X X-Mas


I was having a cranky holiday chat with my good friend Mr. Tito when suddenly he broke into song (something about a reindeer with a shiny nose) and I suddenly felt compelled to get up and remove his vocal chords using a delicate operation I learned while serving time in sing sing (pun intended because I've had too much apple cider today). I felt a twinge of remorse as I untangled my fist from Mr. Tito's larynx and that's when it occurred to me: why the heck am I forced to endure/celebrate Christmas at all? Isn't this supposed to be a secular society? I asked Mr. Tito this question, which created an uncomfortable and awkward silence. After seeing Mr. Tito to an ambulance I called up my Grandpa Schlomo and asked him what the true meaning of Christmas is. His answer: "Oy, your asking an old Jewish man the meaning of Christmas, what, do you have plum pudding for brains?" But this got me thinking, something I try to do only when I'm doing laundry, or fantasizing about ways to convince Cate Blanchett that what she really needs is a cranky man who will take her on long walks along the beach in Venice, CA and who will attend all her preview screenings, even when critics are incorrectly comparing her performance to other actors who can't hold a candle to her grace and elegance, and who will give her all the love that any woman could possible require. Wait, what was I talking about? Yes, I was thinking. I was thinking that Christmas and Christians have imposed this holiday on all the rest of us who would rather use this day for something constructive, like going to work or helping our neighbor with her virgin birth (talk about defective condoms...). And for what? What, exactly, are we celebrating here?

Well, first off: Christmas ostensibly is the celebration of the birth of Christ. At least, that's what I think it is. But I don't care about the birth of Christ. So why must I, Jews, athiests, Muslims and stockbrockers be forced to take this day off? It's a holiday for Christians, no? Why must all the rest of us suffer for it? But I have a feeling that if I let my views about all this come to light, I would dramatically reduce my chances of winning the upcoming presidential campaign. Come on, all you Christians, lighten up. Err. Sense of humor, it appears, is inversely proportionate to religious faith, which is too bad because if religious folks could laugh at themselves they'd realize that they look really funny wearing those god-awful sweaters (I can't stop the puns tonight, so accept my apology in advance).

Second off: Christmas really isn't a religious holiday and Christians who say it is probably are trying to kid you or themselves. I'm no religious scholar, but I'm American and so this sense of entitlement permits me to say, with little authority, that December 25th has been a holiday as far back as the Romans. It's essentially a pagan celebration and many of its trimmings (someone stop me!) have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity: like Christmas trees and lights and It's a Wonderful Life. Heck, even most religious folks agree that Christ, if he actually lived, wasn't born on December 25th, but folks were already celebrating that day way back when so someone around 1,800 years ago decreed it ole Jesus' birthday. And you know what? Christmas didn't really take off here in the states until Mr. Washington Irving wrote his famous, "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Then people (lets call them "Americans") started imitating the Christmas traditions that he'd mostly made up (including exchanging gifts) and within 50 years Ulysses S. Grant declared the day a national holiday so everyone could shop til they dropped (Ulysses could never get enough socks, apparently). So even the tradition of buying last minute scarves isn't yet 200 years old. (I've truncated greatly the history of Christmas here, but it's easy to look up if you're really interested, which most scholars are not because for them, one sad fact remains -- beliefs matter more than facts).

Which brings me to third off: Christmas is and has been and always will be (at least until this country undergoes a religioscopy) a day celebrating capitalism. I'm fine with that, because I like to have a job and I like other people to have jobs because, while it makes me cranky, it tends to make the economy rather happy. And even though we all may be pathetic slaves to the almighty dollar, that question (whether or not we should all rebel and move to Aruba with Cate Blanchett) is one for another blog (or several hundred-thousand Marxists Phd dissertations collecting dust on thousands of university shelves around the country). My point is: why do we have to dress this day up in religious garb, and if we do have to dress it up in religious garb, why must it be the religious garb of a man named Santa Claus who was invented by a German cartoonist in the 19th century? Err, why must we dress it up as a pagan disguised as a Christian? It's all so much kidding ourselves, and for what? So families can gather annually and make each other really miserable while they exchange gifts, eat fatty foods and increase dramatically their collective chances of having a massive coronary?

