Friday, November 30, 2012

Don't Call Jenny, Just Shoot Him

I have been trying to lose two pounds all year. Really. And tomorrow is December 1, so that means only one month until New Year's, which means 31 days to reach my goal. Can I do it? I'm lacking the motivation, the most important part of any diet plan and usually the most difficult thing to find. Like, why do I want to weigh two pounds less? No reason, it's just a number. But that lack of motivation is keeping me from success.

Things could be worse. I read about an obese convicted murderer in Ohio who is lobbying to postpone his January execution on the grounds that his weight, which is 480 pounds, would make the lethal injection method too painful for him to endure. So is he planning to go on a diet to lose enough weight so that he can be killed? Now that is one diet destined to fail.

Putting the Merry in Christmas

Cardinal, Clumsy Cook Turkey, Horse and Pig Heads. Latex, unisex.
I rarely use this space for a public service announcement, but once in a great while something deserves a wide audience. The Archie McPhee Catalog is such a thing. Nowhere will you find a better example of the depths to which humanity is sinking, has sunk or will sink. I received my copy of the catalog a few weeks ago and refer to it often, mostly whenever I'm feeling stupid and ineffectual. It boosts my self-esteem instantly, just by not ordering anything from it. A few examples follow.

World's Largest Coffee Cup $47.50
Holds 20 cups. White porcelain, 6 x 10 inches.

Instant Underpants $3.50
Fits most adults. See photo, right.

Emergency Yodel Button $12.50
AAA batteries not included.

Bacon Flavored Toothpaste $4.50  
Also available in soap, floss, lip balm, frosting, mints, hard candy, candy canes and a wallet!

Clumsy Cook Turkey Mask $34.95 
Latex, fits most adults. See photo above.

Abraham Lincoln Bandages $4.95
20 sterile strips. What else can one say?

Mustache Ice Cube Tray $9.00
Makes 8 cubes. Can also be used as candy mold.

Inflatable Unicorn Horn $8.00 
Comes with plastic strap, 11 inches.

Inflatable Unicorn Horn for Cats $5.00
Vinyl, 5 inches. See photo, right, 
for proof of how much cats love this!

If this is your kind of fun, visit
You can thank me later.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Silence Is Golden

This time of year is big for solicitations. Today, among many, I received one addressed in one of those scripty-looking, blue ball-point-pennish fonts that on a cursory glance appear hand-written. I actually thought it was for a second, until I checked the return address and saw the name "Father Scott Donahue." Since I don't know any Fathers I concluded it was junk mail. But, loving junk mail as I do I opened it to read possibly the worst pitch letter salutation ever: Dear Andrea, I picked you specially to receive this letter.  And I'm praying I was right.

Moving on, I opened my second letter from the American Lung Association in as many weeks. This one said URGENT REMINDER in red on the front of the envelope. Inside were more Christmas Seals, more personalized return address labels, gift labels and another note pad similar to the one they sent me earlier this month, only imprinted with a sprig of holly at the top instead of a turkey. Again, I did not bite, despite how generous they were.

In this season of charitable giving, I pretend to be a rich philanthropist and pick my needy carefully. If they send me cards or note pads or address labels or nickels or letters from starving children, I pass. My favorite is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Years ago they asked for my preferences and I said I never wanted to get mail from them ever again. I haven't heard a peep out of them since. That's my kind of charity.

"Idiocracy" Hits Home

Money from the future shows the evolution of the presidency.
If you have not seen the movie "Idiocracy," try to as soon as possible. But be forewarned-- it is not for the faint of heart. It foretells a bleak future for our species, and one which is well underway as anyone with half a brain, which is most of us, knows. In a nutshell, people are getting dumber, and 500 years hence the dumbest among us shall rule the world.  And wait til you get a load of who's the President! Anyone who doubts that we are getting stupider by the minute should simply pick up a copy of the Wall Street Journal, once a beacon of intelligence, and see the depths to which it has sunk, or is it sunken? (See, I don't even know which is the correct word, and I used to. I'm getting dumber right now.)

One example of authentic idiocracy in action from today's paper can be found on page D3, wherein a reader with a personal quandary asks: "Can you give me some suggestions for some good-looking (iPad) cases that aren't cumbersome? It needs to be masculine-looking and not too expensive." Jeez, has the person never heard of Google? Or Dogpile or Yahoo or Bing, for that matter? I mean really, who asks a newspaper columnist anything anymore?

Okay, yes, I am bitter today. I did not win yesterday's Powerball and I'm still pretty upset about it. And my son bought a ticket too, and he's a lucky type so I thought for sure if I didn't win then he would. I was so ready.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Powerball Fever

Going along with the old adage (I know, adage implies that it's old, but when you just say adage without the old in front of it, it sounds wrong), "You gotta play to win," I bought a Powerball ticket today. I guess you might say I have a touch of Powerball Fever which I hear is sweeping the nation right now. Besides that, my decision was fueled by reading that no jackpot has ever been won in the state of Maine, and since I've never before purchased a lottery ticket in Maine, I thought that might be why. The winner gets more money than I can even understand, something like half a billion before taxes. I'm pretty sure I will give most of it away, and in fact I've already decided who gets how much.

The last time I had Powerball Fever I really, truly thought I would win. When I didn't, I was shocked and more than a little pissed. Since the odds of winning this one are 1 in 176 million, it's sort of nutty to think it might be me, but still--someone's gotta win. And the truth is I bought two tickets, so I have twice as much of a chance, and there's that whole "never before in Maine thing," so all in all I'm feeling pretty optimistic. Then again, maybe's it's just the fever talking.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Clearing Up the Confusion

Everyone seems to know a lot of things about a lot of things I know very little about. For example, exactly who is the Dalai Lama? And why is he the Dalai Lama, and if that's his title, what's his name? And why did they make it so close to the word "llama" and also to the name Dolly Parton, not to mention Dolly the cloned sheep? And he is not American but Tibetan, yet he is revered by so many Americans, the very same people who scoff at acupuncture and herbal medicine yet embrace yoga and meditation, and pizza with cheese-stuffed crust. And if he's the 14th one of these guys, what's so very special about him? And how can he have a Facebook page and a website and still be a spiritual leader? Does he tweet too?

Also confusing is the whole Libya-Benghazi affair, and especially Susan Rice, who is now working for our government as an ambassador and lied to the world about that rioting/YouTube video thing but is being considered as Secretary of State despite those lies, which sort of reminds me of Timothy Geithner who cheated on his taxes but became the Secretary of Treasury anyway. Ironic enough? Finally, I am confused by the "fiscal cliff." A cliff is a steep, high rock face that runs along the seashore, so is our economy about to fall into a body of water, and if so, is it the Atlantic or the Pacific? And why can't they just call it something else, that whole cliff thing is like a mixed metaphor if you ask me.

