Saturday, April 17, 2010

I just don't know about you people sometimes...

This sounds like a nice story ... until you read it:
Just as the latest Powerball jackpot rolled over to $212 million, a New Jersey woman has claimed the March 13 jackpot, whose annuity prize also was $212 million.
Sandra McNeil's ticket had the cash option, though, so she'll get $101.6 million, before taxes, according to New Jersey Lottery spokesman Dominick DeMarco.
"I give God all the glory for this blessing that He has given to me," she said, according to a statement released by the New Jersey Lottery. "He has seen and knows the highs and lows of my life, and knows the good I have done, and the good I hope I can continue to accomplish in His name."
The ego on these people! Their belief in this mystical spirit extends to the idea that he (pardon me, He) sees them as somehow different than millions of others and somehow deserving of a special monetary award. The mind is powerful enough to convince us of almost anything, I suppose.
The next time (and it won't take long) you hear someone "thank the Lord" for some bountiful enhancement, ask yourself why that individual was singled out among the millions and given some special award - or better yet - why they believe they were singled out.
If indeed we are His servants, would He want one of us to be seen as more deserving of a gift than another? Answer: no, He would not. But day after day, we hear people thanking "God" for something and saying that "all the glory" goes to Him. That's nice, except you got the glory. God is a spectator. Get off your platform and think for a minute.
You have (allegedly) spent your life praising and worshiping a Deity, and his reward to you isn't only eternal life, but a giant jackpot as well. That's nice. I think they conveniently leave that out of the pamphlet they hand out to new recruits. If they talked about it, I suppose there would be millions more who would sign up, so maybe it's a selling point they should consider?
And he said to them: Take heed and beware of all covetousness: for a man's life does not consist in the abundance of things which he possesses.
Luke 12:15

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Nuts are Loose.

BOSTON - Sarah Palin rallied the conservative tea-party movement near the scene of its historical inspiration Wednesday, telling Washington politicians that government should be working for the people, not the other way around.
Addressing roughly 5,000 people, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee accused President Obama of over-reaching with his $787 billion stimulus program. She also criticized the administration's health-care, student-loan and financial regulatory overhauls.
"Is this what their 'change' is all about?" Palin asked the crowd at Boston Common. "I want to tell 'em, nah, we'll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion, and you can keep the change."
She really said that. Honestly. Some things are too crazy to make up - even here. Read that last line again. The one that goes like this:
"I want to tell 'em, nah, we'll keep clinging to our Constitution and our guns and religion, and you can keep the change."
Out of all the things in the Constitution, she chose to emphasize guns and religion - never stopping to think that the Constitution specifies the separation of church and state or which religion she was talking about. Oh -- I remember -- there is only one, right?
But wait, there's more...
She also lobbied for more domestic energy production. "Yeah, let's drill, baby, drill, not stall, baby, stall - you betcha," Palin said, though Obama recently proposed to expand drilling off the Atlantic, and Gulf coasts.
Is she aware that she is a parody of herself? She must have felt compelled to add the final you betcha in there, lest she disappoint her hundreds of fans and Tina Fey. And, by the way, thanks Tina, for making her a pop culture icon. You're no help at all.
People like Sarah Palin are more dangerous than Al Qaeda, and we went half-way across the planet to wipe them out. She advocates guns and religion and people cheer without thinking. Something tells me that they don't want to think, which is probably why they attend rallies to begin with.
Reacting in a big group beats sitting in a room and thinking to yourself and (Gun Forbid) coming up with a rational decision based on ... choke ... facts. Some wingnut like Palin starts in on her agenda and they scream in delight. Why? Because they are supposed to. Why else do you show up at a Tea Party rally? Was there tea or just Kool-Aid?
I don't fear religion as much as I fear religious people and I don't fear guns as much as I fear the people carrying them around.
Mostly though, I fear Sarah Palin. She lost an election 18 months ago (McCain didn't lose as much as she lost it for him) but she won't go away. Dan Quayle and Mike Dukakis went away, but she hangs around like Jason in those "Friday the 13th" movies. You think he's gone, but that disembodied hand rises up out of the swamp, they play that creepy music and in 3 months he's back with Part Six. We have allowed her to stick around long enough to write a book and roam the country making speeches in front of people who bought her book.
If she sticks around until 2012 (which seems to be her purpose) and is somehow [gulp] elected to something, we'll all need to pray and buy a gun because the idiots will have indeed taken charge of the asylum.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wednesday Night at the Ballpark.

