Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Rear End Review, Part 2

Last chance to pick apart the carcass of 2011 in search of anything of any value:

MOST EGREGIOUSLY RIDICULOUS BULLSHIT OF 2011: As usual the Republicans have a lock on this topic. Hurricane Horseshit started on January 1st, when the Bush era tax cuts for the wealthy were renewed for two years. The Republicans were positively giddy that President Obama caved in to their extortionist demands that the tax cuts remain because the "job creators" needed them in order to create the millions of jobs that were lost in the financial collapse of 2008. The Republicans harped unmercifully on how important the "job creators" are and the jobs would surely follow. And a lot of them did - in China, India, and other parts of the world, just not in the United States. These mythical and elusive "job creators" would be invoked incessantly as a favorite Republican mantra. Every time a proposal would come up to change the tax code the Republicans blocked it because the "job creators needed stability." Every time the administration would try to get a jobs bill passed and pay for it with a surcharge on the wealthiest 0.5% of taxpayers the Republicans blanched in horror, because the "job creators couldn't possibly create any jobs if they had to pay more in taxes." As of this writing, blubbery, carrot-colored buffoon John Boehner and his Republican-controlled House of Representatives have not come up with a single jobs bill, and the "job creators" have so far created nothing. It also is pathetically hilarious every time the Republicans say that there is "class warfare" going on because the billionaires are being attacked merely for being successful. What a horrible thing this "class warfare" is on the ultra-rich, they say without a hint of irony, when everyone knows the Republicans have been waging class warfare against the middle class and the poor for decades. It's almost like the part of the Theory of Relativity that says space is curved, and if you could look far enough in one direction you would see the back of your own head. In the crazy, curved-space world of the Republicans, the same thing happens except you see your own ass.

MOST OBNOXIOUS PERSON OF 2011: There certainly is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to obnoxious people in 2011. To the surprise of no one, most of the political ones are Republicans. Whom shall we pick? It could be Sarah Palin, who inexplicably continues her high-pitched bleating on Fox News, or as Keith Olbermann consistently calls it, "the political whorehouse that is Fox News." Is it Michelle Bachmann, who always shows that women can be every bit as ignorant, misinformed and just plain stupid as men? Is it perennial toilet monkeys Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich? Or how about a broomstick-up-the-butt prig like Rick Santorum? And I'm more than willing to bitch-slap former Democrat Representative Anthony Weiner for sharing photos of his junk with the world. Maybe we should look to the world of entertainment, there must be plenty of candidates there. Oh, I know - how about someone who pretends to be in both worlds? That would be none other than roadkill-crested gargoyle Donald Trump. Whether he's boring everyone on the planet with that birther nonsense, or wasting everyone's time with his farcical campaign for president, Trump has shown that there is nothing too underhanded or idiotic or just plain deadheaded for him to do, as long as he can get his puffy, Botoxed face in front of the cameras.

MOST PROMISING POLITICAL MOVEMENT: Occupy Wall Street, and all the other "Occupy" offshoots which have taken hold. This is quintessentially American - citizens coming together to raise their voices against the Republican-supported notion that corporations can do anything and everything they damned well please, regardless of how many people they injure. Of course the slimy douchebags on the political whorehouse that is Fox News (thanks again, Keith) take every opportunity to ridicule and mock the Occupy protestors, characterizing them as filthy hippies and malcontents allergic to employment. How very odd that they had nothing but praise to heap on the Tea Party, choosing to portray that motley bunch of corpulent, racist rednecks and senile, confused old people blissfully unencumbered by anything higher than a third-grade education as a true "grass roots" movement of righteously indignant patriots.

