Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Word Games: Double Entendres

A double entendre is a phrase or figure of speech that could have two meanings or that could be understood in two different ways. One meaning is innocent or innocuous The second meaning is bawdy or has sexual overtones. It may also convey a message that would be socially awkward, or even offensive, to state directly There are many examples of double-entendre in ordinary language usage and in literature.
A double entendre may use puns to convey the second meaning. Double entendres generally rely on multiple meanings of words, or different interpretations of the same primary meaning. They often use ambiguity and may be used to introduce it deliberately in a text. Sometimes a homophone (another word with the same pronunciation) can be used as a pun as well as a double entendre of the subject.
The expression, double entendre, comes from the French words double (double) and entendre ) (to hear; to understand). However, the English formulation is a corruption of the authentic French expression à double entente. Modern French uses double sens instead of the phrase double entendre because in modern French the words have real meaning to a speaker of French.
Examples of double entendres:
·       One of the earliest known examples of a double entendre found in literature dates back to the 14th century. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer used many different examples of double-entendres. One of the most famous, however, is the use of the word "queynte" to describe both the domestic and womanly duties in the home as well as the female genitalia. 
·       In William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio says, Tis no less [a good day], I
tell you; for the bawdy hand of the dial is now upon the prick of noon
·       The Charles Dickens character in Oliver Twist, Charley Bates, was frequently referred to as Master Bates (masturbates).
·       During the 1940's, Benny Bell recorded the song, Everybody Wants My Fanny. It contained the lyrics, "Everybody wants to seize my Fanny, everybody likes to squeeze my Fanny, they do everything to please my Fanny, still she loves no one but me." Fanny could be either a woman's name or a slang word for a person's backside.
·        In James Bond film, Goldfinger, there is the character Pussy Galore. (Pussy is a slang name for the female genitalia. ) And in the film, Moonraker, there was a character named Holly Goodhead.
·       In an episode of The Simpsons, when Marge was about to board a ship to Skull Island, Smithers said 'I think women and seamen don't mix." 
·       The name of the Belamy Brother's song, If I Said You Had a Beautiful Body, Would You Hold It Against Me?
·       A well-know common double entendre is, She chased him around the church and caught him by the organ.
But, double entendres aren't always sexual in nature and sometimes they are not even intentional. Some examples of accidental double-entendres that have been printed in newspapers or published on the Internet include:
·       Panda mating fails; veterinarian takes over.
·       Include Your Children When Baking Cookies.
·       Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers.
·       Miners refuse to work after death.
·       Teacher strikes idle kids.
·       New obesity study looks for larger test group.
·       Children make nutritious snacks.
·       Stolen painting found by tree.
·       Two sisters reunited after 18 years in checkout counter.
·       High school dropouts cut in half.
·       Criminals get nine months in violin case.
Double entendres, when used intentionally, can be fun and entertaining because the idea is to get a laugh both from people in the know and from people who do not get the second or the sexual meaning.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Playing with Words: New Words and New Word Meanings

Once again The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly neologism contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternative meanings for common words.
The winners are:
1. Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs.
2. Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.
3. Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.
4. Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.
5. Willy-nilly (adj.), impotent.
6. Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.
7. Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.
8. Gargoyle (n), olive-flavored mouthwash.
9. Flatulence (n.), emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.
10. Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.
11. Testicle (n.), a humorous question on an exam.
12. Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.
13. Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.
14. Oyster (n.), a person who sprinkles his conversation with Yiddishisms.
15. Frisbeetarianism (n.), (back by popular demand): The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.
16. Circumvent (n.), an opening in the front of boxer shorts worn by circumcised men.
The Washington Post's Style Invitational also asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
The winners are:
1. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer,  unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
2. Foreploy (v): Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.
3. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
4. Giraffiti (n): Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
5. Sarchasm (n): The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
6. Inoculatte (v): To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
7. Hipatitis (n): Terminal coolness.
8. Osteopornosis (n): A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
9. Karmageddon (n): It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
10. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
11. Glibido (v): All talk and no action.
12. Dopeler effect (n): The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
13. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
14. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
15. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a grub in the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the literature:
16. Ignoranus (n): A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dying Iraq War Veteran's Letter to Bush and Cheney

