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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Fruitcake Idea: One simple step to a balanced budget--GUARANTEED!

Fruitcake: the gift that lasts a lifetime

Ho-Ho-Ho, the longest shopping season of the year has officially begun, and I'm not talking Hanukkah. It's still summer and I just saw my first Christmas ad on T.V... a really clever 'subliminal' spot  by Wal-Mart. Really! You'll see it, I'm sure.

But this isn't about that. It is about balancing our national budget. I can't believe how utterly simple it will be... and it won't cost any of us one cent more than we will spend anyway. We will do it in just two years if we start now. Blow your mind? It should.

Wall Street Journal feature writer, Joe Queenan for President, please. He notes that returned goods cost U.S. retailers $267.3 billion last year in lost revenue. Yeah, enough that if Returned Goods, Inc. was a real company, it would rank Number 3 on the Fortune 500 list, behind  only Wall-Mart (of course) and Exxon.

Now here's the deal: if you, grandma Jones, Aunt Anna, your next-door neighbor and everybody doesn't return that fruitcake, or the bad tie, the windshield ice-scraper with a mitten attached, the shoe shine kit or anything for the next two years, so many problems are solved effortlessly. Don't take back that bridesmaid dress or the jumbo T.V. just purchased for the Superbowl and then returned to Best Buy. Don't take back ANYTHING! So you re-gift, ok? Uncle Herman has been freezing his fingers to the bone scraping ice off  his windshield... and if that's not amazing enough, Uncle Herman lives in Miami.

That means every retail sale is good and $267.3 billion is a real gain because it has already been spent... and every business prospers and hires more workers and the Dow Jones tops 25,000 and Social Security is fixed and the unemployment rate is down below 4 percent and all teachers get raises and education prospers at all levels and the Cubs win the pennant and... and... and...

I call it the Fruitcake Movement... a win-win kind of thing. And it is soooo simple. OK?

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dumb lawsuits, dumb crooks, dumb games, dumb everything

Darneded if you do, darned if you don't, but really, darned if you mess with Kanye West.

Now I'm not one to feel Weird Al Yankovic is really weird... anyone who can top the Billboard charts with his new comedy album Mandatory Fun (first time that has happened in 50 years) has to be pretty sharp, but then again...

Why would he not wrap his arms around Kanye for supplying wonderful new parody ideas?

Weird Al says, in 2006, Kanye threatened to sue me because I DID parody his song "Gold Digger."

This year he DIDN'T parody anything from Kanye... and Kanye DID sue him for $20 million claiming "severe mental distress" for not being parodied.

All this played out in a Rolling Stone article and The Daily Currant comments:

West claims the omission from Yankovic's album has caused him to "barely find to strength and focus to work on his genius music."

"I just can't comprehend how anyone can parody music album without including the greatest solo artist that's ever lived," West told Rolling Stone magazine.

"Yeezus (Kanye's latest) is the greatest album of all time. To parody Pharell is just foolish. Pharell is a parody of himself. Have you seen his hat? That hat alone is an offense to fashion and I know fashion. I'm the greatest fashion designer of all time."

"Not since Malcolm X has someone been persecuted like this."

As Weird Al's album soars to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, Kanye couldn't help but be Kanye. He tweeted, "If it wasn't for my lawsuit @AlYankovic wouldn't be #1. I turn everything to gold. I even turn water to gold. I am gold."

Shame on you Weird Al, for not using great material. (Or, is Kanye the smart one getting all the press?) Good luck with the lawsuit.

Now about the dumb cattle rustlers: Or how many cows can you fit in a car?

The answer is four... one wedged between the front and back seat, facing forward--presumably helping drive--and three on the folded-down back seat and trunk of the Proton, a Malaysian car about the size of a Honda Civic.

That's what the shifty Australian cattle rustlers used to make their bold get-away. And it worked... except the darned car broke down with all the weight and the rustlers had to run away singing Come a ki yi yippee yippee yi yippee yay,  Come a ki yi yippee yippee yay ... likeWoody Guthrie in his Chisholm Trail song.

I guess cattle rustlers today aren't of the same breed as in the Old West. (By the way, all cows ok... but just cant stop talking about their excellent adventure.)

So how about a new Olympic Sport, maybe?

That's the thought in India as Kabaddi has swept the nation selling out stadiums and drawing big  T.V. Ratings.  Kabaddi is a mix of tag and Greco-Roman wrestling played by two seven-men teams in basketball-like jerseys on a court about tennis-sized.

It's sort-of like dodge ball for grown-ups. Players called raiders attempt to tag opponents and get back to their own side of the court without getting tackled. If they succeed, the tagged players are 'out' and the raider's team gets a point. If the raider gets tackled, then that team gets a point.

What makes it more interesting? The raiders have to hold their breath the whole time they are in enemy territory running around trying to tag the guy with the ball. To show they are not sneaking a breath, they must continually yell "Kabaddi! Kabaddi! Kabaddi!" 

Didn't the Japanese have a game kinda like that where they said "Tora! Tora! Tora!"?

Monday, September 8, 2014

We are sooo very sophisicated today.

Left: Non genetically altered raccoon. Right: The real thing.

Give me a tough-talking raccoon, a tree-like humanoid, a man stronger than an ox, a regular looking guy hero and of course, a beautiful girl in a very sexy tight-fitting outfit and you have The Guardians of the Galaxy, a top-draw movie these days.

And if that's not realistic enough for you, try the No. 2 draw, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles starring, among others, Whoopi Goldberg and of course, Lorenzo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. Heros today are so different than Roy Rogers, Gene Autrey, Lash LaRue or The Lone Ranger.

Lash LaRue
I guess we can rest easier now that we know we are getting real. How naive we were to think a guy dressed in black wielding a bull whip could save anyone. I thought that image was dispelled in the first Indiana Jones Movie.

We are sooo more sophisticated than that.

And yet, we still don't know it all. Maybe that's why National Geo has introduced a new T.V. series on getting back to basics called Going Deep. It will feature big names such as Professor Shoelace who will teach us to tie shoes and other notables explaining how to make ice cubes, how to shake hands, how to climb a tree and how to light a match.

Actually, it probably will be fun to watch as it stars a funny David Rees offering a new take on things we take for granted, like how to dig a hole... or a grave. I know I'm watching. I do hope there is an episode on how to write cursive.

One is never too old to learn, right? 

Monday, August 25, 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Black LabraDane Finds Home

2-year-old Lily

... OURS!

Yep, this pretty girl was in a "kill" animal shelter but was recognized as too good to be wasted. So her path was from one foster host to us, just a few days ago. Two months before, she was abandon and found wandering without identification, sadly not wanted.

Her teeth are sparkling white and she acts like a two-year-old puppy. She is gentle, quiet and affectionate. So we're calling her Lily and saying August 22nd  is her birthday. She is a Labrador-great Dane mix, a trim 75 pounds--taller than our 65-pound English Lab Abby, and longer than our golden, Tess.

