Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humor. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

The Capitalist and the Greek Philosopher

Warning: this piece is meant to be light-hearted.

The world remains firmly stuck in the age of mass consumption and materialism.

America, Europe, and the developing world each contribute to humanity’s continuing plunder of the planet.

To be sure, ever since the 1960s, many people in the Western world have moved in a counter-cultural direction, becoming more “green.” A growing number of Americans are becoming aware that unfettered consumption is a dead end and that our voracious consumption habits need to be toned down. As to Europe, many people there have probably reached a somewhat more advanced stage of “green consciousness.”
However, all such progress is more than negated by an opposite worldwide trend, namely the all-out drive into consumerism by the emerging nations, including giants such as China and India. And of course, much of the growing green consciousness is more talk than action. America remains in the forefront of materialism.
And most telling is the continued worldwide consensus among all governments, all economists, all policy shapers, that economic growth will solve all our problems - poverty, hunger, inequality, war, crime, refugees... Read more...

Monday, November 5, 2018

Dionne Warwick

On our recent flight to Europe, we met the legendary songstress Dionne Warwick. I am not telling you about this as a silly boast (there is nothing to boast about accidentally bumping into a celebrity, which I am sure has happened to many of you, and which in and of itself means nothing). No, I am telling you this because of the very fun and funny way in which it happened, and mostly because it was an excellent learning lesson for me:

We were on our way to Brussels, Belgium. We had just spent the night crossing the Atlantic, and we landed in Dublin, Ireland, for our connection to Belgium.

We had a couple of hours to spare, so we went shopping a little bit in the duty-free area. I was standing in line to pay the cashier for some minor purchases. Next to me stood a thirty-something man, also buying some trinkets. He courteously said to me “Go ahead, sir.” I thanked him, and we started chatting a bit. He asked me where I was going, and I told him - Brussels, Belgium. I asked him where he was heading. He replied that he and his family were going to some seaside town in England...he couldn’t quite remember the name of the place...

Figures, I thought to myself. Geography isn’t Americans’ forte. Could he mean London, maybe? The guy was probably not an experienced traveler; maybe his first time in Europe? I also thought, how nice, that “common folks” can travel overseas for leisure... Read more...

Friday, October 26, 2018

Getting there is (Not) Half the Fun

My wife Anita and I have been back from Europe for a few weeks. We have finally caught up with the many errands that pile up during one’s absence, so I can now begin to tell you about some of the more “interesting” things that happened during our 4-week journey to Belgium, Paris, Switzerland and Rome.

I use the word “interesting” both in its general positive meaning , and also in the sense of the old Chinese curse wishing someone “an interesting life:”

As one gets older, international travel becomes more challenging, especially for those of us who refuse to throw in the towel, and who continue to travel independently rather than joining guided groups or going on cruises. We still rent cars and brave European traffic, we run around foreign railroad stations and airports for local connections, we take local subways and buses. We do it all, because we value authenticity. We also have friends and relatives in several of the countries to which we go. We are not just tourists. Read more...

Friday, March 2, 2018

The 2018 Winter Olympics: Rankings

93 countries participated in the  recent Winter Games in Pyongchang. 30 of them won 1 or more medals. 63 did not.

I gave each country 3 points for a gold medal, 2 for silver and 1 for bronze.  I then ranked all the countries by total points. For example, Norway had 13 gold medals, 14 silver and 11 bronze, for a total of 82 points. The US had (9 x 3) + (8 x 2) + (6 x 1) = 49, and so forth.

I then calculated each country’s PER CAPITA score. The table below ranks the 30 medal-winning countries by per capita points earned:

Thursday, February 22, 2018


That’s it. We are there. We have reached the point of insanity. I’m referring to the “gun debate” in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting.

There is now a SERIOUS conversation about arming teachers!

That the President and the NRA most prominently make such a proposal is not what strikes me as the most insane aspect of this. We are used to Donald Trump and Wayne La Pierre saying crazy things.

What I find insane is that there is a conversation about this, that there are people who think about this seriously. While most teachers (I think) would still find this idea abhorrent, there are already some teachers who are sort of warming up to it...

As my sister Madeleine says, the press isn’t doing its job either: Recently on the NewsHour, Judy Woodruff interviewed a couple of pro-gun rights high schoolers. One of them offered the imbecile argument that we have security at airports, banks and government facilities, so why not at our schools? Read more...

