Werewolves I have known and loved

03 werewold PittRight now, you are probably asking yourself, “Would a Werewolf by any other name smell as sweet?” If you weren’t asking yourself that question after you read the title to this column, may I ask why not? Werewolves get the short end of the stick, perhaps because they won’t play fetch, or more likely due to societal discrimination against the Werewolf community. Today’s essay will try to bridge the gap between Werewolves and humans.

Chico Marx once asked “Why a duck?” in the Marx Brothers’ 1929 movie "Cocoanuts." Groucho said something to Chico about a viaduct. This led to a long conversation about ducks totally ignoring the plight of Werewolves. This is a clear example of concern for ducks overriding microaggressions against Werewolves. Why not “Why a Werewolf?” instead of ducks. Groucho and Chico both owe Werewolves an apology and substantial reparations. If you shoot a Werewolf with a silver bullet, does he not bleed? If Shylock in Shakespeare’s play “The Merchant of Venice” had changed a word he could have been talking about Werewolves when he said: “Hath not a Werewolf eyes? Hath not a Werewolf hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions …. If you prick us, do we not bleed. If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

Today’s column is a defense of Werewolves, as discriminated a carbon-based life form as there ever was one. Let us consider the origin of the species of Werewolves. Werewolves were not always Werewolves; they began as people until something happened. That event that changes a human into a Werewolf is called Lycanthropy. According to Greek myth, a King named Lycaon foretold Sweeny Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Lycaon tried to feed a human flesh pizza to Zeus at a picnic. Zeus got wise to Lycaon’s plot before chowing down and refused the pie. Zeus was not amused and turned Lycaon and his sons into the original Werewolves.

Zeus didn’t stick around forever so other events had to turn people into Werewolves. According to Mr. Google some of the most common ways you can become a Werewolf are by being bitten by one, some people are born Werewolves (e.g. Jeffrey Epstein), or drinking rain water from the foot print of a Werewolf. A person dumb enough to drink rain water from the foot print of a Werewolf probably lowers the collective average IQs of all Werewolves. Such a person probably thinks that the gross jellylike substance on top of Vienna sausages straight from the can is a taste treat. This demonstrates the old saying, “There is no accounting for taste, said the old lady as she kissed the cow.”

Even if you are smart enough not to drink water from the footprint of a Werewolf you are not safe. Recall the immortal poetry from the Lon Chaney Jr. movie “The Wolfman” which advises: “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night/ May become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms and the Autumn moon is bright.” You can wear a mask. You can get a wolfsbane vaccine. You can socially distance from Werewolves. But none of these precautions can protect you when the wolfsbane is blooming and the full moon is shining. This column is slated to stain newsstands on 2 December. The November full moon was on 30 November which means the moon is still shining bright. The Werewolves will be out in full force when this Up & Coming Weekly hits the streets. As one final gift from the year of Our Lord 2020, the last full moon of 2020 will be on December 29th. The December full moon is called the Cold Moon. Werewolves are covered with fur so the cold doesn’t bother them. Be careful on the 29th.

As a public service, we do not wish to leave you without a remedy in the event that you are turned into a 2020 Werewolf. There are certain things one can do to reverse the curse of the Werewolf. Kindly jot these down on a sticky note and affix it to your refrigerator in the event that Lycanthropy comes to your door. Making a poultice of wolfsbane and wearing it around the neck can sometimes reverse Werewolfery. Exorcism by a Board Certified Veterinarian can often reverse a person’s transmogrification into a Werewolf. Strapping a Werewolf patient to a chair and forcing them to watch 24 hours of daytime television almost always destroys the Werewolf virus. Unfortunately, the cure of watching daytime TV can be worse than the disease of Werewolfery. Most former Werewolf patients after 24 hours of exposure to the drivel from daytime TV lose at least 50% of their IQ. Post TV therapy, the former Werewolf is not good for much of anything other than being used as home plate in a Little League baseball game.

In defense of Werewolves, I do not want to leave the impression that everything about being a Werewolf is unpleasant. Consider the immortal words of the late, great Warren Zevon in his song "Werewolves of London" — “He’s the hairy handed gent who ran amuck in Kent/ Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair/ You better stay away from him/ He’ll rip your lungs out Jim/ I’d like to meet his tailor/ AAOOOO Werewolves of London, AAOOOO/ Well, I saw Lon Chaney walking with the Queen/ Doing the Werewolves of London/ I saw a Werewolf drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic’s/ And his hair was perfect.”

So, if you need to upgrade your fashion sense, meet the Queen, and get a perfect hair cut despite the Rona, becoming a Werewolf may be the right career step for you.

Thanksgiving postmortem

02 family turkey mealThanksgiving 2020, more than many others, brought not only food for the body but food for the mind.

