NIPPIES® online magazine
Issue #12: October 8 - November 15, 2003

Welcome to NIPPIES - since 1999!
We take little "nippies" out of every subject.

VIP = (Very Important Person).

NIP = (Not Important Person) - to some.

News about:
celebrities, entertainment, politics, business, finance, health insurance, society, pop culture & more - from a working class viewpoint!

nippies.com logo

November 15th, 2003
Goodbye, Norton

That was the headline in the New York Post on page 3 of the Wednesday, November 12th, 2003 edition. There was also a full-page story, featuring an abbreviated but touching biography, to accompany the headline. The closing paragraph simply stated:
"Carney was buried yesterday in Connecticutt after a small private ceremony."

For those of you who are under the age of 30 or 35, there might not be much significance to the passing of Art Carney. But for most of us who watched this show in reruns with our parents, or who watched it during it's initial run in 1955, there was more than a little sadness felt at "Norton's" passing.

Art Carney's "Norton", the hapless New York City sewer worker who was Ralph Kramden's (Jackie Gleason) best friend and closest neighbor, was an icon. As one news commentator said about his part in The Honeymooners: "Without Norton, there would have been no Honeymooners".

Norton was the the epitome of a best friend. Like Ethel to Lucy, he was always there for Ralph. Every get-rich-quick scheme that Ralph Kramden ever thought up, every health-scare Ralph ever had, every near-miss opportunity that came Ralph's way was shared with true-blue Norton. Norton was there to accompany Ralph on the piano during those practice sessions (he warmed up to "Way Down Upon The Swanee River") for Ralph's appearance on Name That Tune. Ralph, naturally, hated the "Swanee" song and rushed Norton through it for each session. Of course, the tune that Ralph couldn't remember was..."Way Down Upon the Swanee River". Norton was at Ralph's side when they appeared on the live commercial to push Ralph's "Chef of the Future" gadget that could "peel a apple", a potato, open a can, etc. Norton didn't freeze when he was in "television land", Ralph did. When everything fell apart for Ralph- and it always did- it was Norton who was there to help Ralph pick up the pieces. Ralph's long-suffering wife, Alice (Audrey Meadows) always provided the love, but it was Norton who provided the blind and unfaltering support that kept Ralph Kramden - the everyman of the post World War II era - perking along until his ship came in.

None of us ever did find out if Ralph Kramden ever did get a cushier job at the bus company where he toiled daily as a Manhattan bus driver on the Madison Avenue run. We never found out if he and Alice finally got the opportunity to add any furniture to that drab, curtainless two-room apartment whose only adornment was a wooden table, some chairs, and a sideboard. (The apartment was said to be a replica of Jackie Gleason's own childhood apartment, which he shared with his hard-working mother who died when he was only 19 years of age.) The Honeymooners ran only one season:producer and star Jackie Gleason felt that all had been said and done on the show during that single season and pulled the plug on the immensely popular situation comedy while it was still at the top. There must have been tremendous disappointment in America at the loss of this weekly delight. But the wisdom of Gleason's decision was never more obvious than it is now. Because forever, in the mind of any Honeymooners fan, there is unquestioned friendship, love, loyalty, and, most important of all, hope still going on in this microcosm of Americana during the 1950s. And Art Carney, Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, and Joyce Randolph (who portrayed Trixie, Norton's wife, and who is the lone surviving cast member) will forever be thirty-something, healthy, hopeful, and helping each other though the everyday trials of the lower-middle-class working man.

For the true fan of The Honeymooners, the honeymoon will never be over.

The New York Post also reported: "Art Carney won an Oscar in 1974 for his role in the movie "Harry and Tonto", starred with Walther Matthau in "The Odd Couple" on Broadway and had a long radio career in which, among other things, he did the voices of President Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill." But to most of us, Art Carney will forever be Norton.

Goodbye, Norton. You will be missed.

