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Archive for February, 2010

A Future With Hope

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

by Nancy Werking Poling

This past week I was asked to guest blog for Courage Network ( on the subject of religious faith and domestic violence. As readers of OUT OF THE PUMPKIN SHELL know, the book, though it starts out funny, also deals with the serious issue of emotional abuse.

Following is what I wrote for Courage Network:

It seemed natural for Linda to take her personal problems to her pastor. He listened kindly as she described her husband’s quick temper, the way he sometimes got so mad he hit her and bruised her body. Linda needed to hear someone say, “This is wrong. God intends that the relationship between husband and wife be one of mutual respect.”

Instead, the pastor said, “Go home and try not to anger him. Jesus set an example for us: that we are to suffer for his sake. God will not give you any more to bear than you can handle.” Then Linda and her pastor knelt and prayed.

Our faith should be a source of empowerment and healing. Yet churches have more often than not failed women who live with domestic violence. Some ministers preach that divorce is a sin, or that a woman is to obey her husband. Sometimes members, refusing to accept the truth that abuse occurs in Christian homes, ignore signs that women or children in the congregation are being abused, physically or emotionally. “What happens in a family is that family’s business,” church people may say.

In Victim to Survivor: Women Recovering from Clergy Sexual Abuse, Et Al (as she chose to be called for reasons of anonymity) says of her childhood, “People knew of my father’s drinking and physically abusive behavior, but no one intervened or said his actions were wrong….Mama tolerated his verbal and physical abuse. She coped by trying to ignore it and sought comfort in reading Scripture or listening to the radio evangelist extol the redemptive power of suffering.”

It might seem that the church, the entire Christian tradition itself, is not to be trusted with victims’ pain. But that is not necessarily true. Within many religious bodies, attitudes about the abuse of women and children have begun to change. Clergy are being trained to respond with compassion and to assist in finding safety. People of faith are sponsoring hotlines and shelters for women and children living with domestic violence.

Christian groups are bringing new eyes and open minds to passages that have traditionally been used to suppress women. At the same time they are lifting up scriptures that empower victims and help them find healing.

Denominations (Jewish and Islam organizations, as well) have been speaking out against violence in the home, forming task forces, writing official statements, training leaders on how to respond. I am most familiar with what the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has been doing. In 2001 its General Assembly approved a policy statement on domestic violence, bringing to the denomination’s attention the causes of domestic violence, efforts the church can take to prevent it, and suggestions for ministering to victims. The statement is accompanied by a study guide for individuals and groups (available through

Because abusers within the Christian tradition have often hidden behind scripture, such as “Wives, be obedient to your husbands,” groups are challenging traditional interpretations. Christians for Biblical Equality deals with abuse issues on its website: (

FaithTrust Institute (formerly Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic Violence) has for many years provided leadership and materials to the various faith communities: Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Christians. On its website (, FaithTrust says of its mission: “We believe that the teachings of our religious traditions have been a source of pain and confusion as well as a source of strength and healing for those facing sexual and domestic violence.”

These three groups are only a small sample of the many religious bodies speaking to the issue of domestic violence.

What recommendations do I have for victims who are also people of faith? First, don’t think for a minute that God is testing you or has placed you in that situation for a reason. Affirmation can be found in Jeremiah 29:11: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” I believe that God’s intention for us all is that we be part of loving, respectful relationships.

Second, you may want to question your own understanding of scripture. If you’ve been taught that a woman is to obey her husband or that it is her lot to suffer as Jesus suffered, read what Christians for Biblical Equality are saying. Open your mind to alternate interpretations of scripture.

Third, find a spiritual guide. Before you turn to your pastor, consider what clues he/she has provided in sermons about marriage and the relationship between a husband and wife. If the pastor has spoken of the authority of the male and against divorce in general, turn to someone else. My own pastor tells of how often women, seeing a woman’s name on the board in front of the church, come in to seek her counsel because their male pastors have only added to their pain.

