Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stump Yourself

Lately I have taken to playing a new game of my own invention. It's free and does not require being plugged into anything so I can play anywhere, anytime. It is called Guessing the Meaning of Words I Think I Know Before Checking the Dictionary Definition. True, this is a long and cumbersome name and I am working on a shorter one, but anyway you get the idea.

All you do is open the dictionary to a random page and look at any word, then close your eyes and try to come up with how you would define it if you were writing it, then open your eyes and check. You will be amazed at how hard it is and how wrong you can be. Last night I sort of got "protocol" right, but then who knew there are three different definitions for that word?

The best thing is you can play in the bathtub without fear of being electrocuted, which is what happened to my paternal grandfather when an electric shaver gave him a heart attack. (It's a long story.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Twitter Is for the Birds

These guys tweet. You shouldn't.
As of yesterday, Twitter stocks are soaring. This is good news for people who own Twitter stock but bad news for the species. On the bright side, despite yesterday's surge in the market, Twitter use has fallen over the past few years as more and more people flock--no pun intended but it's a good one don't you think--to Facebook.

The very existence of Twitter has always given me the willies. I never go there, but I know for a fact that Obama and all the other nitwit political leaders we have elected do, and lord knows why. What can one say of any value in 140 characters? Tolstoy's "War and Peace" has 587,287 words, so one can only imagine the number of characters. Not that I am suggesting that everyone has a novel within, but really, if you've got something meaningful to say, why limit yourself?

Do your part and avoid tweeting. It is literally for the birds.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

FILM REVIEW: As Sappy As It Gets

Some movies defy description. This is not one of them. Directed by the usually astute Rob Reiner, "And So It Goes" is about as sappy as it gets, which might have made a better title. It stars Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, two pedigreed professionals who we might expect could be choosy about their vehicles. Not so, I guess, based on this treacly debacle.

Too bad Douglas didn't shoot the director before this scene.
Keaton plays Annie Hall (not her real name), only now she's in her 60s, childless and widowed, still singing those warbly lounge tunes at every opportunity; sadly this film gives her too many opportunities. Douglas is Oren Little, a rakish, rich real estate agent who lives in the next apartment and hurls insults at all the tenants, which they tolerate since he owns the building.

Oren's been a mean old bastard since his wife died two years earlier, turning his heart to ice. But we understand all too soon that it will be melted and that he and Keaton will live happily ever after. The melting is accomplished by an adorable 9-year-old, Oren's surprise granddaughter by his estranged, heroin-addicted son who drops her off with Gramps on the way to serving a 9-month prison sentence.

She--her name escapes me-- wins the hearts of all the neighbors, including the requisite fabulous black couple whose baby is born with the help of Oren, and bonds with Keaton, who she dubs "Grandma" on sight. They all end up having a wonderful time in Little Shangri-La, which is the name of the apartment complex where they live. (Get it? Oren Little, Little Shangri-La?)

Yes, it is as nauseating as it sounds. The worst moment is when Rob Reiner directs himself to fall into a kiddie Slip and Slide, making him look even more foolish than his bad toupee or this whole stupid movie. To be fair, I laughed out loud four times, mostly at Douglas' wry delivery of his predictable dialogue.

Who Knows What to Think

Moments ago I learned that one of my friends needs back surgery to end his "excruciating pain,' while another got an "iffy biopsy" and must have something removed ASAP. A third is in the hospital awaiting his appendix removal, while a fourth is deeply depressed because his lover dumped him. There are also junked automobiles, bad bosses, and no jobs being bandied about as reasons for moods ranging from disgruntlement to severe depression.

On the other hand, today one of my dear friends who has spent the last few months in chemotherapy hell, plummeting to the depths of despair and clawing her way back, much thinner, wiser and balder now, feels well enough to go see a movie with me this afternoon, and for that I am supremely grateful.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Dragged Kicking and Screaming Into the Modern Age

This is a dark day for me. I probably should be celebrating, like any normal nitwit, but instead I am filled with trepidation. Yesterday I got an iPhone, and I can already tell I'm dumber.

For example, I am not sure I got the right color. Or maybe it's the protective case that's wrong. See, I got the blue phone, but when I put the pink case over it you can hardly see the blue, except for on the back where it's pink with blue dots. It's even got a name: The Peek-A-Boo. This bugs me. See, I wasn't thinking clearly already!

In my own defense, I didn't actually buy it, my husband got it for me, saying I MUST have one now that I have an art gallery and need to be able to run credit cards on something called a Square, on my new phone. It's all very technical, but it seemed to make sense at the time. Although now less so, and I have only had it for one day.