**************************************************************************************

Another Justice For Sale Story

Millionaire Robert Durst was found "not guilty" of murdering his 71-year-old neighber, Morris Black, yesterday in Galveston, Texas...even though he confessed to the killing, which he claimed was an accident that occured when a a gun went off as the two struggled. He also admitted cutting up the body, packaging it, cleaning up the blood, and dumping the bags into Galveston Bay. Oh, and neglecting to call 911. But hardly anyone-except Durst himself and his expensive legal team- seemed happy. Even Durst's brothers were upset. Thomas Durst, the 53-year-old brother of Robert Durst, became terrified when he heard the news and was quoted in the New York Post as reacting with this statement:

"I'm in shock. I'm just in shock," he said. "He'll kill again, I have no doubt, the question is who is next?" Thomas Durst said he fears for his other brother, Dougles Durst (58), who is the head of the Durst family's billion-dollar real-estate empire, and who Robert Durst has admitted to having plotted to kill, but changed his mind before following through with the deed.

Robert Durst's first wife, Kathie, a beautiful medical student, disappeared in 1982, shortly after a visit with her friend, Gilberte Najamy. Ms. Najamy claims that Kathie told her, on the night she went missing, that if anything bad happened to her, her husband was to blame. Later that night she disappeared from the Durst's South Salem cottage and has never been seen again. Durst claimed he put Kathie on a train for Manhattan. Her disappearance - or where her body is - has never been explained. Kathie's family, as well, is furious over the "not guilty" verdict delivered by the 12 member jury.

"After O.J., nothing is going to surprise me," stated Kathie's brother, James McCormack, upon hearing about the "not guilty" verdict. He also stated that the verdict left him "angered, upset, and many, many other words you can't print," according to a New York Daily News story.

Many of the newspapers reported that the jury seemed unable to deliver a guilty verdict because the head of Morris Black has never been found. Thus, a complete autopsy has never been performed. The remainder of Morris's body was cut up- by Durst- and placed in garbage bags, then dumped by him into Galveston Bay. It later was found by a boy who thought he was seeing a dead pig floating in the water.

The New York Post featured a photo of a shocked Durst as he reacted to the "not guilty" verdict. Behind him was his team of slick lawyers.

Durst still has legal battles ahead. Prosecutors have vowed to seek a separate indictment for bond jumping, which he committed after posting $300,000.00 to secure his temporary freedom.

In the meantime, Durst's current wife, 45-year-old high-powered real-estate broker Deborah Lee Charatan, has been allowed extended visits, lasting up to two hours, at the Galveston County jail where Durst is being detained. Ordinary inmates get only two 20 minute visits per week. The head of the jail, Maj. Mike Henson, claims that this is not special treatment. He told reporters that the extended visits are just because Ms. Charatan is coming from New York, and because of the sensitivity of the case.

OK.

****************************************************************************************

Master and Commander:Far Side of the World

We at NIPPIES haven't seen this Russell Crowe epic, and we can't wait to do so. But we were fascinated by the PBS (Public Broadcasting System) interview with the sound effects head of this movie. Sorry, we didn't hear the name, as we caught the interview halfway through. (There are over eightteen people alphabetically credited under the sound effects category of this movie.)

Not surprisingly, much of the success of Master and Commander will no doubt be due to the realistic sound of wind whipping through sails and creaking boards of the ship. The PBS interviewee explained that the sound was produced, in great part, by racing a pick-up truck, which had been rigged with a specially-designed wooden structure, refrigerator grills, and other contraptions, through the Mojave Desert at various speeds and with microphones placed at strategic points on the truck.

The Mojave Desert! How's that for ironic??


November 10th, 2003

Rosie O'Donnell: "What's Wrong With This Picture?"

By now we've all heard and read and seen about the latest HOT court case: Rosie O'Donnell and her former publisher are suing each other for something like $100 million.

To be quite honest, I was never a huge Rosie O'Donnell fan and haven't really followed the story, but I am aware that much trouble started when Rosie was forced, she alleges, to pose for a picture with the two female stars of The Sopranos on a doomed cover of her magazine, Rosie. (There are different explanations by different parties as to why she didn't like the pose with Lorraine Bracco and Edie Falco). I don't dislike Rosie O'Donnell. Basically, we at NIPPIES are just indifferent to Rosie's many talents in a benign way.

However, that said, Rosie made a very, very good point when addressing the cameras before entering a courthouse to testify at her trial. Rosie commented about how we have lost over 30 soldiers in Iraq this month. Yet, she said, her story is the top story in the media. "What is wrong with this picture?" she asked. And Rosie, I must say, made a very good point.


