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Monday, April 30, 2007

My aunt Liz--a love story

My Uncle Doc first saw his future wife at a party, and asked someone to introduce him to her; "I'd like to meet that tall blonde. Do you think she'd go out with me? Will she think I'm too old?" He was 31, she was 19. Obviously, the age difference was no barrier. They were married for almost 40 years.

I adored Liz when I first met her, when I was 5 or 6. Though not actually pretty, she had an aura of glamor about her. She was blonde, blue-eyed, beautifully dressed, and smiled a lot. She was feminine, smelled of perfume, and wore makeup. Neither my mother nor my grandmothers wore makeup, so I thought she was sophisticated as all get out. Adding to her aura of worldliness was the suspicion that she colored her hair. (She did.)

As a child, I was crazy about her, and she treated me almost like another daughter. I loved the way she decorated her house, with shepherdess figurines on glass shelves and lamps shaped like statues of princesses, with pink lampshades. She had a rose-colored satin bedspread, and lots of little pillows. She was the first person I ever knew who had toilet paper to match her bathroom fixtures, which I thought quite elegant. In our house, everything was quite utilitarian, and the toilet paper was whatever was on sale at Kroger's. I aspired to be just like Aunt Liz when I grew up.

My grandmother was a woman who thought very little of her children's choice of mates, Liz included. One of my cousins was also very disapproving. From something Liz said, I knew she was aware of this, but if she minded she didn't let it show. Another problem was Doc's medical practice. He spent long hours at his office and at the hospital, and if his patients called, he went. On many an evening she went out to dinner with him and returned with other friends because he had been called to the hospital for an emergency. She made friends, and a life, for herself, because he had very little time to give her.

I eventually stopped being a sweet adoring little girl and became an insufferable adolescent who scorned the empty materialism of Liz and her friends, women who were content to be wives and mothers, who played cards and golf, who decorated their homes in what I learned to call Jewish Renaissance style and had no true intellectual interests. Of course I still loved Liz and Doc, but I was able to look down patronizingly at their empty, vapid lifestyle.

In due course, Uncle Doc got sick. He was forced to abandon the practice of medicine. The police found him out driving around aimlessly and brought him home in a police car. That ended his driving career. I still visited them often, and sometimes he would make sense and then he wouldn't, quite. Gradually he became weaker and weaker.

Aunt Liz was the same as she had always been, though, always welcoming me and anyone else who dropped by with a smile. She was fortunate in that she was able to hire people to be with him at times, so she could have some semblance of a normal life. She could hardly have kept him at home if she hadn't had help, as he was totally unable even to walk toward the end. She told me later that she had gone to the nursing home to see about getting him admitted, but just couldn't do it. He died not long after. He had been sick for six years.

She is quite old now, walks with a walker, and no longer colors her hair. She speaks softly and tires easily. But she is still her smiling, gracious self. When I look back on my relationship with her, I realized that I seldom heard her say a mean or unkind thing. I didn't notice this quality when I was young, she made it seem quite easy.

Uncle Doc gave me a sage piece of advice when I was a teenager: "You should never marry unless you can better yourself. I married up. I improved myself." I thought this was really cute of him at the time, but didn't take him seriously. But now I see that he was absolutely right.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

All men are brothers, except if they are not muslim

The RoP strikes again.

[A] Muslim student set off a debate when she sent an email to the mailing list of a Muslim students' association (rabitat al-tullab al-muslimin) at Virginia Tech asking the students to pray that Allah have mercy on those killed and wounded in the shooting attack at the university.

According to Aafaq, the dean of student affairs at American International University, Abu Hamza Hijji, responded, writing that Allah the Most Merciful forbids praying for mercy for the non-Muslim dead, or even for the non-Muslim living, and that it is only permitted to pray that they be rightly guided. He added that what happened was a sad occurrence, but that does not give Muslims the right to transgress the laws of Allah the Most Merciful.

Nice. Remind me again why we need to live under Sharia law?

