Monday, December 26, 2011

One For Each Night ~ Hanukkah 2011

candles always face the street
No matter what your stripe, the winter holiday season presents its challenges. For me, it’s still hard not having Steve singing the Hanukkah brachot in his perfectly tone deaf manner.  I loved the way he lit the candles; it always made us laugh. But I also happen to know that he really liked lighting the Hannukiah because it was the only time guys lit candles.  He thought that was cool.

This year, I decided that Shabbat Hanukkah would be the big family dinner. I invited the machetunim and planned for a nice table of nine.  Then the junior son called and mentioned the maid-of-honor was in town…and that he invited her to join us. “That’s great! I was hoping you would!” said I.

He wasn’t done. “Well, E and J aren’t doing anything, so I invited them, too. I hope that’s okay.”

“Y’know,” I countered, “if E and J are coming, don’t you think E’s folks should come, too?”

“Uh, yeah.”

So the table of 9 turned into two tables….a grown up table and a kiddie table. I made a vast vat of applesauce, cheated like hell on the latkes and used Ore-Ida shredded potatoes instead of shredding my own, and made sufganiyot and ruggelach. I broke down and used disposable roasting pans for the chicken. The daughter-in-law came to help, and by 6:00, we were ready for cocktails.

The kiddie table
I was so glad I did this. It was fun. I got to see not just one full table, but two, and to hear laughter ringing throughout the house was just the best medicine for me. One of the sweetest moments came before the guests, when the daughter-in-law and I stopped to light Hanukkah candles followed by Shabbat candles right at sunset. Never having had a daughter of my own, standing beside her and reciting brachot together was a blessing all its own.

There were kids, in-laws and close friends. The junior son brought his brand new toy helicopter given to him by his most understanding and indulgent wife, and everyone got to fly it....through my house...around the two chandeliers. I just avoided looking up. 

Of course, two were missing from the kiddie table. Senior son and his lady were in Milwaukee, and heading to her family in Chicago.  This I understand. I cannot count the number of family events we all missed because we lived here and everyone else was on the East Coast. All the same, they were greatly missed…but discussed at great length anyway…especially since senior son is busy in the studio cutting a new free-blues symphony. I’m not completely sure what means “free-blues” but I have a pretty good inkling. Not to worry, I’ll let everyone know when the CD is released. Trust me on this one. You’ll all know.

So as we sail off into the sunrise of a secular new year, I shall reset my opti-meter to full, my bog-o-meter to zero, and my snark-o-meter to just 50%. It just wouldn’t be me if that one is at zero.

May you keep all your resolutions, may congress work and play well with others, and may this year bring good health, good adventures, and a clean, honest, thoughtful, illuminating presidential campaign.*

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Homemade applesauce is always an appropriate party favor, 
especially when paired with gold Hanukkah gelt.

*And yes, for the record, I do believe in Tinkerbell. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

In Order To Form A More Perfect Union ~ Part 1

All this talk about the economy and who should be doing what to whom misses a fundamental point, and that is, “why do we work?”

You get those high falutin’ answers like, “satisfaction,” “I love what I do,” “helping people is important,” but none of those are honest.  That’s not really why anyone works. People work because they get something in return. Usually it’s money but sometimes there are other forms of remuneration. Whatever that something is, it contributes to the wellbeing of the individual as well as the community. In its most basic form, work provides the necessities and, if you’re lucky, some luxuries.

The simplest formula is that work = pay = prosperity = additional jobs = population growth = more diverse jobs to meet the needs of the population = more pay = more prosperity  …ad infinitum. The workers prosper, they have more money to spend. The more they spend, the better the economy. So therefore one might conclude that the best economic system is one where the workers are well paid for the work they do in an environment where they want to be. The icing on the cake is when they are treated as integral parts of their industries and respected as such.

Understand that I’m not talking about socialism or communism or any other ism here; I’m talking about boring ol’ socioeconomics. You know…the part of economic theory that deals with ethics, morals, worker dignity, et al.

