Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year and Goodbye

Cartoon by Mark Winter
Today is the last day of the year we call 2013. It coincides with the last post in the blog I call Roto-Rouda. Something else is sure to follow, although right now I have no idea what it could be. What I do know is that lots of people make lots of money by writing blogs, but I have never earned one thin dime. Or even one fat dime, or one thin nickel, or even an emaciated penny. The many ladies who write cupcake blogs seem to do quite well, attracting lots of comments and with ads all over the place. And the people who tell you how to invest your money or who to vote for also do nicely. I, on the other hand, have nothing to share of any import, or at least if I do I don't for fear of getting in trouble with the law or various family members.

As for the approaching holiday: I bought a bottle of champagne for tonight, even though I know we won't last until midnight and we don't particularly like champagne; who does? It's sort of bitter, unless you spend a fortune on it, and I just got mine in the fancy supermarket's wine department. I wondered why and how the tradition of toasting the new year began, and so I did a little research online and found the following answer at a website called Ask.com: "Drinking champagne on New Year's Eve is a tradition that was passed on from other living generations that lived before."

Ask.com has 8,204 followers on Google +, whereas Roto-Rouda has zip. Emboldened by that fact, the management here at RR--that's what we call it--is committed to returning. Our new venture will be much bigger, brighter and dumber than ever, with lots of ads, tons of investment advice and the occasional cupcake recipe. Look for it.

Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Organic--and Inedible

These being the last days, I thought I'd leave my loyal readers with a final bit of wisdom: Do not buy Stonyfield Organic Blends Yogurt. Well you can buy it but don't eat it, or you can try to eat it but I dare you to finish. I just had to pour more than half of my 6-ounce cup of Fat Free Lemon down the drain and I still feel sort of queasy, with a chalky taste in my mouth. I think it's because they don't use any toxic pesticides, a fact they proudly proclaim front and center on the label, right next to the words USDA ORGANIC. Ditto artificial hormones, antibiotics and GMOs.

I have mixed emotions: On the one hand, I feel like a better person for supporting what is basically a local producer--they're in New Hampshire which is just down the road a piece. But on the other, I paid good money for some yogurt I could eat and that was definitely not it. Could it be those missing persistent pesticides make it taste better? And do I have to eat only bad-tasting things to be a good person? And how come everyone is so anti-GMO, but all in favor of transgenders? Really, when you stop to think about it, tampering with a little corn is not half as weird as completely altering a person's genitals.

These are questions to consider, but I wanted you all to know about that Stonyfield yogurt. At the very least, steer clear of the lemon flavor.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The End is Near

Sadly, the time has come to put Roto-Rouda to rest. We've mocked every last thing there is to mock, and after watching our numbers rise and fall with seemingly no rhyme or reason, and our reader comments shrivel to naught, the management has decided that since all of our days are numbered, there are better ways to spend them. And this being the end of another Earth Year, Roto-Rouda feels it is an appropriate time to pull the plug. But, like a phoenix rising from the ashes (see photo, left), something will surely come of all the nonsense, folderol, twaddle, balderdash and hoo-ha that has appeared with amazing regularity under this title since 2007.

Wishing all my loyal readers a happy, healthy and safe New Year, I will raise a glass of bubbly in your honor, with a special thanks to my friend Gordon Studer, whose brilliant illustrations have often brightened these otherwise frivolous ramblings. To see more of his work, visit his website at www.gordonstuder.com.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Petrified Woodstock Generation

Some blonde actress I never heard of died in her sleep last night. She was very pretty although a tad anorexic, and just 43 years old. According to my son, who is 26, she was much more famous than Cissy Spacek, the Oscar-winning actress from my generation who is still alive, having lived until the age of 64 without starving herself to death or drinking herself to death or overdosing on drugs or getting arrested for DUI and spousal abuse, or anything at all tawdry. But these days, being tawdry definitely trumps feeling groovy.