Friday, April 27, 2007

Hollywood celebs embrace the simple life

Life in a state of nature is not nasty, brutish and short, it's fun! It's awesome!

[Drew] Barrymore, apparently enthralled by the lack of a modern sanitary facilities, gleefully bragged, "I took a poo in the woods hunched over like an animal. It was awesome."

Of course, she gets to go home to flush toilets. The natives, unfortunately, continue to crap in the woods, faut de mieux. They probably don't have toilet paper either, not even one square per "sitting." I guess they can wash their behinds in an unspoiled stream and send the germs downriver to cause a plague somewhere else.

I am very sensitive to toilet paper issues, and very proud of my country's leadership role in providing the best toilet paper ever! in the whole world! Why, in some countries in Europe, the toilet paper is absorbent on one side only!

My God, you call that civilization?

I knew the Soviet Union was doomed as a political system when I read about a bunch of Soviet tourists in Africa, stopping at a rest stop, who stole all the toilet paper. No nation can long endure that cannot provide adequately for their people's toilet paper needs. A society lives and dies by the quality of their toilet paper!

My uncle's theories of raising children

My uncle Doc was my favorite uncle because he liked to roughhouse. Kids love that. On Saturday nights when I stayed over my grandmother's house, he would bring over a jar of pickled herring and we would share it. But while he was fond of me, he totally disapproved of the way my parents were raising me. I was, said Uncle Doc, spoiled rotten.

His kids, he declared, would be so in awe of him that they would run and hide behind the piano when he came in the door. Need I add that he was a bachelor at the time?

Fast forward a few years, to the time when Uncle Doc and his wife's serene abode was invaded by three little but fast-moving barbarians. They fought with each other 24/7, chasing each other up and down the steps with murder in their eyes. They screamed, whined, and complained. They took each other's toys and did not share. Uncle Doc's solution to this problem was to yell at them. The more they continued their antics, the louder he yelled at them. Threats of death were made, but did nothing to reduce the tumult. At last my aunt would go to bed with a migraine headache and he would stomp off to his office, leaving them in possession of the wreck which the household had become.

At night the bedlam continued, as each of the girls considered it her sovereign right to sleep with the parents. After one or two of them had joined the parental bed, my aunt would get up and go to sleep in any bed which happened to be vacant. You never knew who was going to be in what bed in that household. I was only a few years older than the girls, but I found it impossible to sleep at their house with all the coming and going.

The girls turned out all right. They grew up, graduated from college, stayed out of jail, got married and in due course had children of their own. My oldest cousin raised her children like a Prussian drillmaster. They dusted, swept, put away their toys, and made their beds like little automatons. The only thing missing was the snappy salute. She confided in me that she could never have raised her children the way she was raised, it would have made her crazy.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Listening to kids

Or not.

Children are cute and precocious and they sometimes say adult-like things. But they do not know their asses from a hole in the ground. Everything they say and do should be viewed as something said by a cute little person who is practicing being a grown up- someone who someday will have an opinion that I will give a damn about.

I know, I know, there's that old, "out of the mouths of babes" thing. Out of the mouths of babes come the following: cute little phrases, attempt to sound like adults, heart breaking claims of their love and affection, whining, complaining, temper tantrums, screaming, and vomit. Beyond that, they have little to offer in the way of contributing to decisions that adults make.

I should add that when they make statements about Global Warming or World Peace or the Importance of Recycling, they are little puppets expressing the views of their parents.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Here's to more and better size inflation

Since I myself am inflating, size inflation works for me. It's the only way I can ever fit into a size 10. Ha! In your dreams!

When I was young, back in the 20th century, 6 was about the smallest size you could find, and only rarely. Even 8 was hard to find. 10, 12, 14, those were the sizes of normal young women. Even 16 was not unknown. I weighed 116, had a 25 inch waistline, and wore a 12. I weigh, er, considerably more now. Let's not get into specifics.

Now that American women are fatter than ever, size numbers are smaller than ever. What's wrong with this picture? How much lower than zero can you go?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

That's our girl!