Tess & Abby with Honest Abe
Tess and Abby, as you can see in this actual photo, campaigned with Honest Abe propelling him to victory in 1860. Still they remain remarkably youngish 8-year-old working dogs bringing comfort to so many in crisis situations as part of HOPE Animal Assisted Crisis Response. But we may need new blood in a few years--it takes that long--so enter Lily.

Lily has work to do. As a young girl, she hasn't had much social integration. She only knows 'Sit," and barely that.

She is the kind of black that you hold navy blue slacks against to be sure they aren't black. She has one white splash on her chest... her paws and legs are 'Great Dan-ish.' She pulls on the leash, shows a hesitation with men and is still an unknown work in progress... but we think she has promise. Our dogs accept her... especially Abby, our dominant girl. And she likes them. So far, so good.

Wish us luck.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

If you think it isn't nuts out there, read on:

The Costa Concordia

Is this boat half sunk or half afloat?

Obviously, Rome's Sapienza University has a very optimistic view of things.

Needing someone of note to speak on emergency procedures for a criminology seminar, it chose Francesco Schettino. You may remember him as the Captain the Costa Concordia when it ran aground in 2012 costing 32 people their lives.

The Captain, logically, was a great choice considering he was in the first lifeboat.  Can't do much better than that.

Official note: On the lifeboat, he was told to "Get back on board, damn-it!" by his supervisors, ruining his day for sure. Legal proceedings against him are ongoing. Whatever happened to the old "Captain must go down with his ship" thing? New shoes Captain?

Are you Lonely and like to laugh? Check out It says "Clowns are often feared and hated, which makes finding the right person a real challenge. It's no fun looking for love when you're a clown. Behind all the makeup and red nose is a lonely heart."

Picture that romantic first date: Barnaby Buckles knocks on your door and presents you with your very own red nose, then holds open the door of his mini-clown car and you, in your 'first date best' climb in the front seat. You hear him walk to the driver's side (Clomp, clomp, clomp-- size 38 shoes, you know) as few dozen of his buddies pop up from the back seat, introduce themselves... then squirt you with seltzer. You wonder, "Will the fun never stop?" Answer: "Never!" as you ride into the most delightful future you could imagine.

As the website says, "Everyone loves a clown... let a clown love you. You don't have to be named Coco to join." Really. (Sorry clowns. I know you are serious... but always funny.)

Want to get in on the newest trend? Who doesn't. Well, a natural leader stripped naked in New York's Times Square a few days back in his campaign for the "Right to be Nude in Public." He says nudity is a form of expression and he, unselfishly, wants that freedom for everyone. Seems he is fighting your fight, not unlike the NRA, wanting everyone to have all the guns they want, anywhere they want them, all the time. 

He could form the new NRA (Naked Rights for All) or join forces with the old NRA and become the strongest gun/fun lobby in Washington. On second thought, joining forces wouldn't work. Where would you carry your pistol? If this catches on, as I'm sure it will, it could put Speedo out of business.

It is said, after a while, humans start to look like their dogs. I know we do. Well, rest easy dog lovers, there's a new app that employs facial recognitio to match dogs with their owners. So if your dog is ever lost, you post a picture of yourself and anyone who sees a dog looking like you will return it immediately. "Hey look. That dog... the one that's smelling the other dog, looks exactly like that guy in the app."

Oh, I see... you don't post YOUR picture, you post your dog's picture. Well, excuuuse me! Actually, it could work either way. 

 No he doesn't... Uncle Sam only wants 29 percent of you. It seems that the other 71 percent would fail to qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral or educational shortcomings. That, in itself, is a sad fact.

So there you go, America. Those 29 percent would be fighting for all the rest of us. Here's a tip: Always... ALWAYS appreciate the men and women who serve... and a "Thank you for your service" is most deserved to each and every one of them.

To leave your family and serve is to put your life on the line... and that comes with a cost that we, as a country, have to work harder to repay.

So, to all of you service people, past and present:


Monday, July 21, 2014

It must be true, I saw it in the newspapers

Leave it to the media to report the facts. Would they lie to us?

For 30 years, The Weekly World News had a proud place as one of the supermarket tabloids prominent at most checkout lanes. And it was popular, bought by 1.2 million people a week at one time. As we became "more sophisticated," it lost its edge and ceased as a paper in 2007. But my, oh my, the stories its crack team of reporters brought us, week after week, all with scintillating photos, artwork and bold, eye-catching headlines:

  • Bigfoot Kept Lumberjack as a Love Slave
  • Chimp's Head Put on Human Body
  • Fat Cat Owns 23 Old Ladies
  • Heaven Photographed by Hubble Telescope
  • Mermaid Cemetery Discovered
  • Abe Lincoln Was a Woman
  • Cuba Launches Shark Attack on U.S.
  • Dog with Human Hands Composes Magnum Opus
  • Ghostly Titanic Docks
  • Garden of Eden Found
... and it goes on and on. My personal favorite, however, is the story of a cruel surgeon who reattached a pair of "Siamese twins" after they failed to pay their medical bill. As an aside, I did know the owners at one time of the Weekly World News and its sister publications. They told me the WWN staff always had fun... and that some (a few) of the stories are true! Wadda 'ya think?

Today we have The Onion that lampoons what often passes as news today. Latest on-line issue reports God has pledged $5,000 for cancer research, the Brazilian government has posted listings for 12 soccer stadiums for sale on Craigslist, and a Special Report: "Majority of UFO abductions committed by alien that person knows."

This stuff could never happen in real life, could it?

Hmm. Check out this story in The Wall Street Journal: "Russians Hear News That's Good for Kremlin." The scary part... this is real. It's called putting a spin on the terrible tragedy of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, shot down over Ukraine with 298 lives lost.

Kremlin controlled airwaves have been giving the Russian people an idea of who to blame? Hint: Anyone but Russia or the separatists it is backing.

Many on the street say they believe the United States has had a hand in it to provoke a war with Russia. Others are sure it was the Ukrainians. "It has to be them. They just keep asking for trouble and for war, and they blame Russia for everything."

"I think Ukraine is responsible. It's their ridiculous nation."

Conspiracy theories air on state-run television... the U.S. engineered genocide in Rwanda in 1994 and are now doing the same in Ukraine to foster its interests... the downed aircraft was filled with corpses... dispatchers ordered the plane to a lower altitude to make a better target... "the next act could be an assault on a nuclear plant or terrorist act in Europe... and says one, "They will blame Putin. Who will be the new sacred victim?"

Another on-the-street interviewee said "This was definitely a provocation and America is to blame. Whatever America gets involved in, it messes it up."

The crowning touch: State-run television ran an uncorroborated interview with a woman who said Ukrainian government forces crucified a 3-year-old boy and then dragged his mother behind an armored vehicle until she died. Calls for the state channel to retract the story were ignored.