Anyway, I saw Invasion of the Body Snatchers years ago--both versions-- and I think this is how they are invading our brains circa 2014.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Damn Cake

Today is my husband's birthday and for some reason I ended up eating a ridiculous amount of chocolate cake because he was born 57 years ago. FYI, it was from Whole Foods and one of the best cakes I have ever had--certainly among the top five--but still, I don't really like chocolate cake, it wasn't my birthday, and even if it were, what's cake got to do with it?

Even worse, this particular cake wasn't even for Mitch, it was given to his twin who brought it over for dinner with several slices missing from an earlier celebration of the same occasion. So I did my wifely duty and ate all those sugary empty calories from a cake that said "Happy Birthday Neil." And for what reason? Are we not all fat enough already that we have to run around eating cake just because someone was born? People are born every day--in fact 360,000 of them were born just today worldwide. Do they all need a cake every damn year? What's wrong with a little fruit cup or maybe a slice of cheese and an apple?

I looked up the origin of the tradition of eating cake to celebrate birthdays and it turned out to be the Germans who started it all. Ha! Figures.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Who Needs Therapy?

I just received an email that divulges "12 easy ways to get younger." I am pretty excited about it. One of the ways is to "think happy thoughts." Who knew? I am quitting my shrink today. Anyway, following are the lyrics to "Whistle a Happy Tune" from the Broadway musical, "The King and I." I print them here as a public service:

Whenever I feel afraid
I hold my head erect
And whistle a happy tune
So no one will suspect
I'm afraid.

While shivering in my shoes
I strike a careless pose
And whistle a happy tune
And no one ever knows
I'm afraid.

The result of this deception
Is very strange to tell
For when I fool the people
I fear I fool myself as well!

I whistle a happy tune
And every single time
The happiness in the tune
Convinces me that I'm not afraid.

Make believe you're brave
And the trick will take you far.
You may be as brave
As you make believe you are.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Movin' On Up

President Obama, who seems to have an amazing capacity for relaxation, is apparently tired from all his partying and golfing and so is once again going on vacation in Martha's Vineyard, this time for more than two weeks. 

According to ABC NEWS, "The first family will travel to the island from Aug. 9 to Aug. 24, making the 15-day getaway the longest summer vacation of Obama’s presidency. While the location of their vacation home was supposed to be under wraps, neighbors confirmed to the local newspaper that the Obamas will be staying at a luxurious home owned by Joanne Hubschman, whose late husband, Henry, was a former executive at General Electric. The 17-room house, worth an estimated $12 million, sits on a 10-acre lot and features an infinity pool, a dual tennis-basketball court, an indoor gym and views of the Vineyard Sound, according to the Martha’s Vineyard Times." 

Lord knows Michelle can use a break from her tough job too.

Googly Christmas

My husband, who until now wanted a motorcycle, now wants Google glasses. This news hit me harder than when he told me he was joining an exercise cult, since it essentially it spells the end of all contact between us, unless we shower together which we can't always because of our schedules.

If he goes forward with this foolhardy plan he will always be on the Internet and I will have to text all conversation. Since I am so bad at texting I've been doing some practice texts so I'll be ready by Christmas:
Pls get mlk on way home
IMHO I'm havng stroke, call 911
House burning, leave asap, LOL

There are more, but those cover the basics.

High School Scammers

One Sunday morning about six weeks ago, two attractive girls from the local high school knocked on our door. They were out selling cookie dough in a fundraising effort for a trip to the Dominican Republic. It was something to do with helping impoverished people get water, and we chatted for awhile about whether or not they should take malaria pills before the trip and how hot it would be there in July.

Buckets of the gooey stuff came in in a variety of flavors at 15 bucks a pop. I bought one, chocolate chip as a I recall, not only to help their cause but to actually make some cookies. The girls said to expect delivery in two weeks.

That was then. Nothing has arrived. I never saw either of those girls again. Three calls to Freeport High School have gone unanswered, the last one involving a long message left in the principal's voice mail.

As it happens I am happy the stuff never showed up as I have recently been trying to lose weight and have met with modest success, thanks to no cookies or anything remotely like cookies. But still, one wonders just what they are teaching kids in school these days.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Archie Kicks the Bucket

Something is wrong. The Earth may have slipped off its axis. Whatever the cause, people are going nuts. That is the only thing I can come up with to explain why the writers over at Archie comics have decided to kill him off. That's right, Archie is dead, or he will be soon, depending on whether or not you have read the last strip.

Apparently he does not die of natural causes but instead takes a bullet for a friend, a gay friend at that, just to be politically correct and relevant, although the friend should really have been Latino and transgender and in a wheelchair to make the point.