These are, in no particular order, a group of photos I took before and during the Phillies/Nationals game at Citizen's Bank Ballpark on Wednesday night. After an early struggle, the Phillies won 14-7, which left a few minutes for wandering.
A look from the concourse of the 300 level during the game - including the disembodied right foot walking past. Fans gathered inside a ballpark pub (for some reason) during the game.

It's the bottom of the fifth and the Phillies were in a bit of trouble. The fans were sitting on their hands until the locals broke it open with 4 runs in the seventh.

They call it the High & Inside Pub, which I suppose is a play on words. It's inside, you bet. But I wonder why someone would pay for a ticket to get into the game and spend their evening in a bar watching the game on TV. People are strange.

Looking down from the 300 level onto the concourse and Pattison Avenue.

The long stairways down from the upper levels to the street. It's much less crowded when the Phils are winning 14-7 in the seventh inning.
The luxury boxes enclosed in glass separate the haves (below) from the have-not's (above). A stairway (left) mingles them.

The Spectrum is still here, in spite of several "last" concerts, shows and games. I'm willing to start on it myself with a hammer, one brick at a time.

Pattison Avenue after dark. The Spectrum is lit up (for some reason) in the distance. Who is paying the electric bill?

A look down Citizen's Bank Way (I think that's what it's called) toward Lincoln Financial Field, where the Eagles play their version of football.

The field view from the left field fair pole about an hour before game time.

It's baseball season - finally. And neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night ... ah, whatever. It's baseball season!
The Phillies are 7-1, and off to their best start in 17 years, but fans around here always fear the worst, and we're bracing ourselves for failure. This team, however, seems immune to our past. Sooner or later we will learn to appreciate them. Probably sooner than later.

Monday, April 12, 2010

What is it now?

Now, I'm seeing that the embrace between Phil and Amy Mickelson is big news. I suppose that's for one or two reasons.
1 - It's a response to her breast cancer diagnosis and
2 - It's the anti-Tiger thing. Either way, it's kind of creepy and extremely - human.
We respond to something called Schadenfreude - taking joy in the misery of others. We also respond to the opposite, which is to say we take joy in what we would want to experience ourselves, that is, overcoming adversity to achieve something we perceive as great.
Winning The Masters golf tournament is one of those things, or so we hear. It's the lottery and a game of skill all rolled into one. The Holy Grail of achievements, and we think so because TV tells us so. We're gullible that way.
It has theme music, a pastoral setting and big money, which are three ingredients to what we refer to as success. It must mean that, if we won that tournament we would be successful.
The next time you're out in public, take a look around. We are a part of a huge conglomerate of humanity. Every one of us is struggling to make something of ourselves in whatever manner we have seen fit. Some think it is being a parent, some think it is being a good employee and others have some other convoluted notion that involves being famous or accumulating a collection of things that is bigger than others' accumulations. None of them equates to success.
The world is a big place, and it's bigger than any of us could imagine. Say "Phil Mickelson" to some tribesman in Kenya and he'll look at you with a curious gaze, and you'll wonder (in your first-world perspective) "how could you not know who Phil Mickelson is?" The same could be said of Amy Winehouse, Jay Leno or (God forbid) Oprah Winfrey. It's a simple fact of life in the real world.
The idea here is that all of our struggles to make something of ourselves are struggles within ourselves, and those struggles amount to nothing because, as the saying goes, "Ten million people in China don't know who you are." Put into perspective, it begins to make sense. Look at the people on the highway or in front of us in line at the Wal-Mart and think, "Who are these people, and why don't I know them?" The disconnect is staggering. Millions of people have no idea who we are or what we want, yet we compete against them in some strange way.
I thought of this not only after watching the self-important "The Masters" golf tournament, but also after seeing a Best Buy ad for the Apple iPad, and how important they made it seem to our everyday lives. Scrolling through photos, reading things and looking important all seem so ... important, somehow. Advertising is a big part of what we think we want.
Maybe we can all take stock in ourselves and what we think we want and try to separate what we think we want from what we really want, or ... God forbid ... need in our lives in order to make them fulfilling. If it comes down to simple entertainment, making another person (or animal) happy or earning an honest living, then good for us. But, if it comes down to some gadget or other such appliance and how acquiring it in some way enhances our humanity, then ...
God forbid.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Ping, my ass.