For me, I choose the more believable one about the redneck vampire that attacked a trailer park... or the 500 foot-Jesus that appeared at the U.N... and I say, it's about time!

PS: I forgot to mention that Weekly World News  did have an insight into politics. It noted that UFO aliens backed Obama, that space aliens backed Bush for President, that Romney was voted President of Mars, Dick Cheney is a robot and, an alien confided in Clinton and Bush that five U.S. Senators are space aliens. (Hmmm, that might explain a lot.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Two examples of perverted logic... both proving It really is "Nuts Out There."

Good example No. 1 (in the comics):

You read the comics in your local newspaper? (If you ask, "What's a newspaper," you are under 30... not that there is anything wrong with that.) Well, you should.

The comics are a wonderful parody of life, lest you take life too seriously. We saw ourselves in almost every Seinfeld T.V. episode which ran for an astounding nine years. ("What's T.V. and who is Seinfeld? C'mon, play along with me just for this blog post.)

Jeremy and his best friend Hector
Zits is a comic strip by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman. It's main character, Jeremy, age 16, sees life as a high school sophomore who pretty much knows all that is important to him. So he asks:

"Dad, can I have twenty bucks?"

"No, but if you wash my car I'll pay you twenty."

"Okay, but the last time I washed your car it cost you fifty dollars to have the scratches buffed out."

"Good point. Here's twenty bucks to leave it alone."

"Make it thirty and I won't vacuum it, too."

Best example No. 2 (in real life):

Billie Sol Estes was a close friend of President Lyndon Johnson, our 36th president. Estes was a colorful character alleged to be involved in several crimes of fraud and deception. He did serve prison time more than once.

In 1962, information came to light that Estes had paid off four Agriculture officials for grain storage contracts in silos he did not have. He was noted (at least by comedians of the day) to probably have said (paraphrasing) "If you are going to pay a farmer not to grow corn, then you should pay me for the silos not to store it in."

And if that doesn't make some perverted sense, then I'd eat my hat... if I had one.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

“Mawidge is a dweam wiffin a dweam... "

“Mawidge is a dweam wiffin a dweam. The dweam of wuv wapped wiffin the gweater dweam of everwasting west. Eternity is our fwiend, wemember that, and wuv wiw fowwow you fowever.”

Princess Bride is a classic love story--even if this minister has the wrong couple at the altar. This real one is even sweeter.

 Just a short week or so ago, I was in the San Francisco area to totally enjoy and celebrate the marriage of Ariana and Brian.
 The world is filled with life-changing moments. Love, blessedly changes all... and fills the hearts of those who care. This was one of those.

Lest we forget, this is what it is all about:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, a woman, I put childish ways behind me. Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Brian, Ariana and Charlotte

Ariana, Brian and Charlotte...
blessed happiness forever.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Georgia HATES Johnny Cash!

Don't Take Your Guns To Town

A young cowboy named Billy Joe grew restless on the farm
A boy filled with wonderlust who really meant no harm
He changed his clothes and shined his boots
And combed his dark hair down
And his mother cried as he walked out

Don't take your guns to town son
Leave your guns at home Bill
Don't take your guns to town

But did Bill listen? No!

So Atlanta, if you can't learn from Johnny Cash...

(Up front: I am not opposed to the 2nd amendment. I am opposed to lack of common sense in exercising those freedoms.)

Georgia (one of about half-dozen 'open carry' states) has just dramatically expanded gun-permit holders' right to openly carry weapons where people congregate. It is refered to as the "guns everywhere" law that allows licensed gun owners to bring weapons to bars and houses of worship, to airports and government buildings, to malls and movie theaters, to schools and colleges, unless specifically denied on a case-by-case basis. The law also prohibits police from demanding to see the weapons permit of someone seen carrying a gun.

Is it just a coincidence or aren't those some of the same places where many mass shootings have occurred?

Some businesses and congregating places say they will allow guns, worried that prohibiting them will discourage customers. Others are banning weapons concerned that patrons will be afraid. So if I understand, those decisions are about the bottom line, right?

There was a comedian in the era of airline hijackings that proposed a simple solution: As passengers board the plane, issue everyone a loaded gun. No hijacker in his right mind would dare try anything. People laughed then... but little did that comedian, or anyone for that matter, know how prophetic he was. I'm supposed to feel better I think... but I don't.

Some bars have proposed every drinking spot post a sign denying guns in the place as "guns and firearms don't mix." One posted a 'no-guns' sign because "We didn't want you to come in, get drunk and shoot up the place. But when gun-right advocates took to social media to criticize and threatened to boycott the restaurant and bar, "we took it down right away. We heard from our customers"... and guns will now be allowed.

If "guns don't kill people, people kill people," then are you comfortable that  23-40 percent of legally purchased gun buying (like at gun shows primarily) does not require a background check?

Proponent group  says “A Right Unexercised is a Right Lost." Its director explains, "This just means that a law-abiding citizen can take the responsibility of their own defense."

A Texas pro-gun group has posted photos of members carrying rifles (RIFLES!) through the aisles of Target stores. Target then "respectfully" requested customers not bring guns into its stores, "even in communities where it is permitted by law."

According to the Wall Street Journal, the NRA scolded the Texas gun-rights groups for carrying rifles in the stores, calling the practice "not neighborly." Open Carry advocates the practice in its effort to make carrying large firearms in public appear normal. (So I guess the rest of us are getting trained.) The NRA later 'unscolded' the rifle carriers and apologized. Is the tail now wagging the dog?

In Rifle, CO, The Shooters Cafe boasts every waitress carries 'her piece' in a holster on her hip. Makes 'em feel safer... just in case.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman
In other words, nothing says "Don't mess with me," like a gun on the hip. Match that with 'Stand Your Ground' legislation gaining traction and we don't need Mr. Peabody's "Wayback Machine" to feel what it was like when Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hitchcock walked into a saloon. With 42 percent of U.S. households owning firearms, that minority 58 percent better get its act together.

Because you can does not mean you should or have to.

You can now take your guns into Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, the world's busiest--but (Phew!) you still can't legally get thru security--and libraries and malls and movie theaters. And the state legislative chambers too? (If not, then why not? Shouldn't legislators live by the same laws we do?) Though I am pretty sure this flies in the face of common sense, I hope it doesn't backfire (no pun intended).

I really wonder... are we crazy enough yet?

He drank his first strong liquor then to calm his shaking hand
And tried to tell himself he had become a man
A dusty cowpoke at his side began to laugh him down
And he heard again his mothers words

Don't take your guns to town son
Leave your guns at home Bill
Don't take your guns to town

*The song, of course is Johnny Cash at his best. Thank you for the use.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The one thing we ALL have in common...

