Sunday, November 9, 2014

Don't Forget THANKSgiving

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The candy has been eaten, store bought costumes have been boxed up, and Jack-O-Lanterns have been composted.   Halloween is over, and the masses have turned their attention to Christmas.

Wait a minute.  Halloween…  Christmas…  Halloween…  Christmas…  There’s something between those, right?  Oh yeah, Thanksgiving is November 27th.

As soon as we doused our porch lights, and quit handing out candy to tot sized superheroes, Target began airing jingles about, “A Marshmallow World,” and stores were decked for Santa’s visit.  While I can’t fault advertisers for borrowing jingles from the Rat Pack, it bothers me that we don’t take time to focus just on Thanksgiving.

This annual oversight may be due to the trappings of the surrounding holidays.  Halloween delivers costume based fantasy, parties, and mounds of candy.  Christmas gives us presents, carols, cards, decorated trees, and is a chance for Christians to observe the birth of our savior.  Thanksgiving doesn’t offer the same trappings and excitement.

 photo Scampi served
Description: Tender, juicy roast turkey - the main attraction - with old-fashioned gravy, cranberry sauce, smashed potatoes, baked green beans, sweet and sour cod, steamed rice, pickled green papaya relish, flan, pigs in a blanket... | 
Date: 11/23/2005 | Photographer: Ms. Jones from California | This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.
OK, foodies, like me, really get into the meal of roast turkey and stuffing with old-fashioned gravy, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, baked green beans, warm buttered biscuits, wine, pumpkin pie, and coffee.  Likewise, football fans looks forward to televised games from Dallas & Detroit.  Beyond the sports and the meal though, there’s very little sense of what the holiday is actually about.

Most people agree it has something to do with Pilgrims and Native Americans sharing a meal.  However, Thanksgiving wasn’t declared a holiday until 1863.  Sarah Josepha Hale, the editor of Godey's Lady's Book, spent 17 years writing letters to five Presidents of the United States: Zachary Taylor, Millard Filmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, and Abraham Lincoln; urging them to designate a nationally recognized day of Thanksgiving.

Some say, Lincoln saw the holiday as a tool to unite the country during a bloody civil war.  Others claim, he capitulated simply to end the barrage of letters.  In any case, President Lincoln finally responded to Mrs. Hale's repeated requests by setting aside the last Thursday of November as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise.

The day stores use to boost Christmas sales, was originally intended as a day to give thanks.  Giving thanks may not be as exciting as trick-or-treating, or opening presents under a tree, but it may be more important.

I must admit, my bodily aches & pains make it hard to count my blessings sometimes.  Nevertheless, I’m; surrounded, encouraged, helped, and loved; by terrific people everyday.  Thus, I plan to show them my gratitude this Thanksgiving, before I think about what I want for Christmas.
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Friday, October 31, 2014

I Voted - Now Shut Up

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Here in Oregon, we vote by mail.  Last week I received my ballot, dutifully filled it out, and sent it in.  While I've made my series of educated choices, and signed on the dotted line, I still find myself inundated with fact bending campaign commercials every time I watch TV.

 A voter returns his vote-by-mail ballot in the 2006 General elections in Lane County, Oregon.
Subject: A voter returns his vote-by-mail ballot in the 2006 General elections in Lane County, Oregon. | Date: 10/22/2006 | Photographer: Chris Phan | This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
If I'm not being subjected to mixed messages about "genetically engineered foods" I'm being forced to watch mental tripe from people who want registered independents to be able vote in party primaries.  If Ballot Measure ads aren't annoying enough, I have to watch political candidates distort one another's history and views.

OK, I turned the TV off, turned my computer on, and found the following email from Senator Wyden's office.

"James,

Here in Oregon it's easy to vote. You can do it at your own kitchen table, at a time that works for you. It’s another reason Oregon is different.

Now, with just 4 days to go, if you haven't already, make a plan to vote. With less than a third of Oregon ballots returned so far, it's important to get your ballot in quick."

Keep in mind, I'll vote for Senator Wyden every single time he runs, but he's not even running in this election.  His co-Senator, Merkley, doesn't need the assistance; he's running against a crazy person.  Senator Wyden is, as near as I can tell, campaigning to campaign.

I don't think my election overload would as extreme as it is, if the ads were informative and honest.  However, the ads are designed to be emotionally provocative rather than fact based.

For example, in the debate over labeling "genetically engineered foods," one side is showing pictures of blue dyed corn and men in lab coats, trying to conjure images of Dr. Frankenstein, while the opposition is basically saying, "Those dirty liers are lying.  Uh, stop it."  Nobody is explaining that the hybrid fruit, tangelo (mandarin orange + grapefruit), and mating the best cow with the best bull to get the best next generation of beef are time honored examples of "genetically engineered foods."

