Saturday, December 31, 2005

2005 In Review

Here it is, the last day of 2005. Time for a bit of reflection and contemplation.

Firstly, I remember being a kid and watching “Space 1999” on TV and thinking – “Wow, 1999, that’s so far into the future!”. Well, here we are, running way late on building a moon base! Come on, NASA, the Mars Rovers are very cool, but wouldn’t “Eagles” be even better?

So, here are some of my thoughts on 2005:


This has been a good year for personal growth for me. Many challenges to my serenity and my new “more enlightened” way of being have come and I’m happy to say they’ve also gone.

Most of my life I was so insecure that all someone had to do was question my nature, motives or decisions and it would send me into a tizzy. This year I’ve held my ground when challenged – regardless of how scary it seemed at the time. Happily my HP (Higher Power) has always rewarded me by helping me know who/what needed to go (I’d get a certain feeling in my gut), the strength to make the decision, and then HP filled the whole in my life with someone/something new and much more wonderful!

I keep much fewer “friends” than I used to, and those people who I spend time with regularly know how special they are to me. Thank you, for your love, understanding, and acceptance! And, above all, thank you for:
  • Not trying to change me.
  • Not holding me to rigid expectations.
  • Being in charge of your own happiness.
  • Your loving company and companionship.
Other Personal accomplishments include:
  • I now exercise vigorously 4 to 6 times a week (up from 2).
  • This is my 5th year of being TV free.
  • I’ve completely opted out of Giftmas (some might call it Christmas).
  • My Fifth Year Anniversary in CoDA.
  • This Blog!

This year was also a year of learning that not everyone can deal with someone like me in their organization. I’m not saying that they are wrong or bad, but, I’ve been told “You’re too nice to work here.” Or “Couldn’t you be a bit nastier?” and I knew that I didn’t belong there. I’m happy that in recent months I’ve seen very senior executives who are fellow “honey” vs. “vinegar” managers have great success, so it gives me hope for my future.

I’ve known for a long time that you can’t negotiate without being willing to “walk away”. I’ve been practicing that at work for the first time in my life, and it’s been working out very nicely!

I also have learned that what my brother Nick says… “Do what you love, and the money will come automatically” is really true. I’ve enjoyed my photography, contract work, and personal art very much this year. Somehow, the bills still get paid, and I’m 100% happier! It has been quite transformative.


The only major technology changes in my life have been my Nikon D70 and my iPod Nano. I’m very happy with my new camera, but I can’t say the same about my Nano.

Like many thousands of Nano owners, I’m deeply disappointed at how freakin’ fragile and scratch-prone it is. I’m afraid of putting it in my pocket because it scratches so easily. It can bend in half in a pocket because it’s so fragile. I have to treat it very delicately and it’s a daily hassle. Combine this with how crappy iTunes is, and Apple is very close to losing a customer.

iTunes disabled my CD-ROM burner and still doesn’t work properly. I spent an entire evening trying to undo the evil that iTunes unleashed on my XP system. Plus, it’s operation is completely inconsistent, mysterious, illogical and unreliable. It’s truly a hateful application – but what choice do I have?

For years I’ve used Microsoft products with this rationale: “They’re not the best products, but they’re the industry standard and the most popular, so even if I don’t really like them, I will use/support them.” And, many “Apple People” have used the same rationale, inverted, to shun Microsoft and justify their use the Mac. Their rationale being “I’m willing to pay more because the Mac is better, so I’m willing to put up with the inconvenience and incompatibility.”

Ironically, Apple has become the new Microsoft in my life. I think the iPod is far less than it should be, but it is the industry standard, and the most popular, so… so far, I use it – but I DON’T like it!

It is truly an ironic turn.

I’m seriously thinking about selling the Nano, washing my hands of the whole Apple fiasco, and switching to the Creative Labs ZEN VISION:M – have you seen this thing? It’s SWEET!

My Honda Insight is 3 ½ years old, and has 70,000 miles. It still gets an average of 54 MPG and it’s running great. My new mileage record is 89.3 MPG for a 65 mile trip I took specifically to see how high I could get my gas mileage (Yes, I drove about 50 MPH the whole trip). See the attached proof!


As a rule I’m not very politically savvy or active. However, this year has been a wake-up call on the political health of the US of A. I’ve become much more active in my political activity. In short, I think our country is headed in the wrong direction guided by a corrupt and dangerous leadership.

