Saturday, November 30, 2013

Books Are Expensive

A long time ago I wrote a novel. You can buy it online at Amazon. It has not been selling. Today I checked, and I think I know why: A new copy costs $526.06. You can get it used for $2.15, but if you're like me you don't want a used copy because it might have cooties. Still, $526 and change seems like too much for any book, even though it is rare.

I don't set the prices.

Movies I Haven't Seen

Today seems like a great movie day. It's quite cold outside; we've stuffed ourselves silly for two days now so dinner out is unappealing; and being Jews, we don't have to shop. In addition, there's a whole new crop of films released in time for the holidays. But perusing the reviews, I came up empty. Therefore, inventing a whole new genre of critical writing, I present reviews of films I have not seen.

"All is Lost," or Robert Redford in a Boat: I never cared for the actor even when he was young and supposedly handsome, although he was great in "Three Days of the Condor," but that might have been the script and the supporting cast including the great Max Von Sydow and Faye Dunaway, or maybe it was Julie Christie-- I always got those two confused. Now 77, Redford looks old and withered but sports those silly new pearly whites that look like nothing as much as false teeth. What is it with that? Don't people know how obviously fake their teeth look when the rest of them is decrepit? Anyway, the plot is about how a man is lost alone at sea--not sure why although my money is on a storm since the promos show him looking quite wet. He never speaks, which likely makes it much easier to sleep, but there is a narrative voice-over giving some sketchy details about his life. Don't know if he lives or dies, and I don't care.

"The Hunger Games: Catching Fire," a. k.a. Jennifer Lawrence's Career is On Fire. Ever since she won the Best Actress Oscar last year, this yawn of an actress is hot. That will fade soon; just ask Halle Berry. Anyway, she is cute I suppose, but she's no Catherine Deneuve or Ingrid Bergman or even Charlize Theron, and I never noticed any great acting ability, certainly not in that movie she won her award for where she was supposedly bipolar, something I never even noticed the whole time and had to be told afterwards. She debuted in the first Hunger Games as a teen, and now she's back in more games. These have a lot of torches in them, and I am betting a ton more bows and arrows. Again, don't care.

"Philomena" stars British actress Judi Dench (a.k.a Dame Judi Dench so I suppose that means she is some dame) as an old lady. Since she is an old lady in real life that doesn't seem like much of a stretch, so forget going for the acting. It's one of those heartwarming stories about someone who gave up her kid as an an unwed teenager and now goes looking for him. There are trains, and she's got a gay reporter with her covering her story because it is so damn heartwarming. There is also some snide stuff about the Irish Catholic nuns who made her do it, and some Catholic groups are hot and bothered about it. It is apparently quite sad and yet beautiful, and again, heartwarming. They end up in Washington for some political reason having to do with homosexuality, and it's always fun for me to see shots of my old home town, so I may watch it when it gets to Netflix.

"Dallas Buyers Club" is the most appealing, although it sounds quite heartwrenching, which is very different from heartwarming despite involving the same body part. Starring Matthew McConaughey in a tearjerker about death and dying and bucking broncos, it opens with a raunchy sex scene involving him and two women, so if you are into that kind of thing you may want to go. He's a wild ladies' man who comes down with the flu that turns out to be not the flu, and that's where things go south. Matthew lost 40 pounds for the role, and if the movie were about how he did that, I would definitely go see it. Instead it's about him dying of AIDS and looking gaunt, and trailer park trash and rodeos. However, he will certainly be nominated and I predict he will get Best Actor for this career-turning performance.

Mitch and I are staying home and may watch "Inglourious Basterds" for like the fifth time. That part where they blow up all the Nazis locked inside the movie theater never gets old, and it is, after all, Hanuka.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Whither Perfection?

Remember my name?
I just read an ad on Craigslist for a new magazine seeking writers. They say they are fabulous, and that they have tons of readers, and that your work will be seen by millions. They say they will pay you for your 1,000-word articles someday, as soon as they turn a profit, and that you don't even need any experience to write for them. So I checked out their website, and the very first story I read was about how Kelso Kramer, that nutty friend of Jerry and George and Elaine on Seinfeld, blah,blah, blah....

It's Cosmo Kramer, not Kelso. Kelso is not even a name. They should be seeking  proofreaders, not writers.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Gray Thursday

I'm roasting a turkey today, just like I have for the past 30 years or more. But now, suddenly, I find myself searching the Internet for tips on how to make it better, since the wisdom of a thousand good cooks is readily available. Apparently I need to:
1. Baste it every 45 minutes during cooking
2. Baste it every 30 minutes, but no more, during cooking
3. Not baste it at all, but cover with foil for the last half hour of cooking
4. Loosely tent it with aluminum foil and let it sit for 30 minutes after cooking
5. Cover it tightly with foil and two bath towels and let it sit for 30 minutes after cooking
6. Not stuff it, so it will cook evenly
7. Stuff it, since that's all people really want to eat

So now I'm confused. To make myself feel better, I might go shopping before our guests arrive, on what we in our house call Gray Thursday. I know what you're thinking: But Andrea, all the stores are closed until the official start of Black Friday tonight at 8 pm. Wrong. Here in Freeport, Maine, L. L. Bean's is open right now! All day long, into the night and on to tomorrow. While you're wasting precious hours being thankful and eating turkey and enjoying leisure time with friends and family, Mainers are already shopping. (Suckers.)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

That's Not Me

The Internet says she is me. (She's not.)
Lest you put too much stock in the Internet, here's a bit of misinformation I found therein moments ago. For a change of pace I Binged myself; usually I Google. The first thing I learned is that I am the owner/operator of The Wonderful Gallery, which is located in the Washington, D.C. metro area. But it's confusing because then it said I am the owner of The Wonderful Gallery in Freeport, Maine, and have been for the past four years and nine months. (Wow, I am successful online, with not one but two art galleries!) I am also a Tea Partier who called for the assassination of Keith Olbermann, a pawnbroker living in Freeport, Maine, and a Realtor working in Washington, D. C. On all the the other days I live in Oakland, California.

