Thursday, November 22, 2012

Holiday reruns: The Littlest Turkey!

Here's a holiday tradition that started with the earliest days of this blog: the annual retelling of The Littlest Turkey! Gather the children around the oven as your bird roasts, and tell them the heartwarming story of the turkey who was almost left behind on Thanksgiving!

Another Monkey: The Littlest Turkey

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ethel White at the Hotel Jermyn, August 21, 1947

On Thursday, November 15 I read a poem at the Northeastern Pennsylvania Writers' Collective (NEPWC) Open Mic Night at The Vintage in Scranton, PA. As I took the stage I realized it wasn't just my first time reading at one of our Open Mic Nights, it was also the first time I had read anywhere, period, at least since my high school Speech Team days.  Of course, I have appeared on television each week for 90 seconds at a time presenting the Blog of the Week  for much of the last year, and I took part in the Bloggers Roundtable last year. I've also done some teaching (over twenty years ago!) and my current job is all about talking to strangers. So I wasn't really ill-prepared to speak in front of a group largely composed of people I already knew. 

This poem came from a lot of sources. I first read about the story of Ethel White at the Hotel Jermyn in this article on Brian Fulton's blog Pages from the Past, back when I was doing research for that blog's upcoming feature as Blog of the Week. The blog post reproduces the bizarre, almost-comical photo showing the path of Ethel White's descent, with start and stop points indicated with X's.  The Vintage (then known as The Vintage Theater) had just announced the intention of moving into its new home in the Manhattan Room at the old Hotel Jermyn, so I was fascinated to learn this admittedly horrible bit of history about our new home. I had nearly forgotten about the story until back in October when I heard Greg Russick present a poem about a man watching his life slowly drip by at the bar in the Manhattan Room. I realized the Ethel White story could make a good poem. (Whether or not I produced a "good" poem is, of course, open to discussion.)  I discussed this with Greg and two other members of the NEPWC during a break at their poetry reading at Crave in Jim Thorpe a few days later. The next day I bought a notebook at a junk store and began scribbling out this poem while waiting for my mom to complete her shopping.

I don't want to trivialize the tragedy of what happened here. Suicide is no laughing matter. I also don't want to suggest that Ethel White's death was actually a murder arranged by someone else in the story. If that question even existed, I'm sure it was asked decades ago. But recently we observed the anniversary of the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Very few losses of freighters are well-known, and the memory of this one stays with us in large part thanks to the song by Gordon Lightfoot. If this poem in some way helps to keep the memory of Ethel White alive, I will feel like it has succeeded as a poem.

Ethel White at the Hotel Jermyn, August 21, 1947

She stepped out of the window
and falling, she fell
(Why was she even there? 
Why did her husband bring her
from Albany to Scranton
on their way to Washington, D.C.?
Salesmen stick their feet in doors
and sleep with farmers' daughters
Why did he bring his wife with him?
Was he afraid that, left alone, she might do herself a mischief?
Was she afraid that, left alone, he might stray with some trollop?)
But he brought her with him
from Albany to Scranton
to the seventh floor of the Hotel Jermyn

She stepped out of the window
(or was she pushed?
While her husband was out
visiting some friends in another part of town
did someone, some man, or maybe a woman
come to the seventh floor
to make it look like she had jumped
make it look like suicide, not murder
make it look like on her own 
she stepped out of the window)
and falling, she fell
seven stories to the street below
(Not seven stories straight down
No, not straight down from the window to the street
Six stories straight down
or maybe five and a half
to hit something, some obstruction to her descent
a flagpole, perhaps
or an awning
where she bounced
and was tossed
in a trajectory helpfully illustrated in the paper the next day
in a broken white line outlined in black
showing her descent from the window
to the street below)
where a crowd gathered round
and her husband
returning from visiting some friends
came across the crowd and asked what was the matter
the matter that had gathered them round
the matter which had been a woman
the matter which had been his wife

She stepped out of the window
and falling, she fell
seven stories to the street below
not seven stories straight down
but seven stories nonetheless

Copyright 2012 by Harold Jenkins. All rights reserved.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Going offline for a bit

I've been hit with another virus. It's a Google redirect, but this time it appears to have compromised my Windows firewall and updater. Webroot Personal Security didn't protect me from this virus, nor did it detect it once it was present, so I'm a little peeved. I'll be offline until the Geek Squad at the Wilkes-Barre Best Buy figures out how to fix it. I spent all day with an online agent working on it, and in the end he thought it was fixed, but the redirect is still there. We'll also have to see just what is covered under the warranty.