November 9th, 2003

Julia Roberts in Mystic Pizza...

A young Julia Roberts was breathtakingly beautiful, no ifs, ands or butts...

We just happened to be flipping through the channels and came across Mystic Pizza on the WE channel. Since we at NIPPIES have never seen Mystic Pizza, we thought we'd sit and stay awhile.

The movie is really good. We were sorry we'd never watched it in the first place. There is a romantic but light plot to this film. Good actors: Lili Taylor, Annabeth "no relation to Lillian" Gish, Vincent D'Onofrio, and, of course, Julia Roberts. MP is basically just a romantic comedy. There are really no heavy messages. The only thing really heavy in the movie, and this shocked us, is Julia Robert's 21 year old butt. Was she really that bottom-heavy back then?

Now don't get us wrong here. Julia is, naturally, gorgeous in this movie. Her hair is in that original wild-and-unruly style that, along with her megawatt smile, made Julia so famous in the first place. But it appeared obvious to we at NIPPIES that,in the first several scenes of the film, the director went out of his way to have her dressed in skin-tight skirts that made her derriere look, well, padded. Julia's backside didn't jiggle or move as she served pizza or ran up the stairs. If she didn't have a Frederick's of Hollywood fake fanny on in that movie, I'll eat my hat.

Still, Julia was gorgeous.

What is the purpose of this whole article? Nothing. Just thought we at NIPPIES would mention this. And let you know that J-Lo (Jennifer Lopez, for those not in the know and other Martians) did not resurrect the "big butt" look in Hollywood (post Jayne Mansfield, Jane Russell and Mae West, of course).

Conchata Ferrell is delightful, as always: she plays the down-to-earth-mother pizza parlor owner, Leona. A big surprise was the actor who played the younger brother of Julia's love interest. This young actor looked sooo familiar, but we just couldn't put our finger on where we'd seen him before. Lo and behold, we finally figured it out. It was a very young Matt Damon.

By the way, in the scene where Julia, her wealthy beau, and the beau's family are eating a lobster dinner, there was a mistake. The "green-stuff" in the lobster (called tomalley) was referred to as the lobster's "crap". However, it is actually the liver of the lobster. On a long ago visit to Cape Cod, we learned that many people eat this green-stuff, and some even consider it a delicacy. Chefs sometimes use the tomalley in sauces. Others shy away and consider eating the lobster's liver a health risk, as the liver in any creature filters out things in the body that may be contaminants. Just thought you'd like to know.


November 5th, 2003

San Francisco: A Living Wage of $8.50

The cost of living in San Francisco is extremely high. However, that said, we want to applaud San Francisco's small step toward making it worthwhile for the unskilled and/or unprofessional workers to get up and go to work in the morning. San Francisco has made it a law that no one works there for less than &8.50 per hour. Tha national minimum wage is still $5.15 per hour, and has been since 1997.

We at NIPPIES have done papers on the subject of living wages (or, wages that are designed to provide at least the minimum amount that a person can actually live on.) Living wages are beneficial in that they not only provide enough money to live on, but they also alleviate the necessity of working two jobs to get by on. With the extra time, those earning a living wage can then better themselves by attending night classes.

Bush Takes a Stand Against Partial-Birth Abortion President Bush today signed a bill banning "partial-birth abortion". A leading supporter for this bill, as named by President Bush, is Rick Santorum, of Pennsylvania. Some political pundits think Rick Santorum may run for president in a future election. He's young and has plenty of time.

Partial-birth abortion is abortion performed past the first tri-mester of pregnance. The controversy over this procedure has been brewing for years. We are sure that we haven't heard the end of the controversy, either. ALready some doctors are citing scenarios where the mother's health may be jeopardized if she if forced to carry out an unwanted pregnance. Pro-life advocates argue that this is not true.

Mel Gibson - Six Sons There was a blurb on the bottom of CNN's news just now about Mel Gibson and his six sons. The news item alluded to Mel Gibson considering a project which will feature his sons...more to come.


November 3rd, 2003

The Joys Of Teaching Your Children To Borrow Money

Have you ever tried to teach a third grader subtraction of three or four digit numbers? We at NIPPIES were faced with that situation this past week when our little one came home with a near-failing grade in math.