The Reaper family, Grim, Marge and baby Bradley   (*permissions below)
We'll never make it out of this world alive... unless you're the first one, of course. Some of us live too short. Some of us live too long. Many, like baby bear, live 'just right.'  Longest lived family, if you accept the bible's account, has to be Adam and Eve. I think their last name had to be Smith since there are so many in the phone book.

Adam celebrated his 930th birthday says the bible ("Your wish will come true if you blow out all the candles in one breath... " ) but didn't beget his first child, Cain, until he was in his hundreds. And look how he turned out. 

A Jewish translatation credits Adam and Eve with 33 sons and 23 daughters--56 in all.  Eve lived about as long as Adam but it must have seemed like thousands to her. Imagine having your first child when you are over 100... then having 55 more. Longest lived is Methuselah at 969 years. "I can't believe it," said a friend, "you don't look a day over 900." 

So the Grim Reaper does his job and "poof," you're dead. Then ya' gotta' get rid of the body. That's an earth-y thing pretty much out of your hands unless you have expressed yourself before you-know-what. (If you want to read something interesting on the subject, check out Stiff, a most unusual non-fiction paperback by Mary Roach that made the NYTimes bestseller list for a while.)  

For those who know what they want, some funeral directors will do it your way. And 'your way' could be kind of unusual.

One woman wanted to be remembered as she lived. So after she died, she was posed in a room sitting at a familiar table decorated with  miniature New Orleans Saints helmets, an ash tray, a deck of cards and a framed photo. She was wearing sunglasses and smartly dressed in a denim jacket with Saints emblems, a yellow scarf around her neck. There was an open can of Busch beer by one hand and a menthol cigarette between the fingers of her other, just as she had spent a good number of her living days. "My, doesn't she look wonderful?" And so she did.

Elsewhere, a paramedic was displayed in uniform behind the wheel of his ambulance. One man was posed sitting cross-legged, dressed like Che Guevara with a cigar in his hand. These are referred to as  'Fun Funerals."

A boxer was propped up in a fake boxing ring, ready for the bell. Then there was the biker who chose to be towed to the cemetery in a plexiglass coffin with him astride his Harley... and that's how he was buried. There have been champagne drinkers and guys standing with their life-long cane, looking as jaunty as ever.

But don't get the impression these are tasteless efforts.  "The family literally suffers less, because they see their loved one in a way that would have made them happy... (and) they still look alive," says one funeral director.

Who wouldn't want to remember mother (or Big Grandma to me) in her favorite rocker? I had my emotional thrill (and I'm not kidding) when, at age 5 or 6, I saw my beloved great-grandmother smiling at me from her favorite chair--three months after she died! "Why Big Grandma," I asked with absolute delight... and I can still hear myself saying it, "What are you doing here?" She didn't answer, but held her arms out to me. I turned to mom, dad and sis, who were just coming up the porch steps, and shouted,  "Hey everyone, Big Grandma is here!"  When I looked back, she was gone--but she WAS THERE for me. I'll remember that, with love, and be grateful for the rest of my life.

*NON SEQUITUR ©2014 Wiley Ink, Inc..  Dist. By UNIVERSAL UCLICK.  Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Gorilla sales skyrocket after latest gorilla attack.

Bad gorilla

OK, this sarcastic humor comes from The Onion... but really, how are we going to stop these gorilla attacks?

Good gorilla

Obvious answer: The only way to prevent gorilla attacks is to have a gorilla in every home.

Q: How many NRA spokesman do you need to change a light bulb?
A: More guns."

Actually, I am pro: second amendment but anti: lack of common sense. In the USA, we almost have a  one person/one gun ratio and we always will have... perhaps forever. But gimme a break. If one of the NRA slogans is "Guns don't kill people. People kill people," then shouldn't we do something about paying attention to the people who buy guns?

One estimate is that as many as 40 percent of all legal gun purchases are made without a background check. A much lower number, say some advocates, is 23 percent. Doesn't really matter which figure is used, either rounded up or rounded down. Fact is, a lot of guns are purchased (or inherited or received as a gift, etc.) without verification of a legal buyer/shooter status.

According to Handdgun Control Inc., an acknowledged anti gun group, a total of 205 people were killed by handguns last year in Japan, Great Britain, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden and West Germany. In the United States, same time frame, 10,728 were killed by handguns.

Dispute the figures if you choose, but LOTS MORE were killed in the USA by every count.

And if only the bad or crazy kill most of the people, then do statistics need to prove this is not acceptable... or is it ok because that is such a small number compared to the whole. But what if it were just one... and that one was yours?

Reminds me of the old starfish story:

Two men were walking on the beach, naturally littered with washed-on-the-shore starfish. Every few steps, one of the men would stop, pick up a starfish and throw it back ito the sea. After this had happened about half-dozen times, the other man chided him. 

"Why are you doing that? There are thousands of starfish on the beach. You can't really make a difference."

First man flipped the starfish he was holding back into the ocean. "I can to that one."

Sadly, we lead in school shootings too, which is a poor school category to boast leadership.

So how about background checks for everyone who buys, receives as a gift or inherits a legal lethal weapon? This, I say without addressing any other gun issue... and there are others.

Maybe I'm a dreamer, but I wish mental health care was as easy to get as, say, a gun.

PS: This is the 4th time in almost 400 blog posts that I have used this Starfish Story. It is a story I/we should live by. Everything starts with one.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Should we grant animals peoplehood? Surprise! We already have.

Cartoon by Peter Steiner from The New Yorker  in 1993 
Oh sure, it may not be official yet but it is, de facto, happening. And, funny thing, it is more serious than ever.

Biologically, of course, animals are not humans. Still, that doesn’t alter the debate that animals should be considered “people” in the eyes of the law. Buildings and municipalities are often referred to as 'people' in courtroom legalese and accorded that status in lawsuits.

The animal status issue goes back many years in history. In 1386, a pig was tried by jury and put to death for killing a child. The sow was arrested and imprisoned in the same cell as human criminals. During the pig's trial, witnesses were called, evidence was weighed, and a verdict handed down: guilty of murder.

On execution day, the pig was paraded through town wearing a man's waistcoat and white shirt to symbolize the equality of animals and men in the court's eyes. It's unknown if this was a common practice, but either way, the outfit only served to make the scene all the more dreadful when the execution began.

While most trials dealt with crimes against man, sometimes animals were the target of human cruelty as well. But even then they were not always viewed as innocent victims. In cases where men had committed "the unnatural deed... " with an animal, the poor creature was considered compliant, and therefore charged, convicted, and executed along with the human that had assaulted it.

A later case featured character witnesses who came forward to say they had known the defendant for many years and had always found her to be virtuous and well-behaved. Of course they were talking about the donkey, who was acquitted and set free. No one came forward to testify for the accused so he burned at the stake. (Thanks Mental Floss for this info.)

