Denny Hastert And His Gentleman Farmer Aw-Shucks Persona

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It was 1986. Seated next to my desk in an old oak armchair was Congressman Dennis Hastert. I worked for a Chicago suburban newspaper group that had just started another paper that was reaching a new readership area and the publisher put me in charge as editor and everything else that went along with starting a new paper. I had never met Hastert.  When he had been in the Illinois House he did not represent our coverage area but now we had expanded and so did he; to the U.S. House. He had just won a close election to replace a congressman who was battling cancer.

I couldn’t initially figure out why he wanted this meeting. While our newspapers were well known and had been around a long time, we certainly didn’t have the clout of the Tribune or Sun Times and besides, he  had already won the election. It appeared to be a simple meet and greet. He said he wanted to congratulate us on starting a new paper and meet the editor. I must say I was surprised, as most members of congress only bother with the big fish. His demeanor was so aw-shucks and laid back I almost forgot he was a politician. I said almost. He didn’t dress like the typical blue-suited red-tied politician either, brown suit, slightly rumpled. He said his friends called him Denny or coach.

He spent a lot of time talking about his humble beginnings doing farm work, his teaching career and wrestling. He didn’t seem in any kind of rush, as most politicians are prone to remind you how busy and important they are while rushing the conversation. He did not speak in political jargon or weigh his words carefully when I asked a few questions. We talked of Wheaton College, where he went to school and I occasionally gave talks on community journalism (I disliked public speaking) because I somehow could never say no to professor Arnold. It was really one of the more pleasant conversations with a politician I had ever had.  When he left my office he said if I ever needed information for a story etc. just give him a call. He said if he was in Washington a staff member at his local Yorkville office would answer questions or he personally would call back and not three days later, as I told him often we are on deadline and many politicians only get back to us after the paper has been published (he laughed).

I found myself thinking about the impression he made and what a nice guy he was. Just like countless people he worked with for decades thought. Just like the wrestling students he sexually abused first thought. They thought he could be trusted, he was a teacher and coach and mentor who they initially looked up to. And as a Federal Prosecutor said recently, his career was “marred by stunning hypocrisy.” But, in the end who cares about his career? What about the lives of the boys who are now men and still struggling with what Hastert did to them?

This is from the New York Times:

“While in Congress, Mr. Hastert also was an outspoken advocate for severe punishment of anyone convicted of abusing minors. He helped push legislation in 2006 that required states to expand sex offender registers, as he declared that “protecting our children from Internet predators and child exploitation enterprises are just as high a priority as securing our border from terrorists.”

Who knew we needed to secure our children from someone who would become U.S. Speaker Of The House for eight years, the third highest office in the land?  The gentleman farmer, aw-shucks persona wasn’t typical for a politician but it sure served as his cover up as a child predator for years. A wolf in sheep’s clothing is indeed an understatement.






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Trump, Cruz and Rubio are all small men after all


As I was watching  the Republican Primary (grade school) debate Thursday night I felt like I was watching a Saturday Night Live skit or maybe not even that good, more like a bad circus act. I figured pie throwing would be on the agenda at any moment. My mind could not comprehend that these were indeed real honest-to-goodness potential presidential nominees and bore no resemblance to what I grew up thinking was democracy in action. The antics of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were like the school yard bullies yelling “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.” I’m leaving John Kasich out of the fray because he basically played nice. Boring but nice. In his case though boring was like a breath of fresh air on the political debate stage that can only be described as a circus.

While Trump kept calling Rubio “little Marco” and once again the size of Trumps hands and lower appendage came up (Rubio has claimed Trump’s hands and other “things” were small). Trump claimed he was fine in “that department” I found myself astounded that this was being discussed in a political arena (TMI). This debate was supposed to be about issues that are important to the American people that pertain to the economy, jobs, climate change, health care and more but our issues were secondary  to the circus clowns verbally knocking each other down as they told each other to stop talking, stop lying and at one point Cruz telling trump “breathe Donald, breathe.” This, as they all talked over each other just as children are inclined to do. A more stately sight would have been any man, woman or child anywhere across America or any of the “uneducated poor” (Trumps quote) with manners and class that the potential nominees lacked.

I guess I was embarrassed and couldn’t imagine Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or a host of other past presidents (some that I didn’t even like) acting like bottom feeders in a frenzy to get our vote and doing it on national TV. The office they are trying to attain somehow seems tainted by the mere fact that they are clawing for that brass ring that they have tarnished. None of these guys are presidential material. It is extremely hard to think of the word President in any kind of context that includes their names. These three clowns are all small men in every possible sense of the word.



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March 5, 2016 · 9:55 am

St. Patrick’s Day: My Top Childhood Memories

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Our Irish surname was all our family needed to wear over-the-top green on St. Patrick’s Day, with little regard for appropriateness. It mattered little that we were off to school or the dentist, my father scoped out our attire hinting at times that the green quotient could be kicked-up a notch. My memories that are etched in green stone include:

1. My green hair fiasco: I wish I could say it probably happens to everyone at some time in their life, but of course, that would only be true if you were trying to impress your father with kelly green hair on St. Patrick’s Day. These were the days when primary colored hair was not at all fashionable and actually considered weird. The fiasco part came when I tried to wash out the supposed temporary rinse. It wasn’t.

2. Everyone loves a parade: The Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade when I was a kid had a pretty straightforward route. No zigs or zags or hairpin turns just straight down a long street for a few miles. I was marching in the parade and trying to Irish Dance when we would stop. There were so many parade participants and different groups, I lost my parents for a short while even though they were walking alongside the troupe as we marched.  When my group got to the end of the line there was a little confusion and for a few minutes my parents lost sight of me–you can only imagine that fear as a parent. We did quickly find each other but I was never allowed to be in the parade again. My mom said something about not being able to take the strain on her heart and my dad mumbled something quietly to my mom about hell freezing over but I heard it.

3. Send in the clown: Nobody necessarily likes to see their parent dressed like a clown–unless of course, that is their occupation. As kids, my sister and I used to cringe as we witnessed my father go off to work on St. Patrick’s Day in his bright green blazer, green pants and a green tipped carnation in his lapel. Of course, now as an adult, I would give anything to see my dad dressed once again in his green garb.

4. The green river: One year on St. Patrick’s Day our family went downtown so we could witness first-hand just how green the Chicago river really was. We were able to get really close to the river and I noticed that it really looked rather dirty and murky, with maybe a tinge of green. I guess as I kid, when I heard they turned the river green, I was expecting a river of bright green Jell-O. I think they have much improved this today.

5. The family bar: Our family used to go to a neighborhood bar on St. Patrick’s Day and eat corned beef and cabbage. I don’t remember that I even particularly liked the meal, but as kids we got to go into an actual bar and I thought that was really cool. We got to play pinball and a bowling game, plus we got to see what the big deal was about bars. We quickly figured out it was the popcorn machine and the kiddie cocktails, and some of the adults were even drinking green beer. Imagine that, we thought, who would drink that?

6. Since I lived in Chicago in a predominantly Irish/ Catholic neighborhood we had to go to church before school on St. Patrick’s Day. I thought this absurd but the nuns and priests used any excuse possible to get us to mass. They said it was because St. Patrick was a saint and we had to go. But then eventually, many of the saints got thrown under the bus because the Church claimed they weren’t “real” saints after all. My personal favorite, St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers was taken off the Universal Church Roman Calendar but I ignore this as I do most Church doctrine. I figure I could have slept an extra hour at home on St. Patrick’s day instead of sleeping through the mandatory mass.

7. The few non-Irish kids in our neighborhood didn’t really get the “green thing.” Sometimes they even tried to make fun of our outfits or corned-beef-and-cabbage dinners. I didn’t even like cabbage back then but I still stuck up for our Irish traditions, claiming our Irish soda bread was far better than their Italian bread, Polish sour dough rye or whatever they ate.

8. And of course as kids we heard the Irish sayings, many of which we didn’t understand such as “May the road rise to meet you.” What? It simply means; wishing you much success. But, Erin Go Bragh would bring giggles to our Irish faces as we struggled to figure out who the heck Erin was and why were they talking about her bra?

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McDonald’s Thinks Leadership Not Product or Culture, Cause of Sales Decline

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The first McDonald’s in Illinois  circa 1955 was constructed in Des Plains, a Chicago suburb


I have a crystal ball here on my desk that predicts McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson stepping down and  their replacing him with Steve Easterbrook, the company’s “chief brand officer” will make no difference what-so-ever on increasing their bottom line. Nope, the new branding guy won’t really be able to convince us (the general public) that their luke warm burgers, rubbery chicken nuggets, their pretend lattes and everything under-the-sun- wrapped in a, you know, wrap, is really good food. Or even a facsimile. We know too much.

We’ve learned “fast food” doesn’t have to taste mediocre or not fresh. We’ve learned fast food doesn’t have to sacrifice taste to be healthy. And some of us have learned that we don’t have to give our hard-earned money to companies that we feel don’t treat their employees fairly by handing out low wages and/or shorter hours so they don’t have to pay benefits. They should really just hire me to run a focus group of “regular people” and they could save themselves a ton of money on executives and pass that money down to the “real” employees that do the work. Surely they understand “trickle down” right?

Sales at McDonald’s have been declining since 2013 so I assume Thompson will be the fall guy. His salary and perks are in the millions so gee, I’m sure he’ll land on his feet. Unlike many McDonald workers who can barely make ends meet and end up being subsidized by taxpayers in the form of food stamps, healthcare subsidies etc. when we know the CEO’s are walking away with golden parachutes and we are in essence subsidizing McDonald’s.  Could some of us just  be plain mad at McDonald’s and their apparent greed? Of course, but we also know we have many good options.

Many of us have been turning to chains like Panera, Five Guys, Smashburgers, Chipotle, In n’ Out Burger, and Chick-fil-A to name a few. These chains are not trying to be all things to all people. They specialize in fresh, made to order, reasonably priced food. What they prepare they do well. You won’t find 100 items on a Five Guys menu. They make fantastic burgers and hand cut fresh french fries. There is always a line and you don’t mind waiting a short time because you know it is being made fresh for you.  McDonald’s has up to 100 items on its menu and when you go to the drive-thru you better not take the time to read it because in three seconds they are asking you what you want.

But taste and freshness aside, McDonald’s recent 21% drop in profit in the most recent quarter compared to last year at the same time ( this according to their own stats) isn’t a fluke.  While they are busy playing around with their menu and firing CEO’s our culture has changed to putting our money where our mouths are, literally and figuratively. But McDonald’s and their so-called McFamily culture doesn’t really have a clue.

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Romney Doesn’t Know ‘Third Times A Charm’ Is An Urban Myth

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Word on the street and everywhere else that prints trilogies is that Mitt Romney is considering throwing his hat into the circus ring that is the Republican Presidential wanna-be tent. More accurately for him the “third times a charm” ring.  Those in the know, mainly his “advisers” who helped him lose the last election because they kept telling him how great he was doing, said in unison “but this time will be different.”
I was wondering what “different” actually meant to someone like Romney and  his ill-advisers.  Is it the kind of different that us 99% think of?  Is it the kind of different that will allow someone like himself who grew up isolated by wealth and privilege get a clue about the realities of life and economics affecting us “little people”?  Like when he said college kids should just borrow $25K from their parents for school as if we all have that kind of money sitting around or  do we forget that his car has an elevator and many Americans don’t have a car, job or food? What could this man possibly do “different” that would make me forget his remarks about 47% of the population being moochers and suggesting undocumented immigrants “self deport” or his paying only 13.9% federal income tax on 15 million in income, for the one year he was made to reveal his tax return?
He has been telling potential campaign donors (some of the same people Jeb Bush is courting) that his focus would be to help the poor and support the middle class. But poor or middle class people might be low on funds or assets but their memories are sharp enough to remember the effects of his Bain Capital sending jobs overseas, his offshore tax dodging accounts and his $60 million 401K. And it’s going to take more than a quick trip to Target or Costco to buy a shirt to prove he gets what it’s like to be middle class. And his wife is certainly way to uppity for such nonsense. Remember her famous pompous words “just stop.” As if she was more than a little used to people obeying her commands, like she thought she was  practicing for a Monarchy.
According to Politico, The Washington Post and a host of other media outlets his “this time will be different” campaign isn’t just idle interest. They claim he is “aggressively” seeking a route into the 2016 nominee field. Politico even reports that his fresh new campaign is devoid of substance. Imagine that,  it’s just like 2008 and 2012 all over again, kind of like that movie Ground Hog Day–every time he runs.
It’s like Mitt Romney wants to be president so bad, he will try to re-invent himself into the butcher, the baker or the candlestick maker but he doesn’t know who or what those things are. But, no worries, his advisers will fill him in.
P.S. Just in case you have forgotten Mitt Romney’s typical tone and style when speaking about and to the American people from his ivory tower, here is a direct quote from the last time he ran in 2012;
“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what……who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it…..These are people who pay no income tax…..And so my job is not to worry about those people…”   Wow! Is this not a Presidential caliber statement or what?


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Will Old Acquaintance Be Forgot? Or Not?

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When I was a kid my folks occasionally went to a neighborhood bar on New Year’s Eve.  You know the kind, where everybody knew your name, your kid’s names, what you drove, where you went to school/church and if you ate meat on Fridays. They always came back before midnight to ring in the New Year with us kids. They weren’t big party people and my dad used to say New Year’s  Eve was amateur night, so if they went out it was only for a few hours and it was close by.

They entrusted our care to a babysitter that lived across the street from us. We thought she was older than dirt but who knows? We were just kids.  We knew she came from “the old country” but we didn’t know which one. When we asked my dad he just said it’s shaped like a boot. We didn’t get that at all so we figured it was his attempt at a joke. She always brought her knitting in a fold-up knitting bag and sat on a chair and I swear, she never moved. I mean she moved her arms and knitting needles but I don’t remember her ever rising from the chair or interacting with us. Not that we cared. We could watch TV on the four available channels without input from our dad, who typically ruled the TV with a nod of his head. Yes for Bonanza and Lawrence Welk,  no for the Untouchables (for us not him).

We were always already dressed for bed, so I never understood why the babysitter was even there? I guess to watch us watch TV and get our own snacks. My sister and I pretty much ran the show on deciding what to watch and what we were going to do but we always had a dissenter in the group; my brother Kevin. He never wanted to watch what we wanted to watch and we never liked his choices either. He was a real channel flipper. This was in the days when you actually had to walk up to the TV and manually turn a knob. Yeah, it was hard work but sitting on my brother so he wouldn’t keep turning the channel was much harder. Normally, an adult would intervene  but I think the “babysitter” must have thought we were playing a game or something and went back to knitting her 100th pair of slipper socks.

On one particular New Year’s Eve while waiting for my folks to come home just before midnight and give us their noisemakers and hats they invariably got from the bar, I heard a loud racket outside about 10 minutes before midnight. I stepped outside on our porch and I saw all seven of the McGurk kids banging pots and pans and making a hell of a lot of noise and it wasn’t even midnight yet. I ran into our kitchen and grabbed some pots and pans and of course, not to be outdone, I started banging the pots together and on the metal railing and even on the cement porch. In the meantime the folks came home, we all yelled happy New Year and my dad walked the babysitter back across the street where presumably, she had a giant boot hand-knitted in her room somewhere or that was my vision anyway.  The next morning my mom pulled out a pot to make Cream of Wheat, my sister Diane’s favorite but the pot was so dented up it wouldn’t lay flat on the burner. My mom started laughing–lucky for me.

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The Ghost of Christmas Memories Past

I used to wonder why old people liked to talk about the past.  Now that I am in the “old people” club, I totally get it. It has little to do with not being progressive or keeping up with the times or even wanting things the way they were. and everything to do with fond memories.  I mean, who doesn’t want to visit great memories? Especially around Christmastime. I don’t necessarily remember visions of sugar plums dancing in my head but I sure remember spritz cookies, Russian tea cakes and homemade fudge. Since I was a product of The Greatest Generation and a Baby Boomer I didn’t have to worry about The Great Depression and other atrocities,  me and my siblings had it pretty good.

I remember the giant Sears catalog along with a few others in our household becoming dog-eared as we searched the “Wish Book” as it was called for the perfect gift to ask Santa to bring us. In reality maybe we got one or two items on our list and it is doubtful the items ever came from Sears as my parents were Montgomery Ward shoppers, but it didn’t matter. The fun was in the wishing and looking and dreaming (geez, I think that was a 1960’s song). Anyway, the anticipation of maybe getting a thing or two on our Santa’s  list kept us on relatively good behavior for at least a few weeks and undoubtedly a blessing for our folks who barely had to utter “naughty or nice” to keep us in line.

