Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Saga of the Wardrobe



Back at the beginning of May, I bought a wardrobe cabinet to replace my old wardrobe cabinet. I bought it from a popular furniture chain that promises you real wood at reasonable prices; you order it in the showroom in your choice of colors and finishes, and a few weeks later, they deliver it.

When they delivered it three weeks later, there was a crack in the middle of the right-hand door. The delivery guys took the door off the hinges and brought it back to the factory for replacement.

Three weeks later, the delivery guys returned with the new door. But the hinges on the door did not line up with the hinges on the cabinet. To remedy this, the delivery guys drove a very large screw through the hinge on the door, and then through the front of the door. To top it off, the varnish looked as if someone had applied it to the middle of the door by the handful, using their hand.

I called the store and said that this, too, was unacceptable. The delivery guys took the door off the hinges and brought it back to the factory for replacement.

So three weeks after that, a guy from the factory, an installer, comes over with two brand-new matching doors. I stayed home from work for the day because the installers do not work on the weekends. I cleared my calendar intentionally so that I would have the honor of welcoming into my home an actual, real-live installer.

This time, the varnish was perfect, the hinges were perfect...and the left-hand door was competely warped and bulged in the middle.

I called the store, who called the customer service guy at the factory, who called me.

"This is the third door I do for you!" he complained. "You want a professional-type job!"

Well, yeah, since I had been paying professional-type money.

"Look, I've given up on you guys getting this right. Just take it back and give me my money back."

Unfortunately, they don't give refunds. Just store credit, minus ten percent. This made no sense to me at first, because the last thing I wanted to do was order another piece of their crappy furniture. But they do have showroom and floor models on sale occasionally, which would eliminate the factory screw-ups. Some of the pieces are small enough to take home by cab, which would avoid delivery guys and installers. And most of all, I wanted the thing out. So I took the store credit.

They took the cabinet this morning, three months of headaches resolved in three minutes. I went over to the store to pick up the credit slip. The owner was on the phone apologizing to someone else. "I'll talk to Jesus about it." Except he wasn't saying it like "Hay-soos." He was saying "Jee-sus," as in, well, Jesus. Which means he really has some 'splainin' to do.

And now I begin the search for a suitable replacement. Ikea has some attractive stuff, but it's made out of particleboard, and I want something that will last. And why do all of Ikea's pieces say "Must be mounted to the wall"? Where are they going? Doesn't sound safe to me.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

And I Thought Our Place Was Small

This guy's apartment off Times Square is only 160 square feet!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Uncle Walt, Uber Alles?

Okay, so was Walt Disney an anti-Semite?

Today I went Googling for an answer. Many of the sites that came up in my search were other Jewish-American bloggers mentioning it in passing. I had originally heard it from my husband, whose mother had heard from a neighbor who'd been in the movie business back in the '30s ("Disney wouldn't hire Jews.") It's as if the knowledge were handed down as folklore from generation to generation, and I was looking for Kunta Kinte.

A Robert Smigel animation on SNL a couple of months ago alluded to the subject. (NBC may have taken this down.)

I also turned up a few sites that were downright creepily anti-Semitic. And I don't mean the way some right-wing gentiles say you're being anti-Semitic if you criticize Israel. (To quote Josh Marshall, "For some, it seems, Bush-loyalty is the new sign of the covenant.") I mean good old-fashioned honest-to-Eichmann Jew-hating. And no, I'm not linking. Brrrr!

The Straight Dope, which shall now become an official link from my blog, had this:

For the most part Disney doesn't appear to have had strong political views--his politics seemed to turn on whatever it took to keep his studio going. It's likely his interest in the German American Bund sprang from a desire to forge relationships with Germany for possible film distribution there. On the other hand, there was a lot of antisemitic feeling in the Disney studio. While no one can specifically attribute bias to Disney himself, Jewish people were ready fodder for the animators' gags and Disney approved every scene in every short the studio made. In one scene in the original version of "The Three Little Pigs," the Big Bad Wolf comes to the door dressed as a stereotypical Jewish peddler. Disney changed the scene after complaints from Jewish groups. They didn't catch them all, though. In the short "The Opry House" Mickey Mouse is seen dressed and dancing as a Hasidic Jew.

Ethnic gags turned up in movies by many studios back then; outrageous stuff that you could never get away with now. The producers' rationale was that it was what the people wanted. Also, the country was in the process of assimilating a huge influx of immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. It could also have been that the movie-makers were mocking the ethnic stereotypes, but this is crediting them with too much subtlety for the state of the movies back then.