The problem was with the concept of starting out with a certain amount of money, purchasing "candy" or a "toy", and then giving the answer of how much change you should have. Our little one just couldn't get it. The dollar signs, the decimal point, the whole idea of subtracting a larger digit from a smaller one-or even from a zero- had her in tears. We at NIPPIES were nearly in tears ourselves as we grappled with the task of explaining all this.

Finally, we came upon the idea of using actual money and a "bank". The first thing we did was to get out a lot of one dollar bills, nineteen dimes, and nineteen pennies. Then, after we had gotten out a piece of paper and had the money handy, we went over the importance of lining up the penny columns, the dime columns, and the dollar columns directly under each other when approaching the subtraction problem. In other words, when we gave her the problem of "Mommy gives you $5.00 to go to the movies. The movie costs $3.75. How much change will you bring home?", we were very careful to make sure she placed the "5" from the $3.75 directly under the last "0" from the $5.00, the "7" from the $3.75 directly under the second "0" from the $5.00 amount, and the "3" from the $3.75 directly under the "5" from the $5.00. Of course, we went over the fact of why this is so important: because each of these columns stands for something specific: pennies, dimes, and dollars.

Once we had the digits written in large, exaggerated numbers, we had her place the appropriate amount of money, representing the $5.00 she would be given to begin with, at the top of the piece of paper where the digits were written. She then proceeded, after several reminders to begin on the right hand column of numbers and not the left hand column, to subtract the $3.75 from the $5.00. And, of course, got totally befuddled about how you could possibly subtract a "5" from a "0". This is where Mommy had to get smart.

I had her look at the "0" which stood for the pennies in the $5.00 amount as the "Penny House", where the Penny family lived. This visualization immediately brought a hugh smile to her entire face, and I knew I was onto something good. The Penny family had no pennies in the house, and had to run next door to the "Dime House" to borrow a dime, which they would take to the "bank" and change into 10 pennies. But the Dime family had no dimes. So, the she then had to go to the "Dollar House", borrow a dollar from the Dollar family, but not before crossing out the "5" and replacing it with a "4". She then proceeded to the bank with her dollar, which she changed into ten dimes. She bypassed the Dollar House, which now, of course only had 4 dollars, and went to the Dime House with her ten dimes. She gave Mrs. Dime the ten dimes, but then realized she needed the tenth dime to change into ten pennies to take back to the Penny House so that she could subtract the "5" from the $3.75. So she changed the "0" at the Dime House into a "9", which stood for the 9 dimes she gave to Mrs. Dime, and took the tenth dime back to the bank for 10 pennies. These ten pennies she then took to the Penny House. She wrote a small "10" on top of the "0" which had previously been in the penny column of the $5.00 amount. Ah. Now she could take the 5 pennies away from the 10 pennies. That left her 5 pennies. It was time to go next door to the dime column. She could also take the 7 away, now, from the 9 dimes that she had left with Mrs. Dime. That left 2 dimes in the dime column. Now all she had to do was visit the Dollar House, deduct the "3" (from her $3.75)from the 4 dollars left in the Dollar House, and she got her answer of $1.25.

It only took a few minutes to teach her the reverse process of adding her answer to the amount spent to be sure it came out to the amount she started with. Voila! She was enlightened!

I was amazed at how well the use of a little imagination and visualization (the Dollar Family, the Penny House, the Bank) worked in making my little girl so enthused about learning something she previously had declared as hopeless. ("I just don't GET IT!!", she'd told her brother earlier in the day.) How well did it work? Well, let me tell you this: last night, after I'd tucked her into bed for the night, I caught her with something under the covers. It was a spiral tablet and a pencil. She'd stayed up later than usual to work out a few more problems herself. And, thank God, they were all correct.


November 1st, 2003

Jack LaLanne - Nearly 90 And Still Going Strong!

Have you seen Jack LaLanne on those commercials for the Jack LaLanne Power Juicer? We at NIPPIES just did. He looks fantastic. His skin is far smoother than the skin of many men 40 years younger. He still has that famous A-frame physique that earned him the title of Professional Mr. America in 1955, and his hair looks toupee-less to NIPPIES. The man will turn 90 in 2004.

