Monday, January 30, 2017

Just Relax, Woudja?

Remain calm. 
Things are not as bad as they seem. 

People are always looking for a scapegoat and this year it's Donald Trump. Trump, Trump, Trump! That's pretty much all you see and hear and read. Trump! Come on, he is just one man, one standard issue person, not the Devil, neither Satan nor God. He is not the reason you and everyone you know will die someday. It's not his fault that you have this knowledge and seek to forget it every waking minute of every hour of every day of your life, through whatever means possible: work, drugs, drink, movies, video games, sex, shopping, running marathons, biking thousands of miles, sailing around the world alone, lifting weights, climbing mountains or whatever.

Face it: You simply can't forget it, especially with people dying all around you every friggin' day, and so you need to hate someone for it and so now you hate Donald Trump and all the people who voted for him. But he's just a regular guy who sits on the toilet like we all do. Get over it, and realize that if he is truly evil and if America is truly a great country, then the rest of the government will stop him from doing serious harm, no need for you to take it on alone with your silly handwritten signs, which do nothing.

Try meditating, it might make you feel better.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Free Stuff is Hard to Come By

My husband and I are both smart, which is nice. You don't get scammed when you're smart, and I've always thought scams sounded lame and avoidable, yet mysterious. So last week, when we got a postcard inviting us to be scammed, we thought we'd go forward just to see how it feels. Last Saturday evening we attended a 90-minute sales presentation by TOURICO VACATIONS, the prerequisite for getting two free airplane tickets on jetBlue to anywhere in the US, and a free two-night stay at a Hilton wherever we wanted to go. We bit. Hey, it was either that or a movie and nothing good was playing. And besides, who doesn't want free stuff? We called the number on the card and made our reservation.

The lady on the phone said to "Come early, so you can get a good seat." We arrived at the small hotel in Brunswick, Maine at the appointed hour and made our way to the conference room, where we were greeted by the telephone lady. She asked if we had come ready to buy something. "Did you bring your checkbook?" she asked, sort of laughing. We said no, not laughing, confessing we had mainly come for the free airplane tickets. She stopped laughing. Eventually nobody else showed up and the Pitch Guy came in, straight from Central Casting and sporting a comically large pot belly and an inky black toupee. He looked like a stand-up comic from the late 1970s, spitting out the same bad jokes. He got started since apparently we were the entire audience. (We had the best seats in the house.)

There was a film showing beautiful beaches with palm trees and cruise ships and Italy and Rome and lots of other destinations. It lasted maybe two minutes, then the TOURICO VACATIONS logo came up and the film ended. Pitch Guy (P.G.) started jabbering about how much money we could save, and that this is not a time share deal, and we would make our money back in two trips and they had 250,000 satisfied customers saving millions of dollars on travel because of their membership in the club. I repeatedly asked the price, but P.G. just skirted the issue and made more bad jokes. Eventually we got some numbers out of him, like $8,995 which quickly dropped to $5,995, then $4,995 and finally $3,995, depending either on this or that variable or the incredulous looks on our faces whenever he mentioned an amount. Plus a $200 annual service fee.

We said we'd like to sleep on it, even though P.G. swore up and down that he was "only able to make my very best offer on this one night only." We said we'd take our chances and come by the next day with our best offer. We went home and got on our computers and did some research and found almost nothing about TOURICO VACATIONS. I said almost; we found an ABC News video saying the company worked under different names and was a scam, and described our experience perfectly. (Since then the company has hastily thrown up some links to their "website" and a few falsehoods have appeared on the Better Business Bureau website.)

We decided to go back the next day to claim our free airline tickets and hotel voucher and not join the travel club. Only there was no free anything. We were given cards from TOURICO VACATIONS explaining that the free gifts were from another company, not them, and we would have to register for them and include $75.00 for the registration fee. Then we would receive information in the mail with instructions on how to get the "free" gifts, but there would be another $150 in additional fees. It was likely, according one of the few reviews we did find online, that there would be several more forms to fill out, after which we would learn it was too late, it had all taken too long and the offer had expired.

The only good thing in this story.
On the way out I stole a chocolate-covered peanut butter ball from the unmanned hotel lobby snack bar. By then I figured I deserved something for free. (BTW, it was to die for.)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Film Review: LION

Saroo, lost and alone as a child.
First of all, bring tissues. An over-the-top tearjerker from start to finish, Lion is nevertheless a valuable investment of your time, in part because it tells a true story. The fact that real people actually lived it saves the film from being just maudlin and melodramatic and elevates it to an important lesson: Life really sucks sometimes, but this too shall pass.

Lion, which has nothing at all to do with lions by the way, is an emotional ride for anyone but the most hardened of souls. The first half of this two-hour long epic is dominated by Saroo, an adorable 5-year-old played with incredible skill by the adorable 8-year-old actor Sunny Prawan. Having gotten separated from his brother and then falling asleep on an empty train that takes him 1,000 miles from home, he wanders the teeming streets of Calcutta, dodging danger and escaping depravity, for two months. His struggle to survive purely on his wits and an occasional bite of food is almost too hard to witness. Finally his luck changes and he is mercifully adopted by a loving Australian couple -- the mother is played by Nicole Kidman in her first likable role -- and whisked off to Tasmania where, after 20 years, he turns into actor Dev Patel as the adult Saroo.

Saroo, still lost and alone, but older.
The film's second half depicts Saroo's growing obsession with his past. Despite having a good life in the present, with a loving girlfriend and a promising career, the constant flashbacks to his traumatic childhood drive him half-crazy with a need to find his birth family in India. It would be unfair to give more details about his undertaking, other than to say that Google Earth is a big help.