A recent (PBS or Bravo) documentary on the life of Disney thought the assertions were important enough for a response, and featured interviews with Jewish animators and/or their descendants who said that they had indeed worked for Walt Disney Studios back in that era. There was speculation that the "Disney is an anti-Semite" meme was started by rival studio bosses who didn't want the Mouse-Meister muscling in on their racket.

So, no definitive answer. But as I said yesterday, the big deal with me isn't whether or not Mary Poppins was a stand-in for Oswald Mosley. The big deal with me is how I used to automatically agree with anyone who had a shred of cred rather than ask questions. And this wasn't out of stupidity or naivete; it was out of fear of being a troublemaker. I once had a guy I was dating actually say to me, "We had a great relationship and then you came along and ruined it!"

I also heard from somewhere that Disney wouldn't hire women animators over 30 because their hands shook. Someday, I shall put down my coffee and Google this one, as well.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

From Whom It Comes

My husband was on the phone with an old friend last night while I finished some iPod playlists. I turned off the computer as he ended his conversation.

"You know how the Left has this paranoid thing where they say that America and Israel did 9-11 to make the Arabs look bad? B___'s friend K___ said that Dennis Kucinich said it on his Web site!"

Whaaa? I turned the computer back on. I Google'd. I searched.

"Okay, here's his official Web site and this is the only thing about Israel, or the United States and Israel."

"The lack of proportionality of Israel's response to the kidnapping of the soldier compounds a human rights disaster which has been building in the Palestinian territories and could set the stage for reigniting a cycle of extreme violence.

"The world community, led by the United States and Israel, must see the humanitarian imperative of relieving the suffering of innocent people in Palestine who are without the most basic of human necessities such as food, water, electricity, health care, housing, and economic security, in part because they exercised their right to self determination.

Okay, they exercised it by electing a bunch of thugs, but this is still a far cry from "America and Israel did 9-11." In fact, the whole thing is actually your basic even-handed razz-ma-tazz echoed by thousands of politicians the past couple of weeks.

"K___ lived in Israel for 20 years," Jim pointed out.

"So maybe she went crazy from the heat. Maybe they've got Bill O'Reilly over there in a skullcap. Who knows."

Then this morning getting ready for work I said, "You know, Ted Kennedy sucks the breath out of newborn babies."

"Okay, okay, Goddamn it! I didn't say I believed it, I said that she did! I thought it sounded weird to me."

"Well, before the Internet I would have believed you, the way I believed you when you told me Walt Disney was an anti-Semite!"

"That's what I'd heard! Maybe he wasn't. He was anti-black, though. He wouldn't let blacks into Disneyland." I'd heard that, too.

On the way to work, I realized the real issue wasn't ol' Walt, or Kucinich, who's too wimpazoid for my tastes anyway, or even the Middle East. It was how everyone automatically reacts to everything according to whatever "ism" is the Big Deal with them.

With my husband it's anti-Semitism, with racism a close second. With me it's feminism, or more specifically, the way I used to automatically believe:

1. Any adult man;

2. Anyone who spoke confidently;

3. Anyone who didn't have my picture on their driver's license.

K___ lived in Israel, a tiny country surrounded by hostile neighbors. Kucinich is a politician who attracts a lot of disaffected Lefties. K___ heard something somewhere and through the filter of her "ism", it was believable.

Sometimes, I feel like a tiny country surrounded by hostile neighbors. So that will affect my reactions. And while there were many advantages to growing up as the offspring of an interfaith marriage, the disadvantage was feeling that the "whole" Jewish or "whole" Catholic kids had more cred when it came to Jewish or Catholic matters.

I also see my former self as part of The Enemy, too: An approval-seeking little sheep who will gambol off a cliff and take me along with her. So before I go over the edge, I look for the facts. I may not always like what I find, but it's better than following Wile E. Coyote off the nearest precipice.

Of course, there's always the chance that K___ saw this Web site and mistook it for the real one, which just means she's not Internet-savvy.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My Surgeon Was On The News Last Night

Fortunately, not getting indicted.

She was being interviewed about a minimally-invasive procedure for lung tumors called thermal ablation. It's for people who aren't good candidates for surgery. (I was considered a "good" candidate.)