Most moms didn’t work outside the home in those days so my mom got into the swing of Christmas by stenciling Christmas decorations on our window panes by dabbing a sponge dipped in liquid pledge (odd but true) that formed Santa, trees etc. Then she baked up a Christmas cookie storm and hid the cookies from us because she didn’t want them all gone before Christmas. We were always pretty sure my Dad got some early cookies though. She also always made us nightgowns or pajamas that were usually red flannel with really dumb looking Little-House-On-The-Prairie sleeping hats (the book not the TV show) so we could take an equally dumb picture in front of the Christmas tree. She always gave us these pajama things on Christmas eve along with slippers. One year I got beautiful blue fluffy, furry slippers. I was thrilled not to once again get the slipper socks which were the norm back then. Imagine getting excited about a pair of slippers? This is why we call it the good old days.

I remember we went Christmas caroling with the kids on my Chicago city block even though most of us couldn’t carry a tune. About a month before Christmas the only music teacher on the block and probably the only parent who felt up to the task would contact our parents and ask them if we wanted to participate in Christmas Eve caroling. I don’t ever remember being asked by my parents if my sister and I wanted to do this, I just remember going over to the teacher’s house (one house down ) for “practice,” a few times before the big night. I do remember her telling me I needed to sing from my diaphragm and that I sounded nasally. And I do remember thinking I was into dancing not singing and people would just see a bunch of cute neighborhood kids singing and not necessarily care if they sounded like a professional choir.

We only went to houses on our block where we knew people well or that had kids in the singing group. Some people gave us candy or hot chocolate, it was great to be out at night on Christmas Eve as a kid and some people even gave us money. I remember one time a guy named Moose Krause, who was the brother of the policeman, who lived next door to us and was visiting, giving the music teacher $20.00. That was a lot of money back then, it was the late 1950’s. We all figured it would be divided up amongst us singers who were freezing out butts off singing in the snow. But our music teacher had other plans for the money and told us it should go to our neighborhood Catholic church collection box at midnight mass. The Christmas spirit took hold of course and we all agreed she was right. It wasn’t until years later and talking to my Dad that I realized that Moose krause was the athletic director of Notre Dame and a huge notable athlete in his own right. My Dad was talking to him for quite a while on the front porch that one Christmas Eve and for my folks, who would go to Notre Dame games quite a bit in those days, meeting  Moose was a big deal. For us kids the big deal was yet to come, Santa Claus was coming to town.




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Black Friday; Who Coined This Term And Manufactured Chaos?

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(This photo was  taken last year on Nov. 28, at a Chicago Target)

We need to start our engines earlier and earlier each year to participate in what has become the madness of Black Friday shopping. Some folks are barely getting to cut that pumpkin pie or grab a second helping of Thanksgiving stuffing because they are running  out to Walmart or Target or some other wondrous place that allows hundreds of people to stand in line for a store allotment of 10 made-in-Taiwan big screen TV’s or like a few years ago, $2. waffle makers that held the promise of lasting 24 hours.

Black Friday is considered the single biggest shopping day of the year for retailers.  While the name Black Friday may conjure up images of the stock market crash or a power outage, this unofficial U.S. holiday, which falls the day after Thanksgiving, has been traditionally the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season. But, what used to be a kinder and gentler shopping day filled with excitement, fun and Holiday spirit has given way to the spirit of greed as shoppers battle each other for made-in-China crap and last years leftover merchandise along with helping themselves to other people’s shopping carts.

So where did the name Black Friday originate? How did the day after Thanksgiving (and now taking a bite out of Thanksgiving) become the biggest shopping day of the year? In the old days of hand-kept accounting records, red ink indicated a stores loss, and black ink signified a profit. The holiday shopping season is believed to be when stores move from the red to the black. It is said that 20-40 percent of a retailers annual revenue is generated in November and December.

Just like Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to summer, Thanksgiving, and later in history, Black Friday signify the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. It has been this way since 1924, when Macy’s held its first Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. For the past 89 years Thanksgiving has been uniquely associated with shopping and consumerism. The holiday parade is a Thanksgiving tradition, but it is also a three-hour advertisement for Macy’s.

The name Black Friday has other meanings also, and it is often hard to decipher fact from fiction. It is said that in the 1950s, people working in industrial factories referred to the day after Thanksgiving as Black Friday because so many people didn’t show up for work. Whether these people were out bargain hunting or simply sleeping off too much holiday fun, remains a mystery.

The term Black Friday, however, didn’t gain mainstream  popularity until the 1960s, when Philadelphia police used the expression to complain about streets jammed with shoppers, pedestrians and motorists on the day after Thanksgiving. The phrase was first used in an article in The American Philatelist. By the 1970s, the Philadelphia area was using the expression Black Friday to signal the beginning of the holiday shopping season, and the term caught on.

I used to go shopping on Black Friday when my daughter was young but we didn’t really shop much. We would have lunch somewhere (crowded of course), mingle and mix with the (then sane) crowds and check out the cool Christmas decorations. We thought it was fun to be out and about on Black Friday. But now that retailers have answered the call- of- the- wild- consumers wanting a feeding frenzy of deals and steals, I stay far away from stores on Black Friday and the entire week-end.  The retail outlets, of course, are touting this extravaganza shopping-or-bust day to combat online shopping which takes a good chunk of consumer spending away from brick and mortar stores. But, at least I know if I stay home and shop on my computer I won’t get maced by a “mad” shopper.


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Wonderbag? I Thought This Was Some Kind of Joke

I recently read a short business news  blurb on the internet somewhere about a woman, Sarah Collins,  who had spent a good portion of her life trying to help other women in rural Africa help themselves. It just so happened I had been reading a fiction book series about Africa (The Ladies #1 Detective Agency) so Africa may have been fresh in my mind when I clicked on her story. Although the book I was reading was not serious in nature at all it was just a light hearted, won’t tax your brain mystery.

I started to look for more information on Sarah Collins and found  a lot. I must have been living under a rock. I found out out she had started small community businesses to help many women in Africa feed and clothe their kids. She helped out in clinics and aided the environmental conservation effort in primarily rural African communities, to help the people conserve what resources they had. This woman was relentless, kind of like a one woman band. I was duly impressed and feeling like a total underachiever in the area of helping others.

Evidently, starting back in 2008, rolling blackouts were a common occurrence in Johannesburg and ongoing energy shortages were everywhere throughout South Africa. In some cases homes, schools and hospitals etc. only had power for a few hours every few days. Sarah was trying to figure out a way she could help people feed their kids and families hot meals with limited fuel or wood. Many rural African kids didn’t attend school because they were needed to gather firewood daily which took many hours. It was necessary to do this for nourishment.

Then Sarah had an idea that grew from her memory of farm living as a child. Her grandmother would put blankets and cushions around a hot pot of soup or stew to keep it cooking slowly for hours. This was done to conserve limited fuel on the farm. Sarah decided that this simple idea was not much different than burying food in the ground while cooking which had been done for centuries.

Sarah then set out to make a prototype for a heat-keeping-cooker that could be used for hours with no electricity or fuel and cook for up to 12 hours. She came up with what she called “Wonderbag.” I must admit when I heard about this I thought it was a joke. The whole idea put visions of night-time infomercials dancing in my head so I looked further. But it is basically a large heat-retention bag made out of material on the outside and a thick lining inside. It’s actually cute looking and if you didn’t know what it was you wouldn’t know what it was, if you get my drift.

When I looked into where I could get a Wonderbag,  I was limited to Amazon, at least in the U.S.  Africa has had them available since about 2008 where 700,000 of them have been sold or given away, but they are relatively new here. I love the idea that for every single one purchased, one is given away in Africa to someone in need. My next quest was to find out exactly how to use it and see if there were reviews from people who have used them (there are many reviews on Amazon both pro and con).

I ordered one because my family calls me the crock pot queen. I am hard pressed to bypass a new type of crock pot and I thought it would be a great conversation piece. I also thought it would be fun to write about to more or less see if it worked or not. Yes, I had to pay full price of course, but I figured it was for a good cause. You have to have something boiling or simmering first before you place a metal or cast iron pot into the Wonderbag but it really does cook. I’ve done rice and it turned out perfect. My chili turned out great too.  I could see this being utilized for camping, RV’s, tailgating, food shows and well, anywhere you didn’t have or didn’t want to use electricity but needed to keep something slow cooking.

For many of the African women that Sarah helped by giving them these Wonderbag’s,  the affect on their families has been profound; their children only have to look for firewood once a week now so they could return to school, the women who do their cooking to sell to others make more money for their families because they don’t have to spend time and money on fuel. In the meantime, I’m reading the recipe book that comes with my Wonderbag;  to see if I can master a bag that cooks.  I am an Amazon affiliate and receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.




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September 29, 2014 · 5:55 pm

Abercrombie & Fitch Has Become Totally Uncool Boo Hoo

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It’s pretty funny that Abercrombie & Fitch, home to giant logos and egos is now closing down stores left and right, getting rid of their logos, slashing prices and trying to appeal to the masses instead of just the “cool” people it has been vying for since 1992.

Their last few earnings reports have been as dark and gloomy as their once shuttered-windowed stores that reeked of cologne and uber’ preppy-ness (probably not a word but you get the picture). Their 70 year-old flip-flop wearing plastic-faced CEO Mike Jeffries, has evidently seen the light. The shutters have come off the windows, which were intended for a closed/club atmosphere, the cologne that was sprayed everywhere is supposedly gone and the logo clothing will be gone in U.S. stores sometime in 2014.

Abercrombie & Fitch was the “cool” brand a decade and a half ago. Sales of its preppy clothes was in the billions. Teens had ranked it as the sixth coolest brand, and its then newly launched surfer-lifestyle line, Hollister Co., was an instant hit when it opened.  But now, with stores like H&M and Zara  among many others offering trendy clothing at cheap prices,  Abercrombie wants to win back its base,  according to Jeffries. This could be hard because their base was the “cool” I love logos and overpriced clothing people. Shoppers today (even if they are using their parent’s money) aren’t going to pay $70 for a pair of Abercrombie jeans when they can get a pair they like for $10 elsewhere.  They also have a decade of bad PR and exclusionary hiring practices to overcome.  And parents have always hated their overtly sexual ad campaigns for teens, they have stopped such ads but the memory still lingers for many.

Abercrombie settled for $50 million in 2004 after being sued for discrimination against racial minorities. Last year, quotes made by Jeffries during a 2006 interview resurfaced; he had said the brand targeted “cool, good-looking people,” a statement that generated heavy, even viral backlash. (And earlier this year, researchers suggested that its crowded, cologne-filled stores may actually cause anxiety.) I don’t know if I’m actually buying-into the anxiety stuff but hearing issues about keeping what were deemed less attractive workers in the back storeroom stocking and actually asking customers who “looked the part” to apply for a job after they just told someone else they had no openings was certainly blatant discrimination and cause for anxiety for those who had to deal with it.

In usual CEO-speak fashion here is what Jeffries said a few days ago at the earnings disclosure meeting; “We are confident that the evolution of our assortment will drive further improvements going forward, we remain highly focused on returning to top-line growth and driving long-term value for our shareholders.”

My translation of this is simply; We took the stupid logos off so the overpriced made anywhere but in the U.S.A. clothes will at least look different. We want our sales in the billions like we used to have but we burned too many bridges and pissed off to many people because we weren’t playing fair or even legal let alone politically correct, ethically, or with an ounce of sensitivity. We really only care about our shareholders and the long-term value for them.

The customer? Jeffries never even mentions the word which is a very telling omission for a business. He and his company have become “uncool” and they probably don’t even know it. For Jeffries this has to be his worst nightmare. (the links in this article are just some of the other blogs I have written about Ambercrombie since 2009.  Just click on them if you want more background on their “uncool” behavior over the years).

(Ever since I published my first short-read on Amazon “Widows Like Me”  I have had some readers ask me why I went digital with it and not published it as a “real book.” The short answer is it was cheaper for me and I had total control. An e-reader doesn’t have to break the bank, I own the cheapest one Amazon carries; . its the 6in.  non-glare touch model. I’m an Amazon affiliate so if you click through this link to buy this e-reader or anything on their website through my link I get a very small commission.




September 1, 2014 · 10:07 am

Robin Williams Made us Laugh, Cry, and Remember What He Left Behind

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Actor Robin Williams died Monday morning at age 63. According to all media reports it was an apparent suicide.

Everyone is talking about him — and that alone says volumes about what an enormous loss this is. The fact that everyone has something to say about this comic genius shows what an impact he had on the lives of people, most who only knew him through his body of work. This news has everyone in shock. It is gut-wrenching and beyond sad. We all have Robin Williams moments that we remember in particular, whether it was a performance that made us laugh or one that made us cry or one that teetered on the edge between the two. Author and humorist Erma Bombeck once said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy and humor and hurt. Obviously, not a new theory but sheds light once again on someone laughing on the outside while masking their troubled inside.

What is amazing about the response online and everywhere, is not just the countless number of people who want to get together and express their feelings about him but how many different things they remember. He spanned decades and generations of fans. There’s the Robin Williams who made kids and families laugh with Aladdin, Mrs. Doubtfire and RV and the Robin Williams who inspired us to get up on desks and shout “O captain my captain” in Dead Poet’s Society. There’s the Robin Williams who made us laugh when we were adults with Good Morning Vietnam and Birdcage. And of course, Good Will Hunting, his Academy Award winning performance showed off his dramatic skills. His stand-up acts were like a whirlwind of comedy leaving one almost breathless watching his rapid fire humor.

It feels personal to us because he made something for everyone. He gave us so many choices. “He put 150 years of laughter into 63,” NPR’s Scott Simon tweeted.

My son Jeff was in the Marines for 20 years and saw Williams many times in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He told me he even got to meet him once. He said he considered it an honor to meet someone who thought so much of the troops that he would regularly go to the chow hall and eat with them. He said Williams knew who all the officers were but didn’t really want to hang with them. Jeff said he would ask the guys stuff like where they were from, about their families etc. Jeff added that he was truly interested in these guys and would just plop himself down in the middle of a bunch of guys eating and start talking. Williams didn’t stick around for a short time either, Jeff said “He would be around for a month going from base to base.” A great personal memory for my son about someone who we all wish would have stuck around longer.

(I don’t own many movies, I usually just wait around for them to come on cable etc. but I do own; The Birdcage. I’ve watched it more than I care to admit and even though I can by now recite the lines myself, I still laugh like crazy. I am an Amazon affiliate so I get a tiny percentage off of anything you purchase though my link.


August 13, 2014 · 3:41 pm

In Estes Park CO The Elk Are Celebrities

Photo by Cathleen Shaffer

Photo by Cathleen Shaffer

(The elk mating season in September and October brings bugling and sometimes sparring elk and of course, curious onlookers)

There is a traffic jam in front of my house again. People hanging out of car windows with cameras, standing in the driveway, the bolder few trying to cross the fence into our yard. Some even approaching my front porch. It is the elk paparazzi.

I step out of the house, cup of coffee in hand as a gentle reminder that this is my home, my yard and my private sanctuary. Most don’t take the cue. However, since this is a tourist area I don’t want to be rude. I know their motivation is pure curiosity and of course, getting the best up-close and personal shot of the elk for their Estes Park vacation photos.

I live in the Colorado Mountains along a highway that is the gateway into Rocky Mountain National Park and the town of Estes Park. My backyard is the Big Thompson River, a great water source for many species of wildlife. I have seen everything in my backyard from a mother bear and her cubs to a mountain lion. And yes, I am still in awe of what I get to see but also respectful and mindful of their habitat. I figure, they were here first.

The four elk in the yard, casually eating my buffalo grass have become regulars. So used to the sight of me, they barely look my way as I walk to the back of the house, out of the line of sight of the elk paparazzi.

“Please don’t feed the elk that Oreo cookie”

While elk are a common sight to those that live in Estes Park Colorado , they are unique to many people, thus the crowd. I am compelled to occasionally intervene when someone tries to cross our fence or lead children close for a picture.

Elk are wild animals, I explain to one family that is just too close for comfort. They look docile enough when relaxing but believe me when provoked or scared they will charge you, I add. And please, don’t feed them that Oreo cookie, they are vegetarians. People often try to entice the elk with whatever snacks they happen to have on hand, not a wise decision and totally illegal in Colorado.