Socioeconomics not a new concept. The roots are at the very beginnings of human time. For the most basic village to survive, it has to be able to support itself and do it as a cooperative. If one guy is a good hunter he gets to hunt. If another guy is good at managing livestock, he gets to do that. Sharing the resources is the beginning of trade. If that wasn’t more practical and productive than doing everything yourself, why bother with the village in the first place?

Fast forward a few thousand years, and you still have population clusters relying on the symbiotic relationship between residents….or at least theoretically. Look at it on the small scale: if a town has a single general store and it folds, the town itself is in the process of actively dying. Without a place to purchase goods, the residents lose a big reason to stay. The jobs lost in the closing of that store HUGELY impacts the town as much as losing the store itself.

But bring some useful endeavor that employs people INTO a town, and the reverse happens. People move there.  Stores open. Services take root, and the town flourishes. You want proof? Go look at Faribault, Minnesota where a couple of guys decided it was worth it to reopen the Faribault Woolen Mills and make blankets there again. They know what they’re up against, but they believe it’s worth it.  People have jobs, people get money, people spend money, more people get jobs, more people get money, more people spend money…and on and on and on.

This is really the time for those who can afford it to bite the bullet and reinvest in our industrial infrastructure. There would be less pushback from the 99% if they saw the 1% actually investing in the economic health of the United States. Maybe it’s time to be brave about the economy. As long as this economy is driven solely by the profit margin, it will never have the loyalty of its workers; management will only have its tolerance. The pay packet is not the be all/end all of the relationship between worker and employer; it is only one part.

So if net profits are slimmer, what do you get in return? A community that is self-sustaining? An economy that is more resilient to the natural flux of the markets? Employees willing to go to the mattresses for their employers because the company has become a part of the modern societal structure?  Yes, this is Pollyanna at it again, but I also know this is not so far-fetched.

If you pay two-bits an hour for some kid to work in a Chinese sweat shop, you may be feeding that family, but the ones here are equally desperate for work. Maybe this economic war really needs to be about paying people here to work so this country can have a multi-leveled economy that supports its own society. Maybe it’s less about fat net profits and more about ensuring there is an American society in which to live.

There comes a time when self-interest must give way to communal responsibility. It would be wonderful if our politicians could figure this out sooner rather than later. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
 Tomorrow is the first lichtel. 
You need 36 candles plus the shammas.

! חנכה שמח

Monday, December 12, 2011


So we have this thing at work called Bonus Bucks and every time you do something respectable, you get some. Over the course of the year, if you're wise, you can accumulate some serious change. The husband used to tell me any time I got a spiff at work, I had to use it for myself; it could not be 're-gifted," given away, or used for household replacement/repair kinda thing. Nope. It had to be something I wanted for me. And since I totally suck at shopping, (despite 14 years at Dayton's/Marshall Fields) picking something for myself is not easy. In fact, of everyone I ever shop for, I am the most difficult.

Thankfully, one of the places we can use said Bonus Bucks is Amazon. In years past, I've picked up CDs of old muscials long forgotten by everyone but me (ROAR OF THE GREASPAINT, ROBERTA, BOYS FROM SYRACUSE, get the drift) and some pretty obscure books on stuff like midrash and 18th century Brit Lit. Real exciting stuff, y'know. Once, I even ordered a pair of Betula clogs (they're on my feet as I type this) but that was because my old pair was falling apart and I was desperate...and the husband then gave me an argument.

This year, he would not have argued; he would've laughed. I had all manner of books and things ready to go when I saw it. It was just the right price and would leave me enough for all the nifty accessories AND the new Barbra Streisand CD. 

Then again, I wondered if it would be traitorous to buy such a thing, me being a writer and all. But it was oh, so tempting. I could pretend I lived in the 21st century with that thing. And with a red leather case, it would very chic. And it's not like anyone would ever buy one for me, so if I wanted it, I would have to spring for it. And maybe if I had it I would be more inclined to use it for its own special purpose. But there was the Rashi commentary I was ogling. But if I got this, I might be able to also get the Rashi later...electronically........

