Friday, November 29, 2013

Personally glad that the holidays are here

Santa Claus officially kicked off the holiday season yesterday when, at the end of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, he smiled his smile and waved his wave. I was wide-eyed and smiling myself. And I will be for the next month.

That doesn’t mean I won’t complain, of course.

For example, as I went down Transit Road in Lockport Thursday afternoon, I took note of the stores that were open. Shame on them. I can understand a couple gas stations and a convenience store or two being open on Thanksgiving. But the dollar store? On Thanksgiving? Seriously? There’s no reason for it.

Personally, I think that gas stations and convenience stores should take turns being open on holidays … and charge at least double what they usually charge. There’s very little reason that anyone should ever need to purchase gas or groceries on a holiday. And if you do, it’s basically an emergency, right? So you get charged emergency prices. Just my opinion. I have lots of them.

Personally, I think that people that spend all their time complaining about government — especially local government — should be required to run for office. I hear all sorts of “great ideas” all the time while people are complaining about corruption or abuse or whatever. Sharing your idea publicly is great. Running for office would be even better. Quit whining and start doing.

Personally, I think that Republicans should stop fighting against Obamacare and start figuring out ways to make it better. Most would agree that it’s not a perfect system. But neither was what we had before. Rather than simply going back to the last imperfect system, it would be nice if Congress tried to come up with a more perfect one.

Personally, I think that we need to go back to driving school en masse and learn how to work a four-way stop. I know people are just trying to be nice when they wave you through. But I always come to a complete stop first. So if you just go when you’re supposed to, we’d all get through easier.

On a similar note: Personally, I think there are too many stop lights in Western New York. And yet, I don’t really like roundabouts. There was a town in Germany or something that took out all their stop lights, stop signs, etc. a few years ago. And they found that traffic accidents actually went down. I don’t understand why. But I’m all for it. I hate being the only car on the road and having to wait for a stop light.

Personally, I think that if you buy or rent a DVD or Blu-Ray disc you should not be forced to watch the previews if you don’t want to. Being made to watch advertising before you can watch the movie you paid for just seems unfair. That said, I often love the previews. But let me watch them when I want. Not before the movie I’m super excited about watching.

Personally, I’ll be watching practically nothing but Christmas movies for the next month. Because, you know, Santa waved at me yesterday and that was my cue.

Scott Leffler has opinions about everything. And because they're opinions, they can't be wrong. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Leave your politics out of my parade

The countdown to Thanksgiving is on. And while you may not yet have picked up your bird and all the trimmings yet, the fine folks from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade have been hard at work preparing for one of my favorite annual spectacles for nearly a year now.

Unfortunately for them even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. So why should an 89-year tradition (it skipped two years during WWII, which is why this is the 87th annual parade) involving New York City’s flagship department store, bands, floats, celebrities, balloons and all other manner of entertainment be allowed to be unscathed?

That must be the thinking of some ranchers from South Dakota and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, both of whom have decided that politics trumps tradition and kids around don’t need a morning of fun -- what they need is a sermon.

It’s somewhat odd that the parade is being hit from both sides. The ranchers were upset that a vegetarian, Joan Jett, was representing their cattle-driven state. As such, they petitioned to have her removed. Jett volunteered to move to another float to avoid the controversy. PETA, meanwhile is upset that SeaWorld exists. They intend to protest the parade route in response to Macy’s refusal to sink the aquatic theme park’s float.

The parade has never seen this type of controversy. And it never should. Shame on the ranchers. And even more, shame on PETA. How dare they ruin the only part of Thanksgiving many kids (and myself) actually enjoy.

Macy’s official statement concerning the protests says, “The parade has never taken on, promoted or otherwise engaged in social commentary, political debate or other forms of advocacy.”

And why would they? It’s a parade, for the love of God. It’s a distraction from the mundanity of life, it gives kids something to be excited about. And at the end, when Santa comes down 6th Avenue headed towards 34th Street, it marks, for many, the start of the Christmas season. It is the official kickoff of the “most wonderful time of the year.”