Most people move on in due time to another location hosting the elk. For the stragglers who have worn out their welcome, we turn on a very far-reaching sprinkler system and we water the grass. We fashioned it out of an old fire hose and a generator. It’s really loud, spews forth a really heavy shower and very effective for dispersing crowds. And it’s definitely our laugh of the day.


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The Ghost of Print Magazines Past

Sometimes my life flashes before my eyes in glossy form. Just like in the pages of a magazine, or more accurately, the pages of magazines past. The magazines that are gone but not forgotten, at least by me. I don’t just mean Look magazine or Life that everyone’s mother and grandmother read I mean the important magazines that got me through my teen years like Teen and Seventeen. The magazines that told me what I should be wearing even though I either wasn’t allowed to or couldn’t afford to comply. The magazines that showed me how to apply make-up before I was even allowed to purchase a mascara wand. Yeah, those magazines. They are all Kaput.

We didn’t have a lot of extra money as a kid but whenever Teen magazine came out my mom would come home from the grocery store with it tucked into her paper grocery bag. I would thank her profusely and race up to my bedroom, flop on my bed and read it very slowly, savoring each page. I would read about the latest teen idol, music, movies, fashion etc. It was the best 35-cent entertainment in my world.

While the older crowd was flipping the pages of the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers, Better Homes and Gardens, McCalls and Ladies’Home Journal (all defunct) I had moved on to Mad magazine for my humor and Cosmopolitan for the love, sex and how to marry a millionaire stuff. For really covert stuff my sister and I used to visit a friend’s summer cottage and find such delights as True Confessions, True Story, True Romances etc. hidden under chair cushions so the “kids” wouldn’t read them. These we felt were quite interesting if not necessarily believable despite the “True” title. We however, thought they were great summer reading. Of course at some point I grew up and started reading news magazines, literary magazines, women’s magazines and of course, decorating and home magazines since I loved DIY decorating. But, many of them have died a print death with some resurrecting online. I mean, I scan a website but I read a magazine.

So, while “foodies” still mourn the demise of Gourmet Magazine you can get your recipes online at a million different sites complete with pictures that you can’t really feel between your fingers but hey, that’s digital progress. Due to the recession (the one experts said we weren’t having) the last few years, general interest magazines were waning as advertisers were falling by the wayside and/or looking for new places to put their ad revenue. Niche marketing magazines whether online or in print seems to be what’s popular today.

If you write, bike, hike or draw tattoos a magazine exists for you. Some are print but many now have an online presence. Demographics have changed and so have the devices changed that bring us our news/entertainment information. I know the answer is that the print world and digital world should mesh. But sometimes I just like to open a magazine that I don’t have to connect to, download, worry about batteries or software glitches or all that cloud stuff, and just throw the damn magazine in my purse and be on my way.

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July 14, 2014 · 2:24 pm

Summer In Chicago 1950’s style

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I grew up in the city although it didn’t seem all that urban to me. What I though urban meant as a kid didn’t connect in my kid-brain with the tree-lined streets, lush lawns of Marian Blue grass or Creeping Bent and the Georgians, Cape Cods and Ranch style brick homes of my neighborhood.

My neighborhood was a direct result of much-needed housing for those returning from WWII who married, started having kids, in many cases lots of kids and yes, everybody knew our name. It was the law of the land I guess so our neighbors could tell our parents that we walked on their grass or tried to climb their tree or walked between parked cars or God forbid, rode our bikes in the street. We didn’t know it then of course, but we were the baby boomers.

It was a working class neighborhood for the most part with a few professionals thrown in for good measure. You could always tell who made a little more money, their houses were just a little bit fancier than the rest.  Oh yeah, everyone was Catholic. Some even wore their Catholicism on their front lawns, in the form of statues. These were usually the Italians, the Irish thought such outdoor displays tacky yet every room in their houses claimed enough crucifixes, rosary beads, holy cards, holy medals, holy statues and palms from Palm Sundays past to outfit a new church. Tacky? In many cases overkill too, but I’m Irish so I can say such things.

Everyone had a front porch or as some called it a front stoop. Folks would sit on it and talk, or watch kids play or read the daily metro newspaper. Lawn furniture? I never saw anyone with lawn furniture, not even on their lawn. Lawn furniture was up at my grandparents cottage. It was hard and metal and the back was shaped like a shell. But, in the city we sat on the cement porch.

Everyone played outside all day almost every day, especially in the summer. We found plenty to do with bats and balls, Hula Hoops, jump ropes, roller skates, chalk, dolls, trucks and toy guns. Some of us had dancing lessons or organized baseball or softball but we weren’t carted around daily by our parents so we would have stuff to do. The neighborhood was safe, we didn’t always lock the doors and we played in the alley with marbles because they would roll better. When the streetlights came on we knew we had to go inside because well, just because that was the unwritten rule for anyone that wasn’t a big kid.

My sister and I were going to take a trip back to the old neighborhood last week to see what our old house looked like now. She and my brother had been back more recently than me and of course we keep tabs on it through the news. I’m no spring chicken and I was worried about what we might see or encounter even in broad daylight. I figured two old ladies, even in a car could look like an easy mark. She agreed. We figured maybe we should spend our twilight years remembering the good times in a great neighborhood, rather than face the reality of toy guns that have turned into real guns. Alley games have now been replaced by drug deals and sitting on your front porch can make you a gang target even if you never met a gang member in your life. The streetlights rarely go on as many of them have been shot out and now what I thought urban meant as a kid is a far seedier, grittier, unsafe version of reality for my old neighborhood than what was in my mind’s eye as city life.  My old Chicago neighborhood is like a war zone and I can only hope and pray the good guys win.

My brother sent me this DVD; called Chicago, the Boomer Years. I think you can only get it used on Amazon as the PBS Chicago channel sells it for much more new.  It sure is a riot to watch if you are a boomer. I am an Amazon affiliate so I get a small commission if you purchase through my link.  My brother said he sent it because he remembers me and my sister wearing funny hats to church and saw some just like ours in the DVD. They were like a scarf with flower petals and we thought we were quite fashionable  little kids in the 1950’s.



July 7, 2014 · 11:07 am

Thanks Dad, For Holding My Hand Through Life

I grew up in the “wait until your father get’s home” era. Even as a kid I found it unfair (not just for me) but for my Dad who just worked a 10-hour day and would walk through the door and have to punish one of us (usually me because I was the one with the big mouth) without having  been through the supposed crime/event/misdeed to judge for himself. He went strictly on my mother’s story. I found this ludicrous, and said so on a few occasions. I used the word unfair of course because if I used the word ludicrous he would know I had been in the basement reading his book-of-the-month-club books that he insisted were for adults and not kids. He had no idea how books about submarines and WWII increased my vocabulary. Then my dad would tell me that life wasn’t fair and blah, blah, blah and go to my room for a while and think about what I had done/said etc. I would usually write an apology because even as a kid I expressed myself better in writing.

My dad wasn’t one to yell, I never heard him swear ever and he was just as calm as anything as he glanced up from his newspaper to tell me to take off the eye makeup “I looked liked a streetwalker.” He was however, observant. We disagreed of course, especially in my teens when I was trying to spread my wings and I felt he was trying to clip them. I can still hear the old “As long as you are under my roof…and because I said so, that’s why…” These types of statements were the end of the road. We never had yelling matches or even loud disagreements, I was allowed to express myself but it was really an exercise in futility. If he did have a change of heart on something it was usually due to my mom’s influence. This all seemed perfectly normal for that era as I look back on it and it was normal for most of my friends as well. Yeah, I respected my dad but I now realize, because he was who he was, he taught me to respect others and most importantly myself.

When I won my very first, first place award from the Illinois Press Association for an editorial I wrote years ago, it was my dad who drove a couple of hours and surprised me by walking into the newspaper office where I worked.  After introducing himself to the receptionist he said he would like to speak to the award winning editor.

100_0287 The whole newsroom got the biggest kick out of that.  As I get closer and closer to the age that my dad died, I find myself thinking more and more about him, especially of course on Father’s Day. I now wish I would have paid a lot more attention to some of his  blah, blah, blah stuff that I used to let go in one ear and out the other. Thanks dad, for telling me not to worry about being lousy at math and science because you knew I had common sense and perseverance, you were right. It has served me well. And thanks dad for holding my hand all through life even when I didn’t think I needed it, I still knew it was there.





Filed under nostalgia, opinion

Ugly Americans Whine About Petty “Olympic Problems”

I can’t believe what crying babies some of these Americans are at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Now, I do feel that the International Olympic Committee made a poor choice, but not because hotels don’t have enough pillows or light bulbs or toilet paper. I would be far more concerned with the safety issues than the complaints of bees in the honey. Of course Russia is going to spy on us everywhere, that is what they do best, it’s not like our own government doesn’t spy.
We will never know if Putin strong-armed the IOC with wads of cash or whatever, but if you are already there you may as well make the best of it and quit whining about the lack of amenities typically found in the U.S. The egotistical reporters are the worst, they post selfies next to a broken light fixture or brown water coming from a hotel faucet. We get it, guys/gals but what is your point? Can’t you hack it on an Olympic assignment without whining? It’s not war its games.
One of the many roles of the International Olympics Committee is to “Encourage and support initiatives blending sport with culture and education.” Now, this is what they state on their website so I guess it is part of their mission statement which certainly is open to interpretation but we do know the Russian culture appears to be nothing like that of the U.S. But, it is still their culture and maybe making a mockery of  it on Twitter and Facebook etc. isn’t necessarily the classy thing to do. We don’t need to put other countries down in order to elevate ourselves we are already on top.
No, they are not enlightened about gay rights and that is deplorable to us of course, but it wasn’t that many years ago we weren’t so “open” either. We can’t push our values on other countries by name calling and admonishing them because they don’t think or act like us. Believe it or not, many other countries in the world could really care less what we think or how we operate, they have their own internal and external problems.
So, 60% of the world doesn’t have access to flushing toilets. People in the U.S. that own RV’s often throw toilet paper in a trash can every day depending on what location they are hooked-up to.  Almost everyone living in Latin America does also. In some areas of Mexico in public restrooms there is no toilet paper, but for 10 pesos a guy standing near the door will give you a small sheet of (one ply) toilet paper. I had no coins once and didn’t know of this practice. I now always carry tissue in my purse, it’s called innovation. . But the lack of this at hotels in Sochi doesn’t take away your athletic advantage at the Olympics, but people are still Tweeting their shock and dismay at lack of toilet paper in Russia. What idiots.
Evidently Russia kills stray dogs, we find this abhorrent but I have witnessed a pack of wild dogs in  Mexico go after a woman who ultimately ran into the ocean as her husband valiantly tried to fight off the dogs and almost lost a leg before help arrived. Not all countries have animal shelters because they are too busy trying to find shelter for humans. And, many countries don’t treat their dogs like members of the family because they are having a hard enough time feeding their own family.
This may not be “right” by our standards but who are we to make Russia or any other host country adopt our standards pertaining to animals?I mean, we are insulting the people of Russia, who just happen to be proud of their country too. I don’t give a hoot about Putin and I’ll bet many Russians don’t either as he has spent a sickening amount of their tax money to try to make himself look good hosting the Olympics.. He used cheap Russian labor to construct the huge venues, used some of their nearby towns and land to dump construction materials and God knows what else. He ruined local roads with heavy trucks during construction and made the already low electric supply of neighboring towns near Sochi barely operational and in many cases nil. This is how these people have to live, Americans and others get to go home to their plush toilet paper.
It’s embarrassing to see the Twitter comments, Facebook posts and Instagram photos of some of these “Ugly Americans” as they whine about bees in their honey and are not genius enough to take a spoon and remove the bee. They do know bees make honey right? It’s as if some of these people have never been out of their own comfort zone and think the world revolves around their wants and needs. It’s a Global world out there and nobody else cares that some U.S. visitors/reporters/activist groups etc. might boycott or can’t/won’t try to go with the flow and make the best of it. The Olympics is about the athletes and our U.S. pride is with them as they compete. We hope they will be safe. The whiners need to go drink some Russian Vodka and lighten up.


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Ralph Lauren’s Design Wins Ugly Sweater Contest For U.S. Olympic Athletes

Ralph Lauren got another shot at the Olympic Rings this year to design the U.S. Olympic Athletes’ clothing, or as I like to refer to his “designer” duds for 2014; costumes.  After the 2012 London Olympics fiasco which declared Lauren, or maybe he just declared himself “The Official Outfitter of the U.S. Olympic Teams for London 2012” but neglected to tell us the clothing was made in China, I thought maybe they would just choose J Crew or Gap or Old Navy who already get their stuff from China and other places I can’t even pronounce, pre-designed.

Most of the world already views the U.S. as conspicuous consumers and Lauren’s design does little to dispel this. Americans are also thought to be loud and brash in some circles and in particular, the design of the over-the-top patriotic red, white and blue sweater is as loud and brash as they come. There are so many stars and stripes and red, white and blue things on this sweater you expect it to start singing Bruce Springsteen songs. The hat is equally as garish looking but I suppose the idea was a plethora of sweater knit stuff that kinda-sorta-almost matched, like a patchwork quilt–but not. Oh yeah, white sweatpants complete the outfit. Those snooty French are still snickering. I don’t  think they even allow sweatpants in France.

Lauren has long been thought of as the purveyor of understated elegance. His designs used to typify what most called “the classics.” In the 2012 Olympics his clothing for the opening and closing Olympic ceremony for the athletes was navy blazers and berets. The berets looked decidedly French and the blazers looked like the athletes just came from the polo club. Oh yeah that’s right, his signature brand is the polo pony. Nice way to get your brand in the Olympics Ralph, by way of China.

While the Olympic sweater design would surely win the ugly sweater contest hands down we have much more serious potential problems for our athletes. The Olympic Committee (the bright stars that chose Sochi, Russia) and the U.S. State Department are telling the athletes not to wear any conspicuous U.S.A. clothing while traveling or anywhere outside the Olympic Village as a safety/security measure. I hope these terrific athletes and their families will be safe wearing whatever they feel comfortable in as our athletes don’t need a red, white and blue ugly sweater to stand out, they do it with their American spirit, dedication to their sport and talent.  Maybe a new younger designer with those same qualities can design for the U.S. Olympic athletes next time.

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Is Santa Black, White Or Should It Be A Penguin?

English: large wooden Santa Claus and "no...

English: large wooden Santa Claus and “north pole” at Santa Claus House, North Pole, Alaska (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What a huge surprise that “political correctness” is now taking its toll on a fun, not-even-real, beloved, decades old symbol of Christmas; Santa Claus. Slate writer Aisha Harris declared in her “culture” column yesterday that Santa should be replaced with a penguin. Never mind that she called a penguin a mammal (it’s a bird, do your research).

She goes on (and on) to say that a white Santa shouldn’t be the default Santa and she felt insecure and ashamed as a child because all the Santa’s at the mall, on TV etc. were white yet in her own home the cards, figurines and ornaments depicted Santa as black. Her shame she said, came from the fact that she felt her black Santa was somehow “not real.” Is she forgetting no Santa is real? Her own father pointed out to her that Santa became the image and likeness of whatever family he visited. I was taught this about Jesus too. Everyone retains the right to decide what color their mythical symbols of Christmas, Easter, tooth fairy etc. are. I’m sure it must be in the Bill of Rights of pretend stuff.

Here are her some of her reasons taken from why Santa should be a penguin;

“Two decades later, America is less and less white, but a melanin-deficient Santa remains the default in commercials, mall casting calls, and movies. Isn’t it time that our image of Santa better serve all the children he delights each Christmas?

Yes, it is. And so I propose that America abandon Santa-as-fat-old-white-man and create a new symbol of Christmas cheer. From here on out, Santa Claus should be a penguin.
Why, you ask? For one thing, making Santa Claus an animal rather than an old white male could spare millions of nonwhite kids the insecurity and shame that I remember from childhood. Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, Santa is one of the first iconic figures foisted upon you: He exists as an incredibly powerful image in the imaginations of children across the country (and beyond, of course). That this genial, jolly man can only be seen as white—and consequently, that a Santa of any other hue is merely a “joke” or a chance to trudge out racist stereotypes—helps perpetuate the whole “white-as-default” notion endemic to American culture (and, of course, not just American culture).

Plus, people love penguins. There are blogs dedicated entirely to their cuteness. They’re box office gold. Most importantly, they’re never scary (in contrast to, say, polar bears and reindeer). Most kids love Santa—because he brings them presents. But human Santa can be terrifying—or at least unsettling.”

