Thursday, January 31, 2008

Little apartment of doom

When my kids were little, Mr Charm determined to finish his PhD, which meant we had to move back to New York City. I made the foolish mistake of trusting him with the task of finding an apartment. He found one out in the far reaches of Far Rockaway. It was Farthest Rockaway, because it cost two subway tokens to get there.

It was hard to believe you were still in New York City--it was about as un-urban as it could get, without being in any way rural.

Our apartment was on the second floor. As we drove up, we caught an unwelcome glimpse of the downstairs neighbors. Mom was an enormous slattern, one son looked like a thug, and another was clearly a little bit wanting in the upper storey. They were arranged all over the front of the house, wearing wife-beater T-shirts (Mom wore a stained housedress), drinking beer, and playing the radio at a deafening pitch. Apparently the first floor apartments in this neighborhood were very difficult to rent as they were prone to flooding, and so attracted undesirables. We nicknamed these folks the Jukes family, but they could as easily have been the Kallikaks.

In all but the worst weather, the Jukes held court in front of the house, playing music, eating, and throwing food wrappers all over the sidewalk. We got to consider them something of a conversation piece after a while.

After meeting the Jukes, we had another surprise in store, but that one had to wait until we went to bed. I was exhausted, and dreamed that a railroad train was running over me. It wasn't a train--we were directly under the landing approach for Kennedy Airport. Every night, all summer long, planes flew directly over our heads, making television watching, conversation, and for the matter of that, coherent thought, impossible.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

George Orwell communicates from beyond the grave...

and he still makes more sense than the current British government, who are still alive. Only their brains are dead.

My family members decline to be amusing...

so I am borrowing people from other families, for the time being, until they get their act together.

A friend of mine worried about her parents, who were living atop a steep hill in Vermont. When it snowed it became impossible for them to get out or for anyone else to get in. This would not have been a big problem except he was 90 and she was 86.

Apparently they had been engaged in a power struggle for about 65 years. She got her way in one respect, choosing to live on a remote inaccessible hilltop which had once been her family's farm, even though he despised the country and wanted a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. On everything else, he bullied her until he got his way.

For instance, he hated cigarette smoke, so he made her quit smoking. He made life unpleasant for visitors, including their three children. But most important, he refused to have a heating system installed. They relied on a wood stove. If she insisted on living on her hilltop, she had to chop wood, and did.

Well, at last he died, at about 92. Almost immediately after the funeral, she had a heating system installed and resumed smoking cigarettes--after a 60-year-long hiatus. The last I heard, she was still on her hilltop.

I guess the person who stays in the game the longest wins.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Welcome to Changeville

I just heard one of Barack Obama's speeches on television. He promised, if elected, to unite the people of the United States and to restore peace and prosperity to everyone on the planet. The only promise he forgot was that the lion would lie down with the lamb; maybe he's saving that one for Super Tuesday.

I gather he's going to reason with our enemies. Undoubtedly, when he points out their faults to the Iranian Mullocracy, they will acknowledge the error of their ways and get with the program. Just a little misunderstanding, fellows--I'm glad we were able to straighten things out.

Gosh, if all this were so easy, I wonder why Bush didn't do it when he had a chance? Unity at home and world peace would be really nice! The Daily Kos could invite Rush Limbaugh to be the featured speaker at their next convention. Sean Hannity would become Barbra Streisand's new best friend and George Soros would give a large donation to the Republican Party and finance a memorial statue to Ronald Reagan. Ahmedinnerjacket and Christopher Hitchens would take a fishing trip together.

I eagerly await President Obama's first hundred days. After he fulfills all his promises, we can relax. Nothing bad will ever happen again.

Welcome, readers of Carnival of the Insanities!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Brewing your own beer

In an effort to economize, we decided to try to make our own beer.

Our neighbors, penniless graduate students, taught us how to get started. This involved buying hops, yeast, and malted barley--yes, they sold this in the supermarket--, a bottle capper, bottles--we washed out used ones--and bottle caps. Mr Charm handled the technical aspects of the process.