MOST APPALLING POLITICAL CONCEPT: That would be "personhood," which is the idea of bestowing the full rights, privileges and protections of a real human being on entities that normally wouldn't have them. This has turned into the latest ploy of anti-abortion activists to strike down abortion rights, by claiming that a fertilized human egg is a "person" from the instant of conception and should be protected as a real live human being. This would obviously preclude any form of abortion, even when the health of the mother is in jeopardy, but also would outlaw what is referred to as the "morning after" pill and other forms of birth control and family planning which have been around for decades. Clearly a draconian, over-reaching attempt to take away rights from the American people by marketing it as "protecting the unborn," its advocates saw it as a slam-dunk in conservative southern states with large Christian populations. That is, until the state of Mississippi stunned everyone by soundly and decisively rejecting a personhood ballot initiative last month. This is not the end of the story, unfortunately, and proponents will be back with a state-by-state battle plan to shove their radical agenda down everyone's throats. Equally disturbing is the trend to give corporations a measure of personhood, blithely articulated by presidential candidate Mittens Romney when he simply said at an August 11th, 2011 campaign stop in Iowa, "Corporations are people!" Presumably because they pay taxes like normal people do, Romney and others seem to think they should be afforded free-speech protections. Coupled with the horrendously awful Supreme Court ruling in the Citizens United case which gave the green light to corporations to pump as much money as they want into an already-choked political system, "personhood" is rapidly becoming a political monstrosity of Frankensteinian proportions.

TV WORTH WATCHING: Sons of Anarchy, Boardwalk Empire, Dexter, Nurse Jackie, The Walking Dead, Homeland, True Blood, and if they ever get off their butts and finish it, Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome.

BEST REASON TO GET UP IN THE MORNING: Rabbits! Oh, and fresh-brewed coffee.

2012 NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS: I resolve to read more books and watch less television. I resolve to get off my lazy ass and start painting and drawing again. I resolve to do my best to become a vegetarian. I also resolve to be kinder, more understanding and more respectful toward conservative Republicans and fundamentalist Christians. Guess which resolution I'm lying about.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Rear End Review, Part 1

Actually this is supposed to be a "Year End Review" but not surprisingly I could not resist the bad pun. Yes, I am 12 years old and thank you for noticing. Here are some of the things I feel made 2011 a year best forgotten quickly, like at 12:01am on January 1st, 2012:

TRAINWRECK OF THE YEAR: Has to be the Republican Debates. A comprehensive, visually repellent summation of everything that is evil, corrupted, debased and cancerous about the American political system, this on-going crapfest of historic proportions is like one of those zombies on "The Walking Dead." It fairly lurches on to your television screen, all disgusting and awful, and you can't watch it for more than a couple of minutes without wanting to kill it. I'm not going to list here the candidates' individual psycho-pathologies, having done that more than once on this blog and it gets more depressing each time. I will say that if you put Batshit Bachmann, Neuter Gingrich, Rick Sphinctorum, and Rick "Oops" Perry on horses, you would have the Four Horsemen of the Dumbpocalypse. Now everyone knows that these candidates are trying to appeal to the rank-and-file Republicans who will be voting in the primaries, and therefore will pull out all the stops in trying to appear as intolerant, bigoted, racist, homophobic and elitist as they possibly can. After all, they are politicians and you expect such soulless, shameless pandering on their part. But what does that say about the composition of the Republican party when you see them eating up all this rancid, toxic garbage and demanding more? In its quest for money and electoral power, the Republican party has swung so far right it is barely recognizable as American. Party of Abraham Lincoln, indeed.

CULTURAL ICON ON ITS WAY OUT: Facebook. Everybody is on Facebook and it has like 500 million subscribers or something. Huge, to be sure, but new users have leveled off, and there is an increasing perception that Facebook is poised to follow the path of MySpace, and look where that is now. It's now considered cool if you are NOT on Facebook, and that's the beginning of the end. But we can't write its obituary yet. Facebook is too big and too entrenched in the public psyche, and no worthy successor is yet visible on the radar to take its place. Certainly not Google Plus, which is weird and not easy to use. Not Linkedin, which is not nearly trashy enough, and whatever the hell they're trying to do on Yahoo is never going to catch on. But, Facebook may hang on a lot longer than it should. It may turn into America Online ( - one of these Internet things that was real big about 100 years ago but now just hangs on forever because your parents and your aunts and uncles and grandparents are on it and will never, ever give it up. I would be much more agreeable to letting Facebook continue to take over our lives and get rid of Twitter, which is a horrific abomination.