I shut my eyes and pressed the send button. I ordered a Kindle. Not the cheapo one and not the expensive one, the one in the middle. Of course, there was instant buyer's remorse, but I steeled myself against it. I was going to give myself a Kindle and that was that.

It came. I figured out how it works...pretty much. Got some remedial help from my daughter-in-law who promised me I'm going to love this, especially once I get my library card turn on for ebooks.

So I downloaded a free copy of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I really love that book. I figured if I was going to learn a new way to read stuff, may as well start with something I like and know so that I can pay more attention to how I'm changing my process than than story itself. 

Then I started to wonder if anyone else went through that same examination. I'm not sure. I do know that I am very aware of how we have changed our experiential parameters in the last few years. Earbuds make music private, but then you don't get to hear what kids are listening to these days...or ask questions about it. Does the insular experience of listening to one's own music translate to insulating kids from experiences in the real world?

Trotting along the same line, does the slimness of a Kindle or a Nook change our expectations when it comes to reading a book. Have we now reached a point where size really does not matter? Does reading WAR AND PEACE seem as onerous a task when it's held inside a slender Kindle?  And how can we know what book everyone is reading if we cannot see the book covers? And what about pages? How can one truly dog ear a beloved copy or write notes to oneself in the margins? 

One day, I hope a grandkid will take my Complete Pelican Shakespeare and discover all those notes in peacock blue and jade green fountain pen ink to be useful. And that will be me talking to them from another time. 

These are important questions, society shifting issues yet no one seems to notice it too much. What happens to us as a society when we live inside our heads? Do we lose our ability to interact, communicate, and subsequently compete? Do we stop caring about those outside our immediate circle... and what does that do to the fabric of society?

I have no answers, only more questions. If anyone wants to weigh in on this, please do.

Wifely Person's Tip of the Day
Don't sleep with your mobile device. Ever.

Monday, December 5, 2011

There and Back... Again

Every year, the week after Thanksgiving, I head down to Florida for a few days to celebrate my mother’s birthday. This year, however, shaped up a little differently. Instead of spending Shabbat with the folks, I went down on Tuesday and returned on Friday. Which theoretically should’ve been just fine…except when I woke up Tuesday morning, I could feel a cold coming on like gangbusters. By the time I arrived in Delray Beach, I was ready to cough up a lung.

Instead of the fine time I was expecting to have, especially since Cousin Perdie was joining me for a couple of days, I could barely move. I managed to make it to evening services at shul to mark the 75th anniversary of my grandfather’s death. The highlight was going to swinging Delray Beach downtown with Perdie after dinner on Wednesday, where we sat in an outdoor café actually having a conversation without our parents listening in. What a concept! 

The Birthday Girl   
Thursday, Mom's birthday, was fine…I was still sleeping through everything else but at least stayed awake through dinner. My father was positive I was about to expire any minute, but my mother was just happy to have her daughter under her roof under any condition. The best part was when she would stop by to listen to me cough...and then scratch my back. Oh, to be a little kid again!

Friday morning, I returned the car at 6:30 a.m. and got to the curbside check in where I watched my suitcase, now stuffed with frozen kosher meat from Glick's, slide down the conveyor belt. I got to the gate in plenty of time, then settled in for the first leg to Atlanta.

NOT SO FAST. They lost a megaphone. Yes, a megaphone. Did you know an airplane cannot fly unless they have TWO megaphones on board? True fact. Sometime between the time the plane arrived the night before and it’s scheduled departure at 8 a.m. some scurrilous individual snuck onboard and stole one of the two megaphones. The damn thing doesn't even plug into anything. Maybe they need them to shout encouragement at the chipmunks peddling in the underbelly of the aircraft. Other airlines offered us multiple megaphones, but no, this had a be a special FAA coded-to-that-exact-airplane-battery-powered-megaphone and no other megaphone would do. You think I’m kidding, right?  

THEY FLEW A NEW MEGAPHONE TO US FROM ATLANTA. Yep-a-roo. We sat at the gate for TWO HOURS while they flew in a megaphone. The plane with said megaphone arrived, they hustled that crucial part on board, and off we took. 