I don't remember all the ins and outs of it, but I do remember the five-gallon crock that sat in the corner of the kitchen, where the beer was fermenting. An occasional but somewhat sinister glug came out once in a while, as though a monster were trapped in the crock and trying to get out. After fermenting, we bottled it, using a funnel.

It actually looked and tasted like beer, but with two inches of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. You had to pour carefully. I don't know the octane, but this stuff, while drinkable, had the kick of a mule. Two of these and you were out for the night. As he had classes to prepare for the next day, my husband couldn't drink the stuff. Since one regular beer makes me giddy, I couldn't either.

As it happened, we were living in an old mansion that was broken up into apartments. The other apartments housed old ladies with loud excitable dogs.

Anything that was being discarded had to be hauled up a steep driveway in the trunk of a car. Of course, the old ladies couldn't do it. So we did, not being old ladies.

But there was plenty of room in the attic. So when we regretfully decided we couldn't drink the beer, we put the full bottles up there, rather than hauling them to the street. Every once in a while a loud pop would come from the attic, but we ignored it. Once in a while, we cleaned up the shattered glass.

We left it there when we moved out, and I like to think of the occasional loud pop spooking the old ladies and causing the excitable little dogs to bark wildly. It's a nice thought.

(Recycled post)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Britain plans to curb obesity

Obesity is the root cause of many problems in the troubled British Health System. But a plan is afoot to prevent the British people from becoming obese and to get the obese to slim down.

A

t the heart of the programme will be 250,000 outreach counsellors who will patrol supermarket aisles looking for 'inappropriate choicemakers'.

Once they have identified a target the uniformed counsellors will approach the shopper and scream: "PUT IT DOWN FATTY! PUT IT DOWN!"[]...


The counsellors will also have the power to force fat people to strip down to their underpants and run around the car park for 20 minutes.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gormless in Gaza

The New York Times compassion mode is in overdrive:

The neglect and mistreatment of the 1.5 million Palestinians trapped in the Gaza Strip is a disgrace, and a very dangerous one. They are pawns in the struggle among Hamas, which controls Gaza and uses the territory to bombard Israel daily; its rivals in the Fatah movement that run the Palestinian Authority and the West Bank; and Israel. If something isn’t done quickly to address the Gazans’ plight, President Bush’s Annapolis peace process could implode.


Is the population of Gaza composed entirely of children, who have to be wards of somebody? And is Israel their mommy and daddy? In the United States, we have a quaint old custom: it's called w-o-r-k and is done in exchange for a paycheck. With the proceeds of said paycheck, one can buy cigarettes, gasoline, and bullets, which seem to be the commodities most sought by the adherents of the religion of peace.

As for the Annapolis "peace process," it has as much chance of accomplishing anything as I have of becoming Miss Universe--that is, none at all.

In my opinion, they ought to encourage as many Palestinians as possible to get into Egypt, and then replace the fence to keep them there. Yeah, that'll work.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Is our children learning math?

A math teacher who attends my gym told me she is teaching seventh and eighth graders math which they should have learned in third and fourth grade. These kids don't know multiplication tables--in fact, multiplication is unknown to them. She cited an example of one boy who was told to multiply 12 by 9. He wrote the number 12 nine times and attempted to add the nine columns up. He at least understood the concept.

Why are our schools so obdurate about avoiding teaching our children anything? They seem to have an absolute aversion to allowing learning to take place. Let me put it another way--why can't the children learn? Their parents learned to add, subtract, multiply and divide, so it's not genetic, because we are dealing with the same gene pool. Our children have not been stolen away and replaced by dolts.

I am far from being a math whiz, but I learned to add and subtract in first or second grade, followed the next year by multiplication, division, and--wait for it!--fractions! Yes, fractions were introduced into my muddled little brain when I was a child of tender years and appeared not to harm my psyche. I memorized the multiplication tables because we were made to. I can't say it was an enlightening experience, but I can multiply 12 by 9 even at my advanced age.