At the end of the day, I would feel a lot better about things if it were spelled "Dolly Lomma" and he lived in this country, and if they just said we have financial problems, and if the head of the IRS were honest. If you will.

No Sympathy for These Devils

Ever since I first voted for George W. Bush in the year 2000, I have been on the defensive about politics. This is nutty and unfair; I like who I like and I can't help it. Although I hate war and am truly a textbook pacifist, I still like Bush: I believe he did his best and cares a lot about our country. I know so many people who hate him just because they are supposed to. A few are themselves losers and scofflaws who do little to further democracy in their personal lives, yet they decry Bush as a war-loving, maniacal fool because he has earned a lot of money and says "nucular" instead of "nuclear." And since I deem the man worthy of respect, along with other avowed conservatives like Ann Coulter and Mitt Romney, I'm similarly tarred by all those rabid lefties with their brains slammed shut.

I have tried so hard not to do this with people I know, but it's gotten to the point where I have to come out and declare my true feelings: Anyone who condones that unsavory troika of devilish TV talkers--Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews and Ed Schultz--is surely a representative of the Devil as well. That being said, I can now happily turn my back on the world of politics, that roiling sewer of humanity.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Carniverous Christmas

For that special someone on your holiday gift list that you secretly despise, here's the perfect thing: From Omaha Steaks, it's "The Ideal Gift Assortment." A bargain at only $59.99, which is way less than lots of other things I can think of, it still really packs a punch. I saw it advertised in today's paper as "a gift that will kill...oops, I mean thrill everyone!"

The package, which will arrive gift-wrapped in time for Christmas, includes: two filet mignons (5 oz.), two top sirloins (5 oz.), four boneless pork chops (4 oz.), four Omaha Steaks burgers (4 oz.), four stuffed baked potatoes and a chocolate cake (6 inch). And if all that doesn't convince you, they'll throw in a 6-piece cutlery set and a cutting board, so you can just imagine how very high quality that food really is! What I'm wondering is exactly when were those potatoes baked and stuffed, and with what?

On second thought, it may be easier just to send them some anthrax inside a Christmas card.

Shopping for Shingles

First came Black Friday, and I blew it. I bought nothing, unless you count that can of turkey gravy for the Thanksgiving leftovers. Then came Small Business Saturday and again I was a slacker, except for the sweatshirt for ten bucks I picked up for my son at the local Goodwill. (I doubt that Goodwill is a small business, seeing how in 2011 their various organizations earned $4.43 billion.) Now it's Cyber Monday, the very best day to shop online for incredible deals and amazing bargains and tremendous savings. I wish I needed something.

Somehow all this Christmas shopping has completely wiped me out, even though I haven't been shopping and I don't do Christmas. But apparently shopping for bargains is wildly popular, even more popular than getting shingles, which now affects one in three people during their lifetime. The funny thing about shingles is that when you have a kid and that kid's friend gets the chicken pox, the doctor tells you to take your kid over to that sick kid's house to play so he can catch it and get it over with because it's much better to get it younger. Twenty years ago, people in our little town of Takoma Park hosted chicken pox parties. And going back even further, I can still remember when my own mother dragged me next door to play with my infected little friend Suzanne.  Fast forward to today, when television commercials and print ads intone ominously, "If you had chicken pox as a child, the shingles virus is already inside you." Oy vay--run, don't walk, to the nearest syringe-wielding, white-coated physician's assistant or pharmacist.

So now I'm not sure what to do first: Shop online or get the shingles vaccine. If they sold those vaccines online I guess I would get one today, even though it is Cyber Monday and not Shingles Monday. But I guess that's coming; who knows, it might even be tomorrow, which of course would make it Shingles Tuesday, which is not very catchy. Better it should be a day later, on Virus Vendsday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Opposite of Benetton

Among the onslaught of unsolicited and unwanted catalogs I found stuffed inside my post office box yesterday, one in particular caught my eye. "PajamaGram Holiday 2012" offers 64 pages of non-stop pajamas, robes and bedroom slippers for Moms, Dads, kids and even pets. Yup, there are even pajamas for dogs and cats, and if you order now they will arrive in time for Christmas, and since everyone knows Jews are too cheap to purchase pajamas and so sleep naked, this is pretty much a Christmas thing. Everyone shown in the catalog is pretty and handsome and thin and young and white, except for one salt-and-pepper terrier and a yellow tabby or two. There is not one black dog or cat in the whole thing.

I find this shocking, appalling, ridiculous and stupefying. The company that sends it out is based Vermont, and although Vermont is the whitest state in America, I know for a fact that there are black dogs and cats there; I've seen them. So this is factually wrong. What gives? How dumb are those catalog people? Don't they know they are leaving out a huge segment of the sleeping population? And in fact, is that even legal? I think everyone should go to and alert them to the fact that dogs and cats come in a variety of colors. Oh yeah, and people too.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Three-Quarters of an Hour

Last night I partially watched a movie called "127 Hours," the incredible yet true story of a young hiker named Aron Ralston who amputated his own arm in order to free himself from a giant rock that had fallen on him, and also from certain death. I say "partially" because for much of the film I covered my eyes, cautiously peering through splayed fingers every so often to see if the coast was clear. Half the time it was not.

While the story was certainly one for the record books and the young man involved is surely some kind of real-life superhero, I simply could not relate. The truth is, while I tolerate pain pretty well when it comes upon me from an outside source, I can't inflict it on myself. This means I cannot remove a splinter from my own finger, and I definitely-- under no circumstances-- would not break my own arm--forget cutting through tendons and severing nerves. In fact, should such a fate befall me, I would arrange myself nicely and prepare to meet my maker. My declaration of this fact spurred a lively debate with my husband and son, who both said they would definitely go the amputation route, or at least try. (Men!)

