The Ungiven

A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No

I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my dutifully celebrated goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them like spam, and as requests intensified by the end of the year, December being the apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched their insistence by shredding it all without even opening.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes loaded with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO PROFIT?
I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.

WOULD THAT BE CASH OR CARD?
Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs,(more)
_______
Read Also:
* Trick or Truce
* Sleight of News

Continue reading

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Downtime

Seven Treats to Give
Yourself & the World

The year has started with a bang and your head still hurts. So let’s ease ourselves into it, as gently as possible, shall we? Thus our very useful guide of stuff to do – the kind you never find time for – whose rewards you’ll be collecting way beyond December. 
Like, serving meals at a Soup Kitchen. Or taking a bath, in a sensory-deprived tank. You pick the order. In a pickle? The state may owe you cash. Kinda blue? Host a pet this weekend. And more. New York choices are plenty for serving and be served. Just sign on.
For soon enough, there’ll be laundry to do, people to call, and debt collectors to avoid. Holidays are brutal, and their toll usually lasts for months. Here’s your chance to break the mold and get started on something rare, to remember this January like you never done before.
Only a minority is already living in this future we may’ve imagined 2016 would be, this same time last year. Most of us can’t even write the date correctly yet. Gosh, there’s still so much left to do just from a few days ago, let alone 12 months past.
Never mind new resolutions. Nothing ever changes purely on their account, anyway. Start simple, they say, progress wearily, and proceed with caution. We know, our head hurts too. Who can stand strong emotions so soon? Take this guide and calls us in the morning.

PICNIC AT A GRAVEYARD
It may sound morbid but many are still mourning the death of yet another year, without achieving anything near what David Bowie, who’ll be 69 this Friday, already had at a much younger age. So weep, but take some wine and cheese with you. You’ll be in good company.
Green-Wood, in Brooklyn, and Woodlawn, in the Bronx, are both beautiful, full of history, and peaceful enough for some quiet crying. Plus, they’ve both hold periodic activities, some after midnight, of course, that don’t involve your corpse just yet. Good hauntings.

SERVE SOME SOUP
Come holidays and big dates, someone always has this idea of volunteering at rescue missions around town. Problem is, they’re usually fully booked at those times, by others just like you, except a bit more industrious to enlist their names. It’s all good, though.
Now, most places can’t get enough help. With increased homelessness in this frigid city of ours, it’s a golden chance to fulfill one of those rare urges that doesn’t benefit only you. Whether it’ll make you feel good about yourself is irrelevant. Gotta serve somebody.
TAKE A TANK BATH
Neuroscientist John C. Lilly (who’d have been 100 today) is credited with developing sensory deprivation tanks, where one can float for hours on Epson salts. Later, he added LSD to the experience, (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Curb Your God
* Battleground Masters
* Random Kindness
Continue reading

Nary a Christmas

The Worst (& Cutest) Little
Gift Some Forget Not to Give

For those still looking for that perfect gift, one that will save the holiday cheer, and prevent anyone from calling you a Grinch, we’re sorry but you won’t find your last-minute redemption in this post. For that, please scroll down, or, since we’re in a giving mode, go elsewhere.
Just hope you won’t settle for a particular kind people continue to give each other this time of the year: pets. It may as well be the topmost mistake, in the season’s long tradition of mistakes, right up with getting drunk in the office party, and wishing Merry Christmas to everyone.
One may feel tempted, though, and perhaps animal shelters share part of the responsibility for some of the disappointment such a gift usually ensues. During the holidays, those heartbreaking late night ads with sad-faced cats and dogs up for adoption are shown at an earlier hour, just in time to offer you a quick fix for guilty feelings.
Well, don’t fall into that trap. Even if you had to go to the kitchen to grab some tissue, missing the part where they say that these rescued animals need the safety of your home, not that of your siblings, you’re still not excused. After all, it’s not the poor things’ fault that you still don’t know your nephews’ names.

FOR THE LOVE OF OUR PETS
Thus, as they say somewhere, ‘nary a Christmas’ goes by without someone having the astonishingly misguided idea of bringing a pet to a family who hate cat fur, or what they do to the furniture, or simply can’t be broken into walking a dog three times a day. They’ll most certainly return the animal.
That’s often the beginning of their martyrdom and ultimate destruction. Like you, most people mean well when they think that giving a living, Continue reading

The Ungiven

A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No

I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my own goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them all like spam, and as the quests for help intensified towards the end of the year, December being the very apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched it all with equal intensity by sending them all to trash.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes stuffed with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.

