Friday, October 20, 2017

What can I say?

What can I say (or write)... that won't cause someone to write something nasty on one of my social media pages, even if what I wrote is innocuous or correct (i.e., factual or truthful)?

I've been struggling with that question for a while now, ever since a neighbor accidentally came upon a blog post and decided to write something nasty on the blog's Facebook page (later to delete it).

As it says right at the top of the page, J-TWO-O is a satirical blog. And for those of you unfamiliar with satire, satire is "the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues."

Not everyone gets or appreciates satire, though, which is why I also wrote (when I started the blog nearly 10 years ago), "I started this blog to amuse myself, my friends, and my family. If you are not amused, just click on some other blog."

Unfortunately, we have entered an age of un-reason, or willful ignorance and "alternative facts," and incivility, where instead of people agreeing to disagree or politely disagreeing, they hurl insults and death threats at people they disagree with, often anonymously.

It's gotten to the point that I often think, Why bother? Who needs the aggravation? So, even though there are many topics I would love to write about (e.g., Harvey Weinstein and the culture of sexual harassment), or write more about (politics), I'm not. Why spend the time when either no one is going to bother reading what I wrote or, worse, the people that do hurl abuse at me?

So this is probably the end of J-TWO-O, though not the end of my writing. Indeed, for years (decades) I've tried to write a book, but have never gotten past the first few chapters -- until this summer. Now, in just a few weeks, my first novel will be published, via Amazon. It's a cozy mystery that takes place on a tropical island -- and has absolutely nothing to do with politics (or thongs, another favorite topic). I think it's going to be a hit, and I'm about to start on book two.

Wish me luck! And thanks for reading J-TWO-O.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

What I've been reading: Books to fall in love with

It's been a few months since my last book post, so I thought I'd share with you some of the books I've read since then. As per usual, I've listed the books alphabetically by author and included a brief summary. (If you want to learn more about the book, read the reviews on Amazon or Goodreads.) And I invite you to share the name and author of any books you've read that you recommend in the Comments section. (NB: To see previous book recommendations, click here, or click on the Book Nook label at the end of this post.)

The Windfall by Disha Basu. Fiction. A modern-day rags-to-riches (or middle class-to-riches) story set in India. When Mr. Jha, a hardworking accountant who makes a decent living but is far from rich, winds up selling a software application he developed for millions of dollars, he rejoices. But as he and his wife soon learn, money cannot always buy you happiness (though it can buy you a nice house -- with air conditioning, a nice car, and first-class plane tickets to the United States, things that Mr. Jha greatly appreciates). At times amusing, but often sad, the book is an interesting look at what it means to be well off, or rich, in India these days.

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman. Young adult fiction. This book was recommended online by many adults, mainly librarians and educators, for other adults who love books and/or to read with their children or grandchildren. So I figured I'd check it out. The book revolves around Emily, an avid reader whose family constantly moves and has just settled in San Francisco. Emily is obsessed with an online game she and millions of other young readers play called Book Scavenger, where players hunt for books hidden in the real/physical world by other players, through clues they post online. However, when Emily accidentally stumbles upon what she is pretty sure is a new Book Scavenger game, she gets more than she bargained for -- and suddenly it's up to her to save Book Scavenger. When thinking about this book the words charming and endearing spring to mind. Highly recommend to parents of kids 8 -12 -- and big kids, too.

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken. Nonfiction/Memoir. WARNING: If you are a Republican and/or get your news from Fox and Rush Limbaugh/Conservative radio hosts, you will probably hate this book. This review isn't for you. The rest of you, read on.

I usually don't like memoirs, but I LOVED this book. (I also liked Franken's earlier books, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.) And I was not a fan of Franken when he was on Saturday Night Live. But I really like Senator Al Franken, and I hope he runs for President (though he won't). If you appreciate people, especially politicians, who give it to you straight (stick to the facts and call out lies and the lying liars who tell them), and can tell a good story, and/or you are curious about what it takes to win a senate race these days, READ THIS BOOK. It may be a cliche but I laughed and I cried while reading the chapters of this book -- and I would totally campaign for Franken if he ever ran for President (though again, he won't). And no, Al Franken is not paying me to write this review.

How to Find Love in a Bookshop by Veronica Henry. Fiction. A lovely, lovely book. A love letter to bookshops and the people who work and spend time in them. I only wish there was a Nightingale Books in my little town. A story of friendship, love, realizing what it is you really want and going for it, and community. A delight. 

