Me, Myself, and the Voices in My Head

A place to ramble and maybe make some sense about a thing or two.

Archive for the tag “religion”

50 Shades of I’m Tired of Hearing About It!!

O.M.G, people!! What is up with all the 50 Shades crap? I’ve seen people going on-and-on about how awful it is, how wonderful it is, how freeing it is, how humiliating it is, etc. ad nauseum. Some are trying to put together secret viewing groups so that they and their friends can go see the movie but not be recognized by *gasp!* someone who’s opinion of them matters more than any enjoyment or disgusting feelings they’ll get from admitting they actually went to see it or read the books. Then there are those who are shouting from the mountaintops that the movie is a glorification of abuse and such sin that no one has seen in millennia and basically that they and the generations of children that follow them will all be permanently scarred. Every now and then, I see a post or an article from someone who just wants to have fun and watch a mindless movie without being judged.

Here’s my take on this (just in case you were wondering). There’s a fabulous line in the movie Sunset Boulevard that states “It’s fun to see just how bad bad writing can be.” It was with that in mind that last year I read the 50 Shades series. “Bad” is putting it mildly. Not “bad” as in evil, disgusting, sinful, whatever you define it. It’s “bad” as in the author has no real concept of how to complete proper sentence structure and people like me would find themselves more concerned over correcting grammar than being able to “get into” a story line. And if you’re looking for a plot you’re definitely in the wrong place. Yes, there is a storyline to follow, but no real depth or intrigue to keep a reader from putting the book down or, say, start a bonfire with it. I have the electronic versions so the fire was, unfortunately, out of the question without losing a nice piece of technology.

As for the movie, I’ll probably watch it sometime.  Like when it comes on one of the streaming services where I don’t have to pay for it. Because bad writing should only have to be paid for once.  And I think that’s something people are forgetting about the movie — many of the sales of the books were because someone heard someone else talk about it or they were just curious and bought it.  The huge numbers of sales does not necessarily mean that everyone who bought it liked it.  Large sales doesn’t not actually mean success. And the actors in the movie probably never read the books before auditioning. Why? Because they don’t have time and need a job. When you’re always looking for work, sometimes it doesn’t matter what you’re doing — it’s a paycheck and a way to advance your career. You’d rather be doing that than living hand-to-mouth for another year hoping you can become “Oh no, we can’t afford cable” broke instead of “Oh no, we can’t afford food” broke.

Plus, it’s an R-rated movie, not NC-17 or AO or X or any of the other “horrible” ratings. If you’re willing to see an R-rated horror movie, sci-fi, drama, or comedy then what’s the difference? Just because the characters in the book do WAY more than you’d be able to see in an R-rated movie doesn’t mean I’ll go blind from seeing it. Guess what? There’s still pornographic movies being made! Real ones! Yeah! And don’t act like that’s an alien concept — I’ve personally found the people who usually vehemently deny EVER watching an X-rated movie or reading a nudie magazine are the ones who own more of them than anyone else in the room. If I was looking for something to titillate or scandalize myself or my friends, the Internet and adult book/video stores are filled with more examples than you can imagine. And if you can imagine it, it’s probably already on video.

This isn’t a slam against those who feel that they shouldn’t watch the movie or read the books because of their religious background, moral leanings, or anything else.  It is, however, more of a “please-quit-telling-people-how-to-live-their-lives” posting.  If I’m over 21 (or 18 in areas where that’s the age of majority) I can make my own decisions.  Yes, I respect your opinions just so long as you respect mine.  No amount of bashing people upside the head with fears that the whole world will come to an end if some guy gets a minor erection or a woman begins to fantasize about being blindfolded by her lover during the showing of this movie is going to really change any minds.  And, yes, I know there’s more than that in the books.  Remember, I actually read them.  And I’m still here.  And nothing has changed.

So, if you want to see the movie, go see it.  If you don’t, then don’t.  How much simpler can it be?

Mediocre Friday

Another short post this week.  If you’re a Christian, today is Good Friday.  If you’re Jewish, this is the first day of Passover.  There may be other religions that have something special on this day but since they’re not part of “The Big Three” (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) they don’t make it onto the mass-marketed calendars.

