Monday, February 26, 2018

Eating for beginners

My mother liked to make an opera--soap or grand, as the occasion demanded--out of little things.  For instance, she thought my brother was in imminent danger of starving because he had skinny arms and legs.  So she fed him at every opportunity.  After he had eaten dinner, if he left so much as a pea on his plate, she would take him to the drive-in and stuff him with French fries like someone stuffing a Strasburg goose.  This continued until the kid weighed 200 pounds, at 5'7".  She then started harping at him for being too fat.

 I was a fussy eater.  I liked hot chocolate, but if there was a layer of skim on the top of the cup, I not only would not eat it, I  ran out of the room screaming.  I wouldn't eat anything made with mayonnaise, because I couldn't identify the ingredients.  My father believed in stern discipline on the food front.  He made me sit at the table until I had consumed enough to satisfy him, or until bedtime, whichever came first.  Long dreary hours (probably only minutes, but they seemed like hours) passed as I stared at the congealed fat on my now tepid plate, without eating it of course. Mercifully, bedtime freed me.

  Then there was the morning milk.  Dad believed that milk was good for children, particularly at breakfast.  I could not, or would not, drink cold milk in the morning.  If I was made to drink it, I usually threw up.  Mealtimes were full of drama at our house.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

How the Anglo-Saxons saved my life, with the help of the Bexley, OH library

Of course I'm an Anglophile, and have been since the age of 13.  That was how old I was when I read my first book by P G Wodehouse and discovered the wonderful world of country estates, servants, and the Drones Club.  What a great place to live!  Even at that age, I knew it was too good to be true, but that in no way detracted from its charm.  Fortunately, that was in the old days, when the Bexley  Library had not discarded any books, so I was able to read a dozen volumes by the Master.

  And then I discovered Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice, to be exact.  I loved that book so much that when I first finished reading it I went back to the opening and read it again.  Country houses!  Balls!   Gossip!   But it wasn't just the setting, I loved Jane Austen's style.  These two authors taught me to write, taught me what a great writing style could bring to a book, and got me on the road to being a lifelong Anglophile and a prodigious reader.   

  I'm not kidding when I said they saved my life, either.  I was a miserable kid, attending a new school, and two years younger than my classmates.  My parents were getting divorced, not that either of them mentioned the topic, but my father's total absence from our new house was noticeable even to an unobservant child.  I also didn't have the clothes the popular girls wore.  Even my shoes were not quite right. 

  In addition to this, I was so shy that I dreaded anyone even looking at me.  Needless to say, I had no friends.  My classmates scared me.  I hated that school with an intensity that frightens me to this day.  Once I went away to college, I never walked down the street where the high school was located.  I never wanted to be in Central Ohio again, and mostly I haven't been.

  I buried my head in P G Wodehouse and Jane Austen.  When I was in their world I was released from the realities of my own.  I don't know how I would have gotten through high school without them.  But I am eternally grateful to the library for making my continued existence possible.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I knew the Jewish Conspiracy would come up...

and by god, it has.   The left, of course, has given Israel the back of its hand for years, yammering on about the poor Palestinians.  But now anti-semitism has cropped up on what can be described as the nutter right.  Apparently, my people are big-time plutocrats, controlling banks and newspapers and generally telling others what to think while themselves rolling in money.  A nice lifestyle, I think, particularly the financial part.  So where's my cut?

  I have been left out of this Vast Jewish Conspiracy and forced to work for local government.  and not even the political part, where I understand bribes are an honored tradition, but in the library.  It is well known that when politicians want to cut spending, they cut back on funding the library. Politicians don't read anyway, so no-one is harmed.


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A fortuitous find

I am always one book short of clinical depression without a book to look forward to. Sometimes I feel that I have read everything worth reading by my crochety tastes, andf will be stuck re-reading "When Patty Went to College" for the rest of my life.

  Then I get lucky.  On a pile of discards at the Good Will, I discovered "All Our Worldly Goods" by Irene Nemirovsky.  I almost skipped it because I noted that the author had been killed in the Holocaust and I thought her work might be gloomy and depressing. Au contraire!

I find it difficult to express  anything positive or approving about a book or movie.  Dislike is so much easier to articulate.  Nemirov, though, delighted me.  I think you will like her work if you like Tolstoy, or maybe Balzac.   The milieu is bourgeous France between the wars, and she is a keen observer of manners and mores, with a dazzling lightness of touch. 