The dead woman, whose name escapes me but I think is Lisa something, matters much more to today's generation, I am told, although I am unclear why one generation is considered to be "today's generation" when everyone alive today is in a generation. The bottom line, I am told, is that nobody cares about Cissy anymore, despite her amazing talent as evidenced in mind-blowing movies like Badlands, The Coal Miner's Daughter, Missing, In the Bedroom, Carrie, The Help, and a ton more. But then, nobody knows who Bob Dylan is anymore. It's over for the so-called Woodstock Generation. This is sad, but hey, I'm ready. I thought I wanted to live to be really old, but not if all my heroes are trashed.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Say What You Mean, Only if You Dare

One of these guys is Phil, but I bet they all hate gays.
I remember the first time I went to Europe, which was 40 years ago, and there was almost nothing recognizable. It was truly magical. Then last week I went to Spain and found Starbucks and McDonald's and Burger King and Dunkin' Donuts and Foot Locker and Subway and more.  Now Europe is just us, across an ocean. In much the same way, political correctness is robbing each of us of our individuality.

Imagine you are a continent: Once, when you were little, you had likes and dislikes and ways of being and thinking that made you unique and interesting. But no more; wise adults know those differing opinions must be shut down, or else ye shall be shunned, or they shall smite thee, or even worse: ye shall be kicked off your own TV show like that Duck Dynasty guy.

His name is Phil. He may or may not have any teeth and he certainly doesn't seem like the sharpest knife in the drawer. Still, he's rich and famous, and he said publicly that he doesn't like homosexuality. That's his problem. It's also his prerogative, his opinion, and none of my damn business, yet he was fired from his job because of stating in an interview that he would "rather have sex with a woman's vagina than a man's anus."

The guy is no poet, that's for sure. But still, whatever happened to freedom of speech? Do we all have to follow the same script? Where do we get it? Mine did not come today.

Smarten Up in 2014

                                                                             Gordon Studer
I may be alone in this, but I'm getting downright sick of the Internet. It seems to be going the way of television, which is to say full of junky, inane, stupid stuff--this blog is part of it, lest you were having that same thought--that purports to be so important but rarely is. For example, it cracks me up when I see story headlines like, "The Secret to Perfect Turkey Gravy." If it's such a damn secret, then how can it be in that article? And really, who cares, and if you do, get a cookbook.

Today I saw one entitled, "7 Secrets to Liven Your Libido." Again, not too secret if it's right there on the Huffington Post. Anyway, I didn't click since I hate the word libido; why not just say sex life? Who am I, Sigmund Freud? Besides, my libido is unlike anyone else's, which is true for all of us, so how would they know what will turn me on? Maybe I like men in clown suits, which by the way I don't so save your money, Mitch.

Anyway, in the interest of de-junking the Internet, next year The Daily Droid will begin to tackle serious subjects with the intention of adding a dollop of intelligence to the virtual world. Until then it will continue to be meaningless drivel like it is right now.




Thursday, December 26, 2013

I'll Take the Placebo, Thanks

According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal, a study involving 146 patients with knee problems has proven that fake surgery works just as well as the real thing. This is exciting news that just may revolutionize the entire medical world. It seems that the recipients of the real meniscus repair surgery were exactly the same in terms of pain and quality of life after one year as the control group of patients who received "placebo surgery," which was nothing more than doctors pressing instruments firmly against the knee to simulate the procedure. The study was done in Finland, so I assume it would also work in Maine since it's similarly cold, bleak and Ibsen-like here as well.

Since I'm scheduled to have hip surgery in a couple of months, I'm going to ask my doctor, who is at the forefront of all things surgical, if he can do this for me. After all, a hip is sort of like a knee; they're both in the leg, and they move. Anyway, it's worth a shot. If he agrees, I'm hoping he'll accept a fake fee as well.

To Tell the Truth

One of my favorite TV shows growing up was a quiz show called "To Tell the Truth." Anyone reading this knows what it was, so I won't say more. Anyway, I think I took it way more seriously than it was intended, and since then I have always tried to tell the truth, unless of course I am speaking with someone I value not a whit, and then I can lie like the best of them.

I'm pretty sure I was supposed to return from our trip to Europe and say it was great, it was fantastic, and that we had a wonderful time every magical second! I think that's what we are all supposed to do--stifle our true feelings about everything and thus make everyone else think we are having a fabulous life that's much better than theirs, and somehow that's supposed to make us happy. For most people, that behavior begins in high school and basically ends at death. Sadly, I'm bad at it; try as I might to hide it, the truth seeps out. And here in my blog, which I write for myself because your reading of it nets me absolutely nothing, I say what I feel almost all the time. Naturally I hold back a little because I don't want to lose every last one of my old friends who may happen by.