I do despair of our country's future when I witness this. Why is it children can learn to read, write and calculate in third world countries, and ours can't? Why does Iran, a repressive hellhole, have a better educational system than we do?

What are they doing in school all day, playing volleyball?

Welcome, Carnival of Insanities readers!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Color me blue

Here I am in Delaware--a perfectly nice state--but it's not my home. In fact, I don't have a home. I don't belong anywhere. I actually thought of going back to my native soil, in Ohio, but what for? All my relatives are getting older, and unless I want to live somewhere convenient to the Columbus Jewish Cemetery, so I won't have to travel far to attend funerals, there seems to be no purpose to living there.

I seem to have left my self in New Jersey; but when I go back, it's not there either. People there have Moved On, as people do. I haven't. We particularly thought Delaware would be a nice place for our out-of-town friends to visit, what with all the gardens, etc. I thought I would be besieged with visitors; so far two couples have come to visit us, an average of one couple a year. I don't know what I'll do, if this mad round of pleasure keeps up.

I don't know anyone here. Yes, I've met people, so I have people to say hello to, if I run into them in the drugstore, but I don't have any friends. If disaster struck, there would be no-one to call, except Ron the Limousine Driver, Mike the Handyman, or the Other Ron, who are, respectively, the limo driver who took me to the Philly Airport, the handyman who put up shelves for me, and my auto mechanic.

I've joined loads of organizations, and I attend their functions, where I drift lonely as a cloud while everyone else is glad-handing their old buddies. People are nice, and friendly, but they're not my friends and I feel depressed.

Who would come to my funeral if I died tomorrow? It would be a mighty small group. The rabbi would be there, but that's his job.

Now that I've cheered everybody up, I will go and eat lunch.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

AARP gives "Inspire Award" to ugly, nasty old b--tch


This inspires me to throw up.

No one will ever accuse Helen Thomas of being intimidated by the power of the presidency. During 39 years covering the White House for United Press International (UPI), the iconic newswoman became a formidable figure in her front-row seat at White House news conferences... Thomas’s questions were anything but genteel. Acerbic and oppositional, she grilled and sometimes angered nine presidents—asking Ronald Reagan why he had opposed every piece of civil rights legislation and delivering this challenge to George W. Bush on Iraq: “Why did you really want to go to war?” Says Thomas unapologetically: “I didn’t go into this business to be loved or even popular. No man is above the law, not even the president.”


I personally consider her questions insulting and insolent, of the "Have you stopped beating your wife" variety. Her questions are not designed to shed light on public events or to elicit information, but to embarass. She is nakedly partisan. I might ask her: How did you really get so ugly, Helen?

Helen Thomas is a disgrace to her profession.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm sick of doctors

Something is definitely wrong with the medical system in this country. Example: Mr Charm has had difficulty walking. Of course, he doesn't mention this to any of the doctors who see him at least four times a year. They are supposed to guess.

My six-year-old grandson, however, has noticed that grandpa walks funny. He is, as I say, bright. But he never went to medical school, as he has not yet completed first grade, which is one of the requirements for admission.

I guess Mr Charm thinks the doctors should have sense enough to notice something wrong with him, and they would, if they ever saw him walk into a room or attempt to sit in a chair. But they don't have time. So he sits there, in his tasteful gown that ties in the back, they don't notice anything, and he gets worse and worse.

My Uncle Doc would have noticed. He didn't have the armentarium of drugs and treatments that modern physicians have, but he did have eyes, which he used to look at patients.

My aunt, Uncle Doc's wife, had a friend who told me this story. She was a young woman, not married very long and pregnant. She was new in town and didn't know anybody. Uncle Doc asked her how she felt, as doctors do, and she burst out in tears; she was so lonely. Uncle Doc looked at her and said, "I'll have my wife call you."

He did, and my aunt called her; they became lifelong friends.