There are many similar stories, some even more bizarre. In Tennessee about 100 years ago, Mary, the elephant was tried and convicted for the killing of her handler who had treated her cruelly. She was sentenced to be hung... and she was... twice, when the first crane used broke. There is a photo that is far too pitiful to use.

Animals, especially pets, have lately been seen as having rights as well. Today, all 50 states have felony anticruelty laws that impose fines up to $125,000 and 10 years in prison. A federal law after Hurricane Katrina requires rescue agencies save pets as well as people. In the early 1900s, dogs and cats were deemed worthless and could be stolen or killed without repercussion. A framed photo of that pet, if stolen, was a greater crime than if the pet in the photo had been taken.

In dispute cases involving animals some judges have assigned legal representation to dogs, cats, dolphins, chimps and other creatures to uphold their rights.

"Personhood" status for pets goes further as we accept there are no 'dumb' animals and that animals cannot be treated as 'things' or 'property' at our whim. Some animals are smarter than us in some ways. Chimps have been proven to consistently outperform humans in some common game-theory exercises.

A Los Angeles man was awarded $39,000 in a veterinarian malpractice verdict for the death of his Labrador mix. In Colorado, there was a $65,000 award for a dog let loose that was killed by a car. That was far above the dog's $299 cost but still paled in perceived value, anguish, loss and suffering to its owners.

It is then, not surprising that the Veterinary Medical Association is wary and has warned that 'personhood' for pets could flood the courts, drive vets out of business and ultimately harm our pets by making veterinary services prohibitively expensive. But anyone who has a pet will tell you that there is a closeness to an animal that loves unquestionably and with feeling than can never be taken casually. Take just a moment to look at this six-second clip and tell me you are unmoved.

This brings question to how far can/should we go. Do chickens, cows and sheep have rights to avoid being bred for consumption? If you are a purist, vegetarian or vegan, I know your answer. But for the masses, the answer is that all living creatures should be accorded the maximum right to dignity, even as food sources. Temple Grandin found her autistic senses keenly in-tune with animals and she dramatically changed our thinking and industry practices on that.

A point has been made that this "personhood" issue is a perceived parallel to the fight for women's rights as it progressed because the core value is fair consideration, in kind, to every living creature. You know, that's not a bad way to think about a lot of things.

That belief certainly has many, champions. Few though have had broader impact than Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian leader whose profound spirituality and belief in justice continues to inspire the world years after his death.  He led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.

One of his quotes fits in nicely here:
"The greatness of a nation is judged by the way its animals are treated.


Monday, June 2, 2014

What can I buy my grandchild for her birthday? Has to be something she will love that is tons of fun, educational and of lasting value. Oh, I know...

Of course, there are many gifts a lucky grand daughter would love... but this one is educational, tasty and cute as the dickens. When I saw it on the shelf, I knew I found the one thing that she can take with her to college when she grows up. It's the Princess Pooper... and as she says, "I poop candy!" What a delightful ice-breaker.

That's good enough for me.

The Collectable Princess Pooper Penelope (that's her real name) comes with poop (candy) included! And as the box says "Wind her up and watch her go." All this in the nicest molded plastic you can imagine with an almost unbreakable plastic wind-up stem. What could be better?

In fact, finding Princess Pooper Penelope was my lucky day because this is just one darling toy of a whole line of collectables. There is Lucky O'Pooper, Pirate Pooper, Robot Pooper,  Monster Pooper,  Sport Pooper,  Pet Pooper, Zoo Pooper, Holiday Pooper and, just in time for the mid-term elections, Political Pooper. It's the whole darned Pooper family*. (This is real, honest.)

What's it cost, you are asking? Would you believe only $19.95 plus shipping and handling (with rubber examining gloves)? Of course you would. But no, not $19.95, not even $15.95 or $9.95. If you act today, Princess Pooper is yours for only $3.95, poop included! Years from now, someone will pay a fortune for these imaginative colorful plastic Poopers. Get the whole set, wind 'em up and watch 'em go!

PS: Rumor has it that The Queen Mother has just purchased a Princess Pooper Penelope for Prince George and Prince William and Kate just love it. When word gets out, these things will fly off the shelf!

*Endorsed by the Bureau of Questionable Taste (BQT).

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rolling Thunder and more at TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors) this Memorial Day.

There were about 100 Rolling Thunder cyclists paying an annual visit to the TAPS weekend in Arlington, VA this Memorial Day... and sadly, about 2500 adults and children who wished they weren't qualified to be there.

They are some of the families who have recently lost a loved one in service of our country.

This was our fourth visit as representatives of HOPE Animal- Assisted Crises Response. HOPE had five dog/handler teams invited to help bring comfort to those many suffering the ultimate loss of a loved one in war-related conflicts.

From Friday through Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend, the dogs were on duty to do what they do best... and as usual, the outpouring of love and comfort and calm was welcomed by almost all attending.

This was the 20th anniversary of Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS), a privately funded organization for those suffering a military loss. There were surviving husbands, wives, children, parents, siblings, partners, fiances and other related persons who have this opportunity to share, learn, remember and begin to heal thanks to benevolent corporate sponsors who recognize the need to do something special for the families of those who gave everything for their country.

There were programs and functions for all. For the 1200 children, there was a Good Grief Camp for Young Survivors with age-appropriate activities and sessions for all ages as well as infant and toddler care as required. Each youngster had a mentor (many were military volunteers from the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Va) who were with their charges during the day activities when their parent was involved in other sessions and gatherings.

Adult workshops included Proactive Grieving, Turning Hurt into Hope, Dealing with Family after a Sibling Loss, Finding Hope as the Journey Continues, Surviving the Loss of a Child, and dozens more to give you an idea of the help available. Other activities included busses to Arlington National Cemetary, The Mall, a Tour of Washington and The Smithsonian Institution.

There are gatherings and meetings and food and reflection as well as many organizations set up to help with some of the needs of those who find themselves in this position. Speakers at some of the sessions have included Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden and General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as well as notables in areas of relevance to the group. Michelle Obama and The Bidens were scheduled to be with the TAPS group in ceremonies on the Mall on Memorial Day.

The messages in art murals and on the many chalkboards around the large hotel upper lobby by the children and adults were more touching than can be described here. The finale was a massive balloon release by the young people... thousands of balloons each with a personal message to the missing loved one.

They will never forget. Never. Nor should we.

The HOPE Animal-Assisted Crisis Response mission is to provide comfort dog support to individuals affected by crises and disasters. There are presently about 300 dog-handler teams and team leaders across the United States. HOPE working dogs have recently been actively involved in the wildfires in the west, the Washington mudslides, the DC Naval Yard shooting and whenever and wherever such need calls. More at .

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Magic Shoes revisited: An old story with a new twist... the 2014 US Open golf championships for BOTH men and women are here this year, back to back! And what is more important than golf?