There is much, much more but I’ll let you trot on over to and check it out for yourself, if you so wish. I’ve had more than my fill of her drivel and I am on a quest to have the beloved Fat Albert character turned into a mouse, but I can’t decide if it should be a white mouse…

Harris is not surprisingly getting a lot of flak for this getting-rid-of-white-Santa idea and I hear the reindeer are really pissed. The elves aren’t to happy either. They have a right to work clause that doesn’t include them working for a bird. Many do agree however, replacing a Slate writer with a penguin is a great idea. Ho, ho, ho!


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Mcidiot CEO’s at McDonald’s Need Sensitivity Tips and Maybe A Brain

The McDonald's in Sedona, Arizona is the only ...

The McDonald’s in Sedona, Arizona is the only one in the world with turquoise arches. They are not yellow because the city thought they would mesh poorly with the surrounding red rocks. The first color McDonald’s offered was turquoise which the city accepted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Seems the McIdiots over at the land of the golden arches (golden only for management and CEO’s of course) are dispensing advice to their rank and file workers on how to live on the meager wages that McDonald’s pays. They evidently have an employee in-house website called McResource that offers “helpful tips” on how to get through the financial strains of the holidays with innovative money advice like “sell stuff you don’t need on eBay and Craigslist. Are they kidding? No, the tarnished golden arch big wigs are also telling employees who visit the site to “quit complaining” because complaining causes stress.” I myself find complaining a stress relief of sorts. And it’s painfully obvious that working for the fast food giant has got to be a giant headache. I mean, just because some people work for minimum wage doesn’t give McDonald’s the right to treat employees like they have minimum brain power. Maybe the hierarchy over there needs some “tips.” Like, how about paying a decent wage and allowing people to work more than 20 hours a week so they can actually receive some benefits? Or, how about paying a decent wage so your workers don’t have to work two or three jobs just to have necessities? Or, how about not putting up a moronic and demeaning website that displays your ignorance and offers your employees no-help-what-so-ever?

While the site is supposed to be private for employees only, we all know in this day and age privacy is a joke. According to screen grabs from the site gathered by the activist group Low Pay Is Not OK, the site also offers tips on stress management. With gems such as; “sing away stress to lower blood pressure and pack your bags and take at least two vacations a year to cut heart attack risk by 50 percent.” Now, if you work for these McIdiots for roughly $7.25 an hour where do they think you could possibly afford to vacation? Set up camp in a Walmart parking lot for free like the RV travelers do?

When it comes to digging out from debt, the McResource Line suggests employees “consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not seem appealing as they did.” What, like food or maybe Christmas gifts for the kids? The person/persons writing this drivel really should be forced to eat McCrap food for a few months as punishment and then sent to McDonalds Hamburger University in Oakbrook, Il for at least a year of hard time. There is a section on the site relating to making ends meet which gives the enlightening advice to “break food into pieces which will result in eating less and feeling full.” Yeah, remember that when you order a cheeseburger at McD’s sometime. Break it up into 16 pieces and hopefully you will realize you aren’t really full but they sure are full of it…

This isn’t the first time the restaurant chain has been taken to task for how it approaches the financial problems of its minimum-wage workers. Earlier this year, critics say, a financial planning site put together by McDonald’s and Visa unintentionally showed, in the words of The Atlantic’s Jordan Weissmann, “how impossible it is to scrape by on a fast-food paycheck.”

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Abercrombie & Fitch Gives Paris A Taste Of More Ugly American Stuff?

Word on Champ Elysees Avenue in Paris is spreading fast. If you are unattractive or have any visible human flaws, steer clear of a U.S. based retail clothing store on the avenue called Abercrombie & Fitch. The retail chain’s CEO Mike Jeffries, whose tight-as-a-drum flawless 69 year-old face defies gravity, has been extolling the virtues of only hiring attractive people for years. And an old 2006 interview with Jeffries from has resurfaced lately with him stating he hires good looking people to attract good looking customers. Evidently this article caught the attention of France’s official human rights watchdog. According to Reuters, they are investigating Abercrombie & Fitch over concerns the clothing retailer discriminates in hiring based on appearance.

This is not news, just rather old news to us in the U.S. as it is well documented Abercrombie & Fitch has lost discrimination lawsuits in the U.S. and Britain as well. They probably build their fines and payouts into the cost of doing business. Why else would a preppy pink shirt or a pair of rubber flip flops be so overpriced? It must be the moose logo. The moose by the way, hearkens from the day before the preppy, flip-flop clad, surfer dude, tan, uber cool (to them), half clothed, model/exclusionary look at their stores took over. It was simply an outdoor clothing/camping/hunting store. No, the guns weren’t emblazoned with the moose logo, they were actually used to hunt moose.

Inside Cover Page from 1909 Abercrombie & Fitc...

Inside Cover Page from 1909 Abercrombie & Fitch Catalog, their first catalog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A French commissioner for human rights spokesperson has said they understand that models would have different requirements than sales staff. They have concerns however, that sales staff should not be discriminated against due to appearance/looks. What Parisians will find out soon enough however is that it is common in the U.S. for Abercrombie to hire people as models and them have them sell. Or, hire less-than-beautiful people and hide them in the back room as if they are part of the stock. For stories of what Abercrombie & Fitch has gone through to try and maintain their Stepford-like store civilization, yet try and give the appearance of total diversity in appearance, you need only look to their lost lawsuits and horror stories of past employees. Just Google the company sometime and you will find enough complaints to fill an Abercrombie & Bitch book.

Parisians pride themselves on being experts in good living or having a certain joie de vivre. The parisian youth are forming lines to get into Abercrombie & Fitch but one can only wonder why? If they are curious about the store’s clothing, the goods are not made in America. If they are looking for quality, it’s not there. How far will their Euros stretch for a pair of rubber (ugh) flip flops? Will they love being doused in the store’s signature “cologne” as they hit the door and barely see (it’s damn dark in there) the salespeople and visible staff all looking alike and all dressing alike as if they were in prep school?  Will they think it’s odd that a store staff has no diversity in appearance and all look the same in their Converse shoes or flip flops? Paris is typically a confident place that touts individualism and uniqueness but maybe Parisian youth will think it’s “cool” or maybe they might just write it off to more ugly American stuff, which in the case of their hiring policies has shown to be true.


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Let New York Voters Decide if Weiner Should Be Top Dog

file000407098139Former congressman Anthony Weiner really needs to give us all a break from his sexting, screenshots, marital discord, obsessive/compulsive or just plain creepy behavior and insincere “this behavior is behind me” rhetoric. The website “The Dirty” has accused Weiner, who is throwing his hat (or whatever) into the ring for New York mayor, of sexting with a young woman before and after he resigned from Congress in 2011. And although one might be prone to doubting a website with such a moniker, they have the goods–so to speak. The website posted pictures (screenshots) of their alleged online conversations.

It’s not that someone doesn’t deserve a second chance (such behavior on a larger and more graphic scale is what led to his resignation) but, well, timing is everything they say. Weiner didn’t appear to stop his ludicrous behavior even after his resignation from Congress a midst a flurry of apologies to his wife, constituents, peers, the family dog etc. Weiner readily admits he continued the sexting in 2012 but evidently the voters/general public are supposed to buy the but-this-time-I-really-mean-it and I’m-really-more-sorry-this-time-and-I’m cured-of-doing-stupid-stuff. If losing a congressional seat over your lewd behavior doesn’t stop that behavior in its tracks, what does?

The New York Times among others is calling for Weiner to drop out of the New York mayoral race but I say, let him run. We know that many of our politicians, past and present, equate political office with money, sex and power, so we should allow New York voters to handle Weiner how ever they see fit and pray to God that their won’t be a new hot dog in town. Oh yeah, since Weiner is now officially a laughing stock, let the jokes begin…

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Hey U.S. Government; Tap my Phone and Listen Too, I Double Dare You

Antique phone

Antique phone

I realize that our U.S. Government is only “collecting” phone records from regular Americans, non-regular Americans, possible terrorists, people who wouldn’t hurt a fly and various and sundry people who fall into virtually no category at all, kind of like an ex spouse or well, some government employees. They say they aren’t really listening to our day to day drivel but I think they should. It would give them a dose of the average American’s reality so they can quit making up statistics, theories and studies about what it is “really” like to live in the U.S. for 99% of us.

I will willingly grant the government access to my most intimate phone conversations with such entities as the Walmart pharmacy department, Macy’s billing department, Comcast Cable, my local DMV office, any insurance company I deal with and any person/place/thing with a government affiliation that I have to correspond with in some fashion or another. It doesn’t matter if it is local, state or federal they all speak or e-mail in that super-suave governmental-ese language, with notes of condescending and you are but a mere mortal attitude. I also have a hate/hate relationship with Bank of America but this list is getting boring and way too long. Suffice it to say that anytime I have to “interact” with a large corporation, I the consumer, come out on the short end of not just the stick but everything.

My Walmart pharmacy conversation was quite the lesson in economics, capitalism, and what I like to call; maybe we will get a stupid one that won’t notice. A medication I take is usually about $20. I order it online from Walmart, they give me a robot call and tell me it is ready and how much. Last week the robot told me my med was $157.00. I figured the robot got his/her wires crossed so I called Walmart pharmacy to talk to a real person (ha ha). Real person told me the $157.00 price was not an error and that they filled my prescription with a different company than my last order.

It is the same exact prescription I noted, how can this be? Well, different pharmaceutical companies charge different prices for the exact same thing, she said. So I asked her to tell me what other prices she had for my exact same medication. she put me on hold to go talk to the supposed head pharmacy guy. She came back and I swear to God, she said they had it for $157, $35 and $19.97. She then PROCEEDED TO ASK ME WHICH ONE I WANTED. I wish I could say that I am making this up but I’m not. I told her I want the one that she would pick if she was purchasing this medication and was paying out-of-her own pocket.

This happened the following month also when I ordered online. This time the $20 med cost $127. I called and asked if an online order prompted some default highest price trigger. She said I should call and tell them I wanted the lowest priced manufacturer for my prescription. I said they should call every customer they fleeced in this manner that might not be aware of the numerous prices for a simple medication and apologize. I know people who assume they are getting the cheapest price just because it is Walmart. The cheapest available should be a given not a game of Russian Roulette. I can only assume that people with drug insurance pay the premium price because they might not notice, don’t care or possibly even realize that this practice raises premiums on everyone. Needless to say, I no longer purchase anything at Walmart.

Macy’s billing department (you know, the one in India) tried to charge me $25 to pay my bill by phone a few months back because THEY were having trouble with THEIR online website. When I laughed and said I was going to cancel my card, I swear the guy said “well, how about $5?” I said “How about drop dead?” It took me 45 minutes to quit Comcast and I had to talk to three people to do it. On the other hand if you want to upgrade on Comcast you are never put on hold and it will take you two minutes. My local DMV office said my birth certificate, passport and bills with my new address on them weren’t enough to renew my driver’s license. They said I needed high school or college transcripts, my marriage certificate and divorce decree showing my name change (from a million years ago). I thought they were joking, I have renewed my license with the same name for 35 years. I ended up going to a different much smaller DMV office and got it renewed with just my birth certificate and proof of residency.

We all have these ridiculous stories of course and many of them are so unbelievable that only a phone tap could prove them true. So please U.S. Government, forget Wiki Leaks and others, just listen in on my phone for a short time and you will discover the fleecing of America is alive and well and I’m only one out of millions.

I don’t necessarily judge a book by its cover but this book;  “Idiot America: How Stupidity Became A Virtue, in the Land of the Free” caught my attention by the title alone. You can purchase it here:  at Amazon, or I’m sure other places as well. It was on the New York Times Bestseller list when it first came out but quite frankly, I rarely pick books by their rather snooty or in many cases laughable lists that have movie stars that can’t write at #1 for about 5 minutes or pop stars at 21 writing biographies when they haven’t really lived, so NYT lists are pretty much useless to me.  Anyway this book was funny and sad at the same time and I felt very, very true about our land of the free and the brave and the stupid. I am an Amazon affiliate so I receive a small commission if you purchase through my link.

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Oprah, Lance and the Tour de Steroids

Lance Armstrong

Lance Armstrong (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched Oprah Tuesday on CBS This Morning. This in itself is a departure from my morning news routine as I am typically a Good Morning America devotee due to my long-standing crush on George Stephanopoulos. I met him years ago when I was in the news business, I remember it well, he does not.

Oprah was telling CBS newsreader and friend Gayle King that her interview with Lance Armstrong (which is set to air on her OWN network Thursday) was “the biggest of her entire career.” This sentence alone was the biggest surprise of my entire Oprah viewing life. Oprah, of “how-to-live-your-best-life” blah, blah, blah was stating on national TV that a doper, bicycle rider was the biggest interview of her career?

I know, I know, he won all those Tour de France races and he was a big deal in the racing world then he was stripped of those titles and became a rather small deal. He apparently lied about not taking performance enhancing drugs, some kind of super drug transfusion stuff etc. and led a band of other cyclists into this endeavor where he was proclaimed a ring-leader of sorts in this huge doper-cheating-cycling scandal. I get all that. I get that he has been lying about it for years when others have fessed up and he has been ultimately calling them liars for telling the truth. But, I still don’t get why Oprah would think that this was her biggest interview ever just because he finally admits to her that he used drugs throughout his cycling career. I get that she got the interview that everone else wanted but I still don’t get why, considering the body of work she has accomplished in her life that she would consider this interview her biggest or most important.

Oprah actually said, “we were mesmerized and riveted” with some of his answers. I was mesmerized once when I saw the Pope and riveted by the sight of the Grand Canyon. How could a confession from a bicycle guy be the same? She also said that he says what the world has been waiting for him to say. Guess what? Many of us were truly not sitting around with bated breath waiting for him to utter a word. We had already figured out he was a liar because so many other cyclists had already blown the whistle. This must be the big Oprah climatic watch-my-show teaser. Oprah told Gayle via satellite from Harpo Studios in Chicago, that she studied for the interview like a college exam and had 112 questions prepared. 112 questions? Why would she not have taken a tip from Dr. Phil and just asked “What were you thinking?” and “How’s that lying been working out for you?” Surely answering these two questions could easily fill up her two-hour plus interview.

Oprah has interviewed Presidents, pop stars from Elizabeth Taylor to Michael Jackson and  everyday people who have done insightful, important and heroic things in life. To me, her interview with Lance Armstrong will be about as “riveting” as her much-anticipated interview with John Edward’s mistress, Rielle Hunter was. Another dud.


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Footnotes in Time: My Life in Shoes

English: Ruby Slippers on display a the Americ...

English: Ruby Slippers on display a the American History Museum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Clinton Speech At DNC Sure Beat An Old Man Berating A Chair

“Bubba” Bill Clinton

Last week at the Republican National Convention we saw an old man berating a chair. Last night at the Democratic National Convention we saw Bill Clinton. Perhaps one of the greatest orators of all time (for sure in my time). Clinton spent 48 minutes talking in an affable, serious, jovial, relatable, academic, authoritative, passionate yet simple way. Not surprisingly, the crowd went nuts. In a good way.

Clinton’s speech hammered home just how superficial, cloudy and ineffective the Republican’s “plans” for this Nation are. Their idea of giving the rich tax cuts while proposing cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, will leave the elderly and poor “with nowhere to go.” History has shown us, said Clinton, that trickle down economics does not work. He added, “We simply cannot afford to give the reins of government to someone who will double down on trickle down”

In July this year a team of about 40 economists from various universities, think tanks etc. came to the conclusion that the GOP had abandoned economic reality. These independent economic professors said Republican plans couldn’t possibly pass a basic economics class/test. Clinton said in his speech last night that it all boils down to arithmetic. “Tax breaks and cuts for the rich plus spending cuts (that would harm the poor) means what?” He added, “Where does the revenue come from? The middle class, of course.”

Since I have an obvious left leaning bias and make no bones about it in this blog, I thought it only fair that you hear from a Republican. A onetime early heat GOP Presidential candidate, past Ambassador to China and past Utah governor, Jon Huntsman.

Appearing on Stephen Colbert’s show recently, Republican Jon Huntsman was asked what it would mean if the GOP lost in November. He appeared to welcome the possibility of defeat, and to have thought about what good might come from it:

“The party, I think, goes to the wilderness for a while… And eventually we’re going to wake up to the fact that the Republican Party draws from a lot of chapters in history…. Theodore Roosevelt believing that the land is an important legacy to leave behind, Eisenhower who left us with the Interstate System — what would we do without our infrastructure? You can’t compete in the 21st century without infrastructure. There’s a role for government in that.”