The whole thing seems unduly cruel. If Archie's creators were done with him, why couldn't they have simply moved the whole gang to Costa Rica like all the other other normal, middle-class American citizens of retirement age? A violent end for Archie is obscene and unbelievable, sort of like finding out Ron Howard is dealing heroin.

Who Is Adam Levine?

James Gandolfini: Sexy but out of the running, being dead.

This morning with my coffee I learned that "one of the sexiest men alive is off the market." I encountered this news flash repeatedly as I made my way through my email and ultimately landed on my Facebook page. Someone named Adam Levine, who I have neither seen nor heard of before, got married to a lingerie model, and supposedly this was bad news for the ladies.

That declaration finalized something I have long suspected: I am no longer important in this world. I am over the hill and so far down the other side that some news doesn't even slide that far, coming to rest somewhere in the mid-forties. Of course I hear about all the global news from reading the paper so I'm up to speed on who's killing who, but when it comes to social media I am already ensconced in the glue factory.

I know I could find out in seconds that this Adam was some former contestant on a reality TV show, attaining celebrity by dating naked or being naked and afraid or being a bachelor or trying to become an American idol or maybe by dancing with a star. Who knows, maybe the boy's got real talent, but I am feeling comfortable in my ignorance and so will leave it at that. Also, I saw his picture and did not find him at all sexy, but then my tastes run to manly men, not the pretty boys. (see photo)

Sunday, July 20, 2014


Right now it is 2:22 in the afternoon and so anything I write will be special and have hidden meaning. At least that's what I believe.  The same would be true of the others, like 3:33 and 4:44, etc. I have always found those minutes to be unique and exciting.

It's over. Now it's 2:23, and what have I got to show for it? Something must be there, it's just hard to see in this dimension. (Come on admit it--you feel it too.)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Misadventures in Dining

This restaurant's fish filet basted in butter uses lots of butter.
Last night my husband and I dined at a new-to-us restaurant. It's called Tao Yuan, which certainly sounds interesting enough although a bit confusing. The food is called "Asian Fusion," which brings to mind a rock band rather than a kind of food, but regardless, it's quite "in" right now. In fact we ran into friends who were on their way out of the place and they claimed it was the best place in all of Maine (!), and that they had eaten there upwards of 75 times since it opened two years ago.

In search of a healthy meal, we had purposefully driven away from the chaos of the Fattening Fried Foods Festival to the neighboring town of Brunswick. The restaurant fairly reeked of digestive health--at least judging from the little glass jars of lucky bamboo on each table and the pervasive Buddhist sensibility that wafted like incense through the open floor plan, from room to adorable room. It seemed like a monastery that served food, and how could that be bad for even the most sensitive stomach? (Apparently it could, and I spent the following morning in bathroom hell paying the proverbial piper.)

Each of the precious little dishes--the suggestion is made that you order four per person and share-- were served beautifully, masking the ugly truth of just how much butter, oil and salt each delightful morsel had soaked up back in the kitchen before our waitress, dressed like a Zen master all in black, brought it out to us with a beaming, Zen-like smile.

Over at the Yarmouth Clam Festival, the grease-stained paper plates your food is served on leave no doubt you're eating badly, still you do it for sport, fully expecting some discomfort later. But at Tao Yuan you feel confident you're "eating clean" because the china dishes--each one artfully different --are so pretty, and the walls are silk-screened with images of lovely pink flowers and the lights are dim and the music is soft, and besides, the chef is a woman from Paris, or she studied in Paris or went there once, something like that; how could her food hurt anyone?

It can and it did. Take it from me: Those evil triplets, Greasy, Fatty and Fried, often sneak in unannounced.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Fabulous Fried Food Festival!

It's back: The 49th Annual Yarmouth Clam Festival starts today. Over the next three days the local residents-- and many from miles away since this is quite a big deal around here--will collectively gain over 4 million pounds through their consumption of fried clams, fried oysters, fried dough, fried potatoes, fried onions, fried squid, fried fish, fried shrimp, fried ice cream and pizza. There are amusement park kiddie rides and some art and crafts for sale as well, but the food is the star attraction.

Usually my husband and I attend the event for the spectacle of it all, but despite our strong resolve going in we never get away without eating badly and feeling remorseful, so we have opted out this year. (Just walking around the grounds can add up to three pounds unless you hold your breath.) And so, since I will not be taking photos which are always fun to see, instead I post these from the local paper to give you an idea of all the excitement.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Things They Never Tell You

One of my pet peeves is when a published article in a respectable newspaper or magazine says absolutely nothing I already didn't know. I feel ripped-off, and that's without imagining what the author got paid. There is one such article in today's Wall Street Journal which purports to instruct on how to be a proper houseguest. First of all, that's not really rocket science, and secondly, the author, a direct descendant of deceased etiquette maven Emily Post, should have come up with something better. After all, it's in her blood.

