Monday, July 30, 2012

Man without a Country? The Far Right, the Gun Culture it Embraces and the Ruination of a Republic

Just a Little Light Reading

“Find the cost of freedom, buried in the ground
Mother earth will swallow you, lay your body down” - Stephen Stills

“To give victory to the right, not bloody bullets, but peaceful ballots only, are necessary." – Abraham Lincoln

“But I'm not givin' in an inch to fear
 I promised myself this year.
 I feel like I owe it to someone” – David Crosby

Regular readers may be surprised by the nature of this posting – no jokes, no jests, no pop culture references as current events have initiated a mindset in me that at one time I never could have conceivably contemplated. With the recent rash of Right-wing, reactionary responses to the heartbreaking shootings in Colorado, I must admit to now sometimes, sadly and seriously, questioning if I even belong in this country any longer.  In instance after instance it feels as if this grand and noble experiment in democracy, in a free, liberated and thoughtful people’s government, has been irrevocably and horrifically high-jacked and harmed beyond all hope by the increasingly vocal and influential yokels, bigots and un-intelligentsia that progressively dominate our social and political discourse. These rebels of regression now not only own an entire political party, in the GOP, but also a television network that serves as its persuasive propaganda arm. It astounds and angers me that Conservatives and gun proponents  are actually exploiting this tragic occurrence to contend that we need even more lenient gun regulations, and this despite knowing that all the weaponry - the semi-automatic assault rifle, the thousands of rounds of armor piercing bullets, the tear gas canisters  were  purchased legally. They further attempt to make the preposterous, nonsensical and exceedingly precarious proposition that if others in the theatre had carried concealed firearms the massacre could have been prevented or at least lessened. James Holmes came equipped with military-grade, high-powered armaments and, was garbed in protective bulletproof armor. Can anyone really think that an Old-West style shoot out in a panicky, dark, crowded, smoke-filled movie theatre would have resulted in anything but further and continued carnage while also making it extraordinarily difficult for the police on the scene to sort out and stem the situation? Is a 2012 adaptation of Dodge City with untrained assault weapon toting patrons possibly a logical rejoinder to any dilemma?  Yet this alarmingly escalating societal and governmental propensity towards a solution of amplified aggression is in many ways just the tip of the iceberg of the backward-leaning, counter-civilized and inhumane behaviors and attitudes becoming readily accepted in this great land of ours. America is getting more conservative, more intolerant, less compassionate and less educated seemingly daily.  The Grand Old Party and its presidential candidate preach that education is unnecessary and elite, certainly an obvious and easy way for the upper-class to prevent those that they believe are beneath them from advancing financially and socially in our society. Willard Romney, he of the Harvard MBA, is of the mind that higher education is not intended for the masses but for the privileged few who can afford to attend colleges and universities and has actually stated that one gets the education one can afford.  It’s an idea that lacks any forethought or forward thinking, reeks of classism and elitism and does nothing but damage the fortunes and future of our country. For Mitt, advanced degrees are meant for him and his progeny, while the proper position of the offspring of the impoverished and working class is in defense of our state so that his boys can remain free, unencumbered and secure to crew and play lacrosse.  Economically, Romney promotes the Paul Ryan plan, a policy that openly steals from the poor to give to the rich. And those who are most severely damaged by this inexplicably support it, possibly because they're too uninterested, uninformed and uninvolved to be aware that they are being taken advantage of, used and manipulated.  The Republicans repeatedly and proudly brazenly boast that they care nothing about the health and well-being of the common man, the working class or those in poverty. Mitt is actually a perfect negative representative of our time and of everything that’s wrong with our country – he lacks empathy, he’s selfish, self-absorbed, intolerant, elitist, classist, bullying, he has no core or convictions, and he lies as easily as he draws breath. The woeful actuality that he is virtually tied with Obama in polls at this point, a decent man who has been slandered and libeled and personally attacked like no one in the history of American politics, someone who has actually lived out the “America Dream,” no silver-spooner he, says more about the gloomy gist of this treatise than all my amassed verbiage could feasibly express.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
A study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery found that the gun murder rate in the U.S. is at 19.5 percent, almost 20 times higher than the next 22 richest nations combined – please pause and take that in – over 20 times higher than 22 other nations combined.  Among the world's 23 wealthiest countries, 80 percent of all gun deaths are American deaths and 87 percent of all children killed by guns are American children. A yearly average of 29,500 gunfire deaths has been recorded nationally by the U.S. Department of Justice:  Bureau of Statistics for the past 30 years in America. We are not defending ourselves with guns, we are slaughtering each other. American citizens do a far superior job of slaying fellow Americans than any outside terrorist organization could ever dream of or hope to do. Our passion and religious fervor for munitions, viciousness and violence make us our true own worst enemies. The good news is that this is a situation that could be easily remedied, if only any politicians, including our President, would have the courage to take on the NRA and our ingrained gun culture. This has nothing to do with our freedoms. No one needs to own semi-automatic assault rifles. If you’re aghast and see my notions as an unwarranted attack on the Constitution, then truly be a strict Constitutionalist and own a musket if, and only if, you are in the military, as the Second Amendment literally, clearly and solely allows.