Now, being the in travel  biz, I am well acquainted with Atlanta and had planned a two hour layover on the way back. That layover was disappearing rapidly. We landed in Atlanta, and thankfully, I was close to the front of the plane. I ran out, stopped long enough to find out where the next gate was, and started running.

With my Israeli paratrooper bag and my Coach stationmaster’s bag slung over my shoulder, I ran. I should also mention I was wearing a skirt…and elevator sandals. And I still sounded like galloping consumption. And I am running through the airport like OJ in the old Hertz commercials. I run down the escalator just as the tram pulls in…I hop on the tram one stop hacking my lungs out…I hop off and run up the escalator, still hacking. I get to the top and almost run over a lady and a stroller. Dodging artfully around…and still coughing, I run down a concourse and a half to the gate where they are about to close the door. 

I’m about to yell, “NOOOOOOOO!” when the gate agent puts his hand up and says, “STOP!”

I crashed into the counter and proceed to hack up a lung. He smiles benignly. “Catch your breath. We’re not leaving without you.” I hacked up the other lung. I didn’t dare ask about the suitcase; I was just happy to be getting on the plane where the only empty seat was a window and all mine. The woman on the aisle was holding a baby. The guy next to me looked like Dean Stockwell and turned out to be a newly minted evangelical bent on testifying to anyone in earshot. Still playing the consumption card, I hacked a few time, wedged my ear buds in,  and closed my eyes. 

Let’s just say the baby screamed non-stop and I am very thankful that SUNSET BOULEVARD is about the same length as a flight from Atlanta to Minneapolis. Patty LuPone can block out damn near anything.

Thankfully, and most unexpectedly, mine was the very last bag to come down the conveyor belt.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Never believe what they tell you about connecting in Atlanta ~
whatever you think it is, add an hour.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Just Because it Quacks Like A Duck.....

There’s a new deli in town called The Rye Delicatessen. Its website announces, “This isn’t your grandmother’s delicatessen - but she would love it. Really.” 

Yeah? Well, neither one of my grandmothers woulda set foot in the place.

edible Bialy
My grandpuppy Bialy 
Nestled amongst the fine line of Jewish delicacies like a bialy (not my grand-puppy but that elusive non-bagel heretofore unknown in this town), lox bagel and cream cheese, corned beef and smoked beef (not pastrami) sandwiches, are those ancient classics  the “KNIFE AND FORK REUBEN - Open faced corned beef or smoked meat, rye, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese,” it’s counterpart the RACHEL - Grilled rye, roast turkey, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese,” the “REUBEN BURGER - Smoked meat, Swiss, russian dressing, kraut, toasted bialy,”  and the perennial favorite of all Bubbes “GRILLED BACON EGG ONION AND TOMATO - Challah, burnt onions.”

Granted,  nowhere on the website does it say this is a kosher establishment but on the home page, down at the bottom, the following quote appears:

“Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.” – Milton Berle

What could he possibly say about that challah combo? “Straight to gehenna?”

A review of said new restaurant appeared on a local website, and I gotta tell ya, I was seriously torqued by the review, and subsequently, the reviewer. He waxed rhapsodic about the place as a Jewish delicatessen, and I took exception to that because it’s not kosher. Here’s the link to TCJewfolk’s review of Rye Delicatessen; you can read the article and the “conversation” for yourselves. Usually, I would’ve suggested that his defensive, self-righteous posturing was indicative of a small body part, but in this case, I think it’s his brains, and therein lies the bigger tragedy.

Now, I’ve run on about  marit ayin , (literally ‘appearance of the eye, but really meaning ‘for the sake of appearances’) in the past, and yes, it’s one of my favorite soapboxes.  Just because something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck there’s no guarantee that it can’t be a chicken jerking your chain.

Marit ayin is a highly undervalued, albeit crucially important, commodity. Here we are in the opening salvos of an election cycle and already the photo/video doctors are out in force, twisting images and sentences and expecting the American public to believe whatever their little creative minds invent. Unfortunately the reliable old adage “seeing is believing” is no longer reliably correct. We can no longer trust our eyes to determine whether or not what we see is the truth. And that is certainly the case with our ears. Our technology is now a new tool for propagating lies….and damned lies.

