Welcome to Issue 2 of Nippies on-line magazine! Oct. 1st,2002 through September 6th, 2002

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October 1st, 2002

the book graphic by Nippies Books Books Books: We at Nippies enjoyed watching Global Crossing CEO Gary Winnick in the very hot spotlight as he was grilled by House investigators on Capitol Hill today. Will he get the book thrown at him? Time will tell if he did everything by the book....Winnick, you may recall, sold $123 million of company stock last year armed with the knowledge, allegedly, that his fiber-optic cable network company was far short of Wall Street projections. According to the New York Post article by William J. Gorta, Winnick "...knew in February of the company's shortfall, dumped his shares in May." Needless to say, many investors, such as Global Crossing employee Lenette Crumpler, lost a great deal of retirement and investment money. Ms. Crumpler and others were not armed with the knowledge that was privy to insiders such as Winnick. The article states that Global CEO Tom Casey was still touting the companies profitability to industry analysts in April of last year, which would be two months after Winnick knew of the shortfall.


THE Book

Gideons have been trying to hand out free Bibles in New York City. Very few takers. Gersh Kuntzman, a reporter for our favorite newspaper, The New York Post, reported in his September 30th article that "many sneered at the man in the suit," referring to Ben Smucker, a Mennonite who had volunteered for the "New York City Bible Blitz" campaign, which is sponsored annually by the Gideons.

As you may or may not know, The Gideons are the organization which places, free of charge, Bibles in hotel rooms, hospitals, and other public places. The organization placed its first Bible in a hotel room in Wisconsin in 1908 and have since handed out over a billion copies of the Scriptures. During this year's Bible campaign, over 100 volunteers spread out all over New York City and offered color-coded Bibles: white for hospital workers, green for college kids, blue for those who preferred Spanish, orange for high-school students, and brown for the general population.

Every night the volunteer Gideons traded stories, "both horror and inspiratonal", according to Kuntzman. One man assigned to NYU was hounded all day by a "Satanist" who told him (the Gideon), "I'm praying against you!" when told that he was being prayed for.

Can you believe it? With all that is going on, and has gone on, in New York City, you'd think the citizens would be anxious for the Good Book. Sad, very sad.

Needless to say, the athiests also get in on the act of trying to derail the Gideons' good intentions. There have been campaigns by athiests to force hotels to turn down the free Bibles. Why should the athiests care if they don't believe?


A Wealth of Evil

We at Nippies are nearly finished reading Timothy Dumas'A Wealth Of Evil, which is the Greenwich native's book on the Martha Moxley murder.

This book is very different from Mark Fuhrman's Murder In Greenwich, which also focused on the Martha Moxley case. It is less factual than the Fuhrman book and looks at the case from the perspective of one with an insider's knowledge of Greenwich, which Dumas has. The outcome is the same: the Skakels are depicted as the suspects.

Dumas does not appear to be a fan of Mark Fuhrman. In his book, Fuhrman views the lack of co-operation by the Greenwich police as an attempt to protect the Skakels. Dumas claims that Fuhrman's perception of the Greenwich police force is incorrect, and that it was he, Fuhrman, who was his own worst enemy. The police, according to Dumas, were not very fond of Fuhrman because of his testimony on the stand during the OJ trial. They felt he made police look bad.

The paperback has been updated from the original hardcover version.

September 30th, 2002

Love Story graphic by Nippies Love Story

The classic Love Story is playing on American Movie Classics as we at Nippies type this latest entry to our little page. If you are of a certain age, you no doubt were amongst the original audience members to view this movie at a theatre near you.

What is amazing about this story is that, even after all these years and after having seen it at least six times, we at Nippies still love this movie. It may be over thirty years old, but who can get tired of watching two gorgeous people fall in love amidst a Harvard and Radcliffe background of ivy-covered brick buildings, snow covered quads, and a bit of classical music?

As a matter of fact, everything about this movie is classic, but especially classic are the clothes...the preppie clothes which were so popular in the 1960s (the era of Ladybug, Villager and cordovan Bass Weejuns loafers with the fringe and tassels) and again in the 1980s. The red-tartan plaid skirt, beret, black turtleneck, camel hair coat(with the collar turned up, of course, tiny hoop earrings, ballerina flats, shetland wool crewneck sweaters, pea coats, striped knit scarves, oversized sweatshirts, navy blue sport coat, all-weather tan raincoat, button-down collar oxford shirt, etc., etc., worn by Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal throughout the movie were the absolute height of fashion amongst the conservative set in the sixties, but that preppy look has never completely been out of style.(There was a heavy resurgence in the early 1980s...remember Izod shirts, monogrammed crew-neck sweaters, top sider shoes and slickers?)