  I downloaded another of her books to my Kindle, "Suite Francaise," which is even better, also taking place just before the German defeat, a period of great despair, confusion, and hysteria in France.  The advancing German troops disrupt everyone's lives and turn everyone into a refugee.  The fabric of society is torn and can never be reclaimed.  Except it is, after a fashion.

  Read the damn book!

Friday, January 05, 2018

I gave up on trying to understand politics a long time ago

I can't understand the brouhaha about President Trump.  He's probablly not the most charming man in the world but.  what has he done that's so awful?  Has he sent the secret police to your house at 3 a m to drag you away to prison in chains?  Stolen your bank account?  Kidnapped your children?

  I would prefer Winston Churchill, but that's just me.  He was not on offer.  And Trump has done some stuff I really like, like beat ISIS.  Increased employment.  And my personal favorite, caused, or permitted, the stock market to rise spectacularly, making my small savings, which could be accurately described as the widow's mite, a bit more mighty.  So he has orange hair and tweets a lot.   Compared  to Caligula, he's not so bad.  And he will serve for a minimum of 4 years and a maximum of 8, and will be gone.

  I long ago gave up trying to understand politics. I remember the exact moment when this happened..  It was when the Watergate break-in occurred.  I read the newspapers, listened to the news, and read the books ghost-written by the participants, but was still baffled.  And I am still in that state, but I don't try to understand it any more.  I felt a flicker of interest when Scooter Libby was jailed for spitting on the sidewalk or something, but it soon subsided, and I resumed my customary calm, not to be confused with torpor.

  I've got my own troubles.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Allowing three people a day to be jerks

I used to get excited over every little thing, particularly when I was behind the wheel of a car, so I adopted a philosophy that stood me in good stead for years:  allow three people a day to be jerks before you take anything too seriously.

  I don't know if I can keep it up much longer, though.  A philosophical question:  do the three people have to include Chuck Shumer?  Or can I make an exception and get my blood pressure up every time I see him on television without abandoning my convictions?

  I'm not extra fussy.  I can take Maxine Walters in my stride any day of the week, as when she announces that 600 million people will lose their health insurance or something like that.  Nancy Pelosi doesn't bother me, I know she's a big liar; Al Franken doesn't get my goat, neither does that old blowhard, Joe Biden.  But Shumer gets to me every day that Congress is in session.

  Thank God Congress is taking a vacation soon, so I can take a vacation from them.  It does wonders for my blood pressure.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Denunciation as a form of punishment

My father, who was a lawyer, had a conversation with me when I was a teenager on the subject of rape.  I can't remember how it started, but ultimately he told me that allegations of rape were hard to defend against, and that angry women might seek revenge against an innocent person by alleging rape falsely.  Therefore the authorities were hesitant to prosecute such accusations because they could destroy reputations and even lives of innocent men.

  Of course, that was before rape kits and DNA and such.  But he had a point. 

  Now this Me too business has gone too far.  Mere assertions of rape or even loutish behavior are enough to destroy lives. No proof is necessary.  After the first accusation, more complaints pile up.  The accused grovel in public statements and lose their jobs immediately. Their wives leave them.  I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the family dog has bitten the offender. 

  Take Al Franken.  I never thought the day would come when I would defend Franken.  But mere accusations of boorish behavior--which is all that has been alleged--should not have destroyed his career and his livelihood.  And that photograph of him leering over that unconscious woman clearly is not harassment.  Rather, it is sophomoric showing off.  If every man who behaved clownishly were deprived of his job, there would be far less employment in this country.

  Being a nasty person is not a criminal offense.  If a man behaves boorishly, a woman should have enough self-respect to defend herself, not to accuse him of harassment years later, when nothing can be proved and all witnesses have forgotten the circumstances.

  There are other ways of being boorish.  Of being a lousy employer, of picking on subordinates.  If your boss behaves criminally, report him to the authorities.  If he's just a mean son-of-a-bitch, suck it up or look for another job.  Behave  like a grown-up. 

  My fear is that men will be reluctant to hire women.  Hiring a woman would be like giving someone a loaded gun.  It's likely to go off unexpectedly. 

  No one gets a chance to defend himself.  No one gets to confront his accusers. The press acts a judge and jury and the public buys it.  It's not a good way to run a country.