Today I awoke still thinking about the whole ordeal, and considered carefully why the film was made and what could be gleaned from it. After all, that's just what happened to that one guy, and it could only happen to me if I go hiking alone in Canyonlands, which is doubtful since I live in Maine. Still, the movie was nothing if not a cautionary tale, and one never knows when one will meet up with his or her own 800-pound boulder. The truth is, we must be ready for anything! So this morning as I prepared for my 45-minute walk, leaving a detailed itinerary should I not return in a timely fashion, I thought of what I might need should something go awry. Usually I just take along some water and my cell phone, but with images from that movie still fresh, I used my head. Filling my rain slicker's pockets with a Swiss Army knife, two energy bars, a pack of Ricola honey and lemon throat lozenges, matches, a rope, some Band-Aids, a tube of Neosporin, a cheese sandwich, a banana, a flashlight and the aforementioned water bottle and cell phone, I headed off on my 3-mile trek around South Freeport Village. You just never know.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Hand Warmers for Hubby

Mitch and others with Tommy Hilfiger bags await.
Freeport, Maine is a sleepy little town; nothing wild, no strip clubs or anything. So I was surprised to read, amidst the news of church suppers and yard sales, that Santa would be arriving in town via Amtrak at 11 pm on Thanksgiving to kick off Black Friday. All the stores in town would be opening their doors at midnight, following Santa's ride on a Harley leading a pack of "fun-runners" around the town. Wow, how very un-Freeport! So Mitch and I figured we'd check it out, since it was the most exciting thing to happen since we moved here three years ago, unless you count the time our neighbor ran over his own dog right in front of our house.

We went straight to the train station and joined the waiting crowd---uh, group--of townspeople with similar intent. The first thing that happened was three young women ran over and handed each of us a cloth shopping tote imprinted with the Tommy Hilfiger logo. Inside were coupons for discounts and two odd plastic pouches, also carrying Tommy's logo, allegedly hand warmers. (We'll get to those later.) We noticed that everyone else had those bags. The train came. Santa disembarked. One lone member of the local press, along with me and a few others, took photos. Then Santa worked the crowd, or tried, hurling a few tired jokes about shopping and motorcycles and shopping on motorcycles. Getting no laughs, he hopped on the Harley and rode off into the night, or rather towards Main Street.

Santa gets ready to roll off into the night.
We went home, and that's when things got interesting. Those hand warmers in the Tommy Hilfiger bags were completely mystifying: Little plastic pouches of a clear liquid with a metal disc floating inside, they looked like nothing we had ever seen. They were not warm even a little. We thought they must be defective, but after further consideration we succumbed to the Internet and learned that they are "chemical" hand warmers, requiring the user to bend the little metal disc inside to set off a reaction that would turn the liquid into a gel that would heat up and stay hot for 20 minutes.

The lone photographer watches the train arrive.
Mitch was quite taken with them, finding them "awesome," and while I chose instead to go to bed, he stayed in the kitchen and did more research, wondering if they could be used more than once. I left him busily boiling the pouches in hot water to reactivate them. The thing is, I have known Mitch for 27 years and have never once seen him use a hand warmer, even winter camping in Utah or in frigid weather in Quebec one Christmas. Anyway, a good gift for the nerd on your shopping list this year would be chemical hand warmers. Check them out.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

One of the ones that got away......
Besides the obvious, like my husband Mitch, I am thankful for:
running water
having talent
hot showers
gas for my car
my car
Chinese doctors
the state of Maine
Jackson Browne
my dead shrink
high-school friends (Melva, Diane, Rick)
old other friends (Martha, Debra, Patsy, Sam, Diana, Ira, Greg)
my dentist the Painless God of Novocain
the world's best vet Dr. Louise
indoor plumbing
blood pressure meds
several dead relatives I still miss (Melvin, Itcha Meyer, Harriet, Zack)
a few still living (Linda, Jackie)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Little I Know

In perusing my blog's statistics, I noticed there were  two readers today in Gibraltar. I am wondering how they came to read my post, since I've done little to entice that segment of the audience; in fact, nothing. I know nothing about Gibraltar; not one thing. Not a phrase or a song title or any wars or famous people from there, or infamous sons or daughters. Oh wait, is there a rock there? The Rock of Gibraltar, is that something? Yes, I attended high school in this country and then graduated from New York University. Now I'm getting it, it's the Rock of Gibraltar, it means something strong. Don't know where it is or why it's so strong, or if it's particularly rocky there but I am betting it is. I have been to the Hard Rock Cafe in Vegas, if that helps. In fact, I know a ton about rock music and may write a blog post about that sometime.

Even Better Than Obamaphones

That Obamaphone Lady looks like she could lose a few pounds...
It's puzzling that so many Americans are so fat, considering the plethora of products out there promising immediate weight loss--and lots of it--without dieting, without exercise, in fact without doing a damn thing but buying the stuff. I ask you: Despite all the war and turmoil and natural disasters dotting the globe, is this a great time to be alive or what? Take the two ads camped out my Facebook page for the last month, both hawking "Dr. Oz's Amazing Diet Tip," yet one promises you will lose 21 pounds in a month and the other, exactly the same in every other way, promises 27. Naturally I clicked on the latter; I'm no fool.

It turned out to be for something called Lichi Fruit (a.k.a. Super Lichi Fruit or Lichi Fruit Extract) that comes in a pill. I learned that Dr. Oz calls it "a miracle in a bottle." It requires no diet or exercise. You just swallow it, sit back and "watch the pounds melt away." (Kind of like Sensa, another oh-so-easy option for weight loss that you just sprinkle on your food. With Sensa, the more you eat, the more you lose. Now that is what I call a miracle, I guess it would be a miracle in a shaker.) There were several quite convincing "before" and "after" photos of beautiful women who took Lichi Fruit and got skinny; Emily from Phoenix lost 137 pounds!

So how come so many people are still so fat? You gotta wonder. The ad does not say what the true costs are, only that you can get a free trial for the minimal price of shipping and handling. I say if it's too expensive for the struggling 99%, maybe Obamacare should cover it; after all, he's buying people birth control and cell phones, why not better health in a bottle?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Circle of Life

Illustration by Christine Bennett
I know, I know, sometimes I'm a bummer. I wish I could be different. Some people make candy and bake cupcakes that look like flowers and construct teeny elf houses and the elves that live in them at Christmastime all year round, and that must be a pretty damn cheery thing to do with your time, but that's not me. Instead I paint and write and that's pretty much it. I am not cheery, nor am I cheered. What's to be cheery about? Candy is poison, and cupcakes are also poison, although if we're talking Magnolia Bakery cupcakes, what a way to go, and elves don't even exist. But pretending is so popular, there's gotta be something to it; I must try it sometime.