I’m not celebrating anything.  Over my many years I’ve fluctuated from being borderline evangelical and wanting to start my own “crusades” to highly agnostic and informing others that even though I believe in a god (or God or G-d, depending on your preference), it’s got way too many other things to deal with at the moment instead of my petty issues.  And I don’t prescribe a “He” or “She” to the spiritual being represented because there’s no way for anyone to know absolutely, positively for sure.  I’m pretty sure he/she/it is too busy for a chromosomal scan for Xs and Ys.  I done religious studies in many different areas and have dabbled in pagan practices as well.  Just to confuse others more, when accosted by those demanding to know my religion (mostly so they could tell me how much better theirs was than mine), I used to tell them I was a Reformed Druid.  That always put them back a step or two.  If they asked what was the difference, I replied that Druids pray to trees and Reformed Druids pray to bushes.  It was easy to get them to leave me alone after that.

And before anyone begins to castigate me because of what I’m posting, I’m not saying religion is bad.  I’m not saying that it’s good either.  That’s not for me to decide.  For many it’s what holds their life together.  For others it’s what has torn their entire world apart.  The things done for and in the name of religion or a specific deity over the centuries is just embarrassing.  Religion has a time and a place and after seeing a lot of good and bad examples from several types of them I find that “organized religion” — the type where you’re basically required to attend and mumble things on a specific day of the week towards the sky or an icon or just in some random fashion — is not for me.  In America we have freedom of religion and I’m free to get my spiritual adoration on however I see fit so long as it doesn’t impede others in their search of religious freedom.

So I wish everyone a happy and safe whatever it is you’re celebrating (or not) today.

My obligatory Valentine’s Day blog post

February 14th — known ’round the world as “St. Valentine’s Day” or just “Valentine’s Day” if you refuse to put the religious part towards it.  Actually, it’s no longer a “religious holiday” since the Catholic church removed it from the “official calendar” in 1969 (what an odd year to do that).  In fact, it wasn’t really a Catholic celebration first.

Arcadian Lykaia (for the Greeks) or Lupercalia (for the pre-Romans) was a cleansing festival to release the purity, health and fertility of a city and its inhabitants.  There is debate whether it was a Greek or a Roman celebration first, but seeing how the Romans throughout history basically stole their history from the Greeks, we’ll say the Greeks get the praise on this one.  It was a celebration to the Greek god Pan (or the Roman equivalent Faunus) and goats and dogs were sacrificed while salt mealcakes were burned by Vestal Virgins.  I don’t have a goat; my dogs will NOT be sacrificed; and it’s pretty darned hard to find a Vestal Virgin around these parts — so we’ll just go back to the more modern version of the holiday.

If you ask most anyone why Valentine’s Day is celebrated, those who believe they know their history will say it’s because Saint Valentine was beheaded on February 14th.  Problem is, which Saint Valentine?  There’s Saint Valentine of Rome and Saint Valentine of Terni.  There is also record of another Valentine who was martyred in Africa but not much information is known about him.  True, Saint Valentine of Rome’s skull is still venerated by many and crowned with flowers while on exhibit at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome.  Saint Valentine of Terni is also buried on the Via Flaminia but not close to Saint Valentine of Rome.  Who knows what kinds of arguments might break out if they were close together.

The legend continues that Saint Valentine (it’s not noted which one) was arrested by Roman Emperor Claudius II who attempted to convert Valentine to Roman paganism.  Valentine refused, even though he was told he would be put to death if he did not convert, and attempted to convert Claudius II to Christianity.  As he was being held in prison, awaiting his execution, Valentine supposedly became enchanted with the jailer’s blind daughter.  The story ends with either Valentine leaving a love letter that he wrote the evening before his execution to the blind daughter professing his undying love (thus, the first “Valentine”) or that Valentine cured the jailer’s daughter of her blindness before being beheaded.  Either way, his head was lopped-off and it still baffles me why we don’t get boxes of little chocolate decapitated heads full of chewy goodness instead of the giant heart-shaped things.

