What’s In a Name?

Dear pilgrims,

(Apologies once again, I have to recycle an old blog for this week. I was trying to find something topical or relevant and I came across an article I wrote about names published in May, 2014. My avid readers will remember that I have been sharing interesting, unique and odd names at the end of my blogs these days. For more on the subject, read on.)

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Over the past several months I have been wracking (racking) my brain to find a suitable nom de plume for me. Not for the blog, but for the book that is brewing inside.  As many of you know I have already written a book, my memoir, (The Vivid Air, Amazon)  but then I used my real name. What is the use of using a pseudonym when you try to tell your own story?!! No, this second book is going to be a murder mystery. It has all the essential ingredients of a mystery novel—greed, homicide, poisoned chalices, car chase, traffic jams, fist fights, adultery, politics, racism…..

All I need is a pen name.

The idea of someone using a false name was something that I learned when I was in Form Three. One of the prescribed books was The Mill on the Floss written by one George Elliot. When I bought the book at the beginning of the term, my father, as usual looked at all the text books and casually mentioned that the author was actually a woman—Mary Ann Evans. In the class, the teacher was referring to the author as ‘he’ and one day summoning up all my courage, but with a great deal of trepidation, I ventured to say that the author is a woman. The class roared with laughter and I got a box on the ear from the teacher!!

It was much later that I realized that the real name of the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was not Mark Twain but Samuel Langhorne Clemens. He said he did not like his name and chose Mark Twain which was actually a phrase that boatmen used to indicate two fathoms of water (app. 2 feet), the depth needed for a row boat’s safe passage on the water.

But Mary Ann Evans chose to write under a male name to ensure her works would be taken seriously. In those days many female authors were published under their own names, but Evans wanted to escape the stereotype of women writing only light hearted romantic fluff. She eventually would become a highly successful writer. Her novel Middlemarch (1872) was once hailed as the greatest novel ever written.

Another woman who wrote under a pseudonym (sort of) is J.K. Rowling. I say ‘sort of’ because the author’s real name is Joanne Rowling. As a divorced, single parent, trying to make a living, she wrote the first Harry Potter novel and when she submitted it to the publishers, they said the book would not be popular among boys if it is /was penned by a woman! So they recommended J.K. Rowling even though ‘K’ does not stand for anything. Well, we now know that her series sold more than 400 million copies. But see what happened when she decided to write a novel using a pseudonym. Her detective novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling, was published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. It was released in early 2013 and just 1500 copies were sold. It was the 4709th in rating!! But it surged to number one seller as soon as she announced that Galbraith was, indeed, Rowling. Signed copies of the first edition are selling for four to six thousand dollars.

There are many woman writers who used pseudonyms. Louisa May Alcott who wrote The Little Women started out as A.M.Barnard and the Bronte Sisters wrote under Ellis, Acton and Currer Bell.

Theodor Geisel, American writer, poet and cartoonist went to Dartmouth College and became the editor-in-chief of the College’s magazine Jack- O-Lantern. But when he threw a raging party breaking Dartmouth and federal law during prohibition, he was fired from the job. But to continue his work on the magazine without the knowledge of the administration, he began signing his work with his middle name—Seuss. Years later, when his first book was published Seuss added the “Dr” as a joke at the expense of his father who always wanted him to pursue a medical career! (He went to Oxford from Dartmouth and earned a Ph.D in English literature.)

It is not only writers who seek a pseudonym, but actors do as well. Of course, it is not called nom de plume but nom de scène or nom de theatre. Issur Danielovich was born in Brooklyn of Russian parents. As a young man he was interested in acting and so joined The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. When he was ready to look for jobs, his acting teacher suggested that if he expected to become an actor, he should change his name. He did and became Kirk Douglas. One of his classmates Betty Joan Perske also got the same advice and she became Lauren Bacall.

Or consider this. Archie Leach– high school dropout, vaudevillian, acrobat and stilt walker– crossed the pond and came to Hollywood. Producers liked his debonair demeanour and killer looks but not the name. So he became Cary Grant. Can you visualize a marquee which declares “My Fair Lady starring Rex Harrison and Edda Kathleen van Heemstra Hepburn-Ruston”?

And you can’t blame Stefanie Joanne Angelina Germanotta if she chose to be known as Lady Gaga.

Well, I started off saying that I was seeking a pen name.  I was trying to get ideas from those who have/had successfully picked pseudo names. I am afraid I can’t come up with anything half decent.

I tried what Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the obsessively  shy Oxford professor of Mathematics, did. Charles translated into Latin is Carolus and Lutwidge is an old German form of Lewis and Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass) was born! My name does not translate into anything in Latin. Sanskrit, yes; Latin, no.

Then I tried what William Sydney Porter (The Gift of the Magi) did. He was thrown in jail for embezzlement while working in a bank. He started writing stories while being incarcerated and obviously he could not use his real name because no publisher would accept anything from a jailbird. So he created his pen name: O.Henry, picking letter from OHio State PENitentiaRY. I tried what both Dodgson and Potter did and came up with KARNA or ARAYA or MARYA.

Not too exciting. Finally I decided to copy H.H. Munro.  He picked a neutral but exotic word—Saki, who is the wine bearer in Omar Khayyam’s Rubaiyat.

So I went for something exotic too.

Frangipani—sensuous, delicate………..

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“Cell” Break

(Owing to certain issues here that demanded my attention, I was not able to write a blog for the week. Hence, I am reprinting something that I wrote eight years ago. April 20, 2013 in fact.)

April is the cruelest month—or so the sages would have us believe.  And I agree, not because of the vagaries of weather patterns and the resultant discomfort. I dislike it because it was in April 40 years ago that a scourge was unleashed on unsuspecting humanity. Over the years it would affect several billion people around the globe. It is the ubiquitous aberration called the cell phone. And an engineer by the name of Martin Cooper has to take all the blame.

I do have an iPhone, but I hasten to declare that I did not buy it; it was imposed on me by the family. I have strict instructions to carry it around whenever I venture out of the house. This is to keep track of me, I am told, in case I wander around and get lost. Not unlike the electronic ankle bracelets that convicts on parole have to wear.

