Thursday, 04 December 2014

We Heard All About It on the Radio

By Marc Leavitt of Marc Leavitt's Blog

“Look up in the sky! It’s a bird! A plane! It’s Superman!”

At the sound of those words, we settled into our front-row seats in the theatre of the mind and soon we were lost in a kaleidoscopic world of adventure and comedy.

It was the mid-1940s, and Radio was king.

The Shadow asked, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?” The eerie sound of a creaking door invited us, if we dared, to step into the Inner Sanctum. Rochester, in the sputtering Maxwell, chauffeured his boss, on The Jack Benny Show, and Baby Snooks drove her father crazy with her antics.

World War II was almost over and savvy broadcast executives were already imagining the cozy glow of a television screen in every living room. But that was for later in the decade.

In the meantime, Radio was still the most welcome guest in the living rooms of America, telling stories, cracking jokes, singing songs and reporting news and sports.

We ate Breakfast with Dorothy and Dick as we listened to their morning banter over coffee, and at midday, we had Luncheon at Sardi’s, as actors dropped by to talk about the latest plays on Broadway.

In the afternoon, busy housewives took a break from their chores and listened to soap operas, commiserating with Stella Dallas, or cheering the triumphs and mourning the defeats of One Man’s Family.

In the evening, we heard Walter Winchell’s brash voice over the insistent tapping of a telegraph key, ready to dish the dirt, as he told “Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea; let’s go to press!”

Today, people ask, “What did you look at when you listened to the radio?”

We saw with our mind’s eye and the radio sent us a medley of sounds to complete the pictures as we imagined the wide-open moors of England while shivering at the bone-chilling baying of The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Out on the windswept plains of the Old West, we heard the lonely howling of coyotes as the Lone Ranger and Tonto pursued a gang of desperadoes.

And we traveled the world with Lowell Thomas as he conjured up images of exotic wonders from the jungles of Borneo to the Great Wall of China.

We didn’t need to look at anything with our eyes.

We heard all about it on the radio.

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Wednesday, 03 December 2014

A Response to the Open Letter

By Daniel B. Martin

(Author's Note: This piece is humor. It is not intended to question or disparage anyone's religious beliefs. If religion is a sensitive subject, read no further.)

Dr. Laura Schlessinger has a syndicated radio program in which she offers advice on relationships, moral, and ethical issues. The following questions are from an Open Letter written to Dr. Laura by a listener. The answers are mine, written with a tongue-in-cheek style.

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

Your friend is misinformed. You may own Canadians, though they make inferior slaves. Mexicans are accustomed to hard work and miserable living conditions. Canadians are spoiled whiners who expect free health care, good beer, and time off to watch hockey games.

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

This depends on her physical attributes and skills. If she has a beautiful face and figure, good teeth and skin, if she can play the piano, speak three languages fluently and is a gourmet cook, you may demand a new Lexus LS460 or its cash equivalent. If, on the other hand, she is a gum-chewing fool with spiky orange-dyed hair and multiple tattoos, with no talents other than cruising the mall, then you may have to pay someone to take her off your hands.

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness – Leviticus 15: 19-24. The problem is how do I tell? I have tried asking but most women take offense.

Don't Ask, Don't Tell. The safest route is to date women older than your grandmother.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Leviticus 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

Those neighbors are not displeased. They are hinting that you should invite them to your outdoor barbecue. Respond with generosity and love. Tell them to come and partake, and to bring a cold keg.

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

Neither. The damned fool will work himself to death. Some crimes are self-punishing.

6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination - Leviticus 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?

Of course there are different degrees of abomination. We usually describe something crude, offensive, distasteful or disgusting as Gross. In fact, Gross is just the lowest category of abominations.

The degrees of abomination are (in ascending order) Gross, Schwartz, Cohen and Levine.

7. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some > wiggle-room here?

The Biblical reference to a "defect in my sight" does not refer to a scientific measure of visual acuity. Rather, it refers to an ability to discern the essential elements of the world around us. For example, your father may say, "Can't you see your business partner is cheating you?" Your mother may say, "Can't you see your brother-in-law is a schmuck?" If you can't see these things, you may not approach the altar.

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed including the hair around their temples even though this is expressly forbidden by > Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?

