Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year from Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (and me)!

Awwww...sweet. Here's to a happy and healthy 2012 to you and those you love!

Weekend Zen, December 31-January 1

Without inner peace, no matter how comfortable your life is materially, you may still be worried, disturbed, or unhappy because of circumstances. Inner peace is the key.

                       - Dalai Lama

Friday, December 30, 2011

SNL's Arlene and Jim Skit w/ Melissa McCarthy

I ran across a link to the best SNL clips of 2011, and I came across this complete gem from October.

Thanks to guest host Melissa McCarthy's shameless 110% commitment to the Arlene character (and to the awesome Bill Hader) this is one of the funniest SNL skits I've seen in recent years.

What Turned Up - The Best and Rest of 2011

The Way Things Turn is a blog about the things that affect us and the things we affect, with the occasional reminder not to take any of it too seriously, because not much in the world ever happens like we think it should or like we wish it would.

To my delight, website hits and page views have been ever-increasing.

Thanks to each of you for your support (and clicks) as I crowded your Facebook timelines and added yet another thing to the tall e-pile of stuff you must sift through on these overcrowded inter-webs.

Here are links to a smattering of the most popular posts, along with the most overlooked posts, as well as some of funniest, sweetest, and saddest things that turned up in 2011. It's interesting to consider what all this says about me, you, and the bigger world around us. As always, thanks for reading.

Heavy Hitters (highest pageviews)

Missed Opportunities (lower pageviews but content worth a look, in my opinion)

Feelingest (smiles, tears, and fists of rage)

Daily Zen - Friday, December 30

If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.
                         - Buddha

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The End of AIDS Is Only Dollars Away

The iconic symbol of
support for those with AIDS
Have you heard that the beginning of the end of the AIDS pandemic is on the horizon?

In what to me is the most under-reported story of 2011, scientists announced a major breakthrough in the global fight against the spread of AIDS. New research shows that the antiviral drugs used to treat those who already have HIV can actually prevent the spread of the virus to others. 

Amazingly, when antivirals are administered soon enough after infection, they are nearly 100% effective in stopping the transmission of HIV.

Prior to 2011, antiviral drugs were seen only as a course of treatment, but this new research indicates that the drugs may be pivotal in helping to actually end the worldwide pandemic. The challenge this breakthrough discovery presents going forward is in large part a financial one. 

Antiviral drug therapy is expensive, and until now, it has only been an element of treatment after the immune system of an infected individual becomes significantly compromised. In other words, those who have HIV and who are still perceived as healthy are not currently eligible for antiviral drug treatment, and consequently, may still be spreading the virus. Scientists now believe if newly infected individuals are started on a course of antivirals immediately after diagnosis, they will no longer be able to transmit the disease to others.

Anti-Obama Zeal Fuels Romney Success

The number one priority for conservative Republicans has never been ensuring a presidential victory for Mitt Romney. Luckily for the front running candidate, ensuring the defeat of President Obama, the idea which does sit atop the Republican "to do" list, has proven to be just as beneficial for him.

After months of confrontation from candidates whose campaigns each eventually sped off a cliff with Wile E. Coyote certainty, it looked as though veteran politician Newt Gingrich might finally mount a challenge to Romney that had some staying power. Each of the other flavors-of-the-month fizzled as quickly as Republican voters actually got to know them, but with most of his dirty laundry having been aired years ago, Newt had the potential to present a different kind of opposition to Romney. Nonetheless, the latest polls out of Iowa now show Romney beginning to solidify and even increase his lead once again.

With other GOP candidates having squandered their opportunities, Newt capitalized on the ongoing lack of Romney enthusiasm and a few successful debate performances to boost his lackluster campaign. But now, with just a little help from a few negative ads that Romney is running, Republicans have been shaken back to their senses, remembering two critical details: (1) Newt is a relentless, uncooperative, and selfish dick. (2) Newt cannot beat Obama.

The first fact, regarding Newt's erectile personality, could be reluctantly ignored by a Republican electorate that is reaching "Ron Paul is for real" levels of desperation, but the second fact simply cannot be overlooked.

For right-wing Tea Party types, President Obama is (literally) Satan incarnate. Somehow, a President who headed off a second recession and brought steady economic progress, who facilitated undeniable improvements in job growth, who ended the Iraq war, who enabled our forces to kill dozens of top Al Qaeda leaders (including Osama), and who has led the nation differently (instead of just divisively) has become President Evil.

The defeat of Obama is paramount for far-right Republicans. If Newt can't beat him, then no matter how flip-floppy and closet-liberal he is, Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate of choice by virtue of his stature as the most realistically electable.

Daily Zen - Thursday, December 29

Listen to your life. All moments are key moments.
                  - Frederick Buechner

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Tragic Legacy of Cheetah - Actor, Chimp, Tortured Soul

Johnny Weissmuller, Maureen O'Sullivan, and Cheetah.

Celebrity simian Cheetah has reportedly passed away at the age of more-or-less 80. The chimpanzee megastar, perhaps best known for his stunningly authentic portrayal of a jungle-dwelling chimpanzee (coincidentally named Cheetah), died Saturday of kidney failure at his Palm Harbor, Florida sanctuary.