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Fiction. Eleanor Oliphant was doing just fine, according to her, even though she really wasn't. Introverted by nature and afraid to get close to people, her life begins to change when she and a coworker, the new IT guy (who could use a new wardrobe and smells of cigarettes), help rescue an old man who has fallen on the sidewalk. An unlikely friendship develops and, with the help of her new friends, Eleanor begins to come out of her shell and discover the life she had been missing. Bittersweet, heartwarming, and heart-wrenching, I found myself relating to Eleanor, and I bet a lot of women I know will too.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. Fiction. I honestly cannot remember why I did not read this book when it came out in 2011. It has so many of the things I look for or enjoy in a book: good writing, an interesting plot, magic/fantasy (I'm a huge fan of magical realism), a love story. But I'm glad I finally read it. As for the plot, it revolves around a magical circus, a la the Cirque du Soleil. Only this circus, called the Night Circus, is only open at night -- and boasts actual magic. In reality the circus is a game board, in which a life and death game of magical one-upmanship is being played, and as the game drags on, lives and livelihoods -- and hearts -- are at stake. A beautiful novel.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. Fiction. The book takes place in the late 1800s, in England, and tells the story of a scientifically-minded London widow who decides to go to coastal Essex to seek out what has been dubbed the Essex serpent (similar to the Loch Ness monster), believing it to be a kind of dinosaur. While in the countryside she meets, falls in love, and butts heads with a local vicar whose religious views are at odds with her scientific/intellectual ones. And one is left to wonder, who or what, is the real serpent in this garden? An interesting read, but I didn't love it. Others might though.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Fiction. I was not a fan of Towles's first book, The Rules of Civility, so I was loathe to read his latest novel. But after my mother-in-law and a good friend HIGHLY recommended it, I decided to check it out. And boy am I glad I did! I LOVED this book. Loved, loved, loved. The story of Count Alexander Rostov (the gentleman of the title), who, in 1922, is exiled to spend the rest of his days inside the Hotel Metropol in Moscow -- or risk being shot. Rostov, who is well known to the staff, by whom he is respected, is not one to make waves. So he agrees to the sentence, even though he is forced to give up his luxurious suite and move into the attic, and embarks on a new life as a denizen of the grand hotel, making new friends (and enemies) over the years -- and observing the evolution of Soviet Russia from the inside. A fascinating, beautiful, heartwarming, amusing read. I highly recommend.


NB: I also read Daniel Silva's latest Gabriel Allon spy thriller, House of Spies, which I thought was okay (not great), and Kevin Kwan's Rich People Problems, the final chapter (?) of his trilogy that began with Crazy Rich Asians, coming soon to a theater near you! (I loved Crazy Rich Asians; the sequels, not so much.) And I read Neil deGrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, which just made me feel stupid (and sleepy). (Liked the astronomy parts, just couldn't get into the physics.)

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The only reason the GOP would dump Trump

"The economy, stupid."

Remember when even the whiff of adultery could ruin a man's chances of becoming president or could get him impeached? Ha ha ha. That's so 1990s. (Though I'm guessing if a Democrat was caught screwing around, Republicans would be up in arms.)

So what does it take in 2017 to get impeached, or even censured by Congress? Apparently not racism, inciting violence, ethics violations, profiteering, shady (or illegal) business dealings, conflicts of interest, collusion with a foreign power, bullying, lying, or fraud.

In fact, I would wager that if Donald J. Trump stood in front of Trump Tower -- or anywhere on Fifth Avenue -- and shot someone, I doubt it would make a dent in his popularity, at least among his die-hard supporters. It might even raise it if the person he shot was black or Muslim. He would no doubt claim it was self-defense, and his supporters -- and Fox News -- would believe him and trumpet his innocence, even if it was proved that the attack was unprovoked.

And while Republican Senators and Representatives might initially condemn Trump for shooting someone, as some of them have in the past for his pussy grabbing, support of white supremacy, and other things, I doubt even that would move them to censure or impeach him.

No, the only thing that might possibly cause Republicans in Congress to impeach or remove Trump? If the economy went into a tailspin, meaning the stock market crashed, unemployment crept up, and we faced another recession.

Right now Trump is still enjoying the economic draft or slipstream left from President Obama's time at the wheel, similar to the economic situation George W. Bush inherited when he took office. And we all know how well that turned out.

And that quote at the beginning of this blog post, "The economy, stupid" (typically quoted as "It's the economy, stupid")? That was the rallying cry of the (Bill) Clinton campaign back in 1992, which helped get him elected.

Indeed, more than anything else (except maybe -- maybe) terrorism or the threat of terrorism, the economy is what determines who gets into or stays in office*. And if Donald Trump, the supposedly great businessman, turns out to be bad for business? Then, maybe, just maybe, he will be removed or voted out of office. But I wouldn't bet on it.



*I hear the spouse and many of my non-Republican friends yelling at their computer screens, saying "I disagree! The Russian thing is going to be his undoing!" To which my reply is, only if there is some major bombshell -- that there is indisputable proof that Trump personally colluded with Russians to influence the election -- will that possibly lead to impeachment. That's how crazy and depressing our political situation is now. Which, to quote Donald Trump, is sad.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wanna save the planet? Then this job is for you!