MOST ENCOURAGING CULTURAL TREND: I noticed this holiday season there was a lot of people who rejected the oppressive, spirit-killing commercialization of Christmas and opted out of participating in the mindless materialism and shopping mania of the season. Still more people are also jettisoning the religious overtones of the season and returning to the ancient, much more sensible and inclusive celebration of the Solstice as their holiday of choice. I have made both these changes in my life and can honestly say this has been one of the happiest, most enjoyable and stress-free holidays in years. I heartily recommend it if you want to get back to the so-old-it's-new concept of actually having fun during the holidays.

MOST ANNOYING TELEVISION TREND: Apparently the powers that be in network television (and by that I mean NBC, ABC, CBS, etc) have decided that there are no original ideas to be had anymore, and for some reason think it's a good idea to resurrect long-dead shows, tart them up with a little high-definition make-up, and then throw them up on the screen like it's something new and wonderful. ABC tried to do that with a re-launch of "Charlie's Angels," and it was a very pleasant surprise when the American public turned their noses up at it like a bowel movement in a punchbowl. NBC is doing the same with "Fear Factor," a 2001-2006 show in which exhibitionistic fame-whores with a death wish do stupid things like jump off a building into a septic tank or eat live scorpions and camel testicles. It's nice to see Joe Rogan working again but if he can't do his filthy stand-up routine, what's the use of having him there? Just because the reboot of "Battlestar Galactica" worked incredibly well doesn't mean it's guaranteed to apply to everything. Even if it's not a direct reboot, there's a good chance that a new show's writers will dredge up every ridiculous, contrived stereotype and plot situation that we've already seen about a thousand times, as the idiotic, unwatchable Fox show "Terra Nova" demonstrates. That's why subscription channels like HBO and Showtime are vastly more interesting than the free-to-air networks, and it's not because people can say "fuck" any time they want.

MY FOOD OBSESSION FOR 2011: Greek yogurt. Mmmmm!

GET OVER IT, PEOPLE: "Civility" and "civil discourse" are dead. The Tea Party effectively put the final nail in the coffin of civil discourse in the summer of 2010 when fat, loud-mouthed old people got up at town hall meetings across the country and shouted everybody down every chance they got, but civility in everyday life has long been heading into extinction. In the past decade, right-wing talk radio found that it's very profitable to spew all manner of hatred and bile and disrespect toward anyone who doesn't share their narrow-minded, bigoted views. Anti-abortion zealots, many with supposedly "Christian" backgrounds, have created a climate of hatred against those people who choose to exercise a reproductive option guaranteed by the Supreme Court and have encouraged their followers to believe that murder and physical coercion are completely acceptable means to make their point. And through every fault of their own, members of Congress have demonstrated that they are completely unworthy of any kind of respect and are regularly criticized in the harshest of tones. This country has become far too polarized on many different levels to even entertain the notion that opposing sides can have a reasonable debate and discussion of the issues that separate them. The sooner we understand this, the sooner we will be able to move past it and toward some kind of middle ground, we can only hope.

More mindless carping and indiscriminate slander coming in Part 2, soon.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eve of Christ's Mass

So here we are on Christmas Eve, 2011. A time when we like to think a hush of peace descends all over the world and everyone contemplates a child born to a virgin mother in a dirty, dark stable, cushioned by a manger full of hay and warmed by the breath of barnyard animals lucky enough to be there at the right time, at the dawn of a new era of human existence.