Cheetah's early success as the wisecracking chimp sidekick to Johnny Weismuller's Tarzan straight-man catapulted him to the greatest heights of Depression era animal stardom. During the early 1930s, Cheetah starred in multiple Tarzan films and he was handsomely rewarded for his prowess as a box office draw. Sadly, with money, fame, and an unchecked supply of peanuts and bananas, the popular chimpanzee quickly developed a diva persona and an uncooperative attitude that impacted his ability to find meaningful work.

According to recent Tweets from Mia Farrow, daughter of Cheetah's Tarzan costar Maureen O'Sullivan, the chimpanzee began to bite his fellow actors and became known on the Tarzan set as "that bastard." This marked the beginning of a steep decline in Cheetah's career, as the chimpanzee never managed to erase these black-and-blue blemishes from his image.

After a half dozen television cameos and a handful of unremarkable off-Broadway roles, the swarthy primate eventually mounted a serious comeback attempt, re-committing to his craft and studying for eight months with legendary acting coach Lee Strasberg.

Despite his best efforts, a return to the pinnacle of Hollywood glamour eluded the chimp. Things appeared to be on the upswing for Cheetah when starlet gal pal Judy Garland helped the simian actor secure a Wizard of Oz audition at MGM, but in the end, the chimp's inability to take flight cost him the role. The Oz defeat proved to be the most devastating setback in a series of disappointments spanning subsequent decades that included failing to earn roles in Bedtime for Bonzo (too unnatural in human pajamas), Planet of the Apes (too short), and Clint Eastwood's Every Which Way But Loose (not orangutan enough).

In a tragic twist of fate, Cheetah was finally set to experience the career resurgence he had desired for so long. At the age of something like 80, he had recently been selected to portray Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul in an upcoming Animal Planet biopic. A big break for a little chimp, but all too late.

Daily Zen - Wednesday, December 28

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone. The wisdom of life is found in the elimination of nonessentials. 

                         - Lin Yutang

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Daily Zen - Tuesday, December 27

The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green Earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now.

                  - Thich Nhat Hanh

Monday, December 26, 2011

Gingrich Excluded From Primary In Virginia

Newt Gingrich received a political lump of coal in his stocking on Christmas Eve, as the state of Virginia announced the former House Speaker failed to deliver the 10,000 verifiable signatures required to be included on the state's primary ballot.

Gingrich, who resides in Virginia, led all candidates in recent polling, but will be unable to earn delegates from the state.

Only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul met the state's requirements for inclusion in the primary, and as a result, they will be the only choices Republican voters in Virginia see on the March 6 ballot.

Gingrich campaign director Michael Krull gave us insight into what a Newt presidency might look like as he blamed the "failed system" in the state of Virginia for Gingrich's exclusion, rather than accepting responsibility for the campaign screw-up. This failure is also evidence of the kind of weakness and structure inherent in Gingrich's campaign that has so many Democrats excited about the possibility of an Obama-Gingrich general election in November.

Say what you will about Ron Paul as an eccentric and unelectable candidate, but the Texas Congressman managed to collect and submit the required signatures by the Virginia deadline. There is clearly both truth and relevance behind the assertions with which we are constantly barraged about Ron Paul's grassroots organization and "boots on the ground" capacity in states across the union.

Daily Zen - Monday, December 26

As a solid rock is not shaken by the wind, the wise are not moved by praise or blame.

                 - The Dhammapada

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Week In Review - December 24, 2011

Politics gave us the gift of great humor this week. From the latest hilarious Bad Lip Reading video to Newt Gingrich's silly whining about Mitt Romney's negative but clever "too much baggagead. Newt kept the ridiculousness coming with his complete surrender to gay voters later in the week.

Gingrich was funny, but nothing could touch the laughable antics of House Republicans. The GOP gave President Obama an early Christmas present, rejecting the payroll tax cut extension before being forced to reverse field and pass the proposal. The Congressional song-and-dance around the tax cut issue (which was nowhere near as fun as this Nutcracker favorite played on wine glasses) was severely criticized, with retired Republican Senator Alan Simpson providing the harshest review of the performance.

While Republicans stirred things up in Congress, a would-be Facebook presidential assassin made trouble for himself online, and a new Nike sneaker wreaked havoc in shopping malls. If you'd rather avoid the holiday insanity, you can stay home and listen to this terrific a capella jazz rendition of Christmas Time Is Here, while trying out these morosely funny holiday recipes for one.

With only a few days left in December, we'll soon be flooded with 2011 retrospectives. YouTube already released its 10 best video clips of the year, and the adorable sad-talking dog alone is worth the viewing effort. Like most people, I'm always introspective at the end of the year, and having attended the funeral of a friend this week, I'm even feeling a bit spiritual. I'll close this post the same way I started the blog this week, with the beautiful and inspiring Alison Krauss gospel song that I posted to honor the memory of my friend Scott.

As always, thanks for reading, and happy holidays to everyone.