from: TruthDig and Huffington Post
Days after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Tomas Young, then a 22-year-old from Kansas City, Missouri, made a decision repeated by many other Americans around the country. He was going to enlist in the military in hopes of getting even with the enemies who had helped coordinate the deaths of nearly 3,000 men, women and children.
Less than three years later, Young's Army service placed him not in Afghanistan -- where then-President George W. Bush had told the nation the terrorist plot had originated -- but in Iraq. On April 4, 2004, just five days into his first tour, Young's convoy was attacked by insurgents. A bullet from an AK-47 severed his spine. Another struck his knee. Young would never walk again, and in fact, for the next nearly nine years, he would suffer a number of medical setbacks that allowed him to survive only with the help of extensive medical procedures and the care of his wife, Claudia.
The incident turned Young into one of the most vocal veteran critics of the Iraq War. He has, however, saved his most powerful criticism for what he claims will be his last. Young says he'll die soon, but not before writing a letter to Bush and former Vice President Cheney on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War.
Young said in his letter, "You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole."  He goes on to attack the "cowardice" of Bush and Cheney for avoiding military service themselves, and to encourage them to "stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness." (See entire letter below.)
Young was the subject of the 2007 documentary Body of War which was about his recovery process and the Iraq War. At a February screening of the film, Young told the audience that he planned to end his life in April.  According to the Ridgefield Press, Young announced that he would stop taking all nourishment and life-extending medications at that time. He's since said that the deterioration to his body from the injury and ensuing complications would make it physically impossible for him to commit suicide in any other way. "It's time," he told the audience over Skype, while seated beside his wife. "When I go I want be alert and aware."
Young spoke more about his decision in a recent interview with journalist and Iraq War critic Chris Hedges. “I had been toying with the idea of suicide for a long time because I have become  helpless. I cannot put on my clothes. I have to have help doing the most rudimentary things.  I have decided I did not want to go through life like that anymore. The pain, the frustration….  I felt at the end of my rope. I made the decision to go on hospice care, to stop feeding and fade away," he said. "This way, instead of committing the conventional suicide and I am out of the picture, people have a way to stop by or call and say their goodbyes. I felt this was a fairer way to treat people than to just go out with a note."
*         *         *
The Full Text of Tomas Young's Letter
To: George W. Bush and Dick Cheney
From: Tomas Young
I write this letter on the 10th anniversary of the Iraq War on behalf of my fellow Iraq War veterans. I write this letter on behalf of the 4,488 soldiers and Marines who died in Iraq. I write this letter on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been wounded and on behalf of those whose wounds, physical and psychological, have destroyed their lives. I am one of those gravely wounded. I was paralyzed in an insurgent ambush in 2004 in Sadr City. My life is coming to an end. I am living under hospice care.
I write this letter on behalf of husbands and wives who have lost spouses, on behalf of children who have lost a parent, on behalf of the fathers and mothers who have lost sons and daughters and on behalf of those who care for the many thousands of my fellow veterans who have brain injuries. I write this letter on behalf of those veterans whose trauma and self-revulsion for what they have witnessed, endured and done in Iraq have led to suicide and on behalf of the active-duty soldiers and Marines who commit, on average, a suicide a day. I write this letter on behalf of the some 1 million Iraqi dead and on behalf of the countless Iraqi wounded. I write this letter on behalf of us all—the human detritus your war has left behind, those who will spend their lives in unending pain and grief.
I write this letter, my last letter, to you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney. I write not because I think you grasp the terrible human and moral consequences of your lies, manipulation and thirst for wealth and power. I write this letter because, before my own death, I want to make it clear that I, and hundreds of thousands of my fellow veterans, along with millions of my fellow citizens, along with hundreds of millions more in Iraq and the Middle East, know fully who you are and what you have done. You may evade justice but in our eyes you are each guilty of egregious war crimes, of plunder and, finally, of murder, including the murder of thousands of young Americans—my fellow veterans—whose future you stole.
Your positions of authority, your millions of dollars of personal wealth, your public relations consultants, your privilege and your power cannot mask the hollowness of your character. You sent us to fight and die in Iraq after you, Mr. Cheney, dodged the draft in Vietnam, and you, Mr. Bush, went AWOL from your National Guard unit. Your cowardice and selfishness were established decades ago. You were not willing to risk yourselves for our nation but you sent hundreds of thousands of young men and women to be sacrificed in a senseless war with no more thought than it takes to put out the garbage.
I joined the Army two days after the 9/11 attacks. I joined the Army because our country had been attacked. I wanted to strike back at those who had killed some 3,000 of my fellow citizens. I did not join the Army to go to Iraq, a country that had no part in the September 2001 attacks and did not pose a threat to its neighbors, much less to the United States. I did not join the Army to “liberate” Iraqis or to shut down mythical weapons-of-mass-destruction facilities or to implant what you cynically called “democracy” in Baghdad and the Middle East. I did not join the Army to rebuild Iraq, which at the time you told us could be paid for by Iraq’s oil revenues. Instead, this war has cost the United States over $3 trillion. I especially did not join the Army to carry out pre-emptive war. Pre-emptive war is illegal under international law. And as a soldier in Iraq I was, I now know, abetting your idiocy and your crimes. The Iraq War is the largest strategic blunder in U.S. history. It obliterated the balance of power in the Middle East. It installed a corrupt and brutal pro-Iranian government in Baghdad, one cemented in power through the use of torture, death squads and terror. And it has left Iran as the dominant force in the region. On every level—moral, strategic, military and economic—Iraq was a failure. And it was you, Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, who started this war. It is you who should pay the consequences.
I would not be writing this letter if I had been wounded fighting in Afghanistan against those forces that carried out the attacks of 9/11. Had I been wounded there I would still be miserable because of my physical deterioration and imminent death, but I would at least have the comfort of knowing that my injuries were a consequence of my own decision to defend the country I love. I would not have to lie in my bed, my body filled with painkillers, my life ebbing away, and deal with the fact that hundreds of thousands of human beings, including children, including myself, were sacrificed by you for little more than the greed of oil companies, for your alliance with the oil sheiks in Saudi Arabia, and your insane visions of empire.
I have, like many other disabled veterans, suffered from the inadequate and often inept care provided by the Veterans Administration. I have, like many other disabled veterans, come to realize that our mental and physical wounds are of no interest to you, perhaps of no interest to any politician. We were used. We were betrayed. And we have been abandoned. You, Mr. Bush, make much pretense of being a Christian. But isn’t lying a sin? Isn’t murder a sin? Aren’t theft and selfish ambition sins? I am not a Christian. But I believe in the Christian ideal. I believe that what you do to the least of your brothers you finally do to yourself, to your own soul.
My day of reckoning is upon me. Yours will come. I hope you will be put on trial. But mostly I hope, for your sakes, that you find the moral courage to face what you have done to me and to many, many others who deserved to live. I hope that before your time on earth ends, as mine is now ending, you will find the strength of character to stand before the American public and the world, and in particular the Iraqi people, and beg for forgiveness.

