D’oh!

Recently, I read an article with the thesis statement that “The Simpsons” no longer matters. Granted, I’m a fan and have been since the beginning. And while I’ve seen a few clunkers in the mix, for 20 years, they have been consistently entertaining. But more than that, they have established a cultural shorthand that is undeniable.

The article talks about how it has lost its edge to shows like “Family Guy” and “American Dad.” That may be so, but that doesn’t diminish the relevance of the Simpsons. I’ll give you an example.

Max was looking at some Minimates online. For those that don’t know, Minimates are little Lego-like figures modeled after popular film and TV shows. He collects the comic book versions and was looking for news on when the new sets would be out. He came across a Minimate he couldn’t identify. It was a T-1000 terminator from the second movie (the one that was made of liquid metal). The figure was from the scene where the terminator had long hooks for hands and got his head split open by a shotgun blast.

“What’s that?”

Now, Max, hasn’t seen the film and really isn’t familiar with the Terminator franchise. So, rather than explaining to him about Sarah Connor and Skynet, I made reference to something he would know.

“You know that episode of the Simpsons where Homer decides he likes Ned Flanders and then begins spending so much time with him that Ned starts to dislike Homer?”

“Yes.”

“There is that scene where Homer melts out of the shrubbery to talk to Ned and then, holding two golf clubs, chases Ned’s car down the street.”

“Right. Then he catches the car and uses the clubs to drag himself up on the back of it.”

“Right. That was a reference to the second Terminator film in which that character uses those hook hands the same way.”

And that’s why the Simpsons will remain relevant even after the show stops airing. It has reflected our society and culture for so long, I can use it as shorthand when talking about various aspects of current culture. In fact, I reference the Simpsons so often that I can feel my friends’ eyes roll whenever I mention it.

I’ve finished my dealings with the insurance company and am expecting a check any time now to replace my stolen property and fix my “dwelling.”

[Simpsons reference: Marge Simpson studies to get her real estate license and gets discouraged because of the complicated rules and regulations she has to memorize. “What’s a ‘dwelling?'”]

It has been a relatively painless process. Rosie, my claims adjuster, was great and worked quickly to get my paperwork shuffled through so I could get a check in time for Christmas. My hat’s off to her.

One interesting thing that’s come out of all this is that I’ve gotten to know one of my neighbors. He is a photographer and musician. While he was talking to the police about what he saw on the day of my robbery, he noticed one of my cats lurking about.

“That’s the neighborhood cat,” he said.

“He is that,” I replied. “That’s Speedy.”

“So he’s your cat?”

“Yes. We’ve had him since he was a kitten.”

“That cat comes over to my house all the time. I’ve got photos of that cat. I’ve been calling him Gnee. He likes to sleep in the bed of an abandoned pick up truck behind the auto shop.”

I asked him to send me some photos of my cat.

There have been plenty of stories (and at least one Simpsons plot) dedicated to our pets living secret lives. My neighbor told me that he has a group of friends over once a week to play music and that Speedy shows up there without fail. He sent me links to videos he created and in them, Speedy is hanging out on his friends’ laps or on the couch.

That amuses me no end. Max has taken to calling Speedy a “two-timing jerk” or, alternately, claiming Speedy isn’t his cat, but some “mystery cat” that looks a lot like Speedy, but isn’t him.

I’m thinking of buying one of those collar cameras and putting it on Speedy to see what he gets up to when he’s wandering the neighborhood.

My brother wrote a very sweet and poignant account of Christmas morning at my grandparent’s house and what it meant to him that everyone was there. He has been a little frustrated that the tradition of going to my grandparent’s house for Christmas breakfast has been changed. It was a family tradition for many years, but it has never been a tradition that was etched in stone. Before they had grandchildren, my grandparents would spend Christmas day with their kids. When I was young and everyone could fit around my grandmother’s giant dining room table we had dinner on Christmas Eve. It was exciting because it meant Christmas was that much closer.