They should die from heart disease, cancer, kidney failure, syphilis and toenail fungus. These maladies will strike simultaneously when the evil eye turns off the TV, gets off its fat ass and carries out its appointed duties.

9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

Yes. There is nothing wrong with being unclean so long as you leave your muddy boots outdoors and take a shower before dinner. Don't forget to wash behind your ears.

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? Leviticus 24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Leviticus 20:14)

This depends on whether your uncle collects government subsidies for growing those crops. If so, you need do nothing more than be patient. Uncle will die, you will inherit the farm. Stoning sinners provides a sanctimonious satisfaction but those stones are heavy. You could get a hernia.

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Tuesday, 02 December 2014

Bother Me

By Clifford Rothband

At my age, one may assume that everything bothers me because I am so cranky.

It's not that I am cranky at all. It is that every joint and organ expresses itself with annoying pain whenever I seem to be okay. Just a reminder that I am still alive? Aren't laughing and crying the use of similar abilities?

Well, I consider it a right, a privilege and duty as an American to express my opinions. Within my lifetime there has been so many changes and improvements that I sometimes wonder can it get any better?

I had learned long ago that if you don't speak up for yourselves, nobody else will. I seemed to have learned the hard way that Martin Luther King was right - non-violence will achieve what a swift kick won't and that is getting one's own way. Which is the root of happiness.

Now this forum has allowed me to complain, as long as I am neither rude nor blasphemous. So here are a few of my pet peeves.

  1. Movies where the background noise or music is louder than the actors voices.

  2. Canned laughter. Is it any funnier if laughter is introduced before the joke seeps in on a TV situation comedy?

  3. Folks who knock Walmart. They must be doing something right because they are always full and busy. Besides they have clean toilets without a key or an explanation. So what if some items are made overseas; some folk brag about there foreign cars.

    I still only buy American although it has been pointed out that Detroit always used engines built in Canada, that Toyota and Kia are made in Kentucky as well as Corvettes.

  4. Violence in movies, smoking and drinking. I never, ever have seen a real ghost or vampire but I have witnessed real blood and pain and it ain't fun. As far as I am concerned police should not carry guns.

    I know of quite a few retired police who rarely arrested anyone, hardly ever gave tickets - just warnings - and could talk down any bad situation without acting like Clint Eastwood, employing win-win tactics.

  5. Denying equal rights to anyone. To offer anyone a better deal because of a judgment call [I didn't say that?] without really any insight what's going on inside.

I could go on, but this is America. So what if gas is still sold at .9 cents, that useless objects demand high prices. The only thing that really sucks are babies and lollipops. Period.

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Monday, 01 December 2014

The Julian House

By Marcy Belson

I wanted to see it one more time, one last time. I knew it was now or never; there would be no more road trips for us after this one.

We left El Centro right after lunch, the reunion lunch with my co workers from the Department of Employment. Forty retirees were invited. I knew three people who attended.

It wasn't hard to leave, although I was truly glad to see those three again. It's like the house, I probably won't see them again.

We drove through the hot desert, close to 100 degrees that day, but with air conditioning in the car, it was of little concern to us. After a lifetime of living in the desert, we knew to never start a trip without water and now, a working cell phone.

In the "old" days, you relied on the kindness of other travelers if you broke down. Now, no one stops to help. Who would? Times are different.

Up the mountain grade to the high desert, then the winding road to Julian. It is about an hour and a half from the valley city to the mountain town of Julian. The lake, Cuyamaca Lake, is just a pond now. As a child, I fished there in a boat with my parents. Blue gill were plentiful and it was a peaceful place to spend a day.

Finally, we rounded a corner and there it was. The house that my father built, the Clark house. He had torn down the gold rush cabin that we spent summers in during the 1940s and '50s. Then, with the help of a few contractors doing the plumbing and electrical work, he built a two story house that jutted out from the hillside behind it.

It had a long porch, overlooking Main Street. That porch had a homemade swing for two people with pillows. The perfect place to spend an afternoon with a book and a lemonade.

My father told my husband that he had put the very best roof possible on the house and that we would not have to replace it for many years. The implied message was that as the only child, I would be inheriting the house in the far distance future.

Fast forward 30 years. My dad, with a undiagnosed brain tumor, sold the house for $10,000. My mother let him. He died in six months. The house was gone. The next time I saw one of the cousins, I was told the house had been converted to a HeadStart children's center.