For Christians in the civilized world, it is the holiest time of their year, a time when everything stops and everyone steps away from their regular routine and gathers around a crackling fireplace to gaze dreamily at a tree covered in lights, sheltering a pile of brightly-wrapped gifts. Songs are sung, glasses raised in toasts of family and friends, hearty meals are partaken, and people travel great distances to be with the ones they love. We will not trouble ourselves with the fact that the vast majority of people in the world are either Hindu or Buddhist and to them Christmas has no meaning. This is one day that is very special, and we all drink deep from the cup of shared cultural experience.

Let us consider what might be happening this day:

Somewhere in America, a family pet is outdoors in a dirty, drafty shelter on a cold, damp night, shivering in the darkness, away from the company of his family. Looking at his empty food and water bowls, he knows the only thing in abundance is loneliness and the bite of the cold wind. He can hear their voices as he gazes at the warm light coming through the windows of the home, so near yet so very far.

Somewhere in America, through either the ignorance or carelessness of its owner, an animal is giving birth to a litter of babies. Humans will take the babies, put them in a cardboard box, and leave them by the side of a road. The box will not be found for three days.

Somewhere in America, an animal will languish in a cold, sterile metal cage in a pound, huddling in fear of the terrifying sights, sounds and smells which surround it. It will not understand why, just a very short time ago, it was living in a home with a family it had grown to love. It was taken out of that home and roughly shoved into a tiny carrier, and watched as the family it loved turned their backs and walked out the door, without another word. It knows that it is a good animal, and will continue to hope in vain that its family will return and take it home again.

Somewhere in America, a good, sweet, friendly dog will be brought to a shelter and will sit next to its owner as he fills out the surrender form. The dog has no idea what is about to happen to him; the only thing he knows is that he is happy to be with his owner. He will take his paw and place it on the arm of his owner to try to get him to play, but the man only continues writing. He looks at his owner with love-filled eyes, and trusts him so very much. The paperwork is completed, and the dog's life will change forever.

Somewhere in America, a skinny, mangy cat, looking far older than its actual age, walks down a filthy, trash-strewn alleyway of a big city, looking for any scraps of garbage or discarded food it can possibly eat. It has learned that humans cause it nothing but pain and injury, and is constantly chased and targeted by rocks, bottles, anything that can be used as a missile. It will watch the rain as it puddles up on the grimy streets, and will never know the gentle touch of a loving hand.

Yes a lot of things will happen tonight, and some of them will be very bad. Right now, an automobile crash is happening and lives will be lost. Right now, an elderly woman lies in a hospital room, alone, with no one to hold her hand, her life slowly slipping away. Right now, a married couple will sit in silence in a neonatal intensive care unit and look at an impossibly tiny human form in an incubator, covered with wires and tubes and tape, taking short, labored breaths, and they will wonder why a merciful and loving God would do this to them and their firstborn.

These things, and a lot worse, will happen tonight. But since I try to be a "glass half full" kind of guy, I like to think that some good things will also happen.

I like to think that people are gathering together and sharing stories of the solstice, and of traditions and customs past, and forming bonds that will last a lifetime.

I like to think there are families where children are taught to accept everyone for the kind of person they are, rather than judge them on what color their skin is, or what kind of accent they speak with, or who they love, or how much money they make, or whether they worship a god or not.

I like to think we can live in a world where all children and animals are loved and wanted, and everyone has a home, enough to eat and medical care when needed.

I like to think there are people who are beginning to awaken to the understanding of the unimaginably vast universe in which we live, and how there are billions and billions of galaxies, each one containing many billions of stars, millions of which have planets similar to our own, and how some of them might harbor life with sentient beings who do as we do: look out into the vast starry expanse of a clear night and wonder if there's anybody else out there.

I like to think that not all people in the world are ignorant and bigoted and hateful, although so often it seems politicians, celebrities and athletes go out of their way in a very public fashion to prove otherwise.