Want to help keep Earth safe from aliens? (No, not the ones from Mexico! The ones from Outer Space!) Well, NASA has the job for you!

Yes, boys and girls, if you have always dreamed of protecting the Earth from nasty microbes -- or brain-eating space invaders -- the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has your dream job. (And you thought Men in Black was just a movie!)

While anyone, theoretically (well, anyone who is a U.S. citizen or "those who owe allegiance to the U.S."), can apply to be Planetary Protection Officer, if you want to save the planet, you need the right stuff.**

Specific technical requirements to be Planetary Protection Officer include:
1. Advanced knowledge of Planetary Protection, its requirements and mission categories. This includes demonstrated technical expertise to independently form technically sound judgments and evaluations in considerably complex situations. 
2. Demonstrated experience planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance. These elements include but are not limited to developing requirements, performing technical assessments, and preparing recommendations to leadership. 
3. Demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions. This includes building coalitions amongst organizations to achieve common goals.
[Regarding Requirement 3., I am assuming NASA wants candidates to have experience negotiating with aliens/alien governments. What a shame Sarek was a Vulcan. Though maybe Jonathan Archer or James T. Kirk is available.]

So if you like traveling to exotic places, are able to keep a secret, have x-ray vision, and can bend steel with your bare hands**, apply today! The planet needs you!

(Btw, the gig pays between $124,406 to $187,000, not too shabby. Though, on second thought, considering you may be keeping the planet safe from total annihilation, I think it's a bit low.)

* Or figure out how to get Congress to impeach Donald Trump.
** I made those last two up.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Now playing on WH TV: Throw Reince Priebus from the Train!

Breaking News: President* Donald Trump has fired White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, the former head of the Republican National Committee.

In a move that should surprise no one, Trump eighty-sixed Priebus barely 24 hours after new White House Communications Director (and aspiring wiseguy) Anthony "the Mooch" Scaramucci had accused Priebus of leaking information -- and I had suggested (on Facebook and Twitter) that the Scaramucci made-for-TV movie should be called Throw Reince Priebus from the Train**.

In Priebus's stead, Trump appointed John F. Kelly, a retired Marine four-star general currently serving as secretary of homeland security, breaking the news on Twitter a little before 5 p.m. ET.

On his Twitter feed, Trump thanked Priebus "for his service and dedication to his country" and said "We accomplished a lot together and I am proud of him!" He referred to Kelly as "a Great American" and "a true star" of his administration. Bookies are now taking bets as to how long Kelly will last before Trump fires him, or he resigns.

Which brings me to my next point: Anyone else think that Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" should be the theme song of this administration, or that all the late-night talk shows should use it as background music whenever discussing a Trump resignation or firing?

Here's the Reince Priebus version***:

Reince walks warily through the West Wing
His chin pulled way down low
Ain't no sound but the sound of his feet
Scaramucci's ready to blow
Are you ready,
Are you ready for this?
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?
Out of the Mooch the profanities rip
To the sound of the beat
Another one bites the dust
Another one bites the dust
And another one gone, and another one gone
Another one bites the dust
Hey, I'm gonna get you too
Another one bites the dust

*Every time I type that, another piece of me dies.
**For those too young, or too old, to get the reference.
***Future versions will be modified to include or feature the latest victim of Trump's wrath.

Friday, July 14, 2017

If the Trump family/administration was a 1960s sitcom...

If you were to compare the Trumps or the Trump administration to a 1960s sitcom or cartoon, which sitcom or cartoon characters would they be?

F Troop?

The Beverly Hillbillies?

Hogan's Heroes*?

The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show?

The Flintstones?

Leave your answer in the Comments section.


*And I'm not talking about the POWs.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Putting the screw back in corkscrew

This seemed an appropriate post for hump day.

Voila! The Costaud (or "beefy") corkscrew. No bottle can resist his charms!























The spouse and I happened upon this humorous -- yet fully functional -- utensil while in Italy (though M. Costaud appears to be French). And no, I did not buy one (for myself or my friends), though I deeply regret not doing so. But it was the first day of our trip, and I feared M. Costaud, who is rather large, would be too big to fit... in my suitcase.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Why Jon Ossoff (and the Democrats) will lose

Why do I think Jon Ossoff, the Democrat seeking to represent Georgia's 6th congressional district, will lose to Republican Karen Handel in today's special election, even though he's raised far more money and seems far more popular? Because Republicans vote and Democrats don't.

Obviously, Democrats vote, but their turnout is typically far lower than Republicans', especially in off-year elections. And the 6th has been a reliably Republican district since the late 1970s, when Newt Gingrich won -- and held onto the seat for 20 years (to be replaced by two more middle-aged white males).

