It Takes a Comedian to Save a 9/11 Bill.

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Jon Stewart Snakes Clogged Congressional Pipes in Passage of 9/11 Bill.

After a Republican filibuster on Dec. 10, the 9/11 responders bill sank to the bottom of the Congressional crapper against a mammoth clog of bullshit left by Republicans who felt that the $7.4 billion price tag was too high. Yet, Republicans had no problem voting for an extension of the Bush tax cuts that will cost approximately $860 billion.


Despite impassioned pleas by two New York Senators and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the bill’s passage still appeared hopeless until one vocal advocate, comedian Jon Stewart, devoted an entire episode of the Daily Show to the 9/11 bill.

It was only then that the elephants in the chamber stopped chomping on their nuts long enough to snake the mammoth clog of bullshit in the Congressional crapper, thus allowing the 9/11 bill to pass though the Federal sewer system also known as the U.S. government.

Not even the broadcast news voiced their outrage of the filibuster or covered the story while the 9/11 bill languished at the bottom of the Congressional crapper and instead devoted time to more important issues, like iTunes acquisition of the Beatles music catalog.

The Jon Stewart episode on the 9/11 bill kneed the network news establishment in the groin as the painful realization of the importance of reporting the 9/11 bill’s progress radiated down their legs.

Once the Daily Show episode aired, slamming the Republican filibuster and the broadcast networks failure to cover the bill for more than two months, Congress reshuffled their priorities and the networks began to cover the bill’s progress.

To put this all in perspective, it took the passionate pleas of a satire news host to slap cold water on the face of the Republican party and to resuscitate the hearts and minds of the network news establishment.

Other voices weighed in on Jon Stewart’s advocacy of the 9/11 bill, as noted in a Dec. 26 article in the New York Times:

Eric Ortner, a former ABC News senior producer who worked as a medic at the World Trade Center site on 9/11, expressed dismay that Mr. Stewart had been virtually alone in expressing outrage early on.

“In just nine months’ time, my skilled colleagues will be jockeying to outdo one another on 10th anniversary coverage” of the attacks, Mr. Ortner wrote in an e-mail. “It’s when the press was needed most, when sunlight truly could disinfect,” he said, that the news networks were not there.

  
Sadly, this illustrates the broadcast networks propensity to air stories they feel will appeal to the masses rather than to actually report the news. That’s why I, and likely others, watch CNN and The Daily Show instead or read the news online where I know can  find cogent news stories and not fluff about a Paris Hilton drug bust.

I’m not a doctor, or play one on TV, but I can see through my progressive lenses, pun intended, that things are broken in Washington and on my TV.

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Just A.D.D. and Me and the Circus in My Head.

The Circus, by Georges Seurat, painted 1891. O...Image via Wikipedia

ADD means different things to different people.
To a mathematician, it means counting up.

To a contractor, it means increasing square footage. 

To the tangentially inclined, like me, it means living with a circus in my head, deciding between watching the high wire act, the trapeze artist or heading to the concession stand for some popcorn and a drink.

The ADD mind is like a three-ring circus that never stops. Thoughts race from one act to the other until the frontal lobe or ringmaster regains control. 

How does the frontal lobe regain control? – By keeping a to-do list front and center, taking meds or both. This empowers the frontal lobe who shouts, “Get back on task” into her megaphone. Then, hyperfocus enters the show, the ADD superpower that anchors the brain for hours on the main event.

Since I’m a two-solution kind of gal, I use both methods to regain control, a team of “fluster busters” that keeps me focused on the show unless I’m in creative mode, and then I follow the spot light to the flow of ideas whirling around the circus tent.

Do I drive people crazy? Most definitely, especially my husband who often doesn’t understand what I’m talking about. I start sentences in mid thought or continue conversations that ended hours ago. It goes without saying. I usually have “some splainin to do.”

The WTF look in my husband’s eyes is priceless and is usually followed by a jaw to floor drop. On occasion, he’ll scratch his head, perplexed, though other times it’s just an itch.

Keeping up with the frenetic fast forward thought thrust and double reverse back track requires a remote control and caption control or just the simple utterance of a “what?”

Lots of whats echo in my house. That’s when I hit the pause button, try to remember the plot and back up the Digital Thought Recorder (DTR) to the befuddle point right before the commercial break – the place that leaves me and other viewers with a blank screen moment, when a train of thought tangent falls off the tracks.