I like to think that someday humans will rid themselves of the arcane, discredited and destructive notion that they are the superior form of life on this planet and all other forms are to be abused and exploited as we wish. I completely and utterly reject and condemn with every fiber of my being the Biblical idea that mankind has been given "dominion" over the earth. With each passing day, it's becoming more critical that mankind understands and accepts that it is a part of the immense web of life that exists on this planet, and we must coexist with every other life form. We have the ability to destroy this planet and with that comes the responsibility to make sure that doesn't happen. We have no right to ruin this planet for other life forms just because we're unable to control our primitive urges.

I like to think that we can create a world where people are freed from the tyranny of religion and are fully able to realize their true potential. I want to live in a world where laws are just and fair and rooted in compassion and mercy, instead of hatred, fear and antiquated superstition.

I wish we could take a little bit of the peace and serenity of this day and keep it close to us and nurture it, and find a way to make it last through the other 364 days.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Dump the Trump

The Republican presidential nomination process is like a toilet overflowing with backed-up sewage. Things just seem to lurch from ridiculous to horribly awful. Part circus freak show, part media shitstorm from hell, this political Theatre of the Damned is like a really unfunny caricature of what a nominating process would be if all the participants were dangerously mentally ill, addicted to meth, and completely and utterly without morals or any redeeming value whatsoever.

In retrospect it seems that Tim Pawlenty made the best move ever when he bailed out of this revolving crapfest early, only because he was as boring as white bread with mayonnaise and nobody liked him at all. He has since become a full-time pimp for Romney, but even that is a huge step up from associating with the likes of Batshit Bachmann and Rick Santoilet, even though Pawlenty is blatantly campaigning for the vice-president spot on the ticket, should Romney be nominated.

These past couple of months have seen the spectacular flame-out of Rick Perry, governor of Texas and once regarded as a shoo-in for the nomination. An astonishingly unqualified and incompetent candidate, his callousness and limitless stupidity rapidly became too apparent to ignore because of a series of jaw-dropping gaffes, flubs and misstatements. How anyone could even consider this simple-minded dolt as Oval Office material shows how degraded and corrupted the American political system has become. I said it before, but Perry has succeeded in what was universally regarded as an impossible task - making George W. Bush look good.

We also witnessed the equally-spectacular downfall of Herman Cain, a black conservative who seemed to revel gleefully in a level of arrogant stupidity usually reserved for politicians in the Deep South or the Arizona state legislature. I don't know if he really thought his faux-populist shtick of acting like jus'-plain-folks was going to catapult him into the White House, but he openly mocked and ridiculed things that any President would have to take seriously, as with his "Uz-Becky-Becky-Becky-Stan-Stan" comment. For a while, his poll numbers were inexplicably rising, but the media firestorm about his penchant for cheating on his wife and breaking his marriage vows (such is the Republican "family values" rule - do as I say, not as I do) will kind of serve as a pre-echo for what will happen to fellow candidate Newt Gingrich should he survive this process and make it to the general election.

There is nothing to be said about bottom-feeding, second-tier candidates Michelle Bachmann and Rick Santoilet that hasn't been said before, so I will skip over them and give them the attention they deserve, which is none at all. I will mention that Bachmann's latest mental health call-for-help is her statement about the Iraq war, saying that we should not pull our troops out after 8.5 bloody, hideously expensive years but instead stay there longer. I think the $800 billion that that ill-advised conflagration cost this country will haunt us for a much longer time than Bachmann will spend in a mental institution after she is inevitably committed.

The grandest media grandstand of all for this blathering smorgasbord of idiots, dopes, bigots and racists has been the debates, which amounts to a well-lit, televised, cautionary tale of what might happen if human evolution suddenly reversed itself several million years. The comparatively-sane John Huntsman and Ron Paul were also thrown into this toxic stew of ignorance, presumably for a sassy little splash of color.