A former Miss America defends herself:

When Venus Ramey caught a man she thought was stealing from her farm in south-central Kentucky, she shot the tires out of his vehicle so he'd be stuck there until police came.

Ramey, who was crowned Miss America in 1944, was on her Lincoln County farm last week feeding a horse when she saw her dog run to a nearby building where she stores old equipment. For some time, thieves had been breaking into the building to steal the machines to sell for scrap, she said, so she decided to investigate.

When she confronted a man she found on the property, he said he would leave, she said.

"I said, 'Oh, no you won't,' and I shot their tires so they couldn't leave," Ramey said.

She had to balance on her walker as she pulled out a snub-nosed .38-caliber handgun.

Thanks to Frau Budgie.

Good advice for John Edwards

He won't take it, though.

The comments are funnier by far than the video. Lighten up, everybody.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Summer comes to Columbus Ohio

When I lived in Ohio, I thought poets had made up all that stuff about Spring--poetic license, you know. We always went directly from Winter into red-hot Summer. Actually, Spring started this year on April 21, at 6:30 p.m., and by 7:20 it was all over. We were in the torrid zone.

Every flower possible springs out of the ground with a big shout and the sun bears down like in those movies about mad dogs and Englishmen.

When I lived on the east coast, I saw Spring in all its subtlety; first the hibiscus, then the forsythia, then a few tulips tentatively stuck their heads up. Vernal breezes blew, mornings were a little chilly, and you could wear a sweater in the evening. It made me understand what Will Shakespeare and the guys were going on about. Sweet. Subtle.

Columbus will always be familiar territory to me because it is in my bones. Beneath these freeways that zoom from one corner of the city to the other are the ghosts of the neighborhoods where I lived, played, and went to school. The ruined slum on the corner was once a corner grocery, and the rickety deserted movie house was once bustling with kids every Saturday, rain or shine. One of my aunts lived on this corner. Another was down this street, and my grandmother was about half a mile away. All gone now. My aunts were like boulders, landmarks which would always be there. Only one aunt remains, and she is frail and elderly.

How can I possibly live with absolutely no aunts? Cousins are a poor substitute.

My aunt Ellen loved the cemetery, particularly the spot where her mother was buried. It was a nice spot, shaded by a small tree. She once suggested setting up a card table and four chairs near the grave so the girls could play bridge while keeping their mother company. When that idea fell on hostile ears, she kept right on visiting, advising the cemetery staff on proper maintenance and upkeep, no doubt to their great advantage. Now she can spend quality time there, since she was buried there last December.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

5 college girls from the 20th century

I am the second from the right.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Imus brings up sensitive hair issues

Not that I'm a ho--can a granny be a ho?--or because my hair is nappy. But I do have hair issues. Very serious hair issues. All my life my hair has been coarse, wavy, and there was too much of it. I had surplus hair. I had hair extensions before hair extensions were invented. To be more precise, I had 200,000 cowlicks. Each hair went its own way.

The ideal in the suburban high school I attended was straight, lanky hair. Parted on the left, usually, although some free spirits may have parted it on the right. Curled up at the ends, if you must. A small bow or barette was permitted. And that was that. I differed greatly from this ideal. It made me feel, as George Gobel used to say, that the world was a tuxedo and I was a pair of brown shoes.

My aunts felt for me and took me to hairdressers, who would clip, crimp and tease my hair into some semblance of the current style. After my next shower, the status quo ante was restored.

I wonder how much money has been spent on making curly hair straight, or straight hair curly? I do know that Madame C J Walker, the first 20th century African American woman to be a millionaire, made her fortune in hair products.

And so--to quote someone else who has been in the news lately--it goes.


Yesterday we had a special election to fill a vacant seat for state representative. We went to the school where the polling was taking place, and as we got out of the car a very nice man stopped us. He told us he was the father of the Democratic candidate, and asked for our support. Very politely.