I call upon all civilized, secularized humans everywhere to stop celebrating this bogus holiday. Buy your friends socks and silly trinkets, but call it "Save Our Economy's Ass Day" or "Socialized Medicine is for Pussies-Mas". And spare me the heaping helpings of hypocrisy and self-denial.

Okay, I've written plenty for today. Have a lovely "I'd Rather Be Having Sex Day" and try to stay away from TBS' insane 24 hour "A Christmas Story" marathon. You're likely to shoot your eye out.

Charles Dickens bless us, everyone.



CrankyPants suffers from a debilitating disease and thankfully for him, most of the people he hangs out with in life (mostly puppets and imaginary characters) are chipper and upbeat, otherwise I would probably spend all my time watching television with Uncle Abe and eating peanutbutter cookies. I could easily see myself gaining 200 pounds and becoming addicted to The View (Barbara Walters just gets me).

Here's the disease I'm referring to:

weltschmerz \VELT-shmairts\ noun, often capitalized
*1 : a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state 2 : a mood of sentimental sadness.

Is there a better word in the English language? Okay, there may be a few (sex, cookie, tuba), but to me "weltschmerz" captures the entire problem of my brain: I'm forever wondering how things could be better. I wonder why they SHOULD be better.
--If only people didn't give me the finger while I'm attempting to parallel park my car in New York City.
--If only I didn't have to grow old. If only the subways ran frequently and on time.
--If only my ears didn't itch all the time.
--If only it never got humid outside. If only people didn't meet my happy-go-lucky smile each day as I skip out of my home with a nasty glare and a "whatta you lookin at."
--If only people understood morality is something that we must all agree on, not something that comes from fantastical dogma.
--If only I didn't love peanutbutter cookies so much.
--If only I could complete one important task at a time and not be distracted by a million...
--If only I could spend 5 years traveling.
--If only I didn't feel guilty every time I... (wait, I'm feeling guilty about writing this).
--If only politicians cared more about helping humanity and less about making money for their buddies.
--If only I had more time to write in this blog.
--If only there were answers. Real answers, not just more questions.
--If only I was less Cranky and felt less inclined to write in this blog (curse you weltschmerz!).

I never would have discovered this word if I hadn't taken the GREs about nine months ago. Inspired to do well, I subscribed to Merriam Websters Word of the Day. Alas, the word did not show up on the test. but I highly recommend you take it out for a test drive. You'll find it more satisfying than anything else in the world.



Okay, this one is obvious, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on it. Spending a lot of time on this subject would only make my stomach hurt and my head begin to come apart at the seams. The inside of CrankyPants' head, as those who have glimpsed it can attest, is not a pretty place full of flowers and scented candles -- lets all hope what's inside stays there.

Guns should not be legal. It's that obvious. And what makes it even more obvious is what happened on the campus of Virginia Tech this week: a deranged psycho bought two guns (the process took about 1 minute), then later went on a killing rampage. There are going to be sick people who're going to want to blame the parents of Cho Seung-Hui, and some, even worse, who will point the finger at the school or the poor crisis center workers who failed to recognize the ticking time bomb when they saw it. I hope no one sues that Center, by the way, because there are thousands of kids as or almost as crazy as Cho and no one is locking them up either. And besides, there's no way to be sure if the solemn, over-serious person sitting in front of you is more likely to go on a killing rampage or simply turn into a sad-sack screenwriter -- it's a tough, thankless job. No, they're not responsible. Cho Seung-Hui is responsible for killing those kids. He is, along with the gun companies and their lobbys. My psychologist friend, Dr. Cindy, had this to say about the whole thing: "The only way to stop this from happening again is to make guns illegal. You can't lock up the crazies, because that would be a third of the population."

