Archive for the ‘Holidays’ Category

More Thoughts on Black Friday

November 25, 2012

Black Friday has come and gone, and what everyone expected to happen happened. There were near riots at Wal-Marts across the country, as people scrambled for limited amounts of discounted items. However, nobody was killed this year (although two people were shot), so perhaps that’s progress of sorts. No doubt the executives at Wal-Mart and other department store chains were happy with this. They got to watch poor people scramble for a few crumbs. I’m sure they found this highly entertaining. These are the sort of people rail against government programs and “entitlements”, while relying on food stamps to keep their workers from starving.

Black Friday videos have been posted all over the Internet. One can only wonder what impression this gives people in foreign countries about Americans. Republicans claim to be concerned about the U.S.’s image around the world, yet they are silent about Black Friday. Nor has the Obama Administration complained about it. As I’ve said before, the only people who have tried to do anything about this

According to PRWEB, Black Friday doesn’t even offer the best deals. According to them:

    Data from Decide.com over the last two years reveals that Black Friday is not the best time to purchase most items. Nine of the 11 major consumer product categories averaged a lower price leading up to Black Friday, the week after Black Friday or the week before the Christmas holiday. Overall, shoppers save a substantial amount of money on popular products by skipping Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

So the whole thing is just a scam. Welcome to capitalism in the twenty-first century.

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Black Friday

November 21, 2012

It’s perhaps an indication of how corrupt our society has become that giant retail store chains are being allowed to effectively destroy a national holiday. Black Friday used to start at 9 AM on the Friday following Thanksgiving. Then they moved it up to 6 AM and then 5 AM. Last year it started at 10 PM on Thanksgiving evening. This year it’s going to start at 8PM on Thanksgiving. Black Friday is like the giant chicken heart in that famous radio play by Arch Oboler: it just keeps growing and growing until it starts crushing everything around it.

The only resistance that’s being offered to this hypertrophying monstrosity comes from the workers at Wal-Mart. They are rightly angry that their holiday has been taken away from them. Retail workers get paid low wages, and they usually get little or no benefits. Now they don’t even get Thanksgiving.

I suspect that one reason that this has been allowed to happen is that Thanksgiving isn’t as important to people as it once was. The purpose of Thanksgiving, we are told, is so we can give thanks for what we have. Since wages have been declining for decades, and millions of Americans are currently without jobs, it has become increasingly unclear to people what it is that they are supposed to be grateful for.

Nevertheless, we should support the Wal-Mart workers. And we should support all retail workers by sitting out this Black Friday madness.

Mubarack is Gone

February 12, 2011

Winter Solstice

December 23, 2009

Christmas is coming up, and I just haven’t been able to get into the holiday mood. I’ve been thinking a lot of dark thoughts lately. I guess there’s just not much for me to be merry about this year. The Democrats are about to pass a health care “reform” bill that will force working class people to buy medical insurance they can’t really afford (to add to the credit cards they can’t really afford, and the mortgages they can’t really afford.) Obama is sending more troops to Afghanistan. Oh, and Tiger Woods cheated on his wife. I’ve been repeatedly told that this last point is a matter of great importance, perhaps of equal, if not greater, importance than the first two points I mentioned. (I’ve been told that the New York Post devoted 19 consecutive front pages to this, which is more than they devoted to the Sept. 11 attatcks. Maybe this is one indication of why people are no longer reading newspapers.) I must confess that it’s not at all clear to me why I should care about Woods’s sex life. Am I missing something here? I have that feeling one gets when one is at a party and there’s a joke going around that everyone is clued into except oneself.

They say that at this time of year people get depressed because the days are shorter. It doesn’t help that I have gotten into the habit of staying up late surfing the Internet. I now get only a few hours of daylight every day. I try to find things to cheer me up. I can perhaps find some grim satisfaction in that I was right in expecting the Copenhagen climate conference to be a complete failure. It’s ludicrous to think that the world system as it presently exists could possibly come up with a rational plan to deal with an issue as complicated as global warming. And I can enjoy some schadenfreude at the fact that Al Gore embarrassed himself at the conference. I can tell myself that it’s perhaps just as well that George W. Bush stole the 2000 election from him.

Still, I can’t get myself out of this funk. I just read Graham Greene’s This Gun for Hire. I enjoyed it a lot, and it even had a happy ending, but still I had dark thoughts after I had finished it. I was at the supermarket today and the cashier told me how the Christmas music that the store played all day long was driving her crazy. All I could do was smile stupidly at her. Afterwards, I tried to cheer myself up by doing some photography, which is one of my passions. I like to take pictures at night, because of the interesting effects of lighting and color one can get. I pulled over on a country road – not far from where I live – to take a picture of an old building that looked abandoned. A man who apparently lived nearby came up to me and all but accused me of being a burglar. He seemed to think I was casing the area. I smiled and explained to him that photography is a hobby of mine. This didn’t seem to make much impression on him, so I got in my car and drove away. After I had driven a ways, I felt a sudden impulse to turn around, so I did. When I drove past the spot where I took the picture, there was the same man having an animated conversation with several other men. It seems the photograph I took stirred up a hornet’s nest. Perhaps I injected some excitement into their lives.

