"Everything that is really great and inspiring is created by the individual who can labor in freedom" Albert Einstein

"A dame who knows the ropes isn't likely to get tied up." Mae West

Sunday, November 30, 2008

And there's more shitty news

Never underestimate the people of Central Illinois. We know what suckers will buy:


Friday, November 28, 2008

Australia - the movie

Mid-Thanksgiving afternoon we decided to head to the big city to see Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman in the new release "Australia." Here's my short review:

1. beautiful scenery and camera shots
2. movie should have expanded the desert crossing and ended the movie before the bombing raid
3. writer tried to put too much into one movie; was it an Austrailian Outback western or a WWII movie? Comedy, romance or drama?
4. should have avoided the Aboriginal assimilation plotline; there are much superior movies which address that issue (i.e. Rabbit-Proof Fence)
5. My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I really wanted to see Daniel Craig as James Bond. It would have been time better spent.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Friday, November 21, 2008

Washing away the sins of youth

A group of high school teenagers was happily washing windows of the stores in the downtown business district. Most of the kids were from good families and seemed to be enjoying both the work and the camaraderie. Owners of those establishments, including myself, were caught off guard with this generosity. Many of us offered them some compensation for their work, but they refused. The business community was abuzz about the fine young people we have in our community.

By happenstance, I discovered the truth weeks later. All of these kids were in a required community service program through the county probation diversion program. All had been drunk and arrested while attending an under-aged party out in the country. If they performed community service, charges would be expunged from their records.

Yesterday, I attended an event in which a county probation officer, explained the diversion and Restorative Justice programs the county offers to juveniles and adults. It was explained that these programs are highly successful and that the recidivism rate in our county is only 21% after one year of completing the program. The probation officer emphasized the word "shame" as a large contribution to the success rate. Doing community service and facing your victims in private controlled confrontations supposedly "shame" the perpetrators into being sorry.

Skeptic that I am, I questioned some of the statistics and the public "shame." First of all, these programs are voluntary, meaning the perpetrators can opt out and go straight to court taking their chances with a good attorney, so the success rate might be skewed because you have willing participants, some who may be genuinely sorry in the first place.

Secondly, I questioned the "shame" put upon these perpetrators. I sighted the above example in this post. The downtown business people certainly saw no guilt in those teens washing windows; they were having a great time. In fact, they were admired by those observing them. They were not humiliatingly marked with a scarlet letter telling the public they were bad boys, and I certainly did not see a probation officer in the vicinity as they were working. Perhaps he was hiding.

In the Restorative Justice program, the meeting between perpetrators and victims is closed to all outsiders, except a mediator and several other community members. Nothing decided in that meeting is made public. The "shame" only occurs if the perpetrator later happens to meet the victim or those other community members elsewhere. There is no real public shame.

The speaker mentioned that several 13-14 year olds recently went on a vandalism crime spree and were facing 5 felony counts. They went through the Restorative Justice program so now they have no criminal record. The victims have been compensated. Although a perpetrator can go through a county Restorative Justice program only once, there is no database, so if he commits a crime in another county he might receive another get out of jail free card. If the family moves often enough, a 13 year old could commit numerous felonies and not ever have a record by the time he's 18.

The proponents of these programs overlook a couple of things in my opinion:

Monetary or service compensation does not put a victim back into the same emotional position as before the crime. Fear, mistrust, and stress cannot necessarily be resolved through compensation. So the program doesn't help the victim emotionally any more than a trial.

Shame should be more public and it will have greater effect. Shame should not be vague and misunderstood. It should be blatant.

Sign of the times

A phone conversation of an elected official overheard recently at an area court house:

" Oh, don't worry about that. You can do anything you want once you get elected."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Beware the Gentile at Christmas

Fellow blogger Little Blog on the Prairie often complains about being Jewish in the nearby university town, especially around the holidays.

When I attended the university there, I spent my freshman year in a privately owned new dormitory. My mother had taken a Woman's Club tour of the place and decided that was where I should live because "it was very nice and had many amenities."