Of course, the gun lobby is one of the most powerful forces in D.C. so guns are going to stay legal. Our country, for those who have been on vacation in Bermuda the last century, is actually being run, and lead by corporate interests. And so, the guns will stay. But what burns my buttons as much as actual gun lovers are the big media moguls. In fact, they're more disgusting than the gun companies: Smith & Wesson sells the ability to maim and kill, and rather cheaply. CNN sells, and at an exorbitant rate, the endless exploitation of that maiming and killing. They sell blood and gore because they know audiences will lap it up, and after all, who cares about ethics, all that matters is making money, right? Why did CBS have to play Cho's rambling, psychotic video? Why do newspapers run articles about how oppressed he was? He wasn't oppressed, he was crazy -- he needed medication and years and years of treatment. Oh right -- rambling video's sell lawn mowers. If gun's were illegal, gun manufacturer's would be out of business, but things would also be awfully slow on CNN and ABC. What would they cover? Plane crashes are infrequent and the Iraq war has actually gotten Americans killed, so that's not so fun anymore. Maybe they'd actually have to cover the news. But there's no money in that.

Doctor Cindy said that if the government promises to make guns illegal she'll buy lollipops and balloons for every congressman in D.C. Wouldn't that, plus saving the lives of thousands of people and stemming the cult of violence in our country, make it worth it?


Chocolate Jesus

This week in New York an exhibition of a nude, anatomically correct chocolate sculpture of Jesus was canceled after Cardinal Edward Egan and some other pissed off Catholics complained. This raises the hairs on the back of the hairs on the back of my neck. Catholics -- okay, Christians... okay, religious people of every race, nation and disposition toward chocolate, have to be able to take it if they want to dish it out. It has to be okay for athiests, scientists and other rational people to point out the superstitious, irrational nature of religion. But somehow it's become taboo to point out what seems to me and Grandpa Schlomo to be glaringly obvious: religious stories are made up stories, the same way Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland are made up. It's easy to laugh at the beliefs of scientologists (and I do laugh), but are their beliefs any more absurd than those of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Mormons or tax attorneys? Jesus came back to life? There's a god up in heaven who is keeping a scoresheet he'll later use to decide if you belong in heaven or hell? Heaven? Hell? Come on!

But that's besides the point this week: even if you want to "believe," if you put faith above rationality and science, you have to be able to stand criticism of your beliefs. The Christian right seems to have declared a war on science and evolutionary theory; meanwhile it's not okay to point out the absurdity of a church on every block in my neighborhood with a sculpture of a guy staked to a cross? Err...

In the case of chocolate Jesus, I'm not even sure what they're pissed off about. I mean -- it's a chocolate Jesus! I could understand if they disagreed with the aestetics of sculptor Cosimo Cavallaro. I mean, why milk chocolate? Wouldn't a dark chocolate Jesus say more about Jesus' decision to die for our sins? What would white chocolate have said? Is Cavallaro, by sculpting a milk chocolate Jesus, trying to steal the big guy away from the white folks. Are there really white folks afraid that Jesus is getting away from them? Maybe milk chocolate -- made up of black looking chocolate and white milk -- is a perfect blend. Why can't we all get along? That's what Jesus would have wanted, right?

So I just don't get this. I consulted my neighbor, Peter Skillsberrysonburg, who happens to be an expert on everything, and he told me to get off his front stoop because I was blocking his view of Amanda Silkyskin who lives across the street. But when pressed, Peter did concede that he didn't understand what the fuss could possibly be about, and added, "I'd have sculpted Jesus out of JuJu Bes -- that would have taught them all a lesson!" He's right -- "JuJu" has the word "Jew" right in there. Twice!

