Archive for August, 2013

Mr. Obama: No Proof, No Attack on Syria

Thursday, August 29th, 2013
President Obama needs to make an ironclad case to justify an attack on Syria.

President Obama needs to make an ironclad case to justify an attack on Syria.

By Bob Gaydos

Here we go again.

A brutal Arab regime, under fire from rebel forces, is accused of using chemical weapons against its own people, women and children included. This violates every rule of warfare and demands military intervention by the United States, to whom the role of defender of democracy and human decency has been assigned by other nations over the years. But like everything else in the Middle East, nothing about the war in Syria is that clear-cut.

The United Nations, established in part to unify and coordinate worldwide reaction to such atrocities, as usual, is paralyzed. Any effort by the U.S. and allies to get Security Council approval for missile or air strikes against the offending party will be blocked by Russia and China, who have veto power. They do not simply follow marching orders from the White House and are big enough to make that matter. That will probably require the U.S. to put together a coalition of enough nations to give the imprimatur of legitimacy, if not legality, for such a military action.

This will likely happen despite conflicting accounts as to who actually used the chemical weapons — the ruling Assad government or the rebels — and with the assurance that U.S. involvement will include only targeted air or missile strikes (remember smart bombs?) and no involvement of ground forces in Syria’s civil war. Apparently, it will also occur without a debate on the issue by the U.S. Congress, which is unfortunate since it is the only branch of government authorized to declare war. In addition, a clear majority of Americans, weary of fighting more than a decade of wars in the Middle East, are opposed to U.S. involvement in another war in the region.

Add to these complications the fact that there has still been no convincing proof given publicly that the Syrian military, not the rebels, employed the nerve gas. Rather, Americans have been reassured by a well-respected secretary of state that the White House is certain the weapons were used by Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s troops and that this is reason enough for U.S. involvement.

Sound familiar? Did anybody in the White House hear former Secretary of State Colin Powell — who made the case for attacking Iraq before the U.N. — recently call out former Vice President Dick Cheney for steamrolling President George W. Bush into attacking Iraq with similar justification and no solid evidence? Since that justifiable “moral” intervention lasted 10 years and cost tens of thousands of lives and destroyed a country, it would seem to behoove President Obama to present undeniable proof of guilt publicly before ordering any attack.

Obama, who has until now wisely resisted calls for U.S. military intervention in Syria, drew a red line in the sand to signal when the U.S. might actually get involved. That’s a risky diplomatic tool. His red line was the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. Having made such a declaration and now believing that Syria has, in fact, crossed that line, the president faces a difficult choice. If he follows the will of the American people, recent history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East, and the lack of publicly offered conclusive evidence on who used the chemical weapons, he would surely not order U.S. warplanes or ships to attack Syria.

However, if he ignores his own red line, other nations that have been given similar warnings about development of nuclear weapons — Iran and North Korea — might feel emboldened to move ahead, figuring Obama was not a man of his word. That the American president was all talk, as it were. Then there is the matter of this being a deplorable act that cannot be allowed to go unpunished.

The key questions to be answered are:

— Who used the nerve gas, the government or the rebels?

— What is an appropriate response?

Given the American public’s growing distrust of the Obama administration because of its widespread spying on American citizens and its vigorous efforts to prosecute whistleblowers — who might be able to answer the question of who used the chemical weapons — the president should insist on a full public debate on Syria by Congress. This would be wise especially if he’s certain he’s got the goods on Assad. This would also be wise given the extended U.S. military presences in Iraq and Afghanistan, with little obvious gain except to the corporations that provide the machinery of war. Obama should welcome a full and open discussion by Congress of the situation and the options.

There is no good choice here. Some party is using chemical weapons against the people of Syria to further its own interests. This is barbaric. Just look at the photos of the bodies of dead children lined up. A surgical air strike or ship-launched missiles, aimed at the guilty parties only and the machinery that allows them to use the weapons, would be a viable military option. But “surgical” air strikes have been notoriously imprecise in the past. Innocent people have been killed in the name of protecting innocent people.

