Friday, December 25, 2009

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Coda


Jesus looked down, ten years later, to see what time had wrought.

Timmy had entered rehab, grown up, and began a modestly successful store for the wheelchair bound, selling surgical supplies and lifestyle-assisting devices. 

Marcus had been sentenced to twenty years to life, but because of the extenuating circumstances involving the sexual abuse of his wife, the judge threw the sentence out, and gave him three years in a minimum security prison, plus an additional ten years on probation. 

Barb had found work as a housemaid in the Bronx, and managed to duck most of the publicity, although occasionally someone would recognize her when she would shop for the family. When Mark was released from prison, and Timmy had completed rehab, they reunited. Mark began to work in as an apprentice on a construction site, and after a short while, completed his electrician's certification. Barb then quit her job as a maid, and went to work for Mark's boss as office manager and sales rep.

And Ed...Ed still toils silently in his own little private corner of hell, mocked constantly by circumstances and his own private Satan.

After all...he was privileged!


A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt XIV

Ed fell for days without end, the constant flutter in his belly and tingling in his nether regions a testament to his continual downward progression. He neither sped up nor slowed down, but felt every molecule of air as it rushed past him. He hungered, thirsted, but had neither food nor water. But oh yes, he had waste products flowing out of him! It made for quite the sight.


For a moment, Ed lay there on the warm graveley ground, and assessed the damage. It felt like he had all his bones, with no extras. The fall should have killed him, yet he was conscious of all around him, including, as he opened his eyes, a pair of walking sneakers. Black. Velcro.

"Wel-hell! What have we here?" a male voice, purposely pitched higher into a sing-song tone, rang out in his near-deafened ears. "Hello, newbie."

Ed propped his hands under his shoulders and pushed up a few inches. The struggle to crane his neck upwards took forever and exhausted him. In silhouette, he saw a man of moderate age, wavy-haired with a widow's peak. He blinked, then slowly slid his legs under him to sit up.

"Don't speak, Hughes. You'll need your strength. As you may have gathered, you've had a long journey to an unpleasant place."

Ed tried to open his mouth and shuffle some syllables out, but found he didn't have the strength, sure enough. He let his eyes do the talking, and gave this stranger a blank stare.

"What's that? Three ghosts? So who am I? I'm surprised you haven't figured that one out yet, Amy, but keep pedalling. You're a shoo-in for the big girl X Games. Now, I have to figure out what to do with you..."

The stranger stopped talking, and gaudily rubbed his chin with his hand in a mockery of Ed. "Hmmmmmmmmmm...."

As he stood there, Ed managed to slip his feet under his torso, and began to squat, steadying himself with his palms on the ground.

"No no, newbie! No need to stand up! You have to learn to crawl before you can walk here! So what kind of skills do you have...let's see..." said the stranger as he scanned a clipboard he was carrying. "No. No. No. No. N----ahhhhhhhhhhhh! But no. No. No. No. No. Ever play the harmonica? No? Too bad, we would have use for you in the homophobe No. No. Wait! No. No. Nnnnnnnnno! Well, you're pretty mnuch useless to me."

Ed stood up.

"Well, look at you, standing up, all proud of yourself. Bet you want to switch to the pull-up big boy pants now....Look, Hughes, here's the deal: you're a twisted sick son of a bitch who hates nearly everyone, yet has no usable skills. There's a special place for people like you who call the 'waaaaaaaahmbulance' anytime you feel the slightest bit injured, and you're in it. In fact, we have a special level reserved for you. No, no! Don't try to speak! Sit...well, no, because that rock's on fire, and you won't listen then, so stand and listen: Being good didn't mean lecturing other people on being good. It meant, well, being good. MOW-THE-ING the words was meaningless. You had to do good, and live by the teachings to be good. In your case, all you had was your mouth, so guess what? Down here, you lose your voice! Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you, newbie?"

Ed took a deep breath, opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't remember how to form words. Or make sounds. For that matter, he had to force himself to exhale.

