Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Too proud to go on welfare

It's hard to believe, but there was once a time when people refused to take charity, public or private. Despite Mitt Romney's belief that 47 percent of Americans are on the public tit, there once were people like that, too proud to go on welfare.

My mother-in-law was one of them.  She was a proofreader, working in the printing trade, but she was not allowed to join the union, which at the time did not accept women.  So when the Depression hit, she lost her job, and was unable to get another.  She was a single mother of three children at the time and the sole support of her widowed mother.  She scrubbed floors.  She took in laundry.  But she would not go on welfare, then known in New York City as "home relief."

Don't think the family did not suffer.  My husband, who was born in 1931, was the baby.  Too young to understand what was going on,  he cried because he was hungry.  His older brother stole bread in the early morning hours, when bakeries delivered bread and pastries to retail stores.  When he could get any.

Eventually, she married a man who had several children of his own.  Her family was fed, but the marriage was a disaster.  I don't know the details of either the marriage or the split-up; but eventually the marriage ended.  She was supporting  herself, her mother, and her youngest child by freelance proofreading.  The older two grew up and married and moved away.  She died of a heart attack at 54.

I by no means support her views; if my kids had ever missed  a meal I would have been first in line at  welfare headquarters at the opening of business.  But I admire her integrity and the steadfastness with which she lived her beliefs.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Enjoying authentic Cuba

Disturbing:



 I have spent about a year of my life in Cuba, so have seen a great deal of its ‘authentic’ side. Aside from the police repression and intellectual wasteland (there is one newspaper and state television brooks no dissent) the Cuba I have experienced is one of dirt, scarcity and rampant prostitution.

It is the last of these which is the most galling. Cuba’s command economy is unable to provide a basic standard of living for its people, so in order to survive, most Cubans must find an income source to top up their state salary. For those fortunate enough to have relatives in the United States or Europe, help comes in the form of dollar remittances. For those less fortunate, the only way to make some extra cash or eat a decent meal can often be to sell their body to a – usually much older – European or Canadian tourist.
This reality hits you as soon as you step inside a restaurant or hotel in Havana. In every direction are girls who look no more than 16 accompanied by sagging and pale tourists approaching pension age....

Arthur Koestler once referred to pro-Soviet communists in the rich world as voyeurs, peeping through a hole in the wall at history while not having to experience it themselves. The Stalin Society is a lot smaller today (though you can still find the Cuba Solidarity stall at Labour party conference) but the mindset persists: Cubans are the unwilling participants in a communist experiment, there mainly for affluent westerners to gawk at and, when the ‘chemistry’ is right (i.e. when you’ve paid for everything) to take back to the hotel room.
Of course, the resorts in Varadero that most tourists visit are about as ‘authentically’ Cuban as a Soho restaurant’s ‘authentically Chinese’ sweet-and-sour chicken. Step outside of the official tourist route and one soon sees the real Cuba. It is here, amidst the prostitutes and the elderly people rummaging through bins in central Havana, that one starts to understand why many Cubans might like a few branches of McDonalds in their country. Cheap plastic food is, after all, a good deal better than no food at all.

These visitors are of the same ilk as those who see a little African child poking at the dirt with a stick--his only toy--and pointing out that he is happier than American children who don't value their many possessions.


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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Beggars on the streets of Philadelphia

When I was a small child I saw grown men begging on the streets of Columbus, OH, during the Depression.  It was a sad sight, even to a little girl like me.  I felt sorry for them and sorry that our country had let them down.  No-one should have to beg to stay alive. Not here.  Not in this country.


Today, as I exited the Ben Franklin Parkway, there were little boys approaching cars stopped at a traffic light with blue buckets in their hands.  They were begging from the motorists.   I have seen children begging on the streets of Dublin, but never thought I would see such a thing here.

Where were all the social workers, the interfering busybodies who punish parents who allow their children to walk alone to a public park? None were in attendance.  I guess the lives of little black children don't matter quite as much.  It's okay to let them run around on busy streets, dodging cars and putting themselves in danger.  Their lives don't matter until the Rev Al Sharpton shows up with his followers and makes an issue of it.  I guess the Rev has weighed his options and decided there was no profit for him in exploiting these kids.

I certainly don't dismiss the possibility that these kids are little hustlers, like the squegee men who used to infest New York City.  But they are kids.  They shouldn't have the freedom to put themselves in dangerous situations.  Grown-ups should be in charge of kids.  Grown-ups such as parents, teachers, cops.