2005 marked me joining the fight to restore rational and tolerant leadership to the US, and 2006 will see even more activity from me.

What Does 2006 Hold for Sam

Who knows? I can’t predict the future! And I’m smart enough not to try. I can, however, express my desires. And those desires are:

  • To work on my two book projects.
  • To do a lot more photography.
  • To create more art projects.
  • Learn to better accept what is, and to love unconditionally.
  • Work to protect animals and the environment.
  • To develop an even better connection to HP.
  • Pray and Meditate more often.
I’m also bright enough not to make any “New Years Resolutions”!

Well, that’s it! God bless all of you. Happy New Year!
And I sincerely wish you all great serenity and peace in 2006 and beyond!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Why Suffer? Become a Republican!

Dear Friends…
Are you Sick of Losing Elections?
Are you Bored with Honesty and Common Sense?

Why suffer?
In 10 Simple Steps, you can Become a Republican!

You too can Defend Freedom by Losing your Own!
You can Vote against your own Self Interests!
Learn to Mix Ignorance with Arrogance!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

"Using Your Brain" Award Winner for December 2005

This months winner of the “Using Your Brain Award” is federal judge John Jones, a Republican appointed by President Bush (!), who has ruled that “Intelligent Design” is based on religion not science. In the judge's 139-page ruling is this paragraph, in my opinion the most wonderful piece of rational logic I’ve heard on the “ID” debate:

"To be sure, Darwin's theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.''

Kudos to judge Jones for seeing this debate for what it really is and engaging his brain for the benefit of us all!

Last Photosafari of 2005

I was lucky to visit Wolf Haven via the Oregon coast Thanksgiving week and I took hundreds of pictures. The holidays have kept me away from processing these pictures, but, I’ve finally completed some select images before the year has drawn to a close. All of these images can be clicked on to be enlarged. They're all 800 pixels across.

This is one of the beautiful wolves at Wolf Haven. I shot this through chain-link, so you can see some diamond-shaped distortion.

And, now I'd like to introduce our special guest on tonights show, an elk. Ahhh! Oh... Ms. Anne Elke, whew! This is one of dozens of wild elk that were working their way down the Oregon coast -- wild as could be. Ironic that first I visited my beloved wolves, then I visited their food!

They use a term in the Pacific Northwest, I can't remember it exactly, it's something like "Solar Breaks" or "Sun Episodes" to describe the brief moments of sunshine that can interrupt the constant flow of rain produced by the endlessly grey skies. This beautiful moment of sunshine on the Oregon coast only lasted about three minutes, so it tested my speed at lens-changing!

This photo was taken in Zig Zag, Oregon. Honest. You really have to admire a state that's willing to name a town after a "cigarette" wrapping paper. What I learned in taking this picture is that Zig Zag has no need to tow abandoned vehicles -- nature biodegrades them in about a week.

Friday, December 23, 2005


See previous blog.

Political Compass

Check out and see what your Political Compass looks like. I must say I'm not too terribly disappointed that I ended up snuggled up to Nelson Mandela and the Dali Lama!

Notice the distance between the Simian Boy King and me!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Better talk fast!

According the CIA World Factbook, as of July, 2005, about 56,597,034 people die every year. That's about a 155,000 a day. That means when you die, you’ll have 1.76 seconds to make your case to God. Ironically 1.76 seconds is about the time it takes to pound a gavel one time.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Future Me

Today I discovered the most amazing and simple website:

Simply stated, the website allows you to send an email to yourself in the future, to any date up to 30 years from now.

The site is simplicity itself; there are no bells or whistles. The landing page features a simple email form.

The utter simplicity of the concept and of the website drew me in, but I must say, the actual doing of sending myself a future email to a future version of me wasn’t quite so simple.

These “Future Me” emails are more than just an email – they’re a kind of time capsule, and time capsules are not easily or hastily assembled.

I found myself describing my current address, my current job, and my current feelings about life in general. I found myself describing my dreams, my goals, and my desires. I actually began to ask the Future Me questions – by necessity rhetorical questions that present me will never hear the answers.

Most amazingly I found that the Current Day Me was writing to Future Me as if we were two different people. And, I suppose, we are. Today I share little with the me that existed 20 years ago, so won’t the same be true of the me 20 years in the future?

I found the entire process to be remarkably thought provoking, stimulating, melancholy, and profound. I actually feel transformed by the process.