I felt embarassed. I'm a Republican. I came to the polls precisely to vote for the Republican candidate. And I didn't want to lie to the man. I didn't want to be put in a position of having to lie to him in order to spare his feelings. Like I was doing something wrong. I'm a Republican, dammit. And I'm allowed to be a Republican. It's legal.

The reason we have the secret ballot in this country is so that no-one has to tell anyone else who they are voting for.

End of sermon.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

I found it on E-Bay

Actually, I didn't. I didn't find it on Google either.

Start at the beginning. I lost my cell phone. Went to Best Buy. They looked up my phone number on their computer and discovered I was eligible for an upgrade for one cent. So I got a new LG phone which includes a camera. Good. I like to take pictures, but never have my camera with me, so I will take pictures of all and sundry with my cell phone and upload them to my computer.

Not so fast. I have to have something that hooks my camera to the computer. So I am looking for a cable to perform this humble task. I went to Best Buy. They don't do peripherals for Cingular, and recommended that I go to the Cingular Store. So I did.

Amy, who was sitting at her desk apparently in a trance, interrupted her communion with her Inner Amy to assure me that the Cingular store doesn't sell stuff like that, I should try the Cingular or the LG website, and resumed her reverie.

So I looked on E-Bay. E-Bay sells all kinds of LG goodies, but not that. I googled it. Google has bigger fish to fry, namely selling expensive phones and bluetooth attachments. And other stuff which should interest Martians, but not me. I can't even program the cell phone. I can't even download a ringtone. And I don't want to be walking around talking to someone invisible. I talk to myself already, I don't need to be in touch with someone else.

So I am in the twenty-first century, trying to use twenty-first century gadgets, but with a brain that is stuck in the 20th century.

Friday, April 13, 2007

High honor accorded American Senator

Los Angeles, CA. The coveted Dreidel Award, honoring the American Jew who has best embarassed his country, was given to SenatorTom Lantos. The award was conferred by Barbra Streisand, who praised Lantos for his unwavering courage in implementing a distinct foreign policy aimed at subverting that of the mass murderer and civil rights destroyer, George W Bush.

In his acceptance speech, Lantos informed an appreciative crowd that as a Holocaust Survivor, he has undeniable moral authority and that other Jews should shut up when he talks. His speech was met with thunderous applause.

Among the celebs present to honor Lantos were Stephen Spielburg, Larry David, and Senator Barbara Boxer. The Dixie Chicks provided the entertainment.

Also present was George Soros, who received a lifetime achievement award for his devotion to overthrowing the evil capitalist system and eliminating the State of Israel.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A poem by William Blake

The Tyger

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire in thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder, and what art?
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand, and what dread feet?

What the hammer? What the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb, make thee?

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

It's still poetry month--and I was an English major.

McCain takes a stand

He defies majority rule:

The most revealing exchange came when Mr. Pelley, [Scott Pelley, of 60 minutes]in all apparent seriousness, asked the Senator "at what point do you stop doing what you think is right and you start doing what the majority of the American people want?"

Answered Mr. McCain: "I disagree with what the majority of the American people want. I still believe the majority of the American people, when asked, say if you can show them a path to success . . . then they'll support it." Later Mr. Pelley observed that Mr. McCain was betting his entire campaign on the success of the current "surge" strategy in Baghdad. The Senator replied that he'd "rather lose a campaign than lose a war."

The media seem to have lost sight of what representative democracy means. It means we don't hold a plebiscite on every issue and then obey what the majority want. Rather, we elect representatives who are supposed to use their own judgment. (Stop laughing now. Now, I said!)

The media, on the other hand, seem to believe that majority will, as expressed by polling, is the be-all and end-all of politics, and some of our representatives--Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi spring to mind--agree with them. Reid, in particular, seems to believe that he has been ordered to stop, or at least sabotage, the war in Iraq. He interprets the 2006 election result as a direct order from the public, the kind of order a general gives a private. George W Bush is popularly supposed to take his orders directly from God. Reid takes his orders directly from the American people.