My frustration with the gadget is that in spite of rigorous instruction by a variety of specialists, I don’t know how to make use it by taking advantage of the numerous ‘apps’ that the instrument comes with. I am told that I can listen to my favorite music. Why do I need a phone for that when I can listen to all the music I want in the comfort of my armchair? Ah, you see, you can find the time of any place anywhere in the world, they persist. But why should I want to know the time in Timbuktu, especially since I have no intention of going there?  In ten seconds flat  I can find the address of the Chinese restaurant closest to my house. But I don’t like Chinese food; I prefer chicken curry to chicken foo-yong, I argued. To no effect, I might add.

But I digress.

But what is incomprehensible to me is when the urge to use the cell phones strikes people. While driving, for instance, something that everyone agrees is a hazardous enterprise.  The exception may be His Worship the Mayor of Toronto who does not care or does not understand, possibly the latter. Or while on public transit. Or horror of horrors, in the elevator.

Or in the grocery store.  People come with long shopping lists but many people need to be in constant communication with someone at headquarters because of decision paralysis.  Sometimes the chatter is continued even when the user reaches the checkout counter.

The other day, I had to join the regular line because I had 9 items and you can have only 8 to use the fast counter. The person ahead of me had picked up a lot of things and so I knew it was going to take a while before my turn. I was watching with a great deal of interest the products pouring out from this person’s cart, when I heard from the recesses of her jacket a muffled sound that resembled the opening bars of Die Fledermaus.  The owner promptly retrieved something that looked like a travelling alarm clock, proceeded to flip the hinged doors and presto! I was looking at a cell phone.   What, possibly, could this urgent call be about?

I was reminded of the chorus in Henry V who at one point said, “Now expectation sits in the air.”

The mystery was solved somewhat because we came to know that the party at the other end did not or could not make a sandwich. From what we could hear, the speaker was berating the listener and the speech went on something like this: “I told you last night that I will not have time to make your sandwiches. So, if you can’t make one, you can go hungry, I don’t care (anger). Don’t bother me anymore (more anger).”

Now let us examine this carefully. Was that a kid who could not find the peanut butter and jam? Or was it some helpless man like me who does not how to create a half decent lunch for himself? The mystery will never be solved.

As I said we have to throw the blame on Martin Cooper for all this. In 1954, Cooper, an Engineer, applied for a job with Motorola and in the application, he identified himself as an ‘inventor’. “Ok, go ahead and invent whatever you like”, said his boss. “But Motorola would own the rights and you will get one dollar for your invention.”

In 1973 he called his boss on the first cell phone ever, and told him what he had accomplished. In an interview last week with the BBC, Cooper said that his boss did not believe him and dismissed the call with an expletive! The cell phone would not be produced commercially for 10 years or so.

We know that the cell phone is useful for communication, information gathering, entertainment and such. But according to Cooper, it appears that we are on the threshold of a medical revolution.  For instance, it will soon be possible to measure the vital signs of the body every thirty seconds using a cell phone. During the interview Cooper produced two patches—one white and oval shaped and the other brown and round.

The first one attached to the chest warns the wearer of a potential congestive heart failure. If there is any indication that the heart is unable to provide sufficient pumping action, the patch will communicate this information to the cell phone and a call is immediately transmitted to the doctor.  The brown patch is a calorie counter. It alerts the wearer if, during a meal, he/she has reached the recommended level. And if the wearer is tempted to go for a calorie laden dessert, the patch will talk to the cell phone, which will beep. Of course, we all know the kinds of ring tones available in a cell phone!

I wonder if I can program mine to play one of my favorites, Greensleeves.

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Jokers’ Corner

This week’s joker—nay, this century’s joker—is Roger Benítez, a US District judge of the southern district of California. Last week he overturned California’s long-time ban on assault weapons, saying that the state’s law was unconstitutional and that prohibiting such firearms for decades was “a failed experiment”. He declared that more people have died from COVID vaccines (Note, not the virus but the vaccine!!) than mass shootings in California. He then compared an AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife. “Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. I have the picture of both below for you to compare. If it is a matter of self defense, which would you rather have in your hand?

Dear friend Steven Shavers, himself a prominent lawyer, had a long comment on it as an attachment to my blog last week. I invite you to read it. Inter alia, he said, “Perfect home defense weapon? Comparable to a Swiss Army knife? I own a Swiss Army knife. I doubt if I could kill 16 people with it in under 3 seconds.”

But we know that rhetoric like the venerable judge’s is gaining currency. Remember a congressman saying that the insurrection on the Capitol on January 6 was nothing more than what tourists do. That is, tourists like you and me would go about breaking windows, occupy the House floor, desecrate the podium, walk around with a noose on a stick looking for the vice President so that we could hang him!!

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“Shawm”, “Yuop” and such

George Bernard Shaw was in private life was sometimes a very unpleasant person. His wife Charlotte Frances Payne-Townshend was an Irish political activist and dedicated to the struggle for women’s’ rights. She was independently wealthy. And they were also madly in love.

But being mischievous by nature, he used to write taunting letters to her. One day fed up of the silliness she responded in kind and sent him a letter. On the envelope she wrote, “Bernard Shawm esq.”

When Shaw got the letter, he teased her about the wrong spelling of his name. Charlotte calmly said that there, actually, is a word ‘shawm’. Shaw checked and, indeed, there was. The meaning: a double reed, wood instrument, which became the oboe later. Cut George down to size!!

Of course, we are constantly accosted with the appearance of words coined at will by writers, and it is almost impossible to keep track of them. This column had on several occasions mentioned the “new” words being added to the language. Did you know that Chuck Schumer, the majority leader of the US Senate “disvoted” a bill two weeks ago?

One of my major issues  has been  mastering  this wretched thing called the computer. I depend heavily on Google for information. The other day, I was searching for something and Google flashed that I had at some point ‘searched’ the word “yuop”.I had no earthly reason to search for the word, which I did not know before.  Anyway, I was also provided the information regarding the word: “song by Autechre”. I was baffled; I could not even pronounce the words!

It appears that ‘Autechre’ are an English electronic music duo consisting of Rob Brown and Sean Booth from Manchester. Yuop is a song that the pair has recorded. It is really amazing and so very full of ‘reverb’. It is lush as anything and is just as fantastic. Do listen.