The Nutcracker Played on Wine Glasses

If ever a song was meant to be played on the glass harp, it's the dreamy holiday favorite - Sugar Plum Fairy. The glass harp is an amazing instrument to see and hear, but I'd hate to be the guy who has to pack it up for airline travel.

Weekend Zen, December 24-25

All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion, and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.
                          - Dalai Lama

Friday, December 23, 2011

Turn Up the Sound - Christmas Time Is Here

If you missed them on NBC's The Sing Off, Afro Blue is an astounding jazz a capella singing group from Howard University.

Their upbeat rendition of Christmas Time Is Here is so cheerful and lush that I totally forget there are no instruments playing - except for the magical blend of their voices. 

Settle in with your gift wrapping and eggnog and give Afro Blue a listen!

Air Jordans Bring Tidings of Comfort and Joy

Photo: Courtesy of
The spirit of Christmas filled the air in shopping malls this morning as eager throngs of shoppers crowded storefronts around the nation in search of the new Nike Air Jordan Concord 11 sneakers.

The mainstream media used words like "riot" and "frenzy" to describe the chaos of these "Nike-crazed mob scenes," but they are seeing the downside as usual.

Sure, if you insist on looking through the telephoto lens of an expensive professional camera and seeing the facts, there might have been a little mayhem and violence. If you're obsessed with recording your actual first-person observations, I suppose the kids might have seemed a teensy bit rowdy when they tore off the mall front doors. But what if you let a little Christmas cheer inform your perspective. What if you choose to look closer and see this morning's jostling hordes through the translucent prism of grandma's favorite glass Christmas bulb...
  • Seattle police were not using approved crowd control methods - they were simply welcoming shoppers with a playful dousing of yuletide pepper spray.
  • A San Francisco Bay Area man was not recklessly discharging a firearm in a Richmond mall parking lot; he was joyously marking the arrival of the new shoe with the gift of gunfire.
  • Unruly mobs didn't trample innocent bystanders at malls in Michigan. Some dancers are just less skilled than others with the new holiday "Nutcracker Stomp" craze that's sweeping the nation.
  • An Atlanta woman didn't abandon two young kids in the car in the mall parking lot while she waited in line for hours to buy sneakers. The (apparently ungrateful) kids were simply being given ample opportunity to compose wish-filled letters to Santa (in their heads).
Maybe these unruly masses of holiday shoppers were simply bounding with joy at the pinnacle of this most wonderful time of year? Better yet, they were most likely anxious to get their newly acquired Air Jordans posted on eBay at a fair price, generously hoping to ease the burdens of sorrowful last minute shoppers. Could be, couldn't it? I just know that's it!

If you're open to the wonders of the season, Christmas joy will fill your heart and comfort your soul. You'll find holiday magic everywhere, and it will be as heart-warming and abundant as peace and goodwill at a New Jersey Wal-Mart on Black Friday morning.

Food, Fun, and Holiday Cheer For One

McSweeney's Internet Tendency offers a regular feature of weird but creative "lists" that people have written. This one, Fun Holiday Recipes for the Self-Sufficient Single, had me laughing so hard I nearly wept in my severely spiked eggnog.

I particularly enjoyed the microwaved cider recipe. Enjoy.

Daily Zen - Friday, December 23

Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking create profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.

                      - Lao Tzu

Turn of Phrase - GOP Caves and Agrees to Extend Payroll Tax Cuts

"It may not have been politically the smartest thing in the world."

- House Speaker John Boehner, commenting on the the initial decision of House Republicans to oppose legislation that would extend existing payroll tax cuts for two-months and enable additional Congressional negotiation of the issue.

After overwhelming negative public response and pressure from both Democrats and Senate Republicans, House Republicans have reversed field and indicated they will pass the stop-gap proposal that passed the Senate by an 89-10 margin.

Resistance from the Tea Party element of the Republican party held the bill up for several days and threatened the continuity of payroll tax relief for 160 million workers, as well as the extension of unemployment benefits for nearly 2 million Americans without jobs.

From a political perspective, the Congressional struggle to pass legislation that almost everyone agrees on perpetuates the general image of Washington dysfunction. More importantly, with the 2012 election season already underway, the incident ironically appears to leave Republicans taking their typical obstructionist position while President Obama fights for tax cuts.

The incident revealed a deep divide among Republicans, and the absence of a clear consistent position on the bill highlighted the lack of cohesive leadership within the party. Republican failure to support the bill initially, followed by their subsequent reversal of policy, made the party look petty, weak, and disorganized. It looks as though Speaker Boehner, who is known for his propensity for easy weeping, may finally have something to cry about.

Related Post: Republican Tax Cut Rejection Paves Way for Obama

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Top 10 YouTube Videos of the Year

In case you missed it, here is a link to the top 10 viral videos of the year from YouTube. I have to admit I wasn't going to write this post initially, but even my cold and jaded cynicism was overcome when I saw Cat Mom Hugs Baby Kitten.

In addition to Cat Mom, I highly recommend Talking Twin Babies. The link to all 10 videos is in the frst paragraph, but here's one to get you started. I have to say I think they really nailed the dog's voice.

