Tuesday, September 30, 2014

You Can't Be Too Careful, Ebola-wise

One of the clearest signs that I am a baby boomer, and an aging one at that, is my refusal to get a flu shot in the supermarket or at a drug store. It just seems wrong, and slightly irresponsible. I mean really, have you heard of Ebola? While I know the flu is not Ebola, still you do want to keep your strength up -- survival of the fittest and all that.

The supermarket in question currently hawking flu shots consistently stocks yogurt that is two weeks past the sell-by date, so how can I be sure their vaccine is fresh? And the young woman giving the shots, sitting behind a common folding table you see at church Bingo games, is dressed in jeans! Come on, at the very least I need a white coat. A stethoscope would be a nice touch too.

Wondering if any of that matters, I called my doctor this morning and was told in no uncertain terms that the vaccine is the same no matter where I get it, but it would likely cost more at the doctor's office because of "extra fees." I asked whether the technician giving me the shot would be wearing a white coat. "Well of course," she answered, sounding stunned by the very question. I guess that white coat is part of the extra fees.

Anyway, call me madcap but I'm getting my flu shot there.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Maine's Next Governor: Who's the Handsomest?

Eliot Cutler (I)
Mike Michaud (D)
Paul LePage (R)

Love's Illusions

So many people -- maybe all of us -- are bottomless pits of need, constantly striving to fill the void and satisfy our internal supplication. It's the rare person who can just sit quietly, alone, breathing in and out, and call that living, even though that is exactly what living is. Instead, they run around like ants pushing the dirt into a big hill, as if the hill has meaning and value simply because they made it.

Recently I encountered a huge ant hill on Facebook. I stumbled into it last month after I attended a Jackson Browne concert in Portland and wrote a review of the show. It was so great (the show, not the review) that I wanted to share it, and so posted it on two different online fan pages devoted to the popular singer-songwriter. I figured who better would enjoy hearing about his stellar performance? In order to post on the pages, I had to join, which I did; after all, I am one of his fans too.

Since then my Facebook news stream has been inundated hourly with posts about Browne. Admirers the world over worship him like a God. They talk about his songs and how the lyrics resonate with them, helping them through tough times. They nitpick about which album is the best, and which song means the most, and what phase of his career was the most intense. They share their deepest fantasies concerning him, declaring their love for the group at large because everyone else "understands" how important JB, as they call him, really is. They post pictures of Browne from the old days when he was just starting out and from right now, yesterday, last night, whenever they saw him last. The shakiest video taken at one of his concerts is met with intense gratitude and hundreds of "likes."

Mostly they ooh and aah about how handsome he was and still is, at 66, and how sweet and kind, and what a generous soul he has because he meets with his fans after his shows and actually will pose for pictures and touch them. Who else does that? What a wonderful person he is! Bear in mind that most of Browne's fans are also his peers, many of them now in their 60s and 70s. Still they go on and on about him like a teeny-bopper in love with The Bieber. And it's not just women, since men too adore him. It's almost like a Jesus thing.

I hung around for awhile out of pure amazement that gradually turned into a kind of voyeurism. While I certainly admire the man's talents, without sharing those intense feelings I felt like an onlooker to a private train wreck. The final straw was the plan, well underway, to make a giant book of personal stories of how Browne has impacted their lives and present it to him on his birthday on October 9. There was even talk of inviting him to a party to be held near his home in California, with fans from as far away as Australia vowing to attend.

These are adults, many of them grandparents. So what gives? Why do people fill their lives with hero worship? If instead every person focused on being his or her best self, things would be so much better all around, with far less depression, fewer suicides and more solutions to world problems. Instead, so many hours spent gazing into the distant lives of celebrities is draining our nation's talent pool, which seems to grow shallower every day.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Film Review: THE DROP

Bob and Rocco share a tender moment.
If you were an ardent fan of the late actor James Gandolfini, you might want to skip "The Drop," his final film. As Marv, he's Tony Soprano minus the power, charm, and underlying sweetness. Well beyond his glory days, Marv lives a sad life. A cynical loser who runs the neighborhood drinking hole he once owned years ago, he shares a shabby apartment with his spinster sister and kowtows to the slick, foreign thugs who are his bosses. All this has turned him into a bitter and very bad dude, a part he plays stunningly and convincingly. But Marv leaves a bad taste in your mouth which Gandolfini, being dead, will not be able to eradicate in future performances. If you think you can handle it, get ready for a dark time.

This is a sober story about evil deeds, mob money and wasted lives. Rife with bad guys, some worse than others but none of them good, even the detective nosing around seems untrustworthy. In the middle of everything is a pit bull puppy that steals your heart, especially since he's the only good guy. Believe me, you will want a pit bull by the end of the film. In fact, you'll wish you had one for protection until you get home; this movie has the creep-you-out factor that makes one leery about leaving the theater.