Great Thinkers, Great Thoughts, No. 23

1.They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.  - Andy Warhol 
Andy Warhol (born: Andrew Warhola; 1928 -1987) was an American artist who was a leading figure in pop art. His works explore the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture and advertisement that flourished by the 1960s. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became a renowned and sometimes controversial artist. Warhol's art encompassed many forms of media, including hand drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, silk screening, sculpture, film, and music.

2. If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. - Maya Angelou
Maya Angelou (Marguerite Ann Johnson; born:1928) is an American author and poet. She has published six autobiographies, five books of essays, several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years. She has received dozens of awards and over thirty honorary doctoral degrees. Angelou is best known for her series of autobiographies, which focus on her childhood and early adult experiences. The first, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, (1969), tells of her life up to the age of seventeen. During her life she has been a pimp, prostitute, night-club dancer, cast-member of the musical Porgy and Bess, civil right activist, author, journalist, actor, writer, director, educator, lecturer, and producer of plays, movies, and public television programs. She was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2000, the Lincoln Medal in 2008, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011.


3. He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery. - Harold Wilson
James Harold Wilson, Baron Wilson of Rievaulx, (1916 -1995) was a  British Labor Party politician who served as the Prime Minister from 1964 to 1970 and 1974 to 1976, winning four general elections. He is the most recent British Prime Minister to have served non-consecutive terms. Wilson's  policies placed emphasis on efforts to increase opportunity within society, for example through change and expansion within the education system, allied to the technocratic aim of taking better advantage of rapid scientific progress. Overall, Wilson is seen to have managed a number of difficult political issues with considerable tactical skill, including such potentially divisive issues for his party as the role of public ownership, British membership of the European Community, and the Vietnam War in which he consistently resisted U.S. pressure to involve Britain and send British troops.


4.The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it. - Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus (121 AD - 180 AD) was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180. He is also considered one of the most important  Stoic philosophers. During his reign, the Roman Empire  defeated the Parthian Empire. Marcus Aurelius'  Stoic work, Meditations, written in Greek while on campaign between 170 and 180, is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.


5.This is your time and it feels normal to you, but really, there is no normal. There's only change and resistance to it and then more change. - Meryl Streep

Meryl Streep (Mary Louise Streep; born:1949) is an American actress who has worked in theater, television, and film. She is widely regarded as one of the most talented actresses of the modern era.  She has had 17 Academy Award nominations, winning three, and 27 Golden Globe nominations, winning eight, more nominations than any other actor in the history of either award. She has also won her two television Emmy Awards, two Screen Actor Guild Awards. a Cannes Film Festival award, five New York Film Critics Circle awards, two BAFTA awards, two Australian Film Institute awards, and earned the Kennedy Center Honor in 2011 for her contribution to American culture through performing arts, In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded her the National Medal of Arts.


6.There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. - Nelson Mandela
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (born:1918) is a South African anti-apartheid activist, revolutionary, politician, and the first President of South Africa (1994 to 1999). His administration focused on dismantling apartheid's legacy, and trying to eliminate racism, poverty and inequality. He served as president of the African National Congress (ANC) political party from 1991 to 1997. In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the white supremacist South African government and was sentenced to life imprisonment. He served 27 years at hard labor before he was released. Most South Africans consider Mandela "the father of nation". Mandela's autobiography which he began secretly while in prison, Long Walk to Freedom, was published in 1994. He co-won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.