Uncle Doc would have noticed how a patient walked into a room.

Statue of Garfield, Wilmington, DE

 
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I've driven past this statue many times, but never knew who it represented. Since I've been taking pictures of stuff around Wilmington, particularly monuments, I parked the car and took a look. The statue is labeled "Garfield," and I assume it is James Garfield, president of the United States, and not Garfield the cat.

Why Garfield? Why Wilmington? I don't know.

Friday, January 11, 2008

It's not generally known...

but there are three former slaves in New Jersey.

After 160 years of stubborn denial, New Jersey is just now getting around to admitting that slavery was wrong and has officially apologized for it. This is fantastic news for former slaves who have been sitting around all this time patiently waiting for some sort of mea culpa. However, there is still no word from any former slaves as to whether the apology will be accepted. In fact, they have remained strangely silent for decades.

They keep a low profile. Heck, they have to, as they had to have been born before 1865 and so are pretty darn old.

Old Fred lives in a humble mud shack in Lawrenceville, and likes to play bingo. His favorite television show is American Idol.

Grandma Myrtle lives with her great-great-great grandchildren in a housing project in Newark. She doesn't get out much. Due to the constant gunfire in the neighborhood, she has lost her hearing, but still likes to water her potted plants.
Bad Bart is serving three life sentences plus 99 years in Ramapo State Prison. No-one can remember what he was sentenced for.

The three held a joint press conference, fervently thanking the legislators. Old Fred, as spokesperson, is quoted as saying, "I never thought I would live to see the day."

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A short history of the United States

...as taught in American schools.

Colonial period.
Pilgrims, oppressed by George III, come to New England, land at Plymouth Rock, a rock at Plymouth, MA; nearly starve to death until helped out by friendly Indians. When they stop starving and build those cute white churches they start oppressing Indians. Meanwhile, some other Brits come to Virginia, start importing slaves from Africa and oppressing them. Pocahontas is an Indian girl who is in there somewhere. Dutch land in New York, and some other people land in other places and start colonies, oppress Indians. Some French are in there somewhere--they founded Canada, eventually. Anyway, they sell Louisiana to Jefferson.

Federal period. A bunch of dead white guys get together in Philadelphia and write the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. George Washington beats the tar out of the British. Washington becomes president, never does anything wrong, and dies, to be followed by Jefferson, Monroe, John Adams and a bunch of other guys, to be followed by...

Civil War. Lincoln is president, no-one ever criticizes him, and he wins the war practically immediately without setbacks. This is due largely to Grant, who beats everybody. Gen Sherman marches through Georgia, burning everything, but that's okay because he is only upsetting white guys. Lincoln assassinated while visiting Gettysburg. Lincoln frees slaves.


Discovery of gold in California and western expansion by colonists.
More Indians exploited and oppressed, but the peace-loving Indians massacre Custer at Little Big Horn. Or was it Wounded Knee? Both were important places. Colonists ride in covered wagons, which are very picturesque.


World War I,
fought and won by Woodrow Wilson, who wanted to join the League of Nations, but the Republicans wouldn't let him, which led directly to...


World War II
during which we bombed Dresden, imprisoned loyal Japanese-Americans, and let loose the Atom bomb on Japan. Despite these flaws, it was a good thing we won, because President Roosevelt was a good guy who ended the Depression.

The Cold War. Everyone carried on about the Russians, until the Soviet Union fell, after which everything was hunky-dory. Oh, yes, and President Kennedy was assassinated, so the Republicans insisted on going to war in Vietnam for no apparent reason.

9/11. That was pretty rotten, and we got mad, but they haven't done anything since, have they? Why hold grudges? Nevertheless, the warmonger Bush goes to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The war in Iraq lasts longer than World War II, which lasted for just the optimum amount of time a war should last. No war should be allowed to last longer, it's not fair.