My mother once told me that fifty years ago a small circle of women in her church knew that Alice was regularly raped by her husband. They knew that Martha’s husband verbally abused her. From the pulpit the pastor preached that wives were to obey their husbands and that Jesus taught us to forgive seventy times seven. This circle of women, while they felt powerless to take actions that would free Alice and Martha, listened to and offered sympathy to their victimized sisters.

Fifty years ago women were helping each other the best they could. Today many communities have faith-based agencies that can direct victims to local resources, such as a shelter, and offer emotional support.

Yes, it is possible to find empowerment and healing in your faith tradition. The Psalmist speaks to your pain; Jesus suffers with you. Somewhere a pastor, perhaps not the one in your own congregation, has the training and will to accompany you. Somewhere there is a circle of support, women who have walked in your shoes or compassionate people of faith who want to share God’s love.

Nancy Werking Poling
Author of Out of the Pumpkin Shell

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Poetry Reading at Brothers K in Evanston

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

By Jian Ping

From left to right: Sylvia, Linda, Angela, Vince, me and Steve

Last Friday, I arrived at Brothers K Coffeehouse shortly before 6 P.M. for a poetry reading. I could see the room was full of people through the large windows from the street and was pleased to find Steve Schroeder, a poet and instructor at the University of Chicago, beckoning to me as I walked through the door. Steve had asked me to join him at Rhino’s monthly poetry reading at Brothers K. He had selected four Chinese women’s poems. I would read the Chinese, and he, the English. I said yes without hesitation. Only afterward I became concerned. I had done many book readings before, but never poetry. Not to mention that I am not a poet, and reading poetry is a form of art, a performance.

In fact, I had never been to a poetry recital before. The only experience I had close to it was the last day of my residency at Ragdale, an artist retreat center in Lake Forest, Illinois. Ragdale has a tradition that the artists—writers, poets, and playwrights—read a selection of their work at the end of their residency. There were two poets among the 20 artists during the time I was there. While Rachel, a poet from the Chicago area, read her work which was filled with humor and satire, Eric, a poet from Minnesota, recited his. He stood in front of the group who lounged all over a large living room and gave a stunning performance. He stomped and waved, his voice up and down, faster than a rapping singer. I was mesmerized.

Recalling the impact Eric’s recital on me, I used my early morning exercise time on the treadmill or elliptical machine to recite the poems. I had not tried to memorize a poem since I was a child and was surprised how easily the four poems registered in my mind. Their rhythms, flow of words, and unique structure seemed to sing on their own.

The poetry recital started with open mike. Then Steve and I began the scheduled program. I joked about my relief to see that there was no other Chinese among the audience, so nobody could tell if I made a mistake. There were approximately 50 people in the Coffeehouse, with 10 or so standing in the back. I was totally surprised by the full attention from them as I recited the poems in Chinese—their eyes gazed into mine, and the room was so quiet that I could hear a pin drop. I stumbled once and had to take a look at the printout of a poem, and later, read the eight stanza classic poem by Yu Xuanji, a Tang Dynasty poet. Steve followed me with the English version.  

We sat back and enjoyed the rest of the recital in the evening. Sylvia Shirley Malinton, Linda Kelsey, and Angela Narciso Torres, together with Vince Nguyen, did their bilingual reading in English and Javanese, Arabic, and Tagalog respectively. I had never heard poems in languages I didn’t know before and was surprised by the joy of focusing purely on the sound, the musical ring of the words and their rhythms in their original form. What an eye-opening and delightful experience!

I thanked Steve, Ralph Hamilton and Moira Sullivan of Rhino for the wonderful evening. And yes, I readily agreed with Steve that I would love to do it again.     

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.,

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Women’s Book Club in Naperville

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Naperville's Riverwalk

By Jian Ping

I’ve been to several special interest groups and women’s book clubs in the greater Chicago area recently. Each group has its unique characteristics, with women at different ages and backgrounds which play a key role in the questions they raise about my book or China in general. When I met with a group of 20+ women from Pan Pacific Southeast Asia Women’s Association (Chicago chapter) at my friend Jerilyn’s home, I was very impressed to see two elder women in their late 80s and early 90s among the audience.