Set in some part of Brooklyn you've likely never visited, the plot is nothing if not confusing. You never know what, exactly, is going on, just that it's definitely illegal. The star of the movie is someone I had never seen before (Tom Hardy) who is either a superb actor or heavy into anti-anxiety meds. As Bob the bartender, he is nice until suddenly he's not nice -- in a big way. Despite that, he remains endearing. His low-key love interest is a worn-out woman who once cut herself with a potato peeler a few years back, causing visible scars. "I was high and didn't like myself very much back then," she explains. (Big surprise.)

There is no music, or at least none that you notice, and the silence heightens the unrelenting tension. People get shot, severed body parts are involved. There is blood and a fair amount of cigarette smoke. Summing up: If you enjoy sharp cinematography of horrific deeds carried out by bleak characters muttering ambiguous threats in barely audible tones, this is your movie.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Keeping Your Head

Well, isn't this a fine kettle of fish? Somehow things have gone from bad to worse in the homeland and it sure looks like there's only one person to blame. Oddly enough, his faithful followers still claim he's doing a great job.

I am not well-versed in foreign policy matters but I do know that never before in my lifetime have I worried about being beheaded. Until now. (This is quite annoying since I already had such a long list of concerns, so thanks a lot, Bammy.) Now can we all just get serious, forget all the party politics and divisive bullshit and "my guy is better than your guy" games and elect leaders who will keep us safe?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Things I Don't Understand

Gordon Studer
 The first hard-boiled egg 
Perfume and cologne
What's great about Bob Dylan 
How marijuana makes things seem funny
Hybrid cars
 How they prescribed Thalidomide for pregnant women
Why nudity is such a big deal
 Late night TV 
Why the President needs $55,000 worth of champagne glasses  
What are the Kardashians and why we care
Changing fashions
 How a pill knows which body part you took it for
Those nutty Muslims 
 Deciding to own a pit bull
Al Sharpton's fame
How surgeons do what they do
 Pelvic floor disorder
Weighing 600 pounds
Why Christmas still happens
 The moon and the tides
Why there is a White House
How nobody has demanded it be called the Black House

Your Name Here

By now pretty much everyone with half a brain knows that Coca-Cola is completely useless. A toxic brew consisting of carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring (which is made by heating carbohydrates), phosphoric acid, caffeine and "natural flavors," it's no good for anyone at all, in any way. In fact it's all the way to bad for you, contributing greatly to obesity and tooth decay. Happily, even half-brained people have been wising up about what they consume, and Coke's sales have fallen for the past eleven years in a row. Until now.

They didn't change the recipe to make it taste better. It's not any healthier. All they did was slap names on the labels and the stuff went flying off the shelves. The so-called "Share a Coke" campaign has resulted in a 2% increase in global sales, owing to what one advertising maven called "the wow factor." Rolled out in 2011 in Australia, the marketing ploy was an instant hit and was then implemented in 80 countries.

Apparently seeing your very own name on a bottle of soda is damned exciting! Said one consumer who has obviously had lots of Coke in his 22 years, "to see your name on a big brand, it makes it personal."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Meanwhile, Back in the USA

Canada was a breath of fresh air, with everyone all cheery and laid back from living in a country nobody else cares about, one that does not see itself as the solution to the world's problems, thereby putting pressure on its citizens to pony up and do something. Here in America, what with us always jumping into the middle of things and making a messy situation worse, folks get mean and stirred-up, which always causes havoc among the masses. Take for example the particular member of the masses who defaced the front window of my art gallery sometime during my three-day absence.

I arrived to find my storefront covered with thickly applied scribbles and scrawls in two colors of lipstick--one a bright cherry red and the other a screaming magenta. It took quite a lot of Windex, half a roll of paper towels and considerable elbow grease to undo the mess, giving me plenty of time to practice my cursing and to wonder what sort of inconsiderate boob thought that was a good idea.

I suppose I should be happy since if my gallery were located in another American city I might have arrived to find the windows covered in blood from a drive-by shooting (East St. Louis, #1 crime city), or perhaps smashed to smithereens after an attempted break-in (Flint, #2 crime city), or maybe smeared with feces after a drunken night of alcohol, drugs and debauchery (any college town in America). Only in Maine could a lipstick be wielded as a tool of defacement.

I may be down on America, but I still love Maine.

O Canada!