So, Spain was a big bore. It took a whole lot of time and money to get there and find all the same things we have here in America except I couldn't understand a word anyone said. Who knows--maybe the people are more honest there, but I had no way of knowing. And perhaps if Barcelona were just one or two towns away instead of across the ocean on a whole other continent, I'd have liked it better. I certainly wouldn't go there for dinner, though.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Who Says Getting There Is Half the Fun?

We made it home after a full day of what is euphemistically called "traveling." Calling it that is sort of like calling abortion "a woman's right to choose." Traveling sounds so romantic--daring and dashing and adventurous, like you're Errol Flynn or some jet-setter, wind whipping your hair as you dart across yet another continent. In truth, the actual travel part of traveling is more mundane, at times blatantly unpleasant, and nothing at all like Mary Poppins with her umbrella. (Now that would be fun.)

This morning we took a cab to the airport in Lisbon, then waited in the too-hot airport lounge until it was time to board, then walked for like a mile and a half to get to our gate, where we were packed inside an even hotter bus--standing room only, reminiscent of those train cars in Germany they used to transport the Jews-- which drove for like ten minutes out to the farther reaches of the airport. Just moments before I dropped to the floor in tears we were allowed to leave the bus and enter the narrow, claustrophobic tube we would then occupy for the next nine hours, give or take.

There was no wind whipping your hair. There was no wind. You were in an airplane. It was dire. The only fun part was one stewardess who announced, during the cheery safety instruction lesson about using your seat as a flotation device, that, "Smoking is not allowed in any part of the airplane. If you must smoke, step outside and see "Gone With the Wind."

Anyway, you get the point. Being in new places is exciting; getting to them is less so.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Time to Go Home

Constelaciones, by Joan Miro, 1940

A few nights ago, as I picked the wilted vegetables out of the kitchen garbage pail in our Barcelona apartment for my meager dinner (a lettuce and cucumber sandwich), my husband groaning in the next room with a bad case of food poisoning, I realized I might finally be done with Europe.

We are returning to the U.S. tomorrow. Despite Lisbon being an incredibly lovely city that looks as if it were created by a team of Disney animators, I'm pretty happy about it. Mostly I miss my cats; I have long suspected that life without cats is simply not worth living, and now I'm sure of it. Also, I look forward to eating any and all food without fear, speaking the language of the people around me, having coffee that tastes more like coffee, and painting pictures like Joan Miro.
 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lisbon Trumps Barcelona

Happily, we left Barcelona this morning. Fortunately my husband was well enough to board a plane, after 24 hours laid low with bad food poisoning. It's a wonder I did not also succumb, considering that almost every crummy morsel of food I ate there was atrocious: not tasty, poorly prepared or downright unrecognizable. Expensive too, literally adding insult to injury.

Hating all of Europe after a week in that unfriendly city where nobody makes eye contact and nobody speaks English, or French for that matter, and toying with returning home early, we instead plowed on to Portugal, and thank God we did. Lisbon is a wonderland, and I think maybe we will just send for our things and stay here forever. Or at least until we sample all the pastries.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Words to Avoid

According to a recent public opinion poll conducted by the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, 38% of Americans dislike the word "whatever," and have chosen it as the most irritating word in the English language for the last five years. Like most polls, this particular one asked a relative chosen few--in this case 1,173 people--what they think, and then published the results as if God had spoken. I'd like to know just who they asked; nobody called me, and I'm a big fan of "whatever." In fact, I can hardly remember what I said before it showed up; now I use it liberally and it seems to do the trick in most conversations. It can end an argument like nothing else, and that's always a good thing, especially when you're talking politics.

And too, just who are these Marists? Their institute is based in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a lackluster town one can never leave too soon. It's hard though, because driving there you get caught up in a traffic circle that keeps you going around the same streets over and over trying to find the main road out of town, but you keep missing it. (I know, having been trapped there more than once.)

I find "whatever" much less offensive than some other words that spring to mind, like "food poisoning," and "strange sausage," or "We were planning to have breakfast out on our last day in Spain but my husband got sick from last night's dinner so we can't." Now those are some irritating words.

Friday, December 20, 2013

El McDonaldario's

Spanish French fries are better than French ones!
I miss my cats. I miss my coffee pot. I just discovered, after almost a week, that the big, round, yellow thing outside our apartment I thought was for recycling is actually a mailbox.