And despite what they may say or write about a Republican candidate, when it comes down to a vote, Republicans almost always vote for the person with an R after his (or occasionally her) name. So it's doubtful that Ossoff will have managed to sway 15 or 10 percent of Republican voters to vote for him, even if they don't like Trump or Trumpcare/The American Health Care Act.

Moreover, Republican campaign strategists are very good at staying on message and getting Republicans to the polls. Their strategy: fear. Vote for the Democrat and you'll be paying higher taxes! (They'll grab your hard-earned money and give it to lazy minorities and illegal immigrants!) Vote for the Democrat and you'll be less safe (cause they'll take away your guns and will let criminals roam the streets)!

And despite plenty of proof to the contrary, the strategy always works. Just tell the people what they want to hear, even -- or especially -- if it's a bunch of lies. Because who's going to fact check? Most voters don't read anymore, let alone check the accuracy of what they're reading, especially on social media, or what they see on TV. And when faced with any facts that contradict their beliefs, they cling even harder to their beliefs. So it's really a no-lose situation for Republicans.

So what can Democrats do? I think part of the solution has to be going back to grass roots, old-fashioned campaigning, like what Ossoff's been doing -- and what Obama did in the 2008 presidential race. Going to lots of events that "real people," not just wealthy donors, attend. Going door to door, and/or to supermarkets, and the local car wash; attending sporting events at local high schools and colleges; holding town halls. And making people feel that you're listening to them.

Democrats also need to come up with some catchy soundbites, because when it comes down to it, people don't read or remember or really care about policy positions anymore. They want something short and pithy that you can put after a hashtag.

And Democrats need to register young people to vote and make sure they go to the polls on election day. Because the only real way to effect change is by voting.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The right to bear arms but not bare breasts

With the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise at a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, getting so much coverage in the news this week, you may have missed another big story out of the greater D.C. area. I am, of course, referring to the ban against public nudity that the Ocean City (Maryland) Council passed in an emergency session last Saturday, putting an immediate stop to the threat that topless female sunbathers posed to our nation's, or at least Ocean City's, impressionable citizens.

The Washington Post, did not one but two stories on the ban, including this titillating expose titled "In Ocean City, Hooters, Thongs and Horror Over Topless Women on the Beach."

Yes, in 2017, in a country where there is currently close to a mass shooting per day, the right to bear arms is still considered sacred but the right to bare breasts is still considered sinful.

Except for those fembots in Austin Powers, I'm pretty sure no one, man or woman, has been killed or seriously injured by a female breast. Indeed, unlike guns, mammary glands nurture life, not destroy it.

But hey, I get the whole wanting to ban women (or certain women) from exposing their breasts in public thing. If I could, I would ban guys from wearing thongs at the beach and in public. (Seriously, no one wants to see your pale, flabby -- or tanned and hairy -- ass or your over-oiled beer belly hanging over that limp sack of flesh hanging between your legs.)

Getting back to Ocean City's topless bathing, or nudity, ban, though, it seems a wee bit hypocritical to shout about promoting "family values" when you've got a big ole Hooters on your boardwalk, as well as lewd t-shirts for sale and smoking and drinking in public going on (much of it underage). 

But that's America for you.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Are you + the U.S. better off than you were 4+ months ago (before Trump made America great)?

During the October 28, 1980, presidential debate between President Jimmy Carter and then presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, Reagan famously called on Americans to ask themselves:
'Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Is it easier for you to go and buy things in the stores than it was four years ago? Is there more or less unemployment in the country than there was four years ago? Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?'
It was a thought-provoking question. And the answer, or so it would appear from Reagan's victory, was "no."

I've been thinking a lot about that quote since Donald Trump took office, and promised to make America great again within 100 days.

So how is Trump doing? Are we (or you) better off than we/you were 4+ months ago?

Speaking personally, the answer is no.

Since Trump took office, our health insurance has gone way up. The value of our house has gone way down. I lost my main source of employment -- and have been unable to find a new one (or one that pays anywhere close to what I was earning, which wasn't much).

I worry about whether we and our children and grandchildren will have clean air to breathe and clean water to drink and whether the Earth will wind up looking like Venus. I worry about Trump starting a nuclear war. I worry about the rights of women and blacks/African Americans and other minorities. And I worry that if I go see a doctor or mental health professional about my anxiety our insurance premiums will skyrocket -- and mental healthcare isn't covered anyway.

As for Reagan's last question, "Is America as respected throughout the world as it was?" The short answer is, no, not even close. In fact, in just over four months, the United States has become the laughingstock of the world, thanks to Trump, who is a constant embarrassment on the world stage. And countries, including the UK (which has its own problems) and Canada, two of the United States's staunchest allies, are distancing themselves from Trump.

Regarding whether it's "easier for you to go and buy things in the store that it was four years ago," I don't have an answer.