Others have argued that individual gun ownership is imperative as our preeminent protection from a treacherous and threatening central government.  If you judge the contents of your gun locker to be sufficient security against federal tyranny you are genuinely and grievously in error. Should the imagined incidence of the United States government unexpectedly going rogue and commencing combat against its innocent citizens arise you would no doubt find yourself spectacularly outgunned by the might of any one of our armed forces. But fret not, for despite dire and desperate warnings from the likes of Fox News, Michele Bachmann and the deleteriously disturbed contributors to Sarah Palin’s Facebook page,  despite the attempted brainless-washing from the increasingly ignorant individuals in the Tea-publican party, (interestingly, cautions not admonished prior to an African-American occupying 1600) you are in no danger from our government - our government of the people, by the people and for the people - the most egalitarian and representative government in history. You are in precipitously more peril from your inexperienced and indignant neighbor instinctively brandishing his 9 millimeter because your dog defecated on his previously pristine lawn.  Our forefathers and founders were wise and wily fellows (unfortunately much more so than most presently occupying leadership roles) and created a unique, revolutionary and exceptional form of government whose checks and balances guarantee that no such fearful and fully fictional folly would ever foment.  Required in these United States is but the ballot and not the bullet to remove a rapscallion from office. That is the true nature of American Exceptionalism. This is an exceptional nation not because we can own assault weapons and armor piercing bullets but because if we disagree with a person in power we can peacefully remove them - no blood shed or revolution required.  It's free speech, free assembly and free expression that makes us an emancipated citizenry, that guarantees our liberties and freedoms, it’s the First Amendment and not the Second that may yet save us from the seemingly predestined fate that has befallen each earlier empire throughout  the annals of time. Should you wish to dispute the use of the characterization of “empire” as descriptive for this land of the free and home of the brave feel free to find more fitting terminology for the planet’s sole military superpower with soldiers stationed in over 150 sovereign nations.

The problems lie not with the country itself, not with the rock-solid foundation and underpinning of our potentially great nation, it’s not the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence or the Bill of Rights at fault– it’s the increasingly under-educated citizens, the increasingly corporate- controlled, corrupt, bought and paid for politicians and it’s the religious institutions who too often proselytize hatred, intolerance, fear and separatism rather than love, acceptance, tolerance and togetherness.  But because the foundation is true and strong our republic can survive and strive, ideals intact,  but the keys are education, cultural diversity, shared experiences, open-mindedness, empathy, compassion, and some human kindness, but are we even capable of that anymore? It’s time we start looking at ourselves through the prism of reality and facts and figures and not through the arrogant rose-colored glasses of jingoism, and maybe then we can avoid the aforementioned destiny that has destroyed all world empires before us.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Song Selection - Outlander: One More Time

“I can wait a hundred years
I can dry a thousand tears
‘Til I know that moment so sublime
When I get to hold you one more time

This very special edition of “Saturday Song Selection” is proudly presenting something new, different, fun, interesting, moving, brilliant (feel free to consult your copy of Roget and contribute applicable adjectives of your own) and almost exclusive – an exciting sneak peek at a brand new musical, “Outlander,” based on the best-selling series of novels of the same name by Diana Gabaldon. Thanks to nycityman’s vast, voluminous, impressive and almost entirely fictional connections among the entertainment industry elite (Weinstein, Spielberg, Tom and Denise Turturro, the lesser-known conjoined twin siblings to John, Aida and Nicholas) I have the great, good fortune of sharing this original song with you. Lyrics are by Jill Santoriello and Mike Gibb, with music by Ms.Santoriello, who previously was the composer, lyricist and book-writer of the musical adaptation of “A Tale of Two Cities,” (nycityman’s personal favorite show) which played on Broadway in 2008. Reportedly, so extraordinary a work was “Tale” that many a renowned medium was contacted by the late Charles Dickens himself so he could pass on his personal stamp of approval. The expressive, enchanting and evocative vocals are performed by Rebecca Robbins and the number is skillfully orchestrated by the talented Ed Kessel, both Broadway veterans and “Tale of Two Cities” alumni. Once captivated by Rebecca’s artistry (and you assuredly will find yourself so) be sure to purchase tickets for “Phantom of the Opera” for September when she makes her return to the Great White Way (nycityman, too, has appeared on Broadway but never the stage, strictly the thoroughfare.) An additional note on “Tale,” since its initial Broadway run it has enjoyed a series of successful productions, both nationally (that nation being, of course, the grand-old-flag-waving, red, white and blue one) and internationally, and soon will be making its South Korean premiere. Sure it’s an extensive excursion but Trapper, Hawkeye and Radar all assure an appearance in their old stomping grounds such is the magnitude of this event.  And, should he find the fitting frock for the festivities, rumor has it that Max Klinger will be joining them as well.