Instead she's got the basics covered, like don't bring someone else along without alerting your host before your arrival (duh), don't leave a mess all over the place (double duh), and try to be helpful at meal times. Don't bring a pet. Offer a gift like a bottle of wine. Send a thank you note later. Who doesn't know this stuff?

Here's what should really be on that list:
1. For singles, don't expect the visit to plug the gaping hole in your life, which is likely why you're visiting in the first place.
2. Male guests should aim for the toilet when peeing, and always flush afterwards. (Also applies to permanent residents.)
3. If you are staying longer than overnight, take a shower or bath sometime, please.
4. Do not leave wet towels on the bed.
5. Never poop in the sink, or actually anywhere but the toilet. This is key.
6. If you smoke, quit it before you arrive.
7. Heroin users and other addicts should not leave dirty syringes in the bathroom wastebasket.
8. Ask before making calls on the house phone to foreign countries.
9. Don't give the host's dog chocolate.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

FILM REVIEW: Ape Come Back, Rule Earth

Caesar looks tough, but his heart is as big as the Golden Gate.
The cumbersome title, "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," was poorly chosen. To give a real sense of it, the title should have been "Ape Come Back," or maybe "Ape Not Go Away So Human Better." Apparently the apes who roam the planet, not only at dawn but all day and night, speak English, but they clearly learned from reruns of the old 50s TV show "The Lone Ranger," since they sound just like Tonto, the ranger's Native American sidekick. They say things like "no trust human with gun," and "ape no kill ape." (FYI, the latter turns out to be quite far from the truth.)

The time is after the death of most humans, who succumbed to an epidemic of Simian Flu that started in a laboratory when scientists used chimps to find a cure for Alzheimer's. Everybody got the flu and died, except for all the people who didn't. Those are the people in this movie. Clustered in a nightmare version of San Francisco, they're doing fine. (They have gas for their cars although God knows what they eat since nobody is farming and there are no restaurants.) The big problem is that they lack power and are about to run out of fuel, and then who knows what will happen.

Luckily a couple of brilliant survivors know that they can save the day by repairing a stopped-up dam somewhere up-river. How they know, what river, and how they fix it in a day is a mystery, but none of that matters. What matters is that the apes live at the busted dam, and they don't want any humans around doing dastardly human work. Remember, ape no trust human.

Blah, blah, blah...go read a real review if you want details. What I'm here to say is that Caesar, the head ape, is a great guy and would make a much better president than Obama. I would vote for him in a heartbeat. The extraordinary sets are worth the price of admission, as are the convincing ape costumes, which must have set the investors back several million dollars right there. And don't miss the scene where the baddest ape commandeers an Army tank, shooting at everyone in his path. That's a good one. As for the plot, it's stupid, silly and of course pro-human, since the evil apes are the ones who start the war while the angelic humans perform emergency surgery and cure the sick, even apes.

What's most interesting is that after having lain dormant for ten years, what with everyone being dead and no electricity, the minute power is restored all the computers and iPhones spring back to life, with pictures and videos from a decade earlier streaming in glitch-free, way better than mine do after a thunderstorm causes a brief outage in our neighborhood. Ape no have computer, but human do. Ape talk funny, but ape still know word "antibiotic." Lady ape have eyebrow piercings. Go figure.

Facebook vs. Real Life

                        Gordon Studer
This morning I had a nit-picky exchange with someone I once knew and who just recently became my "friend" on Facebook. He was surprised that I had not seen many of his prior posts on his page. Well here's a news flash: Just because we are "friends" on Facebook does not mean that I see your stuff. (Does the word "unfollow" ring a bell?)

Kids today are cruising for a bruising, growing up as they have with this intangible "thing" ruling their lives. Even 20-somethings who spent their formative years in reality have succumbed, with each waking moment spent head down, shoulders scrunched, spine twisted, scrolling and clicking away, so we can all just imagine the horrors awaiting today's toddlers who start out thinking their computers and iPhone screens are real life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Foolproof Diet Secret

(Like most advertised secrets, this is something everyone already knows.)

Lately I have been losing weight. For me this is good news as I have been trying, basically since I was 12. Dieting has always been hard, and eventually whatever weight I managed to lose came back when I got tired of the diet. Getting "tired of the diet" is a euphemism for "eating badly."