Today I continued my fall yard clean-up, having been abandoned by the lawn guys after charging them for the broken birdbath--should I not have told them I knew they did it? I raked leaves and it was a glorious day; the sun was shining and the frost was on the pumpkin, literally, as well as everywhere else. God was in his Heaven and all was right with the world, until I raked up a dead mouse. Or more accurately, a dead mousie. He was stiff as a board and his little paws were in the pleading position. I found him exactly where I had interrupted my cat Lurch attacking a mouse yesterday afternoon. Obviously, he returned after the coast was clear and finished the job. Anyway, that made me sad, and I started thinking about death, and next thing you know I was in a bad mood. Another cup of coffee and I managed to bounce back, until I came upon another dead mousie a few yards away. That damn cat --what did they ever do to him? Now he has his eye on my pet chipmunk, ChipOrDale, who lives under the front steps. That would be the last straw.

Gearing Up for Gratitude

Warning: The following story contains graphic material not suitable for young children or anyone still in possession of feelings, and may bum you out for the whole day--or more.

It's T-Day minus two, and humans are scurrying hither and yon, rushing to get somewhere to eat a lot of dead turkeys and fight with a lot of relatives. The media reports are already starting about difficult travel conditions and crowded roads and fewer flights and long lines everywhere. And what is everyone celebrating? Oh right, I remember now: The white man found a new world and ultimately changed all the peaceful Native Americans from gentle farmers into alcoholic gamblers. Okay, that's harsh, but really, sometimes it becomes obvious that, on the evolutionary scale, humans are surely the lowest. Many of them know it and it bothers them greatly, resulting in these disturbing news stories I read this morning:
1. A 22-year-old man--maybe two--entered a cage at an Idaho zoo and beat a rare monkey to death.
2. Dolphins were found along Alabama's Gulf shore with gunshot wounds and severe mutilations.
3. A Sacramento woman opened her front door on Halloween and found a mutilated cat on her doorstep.

That's enough evidence for me. Head for the hills, bolt the cellar, and by all means, hide your pets. But lest you be too sad, take heart: The ubiquitous and talentless celebrity named Jessica Simpson has lost 60 pounds on Weight Watchers after porking up during pregnancy. At least that.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Bye, Bye Twinkie

Each time I log onto my computer, I am bombarded with news stories concerning the widespread unhappiness over the bankruptcy of the Hostess company, purveyor of Twinkies. They also make Wonder Bread, and for that they should only drop dead, as my grandmother would say. Puh-leeeeeze--considering all we know these days about nutrition, and how fat we are as a nation, what with the heart attacks and diabetes and the cholesterol, etc., how is it even legal for them to still be operating at all?

I want to publicly state that to the best of my knowledge I have never, ever had a Twinkie, not even when stoned although perhaps when tripping and I forgot. (I'm a child of the 60s--get over it.)  But in my family, my aforementioned grandmother made such to-die-for rugelach, who needed that ersatz crap? She assured me that only goys ate them, and I believed her, but my husband recently admitted that he and his brothers were raised on Twinkies, and they are all extremely Jewish.

Now, a Twinkie is not a Drake's Cake or anywhere near a Devil Dog, and I embraced both of those heartily in my youth. But still, as tasty as I know those are, I walk right by them in the supermarket without slowing down. I mean, really, I have more self-respect than that at this stage of my life. So I say, Twinkies be gone; it's time to evolve.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What Does Hungry Feel Like?

I am so sick of eating--enough already with the food! Sushi, pizza, pasta, burgers, gelato, soup, salad, sandwiches, steaks, chops, fruit, vegetables, etc.-- been there, done that. It's boring. I realize this is what my son calls a First World problem, but whatever you call it, I've got it. It's time to go on a hunger strike, or a fast, or a colon cleanse, or just a "stop eating until I can  really appreciate it" kind of thing. There are hungry people in the world and I realize that I have never been hungry once; Yom Kippur when I was eight does not count. It's fitting that Thanksgiving is this week, the festival of gluttony. Maybe I'll be truly thankful for my blessings this year if I don't eat until then. Who knows, I might even get in touch with a past life if I get delirious enough. And of course, there's always the weight loss thing. I think I'll try it, but of course, coffee is allowed. 

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Film Review: AVATAR

I thought I had seen dumb movies before, but now I see I was kidding myself. As I write this, a movie that redefines the genre is playing out before my eyes. Fortunately I am in the comfort of my own home, in fact lying on the living room couch, while the inanity unfolds on the TV screen--thank you, Blockbuster--and not stuck in some movie theater. I can move about at will, and get to the bathroom pronto if the nausea gets too bad.

Against my better judgement, and because of marital vows taken 26 years ago, I am watching "Avatar" to appease my husband. Mitch wanted to see it when it first came out several years ago and I refused, but lest you judge me too harshly I want to point out that they let married folks see movies on their own in most theaters, but he didn't want to. Anyway, here we are, he finally got his wish.

Words like "flux vortex" and "unobtanium" and "floating mountains" are bombarding my brain, trying to get in, but I won't let them. There are big blue people with flat noses and very long tails. Sigourney Weaver looks really bad in this movie, although I once saw her in person at the Frick Museum in New York City and she had no makeup on and she looked even worse. Anyway, the plot is King Kong meets Jurassic Park meets Lost meets The Wizard of Oz, but not as good as any of them. (I absolutely love King Kong, all three versions in fact. It may be my favorite movie of all time.)

I just had to take some Pepto-Bismol. It's that awful. And the worst thing about it is that 150 years into the future, which is when this movie is set, people still smoke cigarettes! That seems silly, and almost harder to believe than the floating mountains and the tails. Now the blue people are kissing, and believe it or not, they do it the same way on Pandora as here on Earth. Another oddity.

Death By Chocolate: A Family Tragedy

Here's a story I'm working on; tell me what you think:

Moving far away at a young age and thereby abandoning her parents, despite their having been incredibly generous to her in childhood, even buying her a pony when she was ten years old, an Evil Woman--let's called her Evie-- never once visits them for the last 25 years of their lives, despite their multiple illnesses and encroaching frailties. When called by a close relative who implores her to visit the ailing father, and asked how she would feel if he dies before she sees him again, Evie replies, "That's okay, I could handle it."

To assuage her guilt, while simultaneoulsy contributing to their eventual demise, Evie frequently sends her parents huge blocks of expensive chocolate from her island retreat, knowing as she does their weakness for it despite her father's diabetes and her mother's obesity-related COPD. As Evie had long hoped, die they do--first the father, then the mother.

With them dead, Evie finally shows up-- for the reading of the final will, which leaves all the remaining family fortune to her, despite the fact that her only brother, a selfless angel--let's call him Angelo-- long devoted to his parents, caring for them in their dotage, ferrying them to constant medical appointments, coaxing them back to health following several debilitating surgeries, buying groceries and cooking meals, tending to their remaining pets and their huge house in the country far from any neighbors, and himself having taken so many long months off from his own career to care for them-- is all but broke and by then has his own young family to support.