But there seems to be a serious shortage of grown-ups in Obama's America. 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Home decor update

I recently needed to replace one if my toilet seats, so I went on the Internet to review my options.  Wow!  The world of toilet seats has really expanded since I last bought one.  In the old days, back in the  twentieth century, you could choose either round or oblong toilet seats, depending on the shape of the One-eyed Riley.

That having been settled by necessity, there were wood, plastic, and soft.  In various colors.  Nothing else had changed since my father's outdoor privy.

What boring lives we led!  Now you have a choice of round or oblong, of course.  There are toilet seats that close  noiselessly.  Toilet seats that remove from their hinges for cleaning; others that contain a potty option in case you are toilet training a toddler.  Seats that light up at night (Batteries not included.).  All sorts of plastic, with designs or flowers or seahorses embedded.  Wooden seats with veneers to match your dining room table.  And of course, customized seats such as the one pictured above and others that cannot be described in polite company.

For less than $600 you can buy a heated toilet seat which washes the relevant body parts and even blow dries them.  Of course, you need the services of a plumber and electrician if you want them to work..



Wednesday, July 01, 2015

The Pope takes a stand

The Pope has come out against materialism.  I so agree!  All these rich people have big houses, private planes, world travel.  And they don't have to make their beds in the morning or wash dishes.  Someone else does their laundry! I truly resent them.  The only thing that could mollify me is for me to have all these things  myself. And I'd still probably resent them anyway.  Such is envy.

There is much to be said for materialism.  I remember the cartoon Blondie from my childhood.  Back in the day when women wore hats. Whenever Blondie got blue she went out and bought a new hat!  And she immediately felt better.  A new bathmat does it for me.  Retail therapy usually is safe and effective. And if you find out later you don't like the hat, or bathmat, chances are you can return it or exchange it for something else.

My family has done well with materialism.  My father grew up in a house with dirt floors and an outhouse in the back yard.  He was bowlegged due to rickets.  By the time he died, in 2011, he had two bathrooms, central heating, and a brand new car. And plenty to eat.

Contrast that with spirituality.  Let's talk about Muslims here, leaving aside Christians and Jews, who I am sure have their faults.  But they are usually quietists and want to be left alone to worship, or not, in their own way.Deeply devout Muslims, on the other hand,  cure their blue feelings by going out and beheading a few Christians and raping defenseless women and children.  No doubt they feel better after committing these atrocities in honor of Allah.  But the rest of the world feels measurably worse.

The only saving grace about these deeply religious people is that they can be bought.  If you offer them enough money they will probably betray their fellows.  The Muslim world is full or traitors and spies.  How do you think the Israelis get the better of them?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Kreutzer Sonata

This afternoon I heard the "Kreutzer Sonata," by Janacek, based on the "Kreutzer Sonata" by Tolstoy, which in turn was based on"the Kreutzer Sonata" by Beethoven.  According to Wikipedia,

The sonata was originally dedicated to the violinist George Bridgetower (1778–1860), who performed it with Beethoven at the premiere on 24 May 1803 at the Augarten Theatre at a concert that started at the unusually early hour of 8:00 am. Bridgetower sight-read the sonata; he had never seen the work before, and there had been no time for any rehearsal. However, research indicates that after the performance, while the two were drinking, Bridgetower insulted the morals of a woman whom Beethoven cherished. Enraged, Beethoven removed the dedication of the piece, dedicating it instead to Rodolphe Kreutzer, who was considered the finest violinist of the day.[1] However, Kreutzer never performed it, considering it "outrageously unintelligible". He did not particularly care for any of Beethoven's music, and they only ever met once, briefly.[2]

Could this be true?  Anyway, the story is too good to check, and I'm only a humble blogger so no-one cares much what I say.

To get back to Tolstoy, his story is the account of a man finding his wife, a pianist, conversing intimately with her accompanist and friend, a violinist. The two have been practicing the Kreutzer Sonata.  It requires a lot of practice because it is a quite difficult piece of music.   He then kills his wife out of jealousy, but the violinist gets away.   I have not read the story, because I no longer am attempting to improve my mind through literature and would rather curl up with Daniel Silva's latest.  If my mind accidentally gets improved, okay, but I'm no longer working on it.

I was interested enough in the story  to go to YouTube and play a couple of versions of the Beethoven original.  It is quite beautiful but appears to be very demanding technically; however, to me all violin music seems demanding because I could no more play the violin than I could invent electricity. 

This Tolstoy story has apparently been made into a play, then adapted into a play for the Yiddish theater, then made into a movie of the Yiddish theater version, and for all I know is being made into a Pixar or Claymation version as we speak. 

The moral of the story might be, "Don't try to play music which is too technically difficult or emotionally arousing,"  Or maybe not.