One reason I don't understand what all the fuss is about is because I don't understand what all the fuss is about. It's a chocolate Jesus! I don't know what statement Cavallaro was trying to make in the first place, so how can anyone be upset by it. Was he saying: "Jesus is tasty and delicious!" Okay, maybe, but so what? Or maybe he was saying: "Jesus melts in your mouth, not in your hands!" Okay, I'm not sure I'd agree with that, but JC's body has been decaying a very long time, so who knows. Or maybe: "Jesus died for your sins, and that makes him sweet and loving. Like Chocolate!" Or maybe the sculptor, who actually is renown for sculpting things out of food, just didn't put much thought into it at all. Maybe he's another mindless twit artiste who just makes things to make them. If so, then he's as bad as all the religious folks who have thrown meaning and thought out the window in favor of beanstalks and other bedtime stories.

Cardinal Egan described the sculpture as a "a sickening display." Eating that much chocolate would certainly give the Cardinal a tummy ache, so we'd better keep him away from the Hershey theme park in Pennsylvania. Bill Donohue, head of the watchdog Catholic League, said it was "one of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities ever." Okay, I couldn't help laughing out loud over that one. One of the worst assaults on Christian sensibilities? Ever? I think Donahue is either insane, or I really don't have a very clear idea of what Christian sensibilities are. Hitler wasn't worse? Chocolate Jesus is worse than Hitler? Or are they in the same category? What about all the Christians Stalin killed? Or heck, what about the Romans? Didn't they staple Jesus to a cross? But I guess these offenses don't assault Christian sensibilities, only Christians.

Apparently the gallery was overrun with angry phone calls and e-mails. Cavallaro received several death threats. I guess he really did assault Christian sensibilities, because a bunch of Christians were willing to break a commandment to prove it.

Look, I have nothing against people deluding themselves, as long as it doesn't infringe on my rights. But lately it seems as though it does more or more, and now religious zealots have infringed on Cavallaro's right to sculpt something stupid. I may not like his sculpture, but I absolutely believe he has a right to sculpt whatever he wants out of milk chocolate. So my sensibilities have been assaulted by this whole inane affair, and until yesterday I didn't think I had sensibilities, just a persistent ringing in my ear and an endless headache. If you can't take a little criticism of your beliefs (and chocolate Jesus wasn't even that!), then you're beliefs can't be worth much, can they? Doesn't all this cry baby crap remind you of a child who throws a hissy fit when someone tries to tell him there's no such thing as the Easter Bunny? Thank Jesus no one has had the audacity to make an Easter Bunny out of chocolate! Imagine the outrage!


Blog Tag

I've been tagged. For those of you who don't know what this means, click here: http://pulverblog.pulver.com/archives/006087.html. CrankyPants doesn't like being tagged any more than he likes being run over by an 18-wheeler barreling down the highway at near the speed of light, but that's because CrankyPants doesn't like to be told what to do. CrankyPants also hates it when CrankyPants refers to himself in the the third person, but that's a topic for another day. So my friend, let's call him Alan Shepperd (http://philipshane.com/), tagged me. Alan is the sort of uncranky sort who loves the site of beautiful vistas in the morning, who gets off climbing mountains and walking in the desert, who can't bear the clusterfuck atmosphere of New York City so has to escape, tail between legs, to Los Angeles (with his lovely and talented wife) where everyone drives like a human being and people smile and say hello and wave to you from their cars if you wave at them, and where the temperature is 70 degrees and sunny on the worst days of winter and where the Mexican food tastes like Mexican food and where fruits and vegetables taste like fruits and vegetables. You call that living?