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I am sure that you, like many millions around the world, are watching daily the havoc wreaked by COVID-19. We feel happy that somewhere in the world the pandemic is slowly being brought under control. Thus we can feel justifiably proud that our neighbor to the south is not only taming the virus (daily deaths under 600, instead of the tens of thousands) but bringing life back to normal.  But last week reported yet another good news. Gun buying spiked during the pandemic. In a week this spring the sales soared up to 1.2 million! In a week!! Not only were people who had guns buying more, but those who had never owned one were buying too.

The reason for this is obvious. Granted, the pharmaceutical companies are trying their best to come up with vaccines that would control the virus, but it can’t be said that there are no issues. AstraZeneca, for instance, might give you a blood clot. Vaccines are not available everywhere, and if available there is no one to poke the ordinary citizen. One has to stand in line for hours to get the vaccine. So people had taken the issue into their own hands: developed a fool proof way of controlling the virus: shoot them. Which explains the surge in gun sales.

But they have only themselves to blame. Many, many months ago the denizens of the land of the free and home of the brave got sage advice from the Orange Lama. On national television he exhorted the brave people to get a shot of bleach, but nobody bothered. However, they did listen to him when he downplayed the use of masks. He never wore one and many ardent and loyal followers followed suit. Now it appears that the virus does not attack Republicans, which explains why many are anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers.

The picture below shows a gun store in Austin, Texas last week

There is more breaking news from La La Land. As the whole world knows, the White House is being occupied by an imposter, who stole the election from the Lama. As I write, in Arizona, the votes are being recounted—for the fourth time—by impartial private citizens (not the communist Democrats) and the indications are that the imposter would be thrown out on his butt. The people who are in charge of counting are independent operators, although Republicans.

 There will be another inauguration in August and the rightful person would occupy the Presidency. August 15th looks like a likely date. Upright citizens who have been affronted by the rigged election want to emulate Arizona and organize their own recounting. Somehow the noble citizens are going to make sure that democracy is saved.

Meanwhile there is a debate going on whether the Second Amendment, which gives the right to protect Americans, sometimes against themselves, applies to kids as well. In any event, last Tuesday two kids—girl aged 14 and a boy aged 12– got hold of a shotgun and an AK-47 and started shooting at the deputies of the Volusia county in Florida. The deputy shot the girl who is recovering from the hospital.

Viva La Constitution!

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Again, in the greatest democracy in the world, a stunning development. Facebook, yesterday, cut Trump off.  The suspension is until January 2013, at which time experts will decide “whether risk to public safety has receded”.

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Last week a black student by name Davarius Peters arrived at his high school graduation ceremony, but was immediately blocked from entering the convention center where it was being held. Peters, 18, was wearing the mandatory purple cap and gown, but the school representative standing at the front door told him his shoe selection was wrong. Male students were to wear dark dress shoes, which he did not have.

One of the staff, John Butler, saved the situation by loaning his shoes to Peters. The problem was the teacher wore size 11 and Peters wears size 9. When his name was called Peters shuffled across the stage in Butler’s oversize shoes. Peters later said, “The shoes were so big; I could not even walk. I was sliding!”

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Numbers.

500. The percentage rise in the cost of wood. My financial consultant Jeremy Tabarrok says that two by fours which cost $2.70 pre-COVID are now $ 10. The prices will rise again.

$300 million. Roger Federer’s ten-year deal with Uniqlo, the Japanese clothing manufacturer. It is the most iconic endorsements of all time.

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This N’ That

COVID-19 has again captured headlines, but not in a very pleasant way. While African countries are grappling with barely sufficient supplies of vaccines, other countries are destroying thousands of unused shots. South Sudan has announced plans to discard about 60,000 of a total of 191,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine it received in donations. These are expired doses that were donated by the telecommunications company MTN, a WHO official told CNN. About 925,000 AstraZeneca doses with an expiration date of April 13 were distributed to 13 African countries. South Sudan said that the vaccine arrived in the country just two weeks before they were due to expire and so were not administered.

Meanwhile in the US the vaccine supply crunch is over. The government has ordered, optioned or procured enough doses to immunize every single member of the population more than five times over. But people called anti-vaxers do not believe in the vaccines. The refuseniks are mostly Republicans. Of course, they would change their minds if the High Lama announced from Mar-a-Lago said that they should. He never supported the idea, though just before leaving the White House he got the first shots somewhat surreptitiously.

Meanwhile in Canada close to 2 million people have been fully vaccinated. In the US the number is about 13.2 million. In this strange country three in ten people think that vaccines should not be mandatory. Any pressure on this is tantamount to violating the Second Amendment of the Constitution.

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The Olympics are a “go” in Tokyo in mid-July.  The organizers are adamant that nothing will stop the games despite polls in Japan showing 60-80% of people want them called off.  The President of the Olympic committee said yesterday that even local fans may be barred from the venues. Fans from abroad were ruled out months ago. The prospect of empty venues became more likely when the Japanese government yesterday decided to extend a state of emergency until June 20 as COVID-19 cases continue to put the medical system under strain.

So what if the games are postponed, one might ask! Earlier this week the New England Journal of Medicine said in a commentary, “We believe the IOC’s determination to proceed with the Games is not informed by the best scientific evidence.”

Japan has officially spent $15.4 billion so far to get ready for the games.

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The following was contributed by good friend David Biltek, who in turn got it from his mother.

Who’s Running the World? 

Biden, Putin, and Xi were  arguing on Who’s in charge of the world?  US, Russia, or China?

Not being able to reach a conclusion, they turned to Narendra Modi , the Indian Prime Minister and asked him, “Who’s in Charge of the World?” 

Modi replied: “All I know is”:

1. Google CEO is an Indian.

2. Microsoft CEO is an Indian.

3. Adobe CEO is an Indian.

4. Net App CEO is an Indian.

5. MasterCard CEO is an Indian.

6. DBS CEO is an Indian.

7. Novartis CEO is an Indian.

8. Diageo CEO is an Indian.

9. SanDisk CEO is an Indian.

10. Harman CEO is an Indian.

11. Micron CEO is an Indian.

12. Palo Alto Networks CEO is an Indian.

13. Reckitt Benckiser CEO is an Indian.

14. IBM CEO is an Indian.

15. Britain’s Chancellor is an Indian.

16. Britain’s Home Secretary is an Indian.

17. Ireland’s Prime Minister is an Indian.

And the American Vice President is Indian.

So. Who’s running the World? 

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Speaking of India.

