Monday, April 24, 2017


(Thanks to whose synopsis I adapted for this post.)


Lemuel Gulliver goes on four separate voyages in Gulliver's Travels. Each journey is preceded by a storm. All four voyages bring new perspectives to Gulliver's life and new opportunities for ruling a country.

The first voyage is to Lilliput, where Gulliver is yuge huge and the Lilliputians are small. At first the Lilliputians seem amiable, but the reader soon sees them for the ridiculous and petty creatures they are. Gulliver is convicted of treason for peeing in the tiny White House (even though he put out a fire and and therefore saved countless lives) among other "crimes."

The second voyage is to Brobdingnag, a land of Giants where Gulliver seems as small as the Lilliputians were to him. Gulliver is afraid, but his keepers are surprisingly gentle. In fact, ladies let him play on their naked bodies. He is humiliated by the King when the King is refused permission to also play on their naked bodies.  He is generally startled by the ignorance of the people here; even the king knows nothing about politics or global warming. Gulliver realizes how revolting he must have seemed to the Lilliputians.

Gulliver's third voyage is to Laputa (and neighboring Luggnagg and Glubdugdribb). In a visit to the island of Glubdugdribb, Gulliver meets the Long Island Medium and learns how she does her hair, call up the dead and discovers the deceptions of history. Also, he meets the Stuldbrugs, a race endowed with immortality. Gulliver discovers that they are miserable. Being the kind and caring man that he is, he manages to kill them all.

His fourth voyage is to the land of the Houyhnhnms, who were horses endowed with reason. They were served by Yahoos. Their rational, clean (except for the stables) and simple society is contrasted with the filthiness and brutality of the Yahoos, beasts in human shape. Gulliver sets about learning their language, and when he is able to neigh and whinny correctly he narrates his voyages to them and explains the constitution of England and the rules of poker. He is treated with great courtesy and kindness by the horses and is enlightened by his many conversations with them and by his exposure to their noble culture. He wants to stay forever with the Houyhnhnms, but his naked body reveals to the horses that he is very much like a Yahoo, and he is looked down on. He nevertheless stays with the Houyhnhnms for several years, finding a friendly mare and becoming completely enamored with her and their colts and fillies to the point that he never wants to leave. 

When he is told that the time has come for him to leave the island, Gulliver faints from grief.  There was a demonstration, with the horses carrying such signs as “If you’re not a horse, we’ll remove you by force” and “If you're a beagle, you're illegal”.  Upon returning to England, Gulliver feels disgusted about other humans, including his own family of Yahoos. He does not go on any more voyages because the names of the islands and their inhabitants were becoming increasingly more difficult to spell, let alone pronounce.



Friday, April 21, 2017


(Some of this is old but most of it is new.)

I was watching a golf tournament on TV some time ago & saw a young golfer by the name of John Huh.  He is Asian, I believe of Korean descent.  I thought of how his life must be frighteningly like the Abbott & Costello routine, “Who’s On First?”.  How many times could someone go through this without exploding?  “What’s your name?”  “Huh.”  “I said, WHAT’S YOUR NAME?” “Huh!!”  “I SAID, WHAT’S YOUR NAME???????????”

When we were first married I worked as a dental assistant for a children's dentist.  One of my jobs was to go into the waiting room, call the next patient & bring him in to the operatory.  I looked at the chart & saw the child's name was Smilley, probably with an umlaut .  So I called "Smiley" & was immediately & quite loudly corrected by the mother, who said her son's name was pronounced "Smelly"!!  I'm sure that name would have been fine in the mother's native country, but I felt sorry for the kid having to go to school in the U.S.

My dad’s given name was Angel Kiewitsky.  He always went by the name Archie Keyes.  When I was starting college he decided to have it changed legally.  Off went our family to the courthouse.  As I recall, almost the entire conversation between the judge & my father went like this: Judge: “Your name is Angel Kiewitsky?”  AK: “Yes, Your Honor.”  Judge: “And you want it changed to Archie Keyes?”  AK: “Yes, sir.”  Judge: “I don’t blame you.  Granted.”

My father-in-law, Phil. used to play in a weekly poker game.  One of the players wasn't too bright, at least that's what Phil thought.  He always referred to him as "Schmungo", but not to his face.  I couldn't find "schmungo" in my Yiddish-English dictionary, but I assume it was Phil's own version of "schmuck"!!

Bud was in the Army with a gentleman named Haralambos T. Haralambos.  He never found out what the "T." stood for.  My grandmother had a little pekingese dog named Ming Toy.  My mother had a friend named Ming Toy Epstein.  Even though Ming Toy Epstein is an odd name for a woman, I don't think they were related.