Friday, December 15, 2017

Dutch Santa Claus and Black Pete

The Dutch celebrate Santa Claus on December 5 - Sinterklaas Day. In recent years, this celebration has become problematic. An old custom has become controversial, namely the Zwarte Piet or “Black Pete” tradition:

The way the Dutch have celebrated Sinterklaas Day traditionally is by having him arrive by boat from Spain. I suppose this has something to do with the fact that the Netherlands were under Spanish rule until about 300 years ago.

What has made this custom problematic in the 21st century is that each year, Santa is accompanied by a bunch of helpers called “Black Petes.” These are supposed to be young black Moorish boys, perhaps formerly slaves. They are usually enacted by white people who splash on blackface. Read more...

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Sleuths: European and American

We just saw the movie “Murder on the Orient Express.” I found it quite entertaining. The cast included Kenneth Branagh, Penélope Cruz, Willem Dafoe, Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Derek Jacobi, Michelle Pfeiffer and other luminaries. It received curiously mediocre reviews, both by the audience (IMDb) and by “experts” So be it. To me, it was lovely. Maybe I am prejudiced because I remember fondly taking the Orient Express as a child.

So then, I began to think about the whole genre - crime-fiction, the whodunit, and its central character, the sleuth, the detective, the private eye, the guy who solves crimes and chases down criminals.

I grew up devouring detective novels in Europe. One of my favorites was Commissaire Maigret. He was the quintessentially European detective, created by Belgian author Georges Simenon, who published over one hundred novels featuring this character. Maigret was with the Paris Sureté, the French national police. Read more...

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Me and my Computer: Inseparable Forever

Yesterday, like every other morning, I turn on my desktop PC to start my daily routines - some requiring logging in, some not. For example, I have some bills to pay, and for that, I need to log in to “Pay Online.” Also, I have to write a short piece for a local magazine, so for that I need to open “Word.” So first, I click on “Pay Online.”

However, surprise: This morning, my computer reacts differently: Instead of opening “Pay Online,” I get a pop-up message saying: “You don’t have permission to access this folder.”

What’s going on? I’m not sure how to proceed, but since I also have an article to write, I decide to switch tasks. I’ll try online payments again later. Must be some glitch. So next, I click on “Word.” Same result, only worse: I get another pop-up message. It now says: “I just told you! You don’t have permission to access this folder!” Read more...

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Are you a Liberal, Conservative or Modereate?

Here are 18 statements. Check whether you agree or disagree with each of them.
Try not to look at the bottom of this post until you are done.
After you are done, compare your True and False  choices with those which are right according to me, listed at the bottom.

1. The more guns people purchase, the safer they are

2. Hillary Clinton committed crimes in re Benghazi          

3. There would be less war and violence  if women had more power

4. The US Government is more corrupt and inefficient than the private sector    

5. There is no such thing as Reverse Discrimination

6.Terrorism is the most serious problem we face

7. Donald Trump has no business being President

8. The high-speed bullet trains are  a boondoggle, a waste of money

9. Hillary Clinton would have been the most competent, honest and  graceful president

10. The more people you lock up, the safer society is

11. The Republican Party should be abolished

12. Capitalism and free-market economics  make society prosperous and equal

13. It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s who count the votes

14. It should be illegal to sit or kneel during the national anthem                                                      

15. Gays can be cured of their illness

16. Americans’ taxes are too high

17 American leadership has benefitted the world

18. Climate change is real and it is man-made

Right choices, according to me:
False: 1,2,4,6,8,10, 12, 14, 15, 16      
True: 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, 17, 18

A perfect left-wing score  is 18.
The higher your score is, the more left-leaning you are.
The lower your score is, the more conservative you are. An avid Trumpite would score 2. He would miss every right answer except statements #13 and #17.
A score of 10  or thereabouts  indicates that you are a moderate. leave comment here

© Tom Kando 2017;All Rights Reserved

Friday, August 25, 2017

Game of Thrones:Metaphor for America Anno 2017

 By now, I am no longer the only one who sees a parallel between the Game of Thrones’ White Walkers and Donald Trump’s “base.” But the analogy occurred to me quite some time ago, so I still claim originality.

The epiphany hit me several weeks ago. The analogy fits. I suddenly realized that Game of Thrones is about the titanic struggle between the resurgent forces of neo-fascism in America, and the rest of us.

In this show, the greatest threat of all are the White Walkers. I suddenly realized that these represent the Trump base!