With a haunting musical score, deeply affecting performances by the entire cast, stunning aerial shots of India and Australia, and a story that's never less than hold-your-breath gripping, Lion is a masterful film you 'll think about long after you leave the theater.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Why Trump Won

What's new? Nothing. Day in and day out, it's the same old same old. Really. Stuck in their ruts, everyone does what they do, over and over.  For example, here I am writing a blog about some trivial observation a la Jerry Seinfeld. Nobody cares, least of all me.

Not funny!
On Facebook, one friend posts pictures of the ocean, every day. Yes, they are very gorgeous, stupendous, and inspirational even  -- but haven't I seen them all before? Another posts pictures of spiders or bugs or the sky, each oddly familiar. Another posts political memes putting down Democrats or touting Trump's superiority. Another posts stilted family photos of life among the leisure class, enjoying their money. (Must be nice.)  Another posts oh-so-adorable animal videos, truly the most annoying and nauseating and mindless of them all. (Yes Kathy, kitties are cute when they try to stuff themselves into cardboard boxes!)
Truly Tragic

Even the news is recycled. A Hollywood actress has a nervous breakdown. Somebody famous you forgot was even still alive dies and People has its cover story; this week it's Mary Tyler Moore. (They should change the name to Dead People.) Somebody else dies, then somebody else. Somebody still alive and, rich and famous enough to have a publicist, gets divorced, or married, or announces they are pregnant or they just had a new baby and they named it Cosmic or Kiwi or Truth.
Gone too soon! Was she murdered?

A new diet explodes on the scene, one guaranteed to have you lose all the weight you want without meetings, pills, measuring, exercise or giving up ice cream and brownies and pizza, results not typical. Marie Osmond appears in another commercial (wearing even more makeup and a different new dress), gushing over those fifty pounds she lost twenty years ago. (Okay Marie, move on already!)

We love your ice cream!
There's a hurricane coming. (Cut to a video of a supermarket with empty shelves and long lines at the checkout.) There was an avalanche, a tornado, a mudslide. An earthquake buries 25, searchers are sifting through the rubble. A Nor'easter pounds New England. (Cut to the video of people at the hardware store buying snow shovels.) A heat wave bakes Phoenix. Temperatures soar, while frigid weather kills a homeless man in Minnesota.

If only you had eaten something.....
Crime is up in Chicago. It's down in New York. It's a holiday weekend, expect delays, roads are clogged, traffic jams are expected, leave early. Meanwhile, a lone shooter with Islamic ties. shoots up a nightclub, a school, an office building, a cafe, or rams a truck into a crowd at a street festival or a....
No wonder Trump won. He's a one-man freak show. (Finally, something new to talk about!)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What Have You Been Drinking?

As I recall growing up in the 1950s, it was idyllic. This was not just because I was a kid and childhood is superior to adulthood, although that helps. It was more because of a lack of striving to be the happiest, the smartest, the coolest and the trendiest. There was no "cutting-edge," and if there were you were likely nowhere near it. There was far less inanity; specifically there was no Twitter, which has surely got to signify the lowest point in the evolution of our species.

Most of our food came from a small grocery within walking distance to our modest home. A dozen eggs were delivered to our back door once a week by Artie, the Egg Man. There was no club soda or sparkling Pellegrino; instead we received a case of seltzer (in those glass bottles with the spigots) once a month, brought by Phil, the Seltzer Guy. We had a party line on the phone and when you dialed "0" a real lady answered and asked how she could help you. There were no talking robots calling our house; when the phone rang you were confident it would be a close friend or relative on the other end. Drinking water came out of the kitchen sink faucet or, in summer, the backyard hose. I could go on, but why bother -- it's all just nostalgia now, replaced by modern social media making everyone, regardless of who they are or how much they've got, feel like crap.

The latest tool by which to judge people is their water  consumption. Despite the growing belief that using plastic bottles means you are a disciple of the Devil bent on world destruction by choking every fish in the sea, killing all the dolphins and whales and filling the planet with mountains of detritus, still those mega-corporations, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, are continuing to duke it out for world dominance as they seemingly have since the Dawn of Man. Only now it's without the added sugar.

An impending battle between the two companies is set to begin on Super Bowl Sunday, when competing TV commercials will present their new products to the public. Apparently Americans have finally tired of drinking artificially colored, sugar-laden carbonated chemicals with no nutritional value and in fact only bad results (i.e., soda drinkers have a higher risk of cancer and obesity), so Coke and Pepsi are diving head-first into the bottled water business with smartwater (one word, all lower case) and LIFEWTR (misspelled in all caps).

Since the recipe for water is pretty much a done deal, they're spending zillions on packaging with fancy labels designed by emerging artists. According to PepsiCo's marketing chief Seth Kaufman (an obvious moron so kudos to Pepsi for hiring the handicapped), "There is demand for water that says something about the consumer as they're walking around with it." I guess Seth grew up drinking lots of soda, the poor guy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Abortions R Us

Americans are in a tizzy over abortion. Those on the left want to make sure they can always get one, and in fact millions of women marched (actually they sauntered and strolled, I saw very little actual marching) to show their manic devotion to that medical procedure allowing them to enjoy sex without consequences, while those on the right think it is abhorrent to murder defenseless little babies in the womb.

I certainly ran with the pro-abortion pack during my sexual revolution days. (I won't go into details but let's just say I had a running tab at Planned Parenthood.) But once I gave birth to a human being who turned out to be one of God's greatest creations and without whom my life would be all but meaningless, I started to be more sympathetic to those anti-abortion ladies. Not all the way to agreeing with them, but at least able to see their point. Now the issue is crouching in the back of many brains, ready to spring into action against a Vice-President who is clearly anti-abortion and a Congress that just last week approved a bill barring taxpayer money to fund the procedure.