Neetu Verma posted and Kathy Van Genne shared the following picture of the Himalayan flower valley. In 1980 the Indian government created the Valley of Flowers National Park and later in 2002 it was recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

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Jokers’ Corner

55 jokers who are also the Senators of the US yesterday voted against the formation of an independent commission to inquire into the insurrection of the Capitol on January 6. Makes sense. Why waste millions of dollars to investigate an activity by “Peaceful Patriots”?  So, what if six people were killed and 140 injured? It was nothing more than a tourist activity, just what you and I would do when visiting other countries, especially the so-called greatest democracy in the world.

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Burnout–Revisited

I am revisiting (not reprinting) an article on Burnout, that I published several years ago—June 22, 2013 to be exact. There I had made mention of a friend of mine—an elementary school teacher. It was around Christmas time and this professional had been at work after the summer vacation and complained that he was burnt out. That is after about 60 days! I don’t know how he managed to finish the academic year!

I bring this up again because one of the stats that prolifically appears after the virus attacked states that in the US, the number of burnout cases has risen alarmingly.

The theme has been dealt with in detail in the previous blog. I am just adding a few details that I missed earlier.

To begin with this is not a modern-day malady. There are references to burnout from the time of the Greeks. In the Iliad, Achilles tells Agamemnon that he does not want people to think that he is “a worthless burnt-out coward”. At least that is what a reputable translation offers.

People who write about burnout argue that it exists everywhere and has existed for ever, even if, somehow, it is always getting worse.  One Swiss psychotherapist, in a history of burnout published in 2013, focuses on the seriousness of the phenomenon. He says that he found mention of it in the Old Testament. Moses was burnt out. In Numbers11:14 he complained to God, “I am not to bear all these people alone, because it is too heavy for me.” And so was Elijah who in in Kings 19 said that he “went on a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, it is enough.”

To be burnt-out is to be used up, like a battery so depleted that it cannot be recharged. In people, unlike batteries, it is said to produce the defining symptoms of “burnout syndrome” – exhaustion, cynicism, and a loss of efficacy. This is not a medical phenomenon; rather it is an occupational condition.

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There is a nervous cease-fire in the Gaza after a few brutal days, and if past history is any guide, these cease fire agreements do not amount to a hill of beans as Bogart said in Casablanca. The war this time was entirely caused by Israel because the Prime Minister who may not continue long in that position wanted a diversion. So what are a few lives here or there? What if a few high-rises are razed to the ground?  I saw a picture of an unexploded missile in the living room of a Palestinian home!

The following chart was provided by Norman Browning

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Jokers’ Corner

Everyone—Americans and others– wants a nonpartisan commission look into the insurrection on January 6. The House on Wednesday passed a bill which authorizes such a move. It is also clear that it would be DOA in the Senate. The fact is the Republicans do not want anyone digging deeper and somehow bring the blame on the beloved patriot and leader, now hibernating in Palm Beach. The comments by two lawmakers deserve a place in the Jokers Corner.

Andrew Clyde, who has the flattest head I have seen in a man, and who looks as though he was dropped on his head by his mother at childbirth, is a representative from Georgia, said last week that the mob’s breaching of the Capitol was a normal tourist visit. Another joker Paul Goser, a Representative from Arizona said that the mob comprised of “peaceful patriots”. This sentiment would later be endorsed by the King’s daughter Princess Ivanka Trump.

I did not know how to characterize these asinine statements and wondered if they had any formal education or whether they came out of caves in the Appalachian Mountains. Well, I was surprised.  It so happens that Clyde went to two universities and have degrees to prove it. Gosar is another matter He has two degrees—B.S and DDS. The first we understand because he is full of it. But if he is the only dentist in the country and I had a toothache, I would settle for a tube of Anbesol or Orajel rather than going to this joker. I bet you he does not know the difference between an incisor and a molar.

Both deserve a prominent place in the Joker’s Corner.

The Republicans want to recast the incident, claiming that calling it an insurrection is “a bold-faced lie”. Think about it!!

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GOOD NEWS

A World Wildlife Fund study released on May 13 found that, across the world, areas of forest equivalent to the size of France (212,900 sq. miles) have regrown over the past 20 years.

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NUMBERS

9. The number of babies a woman from Mali gave birth to on May 4, believed to be a world record.

25 million yen. Amount of Covid-19 stimulus funding (about $225,000) spent by a Japanese fishing port on a large statue of a squid, intended to attract tourists!!

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UNUSUAL NAMES (These are names of real people I have heard on TV.)

Brian Sicknick (A veteran killed during the insurrection.)

Vonetts Saved

Barbera Comstock

David Prerau

Suzanne Fountain

Thomas Bollyky

Dr Peter Juni

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Laugh and the World Laughs with You

I hope you celebrated Mother’s Day suitably. I got many touching posts by children for some of the mothers I knew/know personally.

But I am afraid that you, perhaps, missed two other important celebrations on May 2—World Tuna Day and World Laughter day.

I am not quite sure how one would celebrate Tuna Day. 15 % of the world’s population are vegetarians and vegans, and one can assume that the rest of the 85 % might have had tuna sandwiches. Or tuna curry. One can also visualize supermarkets hiking the price of tuna during the dark hours of the previous week!

But it is difficult to visualize how the world is expected to celebrate a day of laughter. I suppose one could stand outside the house and laugh at 5 minutes after 5 in the afternoon or some such pre-determined time. And what with time zones and such the laughter could be reverberating the whole day. One has to be careful though. If your neighbors are not aware of the sanctity of the day, they would think you have gone bonkers. (That is if they don’t already think so.) My neighbors in Grande Prairie did, especially the Potters. And even if they knew, the natural reaction might be, “So, what is there to laugh about?” One could point out the politics in the land of the free and the home of the brave where imposters become heads of state. Where the opposition says that the party will be 100 % opposed to what the government does. If the government wants to repair broken down bridges, they would oppose it. If the government wants to ensure that Russia (who reportedly screwed up the pipe line supply of oil) does not desist, Mitch McConnell the leader of the opposition is going to oppose any move by the government—good, bad or indifferent. But then, that is how democracy is supposed to work. (Although not as Cleisthenes, the Father of Democracy, visualized it.) I don’t want to laugh; I want to feel sorry.