Monday, January 07, 2008

My favorite candidates

The world has been waiting to see who I endorse for President in '08. Okay, here we go, Repubs first:

1. Rudy. Pro: He is aware of the importance of the war on terror. Likes opera. Con: The press and Dems will savage his private life, and he's touchy.

2. McCain. Pro: Aware of the importance of the war on terror. War hero. Con: I'm still mad at him for McCain-Feingold.

3. Romney. Ho hum. Might do in a pinch.

As for Huckabee, he might be a likable guy, but I don't like his politics. I'm against Southerners on principle, after living through Jimmy Carter. The rest of the Republican field are out of the question.

For the Dems:

1. Hillary Clinton. I think she's the smartest and the only one with any ideas. Even if her ideas are wrong, she is capable of harboring an idea. Negative: she keeps changing her position.

There is no second place. Obama's enthusiastic crowds remind me of attendees at a faith healing service who are desperate for a miracle. They want to touch the hem of his garment or kiss his ring. They seek a savior rather than a president. Get control of yourselves, people! You're not here to choose a knight in shining armor!

As for Edwards, his rabble-rousing class warfare rhetoric is repulsive. I doubt he believes it. He's too intelligent to believe it. I doubt he believes anything. PS. I don't care for Elizabeth either. I don't wish her dead of cancer, but I don't like her.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

At last, a British royal shows some class

It's not who you think.

Ever since she became Royal Colonel of 4th Battalion, The Rifles, the Duchess of Cornwall has taken a close personal interest in the welfare of the 650 men who have just returned from a gruelling tour of Iraq.

She has, I can reveal, sent a handwritten letter to every wounded soldier — and there have been 62 of them — as well as a £50 bottle of whisky or a hamper of food. Camilla has also written to the families of the battalion's 11 dead soldiers — not just to the widows but the fiancees of unmarried riflemen.

Some relatives have even been invited to her home for tea. This remarkable insight into a very private side of the Duchess has been revealed by the servicemen themselves, who have spoken of her unstinting support.

All in all, a very gracious lady.

"She's so busy yet finds time to hand write all those letters to our wounded and families," says one soldier.

Pennsylvania Senator Goes to Syria to Make a Fool of Himself

as if he didn't have enough opportunities to do so here in the good old USA.


Sen. Arlen Specter has fallen into a trap that makes him look silly and damages U.S. interests as well as the cause of peace and democracy in the Middle East. Mr. Specter may have been fooled by real professionals, but given the example of so many others who went before - including his own experience - he should have known better.

After all, this was his 17th visit to Syria since 1984, none of which has produced anything. By this time how could he retain such an innocent attitude toward that country's dictatorship?

The beneficiary here has been Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad.


Specter's companion in folly was Cong Patrick Kennedy, not the sharpest knife in the drawer even if everything else in said drawer is a spoon.

Oy! Words fail me. Read the whole article.

Ht to Austin Bay.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Couragous protestors disappearated

Brian Boyko points out how dissidents have suffered in the good old USA under Bush. The poor chap lives in fear:

Over the past three years there have been more and more crackdowns on civil rights, more arbitrary arrests and detentions in the United States....[W]hile my desire to leave the U.S. had started in anger, it had slowly changed into fear. Fear of being arrested for saying the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time. We Americans joke about Gitmo here in our gallows humor way while admitting that there just isn’t room in Cuba for everyone who’s ever cracked a joke at Bush’s expense, but even a simple “civil disobedience” arrest from the local cop who is having a bad day can cause you to lose your job, your home, and possibly your family, if you’re unlucky enough - and that’s not a rare enough occurrence to joke about.


It's about time someone mentioned those whose civil liberties have been destroyed: Jane Fonda, who mysteriously disappeared without a trace after sitting on enemy cannons in North Vietnam; the Dixie Chicks, tried for sedition, sentenced and executed; the Plame-Wilson pair, kept in a dungeon and fed a diet of bread and water; Cindy Sheehan, who has been stoned to death; Susan Sarandon, Johnny Depp, George Clooney, and others too numerous to mention, now permanently immured in underground cells and sentenced to hard labor.