It didn't take me long to discover that the co-ed dorm was 90% occupied by Jewish women and 75% occupied by Jewish men. The dorm was known around campus by a very offensive nickname (similar to Pike's Peak) and when I told new acquaintances where I lived, they asked, "You're Jewish?" I wasn't.

My roommate was a lovely girl from a predominantly Jewish Chicago suburb. She was surprised to discover that I was smart, blond, and white as a sheet. She indicated she had imagined me a black, backwards girl from the wrong side of town, maybe part of the Project 500, with my common last name and small town, "Southern Illinois" address.

I felt we got along just great. I liked her mom and dad, although I thought they were a bit too doting. We ate together, studied together, socialized together. She introduced me to lox and bagels and other ethnic foods. In late November, I had a Christmas tree and she had a Menorah in our dorm window and we taught each other our holiday traditions.

But things changed around that time. She suddenly informed me that she was moving out, immediately, before the semester ended. When I asked why, she said she was afraid of me. That I might try to kill her while she was sleeping. What?

This fear apparently resulted from a conversation we had had about heritage, and I said I had a small bit of German blood in me. My great-great-great, etc. had loaned Gutenberg money to build his printing press.

So even though we both had been born several years past the end of World War II and none of our immediate family had lived in Germany, she feared me because she was Jewish and I had some German blood in me. Some bias had been ingrained in her. Nothing I said could reassure her and she moved out as soon as another room could be found.

Perhaps I should have been happy to have that room all to myself the rest of that year, but it bothered me that what I thought was a good friendship had ended because of bigotry. There was a lot of that occurring on campus during 1968, but I didn't think I would be a victim of it.

Fortunately my other Jewish dorm mates didn't feel the same way, but then again, they didn't have to share a room with me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Bring back rugged individualism

"To be nobody but yourself -- in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you like everybody else -- means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting." e e cummings

Experts often proclaim that one of the problems with today's children is that they succumb to peer pressure. They want to be like everyone else and they are chastised and bullied if they aren't.

But you can't blame the kids. Society is no longer elevating the individual. Parents are to blame because they want their child to be like everyone else - just as smart, popular, well-dressed as John Smith's kid. Have you notice how so many teen-age girls look exactly alike? And of course, every kid is a winner and they've got awards to prove it.

Educators are to blame because they want to make their jobs easier by teaching standardized syllabus to a uniform group of children, without regard to boredom, challenges and intellect, to reach standardized test standards. Even businesses now practice "team building", encouraging employees to be part of a group, because now it seems the "best" ideas come from a committee approach.

Not so long ago in the rebellious 1960's , most of the teens and college-aged kids were preaching and acting non-conformist. Everyone rebelled from the status quo. But when these same people reached adulthood and began raising their own children, individuality went out the window and conformity became the new standard.

It used to be Americans held the individual in high esteem. Every person being considered unique and special. Individual (adj.) individuals (n.). Now it seems to be cool to be homogenized.

When one doesn't conform, he becomes infinitely more interesting. I personally like people who are a bit peculiar, who aren't afraid to stand out or away from the crowd, and are not ashamed of being who they really are. They have inner strength, self-esteen, and resolve that is almost unknown in the conventional circles.

If you think of some of the most memorable real and even fictional characters in your life, I'll bet they were the individualists, the so-called kooks, the out-of-the box thinkers and creative doers. The bland masses never survive tales of the past.

If peer pressure is such a big problem with today's kids, perhaps parents should start encouraging their children to be non-conformists and teach them to love themselves for who they were born to be. Then there would be no peer pressure problem because the kids wouldn't want to be like everyone else and would be perfectly content as the unique individuals they really are.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

I'll take freedom over Prop 8

Most people in this country think democracy is great, until the voting doesn't go their way.

Take Prop. 8 in California, for instance. Left-wing voters pushed their Presidential candidate to victory, but were shocked that Prop. 8, that out-lawed same sex marriages, had successfully passed. Demonstrations, involving thousands of anti-Prop. 8 people, occurred later in the week, but accomplished nothing other than some TV coverage.