The only thing they got right is my age. (Dammit.) As for photos, there are many different ones, none of whom are me. And the one I found and posted here is just plain ridiculous, since my hair is so much shorter now.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Open Letter to Kellogg's

Dear Kellogg's CEO:

Your repeated and incessant running of an Internet ad for Raisin Bran makes me think that you think I must have a raisin for a brain. Otherwise, why would you do it?

Let me explain. My mother died of early-onset Alzheimer's at age 62. Lest it be inherited, her doctors at the time--and all the evidence since--suggested I keep my own brain busy with reading, writing, study, crossword puzzles and the like. I do this as much as I can; one way is by playing Words With Friends. Besides the possible mental health benefit, it's fun. Or at least it was, until your company bought the advertising rights to my game. Now every time I make a word, the SAME EXACT AD  PLAYS FOR 30 SECONDS.  Not a different ad about the same cereal, or another ad about a different cereal, but the same damn ad, with the Dad eating breakfast and the snarky teenage daughter asking did Mom make you eat that, and him saying I actually like raisins, and blah, blah, blah.

I mute it. I close my eyes and meditate. I walk away. I get more coffee. But most of all I vow never to buy that cereal, or any cereal made by Kellogg's, for as long as I live.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Friends & Family Day

That damn Granny makes you eat off real china!
In their ongoing effort to distance themselves from us geezers, today's young people are opting to forgo the traditional Thanksgiving holiday with their hated families and instead spend it with their friends. They even gave it a new name: Friendsgiving. That makes perfect sense, since in these Facebook days, friends are everything: How many you pretend-have counts, even if most of them aren't worth a damn and would not lift a finger for you, forget helping you move. (I know this is true because my son is one of them and I hear stories.)

Anyway, I first heard the term last week when the 23-year-old daughter of a neighbor said she was having 20 people over for Friendsgiving at her house, but she was planning to use paper plates because she damn well wasn't going to waste all that time washing dishes. (Her mother and I tried to dissuade her, to no avail.) Soon after I read an article online advising that for Friendsgiving--the very word is hard to say and so pretentious I may toss my stuffing-- everyone should divide up all the work or else "it could be a real shitshow." Having never before heard or read that expression, I thought it was just something the writer came up with, but I looked it up in the urban slang dictionary and learned it's been around since 2005. It means "hectic and frenetic," or "a mess." If you ask me, with words like that entering the lexicon, the human race is definitely one of those.

And just for the record, all you Gen Xers or whatever letter they are now, we Baby Boomers have been inviting our friends for Thanksgiving since Eve popped out of Adam and we never called it anything else, since having friends who feel like family is what friendship once was in our day.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How the Mighty Have Fallen

The New York Times, Sunday, November 24, 2013

The New York Times, once considered the greatest newspaper in the world, has sunk to a new low. It's now way below sea level, as low as the Dead Sea, which is damn low since it's the lowest place on earth.

Today's front page features a huge color photo of a dead woman lying on the ground, with some guns and other stuff strewn about, and the feet of a man (a cop, perhaps? the perp?) standing next to her. What were they thinking? It's sad that this former pinnacle of intellect, and still the mouthpiece of the liberal establishment, now swims in the same muck as those supermarket checkout tabloids.

Rupert Murdoch gets a bad rap, but he never did anything like this to the Wall Street Journal.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wake Up, Fat Americans

Surely this is not what God intended.
This evening I had an alarming and disturbing experience: I saw, as if for the first time, just how fat most Americans are. My husband and I had gone to see comedienne Joan Rivers perform at the local concert hall, the Merrill Auditorium. The place was packed, and I do mean packed: at least two-thirds of the audience was hugely obese. I'd never seen so many bad bodies collected in one place, including at all my old Weight Watchers meetings. It was like being in a circus sideshow tent, or maybe a bad dream that wouldn't quit.

Everywhere we looked, fat people were waddling up and down the aisles, struggling to squash their ample backsides into their seats. The hefty guy wedged in next to Mitch literally spilled over onto him; luckily the seat next to mine was unclaimed, so we moved over and Mitch was not suffocated to death.

Just when I thought I might be imagining it, a grossly overweight woman approached a seat nearby and discovered she simply could not fit into it. She then waddled over to complain to a group of tubby ushers and, after a heated conversation, waddled out before the curtain went up. I mean really, what did she expect could be done? It's tough to get a carpenter on such short notice, and it is the start of a weekend, after all.

The theater's seats seemed tiny, so I did a little research when I got home and learned that the Merrill was built in 1911, when the average woman was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 133 pounds. Today the average woman is still 5 feet 4 inches tall, but now she weighs 165 pounds. I'm glad to say I am not average, but tonight I wore a pair of slacks that were way too tight that I hadn't worn since they'd been way too loose. I was uncomfortable all evening, making me realize once again that all those "fat acceptance" people are lying to themselves. Besides being unhealthy, unattractive, unsavory and downright gross, being fat feels bad. And by the way, Joan Rivers was a hoot, and at 80 years old, quite trim and in great shape!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's A Big World Out There

                                                                                          Gordon Studer
Now that my son is out there somewhere in the West Bank, I'm sorry I haven't paid more attention to Israeli politics--actually, any attention at all--since I have no idea if he's in a haven or a hotbed; depending on who's talking, it's both. When I asked if he would be safe there, Zack replied that his beard is pretty big now and that he sort of looks like an Israeli but he also looks like he might be a Palestinian. He tried to make it sound like that would help, and I guess if I knew more about the situation I could see that. But being clueless, I was not comforted.