The cast of ancillary supporting characters that came along with this pathetic parade of drones and morons is equally appalling. Sarah Palin had the national news media inexplicably enthralled for a while, waiting for her to say she's in the running for President. Luckily even a slatternly egomaniac like her realized that it would be pointless. Land whale and future Subway sandwich spokesblimp Chris Christie threatened to jump into the running, and the thought of him jumping anywhere is enough to send you running for the nearest earthquake shelter, but decided otherwise when he noted that every comedian in the country was dredging up every fat joke known to man and aiming them at him. Suprisingly, dimwitted amateur witch Christine O'Donnell appeared out of nowhere and endorsed Mitt Romney's candidacy, saying that she likes him "because he's been consistent since he changed his mind." I did NOT make that up.

But there is one person in this repellent, unsavory witches-brew of recessive genetics who has consistently proven over and over again that tacky, classless and boorish behavior knows no socioeconomic boundaries, and that is oafish, stubby-fingered vulgarian Donald Trump. Whether he is beating the bushes with that tired, discredited birther nonsense or staging a publicity-stunt campaign for presidency himself, this roadkill-crested gargoyle has shown there is no depth too low for him to sink to in order to keep his name in the public eye. Feeding on self-promotion like a vampire feeds on Type O negative, Trump has shown a preternaturally creepy talent for turning one of his many ridiculous screw-ups into a publicity bonanza for himself and his obnoxious, flatulent image. The latest fiasco was to stage a Republican debate with Trump as moderator. When only two of the candidates agreed to show up and all the others refused, the "debate" was exposed for the absurd fraud that is was, and was canceled. Just how f**ked up do you have to be to make Michelle Bachmann think you're too crazy to deal with? I don't think there's a way to measure that.

This has got to be the weirdest, most bizarre and depressing nomination season in decades, and it shows no sign of dying down. Now, the flabby, pudgy-faced Newt Gingrich, him of the three wives, is having his turn at the top of the polls, but even Republican pundits expect him to start falling pretty darned soon. And for some unknown, damnable reason we have to be concerned with what a bunch of overweight, pasty-faced, religious-nutjob farmers in Iowa are thinking about as their January 3rd caucuses draw near. I mean, who gives two shits about what those idiots think? They are not even slightly representative of the American populace and their opinions should not even matter. All this points out how irretrievably wrecked and poisonous the American political system is. It's probably the worst possible way to pick the person to fill the most critically important job in the world.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Boycott Christmas 2011

It's that time again, time for my annual anti-Christmas screed. Just can't get through the holidays without one. I did my annual torture session this afternoon, venturing out to the local post office to get holiday stamps. It was packed to the gills, as it always seems to be this time of year no matter when you get there. There are six service windows at the post office, and I've never seen more than two of them in use at any one time. It's really kind of amazing how unprepared people are when they show up at the post office. They bring some stuff they want to mail someone, buy one of those flat rate boxes, and bring everything up to the counter and expect the postal employee to pack it, tape it up, put the label on it, stamp it a couple of times with some ink stampers and then send it on its way. While observing all this I have to amuse myself in order not to get completely psychotic, so I imagine they're stamping rude stuff all over the package. Like "Eat Shit," "Bite Me," or "Christmas Crap." That should give Grandma pause when the package is delivered.

So after that ordeal was over I had to start decorating the outside of the house, so I went to the garage and dragged out the Big Box Full Of Holiday Joy. This is the 16th December that I have lived in my home, and you'd think I would have this decorating thing pretty well down by now. But Martha Stewart I am not. I do have the outside of the light boxes marked as to which lights go where and how the plugs get connected together without causing the fusebox to ignite in a major conflagration. There are several cacti growing in the front of my house, and this year has been a banner year for them (who could have known that plants will "grow" if you "water" them regularly?). They have grown like crazy and have stretched their fishhook-laden arms wide and far in many directions, which makes hanging the lights a bit dicey. I know that if I slipped off the small ladder I use and fell on one of them, my Christmas would be over in about two seconds.