Travel is supposed to be broadening, despite the fact that life seems pretty much the same everywhere, with some exceptions of course like Haiti where many people live in paper boxes and have no food. But here in Barcelona, life goes on just like in America but without the constant mention of Obamacare, admittedly an upgrade. People shop and drink and eat and work, and do a lot of running around. One obvious difference is that smoking is still very popular here: Everyone seems to do it, young and old alike, right out in the open, unashamed and with abandon.

Another difference is mundane, to say the least, but worthy of mention. Yesterday, in an act of desperation, we lunched at McDonald's, where we learned that they offer two kinds of fries here: one for the Americans--the long, skinny ones we are used to--and another for the locals--fatter, and much tastier. As a result, French fries will now forever remind me of Spanish fries.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Eat Before You Go

The main ingredient of everything served here in Barcelona restaurants is olive oil. I remember a time, about a week ago, when I loved olive oil, but oh please.

I speak very little little Spanish, but I'm pretty sure paella means "big pile of oily rice" and tapas means "little piles of oily whatever." Yesterday for lunch I opted for a tuna salad with egg sandwich, thinking it would be a tuna salad sandwich with some chopped hard-boiled egg in it, but it turned out to be runny, olive-oily egg salad with bits of oily tuna in it. And dinner last night was mussels with olive oil and some paella with olive oil. I have also had liver and onions cooked in olive oil, and bread and tomatoes soaked in olive oil, and of course olives sitting in olive oil. That last dish is quite popular.

Tonight: Dinner at Burger King. (No kidding.)

Monday, December 16, 2013

No Comprende

The control panel of our washer-dryer, set for I have no idea.
There's nothing like a short stint in a foreign country where you don't speak the language to make you feel like an idiot. And what's more, whatever you do know in your own language won't help you one bit if you're trying to wash clothes in another. For example, I am often chided--I won't say by who--for not being able to pinpoint Kansas on a map of the United States. Ditto North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Nebraska and many more, in fact all of them but the biggest ones. But here in Spain, if I knew where all those places are I still couldn't use the washing machine in our apartment without a master's in engineering.

It's one of those wash and dry in the same machine types, which seems wrong from the start if you ask me. The nice cleaning lady who speaks no English came in for a tutorial this morning. She showed me what to do and said, "Si, si" a lot. I pretended to understand and said, "Okay, okay" a few times. I liked her. She had no idea how ignorant I am of American geography.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

No Hablo Espanol

Flowers and graffiti fight for dominance in Barcelona.
I came here expecting to see matadors and snorting bulls in the streets, and so far I've seen neither. Instead, Barcelona looks like every other big city visited by top executives from McDonald's, Burger King, Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. No matter, there's plenty out there to discover, and once the jet lag lifts I plan to see it all.

So far our biggest adventure transpired inside a supermarket where we spent half an hour trying to find cream for Mitch's coffee, despite my advice to always drink it black for just this very reason. Since we speak no Spanish, and these backward people seem not to speak any English, we had to just keep looking until we stumbled upon it. Oddly enough, it was nowhere near the milk.

We have much to learn about their customs.


Friday, December 13, 2013

Beds on a Plane

Flying torture chamber/sleeping pod
My husband flies constantly, to somewhere. His job requires it. So naturally he has accrued many frequent flier miles, which means that when we fly to Spain later today we can go in first class. And these days, in first class, they have seats that change into beds for overnight flights. That's supposed to make me feel better--the fact that I can actually stretch out and curl up with a cozy blanket and soft pillow and go to sleep. Sounds good, except for the bed being 30,000 feet in the air and moving at a speed of 600 miles an hour, for too many hours to even think about without sobbing.

I told Mitch that, to me, beds on a plane are as comforting as snakes on a plane. He doesn't get it. In fact, he loves to fly, mostly because he has now achieved Super Flyer Status, or some such thing, on a particular airline. This means he goes through security without a hitch, does not take his shoes off or any such nonsense, boards early, blah, blah, blah. To keep this status he must take 120 flights per year, and he is, to date, at 119 and a half. Thus, he will lose it all if he doesn't take half a flight somewhere between now and December 31. He is grappling with where to go when we get back from Europe on December 24th. That half-flight should be interesting.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Spain Brain

Tomorrow I am flying to Barcelona and so all I can think about today is the fact that tomorrow I will be flying to Barcelona. This seems odd to me, sort of like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Today, after all, is a day too, and a perfectly nice one here in Maine. Just because it's arrived right before another one with something bigger scheduled, it seems wrong to ignore it, yet it's to be spent entirely in service to tomorrow, with packing and laundry the only planned activities.