So how can PETA taint that? Why would they want to ruin the kickoff to Christmas? They’re willing to poison the otherwise happy memories of children in order to push their political agenda. Rather than kids saying, “hey, mom, look! Minions!” they’ll be saying “why are those people so angry?”

Maybe you think I’m overreacting but from my perspective, ruining the Thanksgiving Day Parade is tantamount to treason. Maybe even terrorism. Why not just have Santa get mauled by tigers at the end of the parade?

Thanksgiving afternoon I’ll be choking down some turkey. And later that night I’ll be working - as I do every Thanksgiving. But Thanksgiving morning, I plan on watching the parade and trying to avoid other people’s politics. I can only hope NBC focuses on the floats and avoids the flakes.

Scott Leffler loves animals. Especially served between two slices of bread with a side of potatoes. He also likes SeaWorld. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Something new and different

So apparently I have just too much time on my hands.

See, myself and two friends — +George Root and +Craig Bacon — decided we should start a writing troupe, if you will. We get together once a week and work on some grand projects.

BUT ... once a week just wasn't cutting it. So we started what I have referred to as a "round robin" writing project. One of us starts a short story. Then another adds to it. And then the third adds more. Back to #1, #2, #3 again. And wrapping up with the person who started the story.

We've finished our first one and offer it up for your perusal here.

The fun thing is the writer after you can follow your train of thought or completely derail it. You might think you know where the story is going, but get back something that you never expected. That happened with this first piece.

I hope you enjoy this. You'll see more soon. Very soon.

- Scott

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Some things just don’t add up

Math isn’t my thing. I’m more of a words guy. But I’m pretty good at simple arithmetic. I can add 2 and 2 just as well as the next guy. But some things just don’t add up.

Who does Rob Ford think he is, anyway? The mayor of Toronto admitted to smoking crack. He also admitting to buying drugs in the last two years. But does he resign in disgrace? Of course not. While many in Canada have suggested he go to rehab, he said “no, no, no.” Instead he’s going to run for re-election.

The vast majority of Torontonians — 72 per cent, in fact — call Ford's insistence on remaining in office after he admitted to smoking crack cocaine "not acceptable," according to a new Ipsos poll. Of course the only poll that counts is the one on election day. But still.

Does Ford think he’s the mayor of an American city? Say, Washington D.C.? It’s been said that only Nixon could go to China and only Marion Barry could smoke crack and get re-elected. Of course, Barry had a valid excuse. B**** set him up. It’s worth noting that America’s most famous crack-smoking mayor still serves on the D.C. city council.

Does Ford think he’s Charlie Sheen? The movie and TV star admitted in 2011 to smoking crack. While his crazy antics lost him his “men card,” he didn’t lose a step career-wise and actually picked up a lot of new followers through the ordeal. I rather imagine that Rob Ford hopes to be “winning” in the near future. Oddly, I note that Sheen tweeted something of a love note to Ford on Thursday ( apologizing for the media portrayal of the mayor.

Really, I have no idea what’s going on up in Canada but it sure is fun to watch. Honestly it’s just fun to watch another country look stupid for a change.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that the U.S. of A. has gotten out of its own way. In fact, Obamacare is a number crunches dream — or nightmare, depending on whether you crunch your numbers from the right or the left.

According to an Avalere Health report released Thursday, a whopping 3 percent of those expected to have signed up for the Affordable Care Act exchanges have done so. In New York, it’s a mere 2 percent.

For all the effort the Republicans have put into thwarting Obamacare, they could have simply let it self destruct on its own. It reminds me of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds.” The world’s armies have no effect whatsoever on the invading aliens and their superior technology. But a simple cold? Humanity-1, aliens-0.

As I’ve stated before, I admire the theory behind Obamacare. I believe that we have every right to be healthy. But the implementation by this president has been horrific. And his “out-of-touch-ness” seems to radiate from everything he’s “involved in” lately. His motto should be “I didn’t know that” as he seems to be out of every loop in the beltway and beyond.

