Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Holidays Aren't for Family and Fun Any More

Not having holidays is not surprise to me. I work in the health care industry as a medical transcriptionist and the company I work for doesn't give us holidays off -- none of them. I work through Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Years, and every other holiday that falls on a weekday. It's the price I pay for having a full time job.

However, most people have jobs with benefits that include holidays off with pay and they look forward to spending the time with their families and friends. I wish I could be one of them, but hospitals never close and I'm not a doctor who comes and goes as she pleases. I'm one of the worker ants and take what I can get.

Oh, there are a lot of people without families or friends or a place to share the holidays and there are always people who have no interest in the holidays because of a family tragedy or plain old every day tragedy that makes the holidays difficult. There are the those that find any lightness difficult to bear for many reasons, but by and large people want to share their holidays with their loved ones or at least spend time with the poor and homeless at shelters and gatherings where food and companionship is shared where it's warm and there is food donated and served by caring people. There are lots of options and many places to go if you've a mind to carve out a small piece of holiday cheer and a good meal. That is except for this 2013 season of holidays. Obama has decided that the holidays are his to use for his own purposes.

President Obama has decided to use families to have The Talk with their friends and relatives about signing up for the Affordable Care Act. That is far more important than turkey, family, and football. It is even more important shopping and handing out gifts from under the Christmas tree or during the holy time of Channukah or Eid or Kwanzaa or whichever way you celebrate the autumn and winter holidays. Obama has thoughtfully provided a list of talking points and how to plan your Talk about Health Care because in the end it is all about health care and the Affordable Care Act and not about holidays or family or peace on Earth with good will toward wo/men.

I suppose this too will go by the boards as just another quirk in the otherwise smooth running of America during Obama's term in office. Business as usual. People don't really care about having time off to spend with their families and every holiday family meal would be enhanced by bringing up health care, especially if Aunt Martha or Uncle Ted eat too much food or have too much dessert so they end up unconscious or in pain on the floor while someone calls 9-1-1 or EMS to take them away to the hospital. There is always the possibility that someone will die, as has happened many times before and will again in the future, during the holidays, so why not make the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare the main topic of conversation? It doesn't matter that the health care will be too late to save Uncle Ted and Aunt Martha, but at least the rest of the family will be safe from the expense of a long hospital stay or catastrophic illness. You know how people like to announce to the whole family they have cancer and only a few months to live during the holidays while they have everyone gathered together. Nothing like impending death and high health costs to brighten up a family gathering.

The fact is that the disastrous launch of the website has eaten away the numbers expected to sign on and sign up and the bottom line is -- as always -- numbers. If Obama cannot motivate people to give up their peaceful and happy holidays to strong arm their family and friends into signing up for ACA then Obama's singature legislation will have failed and the opposition will win. Politics during the holidays, what could be more appropriate and timely?

Maybe it's time you decide what you want to do with your holidays and how you spend them. After all, choice is still free in America -- so far.

Happy holidays to all and to all a good night.

Monday, November 25, 2013

REVIEW: The Darkness of Shadows by Chris Little

In my search to find new and interesting books to read, I came across The Darkness of Shadows by Chris Little. Talk about unusual and yet familiar. This urban fantasy shows its roots without pandering to or stealing from other similar series.

Chris Little gives nods to the Anita Blake series and to Kim Harrison's day walking demon, Rachel, by choosing to write urban fantasy, but that is where the similarities end. Little sets his first novel in what is obviously a series in New Jersey and writes a completely new history of witchcraft, necromancers, vampires, and supernatural demons and angels. There are also new protocols for the world Little builds and it is a doozy.

There are the usual villains, but not who or what one expects. Child abuse is the focal point of novel and the driving force throughout the story. Natalie as used by her parents as nothing more than a tool and she still has not gotten over it. That abuse and the scars left behind color her view of the world, but they have not hampered her ability to make a life for herself and find strength. What she does not know will hurt her, but Natalie is a survivor and she is more, so much more.

Most urban fantasies follow a formula that has gotten old -- at least to me. The Darkness of Shadows surprised me in so many ways, not the least of which was how quickly it moves. Little's writing seems simple at first glance, but there is more to the writing as well. Little makes it look easy, but there is hard work shown in the intricacies of the plot and the way information is doled out at just the right time and pace.

Though the central focus on the description of the book is on revenge, werewolves, ancient magic, and vampires, there are few vampires or werewolves seen. They are mentioned in passing and will likely fuel the continuing series. Revenge and ancient magic are more prevalent, but Little imbues the more fantastical elements of the story with a strong, beating heart that drives the action. Protectors and Healers bond and are stronger together, but secrets hold them back. Youth, with all of its ambition and passion, are central to The Darkness of Shadows, but so is love: the love of family, of friends, of life.

The Darkness of Shadows stands alone on its own merits, but I definitely want more of this dynamic and exciting new urban fantasy. And so will you.