The obvious preference would be for a diplomatic solution that spares lives. That would probably require Obama to somehow convince Russia and China, friendly with the Syrian government, to work with him on a peaceful solution. Assad leaving Syria would be one. If that is not possible and if the president can provide conclusive and independently verifiable (say, by United Nations inspectors) proof of guilt by the Syrian government, and if Congress is given the evidence and conducts a public debate, and if more nations than Syria’s immediate neighbors (Turkey and Jordan) as well as U.S. ally Great Britain, support the action, Obama would be justified in launching a limited military intervention in Syria.

That’s a lot of ifs, to be sure and war is seldom the answer. Still, there are no ifs, ands or buts that whoever inflicted chemical weapons on the children of Syria must be made to pay.

Testing! Testing! Do you read me?

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

There’s a 100-year old document making the rounds on the Internet that some people undoubtedly will use to show that kids in 1913 got a better education than children in school now. Others will dismiss the test as a means to memorize and regurgitate facts.

In any case, it’s a 60-question test that was administered to eighth graders in Bullitt County, Ky., about 25 miles south of Louisville.

I’d like to tell you that I picked up my pencil, sneered at this easy exam of a time long ago when there was a century’s worth of fewer facts to know about. I’d like to tell you that I went on to score a perfect 100 percent. I’d like to tell you all that.

But I’d be lying.

Oh, I was able to spell “chandelier” and “scissors” and most of the other 38 words on the spelling section of the test – I was always good in spelling. I got “pennyweight” right though I hadn’t the foggiest notion of its meaning. I erred on “rhinoceros.” Don’t ask me why.

In math, I was successful in determining that if a man bought a farm for $2,400 and sold it for $2,700 he gained 12½ percent on his money.

I’d like to say that I breezed right through this question: “How many steps 2 ft, 4 inches each will a man take in walking 21.4 miles?” But the truth is I didn’t even attempt it. For one thing, the calculator I would use hadn’t been invented in 1913. Of course the real reason is that doing the arithmetic long hand would bring a monumental headache beyond the healing power of my bottle of ibuprofen. Or is it Ibuprophen?

How would you do on this exam?

In the grammar section, the testers asked questions I never encountered until high school, such as “What are the properties of verbs?” I had no idea—not in high school, not now. (Those properties are, courtesy of the answer sheet, person, number, tense, voice and mood. You say you knew that one? I don’t believe you.)

The kids were asked to diagram the sentence “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver” and I marveled at the innocence of the question’s wording and how quickly the testing company would be called on the carpet nowadays for mentioning you-know-who by name.

In geography, students were asked to name the six states that border the Ohio River and give their capitals. They also had to locate the following mountain ranges: Blue Ridge, Himalaya, Andes, Alps, and Wasatch.


How are you doing?

The test had a section on physiology. “Describe the heart,” it asked and I imagine the answer to that terse question could have gone on for days. The students were also asked, “Why should we study physiology?” My question precisely.

Among the questions in the section on civil government were the following: “To what four governments are students in school subjected?” Watch out, that’s a Kentuckycentric question but you can probably figure it out. But if it is too Kentuckyish, try this: Name three powers given Congress by the Constitution. The House has the power to impeach federal officers; the Senate conducts impeachment trials; Congress has the power to declare war – though the framers might be shocked at the number of undeclared U.S. conflicts in the years after World War II.

The students had to name the last battles of the Civil War, the War of 1812, and the French and Indian War, and then name the commanders in each battle.

 Oh, and “Describe the Battle of Quebec.”

And, who invented the magneto? How about the phonograph?

Who led the first European expedition into what is now Florida?

 To see the entire test, go to:

For the answers, try:

Let me know how you do.


Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 8/27/2013

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Thursday afternoon Oil on canvas, 18x36

Thursday afternoon
Oil on canvas, 18×36

By Carrie Jacobson

Painting began for me with a random thought that I had the courage – or luck – to listen to, and follow.