"I guess you do. Good. So your challenge throughout eternity is to try to get people to understand you somehow. It ought to be interesting to watch YOU relying on the compassion of other people. But I digress. Didn't it occur to you somewhere along the line that you might want to reconsider making fun of people who are different from you? Who needed your help? You had a platform to use to help people. Instead, you turned it into a weapon that, rather than unify your fellow citizens, served to highlight the differences, segregate the cultures, and ultimately, well, youuuuuuu fucked yourself, newbie, because the very people who could have been praying for your soul are the ones who you needed to persuade The Man Upstairs that you had earned a place at the banquet. I've watched the tape they send down with each newbie. It ain't pretty, the things you did, especially tearing that poor kid apart who lost his father on September 11. For that alone, I almost came up to claim your soul."

"Did you even read the Bible? Damn, son, because if you had, you'd know I was thrown down here for a lot less than you were, and that was before, y'know, the whole 'only begotten son' thing went on. You, you trampled on the Word and picked out the wrong bits to focus on. Honestly, I'm not sure how proud you have to be to focus on the trimmings and not on the main course of the meal. See, life isn't about you. It's about them," said Satan as he swept his arm outward, gesturing to all the other people around him. "Even I got that much. Do good by people, and people will do good by you."

"If it helps, you should have thought about it this way: The afterlife is like one giant game of 'Reverse Survivor', where everyone gets to vote you on the island, but only He can make you come down here. Get it now?"

Ed stared in disbelief, then slowly nodded his head.

" your job down here..."

Let Us Pray

Our Heavenly Father,

2,009 years ago, the Son of God was made incarnate. With this act, You renewed Your vow to mankind that You had grown up, that you had become a better God than He who destroyed mankind for being evil. That You had matured. That You had evolved. Thank you, Father.

In this holiday season, we ask You and Your Most Holy Gift to hear our prayers. At this time of the renewal of the vows of faith, we ask that You look down upon us, and help us in a critical time of need. Our planet is suffering degradations by the bucketful, and those who serve us forget that they are our servants; instead they serve mammon. We ask that You inspire them to higher goals.

We ask that you fill their hearts with the passion of position, that to do right is to do good and to do good is to do Your work here on earth.

We ask that You give us the patience to tolerate those who oppose our views with good humour and delicate persuasions. They are not many, but they are louder than they are large and in this nation, loud often substitutes for right.

We ask that You find it in his heart to fill our President with a reminder of where he came from and how hard it is, particularly now in this time of recession, for an individual to make his way thru the long cold nights and short brutal days.

We'll take care of the rest. We will feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the poor, heal the sick. We can do that. We want to do this. We just need to move obstacles and inspire people and we know there is no rock so immovable that You cannot move it.

To Your cause, we re-dedicate ourselves. Amen.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt XIII

Ed stared into the void of the hooded robe for what felt like an eternity. He had learned one thing as the world's most confrontational interviewer: he could make any man break with his glare.

Nothing. Not a reaction. No flinching. 

"Surely, something can prevent all this? Someone?..."

The hood stayed rock-steady still.

"What must I do?"

They rose once more...

"So this Happy Holidays...this is all a bunch of malarkey for you people, designed by liberals to destroy Christianity?"

"No, Ed, we don't want to destroy Christianity or Christmas or Christ. All we want is what Christians want: the right to practice our beliefs without reprisal or judgement. That's what this country was founded upon, and that's what we're entitled to in our Declaration: liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

"That's a load! This is a Christian nation! Our Founding Fathers were Christian and they even wrote about divine providence in the Constitution and the Declaration!"

"They also wrote about freedom of religion, which means that the government must respect all faiths, including the unfaithed, and by extension, so must society!"

"By taking the Christ out of Christmas?"

"No! But the holiday season has many more holidays than just Christmas."

"Oh shut up already! We'll be back after these messages..."

Ed felt the hand grip his shoulder once more, and they Long Island. Levittown, not Westbury. 

They settled to the ground like two leaves, and stood at a graveside. The freshly turned earth smelled sweet. There was a ceremony going on. They listened.

" Thy servant departed, that he may not receive in punishment the requital of his deeds who in desire did keep Thy will..." Father Tom intoned. 

A handful of people stood close by. A few scattered TV trucks, mostly NewsNet and its affiliates, and a smattering of gawkers, behind police tape about twenty yards away. Some carried signs: "Burn In Hell!", "Christians For Tolerance", and one or two carried old subway advertising boards. One bright light held up a "burning" Christmas tree, by pasting gold and red mylar to the branches.