7. Progress is a nice word. But change is its motivator and change has its enemies. - Robert F. Kennedy
Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy (1925 -1968) was an American politician, a Democratic Senator from the State of New York, and a civil rights activist.  He was a younger brother of President  John F .Kennedy, served as his brother's chief advisor, and from 1961 to 1964, he served as the U.S. Attorney General. He opposed the Vietnam War. In March, 1968, he began a campaign for the presidency and was a front-running candidate of the Democratic Party, appealing especially to black, Hispanic and Catholic voters. He won the California presidential primary, but that night he was shot by a Palestinian Arab, Sirhan Sirhan. Mortally wounded, he survived nearly 26 hours, then died early in the morning of June 6.


8. Change your thoughts and you change your world. - Norman Vincent Peale
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale (1898 -1993) was a minister, motivational speaker, author, and radio and television personality .  His most famous book was The Power of Positive Thinking. In 1932, he began a 52-year tenure as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. During that time the church's membership grew from 600 to over 5000, and he became one of New York's most famous preachers. Peale started a radio program, The Art of Living, in 1935, which lasted for 54 years. Under sponsorship of the National Council of Churches, he moved into television when the new medium arrived. In the meantime he had begun to edit the magazine Guideposts and to write books. His sermons were mailed monthly to interested people.

However, in 1960, Peale meddled in politics and was roundly criticized for his positions. As spokesman for 150 Protestant clergymen,, he opposed the election of John F. Kennedy as president. "Faced with the election of a Catholic," Peale declared, "our culture is at stake." In a written manifesto Peale and his group also declared JFK would serve the interests of the Catholic Church before the interests of the United States: "It is inconceivable that a Roman Catholic president would not be under extreme pressure by the hierarchy of his church to accede to its policies with respect to foreign interests," and that the election of a Catholic might even end free speech in America. Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr responded,  "Dr. Peale and his associates ... show blind prejudice." And, the Episcopal Bishop of New York, James Pike, said "Any argument which would rule out a Roman Catholic just because he is Roman Catholic is both bigotry and a violation of the constitutional guarantee of no religious test for public office." Peale subsequently went into hiding and threatened to resign from his church. The fallout continued as Peale was condemned in a statement by one hundred religious leaders and dropped as a syndicated columnist by a dozen newspapers. After the uproar the pastor backed off from further formal partisan comments.

9. You must be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 -1948) was the pre-eminent political and ideological leader of India during the Indian independence movement from the British. He was pioneer of satyagraha,  peaceful resistance to tyranny through mass civil disobedience.  Gandhi not only led India to independence but also inspired movements for civil rights and freedom around the world. Gandhi is often referred to as Mahatma (Great Soul, an honorific first applied to him by the writer, Rabindranath Tagore). In India, he is also called Bapu (Father) and officially called The Father of the Nation. Ironically, Gandhi, an advocate of non-violence, was assassinated by a Hindu extremist on January 30, 1948.
10. Nothing in the world is permanent, and we're foolish when we ask anything to last, but surely we're still more foolish not to take delight in it while we have it. If change is of the essence of existence one would have thought it only sensible to make it the premise of our philosophy. - W. Somerset Maugham 

William Somerset Maugham (1874 -1965) was a British playwright, novelist and short story writer. He was among the most popular writers of his era and reputedly the highest paid author during the 1930s. After losing both his parents by the age of 10, Maugham was raised by a paternal uncle who was emotionally cold. Not wanting to become a lawyer like other men in his family, Maugham eventually trained and qualified as a doctor. The first run of his first novel, Liza of Lambeth (1897), sold out so rapidly that Maugham gave up medicine to write full time. During World War I, he served with the Red Cross and in the ambulance corps, before being recruited in 1916 into the British Secret Intelligence Service. During and after the war, he traveled in India and Southeast Asia. All of these experiences were reflected in later short stories and novels. Among his most famous works are: Of Human Bondage (1915), The Moon and Sixpence  (1919), and Cakes and Ale: or, the Skeleton in the Cupboard (1930).