Think about it: On August 12, we saw the Trump base in action again. A group of white supremacist-KKK-David Duke-following-confederate-flag-waving neo-Nazis held a violent demonstration, murdering an innocent young woman and hurting many others. Read more...

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Overseas Travel: Fun, with some Pain

 My wife Anita and I go to Italy a lot, usually by way of Holland and France. My mother (now 104 years old) lives in Holland, so each year we first spend a couple of weeks with her and then we travel South. We feel that pound for pound, Italy has more to offer tourists than any other country, closely followed by France.

Intercontinental travel gets harder with age. But we haven’t thrown in the towel yet by just going on cruises and organized tours. We still run around Europe independently by car, by train and by airplane. This usually leads to some unsettling experiences.

The last time we flew to Rome from Holland, we had our first “interesting” experience immediately upon landing at Fumicino airport late in the evening:

After deplaning, we both hit the first toilet we could find, a fairly common practice. Then, we proceeded towards baggage claim. Only AFTER we were outside the security area did we realize that Anita - who is diabetic - had inadvertently left her insulin pack in the bathroom which she had just visited. Read more...

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Childhood Memories

I was born in Budapest, but we fled from Hungary to France two years after the war. I was seven then, my sisters were five. We were refugees and our life in Paris was difficult. My parents couldn’t find jobs. Soon my father went back to Hungary, reasoning that he would be better off living under Communism with a job than under Capitalism without one. That was the last we saw of him.

My mother did finally find a job working in a photo lab on the Boulevard Saint Germain, in the 6th arrondissement. She had to be at the lab from early morning to eight at night. She had a nearly two-hour long commute each way, combining a long walk, then a bus, then twenty-five subway stops.

We didn’t see much of our mother during those years. Sometimes she paid for a horrid, witch-like care-taker (with an ugly mustache). We also spent time in cheap boarding houses. At times, we simply took care of ourselves, feeding ourselves and putting ourselves to bed. My mother would get home well after ten. How well I remember her gentle good-night kiss, how happy it made me, even as it woke me up.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Tower of Babel, Cacophony, or Multilingualism on Testosterone?

So this morning I Skyped with my family in Holland (actually, it was morning for me, evening for them).

My mother Ata lives in Holland. She will turn 104 in a few months. This week, my sister Madeleine, her daughter, her son-in-law and her grandson were all visiting Ata. They are all from America, but my sister Madeleine is an immigrant, like me.

In addition, there were a couple of Dutch ladies there, wonderful women who volunteer to provide my mother with immense assistance. Altogether, there were more than half a dozen people in my mother’s Dutch flat while I was skyping with her from Sacramento.

So this skyping event was exceptionally international, which is not unusual in my family.

We were all born in Hungary. I was seven when we left that country, and my twin sisters were six. The three of us soon forgot Hungarian, but it has always remained our mother’s primary tongue.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

On Phobias, Philias and other Etymologies

Like most people, I have some phobias, as well as a number of philias: This means that there are things which I like, and things which I dislike. Duh.

Etymologically, the words we use for people’s (pathological) likes and dislikes (or fears), usually contain the postfixes “-phobia” and “-philia,” or the prefix “mis-.”

These are derived from Greek:
Phobos: Fear
Philia: (Brotherly) Love
Misos: Hatred

For example: Philadelphia: The City of Brotherly Love:
Philos = Friend
Adelphos = Brother

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

President Donald Trump's Inauguration Speech as 45th President of the United States, January 20, 2017

My fellow Americans.
This is a new dawn for America.

First, I want to thank you all, you amazing American people who voted for me and put your trust in me, to lead the country back to being great again.

You have chosen the best man. As your president, I will do amazing things for you. We are not gonna pussy-foot anymore with China, with Mexico, with the Arabs or with all those other foreigners. When I am in charge, America will come first and not last, like during my predecessor (yeah, that’s a great word I like to use now, it means “the guy before me,” which was Obama, who by the way was never born in this country).

So here is the thing: You voted for me because you hate those liberals who are politically correct, right? Well, I got good news for you: I also hate them, and I promise you: I am not gonna be politically correct. And by the way, I am not gonna appoint women, blacks, Mexicans and other people just because they are black, or women, or some other thing. I will appoint the best man for the job, whoever that might be.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Of Eggs and Chickens

Today was another gorgeous Indian summer day with the smell of fall in the air. The streets will soon be covered with a thick layer of multi-colored leaves, helping the soil to replenish itself in the woods and the yards.