As my small group of immediate family gathered, we opened all the doors and windows and stayed outside as much as we could. We dispensed with long held traditions, tucking into fried chicken instead of roasted turkey and dressing. I missed Thanksgivings of my childhood at my grandparents’ house, filled with wonderful smells and swarming with cousins. I missed Thanksgivings with my own family and those we think of as family, tables laden with potluck foods from many different households and traditions. I missed those who were not with us because they are no longer here, and those who could not be with us because of the pandemic raging unchecked throughout our nation.

At the same time, I am deeply grateful for those who were at our table and for our health, for friends from all parts of my life who continue to enrich the world in so many different ways, and for vaccines on the horizon to shut down the plague of 2020. I am thankful for the bone-tired health care workers who continue to care for their fellow Americans, some of whom believe COVID-19 is a hoax and who refuse to take precautions. And, I pray the families and friends of the more than 262,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19 will find peace and hope in the coming days.

I am thankful for all Americans that democracy has prevailed over authoritarianism in our nation.

It is hardly news that the United States has become critically hardened and partisan, with people in both camps barely understanding what the other says, rendering our nation a political Tower of Babel. There are many reasons for this — the growing divide between the haves and the have-nots, educational disparities, niche media which preach to their own choirs among them. This intolerance among Americans continues to damage our nation and our standing in the world.

That is why I and millions of others are profoundly thankful for the brave and principled Americans who did the right thing in recent weeks, who despite heavy political pressure put country before party. They deserve recognition. Among them are elections officials in many states who stood up for and certified unbiased, untainted and accurate voting totals despite unfounded allegations of widespread voter fraud, of which no proof has been cited. In addition, both state and federal judges in several states dismissed such unsupported legal claims, allowing accurate vote counts to prevail. Only a handful of politicians showed such courage, notably Utah’s Senator Mitt Romney, who stood up for a fair election, when most others, including North Carolina’s two Senators, apparently checked their spines in a Capitol closet.

It is meaningful to note that Abraham Lincoln established our American Thanksgiving. It harkens back a meal shared, at least apocryphally, by Pilgrim settlers and Native Americans in what is now Massachusetts in 1621. The official holiday itself dates from 1863, when Lincoln declared a national day of Thanksgiving. He did so in the midst of the American Civil War, at a time when the tide was slowly turning in favor of the Union. The next year, he proclaimed another day of Thanksgiving, writing that God “has been please to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of the civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions.”

In other words, Lincoln established Thanksgiving to celebrate the America’s democracy.

We celebrate the same blessing in 2020.

The Art of the Steal

06 Trump Book Cover copy this oneBefore running for President of the United States, billionaire real estate investor and developer Donald John Trump was probably most notably known for co-authoring “Trump The Art of the Deal,” which enjoyed a 13-week run on the coveted New York Times bestseller list.

In this book co-authored by Donald Trump and journalist Tony Schwartz, Donald Trump is portrayed as the great deal maker, and a man able to negotiate and navigate the complicated road map to bring parties together to formulate some of the greatest business deals.

It was on this premise that in 2016, candidate Donald Trump ran for the U.S. presidency. He ran on the premise of being able to bring the most diametrically opposed world leaders, politicians and industries together in order to “Make America Great Again,” and to once and for all “Put America First.”

Donald Trump’s “Put America First” agenda quickly turned one of the most beloved businessmen in America into one of the most hated world leaders of all time. Although Donald Trump is probably most notably known for his co-authoring of “The Art of the Deal,” his presidency may be most notably known for the Democrat-written global stage play known as “The Art of Steal.”

This global “stage play” is loaded with a cast of political leaders from around the globe. From America to Russia, and from North Korea to Ukraine, “The Art of the Steal” is performed on a world stage and produced by a full array of mainstream media outlets.

Filmed on location at the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, “The Art of the Steal” is guaranteed to take not just your breath away, but your votes as well.

During the 2020 election blockbuster, Democrats activate their plan to steal the 2020 election using tools that range from collusion to impeachment, civil unrest to a global pandemic, and from unsolicited mail-in ballots to dead voters.

All these twists and turns have contributed to what former Vice President Joe Biden, one of the lead characters in this political saga, notably called the “most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics.”

This intriguing storyline is riddled with communism, Marxism, and good old-fashioned American patriotism.

Due to all of the plots and schemes embedded in this expose of political correction, manipulation and scandal, the release date of this epic has been postponed from Tuesday, Nov. 3 until a later date to be determined. Stay tuned for a Supreme Court version of this global spectacle complete with dissents and opinions from the high court that are guaranteed to satisfy the hearts of one side of the country and infuriate the hearts of the other half.

J. Antoine Miner Sr. is a retired Army Chaplain Assistant and a wounded combat veteran. When he is not writing satire, he serves as the Executive Director of the EMPACT One Foundation.
EMPACT One Foundation is a local organization dedicated to providing needed resources, programs and services to individuals, families and communities most in need. Through donations and community outreach, E1F strives to make a lasting impact in the lives of the people they serve in the community.