The women’s book club I went to yesterday was in Naperville, a western suburb of Chicago where I used to live for a decade. Cynthia, the hostess of the club for the month, reached me via my book website at and asked if it would be possible for me to join them in their discussion about Mulberry Child. I readily agreed—I had always enjoyed direct contacts with my readers. I fought the rush hour traffic from Chicago to the suburb and was pleased to make it to Cynthia’s home by 7 P. M., right on time. I was very touched by Cynthia’s hospitality. I learned that the club usually meet once a month over snacks at members’ homes. But in honor of a book about China and my appearance in person, Cynthia followed a recipe of northeastern Chinese cuisine that she clipped from the New York Times and cooked a full meal. Stir-fried lamb with green onion, eggplant with potato and green pepper, cucumber and cilantro salad and rice, completed with a Chinese cake and fruit jello she bought from an Asian bakery. I couldn’t have cooked such a large, authentic Chinese dinner myself! On top of that, she bought Tsingtao Beer imported from China to accompany the meal!

Twelve of the book club members, a guest brought by a member, and I relished the delicious food and enjoyed a lively discussion for more than three hours!

I received a lovely thank you note from Cynthia today, saying I was the first author to meet with the group over their 15-year history and how appreciative they all were for my time with them. I wanted to say to her and each of the members at the club, the pleasure and appreciation are all be mine. I was honored and delighted to have met and talked with each of them. In fact the atmosphere was so lovely that I felt like I had known them for a long time as friends. Cynthia, Marcia, Linda, Jill, Barb, Chris, Marita, Margaret, Cindy, Marlene, and Joan, my heartfelt thanks to you all for your interest in my story and in China.   

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.,

Espionage Then and Now

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


An image grab taken from hotel surveillance camera footage, released by Dubai Police, allegedly shows two murder suspects dressed as tourists in tennis outfits.

In my espionage novel, “Bear Any Burden,” set in Poland in 1983, Sir Alex Campbell and Anna Kaluza, working for the British Secret Intelligence Services (MI6) were helping Professor Erik Keller, a world-renowned nuclear physicist to defect to the West.  MI6 had provided Alex Campbell with false passports for Professor and Mrs. Keller.  These were stamped and dog-eared documents that raised no questions when crossing borders.

In the recent assassination in Dubai of a Hamas official, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, eleven suspects traveling under European passports are being sought.  In this intriguing but inexplicable assassination, we have been told that the alleged assassins were traveling under legitimate passports – stolen or illegally created – from British, Irish and French citizens.  In today’s world, a false passport is unlikely to pass border security.  The swiping of passport identification sets up an immediate world-wide response which would highlight any irregularities. Thus, the use of legitimate citizen’s passport information is essential if would-be assassins are to move from country to country.

There are however a number of intriguing questions relating to this assassination.  If, as has been alleged, this was an Israeli Secret Service (Mossad) action, it appears to have been a very heavy-handed one. Why were eleven people necessary to carryout, what appears to be a simple killing of an unprotected individual?  Why was this well-known alleged Hamas terrorist and arms supplier traveling without bodyguards?  Why did the Israelis resort to crude disguises, knowing that surveillance cameras were everywhere?  What was the objective of having disguises in the first place? Knowing that the hotel, airport and other areas would have surveillance cameras, why were the alleged assassins so casual appearing before those cameras with their target?  When did the assassins leave the hotel?  Was it the day of the assassination or the following morning?  Given all the surveillance cameras located at the hotel and airport, which flights did the assassins take out of the country – individually or collectively – and where did they go?

On the face of it, given the sophistication and reputation of Mossad, if they are indeed the perpetrators, the mission was handled very ineptly.  Perhaps the Israelis underestimated the capabilities of the Dubai police in tracking down their operatives, or maybe the Israelis wanted the world to know that they can reach out and assassinate Hamas and other terrorists.

Finally, Hamas are now asserting that two former officers from the rival Fatah organization were involved in the assassination.  We’re told that the Dubai police have two unidentified Palestinians in custody in connection with the killing.  So perhaps, this was not a Mossad operation at all, but yet another Palestinian faction fight. 