That began a change in my life, and over these years, little by little, I’ve learned to listen and to trust. When a door seems to open for me, I take my courage in hand and walk through it. Maybe I end up in a small room that I leave quickly. Maybe I end up in a long, interesting corridor, with lots of corners and other doors. The important thing for me is to have the nerve to step through and see what’s there.

Thus, this painting, which seems to me to be about freedom, and love, and the sky and, well, paint itself.


I KNEW I WAS running out of white paint, so early in the week, I ordered a bunch. I go through a lot, a lot, a lot of white paint. The UPS guy showed up on Friday, and I was thrilled. He was there just in time.

“Yay!” I said. “I’m down to my last tube of white!”

“Hmm,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any paint in this shipment.”

And sure enough, there wasn’t. Canvases, yes, but no paint.

I can fake it when I’m out of other colors… but not when I’m out of white. And there are a lot of situations like that. We can seem to be OK, making do, or even shining people on – but when you’re out of white paint, when you’re out of whatever it is at the very core of what you do, or who you are, you’re just stuck.

Peter and I went to the Big City of Salisbury, MD, on Saturday, and I bought a couple tubes of white paint – so I can go on. If only it were so easy in other parts of life.


Why Cheat When You Don’t Have To?

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

By Bob Gaydos

Alex Rodriguez ... why?

Alex Rodriguez … why?

I woke up the other morning with a tantalizing thought: Why do people who don’t have to cheat, cheat? I later posed the question to some friends and much of this column is the result of one such conversation.

It seems I had been dreaming about Alex Rodriguez and all the other steroid/performance-enhancing drug users in major league baseball, but apparently mostly about A-Rod, given the question that greeted my morning. Among other things, this tells me I have had it with the juicers. Especially A-Rod.

I’m a lifetime baseball fan, grew up playing it, loving it. Framed baseball cards of Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle share a spot on my bedroom wall. Willie was the best, in my view, Mickey second best, probably because he wrecked his legs early in his career. Mickey was a well-known juicer, but it was booze, not steroids he ingested. No way it improved his performance on the field.

They did not cheat. Alex Rodriguez came to the majors leagues at 19. Many touted him as a can’t miss superstar. He did not disappoint. His numbers — baseball, if anything, is a game that reveres numbers — started good and  steadily improved. If he stayed healthy, baseball people started to say, he would surpass all the batting records of Ruth and Aaron. Just keep doing what he was doing, and stay healthy.

A-Rod hasn’t been healthy the past couple of years with the Yankees. His body seems to be breaking down, a symptom of, among other things, steroid abuse. So I asked myself: Why? He was already the highest paid player in the game, with a guaranteed contract worth close to $300 million. Surely, even in an era of more, more, more, money could not be the goal. He was regarded by many, if not most, as the best in the game. He would assuredly be the game’s all-time homerun hitter if he stayed healthy. Why would he feel the need to cheat?

I can understand why other, lesser, players might have felt they needed to use steroids or other substances to improve their performances. Major league ballplayers are paid extremely well. Overpaid, in truth. Bigger numbers bring bigger paychecks. So a Sammy Sosa or Mark McGwire had plenty to gain by cheating. Players of lesser skills could guarantee a career in the majors, well-paid and pampered, so long as they could live with themselves and the knowledge that they were cheating and most of their teammates were not.

Now, understanding why players cheat is not the same as condoning it. Those who used steroids or growth hormones have created an indelible stain on the game. They have left a cloud of doubt over every player who has followed the rules (and who, incidentally, said nothing about the cheaters for many years, thereby enabling the abuse.) The juicers have also made a shambles of the game’s reverence for numbers. Whose numbers count? Whose are juiced? The questions are not so easily answered today.

Back to A-Rod. The questions continued. What was his motivation when, as he has admitted, he took steroids a few years ago when he played for Texas? Did he really not use them in ensuing years? Why should we believe him? Was he using performance-enhancing drugs in recent years with the Yankees — as has been charged — because his body was breaking down from previous steroid use? There’s the Catch-22. Abuse of steroids will break a body down and an athlete expected to perform at the highest level might feel the need to take more steroids to try to “repair” his body.

