Friday, February 17, 2006

Love and Respect- Or Else!

Well it’s been an interesting week down here on the Gulf. OK, so my first attempt at “the papers” went over like a fart in church (do you smell something?). It seems most of you were “offended” by what I had to say. For your sake, I suppose I shall endeavor to stay away from political rants in the future (note- I make no promises). Nevertheless, I want to go on record as having said your criticism and attempts to muzzle me have left me insulted… now, where did I put those Molotov cocktails and Danish flags?

At the risk of sounding like a whiner (you have no idea how hard it was for me to resist inserting some analogy to bleeding-heart liberals here), it’s hard to write for you people. You heap so much pressure upon me. “We want funny ben back,” you say. Well, I don’t do comedy on demand… and when I do, all I hear in return is the sound of a distant cricket chirping in the summer night. Besides, I’m not so sure I know who “funny ben” is. Perhaps that’s the whole reason “the papers” died in the first place. I am working under much more adverse conditions now. I used to be young with a quick wit and wry sense of humor. I could turn almost anything into a joke. I am much older and more mature now… (cricket chirp). Turning jokes like that would only put my back out if I were to try them now. I don’t have the wondrous imagination I used to. Yes, it’s sad to be old. Plus, my life back then was something of a novelty. I was away from home, in college, in a military school and in New England. There was a plethora of curiosities, oddities, adventures, exploits, antics and a wealth of characters. The cold, wet miserable weather in New England alone lent itself to a paragraph’s worth of rants. In south Texas, the annual variation in temperature is about ten degrees. They crank up their heaters and start making chicken noodle soup if it drops below eighty. There is no more novelty in my life. I have a stable job and a stable family- a routine everything. I spend my days behind a desk. I live in Texas where, up until a couple weeks ago, I was a novelty as the only guy within a 162.7 mile radius who didn’t own a gun (there was a hippie in Austin who refused to buy one, but I think they’re trying to chase him to the north). On Friday nights, I gorge myself on a large pepperoni pizza from Domino’s in front of the TV, undo my belt, and turn-in at about eight thirty. My wife, the only character left in my daily routine, says I should write about married life…. This from the lady who stared blankly right through me as I rolled around on the floor laughing, sobbing and grasping at my pants after I told her I was going to open today’s edition with the comment about the “fart in church”. Granted, it’s not my best work (not even completely my own), but if you close your eyes right now, bow your head in silent prayer and concentrate real hard- you can almost hear it… now THAT's funny people!

So, do I take her comment to mean I have an open license on our marriage? Dare I turn our sacred covenant into a novelty? I thought she knew me better than that. This past weekend she and I went to a “resort” of sorts for a couples retreat. The quotation marks denote the lack of heating or hot water on the one of the coldest weekends in recent Texas history (it’s all relative, folks). I’m sure it was a real nice place… during the Nixon administration. I knew it was time to go as emotions started to run high, people started getting teary-eyed and humming “cum-bye-yaw”. Nevertheless, we had a pretty good time and learned a lot about love and respect; and I believe we are a better couple because of it. We have already learned to apply the lessons to our daily lives:

Me: “This place is a mess. I’d love you unconditionally if you would clean this dump up.

Her: “Shut up, you big jerk! You are always bossing me around! …Respectfully yours- Your loving wife” (As if she were writing me a letter… “Hey, what’s this white powder?”)

Yup, life is great. Her birthday is about a week after Valentines Day, so I strategically convinced her that we should tone down the Valentines… unless she was eyeing some slutty lingerie. She was not. She was under the impression that our plans were to have a quiet dinner at home. I let her believe that while I spent the past several weeks scheming otherwise. Instead, on Valentines morning as she lay in bed stressing about groceries and cooking, I had taped a romantic card to the bathroom mirror for her to discover when she eventually got moving. I informed her that I had made plans and told her not to worry about dinner. Later that evening, while she was getting dressed to go out, the stargazer lilies I ordered arrived at the door. She got all choked up before I could even open the car door for her.

I had made reservations for us at “The Melting Pot”, an overpriced fondue restaurant she wanted to try. The night was hers and the experience (read: novelty) in and of itself was quiet fun in a romantic and girly kind of way. But if the best way to a man’s heart is through his stomach (Exhibit “A”- I’ve put on at least ten pounds since the wedding), then truly “The Melting Pot” caters to the man’s own heart. After all, nothing could be more appealing to the male primal instincts than slathering various food products deemed “healthy” by some nerdy science guy (read: fruits and veggies) into a pot of simmering cheese and bacon laced with beer and brandy. Next they slap a large tray of raw meats in front of you. You stab at it with little metal spears and boil a piece of meat in another concoction. You eat that piece of meat while you are boiling the next bite. Finally, top the evening off with a vat of boiling chocolate with brownies, strawberries, cheesecake and marshmallows coated in cookie crumbs (this last one almost did me in). It had occurred to me that perhaps the whole experience was more troublesome than, and just as expensive as, say, ordering a grilled steak at the fancy restaurant next door. Nevertheless, she was thrilled about the whole event and that’s what is important. The time and money invested were well worth the smile on her face and the memories.

