Lauren Mayer: What War on Christmas?

Bill O’Reilly et al. like to paint themselves as victims of a secular conspiracy to destroy the meaning of Christmas.  To hear them tell it, our founding fathers based the Constitution on a mashup of the bible (only selected portions, mind you, none of that keeping kosher stuff) and the Burl Ives ‘Frosty The Snowman’ TV special.  So any attempt to reflect the diversity of our country around this time of year is not only unAmerican, but it threatens the very existence of the holiday they are thus compelled to defend.

Maybe if they got out of their studio once in a while, they’ll get a sense of just how well Christmas is doing versus any other holiday.  Even here in the godlessly liberal/socialist Bay Area, every mall, business, or residential street looks like an elf’s wet dream, festooned with tinsel, red & green baubles, and enough mechanical reindeer & inflated lit-up snowmen to completely confuse my dog every time I walk her.  (Not to mention the fact that Christmas has totally taken over Thanksgiving, and is probably going after Halloween and Labor Day next . . . )

Meanwhile, Bob Geldof has trotted out yet another rendition of his classic/monstrosity (depending on your perspective), “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” this time to raise awareness of Ebola, but continuing in the same vein of overblown rock anthem as expressed by patronizing Westerners.  (Apparently, just in Nigera there are 3 times as many Christians as in England, so it seems like they don’t need Geldof’s song to enlighten them.)  So in that same spirit, here’s my own overblown anthem in an effort to raise awareness of the existence of other holidays.

Lauren Mayer: Costco Vs. Walmart

I often struggle to reconcile my progressive values with my love of shopping.  I don’t want to patronize companies whose policies are at odds with the environment, LGBTQ rights, fair treatment of workers, and so on, but I also love a good bargain.  (My ultra-liberal husband gets weekly updates on which businesses we should avoid based on a wide variety of criteria, making it almost impossible to find an acceptable retailer or gas station!)

But fortunately, it turns out that there is a retailer which is ‘good and good for you,’ where we don’t need to sacrifice our own needs for those of the community – and it even manages to make great profits while espousing progressive values. In any head-to-head comparison with Walmart, and Costco comes up on top regarding employee benefits & wages, ratio of executive to average worker pay, overall customer satisfaction, AND profit.  Meanwhile, there are all the stories lately about Walmart forcing employees to work on Thanksgiving, spending a fortune on lobbyists while paying employees poorly, and making taxpayers pay to compensate for those lousy wages and huge executive bonuses, not to mention the pitifully small fraction of a percent the Walmart heirs contribute to any kind of charity, and the Scrooge-like requests for employees to donate canned food to their equally underpaid colleagues.

Isn’t it great to be able to feel morally superior while getting a great deal on everything from toilet paper to tires?

Lauren Mayer: Weren’t We All Immigrants, Once?

One of the best scenes in Blazing Saddles is when the railroad workers negotiate with Rock Ridge to help build the ‘false front’ town that will fool Hedley Lamarr’s evil army.  The racially mixed workers want to be repaid with land in town, and at first the townspeople object to including various ethnic groups.  Eventually they agree to accept the Chinese and African Americans but “we don’t want the Irish.”  However, when Sheriff Bart insists, the group’s leader finally says, “Oh, prairie sh*t, everyone!” and a happy ending ensues.

Apparently, not much has changed in 40 years (I know, those of us who remember when that movie first came out are OLD), as far as some people’s reactions to President Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration reform.  Right-wing stalwarts like Michele Bachmann and Steve King project a ruined country overtaken by illiterate criminals, and even saner politicians are accusing Obama of acting like a tyrant, emperor, king, or dictator, when multiple Republican presidents (including ‘Saint Reagan’) did basically the same thing without any protest.

Meanwhile, there are very few of us in the country today whose anceestors weren’t immigrants at one time, so to help everyone chill out a bit, here’s a relaxing musical tribute to immigration . . .

Lauren Mayer: Music Hath Charms To Soothe The Defeated Political Party

While I have the utmost respect for this site’s bipartisanship, readers know my views skew quite left.  However, I like to think that humor and music have bipartisan appeal – I grew up in Orange County (the red state in the middle of California . . . . cue rim shot), and even my most rabidly rightwing classmates will tell me they enjoy my videos, even if they know I’m totally wrong about everything.

So in that spirit, this week’s song, while still partisan, is an effort to please everyone.  Republicans can gloat over the political mistakes by Democrats I cite, Democrats can appreciate the strategic advice going forward, apolitical types can enjoy the bouncy catchy tune, and everyone can laugh at this middle-aged suburban Jewish mother imitating an adorabale pop star who is only 20.

Lauren Mayer: Bipartisan Nostalgia

In this hyper-partisan era, many writers wax nostalgic about when politics were more civil, when Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan could work together despite their differences, when people disagreed politely.  That’s the great thing about nostalgia – you only have to remember the good parts (like how I love 1930s clothes and music but wouldn’t want to restore that era’s sexism, racism, or economic inequity).  Likewise, there was plenty of political ugliness in the past – but I do think the op ed pieces have a point, in that these days we have lost even the superficial veneer of civilized disagreement.