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Little Known Facts about the United States

1.     Some of Mahatma Gandhi's ashes are at the Lake Shrine in Pacific Palisades near Los Angeles. These were the only ashes allowed outside of India when he died.
2.     The biggest city in the United States is Juneau, Alaska. It covers about 3,000 square miles. That's larger than the state of Delaware.
3.     The California grizzly bear is the state's official animal. However, in 1953 when it was named, it had already become extinct. The last known California grizzly to have been seen was killed in 1922.
4.     Martin Luther King, Jr., was originally named Michael, the same as his father. When the son was five years old, his father changed both their names to Martin.
5.     In the middle of the Mojave Desert in California, there is a functioning telephone booth. It is 50 miles from Interstate 15 and in the middle of nowhere. No one remembers when and was placed there. It has a world-wide cult following now, with people from all over the world calling it and visiting it. Nicknamed the Mojave Desert Phone Booth, it's number is: (760)733-9969.
6.     The original bell, now referred to as the Liberty Bell, was cast in London and came to this shore in 1752.  It cracked a month later and was recast twice.  The time and place of the current crack is actually unknown. The Liberty Bell is in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
7.     The first American poet to achieve any notoriety was an African female slave named Phillus Wheatly. One of her poems was first published when she was 13. She wrote a poem about George Washington and later met him. She died at the age of 30 in 1784.
8.     Benjamin Franklin created his own epitaph when he was 22 years old.
9.     Amelia Earhart was the first pilot to fly solo from California to Hawaii.
10.  During the American Civil War, more soldiers died of disease than they did from gunshots and fighting.
11.  The Poinsettia  plant was named after Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico in the early 1800's. He "discovered" them in Mexico in 1825.
12.  John F. Kennedy is the only president to have died before his parents.
13.  Iced tea was first served at the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair by a British businessman who wanted to increase tea sales in America.
14.  The London Bridge, built about 160 years ago in London, was transplanted in1968 to Lake Havasu, Arizona.
15.  150 residences in New York City got the first televisions in 1936. The first program was a NBC broadcast to them and it was a Felix The Cat cartoon.
16.  The oldest capital city in the U.S. is Santa Fe, New Mexico, founded in 1610.
17.  American Indians were not made citizens of the U.S. until congress acted in 1924.
18.  Peanut butter was invented by the African-American scientist, George Washington Carver (1864-1943).
19.  The tomato was put "on trial" on September 25, 1820, in Salem, New Jersey. In front of a courthouse, Robert Johnson ate a basket of tomatoes to prove they were not poisonous. The crowd waited for him to die but he did not.
20.  The streets in Virginia City, Nevada, were once unknowingly paved with silver ore. When the locals found out what it was, they tore up the streets in a frenzy in less than 2 days.
21.  The United States captured Mexico City in 1847 during the Mexican-American War (1846-1848).
22.  The Hawaiian language alphabet has only 12 letters.
23.  The average number of people who are flying over the U.S. in any given hour is 65,000.
24.  The first novel to be typed on a typewriter in the U.S. was Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1835-1910).
25.  Only two people actually signed the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. They were John Hancock and Charles Thomson. Most of the rest signed the document on August 5, 1776. The last signature was placed on the document in 1781. It was made by Thomas McKean (1734-1817).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Shabbos Goy

from: I was the Shabbos Goy of Sterling Place and Utica Ave.
by Joe Velarde

Snow came early in the winter of 1933 when our extended Cuban family moved into the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn . I was ten years old. We were the first Spanish speakers to arrive, yet we fit more or less easily into that crowded, multicultural neighborhood. Soon we began learning a little Italian, a few Greek and Polish words, lots of Yiddish and some heavily accented English. I first heard the expression ' Shabbos is falling' when Mr. Rosenthal refused to open the door of his dry goods store on Bedford Avenue. My mother had sent me with a dime to buy a pair of black socks for my father.

In those days, men wore mostly black and Navy blue. Brown and gray were somehow special and cost more. Mr. Rosenthal stood inside the locked door, arms folded, glaring at me through the thick glass while a heavy snow and darkness began to fall on a Friday evening. "We're closed, already", Mr.Rosenthal had said, shaking his head, "can't you see that Shabbos is falling? Don't be a nudnik! Go home." I could feel the cold wetness covering my head and thought that Shabbos was the Jewish word for snow.

My misperception of Shabbos didn't last long, however, as the area's dominant culture soon became apparent; Gentiles were the minority. From then on, as Shabbos fell with its immutable regularity and Jewish lore took over the life of the neighborhood,
I came to realize that so many human activities, ordinarily mundane at any other time, ceased, and a palpable silence, a pleasant tranquility, fell over all of us. It was then that a family with an urgent need would dispatch a youngster to "get the Spanish boy, and hurry."

That was me. In time, I stopped being nameless and became Yussel, sometimes Yuss orYusseleh. And so began my life as a Shabbos Goy, voluntarily doing chores for my neighborson Friday nights and Saturdays: lighting stoves, running errands, getting a prescription for an old tante, stoking coal furnaces, putting lights on or out, clearing snow and ice from slippery sidewalks and stoops. Doing just about anything that was forbidden to the devout by their religious code.

Friday afternoons were special. I'd walk home from school assailed by the rich aroma emanating from Jewish kitchens preparing that evening's special menu. By now, I had developed a list of steady "clients," Jewish families who depended on me. Furnaces, in particular, demanded frequent tending during Brooklyn 's many freezing winters. I shudder remembering brutally cold winds blowing off the East River. Anticipation ran high as I thought of the warm home-baked treats I'd bring home that night after my Shabbosrounds were over. Thanks to me, my entire family had become Jewish pastry junkies. Moi? I'm still addicted to checkerboard cake, halvah and Egg Creams (made only with Fox's Ubetchocolate syrup).