While there is nothing on the Rye Deli website that says it is kosher, there’s nothing that says “kosher style” or “New York style,” both code for letting kosher people know the meat is trefe. It’s easy to be confused unless you really look hard. The political ads are no different.

So I have to ask why. What is the benefit in purposely misleading the public? Is this really just an unintentional stumbling block? Or is there a real desire to be deceitful? Is there a degree of difference between the two, or is there a religious disconnect here?

In the case of the restaurant, they are pretty scrupulous about not saying this place is even remotely kosher; even the pickles are listed as dill, not KOSHER dill, so I have to conclude this deli motif is for the benefit of gentiles looking for an exotic eating experience. I can see where they’re going, but it's still a bit murky and definitely misleading. (Ultimately, my argument was with the critic, not the restaurant…as you already know if you followed the link.)

Not so ambiguous with the campaigns. The recent use of a statement made by the President while running in 2008 has been manipulated by the Romney campaign to make it appear as if President Obama is saying,

"If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.”

when, in fact, what candidate Obama really said was,  

“Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.”

Not only is the quote wrong, it’s misleading in a way that should backfire on Mr. Romney’s campaign which refuses to back down or apologize on misquoting the candidate Obama. What does that tell us about the candidate and the people with whom he surrounds himself? I sure as hell know what it tells me, and I'm not too crazy about the message. 

I don’t know about any of you, gentle readers, but my bullshit detector is already running on overdrive and we haven’t even gotten to Iowa or New Hampshire. How do we tell them to stop?

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Remember: shopping at your local, non-big box stores and markets
is best way to keep your neighborhood alive and thriving. 

Wifely Person's Bonus Tip
Wanna do an easy mitzvah? 
Wish my mother "Happy 89th!" on Thursday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

We, The People ~ Thanksgiving Edition

I am not the greatest fan of Thanksgiving. Oh, that’s not to say I don’t celebrate the day along with everyone else; I do.  I did all the usual T-day things: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy. I made my own cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin and pecan pies. Yep, everything except that classic sweet potato marshmallow thing that my guys just hate.

The best of my kiddie Thanksgivings were the ones where my dad hustled us all to Lollipop Farm to get us out from underfoot. Thanksgiving could be what he called a 4-knuckler…which means the number of knuckles my mom could fit in her mouth to keep from hollering at us. If you were having 18 people to dinner in a space the size of a freight elevator, you'd be hollering, too!

The 'houses' at the Rodney
The salmon and his Zayde
After those, the best were at the Rodney on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach which started once we were all grown up and living our own lives. The whole family went…and I mean the WHOLE family. We would take a line of apartments and everyone would be in each other pots for five days or so. The uncles had the annual French Toast-off, there were endless games of Scrabble on the beach, the annual night at Dania Jai-Alai for all the "young" people. For T-day itself, every “house” housed a different course. We cooked like crazy, everybody making one specialty or another. (I did pies.) Siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, out-laws, friends….everyone came; it was quite the crowd. Literally. Of course, my favorite year was that very first one. Unbeknownst to us, we carried back a little souvenir from that first Thanksgiving on the beach and a year later, when we all reconvened at the Rodney, it was with crib, car seat, bibs, diapers, and the joke that the salmon were swimming upstream.

These days, it’s just me and my father-in-law in the house, and I don’t feel much like doing a big Thanksgiving.  Thankfully, my machatunim* live close by, so we go there. It’s a lively table, the his 'n' hers nonagenarian grandpas get to visit and that’s always nice. We are lucky. We have a fine family with whom to hang. We all like each other, there’s no drama except for my grandpuppy’s whining when it’s time to sit down to the feast. The conversation rolls along at a good clip, the food is superb (the rolls are always spectacular because that’s my machutin’s* specialty), and there’s plenty of coffee, tea, and sweets to please everyone at table. 