The holiday season got an early start this year, and I was treated to my first Christmas TV commercial the day after Halloween. It was some jewelry store flogging tacky, overpriced baubles and they did a full-on Santa-and-the-Reindeer push. I looked at that and then I looked outside at the 98-degree sunshine and I thought to myself, this is going to be a long season. The commercials which continue to baffle me are the ones for the luxury car dealers, like Lexus and Mercedes. They encourage us to come to their showrooms and purchase a very expensive car for that certain-someone as a gift. Really? Giving a car as a present? That is so far off my gift-giving radar it's like science fiction to me. People actually do that? I think it's a ploy to keep the Gigantic Red Bow manufacturers in business.

But of course, it doesn't have to be so. As in past years, I choose not to participate in the hoopla, the blind greed, the crass materialism, and all the phony hokum that is part-and-parcel to the holiday season these days. I've reduced greatly the amount of time I waste parked in front of the TV, and what I do watch I choose with a lot more care, leaning toward HBO and Showtime, the commercial-free networks. I avoid like the plague the local Phoenix channels, which are pathetically, laughingly provincial in their deliberate lack of anything resembling sophistication. I guess I was spoiled after living in Washington DC and San Francisco for almost 15 years and watching the world-class television coverage of their local stations. Phoenix television is incredibly amateurish in nature, and much more suited to a medium-sized television market somewhere in the lower Midwest, instead of the sixth largest metropolitan area in the nation.

But, I digress. I'm really enjoying my time reading lots more books on my e-reader, writing my stories and my blog, spending time with my friends and my bunnies, and just relaxing at home dressed in my flannels and staying warm and cozy while an early December cold snap has the desert locked in an unfamiliar but refreshingly chilly grip.

While I would certainly never presume to tell anyone how to celebrate the holidays, I always recommend to my friends to say no to the hysterical consumerism of this season. Things always get off to a big bang with the loathsome, execrable pseudo-holiday "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, followed by "Cyber Monday" and "Green Tuesday." I'm sure in the near future they'll be coming up with other shopping themes for the rest of the week following Thanksgiving.

To that end, I ask my friends not to buy me any kind of gift this year. I have far too much stuff as it is, certainly everything I need and most of what I want. I suggest they send their money to their favorite charity (and mine is Brambley Hedge Rabbit Rescue), or spend it on themselves, their pets or someone who could really use it. But as I get older I realize the gift that is truly important to me and imparts a lasting feeling of gratitude, is spending time with my chosen family here in Phoenix. Whether it's sharing a meal, or a coffee at Starbucks, or just a long conversation on the phone, these types of things are the most gratifying and the most memorable to me. I've certainly forgotten whatever gifts I got five years ago, but I remember the times I've spent with people I love, and the warm friendship and camaraderie shared. That, to me, is the true spirit of the holiday.

Oh, and yes, it just wouldn't be the holiday season without the religious nuts whining and moaning about people using the term "holiday" or "Xmas" instead of "Christmas." Well guess what, Xians? Not everyone in this country celebrates Xmas. People of the Jewish faith celebrate Hanukkah, African-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, Wiccans celebrate the Solstice, etc. But, with their usual narrow-minded selfishness and their unhealthy preoccupation with ramming their beliefs and delusions down everyone's throats 24/7, the Xians rail on and on about "their" holiday and how everyone is corrupting and ignoring it. As far as I'm concerned, they can have their holiday back with all the greed and avarice and single-minded obsession with buying and receiving crap. It makes so much more sense to celebrate the solstice, which is much more inclusive of everyone and really, that was the way things used to be before the Xians stole the pagan celebration for their own nefarious purposes.

Because as with our lives in general, it doesn't matter what you give or get, or how much junk you have when you die; what really matters is how you spend the time that you have.