I spent the last three days just over our northern border in a whole other country, one almost exactly like America only different. Being there is like looking into one of those dime-store mirrors that whittle away ten pounds; things are admittedly off, but better. For one thing, Canada already has the health care system in place we've all been whining about and wish we had. Sure you could die waiting for a colonoscopy, but you could also die waiting for a bus, so what's the big deal?

Anyone who has not been to Quebec City should go immediately. It's much closer than France, and in fact, it's close enough: The natives speak French, but unlike the French they love Americans, which is a good thing since there are tourists by the hundreds, especially during leaf-peeping season. During our brief visit a cruise ship docked and disgorged armies of white-haired retirees into the streets. The oldsters were everywhere, having a grand old time, and bringing to mind that wonderful movie, "Cocoon." (If they weren't both dead I'd swear I saw Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy at breakfast one morning.)

There are charming cafes with lace curtains in the windows and ancient, meandering, cobblestone streets bursting with interesting shops and art galleries. Everywhere you look, window boxes overflowing with colorful flowers and dripping with ivy transform the mundane into the memorable. Towering ornate churches and government buildings boasting stunning architecture are neighbors with rows of loaded cannons, reminders of the city's history as a natural fort on a hill. Canadian flags whipping in the winds coming off the St. Lawrence River make it all picture-perfect, so be sure to bring a camera--a real one, not that thing in your phone.

Mostly there is bread to die for. Really. The bread. If you are committed to being gluten free go elsewhere, since you will want it at every meal and you will eat it with abandon, smothered with the best butter you have ever tasted. Despite that, the Canadian citizens are not fatties like back home. We determined that this is because there are no supermarkets anywhere. We spent quite a bit of time trying to find even one and failed. (I am still wondering where the locals buy toilet paper, light bulbs and cat litter.)

There is a lot of fur. They put it on boots and bags, coats and scarves, hats and gloves, blankets and rugs. I assume it comes from dead animals of all kinds, so if you are a card-carrying member of PETA, steer clear. There are lots of moose references, their images plastered on signs warning you to watch out for them or printed on flannel pajamas, wooly socks, key chains, shot glasses, refrigerator magnets, leather wallets, t-shirts, note pads and coffee mugs.

It's all quite festive and woodsy, making you wish it were Christmas already and you were sipping a hot toddy in front of a crackling fire, or at the very least a cup of hot chocolate next to an electric heater. A final word of caution, and in fact, the only one: Never order poutine! You will see it on menus, but trust me--don't even try it. Besides that, go. You'll have a great time, I promise.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Europe You Can Drive To

Looking into a cafe in Quebec City.
I have not written a post in several days because I have been having too much fun playing in and around Quebec City. It has been so much more enjoyable than Barcelona, where I went one year ago and wrote a blog post every day. And it's so much closer, on this side of the ocean. And the people are much friendlier, and every meal has been divine. All Americans should move here and let Obama and Hillary and the whole lot of them keep the US for themselves.

Alas, I leave today and will return to my daily posts about nothing in particular, kicking off with a full-blown review of my trip to Canada.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Some Stories Never Get Old

That was one heck of a big Ferris wheel.

Each Saturday of my childhood, my parents and sister and I visited my paternal grandparents in their home near Coney Island, the Brooklyn landmark. As I recall the place, it was ornately over-decorated in what I call "Early Godfather." Crammed with comfortable furniture with lots of fringed cushions and potted palms in all the corners, the dining room was completely mirrored--all four walls. Those mirrors greatly amplified the huge feasts we had there, seemingly into infinity, like those milk cartons with the missing child shown on the side of the carton, showing the carton with the picture of the missing child on the side, again and again.

After an ordinary brunch worthy of a bar mitzvah celebration, in nice weather I would run up to the roof and watch the enormous Wonder Wheel spin around and around. After many hours the visit would be declared over and our family would take our leave and drive the few miles to the amusement park for an early dinner and a few thrills. I lived for this.

While my mother and my sister stood by holding our coats, my father and I rode all of the scariest rides: The Cyclone, the Thunderbolt, the Tornado, the Wonder Wheel, even the Parachute Jump which I probably should have skipped. I was only four, and it seems to me that any ride where you have to take your shoes off is too extreme for children. 

The Parachute Jump in action.
Next we hit the Steeplechase, sort of a private club within Coney Island where the rides were really dangerous. Rumor had it that the young daughter of the actual designer of the actual Steeplechase ride had died on opening day by falling off a faulty electric horse and being electrocuted on the spot. Naturally this story made the ride all the more popular.
When my father couldn’t possibly take one more thrill, we’d head straight for Nathan’s Famous for some all-beef kosher hot dogs and French fries and, in a time-honored family tradition, eat until we couldn’t breathe, our signal that the meal was over. After dinner we hit the pinball machines, the Throw Things at Bottles and Win a Stuffed Animal games, the Fortune Teller. One particular Saturday, however, something new was added to the mix: I got kidnapped.