One fashion item in the movie was not classic, but it created a red-hot fashion trend amongst teenaged girls: the hand crocheted, floppy-brimmed cloche hat worn by "Jennifer" when she frolicked, post-intimacy, on the snow covered Harvard quad with "Oliver" (and in other scenes, as well). Every teenaged, and younger, girl in America wanted one of those hats and, if Granny didn't crochet, scoured the stores until she found one. We at Nippies were amongst them. Perhaps in that wonderful, anything-can-happen, very young state of mind we all thought that our very own Oliver would fall in love with us should we wear one of those floppy creations on the long walk home from school.

One criticism about the striped scarves: the exterior scene immediately following Jenny and Oliver's first date at the Harvard hockey game showed Oliver with his father having a cold heart-to-heart talk before Mr. Barrett departed for his mansion. Not only was Oliver wearing a striped scarf, but at least 5 other student passers-by had them jauntily tossed around their necks, as well. A bit overdone, we at Nippies would say.

There were more classic features to this movie. The physical beauty of the type possessed by Ali McGraw, with her dark doe-eyes, coltish legs, and long black glossy hair and Ryan O'Neil, with his tousled, wavy hair, strong jawline, perfect smile and athlete's body will never go out of style. They would break hearts on any campus even today. Both stars were 30ish during filming, but they easily portrayed star-crossed undergraduates.

Of course, classical music played an important part in the movie. "Jennifer" was a music major who loved Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.

It almost seemed as though Erich Segal, the screenwriter of this movie, sat down one day and willed himself to write a modern day, yet classic, love story.

We at Nippies can just visualize Erich with a yellow legal pad in front of him. He can't think. He gets up, pours himself a cup of hot coffee. He sits back down. He sips. He thinks some more. He writes "Love Story" on the top of the page, not meaning to entitle the piece with that name, but just to use it as a working title. Another sip of coffee. Then he puts down the characters: brilliant, beautiful Catholic and poor girl meets handsome, brilliant WASP rich boy. Let's see, he thinks...lots of nice, preppy clothes, lots of interior and exterior shots of Harvard and Radcliffe. The wealthy boy's father doesn't approve of Jennifer's lack of breeding. But true love prevails. The couple ignore the objections of the Mr. Barrett III and reaffirm their true love for each other. They marry. They are terribly happy. Somebody has to die...this is too bland. OK. She dies. A tragedy. The end.

OK, he says to himself. So far, so good. But it's still too Romeo and Julietish. It needs something new. Something fresh. Let's add some controversy, some twist, a little spice! So he makes them athiests. (Oliver to Mr. Cavilleri about their secular ceremony: "Neither one of us believes...and we won't be hypocrits.") However, this non-belief did not stop Oliver from selling Christmas trees from a frosty lot nor Jenny from teaching Christmas choral music at St. Simon's Church. She also asks Oliver if he got them a Christmas tree in the church scene, and when he answers "I forgot", she reassures him they'll get one on on the way home. Just a wee bit hypocritical, n'est pas? But we'll forgive this indiscretion. After all, "Love means never having to say you're sorry".

Segal, in another touch meant to add a bit of drama, makes Oliver and Jennifer struggle financially. But it's an elegant struggle. She never wears faded and torn jeans, she just mixes and matches all those classic black and camel-hair classic dirndl skirts with those black opaque tights and black turtleneck and red opaque tights and red turtleneck and other classic pieces she had in her closet at Radcliffe. And he's still got all those Botany 500 suits and Burberry-like raincoats and button-down oxfords and ties and sport coats and shetland pastel sweaters to wear from his Harvard days.

Well, whatever Erich thought or did, it worked. Of course, the absolutely flawless casting of this movie was the key to its immense success. Ali McGraw and Ryan O'Neal had superb chemistry together. If you read the book, which we've heard was written after the screenplay, you'll know what we mean: it's pure fluff. Once you've read it, you weren't likely to reread it the way you might reread The Catcher in the Rye or another classic. But thirty-two years after it's making, we are still watching and still enjoying the film Love Story. And, no matter what our age, we are still caught up in a perfect, but doomed, love story of Jennifer and Oliver. The tragic ending is necessary for this love story to remain perfect. Death has removed the possibility of disillusionment and divorce between the two lovers. It has preserved their perfect celluloid love and lust for all time, an accomplishment that is difficult to achieve when one passes through middle to old age with the same spouse.