The Magic Shoes
I went to dinner with an old friend last night. He is crafty and wise, semi-witty and weird... good qualities for a friend. But the fact that he was magic caught up with me somewhere between dessert and cognac.

"Jerry, I know you have a good heart," he said, "and I have always believed good hearts need to be rewarded from time to time. So I want you to have these" He presented me with a box that simply read Calzature Collezione.

"I don't understand," I said.

"Literally translated, that means magic shoes."

One of the reasons I have always liked Steve is that he is so... so worldly. He knows all the languages."

"Gosh, they really are good looking." And, as I discovered, "They fit perfectly."

"Of course," he smiled smugly.

"But... but what, Steve, is the magic?"

He smiled with satisfaction. "With these shoes, you may have one wish... for anything.  Really anything. You may use that wish to save the world, feed the hungry, cure the sick, stop global warming, have a congress that works... whatever. Just lace them tight, click your heels together three times and make a wish. But be careful... you only have one wish."

I thought and thought... then we had another cognac... and another.  Two hours later, still pondering, we were kicked out of the restaurant so the help could close and go home.

That night, I couldn't bear to take my magic shoes off, they were so beautiful... so I slept in them... and I had a dream... a wonderful dream.  You know how some dreams seem so real, it's almost as if you are awake.  I could see myself and my magic shoes.  I had dreamed my destiny.

I woke to a real surprise... the sheets on the bed were ripped to shreds. My poor loving wife's legs were cut and bloodied. As I put my beautiful shoe-covered feet on the floor, I noticed they gouged our hardwood with every step I took on my route to the bathroom.

Then it dawned on me... MAGIC HAD HAPPENED! My magic shoes had created my dream. The world be damned... I was a scratch golfer, spikes and all! I was Golf Emperor of the World!

I should call to thank Steve for this wonderful gift, but I have an 8:15 tee-time... with barely enough time to kiss my wife who is jumping up and down with... happiness for me, I think.

I'll wow the guys with these fancy new magic shoes... and my new golf knickers, golf shirt and golf underwear which came with them. I didn't see the clothes at first... Steve told me that only the pure of heart can actually see them... then, of course, I did.

YES! The Golf Emperor has new clothes too!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The day I never met Ben Affleck.. or did I? But first, a modestly less but still great fun story.

Ben Affleck? Hmm.
Sure, we have have our brushes with fame. I knew a guy from Peoria once who, at 40 was an IT guy at an insurance company and found no joy in that. So almost every day he wrote funny stuff on Twitter. Seth Meyers heard about it and hired him. Really!

Brian Donaldson, went to school with my kids and look where they are today. Is he really funny though, or is he a 'just from Peoria' novelty? From his Twitter feed:

  • My pants size is "these fit when I bought them."
  • My family was so Catholic growing up that we weren't allowed to hide eggs on Easter because my father said it promoted birth control.
  • "Hey 35-year-old on a Razor scooter, you can loose the helmet. The damage has already been done."
  • If you step on Trump's foot, his hair pops up just like a trash can lid.
  • Every time I read the same My Little Pony book to my daughter, I love her just a little bit less.
  • Do you ever feel like you're all alone and there's no-one around to turn for help? Don't worry. It goes away once you leave Home Depot.
  • The best thing for cleaning spilled hummus off the carpet is chips.
  • It's weird that coward doesn't mean "toward a cow."
And these are just things he wrote that I can blog about. (I have a "nothing my grand kids can't read' policy?) You can pick out stuff he probably wrote in Meyer's monolog.

Ben's wife, Jennifer Garner
--Just because, alright?
Now about this Affleck thing.  A few days ago my wife and I were having a gourmet breakfast at the local Panera's and she noticed two men eating on the patio... one looking very Ben Affleckish, the other kind of Spielbergish-- but not him. So we very casually (and coolly) kept looking, googling and looking some more.

We read that Ben has a golf movie coming up and noted that the search was on for a 'better golfing stunt double' in our golf crazy southern area. Hmm.

Just then, the two of them walked by us. Ben we read, is 6'2. This guy is 6'2'. So I asked, "Are you Ben Affleck... and if you aren't and can play golf, have I got a tip for you."

So they stopped, smiled and had a good time kidding each other about the item on my cell phone. Ben--I'll call him Ben (because that's his name, right?) seemed to recognize the trade press we had googled. He laughed and said "No, I'm not interested. Besides, I'm left handed." 

BINGO! Ben is left-handed and this guy (Ben) is left handed. He and his buddy were having a good time with it. We talked a little golf and kidded a little. Then they both thanked us and left.

So happened we all headed out the door at the same time and exchanged greetings like old friends--sort of.

I asked the other guy one more question. "Are you Matt Damon (which he wasn't)? Laughter and smiles...but... we got him, that handsome bugger. "Say hello to Jennifer for me," I waved. He promised he would.

PS: Little known fact: Ben is left handed. My son is left handed. About 10 percent of humans are left handed... but 1/3 of all chimpanzees are. Do they know something we don't?

Friday, May 2, 2014

It's a ridiculous world out there... and it's nuts too.

Not him but an actor playing the role
A nine-month-old was recently charged with attempted murder of a police officer in Pakistan. So the most logical question is: will authorities try him as an adult?

The police officer made the collar after the boy's father and grandfather reportedly tried and failed to kill him... and since the child was there too, the officer must have figured the infant was the "brains" of the group.

Happy ending, a diaper was changed and the "brains' was released to poop in freedom.

The San Antonio Spurs of the NBA will not be staying at a certain California hotel any more. Ghosts! Several players have experienced the spirit and to make matters worse, Harold Ramis, the man who wrote and starred in Ghostbusters isn't around to save them anymore... he recently died... and may now be part of the problem. Great movie though.

Science marches on: Recent actual and expensive medical studies have revealed that 1) drinking too much alcohol and/or excessive use of cocaine makes it really hard to drive an 18-wheeler; 2) there is a connection between stress and premature aging... stress doesn't help; 3) men like to look at curvaceous women but not necessarily face first; 4) athletes rarely are as smart as brain surgeons; 5) though more people are killed by bee stings than shark bites, most would still prefer to be stung by a bee. All of this raises the question: would you rather have a poke in the eye with a stick or a broken leg? I dunno, surprise me.

Wrigley Field, the home of the Cubs, just turned 100. And even better, the Cubs are ONLY 10 games out of first place on their march to another yet another World Series championship. The Cubbies are anxious to have someone who saw them win their last title--a mere five years after the Wright brothers' first flight--throw out the first pitch in their next championship, but no one living today was born yet... except some really old guy in Italy, and his arm is gone. Just you wait til Next Year!

     A first grade teacher admits to her class that she is a die-hard Cub fan. She asks her students to raise their hands if they 
      are Cub fans too. Not really knowing what a Cub fan is but wanting to be like their teacher, their hands explode 
      into the air.