The old woman had been following us for several hours, or perhaps several weeks.  What I clearly remember is my mother letting go of my hand for a moment to put mustard on her hot dog. When her hand took mine again I took it unquestioningly, eager for the next adventure. We had gone several blocks before I realized that the hand I was holding was the next adventure. It wasn't my mother’s hand at all. Instead, it belonged to a babushka-wearing crone missing a few teeth who looked just like the witch in "Hansel and Gretel. (I'm drawing a blank here-- how were they saved?)

What happened then is hazy. (Not important, according to my shrink, who was so excited to have uncovered this buried memory during his first and only attempt at regression that he almost called the American Psychiatric Association right then and there to apply for a medal or something.) The old lady took me home to her tiny hovel in the shadow of my friend, the Wonder Wheel. Somehow I did not cry, knowing even then that she was not playing with a full deck. The next morning, after a fitful sleep on top of a pile of old newspapers, we went out for a walk and I easily escaped.
Never looking back, I ran fast and far, the tears finally welling up. Despite this event pre-dating the Amber Alert by decades, the local police had been on the prowl all night. Very quickly I was spotted and taken to a nearby precinct where the nice police sergeant called my parents. They appeared in minutes for our tearful reunion.
My mother never got over it. Her daily mantra became, “Don’t talk to strangers.” This of course proved impossible advice to follow much of the time, like when, at the age of 30, I traveled alone to Europe. (“But Ma, I gotta eat!”) Still, when I became a mother myself I fully understood her terror, not to mention her shoddy parenting style. My own son, now almost 27 and living like a nomad here and there, has never once been kidnapped.

Friday, September 19, 2014

More About Fat

These two are typical American females. Scary.
The "fat acceptance" movement is, as we say in Yiddish, a shonda. If we are all held accountable for the worst deeds of the worst of us, I am mortified. Call me obsessed, but this is not where I'm going. If you are headed in that direction, just stop it today! Besides all sorts of health problems ending in an early death, how can you stand being alone with yourself?

It's a shocking situation, brought about by the void in modern life that people try to fill with shopping for nonsense  and food. Malls across the country satisfy both urges with stores all in a row and a giant Food Court full of fattening and unhealthy trash. It's not the fix: All that happens is you still have the void but now you're fatter and with a new handbag.

Here's the fix: Shut your mouth and get moving.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Not-so-secret Obsession

A typical snack for a third of Americans.
Once again, another Anonymous reader has accused me of being "obsessed with fat people." I admit it. It's true. I am fascinated by the self-destruction of our species through the voluntary consumption of trash foods that slowly kill from the inside. Sue me.

Here are some facts on the table, along with the burgers and fries and all the rest:
  • More than one-third (34.9% or 78.6 million) of U.S. adults are obese. 
  • Some of the leading causes of preventable death result from obesity-related conditions including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain common cancers including breast and colon cancer. 
  • Obesity has reached epidemic proportions globally, with at least 2.8 million people dying each year as a result of being overweight or obese. Once associated with high-income countries, obesity is now also prevalent in low- and middle-income countries.   
  • Obesity in adults accounts for 18% of deaths among  Americans between ages 40 and 85. Put another way, approximately 1 in 5 Americans are dying from illnesses related to obesity.
  • Childhood obesity is one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. Overweight children are more likely than non-overweight children to develop diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age, which in turn are associated with a higher chance of premature death and disability.
Hey, I don't write the news, I simply report it.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Goodbye to All That

I feel sorry for all the newspapers. Once they were Gods and now they are nothing. My Wall Street Leaflet is lying out there in the drizzle at the end of our driveway, and I'm pretty sure I'm not going out there to get it. It's all old news since I've seen the Internet this morning and so I'm up to speed as of ten minutes ago. As for the "analysis," other people's opinions are rampant online.

Similarly, as far as I'm concerned Europe is over. Our planned flight to Paris next week has been replaced by a far less stressful road trip to Quebec. As the tourist website for that lovely French city proudly proclaims, "It's Europe, only closer." I'm happy because now I can take all my full-size bottles of shampoo and conditioner and moisturizers, my nail clippers and even an X-acto blade, which I like to have with me at all times-- a holdover from my days as a newspaper art director. And hopefully we will not encounter any Islamic terrorists or anti-Semitic demonstrations anywhere.