Don't F***K (FacebooK) With President Obama

From the news of the weird but interesting...

A California man who posted racist remarks online and urged the assassination of President Obama received a visit and a home search from the Secret Service on Monday.

I find it noteworthy that the culprit chose Facebook as the means to voice his threats, and that the Secret Service gave his comments any credibility. I know threats against presidents are illegal, but I didn't think social media was taken that seriously (or monitored). Maybe this lunatic was already on the radar?

The enjoyable irony of the situation is that the Facebook racist was supposedly angry over the National Defense Authorization Act which he considers to be a threat to American civil liberties.

Daily Zen - Thursday, December 22

We move mostly along the surface of things, but there are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen.
                      - James Carroll

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bad Lip Reading with Newt Gingrich

It's been a few weeks since we posted anything from the folks at Bad Lip Reading (BLR). They've just published the Newt Gingrich edition of their video gimmickry, and at the risk of Newt overload on the blog today, it's too funny not to share.

BLR videos work best when you are not familiar with the voice of the candidate, so I fully expected this one to be lame since we all know how Newt sounds. But as soon as I saw Newt say - "I will strip for wildflowers and a basket of peaches" - I knew it was going to be just fine.

Enjoy the Newt video here.

Romney's "Baggage" Ads Annoy Newt

I'm writing this post mostly because, like Mitt Romney, I'm interested in anything that will piss off Newt Gingrich. Romney and his Super Pac supporters have "gone negative" against Gingrich with their latest campaign ads in Iowa, and the former Speaker of the House has been whining non-stop about it.

From what I can ascertain, the former Speaker's complaints are not rooted in concerns over campaign ethics (Newt has no professional ethics legs to stand on), nor are there issues with making the campaign personal (Newt has no actual feelings to protect). Instead, Newt's opposition to Romney's negative media burst must stem from more practical concerns, like the ad campaign's effectiveness and Gingrich's declining poll numbers in Iowa.

Romney's response to Gingrich's vociferous objections to the negative ads is a simple that one I can support - Tough sh*t, Mr. Speaker.

I kind of enjoy the ads, but you can evaluate one of them for yourself. I give you "Baggage," starring Newt Gingrich.

(Oh yeah, gay need to waste your time watching this ad. Mr. Gingrich has already provided your marching orders. Just vote for Obama.)

Newt Tells Gay Iowa Man to Vote for Obama

Photo: USA Today
A gay college professor in Iowa asked Newt Gingrich how he would engage the gay community if he were elected President.

Gingrich, who is not known for his tact, diplomacy, or internal editorial ability, simply told the man he should vote for President Obama.

It's astonishing to realize that Gingrich has so little regard for the GLBT community that he can simply dismiss gay voters. The underlying message his response sends to gay and lesbian people about what they could expect from a Gingrich presidency is clear - you aren't voting for me anyway, and I have no plans to support you or your causes.

On the plus side, his candor is refreshing and everyone knows where he stands.

Turn of Phrase - Senator Alan Simpson Calls Out Congress

"This is B.S and mush, and the people are sick and tired of it."

- Respected former Senator Alan Simpson, (R) Wyoming, speaking on MSNBC about Republican House members rejecting a Senate tax cut proposal. Simpson was in Congress during the time before politics completely crippled government.

Related Post: Republican Tax Cut Rejection Paves Way for Obama

Daily Zen - Wednesday, December 21

The effort of the genuine spiritual seeker should be to cultivate love until the mind becomes saturated by it.

                   - Bhante Y. Wimala

Republican Tax Cut Rejection Paves Way for Obama

Republican House Speaker - John Boehner
House Republicans jeopardized an extension of the payroll tax that expires on January 1 by rejecting a bipartisan proposal that passed the Senate with an overwhelming 89-10 vote.

These rebel Republicans have risked doing real world harm by potentially increasing taxes on 160 million Americans, and they have damaged themselves politically, putting the President in position to take a strong but reasonable stance against them.

The proposal sent from the Senate to the House is far from perfect but it buys time for further negotiation,  guaranteeing for the next two months the uninterrupted continuation of a payroll tax break that currently leaves an extra $1,000 per year in the bank accounts of average taxpayers.

In rejecting the Senate proposal, House Republicans demonstrate ongoing and unpopular legislative obstructionism and they further perceptions of general Congressional impotence. Their failed leadership has fostered the creation of a political morass, but it has left us with a few clear conclusions.
  1. Even when almost everyone on both sides of the aisle agrees something is right for the country, Republicans will still oppose it if they think it complicates things for the President. 
  2. If there was uncertainty about the dysfunction that exists within the Republican party, the total absence of coordination shown between House and Senate Republicans should remove any doubt.
  3. Democrats HAVE negotiated the current proposal in good faith by:
    • Dropping from the bill their original plan to pay for the tax cut extension by adding a 1.9% surtax to millionaire incomes
    • Adding to the bill the "fast tracking" of the Keystone Pipeline (which Republicans support but the President strongly opposes)
  4. Republicans will sell the organs of their elderly mothers to protect or even add new tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, but they won't accept a reasonable proposal to extend tax cuts that already exist and benefit 160 million Americans, most of whom are solid middle class citizens.
  5. House Republicans have ceded important political ground to President Obama, who can now begin the 2012 election year by showing Americans his commitment to fighting for middle class tax cuts and opposing this do-nothing Congress that sports the worst approval ratings in history.
Turning the extension of the payroll tax cuts into a slippery political football is a huge misstep on the part of Congressional Republicans, and the Democrats will most certainly use this incident to their advantage in the 2012 Presidential and Congressional elections.