Eventually, there were just too many of us. So, we stopped eating around that table and started spreading around the house, gathering around card tables and other furniture, mixing it up with cousins all of which had families of their own. There were too many to get gifts for everyone, so we started drawing names and having a secret Santa. We moved it to breakfast on Christmas morning and, since my grandmother died, moved the gathering to my grandfather’s church.

Each year it becomes more difficult to organize and easier to hurt someone’s feelings in the process of trying. My hope is that my family understands that while traditions are great, they should be a means to an end. Getting everyone together to celebrate Christmas however it can be managed should be the goal. I think everyone understands this and while letting go of tradition is hard to do, we’ve all done it before and we’ll continue to do it every year.

An open letter to the scumbag(s) who broke into my house.

Dear scumbag(s),

You kicked in my back door, dumped my family’s clothes and personal items all over the floors, stole my Xbox 360, my son’s Wii, my kids’ laptop, all our video games and DVDs. Oh, and you managed to break my television and web cam. I discovered this incredible invasion of my privacy and property after working a long, hard day at my JOB. See, I have these things because I work and pay for them. I’m not a scumbag like you.

I don’t have the luxury of a moral code that allows me to steal from others, destroy property and forget about consequences. No, my job is to assure my children that I’ll take steps to 1) find out who you are and see that you pay for your criminal acts and 2) that you won’t be back. See, I came home with my young son in tow. He walked with me through the house and saw how you’d dragged all the boxes from under the beds and dumped them. I hugged him and reassured him as he saw the game cabinet standing open and all his games gone. I did my best to dry his tears as the police officer took down the serial numbers of all the electronics you stole, thief.

Oh yeah. I have the numbers. If you pawn this stuff, I’ll get it back and you’ll be caught. Max handled it as well as any 11-year-old child could, having discovered that someone had been rifling through his things and helped themselves to ALL THE CHANGE IN HIS BANK. You really are worthless, you know that, scumbag? You must know that because if you had any sense of self worth, you would shower.

That’s right. You stink. You must stink pretty badly because I could still smell your body odor in my house the next day. I sprayed air freshener and installed plug ins, but your stink still permeates. I’m wondering if you acted alone because who could stand close enough to you to help you carry out our stuff? If you do manage to sell my things and get a little money, don’t blow it all on meth and wine coolers. Buy some soap and have someone teach you how to use it.

Oh, and thanks, by the way, for breaking my TV in the process. Wasn’t the Xbox 360, the Wii, the laptop and all my games and movies enough? I assume this was the result of yanking all the wires out of my television. You must think you’re pretty smart, you know, for a scumbag thief.

As of this writing there is just over two weeks until Christmas. While I’m working hard to fill out all the forms for my insurance claim, it is unlikely that this will be settled by then. Even if I get a check tomorrow covering the full losses (which is unlikely) it won’t be settled. You see, I’ve always tried to be a good neighbor and a good person. I’ve spent my life believing, despite all evidence to the contrary, that people are basically good, too. You’ve successfully narrowed my eyes. Congratulations.

I spent the next day at home (rather than at my job where I earn the money to pay for the things you stole) cleaning up your mess and trying to get your stink (both literal and figurative) out of my house. I fixed the back door, refolded my family’s clothes, repacked the boxes and trunks that held our keepsakes, filed an insurance claim and tried to be philosophical about the whole thing. Through it all, I have one fear: that if you are caught, the punishment will not be severe enough to discourage you from doing it again.

In the end, it is all just stuff and I’m not hung up on stuff. I am, however, hung up on the violation of my property. If you’ll do it to me, you’ll do it to others because, until you get caught or wise up, you’re just a scumbag thief who believes you are entitled to whatever you can take.

In a few short weeks, my life will be back to normal. Hopefully, I’ll have replaced the things you stole from my family (thief) and I’ll move on, a bit wiser and a bit less open to the world. You, being a lowlife scumbag thief, will be right where you are now – clutching your ill-gotten loot and stinking up the place.

One bright side to all this is that I got to meet a neighbor that I hadn’t had a chance to speak with before. He is a friend of a friend and, as it turns out, a good guy. He might have even seen you. He thinks so, anyway and he gave the police a description. Maybe that knowledge will cause you to lose as much sleep as I have the last few days.