At the risk of getting political (and speaking of killing and eating a variety of small, defenseless animals and boiling them in a concoction piece at a time), I received an email this week with the following quote at the bottom attached to the signature:

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. –Gandhi”

Yes, I thought, who cares that Palestine just elected a terrorist organization to lead its government. I am more concerned with how their goats are doing. Does it really matter that Iran is building nuclear weapons and threatening to wipe Israel off the map? No, we need to see how their camels are being treated. Sorry to all my vegan readers out there, but who comes up with this crap??? If only the rest of the big jerks in the world could have the unconditional love that I possess (similar to the one I share with the wife). Maybe if the leaders of the world sat around a vat of boiling chocolate, dipping cookie-encrusted marshmallows, all of these global problems would seem somewhat smaller… or at least send them spiraling into a sugar coma. That’s the news as it happens down here on the range… yadda, yadda, yadda (I ain’t paying no royalties!). Respectfully yours- ben.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Charlie Brown is Insulted

I told myself that I was going to keep this from getting too political, but it is a blog of my thoughts, and right now this is what consumes my thoughts. I have spent a lot of time the last few days desperately trying to think of something (not political) to write about, but there just isn't enough novelty to life in Texas to write about. Much to my wife's chagrin, I've been listening to a lot of talk radio recently. It's not my fault, though! The lousy music scene drove me to it! I was trying to keep my mind from being filled with mush. Nevertheless, I'm terribly sorry to start on this note... maybe I'll get into country music.

I'm not that old, but I am old enough to remember a time when cartoons made us laugh and told stories about amazing heroes who stood for something righteous. What has happened to our world where a comic has brought us to the brink of World War III? Is no one else wondering, "At what point did we go so far astray"? When did outrage (along with everything else in our society) become so perverse?

I wake up each day in a society that offends me- sometimes multiple times- daily. Our government has allowed the murder of thousands of babies annually- but I don't burn down buildings. The media bombards our families with immorality, sexuality, drugs, profanity and selfishness- but I do not incite riots, burn flags and throw rocks at police. Divorce, homosexuality, domestic violence and perverseness are rampant and tearing our families apart- but I do not murder or beat people. Kanye West tastelessly and shamelessly compares himself to my Lord and Savior in a national magazine- but no one declares an international crisis. Shame, in general, is in short supply in our society. All these things "offend" me. I think they are grossly inappropriate, but no one rushes to appease me. So what on earth makes the Muslims believe they have the right to be immune to insults? The real question is- what right do Muslims have to violence? What on earth makes the rest of the world grovel for them in their offended state... and not me? Am I not special? My mom says I am.

So, the world is "up-in-arms" over a comic depicting the Prophet Muhammad. If we are to get outraged- and we should- let's be sure it is about the right things. This is what bothers me most about this issue:

- "Hello, Mr. Kettle. My, you're looking awfully black today..." Muslims have been insulting, humiliating and murdering Jews and Christians (or anyone else they deem "infidels") for hundreds of years, and especially in the last few decades. It's a freakin' cartoon!!! Get over it! Have a taste of your own medicine and try not to choke on it. Hypocrisy is for fools and idiots.

- There is a tiny contingent of Muslims that have cautiously stepped forward to reassure the rest of us that "Islam is a religion of peace and tolerance". Peace and tolerance?!? Who, on earth, is buying that line still? A religion that has words like "fatwa" and "jihad" shouldn't be selling it. This is an insult (Uh-oh! There's that nasty word again!) to the world's, or at least my, intelligence. It seems to me that the Islamic vision for peace means you convert to Islam, live as second-class citizens or die. I've got three words for the "peaceful and tolerant" Muslims of the world: Perception IS reality. If you don't want to be perceived by the world as murderous, evil villains- THEN STOP TOLERATING IT. Don't pee on my back and tell me it's raining... Don't fill my news with stories of Islamic violence and talk about peace and tolerance. Malarkey! The burden of proof is on YOU, not me.

- Why are people falling all over themselves to apologize and appease the angry Muslims? They don't apologize to Jews or Christians. What apology do we owe them... or anyone for that matter? We live in a society that has chosen freedom of speech and press over social tact and people's feelings (not to mention the value of shock over the value of virtue). Kanye and RollingStone magazine certainly aren't going to issue an apology to me anytime soon. Why will papers in the United States publish a cartoon that makes light of the injuries and traumatic events that our soldiers- the defenders of our freedoms- have suffered but they have cowered away from this Danish cartoon out of fear of "offending". Where are all the bleeding-heart liberals that so proudly wave the flags of free speech and free press in our faces now? I say publish the Muhammad cartoon every day of the week and twice on Sunday! We should never let evil dictate our freedoms- the freedoms that we paid for in the blood of our soldiers. Instead, let us bring the nation of Islam out of the dark ages and introduce them to liberty (free speech and free press) and all the rights, responsibilities, privilages and burdens therein.

A major newspaper in Iran has retaliated by sponsoring a Holocaust cartoon contest. Along with many other things, I find this tasteless, grossly inappropriate and, quite frankly, a little childish. Nevertheless, I applaud the non-violent effort to deal with feelings of humiliation. Hmmm... if only all the world's disputes could be resolved through cartoons. Charles Schulz may be rolling over in his grave, but I would be willing to risk offending him if it means saving lives. After all, who is immune to offense?

And that's the news as it happens down here on the range, my home away from home... where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are just above average.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

What's a blog?

I am still not quite sure what exactly a "blog" is, but supposedly the internet gives everyone a voice. So here is my two cents... for what it's worth... take it or leave it. I am not so full of my self as to believe that anything here will mean anything to anyone. It's hard for me to imagine, with everyone throwing their meaningless two cents in the jar, that anything will become of mine. Nevertheless, I have long promised myself (and my family) that I would start writing again someday. So here it is- my attempt to get back into writing. And what the heck- if something I should say here touches you in some small way or even just makes you smile a little bit... or at least makes you think: "Sheesh, at least I'm not THAT guy!"... then I will already have gone much further than I ever imagined. ...Thanks, Mom.