Ed scanned the small group gathered graveside. There was Dad, of course, and two of Ed's three wives, and two of his children. Raquel looks like she skipped the service, but that's in keeping with her style: she was always jetting off somewhere. With someone. It was never enough for her.

And the head of NewsNet, a pixie-faced Aussie who made a boatload of money by first creating controversies and then attacking the same controversies. His master stroke? Publishing a book and then setting up a nationally telecast interview with a certain notorious killer, then killing the whole deal when his news division mercilessly attacked the idea. He made gobs of advertising money in the middle of the November sweeps, and still managed to release the book and make the million dollar advance back and much more. He was here all the way from Shanghai, with his lovely (fifth) wife.

And that was it.

Wait...that was it? None of the crew? OK, not Barb, but no one else?

"May his soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace."

With that, the hooded figure reached up and pulled his hood back. Before Ed stood a tall handsome North African man.

"I am Joshua, son of Joseph. Some have called me Jesus. Ed, I am here to judge you." 

With that, Jesus picked Ed up and flung him into the grave.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt XII

The cold night air pierced Ed like an icicle dagger. He hadn't felt this cold since that a long time ago when he was struggling to make it as a reporter and the station sent him out to cover a blizzard. He had assumed he was working in-studio, but the wife of one of the editors complained about something he had said to her when he was drunk at the holid...Christmas party, and then grabbed her tit.

The hooded figure pointed...

Timmy was crying, sitting in his chair at the kitchen table. Barb was sobbing, practically beside herself, as the two female detectives offered her a handkerchief.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but we have to go over this one more time. Can you tell us precisely what Mr. Hughes did to you last night?"

"I-it's hard for me to tell you. It's so embarassing."

"We understand, Ms. Croce, but please understand that we want to be fair to everyone involved. You said in your statement that he touched you. Where, precisely?"

"T-t-timmy...please go to your room for a while...OK...Ed...he...," and Barb pointed. "He sli-slid his hand up my dress, and tug-tugged away my panties, then f-f-fondled..."

"I'm very sorry, Ms. Croce. Please forgive us for asking these questions. We'll finish this up quickly so you can have some peace."

"Did he do anything else?"

"Y-y-es. He pulled out his...penis...and started telling me it in my mouth."

The two detectives didn't need to exchange glances, but they did. This wasn't the first harassment claim against Hughes, altho the records were sealed when the settlement was quietly made, but there had been an arrest, of sorts. 

"Thank you, Ms. Croce. That will be all for now. Please accept our apologies again on this."

"Thank you, detectives."

The door closed quietly behind them, and Barb let out a wail, which made Timmy wheel into the room. "Oh, Timmy! I've lost your father! And I've lost my job!" She buried her head into his shoulder as he reached out and hugged her.

"That's alright, momma. We'll get by. Jesus is looking out for us, and we'll make it. Don't be scared."

Ed felt the hand grip his shoulder again, and they rose, settling near a cold street corner.

A young man in a wheelchair, nose dripping, wearing shabby gloves and clothes, sat with a cup in his lap.

"Anyone? It's Christmas. Please. Help me. I can't...I can't take much more!"

"Alright son, you can't stay here. The building management says you're creating a nuisance, blocking their sidewalk," the cop, reluctantly, said.

Ed looked up. It was the building he lived in. Used to live in. Whatever. He stared at the young man. It was Timmy, and it was almost....could he?

As Timmy wheeled himself away, he looked straight at Ed...and his look clearly said "You did this". 

"Jesus! Why?!? GOD BLESS US, EVERYONE!" Timmy cried as he wheeled down the block.

Christmas Music Blogging

Don't Be A Jerk (It's Christmas)
SpongeBob & The Hi-Seas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Holy Shit, It's Christmas!
Red Peters

Proof That Wingnuttia Is A Pandemic

You may think that rightwing conservatism is a brand best kept bottled in the springs of Red State America, but then you'd miss all the imported goodness of fine British whine:

There is scope for debate – and innumerable newspaper quizzes – about who was the most influential public figure of the year, or which the most significant event. But there can be little doubt which word won the prize for most important adjective. 2009 was the year in which "global" swept the rest of the political lexicon into obscurity. There were "global crises" and "global challenges", the only possible resolution to which lay in "global solutions" necessitating "global agreements". Gordon Brown actually suggested something called a "global alliance" in response to climate change. (Would this be an alliance against the Axis of Extra-Terrestrials?)

