Saturday, December 06, 2008

I Wonder... Is It Already Too Late?

"There's no money in poetry, but then, there's no poetry in money either."

-Robert Graves

Well, as of this past week, The National Bureau of Economic Research, has made it official... we are in a recession. If you have been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I have been saying that we were for months and months. But while it didn't come as any surprise to me, it seems like it did to President Bush. I wonder if it really did? How could it have? He had more access to information regarding the economy then you and I did, and yet, we got the same old tired lie... the economy is sound. The economy is doing a fine job. And wasn't that the biggest clue of all? Every time he says everything is ok, I run for cover. I am jaded... I admit it. But how can I possibly avoid it? Time after time we have had to endure his delusions and lies, and the outcome has always been total devastation.

So now we find ourselves with the irrefutable truth, staring us down. What happens next? We have been in a recession since the first of the year, could it be that we are actually in a depression, rather then a recession? Maybe we just aren't saying it. Could that possibly be? There are some scary statistics out there right now. 500,000 more people lost their jobs last month, and if the big 3 automakers fail, it will bring that much more devastation to an already over burdened unemployment system. What a mess.

I wish I knew how to feel about the probable Big 3 bailout. I can see both sides of the issue. If we bail them out, why not keep going with the love? Why not bailout the stores that I love, which are heading down the road of bankruptcy? November saw some mighty dismal sales figures, and while Black Friday posted higher then expected spending, I have seen the empty spaces at the malls here in the Bay Area, and I have to tell you, I don't remember having so much ease at finding a place to park, especially during the holiday season. It's a little spooky. I went to Target last Thursday to pick up some Christmas lights for our tree, and there were only 3 aisles devoted to holiday decorations, as opposed to the 9 or 10 aisles just last year. The prices were at least %30 higher as well. Less to choose from, at higher prices. Not good.

My heart goes out to the autoworkers. Their industry has been hit hard since the 80's. The average guy working a line making automobiles have very little to do with the stupid, greedy decisions being made by the top management. It's heartbreaking. On one hand I support the worker, but on the other hand I cannot support yet another bailout of greed and mismanagement. Alan and I watch the news at night, and we both wrestle with the issue. His point of view is that enough is enough. We have already seen waste of the original money given out to bailout banking. I never thought giving Henry Paulson and Ben Bernanke free reign was a good idea, and I even mentioned that tight oversight and accountability needed to be in place. But do they listen to me? LOL. How would the money given to automakers be managed?

I fear that with a similar bailout of the auto industry, comes the waste we have already seen. It didn't particularly impress me that they drove to Washington to make their case. It didn't really impress me that they are willing to work for a token salary of $1. Nothing about what's happened has impressed me. All I know is that if the auto industry fails, and all those folks are forced out of work, it will be even more devastating for our country. I am beginning to think that we are in a depression, and no one is saying the word. DEPRESSION. If we have really hit bottom, or are about to, the good news is that there is only one direction we can go on from there. Hopefully.

So tell me, what do you think? Did it come as a surprise that we are officially in a recession? Do you think it is already too late to turn the economy around? Do you think we are poised to fall into a financial depression? How do you feel about the proposed bailout of the automakers? Tell me what you think. Opinions, opinions.

"The End Of The Day"
Pacific Grove, California
November 15th, 2008

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Wars We Wage In Our Own Minds: Rated PG-13

Christmas gift suggestions...
To your enemy, forgiveness
To an opponent, tolerance
To a friend, your heart
To a customer, service
To all, charity
To every child, a good example
To yourself, respect

-Oren Arnold

EGADS! Here we go again! I am not sure where to begin, except to say, that it shocks me that anyone could possible believe that there is some sort of war Christmas! Where does this kind of thinking begin? Go back in your memory to about 20 years ago. Do you remember hearing anything about a war on Christmas at that time? Probably not. Let me tell you what I honestly believe here. I believe that some in America have traded their holiday spirit for selfishness. I see commentators such as Bill O'Reilly insist that there is some kind of war on Christmas, because most retailers choose to display a Happy Holiday's sign as opposed to the more specific Merry Christmas. All of a sudden, Happy Holidays has been twisted into FUCK YOU GOD!

Baby Bill, as Keith Olbermann calls him, is waging a war in his own mind. But that's his problem, our problem is the fact that some folks are willing to follow him into battle, and that is what he counts on. The Bush years caused a lot of separation in this country, and imaginary wars on God was one of the religious right's greatest weapons. Speaking as a Christian woman, who found out when she was 37 that she was also Jewish by heritage, I don't offend easily anyway. If someone wishes me a HAPPY HOLIDAY, I smile because someone has just wished me well. If someone wishes me a MERRY CHRISTMAS, I smile, because someone has just wished me well. If I happen to hear a HAPPY HANUKKAH, I smile because someone has just wished me well. GET THE POINT! Wishing someone well is just that... WISHING SOMEONE WELL!