There are a lot of unanswered questions and we may never know the truth.  However, as is often the case, fact can be stranger than fiction.


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:


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True Inspiration

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

By Jian Ping

Lindsey Vonn

I watched the Winter Olympic Games on television most of the time last night. From Shani Davisgold in men’s 1000 meters to Lindsey Vonn’s resilient win. Truly phenomenal and inspiring performances! Lindsey’s emotional outpour after her win said everything about the pains and challenges she had overcome to reach to the top podium.

What touched me, however, were not just the winners. I watched with great concern and shock as the TV screen revealed one hard fall, then another, on the women’s downhill race. These athletes practiced and dreamed about this moment for years and pushed themselves to the limit. It was hard for me to imagine skiing down that long, steep track at a speed of 85 miles per hour, or at certain points, even over 90 miles per hour. Any error at such high speed could trigger a spin off, and any crash at such high speed could be life threatening. Yet, despite a total of six falls, the athletes took their stands and flew down the mountain. What a spirit!

I watched the re-run of these images of triumph and disappointments early on TV earlier this morning when I was working out in the fitness room. I found myself moving faster and pushing harder on the elliptical machine and added a few more sit-ups on the bench. I know the aspiration, persistence and achievements of these athletes will inspire me in my daily endeavors, big or small, for a long time.

Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.,

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Voices from the Students

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010
By Jian Ping

St. Thomas Students

I went to Fairfield, CT the last week of January and gave a talk at the St. Thomas Catholic School and the Fairfield Ludlowe High School. It was my second time to visit both schools and the children at St. Thomas I had met last year seemed to have grown much taller. Ms. Sousa and Ms. Kral from the two schools extended the most hospitality to me, on a day when Connecticut was hit by a snowstorm.

Last year, Ms. Kral from St. Thomas sent me a note from each of the students, telling me what they had learned from my talk. They were honest and sweet and touched my heart. Over the weekend, I was very pleased to receive another thick envelope from St. Thomas. I read each of their letters carefully and thumbed through the color pictures and drawings they included. These notes were from students from 6th to the 8th grades. They each picked up different messages from my talk, but their straightforwardness and interest in learning about the life and culture of another country impressed me. I think nothing can speak louder than the selections of a few quotes directly from them:  

  “The last and most important thing I learned from your talk was that you should never give up or stop learning no matter what people think or do. You are an inspiring author and I hope you can come back to our school again.”     

                                                 Chris                                                                                                                       Chris,

“I never noticed it (the map of China) was shaped like a chicken. I think that’s really cool! … Thank you again for coming and teaching us about current china. I learned a lot of things you just can’t look up on the internet or find in a text book.”


“I can relate to you in struggling times because when I was four years old my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She put on a happy face which made me happy also. Your positive attitude showed me that anything has a happy side. My mother did survive cancer and she survived it with a very positive attitude just like you.”


“Thank you so much for coming to our school and giving us a wonderful speech on China. I thought it was just an incredible experience you had in your childhood. You inspire me to really enjoy my childhood, and be thankful for what I have.”


“I liked how you compared China now to China when you were living there. I also liked the pictures on your slide show.

“I think I speak for all of us when I give you a full-hearted thank you for coming in and telling us your story. We also may want to read your book and if it becomes a movie, we will all want to see it.”

                                                                                                Sean, 7th Grade

“It is interesting to learn about other cultures and ways of life, I would like to experience them one day for myself. I am half Chinese from my dad’s side of the family. However we do not celebrate Chinese traditions other than Chinese New Year…. I really want to learn more about my culture though, and hope to become more in touch with my Chinese ancestry.”

                                                                                                Sean, 8th Grade

 Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China. For more information, visit,

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“Lost in Translation”

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

By Jian Ping

I recently helped my friend Martha of Living Earth Television to translate a documentary film from Chinese into English. I used to do film subtitle translation when I was working in Beijing in the mid 1980s. At that time, I also translated some short stories from English into Chinese. It was a pleasure to go back to my old profession and chew on each word, both in Chinese and English, again.