I'll get to that last clever construct shortly.

Some of this was sheer hokum: when uttered by Gordon Brown, the word "global", as in "global economic crisis", meant: "It's not my fault". To the extent that the word had intelligible meaning, it also had political ramifications that were scarcely examined by those who bandied it about with such ponderous self-importance. The mere utterance of it was assumed to sweep away any consideration of what was once assumed to be the most basic principle of modern democracy: that elected national governments are responsible to their own people – that the right to govern derives from the consent of the electorate.

Because, you see, no government has ever made a treaty with another sovereign nation.

The dangerous idea that the democratic accountability of national governments should simply be dispensed with in favour of "global agreements" reached after closed negotiations between world leaders never, so far as I recall, entered into the arena of public discussion. Except in the United States, where it became a very contentious talking point, the US still holding firmly to the 18th-century idea that power should lie with the will of the people.

I wonder what planet Janet Daley lives on? The "will of the corporations who can afford to contribute millions to the coffers of those greedy and plastic-moraled enough to run for government" is the order of the day, madam.

Nor was much consideration given to the logical conclusion of all this grandiose talk of global consensus as unquestionably desirable: if there was no popular choice about approving supranational "legally binding agreements", what would happen to dissenters who did not accept their premises (on climate change, for example) when there was no possibility of fleeing to another country in protest? Was this to be regarded as the emergence of world government? And would it have powers of policing and enforcement that would supersede the authority of elected national governments? In effect, this was the infamous "democratic deficit" of the European Union elevated on to a planetary scale. And if the EU model is anything to go by, then the agencies of global authority will involve vast tracts of power being handed to unelected officials. Forget the relatively petty irritations of Euro‑bureaucracy: welcome to the era of Earth-bureaucracy, when there will be literally nowhere to run.

Welcome to the party, pal! Decades late and a few marbles short, Ms Daley has suddenly awoken to the New World Order that George HW Bush and his scion have inflicted on America. She proves the adage that even the galactically stupid can somehow squeeze out a brain fart.
Only instead of seeing conspiracies in, say, oil pricing or outsourcing of jobs, Ms Daley chooses to focus on issues that, indeed, DO affect the entire planet. It's a little hard to solve global warming unilaterally, toots!

But, you may say, however dire the political consequences, surely there is something in this obsession with global dilemmas. Economics is now based on a world market, and if the planet really is facing some sort of man-made climate crisis, then that too is a problem that transcends national boundaries. Surely, if our problems are universal the solutions must be as well.

Strawman in

Well, yes and no. Calling a problem "global" is meant to imply three different things: that it is the result of the actions of people in different countries; that those actions have impacted on the lives of everyone in the world; and that the remedy must involve pretty much identical responses or correctives to those actions. These are separate premises, any of which might be true without the rest of them necessarily being so. The banking crisis certainly had its roots in the international nature of finance, but the way it affected countries and peoples varied considerably according to the differences in their internal arrangements. Britain suffered particularly badly because of its addiction to public and private debt, whereas Australia escaped relatively unscathed.

You might think that, Ms Daley. But you'd be wrong. (note that one of those articles refers to a piece in the Dec. 2007 issue of The Economist calling the banking crisis almost to the day it breaks)
That a problem is international in its roots does not necessarily imply that the solution must involve the hammering out of a uniform global prescription: in fact, given the differences in effects and consequences for individual countries, the attempt to do such hammering might be a huge waste of time and resources that could be put to better use devising national remedies. France and Germany seem to have pulled themselves out of recession over the past year (and the US may be about to do so) while Britain has not. These variations owe almost nothing to the pompous, overblown attempts to find global solutions: they are largely to do with individual countries, under the pressure of democratic accountability, doing what they decide is best for their own people.
...mostly by borrowing from other nations. But it's not global, noooooooooooooooooooooooo!