I have never been to Spain. I abhor bullfighting and I'm not crazy about Spanish food either, but by all reports the art and architecture to be found there are astounding and the city is beautiful, the natives friendly. There I go again. I guess there can be no blog post today, with only Spain on my brain.

I hope not to squander too many more todays because of better tomorrows. It's a bad habit.



Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

It's sad when things start out great and then, over time, wear out. This happens with shoes, clothes, cars, welcomes and apparently Craigslist. Time was you could log on and find an apartment, a job or whatever. Lately it's been flooded with all sorts of nonsense, making it tough to find what you need.

For example, as a writer I check the categories of "writing jobs" and "writing gigs."  Once upon a time that's what was advertised, but recently the website has been littered with complaints about jobs not found and others taken, but with an unhappy outcome. I'm sorry it didn't work out, but hey--do I really need to know?

The other category I always check is "Volunteers," leading to opportunities for helping others while affording an outlet for one's creativity, or just a path to replacing boredom with something positive. Now it's more like you've stumbled into a community of beggars huddled around an open fire under a bridge in downtown Detroit. Tired of standing out in the cold holding a sign, they huddle instead in the comfort of the local Starbucks-- I'm guessing, since they're always homeless--and ask for money for a variety of reasons: "My wife stole my kids and I need to hire lawyer to get them back," or "I have no money to buy my four children (all under the age of three) toys, and here's what they each would like--give us Christmas," or "I lost my job and my house and all I need is a little something to tide me over," and "My friend/son/husband/child could really use a new kidney, God bless." Today I thought I'd try one:

Pathetic Artist Needs Your Help
I have so many paintings in my house, on the walls and in the closets, I barely have room for one more. Yet, being mentally ill I am compelled  to paint new ones. Won't you find it in your heart to buy one, or maybe two? That would help me so much, and give me money to buy more paint and canvases. Also, I have two cats and they eat a lot and it seems like I am always having to go out, even in bad weather, to buy more cat food and litter. Could you please drop some off at my house, saving me all those trips to the store? They eat Fancy Feast, but not the Sliced kind, they hate those. Lastly, the battery in my smoke alarm has started beeping, which I know means it needs to be replaced, but I have no idea how to do this and my husband is away. Please help, and Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Dinner at Uncle Boons

There was a time when I believed I was sophisticated. This feeling was instilled in me early on by my mother, who was quite avant-garde for her day. A strict anorexic/vegetarian, she often ran through the streets in black tights and a leotard in the early 1960s. She did it for exercise, but it was well before the running craze and I'm sure many people just thought she was nuts. I knew, of course, that she was ahead of her time. She also was very close friends with a gay couple; she and my father would meet Bill and Lanny for dinner in Greenwich Village every few months.

She raised me to think I too was sophisticated, since I was a native New Yorker. I bought her story, and always felt borderline-smug about it. Until now. Actually, until about an hour ago when I read an article in Travel + Leisure magazine--we won a subscription and I can't wait for it to end--about a restaurant in Nolita--at least I know where that is-- that is very cool and tres chic, and which everyone loves because of its excellent home-style Thai dishes like charred blowfish tails.

Now, I have never eaten any part of a blowfish. To be perfectly frank, I was not sure what a blowfish was so I Googled it and found the picture shown above. I don't find it appetizing at all. If I were forced to eat part of one, it would likely not be the tail, which looks skimpy, and certainly I wouldn't think of having it charred. I would also never call it home-style, although I guess it is if your home is in Thailand. But what do I know? Nothing, obviously. What a fool I've been with my silly grilled swordfish steaks.

BYOJ

Okay, so my husband supports me--sue me. Still, I have always worked at something, and since moving to Maine have tried a myriad of ventures leading nowhere fast. Since I won't sell lobsters or paintings of rowboats nestled against a dock with the sun setting behind them and some pine trees off in the distance for a living, I still seek employment. I do this daily. Lately things have gone from bad to worse, owing to the nature of the economy I guess, but also because this little corner of the world, while peaceful and scenic, has no idea what professionalism requires. They must have been out that day.

My tales from the front continue to be appalling. Fishing for work about a month ago I landed a good one, writing for a local entertainment magazine. I applied, they said come for an interview. I went; they hired me. I wrote a few things. After about a week, the managing editor who had hired me and given me a few writing assignments was fired. She let me know, and gave me the email address of another staff person who was filling in for her. I wrote. He never answered. I wrote again. He never answered. Then I wrote to the publisher, who never answered. I slunk off, unpaid.