     There is, however, one exception. One girl has not gone along with the crowd. The teacher asks why. "Because I'm 

     not a Cub fan," she says.

     "Then,"  asks the teacher, "what are you?"

     "I'm a Chicago White Sox fan."

     The teacher, a little perturbed, asks why she is a White Sox fan.

     "Well, My Dad and Mom are White Sox fans, and I am too."

     The teacher, somewhat upset, says, "That's no reason, What if your Mom was a moron and your dad 

     was a moron. What would you be then?"

     "Then," says the girl, "I'd be a Cub fan."

It is against the law in Liberty, NY to be annoying. Really! So a lead-footed hot-head, mad about a speeding ticket, sent his fine in with a note: "Bleep YOUR bleeping TOWN!" The town rejected the payment and charged him saying his note was "likely to cause annoyance or alarm."

I want one of those laws for my town too... but I'd amend it to include being a jerk too.

Chicago, in a NYTimes poll, was found to be the funniest city in the United States. No contest... Chicago has the Cubs so a sense of humor is essential. Boston, Atlanta, Washington D.C., Portland OR, New York, Los Angeles, Denver, San Francisco and Seattle were the top 10.

If you live in Virginia Beach, get a life. You were the least funny in all of America. Jacksonville, Miami, Tulsa, Arlington TX, El Paso, Ft. Worth and San Antonio are at the dourest bottom. Hmm, Texas has four. Wonder if that means anything?

You sourpusses better get with it. Monkeys have a better sense of humor than you do. Primates don't just laugh, they crack jokes. Koko, a gorilla, knows more than 2,000 words and and signs 1,000. She was recently asked, "What can you think of that's hard?" She signed "Rock" and "Work." She once tied her trainer's shoelaces together and signed "Chase."

Why do waiters like gorillas better than flies? Have you ever heard a customer complain "Waiter, there's a gorilla in my soup?"

One more Cub joke:

     Einstein invented a machine to reduce intelligence of the super smart so they could better fit 
     in with society.

     He strapped the apparatus on the head of his first genius volunteer test subject and turned 
     the machine on low, not sure of its power. After 30 seconds, he turned it off and anxiously asked 
     a test question: "What is the numerical equivalent of pi?"

     "3.14159 to infinity," the genius said.

     "Hmm," mused Einstein. Needs more power. So he set the machine to medium and tried again.

     "Now, he asked, Who was the 16th president of the United States?"

     "Lincoln, of course. Followed by Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant."

     Getting impatient, Einstein set the machine on high and let it rip. Strangely though, the machine 
     did not shut off automatically. As Einstein frantically tried everything, he finally had to smash the machine with a 
     hammer to make it stop. It had run on and on and on for more than five minutes.

     "Oh my God," he said concerned as he shook his subject., "Say something to me... say anything."

     The man shook his head and finally opened his eyes. Looking at an anxious Einstein, he hollered "HOW 'BOUT
     THEM  CUBS"

Confession: Don't tell anyone... I'm a Cub fan.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Two Hero stories. One fictional and the other real. Both favorites of mine.

First, fiction: I have a favorite movie... and no, it is not Sleepless in Seattle, Frozen, Mary Poppins or anything silly like that... though Mary Poppins does star Dick Van Dyke. (Thank God it's not Dick Van Patten... I hate the Van Pattens for no good reason... honest.)

I really loved Hero with Dustin Hoffman, Gena Davis and Andy Garcia. Hero is a 1992 movie that Roger Ebert (God rest his soul) thought was great EXCEPT for some superfluous dialog. Three and a half stars. C'mon Roger, you could have done better than that.

Says Ebert: Hoffman plays Bernie LaPlante, lifelong loser. He's a small-time Chicago thief whose wife has thrown him out, whose son doesn't admire him, and whose future is a prison term for receiving stolen goods. Then one night an airliner crashes right in front of him on a deserted road, and although he's no hero, Bernie is responsible for pushing the plane's emergency door open, and personally rescuing several passengers - including a TV newswoman played by Geena Davis.

If it hadn't been for this little guy, everybody might have died. But they live, while he disappears back into the rainy night.

The closing scene wraps the whole thing up in true It's a Wonderful Life style.

Now the real: Here's the point though... anyone can be a hero given the right time and place. Most heroic actions are situational and reflexive. And more amazingly, most who are dubbed "heros" by the media claim they did nothing more than anyone else would've done in similar circumstances or that they were only doing their job. But the reality is that lives are saved and/or tragedy averted.

I believe that one can be a hero and no body would be aware of it.

A week or so ago, My daughter and her husband walked onto a Florida beach with their children.
First thing they noticed as they surveyed the Atlantic was that two young boys in the water were struggling to get to shore against a rip tide. One of the youngsters was attempting to help the other  and they were both in trouble. Neither the parents down the beach nor anyone else were aware of the sudden problem.

The boys, realizing their situation, asked for help. Both daughter and husband dived into the ocean and pulled them out, as well as their young son who had just waded in. No gathering crowds, no cheering or news media coverage... life just kept going on... thank God, except that if they weren't there then, it might not have ended well. Who knows.

This hero stuff is within us all. Maybe we have already been a hero to someone we didn't even realize needed our help. A word, a deed, whatever. Be a hero to yourself... the kind of person you'd like to see looking into a mirror. 

As John Bubber (Andy Garcia) said in the movie: We're all heroes if you catch us at the right moment.

Caution alert: This movie was released in the UK and Ireland titled Accidental Hero. There is also a 2002 release of a Chinese movie Hero... same name, very different. In China, it was called Ying xiong and is the highest-grossing motion picture in Chinese film history. Here's the trailer for my Hero flick.

 PS: As I write this post, I'm listening to Bette Midler sing Wind beneath my wings. You know, the song with this verse: 

Did you ever know that you're my hero,
and everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle,
'cause you are the wind beneath my wings.

Coincidence or... ?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A pretty good story I wrote.