The word "global" has taken on sacred connotations. Any action taken in its name must be inherently virtuous, whereas the decisions of individual countries are necessarily "narrow" and self-serving. (Never mind that a "global agreement" will almost certainly be disproportionately influenced by the most powerful nations.) Nor is our era so utterly unlike previous ones, for all its technological sophistication. We have always needed multilateral agreements, whether about trade, organised crime, border controls, or mutual defence.

Global Thermonuclear Annihilation must have Ms Daley's vibrator set to stun. Suddenly, she acknowledges an internationalist community of longstanding, but hey, global agreements have never been around. The United Nations is a sham theatre created by the American right wing in order to placate the dirty Third Worlders.
But note too the rather silly claim that "a 'global agreement' will almost certainly be disproportionately influenced by the most powerful nations," when in point of fact, what held up the Copenhagen accords and kept the most powerful nation on the planet out of Kyoto was the limitation of power imposed by these agreements. can't have it both ways, Ms Daley: either the most powerful nations on the planet impose their will or they do not.
Note too that she feels the Mafia rates a global agreement, but global warming which will create more devastation and destruction, corruption and criminality than the Mafia ever dreamed of, not so much.
I could go on, but suffice it to say that, for this American, the blatant idiocy of this column makes me think we may have a new columnist for Renew America. If she can slip into this country illegally.

A (war On) Christmas Carol - Pt XI

"Our top story...Conservative talk show host Ed Hughes was found murdered this morning. Police have a suspect in custody, but have not released his name yet."

Ed's deepest fears had come true. He knew he was controversial, but he always believed that no one would dare actually harm him. He never caused anyone any real harm, at least that he was aware of.

The hooded figure grabbed him by the shoulder and guided him once more upwards.

Barb held Timmy in her lap as they sat, waiting. Mark was led in, handcuffed, by two police officers who plopped him down in the seat across the table from them. The room was windowless, one bright lamp above them, with a large mirror on one wall.

"Mark, I'm so sorry. I should have left years ago, but we needed the money, and he'd never been as bad as that."

Mark sat, stone silent. He'd already met with his lawyer, and so would say nothing. Barb sensed this, and quickly changed the subject.

"Do you need anything, Mark? I can run home and bring it here."

"No. The arraignment will be first thing in the morning, and it's only for my own safety that they haven't taken me to Rikers. No telling what some cracker guard might have in mind. I'm scared, Barb," he said, almost adding he wished he'd hadn't done it.

"I know, baby. I know."

"Listen, you and the boy should leave. There's a pile of press outside the station, and so stop at the desk and see if they can get you home."

The figure swirled around Ed to watch his reaction. 

Nothing. He grabbed Ed's shoulder and pushed him forward and upward.

"Fiona, you need to come home. Ed's been killed....yes, I'm sure of it. The cops just left, and the news programs are all over it. I suspect you'll see it on the Beeb..." Here, John sneered. "...any moment now....Well, I can hold the funeral up for...six weeks? For heaven's sake, Fiona! This was your son too!...he did well, Fiona, no matter how awful you think he is. Damn you!"

And with that, John hung up the phone, and took another slug from the bottle of MacAllen's he'd opened after the cops left, belched, and aimed the remote and fired off an infrared beam to change the channel. "Bloody bastards. Probably some Jew who took offense at the Holocaust denial show. Bastards always find some nigger to do the dirty work, or a spic."

Ed cringed a little, listening to his father. He’d never had the nerve to tell his dad he worked for a Jew. He remembered the argument they’d had when little Eddie informed his dad that Christ was a Jew.

The hooded man seemed to stare at Ed, then turned on his heel and began walking.

"Wait! Is there anything I can do to prevent my death?"

The figure stopped, walked back and grabbed Ed by the shoulder and almost threw him skyward.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Spirit of Christmas Past

The New Scientist

I was watching Suzuki Speaks on LinkTV the other morning.

If you have DISH Network you can catch it on channel 9410 twice more this week. If not, why in the hell are you handing good money over to corporatist American media???

In it, David Suzuki talks about man's relationship to his environment in ways that will profoundly impact the way you think about your life. I won't ruin his message by summary here, because you need to watch the entire program. Suffice it to say, it got me thinking.

But I digress...

Suzuki talks about how, when he was growing up in London, Ontario, he would spend summer days wallowing in the marsh behind his house. His mother never complained about dirty laundry. His father encouraged his exploration. He would bring home tadpoles and fish eggs and raise them. It's no wonder he ended up not only in biology, but in genetics research.