Traveling around the world these days is scary, even though "normal" people do it all the time with nary a second thought. Not me, though, since I am seemingly addicted to second thoughts. I'm having some concerning the fact that in less than a month I'll be leaving the security of Maine for points unknown. Well, unknown to me. And while going to Barcelona seems less threatening than going to Haiti as I did last March, requiring no inoculations or preventive measures of any kind, it's a whole lot farther away. Maybe while there's still time I should see what's going on over there. Like who's in charge, are there any coups planned, what's the deal with bullfights, and exactly what is paella.

At any rate, I hope I can get back.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jungle Bells

Just when you think advertising--and mankind-- has sunk to the lowest point possible, another commercial comes out to alert us that we're not there yet but we're well on the way. This year, the nutty folks over at Kmart are reminding us that Christmas, once a holy celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God, is nothing more than a cruel hoax to sell more crap nobody needs.

No longer anything remotely religious, until now the holiday has at least retained overtones of wholesomeness, bringing to mind steaming cups of cocoa shared with family and friends around a cheery fireplace, expressions of kindness and charity with those bell-ringing Salvation Army folks, and general "Ho-ho-ho-ing" among family and friends. Those days are over.

Circa 2013, Kmart's bell-ringers are a squad of hunky, half-dressed men sporting colorful boxer shorts, twerking (rhythmic gyrating of the lower fleshy extremities in a lascivious manner with the intent to elicit sexual arousal or laughter) their bottoms in time to the tune, "Jingle Bells," and reminding us that--Christmas or not--it's a jungle out there.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FILM REVIEW: Captain Phillips

These are some bad dudes...
Even though I'm safe inside my home on dry land, still I'm locking the doors in case there are pirates lurking in the surrounding woods. My jitters are the result of just having seen the new, hyper-intense Captain Phillips, a film based on the book written about an actual shipboard hijacking in the Indian Ocean in 2009. Two words best sum it up: See it. But take the following precautions: Bring a hankie because you'll cry at the end--even you guys. And take a deep breath before it starts, as you may not take another one until it's over.

The intensity starts with the opening scene and never lets up, as Captain Phillips, played by Tom Hanks in the finest performance of his admirable career, prepares to leave his home in bucolic Vermont and fly off to board the huge cargo ship he rules with a humble yet firm grip. His wife, played by Catherine Keener in what is surely the shortest performance by a major movie star on record, drives him to the airport and they hug their goodbyes. End of normalcy. From there we cut to a crowd of feral-looking Somali men, all of whom are in need of some dental work and a decent meal, jockeying for positions on two small motor boats headed out to do some dirty work on the high-seas.

No time is wasted, and sooner than you can ask "how is that possible?" four skinny bad guys are on board the huge container ship, ruining everyone's day. These pirates are not the eye-patch, bandanas-and-beads, Johnny Depp kind. They do not swashbuckle. Instead, they're desperate young men who have sworn to make millions for their warlord boss back home. Dressed in rags and high on a chewable weed called khat, they're the only ones with the guns, so despite the ship's bells, whistles and water hoses, the bad dudes take over in what seems like seconds. All anyone else can do, including the 20-man crew hiding below deck and you quivering in the audience, is sit still, hold their breath, pray for help and hope it's over soon.

The film has much to recommend staying off the water forever and as far away from Somalia as possible. It also assures Tom Hanks, a.k.a. Our National Treasure, of another Oscar, this one for Best Final Scene in Any Movie Ever. Clumsy title, but you'll know it when you see it.

Parents Have Enough to Do

"Mommy said I could..."
This morning's news includes the fact that very young children are eating those laundry detergent pods, mistaking them for snacks. Naturally they get very sick soon after, and tragically, one child has died from doing so. Now the manufacturers are being blamed for making a product that looks like candy, with parents taking no responsibility for storing those detergent pods in a safe place, up and away from the kids. Those are the very same parents who let their kids freely eat other poisons that are packaged in bright colors, but which just take a longer time to sicken the children.

These include Snickers, Three Musketeers, Tootsie Rolls, KitKat, Twix, Rolos, M & Ms, Butterfingers, Starburst, Gobstoppers, Swedish Fish, Caramello, Sky Bar, Chuckles, Junior Mints, Whoppers, Milky Way, Twizzlers, Reese's Pieces, Baby Ruth, Charleston Chew, Mr. Goodbar, Mounds, Almond Joy, and Skittles, to name but a few. Perhaps the manufacturers of all those should consider new packaging to discourage youngsters from eating them too, relieving the parents of yet another heavy burden.

Monday, November 18, 2013

After the Monster Storm, Monster Reporters

He's on the scene, but she's going dancing after the news.
Tornadoes destroy homes. Rooftops fly off and trees are uprooted. Power goes out. Twisted metal, shattered glass, lives in ruin. Giant twisters. It's very windy. Dangerous, oh my God. Every tornado that hits a town destroys it. People caught in the path lose their homes, their cars, and sometimes their lives. Sad but true. We all know this.  It never changes, it's always the same.

And then come....the reporters. Like locusts, they descend upon the scene of a terrible tragedy and describe it. They ask the survivors:
What did it feel like? (An eternity.)
What did it sound like? (A train.)
How do you feel now? (My home is gone, my dog is dead, my kids are missing, but not too bad otherwise.)