My husband & my mother-in-law used to read the obituaries in the paper every day.  For a while I did, too.  You’ve heard that old joke, I suppose.  It goes, “First thing I do every morning is to look at the obits.  If my name’s not there, I get on with my day.”  One day I looked at the obits & my name was there—right down to the somewhat unusual “c” in our last name!  It was someone else, of course, but I don’t check the obits anymore.

Some even stranger names:

A rose by any other name would still smell!!----fishducky



Thursday, April 20, 2017


Book review: The Last of the Mohicans
by James Fenimore Cooper

It is the late 1750's, and the French and Indian War grips the wild forest frontier of western New York. The French army is attacking Fort William Henry, a British outpost commanded by Colonel Munro. Munro’s daughters Alice and Cora (whose birth name was Corad'Elaine) set out from Fort Edward to visit their father, escorted through the dangerous forest by Major Duncan Heyward and guided by an Indian named Magua. Soon they are joined by David Gamut, a singing master and religious follower of David Bowie, because he loved his knives. Traveling cautiously, the group encounters the white scout Natty Bumppo, who goes by the name Hawkeye, because people laughed when he told them his name was Bumppo, and his two Indian companions, Chingachgook and Uncas, Chingachgook’s son, the only surviving members of the once great Mohican tribe. Hawkeye says that Magua, a Huron, has betrayed the group by leading them in the wrong direction. The Mohicans attempt to capture the traitorous Huron, but he escapes.

Hawkeye and the Mohicans lead the group to safety in a cave near a waterfall, but Huron allies of Magua attack early the next morning. Hawkeye and the Mohicans escape down the river, but Hurons capture Alice, Cora, Heyward, and Gamut. Magua celebrates the kidnapping. When Heyward tries to convert Magua to Bowieism, the Huron reveals that he seeks revenge on Munro for past humiliation and proposes to free Alice if he can spend the night with   if he can-date if Cora will marry him. Cora has romantic feelings for Uncas, however, and angrily refuses Magua. Suddenly Hawkeye and the Mohicans burst onto the scene, rescuing the captives and killing every Huron but Magua, who escapes. After a harrowing journey impeded by Indian attacks, wild buffalo and the loss of power for their cell phones, the group reaches Fort William Henry, the English stronghold. They sneak through the French army besieging the fort, and once inside, Cora and Alice reunite with their father.

A few days later, the English forces wave a white undershirt and call for a truce. Munro learns that he will receive no reinforcements for the fort but is handed a note from Headquarters that wishes him good luck. He reveals to Heyward that Cora’s mother was part African-American which explains her name, dark complexion and raven hair. Munro accuses Heyward of racism because he prefers to marry blonde Alice over dark Cora, but Heyward denies the charge.  He tells him that he loves Alice because she is sweet and that Cora would be a bitch regardless of her color. During the withdrawal of the English troops from Fort William Henry, the Indian allies of the French indulge their bloodlust and shoo out the vulnerable retreating soldiers. In the chaos, Magua manages to recapture Cora, Alice, and Gamut and to escape with them into the forest.

Three days later, Heyward, Munro, Hawkeye, and the Mohicans discover Magua’s trail and after stopping for a light lunch and a couple of drinks begin to pursue the villain. Gamut reappears and explains that Magua has separated his captives, confining Alice to a Huron camp and sending Cora to a Delaware Boy Scout camp. Using deception and a variety of disguises they found at an abandoned costume shop, the group manages to rescue Alice from the Hurons, at which point Heyward confesses his romantic interest in her. At the Delaware Scout camp, Magua convinces the tribe that Hawkeye and his companions are their racist enemies. Uncas reveals his exalted heritage to the Delaware Boy Scout leader Tamenund and then demands the release of all his friends but Cora, who he doesn’t give a damn about anymore. Magua departs with Cora. A chase and a battle ensue. Magua and his Hurons suffer painful defeat and a rogue Huron kills Cora. Uncas begins to attack the Huron who killed Cora, but Magua stabs Uncas in the back, which I don’t think was a very nice thing to do. Magua tries to pull an Evel Knievel and leap across a great divide, but he falls short and must cling to a shrub to avoid tumbling off and dying. It had recently been sprayed with weed killer, so it rips out of the ground and Magua at last plummets to his death.

Cora and Uncas receive proper burials the next morning amid ritual chants performed by the Supremes and some back-up "doo wah" singers. Chingachgook mourns the loss of his son, while Tamenund sorrowfully declares that he has lived to see the last warrior of the noble race of the Mohicans, although their haircuts live on.