I’ve never understood the tradition of making “New Years Resolutions”. My rationale has always been “why make promises that you’ll never keep?”

However, has renewed my interest in this concept. I have put hours of work into an email-time-capsule for New Years 2007 (about one year from now) and for New Years 2017 and I have made a commitment to do the same each year about this time. This, I feel, is much better than any resolution.

In ten years, I can look forward to a yearly flow of my thoughts from Sam “from 10 years ago”. He’ll be a distant and loving friend, a gentle angel whose task will be to remind me of dreams that shouldn’t be lost, people who shouldn’t be neglected, and a plethora of memories never to be forgotten.

Rush Limbaugh

I have long had trouble accepting Rush Limbaugh. I've been amazed over the years at how he gets away with his daily onslaught of bigoted, racist, anti-environmental propaganda.

Just Google "rush limbaugh's lies" for dozens of sites. See for yourself. I’ve long wanted to write a piece on him, and what he’s really all about, but these two animations do a much better job than I ever could. And, to add to the pleasure, these animations both feature the same brilliant song made from Rush Limbaugh’s own words (edited from his shows, of course).

The irony, of course, is that if Limbaugh had not said these horrible things about other people, they could have never been edited into this song about himself! Talk about karma!


Flash Animation 1
Flash Animation 2

Here are the lyrics. Why not Sing along!?

Announcer: Ladies and gentleman... Rush Limbaugh!

They say that I'm sleaze
An elitist, if you please
Everybody disagrees with my rap (with his rap)
I'm horrendous, I'm appalling
My ratings now are falling
'Cause I'm so full of bullsh..., so full of crap (full of crap)

With condescending cries,
Making money selling lies,
You might say everybody hates my guts (hates his guts)
I'm offensive, I'm a bigot
I'm a fraud - Can you dig it?
I'm a sexist, racist, homophobic, fat, pathetic putz
I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
That's right, I really am,
'Cause I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
That's right, you're being scammed

I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
I don't care about the middle class
'Cause I'm a fat conservative butthead
With the face of a horse's ass
(He's a fat conservative butthead) Hey!
(With the face of a horse's ass)

I have a sub-human figure, a huge rear end
My brain? That's another story (it's quite another story)
I have a face the size of a wash tub
And my ass is as big as Missouri - Yes!
(This bastard is sick, he's a fat, pompous prick,
And his ass is as big as Missouri) Yessiree, Bob!

Manipulating statements, exaggerate the truth,
I can't believe the hate my show inspires (the hate his show inspires)
It's not just because I'm stupid (oh no)
It's not just because I'm dumb (uh huh)
It's just because Republicans are liars (those dirty, filthy liars)

I am heartless, I am vain, insensitive, insane
They say that I'm a national disgrace (disgrace)
I am nasty (yes!), insulting (no!), basically revolting (uh huh)
I'm a concentrated pile of human waste (he's human waste)

I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
(Sieg heil!) I really am
'Cause I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
That's right, you're being scammed
I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
I don't care about the middle class
'Cause I'm a sick Republican sleaze ball
With the face of a horse's ass
(He's a sick Republican sleaze ball) Ho!
(With the face of a horse's ass)

They say that this is not about my vanity
They doubt my sanity
They think I'm nuts (so nuts)
I am a cyst on the ass of humanity (eww!)
New Republican slogan:
"Read My Putz" (read his putz)

From the bowels of Adolf Hitler
Comes the voice of Rush Limbaugh, heh heh

In closing, let me say: that each and every day
I'm an evil, rotten, egotistical snob (evil, rotten)
I'm the cop of the cop of Joe McCarthy-like gestapo
The right wing, foam-at-the-mouth, jackbooted slob

The Democratic-trashing years of liberal bashing
With the equivalent compassion of a grommet (of a grommet)
With the I.Q. of a pig; I'm a fat, obnoxious pig
And the truth of the matter is... I'm vomit (he's vomit)

'Cause I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
(Sieg heil!) I really am
'Cause I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
(Sieg heil!) You're being scammed
I'm a nazi (he's a nazi)
I don't care about the middle class
'Cause I'm a fear mongering scum bag
With the face of a horse's ass
(He's a fat conservative butthead) Hey!
(Sick Republican sleaze ball) Ha ha!
(Fear mongering scum bag) Ho!
(Egotistical ass wipe) Yes!
(Mean-spirited, hog wallowing, fat, conservative putz)
(With the face... of a horse's ass)

Mega-dildos, Rush!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Flying Spaghetti Monster vs. Jesus

Here we see the Flying Spaghetti Monster disarming a gun-toting Jesus.