Did A-Rod do this? I don’t know, but I suspect he did. If so, it’s a self-destructive cycle he created himself. Like drug addicts, perhaps, he (and others) grew to like the way they felt on steroids and didn’t have the confidence any longer to play without using some drug. Without cheating.

The ego is a fragile thing. It can ignore reality. (You’re the best player; just do what you do naturally and you’ll be OK.). It can create intense pressure. (The fans will only love you if you continue to be the best every day.) It can buckle under pressure, as A-Rod did in so many post-season series. (Don’t fail; don’t fail; they’ll know you’re a fraud.) A self-fulfilling prophecy.

I toy with these thoughts because, as I said, I have trouble understanding what Rodriguez had to gain by cheating. He had the talent, the money, the fame and the superstar name. Yes, he obviously has always had an intense interest in maintaining a certain image of himself. In fact, it has seemed throughout his career that it has always been about him and his accomplishments. He’s never been regarded as a great teammate.

So maybe it’s that simple. Alex Rodriguez cheated because he has always been more interested in appearing to be the best, rather just doing his best. He either doubted he could live up to the designation, or just didn’t care what he did to make sure people continued to think of him that way. He was totally wrapped up in himself, yet never totally believed in himself. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon, even in superstars. None of it in any way justifies what he has done.

And what he has done is make a sham of a game I used to love. Yes, there are still superstars whose names remain untainted by the steroids users. A-Rod has two such teammates on the Yankees in Derek Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki. But you know, because of the juicers, there will be some people who doubt that even those two, future hall-of-famers never used something a little extra to improve their play. That’s  they never cheated.

I’m not losing any sleep over this and I still enjoy baseball. I just want A-Rod to go away and for Major League Baseball to finally be serious about ending the juicing. And no, I will not put a framed Alex Rodriguez card on my wall. I don’t even want one.

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 08/22/13

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013
Joy for Weary Hours Oil on canvas, 12x24 Please contact me for price and delivery/shipping information!

Joy for Weary Hours
Oil on canvas, 12×24
Please contact me for price and delivery/shipping information!

By Carrie Jacobson

Though we didn’t have a garden this year – a first in recent memory – the joys of the summer garden haven’t passed me by.

I’ve savored strawberries still warm from the sun, and sweet, thin-skinned cucumbers from my friend Pat’s garden.

I’ve served up squash and asparagus from Dulcie’s garden, so fresh you could nearly taste the breeze in them.

I’ve breathed the rich spice of roses, the heavy weight of gardenias, the soft powdery scent of camellias. I’ve smiled at the swaths of black-eyed susans that seem to be everywhere this year, and marveled at the showy frills of irises and lilies.

I’ve missed having my own gardens. But there’s always next year.

The title of this painting – my own little substitute garden – is the final stanza of a verrryyy long poem,  “The Poor Man’s Garden,”  by Mary Howitt:

Yes, in the poor man’s garden grow
  Far more than herbs and flowers—
Kind thoughts, contentment, peace of mind,
  And joy for weary hours.

We’ve Become a Nation of Us vs. Them

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

By Bob Gaydos

Michael Jordan, as Oscar Grant, in the film, "Fruitvale Station.

Michael B. Jordan, as Oscar Grant, in the film, “Fruitvale Station.”

I saw the movie “Fruitvale Station” the other day. I wept at the end. Real tears, not just some glistening in the eyes. This, even though I knew what was going to happen because we’re told at the beginning of the movie.

This tells me a couple of things:

— The director did a terrific job of story-telling.

— I felt strongly about something going on in the movie.

As for the movie itself, I am apparently not alone in my opinion. The independent film by first-time director Ryan Coogler is receiving rave reviews and awards even though it has only been recently released. Still, I was surprised at my strong, personal reaction to the film.