Which got me thinking: in this day and age of videogames and Avatar-like movies, where do our new research scientists come from? Where is the wonder of picking up a rock and finding a bunch of slugs or worms and spending day after day, picking that rock up and studying their habits? Where is the boy with his Erector set, engineering his first four story scale model building? Or the girl cracking open a hunk of shale and discovering a trilobite inside?

Sure. There will be astronomers. The stars are an awesome attraction, the moon hangs in the night sky like a lighthouse beckoning a sailor upward. And perhaps oceanographers and marine biologists, as children go down to the sea with their parents and build sand castles, discovering clams and crabs as they dig.

But who's going to dig in the muck of an old dump and discover that, indeed, worms aerate our kitchen waste and create compost, and who knows what can come out of some boy or girl discovering a new way of recycling? Who's going to splash around in a marsh and uncover a new beetle that could potentially cure a disease?

Have we so removed ourselves from nature that we will be unable to see the forest for the trees? Have we lost the wonder of being children in our sophistication and technological savvy?

I guess this is why I enjoy scuba diving so much: it's a new environment and I'm immediately drawn into playing in little as possible. It's important not to damage an ecosystem as fragile as a reef. But to pick up a rock and look at it, and then notice that it lay next to a tiny fish that you would have missed if you had just swum by, or to examine a gorgonian, a soft coral swaying in the current and to see a flamingo tongue nudibranch ("slug", if you will), bright and pink and orange and just sitting there, slowly crawling up the trunk, is to remember why we were kids in the first place: to uncover the world around us.

Sure, there's a place for technocrats and technological discoveries. Math and physics will always be important in understanding the universe around us.

But there's also a universe in a single drop of pond water.

And we've lost that urge.

A (war On) Christmas Carol - Pt X

Ed sat in the dark room for a while, catching his breath, trying to take in all he had just seen: his father, his mother, Barb and her family...was that a threat he heard? Maybe he should talk about it on air next week, and scare this Marcus off?

He guzzled the last of the second glass of scotch and found himself at the bottle again, pouring a new one. "Steady fellow," he whispered, "You still have to get home."

Ed began to change clothes, his mind swirling from the liquor and the...hallucinations. Yes. That must be it. He hadn't been feeling all that well today...he seemed feverish. Yes, it must all be made up in his mind! Good.

He buttoned up his coat, and began the walk down the narrow hall from his dressing room to the elevator lobby. Passing the guard, Murray, he threw him a quick wave and managed to shout "Merry Christmas!" to him. 

Murray was Jewish, and Ed knew this. But Murray sang back a "Merry Christmas" to Ed, knowing full well Ed would try to get him fired if he said "Happy Holidays".

Ed poured himself into the back of his limo, the one with a bodyguard for a driver and bulletproof glass. Ever since that day when a radical liberal group stormed into his studio and commandeered his show, he'd lived in dread of an assassination attempt.

"Where to, Mr. Hughes?" Paul Lowe was a stocky former NYC cop with a black belt in three different martial arts, and a Glock 9 in his armpit.

"Home, Wait. It's nearly midnight, right? Take me to mass. Not St. Patrick's tho...too many people would be there...I need some solitude. Church of Our Savior. Park and 38th."

Lowe eased the limo into the light traffic of the outskirts of the Theatre District, and spun around the block to head east, then south. Ed shivered in the back, despite the warm air blowing across his feet. 

The limo swung out of traffic after a few minutes, and stopped in front of the church. By Catholic standards, it was small, but this was midtown Manhattan, so space was at a premium. Jesus didn't mind, though. It still drew large crowds...large crowds who made lots of contributions to the Diocese.

Ed slipped in just as the last organ strains of Puer Natus echoed against the stone walls, and sat in a pew. The priest raised his arms, palms up, and said "A prayer."

The congregation knelt. Ed found the red velvet covered pew cushion, and listened as the priest began, "Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter..."

Ed felt a chill hand close about his shoulder. He opened his eyes and strained them around his socket to try to see peripherally who was there. He saw a robe. A long black robe. He glanced up over his shoulder.

" we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder..."