Nosy gossips who earn huge salaries to put themselves in harm's way, I don't understand how they have risen to such heights in our society. And why they have to wear so much makeup. I just wish they would all stay home.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Charity Begins at Home

I'm unhappy because of a lot of things, but fortunately they are all fixable. But I better act fast because my current health care runs out January 1 and after that I'll have a much worse policy thanks to stupid you-know-who. First off I'm getting my lips plumped, which apparently you need these days in order to be happy. You see ads for them everywhere. Maybe I'll get the pouty kind like Angelina Jolie has, although I'm not sure I really want to go that far. Certainly not Meg Ryan; we all agree she ruined her face and is now retired from acting. Living in New York City and claiming she loves ferrying her kids around and that's enough for her, it's sad really. Maybe I'll hold off on the lip thing altogether.

Then there are my eyelashes which are skimpy at best, and my brows are way too light. I could get permanent eye makeup surgically implanted, which sounds painful but I could do it when I have my cataract surgery and hip replacement which I will surely need any day now. And while I'm at it, maybe one of those Lifetime Lift facelifts on my lunch hour and I can be back in work in an hour, which would be really great since I don't have a job right now and I need one.

Then I'll get a manicure and pedicure, and some blonde highlights. That should do it, unless there's an earthquake or a tornado or another typhoon or tsunami, and I'd have to send more money to all the victims who have no food, water, shelter, clothing, medical care, mommy or daddy. That would ruin everything.

One is the Loneliest Number

My husband is off on a road trip for the next three days and once again I am exploring the possibility of polygamy. I honestly see nothing wrong with having more than one mate. What could be bad? Especially now, when anyone can marry anyone, and transgendered folks can use the Men's room or the Ladies' room depending on their outfit that day, and there are nude coed dorms in colleges--what's so terrible about a little extra-marital friendship? Of course, here in Maine the pool of potential candidates is quite shallow. Still, if I put my mind to it I might unearth a decent sort who would be willing to hang out with me while his own wife is away, or maybe she's dead and he's alone and would love some company and killer food in exchange for fixing the toilet or what was that noise or there's a giant spider in the bathroom, please kill it.

I have shared this desire with my husband and he seems to think I might score if I go out to dinner alone and sit at the bar. Sorry, but that is not my style, especially nowadays with those giant plasma TV screens with the hockey and the football going all the time. Then too, he suggests I join some clubs and get out there and "meet people." Never much of a joiner even in a normal city, for me clubs in Maine are out of the question. Also, nobody would let me in, being as I am from Away.

That leaves my doctors and dentists, all male. I do have a particularly endearing periodontist I see once every three months who likes me a lot; I can tell because he spends way too much time pretending to check my pockets. But he is younger by many years and happily married with three kids. I'd hate myself. Another possibility is my hip surgeon, who is really funny and quirky. But getting a new hip seems risky enough without adding possible lover's quarrels into the mix. Besides, surgeons are notoriously narcissistic--this one sure is-- and who needs that? After all, this is my fantasy.

So I'm alone and I have to get used to it. Each time Mitch leaves, I set a goal for how to use my time: make a new painting, paint a room in the house, go on a juice fast--that sort of thing. I guess I'll put in all the storm windows-- I've been meaning to do that. And as luck would have it, I am going to the periodontist tomorrow....

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Stephen King Was Born Here

For the last four years plus a little, I've lived in Maine. Before that, I lived in New York, D.C., Berkeley, Baltimore and Salt Lake City. And while I am hardly a globetrotter, I've traveled to quite a few foreign countries. I am now ready to make a pronouncement: people are the same the world over, except in Maine.  Putting it plainly, Mainers are weird. They're odd. They're not like other people, unless you mean The Others on the TV show LOST. A few more adjectives that describe them are mean, gruff, closed, cold, unsophisticated, small-minded, uptight, fearful, inhibited, boring, humorless, unimaginative and selfish.

Still, it's very pretty up here, and as I have said many times, there's no crime and no traffic, so I'm staying. Besides, scads of non-Mainers come to visit, and plenty of normal people from what the locals call "away" also live here. But those natives--they're something else. I have only met one who is a regular person, and that's our vet: She is great, and warm and sincere and open and funny and caring. (I was actually shocked to learn she's from Maine.)

Anyway, I just wanted to advise any of you planning a trip to these parts to be sure and bring a camera, but don't bother packing your personality. You'll never use it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Some Really Wild Turkey

I'm intrigued by all the advertisers who talk so much while saying nothing. Someday I hope to spout soaring and meaningless copy and be paid to do so. Happily, the very mindlessness of advertising assures us a bottomless pool of talent, deep and infinite. The profession has nowhere to go but down.

The Mayflower
Just now I saw a TV commercial for a Butterball turkey. The announcer says your turkey "will be so juicy, your guests will think you just stepped off the Mayflower." I found that odd, since I doubt that there were turkeys-- juicy, roasted or otherwise--aboard that famous ship. As for that Butterball--did they even have butter back then? And even if they did, what does that statement even mean--that your turkey will taste like it was cooked in 1620? Besides, according to Wikipedia, that was no fun cruise:
     "The passage was a miserable one, with huge waves constantly crashing against the ship’s topside deck until a key structural support timber fractured. The passengers, who had already suffered agonizing delays, shortages of food and of other supplies, now were called upon to provide assistance to the ship’s carpenter in repairing the fractured main support beam."

So where do they get the whole buttery roasted turkey thing? Can you imagine basting a turkey in a squall? It's craziness, I tell you. At best, they might get the thing cooked, but buttery? I think not.

What goes on in those ad agencies? As I said, I'm intrigued.

If You Like Cats, Call Me

These could be your feet....
Ah, modern life--no wonder we are all so fat. Instead of getting up and out, the pull of the Internet and Netflix and the streaming this and tweeting that keeps one couch-bound more often than is advisable. So I am excited, elated, gleeful and relieved that my one and only son is off on a trip far, far away, sans computer, in a land full of odd and strange things that have kept him offline. Not that I don't miss hearing from him, but it's just more fun not hearing from him and imagining his wonderful adventures.