And while technically the unemployment rate is low, and was low before Trump took office, I know a whole lot of people who have given up looking for full-time, or even part-time, work, or who found work but now make less money than they did four or 10 or 15 years ago. And I don't see this changing anytime soon, despite what Trump said or says. In fact, companies are continuing to automate and shift jobs out of the country -- and hiring fewer people to do more. And many people who do have jobs aren't paid a livable wage, which Trump and the Republicans don't see as a problem.

Sure, some people -- namely the very rich -- are better off, at least financially, than they were four months ago (thanks to a surging stock market and the rollback of certain regulations). But is America really better off? Are you?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Meanwhile at Trump's Cabinet meeting yesterday...

For those of you haven't yet seen a clip of yesterday's Trump Cabinet meeting, here's what Trump's Cabinet secretaries had to say about him...



For those too busy or unable to watch the video, here are highlights from the transcript:

Mike Pence: "Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Jeff Sessions: "Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Rick Perry: "Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Tom Price: "Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Mick Mulvaney: "Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Reince Priebus: "Donald Trump is the kindest, bravest, warmest, most wonderful human being I've ever known in my life."

Oops, I missed this quote from Sean Spicer.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Forget Comey. Trump isn't going anywhere.

To those who think James Comey's testimony before Congress yesterday is going to make any difference -- as in move Congress a step closer to removing Donald Trump from office -- think again.

We are at the point where, as Trump claimed back in January 2016, he (Trump) could "stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and... wouldn't lose voters."

Indeed, Republicans (assuming they still controlled Congress at the time of the shooting) would no doubt come up with a justification for the shooting and Trump would be made to look the victim.

"He's just new to this," House Speaker Paul Ryan would say. "He probably wasn’t steeped in the long-running protocols that establish how to use a gun."

Yes, this is where we are at in this country. As long as the man sitting in the Oval Office has an "R" (as in Republican -- or Russian agent) after his name -- and his party enjoys a majority in the House and Senate -- he can be a liar, an abuser of women and power, flout the constitution and ethics rules, allow a foreign power to influence foreign policy, and put his own special interests before the interests of the country he was elected to serve, because "when you're a [Republican], they let you do it." As long as you're for reducing taxes on the wealthy and allow Congress to pass laws favorable to wealthy special interests -- or undo regulations that those filling your campaign war chest or holding your debt want you to roll back.

And while no one enjoys paying taxes (except maybe my father, a registered Republican who always used to say to me that if everyone paid their fair share of taxes, we'd all pay a lot less in taxes), cutting taxes -- so-called trickle-down economics -- doesn't create more jobs or make the economy healthier. In fact, it does more harm than good. Just take a look at Kansas.

But that's where we are at here in the land of ME, ME, ME, WHAT ABOUT ME? Screw the sick (until you are sick). Forget about education. Fuck women (literally and figuratively). And to hell with the environment (which will soon resemble Hell if temperatures keep rising.) If you can save me a few thousand, even a few hundred, dollars a year in taxes, you have my blessing to do whatever you like, Donald and Republicans.

Sadly, it will be up to some future president to make America great again.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Because sometimes you need '80s New Wave music

So the other day I'm driving in the car with the spouse and the teenager when I realize we're listening to New Wave music from the 1980s.

'Are we listening to Pandora?' I asked. 'Nope,' they said, 'It's 1st Wave on Sirius XM.'

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! I chortled in my joy. FINALLY, a replacement for WLIR!

And since that fateful day, I have had my car radio tuned to Sirius XM Channel 33 -- and have heard many old gems I had forgotten about, like...

"Start!" from The Jam...



And "Cool Places" sung by Sparks and Jane Wiedlin...



Gotta love those '80s New Wave videos.

And "Legal Tender" from the B-52s...



And speaking of legal tender, remember the Pet Shop Boys' song "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)"?



Some days I miss the 1980s, at least the music.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Why I can't take the spouse to the supermarket (humor)

The following conversation occurred shortly after leaving a Publix Supermarket the other day, where the spouse and I had gone together to pick up a few things for Memorial Day Weekend. 

As per usual when we go grocery shopping together, I was in charging of bagging while the spouse waited by the register -- and the tabloid magazines -- to pay.

SCENE: The car, pulling away from the Publix

THE SPOUSE: So how long do you think this union between J. Lo and A-Rod will last?

ME: Union? Did they get married?

THE SPOUSE: Well, she's having his baby.

ME: WHAT?! Jennifer Lopez is NOT pregnant. She's like, 50, and has a new show. Where did you hear that?

THE SPOUSE: It's in all the tabloids. And she's 47.

ME: I don't believe it.

THE SPOUSE: Look it up. 

ME (looking it up on my phone): I don't see anything about J. Lo being pregnant. Though she is 47.