But who knows what the outcome of an election means? It is just as easy as knowing the will of the almighty. Maybe people were fed up with the Republicans. Maybe they merely disliked the Republican who was then representing them. Maybe it was raining on election day. Or their car wouldn't start. Or something. After World War II, the British people voted Winston Churchill out of office. Were they mad about how he handled the war? Did they decide they would rather be governed by a thinner politician? Or what?

Reid and his fellow Democratic hacks and timeservers (and the Republican dimwits who aid and abet them) were elected to do their job--pass legislation--and leave the President to perform his Constitutional duties. Bush will not be president forever. But while he continues in office, he is Commander in Chief.

The reliance on majority rule, as expressed by polls, is touching, if a bit pathetic. Polls cannot be the basis of policy. If the American people believed 70 to 30 percent that the mountains are going to fall into the sea, would that make it true?

The over-riding issue of our nation, I would say the only issue, is the conduct of the War on Terror. If we lose that, it won't much matter what our leaders think about stem cell research. Gay marriage? I believe the term loses something in translation to Arabic.

That is why McCain or Giuliani are acceptable candidates to me. Both would prosecute the war effectively--that is to say, they would continue to fight until they had won. At one point I would have said Hillary Clinton was acceptable on the basis of her views on this topic, but she has been all over the map lately, to the point where she seems, at times, out of her mind.

Hat tip to Rachel.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is April really the cruelest month?

Frankly, has T S Eliot ever tried November? Or Frbruary?

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten, 10
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.
And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie, 15
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

This April is the cruelest etc. wheeze posits people with souls so delicate and sensibilities so esquisite that they cannot withstand tender feelings. It is better (for them)to feel nothing than to suffer the pangs of love. One might be disappointed in love, you see.

As for me, I'll go with Shakespeare: Men have died, and worms have eaten them, but not for love.

Kissing Sharpton's er, ring

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

Imus said something tasteless and offensive... Why start apologizing now?
[H]is apology led directly to his appearance on Al Sharpton's radio show. The apology gave Sharpton and the other racial hucksters their wedge.

I've been meaning to put in my two cents about Sharpton for a long time now, so here goes. Sharpton is a bright,funny, witty man, obviously intelligent, who has cynically chosen to use his abilities for his own self-aggrandizement.

He is capable of so much better than this: he was the only non-dead speaker at the Democratic Convention. Compared to the rest of the clapped-out political hacks, he was lively and engaging. But the man has no morals whatsoever; as the saying goes, he would sell his own grandmother and deliver someone else's.

Does he have even a speck of conscience? Does he ever wake at three in the morning feeling sick and ashamed of the evil he has done? Has he ever done anything out of a worthy motive? He's a rev--I assume this is a religious title. Does he ever exhort his listeners to love one another?

I fear that the answer to all these questions is no. Al is for Al.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Radnor PA police decide not to charge out of towners for service

I am not making this up.

RADNOR, Pa. - Officials will stop enforcing an ordinance that raised motorists' ire by attempting to bill out-of-town residents for township police services at accidents.

After adopting the measure in April, Radnor Township was inundated with complaints that a collection agency overstepped its authority by trying to collect payments from motorists themselves when insurance companies would not pay.

"Obviously, this ordinance was not functioning the way this board intended," board of commissioners President Hank Mahoney said at a meeting Monday night. However, he defended the law as "legally sound."

Nancy Pelosi's headscarf

In all the fuss about Pelosi's headscarf, no-one has sought the answer to the most important question:

Where did Pelosi get that headscarf? I'm sorry, but this is a woman who wears pearls around her neck worth more than my entire yearly income, and she wears a schmatta like that? For shame. It's a shanda for the goyim.

I believe she borrowed it from her cleaning lady.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Now Mozilla is driving me crazy

All my bookmarks are gone! Curses!

Friday, April 06, 2007

I've always wondered...

why so many people want to live in California.