I look forward to finding myself in the same situation less than a month from today, when my husband and I will fly off to Barcelona. (Why Barcelona? Why not?) Our only problem is a time-worn one: Who will care for the cats? Seeking a pet sitter has been an annoying, depressing, time-consuming, stupid and frustrating pursuit, and almost makes travel not worth it. Once again I face the question that has no answer: What are pets for?

Anyway, if you know me and I know you, and you'd like to experience Maine in the winter which is really fun, especially in a beautiful house surrounded by woods, right near the water and with a great big hot tub outside your door, and get paid to do it, just say the word.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

One Good Thing About Obamacare

Let's face it: Obama screwed up. Whether you like him or not, or voted for him or not, at least we can all finally agree on that. His entire presidency has been focused on one thing and one thing only, and that's health care. His failure to deliver on the promise of free health insurance for everyone is undisputed by all except his former deputy campaign manager and current CNN star Stephanie Cutter, who is still insisting the new law is a good thing. I guess she didn't get the memo about how Obama himself is "open to legislation to fix the troubled rollout," which even many staunch Democrats now believe is necessary.

But never fear--there is one good thing to come from all this mess: Michelle is gone! Gone is the ubiquitous, self-aggrandizing "first lady" who showed up at every event, graced every magazine cover, blabbed on every TV talk show and even handed out the damn Oscars. Thankfully, these days she is blissfully out of sight, having cancelled many of her scheduled events since the government shutdown in October. One can only imagine how ashamed she is of her country right now. Of course, without her yammering about eating fewer potatoes and exercising to lose weight, we might all put on a few pounds. But if you ask me, it's worth it.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Okay, Fine, You Win

Something is terribly wrong in our culture. Competition is rampant, with everyone intent on beating "the others." The terrifying number of TV shows based on this human need is proof: losing weight, singing, dancing, designing clothing, baking cakes, making business deals and cooking have been turned into competitive sports with winners and losers. Then of course there are the old-fashioned quiz shows where you just have to be smarter, or these days stupider, to win. And after you win, then what? You might get a cash prize, or your own show, or just gloating rights among your peers.

Gloating, almost often accompanied by smugness, is surely the least attractive human activity, and one with which I deal daily. I play Scrabble online with a fervent gloater, and he's a downright pain in the ass. Even if he wins by just one point, still he must make sure I noticed that HE WON!!!!!!!!! Naturally one can infer that I lost, but still he often points that out too, in case I did not do the math.

It's not just games and sports and such; people also gloat over how much better their lives are than yours. One of my neighbors has three children and many siblings living nearby. She delights in delivering unsolicited information like, "We had 22 people at the dinner table last night," even though she knows that I am usually home alone eating a solitary meal, or maybe Mitch is in town and it's just the two of us, or maybe our only child is here too and then there are three. Still, she keeps me apprised on her busy family's activities and how many there are of them attending this or that exciting happening or event, for which she is often scurrying off to prepare for the descending hordes. I once liked this woman, but her tiresome and transparent gloating has given me direct access into her well of insecurity, and it's deep and bubbling. I hate that in a friend.

Please don't use what you perceive to be my pathetic life to feel better about your own. And just because you were successful in something, somewhere, don't feel compelled to share the news with me. Just savor it yourself, bask in your own glory, and grow from the experience.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Eating to Live

Also available in book form.
Two nights ago I watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives that may have changed my life; it's too soon to be sure. At any rate, it definitely changed my last two days. I feel better, have lost a pound and a half and shaved two minutes off my walk today. So far, so good.

The premise of the film is that what we eat here in America is killing us--as if we didn't already know. Still, this movie makes it harder to ignore the facts. We meet two doctors, now both in their 70s, who have spent their entire careers honing in on and perfecting what they call a "plant-based diet," and two younger ones who agree and use it as a tool for treating patients. Before too long after embarking on their plan, cholesterol numbers plummet, along with weight, blood pressure and most of the other ills that plague us as a society. Diabetes goes out the window, taking insomnia and depression with it. It's hard to dispute the facts as you see the incredible shrinking narrator who uses himself as a guinea pig, and even harder to not give it a try.

The basics of no red meat, no dairy, no fats or sugars or oils, are pretty standard fare, but this is the first time they've all been wrapped up so succinctly and presented as a gift, just in time for the holidays. No fan of eating anything that ever stood on four legs anyway, it's not too much of a stretch for me to go all the way with this, although I'll miss my cottage cheese, which I know shocks many people. The bad news: that all-natural turkey already ordered. Oh well, rules are made to be broken.

Now I'm Asking for Money

It is so annoying when the power goes out, like in a storm. It's a real drag: No lights, no Internet, no TV, no nothing. I hate it. So then you drag out all the stuff-- the candles, the lanterns, the flashlights-- and hope the lights come back on before nightfall. Pretty soon the food in the fridge becomes an issue, with everything on the way to ruin. (Dammit, we just bought ice cream!)

Imagine that on top of all that, your entire home is flooded. Or perhaps gone. Everything you ever had that shows you are you: the photographs, the trophies, the papers, the clothing, and all the treasures purchased over the years. What you have left, if you are not dead, is your body, hopefully with some clothing still on it. Maybe some family members remain, or maybe they floated away too. And where are the cats? What about the dog? The birds, the fish, the gerbils, the bunnies, whatever....all gone.

That's the scene in the Philippines this morning for many thousands of people following the super typhoon that clobbered them five days ago. Mitch and I sent $200 to the Red Cross which is way less than a drop in the bucket, but still it might help one person eat a meal or get a blanket. I hope everyone reading this can send something too. Why not do it right now?