Yesterday I decided to take part in the Blogger's Community Photo Challenge, the topic was Christmas. Sigh. Marie and Vicki are the hosts of the challenge, and it is up to their discretion to decide the topics, just as it is my decision to decide what the Monday Photo Shoot topics will be, and every three weeks it is up to me to pick a Round Robin topic. What happens on my blog, is my business. Period. Photo Challenge memes are voluntary. If someone doesn't want to do a challenge I come up with, for any reason, it's ok with me. As I said from the beginning, participation is appreciated, but voluntary. I feel the same way about other folks blogs as well. If someone wants to celebrate a specific part of the holiday season, I don't really see the harm, because after all, participation is voluntary. If you are offended on some level, sit it out.

I took part in her challenge, because I enjoy Christmas. I am Jewish by heritage, and Methodist by choice. I study about the Jewish faith to find out what I might have missed, and Alan and I celebrate that part of my life by recognizing and celebrating the holidays together. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our house to learn about each other. Even after 18 years of marriage, we are still taking the time to learn about each other. While I don't speak about my faith much on my blog, make no mistake about it, it is important to me, and guides me in many of my decisions. I don't speak about it because my faith is a personal part of my life that I consider just one more part of myself that simply makes up the whole of me. I don't care for labels, but if you really need to know, I am a, Christian, Jewish, Methodist, Democrat, Liberal, FemiNazi, Photographer, Wife, Fur Baby Mama, Woman, and hopefully friend who tries her best.

There are real wars being waged, with real men and women dying. Why do we need to insist that there is an imaginary one on Christmas as well? There is no war. It all reminds me of Salem, and the witch trials, where one person pointed a finger, and all of a sudden some bored folks who couldn't think for themselves caused an fashionable uproar. A deadly one. Think about it for a minute... do you see a parallel? As for Christmas being commercialized, well, that is also baloney. Look, it's all up to you, the individual, to decide how commercial Christmas is. It doesn't have to be if you don't let it be. You don't have to buy ornaments every year, or loads of presents, or partake in any commercial exercise at all. That decision is one of the easiest to make. Christmas is only as commercial as you decide to let it be.

When I dropped by the Blogger's Community Photo Challenge yesterday, it was to support some friends, and have some fun, and take a little time off from the cares of the world for a little bit, which if I am not mistaken, is the point of Internet memes. What I found in the comment thread was some sniping, and swiping, that really left me feeling a bit sad. I decided to not put my two cents in there, out of respect to those who run the challenge, and those who disagree with the topic. I don't believe it was my place. A question was asked of the hosts, and the hosts offered an answer. End of story. This, however, is my blog, and I felt like I wanted to say a little bit about the general subject, because I do so nearly every year, because nearly every year, the subject of the WAR ON CHRISTMAS comes up.

Sometimes it feels like we haven't really experienced the holiday spirit since 9/11. Remember how it was for a few weeks after that awful day? People looked you in the eye and said "thank you" and "please." They let you cut into traffic, and if you had less items then them at the grocery store, they let you go ahead of them. We weren't taking each other for granted, or wasting time on worrying about who was being politically correct. Suddenly, we were a little less selfish. We were all in the darkest moment of our lives as Americans, after the unthinkable happened, and we were all wondering, could it happen again? One of the most poignant stories to come out of that horrible day, was when two men were running away from the wreckage of a building that had just came tumbling down, one of the men stopped to help a man who had just fallen. One of those men was an Arab, the other man a Jew. "Brother," said the man, "will you run with me?" It doesn't matter who said it first. So I ask you, do we really need to embrace made up wars?

Here is my wish this holiday season. I am hoping folks will get a collective grip. I am hoping that friends will remember their friendships first. I am hoping that as we more forward in this country, we will remember that commercialism of holidays has more to do with your own values the anything else. I am hoping for tolerance and understanding, especially when someone has gotten on your last nerve. I am hoping that I can write from the heart and it would be understood, and if it isn't, then I hope that you will ask me... and not just come to whatever conclusion best suits your mood. As for me, well, I am going to celebrate the holidays and be happy, how you choose to feel is up to you.


If I have offended anyone, let me know. If you have something to say, say it! I invite respectful dialog, tell me what you are thinking. Opinions, opinions.