This reminded me of the job I accepted at the local paper that paid me $20 for a weekly column and photos. I got lots of praise--well, some praise, twice--but when I asked for more money (hey, gas is expensive) the publisher said take a hike. And the job interview at the glossy, over-designed city magazine where I arrived on time and found the building locked up tight and nobody answered the phones, ever. And the many jobs I have applied for since then that never got any answer at all. And the one last week where the guy hired me, but then I did some research and found Internet complaints about him from scads of other writers saying he never pays and to watch out.

So if you're a writer moving to Maine, bring your own job.


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Not Too Crazy

Many years ago I believed I was the world's piggiest person because I would eat an entire box of Entenmann's chocolate chip cookies in one sitting, and then maybe even have some ice cream afterwards. I would do this perhaps once a month, usually on a dateless Saturday night. It was my dirty little secret. Finally I mustered the courage to tell my shrink about it. He laughed, and said, "That's nothing! I have patients who eat a hundred times more than that every day of the week, week after week." I felt a lot better finding out I wasn't completely out of my mind, except for feeling worse because I couldn't even excel at being crazy.

Then I thought I was a total nut for being afraid to fly. I couldn't even consider boarding a plane without a Valium in my purse. I never actually took the Valium since I didn't want to be spaced out when the plane crashed, but knowing I had one to take if my anxiety became overwhelming gave me courage. One time, leaving New York City and about to fly back to DC, I realized I had lost my one and only Valium and had to take the train instead. This was a major hassle involving getting from LaGuardia Airport into Manhattan and over to Penn Station. Between hauling my suitcase--this was before wheels on luggage--and enduring a crazy cabbie in rush hour traffic, a plane crash would have been more pleasant.

Once safely back home, I told my shrink about the whole experience. Again he laughed, saying, "I have patients who won't set foot on an airplane even if it's not going anywhere. I have other patients who are afraid of taking pills like Valium, and still more who can't sleep at night because they worry there are bugs crawling around in their garbage disposal. Believe me, you're fine."

So last week I was taking one of my typical long showers. Sometimes I stay in there so long I think I'll never come out. I thought, I bet I could stay in the shower all day long. Then I thought, hey, I could take the longest shower in the world and get in the Guinness Book of World Records for it. Maybe that's my craziness!" But before I embarked on this exciting venture I checked, and learned that the record for the longest shower was set in 1985, when a college student spent 14.2 days, or 341 hours, in one non-stop shower.

That's two weeks, and I was thinking I could do maybe a whole day. My shrink is long dead, but if he weren't I bet he'd laugh.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Who Can Blame Sad Santa


Drawing by Oz Thomas
It's probably way too late to be saying this, and I apologize for not getting around to it sooner, but really: Do NOT send out inane Christmas cards with those silly pictures of your family all lined up wearing red sweaters, or any sweaters for that matter, or lined up in any way, or even just the one of the new baby or the toddlers and the dog. Simply put, they suck. They are narcissistic to the max, as if all we want for Christmas is a picture of you and yours suitable for framing. In this day and age of Facebook, it's just not necessary since people who send those probably post pictures online of every family occasion anyway, so it's redundant at least, and if you ask me, downright sacrilegious.

Being a Jew, I rarely send out Christmas cards. This is one year I am planning to do so, mostly because I bought a great box of cards on sale at the art museum gift shop back in August, and I'd like to share it with some friends. Besides, it makes me feel connected to people far away, which matters for some reason I can't pinpoint but there it is. Shown below, it bears a great shot by the wonderful William Wegman, and I'm betting a few people might even keep the card beyond the holiday, just because.

Shown above is a handmade card I received from an artist friend. Now that's a card, sent straight from the heart. And his depiction of a distraught Santa is all too accurate, what with Black Friday starting on Turkey Thursday and blending into Small Business Saturday followed by Cyber Monday and then bursting into the day before Christmas sales which are followed by those day after Christmas blowouts. Anyway, 19 of you will be getting a card from me, and one of you already has. I hope you like it.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Liar in Chief

I don't care a whit if Obama met his uncle or never met his uncle, or if his uncle was deported or should be deported or lives in a hut in the middle of Boston or a mansion in Beverly Hills. But it scares me that the President of the United States is always claiming he "never knew, he wasn't told, he hadn't heard" about every damn thing that makes him look bad. Where is he all the time--in the bathroom? Taking long showers? Out on the golf course? How does he miss so much when ordinary citizens hear about all this stuff all the time?