I probably shouldn’t have been. The reason I saw the movie in the first place is that my oldest son, Max, recommended I go. He doesn’t do that a lot. I “should” see it, he texted me. Not the usual Hollywood movie, he said. Yes and yes.

But there was also a personal connection for Max and me with the movie. It is based on a true event — the arrest and fatal shooting of an unarmed young man by a transit police officer in Oakland on New Year’s Day, 2009. Max had been arrested by police in Oakland during the Occupy demonstrations in 2011. Police response to the Occupy demonstrators — unarmed save for cell phones and cameras — was also violent. Their civil disobedience was met with tear gas grenades, flash bang grenades, rubber bullets — fired at the demonstrators, not in the air. Civilians were hurt, thrown in jail, treated like criminals because someone decided they represented a threat. A threat just like the young black males apparently represented to the white police officers who hauled them off a BART train for fighting, ignoring the white males who started the fight.

In Oakland, the shooting victim, Oscar Grant, and his friends fit a profile — young, black males, argumentative and not meekly complying with police orders to lie down with their hands behind their backs. Trouble. The same with Occupy demonstrators. Trouble. Even though they were demonstrating against injustices in society that affect police as much as the rest of us.

There has been a disturbing trend in cities across the country in recent years to respond to peaceful civil disobedience, such as the Occupy movement, with military style tactics, as if the demonstrators were an invading army rather than neighbors, friends and family members of the police themselves. I don’t know where this profiling of Occupy demonstrators came from, but it seems unlikely to have happened simultaneously in so many places at the same time. Some federal agency had to have decreed the demonstrators fit a profile of trouble makers — potential domestic terrorists even — who had to be quashed, rather than Americans citizens exercising their constitutional rights to assemble and voice their opinions. What’s really disturbing to me is how everyone down the line from that profiling decision seemed to accept it rather than to judge the demonstrators on their own.

I am not anti-police. Far from it. I believe a well-trained, appropriately armed police force is essential to maintain order. I do not believe most local police forces need big, armored vehicles to handle peaceful demonstrations. I do believe much more training on dealing with people in emotionally charged situations, rather than with weapons, would be a major benefit to all police departments.

Mostly, I believe that when there is no threat of force from the subjects involved, police should be trained to resist the tendency to make it a situation of us versus them. We are you. You are us. Oscar Grant was someone’s son, someone’s father, someone’s partner. He was a human being. He had done jail time for selling marijuana. He had been fired from his job. And he was apparently struggling to overcome the profiles that said this was his lot in life.

Yes, the profile said he had to project a certain arrogance in order to survive, but he was only out to celebrate New Year’s Eve with friends and wound up shot dead by a white transit cop who said he mistook his gun for his Taser. The cop was convicted of unintentional manslaughter, served 11 months of a two-year sentence. In Oakland, with its long history of out-of-control police response. Grant’s death sparked demonstrations, including one every New Year’s Day at Fruitvale Station.

There are stories similar to Oscar Grant’s in cities across the country. The film was released during the Trayvon Martin trial in Florida. The day I saw the film, a federal judge in New York City ruled the police force’s program of stop-and-frisk was unconstitutional because of obvious racial profiling — a welcome wakeup call only if city officials hear it.

This being a movie, there are things that were added, or left out, that might affect someone’s opinion of it. I get that. For many there will be a strong message of injustice still to be rectified. Yet others may see it as a shameless effort to manipulate anti-police sentiment. I’ll keep it simple. In Oakland, in 2009, a cop shot an unarmed, handcuffed, 22-year-old black male to death. Shouldn’t have happened. In Oakland in 2011, cops fired tear gas, flash bang grenades and rubber bullets at, among others, my son Max, then 19. He was armed with only a camera. They handcuffed and arrested him. Max is not black. He’s alive and well. But if one cop can mistake his gun for his Taser, why can’t another one mistake real bullets for rubber?

I wept for Oscar and Max and because we have become a nation of us versus them. Go see the movie.


Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 08/13/16

Thursday, August 15th, 2013
Sauer Farm Oil on canvas, 10x10

Sauer Farm
Oil on canvas, 10×10

By Carrie Jacobson

As August burns into September and the sunsets come earlier, I know that this year, for once, I have lived the length of these summer days. I’ve romped and painted and squinted and sweated in July’s hot afternoons, and spent the long, soft twilights out of doors.

I’ve watched the summer sun rise over nights that never cooled, and I’ve stood in cold rain as storms blew in and out, and steam rose from day-baked sidewalks.

This summer, I watched as the geese flew north, and the bluebirds came, and the hummingbirds and butterflies showed up with the flowers. I smelled sweet gardenias blooming, smiled at swaths of black-eyed susans, and marveled at fields of sunflowers. I swam in the ocean, cooled in lakes, strode into clear, cold streams.

The summer’s heat warmed my bones, drained me of sweat, exhausted me more days than I could count, and left me knowing that I had lived every day fully, as fully as the sun had drenched these long, hot months.

I celebrate this summer and my participation, and welcome the cool nights and, soon, the bright spice of autumn.


Losing the Movies

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

By Jeffrey Page

Every so often, a bunch of us convene to watch a movie at someone’s house, have dessert, and talk about the movie. This leads to talk about other movies.

And that often leads to statements such as:

The movie about whaddea-call-it? The one with what’s-his-name, Tom, Brad, something. George? Maybe George. Whatever the hell his name was. You know, that movie from – what was it? Last year, maybe ’11 – about the guy with the store. I heard it was terrific; maybe we should rent it. If I could just come up with the name.*

Everybody seems to have his own special area of forgetfulness: Birthdays and anniversaries are classic. Faces are popular. And there are a million other facts known to everyone except the person trying to remember.

My special area of forgetfulness is movies and their directors, their actors, their story lines. I don’t remember anything about movies anymore, and I’ve come to understand that it’s not all my fault. The responsibility lies with the inventors of the VCR and the DVD.

I remember when seeing a movie was a special event, such as my parents allowing me to go to the children’s Saturday matinee. Invariably the program included a Western or a war movie starring John Wayne, Jeff Chandler or Burt Lancaster. For me, this was just once a month because my mother thought that most movies were trash and not worth my time.

In high school, a movie was for an occasional Friday night or Saturday night date – still special. Even if you saw two movies a month – and I don’t think I saw that many – it was 100 a year. This seemed to be a number that allowed you to concentrate on – and remember – the film. It was a number your memory could handle. You could retain great images and great performances.

Everything changed with the advent of VCRs, video stores, DVDs, Netflix and public library collections of movies on disc. All of a sudden, it was movies on demand, a chance to see the classics you missed as a kid, the documentaries you never find at the local movie house, or some of the recent releases. All that, and an admission price that’s dirt cheap compared with tickets at the box office.

A number of years ago, my cable TV company and I parted company (an amusing story in itself but for another time). I never replaced it. So I didn’t have cable but I still had my TV set so I joined Netflix. Great deal. Early on, I rented “Animal Crackers” with the Brothers Marx, and “White Heat,” my favorite James Cagney movie of all time.

Soon, I realized I was watching movies all through the week. I went through the movies made from Charles Dickens’s stories. I think I ordered all the Astaire-Rogers movies. “On the Waterfront” several times. Lots of Bogart, lots of Ingmar Bergman. Some Marilyn. Some Garbo. Plenty of Bette Davis. “The Bicycle Thief” for the 10th time in my life.

I OD’d on movies and after a while the damage was done; my poor brain couldn’t take it all in. I would talk about movies and utter such profundity as “That movie [“Coming Home”] with Jane Fonda and whatsisname [Jon Voight] about her taking up with the paraplegic guy [Voight] while her husband Dustin Hoffman [uh, no, that would be Bruce Dern] is still in the war [Vietnam].”

This kind of babbling is the result of the facts of too many movies banging into one another in my consciousness. There’s just so much room in my brain to remember all there is to remember.