Eating badly means consuming candy, cake, ice cream, butter, cookies, butter cookies, burgers, French fries, pie, chicken wings, wonton soup, cheddar cheese, crackers, hot cocoa with marshmallows, those amazing chips they make at Whole Foods and those even more amazing Auntie Anne's pretzels sold at shopping mall and airport food courts.

Here's the Secret: I didn't call Jenny. I didn't sign on for mail-order packaged frozen food from NutriSystem. I shunned those Weight Watcher revival meetings. Instead, I stopped dieting out of a combination of boredom and disgust, and coincidentally, stopped eating bad foods. To my delight, the number on the scale has started falling.

Now when I'm hungry for something, I choose wisely from among the following:
celery sticks
chick peas
hard boiled eggs
string cheese
cold chicken
sliced turkey
cottage cheese
shrimp cocktail
cold lamb chops
tuna salad
cole slaw
 baked potato
corn on the cob
stuffed grape leaves
honeydew melon
herring tidbits
bell pepper
chopped liver
vegetable spring roll
vegetable soup
lentil soup
a mushroom omelet

Monday, July 14, 2014

Call Me Esoteric

Last night I caught a snippet of a TV show about a suburban housewife who writes a blog about all the things she buys at Costco. In fact that might be the name of the blog, I'm not sure. Her thrice-weekly posts show photographs of herself shopping at Costco, and then back home, all the stuff she's bought there over the years. For this she earns thousands of hits daily and hundreds of comments and tons of fans, not to mention being featured on that TV show. Fool that I am, I've never been to Costco. My blog has few fans, gets almost no comments ever and is a big flop.

So I asked my husband, "How can I make my blog popular, since writing it is my favorite thing to do?" He said I should write about something I do or know that appeals to the masses.

No can do, since I hate the masses, all of them huddled, yearning to be free, in the shadow of Lady Liberty. They remind me that we are all just ants or grains of sand on the beach or drops of water in the ocean, which is why I steer clear of them at every opportunity (except rock concerts), instead deluding myself that my life matters.

On the other hand, I do like pizza, which the masses adore, but I can't remember the last time I ate any since it is not such great nutrition. I like doughnuts, also quite popular, but again I rarely have one and when I do I get the plain kind, no sprinkles or frosting or jelly filling or dusting of cinnamon whatsoever. I missed a huge blogging opportunity when I cancelled  that hip replacement surgery, which would have made for a great series of ongoing posts, especially if I had gotten an infection afterwards or needed revision surgery.

So really, all I have to sell is my cynicism and my art. Shown above is a recent painting of mine that I like quite a lot.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Bed, Bath and Beyond

Odd room decor. No thanks.
Since a good one can make your trip and a bad one can break it, the task of finding a hotel in a distant city must be undertaken with caution and either a strong cup of coffee or a soothing glass of wine by your side, depending. For our upcoming trip to Paris, I began my search last night with a decent Chianti but got sleepy and went to bed without a confirmed booking. Up at dawn, I brewed a pot of French roast--fitting for the job--and got busy.

According to the Tourist Bureau, "Paris has the widest choice of hotels in the world, with a full range of prices, offering something for everyone. Choose from around 75,000 rooms in some 2,000 hotels, aparthotels, camp sites and other al fresco options, youth centres, apartment rentals or accommodation in private homes." To me this was not good news. A host of options never helps any endeavor, be it choosing a career, finding a mate or buying a car. But it is the American way, and it's too late to turn back now.

Searching online, one has access to customer reviews. Depending on how much you respect the opinion of random strangers with whom you may share nothing at all, this is helpful or not. According to Donald G. from Amsterdam, one hotel is "charming and in a good location but lacks hot water." Marilyn L. from New Jersey reports that her choice was "on a crowded street with a noisy elevator but with the best crosissants in the city." Fritz from Berlin hated his selection "in a sketchy neighborhood but with a fantastic view of the Seine," while The Davis Family from Spokane, WA gave eight thumbs-up to one they found "comfortable despite the thin bath towels." I completely related to Carol and Jim R., a honeymooning couple who stayed at "a little gem decorated to-die-for but the staff is surly."

Cost is a factor: Some are way too expensive (and in Euros to boot so when you do the math it's ridiculous), while others are so cheap you can already feel the bed bugs biting. Added to the conundrum are the special requirements of my travel companion who shall remain nameless but is my husband: Walking distance to all of Paris, not located on a noisy street but certainly not in the middle of nowhere, with a king-sized bed and free cancellation and WI-FI and great views of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower and near the Louvre and in the Marais, maybe, but we stayed there last time.