Erich Segal, in a classic bit of foreshadowing that is common in most tragedies, hinted at what was to come that would make Jennifer and Oliver's an unending "Love Story" even before she became ill. When Jennifer was being carried, by Oliver, over the threshold of their new apartment building in New York after they finally achieved financial security, the doorman called out, "Newlyweds, huh?" and Jennifer answered prophetically: "Eternally!"

P.S...Erich Segal, who has taught Greek and Latin Literature (the classics, of course!), is now 65 years old. He is currently a teacher (fellow) at Wolfston College in Oxford, England. We at Nippies thought you might find that interesting.

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September 28th, 2002

newspaper graphic by Nippies Tidbits

We at Nippies thought you might like to read some of the recent news tid bits that we found interesting:

American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, was inspired to convert of Islam after seeing Spike Lee's movie, Malcolm X, at the age of 12. His lawyer, Tony West, told this to People magazine during a recent interview.His parents, Frank and Marilyn Lindh, confirm the lawyer's claim.

On the recent Yoko Ono vs. ex-assistant Frederic Seaman lawsuit in New York over who is the rightful copyright owner of 374 photos of John Lennon and his family: it was Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone magazine, who led Yoko Ono to discover the theft of the photos. Seaman's pal, Robert Rosen, went to Wenner to pitch a story about the stolen photos and a potential book deal after a falling out with Seaman, who was once an assistant to Yoko and John Lennon. Wenner talked him into telling Ono about the theft in order to "save his karma". Wenner was a witness at the trial, which ended Friday in favor of Yoko Ono. Seamon issued a written apology to John Lennon's widow. In the last minute settlement, Frederic Seaman agreed to return the 374 photos and other items that belonged to Lennon, including a home video. Sean Lennon lent support to his mother during the trial.

According to Page Six of the New York Post, Magic Johnson has "made more money off the basketball court than on it. Magic now owns not only 5 percent of the Los Angeles Lakers, but over 30 Starbucks, five movie theatres, five TGI Friday's and a Fat Burger in Los Angeles - making him worth nearly $600 million."

David Hassellhoff and Pamela Anderson reunite in the upcoming FOX movie, "Baywatch:Hawaiian Wedding". Both look terrific, judging from a photo that appeared in September 27th's NYPost. We at Nippies assume, correctly or incorrectly, that David and Pamela are enhanced somehow or other, but they still lood terrific.

A new book, entitled "The Case Against Lawyers", by former Texas judge and current Court TV anchor, Catherine Crier, will be touted at a party on October 10th to be held in New York City. According to columnist Liz Smith, Ms. Crier claims in her book that "our legal system is dangerously out of control." Here, here. We at Nippies have been saying that for a long, long time.

According to Post Wire Services, Saddam Hussein uses at least three doubles. A German television network, ZDF, made a scientific study of 450 photographs fo Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and concluded that the doubles have "mastered Saddam's gestures and perfectly mimic Saddam." ZDF also believes that the doubles have had surgery to further enhance their resemblance to Hussein. We at Nippies wonder why anyone would want this job, and whether Saddam also has food tasters.

A full page ad is running in New York papers. The ad, placed there by The Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association, has the headline "SAVE THE FIREFIGHTERS" across the top. It states that since 9/11 there has been a "mass exodus" from the FDNY. "For the first five months of 2002, we averaged close to 100 retirements per month, by July it doubled to 200." They are asking concerned citizens of New York to call City Hall at 212-788-3000 (the Mayor's office) and ask that they (FDNY) be allowed to lock in their "best salary year" for retention of pension values. Please, if you can call, we at Nippies ask you to do so. The firefighters in New York City are already underpaid. They shouldn't have to worry about pensions.

From the AP: "Aspirin may make pregnancies safer". According to the article, Dr. Ramon C. Hermida , directory of the bioengineering Dept. at the University of Vigo in Spain, has offered evidence that aspirin at bedtime can ward off a potentially fatal form of high blood pressure, pre-eclampsia, that sometimes occurs in pregnant women. Sounds good, but we at Nippies have this to add:Please check with your obstetrician before taking any medication - including aspirin -if you are pregnant!!

And, finally, here's nerve: according to an article by New York Post columnist George F. Will, North Carolina has devoted almost three-fourths of the money it (N.C.) received from their share of the 1998 agreements between tobacco companies, state attorneys general, and trial lawyers (who's fees total $13 BILLION so far) to "measures for the production and marketing of ... tobacco."