Then, I need to check the navigation system in my head to find my point.

There’s a circus in my head.

Without warning, darkness rips the filaments from the bulbs. Anticipation festers in the dark bewildered crowd, reflected in a murmur of sound.

A drum roll echoes, then a white light floods the ring where two dogs race in circles chasing their tails.

Wait! Those are my two dogs with one purpose in mind – to distract the distracted and send the ringmaster to her trailer to find the list.

Do you have a circus in your head?
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I Live in a Place Called Hope.

Light the fireImage via Wikipedia

A metaphysical place that is . . . as I reflect on the past year without cracking the satirical whip.

Right now, in the east, it is bitter cold and snow covers the ground. Folks are losing their jobs and there is a huge gap between rich and poor.

Despite my own dismal employment circumstances, I cannot help but still hold onto hope and the possibility that tomorrow sunlight will burn through the gray bloated sky that hangs over this new world order.

This new world disorder challenges me to use different skills and to improve upon the old ones. It pushes me to think in different ways, to create something out of nothing and to reinvent myself.

I must be a visionary and not let go of hope, or I’ll lose the spark and determination I need to keep putting one foot forward and prevent slipping backward.

I cannot afford to give up or dwell on past mistakes. I need to harness the creativity and passion inside me and around me, to dig my way out of the intellectual, emotional and financial hole that this new world order shoves me into from time to time.

And these times are the most difficult I’ve ever known. But I won’t let it defeat me or steal my dreams or erode the illuminating light of hope and inspiration. It’s everywhere. Just harder to find.

My bloggy buddy Heidi, the brains behind Momma Politico, recently posted an inspirational story about the elementary school where she is principal. They initiated a care package drive to send comfort items to a colleague’s husband and his battalion in Afghanistan. The elementary school kids and families donated supplies and raised enough money to ship 10-12 boxes.

However, after accumulating an abundance of supplies and filling 200 goody bags for the troops, the school realized they had to ship forty priority boxes, not 12, which they didn’t have the money to ship.

The challenge of raising enough money to ship forty priority boxes was insurmountable, as they had exhausted their fundraising capabilities in addition to facing a diminishing window of time. No matter how unrealistic their goal appeared, because of their passion and drive, and an outpouring of support from the community, they were able to ship the forty boxes to the troops in time.

Please read the story The Christmas Wish that Almost Wasn’t: How We Pulled Together to Pull off a Christmas Miracle at Heidi’s site Momma Politico .

Heidi’s story is only one of many of inspiration. Another involves, Tasiasmama, a recovering addict, determined to keep her life on a positive path by staying clean. She blogs about her life as an addict and her recovery at http://anaddictsinnerself.blogspot.com and dailymemoirstofindingmyinnerself. Tasiasmama really puts the word “struggle” into perspective.

Beside these wonderful stories, I also find inspiration everyday in the blogosphere in the talented Bloggers who write stories that amuse, inspire, and infuse my life with hope from their boundless creativity, passion and ingenuity.

Thank you for enriching my life.

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1960 Plane Crash Victims Families Exploited by Local Media.

Pillar of FireImage by writRHET via Flickr

Fallout from a Plane Crash.

On December 16, 1960, United Flight 826 and TWA Flight 266 collided over Staten Island, New York. The United plane, while attempting an emergency landing at LaGuardia Airport, crashed into the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.

From the Green-Wood Historical Fund:

Ten brownstones near the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place were set on fire, as were a funeral home, a laundry, a delicatessen, and, strangely enough, the Pillar of Fire Church.

134 people died that day including my husband’s father. My husband was four years old.

But the tragedy didn’t end with the victims suffering or with the families devastating losses. On that day a Channel 4 news reporter, Gabe Pressman, had gotten a hold of the passenger manifest from United Flight 826 and called my husband’s mother, and likely other families, to get an interview.

He called my mother-in-law live on the air to inform her that her husband was on United Flight 826 and said something to the affect of, “Do you have a comment?”

That’s how my mother-in-law found out her husband was dead. Her brother then grabbed the phone from her and said, “Fuck you Gabe Pressman,” then hung up.

When recounting the incident of his father’s death on the 50th anniversary of the air disaster, my husband said of Gabe Pressman, “How callous and cold-hearted.  Just to get a story.”