The world's most self-important sporting event is over. The Masters, a golf tournament so self-involved that it has its own theme music and has persuaded a major television network to broadcast it with limited commercial interruptions, is finally over. If only Simon Cowell were that powerful.
As Tiger Woods strolled off the 18th green today, Jim Nantz said that "he somehow managed a 69 through all of this." The little kid in me chuckled. Sports should bring out the little kid in us all. That Nantz is a wordsmith. That's why he makes the big bucks, I'm guessing. I bet Nantz gets an e-mail from the suits at CBS and the even stauncher suits at Augusta.
It's interesting to me the way Tiger wears his sunglasses on the back of his hat, so not to obscure the Nike logo on the front of his hat. He's all about the marketing.
Meanwhile, Lee Westwood's shirt looked like a NASCAR suit. Ads on the lapels, sleeves and both sides of his chest. Can golf get any more whorish? Tiger? Anyone? Shouldn't there be a limit to the amount of advertising that someone can wear? And maybe he could work in a few miles on the treadmill, because that baby-paunch is distracting me from reading the UPS logo. I'm just saying.
Some of you were rooting for Tiger. Me? I was hoping he would have fallen off Hogan Bridge and gone into the lake. Now that's good TV!
I like golf, but it tests my tolerance of bigotry and pomp to watch wealthy club members wearing tasteless green coats rewarding other wealthy club members with prizes and congratulating them for "battling" a golf course and winning a tournament. I try to separate the game from the people in charge of the game ...
"You have to separate the authority from the people with the authority vested in them. People see a cop and yell "Gestapo!" at him. The cop says, "Gestapo? I'm the mailman!"
- Lenny Bruce
But I digress. I know that the people playing golf aren't responsible for the rules set forth by the authorities, but they adhere to them, which makes them culpable. Find a black face at Augusta, or better yet, find a woman. (Although women are allowed to be caddies.) Good luck in your search.
Our membership is single gender just as many other organizations and clubs all across America. These would include junior Leagues, sororities, fraternities, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and countless others. And we all have a moral and legal right to organize our clubs the way we wish.

It's nice of them to include the Girl Scouts in their defense. Do they sell cookies at the entrance of the golf course, too? Perhaps if it was called Augusta National Men's Golf Course they'd have a case. Otherwise, screw you. I'd guess that if Lorena Ochoa wanted to qualify for The Masters she'd have a problem. Old heads like the people in charge of this golf tournament fit right in with old-world Georgia politics. All white, all the time. Tiger Woods wouldn't have been qualified to be a member at Augusta National 30 years ago, but now he's a fixture. That strikes me as hypocritical.

Oh, and um ... there is a tax break too...

Current Internal Revenue Code allows business expenses to be deducted from Federal income tax that are associated with private clubs. This includes business related expenses for conventions, travel, accommodations and advertising. Dues are not deductible. Business expenses that are directly associated with promoting and doing business at these clubs, as well as fifty percent of business meals are allowable.

Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation has estimated that, over the next 10 years, this legislation would be worth $52 million for the federal government in taxes paid for business functions at clubs that discriminate.

Over the past few years (since Hootie Johnson's tenure as chairman) discrimination at Augusta has been ignored. Now that Tiger Woods has distracted the media from the bigger issue, they have skirted around it for another year.
The International Olympic Committee, upon considering golf as an Olympic sport in 2016, re-examined whether the sport itself fits the goal of a "sport practiced without discrimination with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play." Golf will be an Olympic sport in 2016. I'm guessing there was money involved. [ya think?] Maybe by then the people in charge of the game will wake up?
Wear your green jacket with pride, Phil.