So many things have vanished, it's hard to list them all. Some of my favorites included: Actual humans who speak English answering telephones, having my gas pumped for me even when my husband is not there, no commercials before the movie, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance with feeling, eating pizza with abandon before I ever heard of blood pressure, Times Square when it was seedy and interesting and having parents. Now those were good times.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Smoke Pot: It's Crazy Out There

Our screwed up society (or culture or civilization--call it what you will) seems to get worse and worse. No wonder there are so many suicides; surely there is a better place somewhere. I'm not advocating it, but those who choose it certainly do not deserve the label "mentally ill," which is how we, the living, have chosen to classify it. In fact, anyone who thinks life is fine and dandy these days really is mentally ill, or just not paying attention. Wait a minute--I have proof.

Burberry, that once-esteemed trench coat manufacturer, has come out with a new perfume called "My Burberry." The hot new ad campaign shows two female supermodels, one young and one older, both in raincoats, smooching each other up. Then it rains or something-- somehow they get wet--and they they take off their raincoats and hold them over their heads while holding each other close, and we are supposed to use our imaginations about them being naked, skin to skin, and run out and get some of this perfume so we can be naked with a beautiful woman. Or two. What? Is this ad aimed at lesbians? I guess so, since who else wants to smell like a trench coat? And why do people wear cologne and perfume anyway? What's wrong--do they have bad body odor? Is it to attract attention? What for? And how much are they willing to spend for such an unnecessary and downright gross product? Apparently a lot; it's between $95 and $125 for a teeny bottle of the stuff.

So a friend of mine was stopped for an overdue inspection sticker several months ago. While the officer was writing that up, he claimed that he smelled pot. Blah, blah, search the car, yada, yada--the next thing you know there's a court date two months into the future. The future is now. The punishment in West Bath, Maine for a cop finding not one bit of marijuana in the entire car but instead for finding a pipe with marijuana residue is a fine of $850.00 or 30 hours of community service. (That's like seven bottles of "My Burberry.")

If you ask me, people should be fined for wearing perfume in public. And cops should be forced to wear some so we can smell them coming.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kanye Says "Stand Up"

Remind me never to go to a Kanye West concert. Not that I would, except under duress. But it sounds more like doing community service than attending a recreational activity, at least according to an eyewitness account of Kanye demanding that the audience stand up and dance. When two people, both severely handicapped, did not because they could not, they were called to task by the performer.

Quelle cochon! What if people who are not handicapped just don't find his music all that infective? Do they have to stand up and dance around anyway? When I saw Jackson Browne a few weeks ago, he had the opposite problem: People were going so nuts, he had to ask the audience to sit down.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Islamic State Diet

I was hoping that maybe things are not as bad as I imagine them to be, but then the Wall Street Journal app sent out a Beheading Alert about the latest gruesome death of a British aid worker, with another one waiting in the wings. My husband's iPhone beeped as we were sitting down to dinner and I must say, the news drastically cut my appetite. I'm guessing I consumed half of what I would have normally.

If this business keeps up, I will reach my goal weight far sooner than expected. It's funny how every cloud really does have a silver lining.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Remembering 9/11

Yesterday I gorged on images from 9/11, starting bright and early with the real-time news on the "Today" show from way back then. I relived the horror along with Katy Couric and Matt Lauer as they watched things unfold, not knowing what would happen next even though I did. I found it thrilling in a perverse way. Still, it was footage I have seen every year for the last 12 years, and so I knew what was coming and there were no surprises. After an hour or so when the second tower finally fell I turned off the TV, hopped into the shower, and didn't give it another thought all day.

But then last night on the History Channel, I happened upon an incredible documentary called "102 Minutes that Changed America." It was a skillfully edited compilation of hundreds of raw amateur videos shot by New Yorkers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time: on Manhattan Island on September 11, 2001. There was footage I had never seen before, having somehow missed this film despite it having won an Emmy after its initial release in 2008.

It was scary and fascinating and intense. It made you cringe and gasp, putting you right there in the middle of things: the smoke, the flying debris, the falling bodies. The brave firemen walking into the death chamber. Thousands of people fleeing the devastation. A true nightmare. What it made me realize more than anything else is that while most of us go about living our merry lives, for others the horror that was 9/11 is not over and never will be, and I'm talking about the survivors. (The dead are dead; that was that for them.)

Anyone on the fence about how our government should handle the current threat posed by the terrorist organization known as ISIS should hunt this film down and watch it. Then decide.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Have a Heart

            Gordon Studer
Besides lobsters and cobblestone streets, the city of Portland has a lot of homeless people. Or else it has a lot of people claiming to be homeless -- one never knows. Either way, I figure if someone is out there with a sign in the rain and sun and sleet and snow, then even if they have a home they must be pretty desperate.