The hooded figure grabbed his shoulder hard, and yanked Ed to his feet. A fleeting thought that he had been recognized by a liberal activist had flashed in his brain, until he looked at the figure eye-to...eye to hood. He couldn't see an eye. Or a face, for that matter.

The figure pointed with his other hand towards the door. No hand showed, just the wool of the robe, dangling off least it felt like a he...arm, nearly to the floor.

Ed scooted crab-like along the pew, and slid out into the nave, reminding himself to genuflect and cross himself as he left. The figure hestitated for a moment, then Ed swore he could hear a small chuckle.

His hand still on Ed's shoulder, the two walked towards the large red wooden doors of the church...and began to float upwards.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging


Bringing Home A Winner

It's hard to believe that Obama might have accomplished two things this weekend he set out to do, albeit far below his hopes:
The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said "from chaos comes order".

It is difficult to foresee the order that may result from the chaos of the Copenhagen climate change conference (COP15), but as the dust settles, traces of a path forward are becoming visible.

It's true. This is not the deal liberals have waited for ever since Kyoto was smacked down by the Senate way back in the 1990s. It's not even the agreement we need to see. But it's a start.

Think about it: there has never been a meeting like this. Included in the accord are both developing and developed nations. The meeting showed that everyone, including China, India and the US, are on board with global climate change and how to correct it. Green economies will now be implemented worldwide.

No, no targets were established. There are no steps to verify that a nation is complying. But still, it's a beginning.

Just as the other victory, hollow as it may be, is:
"This country, the greatest and richest the world has ever seen, is the only advanced nation on earth where dying for a lack of health insurance is even possible," [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid said. "

The bill would extend health insurance coverage to 30 million Americans who now lack it, and bar insurance companies from practices such as denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Most Americans would be required to purchase health insurance for the first time, with subsidies provided to those who cannot afford it.

It's not perfect. It may not even be particularly good. But it's a start, and now we can hammer out the final bill in conference.

It is embarassing that the bill includes no provision for a public option (unlike the House bill, to which it will have to be reconciled) and that much of this is about political theatre as opposed to passing a real bill.

But here's the thing: in over one hundred years, four attempts have been made to bring the United States into the 20th Century in terms of healthcare for its citizenry.

It may be from the dark ages of the early 20th Century, but this bill finally does that, and it cracks open a door that cannot be shut again.

For that, we should be grateful.

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt IX

"Marcus! Marcus! Dinner's almost ready!" Barb cried out as she put the last of the figgy pudding on the hot plate to warm. 

Barb's husband, Mark, came into the kitchen, little Timmy hanging off his strong forearm, his legs dangling beneath him. Mark worked days at the Transit Authority bus yard on Second Avenue, which meant he could be close to home if Barb needed to get to the studio early. Although they were starting to make ends meet, they still had a long way to go, and so lived as modestly as possible. Timmy's medical bills as well as some of the debts that Barb and Mark had rung up before they had to go on welfare, were still hanging over them.

Mark sat Timmy down, and tucked his napkin into his collar, then took his own seat, just as Barb came in and pulled her chair out. "So how was church?"

Mark smiled at Timmy. "Oh, the know, I didn't really want to go, but Timmy insisted. He hoped the people saw him in the church because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day it was He who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see."

Barb scolded Mark, "He's not a cripple, he's disabled!"

"You? With the people you work for, are being politically correct?" And they all laughed.

"Timmy, would you like to say grace?"

"OK, mom....Dear God, we thank you for the food we are about to eat and for all the blessings of our family. And we thank you for the greatest gift you've given all men, your only begotten son. God, please bless us, everyone."

When dinner was finished, including the figgy pudding, Barb announced that Timmy had to go to bed, and they'd open presents in the morning.

"OK, mom, goodnight! I hope Santa leaves me something nice under the tree!"

Mark carried Timmy to bed, and read to him while Barb cleared the table and put the dishes in the small sink, and ran some water to let them soak overnight. The dinner was small, but filling.

Mark slipped up behind Barb and held her tightly around the waist. "Merry Christmas, baby, you sure look fine tonight."

Barb turned around, and kissed him. "Mark, I couldn't be happier than I am right now."

"Yea, baby, me either...except I wish you didn't have to work for that creep. Damn, but that man makes me want to get a gun!"