However, the heart-shaped things were introduced into the holiday because of the possible love that Saint Valentine may or may not have had for the blind girl.  The first reference of love in connection with Valentine’s Day most likely came from Geoffrey Chaucer’s poem Parlement of Foules, written to commemorate the first anniversary of the engagement of King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia.  Because Chaucer refers to Valentine’s Day in the poem, many believed that he was writing about February 14th.  A little-known fact (unless you’re an English major like me and had to read Chaucer whether you liked it or not) is that Chaucer may have been referring to May 2nd, a celebration in the liturgical calendar of Valentine of Genoa.  You could  have guessed that religion would have crept back in even if the original Valentine story wasn’t true.  There may have been other writers who referred to February 14th and Valentine’s Day in their work, but dating medieval writings can be difficult and Chaucer is pretty well-known (for good or for bad) so I’m sticking with this version.  And it would make sense that Chaucer was referring to May 2nd because he spoke of birds seeking their mates and, even back in the 14th century, February was a little early and cold for birds to be thinking of mating.  But if this is the true version, then I guess we should be biting the heads off of small candy birds.  I do that with Peeps around another religious/pagan spring festival, but I digress.

So, where does it all come from?  We know the popular tradition of giving cards was done as a marketing ploy which makes publishers large sums of cash every February as people panic for something to send so they’re not picked-out as the one who forgot what holiday it was.  And of course florists jump-in with the flowers and candy and balloons which makes Valentine’s Day their equivalent of Black Friday for the year (at least until Mothers’ Day comes along).  Kids in American schools are either (1) required to purchase little cards that they can exchange with EVERY member of their class to show that they “want to be their Valentine” or (2) are forbidden to bring ANY cards, candy, etc. to school to share with their classmates for fear that someone might be forgotten, someone might get their feelings hurt, someone will think it’s a religious holiday, or because someone has a peanut allergy.  And, yes, I know that paper cards don’t have peanuts in them, but the person addressing the cards might have been munching on peanuts while writing their little name on the card or, more likely, the wealthier parents who want to show their child has more and attempts to “buy” the favor of his/her classmates by attaching large bags of candy to the card which could have peanuts.  It’s a vicious cycle.

The only St. Valentine’s “celebration” I can think of that won’t offend anyone religiously or cause them anaphylaxis is commemorating the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929.  For those who don’t know their history on this subject, I’ll make it brief ’cause otherwise I could do a huge post on this event alone.

On February 14, 1929, members of Al Capone’s South Side Italian gang waited across the street from 2122 North Clark Street in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago.  They were waiting for Capone’s rival gang boss, George “Bugs” Moran, who led the North Side Irish gang, to arrive at that address.  Moran had been lured there supposedly with the promise of cut-rate whiskey from Detroit’s Purple Gang, friends of Al Capone.  Capone wanted revenge for prior killings by Moran’s gang and only wanted Moran targeted in this hit, not the entire North Side gang.  Moran’s men had arrived at the garage early that morning but Moran and one of his assistants was running late.  When Moran arrived behind the garage, he saw a police car arrive and decided to wait elsewhere.

What Moran didn’t know was that the police car was there as part of Capone’s plan for his associates to escape.  Capone had hired hitmen from outside the Chicago area so that Moran wouldn’t be able to recognize them.  Two of the men wore police uniforms and entered the garage as if conducting a raid.  The five members of Moran’s gang and two associates were lined-up against the brick wall as if they were to be searched.  As the men were facing the rear wall of the garage, two more of Capone’s men entered and the four hitmen, using two Thompson submachine guns and two shotguns, murdered the men inside and then escaped by having the “police officers” escort the other two men to the waiting police cars.  Witnesses told the police that they saw policemen leaving the area with two men “in custody.”

It wasn’t until Highball, a German Shepherd owned by one of the victims, began barking and howling that anyone came to look inside the garage.  Highball and Frank Gusenberg, who despite being shot fourteen times refused to say anything about the killers before dying three hours later, were the only two survivors.  Photos of the gruesome aftermath were posted in newspapers around the country.