Later, in an interview on CNN, Huntsman suggested there was something else the GOP needs to wake up to. He said one of the reasons he didn’t attend the Republican convention in Tampa was because, “You have a party that lacks inclusiveness, that is not focused on real solutions and delivering the bread and butter issues that the American people are looking for, that lacks the sense of optimism and the big-picture strategic thinking about America.”

Huntsman is a Republican that truly “gets it.” The RNC was a sea of white people lacking diversity and as Huntsman said “inclusiveness.” The DNC had the melting pot that makes up America, in attendance and as speakers. The Democrats know they have truth and reality on their side, and it showed at their convention.


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Presidential Debate Moderator Debate Much Ado About Nothing

Does the average voter in America really care who moderates the up coming three or possibly four, Presidential debates? My totally unscientific and skewed poll results, with a margin-of-error of 50%, show no. However, many would love to ask the candidates a few non-screened questions of our own. Evidently the Commission on Presidential Debates (yes, such an important commission exists) has decided that Jim Lehrer, Bob Schieffer, Candy Crowley and Martha Raddatz will ask those all important pre-screened questions so that the debates don’t turn into a game of “stump the candidate.” That fact alone gets a big yawn from me. It means Romey will not get any questions about putting his dog on the top of his car while traveling and Obama will most likely not get questioned about his origins, college transcripts or if he really quit smoking.

At the root of the great debate about the debate, is the fact that the four chosen moderators are not diverse enough. Yes, there are men and women in the mix but no African-American or Latino moderators were chosen. This so-called “snub” has caused unrest among the ranks of the National Association of Black Journalists, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and of course Univision (the largest Spanish-language network). It doesn’t matter evidently, that Black Journalist Gwen Ifill from PBS has moderated these debates for the last eight years, she is said to be “shocked” and Livid” that she was not chosen. I guess Gwen thinks it is some unalienable right because she is a minority. This is getting crazy that an individual or organization can’t simply pick who they think will be the best person for the job because diversity now has to trump everything. Yes, our country is a melting pot which is a good thing but a debate stage can only hold so many people so the “snubbed” will just have to live with it. The Country is in an economic crisis and the big question should be what are these candidates going to do about jobs, the economy, healthcare and taxes? The crucial problems affecting our diverse nation.

Among the “snubbed” were also NBC, Fox News and MSNBC. The Romney camp evidently said they would take their toys and go home if anyone from MSNBC was chosen. So, there is a lot of childishness at work here putting together these top-level, don’t-ask-me-anything-I-don’t-want-to-answer debates. So is the answer to get a person from every ethnic group in America? Will that quell the whiners? Of course it won’t. They would then be complaining about who got the best question to ask. When in reality, the only good questions will be the ones that never get asked.

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Don’t Judge Us London–By A Lone Politician

Mitt the Twitts PR bus?I’m embarrassed. It seems our nice allies across the pond, most notably London, feel Americans have sent them the village idiot;  Mitt Romney.  Not true, we didn’t send him, honest.  He went there on his own accord, with his own agenda and  his own entourage to, I guess, smile, shake hands and look presidential. He doesn’t represent us, or behave like most Americans would in a foreign land, or behave like most Americans would in any land–including our own. Please don’t judge us London, by someone who makes up less than 1% of our population. Surely you must have a few ugly, arrogant, rich, politicians in your country that don’t have a clue? So please, give us a break. 

Mitt Romney’s first trip abroad as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee got off to a bad start when he offended his British hosts by questioning London’s preparation for the Olympics.  After getting rebuked by Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson and getting savaged by the British press for questioning London’s readiness for the Olympics,  Romney said he now thinks the city is ready for the games. This backpedaling is almost too funny for words. Does he really think they care what the heck he thinks? And more importantly, are his PR people out riding a double-decker bus somewhere playing tourists? Many British already think Americans are lacking in the social graces due to our habit of  “not necessarily thinking before we speak.” His PR people (I’m assuming he has the best that Republican money can buy) should really tell him his Ken doll image is really not going over well  in London so maybe he should move along to the next leg of his I-really-do-know-a-lot-about-foreign-stuff  journey, to Israel and Poland. Where I assume he will be telling jokes.

The best comeback to Romney’s rude and arrogant comments came from  Cameron who mocked Romney’s initial questioning of London’s readiness. “We are holding an Olympic Games in one of the busiest, most active, bustling cities anywhere in the world. Of course, it’s easier if you hold an Olympic Games in the middle of nowhere,” he said Thursday, referencing Romney’s stewardship of the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. See, this is how a put-down should be accomplished. The subtle, classy and British way. And the U.K. Sun Newspaper’s not so subtle headline “Mitt the Twitt” was more like an Americanized version of subtlety, the kind most of us can relate to.

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Rielle Hunter Book Hits High (NYT Best Seller List) And Low: Content

 I got an advance copy of “What Really Happened” a number of weeks ago with a request to write a review for the Rielle Hunter book about her, John Edwards and their daughter. I quickly responded no. It had to be a mistake I figured , as no PR firm or publisher in their right mind would want ME to review trash because I invariably would say it is trash. They must have had me mixed up with someone who blogs about books with nice pithy prose or is impressed enough with freebies to write about only the good stuff. Trust me, this book had no good stuff. Also, they must not have caught my blog of 2010 about Rielle Hunter on Oprah, that has me high on the not-a-fan-of-Hunter list.

Now, I must fully disclose that I could not finish this book. However, I am a master at the art of skimming. And I must say, so is Rielle Hunter. The book is full of her own self-aggrandizement, sounding like she accidentally fell in love with a married man and never once owning up to her role in the break-up and destruction of the Edward’s marriage. She claims the marriage was over before she arrived on the scene yet, who is she to say this? Even if it is true it is still her interpretation of a he-said, she-said conversation. She seems to have no remorse in this book for anything she has done but simply wants to tell “her side” of the story. But, her side of the story is just too flawed and unreal. She speaks horribly of Edward’s (now dead) wife Elizabeth who suffered immeasurably with not only her terminal illness but with the embarrassment, humiliation and most likely heartache of what her husband of 32 years put her through. At times Hunter acts like she is outside looking in, when in fact, she is in the midst of it all acting like someone with a schoolgirl crush. Her book comes off like everything is okay if you are in love, no matter who you hurt or what you help destroy in the process.

The book is actually pretty sickening to read and judging by the  99 customer (so far) one and two-star (out of five) reviews on Amazon, I am not alone in my opinion. Yet, the combined e-book/print version is today (July 8) number five on the New York Times Best Seller List. But then this is a world where the number one book on the New York Times Best Seller List today  is “Becoming Sister Wives” by the clan of TLC’s “reality” show about polygamous marriage–and I assume most who read the book paid. There really is a sucker born every…


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Nora Ephron Dead: Crestfallen in Chicago

While I own an extensive book collection containing  Faulkner, Steinbeck, Hemingway, P.G. Wodehouse, Somerset Maugham and many more that have long been considered classics, my favorite contemporary author has always been Nora Ephron. A classic in her own right, Nora Ephron died today at 71 leaving behind her humor, wit, charm, guts, unpredictability and intelligence in her movies, screenwriting, novels and essays. I adored her writing. Actually, I have embarrassingly enough seen her movie “You’ve Got Mail” so many times I can recite most dialogue line for line. I actually own a copy of the screenplay.

If that isn’t woman/author/crush enough, I own every book she has ever written and of course, can recite Sleepless In Seattle lines in my sleep and can’t stop in a deli without thinking of When Harry Met Sally and the “I’ll have what she’s having line.” I don’t actually purchase many movies but I own anything she has ever directed or written the

Cover of "You've Got Mail"

Cover of You’ve Got Mail

screenplay for including her last, Julie and Julia. Ephron was a funny feminist who wrote and directed roles for women that were not wimps. Often her characters were dark, or mixed up or dysfunctional for a while but by the end of the film you always knew everyone was going to feel good. Both the characters and her audience.

Back in the 1980’s I was in St. Pete Beach in Florida during the filming of her movie Heartburn. Mike Nichols was the director and Ephron wrote the screenplay. Some scenes were being filmed at the Don Cesar Hotel, a big pink monolith of a hotel that looked like a huge castle along the beach front. I was staying at a rather small pink hotel that looked nothing like a castle with almost an ocean view if you ran a hundred yards and jumped on a trampoline. One couple in our group was staying at the Don Cesar so every time we all met for dinner or drinks I would suggest we meet at their hotel bar. I was hoping to get a glimpse of anyone connected with the movie. I went to that bar twice and saw plenty of equipment, cameras, grips, people with clipboards, craft service, people with headphones but alas, no stars–ever. Many in the industry say Ephron’s Heartburn was a thinly disguised story of her marriage to Washington Post journalist Carl Bernstein, who with fellow reporter Bob Woodward reported on the Watergate scandal that took down Richard Nixon. They were married four years and had two kids but word was he had a difficult time with monogamy.

Since I love books, I always noticed the details of her movie sets and how many of them contained lots of books, desks, typewriters and then later of course, computers. You’ve Got Mail was even a story about two competing bookstores. I always felt that I could just plop myself into one of her story lines and just feel right at home. Thanks Nora, for making fiction seem so real, RIP.

(Just in case you’ve never seen You’ve Got Mail, my favorite movie, you can get it here; . I am an Amazon affiliate so I receive a small commission on anything you purchase through my link. )


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Growing up in the Catholic Cult

Confessionals in the cathedral of Santiago de ...

Confessionals in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bless me Father for I am about to sin. If you grew up Catholic, particularly in the 1950’s and 60’s and were forced to take part in the Holy Sacrament of Confession every Saturday afternoon as a kid, you remember a similar opening line. It was “Bless me Father for I have sinned.” You then went on to tell a priest who slid open a little dark screened window in the rather creepy (to a kid) Confessional box so he could hear but not see you, while you explained what atrocities you had committed that week.  Mine were usually of the I talked back to my parents or called my brother or sister a name variety. I then worried if my discretion’s were a venial sin or God forbid a mortal sin. What would a 10-year-old have to do to commit a mortal sin? I didn’t have a clue but as a child I lived in fear of committing one and being banished to hell if I died before absolution and being given a Penance (another famous Holy Sacrament) greater than the usual “say three Hail Mary’s and three Our Father’s and now say the Act of Contrition.” No wonder I feared so many nuns and priests in grammar school. Everything was shrouded in darkness, pomp and circumstance, secrecy and for many of the older nuns that should have been put out to pasture; pure meanness. By contrast, I did run into some nice nuns and priests throughout my 12 years of Catholic education but most of them “saw the light’ and eventually left the convent and/or priesthood. These I felt, were the smart ones. I stayed friends with one nun from high school who told me after 30 years as a nun, she could do more good in the “real” world. The priest that performed my marriage, a very progressive type that everyone in the parish liked, was a bit too hip for the Catholic Church, he too left for the “real” world. There was a definite pattern emerging, the good ones left. Today, the good ones don’t even join.

I used to wonder what a kid would have to do to get a Penance of saying the whole Rosary? I also wondered why the priests always seemed to give all my friends the same Penance. Was there a rule book for the punishment fitting the crime. Did taking the name of God in vain mean you had to spend a perfectly good Saturday afternoon in church reciting a million prayers? I don’t know, we didn’t do that in those days, our parents would have given us a far greater penance than the priests could ever think up. I have no idea if things are the same with Confession or any other Holy Sacrament of the Catholic Church now-a-days as I pretty much fell-away from it after my four years of Catholic High School were over. The day a Catholic priest walked into our high school and announced he was going to teach us sex education was pretty much the day I knew the Catholic Church had blown it for me.

A priest? Who supposedly was celibate, was going to instruct our Catholic girls school about sex and marriage? I found this astounding enough to ask him about it. He admitted to me privately that he was uncomfortable with the task but his higher-ups told him he had to do it. I remember saying that at least the nuns were women, would they not be as ill prepared as the priests to take a stab at it? Oh no, he said, they are not allowed to teach such things. It has to be a priest. I learned nothing about sex and marriage from this priest’s class  but I learned volumes about what the Catholic religion really thought about women. Only men can give absolution, only men can teach anything they deem “important,” only men can tell women what they should or should not do with their own bodies and when the chips are down, only men really count. All these years later, the Catholic Church hasn’t changed. They are still behind the times and out of touch, they are still arrogant, narrow-minded and operate like a well-oiled good old’ boys money machine. Now how the hell Godly is that?


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Fifty Shades of Grey Bestseller Banned in Florida and Other Places

Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James

Fifty Shades of Grey author E L James (Photo credit:

You wouldn’t think anything would be too hot for Florida but evidently the bestselling erotic novel “Fifty Shades of Grey” is too hot for some Florida libraries. Some Georgia and Wisconsin libraries have also followed suit and banned the book in some of their public libraries. According to Florida Today the Brevard County Public Library system has removed copies of the book from its 17 libraries. They claim they bought some copies before they realized what the book was about. Hmm…I wonder if they thought to ask the public, who supports the public library through their taxes and fees, if the public wants the library services director removing books the public evidently wants to read, judging by the huge waiting lists of general public for the book at libraries all over the country.

Brevard County libraries had a waiting list of 200 people waiting for the book. The people waiting for “Fifty Shades of Grey” were sent notices telling them sorry, the book has been pulled from the shelves. I imagine some of those waiting even had gray hair, what with the population of Florida and all. Some may have even read Lolita, The Kama Sutra and even The Tropic of Cancer. All considered rather racy, and all can be loaned out from the Brevard County Public Library. Imagine that. Librarians in at least four Florida counties have declined to buy the book even though hundreds of people have asked for it because they claim they either don’t have the money to purchase them, or the reviews of the book have been poor or the book doesn’t suit their community standards. I love the community standards reasoning, as if the public library is in charge of setting the standards for what the community can read, rather than the community setting the standards for what they want to read. The book isn’t for everyone but I thought book censorship was dead. I’m much more interested in the backstory of how it became the “it” book for millions of readers.

The “Fifty Shades” books are actually a trilogy of three books. They are books about bondage, sex, love and they even have a plot. They have sold over three million books so far and are in the first three spots on Amazon’s best seller list and the top three spots on the New York Times best-selling books list. I think it is a snooty attitude by some libraries because the books were self-published originally as an e-book by the author. Some book snobs think if a book wasn’t traditionally published by one of the big six publishing houses then they must be lesser-than, regardless of content. But author E.L. James published her e-book herself and it became so popular through word-of-mouth that publishers came calling after the fact and so did Hollywood with a movie deal.

I could care less what the content is, anytime someone takes their writing into their own hands and doesn’t wait around for some publisher to accept it or reject it, and tell her to change it and pays her a small advance against royalties and then takes forever to even print the damn thing, I commend her. This is what publishing should be, where the writer/creator has the control and the masses push it to the top. Big time publishing houses have been asleep at the wheel for quite a while now. Thanks to e-readers, self publishing, indie publishers and the little writers that could–they are rising to the top of the publishing food chain. Thank God.

You can purchase the 50 Shades trilogy at Amazon;  and pass it around to your friends. I’m an affiliate so I get a very small commission if you click through my site and purchase. I’m sure used copies are available as well.

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Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Was My Dancing With The Stars

I was a pre-teen with a mission. I wanted to be a teenager so I could go to Philadelphia and be on Dick Clark‘s American Bandstand. My mom was pretty good about not bursting my bubble as we lived far away from Philly, I was years away from the age requirement of I think 13 or 14 to be on the dance show, and hundreds of kids lined up daily to be on the show and mostly the “regulars” from Philly the “dancing stars” I watched daily after school, were the only kids that actually danced on the show. But she would routinely say things like; “you’re a really good dancer and could do just as well as those kids.” Nothing like a mother to instill confidence and keep the dream alive.

When American Bandstand went national on ABC in 1957 with Dick Clark, it was on weekdays after school and the favorite part of my day. The couples on the show became stars by virtue of how well they danced, how cute they dressed, how cool they looked as a couple and how much we liked their hair styles. I got to know these dancers on a first name basis as Paula and Ritchie who won the Mashed Potato (dance) contest or Bunny who was the best at the Pony or Justine and Bob who everybody loved. I learned how to do the Stroll, the Hop, the Twist, the Locomotion and if I needed a partner my mom filled in. She taught me how to Jitterbug and once in a while when my dad came home from work and I would be showing him some of my new steps, he would grab my mom’s hand and “show me real dancing.”