Monday, November 11, 2013

All the News That's Fit to Print, and Some That's Not

When I was growing up, the arrival of the Sunday New York Times was almost a sacred event. The paper seemed endless and filled the whole day.  Brimming with fantastic things including news from around the world and suggestions on how to live well and be happy, it made the whole world of adults enticing. There was an entire section on what books one should read and another on where one should travel. The writers seemed to be rare and special people who had important thoughts and shared them with us.

How times have changed.

Yesterday in the section of The Times called REVIEW, meaning I have no idea what, I read almost all of an article about how baby boomers should be sure to discard their sex toys in advance of their death lest the surviving family members find them after the funeral. This was not a joke but rather a serious bit of advice. There were details of various possible objects the author had in mind. Words like latex, banana and feathers were employed more than once.

I'm confused. The only sex toy I have is permanently attached to my husband. If I had any others and I died and someone found them I'd still be dead, so I have no idea how it could matter. (If there's anything sillier than worrying about one's reputation, it's worrying about it after you're dead.) Anyway, The New York Times, she ain't what she used to be.

If the War Didn't Kill Them, This Might

Kind of makes you want to run out and enlist!
Happy Veteran's Day! If you risked your life in a war to defend our country's values, then today you can reap the rewards. Those generous folks at Outback Steakhouse are offering all vets a free Bloomin' Onion just to say thanks. The preparation of this particular dish, which was invented by the Outback Steakhouse in 1988, involves taking an ordinary onion that never hurt anyone, dipping it in an egg batter and then deep-frying it in lard. As a result, a single Bloomin' Onion with dressing--and who doesn't want the dressing--contains approximately 3,000 calories and 134 grams of fat.

But never fear--you don't have to be a veteran to eat badly. Just moments ago I saw a TV commercial for Nutella, that sort of foreign chocolate goopy stuff you're never sure what to do with. A mom in her lovely, upscale kitchen is seen serving breakfast to her two non-compliant children. The kindly voice-over infers that most kids won't eat a healthy breakfast, yet these two are gobbling up their yummy Nutella on bread. This makes their mom very happy, and with good reason: The voice tells us that Nutella is "made with healthy hazelnuts and skimmed milk, with just a hint of chocolate."

Ha! Here's what it really is: About half of the calories in Nutella come from fat and about 40% of the calories come from sugar. The main ingredients --sugar and palm oil-- are combined with hazelnuts, cocoa solids and a teeny bit of skimmed milk. Nutella contains 70% saturated fat and processed sugar by weight. A two-tablespoon serving contains 200 calories derived from 11 grams of fat and 21 grams of sugar. In addition, the spread contains 15mg of sodium and 2g of protein per serving.

So if there's a veteran you kind of dislike, or some kids that are really annoying, invite them over for some deep-fried onions topped with chocolate sauce. And Happy Veteran's Day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Best Christmas Gift

Not exactly Mister Roger's Neighborhood...
"TACLOBAN, Philippines, Nov 10 (Reuters) - One of the most powerful storms ever recorded killed at least 10,000 people in the central Philippines, a senior police official said on Sunday, with huge waves sweeping away coastal villages and devastating one of the main cities in the region."

Despite the bleak news reported above, I'm guessing that most folks will continue on with their Sunday: Reading the paper, going to Starbucks, hitting the gym, maybe even brave one of the suburban malls to get a jump on holiday shopping. That truth is even more depressing than the storm itself. Even though 10,000 people died, I didn't know any of them personally and so I'm not half as upset, really, as if I had a splinter in my finger. Or worse, my toe, which is harder to get to. Basically, what happens in the Philippines stays in the Philippines. I'm not proud of it, but facts are facts.

While I would love to hop on a plane and go straight to where they need help, I won't for several reasons, starting with I hate flying. Also, there is little I could do besides hand out bandages, and in the process maybe contract an airborne disease caused by the lack of sanitary conditions. So I'm not going, and instead might take in a movie later, and finish the raking I started yesterday if the rain lets up.

Yes, today many of our fellow earthlings are dead. Still, the Sunday Times crossword awaits, along with a fresh pot of coffee. I'm feeling pretty good, despite all those dead Filipinos. Should I be crying? Not sure, but at the very least I should--and will--send money! As for all those holiday gifts in the mall--a donation to the surviving and newly-orphaned children of the storm seems a better choice than another new sweater (which was probably made in the Philippines) or the latest video game.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Utter Non-Scents

Once, we all wore this.
If I had to choose the number one folly of our species, it would be the wearing of cologne. (Next would be the consumption of "blooming onions," but that's a distant and somewhat esoteric second.) For reasons I cannot fathom other than a lack of access to soap and water, millions of otherwise sane individuals choose to mask their own natural scent with a chemical brew mixed up in a laboratory and thus smell like everyone else who bought the stuff. Last year just 17% of American women eschewed artificial fragrances.

Not only does wearing perfume cost money that could be put to better use -- fragrance sales generate an estimated $5.2 billion annually--it also stinks. Admit it: an outing to the theater or the movies is fraught with anxiety, laden with the possibility that some heavily perfumed lady will plop down nearby and foul the air and your whole evening with her misguided attempt to be sexy, alluring, memorable or whatever the heck she believes it does for her, when really it's simply nauseating, rude and pointless, especially if she's a mess otherwise. Perfume cannot compensate for bad taste, and yet throngs of fatties are seen pigging out in shopping mall food courts dressed in sweatpants and sneakers and smelling up a storm. Usually it's Giorgio which is downright gag-inducing. (On the bright side, you'll eat less.)