"Happy Holidays"
Holiday Fantasy In The Woods
Tilden Park
Berkeley, California
December 4th, 2008

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Blogger's Community Photo Challenge: Christmas

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold everything is softer and more beautiful."

-Norman Vincent Peale

The folks over at the Blogger's Community Photo Challenge have chosen "Christmas" as their current topic! I can do that! So, here is my entry for this challenge round. I took the photo the day after Thanksgiving, while visiting the Holiday Fantasy In The Woods in Tilden park. I like to make my own holiday greetings whenever possible, so this is one of the designs that I am making for this year. :) I think it says Christmas rather nicely... don't you?

Have you played the Blogger's Community Photo Challenge yet? If not, just stop over their place for all the information, and the links to other participating photographers. You'll be glad you did!

"Merry Christmas To All"
Holiday Fantasy In The Woods
Tilden Park
Berkeley, California
November 28th, 2008
Early Evening

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Goodnight Mr. Unknown, Wherever You Are

"Without mysteries, life would be very dull indeed. What would be left to strive for, if everything were known?"

-Charles de Lint

It's time to once again to ask the question... Who is this guy? I met him on a cold December morning in 2005, when I went out to my car, and found him sitting on the little brick fence that sits alongside my driveway. He is a mystery because no one who lives on the property knows where he came from, or who placed him there. No one that lives on the property has children, so how could the unknown man have gotten there? I have asked everyone I can think of, including a toy expert I used to know, and no one has been able to identify the vagabond traveler. I sure would like to know who he might be. If you have any insight into his identity, I would love to hear from you.

Every year, on December 3rd, I write about him, hoping that someone will finally recognize him and tell me his story. Do you recognize my little stranger? If so, feel free to tell me who he is, and if possible, where I can find another one just like him! See, I don't have the little stranger anymore, because he disappeared just as quickly as he had arrived. He made me smile in the short time I knew him. :) I liked him at "hello." I will never forget him! One of these days, someone will be able to tell me who he is. :)

Last year, in an effort to have a little fun, I asked folks to submit possible names for Mr. Unknown. Let's do that again! If you don't know who he is, but would like to submit a name, feel free to leave a name for him in the comment thread for this entry. :)

"Mr. Unknown"
December, 2005
Early Morning

Monday, December 01, 2008

Ellipsis Monday Photo Shoot #14: Autumn Sunsets

"Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better."

Henry Rollins


Autumn only has a few more weeks left to it, and I haven't seen as much of it as I had planned to. Time moves quickly this time of year, so let's all stop for a moment to enjoy one on the loveliest times of day, SUNSET. Grab your cameras and show me an AUTUMN SUNSET where you live. If you are in an area with a lot of rain and clouds and not much in the way of sunsets, that's fine, show me how it looks just as the light begins to hand things over to the night. Show me as close as possible, the closing light of day. No archives for this one, I want to see this year's AUTUMN SUNSET!

Extra Credit: Show me a silhouette in a sunset!

You have until next Sunday, at 9:00 PM Eastern time, to take your photo, post it to your blog, and submit your link here. Please remember, no hyperlinks, and it must be a link to the entry in your blog specific to this assignment. Not a general link to your blog.

Linking List for EMPS #13: Turkey Day. 11/24/2008

Now Closed!

1. Jama... Sweet Memories

2. Karen... Outpost Mavarin

3. Julie... Julie's Photo Journey

4. Terri... Ways I See The World

5. Liz... Visual Counterpoint

6. Tammy... The Daily Warrior

7. Martha... Menagerie

8. Connie... Far Side Of Fifty Photos

9. Mike... Everything Under The Sun

We have two new members this week, Terri, and Mike. Be sure to go by their blogs and say hello, and see their entries. It's good to be supportive of each other! As always, I saw some really great photographic creativity this week! You all did a wonderful job with the assignment. I can't wait to see your photos next week! So, GO BE PHOTOGRAPHERS! I will see you next week with an all new photo assignment. :)

-Carly :)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Weekend Asisgnment #244: Black Friday

Carrie: If it hurts so much why are we going shopping?

Samantha: I have a broken toe, not a broken spirit!

-Carrie Bradshaw & Samantha Jones, Sex in the City

eekend Assignment#244: Black Friday.
The day after Thanksgiving, in the U.S. is widely believed to be the biggest shopping day of the year. Do you typically shop for holiday gifts on that day? If so, why? Is this year any different in that respect?

Extra Credit: Is there a particular bargain you are pursuing this year? If so, what is it?