I can't imagine anything changing the way things are right now, since clearly we do love our abortions, but I do wonder, sometimes, if murdering unborn babies (come on, let's at least call a spade a spade and drop that whole "pro-choice" bullshit) is why we have horrendous plagues like cancer and other horrible diseases. Is God pissed at us? Just wondering.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Oscars. Yawn.

Ta-da! Waking up an hour shy of crack-of-dawn today, I clicked on the TV to see how Trump had been politically incorrect overnight and was greeted with a flurry of excitement on all TV channels: The nominations for the 2017 Oscars were being announced today! (No wonder I couldn't sleep.) Later, after a bowl of oatmeal to brace myself, I sought the details.

No surprise at all, Casey Affleck was nominated for Best Actor in Manchester by the Sea, which was also nominated as Best Picture. If you haven't seen that film, don't bother -- you can achieve the exact same results for free by staying home and holding your hand over an open flame. Better yet, just stick your head in the oven and turn it on, the movie is that much fun. As for Casey's performance, he pretty much mopes around, head hanging down, eyes on the floor and whimpering like a sad puppy the whole time. It's easy to be a great actor when you're playing someone who is seriously, and I mean seriously, depressed. I could go on, but who cares.

About Nobody in Particular

If you've never read The Caine Mutiny, the 1951 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Herman Wouk, or seen the 1954 movie adaptation starring Humphrey Bogart, now would surely be the perfect time to do so. 

Besides being a wonderfully written page-turner that exemplifies the inherent joys of storytelling as an art form, it presents a powerful study of a long-suppressed paranoid personality bubbling to the surface in someone who occupies a position of authority, ultimately bringing about his downfall, that you might want to know about. And despite having been written so long ago, it's quite timely.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Leave Me Out of It, Starting Now

Please stop, I tell myself. Just stop, and think about it: When was the last time your life was impacted in any way by who occupied the Oval Office? Never, that's when.

I know this is not true for many other people, the poor and huddled masses, the knocked-up teenage girls, married gays, anyone confused about which bathroom to use, families on welfare etc., but it's true for me and thus I have nothing to add to the fray. Nothing but sarcasm and wisecracks and wry observations. Like a wheelchair-bound paraplegic at Radio City Music Hall offering dancing tips to the Rockettes, I (and people like me, i.e. most people) should just STFU on the whole entire subject.

Some folks I know (I won't name names but they have the same last name as me and their first names are Keith and Randy) have made armchair politics a full-time job. Even though they are not members of the aforementioned groups who are most affected by government policies, and even though they are not lawyers working pro bono to help the poor and disadvantaged, and even though they have paying jobs and food on the table for themselves and their families, still they spend their days finding ways to denigrate the new president (like that helps anything), researching old photos that may be incriminating, old statements uttered long before Trump had any thoughts of running for office, in fact any old piece of shit about him and his family, then posting the detritus Facebook.

What they hope to accomplish I have no idea, since everyone of their ilk already hates Trump as much as they do and anyone who doesn't cannot be swayed by loony lefties. Thus their toil amounts to little more than busy work that allows them to feel superior because they are "involved in the political process."

My goal is to become uninvolved, and the sooner the better.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

I've been feeling sad these past few weeks, my cells apparently infused with the rampant hatred permeating the highways and byways, the airwaves and cyberwaves, and almost the very air we all breathe since November's election of Not Hillary.

My husband said I should lighten up, not let it get to me, and instead find my "inner laughter." So I started looking for it, and today I struck pay dirt. In the midst of all the misinformation being thrown around online I stumbled across one woman, a friend of a friend, who, after marching around with a sign all day yesterday to clarify just how much she hates Donald Trump and that he is not her president and never will be, avowed her undying allegiance to women's rights, adding, "Besides, everyone knows that Planned Parenthood DOES NOT perform abortions."

All I can say is, "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!" (Thanks lady, that felt good.)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Check Your Trump Status

Seeking to understand the intense level of hatred so many Americans feel for Donald Trump, a man they have never met in person and never will, and about whom they know nothing for sure and instead believe whatever trash they read in the slanted press, my morning perusal of Facebook finally opened my eyes, leading me to say, "I get it!" And here it is: The worse your own life is going, the more you hate Trump. And the better your life is going, the more you hate Trump. It's that simple. Two distinct things led to this "Eureka!" moment.

The first was the action of a physically sick and increasingly bitter man I know who posted the entire, sexually-debasing screed about women that Donald Trump recorded in an interview on shock-jock Howard Stern's radio show more than a decade ago as his own status on Facebook! No matter that Trump, older and wiser, was sworn in as POTUS yesterday; this guy is stuck in the past, probably back when he was healthy and more optimistic about life.

The second was the action of one of my dearest friends who is happy almost all the time, has a contagiously cheerful outlook on life, has been in a solid relationship for over a decade and loves his job. He probably wants things to stay just as they are, and I can't blame him. He has been devoted to our outgoing president for the last eight years and yesterday replaced his own Facebook profile photo with one of Barack Obama.

So I guess I'm somewhere in the middle, since I couldn't care less about the whole damn thing. Whatever happens happens. Trump is my president now, and yours, like it or not. More importantly, for the third morning in a row my left hand hurts like hell when I wake up. This lasts for a couple of hours, and it's got me worried. My husband thinks I must have pulled a muscle at the gym in the last week and I think he's right. I'm alternating ice and heat to calm it down.

That's my status. What's yours?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Passing the Baton

Today, January 20, 2017, at exactly twelve noon, I will start my one-hour workout with my personal trainer, as I have done three times each week for many months now. I will do the same things I always do, except maybe he will add something to the mix to make me work harder. It will make absolutely no difference in my workout who is the president of the United States, or who is being sworn in as the new one, or who sings at the Inauguration or what the wives are wearing or how sad Hillary Clinton looks. I don't need to see any of that, I need to do more lunges and squats and work on strengthening my core so I don't fall apart. What goes on at noon in another city will make little difference in anyone's lives except of course those of the actual incoming and outgoing Presidents of the United States, their family members and all those people who work for our government.