Still, I used to not give them anything thinking it would encourage them to stand around begging instead of taking action to better themselves. But lately I have started handing out a few dollars if I have some on me. I'm not sure why I do this, since a dollar is almost meaningless these days. And helping people in dire straits never makes me feel better about my own life, since no matter how much money I give away I will still have cataracts until I have the surgery, at which time I will have to give the surgeon way more money than I give the needy.

It just seems like the thing to do right now.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Obama's Delusions

With Pinocchio it was the nose.
I lost some friends when I voted for George W. Bush the first time, and another batch the second time. But at least I can sleep soundly at night knowing I had nothing to do with this guy we've got in there now, besides that $25 I sent to his campaign early on when I thought he might end the racial divide we've got going on. Instead, he's made it worse.

So it was with trepidation that I sat down to listen to his Big Speech on the subject of terrorists and ISIS (ISIL) and what he's going to do about it. I hoped he wouldn't make that worse.

Staring into the camera with an air of determination, he spun his delusions. "We are going to go get them! We have a broad coalition! We are great! I have done did this, I have done that, things are just fine!" He stretched my patience saying America is "safer than ever," but still I hung in there, hoping for a miracle. Then he said that America is the world leader in manufacturing. Since everything I own was made in China, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malaysia or Vietnam, I doubted that even he could believe that one.

Leaving the room, I noticed his ears seemed to be getting bigger as he spoke.

Do Something Different Every Day

For most of my professional life I worked as a graphic designer. I spent my days fretting over what typeface, what color, how big, and all that other blah, blah, blah regarding printed materials. As a newspaper art director I chose the photos for the front page, and the colors and fonts and yada, yada. See I can't even take the time to write about it now, since I see it all as nonsense, having made the career switch to writing. I did that in 1997 the day Erma Bombeck died--she left a hole-- and since then I have not even noticed whether something is serif or sans, Bodoni or Helvetica, red or yellow. It's the words that count.

Still, it's fun to play around with things, like my hair which I cut and color with abandon, and my furniture which I move around in a funk. Having run out of things to alter, I decided to change the look of this blog just to see if it matters one whit.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Things Fall Apart

Seems if you live long enough, everything starts to go. One day it's a hip, the next day it's an eye. For me, today, it's two eyes.

Making the stupid mistake of going for a routine eye exam, I learned that there are cloudy masses of whatever it is -- I almost don't want to know -- hovering over the lenses of my eyes. These are called cataracts, and until today I thought the term had only to do with very old people, certainly not me. But even though I still listen to rock music and will on occasion smoke pot, I am old enough to have them and they have got to go, unless of course I want to be blind, which I don't.

So all you young folks out there reading this, take note: This nasty situation is completely normal and expected for eyes past 60. It sucks, but that's one of the perks of modern medicine: We get to outlive our own body parts.

Football's Double Standard

Face it: Things are just not funny anymore. The world is in chaos, with disease, starvation, war, terrorists and persecution of dissidents running rampant--and that's on a good day. But one funny thing is that the owners of the Baltimore Ravens have fired one of their players because he smacked his then-girlfriend around in a domestic dispute caught on videotape. The victim was so upset about it that she went ahead and married the guy after that.

The game of football is based on violence, with players regularly getting severe injuries and occasionally dying. As compensation, they make tons of money off of all the fans who get a vicarious thrill watching these modern-day gladiators get knocked around. The players, who are all-out brutal on the playing field, are required to be pussycats all the other times.

Now that's funny.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Charles Boyer telling Ingrid Bergman that the cat is inside.
I woke up feeling normal. As always, I walked downstairs to feed the cats, but alas, there was only one cat. And one husband, already awake and coffeed. I asked, "Have you seen Lurch?"

The husband said, "Yes, I saw him a few minutes ago at the back door. I did not let him out."

I then went looking for Lurch, who never misses breakfast. I looked in all his hiding places. I looked in spaces he could not possibly have squeezed into. I looked in the basement despite its locked door.

I asked the husband again, "Are you sure he is inside?"
"Definitely," was the reply.

Bracing myself for a dead cat, I searched every nook and cranny: Under the beds, behind the shower curtain, on the top shelf of the coat closet. Inside the oven, behind the fridge. It was getting boring. But then, for some reason I walked onto the screened porch and Lurch came running towards the house from the back woods with that, "It's about time, I'm starving!" expression.

The husband stood by his claim. Nobody else lives with us. That would leave me, and I know I didn't do it. Or did I?

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Last night, wallowing in my grief over the death of comedienne Joan Rivers, I fired up my Netflix and watched an acclaimed documentary about her. "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work" was made in 2010 by people I never heard of and likely you haven't either so I won't bother to name them here. When you watch the movie, which you should, you'll find out.