The “Outlander” books have been a global sensation spawning a worldwide following and a recently announced television series, in addition to this forthcoming musical, therefore it’s only courteous and proper that we allow the heralded author, herself, to share a few adroit and entertaining words of explanation.
“In essence, these novels are Big, Fat, Historical Fiction, ala James Clavell and James Michener.  However, owing to the fact that I wrote the first book for practice, didn’t intend to show it to anyone, and therefore saw no reason to limit myself, they  include…history, warfare, medicine, sex, violence, spirituality, honor, betrayal, vengeance, hope and despair, relationships, the building and destruction of families and societies, time travel, moral ambiguity, swords, herbs, horses, gambling (with cards, dice, and lives), voyages of daring, journeys of both body and soul…you know, the usual stuff of literature.” And shortly, we will all see, also the stuff of musical theatre.

Saturday, July 21st Birthdays

1970 - Happy 42nd birthday to American Olympic rower, Steven "Scrappy" Segaloff. And why is he featured here? Because his nom des row is “Scrappy” and sometimes that’s all that it takes.

1957 - Former Saturday Night Live cast member Jon Lovitz turns a fit 55 today. Are one-note sketch characterizations and a temporarily popular catch-phrase the path to a sustained and meaningful comedy career?  No, that’s not the ticket.

1952 - Natal day felicitations, Robin Williams – take an offensive, stereotyped gay voice, add an offensive, stereotyped East Indian voice, throw in the occasional Southern preacher, repeat ad-nauseum and a 40 year livelihood, proclaimed as an improvisational genius, is born. But Robin was also in the revival of “Laugh-In” and regular readers know that “Laugh-In” is sacrosanct on this page, he was quite good in "The World According to Garp," and he’s given much of himself, for many a year, to "Comic Relief."

1948 - Garry Trudeau, Doonesbury cartoonist and spouse of beloved one-time “Today Show” host, Jane Pauley inches ever closer to retirement age at 64. Does his politically opinionated strip belong on the comics or the editorial page? His work has angered, confounded and confused more newspaper editors than the cancellation of “Lou Grant.”

1947 - It’s the birthday of Yusaf Islam once known as Cat Stevens.  His religious conversion has angered, confounded and confused more intolerants throughout the land than the cancellation of Glenn Beck. 

1946 - Finally we send a shout out to Prosecutor Kenneth Starr, who’s ill-founded and misbegotten quest to pointlessly persecute President William Jefferson Clinton only served to help propel him to the prodigious popularity he presently possesses as possibly, and somewhat improbably, one of the most respected and revered statesman on the planet.  To quote the late comic and actor, Don Adams, “missed it by that much.”

And now, with no further frivolity, a real treat, from the upcoming musical, “Outlander,” lyrics by Jill Santoriello and Mike Gibb, and music by Jill Santoriello – One More Time

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Worth a Thousand Words 2: Beneath the Planet of a Thousand Words

“Pictures of matchstick men and you
Mirages of matchstick men and you
All I ever see is them and you” – Quo Vadis

Ask and ye shall receive. “… and several butcher’s aprons,” the accessible and solicitous satirical blog, is back with more captions and less verbosity – you requested it and we fulfill your every desire and demand. Should a few illustrated jests seem uncomfortably familiar, fear not the questionable choices of your youth revisiting and haunting you through recurrent flashbacks – some photos are indeed making an encore appearance, but do so accompanied by freshly minted quips and japes. 




Finally, feel free to ingest whatever potions or potent potables you deem compulsory to put yourself in a proper late-60’s psychedelic temperament, and enjoy Quo Vadis performing “Pictures of Matchstick Men.”

