The holidays make a nice scapegoat

I saw a graphic on Facebook several days ago that said, “Stop blaming the holidays, you were fat in August.”


Likewise, I suppose we can also say that we were behind on our chores in August, our letter writing, our hobbies, and a lot of other things that we’re now blaming on the holidays.

common scapegoat

Who believes our excuses anyway? Wouldn’t it be simpler to say, “I’m overweight because I eat too much” and never get any exercise rather than blaming those 75 extra pounds on Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Or, admitting that we’re short of funds because we spent too much of Black Friday due to a general lack of discipline rather than suggesting Black Friday came along and drained our bank accounts?

We’re all in this scapegoat business together, aren’t we? Let’s say you’re at a cookout and are just grabbing for your 5th beer when somebody says, “I really need to cut back but I don’t want to be rude.” Everyone joins in because, WTF, who wants to admit being rude. Likewise, granny invites us over for dinner. We don’t want to be rude, especially if we think it might cause granny to have a stroke, so we eat enough for three people and need to borrow granny’s walker to get out to the car.

In general, people seem to like ready excuses for why they got drunk, ate too much, or lost their jobs. These excuses are worth their weight in gold. After all, what sane person wants to accept responsibility for the insane habits they’ve spent a lifetime developing?

So, I’m here to tell you, if you’re eating or spending or drinking too much during the holiday season, it’s not your fault.


Had to mortgage the house to pay off the maxed out credit cards so I could do more shopping

When we were children, people we didn’t know came into our bedrooms at night and brainwashed us to believe in a deep state kind of way that it’s patriotic to overeat on Thanksgiving and overspend on Black Friday.

Wikipedia Photo

I don’t know what I bought today because I was on the run most of the time from rabid shoppers who kept trying to yank my latest deal out my hands before I got into the stolen armored car I was driving today. I seem to have a garage full of electronic equipment that will enrich my life along with the lives of the store owners and the corporate CEOs. It’s been a long day. It continues to be a long day because I’m writing this post from the lobby of a bank where I just cashed out a stack of I Bonds to make sure I had funds left for a stop at Quik Trip on the way home.

You probably have similar stories to tell, stories you’ll pass down to your children and grandchildren about the importance of buying lots of stuff. Nobody has even explained why we need the stuff, only that we need to buy it. If you leave it in the box it came in, your grandchildren can sell it for big bucks on Antiques Road Show 75 years from now. They (your grandchildren) will either think you were totally insane or the cat’s pajamas when they get the cash.

If the fates are with them (your grandchildren), that cash will be enough for ten or fifteen Black Friday’s worth of shopping to continue the tradition.  By then, people will probably be buying by rote without realizing how patriotic shopping was when the tradition started back in the 1950s.

I don’t mean to sound cynical about all this.



Briefly noted: ‘Anticancer Living’

During my final visit with the oncologist, he prescribed this book along with an on-line group called Cancer Navigators. Both present a wealth of information for people who have survived cancer as well as people who are ageing into the period of their life when cancer becomes more likely. Most of us ignore the statistics about the percentages of men and women who will get cancer in their lifetimes until a family member, a close friend of colleague gets it–or until we get it.

There are changes each of us can make in our lives from diet to exercise to weight to attitude that will promote the kind of wellness in our lives that will make cancer less likely. This book goes a long way in outlining how we achieve our best possible chances of never getting cancer or of surviving it with a viable and meaningful lifestyle if we do get it.

From the Publisher:

“The scientific data on the link between lifestyle, environmental factors, and cancer risk has been accumulating at an accelerated rate over the past decade: Every week we learn something more that we can do as individuals to decrease the risk of can­cer and improve the likelihood of long-term survival. Many of us—patients and doctors included—do not realize that changes in our daily choices and habits can improve quality of life, increase the chances of survival, and aid in the healing process for those with a diagnosis. These ideas were pioneered in David Servan-Schreiber’s Anticancer: A New Way of Life, and became the basis for a research study developed by Lorenzo Cohen and Servan-Schreiber at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

“Introducing the concept of the “Mix of Six,” Cohen and Alison Jefferies make an informed case that building social and emotional support; manag­ing stress; improving sleep, exercise, and diet; and minimizing exposure to environmental toxins work together to promote an optimal environment for health and well-being. While each plays an inde­pendent role, the synergy created by all six factors can radically transform health; delay or prevent many cancers; support conventional treatments; and significantly improve quality of life—as many testi­monies and stories of those in the anticancer com­munity eloquently show.

“Anticancer Living provides an accessible, pre­scriptive guide to wellness based on the latest scien­tific findings and clinical trials, and it showcases the community of doctors, researchers, caregivers, and patients who have been inspired to create change.”

Highly Recommended

I won’t know until sometime in January whether the radiation and hormone therapy zapped by prostate cancer. If so, I’m a survivor twice over since surgery took care of my kidney cancer several years ago. According to current thinking, all men get prostate cancer if they live long enough, so I doubt that had if started reading this book after the kidney cancer surgery, I could have avoided the prostate cancer. But who knows?

Suffice it to say, avoiding cancer is better than getting it, and yet so many people–including me–are averse to doing the obvious kinds of things that lead to a healthy body, brain, and mind. I don’t know if that’s laziness or the false idea that cancer is random no matter how healthy one is. I think we’re overly influenced when healthy people get cancer and when people who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day never get it.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and, for goodness sakes, take care of yourselves.