Related Post: Obama Taunts Republicans Over Payroll Tax Cut

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Daily Zen - Tuesday, December 20

There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.

                    - Aldous Huxley

Monday, December 19, 2011

Turn Up the Sound - Moved By the Spirit

I'm feeling quite spiritual today, not because it's the week before Christmas, but because I buried a friend this morning.

I've been thinking about how to pay tribute to my friend, and I decided to start by sharing a song to honor his memory.

As I was listening to iTunes and thinking about which song to choose, I read on the internet that San Francisco businessman and philanthropist Warren Hellman had also died. Hellman, among other ventures, founded the free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass concert which takes place in Golden Gate Park each year. 

I found a song that perfectly fits my spiritual mood, pays tribute to Hellman's commitment to bluegrass music, and most importantly, honors my friend. 

The song is "Down to the River to Pray" and this version, performed beautifully by bluegrass chanteuse Alison Krauss, was featured in the film "O' Brother Where Art Thou."

I am not a religious man, but if I were, we'd sing songs like this at my church. 

This one is for Scott.

Daily Zen - Monday, December 21

If you are waiting for anything in order to live and love without holding back, then you suffer.
                         - David Deida

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Week In Review - December 17, 2011

The epic on-air meltdown of MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan perfectly expressed the anger that so many of us feel about the inability of both Republicans and Democrats in Congress to get anything meaningful accomplished. On the upside, the jobs chart we featured indisputably indicates our employment outlook is improving steadily under President Obama. What's not improving are Mitt Romney's poll numbers. Mitt skillfully conversed with a gay Vietnam veteran at a New Hampshire diner this week, but what he didn't say speaks volumes.

There was unwelcome news about sluggish December sales, but that wasn't the biggest retail story this week. Home improvement chain Lowe's got more press than they wanted when they failed to live up to their own stated diversity commitment and pulled advertising from the TLC program All-American Muslim. Perhaps Lowe's should take a look at this awesome interactive apology ad from the o.b. tampon company.

December isn't only about retail sales and rampant consumerism. There are also stories of giving and generosity, as we were reminded when anonymous donors visited K-Mart stores and paid off layaways for strangers. K-Mart shoppers weren't the only beneficiaries of the kindness of strangers this week - just ask the four deer who were pulled to safety from an icy Alaska waterway by passengers on a 62' charter boat.

Lastly, the holidays are about celebrating traditions like snuggling up and enjoying the myriad of Christmas movies on TV. My favorite Christmas film, Always Remember I Love You, has languished in obscurity for years, but I found a copy at an online retailer in England. I watched the holiday tearjerker yesterday, and as schlocky and sentimental as it is, the movie still made me feel as warm and fuzzy as a pair of old slippers.

As always, thanks for reading, and thanks for helping the website reach the 10,000 hit milestone!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Anonymous Strangers Pay Off Layaways

Kindness and generosity are making a comeback at K-Mart stores around the country, as anonymous donors are paying for kids toys and clothes that customers have put on layaway for Christmas.

This is personal charity - it's about everyday folks, about lending a hand when you can. It's not exactly the stuff of Hallmark holiday movie miracles, but it's a nice reminder in the last week before Christmas that each of us has the power to do something, however small it seems, that can make someone else's life just a little better.

Weekend Zen, December 17-18

Deliberately seek opportunities for kindness, sympathy, and patience.

               - Evelyn Underhill

Friday, December 16, 2011

December Retail Sales Are Sluggish

I predicted the sharp drop in December retail sales and the resulting corporate panic here almost three weeks ago.

It's good news for consumers as we're already seeing steep discounts, and "Super Saturday" bargains (12/17). It's bad news for retailers who must scramble for business in the last week before Christmas, and who now see that their Black Friday extravaganzas served mostly to shift consumer traffic peaks and cost them precious margin dollars.

Daily Zen - Friday, December 16

The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, nor to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.

                        - Buddha

Lowe's Lacks "All-American" Courage of Conviction in Facing Down FFA

Home improvement mega-chain Lowe's has pulled its advertising dollars from the TLC series All-American Muslim. The program, which follows the everyday lives of five American Muslim families living in Dearborn, Michigan, has been thrust into a spotlight of controversy generated primarily by an ultra-conservative group, the Florida Family Association (FFA).

According to its website, members of the FFA believe the TLC reality show is "clearly designed propaganda" intended to portray "ordinary folks" in the Muslim community while excluding the more dangerous Islamic fundamentalist elements. In light of an FFA email campaign and increasing media heat, Lowe's felt it was best for their business to simply back away from the show.