Friday, July 13, 2012

Worth a Thousand Words

“If a picture paints a thousand words, 
Then why can't I paint you? 
The words will never show
The you I've come to know” - Bread

This time out we’re introducing a new recurring feature here at “… and several butcher’s aprons,” one that has been a television comedy staple since the nascent days of the medium, when it was considered acceptable and fun family fodder for Ralph Kramden to regularly intimidate and terrorize his wife Alice with the threat of severe bodily harm. It’s still practiced today by Letterman and Leno, and was perfected  by the dear-departed and forever and always King of Late Night, Johnny Carson – humorous captioned photos, or as we christen it, “Worth a Thousand Words.” As nycityman is, by nature and nurture, a particularly progressive political animal the primary percentage of the wannabe witticisms will reflect that disposition. For those of you who possess the kindness in your heart to read this comic creation, you receive a respite from the more likely long-windedness and loquaciousness that one usually encounters when mistakenly happening upon this venture in search of Danish fetish pornography. Enjoy, and please feel free and encouraged to avail yourself of the blog’s comments section to share an opinion or a caption of your own.

And now, until next time, we conclude with a treacly, if not lyrically appropriate number, Bread with "If."

Friday, July 6, 2012


A saga of surgery, suspense, medicine and mystery

But I'm strong
Strong enough to carry him
He ain't heavy, he's my brother” – The Hollies

"Which one will the fountain bless?
Which one will the fountain bless?" - Faith/Alfven

Throughout the long, hallowed history of “… and several butcher’s aprons” we’ve tried to maintain a standard, to uphold at least the barest minimum of class and decorum, to be as intelligent and sensitive as each topic would allow, and to make sure that this was a blog you’d be proud to share with your complete clan, from Gammy to Lil’ Mary Sue – but today, alas, we may stray. For the subject at hand and the location on the body of this particular procedure demands recurrent allusions to that most secretive, most clandestine feature of the entire male anatomy, and that of course, is the part which, to the decades-long dismay of Barbie, has always been missing from Ken.  In other words, I fear this posting will have more masculine naughty-bit references than a Comedy Central Roast of John Travolta.
Nevertheless, efforts will be made to conserve and preserve the family-friendly nature of this site, and undoubtedly should you be a Kardashian, a Guccione or Borgia (the kids love 15th century comic references) we will have succeeded. So, come, join me on an adventure, as together we explore the toil, tumult and trauma of nycityman’s  premiere surgical foray and  share the countless comedic aspects of an invasive intrusion upon one’s previously thankfully un-intruded form. Prepare for treachery and intrigue, deception and perfidy, insecurity and sensuality, sense and sensibility, and Sandler and Young. It was the worst of times. It was the worst of times.
 A note - This will not be the sole media interpretation of these histrionic and harrowing happenings, as they’ve exhausted the arena of exotic and side show-like medical maladies, the good people at TLC have green-lighted the new series, “The Man with Two Hernias!” It promises to be quite, quite uninteresting and dull, and more tedious and tiresome than talent night at the Romney compound – so tune in!
My G.P.

Pre-Op: The Exam
And, let’s get right to it, shall we?
Upon self-realization that the number of protuberances visible in my lower mid-section far outnumbered the standard and socially acceptable tally (extremely easily verifiable on the internet) and like a prequel to the prequel to “Alien,” organs normally at home on the inside of my epidermis were suddenly displaying wanderlust and curiosity at the possibility of life on the other side, I thought it best I lower the barbells and visit a physician.  Well, when one submits to an examination of this sort it’s understood that you abandon thought or hope of any privacy or modesty when it comes to the region below the Mason/Dixon Line. But unless a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, this is much more exposure, inspection, assessment and manipulation than one is normally accustomed to (Bangkok business sojourns aside – I swear officer, I thought she was a woman.) Like a monkey tossing a banana, a javelin thrower going for Olympic Gold or a pogo stick on the San Andreas Fault, in this specific instance there was substantially more activity afoot than for which I was properly prepared. I wondered where my cocktail was and pondered whether to give him my insurance card or a tip.