OMG, the in-laws are coming for Thanksgiving

Here’s what that means:

  1. The guest bedroom/sewing room looks more like an attic where people have stored crap for years.
  2. The guest bathroom still has the bar of soap they used the last time they were here–need I say anything more?
  3. Food, don’t ask. The in-laws eat the kind of food that you see on the Food Network program “Chopped.” That not only means it’s weird but that it isn’t stocked in normal grocery stores.

Okay, I’ve rented a backhoe and have been using it to clean out all the stuff that needs to be cleaned out. I found Jimmy Hoffa in the bathtub and put him out to pasture with the cows. I’ve called the Food Network and asked them to ship in mass quantities of goat testicles, squid ink, and haggis so we’ll have enough food on hand for the week.

The sheets and towels for the front bedroom and bathroom are going through the washer. The cat’s claws have been clipped. Most of the hairballs have been located and thrown into the backyard. We plan to vacuum the living room at the last minute so it can’t get screwed up again before they arrive on Tuesday.

My wife and sister-in-law will do a special shopping on Wednesday to make sure all the food materials are under control to the extent that that’s possible. No doubt, the cats will be on their worst behavior while that’s happening because they simply don’t care what they do and when they do it.

So, how about you? Are you ready for whoever’s coming to dinner?



Veterans, I think, suffer more than the dead


“Thank you for your service.” Veterans appreciate hearing that.

Some people mix up Veterans Day and Memorial Day. I know this because official ceremonies for November 11 often occur in or near cemeteries. Photographs often feature gravestones. While well-intentioned through their inadvertent odes to the dead, these mixed-up commemorations are a faux pas because–to the cynical viewers like me–they show that people are too busy shopping and otherwise enjoying a holiday to get the reason behind the holiday right.

Today is for those who came back, not those who didn’t.

In my fiction about war, I have said that the dead are often the lucky ones, for those who come home to be thanked for their service once a year often have physical and mental wounds that will never heal. They often live under bridges, suffer through years of PTSD, lose sleep for the nightmares of war that cannot be erased from their memories, create dysfunctional families when they cannot re-acclimate into civilian life, and–if they fought in a war after WWII and Korea–they will hear that nobody wanted what they fought for and that it would have been better for them if they’ never come home.

Personally, I would rather my family see my name on the Vietnam War Memorial than on any list of heroes or in any photographs of soldiers receiving awards. Why? The survivors pay too much for having served. Death is so much better, so much more peaceful, and so much more blessed than being condemned by fate to become a living casualty whose dreams remind him/her of the worst human being can do to each other.

I salute the veterans who have triumphed over their memories of war, memories that will never be fixed by the words, “Thank you for your service.” They are braver and stronger than I am.

On this day, we support our troops, the ones who came home who will forever hear the sounds of artillery and rifle file in their nightmares and who will forever see the dead in the field in their mind’s eye. The dead in the field are, in my view, luckier than those who came home with memories of what they saw and what they heard in the war.

In spite of my anti-war cynicism, I’m glad the country steps aside from the more mundane moments of life long enough to celebrate a Memorial Day and a Veterans Day. These days remind us of the sacrifices of the living and the dead.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the anti-war novel “At Sea”






I need a twelve-step program to keep me from saying things on Facebook

You’ve heard of Facebook, right? It’s part of the so-called social media. It’s social as long as you are posting humorous pictures of cats, celestial pictures of oceans and sunsets, and cartoons about stupid people getting their just desserts. It’s less social when one person makes a political comment and another person politely takes issue with that comment.

You’d think I’d know better, but yesterday I suggested that plans for soaking the rich were unlikely to either pay for our many underfunded social programs or get rid of the national deficit. I based this on (a) the fact that the rich pay more taxes already than large segments of the population, and (b) that a study a year or so ago said that if the government took all of the rich’s money, it would hardly make a dent in our nation’s shortfalls

My point, in part, was that one way to balance the budget was controlling spending, especially what I characterized as an obscenely large military budget.

While I was away from that conversation, many people stopped by to attack me with defamatory statements which were easier to think up than any real fact-based arguments. Several years ago, I was shocked to hear that many intelligent people only listen to the commentators they agree with. That is, they don’t allow themselves access to balanced news reporting or any commentary that includes ideas from multiple sources.

Facebook, for all its lovely cat pictures and sentimental graphics, proves to me that it’s hard to compete with ignorance. One meme recently suggested disbelief that a regular person could be so vain as to think that s/he knew more about a scientist’s subject than the scientist. There were a lot of LIKES on this one. Yet the same people didn’t seem to feel that way about anything else. Saying anything they don’t like–but cannot prove one way or the other–is like poking a fire hill with a stick. It’s best not to do it.

Yet, I’m a volatile person of Scot’s ancestry and, as everyone knows, we’re best described by opinions defined by sex, drinking, and fighting. This means we’re likely to say anything about anything. Soaking the rich is apparently the Panacea that will solve all of our problems. Whenever somebody says that my first thought is, “How stupid can you get?”

So, I left a casual comment on the soaking the rich thread on Facebook and came back hours later to discover most people in the thread thought I was the anti-Christ. They had no facts to prove it or to prove why whey they disagreed. So, of course, character assassination was the easiest route the could take.

There was no point in arguing with them, so I simply deleted my comment. Since all of their comments were linked to mine, everything they said disappeared as well. I won’t be going back to that person’s profile because he had ample opportunity to keep the discussion on track rather than allowing it to degenerate into a childish grade school argument.

I see this approach everywhere, even amongst our so-called national leaders. It’s a sad thing, I believe, when they can’t stick to the facts in a debate and choose to find real or imagined dirt on those they’re debating.