I see this incident as the perfect opportunity to explain libertarian philosophy in some simplistic terms. As a libertarian (not political party), I believe that people should have the freedom to do whatever they wish, as long as it harms no other person or other person's property. The problem with that philosophy is that most people are afraid of real freedom, or rather of someone else's freedom to do what they want. Yes, democracy is great as long as you're the majority.

In a democracy, the majority rules, right or wrong, and thus stomps on the rights of the minority. There is no need to be tolerant of others because they are the majority and they know they are right.

In a truly free society, everyone has equal freedom to live their lives as they wish without the majority dictating the terms. Tolerance becomes a necessity and a reciprocal way of life. I don't tell you what to do and you don't tell me. Punishment comes from crime such as battery, murder, environmental pollution, theft or burglary, not from lifestyles.

In a libertarian society, there would be no need for a Prop. 8 because any person could marry or not. But even more important, married persons would have no more rights (benefits) than single persons, which is really what Prop. 8 is all about.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

They should be committed!

I just attended a board meeting of a non-profit organization of which I am a member. Of the eight board members, only 2 showed up. Some made excuses, but most just didn't. Those who did make excuses appear to have had the day off because of Veterans Day, but none were veterans and were not attending any kind of Veterans memorial services. My guess is they were out shopping. We have monthly hour-long meetings, the same time and place each and every month, yet members have no qualms of scheduling other matters at that time or offering excuses that they forgot. Most months only half the board attends; some members have only attended a handful of meetings this year. They volunteered for the job. Perhaps only for the additional mention on their resume.

Over the course of my lifetime, I have served as a volunteer on numerous boards, groups, and committees. It seems in recent years that there is a trend of what I determine to be commitment phobia that has grown to outrageous proportions.

Last year I didn't rejoin the local Rotary club because I was tired of attending meetings where people who were in charge of the meeting program either didn't book a program, didn't give a program themselves, or didn't even bother to show up. Each member is responsible for only 1 or 2 programs per year. Yet only about 25% actually fulfilled their commitment to do so. Once, out of seven consecutive meetings, there was only one program.

A few years ago, several of us started a gourmet club to fill a desire for fine food, without going out of town and to provide an easy way to entertain. Dinners were scheduled the 3rd weekend of every other month. Before long, some people didn't show, resulting in menu shuffling, location shuffling, and resetting tables. They often acted as if the date of the gourmet club was a complete surprise and they had already scheduled another activity. Again dates were fixed in advance so I don't buy that excuse.

I don't understand the mentality of people who give their word to do something and don't follow through, especially in voluntary situations. A death or illness is excusable. Just not wanting to come is not. Why don't they just say no or don't volunteer in the first place? It is much easier to operate an organization or social event with people who really want to be there.

How hard is it to put an event on a calendar and be committed to attend?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

First Broken Campaign Promise

The new President-elect promised a puppy from a shelter for his daughters. Now it looks like it will be an expensive pure-bred. All of a sudden, in the last couple days since the election, one of the girls has developed an allergy to dogs. But of course, that news wasn't released until they were assured of votes from the PETA block. So the savior won't be saving a puppy from extermination. Maybe he isn't God after all.

Friday, November 7, 2008

It's that time of year again.

Last year I was writing a humor column for the local newspaper. Most readers really enjoyed the column. But then I wrote about Christmas sweaters and I was practically run out of town by a group of old ladies, calling me mean-spirited and unpatriotic. I was told by one woman that I should respect my elders (in fact, she herself is several years younger than I and I certainly have more gray hairs than she). When they started showing up at my office, I finally decided that perhaps the local public forum was not as appreciative of my sense of humor as my blog readers were. Besides, it's much too easy to track you down in a town of 4800 people.

In honor of the first anniversary of that momentous occasion, I repeat the column here:

It's now the most awful time of the year when women, especially gray-haired ones or
teachers, dust off the moth balls and start wearing those creepy 3-dimensional Christmas sweaters. Those bulky knits generally feature a Santa Claus ho-ho-ho-ing or a festively
decorated Christmas tree in bold colors of red, white and green, that are bright enough to
stop traffic on a rainy day. And similar to traffic signals, some of these cardigans even
have blinking lights!