The infamous wall from 2122 North Clark Street (minus a few dozen bricks sold over the years by its previous owner) is now on display at the Las Vegas Mob Museum, so I guess if you want something non-traditional for your Valentine, you can take them there.

Me?  Maybe I’ll take the Thompson into the garage and fire a few blank rounds towards the brick walls in commemoration.  It’s less fattening than chocolate; it won’t die like cut flowers; and it’s a tradition I can do every February 14th.

My political editorial – Come back to reality, Mittens!!

Okay….it’s Wednesday and I was going to blog about my therapy session today.  We talked about some things I’ve posted on my blog, some responses I’ve received, and other issues in my life.  It was a nice, typical session.  My therapist was just surprised that I wasn’t there as early before my appointment as usual and thought I was going to skip-out today.  I told her that I’d gotten on a rant and had to finish a post.  She asked if it was here on my blog and I told her it was on my Facebook page.  But, under the circumstances, it belongs here too.

Those who’ve been reading my posts for the past month know that I’ve been trying to stay out of the political fray.  Politics and religion.  Two topics on which I have very strong opinions that many in my family and circle(s) of friends disagree.  That’s why I don’t bring them up.  But today, a statement was made that is being argued and will be for a LONG time to come.  Or, at least until the speaker figures out that he’s made a complete idiot out of himself with it and goes away (my opinion).

I’m sure you’ve already heard, but today on CNN, Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney — who just the night before won the Florida Primary — said that he’s not concerned about poor people.  Well, not exactly.  He said he’s not concerned about the “very poor.”  Even that’s under debate.  Here’s part of the transcript:

“By the way, I’m in this race because I care about Americans.  I’m not concerned about the very poor.  We have a safety net there.  If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.  I’m not concerned about the very rich.  They’re doing just fine.  I’m concerned about the very heart of America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling.  I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.”

Okay…so let me sort of dissect this statement.  He’s not concerned about the “very poor” because they have a “safety net.”  He’s not concerned about the “very rich” because they’re “doing just fine.”  And he suggests that 90-95 percent of Americans are struggling right now.  What I’ve not been able to determine from his statement is this — when do the “poor” become “very poor” and the “very rich” become just “moderately comfortable” in his mind?

I’ve been “poor.”  I’ve been “very poor.”  I’ve been “very poor where you have to decide whether you and your child can eat or just him so you can pay your electric bill.”  I’ve been “very poor to the point where you apply for help but you’re told you’re not ‘poor enough’ for it even though you don’t have two nickels to rub together.”  I grew up poorer than my family would like to admit, I’m sure.  And, sadly, I know that with the state of the economy and the outlook for the future, my kids probably won’t have much to inherit from me and their success will be completely dependent upon them and the choices they make.  No huge nest egg waiting around for them like good-ol’ Mitt had.

But, just to show that I’m not trying to make a soundbite into a rant, let’s read the rest of the transcript from what was said next by Soledad O’Brien as she tried to let him reword his response:

O’Brien: “All right.  I know I said ‘last question,’ but I’ve got to ask you:  You just said, ‘I’m not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net.’  And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say, ‘That sounds odd.’  Can you explain that?”

Romney:  “Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad.  I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.  The challenge right now — we will hear from the Democrat(ic) Party, the plight of the poor.  And there’s no question, it’s not good being poor.  And we have a safety net to help those that are very poor.

“But my campaign is focused on middle-income Americans.  My campaign — you can choose where to focus.  You can focus on the rich, that’s not my focus; you can focus on the very poor — that’s not my focus.  My focus is on middle-income Americans, retirees living on Social Security, people who can’t find work, folks that have kids that are getting ready to go to college.

“These are the people who have been most badly hurt during the Obama years.  We have a very ample safety net.  And we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it.  But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers.  We have programs to help the poor.  But the middle-income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now, and they need someone who can help get this economy going for them.”

Whoa, whoa, whoa there!  Let’s back this train up and look at some of what he’s said — and let’s do it from the perspective of someone who’s been there.  Me.