If anyone is a living testimony to the benefits of healthy living, Jack LaLanne is it. Not only does he believe in eating tons of fresh fruits and vegetables daily (no doubt power-juiced), as well as popping every vitamin from A-Z (according to the FAQ section at www.jacklalanne.com), but he's been married since 1958 to the same woman, Elaine LaLanne.

Way back in the 1960s, Jack LaLanne had nearly every housewife in America exercising- at least for a few minutes a day. His daytime exercise show was quite the rage among the many stay-at-home mothers of that simpler era. After his show's popularity waned, Jack stayed in the news with his amazing accomplishments of nearly super-human strength:at 41 he showed how it was possible to excape from ALcatraz by swimming to Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco while wearing handcuffs. At age 45, Jack LaLanne completed a thousand push-ups and a thousand chin-ups in 82 minutes. When he was sixty years of age, Jack LaLanne swam from Alcatraz to Fisherman's Wharf handcuffed, shackled, adn towing a thousand-pound boat. At at age 70, Jack towed seventy boats holding seventy people for a mile and a half across Long Beach Harbor.

Like many people who become fitness gurus, Jack was not a healthy child. A turning point in his life came when he and his mother attended a lecture by Paul. C. Bragg, a famous nutritionist. Jack LaLanne decided to turn his life around and began a strick and healthy diet and exercise regimen. Obviously it has paid off.

There is a personal quote made by Jack LaLanne which makes a lot of sense. The quote implies that many of us treat our dogs better than we do ourselves. Here it is:

"Would you get your dog up in the morning and give him a cup of coffee, a cigarette and a doughnut?"

Good point, Jack.


October 29th, 2003

The Ever Widening Gap Between the Rich and the Poor

After cooking supper for nine straight days, we at NIPPIES decided to take the family out for a meal at a restaurant. A family vote was taken, and the new Cracker Barrel store/restaurant, which serves Southern-style fried steak and other Southern specialties, was chosen.

Our waiter was a very nice young man in his mid-twenties by the name of Jonathan. As sometimes occurs, a rapport developed between server and customer. Jonathan looked a bit tired and it came out in the conversation that he'd picked up an extra shift that day. When he waited on our table, he was finishing up his 15th hour of waiting tables.

One thing led to another and the subject of wages came up. I asked Jonathan what he was being paid for waiting tables. I was shocked when he told me $2.83 per hour. For his fifteen hours of hustling, he was guaranteed only $42.45 in wages. Of course, tips (we at NIPPIES hope) would greatly pad that pay. But there are no guarantees when it comes to tipping. And tips are not part of the overhead that this large chain of restaurants is responsible for covering.

We at NIPPIES have been especially conscious of wages this past month for a couple of reasons. First, we noticed that all the veteran workers at out local video store, which was recently bought out by a large chain, are gone. They have been replaced by minimum-wage college students. We were dismayed to overhear an applicant at the video store ask about pay. He was told "we pay minimum".

Then last week we at NIPPIES read in the newspaper that our health insurance provider, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which demanded premium increases of 15% last year, is about raise premiums for self-employed another 15% in January. Our health insurance, through Blue Cross and Blue Shield, has doubled in the past 6 years. That will mean that we are going to have to pay over $900.00 per month for health insurance for a family of three. Our son, the fourth member of our family, will no longer be covered under our plan because we are not on a group plan. (Group plans get the privilege of free coverage for their over-nineteen and under-thirty full-time college student dependents). Our son gets the "reduced rate" of an additional $235 per month, on top of our impending $900. That means we will have to shell out over $1100.00 to provide health insurance for our family.

What is our world coming to? Minimum wage is $5.15 per hour. So, if one works a minimum wage job at $5.15 for 40 hours each week, the gross pay for an entire month would be $824.00 per month, or about $80 per month less than health insurance, through Blue Cross/Blue Shield, for a basic family plan which doesn't even include eye and dental coverage. In addition, there is a $500 deductible for each family member. And, despite all the increases in our Blue Cross/Blue Shield premiums over the past several years, the lifetime cap on coverage has remained for $250,000.00- an amount which could quickly be wiped out with one catatrophic illness.

Ironically, the people at Blue Cross and Blue Shield who decide on these premium increases not only enjoy enormous salaries, but full free coverage.