Be back ASAP.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Now look what you made us do!

We've seen it before. It's become a trope in movies and TV: The evil hostage-taker issues demands and threatens dire consequences if his demands are not met - say, he will start killing his hostages, one an hour, once the deadline has passed, and won't stop until a new, inflated set of demands are met. Depending on the rating of the story, we may even get to see one or two of the hostages get snuffed, usually with a bullet to the back of the head. As he kills the hostages, the hostage-taker turns to the hero, or the hapless middleman who tried but failed to meet his demands, and says "I am not doing this. You are. I am not responsible for this. You are. You made me do it."

Much of our economic strife over the last four years has been artificial, a product of CEOs choosing to sit on huge piles of uninvested money, citing "uncertainty" about the future, when in reality they are concerned that any improvement in the economy would be a feather in the cap of the hated President of the United States, Barack Obama, and might lead to his re-election. So rather than see things get better on his watch, the CEOs  chose to sit tight, bank the money, and wait for a change of administration to someone who would be willing to play ball with them according to the rules to which they had become accustomed during the George W. Bush years.

And in the case that the hated Barack Obama might get elected to a second term, despite the best efforts of the Koch brothers, Citizens United, the right-wing media establishment...well, heaven forbid. In that case, they might be forced to take some of the hostages and shoot them. And, lets be clear:  in the event that that happened, they would be in no way responsible. Nossir. It would all be Obama's fault. Barack Obama would be to blame for every consequence that came from his election, every vile and horrible thing that CEOs were forced to do because Obama became President again.

It happened. And so, with a heavy heart, CEOs have started taking their workers out and shooting them. Because Barack Obama forced them to.

Coal company to lay off 156 workers in Utah, Ill.

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A coal producer owned by a longtime critic of President Barack Obama's energy policies will lay off nearly 160 workers at Illinois and Utah mines, blaming the freshly re-elected president for a "war on coal."
Ohio-based Murray Energy Corp. said in a statement supplied Friday to The Associated Press that it would give pink slips to 102 workers at its West Ridge Mine in Utah and 54 at its underground mine in the southern Illinois town of Galatia. Both mines are run by Murray Energy subsidiaries.
...The announcement's timing — just days after Obama's victory over Republican Mitt Romney — was anything but coincidental. Robert Murray, the company's chairman, CEO and founder, had backed Romney, who proposed rolling back some restrictions on power-plant emissions and positioned himself as a supporter of the coal industry.
"The American people have made their choice," Murray, a day after the election, told about 50 employees during a prayer, a text of which was provided to the AP by the company. Lamenting the country's direction and insisting "the takers outvoted the producers," Murray asked for God's forgiveness "for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build."

Papa John's CEO John Schnatter Says Company Will Reduce Workers' Hours In Response To Obamacare

Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter said he plans on passing the costs of health care reform to his business onto his workers. Schnatter said he will likely reduce workers’ hours, as a result of President Obama's reelection, the Naples News reports. Schnatter made headlines over the summer when he told shareholders that the cost of a Papa John’s pizza will increase by between 11 and 14 cents due to Obamacare.
...(Schnatter is) not the only one in the chain restaurant industry to admit that workers hours may be reduced, since Obamacare mandates that only employees that work more than 30 hours per week are covered under their employers health insurance plan. For example, Darden restaurants, the parent company of Olive Garden and Red Lobster, has already experimented with reducing workers hours in anticipation of the legislation.
Others have responded to the added costs of Obamacare more harshly, including Applebee's franchisee owner Zane Tankel who said his company won’t hire new workers because of the law. Just this week, a Georgia business owner also claimed he cut employees due to Obamacare and in fact had specifically laid off those who he thought had voted for President Obama.