I really miss Michael!

Thus, I am totally, utterly and sincerely confused as to why people are crying over the passing of the baton, saying they will "miss" the Obamas. Have they ever met any of them? Did even one member of the Obama family ever call them at home, or have them over for dinner, or pick them up at the airport or make them tea when they were sick or visit them after surgery or help jump-start their car or drive them to the ER or bake them a birthday cake or do even the slightest thing for them, ever?

So what's up with the whole "missing" thing? That's like saying you "miss" Elvis Presley or Frank Sinatra or Freddie Mercury or John Lennon or Michael Jackson (moonwalking!) or Paul Newman or Phillip Seymour Hoffman or JFK or Princess Diana or James Gandolfini or Robin Williams or Andy Warhol or George Harrison or the entire cast of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm and Frasier and Will & Grace, although I hear they are coming back for ten new episodes. That should be fun no matter who lives in the White House.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The End of Funny

One of my dearest friends gives me almost daily feedback on this blog. I value her opinion enormously. She said she found yesterday's post "very distressing." Not just distressing, but very distressing. I found that very alarming. (Not just alarming.) And not simply because I had written something that upset her, which I was sad to learn, but because she was right.

A long time ago I wrote a weekly humor column for a newspaper in Salt Lake City. I had to come up with funny stuff every week, and I always did. My goal was at least one laugh-out-loud line. When I started this blog ten years ago I had the same goal. But those days are gone; now I can barely come up with a wry grin. And it's not because I'm not funny anymore: I still crack myself up all the time. (Besides my son I'm the funniest person I know personally.) It's just that the world is no longer funny, which explains how someone like that piggish Amy Schumer, whose comedy consists of describing sex acts and spewing dirty words about genitalia, has become such a huge star. That's funny?

Also not funny anymore, and this is truly a great loss, is Saturday Night Live. It's over for them. Like Ringling's circus elephants, the show should just retire and go to Florida. Seeing Alec Baldwin in a blond wig, waving his hands and pursing his lips a la Donald Trump has already gotten stale, and Trump isn't even in office yet! Just imagine the boredom to come if either of them lasts four more years.

See, this post wasn't funny at all. Global chaos does that to a genre. In fact, even one of the funniest jokes I've heard is no longer funny:  *A black man walks into a bar. The bartender sees him and yells, "Get out!" 

*(No, you are not a racist if you laughed. It's the shock value.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Death By Blabbing

If you want clarity on what is going on these days here in the United States, read Shirley Jackson's short story, "The Lottery." It sounds like science fiction but it's actually a realistic depiction of how our society works: Once a year an ordinary citizen is randomly chosen for slaughter. In Jackson's haunting story, the victim is stoned to death by a crowd of perfectly normal people who are just following orders. Each one in turn picks up a rock and throws it onto the growing pile, feeling nothing less than patriotic.

But that's so barbaric; we are, after all, a civilized people! We would never do such a thing! So instead, we do it with words. This year's loser is Donald Trump, and the ceaseless piling on by almost everyone is simply appalling to witness. It matters not what the man says; he got the losing ticket -- ironically, by winning -- and that's that.

Just following orders, thousands of average, know-nothing townsmen and women are jumping on the anti-Trump bandwagon, repeating and even manufacturing wrong information simply to be on the "right side." Daily, the rocks pile higher and higher.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What's In a Name?

Funny, isn't it, about Donald Trump.  I mean Donald Trump. He trumped everyone, all those other Republicans who started out running and those three Democrats too, and for no damn good reason apparently, at least based on what's gone on since he won. So I looked up the word "trump."  It means "To have superior power over. To surpass or outdo." Obviously names have inherent power. And don't get me started on Anthony Weiner...

I'm on this subject because my son has been toying with changing his last name, believing it to be a handicap: "Rouda makes me sound rude," he lamented. And maybe it sets up that expectation, poisoning the well, so to speak. My husband, born with the name, says that back in high school many of his teachers chided him with, "How do you spell your name: R-U-D-E?" (I'm guessing he was pretty rude back then.)

So then I started thinking, what with Trump trumping everyone, what if people are finding me rude just because of my name? Is that why they didn't hire me to sell duck boots to tourists at L. L. Bean? Because they worried I would be rude to the customers? So if my name were Andrea Kneiss, would I have gotten the job? Or perhaps Andrea Sweet? Heck, why beat around the bush, how about Andrea Goode? Who knows, maybe that one would help me sell paintings. 

So now I'm thinking of changing my name. It seems silly since I've had this one for 30 years, but hey, better late than never. And the best part is I can still be rude whenever I want, but it will come as a real surprise. (That could be fun to watch.)

Monday, January 16, 2017

Boo Hoo Democrats

That senator or congressman or representative or whatever he is, John Lewis, the one who looks exactly like a bulldog, is all over the place these days saying that Trump is not "legitimate" because the Russians did something or other and so he is not going to attend the Inauguration. Oh well, that will really put a damper on the proceedings, which I heard will cost upwards of 200 million bucks, some of which comes straight from MY TAXES!!!! (And yours, of course.) Now that's just plain silly, if you ask me. Why not just have the new president swear on a bible in some office inside the Capitol and then everyone go have lunch someplace nice?

Anyway, when I voted last November here in Freeport there was not a Russian in sight. In fact I worked at my local polling station for seven or eight hours and I never saw anybody who could even be mistaken for a Russian by someone with bad eyesight. I cast my vote and nobody stopped me or made any suggestions I do anything, so who knows what that's all about. And let's face it: people have hated Hillary Clinton for years, at least eight which is why she did not get the nomination last time.