I am very thankful to Bobby Henderson for starting the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, which I am a devoted member (grin).

As you may know, FMS was created as a satirical weapon against the fundamentalist Christians who are working to revise the definition of science in schools so that “Intelligent Design” can be considered “science” and can be taught side-by-side (or ideally instead of) the theory of evolution.

The Theory of Evolution

My take on this is that the theory of evolution is just that, a scientific theory. Scientific theories are useful tools for understanding the world around us. They are discarded, disproven by new data, or strengthened by experiments every day.

As an example, scientists once supported the theory of “spontaneous generation”. This theory stated that life would spring up spontaneously if the circumstances were correct. The classic experiment to prove spontaneous generation was to take a box and fill it with wheat. After leaving the box to stand for a few days… open it and POOF! There’s a mouse in the box! The mouse was spontaneously generated!

The creation of this theory followed the scientific method, which, simplified, is:

  1. Observation and description of a phenomenon or group of phenomena. – “I’ve noticed that mice appear in boxes sometimes.”
  2. Formulation of a hypothesis to explain the phenomena. – “I theorize that if you put certain materials in a closed box, and you let the box sit for a while, a mouse will be generated spontaneously.”
  3. Use of the hypothesis to predict the existence of other phenomena, or to predict quantitatively the results of new observations. – “If I use a larger box, with different food, new animals will spontaneously generate, such as rats.”
  4. Performance of experimental tests of the predictions by several independent experimenters and properly performed experiments. – “Many have tried tested my theory of spontaneous generation in different cities and they’ve all gotten similar results.”
Well, obviously the theory of spontaneous generation no longer holds water - to us it might even seem ridiculous. It’s easy to disprove this theory with a controlled experiment – such as use a steel box that a mouse can’t bite through to get into the box in the first place! Or it could be disproven by careful observation that the box contains a hole that the mouse made to enter the box.

I mention this because science, by it’s nature, strives to be unemotional and non-biased. Sure, the scientist who formulated the theory of spontaneous generation was probably a bit tweaked when his theory was smashed, but, science demands new thinking, new experiments, collection of new data and therefore constant revision and new learning!

The theory of evolution, being “just a theory” is subject to revision or abandonment just as easily as the theory of spontaneous generation. If tomorrow, a scientist was able to observe an “intelligent creator” creating a new life-form, that scientist would document those observations, new theories would be created, old ones discarded, experiments performed, and the scientific world would be all abuzz with excitement!

Science is neutral. Science is not your enemy. Science is here to help us understand – nothing more.

Intelligent Design

In my opinion, Intelligent Design is a repackaging of Creationalism. It is NOT SCIENCE. Even the Vatican’s own Father Coyne said that intelligent design "isn't science, even though it pretends to be."

However, I have no problem teaching children about “creation”. I have no problem teaching Intelligent Design – BUT NOT AS SCIENCE. But, you know, Intelligent Design is not the only potential explanation of creation – there are hundreds of creation stories and myths! If we are to teach “creation” in our public schools, we should NOT teach is as science, we should teach it as Creation Mythology or Religion. And, we shouldn’t just teach Intelligent Design, we should teach ALL popular creation myths -- and this is where the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s divine noodly appendage touches us!

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism

Some would consider the Flying Spaghetti Monster creation myth to be ridiculous – right? First of all the FSM is a giant hovering bundle of spaghetti with two meatballs and eye stalks. Secondly, he created the universe complete with “mountain, trees and a midgit (sic) with his noodly appendage". Surely nobody could really believe something this ridiculous, right?

Here are some real-life creation myths for your enjoyment:
  • The Finnish Cosmic Egg creation myth states that a teal laid eggs on a woman's knee and one of the eggs falling off to create the world and all life on it.
  • The Hindus believe that the Lord Vishnu fell sleep on a snake and when he woke a lotus blossomed from his navel and gave birth to Brahma, who created the entire universe in a golden egg.
  • The New Hebrides people of the South Pacific creation myth involves a bat, a turtle, a ray, and an octopus and fish that evolved from a group of deaf mutes and fools.
  • The Norse believe that a man and woman emerged from the armpits of a giant to create a race of ogres that led to three gods producing the earth, human beings and everything else. The myth also features a “holy” cow whose teats gave rivers of milk.
  • Most Native American creation myths state that everything on Earth used to be really big and that the giant people and plants shrunk after fire from volcanoes ravaged the planet.
I don’t think that the Flying Spaghetti Monster creation myth is any more ridiculous sounding than these!