I was going to write a nasty letter to Alan and to the CIA (and, just for spite, to Steve Jobs), but I had a large bowl of bran cereal this morning so I'm feeling unusually mellow. Still, I wasn't going to be coerced into a tag response until I talked the matter over with my Grandpa Schlomo who said, "Oy, my blog is so bad in the morning sometimes I have to squeeze my own juice, if you know what I mean." I didn't, but that made me realize that life is short and I shouldn't waste it sitting at my computer reading thought-provoking essays and the New York Times when I could, instead, be joining the mass of self-important blogophiles. So without further ado (and sadly, no accompaniment), here are FIVE THINGS YOU DIDN'T KNOW ABOUT ME:

1) I hate blogs. It's a paradox, I know, but why didn't you know this about me? Haven't you been paying attention? Blogs are another of those cultural memes that have come to represent "everything that's wrong about us." It's all about "me, me, me, so shut up and pay attention to me." Alas, CrankyPants is many things: an elite cultural critic, a gourmet chef, the former star of the television show "Emergency," and a victim of the very culturalness that he so haughtily critiques. That is, I'm split into two crankypanted people, the one who loves and embraces all things new and American and wasteful, and the one who'd rather watch a Patrick Swayze film marathon while sitting next to Dick Cheney than read another self-indulgent blog. That's right, the truth is out, and the Culture Lovin' CrankyPants has finally to confess this: if I could be any Star Trek character in the world, it'd be Captain Kirk, fighting lizard-like aliens and making love to sweet, green alien ladies, and NOT that CrankyPanted vulcan, Spock! Bonus: I also hate that my blogger spellcheck flags the word "blog."

2) I like sports. Many of you do know this about me, but I'm always amazed that people who first meet me (and don't go running off to Los Angeles) are stunned to learn I follow several sports teams and captain a softball team. Sure, sports culture around the world is a disturbing example of the worst aspects of humanity, such as our intransigent desire to be part of a tribe, to identify with something bigger, cooler and better looking than ourselves (because we're afraid to confront our own "I-ness"). Sports fandomness is surely a sign of an immature mind, but I'm CrankyPants. Did you think I was Albert Schweister or Elvis Presley or something? Here's hoping the Colts fall on their faces in the SuperBowl!

3) I used to be short. That's right, I'm a strapping lad of six foot, one inch now, but I grew very, very slowly, so when I was a freshman in high school I was one of the shortest kids in my class. Ditto my sophomore year, but then I started eating fruits, vegetables and Mexican food and something amazing happened. I kept growing, and growing and by my senior year, I was taller than all of my friends. Very satisfying at the time, but alas, the dye was cast before I sprouted: deep down, I still think and act like a short guy who can't get attention unless he jumps up on a hotel bed, strips off his clothes and sings his favorite musical numbers. Oh yeah, I did that once in a hotel room in front of my friends and my sister when I was eleven years old.

4) My favorite word is weltschmerz. \VELT-shmairts\ noun, often capitalized: "a mental depression or apathy caused by comparison of the actual state of the world with an ideal state." It's my favorite because I think there should be an English word for this, and because I think Weltschmerz is the source of all the suffering and misunderstanding in the world, and on soap operas. I know it's the biggest problem I have, because I'm always comparing reality to an idealized state and thinking, "damn, if only they didn't call that one penalty on Troy Brown in the first half of the game, the Patriots would have beaten the Colts," or "if only I'd spoken to that woman on the subway platform I'd be married now with two smart kids and living in a warm, happy place like Los Angeles instead of living here, in this institution where they insist daily I shake my pesky valium habit..." Bonus: I also really like the word katzenjammer. \KAT-zun-jam-er\ noun "1 : hangover 2 : distress 3 : a discordant clamor." As in, "I'd get a lot more done in the morning if I didn't drink all night and wake with this blinding katzenjammer."

5) I love living things. Sure, I enjoy the mountains, the cliffs, the streams and the desert as much as Alan Sheppard, but I'm always more fascinated by living creatures. When I go to the desert I want to see a lizard or a cactus tree or an eagle. I even love bugs (except cockroaches) and I'm amazed by Sequoia trees. Standing before them always fills me with incredible awe, thinking they were alive and unbending way before blackberrys, Apple IPhones, Pontiac LeMans', George Burns and the "discovery" of America. If only they could talk, we'd all be better off. Weltschmerz!