It's so annoying. Come on Dems, man up. Trump won, Hillary lost. It may suck or it may not suck, but it's a done deal. Staying away from the Inauguration won't change a thing.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Truly Childhood's End

Face it: Life is hard. And these days that's true even for the kids, who grow up much faster than they did back in my youth. (I can still hear Lynn Rosenblatt asking in 8th grade Health class if it were true that you got pregnant when a boy and a girl both took a bite from the opposite ends of the same banana at the same time.) So it seems to me that every bit of respite from the anxieties of modern life is to be treasured, making the announcement by Ringling Bros. to shut down their circus in May, after 146 years of delighting families, a total and complete bummer.

Even though I haven't attended the circus in years, during my childhood it was a much-anticipated  annual event not to be missed. I have so many circus memories from so many years, starting at about age four. One special memory was my very first fainting experience, which happened inside the side show (a.k.a. "freak show") full of oddities where patrons wandered before entering the Big Top for the "Greatest Show on Earth." I passed out right in front of the Elephant Lady, finding the grey, wrinkled skin on her enormous body a tad too freaky, and hoping I hadn't hurt her feelings on my way down.

And speaking of elephants, they pretty much brought about the demise of the circus after animal rights activists sued over alleged mistreatment by their handlers. Hey, I am a huge proponent of not hurting or abusing or exploiting animals, but still, was it really so terrible to have them walk in a parade with pretty girls sitting on top of them, wearing fancy hats (the girls and the elephants), or balance themselves on those little striped stands and twirl around gracefully, or maybe link trunks in a line  Rockette-style and curtsy towards their adoring fans? It's not like they were getting whipped or beaten or starved, unless of course that's what they did to make them do all those things....

Anyway, all the elephants left in May of last year and retired to Florida. (No kidding.) Kenneth Feld, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, explained in a recent interview that their longest act is currently twelve minutes, and you can't get kids to sit through a 12-minute act, even if it is performing tigers. Funny, isn't it, how they can sit for hours watching virtual creatures on those dumb video games.

So now the real circus is gone, and the only one left is in Washington, D.C., and that's no fun at all. God help the children.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sick of Winter

The definition of unconsciousness is "processes in the mind which occur automatically and are not available to introspection, and include thought processes, memories, interests, and motivations." So  shouldn't it be called "stream of unconsciousness?"

Anyway, yesterday's post got tons of clicks, probably because it had the word racism in the title. Racism is very big these days. If you want to really cut someone down, you call them a racist. Or a hater, same thing. Like hating is so bad? Personally, I hate a lot of things, including but not limited to spiders, rare diseases, cancer in children (not that I love it in adults but in kids it is especially heinous), calamari, jellyfish, getting stung by jellyfish, sunburn, being constipated, scotch, bourbon, in fact all whiskey of any sort, men in Speedos, fat women in bikinis, thin towels, rubber flip-flops like they sell at Target, and Target.

I guess people were hoping they would find some really juicy stuff they could get worked up about, like I hate blacks or all Jews are pushy or I voted for Trump and I think the wall is a great idea. But none of those things are true and if they were I would surely not admit to them. That's what's so great about lying, you can just say anything you want! I read somewhere last week that the average adult lies about twenty times a day or more, who knows, I might be lying about that.

This morning when I woke up there were just seven degrees here in Freeport. I imagine them floating around the town, darting here and there, hovering above people's houses for just a second before moving on, trying to be fair and heat everyone up. No wonder it's so cold. It's a little better now, there are fourteen of them.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Call Me Racist

Right now, here in Maine, a mini-controversy is brewing over the name of a major boulevard leading into the city of Portland's downtown area, the part where all the tourists go. It is being suggested that the current Franklin Street be changed to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, just like all those other Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevards in all those other cities that did it. Today, despite the more than 900 streets in America named after Dr. King, blacks still get pulled over for little provocation by police officers and are incarcerated more often than white law-breakers, so perhaps that whole street-naming thing might be falling short of the mark.

Oy, there's even one in Jerusalem!

I guess I could be called "a racist." I know these days we are all supposed to be "color blind," but I am not -- I actually see the color of people's skin. I try hard not to, but it keeps happening.  Further proof that I am a racist is that I don't automatically drop to the ground and kiss the feet of every person of color for no reason beyond skin tone. I actually wait to see if they are kind, or smart or have good qualities of any kind before I draw any conclusions about their character. This is apparently wrong behavior.

True, Maine has a complex about this whole subject since African-Americans make up about 0.7% of its population, making it our country's "whitest state." But does anyone (besides those die-hard, non-thinking, knee-jerking liberals) really believe that naming a big street after a dead black leader will fix anything?

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Doctors Say the Darndest Things

I think we can all agree that fainting in public, which I happened to do last week, is not to be taken lightly. (Heck, fainting in private isn't all that great either.) So being proactive, which is very in these days, I decided to seek the cause. The day after it happened I went to see my regular doctor, the one with all the diplomas on the wall and the stethoscope around his neck and the huge malpractice insurance policy. After careful consideration and an EKG he said, "People faint all the time, it's nothing to worry about." I left feeling about 1% better.

Upon further reflection once I got home and poured myself a stiff drink (not really but it seemed to fit nicely right there), I realized that his statement rivaled my orthopedic surgeon's declaration last June: Closely examining the X-ray of my deteriorating hip, he turned to me and said, "Someone would have to be retarded not to get this fixed." Not being retarded, at least at the time, I opted to fix it, simultaneously forgiving the surgeon for his political incorrectness, and all is well. But still, since you rarely see people dropping like flies in the streets, I decided to look elsewhere for an explanation of my recent fainting spell and made an appointment with my acupuncturist.