“My focus is on middle-income Americans, retirees living on Social Security, people who can’t find work, folks that have kids that are getting ready to go to college.”  Well, Mitt, in my life I have family members who are retired and living on Social Security.  They’re always complaining about how it doesn’t help make ends meet and how poor they are, so that doesn’t sound like “middle-income” to me.  Also, my friends who have been looking for work (many for very extended periods of time) would probably not categorize their familial budgets within the “middle-income” range since they don’t have an income because they are looking for work!  And those with kids in college — if it weren’t for Eldest Son’s Paternal Grandfather who retired as a professor from the university Eldest Son is currently attending, he probably wouldn’t be attending that college right now.  Why, you ask?  Because even though Husband works for the government and I work intermittently for the government (for now), we don’t qualify to be “middle-income” and can’t afford the tuition, even with Pell Grant assistance.  That’s why Youngest Son is already making plans to attend a college where he’ll have to work his way through to pay the tuition because he knows by the time he graduates high school that anyone will be lucky if they can send their child to college.

“But we have food stamps, we have Medicaid, we have housing vouchers.”  I will agree that those programs do exist.  I will agree that there are people using those programs at this time.  I will also agree that there are many who would rather lose a limb than have to sign-up for those programs but would be homeless and starving without them.  I’ve had to use food stamps.  I’m not proud of it — but I made sure that as soon as I didn’t need them I got off of the program.  When I was pregnant with Youngest Son, I was begged by a County Health official to sign-up for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program) and food stamps — not because I didn’t make enough (I actually made too much) but because they needed the numbers to keep their program going because too many women refused to enroll for what they thought was “charity” instead of a program designed to help them through their pregnancy and to ensure their child had a good start in life.

Then came the time when Husband wasn’t working and I was very ill.  Neither of us had any income and our savings had been depleted drastically.  We needed help but we didn’t want to ask for it.  However, we swallowed our pride and went to the government office to apply for food stamps so we could be sure there would be something to eat.  They asked to see our prior year’s taxes.  The year before, I had worked for several months and made an average amount in salary.  Husband wasn’t working and was staying home to homeschool Youngest Son while also serving in the National Guard.  After looking at our paperwork, we were told that even though we had absolutely no income at the time and our savings was severely depleted (read: gone), we did not qualify because I had worked the year before and all of that money should be available now.  Forget that there are bills to pay between when I earned it and the moment I was sitting in that chair — I had made money in the past and regardless of my inability to work due to severe illness, we weren’t eligible for assistance.  As a matter of fact, the lady “assisting” us asked why we were wasting her time.  According to her and her little chart on her desk, we were “middle-income” enough.

Mitt seems to forget that the majority of the “middle-income” voters he’s referring to are only a paycheck away from being “very poor” and are pretty furious right about now.  He also forgets that the “very poor” vote just as much as the “very rich” do.  Yes, believe it or not — many of the “very poor” are bussed to polling centers by *gasp* Democratic candidates and their staffers, encouraged all the while to “Vote for Our Candidate” while being offered free coffee, donuts, or whatever it is that gets them on the bus.  Many people agree with that practice and many others disagree with it.  However, if you look in “very poor” areas of our largest cities, you’ll find that a LOT of votes are cast!  Meanwhile, in the “middle-income” areas, a lot of them who actually are “middle-income” or “moderately comfortable” aren’t voting as much.  Many are too busy trying to work long hours at one or more jobs and perhaps can’t get time-off to go vote.  Others are incredibly disenfranchised with the political system as a whole (wonder what caused that??) and don’t care anymore.  And the apathy they have regarding whether or not to vote spills out into their community and their children’s beliefs on whether or not it’s worth bothering to vote when there’s something good on TV.

You’d think someone who touts how intelligent he is and how he’s so good at creating (and taking away) jobs and knowing what the American public is thinking and how they’ll vote would have figured that out.

I’d suggest that Mitt stay out of the “very poor” neighborhoods ’cause many of the “poor” would be more than willing to show how rich they really are — in their values, their pride, and possibly with a good-ol’ fashioned butt-kickin’!

What he needs is someone to whap him upside the back of his head every time he makes a stupid remark like that.  He still isn’t worth my vote, but at least he might be more interesting to watch.

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