An example: Remember the scene in “Five Easy Pieces” in which Jack Nicholson is ordering lunch (or was it breakfast?) and tells the waitress what she can do with the chicken salad?

Was it chicken salad? Or was it tuna?

* * *

* The movie would be “High Fidelity,” released in 2000, with John Cusack playing the obsessive owner of a vinyl-record shop.

Time to Get Off the Schneid?

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

By Michael Kaufman

“Don’t take any wooden nickels,” I told my 21-year-old daughter Gahlia as she left the house after a recent visit. She turned and stared at me as if I’d just started speaking in tongues.

“What the heck is that supposed to mean?”

I started to explain but her eyes glazed over and she said she had to go. For the record, a number of explanations are given as to the origin of the phrase but “don’t take any wooden nickels” is generally used as an admonition not to get cheated or ripped off. But if Gahlia, who tends to be au courant, never heard of it, maybe it is not so generally used anymore.

A few weeks ago my wife Eva-Lynne and I went out to dinner with my brother Gene, his wife Sue, and their grown son David. At one point I mentioned that I’d “finally gotten off the schneid” and written a couple of essays for prior learning credit from Empire State College.

“What does that mean?” asked Eva-Lynne, “Off your butt?”

“Er, not exactly. You never heard anyone say ‘off the schneid?’”

“Never heard of it.”

Turns out neither had Sue or David. Only my elder brother knew what it meant. “Can you explain it?” Eva-Lynne asked Gene.

“Not exactly,” he said. “I just know what it means.”

True, the expression is most often heard when uttered by baseball announcers and I was the only baseball aficionado at the table. But Gene knew it immediately even though he hasn’t paid any attention to baseball for as long as I’ve known him. To be “on the schneid” means to be on a losing (or scoreless or hitless) streak and to be “off the schneid” is to break a scoreless or hitless or winless streak. According to the Dickson Baseball Dictionary, “schneid” is actually short for “schneider,” a term originally used in the card game of gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring any points. “Schneider” entered the jargon of gin from German (probably via Yiddish), where it means “tailor.” If you were “schneidered” in gin, you were “cut” (as if by a tailor) from contention in the game.

Some words and expressions widely used today have a different connotation than they did only a few decades ago. The aforementioned Gahlia recently told her mother (albeit in jest), “You suck.” When I was her age the word “suck” had a specific meaning and was most often seen scrawled on the walls of stalls in public rest rooms, along with crude drawings of male private parts. Saying it to one’s mother, even in jest, was unthinkable. (I’m still not crazy about it but Gahlia has a way of saying things that make you laugh in spite of yourself.)

Once, when Eva-Lynne told me about a great deal she saw advertised, I said, “I’m from Missouri.”

She said, “You’re from Missouri? I thought you were from New York.”

But maybe that’s a horse of a different color.

Michael can be reached at

Carrie’s Painting of the Week – 08/09/13

Thursday, August 8th, 2013
Chance Oil on canvas, 12x12

Oil on canvas, 12×12

By Carrie Jacobson

I donate art to charitable causes on a regular basis, and at the Paradise City show in Northampton, Mass in the spring, the winners of a pet portrait were the mothers of a young woman whose beloved dog Chance had died earlier that day.

Their story made me cry, and through the photos they sent me, I could tell what a great dog Chance had been.

I made the painting, and we agreed to meet at a show in Old Saybrook, Conn. in late July.

The day came, and one of the mothers stopped by my booth early to make sure we were on track. I put the painting up right over my little desk, and below it, put “To Carly, Love, Chance,” on a postcard.

Soon enough, they all showed up. The daughter walked by my tent and turned to look. She saw the painting and stopped in her tracks.

“Oh my God,” she said, “That looks like Chance.”

Her hand went up over her mouth when she realized that indeed, it was Chance. She started crying, the mothers started crying, her grandmother started crying, I started crying – and then we all were laughing, hugging, crying, and remembering the dear dog who had meant so much to Carly.

To see the series of photos showing all of this, click here to get to my own blog, The Accidental Artist.