This blog is basically on laughter and I wonder whether prehistoric men tickled their wives with the bone of a tyrannosaurus or something similar; and if they did, whether the women laughed. The state where I grew up is unique because it is sandwiched between a mountain range and the ocean. So, we developed our own ‘culture’ if you will and one of the characteristics is that most people have a great sense of humor. As such I was surrounded by humorists, comedic actors and playwrights. My father introduced me to P G Wodehouse, but I can’t recall him laughing out loud as I did after reading the exploits of Bertie Wooster,  Bingo Little and of course, Jeeves. I am sure he laughed “internally” whereas I burst into out-loud laughter. As far back as I can remember the first section I ever read when the month’s edition of Readers Digest arrived was (and continues to be) “Laughter the Best Medicine.” I must admit, however, that the jokes these days in the magazine don’t sparkle like champagne as it used to, but has taken an insipid quality.

Comedy, which in many cases provokes laughter, is something that the ancient Greeks created. The Satyr Plays were meant to release the tension created by serious tragedy which included murder and destruction. The satyr plays are not extant, but works by Aristophanes, Menander are.

However, the early philosophers did not take kindly to humor. Plato said that Guardians of State should avoid laughter. Especially disturbing to Plato were the passages in the Iliad and the Odyssey where Mount Olympus was said to ring with the laughter of Gods. He protested that “if anyone represents man of worth is overpowered by laughter, we must not accept it, much less if gods.” He said that in the ideal state, comedy should be tightly controlled. In fact, from ancient Greece until late 14th century, the vast majority of philosophical comments on laughter focused on scornful or mocking laughter or on laughter that overpowers people rather than on comedy, wit or joking.

Chaucer changed all that. It is safe to consider him the earliest humorist. By today’s moral standards he was quite bawdy. The Miller’s Tale, The Reeve’s tale or The Wife of Bath’s Tale are replete with references that we would consider totally vulgar with clear sexual overtones. In general, all his stories were ‘humorous’.

Shakespeare who followed later injected humor into his text—even in very serious plays. Eric Partridge’s classic book “Shakespeare is Bawdy” gives us an alphabetical glossary of all words and phrases used in a sexual sense. The Elizabethan green grocer, carpenter and vegetable vendors who flocked in the afternoon to see his plays immensely enjoyed the Bard’s off-color jokes and references. This is part of what Henry IV said of Falstaff. “…that bolting hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak bag of guts…..”

“Chronologically speaking Jean Baptiste Poquelin a.k.a Moliere, followed Shakespeare. Since then, each century has produced top notch humorists, like Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Neil Simon, Michael Frayne, Stephen Leacock, O. Henry, Saki……  But P.G. Wodehouse reigns supreme as the foremost humorist of the century.

One cannot ignore the standup comedians who had been making people laugh, although these days the production is virtual or to limited audiences.

And let us not forget the cartoonists.

But if you want a daily dose of humor, one has only to turn on CNN. Every day, in the same land of the free and home of the brave of which reference has been made already, one gets very humorous statements from Republican lawmakers. As recent as four days ago, a joker by name Kevin McCarthy said in public that the Republican Party “embraces free thought and speech” and yet he engineered the removal from office the third ranking Republican Liz Cheney for freely expressing her disgust of Frump who is stirring up poop from his hide out in Mar a Lago.  So, Cheney stands for truth. Yet around 5.15 yesterday She told Jake Tapper of CNN that the Democrats don’t believe that Israel has the right to defend itself. Obviously, she did not hear the President, who happens to be a Democrat, announce on Thursday that Israel does, indeed, have the right to defend itself!!! Another joker said that the thugs who caused the insurrection on the 6th of January are “peaceful patriots”. The rumble that people heard was Gandhi and Martin Luther King rolling angrily in their graves.

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I chuckled at the following. Believe me, I hate sharing jokes with others, because what is funny to me need not be to others. But I am going to take a risk.

In Jerusalem, a journalist heard about a very old Jewish man who had been going to the Wailing Wall to pray, twice a day, everyday, for a long, long time. She went to the Wailing Wall and there he was! She watched him pray and after about 45 minutes, when he turned to leave, she approached him for an interview. “Sir, how long have you been coming to the Wall and praying?” “For about 50 years.” Said the old man. “50 years! That’s amazing! What do you pray for?” “Well, I pray for peace. I pray for all the hatred to stop and I pray for all our children to grow up wise, in safety and friendship.”

How do you feel after doing this for 50 years?”

“Like I am talking to a wall!!”

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Say What?

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Mother’s Day

(Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I hope you have made arrangements to celebrate it suitably. There are always stories around important days like this. What follows is Canadian humorist Stephen Leacock’s (1869-1944) take on the day. I am sure many of you have read this before but it is worth reading again. Methinks.)

Last week it was mother’s birthday. There has been so much talk in the papers lately about Mothers’ Days, and people doing things to show how much they appreciate their mother, that in a big family like ours the idea takes hold. So, we decided to have a special celebration of mother’s birthday. We thought it a fine idea. It made us all realize how much mother had done for us for years, and all the efforts and sacrifice that she had made for our sake.

So, we decided that we’d make it a great day, a holiday for all the family, and do everything we could to make mother happy. Father decided to take a holiday from his office so as to help in celebrating the day, and my sister Anna and I stayed home from college classes, and Mary and my brother Will stayed home from High School.

It was our plan to make it a day just like Christmas or any big holiday, and so we decided to decorate the house with flowers and with mottoes over the mantlepieces, and all that kind of thing. We got mother to make mottoes and arrange the decorations, because she always does it at Christmas.

The two girls thought it would be a nice thing to dress in our very best for such a big occasion, and so they both got new hats. Mother trimmed both the hats, and they looked fine, and father had bought four-in-hand silk ties for himself and us boys as a souvenir of the day to remember mother by. We were going to get mother a new hat too, but it turned out that she seemed to really like her old grey bonnet better than a new one, and both the girls said that it was awfully becoming to her.

Well, after breakfast we had it arranged as a surprise for mother that we would hire a motor car and take her for a beautiful drive away in the country. Mother is hardly ever able to have a treat like that, because we can only afford to keep one maid, and so mother is busy in the house nearly all the time. And of course, the country is so lovely that it would be just grand for her to have a lovely morning driving for miles and miles.