Maybe we should approach teaching creation myths based on popularity of the world’s religions? Islam is the world's most popular single religion. Following Islam, Catholicism, Hinduism, Protestantism, and Buddhism rounding out the top five.

I mentioned the Hindu creation myth above so since it’s in the top five, we should certainly teach it, don’t you think? Do you even know what the Islamic creation myth is? Surely we should teach that one, since it’s the number one religion in the world, right?

Flying Spaghetti Monster vs. Jesus

Many have criticized Bobby for his creation of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, most of them claiming to be “Christians” and most of them acting very non-Christian ways. Here are some selected quotes from our Christian friends:

“i would suggest growing up allitle (sic) and/or blowing your fucking face off with a shotgun.”

“I hope your genitals fall off … Jack ass. you're an idiot. I'll pray for you.”

“Grow up. You are behaving like an idiot. …Take your spaghetti monster and stick it.”

“Congratulations, bastard. … And by the way, your case would not hold in court, mainly because no judge in his right mind is going to buy this bullshit. Also, feel free to kill yourself.”


“And, I do believe that those who led the lambs astray will be faced with a death even more cruel than being thrown into a lake of fire, if you could imagine.”

“i don't believe this shit!!!”

“Aren't you tired of being a faceless and unimportant pawn for evil? … have fun in hell”

“YOU are a freak! Oh a DUMB one at that! You don't know anything about intelligent design, (mainly because it takes an intelligent being to understand). I guess that leaves you out!”

“You are nothing but a weak ass immatation (sic) of Hitler.”

Pretty nasty stuff, huh? These comments are uneducated, rude, hateful and completely un-Christian!

I think it’s clear to see that the people who are pushing to teach “Intelligent Design” to children don’t really want to teach science (since “ID” isn’t science) and they don’t seem to talk much about “other” creation myths, so they don’t seem to keen on teaching creation mythology.

So what are they doing? Why are they pushing so hard on this?

It is my opinion that fundamentalist Christians are frightened of science. They are frightened of anything that “threatens” or in any way contradicts their belief systems. The list of things “fundies” are threatened by includes:
  • Homosexuals
  • Gay Marriage
  • Other religions and belief systems
  • Non-Christian holidays especially Halloween
  • Empowered women
  • Liberal thought
  • Sexuality/Erotica/pornography/nudity
  • Evolution/Darwin
  • Freedom
  • Minorities
  • The human body
  • Themselves (they believe they were created in sin)
  • The Earth / the environment (remember, they believe in the “rapture” – why not trash the place?!)

In short, they hate everyone incluing themselves, anything that might “tempt” them, and everything that they don’t personally believe in. They are completely devoid of acceptance, tollerance, and understanding.

Because of their fear, and inability to accept “what is”, they attempt to control. They attempt to crush any opposing viewpoint. They attempt to quiet any dissenting voice. They attempt to destroy anyone who doesn’t see the world the same way they do.

And, the greatest irony of all, it that they call themselves “Christians”, even though their actions are completely contrary to the actual teachings of Jesus.

So, Christians are really pissed off by the Flying Spaghetti Monster because it threatens them, and as the illustration indicates, they’d love to kill it. And I think that’s why FSM is so popular and is steadily increasing in popularity – FSM is ridiculous (therefore fun), it points out how ridiculous “Intelligent Design” is, and it evokes hatred in fundamentalist Christians thus forcing them to show their true colors.

I personally am a deeply spiritual person and I not only believe in, but I try to abide by the actual teachings Jesus. He taught tolerance, love, and acceptance – he was one of the greatest spiritual avatars of ever to walk this earth. However, because of the actions of fundamentalist Christians, I would NEVER identify myself as a Christian.

I personally believe that “divine consciousness” had a hand in the creation of the universe, and I personally believe that divine consciousness is part of the process of evolution and natural selection. However, I would never endorse Intelligent Design or teaching this as science, since it is a spiritual belief, not science.

So, my personal life has been negatively effected by these fundamentalist Christians, and I will go on to say that they’re hurting many, many people with their actions.