What's that? You say these nuisances are still running free, inflicting themselves on the public? George W Bush is simply not performing the duties for which we right-wing fanatics placed him in office. Get out there and dismantle civil liberties, George! Inaugurate the reign of terror ASAP!

via Tim Blair.

Linked at Carnival of the Insanities. Thanks, Pat!

Who's my candidate?

John McCain shares a 86% similarity with your beliefs
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I would have thought Rudy G would be my candidate. He's tough as nails.

A new washing machine

My washer dropped dead last week, fortunately after all the visitors had gone, but before I had washed their soiled sheets. Naturally, I bought another. It doesn't pay to have a repairman come to the house, not that they would come this week, of course. If past experience is any guide, they would set up an appointment on the 21st, keep me waiting all day, declare the washer beyond repair, and charge me $79.95 for the consultation.

When the dishwasher went, I had hopes of fixing it and called a repairman. Several days later, the repairman came, pulled the dishwasher out of its niche, and declared it not worth fixing, $79.95 please. He then kindly pushed it back into its spot under the counter. For the food disposer, rinse and repeat.

So when the washer went, I skipped the intermediate step and ordered a new one, which was not as easy as it sounds. Costco had one I liked, but they do not deliver. They deliver if you order online, but do not install, and as for getting rid of your old machine, you're on your own. Sears had one in stock, if I wanted to go and get it. I didn't.

Mother would have been appalled at the casual way I treated this old appliance. This was not her way. She once had a perfectly good washer, except it didn't work. But she had confidence that it could be repaired. After all, it had worked for five years, hadn't it? Mr Snyder, one of her clients who happened to be an appliance repairman, told her it needed an expensive new part, a transmission maybe. She told him to go ahead and put one in. He said he would have to order it from the manufacturer as they were not making that model any more. She told him to go ahead and do it. He said it might take weeks. That was okay with her.

My brother, who was living at home at the time, wanted to do his laundry, so he ordered a new washer without her knowledge. When it arrived, she refused delivery. This went on for a while, with dirty clothes piling up on the basement floor, until the manufacturer informed all concerned that they could not supply the part. The new part, if it could be obtained, would cost $100, plus labor. A new washer at the time sold for about $200.

Mother, who had grown up dirt poor, abhorred waste. She wasn't stingy; she was actually very generous. But her cars were of the same vintage as the washer, held together (by a client who was an auto mechanic) with spit and baling wire. I remember getting into one of her cars and putting my foot down all the way to the road surface. The bottom had rotted out of the car. But it was a perfectly good car. It ran. Buy a new car? Oysgevarfene gelt!

Mother really hated to get rid of anything. She had an enclosed sun room which she converted into a downstairs bedroom and bath (she had a client who was a contractor) when my grandmother grew ill and came to live with her. After bubbe died, it became a repository for everything that needed a bit of work but might come in handy one day. Three-legged chairs, a sofa that was losing its stuffing, a crib without slats, a vase with a crack in it, all these and more found a home there. Dead potted plants were added to the mix. A few old magazines. A shoebox full of papers someone should really sort someday. We called this room the Batcave. It got so crowded we couldn't get in to use the bathroom.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

I was waterboarded, except for the board

By this I mean, I actually thought I was drowning. I was closer to it than most waterboardees are, because I was in danger.

What happened is this: I was a kid, about 8 years old and learning to dive. Showing off, actually. I dived into about 8 feet of water, went straight to the bottom, moved my arms to my sides, and clunked my head on the bottom of the pool. Of course, I opened my mouth to take a deep breath so I could howl, and breathed in, oh, about half a swimming pool of chlorinated water.

I was in much worse shape than those terrorist suspects.

However, my father, noticing that I had failed to surface, after a decent interval dived into the water and fished me out.

All that was missing was the board. Still, I can claim to have survived this horrendous experience without physical or mental harm. Except that I do not like to dive to this day.