These days men do it too, tainting locker rooms and boardrooms alike. Even the New York Yankees have a fragrance that earned $10 million in retail sales in 2012. (Not sure who wants to smell like a Yankee, except maybe one of the St. Louis Cardinals.) Some other colognes specifically targeted to a male audience have names like Gucci Guilty, Gucci Guilty Intense, Boss Number 6, Born Wild, Cars, I Love NY for Him, Playboy London, L'homme Libre, Avatar and Cool Water Summer Dive. Actress Elizabeth Taylor started it all with her signature White Shoulders, which still remains the most profitable celebrity-endorsed fragrance 20 years after its debut and many years after her death. (Lord knows what her shoulders smell like now.)

Liz, by Andy
Before that we all smelled like someone named Jean Nate. I had no idea who that was but I wanted to smell like her too, and so I splashed it on each morning before trotting off to the eighth grade. Now, what with all the advances made possible by our best and brightest, we can smell like just about any celebrity with an aggressive agent, among them Bruce Willis, Queen Latifah, Justin Beiber, J. Lo, Prince, Cher, Brittany Spears, Beyonce and even David Beckham, a soccer player, hopefully before the game. As for me, I can't think of one famous person I'd choose to smell like, except maybe Poppin' Fresh.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Working for a Living

If you know what to do with this, apply today...
In my daily search for gainful employment, I check under the heading of Education in case there is an opening for an art teacher. Today I found the following position advertised on Craigslist:

Full-time professional needed for new infant/toddler daycare center. Must have undergraduate teaching degree and be working towards a Master's in Education. Experience preferred but we are willing to train the right person. To succeed in this environment, the right candidate will have had a full frontal lobotomy. Requirements include:

1. wiping snotty noses
2. changing poopy diapers
3. cleaning up vomit
4. ability to withstand incessant screaming, sporadic crying and intermittent wailing
5. be able to lift 50-75 pounds and carry it around until it shuts up
6. be prepared to placate hysterical parents who will blame you for everything
7. must be available from 6am to 6pm weekdays
8. must have reliable transportation
9. must possess first-aid training, CPR certificate and no self-esteem

$8.00/hour, no benefits--and we mean NO benefits.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

Don't you wonder...

who is Joe Bornstein? 
why the Jews didn't get out of Poland while they still had a chance?
if your screens are made from transvaginal mesh?
what catheters do?
where the stock market is?
how surgeons cut people open without fainting?
why butchers are less respected than surgeons?
whatever happened to Michelle Obama?
why it's so expensive to execute someone?
why heroine and heroin are spelled so alike?
how black children adopted by white people can stand it?
why no black couples adopt white babies?
if anyone's ever had an erection lasting more than four hours?
what is the appeal of Hillary Clinton?
Dan Akroyd's impression of John Goodman.
why only some states have helmet laws?
whatever happened to AIDS?
whatever happened to SARS?
how people leave dogs locked inside cars?
why people eat popcorn at the movies?
how Dan Akroyd got so fat?
how lawyers defend criminals they know are guilty?
why L. L. Bean lets you return things that are obviously used?
why southerners talk that way?
how language started?
if we evolved from apes why are there still apes?
how they do dry cleaning and plus it's so quick?
how anyone can believe God made everything in seven days?
if Santa Claus knows the Tooth Fairy?
why people go to the movies when they could see it at home?
who thinks Conan O'Brien is funny?
why they still make pennies when they cost more than a penny each to produce?
how anyone knows it's just the tip of the iceberg?
how circumcision got to be so popular?
why a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush?
why poor Haitians are considered worse off than poor people in other countries?
how all those magazines make money?
if bologna is different from baloney and if not why are there two words?
what is a hand-basket and why would you take it to Hell?
why people who get those arm sleeve tattoos to be different all look exactly alike?

I Don't Get It

                                                           Gordon Studer
Twitter mystifies me. Who reads it, who writes it and what's it for are just a few of my questions. Today the company, currently valued at $14.4 billion, will begin offering shares to the public for $26 each. This is apparently one dollar higher than was previously announced. I guess they're feeling pretty confident, what with 232 million monthly users, and I must say that if I wanted a share at $25 bucks, I would not flinch at $26. Still, I just don't get it.

Stuffed-crust pizza seems like the Department of Redundancy Department. You've got the crust, the tomato sauce, the various toppings and the cheese on top, so who needs more cheese inside the crust? Why not just increase the amount of cheese on top if cheesiness is your thing, and leave the crust alone? After all, they don't add more crust on the top, or stuff the whole shebang inside a big tomato. Perhaps that's next.

Facelifts, tummy tucks, brow lifts, eye jobs, and all the rest seem pretty silly, considering your insides don't get any younger in the process. If there were some procedure where I could make my heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, stomach and brain ten or fifteen years younger I'd risk the possible infection, medical error and death and have the surgery. But if the only result is that people who look at me have a better time while I feel the same inside, I'm not getting any. It's sort of like who cares what color your car is on the outside.

Visiting Disney World once or twice, or maybe even three or four times if you have lots of children, seems, while not all the way to reasonable, at least understandable. But then you hear about--or even know personally-- seemingly sane people who go back every year for 35 years, or visit the park six times a year, and you gotta wonder what's up with them. Have they not heard about Europe, the Far East, Alaska, Hawaii, the islands or Yellowstone?

Reality TV shows about losers enduring horrible lives in squalid conditions are quite popular. Not with me; I have a hard enough time navigating my own messy closets, basement and garage. I certainly have no desire to watch a program like "Hoarders" and witness the insanity of some pathetic psycho's freaky existence. There's even a show called "My Strange Obsession." Hey, that's their problem, leave me out of it.