THE SPOUSE: See, I told you.

ME: Fine, but she'll be 48 in July. 

THE SPOUSE: Nothing about her being pregnant?

ME: I just see a story about her "romance" with A-Rod. I'll look it up later*. Can we please change the subject?

Of course, I then dreamed -- though it was more of a nightmare -- that I was pregnant with twins. No word regarding who the father was.

*Jennifer Lopez is NOT pregnant -- and neither am I.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Look! New book recommendations!

Yes, folks, it's time, once again, for another J-TWO-O Book Nook post. (Click the link to see previous book recommendations.)

As per usual, I have listed books alphabetically by author. And I've included a few books I didn't love, because I realize not everyone is as picky as I am (and other people I know really liked these books).

Oh, and if you'd like to tell the class about some great books you've read this year, please share the title and author in a Comment. Thanks!

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden. Fiction. I love a good fairy tale. And this is a good fairy tale. Set in long-ago Russia, in a small village at the edge of a wood, The Bear and the Nightingale is a bewitching coming-of-age story (with some Beauty and the Beast undertones). The story centers on Vasillisa, or Vasya, the youngest child of a Russian nobleman, whose beloved wife dies while giving birth to the girl. Like her mother's mother, who some say was a witch, Vasya seems otherworldly, and, indeed, can see and speak with the spirits that protect their house, animals, and crops. But when her father remarries a religious (and superstitious) woman, and an ambitious young priest comes to preach in the village, the old ways are threatened and crops begin failing and animals begin disappearing, leaving the villagers angry and terrified. And it is up to Vasya to try to save them all.

In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen. Historical fiction. I'm a big fan of Rhys Bowen's Royal Spyness mystery series, set in England in the 1930s. So I expected to equally enjoy her latest novel, In Farleigh Field, a mystery set (mainly) in 1940s England and Paris, during World War II. And I did. If you are a fan of British mysteries set in the first half of the twentieth century on English estates, filled with charming characters and plot twists, you will enjoy In Farleigh Field.

The Mistress of Paris: The 19th-Century Courtesan Who Built an Empire on a Secret by Catherine Hewitt. Nonfiction. Maybe it's because growing up Gigi was one of my favorite movies, but I loved this book -- which, like Gigi, is about French courtesans (and the men who adored them). Mainly, it is about one particular French courtesan, the "Comtesse Valtesse de la Bigne," nee Emilie-Louise Delabigne, who was the toast of late nineteenth-century Paris. A fascinating biography of a fascinating woman, as well as a history lesson, The Mistress of Paris reads like a work of fiction, but it's not.

Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine by Sarah Lohman. Nonfiction/Memoir. Loved the idea behind Eight Flavors -- exploring eight different seasonings, or flavors, such as pepper, vanilla, soy sauce, and MSG, that greatly shaped American cuisine (though she purposely leaves out chocolate and coffee); the writing, not so much. (God save me from Millennial food bloggers.) But, if you are not irked by young women (and men) who love to talk about themselves or interject their own personal experience with something, and consider yourself a "foodie," and like books about food, this book is for you. (My college-age daughter loved it. So maybe it's a generational thing. Though I found many parts of the book interesting.)

The Lost Book of the Grail by Charlie Lovett. Fiction. As stated above, I love a good mystery, especially an English mystery -- as well as books about King Arthur and his knights and quests for mystical objects. So The Lost Book of the Grail was kind of the Holy Trinity of books for me. The story centers on introverted book lover and English professor Arthur Prescott, who harbors a secret obsession with the Holy Grail. Arthur, despite being an atheist, is enamored with the ancient cathedral in his (fictional) small English village, and spends most of his free time in the cathedral's library. However, when a pretty American shows up to digitize all the ancient books (to Arthur's horror), his world and life are turned upside down. A charming, fun book.

Duck Season: Eating, Drinking, and Other Misadventures in Gascony – France’s Last Best Place by David McAninch. Memoir. The subtitle pretty much says it all. The gustatory adventures of David McAninch, a former editor at Saveur, in Southwestern France, where he and his wife and young child spent eight seemingly very happy, very delicious months a few years back. If you like tales of good food (especially French food), good drink, and consider yourself a Francophile, I recommend Duck Season. (Just make sure to have a good French restaurant nearby when you do.)

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil by Tom Mueller. Nonfiction. A fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the manufacture and history of olive oil. However, be warned: After reading Extra Virginity, you will probably never look at olive oil, or extra virgin olive oil, the same way again -- and will probably wonder what it is you've actually been consuming. (I know I did. Indeed, after reading this book, I thought that instead of calling certain olive oil "extra virgin," they should call it "extra slutty," because it seemed like olives really get around.)