But on the very morning of the day we changed the plan a little bit, because it occurred to father that a thing it would be better to do even than to take mother for a motor drive would be to take her fishing. Father said that as the car was hired and paid for, we might just as well use it for a drive up into hills where the streams are. As father said, if you just go out driving without any object, you have a sense of aimlessness, but if you are going to fish, there is definite purpose in front of you to heighten the enjoyment.

So, we all felt that it would be nicer for mother to have a definite purpose; and anyway, it turned out that father had just got a new rod the day before, which made the idea of fishing all the more appropriate, and he said that mother could use it if she wanted to, in fact, he said it was practically for her. Only mother said she would much rather watch him fish and not try to fish herself.

So, we got everything arranged for the trip, and we got mother to cut up some sandwiches, and make up a sort of lunch in case we got hungry, though, of course, we were to come back home to a big dinner in the middle of the day, just like Christmas or New Year’s Day. Mother packed it all up in a basket for us ready to go in the motor.

Well, when the car came to the door, it turned out that there hardly seemed as much room in it as we had supposed, because we hadn’t reckoned on father’s fishing basket and the rods and the lunch, and it was plain enough that we couldn’t all get in.

Father said not to mind him; he said that he could just as well stay home, and that he was sure that he could put in the time spading in the garden; he said that there was a lot of rough dirty work that he could do, like digging a trench for the garbage, that would save hiring a man, and so he said that he’d stay home; he said that we were not to let the fact of his not having had a real holiday for three years stand in our way; he wanted us to go right ahead and be happy, and have a big day, and not to mind him. He said that he could plug away all day, and, in fact, he said he’d been a fool to think there’d be any holiday for him.

But, of course, we all felt that it would never do to let father stay home, especially as we knew he would make trouble if he did. The two girls, Anna and Mary, would gladly have stayed and helped the maid get dinner, only it seemed such a pity too on a lovely day like this, having their new hats. But they both said that mother had only to say the word, and they’d gladly stay at home and work. Will and I would have dropped out, but unfortunately, we wouldn’t have been any use in getting the dinner.

So, in the end it was decided that mother would stay home and just have a lovely restful day round the house, and get the dinner. It turned out anyway that mother doesn’t care for fishing, and also it was just a little bit cold and fresh out of doors, though it was sunny, and father was rather afraid that mother might take cold if she came.

He said he would never forgive himself if he dragged mother round the country and let her take a severe cold at a time when she might be having a beautiful rest. He said it was our duty to try and let mother get all the rest and quiet that she could after all that she had done for all of us, and he said that that was principally why he had fallen in with the idea of a fishing trip, so as to give mother a little quiet. He said that young people seldom realise how much quiet means to people who are getting old. As to himself, he could still stand the racket, but he was glad to shelter mother from it.

So, we all drove away with three cheers for mother, and mother stood and watched us from the verandah for as long as she could see us, and father waved his hand back to her every few minutes till he hit his hand on the back edge of the car, and then said that he didn’t think that mother could see us any longer.

Well—we had the loveliest day up among the hills that you could possibly imagine, and father caught such big specimens that he felt sure that mother couldn’t have landed them anyway, if she had been fishing for them, and Will and I fished too, though we didn’t get so many as father, and the two girls met quite a lot of people that they knew as we drove along, and there were some young men friends of theirs that they met along the stream and talked to, and so we all had a splendid time.

It was quite late when we got back, nearly seven o’clock in the evening, but mother had guessed that we would be late, so she had kept back dinner so as to have it just nicely ready and hot for us. Only first she had to get towels and soap for father and clean the things for him to put on, because he always gets so messed up with fishing, and that kept mother busy for a little while, that and helping the girls get ready.

But at last everything was ready, and we sat down to the grandest kind of dinner—roast turkey and all sorts of things like on Christmas Day. Mother had to get up and down a good bit during the meal fetching things back and forward, but at the end father noticed it and he said she simply mustn’t do it, that he wanted her to spare herself, and he got up and fetched the walnuts from the sideboard for himself.

The dinner lasted a long while, and was great fun, and when it was over all of us wanted to help clear the things up and wash the dishes, only mother said that she would really much rather do it, and so we let her, because we wanted just for once to humor her.

It was quite late when it was all over, and when we all kissed mother before going up to bed, she said it had been the most wonderful day in her life and I think there were tears in her eyes. So, we all felt awfully repaid for all that we had done.

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And just for fun…

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Résumés

(A guest article this time by A J Aronstein who is the dean of the career center of Columbia University’s Barnard College. Since all of you have prepared resumes at one time or the other and in some cases asked for resumes, I thought this take by Aronstein would be interesting. )

In the last decade, I have revised 3,000 résumés while working as a college career adviser. Here is my advice: The strongest will fit on a single page. Exceptions are few. An 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of letter paper fits about 700 words. So be efficient. Recruiters often say they spend six seconds reviewing the average candidate. Are you worth seven?

I would lose my mind if all I did was revise résumés, and so I got curious about their history.

The internet says Leonardo da Vinci wrote the first résumé in the late 15th century. He pitched his weaponry chops — not his artistic services — to Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. It seems right that Leonardo would have “Invented résumé” on his résumé, but wrong that he met the future patron of “The Last Supper” by applying for the job of entry-level war maker. A Renaissance man and a career changer.

Leonardo knew his audience: “Most Illustrious Lord,” he opens. I can’t help imagining the eye roll of the Milanese Department of Military Affairs HR analyst on whose desk this thing landed, unsolicited, with a thunk. “I shall endeavor, without prejudice to anyone else, to explain myself to Your Excellency.” It goes on like that for a little while. Geniuses need résumé advice, too, and if Leonardo were my advisee, I’d start by telling him to limit the sycophantic window dressing.

Still, there are real strengths. He writes, “I have kinds of mortars, most convenient and easy to carry; and with these I can fling small stones almost resembling a storm; and with the smoke of these cause great terror to the enemy, to his great detriment and confusion.” One could do worse than to imitate the specificity of his enumeration of relevant experience, though I wince at his description of death facilitation as a career skill.

I wanted to push back against this too-neat and much-blogged history (Leonardo da Vinci, really?), and try to square what I found with my experience of advising job seekers anxious to capture the attention of today’s Dukes of Milan. They all work in tech. I discovered a surprising (to me) number of scholarly essays about these maligned documents and their rise to prominence in the 20th century.