All that is just the tip of the iceberg. There's so much more I find unfathomable, like mean people who go to church every Sunday and feel good about themselves, and women with fake boobs that look like tennis balls sewn under their skin wearing low-cut dresses like they have something to show off, and wasting your one and only life being morbidly obese and unable to tie your own shoes, and motorcyclists who ride without helmets, and boiling lobsters alive and the fact that there is no bus or subway from Portland to Freeport. Like, what if you don't own a car?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Even Worse Than Shingles

If I could charge people to read this blog, I'd die happy. Then again, if I could charge people to read this blog I'd probably drop dead from the shock. Anyway, that's not happening so no worry there. Making money is on my mind after lunching with a friend who was recently fired from her job with no warning and no prior convictions. Her boss just flipped out and told her, "I want you gone." Now she's scrambling to find work in a city known for little beyond tasty seafood and water views. A creative wordsmith and seasoned magazine editor, she'd have little trouble in another part of of the country, but finding editorial work in Portland, Maine is as rare as locating an open mind in the DNC. I know this because I have been job-hunting here myself for years. At the moment, the only editorial opening worth considering is so unappealing I shudder at the thought of actually getting it.

So I rake leaves. Of course, that's a seasonal thing, giving way to shoveling snow and after that, gardening. I also paint, read, take walks and do the laundry. It's what there is. Sometimes it's boring; today is one of those days. But at least there are no zombies trying to feast on my flesh, and for that I am thankful.

Brad Pitt attempting to reason with an undead guy.
I say that because last night I watched a movie called World War Z, which  was quite intense and realistic enough to make me lock my car doors on my drive into the city earlier today. Starring Brad Pitt as a super-brilliant, ordinary guy who saves the world from a virus that turns people into zombies in 12 seconds--that is one fast-acting virus--it's chock full of impressive zombie attacks, complete with bugging eyes, spurting blood and twitching limbs, all accompanied by lots of hissing. (Apparently dying and coming right back to life makes your blood boil, which would explain the sound.) It's much worse than shingles, and we all know how terrible that is just by watching those ads on TV. At least with shingles you've got time to plan. Plus, with the zombie thing, there's no vaccine. Anyway, while the film is devoid of any deeper meaning one can use in everyday life, even without that it earned $540 million at the box office when it opened several months back, which tells you that I am not the only one among us who is bored. A sequel is in the works, so we'll all have something to do on one day at least.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Questioning Authority

This whole Daylight Savings Time thing sucks. It is now 5pm where I live and totally dark outside. This is not necessary and in fact seems foolish. It is not bedtime. I think we should turn the clocks ahead like three hours during winter, so right now it would just be 2pm and I would have lots of daytime left in which to rake leaves. That's the ironic part: There are so many leaves to rake, we certainly could use the extra light! Of course, I suppose I could set up some sort of a lantern on a pole situation and keep moving it around the yard as I work, or maybe just turn on our outdoor floodlights. I just thought of that. Oh well, never mind then.

Still, it's odd that "they" tell us what to do and we all do it. Just who the heck came up with that changing of the clocks business anyway? What is Greenwich Mean Time, and sez who? The authorities, I suppose. I despise them. Those damned authorities are often wrong but never in doubt. But often wrong. I know I said it twice, but that's how wrong they often are. Like Obama with the health care. And other things. You know what I mean.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Wanted: A Reason to Live

One man's raison d'etre.
Life's funny. Some people are into this, while others are into that. My friend Debra is one of that rarefied group commonly known as birders. Along with many others, she counts birds in the sky. In the past she has caught many of them in order to put bands on their little ankles, then released them so that other birders somewhere else can see where they've been. Or something like that. This is her raison d'etre and it dominates her thoughts, whereas I don't care at all how many of which birds there are in the sky, I only care if the ones clustered on my backyard feeder like the kind of bird seed I offer. If not, I adjust accordingly. That's about it for me and birds.

Last night I watched a mesmerizing documentary film called Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about a guy (Jiro) who is so into making sushi that he dreams about it. Now 85 years old, Jiro started making sushi as a child and then dedicated his life to perfecting it, eventually opening his own award-winning restaurant in Tokyo. Every day, all day, he presses sliced fish onto little pads of rice, then brushes them with soy sauce and places them on marble slabs, to be eaten by sushi aficionados who can afford his outrageous prices which start at about $300 per dinner. The movie was fun to watch, opening a window into the individual mania of this one man for whom sushi is the reason to get up every day.

As Jiro says, "to live a successful life you must dedicate yourself to mastering your skill." A raison d'etre is now at the top of my must-have list. I might already have one, but I'm not 100% sure.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Eating Season

Yesterday was the first Halloween I did not celebrate. No candy, no roasted pumpkin seeds, no carved jack-o-lanterns. In fact, no trick-or-treaters; turning off the porch light apparently worked. The result is that this morning I am not having a bowl of leftover, fun-sized Milky Ways and Three Musketeers for breakfast. I am also not up five pounds, feeling bloated and filled with remorse. In fact, I feel great--who knew? So now I'm wondering if I can do the same with the other holidays that are crammed down our throats by eager shopkeepers, restaurateurs and those devils Harry & David, all seeking to increase their bottom lines while we all just increase our bottoms.

Okay, I'm cynical--what else is new. But few can deny that holidays have long since ceased to have any meaning to most Americans other than what's to eat and what's to buy. Next up: Thanksgiving, which this year will be super-charged by coinciding with Hanukkah. Mashed potatoes must now be deep-fried into latkes.

Turning off the porch light will not help me with that one, since my family will already be inside the home, but as head chef I can make it less grotesque by careful menu planning, eliminating about 10,000 calories from the festival meal. Maybe not have three kinds of pie and four kinds of potatoes and five different buttery vegetables, and that insidious cranberry sauce. And no gravy! Well, less. Then comes Christmas, with its gustatory celebrations of the birth of the baby Jesus: Glazed hams and roast beeves. Candy and fruitcake. Cookies. Egg nog. I'm nauseous just thinking about it.

Perhaps we can all show some restraint and, as a nation, not gain a million pounds over the next two months. It's worth a try.