I'm still looking, but I'm switching back to Chianti.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Laughing at Obama

There are so many serious reasons to dislike Obama it's actually not funny at all. But what is funny, and hysterically so, is an email I received yesterday listing all the jokes Jay Leno cracked about the President on his late night TV show. They are laugh-out-loud funny (unless of course you voted for him):

"I was going to start off tonight with an Obama joke, but I don't want to get audited by the IRS."
On NSA surveillance: "We wanted a president who listens to all Americans - now we have one."
On a new IRS commissioner: "He's called 'acting commissioner' because he has to act like the scandal doesn't involve the White House."
On closing the Guantanamo prison for terrorists: "If he really wants to close it, turn it into a government-funded solar power company. The doors will be shut in a month."
Concerning the Benghazi , Associated Press, and IRS scandals: "Remember in the old days when President Obama's biggest embarrassment was Joe Biden?"
On Obama saying he didn't know about the IRS scandal: "He was too busy not knowing anything about Benghazi to not know anything about the IRS."
"The White House has a new slogan about Benghazi: Hope and change the subject."
"It's casual Friday, which means that at the White House, they're casually going through everybody's phone calls and records."
"It is not looking good for President Obama. Today his teleprompter took the 5th."
"Fox News has changed its slogan from 'Fair and Balanced' to 'See, I told you so!'"
On Obama's commencement address: "He told the young graduates their future is bright unless, of course, they want jobs."
On a Chicago man who set a record for riding a Ferris wheel: "The only other way to go around and around in a circle that many times is to read the official report on Benghazi ."
On White House claims of ignorance on the scandals: "They took 'Don't ask, don't tell' out of the Pentagon and moved it into the White House."
"These White House scandals are not going away anytime soon. It's gotten so bad that people in Kenya are now saying he's 100 percent American.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My House is Bugged

                               Gordon Studer
Our house is covered with little white furry moths and I don't like it one bit. They just hang there, clinging. They do nothing all day. Naturally they freak me out, being a severe entomophobic, so today I decided to get to the bottom of it and checked online to see just what the heck they are. Googling "house covered in white moths," the very first thing that came up was all about the symbolism of moths and how the white ones might mean Death, and how some lady whose mother was dying of cancer finally did die of cancer and they had moths all over their house right before.

That's just great.

I would feel worse, but then I remembered that yesterday I Googled the word "news" because I wanted to see what was going on in the world, and the second thing that came up was my very own blog post from yesterday which I titled "War and Peace," and which was not news at all but just my silly ramblings. This stunned me, until my husband explained that Google is tailored to individuals and that based on your own online history, different things come up as responses for different people.

While that information does not make me any happier about the moth thing, I have indeed written about cancer and worried about cancer in the past, and in fact my own father died of cancer but there were no moths anywhere around when he did, so I will just go take a shower and forget the whole thing, and will never trust Google again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

War and Peace

Hamas weapon check.
The news of the day is by turns distressing and odd. In the distressing department, Israel and Palestine are at it again, lobbing missiles at one another hoping to maim or kill citizens in populated areas. This started after Palestinian militants murdered three Israeli teens, and in retaliation, Israeli vigilantes killed a Palestinian boy. Those two simply cannot play nice, and the rest of us have to hear about it all the time. Really, they should just have their own playground and leave everyone else out of it.

Brazilian fan breakdown.
What's odd is that the entire country of Brazil is "reduced to emotional paralysis" according to eyewitness reports, because they lost their chance at the World Cup in their game with Germany, which beat the pants off them; the final score was 7-1. I certainly understand how losing to Germany must suck bigtime, but really, have some perspective. It's a game. (See preceding paragraph.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hyperbolic Prunes

These days just about everything and anything is over-described, over-sold and over-promised. If it's not "awesome" then it's "amazing" or else it's "brilliant." It could be a sunset, a blueberry, a tuna sandwich or a pizza, or maybe a home run or a touchdown or a sports car or a new baby, or Katy Perry's new lipstick--whatever, it's over the moon.

Just now, for breakfast, I ate three dried prunes. They tasted just like all other dried prunes I have eaten over the course of my life, but these came in a bag that says they are "amazing." In fact, the manufacturer states on the bag that "Amazing is a trademark of Sunsweet Growers, Inc. in the USA and other countries." They further explain that "we do the impossible--we pack them moist, tender, and pure without preservatives." (I guess that wasn't so impossible after all if they did it.)

I am wondering why they can't just be delicious and healthy, and if you eat enough of them they help avoid constipation, which is the extent of my interest in the product. Isn't that enough?

Monday, July 7, 2014


Face it: People are jerks. I'm not sure if there are jerky dogs or cats or horses or in fact any animals at all--certainly there are annoying ones-- but people leave no doubt that jerkiness is a very human trait. How we know for sure is through YouTube. Viral videos of jerky things that get watched by hundreds of thousands of jerks are proof. Then, in case you missed it, the jerky editors over at AOL's Huffington Post put them on their website so everyone who wasn't jerky enough to see them on YouTube won't miss out.