The money and the house and the fancy-schmancy car are all bequeathed to Evie by the completely insane and senile mother who outlived the father who had earned every dime by curing the sick for his whole life. Convinced in the end by tricks and chicanery, and those pounds of chocolate sent over the years by Evie via UPS, the lunatic mother--by then unable to breathe on her own, incredibly fat and addicted to chocolate-- wrongly believes that Evie had been the good child all along and so has her lawyer alter the deceased father's will, which had originally left everything to Angelo and his offspring.

Finally Evie dies of breast cancer. Despite how badly she has treated him all their lives, Angelo spends what little money he can scrounge together to bury his only sister at sea off the coast of Nantucket. They say she haunts the island to this day, distributing chocolates to diabetics.

Waddya think?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Sometimes the Truth Hurts

I'm starting to think my Wall Street Journal-reading days are over. Our family is simply not rich enough to continue getting the paper delivered. It's not the cost of delivery that bothers me, or the editorial content; it's the ads. Just who the heck are they aiming at? Not us, that's for sure, and thanks to my hard-working husband's dedication to his profession, we are definitely among the 1% that is so hated by the other 99.

But really, those ads are for an entirely other caste. Starting with a transistor radio for $799 (okay, so it has a built-in 8-hour battery), continuing on with a Tiffany gold pendant for $2,100, and ending with a professionally decorated penthouse in Daytona Beach, "fully furnished and offered turnkey" for only $3,300,000, I simply cannot relate. There are ads for private jets that will assure you arrive at your destination "fresh and energized," and wrist watches that cost more than my house. Not only am I clearly not the target audience, but it sickens me that such extremes exist in our society. If not for those ads in that newspaper, living the simple life up here in rural Maine, where duck boots from L. L. Bean and a lobster dinner represent the epitome of class, I wouldn't know about such atrocities. Excuse me while I cancel my subscription and go stick my head in the sand.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Price of Inflation

Popcorn is such an amazing food. The first person who discovered what it does must have been stunned at the complete metamorphosis, going from a tiny, smooth, gold-colored seed into a puffy, ivory-colored, crispy and much bigger thing. Besides that trick, it's really good for you. When my father was dying of colon cancer--a downer I know, but it figures well in here-- his doctor advised me to eat popcorn as often as possible, explaining it acts like a Brillo pad in that it scrubs the inside of your colon's walls. (Do not eat Brillo pads.) And too, it's cheap when you buy it un-popped, and once popped it inflates and makes enough for a crowd. Finally, it's quite filling, very low in calories if you skip the butter, and, need I add, delicious. But still, I draw the line at $5.50 for a Small, $6.50 for a Medium and $7.00 for a Large bag of popcorn, which is what they charge for it here in Freeport's only movie theater. Oh please.

Check the Fridge for Instant Gratification

Okay, I admit it: I'm out of the loop. One thing in particular that has me mystified is Black Friday.

First of all, that name is such a bummer; it sounds like it's something horrendous and surely not a cause for celebration, like maybe when much of the population is urged to stay indoors to avoid exposure to The Plague. Or perhaps it's the last chance for scofflaws to pay overdue taxes before public flogging, or maybe it's the actual day of the public flogging. Next, Black Friday refers to the practice of shopping for things that are marked-up for a little bit less than usual but are still way overpriced, like huge plastic toys that will clutter our landfills a few months from now and appliances that one might not need but will buy only because they are discounted. And lastly, history shows us that people have died under the trampling hordes eager to save a few bucks, and that seems like a lowly way to die, and certainly not a path to Heaven.

It's all bad, or at least it seems so to me. So I was shocked when I read in today's paper about a New Jersey woman who laments the loss of her "family tradition" of going shopping on Black Friday with her mother. "It is bittersweet, but these days it doesn't pay to wait in line when you can sit in your PJs and shop online for the same deals." One wonders if her mother will sleep over. A different lady, this one in Illinois, says that online shopping means you "miss out on all the fun." She plans to get up at three in the morning, as she has for the last decade, skip work and get out to the mall for what she calls the "instant gratification" of scoring a deal.

Instant gratification is my middle name and shopping is not involved. Don't these people know about pie?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Lies, All Lies!

This morning, my visiting son was making himself a cheese omelet. He took out the as yet unopened Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp-White Cheddar I had purchased specifically for him, because I knew he favored that type of cheese. After a moment of close inspection of said bar of cheese, he remarked that I should not have bought it because it's made by Kraft, and that's a huge corporation, thus Evil Incarnate. Naturally, he being 25 and me being his mother, I balked. "It's Vermont cheddar, what could be bad?" Zack doubled-down, which is quite popular these days and has always been in vogue in parent-child discussions anyway, and said it was likely not even from Vermont; his close inspection had revealed that it was distributed by a company in Illinois. Undaunted, I pointed out, "It says right here, An East Coast Cheddar With a Complex Full Flavor."
"Just saying," he replied.
So I called the 800 number on the package, and somebody named Jose answered. He was quite nice, and listened as I asked my question about where the cheese was actually made, but then he put me on hold for a really long time-- so long I almost had to hang up because I simply do not do hold. But still I was motivated, so I endured the weird music and heard about the "general recall" of their Spicy Jalapeno String Cheese, for God knows what reason, but if you have any, don't eat it. Finally Jose came back and said that after a thorough search of their entire system, he had learned that the cheese was cheddar but it wasn't from Vermont. I asked, "Even though it's called Vermont Sharp-White Cheddar?" Jose answered somewhat wistfully, "It's like a Vermont cheddar."

Just saying.

Life As Prescribed

I am 66. I would lie about my age since I could probably get away with shaving off a few years, but anyone can find out the truth so why bother? Plus there are all those old high-school friends who know. Anyway, for the past 65 years, with the exception of my first year when I would have been only five months old and still toothless, and two other times I will describe herein, I have eaten turkey on Thanksgiving. In childhood my grandmother, no less than The Greatest Cook Who Ever Lived, made it all, and I ate it all, and that's why I was chubby as a teenager. She finally died and I was able to slim down, and after that I was the primary cook and prepared the typical feast of roast turkey with stuffing and gravy, cranberry-orange relish, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, Brussels sprouts, salad, corn bread, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and apple pie a la mode. (One year when my brother-in-law was in attendance, we added those little creamed pearl onions that he made, but we ditched that from the menu soon after.) Besides cooking all the stuff I also ate a lot of it, not only during the cooking process for quality control purposes but at the table, making me marvel at how I'm still alive.