The film we worked on is about children, therefore, the language was quite straightforward. However, there were times we had to utilize our interpretation and select language that made better sense in English—we were faced with the challenge that every translator has to deal with. That is to stay true to the original text via a process of recreation.

Incidentally, at the Asian Classics classes I am taking at the University of Chicago, we have been reading translations of some best known Chinese classics: the Grand History by Si Ma Qian, Analects by Confucius, and Tao De Jing by Lao Zi, to name a few. I have to admit that for me, reading the English translation in today’s

 language is much easier than reading the original in classic Chinese! Only occasionally, I check the Chinese original.

Two weeks ago, we started reading Shi Jing (诗经), translated as the Book of Songs, or the Classic of Poetry or the Odes. Unfortunately, none of the title translation transcends the “essence” of the word Jing. Since Shi Jing is a collection of classic folk songs and poems, I decide to read the Chinese and English side by side, sometimes check more than one translation. I am shocked by the drastic differences in each version.

For instance, in Airs of Chen, there is a poem titled 泽坡. Its first stanza in Chinese is as follows:

澤陂: 彼澤之陂、有蒲與荷。

James Legge translated it as: 

Ze Po: By the shores of that marsh, there are rushes and lotus plants. There is the beautiful lady; I am tortured for her, but what avails it? Waking or sleeping, I do nothing; From my eyes and nose the water streams. 

Arthur Waley’s translation:               


Swamp’s Shore:          

By that swamp’s shore, grow reeds and lotus.  There is a man so fair—Oh, how can I cure my wound?  Day and night I can do nothing;   As a flood my tears flow.

It is acceptable that translators select different words to convey the meaning in the original and try to have a poetic ring in English. But to take the gender of “ 美人”differently? That is hard to take. The word “beauty” in Chinese usually refers to women. I wonder if it is because later in the poem, the description of the “beauty” includes words like “majestic,” and “big” that Waley decided it must be a man.

This is just one example. Numerous different interpretations in the translation sometimes make it even hard to trace the elements and meaning embedded in the original. Of course, part of the beauty of reading poetry is that a reader can decipher it whatever way he/she find resonating. But when it comes to translation, the responsibility and liberty a translator takes would not only stand for one person, but would impact all the readers, especially those who cannot read the original in a foreign language. I, as a translator, support the approach of staying true to the original text versus free interpretation. I wonder what other translators or readers prefer and appreciate.  

 Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China.,

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Moving to France

Monday, February 8th, 2010
Paris Exposition: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France,...

Image by Brooklyn Museum via Flickr


My daughter who, with her family has been living in Paris for the past 3 ½, years recently sent me the attached, a compilation of observations from friends and ex-pats.  She assures me it is a pretty accurate assessment, which I think is quite an amusing commentary on the French way of life – pluses and minuses.

You know you are living in France…………..

When you give your children ‘snails’ for dinner and they adore them!!

When you kiss “hello” to everyone you meet!!

When you open your windows in the morning to ‘air’ everything!!

When you take off your shoes when you go to someone’s house!!

When you 9 year-old son asks if he can have a snack and comes out of the fridge with cheese and olives

When you see a car parked, facing the wrong way, on a one-way street

When your 4 year old son brings home a recreation of a Matisse

When you make a quick dinner for your daughter and she asks if it’s the ‘premier plat’

When you smile at someone in the street & they don’t smile back

When the boulanger takes an extra 5 minutes to wrap up your pastry selection in a box with a bow and their logo sticker DESPITE there being a long line of customers waiting to be served.

When you can place items in your bag while shopping to be paid for at the register WITHOUT being accused of shoplifting.

When you are asked by the doctor to disrobe and he/she doesn’t give you some sort of cover-up to put on during the examination!

When a man asks you out without being in the slightest bit concerned that you have a husband!

When you visit the butcher, the cheese shop, the wine shop, the bakery, and the fruit & veg market all in a one block radius of your house

When you wouldn’t dare leaving the house in tennis shoes or a sweatshirt

When you see the scarves come out as soon as the temps plummet to 15C/60F

When the waiters leave you alone and don’t refill your glass or ask “how is everything” every 5 minutes

When only close friends call you by your first name

When you walk into a pharmacy that sells lotions, pills and tinctures for” Jambes Lourd” (what the heck is that?)