I said I never wanted to see it again. But now, in my old age, I did want to see it one more time. I have no idea who owns it now. It had been painted a dark color, and a large fence enclosed the property. There were half a dozen cars parked in the rear.

I drove down the alley looking for the black walnut tree my father had carried home from Arkansas one year. I don't think it was there. They are messy trees, someone probably cut it down.

And so I have seen the house one more time. There were no tears, no thought of going to the door and asking to go inside. It was part of another time.

My mother had cancer, living in that house. I used to drive up and spend the weekends, cleaning and cooking. My father was not happy there. He came and went, in retirement, looking for family and friends that were no more.

I'm not sad that I don't own the house. I hope there is happiness there now.

Calif trip Oct 2014 013MBelson

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Friday, 28 November 2014

Rewiring the Brain

By Mickey Rogers of This, That and the Other

Recently, scientists have been able to remove the memories of negative experiences from the brains of mice and replace them with good ones.

At first glance, this sounds like an exciting breakthrough for human beings. Had a bad childhood? Just erase those pitiful memories and substitute them with some fake ones, like having been the captain of the football team or the most popular guy in class. (I was so popular in school that I was elected senior class president four years in a row).

On second thought, however, this is a scary proposition. Can you imagine what could happen once the government got its hands on the technology to change what we remember?

If given the power, no doubt the government would just love to not only control what we do but also what we think. No thanks! I already have a wife to perform that function. Just kidding, dear.

My wife Bev is excited about this scientific breakthrough. She’s all in when it comes to rewiring her husband’s brain. As a matter of fact, she wanted to know how she could sign me up for the first human trials.

“Dear, just what kind of rewiring would you have them do to me?” I curiously asked.

“Well, first of all,” she responded, “I’d have those scientists wipe out all your knowledge of sports.”

“But most of my sports memories are positive ones,” I told her.

“Yeah, but for me, not so much. I wasn’t too happy last New Year’s Day when you and Ron set up four TV sets to watch multiple football games simultaneously. By lunchtime I had a migraine. When I want you to talk about my garden you switch the subject to basketball. And I’m sorry, dear, but I don’t like sports trivia.”

“So if I had no concept of sports you would be happy?”

“Well, that would be a good beginning. Then I’d ask those scientists to rewire your brain so that you’d remember to do what I ask, like picking up the roast on your way from work or buying the tickets for the Beach Boys concert.”

“Are you saying I’m forgetful?”

“You are selectively forgetful, dear. You never forget the cold beer for the football game but you forget our wedding anniversary.”

“I do not! That date is sacred.”

“Then when is our wedding date, honey?”

“Let me think. It is November 19th, 1985.”

“You’re right! I’m surprised.”

“It was easy; I just remembered that it was the day when Coach Smith got a commitment from Fred Jones, a five-star running back. Did you know that he could run the 40-yard dash in 4.3 seconds?”

“That’s pretty good for an old guy like Coach Smith. Maybe those scientists could rewire your brain so that you would quit channel surfing. That drives me crazy!”

“Dear, watching five minutes of uninterrupted commercials drives me crazy; that’s why I switch to other channels. And you know darn well I was talking about Fred Jones.”

“Maybe those scientists could change that brain of yours so that you would be more complimentary to me.”

“That’s not fair. Just the other day I admitted that you have even better in-laws than I have.”

“Maybe they could wipe out your so-called sense of humor, and perhaps they could rewire your brain so that you would be more romantic.”

“More romantic? Didn’t I tell you that you’re prettier than Mickey Mantle, and didn’t I name one of Uncle Bob’s pigs after you?”

“On second thought, I’ll ask those scientists to throw out your brain and put in a new one.”

“I heard that you can buy a woman’s brain for $50,000 and a man’s for $500.”

“Why such a difference in price?”

“The woman’s brain is more expensive because it’s seldom been used.”

“That’s sexist and it’s not funny!”

“Would it have been funny if I’d said the man’s brain was seldom used?”

“Yeah, but that’s different.”

*I think I’ll volunteer my wife for the first trials. Maybe they can rewire her brain so that she will find pleasure in baking cookies for her husband and giving him frequent back massages while together they watch multiple football games simultaneously.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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Thursday, 27 November 2014

What Time Is It In Zimbabwe?