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. Historical fiction. The history of electricity. (I just liked typing that.) A great read that examines the question, Who really invented the light bulb? and chronicles the fight over who had the right -- George Westinghouse or Thomas Edison -- to supply electricity to millions of homes and businesses across America. Told from the point of view of a young lawyer named Paul Cravath (the Cravath in what is now Cravath, Swain & Moore), who was hired by Westinghouse to defeat Edison's claims. Highly recommend.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Memoir. I really did not like this book. Or, rather, I really did not like the people in this book. Noah, whom I'd grown to really like on The Daily Show, came off as a punk. And I found myself constantly yelling (in my head) at his mother, a headstrong, self-centered, wrong-headed woman who repeatedly -- and needlessly -- endangered herself and Noah, starting with her decision to needle a white man to impregnate her (the crime of the title). That all said, Noah's recollections of growing up poor and biracial, or "colored," in South Africa, make for a fascinating read. And my niece and many other people I know loved this book.

Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America by Michael Ruhlman. Nonfiction/Memoir. I'm still reading this book, but I wanted to include it as I think it's a must read. In short, Grocery is the story of how grocery stores, or really supermarkets, evolved and came to dominate the American food landscape, shaped how and what we eat, and are now fighting for survival in today's on-demand world. It's also a loving memoir about Ruhlman's father -- and an in-depth look at a local, family-run grocery chain in Ohio called Heinen's, where the Ruhlman family often shopped. If you ever wondered why there are grocery stores and how and what food comes to be on their shelves, definitely check out Grocery.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly. Nonfiction. Definitely one of my new favorite books. Even better than the movie, which I also loved (but was pretty much a work of fiction). The amazing story of a group of smart and talented African American women who worked as "computers" at what would become NASA in the 1940s through 1960s. Shetterly does a great job of fleshing out her subjects and making you feel like a fly on the wall. You don't have to be interested in the space race, or math or engineering, or a woman, to enjoy and appreciate this book, but if you are, you will appreciate Hidden Figures even more.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chihuly at the New York Botanical Garden

If you happen to be in New York City between now and October 29th, I highly recommend you go to the New York Botanical Garden (in the Bronx) to see the CHIHULY exhibit (as well as the beautiful flowers and plants).

The exhibit includes over 20 stunning glass sculptures, installed throughout the Garden, by renowned glass sculptor/artist Dale Chihuly, whose blown glass creations have been exhibited at museums around the world.

Here are some of the amazing glass works of art featured in the New York Botanical Garden exhibit. (Click on the photo to see a larger view. Then hit the "back" button/arrow to return to the post.)

NB: It is really hard to photograph glass when the sun is shining directly overheard -- and a dozen or so people keep walking into the frame.








Thursday, April 27, 2017

Barbie, keepin' it real

When last we left Barbie, back in December, she was recovering from her failed presidential run.

What has she been up to since then?

Well, as we learned from this just-released new video, Barbie's once again living in New York, commuting to/from work, doing yoga, and getting her Starbucks like the rest of us....



Will Barbie run again for President in 2020?

"I'm just taking things one day at a time," says Barbie. "Right now, I'm focusing on mindfulness, being in the here and now."

FUN ASIDE: Back in the day -- the day being 1959 -- Commuter Barbie went to/from work dressed like this:



















(Wonder where she fit her yoga mat...)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Stop referring to Trump as a billionaire

Dear New York Times and every other media outlet,

Please stop referring to Donald J. Trump as a billionaire or "billionaire Donald J. Trump." You, and we, the public, have no idea if Trump is a billionaire. And considering the amount of debt he has, and the hundreds of millions of dollars he has lost over the years, it is highly likely he is not a billionaire. 

Sure, Trump would like us to believe he is a billionaire.

And I would like people to believe I am really 5'6". 

But we have no way of knowing if Trump is a billionaire as he refuses to release his tax returns. 

So please, news organizations, cable channels, and bloggers, stop referring to Trump as a billionaire. Refer to him as just a businessman or a real estate developer (or President, if you must). And if he complains, say you'd be happy to re-apply the descriptor "billionaire" -- as soon as he provides the last 8 years worth of his Federal tax returns. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Remember when this was the most annoying ad on TV?

Come with me as we return to a time before ads for pharmaceuticals dominated (or were even on) the airwaves, when the most annoying, or overplayed, commercial on television began with strains of classical music and an elegant, mustachioed Englishman uttering these memorable words....

"I'm sure you recognize this lovely melody as 'Stranger in Paradise.' But did you know that the original theme is from the 'Polovetsian Dance No. 2' by Borodin? So many of the tunes of our well-known popular songs were actually written by the great masters—like these familiar themes..."



Although the ad stopped airing in 1984 (13 years after it began running, and a year after actor John Williams' death), I bet most (all?) of you remember it. (The spouse and I do -- and were quoting it while listening to classical music over breakfast this morning. Hence this post -- and the accompanying ear worm(s).)