[W]ho on earth first got there and said “This looks like a GREAT place to raise fruit trees?” It’s a moderate miracle of human ingenuity that the place is the fruit basket of whatever percentage of the world. California consists of huge swaths of dreary, punctuated by breathtaking, with pockets of green and growing that still manage, somehow, to be dreary when compared to the cornfields of my Midwestern youth.

I've always wondered why people want to be surrounded by brown hills. The aforementioned hills remind me of piles of dirt excavated from a strip mine in West Virginia. Pennsylvania is 10 times prettier. Even New Jersey (in the right places) looks better--greener, lusher. But many people disagree with me, including lots of members of my own family, who can't get enough of the place.

Now that the surge is well under way...

public approval is rising.

Since the preliminary successes of the surge, support for the war has gone up 10% from 30% to 40%.

The idea that all Americans are against the war may not be correct.

Americans may be against losing.

Rosie exposed

Some little known facts about Rosie:

9. Rosie’s burka size is “3-Tent.”

I just happen to have a picture of Rosie in the aforementioned garment:

A real improvement, isn't it?

Thursday, April 05, 2007

What would you do if captured by the enemy?

The behavior of the 15 British hostages made me uneasy. I know it is a terrible thing to be deprived of your liberty. I don't know how I would have acted. But they did not exactly cover themselves with glory.

Fred Cherry, an African American pilot, was taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese. He was beaten, tortured, his wounds left untreated, starved, and endlessly interrogated. His captors wanted him to urge other African Americans not to fight. According to Cherry's own account: "When they would beat me, I always kept in mind I was representing 24 million black Americans....I'm just not going to denounce my government or shame my people."

Cherry spent seven years in captivity, 700 days of it in solitary confinement, and suffered permanent physical damage, including deafness, vision problems, and the after-effects of of fractures that had been neglected and could no longer be remedied.

He was installed in the Hall of Heroes in the Pentagon in 1981.

A book, Two Souls Indivisible, is the story of Cherry's relationship with Porter Halyburton, a white Southerner who cared for him in prison camp and is credited with saving his life. The two men have been fast friends ever since.

The Second Coming

by William Butler Yeats

TURNING and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

*Your assignment: name three examples of the worst.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A German leader with backbone

Does Maggie Thatcher ride again?

Palestinian Authority officials have accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of "offending the Palestinians' feelings" during her visit earlier this week to Ramallah, where she met with PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

The accusations, the first of their kind against a European leader, were made by top PA officials only hours after Merkel and her entourage left Ramallah on Monday.

"She did everything to provoke the Palestinians during her visit," said one official. "She showed no understanding for the plight of our people. On the other hand, she appeared to be very biased toward Israel."

The official claimed that while Merkel refused to meet with families of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel, she focused during her talks with Abbas on the need to release kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Schalit, who has been held in the Gaza Strip since last June. In addition, he noted, Merkel met with the families of missing IDF soldiers during her visit to Jerusalem.


"We were hoping to show her the wall that Israel built around Bethlehem, but she refused to go there," he said. "President Abbas was hoping to draw parallels between Israel's wall and the Berlin Wall. He wanted to remind Merkel of the days when she lived in East Berlin."

Merkel, according to the official, also turned down a request to meet with church leaders and representatives of Palestinian civil societies. "Almost all the European leaders meet with Christian leaders and representatives of civil societies," he pointed out. "But Merkel refused to do so. She did not offer any explanation and that's why we are very disappointed with her and the German government. This behavior is completely unacceptable."

The Palestinians are also angry with Merkel for visiting the Hebrew University, where she received an honorary doctorate on Sunday, while refusing to tour the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

PA officials were hoping to escort Merkel on a tour of the Arab neighborhoods to show her how Israel was "changing the Arab and Muslim character" of the city.

"This woman is trying to be more Israeli than the Israelis," the official said. "During her talks with President Abbas, she totally ignored major issues related to the peace process and chose to focus on the case of Gilad Schalit.

Good for her.