The conclusion that rational viewers draw from All-American Muslim is that the joys and challenges of these families are not so far from those of mainstream America, and it is precisely this we-are-more-the-same-than-different message that the FFA finds so controversial.

The Jaafar family from TLC's
All-American Muslim.
For hate-driven groups like the FFA, a more accurate portrayal of Muslims in America would have to include footage of scruffy young Muslims piling into white Toyota pick-up trucks late at night, and driving to the secret back entrance of their neighborhood mosque where they pick up guns and strap their torsos with bombs, after a silhouetted rendezvous with a long-bearded, beady-eyed local Imam.

Sorry to disappoint you FFA, but all Muslims are not terrorists any more than all Christians are bigoted assholes.

But I primary objective is not to focus on the FFA - which has aggravated me mercilessly since its inception in 1987 - but to talk about my disappointment with Lowe's Home Improvement. With regard to the decision to yank advertising from All-American Muslim, the company said Lowe's thinks it best to "respectfully defer to communities, individuals, and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance." That would be fine with me if they hadn't also said they have a "strong commitment to diversity and inclusion."

Lowe's - what do you think a "strong commitment" looks like?

  • A strong commitment to diversity and inclusion means you stand up for those values when they are challenged by small-minded bigots, even if those bigots are reasonably well-organized and vocal. 
  • A strong commitment to diversity and inclusion means you vociferously object to those who attempt to stereotype and mischaracterize minority groups out of fear and ignorance.
  • A strong commitment to diversity and inclusion means you don't let your company policy "mouth" write checks your advertising dollars "ass" can't cash.

I am absolutely certain that many of the fine people employed by Lowe's Home Improvement have a genuinely deep and abiding commitment to diversity. Having reviewed the employment section of their website, I also have every reason to believe that the Lowe's corporation (i.e. decision-making company leadership) understands the value of a fostering a culture of inclusion. But a company with a "strong commitment" to respecting and appreciating the wide scope of cultures, lifestyles, and individuals that comprise our society would not have made the decision Lowe's made to pull advertising from a TV show, simply because a handful of unfounded questions and accusations were raised by a group of narrow minds.

If Lowe's wants to show real conviction to diversity and tolerance, they will apologize for their mistake, put their money where there mouth is, and re-commit to advertising on All-American Muslim. I guarantee the positive press from this genuine act of redemption would pay dividends - that's the All-American way.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Daily Zen - Thursday, December 15

The day is always his, who works in it with serenity and great aims.

              - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What Didn't Happen When Mitt Met a Gay Vet

Romney and gay veteran Bob Garon
At the Chez Vachon diner in New Hampshire this week, cheese sandwiches weren't the only thing being grilled.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney got more than he bargained for when he saw two older gentlemen in a booth at the restaurant, and then invited himself to sit down for a quick campaign chat. The man Romney slid next to in the booth, Bob Garon, was dressed in a red flannel shirt and a Vietnam vet baseball cap. The fellow seated across from them was Bob Lemire, who we can only imagine to Mitt's surprise, was Bob Garon's legal husband.

Garon, who did in fact serve in Vietnam in the 1960s, wedded Lemire in New Hampshire where gay marriage is legal. When Mitt Romney sat down at his four-top booth, Garon took full advantage of finally having a "seat at the table," posing several questions to Romney about his stance on gay marriage and a gay spouse's eligibility for veteran's benefits.

You've probably read about this encounter already, but if you're interested, you can find the full text of their conversation here, or watch a video clip of their interaction here.

Romney deserves some credit for how he managed himself in this situation once he realized where the conversation was headed. He didn't quickly slink away to the next table as Michele Bachmann might have done (for fear of gay cooties, no doubt), he didn't cut Garon off in mid-sentence as Newt Gingrich might have done, and he didn't duck Bob Garon's very pointed questions about gay marriage. In fact, Romney gave concise and straightforward answers, even though they weren't the answers he knew Garon wanted to hear. Of course, knowing his response was completely in line with what his Republican base would want to hear probably made being "direct" a little easier for Romney. Still, I give him credit for not pacifying "the Bobs" on the spot.

Daily Zen - Wednesday, December 14

If your happiness depends on what somebody else does, I guess you do have a problem.
                        - Richard Bach

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Four Deer Swim to Safety On 62-Foot Boat

A group of four deer were spotted swimming exhaustedly in the frigid salty waters of Stephens Passage in Alaska by passengers on a 62' charter vessel. 

The group of locals on the boat managed to get the deer out of the water and safely on board. They returned to the harbor and the deer were returned to the woods.

This is hard to believe, but there are photos that look completely authentic. Check it out and be sure to look at all four pictures.

Daily Zen - Tuesday, December 13

In the root and stem of your own psyche, there is an accumulation of bad habits. If you cannot see through them and act independently of them, you will unavoidably get bogged down.
                     - Yuansou

Monday, December 12, 2011

My Favorite Christmas Movie Guilty Pleasure

I don't remember when I first saw Always Remember I Love You, but based on its original release date, it was probably the early 1990s.