Several things are amazing about this film. First and foremost, the photography is incredible, with a sharpness and eye for detail that puts you right in the middle of things. Whether it's backstage with Joan and her pre-show jitters, in her limo whizzing through traffic, or hanging out in her ridiculously grandiose, eye-poppingly decorated enormous penthouse apartment, you're there. And Manhattan never looked better, topping even Woody Allen's customary fairy-tale take on the the worlds' greatest city. Here it's gritty, throbbing and yet appealing; you want to be there.

As for Joan herself--who knew she was so nuts? I loved the woman dearly and was a huge fan of her stand-up comedy, feeling a kinship to her for several reasons. She too was born in Brooklyn, a Jewish Gemini who said whatever the heck she wanted without fear of reprisals. The difference between us, besides more than a dozen years, was that she craved fame and I would rather die than have my name in lights, or anywhere actually, other than on a check made out to me. But Joan needed the spotlight, the attention and the constant adoration so much that she seemingly gave up all normal life. At 75, her age in the film, she schleps all over the country, flying to nowhere towns in the middle of winter, catching a red-eye here and there to spin her same shtick over and over at tiny nightclubs and huge 4,000-seat theaters, pitching stage productions, hoping for a TV commercial, in fact, hoping for anything at all.

She was in it for the gold and the glory, but mostly because she had no choice. She was addicted to fame, that much is clear. As she said, "I'm a performer. That's what I am. It's my life." And what a life she led! It looked horrible to me, as it surely would to many people, but Joan seemed to be happy as long as her appointment book was full. The one moment of normalcy was during a scene where she and her young grandson were cuddled together in the back seat of her limo, holding hands and making small talk. That was nice. Other than that her days seemed like a living Hell of neverending makeup sessions, nudgy meetings with her agent, business manager or assistant and frustrated phone calls seeking a gig from potential employers, all punctuated by a few unpleasant moments with her only child Melissa, herself a piece of work and starting down that bizarre road paved with plastic surgery her mother had pioneered.

The movie is fascinating and incredibly watchable, with only one cautionary note: It will cure anyone of their aspirations of a career in comedy. As Melissa says, having grown up mired in her mother's career, "All comics are damaged somehow." This movie is an extreme closeup of that truth. I'm still sad that Rivers died in such a horrendous and unexpected way, but after seeing this film I am less sad. Maybe she truly is in a better place now.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Enough with the Luck Already

You know what I don't need? Luck. I already have tons of it! I get it from every single person who enters my new art gallery, walks around admiring things, stops and comments on how much they like this one and that one, and wouldn't that other one be perfect for a friend of theirs, and then leaves without making a purchase, saying as they walk out the door, "Well, I certainly wish you lots of luck!"

If I just had some customers with money, I wouldn't need all this luck.

Asking for Your Help

Dear Facebook Friend--and especially my old friends from high school who meant so little to me back then and even less now:

Do it for him!
There are many charities in the world that need your dollars, like the ones for disaster areas where whole towns were swallowed by mudslides or demolished by earthquakes, killing thousands, and maybe tornadoes and hurricanes that flooded everything and virtually destroyed lives. And there are people dying of horrible diseases and children on chemotherapy and starving babies and street people without a place to lay their heads. The world is full of pain.

Despite knowing all this here I am, asking you for money for my personal project. It may seem small in comparison but is so big to me that I am overcoming my pride and begging you to dig deep and come up with a contribution to our new kitchen counter.

At first glance my request may seem unreasonable. But really, the counter is old and cracked and made of Formica, and I am pretty sure it is holding bacteria; for all I know our entire family could contract botulism or something even worse if we don't replace it with a new granite counter top. (Actually my husband is leaning towards soapstone.)

Just one of the cracks!
And our only child eats here sometimes, at that very counter, and he could also contract a deadly disease, and so please--do it for him. Even though he is now 26 he used to be adorable (see photo above) and he will likely have a child someday who would look just like him, maybe, if he marries a girl with dark hair, and then our only grandchild could also get sick from the deadly germs lurking just below the surface of our present counter top (see photo at right.)

Replacing the kitchen counter will cost approximately $10,000 and we need all the help we can get, especially since we just got a new Audi. Thank you.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The High Cost of Driving

Since when is it news that the lowliest actress who might have been in some grade-B movie once is pregnant? Why do I care that this one and that one are having a baby? Why do I need to see pictures of that baby, and know the baby's name, and marvel at the baby's parents for actually having pulled off the easiest thing in the world to do if you have a penis and a vagina, and that is obvious when you look at the population of the all the Third World countries with low everything else and high birth rates? WHY?