I hadn't seen him in months, what with being so busy getting a new hip, and in all that time a lot could happen."Maybe my Qi is clogged," I suggested to my husband. His thoughtful reply, "You never know, could be," sealed the deal, and so I went in earlier today to get needles stuck all over my body in hopes of releasing the stalled "energy flow" and "life force" that might be gumming up the works. It's too early to tell if it worked, but at least the guy didn't say anything stupid.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Loss of Innocence

Please don't tell me, please don't tell me.......
In my younger days I always believed everything I read in the newspaper. In fact I had so much respect for newspapers I spent my career working for more than a few of them, either as an art director, graphic designer or writer, on staff or freelance. But then a few cracks in the armor appeared, revealing glimpses of how the executives at the top (and some of the reporters at the bottom) were manipulating things to sell more papers, thus rake in more advertising. My awakening was gradual, until one day I finally understood that newspapers are a for-profit business, not a public service. I consider that moment, somewhere in my mid-thirties, as my true loss of innocence.

Since then my habit is to remain skeptical of everything I haven't witnessed personally, which makes the act of reading a daily paper little more than a diversion to accompany breakfast. I do this despite knowing that it's far healthier to eat a meal without any distractions but rather to give full attention to what you're putting in your body. So it makes sense that one should give as much attention, if not more, to what goes into your mind, which means I can no longer read the daily paper. It's too risky, what with me being slightly nuts already, and even more so in the current climate of "fake news" being dispensed everywhere, even by the once respectable but now fallen CNN and New York Times.

So with all this free time I'm hoping to make more art. Shown above is my latest oil painting of South Freeport Road, a lovely backwoods road I travel several times each day. Seen here it is a late afternoon in early autumn when a big moon hung in the sky, even though it was not yet night.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Enough With the Munchkins Already

There's nothing like a good cry to start the day. That and a steaming cup of black coffee. Throw in a Lorazepam and some oatmeal and I'm good to go. At least that combo used to work, before things got so ugly out there. But lately I'm feeling I might need to add something to my morning mix, like maybe some earplugs and a paper bag over my head, you know, to drown out all the caterwauling.

What I don't get is why the heat is turned up so high concerning the election of Trump (now fairly old news), his impending inauguration (a legal matter and really none of our business), and the recent babbling of a Hollywood actress, causing all the little people to blow their tops on Facebook and throughout the media. Why not just relax and enjoy the show?

When I hear all the bluster I am most reminded of that scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy is about to set off for The Emerald City. She plants her sparkly red shoes firmly on the yellow brick road, which is pretty damn easy to spot, we can all agree. And the instructions she's given by Glinda the Witch are as straightforward as Mapquest: "Follow the yellow brick road!"

A Munchkin helpfully pointing out the obvious to Dorothy.

So off Dorothy goes, that yellow brick road fairly glowing ahead of her, and yet after every few steps she takes one of those odd Munchkins pops up and shouts, "Follow the yellow brick road!" as if he's spouting pearls of wisdom. Dorothy ventures a few feet forward and suddenly there's another little Munchkin, again directing her to "follow the yellow brick road" like he just thought of it himself and wanted to clarify the situation. Meanwhile, Dotty's probably thinking, "Yeah, buddy, thanks for the tip but I got this."

That's how I see all those "helpful" Democrats who keep popping up every few feet and spouting all the same things, thinking they're helping to clarify the situation with their very own pearls of wisdom when really it's all just in their scripts and by now they've learned their lines well. In fact, so well that now everyone knows their lines: Trump's a racist, misogynist, Islamaphobe, xenophobe, pussy-grabbing, ignoramus, reality TV star, Hitler, gone bankrupt, what about his taxes, she won the popular vote. Did I leave anything out?

I don't know about you but I'm ready for a scene change. And I'm really ready for a new director. And enough with the Munchkins already.

Monday, January 9, 2017

What's Good for the Goose.....

Even scarier than "The Twilight Zone."
A dear friend of mine who I love and respect recently bemoaned the fact that six of Trump's cabinet appointees are scheduled to have confirmation hearings all on the same day. This is purportedly being done to speed up the bullshit process, but my friend and many others just like him see it as an "ultra-expedited" ploy to make proper vetting of the nominees virtually impossible, thus ushering in further evil to the already devil-ridden Trump administration.

I gotta say, he had me going there for awhile, not all the way to pulling my hair out but certainly duly alarmed. Until this morning, when I read the following in today's Wall Street Journal:
      "Holding five or more confirmation hearings on a single day has precedent; it occurred for both Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. Still, many Democrats say holding that many hearings at once  (Please see SENATE page A4)"

I saw no reason to read further. Can you blame me?

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Another, Much Better, Donald

I hate advertising. Despise it, abhor it, detest it and all the rest of the words that mean the same thing. This may stem from my earliest days as a graphic designer when I actually worked in one of those windowless cubbies in an advertising agency in Washington, D.C., selling can't-remember-what to God-knows-who. Regardless or the origin of my dislike, I now mute all ads on TV and pay not the slightest attention to them in print. Naturally they don't work on me. Except for one.

Young Donald was special.
I should be embarrassed to admit it but I switched from Tropicana, after switching from Florida's Best, to Simply Orange juice, all because of Donald Sutherland's voice. As a longtime fan of the actor, I saw every film he ever made until those Hunger Games in 2014 and 2015 -- after all, I have my standards: I want him young and handsome and sweet, not a malevolent old tyrant orchestrating death. Without Young Donald I was bereft! His son Kiefer only poured salt in the wound, looking like his father but not nearly as special, and so I never watched his hit TV show about 24 hours or something like that.

Basically my life was totally and sadly Sutherland-less, until one day I suddenly realized, hearing a commercial I hadn't muted in time, that Donald was doing the talking! And he sounded so honest, so pure, so un-commercial-sellouty, that I ran right out and bought some of that juice and found out Donald was right: It really is simply orange juice, no additives or preservatives and not from concentrate, and it tastes like you are on a beach in Florida! Now I am a permanent customer, and I turn up the volume on those OJ ads.

