Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Down The Middle Of The Grieving Process

Unlike many other large events in a person's life, a death can tend to bring up an odd kind of question. This doesn't have anything to do with inheritance or who was the deceased favorite relative. All of that is not a part of this question and, unless the decision is made beforehand, there could be a whole lot of arguements on the whole thing.

The question is... What kind of service to hold - funeral, memorial, or wake?

While two of these choices could seem like they are very similar, there are also subtle factors that bring out the differences. A funeral is the full blown church service with all of the accessories including the dearly departed in most respects. The finale of this kind of event tends to lead to going out to the graveyard for the standard rememberance as the coffin is lowered into the grave. It tends to work into a very regimental kind of way and it all tends to work the same way every time.

The memorial service is an odd kind of ceremony that actually sort of fits right in the middle of the others. You get all of the standard somber rememberances and the the like but you also get a couple swerves thrown in for good measure. A memorial service tends to play a little fast and loose with the musical choices which allows for freedom to be creative. I'll always remember watching parts of Jim Henson's service on the news because he had New Orleans style jazz band play "When The Saints Come Marching In" to close the whole thing. You just don't get something like that at your full funerals.

Another part of the memorial service that leans closer to a wake is the idea of the assembled friends and family being allowed to give voice to their feelings of the departed. Instead of just sitting for the whole ceremony and listening to the priest give the eulogy, there is a time set aside if any of the people in the pews want to say anything. This freedom of language gives everyone the ability to voice their thoughts and feelings and also helps to work as kind of an emotional release. Instead of holding in all of that emotion and interesting stories, they are shared with everyone in the room and give a fuller vision of the person that you are there to be remembering.

The third choice tends to be the favorite of alchoholics everywhere, namely the wake. The least formal of the three services, this one tends to go in all kinds of directions due to the probability of a large amount of alchohol being consumed. It's not a requirement of a wake for everyone to get blitzed but it just seems to work out that way most of the time. Along with the alchohol, the event is made up of a group of people spending the time telling stories about and listening to the favorite music of the departed person. It is also the most informal of the three affairs so it has a more relaxed sense of self. You don't have to be dressed up or quiet and respectful at a wake which can help to loosen people up in this time of emotional stress.

If I was asked my choice, I would go to the memorial service though a wake would be cool too. The only problem with the wake is that I wouldn't be there to enjoy the drink and talk. It kinds of puts a very morbid air on the whole endevor since it reads like your trying to come up with a party for a group of people that might not want to be there. As long as it's not stuffy and formal the whole time, it could be a very cathartic kind of experience for everyone concerned.

Everyone except the person that died... though that would tend to be a little obvious once you think about it...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Take A Look At The World Through My Camera Phone

It's time again for cell phone camera theatre!

If You Couldn't Figure It Out Already - It's generic soda either for idiots or for the illiterate.

Someone Is Kind Of Missing The Whole Reason For The Fence - If you're going to go to all of the trouble to put up a "No Tresspassing" sign, I'd like to think that you would go that extra step and put some kind of obstruction to block the wide open part of the fence.

Direct Specific Marketing - The drive thru wouldn't be complete without a poster of a Spanish Whopper.

Sorry... We Have No Bananas... - It can really bite to have an inventory shortage during the middle of a heat wave.

When The Lay's Company Officially Ran Out Of Ideas - How long does it take someone to come up with the idea for this flavor of potato chip?

It's Attack Of The Killer Toilet Dragon - This would be very cute... if it wasn't found on the wall of a men's urinal...

You Know It's Bad When The Note Is That Long - This was found on the door of the hotel room across from mine the day before I left. It must have been something horrible to need all that writing.

One Of The Things That I've Always Wanted To Do Is Off The List - Welcome to Wrigley Field! : )

Proper Wording Can Be Your Friend - Am I the only person that sees the problem with this sign? I hope not...

They'll Find A Way To Coat Anything - Is this considered a snack food or do they expect you to cook with them?

God? Is That You? - This is either me arriving at O'Hare Airport in Chicago or on the people mover directly to Heaven.

Tending Bar On A First Named Basis - I really hope this Jenn person isn't stingy with the liquor.

You Should Just Not Walk On The Bridge - When there are two different warning signs of different colors and both have a little guy on them, you know that it's serious.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Melting Pot Or Whirlpool?

