Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How to best see Paris, Las Vegas, Rome, Venice, Maui and other Places

By Tom and Anita Kando

We have traveled a lot. Been in all five continents. Learned a lot, both from our mistakes and from our successes. Now, when we see people spending their travel time and money the wrong way, it upsets us. Such a waste.

The biggest mistake people make when they travel is LOCATION. There should be a travel adage similar to the one in Real Estate - Location, Location, Location.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Beware of Awareness

by Madeleine Kando

Being aware of something is not as straightforward as you might think. Being too aware of yourself, for instance, is not really such a good idea. If I was aware of everything about myself, it would be so lethal to my self-esteem that I probably would commit hara-kiri on the spot.

My brain is more like a piece of Swiss cheese, with big holes that represent blind spots to protect myself from too much awareness, too much consciousness. Read more...

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Is the Dollar Collapsing, and are Americans Parasites?

By Tom Kando

Here is a disturbing film on You Tube, "The Inevitable Collapse of the Dollar". It starts with a parable: 6 or 7 people are stranded on an island. They are all Asian, except for one American. So they divide up the chores - one Asian is in charge of fishing, another one hunting, another one gathers firewood, etc. The American's job is to eat.

Monday, June 20, 2011


by Madeleine Kando

Before our modern day 'enlightenment' period, poor people were seen as not that different from criminals. They were usually put in 'workhouses' (poor houses) where their clothes, their families and any other personal belongings were taken from them. They were set to work for no pay and beaten if they didn't do exactly what they were told.

There were a lot more poor people relatively speaking than now. It didn't matter if they were poor because they were handicapped or sick and couldn't work. Poor was poor. Charlie Chaplin lived in a poor house with his mother when he was a child.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What is my Name?

By Tom Kando

Yesterday, I went to pick up a prescription drug which my doctor had faxed to the local pharmacy. The pharmacy clerk asked me for my name, and I gave it to her - Tom Kando - adding that the prescription had been faxed in the previous day by Dr. Pollock. She couldn’t find it, so I suggested that she also look under “Cando,” with a C.

It’s happened more than once that when I give my name to someone in an office or on the phone, their brain goes on auto-pilot before I get a chance to spell my name, and I am forever entered as Cando. This can cause a lot of aggravation later, when dealing with the IRS, insurance companies, banks, airlines, etc. So I have learned, whenever asked for my name by some clerk, to reply as follows:
“My name is spelled K - A - N - D - O,” and then I say the word - “Kando.”

And sure enough: yesterday, as soon as the pharmacy clerk looked under “Cando,” she found my medication. She gave it to me and said, somewhat irritated:

“You should have given me the proper name in the first place. It would have made things a lot easier.”

I apologized for the inconvenience, but added that the proper name is, in fact “Kando.”

“I am sorry sir,” she insisted, “That is not your name. The prescription order form says that your name is ‘Cando’. ”
“My name is ‘Cando’?” I inquired, somewhat surprised...
“Yes, that is your name. Surely your doctor knows your name, doesn’t he?”
“You are absolutely right,” I said, trying to sooth her feelings, “my physician does know my correct name...”
“Then why didn’t you give me your true name to begin with? The one on the medical record. We can’t just go by all sorts of different names, you know...”
“True,” I admitted, “one can’t just go by all sorts of different names...”

Then, as an afterthought, I asked:

“By the way, can you show me the fax the doctor sent you, just to see how my name is spelled?”
“No sir, we are not allowed to do that, sir. The Federal privacy law.”
“I understand,” I replied, “privacy is important.”

I went home. It was a total defeat. I have to hand it to the clerk. She was a pro. She had me checkmated - on all fronts. leave comment here

Friday, June 17, 2011

More, or Less?

by Madeleine Kando

There are now so many 'professions' out there that entitles someone to tell you how to eat, drink, walk, breathe, etc. that we have totally lost confidence in our own common sense.

Nutritionists, personal trainers, diet consultants, shopping advisers, TV celebrities.. they all feed on our gullibility, our insecurity and our childish notion that by doing the 'right thing', following the rules, we will buy our ticket to a happy, healthy immortal life.