They make peer-reviewed arguments about how résumés convey meaning — and what happens when we feed people with rich histories and full identities into the labor market’s meat grinder. The conclusions are not encouraging. Even strong résumés hardly ever predict an applicant’s real capacity to do a job. When presented with a slate of candidates, hiring managers — even the robots — exhibit sundry biases related to race, gender, ethnicity and education. No one seems to know how, precisely, experience molds people to fit labor slots.

Yet the résumé’s demise (promised since the 1980s when VHS profiles figured to replace paper) seems always to recede beyond the horizon.

Before his death in 2005, Randall Popken taught English and writing at Tarleton State University, Texas. His account of the résumé’s rise (by far the most engaging — though the competition is, let us say, not stiff) tracks their early presence in business writing textbooks in the 1920s.

In “The Pedagogical Dissemination of a Genre: The Résumé in American Business Textbooks, 1914-1939,” Popken argued that mass pedagogy popularized and standardized résumés as we know them. “I do not mean to suggest that the authors of these textbooks exactly invented the résumé,” he writes, but “this is the site where — for the small but influential audience of future business people — the résumé entered and became stabilized in American professional culture.”

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Resumes imply bosses and I found this interesting piece. I am not sure of the source but I could easily relate it to my own experiences with bosses of all stripes on four continents.

When you take a long time, you are slow; when your boss takes a long time, he’s thorough.

When you don’t do it, you are lazy; when your boss doesn’t do it, he is very busy.

When you make a mistake, you are an idiot; when your boss makes a mistake, he is only human.

When doing something without being told, you are over stepping your authority; but when your boss does something like this, it is initiative.

When you take a stand, you are being bull headed; but when your boss does it, he’s being firm.

When you overlooked a rule of etiquette, you are being rude; when your boss skips a few rules, he is being original.

When you please your boss, you are apple polishing; when your boss pleases his boss, he is being cooperative.

When you are out of office, you are wandering around; when your boss is out of the office, he is on business.

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Wisdom and Old Age

(This is a modified chapter six from the book Subtext by the author.)

A fellow called Derek Chauvin, a policeman in Minneapolis, who was supposed to be protecting lives, murdered a man for no obvious reason. He has been found guilty but we will have to wait for eight weeks before the sentence is declared. One hopes that the authorities would put him in the clink for life and throw away the key.

I had on several occasions wondered why or how lawyers flock to defend obvious criminals. Legal beagle friends like Steven Shavers had tried to educate me saying that even murderers deserve the due process of the law and threw the famous cliché at me that one is innocent until proven guilty. I don’t understand this in the Chauvin case. Millions of people actually watched him choke the life out of Floyd. Where is the need to prove anything? Where is the innocence? And in a frantic attempt to prove Chauvin’s innocence, the defense even suggested that Floyd could have died of carbon monoxide poisoning because while on the ground, he was probably close to the exhaust of the police car. Hogwash.

Aesop, the Greek writer of fables, is the first person to have bestowed on the owl the status of the wisest member of the animal kingdom. Later on, A. A. Milne (1882-1956) in Winnie the Pooh would confirm this.

Human beings, alas, don’t have a “go-to” symbol of sagacity. The closest we have is a conventional belief that if you are looking for wisdom, you should go to an old man. You know the phrase, “older, the wiser”.

I don’t know which idiot concocted this.  The axiom means that we learn more as we grow older and are better able to understand the world around us than when we are, say, twenty.  I have gone way past Lincoln’s famous ‘four score and ten’. But I have noticed, more often than not, that I am not getting wiser at all. In fact, my ignorance has reached abysmal depths.  There are many things that I don’t know much about while others around me seem to.

For instance, I don’t understand why I have to insert coins to extricate carts in airports and establishments like Super Store or Safeway.  I frequent Super Store and so I usually keep a supply of loonies (2-dollar coins, for the benefit of the uninitiated) in the car, but occasionally, I realize that I have only quarters, and then I find myself in a quandary, if that is the word I want.  Even when I have the loonie, since I am physically weak, and have not been exposed to the intricate strategies of the sport called tug of war, I have been many times forced to give up the attempt to acquire the cart….and go somewhere else to get the groceries.  But it is the logic behind the whole concept that escapes me.  It cannot be a deterrent against stealing the wretched carts, because if I want to drive home with the groceries and the cart without retrieving the loonie, I will come out on top because, surely, the wheel assembly and the wire cage are worth more than 2 dollars.  On an unrelated matter, I don’t know if the establishment, owned by Bob Loblaw, (try to say these two together quickly words for a pleasant diversion) realizes that in some cases the cart corral doubles as a garbage dump.  The place, on a given day, has an assortment of refuse like fresh flyers, flyers turning into pulp (because of exposure to water), coffee cups, straws, pop cans…to name a few. 

I don’t understand why we park the car on the driveway and drive on the parkway!! I asked a couple of wiser, and not necessarily older people (at least they appeared to be wise) for an explanation.  Alas, they had no clue either.

I don’t understand why some of the business people say, ‘Thank you, kindly’ after a transaction.  In 1965, when we emigrated from Africa, our first port of call in Canada was Vancouver. After checking into a hotel, I went out to buy a few things, and when I paid the money to the shopkeeper, he said, “Thank you, kindly.”  Not having been familiar with Canadian lingo, I must admit that I was confused a bit.  On the way back to the hotel, being a linguist, I tried to analyze the statement.  I did not know where the element of ‘kindness’ figured in the transaction.  I gave him money; he gave me the merchandise.  I think that he was the one who showed kindness. He could easily have refused to oblige for any number of reasons and not sold me the merchandise. My size for instance.  No. I don’t understand the usage at all.

I don’t understand how we ‘catch a cold’, while we ‘have a fever’ or ‘get a fever’.  I have not heard anyone say, “I am sorry, I have caught a fever, and so I cannot come to the rehearsal.” You see, ‘catch’ implies motion.  You don’t catch, say, the stapler on the desk.  You catch something in motion. You catch a ball coming at you, or you catch a falling star.  But you don’t ‘catch’ a cold!! You done catch germs on the fly and stuff them in your nostrils!!  Why can’t we catch a fever or catch arthritis for that matter? I don’t know.