But like I said, we’re lucky. Very lucky. Too many folks are facing Thanksgiving with uncertainty. Some are saying thanks for having a job, other for still having a job, and some because despite the economy and their circumstance, they still have a roof overhead. And some, without so much as a roof, may be saying thanks because on this day they have a hot meal.

Somewhere along the way We, the People stopped noticing how much we consumed and perhaps, more tellingly, where it all came from. We stopped manufacturing and started importing. We lost the sense of "made in America" and replaced it with "cheap." Our own insatiable demand for stuff fueled this economic bonfire until it raged out of control and now, when faced with a pile of smoldering ash, we want to blame someone else for the destruction.

In truth, we cannot. We own this sagging economy because we allowed it to sag. When we first noticed something was wrong, we did nothing to stop it. We shrugged our shoulders and watched movies like WALL STREET and OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY. We cheered Edward's redemption in PRETTY WOMAN, but we knew corporate raiders don't have sudden changes of heart. 

So as we give thanks, let’s also be thankful that we still have a voice and a vote. Now all we need is the will to use them.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you're making pecan pie, 
try using grade B maple syrup for at least half the brown sugar.

Bonus vocabulary words: Yiddish is the only language with specific words to define the relationship between parents-in-law
                Machatunim: the parents of your child's spouse
                Machutin: your child's father-in-law
                Machatenista: your child' mother-in-law
[This is the gutteral CH as in Chutzpah...which is not pronounced shuts-pa like certain politicians think]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not Just For Right Wing Irregulars

An odd benefit of being read online is that you sometimes have the odd yet exhilarating experience of email from total strangers. And while many are of the “screw you and the horse you rode in on,” variety, I figure the least I can do if someone takes the time to write to me is to write back. I already know what I think; I’d rather hear what other people think. And a few of these folks have become jolly pen pals.

Janis Joplin

So when a recent exchange with one of my right wing irregulars included the line,  "I still have an hour commute. Janis Joplin on the iPod and it’s raining."  I just had to ask, "Joplin?  This guy?"  Suddenly I suspected things were not right wing as they may have seemed. I countered, "You must've been a radical liberal once, back in the day, when you still had hopes and ideals....when you believed in equal opportunity and the communal good. No one is born cynical and sardonic; that develops with age and experience. What made you change?"

I think I caught him off guard. He said he had to think about that one, and he apparently he did, because a while later he wrote a rather thoughtful response that included the phrase:

For whatever reasons, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that the only person you can rely on is yourself.

Now, I’m probably just as cynical as the next person, but hey! who wouldn’t be these days? We’re involved in two underfunded land wars in Asia (despite Vizzini’s sage advice to the contrary.) Our economy is in shambles. Jobs have evaporated, people are without health coverage, and all too often they’re trying to figure out whether to put food on the table or meds in their mouths. Even hope becomes a precious commodity.

The Republican mantra to deny President Obama a second term doesn’t come with much else besides tax breaks for the superrich... and we already know how well “trickle down” works. Their view of social responsibility does not include recognizing not everyone has disposable income. It seems if you lack that, you become the disposal part. 

And the Democrats, much to my dismay, are posing as poster children for political impotency.

How can you not be cynical?

But do you tell a construction worker who's lost his job that he'll just have to tough it out while there are roads and bridges desperately in need of repair...yet no funding to fix them? Can you say it's okay to reward companies that offshore jobs while pretty much telling the laid off workers, “Sucks to be you?”  Can you force a woman to carrying a child to term, and then let the child languish because there's no available health coverage or plan for education? Can you shout you want less government intrusion but say it's okay to intrude into our bedrooms?

Taking predatory advantage of someone who comes in good faith to get a mortgage is a vicious, morally bankrupt act. People may be generally stupid when it comes to deciphering fine print, but preying on them is expressly forbidden in that Bible book the candidates are always thumping. Stumbling block? Blind? Sound familiar? Oh, wait! There are no metaphors in their literal word world, are there? 