NY Times television critic Jack Gould had criticized the television coverage of the crash and had published a piece called,

“Exploiting Sorrow,” specifically, “the disgraceful and tasteless attempts to interview grief-stricken people who lost members of their families in the tragedies.”

Fifty years later while reflecting on Jack Gould’s criticism of his handling of the story, Gabe Pressman had this to say:

“. . . he didn’t know beans about covering a story on the scene.”

And I say to you, Mr. Pressman, you don’t know beans about integrity in journalism or respect for victims families. A line needs to be drawn between “getting the story” and respecting the privacy of those who survived a loved ones untimely death. This was “gotcha journalism” at its worst.

In spite of the soul gouging by journalists that transpired that day, today, Thursday, December 16, 2010, fifty years later, we remember the souls aboard the two doomed aircrafts, as well as the victims killed on the ground.

On the 50th anniversary of the air disaster that set a section of Brooklyn ablaze, theGreen-Wood Historical Fund in Park Slope is dedicating a memorial to those who died on that cold December morning.  Back in August, while responding to an inquiry about a grave in a public lot, cemetery archivist Theresa LaBianca accidentally discovered the story of the 1960 tragedy.

From the Green-Wood Historical website:

On December 16, 1960, United Airlines Flight 826 and Trans World Airlines Flight 266 collided over Staten Island. The United flight then tried to make it to LaGuardia Airport for an emergency landing, but crashed in Park Slope. Ten brownstones near the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Sterling Place were set on fire, as were a funeral home, a laundry, a delicatessen, and, strangely enough, the Pillar of Fire Church. Eighty-four people on that flight died, and six people on the ground also were killed. The TWA flight crashed in Staten Island and forty-four passengers and crew died there. The investigation of this disaster marked the first time that an airplane’s black box data recorder was used to provide details of what had happened.

In an era before DNA identifications were possible, three caskets of “Fragmentary Human Remains” were filled from the Park Slope crash site and were buried in a grave in lot 38325 that was purchased by United Airlines. No marker was placed on the grave.

Pillar of Fire Church after Crash.

An eerie side note: Twenty years ago I worked for a real estate advertising company in Harrison, NY. While having a discussion about family with my boss, I mentioned the 1960 air disaster and my connection to it. My boss then told me that he had been a student at the time at a mid west college and was booked on the same doomed flight out of Chicago O’Hare airport. He missed the flight. My husband’s father caught an earlier flight to get home to his family for the Christmas holiday.

To read more about the air disaster and subsequent cover up, read the book Sterling Place by Ray Garcia.  I haven’t read it yet. My husband did. He had heard about the book before its publication and had contacted the author, concerned with the tenor of the content. My husband was pleased with the author’s response.

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Reanimated after Death in the Unemployment Pit.

On the back shelf of my musty brain, I found emergency reserves of optimism to keep my thoughts afloat, not adrift, mind you. Otherwise, I’d be doing the doggy paddle in a sewer somewhere with the rats that stole my ego.

I eventually got my ego back, not from the rats. I grew a new one.

The not so secret ingredients. Manure, sunlight and fairy dust.


Thankfully, I wasn’t allergic to manure or fairy dust. I just gagged from the stench. Fairies never bath and to make things worse, flap their wings, so the scent of their body odor wafts throughout the house. Damn fairies.

For months, I had to watch where I stepped. When fairies tire, they sleep where they drop. Contrary to popular belief, fairies do not nap while they flap in mid air. So, walking becomes treacherous for humans (and especially for fairies), trying to avoid the splat of a sprite, only later to find sprite splatter at the bottom of your shoe.

That’s when dogs come in handy. They eat anything that lands on the floor. Every time a dog ingests a fairy, a bell rings because they ate their wings.

This time there weren’t any fairy DOAs to report to the CSI unit (Crime Sirens Investigation). When a CSI unit dusts for prints, the fairy remains scatter and the investigation shuts down.

Luckily, the fairies flourished and my ego grew, as thoughts regenerated, allowing happy go lucky synapses to again frolic in my brain. I just couldn’t stand the noise. Synapses are loud when they frolic. They also order kegs of beer and boxes of pepperoni pizza. Always a big mess afterward. Half-eaten slices of pizza and plastic cups litter the frontal lobe.

That’s when I stop working on my resume and pretend that I’m lying on a beach in Jamaica, drinking rum punch and getting a three-degree burn. I snap back to reality and find that I am in fact drinking a rum punch while being splattered with hot grease from a pan of sauteing meat. I didn’t remember buying the meat, or if there was a car involved.