I try not to get brainwashed by the barrage of unsolicited, unnecessary, overstuffed, full of hot air kind of advice that comes at us from these so-called experts.

I was listening to my daily fix of NPR on my way home, when I happened to catch a program on weight loss. ‘Everybody knows that the best way to loose weight is to exercise’ said the announcer. ‘Really? What happened to eating less? Wouldn’t that be the first line of defense against gaining weight?’

You see, because we believe in a magic bullet, our immediate reaction when we have a problem, is to add something to the equation. Which is strange: in science, a problem is usually solved by going back to the basics, making the equation simpler, not more complicated.

Not so in our personal life. We are lactose intolerant? We add a pill to our daily routine. Who would ever think of not drinking milk? Out of the question.

We sweat too much? We add deodorant to your daily grooming routine. Drinking less so you have less moisture in your body is not an option for most people.

How many of us menopausal females have had estrogen shoved down our throat? 'It helps with menopausal hot flashes' says my gynecologist. What happened to the centuries full of women who cruised through menopause and survived the hot flashes?

This obsession with 'more' goes way beyond my nagging about nutritionists. Too many MRIs, CAT scans, X rays. Too many procedures, which is good for the doctor's pocket book, not so good for the cost of health care to society.

'Less' is such a negative word in our culture. 'More' has been stamped into our psyche from the day we were born, so no wonder we are suspicious of solving problems by doing less. And doing nothing is considered downright stupid. Although I cannot keep track of how many problems I solved because I just waited it out.

I was going to write a long story to convince you that less is better than more, but that would defeat the purpose of my argument, so I will follow my own advice and stop right here. But feel free to comment abundantly. leave comment here

European E. coli Outbreak Holds Lessons for the U.S. Government

by Jeremy Fordham

The European E. coli outbreak has people on both sides of the Atlantic on high alert. Americans have been critical of the way the crisis has been handled, but there isn't any reason to presume that the U.S. government would be any better prepared to handle this particular strain of E. coli than the EU. After all, the U.S. is also dealing with its own, less-widespread strain of E. coli as it is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Once again: Europe and America

By Tom Kando

I just finished a fine book by the Dutch author-photographer Sacha De Boer, “Retour New York-Amsterdam.” It consists of illustrated interviews with sixteen artists, half of whom are Dutch artists currently residing in New York, and the other half American artists who now live in Amsterdam.

There are many comparisons made between life in the two cities, and by extension comparisons between Europe and America. To be sure, it is wrong to see New York as representative of America. Many Europeans visit New York and then think that they have seen America. So these sixteen artists’ opinions about the pros and cons of life in Holland and in America should be taken with a grain of salt.

Still, based on my own experience as an immigrant from Europe, I find many of these people’s judgments compelling: For example, Charlotte Dumas, a Dutch animal photographer who now lives in Manhattan, notes the greater harshness of American attitudes towards animals.

Jimmy Rage, who moved from Jamaica to New York to Amsterdam, shares his negative experiences with American cops, and his appreciation of the generous public support for the arts in the Netherlands.

David Lindberg, an American sculptor who moved to Amsterdam, also feels that survival is tougher in New York - and by implication in America.

But opinions are not one-sided. Dutch Photographer Liselot van der Heijden, now living in New York, rightly ridicules American politics under Bush, but she (also rightly) loves New York.

American Sculptor Charlie Citron, now living in Amsterdam, agrees with others that Europe is kinder to artists, but on the other hand he also notes a stifling “stuffiness” in the old country.

Dutch Graphic artist Elise Tak moved to New York because she found it liberating, providing greater freedom, less judgment and less mean-spirited gossip than Amsterdam.

Dutch painter Sjoerd Doting, eyewitness to 9-11, also feels that Americans (at least New Yorkers) are less judgmental than the Dutch.