I remember as if it were yesterday how I discovered that Jews were the smartest people in the world. You see, in our Cuban household we all loved the ends of bread loaves and, to keep peace, my father always decided who would get them. One harsh winter night I was rewarded for my Shabbos ministrations with a loaf of warm challah (we pronounced it "holly") and I knew I was witnessing genius! Who else could have invented a bread that had wonderfully crusted ends all over it -- enough for everyone in a large family?

There was an "International" aspect to my teen years in Williamsburg . The Sternbergfamily had two sons who had fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain . Whenever we kids could get their attention, they'd spellbind us with tales also introduced us to a novel way of thinking, one that embraced such humane ideas as 'From each according to his means and to each according to his needs'. In retrospect, this innocent exposure to a different philosophy was the starting point of a journey that would also incorporate the concept of Tzedakah in my personal guide to the world.

In what historians would later call The Great Depression, a nickel was a lot of mazuma and its economic power could buy a brand new Spaldeen, our local name for the pink-colored rubber ball then produced by the Spalding Company. The famous Spaldeen was central to our endless street games: stickball and punchball or the simpler stoop ball. On balmy summer evenings our youthful fantasies converted South Tenth Street into Ebbets Field with the Dodgers'  Dolph  Camilli swinging a broom handle at a viciously curving Spaldeen thrown by the Giants' great lefty, Carl Hubbell. We really thought it curved, I swear.

Our neighbors, magically transformed into spectators kibitzing from their brownstone stoops and windows, were treated to a unique version of major league baseball. My tenure as the resident Shabbos Goy came to an abrupt end after Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941. I withdrew from Brooklyn College the following day and joined the U.S. Army. In June of 1944, the Army Air Corps shipped me home after flying sixty combat missions over Italy and the Balkans. I was overwhelmed to find that several of my Jewish friends and neighbors had set a place for me at their supper tables every Shabbos throughout my absence, including me in their prayers. What mitzvoth! My homecoming was highlighted by wonderful invitations to dinner. Can you imagine the effect after twenty-two months of Army field rations?

As my post-World War II life developed, the nature of the association I'd had with Jewish families during my formative years became clearer. I had learned the meaning of friendship, of loyalty, and of honor and respect. I discovered obedience without subservience. And caring about all living things had become as natural as breathing. The worth of a strong work ethic and of purposeful dedication was manifest. Love of learning blossomed and I began to set higher standards for my developing skills, and loftier goals for future activities and dreams. Mind, none of this was the result of any sort of formal instruction; my yeshiva had been the neighborhood.
I learned these things, absorbed them actually says it better, by association and role modeling, by pursuing curious inquiry, and by what educators called "incidental learning" in the crucible that was pre-World War II Williamsburg. It seems many of life's most elemental lessons are learned this way.

While my parents' Cuban home sheltered me with warm, intimate affection and provided for my well-being and self esteem, the group of Jewish families I came to know and help in the Williamsburg of the 1930s was a surrogate tribe that abetted my teenage rite of passage to adulthood.
One might even say we had experienced a special kind of BarMitzvah. I couldn't explain then the concept of tikkun olam, but I realized as I matured how well I had been oriented by the Jewish experience to live it and to apply it. What a truly uplifting outlook on life it is to be genuinely motivated "to repair the world."

In these twilight years when my good wife is occasionally told, "Your husband is a funny man," I'm aware that my humor has its roots in the shticks of Second Avenue Yiddish Theater, entertainers at Catskill summer resorts, and their many imitators.
And, when I argue issues of human or civil rights and am cautioned about showing too much zeal, I recall how chutzpah first flourished on Williamsburg sidewalks, competing for filberts(hazelnuts) with tough kids wearing payess and yarmulkes. Along the way I played chess and one-wall handball, learned to fence, listened to Rimsky-Korsakov, ate roasted chestnuts, and read Maimonides .

I am ever grateful for having had the opportunity to be a Shabbos Goy.

Aleichem Sholom. (Yiddish: peace be upon you; literally: peace to you)

*       *        *

Joe Velarde became the fencing coach of Columbia University in the 1940's-50s and was an early advocate of civil rights in sports, eventually retiring to California.

Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, Former General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, and journalist and writer Pete Hamill were also shabbos goyim.

The Myth of Female Equality in America

When it comes to best places in the world to be a woman, it's not surprising that the U.S. falls behind nations like Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark. Scandinavian countries, after all, are famed for their impressive social contracts, with the amazing health care and child care benefits that they provide. But you might be shocked to learn that in at least one key metric, American women are being surpassed by those in Mozambique, Mali, Senegal, Tanzania, and 13 other developing nations.