Pre-Op: The Pre-Surgery Screening
I was not alerted to the fact that urine would be required.  I knew precious, life- giving hemoglobin would be departing my veins for labs unknown, but I was unaware of the urine test which would inevitably produce results of a Cheech-ish magnitude demanding the immediate “Mission Impossible”-like self-destruction of all clues to the copious cannabis count for concealment from the constabularies (I swear officer, nycityman is just a character, not the actual author, who lives to make people laugh.)
My Surgeon
Pre-Op: Information
It’s 90 minutes until you’re filleted like an unfortunate amphibian in a high school biology class. You’re nervous, anxious and apprehensive and you haven’t had an ounce of liquid nourishment in over 12 hours. You yearn for the blessed peace that comes with the arrival of the anesthetist, but instead you’re lying on a gurney in a hallway bustling with commotion as throngs pass, every one pondering your ailment and life-expectancy, while filling out a lengthy multiple page questionnaire which is followed by probing Congressional-hearing-like interviews from half-a-dozen hospital employees each repeating the identical queries. Those polite, sanitarily-garbed, outwardly well-behaved and purportedly well-meaning individuals know more about the sex, lies and videotapes of my existence – legal and illegal, moral and immoral, than any entity, who is not actually me, has ever known before. Is this really necessary information for the guy who shaves me and the lady from the gift shop? Does a hospital stay always resemble a confessional, and are all patients ordered to genuflect and recite 10 Hail Mary’s?
A Consulting Physician

The memory of the operating room itself is benevolently brief. Like a clown car at Ringling Brothers, there seemed an endless parade of scrub-disguised figures appearing from nowhere and rushing about with instruments, tubes and hoses. After a fleeting wonderment regarding the proper line of conversation during the celebrated and solemn shaving ceremony - Politics? Religion? Sweeney Todd?
 - the anesthesia took affect  plunging me head-long toward a journey,  hopefully sans white light at the end of a tunnel, with a bionic future where TSA-alarm-inducing, Grandma’s porch-like screen doors would be permanent fixtures in my lower abdomen keeping those inquisitive intestines incarcerated on the correct side of my skin.
A Post-Op X-Ray

My first jaunt in a wheel chair (could a Hover Round be far off?) and my first encounter with Percocet (one pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small...) and valued friend, nycitywoman (highlighted in an earlier posting) and I arrive safely, happily and painfully to the appreciated homestead (where I will remain vacuum-sealed and horribly hermetic cut off from human contact, activities and most importantly and sadly, pints of Brooklyn Lager and the convivial and cordial company found at the House of Brews for the next week to two.) Ascending the stairs to my second floor abode became Kilimanjaro-esque and for days after, every stretch, every bend had a 9.9 difficulty (with a score of 4 from the Russian judge) and so should I clumsily fumble and drop items, by necessity, floor-bound they would remain until a kind and empathetic being would assist (the effect on the condition of the cat’s litter shall remain unspoken of.)  Each instance of midsection physical contact felt akin to the results of a missed catch of a medicine ball thrown in my direction by Captain Marvel – Shazam indeed!  Every cough, evidence that the Acme Anvil/Safe Company had abandoned Wile E. Coyote and turned their violent and vitriolic attentions in my derisible direction. Most feared and dreaded of all was the predestined sneeze an event that would illicit acrid tears accompanied by a voluminous outburst cursing the fate of not only the very popular current Judeo/Christian God, but every deity that has ever been conceived by a threatened and frightened civilization.
Showering like a modern-day Tutankhamen securely ensconced in Saran Wrap, a brother to the frozen remainders of a juicy poached salmon, to protect both wounds and bandaging from the never before realized dangers of the clever chemical combination we call water, delivered  not so much an arid area as an unwieldy and large water balloon. Finally, being as weak as Mitt Romney’s performance on a polygraph and as helpless as Sarah Palin at her American History SATs, Spanky the cat sensed my vulnerability and assumed complete control of the household, making me but a slave to his selfish feline demands.  

Post OP: Returned to Life
The time has come to depart from the security and contentment of the fortress of solitude and return to the very mean city streets that haunted the soul of Travis Bickel. As Marcus Bachman discovered on his wedding night, there are some eventualities that must be faced no matter how ugly, unpleasant or frightening; and so after this prolonged interlude of isolation and inactivity, and at a place of less than full force and capabilities, I will presently be taking those first few steps wandering outside of the safe and comforting confines of the apartment. My gait most resembles that of Arte Johnson's, Tyrone F. Horneigh, I possess the strength of a store-brand plastic garbage bag (wimpy, wimpy, wimpy) and should I stumble and fall, or even worse be accosted either accidentally or by design, I’d be on the sidewalk, a turtle on its back as defenseless as Jan Brewer at a Cinco De Mayo celebration gone awry.  But House of Brews isn’t going to come to me, so…

We conclude with a classic song that tells the touching tale of a giving man and the true cause of his double hernia - He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.