If you don't remember the movie, that's okay, most people don't. It wasn't popular enough to sustain a place in the annual Hallmark/Lifetime holiday movie rotation, and even I haven't seen it for so long, that I'm sure I've long since forgotten some of the secondary characters.

What I won't forget about Always Remember I Love You is the way the movie made me feel, and how its bittersweet storyline hung weighty Christmas ornaments on my heart strings and tugged them to the ground.

Always Remember, as I'll call it for the sake of brevity, is not your typical Christmas fare, but it is set during the holiday period and the story does culminate on Christmas day. The film is also tender and sweet, and as gooey as a fresh-baked Cinnabon, so yeah, I guess there's no way of denying it - Always Remember I Love You is a Christmas movie.

The main character in Always Remember is Robert, a sixteen year-old boy played by Stephen Dorff, who learns that his wealthy jet-setter parents actually adopted him. More tragically, Robert's Manhattanite parents, portrayed with perfect TV-movie panache by David Birney and Joan Van Ark, discover that their adopted son was kidnapped from his real family when he was a baby. Upon being assailed with this avalanche of identity-shattering news, Robert does what any of us would do; he runs away to middle America to find his birth parents.

Facts About Jobs - Before and Since Obama

UPDATE: The chart below has been updated to reflect Bureau of Labor stats thru September 2012. Click here for the revised chart.

This graph is the simplest and most honest representation I have seen of the employment environment that President Obama "inherited" and the results accomplished since he took office.

Viewing Tip: Clicking on the chart should open a larger easier-to-read version.

The two stories told by this chart are readily apparent.
  1. By the time Bush left office, job creation (or job elimination more correctly) was trending increasingly negative each month. In the first year of Obama, results steadily improved, and in the almost two years since then, we have enjoyed positive job growth in 17 of the last 21 months.
  2. The unemployment rate peaked at the end of Obama's first year, and since then has shown steady improvement.
Each of us is free to "feel" however we want about the Obama presidency, but these are the facts as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The only rational way to interpret these facts is to recognize that Barack Obama inherited an employment scenario that was in a total tailspin, and that just a few months into his presidency, a jobs recovery began that continues today. Maybe the turnaround hasn't happened at the speed with which we all hoped it would (and I would submit that maybe our expectations were unrealistic), but the trend on Obama's watch has been consistently and undeniably positive.

Print this one out and take it to your cocktail parties. There is no disputing the facts.

Related Posts: Unemployment Rate Falls Dramatically

The Way Things Turn Reaches 10,000 Hits

I published the first blog entry on The Way Things Turn in mid-August, and I'm happy to say that yesterday we reached our 10,000th website view!

I created this site to share opinions and perspectives, and to have a forum to practice writing. I also hoped it would bring an occasional sense of satisfaction to others. That's why I'm here. 

As for you...I'm sure you all have differing reasons for checking out the blog, but whatever your motivations, I'm grateful. We all have busy lives and I truly appreciate you spending a few minutes of your precious time here with me.

Your feedback is always welcome and so is your participation (as much or as little as you choose to make this website into a two-way conversation).
  • Keep the comments coming. I love hearing what you have to say - agree or disagree. If you're feeling inspired or pissed off, comment on Facebook - or better still - make sure everyone feels your wrath, including those who subscribe separately from Facebook, by leaving comments on individual blog posts directly on the site. 
  • Subscribe by email if you like (enter your email address in the box in the left-hand column), and you'll receive each new post via email. 
  • Tell others what you've read that you feel is worthy of sharing by emailing an individual post to them (use the litte "envelope" button beneath the post) or by re-sharing the Facebook status update.
I'll do my part to keep the website interesting and fresh, and to make sure the moments you invest here are worthwhile (although admittedly, one man's hilarious flying trampoline video is another man's waste of 13 seconds). 

And I'll continue working every day to create, find, and share articles, stories, pictures, and videos that might make you think or smile, or shed a tiny tear on occasion, or maybe even throw up in your mouth just a little. Something for everyone, right? 

I really do appreciate your support, and as always, thanks again for reading!

Daily Zen - Monday, December 12

We choose our joys and our sorrows long before we experience them.

                        - Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Tampon Ad That Really Says "I'm Sorry"

The folks who make o.b. brand tampons apparently made a lot of women angry when they phased out one of their product lines last year. Their new ad campaign offers each upset customer a romantic, musical, and "personal" apology. It's kind of creepy, but mostly clever. 

Because the "personalization" requires you to enter a name, I found the ad to be a little addictive. I can tell you that Jeff doesn't get the full personal apology treatment, but Genevieve and Abigail do.

Click here and give the ad a whirl yourself. It's campy and fun, and you'll be seriously impressed with all the ways they think of to use your name in the ad. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dylan Ratigan's Epic Rant - Anger That Inspires

Dylan Ratigan is mad as hell, or at least he was when the on-air meltdown in the video clip below occurred. The MSNBC host's epic rant occurred a few months ago, but I saw this yesterday for the first time and found it to be quite inspired.

Ratigan's genuine and honest moment of rage is refreshing. While overcome with anger, he maintains enough composure to articulate perfectly what most Americans think about the inability of both Republicans and Democrats to make meaningful progress in Washington.