I have to agree with so much of this, and many other similar observations by others. I have made it a lifetime hobby to compare life on the two sides of the Atlantic. Both societies have their strengths and their weaknesses. Europeans are more indolent, less ambitious, spiritually more “fat,” less ready to fight - over oil, ideology or a traffic altercation. More pacifistic and therefore less brave, at least in a primeval physical sense. Life in Europe is easier and, yes, in many ways more pleasurable.

America is liberating. It’s vast and anonymous. There is an “I-don’t-give-a-damn-who-you-are-attitude.” Live and let live - or die. It can be a frighteningly cruel society, but it has all the possibilities, it leaves you alone, it lets you do things. Take your pick. I did. leave comment here

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mea Culpa: Europe's Guilt Complex

by Madeleine Kando

If you are a liberal and live in an enlightened democracy like the US or Europe, it is politically incorrect to say anything positive about your own culture. It is much more fashionable to self-criticize. After all, the West, with its history of colonialism, racism and fascism has caused tremendous suffering around the world.

No wonder we have such a low opinion of ourselves. We have to atone for our past sins by castigating ourselves and be humble. In Europe this feeling of guilt is especially strong. The European Union was created out of a sense of guilt for what happened during the Second World War. Which is good, right? One nation can not fight itself.

But, as my husband Hans likes to say 'guilt is a bad motivator for action'. Guilt is paralyzing. It turns action, good or bad, towards the self and can not solve any problems in the world.

In his book 'The Tyranny of Guilt', the French author Pascal Bruckner, describes how Europeans are so guilt ridden that they find it almost natural that terrorist acts are committed against them, against their affluence, against their evil past. In other words, they deserve it.

But Bruckner reminds us that the West is also responsible for abolishing slavery, for Women's rights and freedom from Fascism. It has taken great determination, a rock solid conviction in the 'justness' of these causes. Now we see those values being attacked from within, like a rot in an old vessel.

Because Europe has washed its hands off of world affairs, afraid of doing more damage, it is up to the United States to do the dirty work. But rather than criticize America retrospectively for fighting its battles, Europe could show America how to 'keep a cool head and find moderation'.

Bruckner also addresses the subject of Multiculturalism in Europe, which has all but failed. Although the intention was to protect minorities from discrimination, all it has accomplished is to create huge ethnic ghettos, like the 'bidonvilles' of Paris, which imprison men, women and children by isolating them in their own culture. By trying so hard to protect other people's cultures, the Europeans have forgotten how to protect the individuals within those cultures. Multiculturalism is the opposite of 'assimilation'. So, which is better, to live in a melting pot like America, or in a salad bowl like France?

Bruckner's final words of advice to Europe are: 'Don't let the debt to the dead win out over the duty to the living.'
leave comment here

Friday, June 10, 2011

What is more important: a crotch shot, or the global economy?

By Tom Kando

The titillation du jour is New York Congressman Anthony Weiner’s “sex scandal.” Comedians (Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon, etc.) are having a heyday. It’s the number one topic of conversation around the water cooler.

How moronic! A politician sent a picture of his crotch to a woman. Big deal! Our obsession with such pseudo-issues is a reflection of ourselves. The disease is in the beholder - our media culture.

Men do certain things, some of which are not cool, and some of which are downright bad. But most of the so-called scandals which crop up so often only belong to the not-cool category:

President Clinton had his Lewinsky moment.
John Edward and Arnold Schwartzenegger have love children.
Eliot Spitzer frequented a prostitute.
Congressman Christopher Lee sent a picture of his torso to a woman.
Now Congressman Anthony Weiner sent a picture of his crotch to a woman.
On and on.

Note that I did not include Former French IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s misbehavior in my list. His (alleged) actions belong to the “bad” category. They should not be trivialized.

But the other ones, and dozens like them? They should be trivialized.
Because you see, our culture’s inordinate preoccupation with these events means two things:

1. As a society, we are still hung up on sex, in a less than fully healthy way. I don’t know where this comes from. Maybe our Puritan origins. For whatever reason, our culture’s attitude towards sex is still hypocritical and unhealthy. Marlene Dietrich summed it up superbly a long time ago, when she said that sex is “a fact everywhere, an obsession in America.”