Cavalcade of Cavett

Carrie Nye, the actress wife of talk show host Dick Cavett, died last weekend from cancer. The two had met doing regional theater in the 1950's and they were married for over 40 years. No kids.

Jim and I are about halfway through viewing the "Dick Cavett Show--Comic Legends" DVD's, and that plus the foregoing sad news has inspired a spate of Cavett-Googling this afternoon. So besides the Comic Legends and Rock Icons, here are some other Cavett-related cultural milestones of the 1970's:

DICK CAVETT: Lester, also, I think I must have revealed somewhere since then was winking at me with his upstage eye -- which takes a certain amount of knowledge of camera and -- the way you would at somebody you're trying to say I'm just kidding but I don't want the other people here to know that I am.


DICK CAVETT: Yeah. And I also-- pointed out that Lester, being a politician, and a canny one, knew to -knowing the value of television time - walked off a scant 88 minutes into a 90 minute show.

[sfx: woman's bloodcurdling screams] Well, I reckon that's old Mrs. Grossman getting raped and strangled in the alley. You probably wonderin' why I don't call the cops. Well, for one thing, the phone in that booth over there hasn't worked since Dewey was governor. And for another, that's how we do things here in Our Town, we tend not to get involved, you know...sorta let people go about their business. Like, uh, Rafer Jones over there. Good ol' Rafer, we- we just let him go about his business. Gosh, he's been pushing junk on this corner for more years than I care to remember. [calling off camera] Mornin' Ray!

Rather than post a quote from Kerry or O'Neill, what really caught my attention about that last one is the viewer mail that Cavett read on the air in response to a previous show on Vietnam vets:

Another lady writes, "This war began as a political war and continues so today with our men not allowed to fight and not backed by the full power nuclear of the nation. The horror of this futile and therefore immoral effort was written in their words" – meaning the men who were here – "and on their faces these two nights. How more just it would have been to spotlight the real villains, McNamara, Gilpatrick, Rostow, et cetera, the whiz kids so aptly indicted by Lieutenant Kerry in testimony before the Fulbright committee."

In another part of the letter she says, "I was filled with incredible revulsion watching this charade. Not revolted by these four men who gave service to their country, but by your exploitation of their futile position. How does it feel to be a latter-day Madame Lafarge? How long will you sit there and knit while your country's head is on the block?"

"Your show against Vietnam soldiers is a perfect example of your workers' bias and also of your New York audience. I know what Mr. Agnew is talking about."

Yes, as you've divined by my heavy-handed inference, "It's Deja Vu all over again." Only now, the response would be online, accessible the next day by a link that would say, "601 Comments."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Bye Pod, Redux

Last night I was listening to my iPod, and it was fine. The battery was getting low, but not competely out.

This morning I turned it on and nothing. When I got home this evening I plugged it into the AC outlet to recharge the battery...and nothing. I plugged it into the iMac, and nothing. What did I have this one for, a month? I got it the day of the PET scan. So does that mean my lung breaks next?

I know two weeks ago I was praying, God, don't let this be cancer and I'll never complain about anything again. But somehow, I don't think it would be proving anything to sit around uncomplaining in a house full of broken appliances like some 21st Century martyr. And I don't think I'm at the top of God's "To-Do List," although when I turn on the news I wonder if anybody is right now.

So tomorrow I have to eke out a moment to head over to the Apple Store again, in a city where the heat wave lingers below ground the day after it's broken aboveground, and where I waited a half-hour for a subway train in which it was too crowded to stand with both feet on the floor. Half the lines were out today because of power outages, and the lines that were working were running at half-speed. And some cow jabbed me right in the worst part of my ribcage with her elbow.

Time for another Percoset, the drug that put the "Rush" in Limbaugh.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Middle East Crazy, Redux

Writer Michael Totten spent six months living and working in Lebanon recently. When the fighting broke out between Israel and Lebanon, his was the first blog I turned to. He's been on a freelance job recently but briefly returned to give his input on the situation:

The Lebanese government should have asked for more help from the international community. The Lebanese government should have been far less reactionary in its attitude toward the Israelis. They made more mistakes than just two, but I'd say these are the principal ones.

What should the Israelis have done instead? They should have treated Hezbollahland as a country, which it basically is, and attacked it. They should have treated Lebanon as a separate country, which it basically is, and left it alone. Mainstream Lebanese have no problem when Israel hammers Hezbollah in its little enclave. Somebody has to do it, and it cannot be them. If you want to embolden Lebanese to work with Israelis against Hezbollah, or at least move in to Hezbollah's bombed out positions, don't attack all of Lebanon.