Update: I’m sorry if this sounds like a messy and confused post, but it reflects my feelings when I wrote it yesterday. My mood has improved somewhat since then. I went to the supermarket today and I was actually able to have a conversation with the cashier. Perhaps what has cheered me up is the news that the health care “reform” bill may be in trouble because of the possibly illegal promises that were made to Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, just to get his one lousy vote. This may be too much to hope for, but for now it has cast a ray of sunshine in my life.

Thanksgiving

November 25, 2009

Once again Thanksgiving is upon us. Although I no longer pay much attention to it, Thanksgiving was a big part of my childhood. Every year my teachers would tell me about how the Pilgrims held the first Thanksgiving dinner, to which they invited their Indian friends, who had helped them survive their first year in North America. Somehow my teachers always neglected to mention that 64 years later the Pilgrims fought a genocidal war against their Indian friends. I suppose they were afraid that might take some of the fun out of the holiday. My teachers struggled mightily to make the Pilgrims seem interesting, but somehow the impression they gave was that the Pilgrims were just a bunch of people who wore dorky clothes and carried funny-looking firearms. Oh, and they liked to eat turkey! My teachers were hamstrung by the fact that they didn’t want to talk about 1) the Pilgrims’ ingratitude toward their Indian friends, and 2) the Pilgrims espoused a virulent form of Calvinism that most modern Americans would find repugnant. For example, it would be awkward for a teacher to have to explain to Catholic children that their Pilgrim forefathers believed that the Pope is the “Anti-Christ”.

My teachers only had one story to tell about the Pilgrims, which they told over and over again. It went like this: John Alden has a crush on Priscilla Mullins, but he can’t bring himself to approach her. One day, John’s commanding officer, Miles Standish, tells him to go to Priscilla and convey his own request for her hand in marriage. Being a spineless chump, John does this. Priscilla responds by saying, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?” That’s it. That’s the story. Pretty exciting, eh? I’m told that Longfellow made an epic poem out of this. It must have been a slow week for him.

My family celebrated Thanksgiving every year, despite it being politically problematic. Since my parents were atheists, it wasn’t clear to me whom we were thanking, or even what we should be thankful for. It eventually became apparent to me that the holiday was just an excuse to eat turkey and stuffing – and watch football in the middle of the week. In a funny way, though, Thanksgiving did teach me something about life. When I was a child, nothing appeared to me to be more mouth-watering than a big, fat turkey hot out of the oven. I would have a feeling of eager anticipation as my father would carve it. My heart would beat faster as he put big slices of white breast meat on plate. I would eagerly thrust a large piece in my mouth. I would then be perplexed to find myself chewing on something dry and tasteless. What I learned here is that appearances can be deceiving, and don’t believe the hype.

I found that by covering the white meat with gravy or stuffing or mashed potatoes – or a combination of the three – I could make it edible. (Another lesson: be resourceful.) I eventually figured out that the good meat is the dark meat (legs, thighs, wings). As Louis Prima once put it, “The closer to the bone, the sweeter is the meat.” Although I don’t think he was talking about turkeys.

The Fourth of July

May 20, 2009

I know it’s early, but I’ve been thinking about the Fourth of July lately. Although Independence Day is politically problematic, I just think it’s cool that one day of the year is devoted to making loud noises. The best Independence Day I ever had was about fifteen years ago when I lived in New York City. I went to a party at a friend’s apartment in Brooklyn. We went up to the roof of his building, and we could see three different fireworks displays going on simultaneously. (Only in New York, as they say.) Another year I was walking through a neighborhood in Jersey City, where there were so many people setting off firecrackers that it sounded as though there were a war going on.

I once heard an Iraq War veteran say that he hated firecrackers because they reminded him of war. I can understand how someone might feel that way. However, I remember that my father, a World War II veteran who suffered from PTSD (in those days it was called “combat fatigue”), would set off firecrackers in my family’s backyard on the night of the Fourth of July. My favorite was this thing called a “Roman Candle” that would shoot yellow and orange sparks straight up about ten or twenty feet. My father wouldn’t let my siblings and me set any off. He would only let us light these things called “sprinklers”. These were sticks that gave off tiny sparks and made no noise. I tried my best to enjoy these, but the truth was that I found them disappointing. I wanted something that would go bang.

I currently have some firecrackers left over from last year’s Independence Day. However, I’m not going to be able to use them this year, because on Fourth of July weekend I will be attending a socialist conference in San Francisco. I suppose there is something appropriate about that. Still, I will miss the fireworks.

This is a roundabout way of getting to my real topic, which is the American Revolution. It always annoys me when I hear some Marxist assert that the American Revolution was a “bourgeois revolution”. This is at best only a half-truth, since the staunchest supporters of the revolution were slave-owners. It was really only in the New England colonies that the struggle took on a bourgeois/proletarian character. In other parts of the country there were many people who sided with the British. In the Hudson River Valley, many tenant farmers opposed the revolution because their landlords supported it. Many Native Americans sided with the British, because they correctly perceived that people like George Washington were opposed to their well-being. Only the slave-owners saw the revolution as being clearly in their interests.

If the British had been smart, they would have incited a slave rebellion. What they really needed was someone like Marlon Brando’s character in Pontecorvo’s film, Burn!, an agent provocteur. That would almost certainly have defeated the revolution. (Though the New England colonies might well have fought on by themselves.) North America would be a different-looking place.