The Exceptions
In the late 1970s or early 1980s, between husbands, I went out for Chinese food with my gay best friend Richard. We ate Chinese because everything else was closed. As I recall, we ordered moo shu pork and drank a lot. Another year, it happened to be 1999, my husband and I tried barbecuing a turkey that never got done--I think we must have done something wrong. Anyway, it didn't really matter since our only invited guests, who were driving from New Jersey or maybe Maine, cancelled as we were looking out the window wondering where they were, saying they had turned around because of traffic. Pissed to high Heaven, we threw out the turkey and I don't remember what we ate; we maybe brought all the trimmings to a local food shelter and then got burgers from McDonald's. Or not, this may not have even happened exactly that way, but something like it did and that's close enough for me.

The Highlights
In 1974 I flew from Washington, D. C. to Florida with my then-boyfriend, meeting his parents and some of his other relatives for the first--and only--time. His mother's specialty was candied sweet potatoes smothered with marshmallows. I caused a ruckus by refusing to eat any, saying "I don't like my vegetables with candy melted on top." People were stunned. I was reminded by all other attendees that, "this is Mom's specialty, try it." I refused and fled the table, spending the next hour weeping in a bedroom. Although his mother forgave me, saying she "didn't give a hoot," the boyfriend and I broke up on the plane ride home. (We had other problems, trust me.)

In 1990, my husband and I drove to from D.C. to Baltimore with our precocious toddler sleeping in the back seat, to have dinner with my relatives. During the hour's drive I alerted Mitch to the fact that my aunt, the hostess, had actually roasted the turkey the day before and sliced it, refrigerating it overnight. She would be warming it up for dinner. I thought he should have this information ahead of time to avoid putting his foot in his mouth. As expected, since he is a holiday purist, he was deeply shocked and dismayed, exclaiming, "Oh great--we're having reheated leftovers for Thanksgiving!" Later, seated at the table with the other 10 or 12 attendees, our son refused to eat, saying petulantly, "This turkey is reheated!" A scene ensued; suffice it to say that had Woody Allen been there, he would have surely taken notes.

This Year
Depends. I might do it and I might not. But whatever, it will be a last-minute decision since I have not ordered my free-range, organic, all-natural, no-hormones-added dead bird from Whole Foods, or anywhere else. There will be pie, however.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

In Defense of Yellow Journalism

A new day dawns, bringing with it further developments in the case of CIA chief David Petraeus, the fallen hero currently following Lance Armstrong into obsolescence for his involvement in an extramarital affair. Thickening the plot is yet another FBI agent who, assigned to the case, sent shirtless photos of himself to the other other woman who was receiving harassing emails from Petraeus' alleged mistress, who was the original other woman, if you follow me. Now Shirtless Guy is also under investigation by The Office of Professional Responsibility, the internal-affairs arm of the FBI--and I do mean internal affairs.

Sadly, despite the continued front page coverage and lengthy editorials in several newspapers still in existence, and the constant snooping by Wolf Blitzer and his ilk--not that there's much ilk like Wolf Blitzer- we still know so little! This speaks to the poor quality of reportage that has become the standard in today's typo-ridden, underpaid world of novice journalists. It's so bad, yellow journalism is now just an anemic ecru. For example, I don't really care about who emailed who and when, but I do want to know if they did it doggie style or was it always the missionary position each time. And what sort of panties did Paula wear--were they the sexy kind from Victoria's Secret? In fact, did she even wear underwear? Were masks or handcuffs involved? Come on, admit it--these are the things we all want to know, not whether he was muttering classified information in his post-coital sleep or she was taping it all to hand over to the Libyan radicals. Did she or did she not use birth control, and if so, what kind? Did she have an orgasm every time? What about him--was it good for him? And what about oral sex--yay or nay? I mean, really, if we're gonna get the story, let's get the whole story.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lemmings Jump Off Fiscal Cliff

Somtime in 2012, Ben Bernanke, Chairman of the Federal Reserve--and believe me I have no idea what that is--used the term "fiscal cliff" in discussing a situation that could arise as a result of colliding taxes, spending cuts, and what have you. Naturally, since then every Tom, Dick, Harry, and Henrietta has used the term, like they just thought of it and it's the only way to describe that particular set of circumstances. Everywhere you look, it's "fiscal cliff" this and "fiscal cliff" that, despite the fact that, according to Wikipedia, "some analysts have argued that 'fiscal slope' or 'fiscal hill' would be more appropriate terminology, because while the cumulative economic effect over all of 2013 would be substantial, it would not be felt immediately but rather gradually as the weeks and months went by."

Personally, I think "fiscal acclivity" has a nice ring to it. Or maybe "fiscal hummock" for the more rural among us, or "fiscal dune" for all the beach-goers. Come on people, work with me...

Minding Other People's Business

For some reason, The Powers That Be have determined that the sex life of the CIA chief is directly related to our national security. David Petraeus offered his resignation after the FBI unraveled the awful truth: The once-esteemed, many-starred General had been naked with someone not his wife. More than once. And they sent each other dirty emails, which right away signals a cyber crime, which is worse than just a regular crime. There were breaches and pseudonyms. Things were explicit.

This shocking news is detailed in an over-the-fold report on page 1 of today's Wall Street Journal. Investigations now abound, with lots of old men in uniforms reading through the salacious material and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the "top Democrat on intelligence issues," getting off on the details, since one can assume she has no such nefarious skeletons in her own matronly closet. She has gone on record as saying she is "frustrated she wasn't told earlier" about the affair, and is pissed that the FBI knew about it months before she did. (Not fair!)

The whole thing reminds me of some other sex stories that have titillated the public: John Edwards and his love child, Bill Clinton and his intern, Anthony Weiner and his weiner. What I wonder is, why does anyone care? How broken and empty are we that the lives of others are more compelling than our own? And what about those folks on Staten Island, who are still without power two full weeks after superstorm Sandy?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

It's A Whole New Me!

Seems like I can hardly say anything without offending someone, and it's getting to the point where I think I should just stop talking. This has always been true but it's gotten worse living here in Maine, where one's real feelings are never welcome and certainly never solicited. So, like women who get bigger breasts or flatter tummies or tightened jawlines, I'm opting for some changes that will improve the quality of my life, but without the possibility of dying on the table, contracting sepsis or ending up looking like Joan Rivers.

Instead, I am considering having "trans-personality surgery," which is quite new and really still in the experimental stages. Still, it's less invasive than trans-gender surgery which is quite popular despite the bruising and need for a new wardrobe.