When you might just see the whole animal in the butcher’s window

When there is a charity to send poor people on vacation

When someone pushes you on the bus/metro a couple of minutes before the stop in order to be the first off, and the offender is at least 90 years old

When there is no shame (or fear) in unemployment

When if you don’t like one doctor you can just pick another and see them without having to go through your insurance provider first

When you can invite people over for just an aperitif

When you can give your dinner guests the stinkiest cheese in the world and they will still congratulate you on the meal!!!

When you walk out of your GYN’s office with your pap smear in your purse to take to the post office to mail to the lab

When you finally get the kids to the park to find it’s been closed

When you jump the queue because you’re pregnant

When you are walking your dog and stop to pick up his poo and one of your kids steps in someone else’s dog’s poo

When your daughter says “oh la la” when she drops something

When you can ride a bike in a skirt and heels

When every time you see the Eiffel Tower sparkling it gives you shivers

When you go to the fruit seller and you are asked whether it’s to be eaten today or tomorrow

When you have to ask 3 or 4 times for the check at a restaurant

When the elevator only fits 2 people

When you go into a shop to buy something, but they refuse to ring you up because it’s 5 min. to closing

When you go to the butchers & you’re told exactly how to cook the meat you’ve bought

When you suddenly become popular and have houseguests all the time

When a man calls to your house to tell you for a fee he will sharpen all your kitchen knives

When the shop assistants offer to gift wrap your purchases, even when it’s not Christmas

When buying a bottle of wine, the wine merchant asks you what you plan to eat with it

When even if you’re first in the queue at the bus stop, that doesn’t mean you’ll be first onto the bus

When you walk into the ladies’ room at work while the cleaning man is there and you both say hello and go on with your business

When you consider slipping quietly out of a party so you don’t have to kiss 25 people goodbye (whom you already kissed hello).

When the best ice cream shop in the city is closed during the entire month of August

When the same shop is open all through winter

When your 6yo corrects your pronunciation coz she can do that ‘r’

When dogs are allowed in restaurants but not in the parks

When you find yourself doing that shoulder shrug combined with the “pfff” sound

When the only employee at the doctor’s office is the doctor! He/she answers the phones, schedules the appointments, weighs/measures/takes blood pressure, gives shots, and spends a minimum of 30 minutes with you and it costs you next-to-nothing

When doctors still make housecalls

When you’re served champagne at a 3-yr-old’s birthday party

When the perfectly coiffed chic woman ahead of you in line wearing high heeled shoes, a tight little skirt and equally tight top on her trim little body, turns around and is older than your grandmother.

When anything above size 36 is considered a Plus size

When coffee at breakfast time is served in a cereal bowl

When there are 8 days in a week, and 15 in a fortnight

When children go to the “canteen” at school and are served a full four course meal, with starter, main course, cheese course and dessert

When you look both ways when crossing a one-way street

When you call your paediatrician with a sick child at 8am, he answers the phone himself, and gives you an appointment for 11am that same morning

When the dustbin-men come 5 times a week

When neither adults nor teenagers get drunk at parties or sports events because it’s “unattractive”

When you see groups of police men/women (usually groups of 3) in uniform kissing each other hello/good-bye on the street

When you can use the shrugging of shoulders to explain numerous things!! And “ça va” for everything else

When men’s swim trunks are forbidden at swimming pools

When bare breasts greet you perkily in a 10ft tall soap ad plastered across the metro station walls.

When the bus driver stops the bus, gets out and lights up a cigarette while all the passengers wait patiently inside

When you can’t recognize English words when French people use them

When the toilet in your local cafe resembles a shower stall with two little stands on it for your feet

When you still find a way to get your undies from M&S/Target, no matter what

When your husband’s company doesn’t make the monthly deposit because the accountant was on vacation

When people talk about how British humour is so wonderful…and then you realise that they mean either Benny Hill or Mr. Bean

When perfume is also for men

When you’re told you can have something “right away: 10 days, two weeks at most”

When you are fatter than everyone else, but back in the UK/US you are the skinniest

When meat and fish are being sold outdoors

When you treat your plumber like a king for fear he will drop you as a client

When the driver of the car ahead of you whom you have just given way to out of courtesy, looks at you as though you’re crazy


So, if you are moving to France, be prepared!


 Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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What I Do When I’m Not Blogging

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
Nancy Werking Poling
I’ve had a hard time getting into blogging when I’d much rather be working on other projects: finishing a novel I started two years ago, submitting other works for publication. (Okay, to be truthful, I don’t really like submitting materials.)
I’m linking you to my short story that just came out in Moondance. “Not All Who Wander Are Lost” is from my unpublished collection: Matriarch and Giant Slayer: Might-Have-Been Women from Hebrew Scripture. In “Not All Who Wander…” I imagine Abraham as a woman leaving the familiarity of home and family.
I hope you’ll accept it as a substitute for a new blogging entry.

Voting Day

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010
8:30AM Election Day - No Waiting to Vote

Image by Paul Chenoweth via Flickr


Today in Illinois, there are a number of primary elections taking place.  There will undoubtedly be a tough battle in November for the Senate seat occupied in 2008 by Barack Obama, and then the controversial Roland Burris, who is not going to seek re-election.  Mark Kirk is a republican congressman for the northern suburbs of Chicago, and appears to be a strong favorite to get this seat.  His Congressional seat may go to the democratic candidate, Dan Seals, who has failed on two previous occasions to dislodge Kirk.

The campaigning has been very active from all participants over the past few months and, regrettably as we have got nearer to polling day, we have had a continuous blast of radio and television negative advertising.  These ads tell us that the opposing candidates are dishonest, incompetent, too young, or inexperienced.  Both sides use the same tactics and, as we all know from past experience in the U.S. democracy, negative advertising works.

But how democratic is our system today? We are told that we must protect free speech so anybody can say anything about anyone, without fear of retribution.  We have sophisticated pollsters, focus groups, political ad-men, lobbyists, and politically funded and motivated organizations, representing every special interest you can think of – all of whom know how to reach a particular section of the public with just the sort of ads that will turn them into a supporter of a particular candidate or against an opposing candidate.  Is this sort of manipulated propaganda through the airways truly free speech or democratic?  I don’t think so.  It has led us to the position where it takes one and a half-billion dollars to elect a President of the United States, and billions of dollars to elect our representatives in Congress and the Senate.  In order to be successful, candidates recognize they have to lead the charge to raise money for their campaign.  This inevitably leads to donations from special interest groups who obviously expect something in return.  As the amounts increase, and the lobbyist and special interests play an ever-increasing role, so the candidates are more and more beholden to those that donate.  I don’t call this democracy – I call it corruption.

Our elected representatives have to start campaigning the day after they take their seats.  An endless stream of fundraisers, dinners, speaking engagements, and private meetings with major donors, lobbyists, or special interests becomes the norm.  No wonder they have little time to read or understand proposed legislation or indeed even attend the meetings in Congress or the Senate. Our representatives now have a three-and-a-half-day working week doing “the work of the people.”  So perhaps it isn’t too surprising that nothing is getting done in Congress.  Everything becomes a fight, and our elected officials are more interested in keeping special interests and campaign donors happy, so as they can get adequate funding to run and succeed in the next campaign, than agreeing on legislation to help America overcome some of the largest problems it has faced for nearly a century.

Without a dramatic change in campaign finance regulation, this situation can only get worse until we arrive in the position of electing a puppet president whose “strings” are manipulated and pulled by faceless powerful leaders of global corporations or political interests. The recent decision by the Supreme Court to open the floodgates for corporate, special interests or other political donors on both sides of the aisle to spend freely is to my mind, disastrous. I believe that President Obama was right to highlight this during his State of the Union speech.  We can only hope that Congress will introduce a bill that will negate this decision, but if recent performance is anything to go by, I have my doubts.   


Ellis M. Goodman, author of Bear Any Burden:

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