Now don’t misunderstand me: We are by no means the most screwed up culture in this regard:
In regions where archaic Islam still dominates (e.g. rural Pakistan) men’s attitudes are disastrous. Catholicism also generates grotesque sexual situations - from pandemic pedophilia among the clergy to the proscription of birth control. And at the other end of the spectrum, little progressive countries like Denmark and Holland go too far with their laissez-faire, which can also lead to sexual exploitation.

But back to America:

2. In our country, these so-called sex scandals serve as convenient distractions for the power structure. We argue over, and vote politicians in and out of office, on the basis of their private behaviors more than their public effectiveness. Doesn’t make sense! Surely brilliant presidents such as John Kennedy and Bill Clinton were not less effective as a result of their private dalliances?

Our political leaders can lead us into illegal wars, crash the world economy, steal billions, engage in illegal torture, ruin entire countries. No problem. But woe unto them if they send a dirty picture. Nuts. leave comment here

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Anthony Weiner: Stupid is as Stupid Does

by Marc Hersch

In hi-tech America the art of doing stupid things is being lifted to new heights. Take Anthony D. Weiner's predicament. It's enough to make the strongest of men cringe in horror. It's one thing to have your mom or wife find porno magazines under your bed or to make a drunken fool of yourself flirting with a pretty receptionist at the office party. It's another thing to act out your libidinous male fantasies on the Worldwide Web. What was that man thinking!

Come to think of it, what are we all thinking? No one has a lock on doing stupid stuff but the sad fact of life reads... Everything you say and do in public can and will be used against you in the court of public opinion.

So why is it that we have so embraced the Worldwide Web as a place to make public everything we say and do? Are we crazy?

As if Facebook and Twitter weren't enough, God himself in the person of Steve Jobs, announced just yesterday that the age of "cloud computing" is now here!

That's right! Jobs is pushing the idea that everything we do and say and everywhere go and stay can now be recorded by personal computers, cell phones, and GPS equipped PDA's and stored...

(Shouting now) ON THE WORLDWIDE WEB!

I'm a pretty smart guy--smart enough to know that some of the things I do turn out being pretty stupid, but doing everything on the Word wide Web raises the meaning of stupidity to a whole new level.

Stupid is as stupid does!
leave comment here

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Playing With Words

By Tom Kando

To be human is, above all, to name things. Other things have been mentioned as our defining feature - the opposing thumb, our large brain, our large penis, the fact that we make love ventrally, etc. But our real distinction is that we use language; that we label things, label each other, label ourselves. It is through labels that we identify things, people, ourselves. It is through labels that we decide what things and people are, including ourselves. Of course, words are also used for obfuscation.

So now, for the fun of it (voor de grap), I am going to tell you some of the things I am:

I am a cis-gendered male born in Eastern Europe during World War Two. As a child, I was a philatelist, but I kicked the habit early. Although I emigrated to the US, I always remained a xenophile. Sometimes I even suffer from Europhilia, but a quick trip across the Atlantic usually cures me of that. Professionally I have been a Symbolic Interactionist. Politically, I used to be a RINO, but that was years ago. My tastes are sometimes Habsburgian, and I tend be a monovore. I sometimes suffer from Ypologistophobia.


I am a male who is comfortable with his gender (as opposed to someone who is trans-gendered), born in Eastern Europe during World War Two. As a child, I used to collect stamps, but I kicked the habit early. Although I emigrated to the US, I always remained attracted to foreigners. Sometimes I even suffer from a bias in favor of European culture, but a quick trip across the Atlantic usually cures me of that. Professionally I have been a sociologist who specializes in social psychology. Politically, I used to be a Republican in name only but that was years ago. My tastes are sometimes gaudy, and I tend to eat the same kind of food most of the time. I sometimes suffer from a fear of computer technology. leave comment here

Friday, June 3, 2011

Oh la la! What to Do with the 'Vous'?

by Madeleine Kando

One of the parents at my dance studio asked me: 'Tu donnes des le├žons le lundi prochain?' (Do you hold classes next Monday?) I was a little offended. I am her child's teacher and did not expect to be addressed with the familiar 'tu' form for the word 'you'. But I forgave her because I knew she was from Canada. Had she been French, I would not have let her off so easy.