Another poem

I love this poem, written by an anonymous Irish monk in the 8th century:

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
'Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
'Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

'Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur's way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

'Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
'Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

Pangur ban means white cat in Irish.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Poem by William Shakespeare

O Mistress mine, where are you roaming?
O, stay and hear; your true love's coming,
That can sing both high and low:
Trip no further, pretty sweeting;
Journeys end in lovers meeting,
Every wise man's son doth know.

What is love? 'Tis not hereafter;
Present mirth hath present laughter;
What's to come is still unsure:
In delay there lies not plenty;
Then, come kiss me, sweet and twenty,
Youth's a stuff will not endure.

Poem by Robert Frost

SOME say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice, 5
I think I know enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.


I (like everyone else, I guess) had two grandmothers, who were as different from each other as chalk from cheese. Of the two, bubbe, my mother's mother, was closer to me. We all lived in the same town, for one thing, which allowed bubbe to edit our lives and tell us what we were doing wrong. She never told us when we did something right: we were expected to do the right thing always.

Bubbe was a pretty austere character, who had been through a lot. Her father was a prosperous landowner, and she went to the Russian church school in her village, along with the priest's sons. She came out of this experience literate in several languages and with an extremely low opinion of Russian Christians. The languages came in handy as she was living in Russian Poland, and every time the area was conquered everyone spoke the new language, that of the victorious conquerer. The family lived on or near a river, and she had fond memories of boating parties as a child.

She did not have an arranged marriage. My grandfather, a young scholar, met and was smitten by her and sued for her hand. Sometimes, when I listened to their impassioned arguments, I found this hard to believe, but my mother assured me it was true. My grandfather always lost these arguments, as he was a sweet person who believed in peace at any price, while she believed that winning was everything, like Vince Lombardi. As she had a quick tongue and ready wit, she seldom lost an argument with anyone.

As a young mother, accompanied by my grandfather and two small children, she came to the new world. We are not sure why they left Russia--one story is that my grandfather had already served in the Russian Army and was about to be drafted for another term. Anyway, with the traditional diamonds sewn into the hidden recesses of her wardrobe, here she was, and there was no going back.

I don't know the details of their journey, but it was fortunate she had the diamonds, as my grandfather became sick shortly after they arrived and was unable to work. Bubbe scraped up $10 and opened a grocery store in the front room, or parlor, and they earned a meager living. She also had a sideline, preparing boys for bar mitzvah. My grandfather rolled cigars in their home to augment the family income, and eventually became a Hebrew teacher when his health improved.

They lived in a hellacious slum. I know this because I saw it with my own eyes, before it was demolished to make way for a highway.

They had five children, two of whom did not make it to adulthood. These two were never mentioned, but perhaps she remembered them, because from time to time she would light a yahrzeit candle for someone unknown to me.

She almost lost a third child, to influenza. To save him, they took him to the synagogue and renamed him, the idea being that when the angel of death came to get him, he would be unrecognizable. It worked, and he grew up to be my beloved Uncle Doc.

Bubbe didn't believe in a lot of frippery. Personal adornment she had none, but she did eventually have lace curtains and a few nice pieces of furniture, and a piano. My mother took piano lessons, and was not allowed to go out and play with her friends until she had completed her daily piano practice. Bubbe and my grandfather also managed to educate three children through college and professional school.

Bubbe had the goods on all our neighbors and friends and politicians and had no illusions about anyone. The only politician she admired was Harry Truman, because he recognized Israel. This in a family every other member of which worshipped FDR.

Oddly enough, she had a romantic streak, and used to read the Yiddish equivalent of Barbara Cartland in the Yiddish newspaper. My mother told me this. No signs of romantic inclinations were apparent to me.

But she was a lot of fun for a grandchild. I used to love spending the night with her. I would sleep in her bed with her, and she would teach me songs from the old country, and tell me stories of the fun she had as a child and young girl, living on the river. She loved boating. When her children were small she would take them to the park, rent a rowboat, and take them out on the pond. (My grandfather was afraid of the water, so he wouldn't go.)

