seventeenth century Persian poet (translated into English by Josephine Davis). I thought it was beautiful and really depicted the authors love for the city of Kabul as well as his hope for the future after so much destruction.

We all know how a place can stir deep emotions and evoke rich memories. I have not visited this particular place, but it does sound beautiful. And I know we all have our own special place held in our heart that stirs the same feelings:
"Ah! How beautiful is Kabul encircled by her arid mountains
And Rose, of the trails of thorns she envies
Her gusts of powdered soil, slightly sting my eyes
But I love her, for knowing and loving are born of this same dust

My song
exhalts her dazzling tulips
And at the beauty of her trees, I blush
How sparkling the water flows from
Pul-I Bastaan!
May Allah protect such beauty from the evil eye of man!

Khizr chose the path to Kabul in order to reach Paradise
For her mountains brought him close to the delights of heaven
From the fort with sprawling walls, A Dragon of protection
Each stone is there more precious than the treasure of

Every street of Kabul is enthralling to the eye
Through the bazaars, caravans of Egypt pass
One could not count the moons that shimmer on her roofs
And the thousand splendid suns that hide behind her walls

Her laughter of mornings has the gaiety of flowers
Her nights of darkness, the reflections of lustrous hair
Her melodious nightingales, with passion sing their songs
Ardent tunes, as leaves
enflamed, cascading from their throats

And I, I sing in the gardens of
Jahanara, of Sharbara
And even the trumpets of heaven envy their green pastures"

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

After the election was over and Barack Obama won, I was really hoping that Sarah Palin would go away. It was quite frightening just how close she got to the second most important office in the country. It was just as frightening that she really thought she was qualified for this position.

comedic interviews - especially the one in front of turkeys being slaughtered - are still being talked about. I was just really hoping she would go back to Alaska and govern or whatever it is she really does there. Instead, she is still out there when her fifteen minutes really should be over. Most intelligent people realize this woman should never have gotten as far as she did. And most intelligent people are pretty fed up with all her shenanigans. But, the woman has become a celebrity in her own mind.

One of my favorite blogs, Margaret and Helen, posts comments quite often about
Palin. Some folks - most folks - wholeheartedly laugh and agree with her. I am one of them. Others scorn her for digging into Palin too much. Of course, this is the small percentage that think she is wonderful and well-qualified and hope she runs in 2012. These are also the people who watch Fox News, I suspect, and believe everything they see on television. The idea of studying something themselves or actually cracking open a book or reading different newspapers doesn't really occur to them. But my question is, how is this woman so important to the Republican Party? As Helen stated in her most recent post about Palin:

"Clinging to what’s left of its dying reputation the Republican party has credited her with the Chambliss win down in Georgia. Delivering that win makes Palin the new Republican torchbearer. I don’t know about you, but I am impressed. If Palin can get an old white guy re-elected in Georgia, I would imagine walking on water is right around the corner. But maybe she’s not really carrying the torch as much as she has struck a match and is now playing with fire."

Yes, indeed. Isn't it time to go back to work, Sarah? And aren't you supposed to be working in Alaska? I understand you still have not returned to your office as governor. I think the taste of the limelight was just a little too sweet for you and you just can't let it go. For the majority of us, though, we are happy to let you go. There must, at the very least, be some moose hunting to do or more babies to have. So, please, bundle up in some of those designer clothes and stay in Alaska. Give the limelight back and move on. Please.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Stampede to Shop?

Everyone who knows me knows I am not a Wal-Mart fan. I have heard too many stories of how badly they treat their employees, the aisles are crowded and not esthetically pleasing to me, and I find it to be rather dirty and unkempt. I just avoid the place altogether - no matter how great of a sale they are having at the moment. I prefer other stores that are a little classier.

Crowds of people are no new thing on "Black Friday." It has been going on for years. People wait in their cars all night and stand in line for hours to be the first to get a good deal on some junk they probably don't need anyway. The difference is that usually there is some level of order - and class - to the situation. I know, Target, for instance, will only let in fifty people at a time and hire a lot of extra security.

Wal-Mart, in their usual upstanding and caring way (and, yes, I mean that sarcastically) didn't seem to bother with the extra help - even though they knew the crowd was a little too large in the first place. A person was killed! And all to get a good deal on a television - or whatever it was they just had to have?

In the The New York Times' article on the incident, Wal-Mart did their usual dance when questioned:
"A Wal-Mart spokesman, Dan Folgleman, called it a 'tragic situation,' and said the victim had been hired from a temporary staffing agency and assigned to maintenance work. Wal-Mart, in a statement issued at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., said: 'The safety and security of our customers and associates is our top priority. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families at this tragic time.' ”
Really? Let's see - if I saw 2,000 people banging on the windows and out of control before the doors were even opened, I have to say I would have done whatever needed to be done to get the situation under control before the huge crowd took over. As a man was killed while people were rushing in to shop, "the safety and security of our customers is our top priority" sounds like a script written to quiet down the media.

I realize there should be some accountability from the savages that stepped on this poor man. But there should also be major accountability from the company that let it happen in the first place. I'm sure Wal-Mart could spare a few bucks to open later until the situation was more adequately handled. More security could have been brought in, bullhorns could have been used. They LET it happen when they saw that the crowd was out of control.

We've seen Wal-Mart in the news over and over again. They have had cases of discrimination, and cases of trying to sway employees on how to vote - and vocalization against the
Employee Free Choice Act. The company is also known to keep their employees at 38 hours per week so they don't have to pay health benefits, offer very low hourly wages, and a host of other immoral treatments.

The company seems to make a practice of sticking it to someone who deserves justice or fair treatment. The worst - until now - was the case against Debbie Shank, the woman who was brain-injured and, after winning a litigation, was taken back to court by Wal-Mart to recoup the money awarded. Just once I would like to see Wal-Mart do the right thing.

And people taking shopping as a recreational sport? My response to that - get a life. The frenzy that was created over buying something cheaper than normal is utterly ridiculous. I realize the economy is terrible right now. We are all struggling and prices being lower on something we want is a draw. But at what price? Isn't it still just stuff? This is a human life, a young man who died in a really horrific way.

As for the victim of the stampede, my prayers go out to Jdimytai Damour's family. He was only 34 years old and was a temporary employee hired as a maintenance worker. Why was he put out there in the first place?

Maybe this incident will make people think twice about shopping at the chain now. There are many other choices and this just adds to their already damaged reputation. Besides, most of us have too much useless plastic crap anyway, and Wal-Mart sells the best crap of all.