WHY SHOULD I?
I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.

LACK OF ATLAS
Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs, Continue reading

Caturday Tails

Holly, Pereque & Orlando,
Who Walked, Fell & Picked

How could a cat walk 200 miles and find her way back home? How many lives are left, after surviving a five-store fall? How much of picking stocks can be assigned to chance? Such were the questions we’ve asked last week, through the tales of three cats.
We’ll never know what drove Holly to spend two months walking back or how she knew what direction to take. Neither can we explain how Pereque fell onto a spiked fence but didn’t have any organ pierced. But if Orlando can beat professional investment wizards, what’s left to us?
Just an excuse to talk about cats, you may say, and who are we to begin arguing to the contrary. Except that it may give us pause to appreciate the mystery of these creatures, going to astonishing lengths to remain loyal to us. As to whether we even deserve such attention, we leave it to you to decide.
THE WALKING HOLLY
What made a four-year-old tortoiseshell, who disappeared in Daytona Beach, last November, to walk to the point of rendering her back paws to a nail-less, raw-flesh pulp, all the way to West Palm Beach, some 200 miles away? As an indoor cat, probabilities can’t even begin to explain it, and yet she made it.
The proof that Holly’s the same cat was an implanted chip, which has been useful for identifying lost pets. (Never mind that, at this point, Continue reading

Nary a Christmas

The Worst (& Cutest) Little
Gift Some Forget Not to Give

For those still looking for that perfect gift, one that will save the holiday cheer, and prevent anyone from calling you a Grinch, we’re sorry but you won’t find your last-minute redemption in this post. For that, please scroll down, or, since we’re in a giving mode, go elsewhere.
Just hope you won’t settle for a particular kind people continue to give each other this time of the year: pets. It may as well be the topmost mistake, in the season’s long tradition of mistakes, right up with getting drunk in the office party, and wishing Merry Christmas to everyone.
One may feel tempted, though, and perhaps animal shelters share part of the responsibility for some of the disappointment such a gift usually ensues. During the holidays, those heartbreaking late night ads with sad-faced cats and dogs up for adoption are shown at an earlier hour, just in time to offer you a quick fix for guilty feelings.
Well, don’t fall into that trap. Even if you had to go to the kitchen to grab some tissue, missing the part where they say that these rescued animals need the safety of your home, not that of your siblings, you’re still not excused. After all, it’s not the poor things’ fault that you still don’t know your nephews’ names.

FOR THE LOVE OF OUR PETS
Thus, as they say in the south, ‘nary a Christmas’ goes by without someone having the astonishingly misguided idea of bringing a pet to a family who hate cat fur, or what they do to the furniture, or simply can’t be broken into walking a dog three times a day. They’ll most certainly return the animal.
That’s often the beginning of their martyrdom and ultimate destruction. Like you, most people mean well when they think that giving a living, Continue reading

Sour Apples

10 Annoying Things  
About New York City

Readers of this blog are regularly served a mix of choice cuts and odd views about the Big Apple. But so far, we’ve managed to skip over a New Yorker’s favorite state of mind: that of constant peevishness. In fact, some of us go through the day barely avoiding complaining about everything and everybody.
Since city residents can also be polite, such annoyance, simmering just below the surface, may go unnoticed most of the time. Just don’t push it. When over eight million people need to find ways of spending the day with each other, avoidance comes off as second nature. The first? it’s advisable not to ask.
So we may not make any friends here by highlighting our own idiosyncrasies which, nevertheless, can set us off to no end. Maybe it’s the end of the summer. Or the fact that going after an easy target, say, Williamsburg hipsters, would immediately give away our terminal case of uncoolness.
But not being invited to the A-List party, or sporting the latest ‘label-sensitive’ shoulder bag doesn’t bother us the least. On the contrary, it’s a point of honor to share the morning latte with that model from HBO and still pretend that we had no idea who that was. And no one needs to know that we live in a studio.
One last word about out of towners, that engorging platoon with deeper pockets and higher expectations than ours: they’re fine. Of course, we may have a few homicidal thoughts when they block our sidewalk. But just stand for a second under a street sight and see how may of us will come running to give you directions.
You won’t find a city more open than New York to foreign accents, Continue reading