My other grandmother was a different kettle of fish, and I don't know that much about her. As a young woman, she had trouble bearing children, and as a consequence became very religious. This did the trick, and she had four. My father was the youngest and puniest, and was not expected to live. After his birth, she became ill with some mysterious disease, perhaps tuberculosis, and turned the baby, my father, over to his elder sister, Julia, while she went into a nursing home for six years. Consequently he did not really get to know his mother until he was six. They had a stormy reunion.

She was a pretty woman, but very strict, and not warm to her children. My uncle Ed claims that she never liked him because he was born on Yom Kippur. She spent a lot of time on her high horse. For instance, her children were not allowed to refer to her as "she" when she was in the room, but had to call her "mother." You could not say, if she was at the table, "Pass her the maple syrup." It had to be, "Pass Mother the maple syrup." I don't know where she got this rule, but she was insistent on it. She wanted children, including me, to say, "May I go out to play?" instead of "Can I go out to play?"

I was not her favorite grandchild, and she was not my favorite grandmother, but they lived out west, and who knows? If I had lived closer to her, I might have grown fond of her. As it was, her few visits to our home took on the quality of State Occasions, with everyone nervous and afraid of committing some faux pas.

Monday, April 02, 2007

A vacation from politics

The political scene lately has puzzled me. For instance, what is this fuss about 8 prosecutors? I simply can't pick up on the subtleties of this. Bush has the power to ask them to resign. He did. End of story. Obviously there is something here I'm not getting.

And then there's Scooter Libby. He lied to someone about something when there was nothing to lie about. So now he's going to jail. Again, puzzling.

The Dems voting for a bill for money to prosecute the war which they are confident the President will veto. Along with money for spinach farmers, Katrina survivors, the halt, the lame, the blind, the greedy. Why didn't they just stay home and watch their soaps?

Why does everyone have to have health insurance? Or health care? Aren't some of us healthy, or at least not sick? Why is health insurance a must for a 25-year-old man or woman who has never been sick a day in his/her life? Is this the ultimate 21st century accessory? Just asking.

These strange manifestations of politics have always puzzled me. I still haven't figured out why the Republicans broke into Democratic headquarters in the Watergate, back in the day? What were they after, the name of George McGovern's tailor?

All this just seems like someone no rational being would waste one minute of their day on. So I am going to take a vacation from all that and stop straining my brain. Wake me up in '08.

A California town, destroyed

Maywood, CA has its own foreign policy.

Maywood has declared itself a sanctuary city and closed its traffic division at the urging of illegal aliens and their supporters after too many cars were being towed because those stopped didn't have driver's licenses. There are also pushes in the community to rename elementary schools after former Mexican President Benito Juarez. Maywood also had police stand by during an anti illegal immigration rally as Mexican reconquistas and illegal aliens raised a Mexican flag over the post office.

When immigrants, both legal and illegal, come here and don't assimilate, they bring their form of "justice, law and government" with them - all of which are corrupt in their home countries.

The Times story focuses on the 37 member all male police department, they deem as a "haven for misfit cops" and found that a third have previous criminal histories or suspicions of such, but the problem is obviously widespread throughout the community. Other law enforcement communities refer to Maywood police as the department of "second chances".

There's more, and worse, in the rest of the article. Read it and weep.

Another poem for poetry month

The Oven Bird
THERE is a singer everyone has heard,
Loud, a mid-summer and a mid-wood bird,
Who makes the solid tree trunks sound again.
He says that leaves are old and that for flowers
Mid-summer is to spring as one to ten. 5
He says the early petal-fall is past
When pear and cherry bloom went down in showers
On sunny days a moment overcast;
And comes that other fall we name the fall.
He says the highway dust is over all. 10
The bird would cease and be as other birds
But that he knows in singing not to sing.
The question that he frames in all but words
Is what to make of a diminished thing.


It's National Poetry Month

Post a favorite poem:

AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves—goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for that I came.

Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps gráce: thát keeps all his goings graces; 10
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is—
Chríst—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

Gerard Manley Hopkins