Dick Clark gave so many singers a start on his show and it was always about the music. I watched Paul Anka, Fabian, James Brown, The Jackson 5, Connie Francis and even one hit wonders like Edd Byrnes, from the popular 77 Sunset Strip TV show. Hard to believe now but his popular song “Cookie, Cookie Lend Me Your Comb” which he sang with Connie Stevens, also from the TV show, was a hit. What I liked most about the music on Bandstand was the variety. When no one paid attention to what diversity was all about, Clark was busy practicing it. He brought us singers, acts and bands from all walks of life and acted like it was normal–because it was. He was way ahead of his time in realizing all music was to be enjoyed by everyone and never pidgeon holed certain music or musicians to certain segments of the population. As many teens have said over the years on Bandstand when rating a new song, “it has a good beat and you can dance to it.”  Those words were certainly my mantra as a kid. Thank you, Dick Clark.

Someone gave me this book on Dick Clark and American Bandstand a number of years ago. Whenever the nostalgia bug hits me I skim through it;  As an Amazon affiliate I make a tiny commission if you click through my site to buy it but I’m sure you could find it used somewhere on the internet as well. Great memories.

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My Encyclopedia Britannica Set is Dusty but Not Forgotten


Britannica (Photo credit: SimCity0x50)

The Encyclopedia Britannica is ceasing publication of its print, dead-tree edition and will continue with just their digital online edition. I know in my head this is progress and probably makes economic sense for both consumers and Britannica but in my heart? I will miss the 32-volume printed edition that I haven’t laid eyes on in years, collecting dust in boxes in a closet because my set is as outdated as me. I even remember as a very young child learning how to spell encyclopedia from Walt Disney’s Jiminy Cricket via some goofy sing-songy bit on the after school Disney show. I couldn’t read yet, but I could sing/spell encyclopedia.

The Encyclopedia Britannica has been around since 1768, and was first published in Edinburgh, Scotland. A new set costs $1400, and it seems they have had plenty available in their warehouses these last few years. I don’t know if ceasing publication will drive the price up of used sets, think of the shipping costs of buying a set on Ebay? While Britannica has been in the digital world for many years, officials at Britannica said the print edition was just becoming impossible to maintain and keep up-to-date and of course there is the physical delivery of the huge, heavy sets. While they haven’t stated it, with the resources of Wikipedia and Google at your virtual fingertips you would be hard pressed to open an encyclopedia for information anymore, let alone pay a fee for their online encyclopedia.

When I was a kid my parents couldn’t afford to buy a set from the Britannica salesmen that rang our doorbell on a regular basis in my Chicago neighborhood and tried to get you to buy them on the monthly plan. My dad wasn’t a monthly plan type of guy, so we used the encyclopedias at the library. If a school assignment called for a paper on Paul Revere, a teacher could expect every kid in class to have the same information, taken from the same big impressive burgundy book, with only vague differences depending on writing style. If you waited until the last-minute to write your assignment, as I often did, you had to wait for hours at the library to get the specific alphabetized book you needed because other slackers were using it.

By the time my youngest brother got to school, my folks had a little more expendable income and my brother got his own Encyclopedia Set (the rat). He didn’t have to take the bus to the library as he had his own source materials right at his fingertips. The youngest kid is always spoiled of course and since he was the “brain” of the family he would sit around reading the encyclopedia as his light reading. Who does that? Certainly not my sister or I who only cracked an encyclopedia under intense pressure to perform a knowledge based task. Years later as an adult I bought a used set from a thrift store for next to nothing. I don’t even know why, I just wanted them, I loved books anyway and just liked the way they looked. Maybe I thought having them would make me look scholarly.

While I feel bad for employees of Encyclopedia Britannica, I can see that the whole world has gone digital–or will, it’s progress of course, but for us in the older generation it is bitter-sweet. A lot of my memories are tied to old stuff which is why I’m still hanging on to my old Encyclopedia Britannica set, my grandfather’s Kodak Brownie camera, my Sony 8-track, my old LP’s and my record player. If for no other reason than when I am long gone, younger generations of my family can say things like; “Wow, you mean they had to turn pages?” And then find out my old “stuff” is worth a ton of money.

(Just got this Encyclopedia Britannica interactive science library; earth, space, humans for the grandkid (age 5) complete with highlighter talking pen; It’s totally cool, he’s learning but he thinks he’s playing and that is what is important. Never knew they had anything like this until I started looking up stuff for this post. I am an Amazon affiliate so I do get a tiny commission if you purchase through my link but where ever you may find it, its a terrific idea for kids.)


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Susan G. Komen VP Karen Handel Better Race For The Pink Door

English: Mahindra 6030 Turbo tractor in downto...

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UPDATE: I wrote this blog on Sunday, February 5, on Monday, February 6, Karen Handel  “resigned” from Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. I can’t confirm if the door hit her in the a– on the way out. 

The Huffington Post is reporting they found an inside whistle-blower at the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure breast cancer charity, that has proof that Karen Handel, Komen’s vice president for public policy drove the decision to defund planned parenthood. While the deep-throat informer couldn’t hand over the goods, the Huffington reporter was allowed to view enough evidence (emails etc.) and interview the source who said Handel was heard stating “If we just say it’s about investigations, we can defund Planned Parenthood and no one can blame us for being political.” Handel, Republican politician for years and a strong anti-abortion advocate, must have missed the memo about not mixing politics and ideology with women’s health. Or the one about cancer not caring what your political affiliation is, it kills people from all walks of life–even agenda driven Republicans. Komen for the cure shouldn’t be concerned with pro-choice or pro-life just pro-cure. And that it what the “public policy” should be at Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Komen for the Cure officials have spent the last four days lying to the public about their charity. They used buzz words like “our mission” and “new directives” to tell us that they couldn’t possibly continue to fund a group (Planned Parenthood) that was “under investigation.” When the person calling for the investigation was a Republican Congressman. In the meantime they were still going to continue funding Penn State (their research hospital) which happens to be under big-time Federal investigation. Bank of America is also a huge sponsor/partner of Komen, and they are under various State, Federal and you-name-it investigations.

Planned parenthood has gotten millions of dollars donated in the last few days, including a huge amount by the New York Mayor. The rest was given by 10,000 private donors that know an attack on Planned Parenthood is simply an attack on poor women. The Komen funding earmarked for Planned Parenthood was never used for abortions it was used for breast exams and mammogram referrals. The huge backlash on Komen, from the well-known and the unknown, especially on Facebook and Twitter caused them to reverse their course yesterday but their message that they would continue to allow Planned Parenthood to apply for funding struck some as unusual and cryptic wording.

The next time you are inclined to Walk for the Cure, keep in mind that the Komen Republican/anti-Planned Parenthood/sorority/marketing club puts a heavy emphasis on “cause” marketing so you will purchase their pink spatulas, pink socks and pink KFC buckets of chicken (very healthy for cancer patients or anyone). They slap pink on everything from tractors and cars to hats and water bottles–for a price of course. They care far more about their “brand” and being the biggest cancer charity as evidenced by their law suits against small charities that tried to use the words “for the cure.” According to Charity Navigator 21% of their donations/income is spent on cancer research and prevention and the rest on salaries and “administration.”

The head of Komen makes $500,000 a year plus traveling expenses and she always flies first class. Handel’s salary is reportedly, $400,000. Because of this fiasco, Komen hired a “crisis management team” this week because the staff and board can’t quite get on the same page with their lies. I sure wouldn’t want my donation to go for paying for a crisis management team as opposed to real help to real women with cancer. But then, I never bought into all that pink crap, it’s a ruse to make people think they belong. They are an elitist, arrogant charity that needs to kick a few butts out the pink door–and even then they have a long way to go to regain public trust. You would think the Komen foundation particularly, being a women’s charity for breast cancer would understand the power of women but they misjudged, because they were focusing on their non-charitable agenda.

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The National Anthem: The Pro Singers Just Don’t Get It

American Idol 's Katharine McPhee performs the...

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Last Year at the 2011 Superbowl, with millions of people watching, Christina Aguilera decided to add her rendition of The National Anthem to the archives of flubs by trying to make the song “her own” with a few change-ups and an entirely missed line.  Her viewers and listeners were less-than-thrilled with the Grammy winner’s performance but her “people” blamed it on nerves. This is a woman who is used to performing at sold-out venues of thousands, so nerves is unlikely. Not being well-prepared and/or messing around with a perfectly good melody and not-quite landing the notes shows more at work here than “nerves.” Tons of internet polls said Aguilera’s botched anthem was an unforgivable mess.

More recently, rock singer Steven Tyler , frontman for Aerosmith, decided to take-on The National Anthem a few days ago at the Ravens-Patriots football game. He didn’t change many lyrics but somehow I don’t think America was quite ready for the “Screeching Star Spangled Banner.” You could hear the boos of the crowd over the screeching and he has received non-stop criticism since the event. But, I ask you? Why would they ask a rocker to sing the anthem anyway? It’s not exactly like the guy has a velvet voice to begin with.

There is of course, a long history of less-than-perfect National Anthem performances from American Idol winner Scott McCreery to Cyndi Lauper. But perhaps the worst of all anthem performances was back in 1990. Rosanne Barr (a comedian) who put on the worst non-funny performance by a non-singer and is oddly still alive to talk about it. It actually hurt her career because she was basically making fun of the National Anthem. She now lives on a farm in Hawaii, presumably far out of earshot of humans, thank God.

I can’t sing a note, but my hearing is so far, well within the average range. I might not understand the nuances of tone and range, but I do know the average American does not want singers altering the lyrics and melody of their National Anthem. They don’t want a “stylized” version of it, they don’t want a new beat and they generally like to have it sung with feeling and heart. Just like this version sung by a young high-schooler from a Chicago suburb, who is not a professional singer–but undoubtably will be, because she gets it. This is how the National Anthem should be sung:


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Eight votes? But Do Iowa Caucus Votes Really Count?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a GOP p...

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For anyone of us who ever said or even just thought “My one vote doesn’t really make a big difference, it’s just one vote out of many and I don’t really like any of the candidates anyway,” think about eight votes. Yes, as crazy as it seems only eight votes came between a winner and loser last night at the Iowa Republican Caucus. I mean that is Kate + 8 minus Kate (always a good thing) Eight Maids A Milking, Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights movie and eerily enough this 2010 documentary; “8: The Mormon Proposition.”  Yeah, I’m sure the eight is a sign from God or some high-up Latter-Day somebody.

So, when the more than 1700 Iowa caucus locations finally hand-tabulated their votes by 2 a.m. this morning, Mitt Romney received 30,015 votes and Rick Santorum got 30,007. Both ended up with 24.6% of the vote. Hardly enough for a good Iowa corn-boil. And considering Romney outspent Santorum 50 to 1, it was actually a good show for Santorum. The rest of the candidates were pretty-much busy trying to pretend how “Iowan” they really were and well, that didn’t work out too well for them, although Ron Paul did much better than expected, coming in third.

Imagine you lived in Iowa and you were on your way to vote in the caucus and you got sidetracked by going to a movie, talking on your iPhone, texting, eating dinner out, having a few beers or visiting friends. If just eight people did that, it could have totally changed the outcome of the caucus vote. But, it probably will not matter or ultimately change the outcome of who eventually becomes the Republican nominee. In 2008, Mike Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus but John McCain became the nominee, George H.W. Bush became President with only 18% of the Iowa vote and Clinton won in 1992 with 2.8% of the Iowa vote.

But, in the political scheme of things although $40 million was collectively spent in Iowa by the potential candidates, the whole scenario still smacks of running for the city council. With CNN and MSNBC trying their hardest to make it out to be a big deal with their flashy caucus graphics, panels of pundits sitting around with not much to say, and television hours spent waiting for the vote counters to finish, It’s still Iowa. A state that has older demographics, mostly white with under 5% of the people voting. It’s not a true representation of all voters at all and yet they have this power of the caucus. Yes, they have very nice people in Iowa but there are more independent voters than either registered Republicans or Democrats. So, why the heck would they be considered a cross-section of America for Republican or Democratic caucuses? Beats me, their midwestern charm, work ethic and integrity is far above any of the politicians they vote for.

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Top 10 People Or Things I Don’t Want To Hear About In 2014

an old post card

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1. Anything Kardashian. I don’t want to hear about their “reality” shows, or their having or not-having babies, their clothing lines, purse lines or lines on their faces. Their boyfriends, husbands, ex-husbands, marriages, divorces, diets, weight gains, sex tapes or general whining about anything. I need a total break from ALL things kardashian–for the rest of my life would be good.

2. Big banks. The only thing I ever want to hear a too-big-to-fail bank utter is; “I’m sorry I screwed up the entire economy, and we will drop our bonuses and a portion of our profits into the laps of the American people as restitution.” Aside from those words I want to hear nothing from these greedy charlatans in 2014.

3. Congress. These people are an embarrassment. Unless they make BIG strides in voting for measures that will actually help the American people, the economy and the jobs front then they need to crawl back under their rocks. I don’t mean a small token vote that will give us a little help for a few months, I mean an actual plan for Americans that puts us first, not them. If they won’t do it, I don’t want to hear any more of their crap whining in 2014–or crying, either.

4. Pseudo journalists. I don’t really need to read the same news story 100 times with no new info. The prevailing wind in journalism lately is taking an already over-done story and changing the words around and making it “your own.”  I guess they call it “spinning.” I call it plagiarism and lazy. I’m sick of this pretend journalism and would love for it to go away in 2014  (ha, ha, fat chance).

5. Twitter freaks. Some idiots on Twitter have turned a once fun, helpful , and sometimes insightful form of communication into a Twitter-robot-boring-marketing extravaganza of lifeless comments and shameless self-promotion. These people need to disappear into the oblivion of cyber-space. What twits.

6.  Pundits. So, everyone with a mouth is a pundit. All it really amounts to, is a person with a point of view. Pundits are not in a secret Mensa club, or even a semi-smart club. It is not a lofty title saved for people who actually have insight, experience and knowledge of a topic anymore. Let’s face it if everybody on Fox Network is a pundit, the term is meaningless. Pundits go away in 2014.

7. People who write books, and call themselves authors–who aren’t.  Just because you eat doesn’t mean you can write a cookbook. If you’re 25 your memoir is short-lived and if you’re Snookie from the Jersey Shore, or an aging star looking to make a few bucks, yes, you can write a book or use a ghostwriter–but that doesn’t mean it’s good. It would be great for the landfills and trees of the world to have less of this garbage clogging up the system in 2014. I won’t even get into the people who write 10 page e-books that they self publish, charge $1.99 and tell people they are published authors. Yes, I love short stories and essays but they need to be really, really good.

8. Women that have babies and get rid of the baby weight in three days. I’m way beyond this age but the Hollywood set seems to be telling women of childbearing ages that you can have a baby and almost like a shot of botox–instantly get rid of the baby weight. And they act like this is normal. When these narcissistic women are the ones that are not normal. Once again they focus on style and looks over substance and smart, emotional and physical health.  My wish for 2014; shallow people go away.

9. Politicians that say they get it, they understand, they’re just like us, they too used to be poor, they want the same things we do, they want to turn the country around and blah, blah, blah. Plain and simple; they are liars. They need to go far, far away in 2014 and/or simply be voted out of office.

10. The sad stories that are becoming the norm. This is America, not some third world country with no resources, no education and no freedom. It is preposterous that the U.S. Government lets Wall Street, big pharma, insurance companies, oil companies and any large business with money–dictate U.S. laws and policy. It is far more than a travesty of justice, it is a sign of a country in crisis, a country in despair and a country that has leaders that put themselves first above all else. I hope to God I don’t have to hear about any more sad stories in 2014, but I know in my heart–it is a dream.

(Wow, my blog is really a rant today with all my whining so I am going to go and read this book; called “What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions. It’s super popular and I want to find out why everyone is buying it. The reviews look amazing and it should take my mind off whatever my mind needs a break from. I am an Amazon affiliate so if you purchase through my link I get an “absurdly” small commission.


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My Top 10 Best Childhood Christmas Gifts

I decided I needed to write down these top 10 childhood Christmas gifts quick, before my long-term memory goes the way of my short-term memory that can’t remember what I had for breakfast yesterday.  I won’t get into the Christmas is not about the gifts stuff and how we should all be grateful for whatever we think we should be grateful for, this is strictly about the shallow part of Christmas. The materialistic, me, me, me, Santa’s list type, emotional yearning for–gifts.  Also, as a child I never bought into the it-is-better-to-give-than-receive creed. As an older and wiser adult–I still don’t buy it. Herewith, my all time favorites:


I was six, I lived in Chicago, far from any cowboys except the ones I saw at the yearly Chicago Livestock Show and Rodeo at the Chicago Ampitheater. Just to be sure I got those boots, I asked for nothing else. I figured, how could Santa say no to just one request? My poor mom told me years later that she had scouts out everywhere looking for those damn red boots. Word was, the first night I had them, I slept with my boots on.