One of the advantages of living in an English speaking country is that there is only one word for 'you'. But many languages have two distinct words. In French the terms are to 'tutoyer' and 'vouvoyer' someone.

'Tutoie-moi' means 'don't be so formal'. It's quite a tricky affair though, if French isn't your native language. Only bungling foreigners are forgiven when they mix up the terms 'tu' and 'vous'.

Originally the term 'vous' was only used in the plural (as in you guys). It became the 'polite' form of the singular 'you' because plurality is equivalent to power and prestige. 'If there is more than one of me' thought the king, 'it will make me even more important'. So he ordered his subjects to address him with 'vous'.

Once the King acknowledged his plurality, he had to refer to himself as ‘We’. Louis XIV dismissed visitors to whom he granted an audience by saying: “Nous vous permettons de vous retirer.” (We permit you to leave). Pompous professors still refer to themselves in the plural: “As we indicated to the reader in the preceding chapter….” This bs is called pluralis majestatis.

In present-day French politics the 'vous'and the 'tu' are used as powerful tools to manipulate, convince, insult and denigrate. The 'tu' polilticians are liberal leftists who see each other as equals. The 'vous' politicians are conservative. These two camps spend an inordinate amount of time deciding whether they should 'tutoyer' each other or not. It took these two very eminent politicians several minutes of precious airtime to argue over this, the issues at hand being completely forgotten: Le tu et le toi en pollitique

When Sarkozy asked Chirac whether they should 'tutoyer' each other, Chirac answered 'Si vous voulez'.

You would think that having two forms for 'you' would give people more opportunity to be polite. But the opposite is true. To use a 'tu' when a 'vous' is expected can be very insulting and it is like a slap in the face. French politicians like to insult each other in public. In that regard American politicians are incredibly well-mannered and restrained. But I have a feeling that being snobbish, aggressive and arrogant are qualities that the French public doesn’t find particularly negative.

Not too long ago long-time married couples still addressed each other with 'vous'. In 'La Chamade' a 1968 movie, after a long night of passionate love making, Michel Piccoli asks his wife (played by Catherine Deneuve): 'Vous voulez une cigarette?' Weird.

To graduate from a 'vous' to a 'tu' in a relationship has to be negotiated on an individual basis and there are really no hard and fast rules. It's like two countries who have to trust each other enough to establish diplomatic relationships.

But if you are not sure, just stick to 'vous'. Don't take it too far though. You don't want to be asking your two-year old: 'Vous voulez un cookie?' (would your grace like a cookie?). But it is always a bigger blunder to 'tutoyer' someone inappropriately than to 'vouvoyer' them.

leave comment here

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

How Can We Best Support Our Troops?

by Tom Kando

The news (E.g. the Sacramento Bee and the Washington Post, May 31, 2011) told us again today what most moderately well-informed people already know: The country is going broke because of its insanely high military expenditures: The war in Afghanistan alone requires $113 billion per year, the one in Iraq another $85 billion, for a total of $200 billion on the two wars combined.

The base budget for federal military spending in 2012 is $708 billion. However, many parts of the Iraq and Afghan wars are funded through supplementary appropriations outside the Federal Budget, so they are not included in the military budget figures.

See: Military budget of the United States

Also, there are many additional defense-related expenditures, such as FBI-Counter terrorism, Veterans Affairs, Interest incurred on debt in past wars, etc. Estimates of total military and military-related spending range from $1.030 trillion to $1.415 trillion.

The total amount the federal government plans to spend in 2012 is $3.82 trillion. Thus, military spending makes up 37% of federal spending.