If push comes to shove, I'd rather have swine flu than be a jerk.
Case in point: A Canadian couple who were getting their wedding photos taken last weekend continued to do so despite a growing tornado forming behind them in the not-too-distant background. The photographer convinced them it would be "cool," since there had been another betrothed couple a while back who posed in front of a forest fire, and they made the big time. "Now lots of people are praying for a bad weather wedding," says AOL.

Then there's Obama welcoming all those illegal immigrants down at the Texas border, even though two of them have swine flu, which we now have in this country.


Move Over Lobster, There's a New Kid in Town

Here's a shocker: Maine has a heroin epidemic. And here's a bigger one: We caught it from Vermont. While I once thought that heroin was rampant in the rat-infested, inner-city slums of huge urban areas, where the huddled masses lacked basic services and thus fell prey to drug lords promising respite from the horror of their daily lives, it turns out I'm wrong. Many middle-class people are shooting up and snorting the stuff with abandon right here in downtown "Vacationland."

Garbage? Why not fruit salad?
It's no accident. Part of the reason is that the farther from New York the drug travels, the more expensive and less pure it is, thus the greater the profit, incentivizing dealers to set up shop here. As a result, you see many homeless and hungry addicts standing on Portland street corners holding signs asking for money, although some claim to not use drugs as a way to get your approval. Yesterday I saw a young woman holding a sign reading, "Mother of Two Needs Food, Diapers, No Alcohol or Drugs." (Were those diapers for her, and was she telling us she was all stocked up with liquor and drugs, or did she just flunk English?)

Not to make a joke of anyone's plight, I offer the following odd circumstance: While hungry people go begging, the local supermarkets toss out tons of food every day in huge dumpsters behind the stores. I learned about this practice from my son, a superhero I call the Unmasked Crusader for the Downtrodden. He took the photos shown here behind a local supermarket when he stopped for a snack yesterday afternoon.

Hey, I'll take that watermelon!
Yummy muffins, in fact I prefer them a day old.

Photos by Zachary Charles

Sunday, July 6, 2014

President Granny

"Oy, where are my pills?"
Honestly I feel pretty young most of the time. Except when I don't. Like every night when I drag myself up the stairs to bed. Or every morning when I wake up and hurl myself out of bed. After the coffee and the shower and a brisk walk, I'm ready for most anything, but to be brutally honest, this old gray mare ain't what she used to be, and why should I be? I just turned 68 and have been running around like crazy since I started walking at age one.

My mind is still as sharp as ever, but my skepticism has grown to mammoth proportions. Also, things I once found so exciting seem only blah now, having done them countless times. And while my flame still burns, the spark is weak, often requiring jumper cables to get me going. I would not want me for president, just like I don't want Hillary Clinton, my peer, to be representing us around the world.

Let's get some new blood in the White House, not someone on blood thinners! Jeez, what if she's at some big important meeting and she cuts her finger or something? She won't clot!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Some Fireworks Are Duds

Imagine if we had a leader who actually led, who cared about all of us and not just the people who give him money, who lived in a normal house like we all do, except of course the homeless, and did not flit around the world in a huge, flying hotel that costs $250,000 per hour in fuel to operate? That would be nice. Maybe then we could all have something to celebrate on this so-called "holiday."

Friday, July 4, 2014

Trying to Be Happy

For the last few weeks I have been taking a course in How to Be Less Anxious. It consists of reading materials, mental and breathing exercises and a weekly, hour-long phone conversation with my happiness guru. Not surprisingly, I am failing it.

The homework consists of doing things like "install a pleasant memory" whenever you are feeling anxiety coming on. In case this does not come naturally, I'm supposed to set an alarm on my cell phone to ring every hour to remind me to think happy thoughts. I did this for the first couple of days until finally the alarm got so annoying that each time it rang I flashed on a murderous rampage. I took that as counterproductive and so eventually shut off the alarm.

Today is the last day of my course. Thank goodness, I can go back to being me. My instructor told me that out of the approximately 100 people he has worked with, I am the only "failure." That's something, I guess.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Corporations ARE People!

Put them all together and you get a corporation!
The recent Supreme Court decision regarding the Christian-based crafts store named Hobby Lobby is all the rage right now. Of course sex is at the bottom of it, asking whether your place of employment should have to pay for your birth control choices as part of their health plan. It's brought out the loonies in full force. Their favorite thing to say, besides "it's a slippery slope," is that "corporations aren't people," explaining that bit of nonsense by saying the court's decision was in favor of the corporation and disregarded the people.