National minimum wage, which is $5.15 per hour, has not been raised in going on 7 years. $5.15 per hour is, to put it plainly, slave wages, in the NIPPIES opinion. In this day and age, paying anyone to do a job at the rate of $5.15 per hour is nothing less than a total disgrace. The price of everything basic and necessary to living has gone up: heat, electricity, rents, health insurance, prescription medications, tuitions- everything. But for the lowly worker who makes the wheels of business turn daily, wages have remained the same.

Our politicians regularly vote to give themselves nice raises. Of course, news on their votes for self-gratification are kept very quiet. Perhaps a small article might appear in the newspaper. Perhaps not. Politicians certainly look out for their own best interests. But for the little guy in the United States of America, the little guy who puts these politicians into office, things are getting worse and worse.

And for the little guy, who has no post-high-school education, things are getting nearly unbearable.

Consider this. What if you are a man who is tired for working for a corporation or company and who wants to start his own business? You are not a professional, but you want make a little better life for you and your family. You have a particular skill or talent that you want to develop into a full-time business. Everyone know that it takes start-up money to begin your own business:there equipment, advertising, rent, and other costs involved. You use most or all of your savings for the start-up money. Or perhaps you mortgage your house - if you have a house - and start the business.

Normally, it takes a few years, at least, to get a business to turn a profit. The rule of thumb seems to be that it takes about three years to turn a profit in a new business. But you have children and need to have health insurance for their protection. So, your wife (or husband) goes out and works a minimum wage or near minimum wage job to help out. You now are paying your own health insurance because you are self-employed. So, you are working 40-50, perhaps up to 80 hours a week at the new business to get it started. Everything your wife or husband makes goes towards paying for the health insurance that, perhaps, your former employer once provided, either fully or partially. You are not making a profit yet from your business. Everything your partner makes goes towards paying for the health insurance. There is NO income for your mortgage, utilities, and food. Unless you are very, very lucky, you are not going to make a go of that business. And you are back to square one, or perhaps even further behind, financially, than you were when you had that dream of being self-employed.

The American dream is crying out to be saved. Not everyone can be in the healthcare profession, whether as a lab technician, doctor, nurse, or other health care worker. Nor should everyone be in the healthcare field. Not everyone can be in banking, accounting, computer science or other professional fields. Not everyone can - or should - be a college graduate or or work for a huge corporation. Our country needs many more independent, small business owners who can afford to pay a fair wage to their workers- or to themselves. The workers need to make enough to buy the necessities of life and have a little left over to make a better life. It's now becoming more and more difficult each year to live the American dream.

Somewhere, somehow, down the line our economy is bound to fall apart. Why? Because more and more is being taken away from the little guy by the big guys who can. And doing something selfish because you can really is purely evil. The laborers are being left with less and less expendible income. And the less expendible income he has - because he is just too broke from paying for the bare necessities of life- the less he is going to spend on the extras.

There are plenty of people out there with money. But they are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer at an alarmingly fast rate. The gap between the middle-class rich and the lower-middle-class and the poor is ever widening. The wealthier are becoming more and more calloused towards the plight of the struggling working poor in this country- especially when it comes to healthcare. And that is an invitation for disaster in any society and in any economy.

Our healthcare "industry" is so broke that we at NIPPIES don't know if it can be fixed. The pharmaceutical industry is now putting more money into marketing than into R&D (research and development). There are more and more testing facilities and hospital satellite facilities going up everywhere, and more jobs being developed in the healthcare field. (Go to any "job fair" and you will see the majority of booths are for healthcare professionals). But if less effort is being put into developing the medications and treatments that will cure our most horrific diseases, what is the sense of all this? Some drug companies have stopped making medications for the control and treatment of less common conditions because there just isn't enough profit to be made.

The healthcare industry is probably going to have to collapse before it can be mended. Why? Because the little guy who is now paying the skyrocketing premiums will just no longer be able to afford those premiums someday very soon. Then what?


October 28th, 2003

Halloween Safety Tips from the FDA

With Halloween just around the corner, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has begun offering safety tips on Halloween treats, makeup, and contact lenses. NIPPIES will list the basic information offered by the F.D.A., and also a link to the complete page for your convenience.

While the information may seem common-sensical, remember that your younger children may be hearing this Halloween safety information for the first time. Please take the time to review these important safety tips with them!

Tips for Parents: Halloween Treats