This year I noticed one catalog offering an “authentic” Christmas sweater with an
almost life-sized nativity scene depicted on front and back. It only comes in extra-large.
It’s for the woman who wants to put the true meaning back into Christmas.

These ladies can spend $150 for one from Talbots or $11.99 for one from Walmart; it
makes little difference. No matter how much was spent, not a single woman looks good
in one of those things. Not a married woman either.

And, why do they always seem to buy them one size larger than necessary? These
same women will complain that they look fat in anything else, but have no such
hesitation when it comes to these over sized fashion statements. Where are the fashion
police when we need them?

What is scary is that these sweaters are creeping into other holidays like Valentine’s
Day, Easter, the 4th of July, and Halloween. Now women can look like engorged red
hearts, bloated white Easter bunnies, gigantic waving flags, or round orange jack-o-
lanterns. Please don’t tell me someone has designed a bulky cardigan with a 3-
dimensional cross to reflect the true meaning of Easter.The only thing that looks good in these sweaters is a dog or cat. But even then, many
pets sport an embarrassing look when seen in public while wearing one of them. Have
you ever seen a dog or cat that didn’t hunker down a bit after its master put one of these holiday sweaters on him?

Christmas sweaters have gained such a reputation that there are now Ugly Christmas
Sweater Parties.
Attendees are generally adults in their 30’s who arrive at the parties
wearing the sweaters as costumes, award prizes for the ugliest, and then proceed to drink
away their nightmare visions of the other party-goers’ garbs.

Perhaps the demand from these young adults will eventually catapult the Christmas
sweater into the status of a “collectible.” The next thing you know, we’ll be watching
“Antiques Roadshow” and one of the appraisers will say that Grandma’s ugly Christmas
sweater is now worth $25,000.

Until then, I’m forgoing the purchase of one of these sweaters and investing my
money elsewhere.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election night with former revolutionaries

Since there was nothing to watch on TV Tuesday night, we watched the rest of the HBO mini-series "John Adams" that we had started over the weekend. We felt it more fitting watching the birth of our nation than the decline of it.

5 Times a week is more than the average guy does it

In a little rural town between Peoria and Bloomington, IL lives a helluva golfer.

It's funny that I haven't seen this story in local media.

A new cabinet post nominee

When asked on the Today Show this morning what Oprah Winfrey's role in the Obama administration would be, NBC political director Chuck Todd said, "She could be in charge of largess, since she's used to giving away stuff." Oh yes, the new cabinet post, Secretary of Largess.

At least the liberal media are not hiding their view of the current role of government.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Decision Day

In keeping with America's ever-increasing appetite for free lunches, all one needs to do is vote to get these:
doughtnut at Krispy Kreme
coffee at Starbuck's
ice cream at Ben & Jerry's
3 piece chicken diiner at Shane's Rib Shack
taco at California Tortilla
appetizer at Daily Grill
free sex toy at Babeland

I'll either be missing out on these entitlements or spending some money. I'm still trying to make up my mind.

Update: It used to be that giving free stuff for votes was illegal and apparently it still is.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Game Ended the 2nd Quarter

For well over 20 years, my husband and I and three other couples have gotten together for a progressive dinner during the holiday season. This year will be different because we just lost the first of our close-knit group.

Saturday at the Illinois football game, he suddenly had a stroke in the second quarter. Moments earlier he was his animated self, yelling and cheering for his alumni school. He was sitting between his wife and my husband. This morning he died.

He fought off cancer for over 15 years: a couple colon areas, a kidney, and then a couple of areas in the brain. But he continued playing golf, attending sporting events, drinking beer, and working in his veterinary office, never complaining of chemo, radiation and his own surgeries. He would relate that some of the chemo he was given was also medication used for sheep, and then make some remark unsuitable to repeat on this blog. He often joked that rumors in our small town had him dead several times over the years.

He was never a crank, as his name would suggest. He was so much fun to be around. He was patient and understanding with his dog and cat clients, as well as their owners.

I hope he's talking golf and Illini sports while drinking a beer with my brother somewhere out there. It was a pretty exciting game last Saturday in more ways than one. I know my husband will always remember that last wave our friend gave him just before the medics arrived.

To J. and K., our thoughts are with you.