Too much manure and fairy BO I dare say. I was overcome by the toxic cloud, but my ego now an expert in unemployment roll survival, wore a gas mask and escaped the crippling effects of the shit storm.

I wish I had stepped in it instead.

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Ideas Stew in a Crockpot not a Crackpot.

lamb stew with leeks, lentils, yellow (heirloo...Image via Wikipedia

Metaphorically Speaking.

I write even when I don’t write. Thoughts simmer in my head like a Crockpot stew, as extraneous distractions, potatoes and carrots, pop to the top of the meaty brew. But where’s the beef? Holding its breath at the bottom.


While thoughts simmer, the aroma wafts into my brain at work or in the car. To evict the thoughts, I must translate the chatter into decipherable words, which is a challenge, since I write like a chicken but don’t walk like a duck.

At the end of the day, I sift through the scent of words that linger in my notes, and the slaughter begins. The bland ideas get beheaded with a slash of the pen. The meaty ideas pass the smell test and move up the food chain to the taste-testing realm. If the flavors burst in cataclysmic waves in my mouth, I allow the ideas to simmer further. If the flavors die on my tongue, I wash them down with beer to clear the palate.

Writing and I have a love-hate thing. I love the sound of bubbling beefy ideas. They stimulate my brain buds and invigorate my day. Yet, I hate the obsession.

I crave ideas as a junkie craves junk. Every day, every minute, I relish the moment to savor another bite of my thought stew and add more stock to enhance the flavor. Whenever I have a moment, I sneak a taste of my salacious snack. I can never get enough.

If the weight of words were reflected in calories, I’d be next in line for “The Biggest Loser.” However, unlike a corpulent contestant on the show, I shed calories by typing. Strike that thought. Just my fingers lose their baby fat.

I’d be a sore sight for a peeping tom’s eyes. Skinny fingers poking out from lards of fat folded into a chair. A worthwhile inconvenience, as I’d be fat from the love of words and writing, glued to the seat of my seat by hours of writerly sweat. Oh, stinky me. I only hope my words smell sweet.


Do you write anything else beside your blog?
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Humor from the Attic: Out, Damned Dust Bunny! Out, I Say!

While I work on my resume, I’m digging up writing that’s been sleeping with the dust bunnies. The following piece was published in ByLine Magazine in June 2005.

I hated the title that the editor chose, “In Defense of Freefall.” But my title wasn’t any better, “Caution: Outline Route Plot Pile-up Ahead.” LOL! I just added the LOL.

A side note: the magazine ceased publishing several years ago. I swear I had nothing to do with it!

I’m not going to read the piece because I’ll revise it.

Free-fallImage via WikipediaIn Defense of Freefall

I ALWAYS STAY WITHIN THE yellow lines when driving, comforted by the boundaries that maintain order. Yet, when writing. I steer clear of an outline and speed ahead, not knowing which direction I will follow next.

For me, plotting out a novel takes the fun and adventure out of writing by stifling stream-of-conscience thought—the exhilarating sensation of freefalling off the desktop. Nothing pumps me up more than to start a story with only a rough idea of plot and a limited knowledge of character. After meeting the potential characters, we huddle by the computer with my fingers positioned above the keys. I am poised to capture every nuance and snippet of dialogue they utter.

To prevent the dialogue and thoughts from becoming muddled. I must discipline my characters from time to time. Usually. I find it necessary to seat the idle players in another area of my office. I don’t mind the whispering and note passing as long as I can concentrate on one active character at a time, beginning with the protagonist.

On occasion, an unruly secondary character will interrupt, crassly announcing a “bathroom break.” I know he wants attention because the bathroom is just down the hall. If, upon his return, I still cannot quiet him, I am forced to leave my seat and placate him with a snack or drink. Frequently, I have to appease him afterwards by jotting down his background notes on a pad.

Quirky behavior is difficult to handle and yet tolerable, unlike the rudeness displayed by the antagonist. While the protagonist enjoys the spotlight, the antagonist often shouts out tiresome insults, which ultimately causes a conflict between the two characters. The antagonist should consider himself lucky.

I only put up with his bad behavior because his actions move the plot forward. Sometimes I have to stop the main characters from trying to kill each other. I diffuse the situation by promising the antagonist that if he is patient, he will have an opportunity to take out the protagonist at the end of the book. This calms the villain but makes the hero very nervous.

