Are We Having Fun Yet…?

It’s probably a safe bet that I’m the only person at my gym who is frantically perspiring on the elliptical machine concurrent to weeping my eyes out while perfectly rational and not in the least bit unhappy. I made a discovery a couple weeks back: If I listen to classical music like Mahler or Rachmaninoff—sometimes tuning my iPod to a majestic symphony by Sibelius, I’m simultaneously moved while literally physically moving. The end result is the release not only of extra calories but pent-up toxic frustration and emotional helplessness. Of course I have to tune out the dull “thud, thud, thud, thud” of annoying contemporary dance music blaring across the loudspeakers throughout the entire gym (often overriding a forty piece orchestra turned-up full blast on my headphones). Classical music employs a range of emotions, hushing quietly for melodic passages, and then thundering back to a roaring crescendo during moments of heightened passion or the conclusion of a stirring finale. Most contemporary music doesn’t evoke anywhere near the same emotional response from me.

I used to make the mistake of watching one of the television screens provided in front of the cardio machines. I’d plug in my earphones and search without success to find something to watch that wasn’t too stupefyingly mind numbing so as to help me pass the time. Trundling along on a treadmill isn’t appreciably different from hamsters spinning on a wheel—it’s point blank boring. I workout during the day on or around lunchtime when all that can be found on TV are soap operas, Jerry Springer and other entertainment programs designed to kill brain cells—so I’d try and watch the news. But the news is something I need to be very careful about watching. I’ve got a tendency to be a bit of a news junkie, and world affairs can sneak-up on my psyche and depress the living daylights out of me.

Classical music takes me away from endless trial coverage of whatever moron du jour has slaughtered his or her ex lover—or chained-up women up in the basement—or shot an innocent teenager out of pure undiluted stupidity. None of that trying trial news was ever my idea of “must see TV.”  I refuse to be sucked into following those real-life melodramas. But then without warning I saw the raw footage on CNN of the sarin gas massacre in Syria with nearly one third of the dead victims being children. There was very little difference between what I was suddenly witnessing on TV and vintage World War II holocaust footage—except for the contemporary quality of the filming. It brought tears to my eyes, which were in no way similar to the tears I experience when I listen to beautiful music. These were tears of sheer horror, disgust, frustration and disappointment with the human condition. Once confronted with images like that, it’s impossible to imagine that the human race will ever have the collective will or character to become a better steward of our planet or a kinder Samaritan to our fellow man. There is no reasonable explanation as to why we have to share the earth with people of power who aren’t equipped with enough humanity to rationally govern the destiny of others. Sadly that scenario has deep historic roots that have repeated themselves since the beginning of time. Human beings are a deeply flawed animal.

As for the horrors in Syria, our nation and our president are in an untenable position. If we respond to the Syrian genocide we will be internationally damned. If we don’t respond to what has already happened and continues to happen in Syria we will still be internationally damned. In fact we damned ourselves the minute we made any contact at all with the Middle East and their filthy oil. That entire part of the world is mired in the eighth century, barely two and a half generations away from traveling on the backs of camels and sleeping in makeshift tents. There is no logic or middle ground when dealing with primitive thinking peoples thrust into a modern world filled with technological advancements ripe for misuse. And there is no possible way of bringing order to any clash of religious cultures that worship the same god but can’t check their personal mythology at the door. Organized religion (in my opinion) is the most consistently destructive and evil force the world has known, masquerading as righteousness. All religions are cults, and each one thinks it’s the other guy’s faith that’s the problem. It doesn’t matter what religion you examine, every cult makes judgmental claims to a non-provable superiority regarding both their god and their theology.  Religious lemmings of every stripe haul around ancient time-honored hatred and prejudice passed along from one generation to the next until no one really knows why they hate—only that hate is an integral part of the culture.

Yet some of the most wise and beautiful words ever spoken have been formed out of the tenets of each and every faith. Our most glorious art and architecture cross-culturally have their foundations in religion. Without question, if there is a God, the deity enters the room on the wings of music. And so I trundle along on my treadmill listening to Handel, sampling Chopin or Liszt and weeping over Beethoven’s 9th and Faure’s Requiem—trying not to think about how close we are to organized religion being the death of us all. I’m helpless to change the attitudes preventing peace in this world—but the personalities who lust for power are perfectly happy with the chaos remaining exactly the way it is and always has been.

The human race is capable of astonishing beauty when people work together in harmony. This has always been embodied by watching an orchestra perform. In a perfect world, everyone, including the people of the Arab nations wouldn’t be using chemical warfare to snuff out anyone they disagree with—they be dumping Prozac into the water supply and replacing the call to prayer with classical music broadcast from every rooftop and tower. Too bad it’s not a perfect world. In fact it’s a crying shame. I think I’ll get my iPod and go to the gym.