But hey, we only have three more years to deal with Obama and then we’ll have a new president who might actually make some headway on health care — like she tried to do 20 years ago. Unless she’s attacked by aliens before that. Or becomes friends with Rob Ford. But that wouldn’t add up, now would it?

Scott Leffler occasionally name drops in his columns for search engine optimization. Play Station 4, Iran, Andy Kaufman. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Taking issue with elections issues

Everyone should have voted Tuesday. But few of us did.

I was one of those who took the time to get out there and cast my ballot. It was kind of sad how little there was to actually vote for. Many seats in my city were uncontested. That seemed to be popular in many municipalities across Western New York.

Of course, I can’t blame people for not wanting to run for office. I wouldn’t want to deal with the pressure that comes from being an elected official. Aside from a small stipend, you mostly get paid in grief.

But it’s still sad only having one option to vote for. It’s not much of a vote. “Hey kids, do you want broccoli for dinner? Or broccoli?” Seriously. Not much of an option.

There were three “races” in which my only option was broccoli. I chose not to eat. I’ve made a habit of refusing to vote for any candidate who runs unopposed — no matter how much I might actually like that candidate. It’s my protest against the system, I suppose. Plus it saves ink.

My other frustration with the system is that each candidate can run on multiple lines. It’s called “fusion voting.” It should be called “the great scam.” Basically, major party candidates work their hardest to also secure their position on minor party lines. They have to do this because some people just won’t vote “Republican.” But they’ll vote “Conservative” or whatever.

As I told my friend Tim Schmitt from WLVL on Tuesday night, if you will vote for a candidate, but only on a line other than “Republican” or “Democrat,” you need to grow up. Your claim that “I’ve never voted Republican in my life” is juvenile. It’s like Bill Clinton not inhaling or “not having sexual relations with that woman, miss Lewinsky.” Really, you’re no better than Bill Clinton.

My last disappointment from this year’s election was the passage of Proposition 1, the referendum to allow casino voting in New York State. Although I have no opposition to casinos and generally think that anything that doesn’t infringe on others’ rights should be legal, I was offended by the way the ballot measure was worded, as well as how it was marketed.

The propaganda for the initiative pretty much said if you vote against it, you hate money and progress. So of course people voted for it. Well, at least the people who voted. Not that there were many of them.

Scott Leffler is a voter who votes. Vote for him on Twitter @scottleffler.

Friday, November 01, 2013

It's the holidays -- get over it

With October come and gone, it is, as far as I’m concerned, the holiday season. Or “the holidays.”

There are lots of holidays coming up. Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year’s. Lots of holiday. So I find “happy holidays” to be an appropriate greeting this time of year.

Some people will tell me that I’m un-American for saying “happy holidays” because when Jesus wrote the Constitution, he declared that if you weren’t a Christian, you might as well just go back to Mexico … or something. At least that seems to be the gist that I get from people.

I’ve mentioned in this space previously that I’m a proud Christian. I’ve also mentioned before that my religion and my country are not as intertwined as some would have you believe. We are, after all, the great melting pot. Or at least we’re supposed to be.

If you take all your Halloween candy from yesterday and stick it in a pot and melt it, it doesn’t all become Snickers bars, no matter how much you might want it to. America is similar. If we’re truly a melting pot, then not everyone is going to be a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Christian. Which is good, since I have a thing for brunettes.

Bill O’Reilly will tell you that there’s a war against Christmas. That anyone like me who prefers to be inclusive by saying “happy holidays” is simply trying to subvert the founders’ Christian beliefs. He’s been on this kick for years and it gets more annoying every year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. As far as I’m concerned, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when I’ll start decorating, put up the tree and switch to 24-7 Christmas music.

But loving Christmas doesn’t have to mean hating other holidays. Just as being Christian doesn’t mean hating other religions.

So let me be the first to say “happy holidays,” before someone in Congress gets the bright idea to make the phrase illegal.

Scott Leffler is a big fan of all holidays. Except Thanksgiving. Follow him on Twitter @scottleffler.