A Cross to Bear

“Hey buddy! Watch it with the sign.”
Bill shook his head in disbelief as he walked to his mid-Manhattan office. Should be a law about that. These guys just clutter up the sidewalk. Nutsos! All of ‘em.
            The guy with the sign paid no attention to Bill. He saw hundreds of people like him every day. Sure, the sign could have been smaller but when your message is big, you gotta have a big sign.
John saw his only mission in life as spreading God’s word and making sure everyone was ready when they met their maker… not that everyone paid any attention to him… or that anyone did. This is what God wanted from him… told him personally… and true to God’s Word, John was ‘on the job’ every day. He was a ‘regular,’ one of those street people that become vaguely familiar to the multitude that travel the same path most days.
You couldn’t say John’s clothes were rags, but then you wouldn’t say they weren’t. Looked like they were from Goodwill’s SALE rack… many years ago. It was his falling-apart sandals missing a strap, the untended beard that met his dirty hair half-way and the glassy-eyed look that said, ‘I do this for a living.’  Oh... and the sign, of course. But it was his rather distinctive ‘air’ that first warned the blind beggar down the block that John was on the job.
Some days, John carried an old wooden cross. Thing towered about two-feet above his head and weighed almost half as much as John himself. Those were the days he wore his dirty gray robe with the rope belt. Quite effective. Those were the days that Bill and everyone else gave John wide berth.
“Saw that crazy ‘jesus guy’ again,” Bill told his wife that evening. “He was carrying the big cross today. He smells like he doesn’t know the meaning of the word soap. Wonder what his story is.”
Two days later, Bill saw him again, just as ‘the jesus guy’ fell while crossing the street.
“Hey! You ok?”
As he put his arm under the self appointed ‘savior of the world’ to help him up, Bill shook his head. He couldn’t believe he instinctively ran to the guy’s aid. And if that wasn’t enough, he had to stop traffic to pick up the huge cross before it caused an accident.
“Thank you, my brother. Thank you. God sent you to me today and I am grateful.”
“Now wait a minute, old man…”
“Name is John.”
“Hate to tell you this, John, but you couldn’t be more wrong. There is no God. He only exists in your mind…. like Santa Claus.”
“How can you say that, man? God is the sun. The moon. The air. God is life in all its forms.” John, arms waving and sputtering as he talked, was just getting warmed up. As the crowd gathered, John knew this was the day… and the reason he was put on earth.
“Tell me, man,” he said so all could hear. Poking a finger into Bill’s chest for emphasis, he asked  “Tell me who made you? Tell me which came first, the chicken or the egg? And where did either one of them come from?”
Bill couldn’t believe it. This bum had come alive. He was no wino with a hand out but a man on a mission with eyes ablaze. Bill took two steps backward for every one of John’s giant strides into his chest.
“How can you defend Santa Claus for your kids’ faith and joy and not give God the same courtesy? How can you smile at Christmas and get angry when I talk about God?”
John, sputtering on, was red in the face with fervor.  “What are you afraid of, man? Listen to your heart as your children listened to you. Is there a Santa Claus? Damn right! Not believe in God? Damned wrong. Don’t tell yourself nothin’ you don’t, deep down, believe just because you are afraid.”
  Bill blinked and stared into John’s eyes. They weren’t crazy. They were begging for understanding…asking… pleading to be heard.
“Come on, man. I can see you get it. Admit it to yourself. Go with it. Take His hand and…and…and…”
John closed his eyes, staggered two steps backward and slumped to the ground. His work was done. The gathered audience seemed quietly stunned, unsure of what to do next.
A siren’s shrill note jarred the crowd. “BREAK IT UP! Nothing to see here,” blared the voice from the bullhorn of the officer in a black and white. And like that, the crowd backed away, watching as Bill knelt to John.
“He’s gone, officer. I can’t believe it. He’s gone.”
Bill didn’t sleep that night. He and his wife must have talked for hours before she fell asleep on the couch. Near morning, Bill stumbled into the shower, determined to see that John was taken care of…vowing to make sure he had a decent Christian burial.
“I saw that man a thousand times as a nut case…a homeless crazy,” he muttered to his wife, shaking his head as he headed out the front door.  “Then, in just five minutes, I knew a man that I should have known from the very beginning. I …. I… ,”  his voice trailed off.
“What is it Bill?” his wife hollered at his silence as she ran to the door.
Bill was staring back toward the house in disbelief.
“How…? Why…? I don’t understand.”

Leaning there was a wooden cross…bigger, by far, than John’s.

Blessed Easter all.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Easter in Seattle... and a story

Wouldn't you know, the Easter Bunny lives in Seattle. And why not? It is one of my favorite cities for lots of reasons. I especially enjoy all the public art. It is everywhere in large and small ways. In Seattle, if you incorporation art into your building, you can get a 10 percent discount on your county taxes. That's putting your money where your heART is. (I know, very clever.)

Easter, like Christmas, is one of those secular holidays that gets big retail play. Christmas is the number one retail selling event of the year for merchants with Easter and Passover adding nicely.

But, as great as the Easter Bunny is and as awesomely promising Santa and his reindeer and elves are, there is a deeper religious meaning for many that transcends the $ signs. So, on Good Friday, I've got a story for you that fits the other part of Easter just fine.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Want to make a fast $28 mil?

In 2004, a very pious lady sold this piece of toast on eBay for $28 million. (Yes, really.) And get this: It wasn't just out of the toaster toast, it was ten years cold! So what's the catch?

Now I like toast just as much as the next person, but even if my toast had a miraculous apparition of the Virgin Mary burned into its surface like this miracle slice (didn't see it, heathen?), I can't imagine it would be worth those dollars to me. And I am one who has experienced breakfast at the Waldorf where a fresh piece of toast cost ten bucks (with orange juice, it comes to $19.95, not counting tip), so I should know toast.

How do we know this is THE Virgin Mary? Well, when the original owner was about to take a bite out of her sandwich, she notice "the Lady" staring back at her and hollered for her husband to "COME QUICK!" "I scared me at first," she said. Then, shortly thereafter, she won $70,000 at a nearby casino.

potato chip Jesus
If that is not proof enough, after ten years, "it doesn't fall apart or crumble or anything." Nor has it become moldy! And the best proof of all--someone paid $28 million for it. So there.

But that's not today's story. Today's story is about how things like this happen...the psychological phenomenon of seeing something significant in ambiguous stimuli. That is called pareidolia say those who study such things. (Yeah, somebody's got to study everything.)

Another interesting study might be on what causes a person to pay $28 million for a ten-year-old piece of toast.

A pizza for Christ's sake
But about the "seeing things" phenomena, scientifically conducted tests (with results written about in the Journal of Cognition and other like magazines without cartoons) seem to indicate there may be an awareness of perceptually ambiguous stimuli enhanced by the presence of moral content.

Over a series of tests too dull to describe, moral content seemed to enhance recognition of anything at a greater perception than non-moral content. That phenomenon is called the "moral pop-out effect." It is described in a general sense like grocery shopping when you are hungry versus when you are not hungry. When you are hungry, the sight and aura of food calls your name. When you are full, forget it Charlie.
Cheeto Jesus (really?)

Interestingly, test subjects recalled more of stories with morally acceptable content than those without. An example used was a fabricated newspaper clipping of a perpetrator of a vicious crime who was still on the loose. That version scored considerably less in remembered detail than the exact same fake story where the perpetrator was apprehended.

There is much more, of course, but being a non-scientist, if you get the gist, that's good enough for me.

Cubs win! Cubs win!
Oh my gosh, I just saw the Cubs winning the World Series in my breakfast pancake! Quick eBay bidder, give me $28 million. Ok, $2.8 billion. Alright, $28. Sure, but only because I like you, 28 cents. And yes, it comes with maple syrup.