– Disassociated Press, 8/30/2013

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It Takes a Village (Idiot)

Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz is a Princeton educated pretend populist bound and determined to deny health care to a nation financially crushed by health care costs impacting our economic recovery on virtually all fronts–costs that are particularly rough on the middle and lower middle classes. Never mind that Cruz represents a district in Texas with disgracefully high numbers among the uninsured. What does that matter to him? The uninsured don’t have any money to propel his ambitions. Cruz is also of Hispanic heritage but remains one of the most strident opponents to immigration reform. Ted Cruz even added his voice to the congress of baboons claiming that Barack Obama’s presidency should be declared illegitimate because of allegations that the president was not born in the United States (in spite of all irrefutable evidence to the contrary). Meanwhile Cruz himself was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada to an American born mother and a Cuban born father. It’s worth noting that Cruz is grooming himself to run for president in 2016 and recently spent a great deal of time in “caucus states” like Iowa and New Hampshire. Does anyone smell an inconsistency here? Donald Trump (the Tea Party Birther-in-Chief) was, at least until recently, a big supporter of Ted Cruz. But Trump was completely flummoxed when confronted by the press with Cruz’ parallel birth situation to the fantasy birth scenario being hurled at Barack Obama by Trump himself. In the legal truth of the matter, it doesn’t matter where in the world a person is born, if your mother is an American citizen, that makes you a natural born American citizen too. Period–end of the issue. Factoids like that are enough to make Donald Trump’s hair stand on end, leaving “The” Donald to face a lot a wasted time, money and energy for nothing. But Trump has other troubles, such as defending fraud allegations over his bogus Trump University that scammed students out of their life savings. All students got was a chance to stand next to a cardboard cut-out of Donald Trump making it look like they’d actually met the fool. Hopefully Trump will be indited, and start filming “Celebrity Apprentices of Cell Block H.”

But back to the unscrupulousness at hand: Undeterred, while looking down his nose at the world, Ted Cruz has made it his mission to pander to Tea Party caucus extremists vowing to de-fund ObamaCare before the American public grows to like and rely on the program, paralleling the same paths of resistance that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security all faced when challenged by conservative zealots. Cruz took to the airwaves to announce that “it will take a tsunami” to cripple ObamaCare, and he’s just the nihilist willing to try and do it. He’s among the voices calling for the government to be shut down if necessary merely to stop ObamaCare. He has (thus far) an unimpressive thirteen Tea Party freshman on board with him. We already have the heartless ‘sequester’ in place. A full government shutdown would entail senior citizens not receiving Social Security checks, military personnel and veterans not getting paid or receiving health benefits after risking life and limb to defend the country. It would mean suspension of food and education for poor children–much of which is already underway thanks to the sequester. Cruz has no workable ideas. He has personal ambition and personal ambition only. He doesn’t even display a loyalty to his own ethnic heritage.

This week is the final gasp of Congress’ August recess prior to returning to their do-nothing jobs, but even a possible government shutdown and the existing sequester won’t effect congressional paychecks or health benefits. But while other congressmen were chatting up their constituents on yachts moored outside luxury resorts, Cruz spent his summer vacation rubbing elbows with former Senator and neocon hayseed extraordinaire, Jim DeMint. DeMint forfeited his seat in the senate last year representing the State of South Carolina in order to head-up the Heritage Foundation–which garners a great deal less dignity than it’s name would imply. DeMint realized he could do far more self-serving damage to the nation working from outside the government, with Ted Cruz as the the incubus he’s mentoring to work on the “inside.”

The unspoken truth here is Cruz and DeMint are conspiring to create an alliance of neocons to block not only Barack Obama’s signature achievement, The Affordable Health Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) but to constipate any and all government business in an attempt to make the Obama presidency appear ineffective to voters predisposed to opposing the very existence of a black president. Bear in mind that most of Obama’s detractors are blissfully ignorant of how many Obama policy decisions are virtually identical to Republican ideas. But Ted Cruz isn’t about bipartisanship or doing what’s right–he’s entirely about the furtherance and self aggrandizement of Ted Cruz. Texans have two more years to embrace buyer’s remorse and vote Cruz out of office. One can only HOPE that he runs in the 2016 GOP primary if only to give late night comedians some fodder. What must never happen is a real allotment of power to Ted Cruz, as it would be nothing short of trans-channeling Josef McCarthy. Meanwhile does anyone really want someone who thinks denying people access to health care is good for the nation? That wouldn’t even be good for the insurance industry let alone the public. There is a naive belief especially among the Tea Party and certain GOP Libertarian factions that dismantling the government and entitlement programs will lead to greater freedom, when what it will really lead to is utter chaos and a complete collapse of order. That’s where the Ted Cruz types of the world see opportunity to seize power, and it isn’t a pretty picture.