"Aw, honey, he's really harmless once you get past his...well, somewhere in there is a heart."

"He probably stole it from someone."

And they snuggled and kissed some more.

"I have to tell you, Mark, I work hard not to be alone with him. I think he's been alone too long, and it scares me to think..."

"It's OK, honey. Don't ever be alone with him, and you have nothing to worry about. All that talk of his about Jesus and'd think he'd have learned by now that being a Christian is about loving, not being loved. All he does is take, take, take, and he never gives. I pity the fool. Until he touches you."

With a thud, Ed landed back in his chair.

Paul looked at him, and intoned, "Just one more, Ed. Just one more."

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Music Blogging

Credit Crunch Christmas
Mickey P Kerr

A (War On) Christmas Carol - Pt VIII

Ed slowly scanned the darkened dressing room. The rustle of activity out in the hall had subsided. Normally after a show, there is a flurry of noise lasting well into the late night. Ed ought to know, many has been the time he's invited a "guest" to spend time in his dressing room and had waited until the studio emptied out before making his move.

There was that one time with that certain blonde "conservative" commentator who had a predilection for dating pornographers, when she thought they were all alone, so he took her back onto the set, and stripped her naked and took her. That tape was sold back to her for a handsome fee.

Christmas Eve. Right. People were rushing home, abandoning their tasks until two days from now. 

"Fucking people. No commitment." And with that, Ed sucked his glass of scotch dry and stood up to pour himself another one. Swirling in his brain alongside the barley malt extract was the vision of his heritage in New York City: the Irish, his people, hated. Treated like subhumans, despite their achievements. Mocked and poked fun of. he thought back to his own childhood, to school, to classes, and remembered how Tommy Vitoro used to poke fun of his father's accent all the time, especially when they were playing tag. Tommy used to punch Ed hard and say "You're it, Mickey!" He always punched Ed. In fact, he always made Ed "it."

Ed steadied his hand on the dresser, and then unstoppered his decanter, and poured himself another scotch. Walking back towards his chair, he felt his foot...well, miss the ground, and he flopped forward, to be caught in the arms of...nothing. He felt someone there, but saw no one, and could not feel anything beyond a presence: no muscles, no sinew, no skin, no bones. 

"Ed, you really didn't think that you'd get off easy now, did you? After all, wasn't it you who who claimed illegal immigrants were all criminals and should serve jail time? If you're such a stickler for the law, then know you're not going to be given special treatment."

With that, precipitating out of thin air, was a lanky man, wearing a very nice suit. Ed knew the face, but couldn't place the name.

"Paul O'Dwyer, Ed. We met many years ago when you were first starting out on channel 5. And I am your second visitor this evening, and let me tell you, I'm very ashamed for you." Paul took the glass from Ed's hand, and carefully placed it on the arm of his chair.

And the room dissolved yet again...

The tiny apartment was in a part of town that was drifting towards oblivion. As Paul and Ed peered through the window, John Hughes sat there in his undershirt and boxers, drooling as his head nodded towards his chest. Fiona had left him years ago when his drinking and his anger boiled over nightly to the point where, having no son around to beat, he'd cuff Fiona about the head. He hadn't heard from her since she'd mailed her American passport from England, torn into little bits. For that matter, neither had Ed.

A thin, dry Christmas tree, about three feet tall, stood on the dining table behind John's easy chair, shedding needles as it stood there. A crucifix hung on the wall with a half inch of dust like snow. Mail lay about the room, willy nilly. On the floor, across the room from the television, sat Ed's Christmas card, unopened. 

A wind rose up and swirled, and in an instant, Ed's mother appeared into view, but this was not his father's apartment anymore. No, it was a small house on the southern coast of England. Fiona gathered up the wrapped boxes on the table, and scurried towards the door as fast as she could into the living room where an enormous gathering had assembled.

"Aunt Fiona! Aunt Fiona! Please!", the children cried, as Fiona handed out presents left and right, sipping an egg nog as she sat in the very comfortable chair. "And tomorrow, children, we will go skating! And to the movies! And then we shall walk along the cliffs, and shout wishes to the sea!"

Scanning the room, Ed noticed there was no crucifix to be seen, anywhere. The room swirled. Again.