The latest kerfuffle involves his deadbeat Uncle Omar who was arrested for drunk driving in 2011 and had a deportation hearing this week that might have resulted in his being tossed out of the country. Obama said they never met, but it turns out he lived with Uncle Omar for a month while he was a student at Harvard--if he ever really was a student at Harvard, or anywhere--but he forgot. Oh no, he was never asked, that's it, and his press office said that. They hadn't researched it enough. Or something. It's like having Jon Lovitz for president. Yeah, that's what it's like.....

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Who Do You Hate?

My son just came back from spending a month in Israel. During that time he also went to Palestine. He saw up close how much each group hates the other. The Jews hate the Palestinians, who hate the Jews right back, or is it the other way around? It sounds awful, with a wall around the West Bank keeping the Palestinians inside, or maybe keeping the Jews out.

Zack's news from the front sparked a heated debate on the prevalence of racism regardless of the issues, bringing to mind Ireland, North Korea and South Korea, black and white America, Nazis and skinheads, radical lefties and the religious right zealots, and all the rest. Blah, blah, blah...you know who.

So who do you hate for no good reason? My list is not political at all, and I have no problem with skin color; for me it's poor judgement. My prejudices are deeply rooted, and it's almost impossible for me to get past them. I immediately think ill of the following groups:
     1. Women who wear panty hose with sandals. This practice sickens me, and makes me think the person is an idiot, since the whole point of sandals is to uncover the feet so they can air out, so to speak, and the whole point of panty hose is to cover the skin. What the heck are they doing?
     2. People who talk in the movies during the opening credits, believing the movie hasn't started yet. Then they leave during the closing credits, as if it doesn't matter at all who made the damn thing they just spent two hours watching.
     3. Obese people eating cotton candy in public. I mean, come on, at least go hide somewhere to stuff your fat face into a giant wad of artificially-colored spun sugar.
     4. People in the supermarket who come up behind you on the checkout line holding one or two items when you have a cart full of stuff you have not yet unloaded. They always look at you with that sick puppy stare that implies, "I just have these two little things, surely I can go ahead of you since you must not have a damn thing to do in your life but go home and put the groceries away," but they never ask and you are supposed to offer. (I usually point them to the express line, and they always walk away mad.)

Sue me, I'm a bigot.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

What Obama Hath Wrought

Today I drove into Portland for an appointment and took the Interstate. At the exit leading into the city, there were no less than six people, all under the age of 40, standing at different corners and holding signs that said things like: "Homeless,"  "Homeless not Hopeless" and "Need Help Whatever You Can."

When I got back home I did my daily search online for writing jobs, and came across the following under the heading of Volunteers:

Pertaining to wealthy people

Hello I am asking for a donation of money if possible. I am trying to start my own business but it's very complicated because I am on SSI and I can only keep up to 2,000 dollars in the bank (until I am off). It also makes it hard to get enough money to eat and survive because I can't have a job, save money, or do anything to risk the SSI, or I wont be able to continue school (with a grant). So I am attending classes underfunded and I can't really afford much food and keep getting stuck in bad apartments --- anyways I am really ready to start my own business but I have no way of getting up there on SSI -- and I'm not getting rid of SSI, because then I would have to pay for my school on my own. I'm hoping someone can give me a bunch of money so I can be all set and leave all this hassle alone. Thanks 

 You just can't make this stuff up.

The Facebook Zone

Which ones are their real faces?
It's weird when one of your real friends on Facebook likes something that another one of your real friends posted on Facebook, and so for some odd reason sends them a friend request. And the friend who was asked doesn't want to hurt your feelings, so he or she  accepts your friend as his friend, and suddenly it's like they are really friends. Then every time your real first friend posts something on their page, your other real friend who never even met that person likes it or comments when you know that they have no idea what the first friend is talking about. I find that weird.