Another rational thought comes from an editorial in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (H/T True Ancestor):

The objective of the campaign in Lebanon is to distance Hezbollah so that it will not pose a threat to Israel. The Israel Defense Forces, with very broad public support, are acting to crush that organization's offensive capability and to weaken it so that the Lebanese government can once and for all deploy its army in the south of the country. This objective will eventually be achieved by an agreement with Lebanon brokered by international bodies.

It is not too early to begin holding contacts of this kind even if there is no intention at this stage of suspending hostilities, and there is therefore no reason to reject totally the Lebanese prime minister's proposal for a cease-fire nor for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to refuse to meet with the UN delegation to begin discussions on ways to solve the crisis.

What I like about the foregoing is that there's no call for "restraint," that wimpy, let's-join-hands-and-sing "Kumbaya" bromide that no country in the Middle East is going to follow. Would you? If I were an Israeli I'd probably be going all Menachem Begin right now, which is another reason I consider myself fortunate to be an American.

Meow Meow Meow, Dance Dance Dance

A simple animation of a cat that's one of the best things I've seen on YouTube. (H/T Nina Paley.)

Just try to get that song out of your head! Bwah hah hah!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Graying of the Neighborhood Record Store

Today's New York Times has an article on Norman's Sound and Vision, a record store off St. Mark's Place in the East Village. Specifically, it's about how the once-booming crowd of shoppers has devolved into half-a-dozen boomers seeking to relive their lost youth, pathetically nodding their gray ponytails to "Frampton Comes Alive." Because of the ever-growing popularity of music downloads, sales of CD's to teenagers are way down, and sales to people over 45 rose to 25.5%.

I don't shop in record stores as often as I used to, preferring to seek out discounts on I would buy downloads more often if iTunes compressed them at a bit rate higher than 128. To these old fogey ears, it sounds as if my old favorites are singing from the bottom of a tin can. I start hearing this "bew-bew-bew" sound around everything, the aural equivalent of moire in a photograph.

One topic I'd be interested in exploring is how much more popular music today's fifty year olds buy as opposed to what our parents bought when we were growing up. My household had some Broadway cast albums, that Herb Alpert thing with the girl covered in whipped cream, and maybe "LBJ in the Catskills." You would never have seen my mother standing in a record store line with a handful of Frank. Yet when Virgin has its British Invasion sale, you're likely to see me with a selection of remastered Beatles, Kinks and Stones. And I'll be in front of a 20-year-old who's buying a dozen albums a week, which seems extravagant to me.

Of course, if the New York Times does do an article like that, it will be in a way that makes baby boomers look foolish, and we will, of course, read it. Because we're also The Therapy Generation.

Friday, July 14, 2006


Final results on the lung biopsy: No Cancer!!!

Back to our regularly scheduled madness.

P.S.: Doesn't Mr. Lungs Pillow look like a behind?

Also, he smells like oregano...perhaps he was in close contact with a pizza at the nurses' station.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I'm Back, And Healing

The surgery went well, and I have been instructed by my doctor to say that "the frozen (preliminary) is negative." He's seen this diagnosis reverse between the "frozen," which they take in the middle of the operation to see if they have to slice out more of you, and the full biopsy report, which comes about three to five business days later. He's seen it reverse about two to five percent of the time. So I've been walking a thin line between being relieved and being terrified of taking any odds for granted.

I've been back since yesterday afternoon. I was originally supposed to leave on Friday, but my lung hadn't fully reinflated. It was like when the Astroboy balloon loses air during the parade and his hand flaps or there's a dent in his head.

When they have to reinflate your lung at the end of the operation, they do it by slipping this tube that's like a bicycle pump between your ribs. It suctions all the air and fluid out of your chest cavity and into this little suitcase. After they've disconnected you from everything else you've still got to carry this thing back and forth to the bathroom, the dayroom, etc. "Say hello to my leetle frien'!" "Hi, I'm Melinda and this is my blood."

With all the technology that exists today, they still haven't come up with anything that works better than this medieval torture device.

They were finally able to take it out Saturday night, and it was too late to process my discharge papers and all, so I stayed overnight tube-free and got the first decent night's sleep in days. Right now, I'm zoned on pain killers but they're doing the job. Still anxious, though, until I get the final report.

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