To start, I am legally changing my name to Missy. Who could be threatened by a Missy? Next I will adopt new attitudes, so that by New Year's Day it will be a whole new me. Some of the steps I will take include:

1. These offensive phrases will be stricken from my vocabulary: "That's crazy, you're a fool, I'm positive, what are you talking about, you can't be serious, did you even go to high school, I already knew that, don't be ridiculous, that's dumb, have you gained weight, I don't care, do what you want, you must be kidding, I don't eat that and I hate Obama." They will be replaced with, "That's a great idea, you are so smart, I have no idea, I know nothing, you are right, I'm a fool, you're the boss, I'm so fat, how did you get so thin, I'm jealous, how would I know, I love that about you, it is what it is, whatever you say and Mitt Romney is a lying piece of shit."

2. My assimilation of popular culture will begin with watching past seasons of "Mad Men," "The Wire," and "Breaking Bad." I will never miss "American Idol," "The Voice," "Dancing With the Stars," and "The X-Factor," and will text my vote for my favorite contestant just as soon as I learn how.

3. I am getting an iPhone 5, unless there is already an iPhone 6. I will fill it with apps and learn how to text.

4. I will gain no less than 25 pounds. This step seems like it will be fun, and so easy--Olive Garden, here I come!

5. I will join a book club and pretend to read only best-sellers, beginning with "The Life of Pi." (I think it's about baking, which should help with Step #4.)

6. I will find out who Snookie is and follow him or her closely. Ditto Taylor Swift.

7. I will begin each day by drinking a kale-whey smoothie, doing an hour of hot yoga and ending with 20 minutes of meditation, followed by a steaming chai tea latte and an egg-white, flax seed omelet.

8. I will double-down as often as possible, starting right now: I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the Obamas, all of them, including that cute doggie.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Things Fall Apart

Regardless of who won the election, my body continues to fall apart. Its latest affliction is something called a Baker's Cyst, which has nothing to do with baking. I won't go into the details because, let's face it, if you want them you can just Google it.

It's annoying to say the least and horrifying to say the most to discover a lump on your body where no lump should be or has been before. Lest your imagination run wild, I will say the offending protuberance is right out there in the open behind my left knee and not tucked into some darkened, hidden recess. Nevertheless, fearing it could be cancer or worse, whatever worse is, I had the knee-jerk reaction--ha, ha no pun intended--I always have in medical emergencies and called my physician for an appointment. He was booked, naturally, since everyone else's bodies are falling apart too, but I managed to get one with the on-site Physician's Assistant. And while a P.A. is not an M.D., they are still some initials, which certainly seemed better than none at all.

Jodie--she asked me to call her that--diagnosed my problem immediately, which made me feel better about her not really being a doctor. In fact, she spoke so authoritatively on the subject that I wondered if she had majored in Baker's Cysts in medical school, or if she even went to medical school. (I didn't ask.) Her treatment protocol was instantly to my liking: "Get used to it." Jodie went on to explain that it's quite a common ailment and that most people adjust and eventually forget they have it. This is the same treatment I use for my tinnitus, which showed up about ten years ago. After a thorough examination by an ear specialist, involving wind tunnels and earphones and whistles, the guy--and remember, he was a specialist--told me to "try to ignore it."

I am planning to use this same advice concerning our newly re-elected president. I'm hoping it works.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

On Being Your Best Self

Before the Internet you could lie about your age. This was done quite often. I did it, mostly because I gave birth to my son at age 41 and was embarrassed to be so much older than the other moms at the nursery school. Now you can't lie anymore, since anyone can uncover your age, home address, work history, past indiscretions, shoe size, allergies, favorite music, political leanings and whatever the hell else there is to know about you in about five seconds while they're in the bathroom. All mystery is gone.

As many people suspect, life really is kind of worse now, which would explain why approximately one in ten Americans is on some sort of antidepressant. But--and it's a big but--there are some perks, like painless dentistry and lattes and ballpoint pens that write even if you hold them upside down. And look how much weight Jennifer Hudson has lost...doesn't she look great? There is hope for us all. Shoulder on into the storm, I say. Make goals and meet them; what else is there to do?

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

One Cloud, Many Silver Linings

The Cloud: Four more years of this guy.

We have one nutty system for electing leaders and passing laws, you'd have to agree. After more than a year of the 24/7 media circus, it's over just like that! Everything is exactly the same as before it started, but now we all know how Stephanie Cutter, Obama's Deputy Campaign Rottweiler, got her name--cutting throats, cutting truth from her statements, and cutting her teeth on defending politicians in trouble, like Clinton post-Monica, John Kerry post-Swiftboat, and Ted Kennedy post-his every waking moment. Add to the lies of everyone involved all the money, the hype, the robo-calls, the surveys, the primaries, the commercials, the debates; the weird Herman Cains and John Hunstmans and Newts--and waddya get?  Nada. It was all a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, as my pal Bill Shakespeare famously wrote. To paraphrase, the last year wasted a whole lot of our time, money, emotions and energy yet didn't change a thing, except for gays getting legally married in Maine and Maryland and potheads getting legally high in Washington and Colorado. So to all those stoned newlyweds out there, kudos!

Nothing's different for the rest of us--the little people are still the little people, and those little people who got bigger temporarily by working on the campaigns will now get little again, at the same time swelling the ranks of the unemployed, but from now on, who's counting?

Naturally there are some big changes for the chosen few who are directly involved. The cloud: Obama won. The silver linings: Mitt can get back to his beautiful wife and family, especially those 18 grandchildren. I hope he takes a nice long vacation and gets rid of the bags that showed up under his eyes during the last week. Paul Ryan can once again focus on his sick little girl, who would certainly benefit from some of his undivided attention. Michelle Obama can call off the Realtor she had lined up house-hunting back in Chicago, and The First Granny can breathe a sigh of relief over her four-year reprieve from the old folk's home. Joe Biden is spared from the same glue factory Al Gore lives at, at least until 2016. And I can go back to never watching a presidential speech and never reading a political news story without missing anything, since it's likely to be the last four years all over again.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

We're All Winners

Tomorrow morning will usher in a dark time for America. Regardless of who wins the election, or doesn't yet win because of all the recounts and accusations of fraud and no voting due to power outages in the storm-ravaged counties along the east coast, approximately half the citizenry will be plunged into the depths of despair. And why, I ask you? Because their guy didn't win.