The World Economic Forum's 2012 report on the global gender gap ranked the U.S. as the 22nd best country in the world. But, when it comes to wage equality, the U.S.A. drops to 61st, behind Madagascar, Cambodia and Guyana. Women in America earned 67 percent of what men earned. By comparison, women in Sweden earned 69 percent, women in Canada earned 73 percent, and women in Ireland earned 77 percent.

Dig a little deeper into the numbers and it becomes clear what least part of the problem is. In many countries, unmarried women earn more than unmarried men. In Ireland, for example, the average woman without a child earns 17 percent more than the average man. After having children, however, Irish women make more than 10 percent less, on average, than men. In the U.S., the female-to-male pay gap jumps by almost 15 percentage points after children enter the picture.

The reasons for this decline in wages aren't hard to figure out. Women with children are more likely to leave the workforce, work part time, or otherwise adjust their schedules to deal with child care. Added to this, the high cost of raising a child -- a cost that inordinately falls on women -- further cuts into household budgets.

In some countries, there are programs to mitigate these factors. Ireland, for example, has government-mandated paid maternity leave. Then again, so does every other country in the world, except for Papua New Guinea, Swaziland ... and the U.S.

And these aren't the only areas in which the U.S. falls well behind the pack. In terms of labor force participation based on gender, the U.S. is 43rd in the world, behind Uganda, Mongolia and Benin. Put another way, 68 percent of able-bodied, adult American women are at work, while 80 percent of able-bodied, adult American men are at work.

Part of this, again, is due to child-rearing, as America's lack of publicly-funded child care makes it harder for women in this country to juggle family and work. And the situation looks like it's going to get worse before it gets better. As The International Business Times reported earlier this week, the sequester budget cuts will further erode women's health care programs, Head Start classes, food stamps, and other government services that help U.S. women.

In 2011, the U.S. was ranked 17th in the world when it came to the position of women in society. By 2012, it had fallen five places. And now, with Washington's budget battles poised to slash federal programs and the social safety net, 2013 is shaping up to be another rough year for America's gender gap.
New Report on the Status of Women

The White House has released a new report entitled Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being, a statistical portrait showing how women are faring in the United States today and how their lives have changed over time.  This is the first comprehensive federal report on women since 1963, when the Commission on the Status of Women, established by President Kennedy and chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, produced a report on the conditions of women.

The Office of Management and Budget and the Economics and Statistics Administration within the Department of Commerce worked together with federal statistical agencies to create Women in America in support of the Council on Women and Girls. The information informs the efforts of the Council and is aimed at providing facts to a broad range of interested parties, including policymakers, journalists and researchers.

At a time when the Government is striving to do more with less, it is more important than ever to ensure we are investing in what works. By consolidating our data so that we can learn more about how services and programs are impacting lives, we can target our resources to deliver the best results for women, families, and all Americans, said Director of the Office of Management and Budget Jacob Lew.

This collection of data from across the federal government offers the most comprehensive look at women in America since the 1960s, Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank said. With this report, this administration can more effectively manage programs that support women and girls and America’s families, and foster the growth of the U.S. economy, she added.

Women in America focuses on five critical areas: people, families and income; education; employment; health; and crime and violence.

Highlights from the report include:

1. Women have not only caught up with men in college attendance but younger women are now more likely than younger men to have a college or a graduate degree.   Women are also working more and the number of women and men in the labor force has nearly equalized in recent years.  As women’s work has increased, their earnings constitute a growing share of family income.
2. Gains in education and labor force involvement have not yet translated into wage and income equity.  At all levels of education, women earned about 75 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2009.  In part because of these lower earnings and in part because unmarried and divorced women are the most likely to have responsibility for raising and supporting their children, women are more likely to be in poverty than men.  These economic inequities are even more acute for women of color.
3. Women live longer than men but are more likely to face certain health problems, such as mobility impairments, arthritis, asthma, depression, and obesity.  Women also engage in lower levels of physical activity.  Women are less likely than men to suffer from heart disease or diabetes. One out of seven women age 18-64 has no usual source of health care.  The share of women in that age range without health insurance has also increased.
4. Women are less likely than in the past to be the target of violent crimes, including homicide. But women are victims of certain crimes, such as intimate partner violence and stalking, at higher rates than men.