It was a perfect day for a stroll down the street to the local Farmer's Market where I go every week, hunting for pasture-raised eggs for my husband. I myself, am an eggtotateler because I can no longer ignore the horrors of factory farmed chickens.

This time I saw a booth with 2 large posters. On the right, a picture of a flock of red chickens posing for the camera, in a vast green pasture. An identical photograph of a green pasture on the left was filled with white chickens, all happily prancing about. I knew before I read the captions that the red chickens were 'layers' and the white ones' broilers'.

The farm stand sold eggs for $6 for a dozen. You can call this either a steal or a rip-off, depending on your point of view, but I could live with the idea of paying 50 cents for an egg, knowing how much time and effort it took that red chicken to lay it. As I took out my wallet, I asked the lady how many chickens she had on this local organic farm of hers. About 1700, she said. Read more...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Stupidities on the Right and the Left

Today, I’ll just bring to your attention a few randomly selected stupidities I recently came across in the media or in informal chitchat - just for the fun it:

1. Putin is the World’s Most Powerful Person:

A few weeks ago, Forbes Magazine ranked Vladimir Putin as the world’s most powerful person. In second place was Germany’s Angela Merkel, in third place President Obama. The other seven among the top ten were the pope, the head of China, Bill Gates, the head of the US Federal Reserve, the head of Britain, the head of India, and the head of Google. (See The World's Most Powerful People). This is a stupid list. Especially stupid is Putin’s number one ranking: he heads up a country whose Gross Domestic Product is one fifteenth that of the US. Russia’s economy is ranked thirteenth in the world. It is behind Italy, South Korea, about equal to Mexico and Spain, and only slightly larger than that of the Netherlands.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On Being Liberal, Conservative, Nice or an A... hole

Here is a question for you: Is there a correlation between how nice a person is and how liberal?

Logically, liberals should be nicer than conservatives. They believe in giving to the poor, in sharing wealth, in making love and not war, in turning the other cheek, in kumbaya. Conservatives should be mean. They believe in competition, the survival of the fittest, in selfishness, in fighting wars, etc. 

But then, why do I know so many liberal a....holes and so many nice conservatives?

During my forty years as a professor, I had many conflicts with many colleagues. Several of them were a...holes, and as everyone knows, most professors are liberal.

On the other hand, many conservative people are as kind as can be; they are the salt of the earth. So there are four possibilities: 1. Nice liberals. 2.Liberal a....holes. 3. Nice conservatives. 4. Conservative a....holes.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Twenty Four James Bonds

We recently saw the latest James Bond - SPECTRE, with Daniel Craig. It’s a fine movie. It is the usual combination of extreme violence, sex, intrigue and travelogue. The scenery includes Rome, London, the Moroccan desert and the Austrian Alps. I won’t reveal the plot because I don’t want to be a spoiler, and because I don’t think I can figure out the plot. It doesn’t matter, because most of the pleasure is visual, including spectacular fights on trains, boats, helicopters and buildings, and gorgeous women such as the Italian Monica Bellucci (who happily makes love to Bond after he murders her husband) and the French Léa Seydoux (as the daughter of a terrorist but now an ally and lover of Bond’s).

As you see, much of the plot is nonsensical, and requires suspension of judgment, but this has always been so with Bond movies, and it hasn’t been detrimental to their enjoyment.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Roman Holiday; Eataly

So as I was saying, our annual European trip usually ends in Rome. All roads lead to Rome.The eternal city; the immortal city; the city of cities; Roma Eterna.

For my wife Anita and me, this has become a tradition (See her article, Falling in Love with the Eternal City). And because we have spent so much time there over the years, we never rush about, cramming a dozen sites and museums into a three-day visit. Instead, we go for a leisurely nine or ten days. We eat out, but we also picnic a lot. We may go back to the Capitoline Museum (the best antiquity museum anywhere), but we don’t have to re-enter the Colosseum every year, bumping into another three million tourists. We do stroll around the Forum every year.

We always take in an evening outdoor concert. Virtuoso live performances of Vivaldi, Chopin, Mozart, Puccini, Beethoven, Liszt and others, inside the Teatro Marcello, which is an amphitheater as well preserved and as magnificent as the famous Colosseum built by Emperor Vespasian, just slightly smaller. One year, we saw Verdi’s Aida in the Baths of Caracalla, including live camels parading across the stage.