According to Ratigan, Republicans want to "burn the place to the ground" while Democrats only play politics so they can "get through the end of the second term," resulting in legislation that ultimately "screws me and my kids."

The MSNBC journalist rails about government's failure to meaningfully address our national debt, and he unleashes his fury on the corrupt nature of our political system which has allowed the banking and finance industries to exacerbate (if not cause) America's economic morass.

Preach on, brother Ratigan.

Week In Review - December 10, 2011

Last week on The Way Things Turn....

It was a good week for Democrats. In addition to the Gingrich surge (an early Christmas present for liberals), President Obama maintained his newfound tough-guy stance. First, he called out conservatives for giving no love to the middle class payroll tax cut, and then he told those who question his national defense toughness to "ask Osama Bin Laden"about that.

Rick Perry delivered holiday cheer to Democrats by taking a ridiculous position (not being executed is apparently a "special right") against the White House's new GLBT human rights initiative, and then putting out a desperate anti-gay, pro-religion campaign video in an attempt to gain favor with the fringier elements of his party. Columnist David Frum injected a shot of common sense into Republican primary race this week, when he argued that it must be "Romney, Huntsman, or bust" in 2012. Huntsman then proved Frum's praise was well-deserved when he impolitely refused to attend Donald Trump's imitation debate later this month.

Things were no less crazy outside the Washington beltway. In pop culture, we saw a grown actor behave like a spoiled child (and then apologize half-heartedly), a hunter shot in the ass by his own dog, the worst gift idea ever for grandma, and Adolf Hitler cheering for Tim Tebow. If all that sounds too silly, you probably missed my juvenile fascination with the video of a trampoline blowing down the street during "Hurricane Bawbag" in Scotland.

Scotland's historically bad storm may be a sign that our planet is doomed, but don't fret. Scientists say conditions are right for life to evolve on the recently discovered planet Kepler22-b, which I estimated is really, really, far away. 

As always, thanks for reading.

Weekend Zen, December 10-11

What I call perfection of seeing is not seeing others but oneself.

                       - Chuang Tzu

Friday, December 9, 2011

Oh My God! Trampoline! (The Wrath of Bawbag)

Hurricane "Bawbag" comes ashore.
Photo: Graham Stuart/Getty Images
One thing we have learned in the last decade since the rise of Facebook, YouTube, and other social media outlets is that regular people are incredibly creative and funny.

If you haven't noticed that, or dont' believe  it to be true, I give you - Hurricane Bawbag.

Hurricane Bawbag is the tongue-in-cheek moniker assigned to a major storm that hit Scotland this week with winds of up to 165mph. While the storm was serious news, the treatment of the storm on YouTube and Twitter (where the storm's scrotum-esque nickname was spawned) was fodder for silliness and humor. 

View these videos in the order presented, and for the love of God, don't have any food or drink in your mouth while you watch them.

This video from the storm started it all.

And then came the first spoof.

And then they got better.

And better still.

The storm affectionately known as Bawbag even inspired a parody song. Maybe it's Bob Dylan's melody (Blowin' In the Wind), maybe it's the funny-cuz-they're true lyrics ("It might be windy, and it might be blowin' a gale, but Hurricane Bawbag's t-shirts are on sale."), or maybe it's just my love for Scottish accents - but this is brilliant. Especially the ending.

Daily Zen - Friday, December 9

Happiness comes from the desire for others to be happy. Misery comes from the desire for oneself to be happy.

                         - Shantideva

Thursday, December 8, 2011

True Blood - Perfect Holiday Gift for Grandma

In case you still need gift ideas for grandma...this 30-second commercial spot for the True Blood DVD set is brilliant!

Viewing Tip: Click the title bar at the top of the clip to view in a larger window.

Baldwin Apologizes to Travelers but Perturbs Greyhound

It sounds too funny to be true, but within a day of the blowup of Alec Baldwin's American Airlines fiasco, the actor has pissed off the folks at Greyhound Bus.

In a Huffington Post article he wrote to express regret for any inconvenience his tantrum caused fellow travelers (kudos for the apology), Baldwin inadvertently offended the Greyhound bus company by complaining that the air travel environment has deteriorated to the equivalent of a "Greyhound experience."

Greyhound CEO Dave Leach handled the comment perfectly by publishing an open letter inviting Baldwin to take a Greyhound trip with him, and noting that passengers are never asked to turn off their electronic devices during the course of a bus trip.

Baldwin's apology to the everyman travelers who were delayed, and who potentially missed connections because of his tirade, was a decent gesture. At this point, he should let the whole thing drop and hope that Ryan Gosling is caught with a transexual hooker so America can move on to a newer and greater scandal.

Related Posts: 7-Letter Word for Spoiled Actor

Turn of Phrase - Obama Says "Ask Bin Laden"

"Ask Osama Bin Laden and the 22 out of 30 top al-Qaida leaders who have been taken off the field whether I engage in appeasement."

- President Obama responding to statements from candidates Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, who accused the administration of taking a weak and timid approach to threats posed by radical Islamists.