A Hanging

For the record, in general I am against capital punishment. I think it is barbaric and diminishes man's sense of decency.

But what disgusts me even more is the sad fact that, throughout the miserable history of man, there have been so many bastards whose deeds are so reprehensible they force the rest of us to take such drastic measures. Because, in the end, no other form of punishment seems satisfactory.

We often hear that it is not for men to judge other men; that this is the prerogative of God. But in certain cases, we need to be sure. Perhaps we don't trust God's judgment in these cases. Perhaps we think that His mercy will extend to these bastards. Perhaps we think this kind of mercy is misplaced. So we take justice into our human hands and in effect we tell God we're sorry Lord, judge us harshly if you must, but these bastards need killing.

Saddam was a member of this special club. You know the litany of his crimes. Had we heard that he himself had shown the slightest mercy towards any of his adversaries, perhaps we might have felt differently. But he didn't, and so we don't. And because he was warned, not once but many times, to cease his dangerous actions - and because each and every time he gave us the finger - he pushed an American president one step too far. He believed America would not intervene because former presidents gave him every reason to believe. He caused an intervention which has the death toll of Americans about to reach 3,000.

For all these things and more, hanging is not punishment enough. But it will have to do. And perhaps it will cause a few other bastards around the world to reconsider their own actions. Because even though I am not in favor of the death penalty, in these special cases, I say kill all the evil bastards. The sooner the better.

Happy New Year, world.


The Brightest Christmas Light

He was born in a stable.
A common man
Who roused those like him.
So despised by the powerful,
They crucified him.

He never asked that it be done,
But he was crowned king
And religions were born in his name.
He never asked that it be done,
But countless wars were fought
and legions slaughtered 'neath his banner.
He never asked that it be done,
But empires and civilizations
were overturned
And a New World was consecrated in his name.

1,973 years later,
He is still being crucified.

He never asked that it be done,
But an army of soulless preachers,
Corrupt politicians,
Causes and charities
Take in his name.

What he did ask be done,
To overcome our animus
Toward one another,
We have yet been unable to do.

He never asked that it be done,
But this simple man's birth is celebrated
In one of the happiest seasons of the year.
While profiting greatly from the season,
Those who despise him
Try to strip his name from the day
As if to re-crucify him.
He is buried again
In an orgy of lights and gifts.
Those who truly love him
Shake their heads in quiet sadness.

But take solice.
In nearly two thousand years
Of despising him,
Deriding his divinity,
Discrediting his teachings,
Denying his very existance,
Mocking his followers,
Burning his written words,
Tearing down his symbols,
Profiting in his name,
Belittling him with plastic figurines,
Even beheading his followers,
No one has been able to extinguish his light.
For in him is something bigger
And stronger than all these other things,
Something brighter than all the season's lights,
A gift more precious than all those fancy wrappings.
Not everyone understands it
Or is able to feel this joy,
But those who do
Ensure his birth will be celebrated

May the true Light of Christmas be upon you.


A Christmas Story

During a long and (if I may say so) successful career as a creative director, I wrote and produced many, many tv campaigns for all kinds of corporations and products. One of the most (unintentionally) hilarious phases of commercial or film production is the "pre-pre-production" casting session. This is a meeting held after the creative idea is agreed to by agency and client, but before actual production begins. At this meeting the writer, art director, producer, account exec and other agency individuals sit at a large table with representatives of the client/corporation for whom the particular commercial is being produced. Usually, the way I did it, was to have the film director and some of his people also present at the meeting so they could add their input.

This type of meeting is usually very informal; everyone including normally stuffy types will roll up their sleeves, loosen their ties and kick off their heels, and proceed to say the stupidest things imaginable. A meeting might go something like this:

JIM (the Creative Director): "Okay folks, we're here to discuss casting for the Z-Y-X commercial. Let's begin with scene two on your storyboards, where we have a married couple driving their car to the Z-Y-X store for the big Christmas Tree sale. They decide to take their neighbors along, another couple, because they are all interested in all those the great deals on holiday decorations. Any thoughts?"

ROG (Roger, the Z-Y-X advertising director): "Y'know, I was thinkin' on the way down here..." (the thought of Rog thinking frightens the agency creatives as well as the film director) ..."We need to include more minorities in our commercials. So I was thinking we should have the neighbors be African-Americans."

PAULA (the agency account exec): "Splendid idea, Rog!"