It's also weird when someone you actually consider to be a friend has like 4,000 friends on Facebook, and they post something and 86 people click "Like" and you know that half those people don't know what the heck is really going on. Then you feel like you are in the Twilight Zone. Or you wish you were.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

For God's Sake, Don't Sit Around Crying

Gordon Studer
I just read the worst thing ever, which is not all that surprising since it was on Huffington Post, that cesspool of information that dresses better than the other hookers and thus appears to be legitimate. I was snagged by the title: "11 Things You're Doing That Could Shorten Your Life." Hey, who doesn't want to live longer? So I clicked, hoping I would learn some helpful tips on longevity, like eat more yogurt or don't crack my knuckles, something I have never done but that's the kind of thing I was expecting--practical tips I could enact immediately to improve my chances of seeing a grandchild someday.

No such luck. Instead, they could have called the whole thing: "Don't Be Unhappy." The 11 things included having more sex, and not just any old sex but those orgasms better be damn good ones, and don't watch a lot of TV, or if you do stand up because sitting for more than an hour at a time shaves minutes off your life. In fact, every hour of watching TV reduces your life span by 28 minutes. You should also have more friends and be nice to them, don't be sad, get along with your co-workers, of course have a job and if you don't then for god's sake don't be unemployed for more than a few months. Always be in a loving relationship and get married right away since being single is a one-way ticket to the grave; really, it could cost you a whole decade! Oh, and if you have a job, which you better or you're outta here, don't commute to it, certainly not if you are female, since that is another indicator of certain death.

And by the way, never fear death--that's really bad because that can lead to heart ailments. (Apparently Death is like dogs who smell fear and then attack you; it's a real Catch-22 situation.) And be sure to get plenty of sleep, but not too much; less than five or more than nine hours a night and you're a goner.

So, was that article helpful? Actually, I found it quite depressing thinking of the millions of loners who are out of work. Hopefully they are too poor to have Internet access so they can't read this death proclamation. Anyway, I have to stand up now. It's a good thing I don't have any co-workers to argue with, since not having their support can result in 2.4 times the chance of my dying during the study period.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Sloths Are Good, but Killing Keith Olbermann is Better

I guess this is one of the 3-toed kind.
It seems that over the last few years the desire for privacy has flown out the window. The very same window, in fact, that my parents shut tight so the neighbors couldn't hear. Since they never fought unless the windows were closed, things were much more harmonious around our house in the spring and summer months. And God forbid a million times if you got sick, nobody should know: you didn't advertise it. Certainly the word "cancer" was always whispered. But now everyone knows everything, and nothing is more desired than "going viral."

To that end, ordinary people send nude photos of themselves to other ordinary people, hoping to get famous. Celebrity sex tapes show up on YouTube, while hoarders and fat people and heroin addicts strut their stuff on TV and nobody blinks an eye. It all reminds me of little kids playing doctor, saying, "You show me yours and I'll show you mine." Doesn't anyone grow up anymore?

By the way, writing about sloths, those medium-sized mammals belonging to the families Megalonychidae and available in a 2-toed or 3-toed model, is better than writing about cats if you're hoping to go viral. So says an article in today's Wall Street Journal about how the head writer at Gawker decides what stories to post in order to get the most readers. Still, my money is on calling for the assassination of Keith Olbermann, a tried and true method. (It worked for me.)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Joan and the N-Word

Joan and her potty mouth.
Last week I went to see Joan Rivers do her thing in downtown Portland. The 80-year-old comic sashayed out in a flashy magenta sequined coat accented with white feathers, which nicely set off her bleached blonde hair and Hollywood makeup that had been liberally applied to the lovely smooth skin pulled taut from so many facelifts. She looked, in a word, absolutely fabulous. (I know, that's two words.) The audience freaked out, and greeted her with a standing ovation.

Running around the stage like a gymnast far younger, Joan clearly had lost none of her energy, or, it turned out, her acerbic wit. To get things going, or as she said, "before I forget," she strutted back and forth yelling, "Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger! Kike, kike, kike, kike, kike, wop, wop, wop, wop, spic spic spic!" The audience howled. That Joan, what a hoot -- she sure showed us how silly we are with all those forbidden words we can't say but she can! Plus she gets paid to say them, and nobody is horrified.

Now imagine if you were at a dinner party at a friend's house, and somebody had the bright idea of doing that. All Hell would break loose. There might be punches thrown. In fact, somebody reading this right here and now might even be offended that I put "nigger" in print. As for me, I think saying "N-word" is far worse, implying that people are so duped by the substitute slur that no offense will be taken. 

Anyway, leave it to Joan to shine the light in all our darkest corners, making us laugh all the while. The only down side was my face hurt when the show was over. (From all the laughing.)