It's been kind of odd to see all of the people suddenly up in arms about making English the national language of the United States. The voices were a trickle at first but they seemed to grow during the start of this year and now just don't seem to want to talk about anything else a lot of the time. It can get to the point where it seems like everyone is agreement on the topic.

While that is definately open to discussion, I think that this whole hulabaloo comes from a centralized source. Throughout the history of this country, it's mostly been a white-anglo-caucasian nation with many different ethnic groups making up a portion of the population. There might be a Spanish, Korean, or Indian language station on your local cable network but they tended to be stuck in the more marginalized area of the channel directory.

The last couple of censuses and just general polling of American citizens has started to show that this might not be the case anymore. The United States of America is becoming more of a melting pot than the founding father could have possibly imagined. There are people from all over the world living in the US who speak a multitude of native languages and are here in numbers big enough to actually gain recognition and status. Take a look at your ballot the next time you vote and see how many different languages it is translated into. The mass media has latched onto this and now there are many magazines, television channels, and other things geared directly to non English speaking people.

Which leads directly into the whole "Speak English" debate. There is quickly appearing groups that might have been a minority in the past but now they are growing closer to the majority. This country is rapidly becoming an actual melting pot with people from all over the world all calling the USA home. It is very possible that the next census will show the numbers of nationalities are even closer than we guessed it could be.

This country was created and built under the ideal that everyone was welcome. This is where the melting pot analogy came from. Unlike the other countries of the world, the US was a mixture of all of the people that came to live here (and also the native population) and make a new life. The danger with a lot of the "english only" arguements is that it risks spinning the contents of the pot into a whirlpool, spinning all of us to the sides and away from each other. The center of the pot drops lower and lower until the emptyness goes straight down to the bottom. An emptyness that could become a vacuum and pull us all into it. I don't tend to be a pessimist but that is something that could very detrimental to the country and everyone that lives here.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Who Is Fighting In This War Anyway?

All of the different news stories coming out of the Middle East have been really kind of making me want to sit back and wonder about some of the people around me. For such an enlightened civilization that we are supposed to be, it amazes me that we keep finding new ways to screw up the same damn things. I keep hearing all of this talk about how this is a war between Lebanon and Israel which it isn't. They say that Lebanon doesn't want to fight Hezbollah because they side with them which is not true for a large portion of the country.

Lebanon is a country that was literally just starting to turn the corner away from all of the civil wars and bloodshed that nearly destroyed the country in the 80s and most of the 90s. You had Muslims fighting to recreate the country into an Islamic state which didn't really go with what the rest of the population wanted. After years of bloodshed and turmoil, it came down to the point that a cease fire was possible and it moved through all of the warring groups. Even with the end of open hostilities, there were still some mighty snags in the plan.

The biggest snag was the fact that a large portion of the really devout Muslims moved down to the southern part of Lebanon. This influx of new immigrants gave Hezbollah the might to turn it's attentions away from ruling Lebanon and to trying to destroy their perceived mortal enemies, Israel. So began the bombings and incursions and all of the other assorted attacks that pissed off the Jewish population to the south.

All of this leads into a hook that is pulling at the snag - Most people in the northern area of Lebanon don't like or follow Hezbollah at all. They see the group as a terrorist organization that uses violence to get it's way. The people in the sourthern regions have a different view of the situation. They have Hezbollah members around them 24/7 and they have noticed that it seems like this group does a lot better with helping out their survival than the official government is. Let it be stated that most of these niceties tend to wind up being linked into the whole human shield idea of diplomacy but the fact that this group is able to help them with basic aspects of survival tends to soften the blow considerably.

Lebanon is a country that is still in the rebuilding phase but many people in the rest of the world don't want to hear that. They don't see a country that is still rebuilding it's military after years of neglect and battle. All they see is what they want to see, namely a country that is allowing a terrorist group to operate on it's sovereign soil. The possible ramifications of a less than powerful Lebanese army trying to fight Hezbollah could lead the country right back into the civil war that it took so long to get out of.

I don't claim to know all of the answers but I do know that It's better to hear the whole story and not just the bits and pieces that fit into your view of the situation. I and many people that I know are very lucky to not have to survive in the hellish kind of world that a good portion of the Lebanese people are going through right now. I wish them all of the luck and strength to survive until a possible new dawn appears in their country.