Nobody under 40 probably even knows what this is. This was even before boom boxes. It was the 1960’s and WLS Radio station in Chicago was king and so was my favorite radio disc jockey, Dick Biondi. I really NEEDED this radio so I could listen to a radio station that was more in-tune with my top 10 favorites (played over and over every hour) and much less of my parents favorites like news and talk radio (thanks mom and dad, I eventually went into the news business). This radio was yellow with a leather carrying case and shoulder strap. It was a Westinghouse and the size of a medium size purse. I didn’t need a dog, this radio was my faithful companion.


I have no idea why this game was called checkers because it was a plastic stadium contraption with marble-like pieces. I loved this game and since you couldn’t really play it alone it forced me to play with my sister. She was three years younger and could play the game well enough to assure my winning most of the time. Playing my folks however, was a losing situation for me. The stadium seats moved to advance the marbles to various levels. Okay, it was a much simpler time but we weren’t all zonked out on video games.


This book made me cry every stupid time I read it but I just kept re-reading it anyway. Yes, I knew Heidi was going to eventually find her grandfather but each time I read it and they would come so close to finding each other and miss, I would be yelling at the pages. This was during my sad books (Black Beauty) with happy endings era.


Only rich kids in my neighborhood had Angora sweaters, and rich kids in my predominantly working class/middle class neighborhood were few and far between. I never really asked for this sweater because I figured it was out of reach for my folks so I figured I would just settle for the scratchy mohair. When I opened that box I was never so shocked, it was just like–Christmas.


These purses were very popular in the 1960’s and I had never really had a nice leather purse. I can remember this purse like it was yesterday. It was a pebbled grain red leather, a long shoulder strap and two small flaps folded inward on top of each other and it looked similar to what else? A bucket. I used this purse for many years. I suspect it was not made in China.


It was all in the details. Double-breasted, velvet collar, sophisticated and perfection. I was 13 and it was my first black, grown-up coat. I remember that this coat was $50. because even though it was a Christmas gift my mom left the tags on in case in didn’t fit. This was a lot of money for a coat in the 60’s, and a huge amount for my parents to spend on a single item. But, my parents always felt quality clothing was more important that quantity. That coat lasted me all four years of high school and beyond.


I was never into real girly type toys and thank God my parents didn’t buy me dolls I wouldn’t have played with or gender based toys that girls would have traditionally liked. My father owned a Standard Oil gas station and this was a sturdy, metal gas station with a bay for fixing cars, gas pumps etc. And of course, a Ford and a Chevy. Loved this gift.


I don’t actually know if it was from Hawaii, but I told everyone it was. It was the real deal and not a toy and had a nice carrying case. I wasn’t very “instrumental,” I usually took dancing lessons and acrobatics. But, after watching “The Parent Trap” movie (the original one) with Haley Mills (playing twins) singing the song “Let’s Get Together yeah, yeah, yeah…” I had to have a ukulele and learn to play and sing that song. I did. My youngest brother still has that ukulele. Why does he have it? Geez, my mom must have given it to him, I need to talk to him about that…


Even though frozen vacant lots is where I did most of my ice skating my parents would occasionally take me to Michael Kirby’s professional ice skating rink in Chicago. Kirby was a Canadian National champion ice skater who started the first ice skating schools in Chicago (now long gone). I couldn’t afford lessons but I could afford the small fee to free skate whenever I could talk my dad into taking me there. I decided since it was a professional atmosphere I needed to look the part. My Christmas gift that year was the most beautiful pair of figure skates, flesh-colored skaters tights and a black corduroy short skaters skirt with red satin lining (red again). The next time I went to that rink I felt like a million bucks. And, I swear, I skated way better than in my typical street garb.

( In case you just have to have a pair of red cowboy boots for a child in your life I found these; They are a little fancier than the ones I had a a kid but at least they are red. I’m an Amazon affiliate so I do get a tiny percentage if you click through this link and purchase these or anything at all. I almost forgot, here is a very, very similar ukulele like the one I had that my brother more or less stole under the guise my mother gave it to him. It’s made out of mahogany; . I have no idea what mine was made out of but I’ll bet it was better than any ukulele they make now-a-days, after all it was made in Hawaii-or somewhere.


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The Ghost of Black Fridays Past

Black Friday (1940 film)

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$2 waffle maker Black Friday shopping fight I watched this Black Friday shopping video in utter shock (click on link at beginning of this sentence to see it). Then the sadness set-in as I realized how horrid, inhuman, barbaric and utterly disgusting the whole situation was. People acting like animals over $2 waffle makers points to an abysmal picture of Americans as-a-whole. This video is all over the internet for all the world to see. Here are the ugly Americans at their worst; greedy, ill-mannered consumers that will stop at nothing to purchase crap.  A $2 made in China piece of garbage waffle iron that probably has the expected life span of a week.

In other “fun” Black  Friday events yesterday, A woman who allegedly fired pepper spray at other customers during a sale of Xbox video consoles  has surrendered to authorities according to Los Angeles police. The woman  allegedly caused minor injuries to 20 shoppers at a Los Angeles-area Wal-Mart.

The attack took place about 10:20 p.m. Thursday shortly after doors opened for the sale. The store had brought out a crate of discounted Xbox video game players, and a crowd had formed to wait for the unwrapping. The woman began spraying people in order to get an advantage. Did she really get an advantage? No one seems to know if she ended up with an Xbox after all and it is unlikely she could use it in jail when she most likely will be charged with 20 counts of assault.

In a quite serious Black Friday event, a robber shot a shopper who refused to give up his purchases outside a San Leandro, Calif., Wal-Mart store, leaving the victim hospitalized in critical but stable condition.  What ever happened to the rule, if a robber approaches you, give him whatever he wants or you could end up dead? Is dying worth anything that Wal-Mart could possibly have?

Back in the simple 1970’s and 80’s when people were nice and polite and seemingly not crazy shoppers, I stood in a black Friday line a few times waiting for department stores to open at a normal time (9 am) for a couple of requested items on my children’s Santa list.  One year I stood patiently in line for an unattractive doll with its own unique name and birth certificate. It was called a Cabbage Patch Kid and it was the only thing my daughter had on her wish list. The dolls were in short supply and moms everywhere were on the hunt but I never saw a fight, or a push or an unkind word in my search. I ended up driving an hour away from my home to a friend’s Ace Hardware where he had three of the dolls and saved one for me. He said no one really thought of Ace as a place to purchase dolls and they had been on the shelf for a few days. I think he thought I was a little crazy for going on and on and thanking him profusely.

Another Black Friday moment had me standing in line at Sears for $2 plastic Star Wars figures (of course they are worth a lot now) to complete a Star Wars set complete with a carrying case. My son never asked for a lot for Christmas and it was my mission to find Darth Vader and some of the harder to find figures. Once again it was mostly moms shopping and we were all standing around a huge bin of Star Wars charactersshouting out the names of the characters we found to other moms in need of certain characters to complete a set. We were all helping each other and I walked away with a complete set, as did others. We were laughing, joking and actually having fun. No pushing, shoving, grabbing, pepper spraying or shooting. Not an ugly American consumer in the bunch–evidently a much kinder and gentler crowd and time. Ah, sometimes the good old days–are good.

(Amazingly I found a Cabbage Patch Kid here; It is the 30 yr. celebration doll that is similar to the one I stood in line for. I think I’ll get for my 38 yr. old daughter as a memory. I am an Amazon affiliate so anything you purchase through this link will net me a small commission.)


Filed under buzz, current news, hot topics, opinion

Hey Herman Cain: You Got Problems? ‘Blame Yourself’

Pizza man's here! . . . Herman Cain - Cartoon

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

Herman Cain was recently quoted in a Wall Street Journal  interview criticizing Occupy Wall Street protesters stating, “don’t blame Wall Street, don’t blame the big banks, if you don’t have a job and are not rich, blame yourself.”

It boggles my mind that this fountain of knowledge pizza-man was in essence, telling the people who have been hurt by the financial crisis through no fault of their own, that they were in fact, to blame. The classic blame the victim stance  from a not-so-classy ex-pizza CEO running for the Republican nomination for President.

When the Cain circus first came to town many people thought he was a breath of fresh political air. Here was a guy who had no political background or knowledge, did not necessarily have command of the English language, knew nothing about those foreign places like China etc. and had a simplistic 9-9-9 economic fix that would cost the most needy more money. That fresh air has quickly grown stale.

In the last few weeks no less than four women have stepped forward and accused Cain of sexual harassment that allegedly happened years ago, when he was head of the National Restaurant Association. Three of the women did so anonymously and one came forward complete with a press conference and attorney/spokesperson by her side.

Cain and his camp were very slow to respond to these allegations, refusing to talk to reporters about the issue for days. He kept telling reporters he wanted to “stay on message” and “don’t bother asking.” When he evidently regrouped and got all his Republican ducks in a row, he had a press conference himself yesterday and stated none of the events ever happened. He is of course, calling four women with similar stories liars. Two of the women had been paid off years ago by the NRA and signed agreements to not speak on the issue as they had been employees. This action alone would lead reasonable people to think their could be some truth to the accusations.

It is not uncommon for powerful men, bosses and those in control of others to use that power in unethical and demeaning ways. I do not know if Herman Cain did what he was accused of but four women stating they have had similar encounters with him certainly shows a pattern of behavior that would be unbecoming a President of the United States.  And if the allegations are true, he would also be guilty of lying to the American People, which might not be such a stretch from what we are used to with our present politicians.

If Herman Cain has done anything even  remotely close to what his accusers are saying, then he needs to get off his platform and go back under the rock he crawled out from.  As his approval ratings dip and his Republican nominee chances get slimmer by the day, I wonder who Herman Cain will choose to blame for his probable political fall? “Blame Yourself.”

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Congress Approval Rating and National Unemployment Rate at 9%

President Barack Obama speaks to a joint sessi...

Image via Wikipedia

A New York Times/CBS News poll broke the news this week that Congress’s approval rating is 9%.  Coincidentally, 9% is also our national unemployment rate for September and most of October, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment figure seems almost eerily connected to our do-nothing-for-jobs Congress and their bottom-feeder ratings as they spent this week in session, once again doing nothing for jobs or the economy. It’s like some weird “here is a nine for you too Congress since you won’t recognize and do anything about ours.” Of course, 9% is only the national average jobless rate, some states like Nevada, have a 23% unemployment rate.

They did however, pass a really important bill in the House that would issue commemorative coins for Baseball Hall of Fame. Also, just so you don’t get the idea that they can’t accomplish anything at all together in a big way, the commemorative coins issue was passed overwhelmingly.  See, when the chips-er coins are down and the issue has nothing to do with Obama or jobs or the economy, Republicans can unite and really make a difference.

Remember that old saying about getting out of something what you put into it?  I think our Congress is actually reaping the rewards of what they have, in fact, done for the American people, our jobs and the economic situation.  I think 9% is actually pretty high but of course who knows how many friends, relatives, lobbyists, insurance companies, banks, other corporations etc. were included in the poll (oh wait, corporations aren’t people I hope they didn’t get polled).

Even though the House is a Republican strong hold right now, many polls are showing that the majority of American people, regardless of party affiliation have made it crystal clear they support President Obama’s Job Act, temporary band-aid or not, because it is at least a plan for doing something for jobs and the economy and they feel he is trying.  But, the Republicans are blocking it in Congress and have yet to come up with their own plan other than a big NO because they can’t possibly vote on an Obama plan, even if it will help the American people. Their plan seems to be politics first, people last. I wonder how low their rating can go?

Since the Republicans now seem to represent everything the American People hate about the economy, it is only a matter of minutes before they will represent everything the American People hate. When you become a politician for all the wrong reasons and you vote as a block not to help your own constituents and the American People, you will not only end up humiliated by a 9% approval rating but sooner rather than later–no job.


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Is 9-9-9 wrong, wrong, wrong ?

Caricatures: GOP Presidential Debate Participa...

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

Ask any political PR person and they will tell you it’s great to have a catchy, roll-off-the-tongue, memorable catch phrase associated with a candidate. Unless that catch phrase is doomed to conjure up bad memories like trickle down economics or read my lips; no more taxes among many others. Herman Cain, of Godfather’s Pizza fame (he is the ex-CEO) and the Republican flavor of the month vying for their nomination to be the candidate for President, has such a catch phrase; 9-9-9.  While their field is plenty crowded with Gingrich, Romney, Perry, Bachman, Paul and others too numerous or insignificant to mention, none of them have the edge on the catchy 9-9-9 phrase that has defined Cain’s campaign. But, is it wrong to throw the rich, middle class and poor into the same tax barrel? Or, is it just plain stupid?

On Cain’s own website,  he says his 9-9-9 plan will “fix” the economy. It would abolish our entire tax code including any loopholes or tax credits (like the earned income tax credit for low-income earners) . His plan calls for 9 percent corporate tax, 9 percent personal income tax and 9 percent national sales tax. Cain says it would be simple and fair. I must be missing something here, I don’t see the “fair” part.  There would be no tax on capital gains or dividends so once again the rich get richer. Some of the rich that pay 28-35 percent taxes on their income would pay 9 percent and the 30 million Americans that presently pay no federal income tax because they don’t make enough to do so and are at or below the poverty level will pay 9 percent under Cain’s “simple” plan. All Americans will also have to pay 9 percent on consumer goods for gas, food and medicine etc. which of course, hurts lower-income people far more than the rich.

Since Cain’s plan is for everyone including businesses, all corporations that presently take advantage of every loophole known to mankind and typically end up paying on average 26 percent in taxes, will get a nice slash to 9 percent. Do you think they will take the tax cut and turn that windfall into jobs? Or will the greedy corporations just pocket the windfall and give their CEO’s bigger bonuses? I have my own answer on that one and it doesn’t involve helping others or aiding the general economy.

I am no economist. I don’t hail from a think tank and have a hard enough time balancing a check book but I do know that a catchy slogan does not an economy fix make. This plan is yet another idea from an ex-corporate CEO that still thinks like big business. Making the rich, richer and the poor, poorer is not my idea of “fair.” As it says on Herman Cain’s front page of his website in big block letters; “Let’s Get Real”. I can’t wait until he, or any other politician actually does–but I’m not holding my breath.


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Bloggers Shall Inherit the Earth–My 100th Blog Post


Image via Wikipedia

This is my 100th blog post.  And while it isn’t the same type of milestone as say, my first bra or my first marriage it is still something I did 100 times and so could more than qualify for habit status. World of Psychology says that a habit can be formed in as little as 18 days on up to 254 days. The average they claim is about 66 days. While I am now in the habit of blogging, I feel like it is more of a necessity so that bloggers can inherit the earth.

We all know the meek are not going to inherit the earth no matter if God or anyone else says so. Lately the geeks have gotten in on the act and are pushing for the geeks to inherit the earth, just because they think they are so smart–and geeky. That’s not going to happen either because the geeks might be high-tech bastions of computer/internet/whatever  knowledge but many lack that ability to relate to the masses.

So that leaves us bloggers. The obvious reason that bloggers should inherit the earth is that we write about everything on earth. We dispense information like big-pharma dispenses pills–only better and faster and for free. We make people think, laugh and cry– often in the same post. We report on the news and more importantly on reactions to the news. We instruct people in every conceivable subject matter from baking, sewing, crafts, art, health and cooking to photography, writing, marketing, social media and affairs of the heart and soul. We bloggers are walking encyclopedias (quite an old word I know) of knowledge in our respective niches  and whether that is useful or useless knowledge is not for us to say–our readers will let us know.

I started blogging because I could pick my poison and write away. I was in the news business for years and of course, we had stringent guidelines to adhere to and other than my newspaper columns, my articles were void of opinion just as news stories should be (what a concept, huh). Blogging is very similar to writing a newspaper column with the potential to reach many more eyes. The WordPress platform is perfect for me because I’m no geek and the technical side is easier than other platforms but I do plan on self-hosting in the future (I suppose I’ll need a geek to help me).  Since my blog focuses on current news rants and raves (rarely raves) comments aren’t always agreeable but that’s okay.  Since I’m very opinionated I would expect my readers to be also. Controversy is just one step closer to inheriting the earth–and I need to be ready.