Their guy won't get to live in luxury on the taxpayer's dime, and travel the world at will and on a whim aboard a flying 5-star hotel, and hang out with celebrities and have anyone he wants over for dinner and a show. Their guy's wife won't be on the cover of all the magazines and on all the TV talk shows, and their guy's kids won't get their books published even when they are crap. (Being president sure has its perks.) Then again, their guy won't get older before our eyes like time-lapse photography of a flower in bloom losing its petals, since, like a dog, every year of being president is equal to seven life years of a regular person.

My prediction: No matter who wins, there will always be the homeless poor and the disgustingly rich. And no matter who wins, abortion will always be legal and remain quite popular. Ditto marijuana, except the complete opposite. So buck up everyone, because regardless of who becomes president, the only way your life can change is through your own efforts. Good luck!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Penis Pity

This morning I received some spam in my AOL mailbox that had as its subject, "So Hard You Can Crack an Egg On It." The sender's name was "penisenlarger" which is how I knew the message was not about ceramic flooring. Of course I didn't open it, thereby letting God-knows-what viruses into my computer and maybe even my home, but still, it got me wondering: Is hardness to the point of being able to crack an egg on one's penis a sought-after attribute of many men? Because if you ask me, that sounds like it would be too hard to be of any use to anyone, except maybe a cook at an IHOP. Anyway, just for the record, I, like most women, do not have penis envy, be it hard, soft or whatever. Instead, I pity men saddled with such a heavy burden.

Face it: Anthony Weiner exposed the awful truth we already suspected--that every man, be he powerful or power hungry, is obsessed with his penis. Naturally I can only speak about the men I have known personally, and while that's not every man, it's somewhere in the thousands. In addition, I watch TV and see movies and surf the Internet, gathering evidence that reinforces my hypothesis. I think if you asked any man to name his favorite body part, he would say "my penis" right off the bat. Speaking as a woman who knows from other women that we all don't think it's as big a deal as they do, it's downright silly of them, in this time of political unrest and environmental degradation, to waste so much valuable--and diminishing--brain space on such a little--yes, you heard me, little--organ.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Here's to You, Andrea Mitchell

If Obama wins the election, I imagine there'll be a lot more crowing from the mainstream media--including feral Wolf Blitzer, pancake-faced Gloria Borger, cartoonish Paul Begala, butchy Rachel Maddow, weird David Gergen and the maniacal Chris Matthews, each of whom makes me feel like I'm going to upchuck my last meal. I mean come on, surely you can relate-- James Carville must come from another planet, perhaps Uranus. In fact, all those TV journalists seem kind of alien no matter how much makeup they use to cover the signs. But I do owe NBC's Andrea Mitchell a special debt of gratitude, and because of that she doesn't make me all the way to nauseous, just a little queasy.

Beginning back in 1987, when we were living in Washington, D.C., in some feeble attempt at privacy and anonymity I started giving the name "Mitchell" instead of "Rouda" when calling a restaurant for a reservation. Usually that's all I needed to say. Then one time, the person on the phone asked for a first name too, and instinctively I said "Andrea." Right away the voice on the other end brightened, fairly chirping, "Okay, that's a party of two for Andrea Mitchell for Saturday night, we look forward to seeing you!" This was back when reporter Andrea Mitchell, wife of Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, was all over the TV. We got a good table.

That scenario has played out innumerable times since then. Even though Greenspan retired in 2006 and now we live in Maine, it still happens from time to time, depending on the political savvy of the reservation clerk.  They still think I'm that Andrea Mitchell, not some nobody named Andrea married to a guy named Mitchell. They're always a little disappointed when we show up, but still--we get that table.

The Power of Makeup

Actor Hugh Grant as a member of KISS.
Yesterday afternoon I spent three hours in a dark theater and was transported to several other worlds, each one far more interesting than Portland, Maine. In one of those rare instances a movie worked its magic, making me forget my real life for a while. So far, "Cloud Atlas" has not been a box-office hit, and that's likely because it's a real head-scratcher, posing questions that never get answered, which many people find annoying. But if you are willing to just watch and wonder, and think it's fun to see a few actors play a host of characters, it's worth the money and the time invested.

The downright silly script, based on a book of the same name by David Mitchell, touches on themes of life, death, reincarnation, the soul, the past, the future, friendship, family, and the importance of brushing and flossing. (There are some really bad teeth in this movie, just so you know.) What happens after we die, what happened before we were born, and how Hugh Grant keeps getting hired are just a few of the deep questions you'll be asking yourself long after the final credits. Be forewarned, it's Tom Hanks and Halle Berry from beginning to end, so if you can't stomach those two, stay away. But several of the supporting actors deliver subtle and stunning performances, and the sets and costumes are distracting enough that you don't really care what anyone is saying, which is a good thing since most of the dialogue is unintelligible. For the older generation there's an added bonus: trying to follow the convoluted story lines might just help you stave off Alzheimer's. I plan to see it again soon.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Drop That Donut, Dummy!

Although I know a lot, there's still so much more to learn, and I'm not just talking about the names of all the state capitals. Just this morning I added two new facts to my arsenal simply by reading the newspaper and surfing the Internet:
     1. Making funny faces, a seemingly silly activity, is now more pretentiously known as "face yoga." Stretching the underlying facial muscles, the practice can perk up the skin and forestall the appearance of aging. Ironically, most of the people who go around making funny faces are children, and they have no wrinkles. Now I'm wondering--could that be why?
     2. According to a scientific study, the results of which were recently presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress, fatter people really are dumber than thinner people. After four months of weight training and exercising, the formerly tubby subjects in the study not only lost weight and gained fitness, but also showed significant improvement on tests of mental acuity. Just one more reason to avoid your local Dunkin' Donuts shop.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Happy Movember

Seems reasonable that if you wanted to donate to a charity of your choosing, you'd just go ahead and write out a check, or charge your credit card, or maybe call them and do a phone donation. These days almost all charitable organizations make it even easier by taking money online. If all that is just too drab for you, there's the next level, whereby you sign up for a foot race or walkathon and raise money by annoying your friends, family and co-workers with having to sponsor your good time. All that, too, has become old hat. But guess what: now you can give money to help prevent prostate cancer by sponsoring a friend to grow a moustache. Hopefully these friends will all be male, but I know a few women who could enter and rake in quite a bit of dough.

Anyway, this weird phenomenon comes this month only in what is called Movember, which is a combination of November and moustache--MO and VEMBER. Get it? It's a dumb idea for a good cause, and an even dumber name. In fact, they should have called it Dumbvember. My son might be doing it or he might just not be shaving; either way I'm not giving him a dime for a bodily function he can't even stop if he wanted to. I may just send the Prostate Cancer Foundation some money, though. You can too by going to