Companies plan massive layoffs as Obamacare becomes reality (this is just a cut-and-paste of the article Mourning in America - Here's Those Layoffs We Voted For Last Night, which gives a list of companies that plan to reduce staffing or hours, all claimed to be a result of Obama's re-election)

So there you have it. The hostage-takers have begun shooting their hostages in the head, one at a time. And with each death they I reminding us that this is not their fault, this is not something they choose to do. Their hands have been forced by the re-election of Barack Obama.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Election Day

Soon I will go to bed, a little earlier than usual, so that I can wake up a little earlier than usual and go down the street to vote.

There was so much I meant to write and didn't in the lead-up to this election. After tomorrow, unless we see a repeat of 2000, we'll know which way things are going to go.

Mitt Romney would be a terrible, terrible choice as President. If you supported Obama in 2008 and are having second thoughts about supporting him now, you need to ask yourself if Mitt Romney would more closely fit with the reasons you voted for Obama in the first place. And after you've thought about it, haul your ass to your polling place and cast your vote for Barack Obama.

And while you're at it, vote against all the obstructionist bastards in Congress who placed party and politics ahead of the good of the country and have spent the last four years thwarting the President's initiatives at every turn. The bastards who wrecked the national economy rather than see a recovery during the administration of a non-white Democrat. Vote against the blatant lies of Romney and Ryan. Vote against the bloated media moguls who manipulate the truth for the sake of ratings. Vote against hatred and fear. Vote against the people who made Citizens United the standard for corporate control of election funding. Vote against a future where decades of progress will be undone with a few carefully selected Supreme Court appointees. Vote against the promise of deregulation of the fossil fuels industry, an industry already regulated with the lightest of touches. Vote against the destruction of the environment, the looting of our national parks, the continued degradation of the national well-being so that the few may enjoy obscene and unearned profits.

Vote for Barack Obama. I will.

Friday, November 02, 2012

The Hostage Takers

In an Op-Ed piece published on November 1 in the New York Times, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman calls Republicans out for their "Vote Romney Or Else" position that threatens economic chaos if the wrong candidate should win the election.

Paul Krugman: The Blackmail Caucus

I think the problem goes beyond what Krugman get at here. Let's not forget that a major reason for the economy being in the shape its in is that many captains of industry are sitting on huge piles of uninvested money - money that could be turning job-seekers (and those who have stopped actively seeking jobs) into employees, and then into consumers. But this money is being kept tied up due to "uncertainty" - mainly, the uncertainty as to whether or not Romney will become President.

I myself have made the argument that if Romney were to win the election, the economy would likely see an immediate improvement as so much capital investment that has been held back is suddenly injected into it. It is as if the economy of the nation is being held hostage, and the condition of release involves the removal of the current President.

The situation is not unlike what we faced back in 1980: Iran had been holding 52 American hostages since November 1979. In April 1980 President Jimmy Carter had made a bold decision to free the hostages through the use of a military incursion, Operation Eagle Claw. The operation failed disastrously, and blame for the failure was placed squarely on President Carter - a humiliation that likely contributed to his defeat in the Presidential election later that year.* More than that, the attempt to free the hostages by force enraged the Iranians, who resolved - despite ongoing negotiations - that the hostages would not be freed while Jimmy Carter was President.

And sure enough, word that the hostages had been released came through minutes after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President. It was Reagan, not Carter, who received credit for their release.

So is it the same with the economy? Have the hostage takers who have been intentionally holding back the economy for the past four years resolved not to take any actions to make things better until after Barack Obama is out of office? Are they waiting to provide fuel for the engine of the economy until Willard "Mitt" Romney is President? Are we in a position where we must give in to the demands of hostage takers if we ever want this crisis to end?

*Compare to the military operation that took down Osama bin Laden, the man behind 9/11 and numerous other attacks on the United States. When this operation resulted in victory, various groups argued that President Barack Obama should receive no credit for its success.