© 2011, Steven G. Artley, ARTLEY CARTOONS

Explain why anyone would want to strip away all environmental regulation.  What? Dumping toxic waste in rivers is suddenly okay?  I guess they’re guessing everyone can afford bottle water. And then, what do you do with the plastic bottles?  And who says our food isn't safe? Just ask the Iowa egg guys, the peanut guys in Georgia, or the cantaloupe grower guys in Colorado. They’ll assure you, scouts’ honor with a cherry on top, that we don’t need no stinkin’ food regulation in this country. Yep. All our food is all perfectly safe.

So here's my question: how do you get to the place where you can look in the mirror and say, “I don’t care what happens to air quality or nuclear waste or kids or the food chain or any of that stuff so long as it doesn't touch me personally?”

Everyone starts out with ideals that include social justice; you learned them in kindergarten when the teacher sent home notes about “works and plays well with others.” Maybe the challenge we face as Americans is re-convincing ourselves that we really do want to live in a society where life is as fair as we can make it, and that there are times when people actually do need help, and those who can should lend a hand.

Everyone has to ask "Can I live with what I do to contribute to the wellbeing of this community and this country?" and everyone has to answer it with brutal honesty. You don’t need to discuss it anyone, but you do have to look yourself squarely in the eye when you’re done and say, “I can live with this answer.”

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Got extra coats? Coat drives abound this time of year.
There are more cold people than available coats.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What? Me Worry?

So, the junior son got a smart phone. As I have previously noted in this space, I do not want a smart phone; I want a dumb phone that rings when someone wants to talk to me. I don’t want it to sing, or speak, or honk or even whistle. I want the damn thing to ring. Is this asking so much?

But this is not about my phone. The kid has offered me his "old" iPod Touch. It’s actually  a pretty new one, and since I already have my iPod, Steve’s iPod (which is much, much lighter than my G1...that Steve gave me...yes, I was an early adaptor) and a Shuffle that I won in a raffle…I figured I could handle an iPod Touch, so I said yes. Then I thought about it a while. Then I called my daughter-in-law and said, “I told him yes…but other than play music, what does the thing do?” She explained in concise, simple terms…which is why I called her and not him...that it has apps. Hmmm. I’ll let you know what 'appens next. At least he's re-purposing the thing...he's giving it to his Troglodyte mother. 

Dr. Grandin's Cow Ramp
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I’ve been following the multiple attempts to pass a jobs bill, and with it, an extension of unemployment benefits. This is really interesting stuff. The bills sorta meander through the Washington stock shoot before they get to the slaughterhouse known as Congress. It’s not a pretty sight. None of those really cool curved ramps designed by Temple Grandin for calming livestock. Instead, whoever's written the latest version lobs it over the dome and onto the House floor where it's stomped to smithereens by Congressional pod people whose only interest is in preserving their own temp jobs and bennies. The hell with the rest of the country.

Keeping in mind that Congress's approval rating hovers around 9% these days, (and that's an optimistic figure),here's how I see it playing out:

If you follow the Republican line of thinking, the cessation of benefits is a necessary disaster. Cut off the bennies, all those lazy people will be forced to seek employment even if it's not in their field. Accountants will become farm workers, and factory workers will learn how to work in livestock and slaughter operations. Teachers can learn to flip burgers and clean hotels with great precision, thereby setting fine examples to all the kids coming out of high school and college.

#30 - December 1956
A new labor class emerges. These workers are highly educated and often highly skilled but unable to find jobs commensurate with experience and knowledge. Those entering this new work pool are needed to fill positions vacated by illegal aliens. Now if you're part of this new class, these jobs will get some income into your pocket even if the rate is minimum wage, the hours may not be regular or permanent, and it's unlikely there are benefits like health insurance or vacation days.

The Democrats, on the other hand, know that their approval ratings are equally in the toilet, so they're betting the farm, the factory, the schools, the libraries, and the clinics that the people in their district/state want something "else," so they just stomp on their own ideas in order to look like their fighting for something, only they're not really fighting for anything. They can rant and rave about the need to protect the elderly, the poor, the disadvantaged children, the huddled masses yearning to be free and whatever else they want to parade down 5th Avenue, but the truth of the matter is that they are not standing up for anyone or anything. They are merely enabling those who would be midwife to the birth of that new labor class while looking pathetically helpless. 