Young Donald was the greatest! Here are some of his most memorable movies; if you haven't seen them, get started:
Don't Look Now
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Ordinary People
Six Degrees of Separation
Max Dugan Returns
The Day of the Locust
The Dirty Dozen

Friday, January 6, 2017

Do You Even Lift?

"Let nothing upset you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything is changing. God alone is changeless. Patience attains the goal. Who has God lacks nothing. God alone fills every need." That's my mantra. I say those words to myself daily, several times a day in fact. Some days they calm me down. Others, not so much.

On those days I have an answer for everything. Like the fact that everything upsets me: The news, the foods I eat, the weather (it's fucking freezing here), my physical body, my sister in a nursing home, my dead cat Daisy who I still miss more than a year later. And, on some days, just about everything frightens me: War, hatred, politics, fainting in the supermarket.

And nothing changes: I still have high blood pressure (except when it's too low), I still live in Maine, people are still getting blown up for no reason. Okay, so maybe God is changeless, I'll give you that one. As for patience attaining the goal, I have no idea since I have no patience. I guess I don't "have God" since I lack a ton. And it almost goes without saying (I said almost) that He does not fill every need, or else I wouldn't lack a damn thing.

Well, this is turning out to be a bummer of a blog post so I'd better come up with a good ending, more positive or at least funny. One laugh at least. Okay, how about this: I guess should try to be more like my husband, who is truly a cockeyed optimist. He's happy if he dead lifts 350 pounds, or whatever is a good number to dead lift and whatever a dead lift is. He doesn't let those four crappy black kids who tortured a mentally ill white kid and posted it live on Facebook ruin his morning! No, he doesn't! After all, as he loves to point out in almost any situation, Hitler killed 6 million Jews and that was way worse.

I guess I'm gonna start dead lifting. Whatever that is.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

You're Only As Happy As Your Saddest Child

I hereby offer my eternal thanks to Debbie Reynolds, the recently deceased movie star who died just one day after her daughter, actress Carrie Fisher, passed away. As the story goes, Debbie's last words were, "I want to be with Carrie." Not sure if I swallow that one whole, especially in these days of fake-news, but still it's not all that crazy to imagine.

Debbie and Carrie, happily alive.
Face it: Mothers and children have an unbreakable bond. You don't have a creature living inside you for nine months and then simply expel it without some little bits of connective tissue left behind. I mean, did you see the 1979 Ridley Scott film Alien? And that thing was only inside the guy for a couple of days. (Not that I'm suggesting children are monsters but you see where I'm going with this.)

I recently saw a television interview with Debbie and Carrie from a few years ago wherein Debbie tears up at the end, saying, "As a mother, I want to protect my child. Who will do that after I'm gone? I want happiness for my child. I want Carrie to be happy. I can't have that, and that makes me sad." Aha! So there -- it's not just me! My husband, a male of the species, constantly harps (yes, men can harp) on the subject of me being unhappy if my only child is unhappy, claiming that it's neurotic. I say it's biology and that he should stop nagging me (yes, men can nag) to "live my own life" and blah, blah, blah.

Let's be clear: Of course I live my own life. But as someone who is overly empathic, suffering when I hear about the suffering of others, it's worse when it's my own flesh and blood, and the only person who fits that description is my son. Sorry, but that's the truth, and for the first (and hopefully only) time in my life I will employ the trite saying which in this case is quite fitting: It is what it is.

So thank you from the bottom of my heart, Debbie, for chasing down your beloved daughter in Heaven. I trust the two of you are happy there, getting mani-pedis together and playing Canasta or doing whatever it is you Christian folks do to bond.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Take A Break

When I was young, I cut the bigger, older trees for firewood, 
the ones with heart rot, dead and broken branches, 
the crippled and deformed ones, because, I reasoned, 
they were going to fall soon anyway,  and therefore, 
I should give the younger trees more light and room to grow.

Now I'm older and I cut the younger, strong and sturdy, 

solid and beautiful trees, 
and I let the older ones have a few more years 
of light and water and leaf in the forest they have known so long.
Soon enough they will be prostrate on the ground.

"The Woodcutter Changes His Mind" by David Budbill, 
from While We've Still Got Feet: New Poems. © Copper Canyon Press, 2005.

How Trump Won

Let's all agree: Life is not fair. The expectation that it will be begins, wrongly, in childhood. Parents "ooh" and "aah" over their offspring no matter what. Ugly babies are not called out as such, not that they should be, you understand, since beauty is in the eye of the beholder (ha!), but still, it's crazy to set up expectations that will never be met anywhere outside the nursery. Or the nursery school.

I've told this story before but it sticks in my mind even though it happened a quarter of a century ago, and I believe it bears repeating. My son was four, and of course extremely beautiful, the most beautiful in all the land according to my husband and me. He was one of 24 toddlers in a co-op nursery school in an adorable town full of adorable children. I helped out one day a week, as did all the other parents.

One sunny day we were all outside, the kids playing in the yard, when Cindy, the teacher, blew her whistle to signal that it was time for Sally, a darling angel, to get off the tricycle after her allotted five minutes so that Blake, an obnoxious biter everyone disliked, could have his turn. Blake was mean and stubborn and naturally outraged, pitching a fit that Sally was still riding around the yard "on his time." Sally, oblivious to any trouble brewing that involved her, was enjoying the sunshine with a big smile on her face and exercising her little legs.

I suggested that Blake do something else for awhile, like climb the monkey bars or play in the sandbox or continue kicking Nathan in the stomach. Horrified at this blasphemous thought, Cindy insisted that each child get exactly five minutes on the school's one and only trike. "Otherwise it wouldn't be fair," she explained. "We don't want to show any favoritism." Well guess what: Nothing is fair and favoritism is the name of the game. (This, by the way, is how Trump won, in case you wondered.)