BRUCE: (The Z-Y-X public relations director): "I don't know, Rog... I don't know how to put this delicately..." He glances over at ARN, an agency guy who happens to be black. "But it really looks bad from a PR angle to have the African-Americans, y'know... like... sitting in the back of the car..." Everybody but PAULA nods, ARN spits up his coffee.

PAULA: "Okay, okay, how about they're not African-Americans, they're Muslims. Or maybe one of them is Muslim and the other is a Latino to cover more bases."

JIM: "Jesus, Paula, what are you saying? The Muslim and the... what? ...Mexican? ...are a married couple? How in hell is the viewer supposed to digest that?"

FRED (the film director): "I hate to tell you, Paula, but the Muslims probably aren't going to be hanging Christmas decorations up on their house unless we're selling Osanta bin Clause dolls. They're Muslim for Christ's sake."

PAULA (embarrassed but angry at being mocked): "Well maybe one of them converted to, you know, whatever the Mexican is."

BRUCE: "That's ridiculous. But it's not a 'Christmas' sale anyway. It's a 'holiday' sale. So a Muslim could work, right, Fred?"

JIM: "Holiday sale! Baloney! We all agreed at the last meeting it would be a Christmas sale. Christmas! Santa, Christmas carolers, the whole nine yards."

ARN (the black guy): "Hey! Who says the couple driving the car has to be white? They could be black. The crackers could be in the back of the bus... I mean... car." Dead silence comes over the room. "Yeh, what's wrong with that?"

FRED: "Nothing, Arn. Nothing." Trying to be sarcastic, Fred adds, "Maybe the couple in back should be like Korean, or Pakistani, or even better... both."

BRUCE: "Good thinking, Fred! But let's think about this. If we made the couple in back, say, a handicapped couple... wow... we'd really be 'inclooosive.' That'd score us a lot of points with the African-American, Asian, Pakistani and the handicap markets, wouldn't it? I mean they shop at Z-Y-X, too. That's why we have all those special handicap car parking spots."

FRED (not able to believe his ears): "Maybe they shouldn't be in a car. Maybe they should be riding in a rickshaw... pulled by a white midget who is a nun... they shop at your place too don't they?"

PAULA: "Now, Fred, let's be serious. How can they be in a rick-whatever-you-call-it? Where would they put the Christmas tree they're going to buy at Z-Y-X?" Fred stares at Paula, wishing he was drunk.

JIM: "See! You said 'Christmas' tree. How can you not call it a Christmas sale when you're selling Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Christmas gifts, Christmas cards, with people going around singing Christmas carols in the stores?"

PAULA (sniffing and turning her nose upward): "It's a holiday tree."

JIM (virtually pulling his hair out): "What holiday!? Columbus Day!?"

ARN: "Say, bro, y'all know Columbus was a homeboy?"

FRED: "Oh great. Maybe he can be driving the car then."

ARN (getting snitty): "Oh, very cute, El Directore."

ROG: "Uh-oh. I just thought of something..." Everyone glares at him, knowing whatever it is they are not going to like it. "The storyboard indicates that they get lost on the way to the store because the driver is a dumbass, right?"

PAULA: "Oh jesus, you're right..."

JIM: "What?"

ROG: "Well, c'mon, Jim... we can't have the black guy be the dumbass. Everybody knows the black person in a commercial has to be a computer wiz who solves the world's problems, right? Otherwise we'll offend our African-American customers who after a hundred and fifty years of no slavery still get offended by anything that will result in a lawsuit and free money."

JIM: "What? It's okay to offend our white customers by making them the perennial butt of the joke?"

ARN: "Damn straight, honkeys are butts." Everybody bursts out laughing.

ROG: "No biggie. We'll make the driver a dumb white guy who's wife is a lovely African-American woman. Then we've got all our bases covered."

PAULA: "Rog, that's brilliant!" Rog glows with pride. Arn makes a kissing sound directed from Paula's face to Rog's ample ass.

ARN (mutters to himself): "Ain't no lovely chocolatta 'ho gonna let a cracker drive her around in a ugly set o' wheels like the honkey got."

FRED: "Let's see if I got this straight... a dopey white guy and his black wife are driving their neighbors, a Korean-Pakistani couple - one handicapped, the other maybe a midget - to buy non-Christmas tree stuff at a Z-Y-X Holiday Sale, and they get lost on the way..."

ARN: "But the black 'ho quickly solves the problem, making her honkey hubby the not-so-insignificant butt of the joke." Everyone laughs again.