These clowns just don't get it. Not the right, not the left, not even the center. 

So don't count on any extension on jobless benefits. The shift of jobs is going to happen, and it will be sooner rather than later just based on the inaction of Congress. Of course, a really good pandemic would significantly help cull the herd.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
The Talmud says it is the responsibility of parents 
to teach each child how to swim and a trade.
If you think about it, these two things are the keys to surviving in an adverse world.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hey! You Wanna Trick Or A Treat?????

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the Halloween Blizzard. I know all you east coasters got snow this weekend, but we had 28.4 inches of wet, heavy, sticky stuff that did not deter trick or treating in this neighborhood for one New York minute. The little shrub at the end of the walk leading to the front steps has a permanent dent where Misha’s best friend fell on it. We still refer to it the Evan Tepler Memorial Bush. 

I will admit I am anxious to see all the fairy princesses and super-heroes who will ring the doorbell this evening. I especially love the little ones who clearly had an active hand in costume creation…something that has been a long time tradition in this neighborhood. I don’t know too many of the parents these days since my guys are grown, but I like that the parade continues. So I shall blow up Hoskins, our resident skeleton, and hang him on the coat tree near the front door. The dog will hate it, but it’s only one night.

Or one would hope. Those of us living in America 2011 are going to continue to be subjected to the costume parade called the election cycle. I have a fun idea! Let’s play dress-up the candidates!

Well, it seems Madame Bachmann has turned in her Stepford Wife outfit and is now showing up as Serious Leader Barbie, complete with serious admiral's jacket, serious hair, and serious eyebrows. Unfortunately, they forgot to install serious mouth because the stuff that’s been coming out has been stand-up, not sea, worthy. Just yesterday, she announced she would rescind citizen status for children of illegal aliens who are born here. "We've got to end this anchor baby program.”
Aye, aye, Admiral!

Rick Santorum should go door to door dressed as Pope Benedict. Sanatorium actually said birth control is a “license to do things.” Kinda reminds me of the old ads that made us think if we used Tampax we could ride horses on the beach. I wonder if this guy does “it” with his wife. Maybe through a hole in a sheet. Which hole might be a matter of speculation.

And as not to discriminate, Rick Perry is just coming off as narcissistic wacko these days. Get that guy a Gilderoy Lockhart cape! The 20% flat tax plan is such an exercise in Magical Thinking that it makes you wonder just what he does as governor of Texas. Oh, wait…we kinda know the answer to that, don't we? Prayer rallies for rain. Jobs created with the same federal funding he vehemently opposes. And he wants to keep US Forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he wants to cut taxes. Excuse me, but how are we paying for that? I know! He must have a vault at Gringott's  Bank! I'm waiting for him to wave his magical thinking wand and send some Dementors to guard the border with Mexico.

Herman Cain could’ve gone as Vito Corleone, but the smoking campaign manager ad ruined that idea. What subliminal message is that supposed to be sending? Hmmmm. Take back America, bring back Joe Camel? But that smile at the end of the ad is so, so creepy.  I am going to have to go with Johnny Depp’s version of Willy Wonka on this one. That Willy Wonka is just plain scary with his hypno-eyes...and that same look is so well mirrored by Herman Cain at the end of that ad. Oompa-loompas watch your backs!

And oh, poor ol' Mitt Romney. His fish-in-a-boat routine continues to confound. First he points one way, then he flops around for a while and points another. Let’s just dress him up as The Scarecrow from Munchkinland and maybe he can trick-or-treat his way over the Rick (Gilderoy Lockhart) Perry's fortress to ask for a brain. 

Pick a wizard, any wizard. Makes no difference. One can only draw comfort that none of them have more than 21% of the poll votes. That's not enough to get elected dog catcher around here. I'm still trying to figure out if that's the trick or the treat. 

Wifely person’s Tip O’The Week
Late in the evening, watch to see if older kids are dressed as the candidates.
That’s always such an interesting tell.