In the background, some minor characters cheer the protagonist on, while others shout out wrong directions or offer useless information that impedes her progress. This causes the heroine to make mistakes, leaving herself vulnerable to the antagonist’s threats. When she looks worn out and frazzled. I pull her from the story and let her rest before her next scene.

At this point, the antagonist takes a turn at the desktop and creates havoc in the story. I watch helplessly as he plants the murder weapon underneath the backseat of the protagonist’s car, then calls in an anonymous tip to the police.

A hush falls over the office. I sense the other characters’ excitement and apprehension. It doesn’t appear the hero will escape this time. I tap a character on the shoulder and say, “You’re next,” hoping he will run interference for the protagonist. But, to my surprise, another character jumps up instead and pushes the story in a direction I had not foreseen. This does not thrill the protagonist, but energizes the rest of us.

Since my characters and I spend hours together, we need the infusion of fresh plot elements to keep us invigorated and the story moving ahead at a rapid pace. An outline would inhibit this spontaneous flow of ideas. When I once framed out a novel, the characters became bored and restless. They meandered from scene-to-scene, taking frequent breaks instead of completing a turn. Soon after, the plot stagnated and my writing faltered.

During that misadventure, I never heard whispering among the characters while they waited for a turn—a sign that something was terribly wrong. So I encouraged a disgruntled character to blow up the outline and hijack the plot. I lost several secondary characters in the process. The others complained and threatened to strike.

To avoid a walkout, I did what any great creative director would have done. I promised them a better part in the sequel.

Lauren Salkin works as a traffic manager for a parenting magazine. She writes essays, short stories and is working on a suspense novel.

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A Picture is Worth 420 Words.

Repost of an article I wrote last year using a picture prompt.

Vaudeville Act, Destined for Dump, Saved by Descendant of Jerry Mahoney.

The demise of Vaudeville began soon after the debut of the Feckless Five, as they appeared in their first performance pose in the below archival print.

Sid (top left)

Lenny (top right)
Willie (center)
Miriam (bottom left)
Felice (bottom right)

Feckless Five Back Story

The Feckless Five specialized in stand-up performance posing, which bored audiences, yet delighted photographers. Despite their unpopularity, the Feckless Five were trailblazers in Vaudeville, as stand-up portrait posing was a precursor to stand-up comedy.

Since stand-up performance posing never caught on, the Feckless Five were never seated at the best tables in restaurants; instead, they sat in the back by the bathroom. The singers, dancers, and ventriloquists  got the best tables, even the ventriloquist dummies.

Each of the Feckless Five had a unique characteristic:

Sad Sid
was always down in the dumps because his chair abutted the bathroom door. He never had time to eat since he had to let patrons in and out of the bathroom. However, they did leave pretty good tips.

Loser Lenny always had a “sour lemon lip” look on his face. Apparently, he was weaned on citrus fruit and had been fermenting since.

What the? Willie was perpetually surprised, which frankly surprised him.

Moping Miriam carried the weight of the world and the failure of the Feckless Five on her shoulders. She never liked sitting by the bathroom and always voiced her disgust when the maître d led them to the back while ignoring her protests, which both infuriated and depressed her.

Frivolous Felice didn’t care much about anything. She always sat at the table smiling while Sid, Lenny, and Miriam bickered about not being able to read the menu because of the poor lighting. The fluorescent sign that hung above the restroom door was never bright enough, either was Willie. He couldn’t tell the difference between a table and a booth unless there was a phone involved.

If only the Feckless Five bickered on stage instead of posing, they might have gotten top billing and sat at the best tables in the front next to the ventriloquist dummies.

Due to the efforts of Jerry Mahoney’s great, great, really great grandson, Kenny Kindling Mahoney, the famous portrait pose, as seen above, currently hangs in the Vaudeville Museum in the back room by the bathroom.

—–

I found this picture on the Internet and began writing stream of consciously.

Jump-starting your writing from a picture or word is a great way to get going on a writing romp.

I don’t know where my head was when I wrote this on Sunday, August 20, 2009. I can only imagine. I was unemployed at the time. The job situation appeared scarier than usual. In fact, someone should write a horror film about looking for a job in this economy – Jobs from the Crypt or Jobless Bloody Monday.

Have you ever written something using a picture prompt?