With that in mind, this week’s song is a hybrid of my own admitted fierce partisanship and an effort to emulate the 1930s, by adopting the gracious tone and witty wordplay of a Noel Coward song.  I may be totally one-sided here, but at least I can do it with grace and style!

Lauren Mayer: The Sound of Marriage Equality

Whatever you thought of the live ‘Sound of Music’ starring Carrie Underwood, it was still commendable for a number of reasons, including exposing country fans to musical theatre, and showing people who’d only seen the movie the numbers & scenes that were cut from it. (Not that Julie Andrews wasn’t adorable, but in the movie the Captain dumps Baroness Schraeder just because of one dance with his employee, which is sort of creepy.  In the actual musical, Schraeder turns out to be a Nazi appeaser, and possibly a sympathizer, which is a slightly better reason . . .)
I was reminded of this song by Louie Gohmert (and a few other wingnuts) remarking that the spreading tide of marriage equality was just like the spread of Nazism . . .

Lauren Mayer: “I’m Not A Scientist”

It has become a disturbing trend lately for politicians to defer expressing an opinion by explaining that they aren’t an expert in whatever area is under discussion.  (I’m old enough to remember when the most common use of this phrase was commercial actors saying, “I’m not a doctor – but I play one on TV!”)  I’m not a scientist either, but I know enough to figure that when 97% of climate change studies attribute it directly to human activity, that’s a pretty good argument.

In fact, I’ve heard that phrase used so often lately that it has become an ‘earworm’ (a disturbingly evocative description of those songs or soundbites that get stuck in one’s head).  So here’s my musical response to this over-used excuse . . .

Lauren Mayer: Musical Peaceniks, 21st Century Style

Even those of you not old enough to remember the 1960s have heard of the various counter-culture movements – anti-war demonstrations, hippies at Woodstock, ‘never-trust-anyone-over-30,’ and so on.  (I was in elementary school, so I wasn’t old enough for any of the really wild stuff.  My counter-culture activities were confined to teaching myself the guitar chords for “Where Have All The Flowers gone?” and macrame-ing myself a belt for my bell-bottoms.  But I digress . . . )

Music, politics and comedy were also combined frequently, from The Smothers Brothers to Country Joe McDonald’s “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag” (the one he recorded at Woodstock, with the iconic refrain, “And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?” – don’t feel bad, I had to look up the title and I was even alive when he wrote it in 1965.  On the other hand, according to Wikipedia, he wrote it in 20 minutes.  How’s that for making us all feel like slouches?)

Anyway, here’s my version of a protest song for modern times, inspired by the always-reliable Daily Show’s apt summary of our latest anti-terrorist campaign:

Lauren Mayer: Election Polling: I’m Not Getting Older – My Hard Drive Is Just Too Full!

Those of us old enough to remember rotary phones, black & white TV, and cars without seatbelts are now at an age when a forgotten name or misplaced car keys can make us worry about age-related memory loss.  My response is always to joke about my hard drive being full – it’s not age, it’s data overload.

And that actually makes sense – by the time we’re in our 50s, we’ve had so many experiences, met so many people, learned so many facts, and memorized so many phone numbers that it’s amazing we can remember our own names.  (And as far as the phone numbers – anyone under 30 has it far easier, because these days who needs to memorize a number when your smart phone does it for you?)

This sense of data overload is particularly profound during campaign season – which these days is pretty much all the time, given that we’re already talking about 2016 and we haven’t even had the 2014 election yet.   It’s not just that every news outlet has its own poll, which all seem to contradict each other, but now pundits are making a science out of poll data aggregation, and none of them agree all of the time.  Plus the results seem to change on a daily basis, depending on the latest lawsuits or stories of errant behavior.

Since this relatively new field of unending data aggregate analysis feels a bit like the untamed wild west, I thought it was appropriate to memorialize it with a wild-west-themed song (and one which only those of us old enough to remember rotary phones are likely to recognize):

Lauren Mayer: ElevatorGate

There are fewer & fewer of us who actually remember the first scandal whose name ended in ‘gate,’ thus inspiring every other controversy to adopt a similar suffix, whether somewhat comparable (“BridgeGate,” about Chris Christie & the GW Bridge closure), unwieldy (the Mark Sanford “AppalachainTrailGate” sex scandal) or downright silly (criticism of the President’s summer wardrobe became “TanSuitGate”).  But part of why the -gate naming continues to this day is that the original Watergate scandal was a huge historic moment.

I was in jr. high when the hearings started (and thank you to those of you thinking, Gee, she doesn’t look THAT old! . . . . but I digress), and even then my die-hard liberal father knew that they would be important.  He allowed me to stay home from school to watch key testimony, and made sure I was aware of the whole story as it unfolded.

If you look up ‘scandals ending in -gate’ you will get a list of over 100 in various categories (anyone remember “toiletgate” or “squidgygate”?), but ironically, so far no one has tried to ‘gate-ize’ what may turn out to be an equally historic moment – recent revelations about domestic and child abuse by professional athletes.  Every day it seems new details emerge, another athlete is found to have beaten a child or girlfriend, and like in Watergate, it may turn out that the coverup is the worst part.

Who knows how historic this story may turn out to be with a few decades’ perspective?  But in the meantime, here’s my musical take on it . . .