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

Let me first state that I do not have a mechanical mind. I can't figure out how to change the batteries in the remote control but this past weekend I made a slightly impulsive purchase. I purchased two atomic clocks, one as a gift and the other for myself.

These aren't just atomic. They are projection clocks that project the time and outdoor temperature on the ceiling. I'm not sure why I thought it would be great to look up at my ceiling and get all this information since the only time I look at the ceiling I usually discover cobwebs and that leads to a whole other train of thought but anyway - it seemed like a good idea at the time of purchase.

Well, the first night I tried setting the clock I soon discovered that there is some pre-requisite college courses needed before I would have sufficient knowledge to set the clock. Astrology I and II and a minor in geography are needed just to get the time zone set.

But after an hour of checking maps online I finally felt somewhat confident that I had the clock and alarm set but just in case, I kept my trusty analog clock plugged in as well.

I went to bed and looked up and just as promised, in a dim red light there on my ceiling, was the time and five seconds later the outside temperature. Yep, it matched the time on my trusty old analog clock as well.

I fought the temptation to look at the ceiling for most of the night and finally drifted off to sleep. About three hours later I awoke to find myself in a new time zone some 10 hours later than the rest of the house.

I have no idea how this time travel occurred but if I don't get it figured out I will have to renew by passport just to go to the bathroom!

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Wednesday, 26 November 2014

The Snake

By Arlene Corwin of Arlene Corwin Poetry

On the way to the post,
I see a snake curled up and squashed.
In shock and pain I squat
Undignified in car/road dust,
The gray-black leather sheen unwashed.
Half inspecting, half in prayer,
Grieving at his being there
I quietly approach the snake,
Then shake again with shock and pain:
He’s moving, edging toward the verge.
Skin’s been nicked and cracked
Yet moving bravely in his dirge,
The little nasal tongue has flicked.
I hover over him, my child.
The patterned, poison-free and wild
Snok* not ‘other’, but my own.
I wait until he’s reached a stone.
Perhaps it’s good to cover him.
Perhaps he’ll live.
Perhaps he’ll hide beneath the snow.
Perhaps he can survive.
He needs water. Can he heal?
Try to move him? That’s a threat.
Call a vet?
I can’t deal with this. It’s better
If I will him to his fate.
I wait and add some rotting leaves.
I’ll check tomorrow
Leaving destiny to weave
Destiny who’d never grieve.
So why should I?

*Swedish: snok, pronounced snoke - a lovely harmless snake often found in barns or near water. He’d probably been dropped by a bird. I went back and found him dead the next day.

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Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Winter Weather

By Henry Lowenstern

Last night we had a real hard freeze
that drove the surviving birds an bees
into hiding
after deciding
it's not worth catching a disease.

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Monday, 24 November 2014

Sprechen Sie Estonian?

By Trudi Kappel

I was in the frenzy of the final weeks leading to the award of my Master’s degree when my college friend Rita called. Her grad school was offering its students and their families a five week, round trip charter flight from Boston to London at an incredibly low price. Would I like to go as her “sister?”

YES! I didn’t have a job lined up. Five weeks exploring Europe would be a welcome break between the stress of school and the stress of a job search.

My parents gave me the charter flight, a London to Rome round trip air ticket with stop-off privileges and a copy of Arthur Frommer’s Guide “Europe on $5 a Day as a graduation gift. This was not going to be a luxury expedition.

I drained my savings; got my first passport and a few days after graduation we were airborne.

We had been warned about aggressive European men especially Italians. The stories were of shady characters preying on young American female tourists at least pinching their bottoms and at worst making off with their money and their virtue. We were wary.

After overnight in London, our first stop was Switzerland. The Swiss economy depends on tourists. Citizens go out of their way to make sure visitors want to return. There were no incidents. They even seemed to understand my high school French! Next on to Italy.

The advance information was correct. We attracted lots of attention. Too much attention. We were having trouble getting to some sights because of the interference. It was a nuisance and it was scary. The men spoke some English, but the word “NO!” was always absent from their vocabulary.

One day we were resting our feet, sitting on the base of a column in the Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City, when we saw two young men approaching. Oh no. Here we go again.


We shook our head. “Non parlo italiano.”

They tried “Bon jour.”