By the way, I reported the Xbox stolen to Microsoft. So, whomever finds it under their tree won’t be able to sign into the service. That means no online gaming, no software updates and you still stink.

Heath Care. Yes, again.

William Shatner has an interview show called “Raw Nerve.” When I was at DragonCon last September, he and Leonard Nimoy talked briefly about this show and Shatner mentioned that he’d gotten to interview Rush Limbaugh.

A clip from that interview has been release in which the two talk about health care. I have a personal issue with linking to anything that propagates Rush to a larger audience, so I’ll just give you a transcription of what I believe to be the money quotes.

SHATNER:
If you have money, you’re going to get health care. If you don’t have money it’s more difficult.

LIMBAUGH:
If you have money you’re going to get a house on the beach. If you don’t have money you’re going to live in a bungalow somewhere.

SHATNER:
But we’re talking about health care.

LIMBAUGH:
What’s the difference?

And there it is. That’s the source of all the conflict laid bare. The conservatives do not believe there is a difference between health care and anything else one might buy or own. And trying to explain it the difference is like banging your head against a wall made of stupid.

The difference is that if you don’t have access to health care, you can die. The difference is that, while conservatives are all about the free market and competition, the health insurance industry is exempted from antitrust laws – meaning they are a cartel, allowed to fix prices and therefore work outside of the free market. They buy congressmen in wholesale lots so despite polls that show a public option has widespread popularity, you get “independent” senators like Joe Lieberman who will vote against any bill that includes anything that might change the status quo.

Our congressmen work for the health insurance industry, not for us.

I am so sick and tired of hearing conservative pundits say we have the best health care system in the world. I’m tired of hearing people tell me that no one is turned away for lack of ability to pay. That’s just not the case.

If I go to the emergency room today with something serious, like a tumor. They have no obligation to remove it. They are obliged to get me stable enough to go home.

I am tired of conservatives complaining that they don’t want to have to pay for someone else’s health care. We do not get to pick and choose what our tax dollars are spent on. If we could, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been defunded years ago. I have news for you. You’re already paying for other people’s health care. Every time someone goes to the emergency room and can’t pay, you pay.

So, would you rather pay on the front end – preventative care that is cheaper and ultimately more successful – or on the back end – emergency room care that is the most expensive way to get care.

They scream about “rationing health care” but our health care is already rationed. If I were to go to the largest medical partnership in my town as a new patient and ask to see a doctor for a physical check up, the earliest I could get an appointment is March. MARCH! They might could get me in next month if I’m willing to see a nurse, instead. I can go the walk-in clinic, but they don’t do physicals or well visits. And if I can’t pay, I’ll be banned.

The current model cannot hold because it is bankrupting people. Insurance companies are cherry picking healthy people and dropping the sick ones so even if you can afford insurance and make your payments, as soon as you need their help, they will drop you. Once that happens, you cannot get insurance because of your “pre-existing condition.”

I was making this point with a conservative friend recently. As soon as I mentioned health care reform, she said “Meaning everyone has the same health care.”

“No,” I said. “Meaning everyone can afford health care insurance.”

“Meaning the government gets involved.”

“Yes.”

“I don’t want to have this conversation with you.”

The government is not our enemy. I don’t understand why, with the success and popularity of Medicare and Medicaid, that conservatives believe the government is incapable of running a health care system. They say they don’t want a government bureaucrat to get between a patient and doctor. But we currently have a corporate bureaucrat doing that very thing.

I don’t understand why small business owners aren’t on the steps of the capital demanding a single-payer government health care system like Medicare for everyone. Wouldn’t not having to provide health insurance for your employees help your bottom line?

Let’s be clear about our terms:

Socialized Medicine: that’s where all the hospitals are owned by the government and all the doctors, nurses and staff work for the government.

Single payer: that’s like Medicare, where hospitals and doctors work pretty much as they do now, but they bill the government for services and everyone is covered.

Public option: who the hell knows?