Karen Funk Blocker, of the blog, Outpost Mavarin

Ahhhh... Black Friday! That unofficial, in fact no where near a real holiday, holiday, that we look forward to every year! Alan and I have been getting up early to go out on Black Friday and watch people for years, in fact we weren't even a couple the first time we decided to do it. We were just two good friends who enjoyed watching people go crazy at the malls. We have seen a lot of strange things over the years, and even participated a little ourselves, but mostly we watch others in their quests for the perfect bargain gifts. Union Square has become our favorite place to go. It's always beautiful in the city, and there is just a different vibe there. I was afraid that it might be a little sparse this year, given all the problems folks are having just making ends meet, but we weren't disappointed. It was a great year for shopping. It seems all those great discounts were enough to get folks into the square. Shopping bags were everywhere!

That is a good thing I think. I have seen too many wonderful little stores go out of business in recent years. More then one that I loved dearly. You get to know people who run small stores, and it is a nice feeling. When a small store goes under because of the economy, everyone loses. It started with the small stores a few years ago, and now even the big stores are in need of a little loving this holiday season. Sigh. Alan and I have decided to do $50.00 for each of us, plus whatever ends up in our Christmas socks. As for the boys, well, they will be getting a new fun Mouse in a Bag game, and some assorted catnip play toys, plus a new sweatshirt. I found some cute little teddy bear clothes at Michael's for about $4.00 each, so, they should be the warmest, best dressed kittens on the block!

We pretty much know what we will be buying this year, and where we will be buying it. I don't really need that much, but I could use some new cds and there is a great bathrobe I saw at Costco. Yummy, soft and warm. I smile when I think about that robe... hear that hubby? LOL. I am also asking for a Starbuck's gift card, there is nothing, nothing better than a tall hot chocolate with a pump of pumpkin spice syrup, on a cold December day! Unless it is a Venti/Shaken/Iced Tea Lemonade w/Passion tea... unsweetened! Yum! I also have a couple books on the wish list, and there is a Cuisinart that we are giving each other. We both like to cook, so we will both get a lot of use out of it together! Chop, Chop, Chop! :)

I will admit that we did do a little shopping on Black Friday. We always buy an advent calendar. It is a tradition. I know, I know, grown 40 - something people still toying with advent calendars, but Alan never had one as a kid, and we have so much fun guessing what might be behind each door. Hey, the one who gets it right most often, gets to pick the pie we will have at New Years! Wooo Hooo! LOL. So we bought the calendar, and I bought some things at... you guessed it... Old Navy! I had a $10.00 gift certificate and there were some really good bargains. I got an off- white sweater skirt for Christmas, and there was a sale on v-neck sweaters, so I got an off-white one to go with it. I have been waiting for that skirt to go on sale for months! Originally it was $32.50, but I got it for $8.50! I also bought 3 boat neck t-shirts and a green light weight sweater, plus a couple sweaters for Alan. He looks really good in sweaters!

As great as it was to find some bargains, the best part, as usual, was spent sitting at our favorite cafe in the square, watching people. I had hot chocolate with raspberry syrup, and he had an espresso. We watched folks having fun at the skating rink, we watched folks jamming the streets and singing along with the street music. We stopped to take a picture of the Christmas tree in front of Macy's and noticed that there were only men sitting on the steps facing the store. Hmmm. Click on the main picture at the top, and you will see. Those men are facing Macy's, where one by one, they got up to leave, as their wives/girlfriends/and significant others came back with their bargains. LOL.

Here are a few other sights from the day...

The Macy's Tree...
A gorgeous gown by Caroline Herrera at Saks Fifth Avenue. I LOVE it!That is definitely my taste! But my favorite designer will always be Vera Wang!

The holiday ice rink looked like fun. I will be visiting the ice rink at Justin Herman Plaza in a few days. Maybe Tuesday or Wednesday. It's gorgeous at night. :)

Anyone want a wig for Christmas?

It was a lot of fun, and good exercise to walk around the square and down all the streets surrounding it. It was nice to be one among the crowd. It was a pretty day, and for the most part, folks behaved themselves. Every year you hear on the news about someone getting injured or killed on Black Friday. This year was no exception, and I expect as things in the economy get worse, people will get more desperate. Sigh. As always, I am hoping for the best. Black Friday is more then shopping for us, it's another of our unofficial holidays we count as special. Later that day we went to the Holiday Fantasy In The Woods, in Tilden park. But I will save that for a different entry! :)

Extra Credit: Nope nothing specific. As I said, we pretty much already know what we are getting and how much it is. :)

"The Men Of Black Friday"
Union Square
San Francisco, California
November 28th, 2008