We can still celebrate together in spirit and love

08 FamilySayingGraceHC1612 sourceWe have liftoff. With this week's celebration we launch into a season which leaves no one untouched. We'll soon be orbiting a planet inhabited by events affecting people of all walks of life. The calendars of families, individuals, churches, office places and retailers online and local will soon be dominated by deadlines and an unmatched annual intensity.

This is an understandably joyous time for many. The odd mix of nostalgia and an anticipation of new and better things to come bubbles over amid the lights, the festive decorations and friendly gatherings working in harmony to usher in a sense of excitement. Stores and online shopping carts are filled with people sending black ink to the bottom lines of ledger for businesses of every kind, and the gifts we've secretly collected for months begin to find their way inside boxes and new hiding places behind colorful wrapping paper.

Others, though, enter the winter holiday season girded with whatever emotional armor is necessary to ward off the conflict between how familiar everything feels and a knowledge it will never be the same. Though the seats may be full, there's an empty place where a well-loved someone once sat. For some it's a spouse, parent or child. For others a sibling or a best friend. After weeks, months or even years of learning new ways to navigate old routines they find themselves in a season filled with activity and the expectation of a smile that's become hard to muster.

On the brink of the holiday season wrapping up a year that's brought more than it's share of strangeness, the promise of the familiar seems particularly inviting this time around. And within days of the first turkey being properly thawed for its date with a Thanksgiving oven, we arrive to find state officials urging smaller gatherings as Triple-A reports record numbers of people planning to hit the road in search of congregation.

The typical feast, with its photogenic place settings, kids gathered around a table of their own, and a big city parade on the television in the other room may be more an underground celebration this year. A celebration we hold, but don't talk about for fear of being chastised by those who would accuse us of being irresponsible.

None of this, though, is reason for despair. None of the weird we bundle under the notion of “2020,” not the feelings of loss or loneliness, and certainly not any state or local mandates to keep it small. None of it should outweigh our love for one another or our hopeful outlook this year. The thanks we give on Thanksgiving can still be given. The joy we celebrate and love we share at Christmas can still be celebrated and shared. The One we offer thanks to is still there, and always will be. Let's walk into this season together — whether we're across the table or across the country — and realize what a gift we are to one another.

The good, the bad and the truly ugly

02 empty placeWith mere weeks left in this God-awful year of 2020, there is some positive news to digest.

While there is still much we do not understand, we have learned a lot about COVID-19. We know it is spread largely through respiratory contact, and that some infected people spread the virus but show no symptoms and are not ill themselves. This knowledge focuses our behaviors and activities.

In addition, not one but two, pharmaceutical companies report better than 90-percent efficacy of their newly developed COVID-19 vaccines. Dr. Anthony Fauci and other infectious disease experts are heartened, as the rest of us should be.

We have a long way to go until either one or both become publicly available, probably first to health care providers, then to high-risk populations, and finally to the general public. When my turn comes, I will be in line for sure, both to protect myself and also those whom I love and who love me. Experts say we are looking at spring or summer of 2021, at best.

Between now and then, the holidays loom. These are occasions when we traditionally gather with family and friends for both festivities and religious observances. The holidays form our most cherished moments and our collective memories. At a time when we want and need to be together, many of us will not and should not do so.

The United States and much of the rest of the world are staring down a third, and perhaps the deadliest, pandemic surge so far. Unlike earlier surges clustered in metro areas like Seattle and New York City, the virus is now everywhere in our nation, rampaging through previously unscathed rural areas across our nation and occupying more hospital beds than ever before. Communities where residents felt safe no longer are. While certain populations, including seniors, remain at higher risk, the virus has become an equal opportunity invader, striking younger people, including some children. Sadly, the United States passed a quarter of a million COVID-19 deaths last week.

Looking back over this dreadful year of COVID, two complicating factors jump to the forefront. Most nations have some national public health system, but the United States leaves public health to individual states. That means that each state has reacted differently and without coordination, and most state systems are woefully underfunded. The lack of a national public health structure has allowed the virus to spread freely among states under lockdowns, like New York was, and states with few restrictions, like those in the Midwest where the virus now rages.

In addition, millions of Americans have been afflicted with magical thinking, some of them in the highest decision-making positions. Despite the human and economic carnage wrought by COVID, deluded Americans assert the virus is a “fraud,” that divine intervention protects them, that face coverings are a political choice not a public health necessity, or some other inexplicable and unsupportable fantasy. Such thinking and behavior has given the virus free range to spread rapidly and widely. The United States leads the world in infections and deaths when we should be leading the world in the other direction.

Our 2020 holidays will be like no others. As we “gather” in small groups or electronically, it will be with empty seats at our tables — some of them permanently, and the knowledge that it did not have to be this way. All we can do now is take care of each other as best we can as we pass through this dark winter and await the vaccines.

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