I could say similar things about each contest.  Since watching such ads, and reading campaign materials, won't educate voters in any meaningful way, I'd rather see commercials for cars and beer during Grimm tonight.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

My Heroes Have Always Been Human

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Dirk Benedict (born March 1, 1945) is a television actor who played the characters Lieutenant Starbuck in the original Battlestar Galactica and Lieutenant Templeton "Faceman" Peck in The A-Team. I vividly remember watching both shows as a kid. I remember the excitement I felt as I watched him blast the feldercarb out of the bad guys, first in space, the as part of the Los Angeles underground.

Photo courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.

This weekend I had a chance to meet one of my childhood heroes at Rose City Comic-Con. While giddy as my 12 year old self, I carefully prepped for the convention by writing my question for Mr. Benedict, wording it just right, and packing my Battlestar Galactica cast photo, which had already been signed by Herbert Jefferson, Jr. (Lt. Boomer).

I arrived at the Oregon Convention Center at 12:30 pm, with Mr. Benedict’s public address scheduled for 1:00 pm. After getting through the ticket line, making sense of the floor map, and finding an elevator that worked, I was afraid I’d be late and locked out. Luckily, I met Star Trek: Voyager’s Garrett Wang (Ensign Harry Kim) in the elevator on the way to Mr. Benedict’s address. Mr. Wang, being the moderator for the address, was kind enough to escort me through the staff only hallway to make sure I wouldn’t be late. Oddly enough, even though I’m a huge Star Trek fan, I’d been so focused on Mr. Benedict that it didn’t dawn on me that Mr. Wang had played the Voyager character until I returned home.

I sat for the better part of an hour listening to Mr. Benedict speak about a variety of topics. Among his reminisces of working on Battlestar Galactica and The A-Team, the man I’d come to see dropped a series of ideological bombshells, including:
  • All liberals need to grow up,
  • One should eat brown rice & veggies, avoiding all red meat, dairy, sugar, cola, and too much water, and
  • Social media is society’s new cocaine.

  • I was heartbroken. Being a liberal blogger who loves steak, cheese, chocolate, and cola, Mr. Benedict and I apparently didn’t agree on ANYTHING.

    Out in the hallway, I sat and watched the endless parade of costumed fans hurrying from one exhibit to the next and posing for pictures. Superman was photographing Wolverine, Darth Vader was posing alongside a female version of The 10th Doctor, and a Viking was exchanging notes with the Lannisters, from Game of Thrones.

    As I viewed the array of mock characters hob knobbing with one another, I asked myself why I was upset. Just like the people mingling before me, Mr. Benedict was a man with his own beliefs and quirks, who happened to have played parts I’d liked. With that in mind, I made my way to his booth, had him sign the photo I’d brought, and thanked him for his body of work.

    In the end, we’ll never share a rare steak and a Coke, or campaign for the same candidate. That’s OK though. Thirty years ago, he spent one night a week entertaining & inspiring a young boy, which is really all I can ask for.
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    Friday, September 12, 2014

    Musicals, The Maligned Movie Genre

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    Mayor Shinn, of River City, shakes his fists from his podium as he reminds the townspeople of how much money "Professor" Harold Hill has taken from them for instruments, uniforms, and instruction books, promising to create a boys' band. When he loudly demands to know "Where's the band?" Hill is saved by the town's boys who have

    Photo courtesy of Amazon's Affiliate Program.
    learned to play Beethoven's Minuet in G on their instruments. Although their technical expertise leaves much to be desired, the boys' parents are enthralled. The somewhat ragged boys' band marches out of the town hall. As they begin to march, they are magically transformed into a spectacular marching band dressed in resplendent uniforms, playing and marching with perfection. Seventy-six trombones, do indeed, lead the big parade.

    While the aforementioned scene is a fun way to end a charming family movie, I, unfortunately, know people who cite this scene as evidence that musicals are a joke genre.  They point to an entire town spontaneously knowing complex choreography, and claim musicals are nothing but corn ball drivel for the low brow masses.

    I disagree.

    OK, there's no denying that musicals deliver a certain amount of fantasy based cheese.  However, in amongst the glitz and the high steps, audiences are given access to characters inner most thoughts and feelings.

    In Grease, when, tough girl, Rizzo belts out the lines,
    "I could hurt someone like me,
    Out of spite or jealousy.
    I don't steal and I don't lie,
    But I can feel and I can cry.
    A fact I'll bet you never knew.
    But to cry in front of you,
    That's the worse thing I could do,"

    the audience understands the depth of the emotional facade she's been hiding behind in order to protect herself.

    Even more poignant were the lines,
    "The rain can't hurt me now,
    This rain will wash away what's past,
    And you will keep me safe,
    And you will keep me close,
    I'll sleep in your embrace at last,"

    sung by Eponine as she dies in the arms of the man who never knew she loved him, in Les Miserables

    Of course, this seen stirs the same feelings as when West Side Story's Tony lay dying in Maria's lap while she gently tells him,
    "There's a place for us,
    Somewhere a place for us,
    Peace and quiet and open air,

    Wait for us,
    Somewhere," 

     knowing it to be a lie.

     With the possible exception of the narrated hard-boiled mystery, typical movies don't give viewers a glimpse into characters' motivations and thought processes, to the extent that musicals do.

    What's our favorite musical?
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