In closing, let me quote something said by John F. Kennedy when he accepted the New York Liberal Party nomination on September 14, 1960:

“If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

Monday, December 05, 2005

BMW drivers: Evil, or Stupid?

Click on Image to See Full-Size

I live and drive in the Los Angeles area. Unfortunately, the freeways and streets here are filled with selfish, rude, and thoughtless drivers. It's not at all uncommon to be cut off, blocked, passed, or nearly hit by these dangerous drivers.

My informal observations indicate that the great majority of these "bad drivers" drive BMW brand automobiles. This appears to be true from Santa Barbara all the way down to Orange County. Perhaps it’s true in other areas as well.

I’ve often wondered “why?” Are selfish, rude, and thoughtless drivers attracted to BMW brand automobiles? Or, is it something about the cars themselves? Do “normal” drivers somehow become selfish, rude, and thoughtless drivers once they begin driving a BMW? Does it have anything to do with income levels or the driver’s need to “impress” by buying a car of this type? Or does it have something to do with the personality of these drivers?

I’ve long wondered these questions. I’ve wondered, are these drivers evil? They certainly cause a lot of danger, suffering, and aggravation! Or, are they just “not paying attention?” Well, yesterday the answer was handed to me on a silver platter.

I had stopped at a great middle-eastern restaurant in Glendale for some lunch, and I parked in the “3 minute loading zone” in front of a beauty salon to wait for my food to be ready (I figured it didn’t matter if I parked there on a Sunday). A gentleman from the salon politely pointed out that I was parked in his “3 minute loading zone”, and I happily moved my car out of the zone.

As I waited for my food, I noticed a BMW (of course) stop in the moving traffic lane to my left in order to get into that “3 minute loading zone” parking spot. The driver not only blocked her lane, but she moved forward at a awkward angle, and blocked the lane to the left of that as well causing both lanes of traffic to stop causing many drivers to lavish her with honking horns and appropriate hand gestures. She slowly rocked her ginormous BMW into the “3 minute loading zone” spot.

Out of the BMW came an attractive middle-aged woman, and she walked into the beauty parlor. Not more than two minutes later she came running out. I figured it was because she was just told by the salon owner that she could not park in the “3 minute loading zone”, but I was surprised as she headed for the rear passenger-side door instead of the driver door.

She was not going to move her car. No. She had instead rushed to her car to get her baby. She had forgotten she had a baby. She had forgotten she was a mother. She went back -- for her BABY.

This woman was simply a moron. Her view of the world extended exactly as far as the tip of her nose.

I propose that she blocked all of the lanes of traffic not because she was evil, but instead because she is stupid. She doesn’t know how to get into a parking spot properly, so she blocked two lanes of traffic. She’s not observant enough to realize that she’s about to park in a “3 minute loading zone” – all she sees is the beauty parlor, and all she can think to do is park in front of it. She needed her beauty treatments, and the baby was in the rear seat outside of her view, so she just went into the parlor forgetting the baby. It was probably the salon personnel who asked about the baby that actually reminded her that she had a baby.

Her view of the world is as small as her miniscule intellect. The answer was so, SO simple! From this point forward, when I observe selfish, rude, and thoughtless in people, I will assume “stupid” instead of “evil”, until proven otherwise.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Gift of No Gifts

One paricular Christmas years ago, my siblings and I gave my nine-year-old nephew several expensive gifts. We're talking a radio-controlled car, a video-game, and a portable stereo - the good stuff! I think it was a way of trying to do right for this kid what had been done wrong to us - our parents never gave us much of anything for Christmas.

I watched as the kid tore the wrapping off one box after another, and didn't even look at or notice the gift in any way. He just tore open wrappings and boxes in rapid-fire progression, in some sort of brain-dead robotic frenzy of greed. I turned to my brother and I asked him, "Is this hurting your feelings?" and he said, "Yeah, it is, and I'm not sure why."

The events of that fateful Christmas morning got me to thinking - Why should I be upset that the kid didn't really appreciate the gifts? Isn't giving gifts a selfless act? Or is it? If I'm upset that the kid isn't accepting the gift "the right way" then is my gift-giving is secretly laced with expectations of appreciation and praise? Am I really giving a gift only to get appreciation or praise? If not, why do I proudly put my name in "from" spot on the gift-card?? Shouldn't I give ALL gifts anonymously?