Again a shake.


Nope. We didn’t understand that one either. Italian men know a few words in many languages and that day we couldn’t understand any of them. Finally they indicated that we should speak so they could hear our language.

Rita opened her mouth and what emerged was an incredible mélange of Yiddish and jabberwocky. I caught on and babbled back at her. We smiled and laughed. Our would-be friends looked puzzled. They didn’t know this language.

One of them found a scrap of paper and drew an outline of Europe indicating that we should point to our country.

With a nod of understanding, Rita pointed to an area south of the Gulf of Finland and very carefully pronounced ES-TON-IA.

The men looked deflated. This was a language they did not know. Estonia at that time was part of the USSR. Perhaps they thought we were spies! With a hasty “ciao” they ran off.

We used this ploy several more times during our trip to deflect unwanted attention. Nobody ever blew our cover with a cheery “Tere iludus.”

*Hey Cutie” in Estonian.*

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Friday, 21 November 2014

Episode at Michael's

By Chlele Gummer

As I saw shards of broken glass in the garbage can, the doctor's wife explained, "Michael was having a bad day. I got so mad I threw three glasses at him. He can try my nerves, he can!"

She marched out of the room. I continued to clean up the lunch dishes left in the sink.

It was my first job as a freshman in high school. I was hired to baby-sit the two sons of the doctor in town, after school until about 8 o'clock in the evening. The mother wanted to help her husband in the clinic during those hours.

The boys were blond, blue eyed and cute. Michael was 10 and Timmy was six. It was an opportunity for me to earn my own money.

Mrs. G came back into the kitchen with the day's instructions. "We will be eating later, so it's just you and the boys. Just heat up the canned beans, the hotdogs and use the applesauce open in the refrigerator and," she ordered, "that ought to do it."

"Okay," I said as I nodded. I could handle that.

After dinner the boys went to play in their rooms. I had started running the water into the sink to wash the dishes when I heard a crash in Michael's room.

I ran and as I reached his door he came out holding his Boy Scout hand ax in a menacing way. "Don't you come into my room!" he shouted. I stopped in my tracks. "You stay right there, don't come any closer!"

What do I do, I thought. He wouldn't really hit me, would he? "Michael, what is the problem?" I asked with my heart in my mouth.

"There is no problem. You just stay there!" We both stood frozen on the spot. I was afraid to step forward, but I knew we couldn't stay this way forever.

"Michael, put the ax down and tell me what is wrong," I pleaded.

He thought about it, then turned back to his room and dropped the ax on the floor. "This is what is wrong," he explained as he kicked the drawer of his dresser on the floor.

The front was separated from the sides and the contents were scattered around. "I couldn't get the drawer open at first, then, it came too fast and broke."

"I can help you fix it. Just settle down. It won't take too long."

With a push and a pull, I had the drawer back together. We picked up the mess. He grabbed his baseball mitt and began punching his hand into it.

Inwardly, I sighed with relief. The crisis was over. I returned to the kitchen finding water and soap bubbles stretching the length of the kitchen, about 30 feet, because the floor sagged toward the laundry room in back.

The soapy water was just about to the door. I turned off the water and threw some kitchen towels to stop the flow. Then I spent a good 30 minutes mopping up.

To give the boys something to do while I was mopping, I directed them outside. Michael decided to ride his bike giving Timmy a ride on the handlebars. As I worked, I could hear him riding around the huge house. Timmy giggled and Michael made loud car noises as he raced faster and faster.

Just as I finished the dishes, I heard a crash. Timmy screamed at the top of his lungs. He hit his head when Michael failed to make a turn at the corner. A bump popped out of his forehead in minutes.

I put ice on it and held him until he stopped crying. I was worried about the bump, so I called the clinic.

"It sounds like he will be okay," Mrs. G suggested after I told her what happened. "You did the right thing. Keep him up a couple hours before putting him to bed. If he can't stay awake, call me. I will be home in an hour."

She sounded different on the phone. She seemed pleasant. In fact, when the doctor and she walked through the front door, they were smiling at each other.

"How are things going?" the doctor asked me as he took off his overcoat. "The boys give you any more trouble?"

"No," I answered. "No, things went fine."

I didn't tell anyone about that day. But I remember that Michael was the boy who, every summer, set the adjoining field on fire.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

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