To make it easier to understand this seemingly difficult concept, simply scan the following list. Corporations are nothing more than large groups of one of the following things. Remember, there is only one right answer:

Lego blocks
Nail polish
Tuna fish sandwiches
Pepperoni pizza
Day lilies
Wine glasses
Cheddar cheese
Beaded necklaces
Laptop computers
Choo-choo trains
Adult diapers
Buffalo wings

Could you spot the right answer? Here's a hint: You're one.

Personal History Trumps American History

Funny how some dates just stick in your head. Besides the ones that everyone knows, like JFK's assassination and the Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, I still remember my parents' birthdays and wedding anniversary, and when they each died. Those are understandable, but another one I always recall is the day my grandfather died, which was 45 years ago today.

I was alone with him at the time, so I guess it was what you might call a traumatic experience. Besides, it completely ruined our 4th of July festivities that year, making this somewhat dubious holiday one I tend to ignore. Still, here it comes, complete with flags, fireworks, parades and all the rest. But try as I might, whenever I see any reference to our nation's Independence Day, like in those desperate supermarket flyers hawking hot dogs and watermelon, those last few minutes with my grandfather flash before my eyes.

FYI, it was February 9, 1964.
Despite what we do or where we live, our personal histories define us more than anything else. By the way, I was just kidding about the Beatles, although I do recall "the day the music died," and it was all about Buddy Holly.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Please Don't Show Me

When I was growing up in the 50s and 60s of the last century, discretion was highly valued. My parents were sure to close all windows before a marital spat lest the neighbors overhear. The words "cancer" and "depression" were never uttered above a whisper and one's finances were one's business. Pregnancy was covered with enormous, shapeless garments and homosexuality was not a source of pride but rather a shameful secret stuffed in a closet.

Like much antiquated thinking, those old standards of behavior have pretty much fallen into obscurity, replaced by candor in all things medical, financial and sexual. This is a good thing. But surely we can all agree there can be too much of a good thing, like just now, when I ventured online with my morning coffee and saw photographs of a young woman posing in a skimpy bikini with her colostomy bag front and center.

I am sorry she has a disease that brought about the loss of her stomach, and I agree that she is quite pretty and hope she has a full and wonderful life. But her desire to be a bathing suit model despite her obvious physical flaw is just plain stupid. Sometimes you really do want the windows shut.

Illustration by Andi Libberton Bird

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Summer Morning Horror Show

Yesterday morning, after watering the flowers on my outdoor deck and getting a couple of annoying bug bites during the process, I sat down at this very computer to check my email. Pretty soon I began to feel strange, like I might faint. I stood up--which turned out to be the exact opposite of what to do in such a situation--and things went spinning, then dim. My mind was like Jello that was not quite set. I grew weaker. It was hard to breathe.

I fell to the floor and crawled towards the telephone like one of those ladies in that TV commercial for that thing you wear around your neck to call 911 when you sicken and are alone. I was pretty sure I was dying. This went on for about 15 minutes. I did not die, and was finally able to find my cell phone and call a few people who did not answer. I slowly started to feel better, sort of like the Jello was now ready to eat. I figured I had suffered a stroke and managed to called my doctor's office, which took quite some time since first I couldn't remember his name and then when I did I was put on hold for a really long time, truly adding insult to injury.

Eventually I felt okay enough to go see the doctor several hours later. He performed all sorts of tests and declared me healthy. It turned out I had experienced something called a vasovagal attack in reaction to a bug bite on my neck I had gotten about half an hour before the onset of symptoms, which consisted of a severe and rapid drop in heart rate and blood pressure and a slowing of the pulse, resulting in the Jello feeling.

Today I am happy to be alive, don't care if all my flowers on the deck droop in the heat, and will never again go outside in summer without a liberal spritz of bug repellent. In fact, I may not go outside at all until autumn.

Harbor for Sale

This view could be yours!
Here in South Freeport, things are about to change: The lady I previously referred to as Snooty is moving away. (Dumpy, Lumpy and Frumpy, her dumpy, lumpy and frumpy cohorts, are likely quite distressed.) That means there's an opening for a new Town Crier, so if you enjoy knowing everybody's business you might consider taking her place. Her house is currently on the market and sits up high on a hill, commanding perhaps the best view of the harbor (and many of the neighbors' bedrooms).

There are also several other lovely properties on the market right now in our teeny little village, which doesn't happen often. If you think Maine is where you'd like to hide out from Hamas, Al Qaida and the Taliban, check out South Freeport on and consider moving to our little paradise.