My point is, I have a disease called labile hypertension. My blood pressure goes way up and then it goes way down. Yesterday I fainted in the supermarket. Some mornings I won't leave the house for fear of having a stroke. It sucks. I hate it. Why me? But then I hear about a friend who is much sicker than I am, or another who is in perfec thealth and has everything, and I realize that it's all a crap shoot. I'm not really the most wonderful, most beautiful, smartest, cleverest girl in the world like my mother always said. (I'm also not the worst, like my ex-husband still believes.)

I was kicked off that tricycle years ago and scrounged around for something else to do. I found it. Lately it involves being on hold with my doctor's office for long stretches of time, causing me to still wonder, "Why me?" It's just not fair.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Who You Callin' A Loser?

I recently came across the following comment about Donald Trump in a pissing match on Facebook: "Trump is such a LOSER. Live with it!" 

I was confused. Sure, Donald Trump has been called many things, most of which are not very nice words to call someone, but how can "loser" be one of them? I mean, the guy beat Hillary Clinton, the undisputed Queen of the Democrats who have been preparing for her coronation since the last presidential election, and is about to become our 45th president. He won the election, so doesn't that make him a winner, or does loser mean something else now, like bad means good and ill means awesome and gay has nothing to do with mood?

Suspecting that this was yet another example of how far behind the times I have fallen, beginning with my decision to not get a Twitter account several years ago, I fairly flew to the Urban Dictionary and found that "loser" now has many definitions, and hardly any of them pertain to coming in last. Here are just a few I found, some of which may or may not apply to our incoming president:

1. The top definition was "A dumb bitch who uses the wrong hand to make the "L" symbol on her forehead." So essentially, someone who becomes a loser while busy pointing out someone else as a loser. Not sure why it's a dumb bitch, though; couldn't this also apply to a male? Or even a transgender?

2. A person who has fallen off the social ladder, climbed down the social ladder, jumped off the social ladder, or just never bothered to climb the social ladder in the first place. (Definitely not Trump since he is clearly at the top of the ladder and has been for most of his life. He may have even built the ladder.)

3. Someone who generally sucks at life. (Again, not Trump.)

4. Really cool people who are unique. (Not Trump, but possibly me.)

5. A stereotypical term for one who doesn't fit into mainstream society, or is lacking friends. "Losers" are usually really funny, unique, or smart individuals who people refuse to befriend in fear that they themselves might be labeled a "loser." (Everyone I admire.)

6. A toxic person who, despite having many opportunities to succeed in life, consistently makes bad choices which result in professional and personal failure. They usually end up dragging everyone near them into the loser culture, which makes them toxic. The key to identifying a loser is the consistency with which they make bad decisions and their inability to learn from, admit to, and correct their mistakes. Narcissism and low self-esteem are hallmark personality characteristics of a loser.  (Hillary Clinton.)

7. Someone doomed to fail. (Uh-oh, do we have a winner?) 

Anyway, the thing to bear in mind, especially if you see yourself in one of these definitions, is that Albert Einstein was thought of as a loser when he was young, but was really just unique and slightly autistic. He ended up being one of our most revered scientists and everybody in the world knows his name. So there.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Why I Hate Virginia Woolf

Well here it is only the second day of what was just yesterday a brand new clean year without a blemish, spread before me like just-washed sheets on a King-sized bed, bringing to mind a hotel in the Catskills where I went as a young girl with my parents and grandparents, my grandmother a Polish immigrant and overwhelmed by its opulence, smelling fabulous and completely inviting, suggesting all manner of possible adventures to come, and now there's a big, fat black splotch on it already, almost through no fault of my own and despite my having actually done the very thing that has brought about its ruin, quite unintentionally I might add, or rather with only the best of intentions, and that was spending more than an hour, and at my age time is precious, last evening, reading Mrs. Dalloway, a novel by Virginia Woolf that somehow (wrongly I see now) I had decided was worth my time and attention; neither of which it is, or yours either, unless you have enjoyed this ridiculously meandering sentence about which nobody could care but myself, or in the case of Ms. Woolf, herself. It's little wonder she ended her life, whereas I still have mine and plan to enjoy it as much as possible, which means to Hell with reading Virginia Woolf, she of the enveloping dark headaches blotting out everything else and the voices in her head -- chiding, always chiding -- and the long face; instead I will find a cheerful author who has neither drowned him or herself nor shot him or herself or stuck his or her own head in the oven like Sylvia Plath did, and believe me her famous book The Bell Jar is no walk in the park either, and continue with my plan to read a book every month, just not any by Virginia Woolf, or in fact any suicidal author, and I find that to be a considerable relief. Instantly the day seems brighter!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Proper Resolution

What a great feeling! So far this whole year I have not made one mistake. Now if I can just keep doing that for the next 364 days, 2017 will be a great year. Alas, that's unlikely, but still it's a good thing to keep in mind.

I have finally come up with a serious resolution, unlike the one I divulged recently to make pigs-in-a-blanket. It's not that I'm not going to make them, but just that it's hardly worthy of being called a new year's "resolution." But this one is: In 2017 I will read a new book every month. (Not newly published, just new to me.) That may sound like not much of a goal, but for me it's a biggie since I usually just keep re-reading books I love. I mean why not do something you know in advance makes you happy? This explains why I have read Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome at least a dozen times. But enough is enough, it's time to move on.

This month's book is Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf if it kills me, which it may judging from page one. And let's remember, Ms. Woolf drowned herself at age 59, possibly because her books were so boring and she had to write them. Anyway, I'm determined to make it all the way to the end, having never read anything by that esteemed author, and will then write a critique of it right here. Now it's off to the supermarket for those baby hot dogs.