Of course, the feds spend much more than they collect, as the Republicans incessantly remind us: Uncle Sam will only collect $2.17 trillion in taxes, running a deficit of $1.65 trillion. (See: 2011 United States federal budget

If you compare the military budget with federal receipts, it makes up 65% of those! In other words, 2 out of every 3 tax dollars you hand over to Uncle Sam goes to defense. I hope this makes you feel safe.

Most reasonably informed people know that America’s military spending exceeds that of all other countries of the world combined. No need to rehash this.

A more interesting factoid is this: Instead of killing and dying in Afghanistan, we could hand over the $113 billion to the Afghans. Each of them would thus receive $4000 every year. This would raise their per capita income to that of countries such as Jordan, Samoa and Paraguay. We seem to be so keen on this damn “nation-building.” Why not give every Afghan man, woman and baby a $4000 check every Christmas (or every Eid ul Fitr). Maybe that’ll enable them to make a go of it. And if not, we’ll spend no more money than we do now, and at least there’ll be less bloodshed, no?

Memorial Day is a good opportunity to ask ourselves: How can we best support our troops? The answer: Bring them home. leave comment here

How to entertain - and not entertain - foreign guests

by Tom Kando and Anita Kando

As European-Americans, we have hosted European visitors to America innumerable times, and we have also been hosted in Europe countless times. These mutual visits have been a two-way street and a lifetime of enjoyment for both sides. But people make mistakes.

Many people don’t understand that when one visits another culture, thousands of miles away, one should be exposed to that culture’s fortes - not to its pathetic attempts to replicate the visitor’s own culture.

Yet, over and over again I have seen (1) American hosts showcasing to their European guests American imitations of European things, and, conversely, (2) European hosts treating their American visitors to European mimicry of American things.

The impulse is commendable. Hosts want their guests to be comfortable, to feel at home. That is their idea of hospitality. But it’s a mistake.

Let me give you some examples:

1. When our daughters went to Belgium on a three-week student exchange program, their hosts desperately searched for, and finally located, a Mexican restaurant, thinking that this would make the girls feel more at home, like in California. Our daughters reported that this was the worst Mexican food they had ever tasted. On the other hand, when their hosts took them to eat mountains of mussels with Belgian fries buried in mayonnaise, they had the feast and the delight of their lives.

2. Conversely, when the Belgian exchange students came to spend three weeks in California, some of them were taken by their hosts to (1) a Hershey chocolate factory in Oakdale and (2) a Budweiser beer factory! Of course, the students (most of them experienced Belgian beer guzzlers) laughed: You see, Belgium makes the world’s best chocolate, and the world’s best beer, bar none.

So here is my advice to anyone in such a situation - on both sides of the Atlantic:
If you are a European hosting American visitors:
Say you are Dutch and you are hosting friends from the US: show them the Keukenhof tulip fields, the Rijks Museum, the Van Gogh Museum, the Red Light District, the polders dotted with windmills, show them anything Dutch, but don’t drag them to the Great American Disaster - a burger joint in central Amsterdam. Don’t try to compete with American hamburgers, you can’t win.
Don’t drag them to a shopping mall. Theirs are bigger.
Don’t try to impress them with your wildlife. They got mountain lions, coyote and rattle snakes outside their backyards.

If you are an American hosting European visitors: Say you live in California: drive them to Disneyland, fly them to Vegas, show them Death Valley, the Grand Canyon, Lake Mead, Hoover Dam, but don’t shove the Sacramento Crocker Museum down their throat, or even the San Francisco De Young museum. Don’t try to compete with the Louvre, the British Museum or the Museum of Natural History in Vienna. You can’t win!

Don’t drag them to the Hearst Castle. It pales in comparison with Versailles or Schonbrunn. It will bore them.
Don’t take your Parisian friend to Sacramento’s best French restaurant.
Don’t take your Italian female relative shoe shopping.
Don’t offer American cheese to Dutch guests.

Play to your strength, not to your weakness! Europe and America are both magnificent, each in their own way. Don’t bring coal to Newcastle. People don’t travel to see poor replicas of their homelands! leave comment here