FRED: "This black woman... she's, what? Like a Rhodes Scholar? Sitting in a car with a dopey honkey, a Korean midget and a Pakistani with a club foot? Maybe one of them should be gay... you know... just to cover all the bases."

BRUCE (indignant): "Are you making fun of me, Fred, darling?"

FRED: "Huh? Are you gay or something?"

BRUCE (pointing a finger on the end of a somewhat limp wrist at FRED): "You're the kind of bigot racist who assumes anybody named Bruce is automatically gay."

FRED: "Whoa! I'm sorry, man. Are you like...?" (FRED makes a limp hand gesture as if ringing a little [tinker] bell.)

BRUCE: "That's beside the point!" Arn makes a kissing sound at Bruce.

ROG: "Settle down, gays... I mean guys. Geez, now you got me doing it. Maybe Fred has an idea there. What if the Korean/Pakistani handicapped couple is two guys? Think of the terrific publicity! It'd be like a Target commercial."

JIM: "Everybody's gay in a Target commercial, even the straights."

PAULA: "I like the idea, Fred. But how do we know the two guys in the back of the car are gay and not just two brothers or something?"

JIM: "Korean and Pakistani brothers? Now that's rich."

ARN: "I'm no expert on gayness, but they could be tongue-kissing in the back of the car. You know, workin' their way up to a little poon-tang. If they were two lesbos I'd watch that commercial."

PAULA: "Poon- what? is that some kind of African-American Christmas food?"

FRED (laughing): "I guess you could call it that..." FRED and ARN high-five one another.

ROG: "I'm a little troubled by the name 'Holiday Sale' to be honest."

JIM: "Aha! Finally somebody agrees with me."

ROG: "No, not exactly, Jim. If you really think about it, the word 'holiday' is a contraction of 'holy day.' Since we're trying to get away from religious connotations in our advertising, shouldn't we avoid saying 'holy day'?" Fred and Jim's jaws drop. Paula's eyes go wide.

ARN: "Damn, Rog, your mind's like a steel trap. Ain't nobody gonna put one over on you, dude. So we could call it a Kwaanza Sale. Huh? Got a ring to it. Kwaaaaaan-zah!"

JIM: "Then what do we call Santa Claus? I mean he's jolly ol' Saint Nick. He's a freakin' saint! How can you have saints in your goddamned non-religious store!?"

ROG: "No need to get hostile, Jim. We don't actually call him Santa Claus at Z-Y-X, He's known as Mr. Presents. Sometimes we call him Bigg-o The Chimney Man."

JIM (resigned to another politically correct failure of a tv campaign): "Okay, a goofy white guy and his Rhodes scholar African-American wife are driving a gay Korean/Pakistani midget couple with club feet to Z-Y-X to the Kwaanza Sale to buy Christmas trees. On the way, the dumbass white guy is so distracted by the Korean/Pakistani couple getting it on in the back of his car that he misses a turn and gets lost..."

FRED: (the director holds up his two hands as if "framing" a shot in his imagination) "I'm starting to see it now... but to add more spice they could stop to pick up a hitch-hiker who happens to also be headed for the Kwaanza Sale. This way we get to introduce another type into the casting, make it a little edgier, maybe just the hint of danger."

PAULA: "Neat-o! We could make the hitcher a Jew. They shop at Z-Y-X... hell, they own Z-Y-X."

JIM: "And we know he's Jewish, how...?"

ARN: "His yamulkah... yeh, the dude's wearing a Christmas yamulkah! Maybe Rudolph with a red nose crochetted on the top. The red nose could light up and blink. Now that's hip!"

JIM: "Jesus, Arn, he's a Jew! He's not wearing any blinking lights on his freakin' beanie."

FRED: "You'd know he was a Jew if he was Hassidic... you know long beard, braids, black suit, white shirt, carrying a small Torah and rocking back and forth while he submits to God."

JIM: "He might look like an Amish guy who needs a shave..."

ARN: "Jim, Jim, check it out... this'd be an award-winning commercial if the hitchhiker was a serial killer, y'know... on his way to the Kwaanza thing to pick up a hockey mask, chain saw, maybe lift some bling."

ROG: "No serial killers, Arn, no shop-lifters. This is a family store. But I really like the idea of the Hassidic hitch-hiker... but unfortunately it's a Saturday Sale."

FRED: "So?"

ROG: "He wouldn't be permitted to ride in a car on his Sabbath... a car is an electro-mechanical device."

BRUCE: "But he could ride in a rickshaw, right...?"