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Keeping nude or lewd pictures on cell phones or computers–stupid?

Cell Phone Cameras

Image by compujeramey via Flickr

If someone hacked into my computer or cell phone the entertainment value would be nil. Sure there is that fully clothed photo of me on my sexy pink scooter (woo-hoo) and then all the how-I-spent-my-vacation photos depicting various family members, dogs and scenic highways and byways. It’s the run-of-the-mill stuff that would surely disappoint hackers looking to make a few bucks on blackmail or a quick sale to a rag magazine.  But of course,  I don’t live the life of Scarlett Johanssen, Jessica Alba, Miley Cyrus, Mila Kunis, Vanessa Hudgens or Chris Brown. I’m not in their age group and aesthetically, I appeal to a much older crowd.

Now, all these stars mentioned  and about 50 more, have recently or in this past year,  had their cell phones and/or computers hacked into and had nude or some type of compromising (to them) pictures stolen. The photos either ended up on the internet or in the hands of people who evidently had plans that didn’t involve keeping them for their own secret stash.  These stars are absolutely “shocked,”  have expressed they are “victims” and of course the FBI is now involved in the mystery-of-the-hacked-photos-caper. Evidently a “ring” of hackers are involved in this type of cyber crime according to the FBI. Putting this type of stuff on your cell phone or computer isn’t quite as stupid as filming a  private video of your escapades as some stars have done over the years–but it is a runner-up to stupid.

Nothing involving the internet is iron-clad private. Nothing involving wireless is private. If as  a celebrity, you don’t understand that your nude picture is worth way more than a thousand words then you should probably stick to taking photos of your pets or shoes.  Stars are hounded everywhere they go, why would they not be smart enough to think they might be hounded in cyber space?   I don’t get it. Where are their business managers and security people to mention; “oh, by the way, if you are ever inclined to take compromising pictures of yourself, even in private–don’t, it could come back to haunt you.”  But, then again maybe the “stars” only surround themselves with like-minded people.

According to the L A Times, the FBI has been investigating allegations of the phone hacking of multiple celebrities since 2010.  A victim, according to the dictionary is one who is harmed or made to suffer from an act, circumstances, agency or condition (such as war) and also a person who has been tricked, swindled or duped. I keep thinking of all the real victims in the country that the FBI could be probing for instead of wasting our tax dollars on celebrities that evidently don’t have a clue . I feel duped.

(If you want to hide underwater and take pictures; this Intova waterproof video digital camera will do the trick. No one can see you unless your dumb enough to put the pix on your computer or leave you camera laying around for anyone to see. I am an Amazon affiliate so I do get a tiny commission if you purchase through my link. I had mine for years and used it when snorkeling, then I kind-of dropped it off a boat.  I keep hinting to family members whenever I get yet another dumb gift.)


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September 11, 2001 carved in the memory of the living and in bronze for future generations

It is pretty rare that just a date on a calendar says it all.  But just about every American living at the time, old enough to understand ,  knows exactly what 9/11 means. On September 11, 2001, four jet liners were hijacked by suicide bombers who crashed two of them into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon and the last was diverted, thanks to Americans on the plane, to a field in Pennsylvania, where it crashed killing our heroes on board.

Most of us also remember exactly where we were when we first either saw or heard of the horrific events via television or possibly radio. For some of us old enough to remember the JFK assassination, that too was a horrible event in our history that most people define by where they were, what age they were etc. when they first heard about it. Although young, I remember distinctly I was in chorus and our teacher, a Dominican nun, came in to class in tears. She offered no explanation but then the head nun got on the school p.a. system with that towering voice and told the whole school. We got the next day off and at my house the TV was on all day (rarely allowed) and that is when I saw Jack Ruby on live TV kill Lee Harvey Oswald.  Today I barely remember what I had for breakfast but I remember that as if it was yesterday and I was just a kid.

On the morning of 9/11  my husband and I had just gotten back from an RV trip to meet up with my son and his wife and the grand-kids in Omaha at a state park. It was about a nine-hour drive for us and I slept a little later than usual.  My husband the early riser yelled up the stairs for me to turn on the TV. That was an odd statement for him and his voice sounded urgent so I quickly turned it on. Like everyone, including those reporting on the event, I was in shock.  I then saw the second plane enter the field of vision on the screen and like everyone else–it became painfully obvious that this was no accident. It truly was terror in the skies.

I have once again been watching TV all day today, starting with the 10 year memorial ceremony in New York at ground zero. It was a well thought out ceremony and the memorial itself  is a beautiful sight with the water fall pools and over 2900 names etched in bronze but it was a hard watch. Seeing the children born after their fathers perished was the hardest. Watching loved ones take pictures of the etched names, kiss the names and cry on the names was just such an emotional experience I couldn’t put the tissue box away. I can’t even imagine what these survivors had to go through over the last 10 years but in my eyes they are all heroes.

I am Irish and when the bagpipers started to play at the ground zero ceremony I couldn’t help but think of deceased family members of my own who always had  bagpipes played at their wakes. And just like the countless Irish wakes I’ve attended,  barely a dry eye was evident at the 9/11 memorial, as everyone witnessed the two weeping waterfalls in the exact footprint where the twin towers once stood.


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Abercrombie in another ‘Situation’ over elitist image control

Mike 'The Situation' Sorrentino and Karina Smi...

Image by trhnlhi via Flickr

Abercrombie & Fitch is losing its grip on image control as every Tom, Dick, Harry and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino,  parade around in their over-priced duds on TV, in Italy and other places not sanctioned by Abercrombie & Fitch.  Abercrombie is “concerned” enough about its image that it has offered a “substantial sum” of money to “The Situation” and the rest of the Jersey Shore cast to cease wearing their clothes.   While it is an obvious publicity ploy,  Abercrombie is no stranger to bad publicity and lawsuits stemming from its insistence that employees project a certain image and look.  I call it the Stepford  look, they call it preppy-sexy-beachy-wholesome-college-frat-sorority look.

While I don’t watch the reality show Jersey Shore, millions do and I have seen an episode or two as the cast tans, goes to the gym, does laundry and of course parties and fights. Not necessarily a wholesome image any product or retail outlet would want to project but Abercrombie had already  jumped on the Jersey Shore bandwagon when they came out with their “Fituation” and “GTL” (gym, tan, laundry) tee shirts a while back. Who are they kidding?  According to an Abercrombie press release; “We are deeply concerned that Mr. Sorrentino’s association with our brand could cause significant damage to our image.”  This is pretty funny since their image is one of elitist discrimination.

Abercrombie has long been the bastion of the preppy-sexy look, often approaching their own customers they think have the “look” and asking them if they would like a job while applications pile up from other Abercrombie job seekers that are not considered part of the super-elite-gene-pool-brand that the company covets (they got sued and lost also for telling applicants they weren’t hiring and were caught hiring only people with the “look.”)  I suppose using the pick-of-the-litter method of hiring is okay if we are talking skill set, knowledge, experience, retail personality etc. but choosing someone because they look like a surfer dude or dud and wear flip-flops for a living seems like the bottom of the shallow barrel.

But, Abercrombie will be taking all this free publicity to the bank. People are talking about this PR stunt and advertising geniuses are scratching their heads and wishing they would have thought of the idea first.  Plus, otherwise sane people, instead of boycotting a company that has an ugly policy of hiring only the “attractive” will go buy an A&F something -or-other because they don’t fit their image either, because nobody is going to tell them what they can’t wear–ka-ching!

(I would sure say this picture I used of the “Situation” looks pretty similar to the Abercrombie ads of half naked bodies on their website and in their catalogs so what do they mean he is bad for their image?) P.S. I’m open to not wearing anyone’s clothing–I really have no image so I could readily offend anyone equally. for the right price–of course.


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Congress Gets a DD–Rating From us Standard Poor

Congress gets DD-Rating

According to our U.S. Constitution, only Congress can spend money and only Congress can set policy. Even the veto power of the President of the United States, is at the mercy of Congress–as they can override his veto power. They can override a presidential veto for political gain (or games), or because they just don’t like him, or because they are self-centered-greedy-drunk-with-power elected officials who want it “their way,” or no way at all.

I only point this out to show that no matter what our President tried-or as some think, didn’t try to do in the month-long debt crisis fiasco–it wouldn’t have mattered. The Republicans had control of the ball and they dropped it right on us. Not just we the people but we the standard poor people. The people who have no jobs, or two jobs, or low wage jobs. The people who don’t get the tax breaks of the rich and can’t afford off-shore accounts. The people upside down on their homes and sinking fast or in default. The people who Congress can’t possibly relate to and therefore refuses to help with anything more than rhetoric.

The fact that Standard & Poor’s  has downgraded the U.S. credit rating a notch is not nearly as important as why? S&P said the downgrade reflected their opinion of our political situation and said the Republicans are not likely to let the Bush tax cuts (for the rich) expire in 2012– so no new money coming in. It is a totally separate issue that S&P is grading on some kind-of fortune teller-astrological-voodoo curve, whereby they predict the future political situation rather than assessing the financial situation as it stands.

Yes, the Republicans got their “deal” and us standard poor people got to watch elected officials play one-upmanship, not play well with others, and sell us down the river so they can report back to the lobbyists, big banks, big pharma, and other big entities that make big political donations. In the meantime the real American crisis of jobs, wages and growth is once again taking a back seat so that the rich can get richer and the middle and lower class can become obsolete.

We can only hope that anyone in Congress that helped create this mess is heavily invested in the big companies that they are supporting with their votes, the “too big to fail” companies that were tanking today in the stock market.  This Congress deserves a DD–rating, from all the standard poor people in America.

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Punditry is the New Black

Punditry is the new black (photo;Lightfoot)

We are becoming a nation of pundits.  Pundits have turned much of our news into a “style ” like the eternal little black dress and the idea that black is chic to wear everywhere and anytime. The problem is pundits should not be everywhere and anytime– it’s annoying.

The term pundit originated in the 17th century from the Hindu word Pandita, meaning “learned.”  A more recent American dictionary meaning of pundit is; usually an elderly person noted for wisdom, knowledge and good  judgement–an authority. Does this sound to you like anyone we see or hear, day in and day out on any of our 24/7 media outlets on TV, radio, print or web?  I can think of only a few pundits that fit this description because true pundits aren’t in-your-face constantly, they are too busy honing their expert skills.  People like Glenn Beck, Nancy Grace, Ann Coulter, Elliot Spitzer and Bill O’Reilly are considered pundits of politics, pop culture or law. So, obviously the meaning has evolved.

Do I value the judgement of pundits? Mostly, no. I do however, value my own judgement, so if you want to just hand me the unfiltered news I think I might be able to make heads or tails of it myself. On the other hand, I would be open to a well-researched, knowledgeable opinion from someone totally in-the-loop, an expert in the field, as it were. Any takers?

The pundit label has a much more casual meaning today in a sort of casual-Friday type way. It seems you can sort-of  have knowledge and kind-of  have wisdom and flip-flop that good judgement around like well–flip-flops. Even some of the pundits that I sometimes agree with like Ed Schultz or Rachel Maddow of MSNBC , get on their TV and radio soap boxes and talk til’ I drop.  I like opinion, I even have one but I don’t necessarily need it dissected and spoon fed to me, with a dose of  bias lacking in any facts, which some pundits are prone to do.

Some radio pundits show their knowledge to listeners by cutting off their callers with differing views and TV pundits have been known to cry and yell on the air, in order to get across their infinite wisdom. These people are doing nothing to elevate the stature of pundit. There really should be levels. We have A list and B list movie stars, why not common ratings for pundits?

A “real” pundit should have the knowledge and credentials to back up an informed opinion.  It wouldn’t even hurt for some topics, to expect pundits to have serious academic or scholarly experience in a subject.  A kind of,  know-before-you-go type of thing rather than a shoot-from-the-hip style. I’ve actually heard people say that many years ago in media land, experts or pundits used to at least attempt to be unbiased and didn’t affiliate themselves with a specific movement or even align themselves with media outlets–imagine that!


Filed under humor, opinion, politics, satire

No Kids Allowed in Restaurant–Eat In Peace


In some restaurants it’s no shoes, no shirt, no service. In this day and age you can add kids.  Got Kids? No service. McDain’s Restaurant in Monroeville, PA  has come under scrutiny lately because owner, Mike Vuick, has decided to ban kids under six years old from his restaurant.  Some people are criticizing him for this action and yet others are applauding his guts for his no kids allowed rule.

Some people are calling McDain’s new rule discriminatory, over-the-top, crazy, absurd and anti-kid. Others are calling the rule enlightening, fantastic, precedent setting  and shouting “it’s about time,”  from the roof-tops. Which ever side of the fence you are on you have to give the guy credit for such a bold move that is sure to be polarizing to a certain segment of the population and his town.

Vuick however, doesn’t seem to care and he is not backing down from his stance as he has more than enough customers that agree with him. It’s kind of like that movie Network where the guy says; “I’m mad as hell and I ‘m not going to take it anymore.”  According to the owner, many of his customers were tiring of eating at his restaurant in the midst of screaming, crying and food throwing kids. Some diners were even less enthralled with the parents that were either ignoring their own children’s behavior, condoning it or screaming at their kids in a public restaurant.  He said that while kids are understandably the center of the universe of a parent it is not necessarily so for the rest of the dining public.

This has to absolutely be a sign of the times. I mean, many of us grew up knowing exactly how to act in a restaurant as kids and we passed that etiquette on to our own children. Most adults over 35 can well remember the wrath of mom and dad if you mis-behaved in a restaurant or any public forum.  It was almost like you had private manners at home where you gave your brother a shove and yelled at your sister to get out of your bedroom and public manners where you didn’t utter much other than please, thank you and the meal was great. For many of us it was a treat to go out to dinner as children, and not the norm.  For my own kids it was also a special event to have dinner out, so everyone had their manners “on.’

I too have witnessed the escalation of bad manners or no manners in children over the last 10 years or so and since I’m no behavior specialist I don’t have the answers. What I do know for sure is;  it is never too young to teach children manners and make it a priority because parents that don’t will become more stigmatized than their kids–and places like Chuck E. Cheese will be getting a lot more crowded.

I give this book on children’s manners out a lot as gifts;  I don’t wait until I think it is needed I just give it along with other cool books when a child is quite young. Then the parents already have it among their book collections and are not offended. I am an Amazon affiliate so I do get a very small commission if you use this link but I only recommend what I actually use because we all have more than enough crap-o-la links.


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Nancy Grace a Disgrace

Nancy Grace at her book party for her new book...

Image via Wikipedia

We all found out today that our justice system is alive and well and not living in a woman called Nancy Grace.  While Casey Anthony was found not guilty of first degree murder, aggravated manslaughter and child abuse she was found guilty of the lesser charges of lying to police, and basically sending them on a bunch of wild goose chases. Grace anointed herself  judge, jury and “expert” early on in the Casey Anthony case and talked about it non-stop on her HLN nightly program for CNN. The program, called Swift Justice, was taken literally by Grace who ranted and raved nightly about the guilt of Casey Anthony killing her two-year old daughter, dubbing Anthony “tot mom.’

Grace is an attorney and former prosecutor which evidently gives her the right to prosecute in a public forum, on TV, in print and anywhere else her mouth takes her, even when a trial is ongoing.  A lot of people were shocked and dismayed that Anthony was found not guilty but the fact remains that 12 jurors obviously had a reasonable doubt. Grace, on the other hand has never had a reasonable thought or it might have dawned on her that “her way” wasn’t the only way to go. I actually thought the not guilty verdict might render Grace speechless-no such luck.

Grace single-handedly ruined my favorite morning news program, Good Morning America, by her almost daily appearances in the last month as a so-called “expert” in the case.  As I drank my coffee and listened to her talk over Robin Roberts’ questions, bulldoze her answers through another commentator’s statements, screech “tot mom” over and over and criticize anyone on the program who disagreed with her “guilty” point of view, I had enough.  I no longer watch GMA, as I think they went off the deep end in considering Grace an “expert” in this case, (note to GMA) A loud opinion does not make someone an “expert.” Grace, and her unprofessional and caustic demeanor has really given the law profession (not always thought of in high esteem) a black eye, hearkening  back to the days of ambulance chasers.

Grace said she was concerned that Anthony would get book and movie deals etc. yet Grace has had her face in front of the cameras over this case for a couple of years and has milked it for all its worth. The whole case is sad, a child is dead and Nancy Grace is a disgrace.


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