– Disassociated Press, 8/27/2013

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Puttin’ Putin in Perspective

Here we have the ideal stereotypical shirtless cowboy. Next to this dude, all Putin is pulling off is his shirt.

Only very primitive thinkers believe the world around them is merely as it seems at first blush–never giving a thought to what might lie just below the surface. The same thing can be said about people.

As a younger man I was dumbfounded to discover that the most staggeringly handsome fitness trainer at the gym I attended was also the most insecure person I’d ever met. (He isn’t alone where vanity professions are concerned.) At a glance people thought he was what everyone was aspiring to become. But that quick assessment was based solely on observing him by way of surface judgements. Once you scratched that surface, the astute observer quickly learned how much he was filled with self-doubt and weakness–all of it pushed so far down inside that he was the only one who failed to see it. All too often people like the man I just described can be remarkably treacherous. And so it is with the fantasy self-image created by Russian president, Vladimir Putin (or Влади́мир Влади́мирович Пу́тин) if you prefer. As to how much of a “hunk” he is…. well that’s totally up for debate…

The Vladimir Putin “beefcake” sampler package.

…Putin is a caricature of the quintessential he-man. So much so that he never misses an opportunity to display his self styled “rugged physique” as if he were some sort of comic book “hero”–or more accurately “villain.”

Before writing this post, I Googled Vladimir Putin and then perused the images section. I found it remarkable as to how many shirtless photos there are of him online throughout his years. There are also lots public relations pictures of him unwittingly performing a super macho parody himself. Frequently he appears for all the world to be nothing more than an old closet queen fooling no one but himself. At the very least, it’s abundantly clear that he gets off on his own narcissism. After all, genuinely heterosexual men don’t feel threatened by gay people or young women–but more about that later on.

Even the young Vladimir Putin had a difficult time keeping his shirt on in an endless effort to impress other males with his virility. (BTW – Isn’t Russia supposed to be cold?) As I recall, it certainly appeared to be chilly in the 1965 film version of Doctor Zhivago. Maybe a person doesn’t feel the cold when he’s laboring under the delusion that he’s “hot.”

Vladimir Putin is so hyper-masculine that it brings a quote from Shakespeare to mind:The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” I don’t know if the Russian president’s exhibitionism is as much of a “Put-on” as it’s Putin’s self-designed reinvention to match the personae he naïvely chooses to project. Putin is self-absorbed–not self-aware. That said, the old former KGB spy isn’t to be underestimated when it comes to treachery, unethical conduct and a complete inability to empathize with any person or group whose beliefs don’t match his quasi-macho worldview and lack of sophistication (which he’s gone to great lengths to mask behind a façade of sheer false bravado).

Vladimir Putin will not go down in history as being a particularly sympathetic character. Nor will the “strong man” ever be viewed as enlightened. His failure to grasp how arresting and imprisoning an all-girl rock band (called Pussy Riot) for protesting Putin’s oppressive regime only made him look weak and insecure. But what can you expect? He’s big on posing with dead animals he’s shot and killed–preferably endangered species–Bengal tigers and the like–it brings out the natural born bully in him. It’s a weak man who finds the meek threatening and responds with incarceration–or murder.

The Russian feminist performance art rock band, Pussy Riot rockin’ around the clock.

Now the pompous Putin has outlawed homosexuality with a penalty of imprisonment–once again failing to comprehend how his actions draw attention to his own transparent latent issues with masculinity. Every single narcissistic shirtless photo-opp makes him look more and more like a Saturday Night Live parody of an aging gay porn star and less and less of a serious world leader. But serious he is. Hopeless in fact and undeniably lethal yet laughable. I’ve long maintained “laugh at the Devil and the Devil will dissolve.”

Andy Cohen

Putin’s crackdown on the LGBT community and gay sympathizers has already created potential problems for Russia while hosting the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics and the international tourism that comes along with it. World figure skating hopefuls might be well advised to sew on a few less sequins in 2014, not wear spandex, and bring along a prescription for saltpeter. Even Russia’s hosting of the 2013 Miss Universe Pageant caused openly gay co-host, Andy Cohen to bail in protest.

I truly hope this really is the little girl’s badly decorated bedroom, and the child isn’t being laid out dead with all that dreadful kitsch surrounding her.

So, in closing, as every little girl in Russia dreams of an idealized version of Vladimir Putin watching over her as she sleeps, WinnieToons has added a Boris–ahem, I mean bonus feature! Do NOT miss Putin’s completely cringe-worthy rendition of the Fats Domino pop classic Blueberry Hill. Equally cringe-worthy are Hollywood intellectual lightweights like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell clapping along off rhythm. The performance and audience display all the joy and thrill generally associated with a bowel obstruction.


Post Script:

The photo to the right tells you basically everything you need to know about Obama’s Russian counterpart. They’re about as different as Attila the Hun and Gandhi.

Disassociated Press, 8/17/2013