For those of you who don't remember or have a fuzzy memory of the ad, it was for 120 Music Masterpieces, a four-record set of classical music excerpts from Columbia House (later Vista Marketing), which contained these timeless classical melodies, "performed by Europe's finest musicians." (And if you acted quickly, you could also get an additional 30 piano masterpieces!)

As annoying as the ad was, though, I would rather be bombarded with ads for classical music than with ads for Humira, Xerelto and/or Viagra. Unlike all of the pharmaceuticals advertised on TV, the only negative side effects of classical music are mild sleepiness and boredom.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trump translator: What Trump really means

Supporters of Donald Trump say people cannot, or should not, take what he says literally. So how can people understand what Trump really means when he speaks?

To assist you, we here at J-TWO-O have carefully analyzed Trump's most frequently spoken words and deciphered, or translated, them for you in this handy chart.

Now when you listen to Trump, or read about something he said or tweeted, you can understand what he really meant.

THE TRUMP TRANSLATOR
When Trump says…
What it really means is…
Amazing
Not so amazing; ordinary; really bad
Bad people
People who call out Trump’s lies
Best
Worst
Big League (often misinterpreted as “Bigly”)
That whatever or whomever Trump is referring to is screwed, big time.
Crooked
That person is smarter than Trump (and less crooked, dishonest). 
Dishonest
Someone said or published the truth about Trump or one of his advisors or businesses and he doesn’t like it. So he’s trying to discredit the person or organization.
Failing
That person or business is succeeding (most likely in debunking something Trump says), or that person or organization said or did something Trump didn’t like, so he’s trying to discredit it.
Fake News
That news organization is printing the (uncomfortable, unflattering) truth about Trump and/or one of his businesses or associates.
Fantastic
Fantastic for Trump and millionaires like him. Bad for everyone else.
Huge
Small, like Trump’s hands
Loser
That person is more popular or smarter than Trump; a winner
Out of control
Out of my, Donald Trump’s, control
Overrated
That person or organization gets (or got) better ratings, won more awards, than Trump; that person or organization said something (probably true) about Trump that Trump didn’t like.
Really smart
Really dumb
Sad
Bad for Trump
Terrible
Terrible for Trump
They
Bad hombres, non-white males, esp. immigrants, and people who either sued Trump or said bad things about him; also news organizations
Tremendous
Small or tiny, soft (like his… hands); bad, poor
We
I, Donald J. Trump
Weak
I can bully that person.
Winning
Losing; a loss for most Americans

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Obama haters vs. Trump haters (chart)

Why do so many people (still) hate President Barack Obama?

Why do so many people hate President Donald Trump?

Instead of droning on about the various reasons, I have created a table, below, titled "Obama Haters vs. Trump Haters."

Obama Haters vs. Trump Haters
Why people hate(d) Obama
Why people hate Trump
He’s black±.
He’s abused (groped) women (against their will) and wants to take away/limit women’s rights.**
He’s a Muslim*.
He’s biased against African Americans, Hispanics, and Muslims; wants to limit their rights.**
He’s not really American (wasn’t born here)*.
He wants to ban Muslims from entering the United States, except the ones he’s doing business or wants to do business with.**
He thinks he’s so smart (like he’s way smarter than me***).
He wants to deport millions of Hispanics. **
He wants to raise my taxes*.
He’s for dismantling environmental regulations, allowing companies to pollute more, threatening the health of millions of Americans.**
He wants to take away my guns*.
He’s for dismantling healthcare protections, making it more expensive/harder for millions of Americans to receive healthcare.**
He’s anti-family* (supports abortion and gay people marrying).
He’s incited anti-Semitism – and death threats against Jewish community centers and houses of worship.**

He doesn’t support education.**

He and his family are personally costing/will cost taxpayers millions (perhaps billions) of dollars, far more than any previous president.**

He and his family are personally profiting from his presidency.**

He refuses to share his tax returns, which could reveal ties with Russia and other foreign powers (most notably China).**

He is threatening America’s security by proposing to decrease funding for the TSA and the Coast Guard in order to pay for multibillion-dollar border wall with Mexico (which experts say won’t stop illegal immigration or make America safer)**

He and many of his advisors have disturbing ties to Russia – and it’s been proven that Russia influenced the election/favored Trump.**
 ±Though technically he’s 50% white.
*Not true, i.e., false.
**True.
***Probably.
He is irrational, unable to distinguish fact from fiction; constantly lies.**

As you will notice, most of the reasons people cite for hating Obama (e.g., his not being born in America or taking away people's guns) were/are false. Whereas the reasons people dislike or hate Trump are true. Also, many of the things people didn't like about Obama didn't directly affect their well being, as in their health or pocket books, whereas many of the reasons people dislike or hate Trump do or will.