Political Anti-Women Politics

It is both amazing and frightening to admit that in the U.S. today, there is a major political party that is actively trying to undo hard-fought-for women's rights. The Republican Party is waging what has been called a War on Women., and it cannot be justified simply by sympathetic female cultural reactionaries like Phyllis Schlafly, Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. By opposing policies that will allow women full control over their own bodies, sexual choices, marital statuses, and workplace rights, The Republican Party is attempting to deny women the ability to fully control their own lives and often on religious grounds.
Typical of these are:
·       Republican radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh referenced to Sandra Fluke, and by implication any woman who supports federal guarantees of insurance coverage for female contraception, as being "a slut" and "a prostitute" for supposedly "wanting other people to pay for her sex."
·       Republicans have been responsible for the passage of state laws requiring women to undergo an unnecessary and highly intrusive ultrasound before receiving an abortion and often requiring women to pay for the procedure.
·       Republicans have been responsible for placing insurmountable obstacles and impossible to meet demands on legal abortion clinics thereby forcing them to close. Some states have only one surviving abortion clinic.
·       The proposal in Wisconsin of a particularly misogynistic law that would brand single mothers as child abusers for not being married, one put forward by a legislator who later admitted that he opposed divorce  for any reason, even arguing that women in abusive relationships should just remember what they used to love about their husbands and "re-find those reasons and get back to why they got married in the first place."
·       The fact that the field of Republican presidential candidates includes:  a male candidate who wanted to eliminate funding for Title X programs that would fund Planned Parenthood and help poor women receive everything from cancer screenings and pap smears to birth control and wellness checkups;  a male candidate who has based a large part of his condemnation of Obama's contraception insurance mandate on the grounds that "sex is supposed to be within marriage" and birth control is "a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be"; a male candidate who voted against the Family and Medical Leave Act; and a male candidate who said victims of sexual harassment "can't escape some responsibility for the problem" by not just quitting their jobs.
·       Republican U.S. Representative and Senate candidate Todd Akin of Missouri  used the phrase “legitimate rape" , called abortion providers "terrorists", alleged that it was "common practice" for abortion providers to perform abortions on women who were not actually pregnant, and maintained that "the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down" after a rape. And, Indiana State Treasurer and Senate candidate Richard Mourdock said, “Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen."
·       Attacks on women by their intimate partners have fallen since the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, although women are still much more likely to be victimized and injured by this type of violence than are men. Most Republican Senators voted against the Violence Against Women Act and still oppose it.


Unlike nations such as Great Britain, Israel, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Germany, the U.S. has never had a female head of state. At the same time, the hyperbole is one that Republicans have brought upon themselves.
Females made up 70% of victims killed by an intimate partner in 2007, a proportion that has changed very little since 1993.  Intimate partners were responsible for 3% of all violence against males and 23% of all violence against females in 2008. 
Women are at far greater risk than men for stalking victimization.
Women are marrying later and have fewer children than in the past.  A greater proportion of both women have never married, and women are giving birth to their first child at older ages.
Although more adult women live in married-couple families than in any other living arrangement, an ever-growing number of women are raising children without a spouse
More women are remaining childless, although eight out of ten adult women have children.
As the baby boom generation ages, a growing share of women are older. Because women live longer, women continue to outnumber men at older ages. 
Women are more likely to live in poverty than are adult men.  Single-mother families face particularly high poverty rates, often because of the lower wages earned by women in these families.
Women’s gains in educational attainment have significantly outpaced those of men over the last 40 years.  Today, younger women are more likely to graduate from college than are men and are more likely to hold a graduate school degree.  Higher percentages of women than men have at least a high school education, and higher percentages of women than men participate in adult education.
Educational gains among women relative to men can be seen across racial and ethnic groups and this trend is also present in other developed countries. 
Despite these gains in graduation rates, differences remain in the relative performance of female and male students at younger ages, with girls scoring higher than boys on reading assessments and lower on math assessments. 
These differences can be seen in the fields that women pursue in college. Female students are less well represented than men in science and technology-related fields, which typically lead to higher paying occupations.
The participation of women in the workforce rose dramatically through the mid-1990s, but has been relatively constant since then. 
Workforce participation among men has declined, but women are still less likely to work in the paid labor force than are men.  When women do work, they are much more likely than men to work part-time. 
Women continue to spend more of their time in household activities or caring for other family members; they also do more unpaid volunteer work than men.
Despite their gains in labor market experience and in education, women still earn less than men.  In part, this is because women and men work in different occupations, with women still concentrated in lower-paying and traditionally female occupations. 
Because women earn less and because two-earner households have higher earnings, families headed by women have far less income than do married-couple families.
Life expectancy has increased over time for women and women continue to live longer than men. 
Women are disproportionately more likely than men to be affected by certain critical health problems, including mobility impairments, chronic health conditions such as asthma, arthritis, or depression. 
 Women are less likely to be physically active and are more likely to be obese. 
Females age 12 and older are more likely than males to report experiencing depression.
Women continue to have a lower incidence of heart disease than men and are less likely than men to suffer from diabetes.
Women generally use the health care system and preventive care more than men, but many women still do not receive recommended preventive care such as pap smears or flu vaccinations.
The number of adult women without health insurance has increased over time.
Women with insurance are much more likely to have a doctor or other medical professional who provides regular care.
One out of seven women have no usual source of health care