I know that many times I've received gifts from family members; gifts that I really didn't need or want. And yes, I have pretended to like the gift. I have lied to protect their feelings. I have given the gift-givers counterfeit appreciation and praise. And yes, in doing so I have trained them to give me an equally unwanted gift again next year. So I guess I do, at some level, know that gifts are all about appreciation and praise to gift-giver, even if that appreciation and praise is completely bogus. Oh what a poignant charade this dance of deception is.

At this point I was beginning to see something I had never noticed before. Gift-giving is not a simple act of kindness. There's a lot more to it. There's something dark hidden under that wrapping paper.

Years before, my fiancé and I sent out invitations to our upcoming wedding. The invitation clearly stated "NO GIFTS, PLEASE". It also suggested that if gift-giving was something you just "had to do" then "kindly donate to either of these favorite charities", it went on to say.

After the ceremony while I was working the reception line, I watched in horror as a female guest took a dining table, hastily dumped off the plates, silverware, and centerpiece and then proceeded to place the table right at the entrance of the reception hall, and then she stubbornly stuck her gift right in the middle of the table.

Because I had my hands full, I could do nothing but stew about it. HOW DARE SHE! Well, as you might imagine, I was quite busy at my own wedding reception, so I wasn't paying attention, but by the time the reception was winding down several hours later, I noticed DOZENS of gifts on this make-shift gift table. My blood ran cold when I realized that some guests might have seen the gift table, felt guilty for not bringing a gift, and left the reception to buy an emergency gift! I was appalled. I had no idea how deep the need for obligation gift giving runs in some people

For most of my life I've struggled with this whole Christmas gift-giving tradition. Every year I struggled to come up with a list of people I care about (or work with) and I tried to guess what gift they might want. I quizzed others to assure that I wasn't duplicating a gift. I agonized over the quality vs. cost dilemma for each gift. I've awakened early to get to malls or shopping centers when they were least busy so I could buy these obligatory gifts with the least hassle. I spent money that could have gone to better use. It was painful for me, and it got to the point that I dreaded the holidays because of it.

As an avid environmentalist I struggled with the environmental impact of my gift-giving activities. I imaged that many of these gifts, both the ones I received and the ones I gave were simply buffered (stuck in a drawer or closet) then eventually trashed or sold at a thrift-store. How could I justify depleting natural resources to make things that I KNEW nobody would use?

So, I asked myself, if gift-giving is painful, unappreciated, laced with expectations, and bad for the environment, why do it? Why indeed! So... I opted out. I don't buy obligation-gifts anymore. I was finally liberated from obligation-gift giving hell, I was, at last... FREE!!!

I don't buy gifts for people's birthdays. I don't buy gifts for Christmas, Chanukah, or Quanza. I don't buy wedding gifts. I NEVER buy gifts because I am "supposed to".

Yet, I do buy non-obligation gifts. If my dear friend collects glass elephants, and I happen to be in a shop and I see an exceptional glass elephant that I know he'd love, and I happen to have some greenbacks in my pocket, and I'm feeling particularly appreciative of that friend... he's getting a glass elephant! Not for his birthday or Christmas - he's getting it NOW and he's getting it for NO PARTICULAR REASON!!

Buying non-obligation gifts is a pleasure, and buying obligation gifts is a pain. My life has gotten much better since my liberation!

I am writing this in early December of 2005. This year has seen tremendous destruction and suffering (human and animal) in many places around the world. I wondered if, for once, would people stop buying "Dukes of Hazzard" porcelain collector's plates and instead donate money to charities to help rebuild tattered cities, rescue homeless animals, and feed the hungry? Sadly, the answer is NO.

The day after Thanksgiving featured stores opening at 5:00 AM to accommodate the rush of shoppers. I heard reports of people being rushed to hospitals after being trampled in a rush to buy, buy, buy. Someone I was talking to that very morning told me that she was off to Fry's to buy a microwave oven - not because she needed one or because she had someone to give it to, but because it was only $29.

This gift-giving issue has gone far beyond a minor social tradition gone amok - it's a serious mass-psychological dysfunction - a socio-commercial environmental pandemic that threatens us all. It threatens to destroy our serenity, damage our economy (excess consumer debt), hurt our environment, and weaken our families.

I urge you to join me as an obligation-gift giving free person. Instead of buying gifts, I urge you to give money to the needy people and animals who need help this holiday season.

The madness must come to an end. Please spread the word.