Every day the poor public--in this particular case, me-- is subjected to this sort of nonsense. This one is pregnant and that one is pregnant and the other one is pregnant. SO WHO CARES????? This all started when I signed on to get my email and learned that someone named Alyssa Milano or something close to that is pregnant. I do not believe she invented the Milano cookie--now that would be something. But anyway, I snapped. 

What I really wanted to talk about today was the fact that I just went to register my new car in the town of Freeport, and to drive it on the roads here for the next seven months it cost me $904. It's not bad enough that it already cost a lot of money, and will keep costing a lot of money for insurance and gas, but just to actually use the damn thing I must pay handsomely. In fact, much more handsomely than some other people with cars that cost less.

So the next time all you left-wing cranks out there say the "rich" aren't paying enough taxes, let me remind you that my son's beater car, a 1997 Buick, cost $88 to travel those same roads for a full year. And no new baby born to no young starlet is gonna make me feel any better about that.

The Real Secret to Weight Loss

A friend of mine who still smokes cigarettes confided that he desperately wants to quit and keeps trying, but hasn't yet been successful. As a former smoker who quit eight years ago after 30 years engaging in the habit, I said it's simple: You have to not want to smoke more than you want to. He admitted, "But I still want to smoke." And I said, "That's why you still do it." That's the good news--at least he's doing what he wants.

People cannot stop doing something they want to continue doing more than they want to stop doing it.  It is actually the exact opposite of rocket science: it's the simplest thing in the world. This dictum also applies to losing weight, and contains the one and only "secret" to weight loss: You have to not want to eat the food more than you want to eat it.

As they used to say at the old Weight Watchers meetings I attended decades ago, "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels." And while there may be some food, somewhere in the world, that actually does taste better than being able to wear all those "thin" clothes in the back of your closet that fit you once, or that you bought hoping they would motivate you to lose weight, you have to really believe that statement or else you are doomed to fail.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Off with Their Heads

I have never been to Syria. Who knows, maybe there are some nice people there, although that is really hard to imagine, seeing as how it has spawned the gang of extremist nut jobs who think nothing of sawing off the heads of total strangers -- and making a video of the ghastly process to boot.

Sadly, they will likely keep doing this since the world lacks a leader strong enough to stop them. Certainly our own president, off partying with the rich, has been most ineffectual and inspires no fear in the hearts of anyone, let alone the heartless. (I wonder how proud Michelle is of her country these days.) Of the most recent beheading, Obama said he would continue to "pray for the victim's family." I wonder, was he praying for the victim to come back to life? And Secretary of State John Kerry went one step further, saying that America will not stand idly by when one of ours is taken. No sirree. He vowed that we would "track them down" and "follow them to the gates of Hell." Hmmm, that course of action sounds almost as bad for us as for them.

My plan is easier: I say nuke them. I mean really, what are we saving our nukes for--something worse?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

15 Lists You'll Never See

The President, hard at work.

14 Non-Orthodox Jews Who Don't Eat Bacon

9 Simple Phrases Your Cat Can Learn in a Week

Movie Dogs: The 25 Least Attractive Women in Hollywood 

Top 10 White House Cannabis Recipes

25 Ways to Make Toast Exciting

12 Leading Men with Teeny Weeny Penises 

Two More Times Michelle Obama Was Proud of Her Country

People to Watch: Capitol Hill's Future Embezzlers

Oprah's Proven Weight Loss Tips

Five People Who Still Remember Keith Olbermann

10 Tragic World Events During Which Obama Did Not Play Golf

Kim Kardashian's Secrets to a Happy Marriage

Kloe Kardashian's Favorite Picture Books

A Quartet of Warm and Fuzzy Germans (Yes, They Do Exist!)

A Compendium of Intelligent Twitter Posts

Brad and Angie

I just heard the news and I'm busting! Carrie Underwood is expecting.

Okay, so I don't know who Carrie Underwood is. (The heir to the typewriter fortune?) And I also don't know what she's expecting: Is it a baby, or is she about to be fired from her job? And of course, I'm not really busting, since I don't care a whit. Still, the editors of all those magazines and websites that specialize in celebrity gossip think I do, and thus nothing is too inconsequential to write about if it has to do with somebody who somebody might have heard of once.

Railing against our celebrity-adoring culture is certainly not new, for me or anyone, but it is the gift that keeps on giving. For example, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt just got married, and the news of this event has circled the globe several times. Yet, how this impacts my life remains a mystery, just like it did not impact my life when Angie had her breasts removed to avoid getting breast cancer, or when she had her last collagen lip injection.

If I were King I would immediately put a stop to all mention of celebrities. In fact, being a celebrity would be punishable by a considerable fine and community service hours.