And I certainly don’t understand the use of the word ‘terrific’.  I was auditioning for a play called “ART” and I had posed the question why the assemblage wanted to be in it. One of them said, “It is a terrific play”.  My limited knowledge of French tells me that the word is derived from ‘terrere’ meaning ‘to frighten’.  This play is not frightening at all.  It is really about the fragile and vulnerable friendship among three friends.   There is not even one scene which will evoke terror.  No, I don’t understand this at all.

The more I think…and write, the more I am convinced that my ignorance is near abysmal as I said above. I would like to rectify this. Go to google, you say? Well, with the limitations I have in understanding the intricacies of the computer, I am not especially optimistic.

Of course, I could get an owl as a pet. Maybe it would help me figure things out. Or ask Lorraine Cook. She is a wise one.

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NUMBERS

570,000. The number of American lives that could have been saved. Read below for details.

It has been exactly one year and one day since Donny suggested to anyone who was willing to listen that COVID-19 could be contained by a very simple method: injecting people with bleach. Alas, as happened to hundreds of sages before him, nobody paid attention. The result? The pandemic is lingering and over 570,000 US citizens have gone to meet their maker. Instead of listening to the brightest mind of this century, the rank and file preferred to follow an Italian called Fauci, who is “full of crap” as the sage himself pointed out a couple of weeks ago.

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Suspension of Disbelief

It was English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who in 1817 first coined the term, “that willing suspension of disbelief”. He said that when creating or reading poetry, he would call for that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.  By this he meant that the reader will accept the poem on its own terms, temporarily giving over to the author’s vision of the world long enough to appreciate the work.

But for a long time now, we do not use the phrase in connection with poetry. Rather it is loosely used to define theatre. In a nutshell, in the context of the theatre, it means that the people in the audience know that what they are seeing on the stage is a pretend reality, but they are pretending that they do not know that. The audience suspends its disbelief and goes along with that premise.

The vast majority of theatregoers, I don’t think, have a thorough knowledge of the play, or even a limited one. Not many patrons read Romeo and Juliet or even previews/reviews before watching the play. So if they watched the 1936 movie starring Leslie Howard and Norma Shearer they would assume that the leads are supposed to be as old as the characters they portray. Howard was 43 and Shearer was 34, whereas Shakespeare’s love crossed characters were teenagers. In fact, there is a reference in the play suggesting that Juliet was 13. But to those who know the play, willing suspension of belief as far as the movie is concerned is a tall order.

Hamlet is another example. Many people remember Laurence Olivier’s Oscar winning performance in the 1948 movie. Olivier was 41 and Hamlet was supposed to be 30.  But for those who do not know the play well, the movie is just another superb effort.

But how about an 81 year old man playing Hamlet? Yes, it is going to happen because the play is well under rehearsal and it will open at the Theatre Royal Windsor. And Ian McKellen (81) is playing the part. To refresh the memory of those who don’t quite recall who McKellen is, he played Gandalf in the three-film adaptation of The Lord of the Rings. Here is a picture of what he looks like these days.

At press I am not sure who is playing Gertrude. Someone who is 105?! Is Ophelia is supposed to be her seventies?  If so, is her romance with the prince going to look creepy?

Whoever is in the full cast, the demand on the audience to suspend disbelief would be uncomfortable to say the least.

But what amazes me is: why take such license with the original scripts? Why set the plays outside the era in which the play was originally set? Placing it in modern times, for instance.

I believe I have mentioned the following story before. But it is worth telling again in the context of the theme under discussion. In the eighties while a student at NYU I went to Stratford, Connecticut to the Festival production of Julius Caesar. Only when I reached the theatre did I realize that the play was set in modern times, in a banana republic. There was no question of a refund and so I decided to see the show. Caesar was the military leader and President and the conspirators were officers of the army. Although they were all wearing military fatigues, there was no change in the script! Eventually Mark Antony arrived and gave his famous oration. When he eventually said, “Through this the beloved Brutus stabbed (!!), And as he pulled the cursed steel away, see how the blood rushed outdoors to see if Brutus unkindly knocked or no…….

What cursed steel? Caesar was shot!!

That was stretching my suspension of disbelief to the limits. I stayed on until the intermission and left. I had wasted precious dollars which I could ill afford as a student.

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One of the distinguishing features of the Trump regime was that the President of the greatest nation in the world freely insulted people whom he did not like. During the campaign he called Mrs Clinton “crooked Hillary” Biden was ‘sleep Joe’ and on it went. Kevin Quealy of the New York Times had complied a complete list of Trump’s twitter insults from 2015 to 2021. If you have nothing more interesting to do I invite you to go to the link below:

But his latest outburst is beyond belief. Speaking at a Republican National Committee gathering last Saturday the Ex President of the US called Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell a “dumb son of a bitch”. In the same speech he asked, “Have you ever seen anybody that is so full of crap?” referring to Dr. Fauci.

One could characterize the President’s diatribe an example of American exceptionalism. But what happened early this week is beyond exceptional. In a town called Brooklyn Center in Minnesota, Kim Potter, a 26-year veteran of the police department, shot and killed a 20 year old unarmed black man. But she thought that she was using a taser!  Oops! Sorry, it was a mistake!  The irony is that only a few miles away the trial of Derek Chauvin is going on. Chauvin, if you recall, killed George Floyd. The defense is trying to convince the jury that Floyd died of carbon monoxide poisoning. One of the defense witnesses said that even though Floyd’s face was on the asphalt and Chauvin’s knee was pressing his neck, Floyd appeared to be comfortable. He probably died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Exceptional!!

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Phil Rizzo and his wife live in a mansion worth 1.55 million. It is in New Vernon in New Jersey. It has five bedrooms, three fireplaces, a six-burner Viking stove, two Sub Zero freezers, a wet bar, a pond and a heated swimming pool with attached bathtub. There is also a detached two-car garage It has seven baths (one for each day of the week, perhaps) and it is free of property tax because it is a parsonage! And yes, Rizzo is a parson of the City Baptist Church in Hudson County.  As such Rizzo did not pay for the building; the parishioners did. How a third-generation real estate developer became a man of the cloth is not clear. But every week he is saving the souls of many of his parishioners.

Aw, shucks, I chose the wrong profession!

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Numbers

$1 trillion. The amount per year of taxes that go uncollected in the US. The IRS is still processing 1.7 million tax returns filed last year.

986. The number of people in the US who have been shot and killed by police in the past year.

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