September 27th, 2002

draft card graphic by Nippies Sunrise, Sunset

We at Nippies got a sad surprise in the mail yesterday. Our oldest child, a boy named Freddie, will become, according the the Selective Service System of the United States of America, a "man" on Saturday, September 28th. He is now a potential member of the military.

How deceptively jovial and innocuous the little green and white card, folded over once, is at first glance. On the cover of the registration form is a fountain pen, the old-fashioned type, poised in the air over a form that looks rather like a lottery ticket. Register On-Line NOW and Click Here is printed to the left of the white address label. One might think one was receiving a sweepstakes entry form.

Our son didn't show an outward display of alarm upon receiving the form two days before his milestone birthday. He lets on to be more excited that eighteen is the legal age to frequent strip bars, stay out past midnight, and just, generally, assert his independence when it's convenient. We at Nippies, however, reacted somewhat differently. There was a distinct drop in temperature in the blood that coursed through our veins, and we even swore an ice chip broke off and skidded into our heart at one point.

The card was shoved aside after Freddie's initial inspection. It was casually placed into the framework of the "I LOVE LUCY" oak-shuttered pass-through we had built between kitchen and television room back in 1986, the year Freddie turned two. Back then, and until he grew too tall to do so comfortably, our son would climb through the pass-through instead of walking through the kitchen doorway whenever he was called for supper. The oak framework of this hole-in-the-wall is also where we at Nippies place all our important, newly arrived forms that we cannot afford to misfile and, therefore, forget to fill out, mail, or look at. But, unlike the four or five other papers stuck there in motionless layers, this card seemed to wave maliciously at us with every slight draft. And so, this morning, we at Nippies took the thing down and decided to really examine it.

Naturally, there was a web address with more information. So we at Nippies punched the URL into the keyboard and found out some interesting facts.

According to the official government web site (www.sss.gov), only 88 percent of men ages 18-25 (the age group required to register) are actually registered. Of men ages 20-25, only 92 percent have registered.

The penalty for not registering? If prosecuted and convicted, the non-registrant faces a fine of up to $250,000.00 and/or a prison term of up to five years. Shouldn't there be a lot of young men in prison right now, or at least working three jobs to pay off that hefty fine? If only 88 percent of 18-25 year olds are registered, and that constitutes 13.5 million, it sounds like there are roughly two million young guys facing prosecution out there!

Other "punishments" that are meted out for failure to file include disqualification from Federal student loans, Federal job training, and Federal jobs.

There are only, now get this, 165 full-time active duty military personnel working for the Selective Service System. The remainder of SSS employees are part-time and many of those are volunteers. We at Nippies suppose a good way of finding out if our country has any intention of reinstating THE DRAFT, and we at Nippies pray with all our might that they do NOT, is to keep checking back at the SSS.gov site and see if there is a surge upwards of employees.

The annual budget for the SSS is $25,003,000.00. (We at Nippies wonder why they threw the extra "3" in there?) By the way, checking this budget is another way to see what plans our government might have regarding THE DRAFT. If it suddenly jumps up to, say, $100,000,000 there will be a lot of nervous parents and 18-25-year-olds out there.

A common fallacy is that the SSS does not require "only sons" to be registered. We at Nippies have found out that this is not true.

The original law, passed in 1948, exempted the sole surviving son of a family where one or more sons or daughters died as a result of military service. The provision was intended to protect families which had lost a member in World War II. (Not mentioned on the sss.gov site is the story of the tragic Sullivan family which inspired the passing of this exemptional law. The Sullivans lost every son they had...5 of them...during combat on a Navy vessel during WWII).

Sadly, in 1964, during the height of the Vietnam War, our Congress changed this law. Under President Johnson, naturally, Congress amended the law to allow exemptions to "only surviving sons or siblings" only during peacetime. This meant cold comfort to those whose sons or daughters were facing THE DRAFT during the Vietnam War. Congress also changed the law, now called the "surviving son or brother" provision, to include not only siblings but also sons and daughters of those killed in the line of duty as eligible for exemption. Again, this applies only during peacetime.

In 1971 Congress expanded the exemption to any son, not necessarily the sole surviving son, of a family where the father, brother, or sister died as a result of military service. Recently, the provison was expanded to include mothers. Again, only during peactime.

All bets are off if Congress declares a national emergency of a state of war.

Men are not classified now in the Selective Service System. (Remember 4-F deferments?). Classification is the process of determining who is available for military service and who is deferred or exempted. A classification program would go into effect when Congress and the President decide to resume a draft.
Here is a list of some, though not all, classifications and what they mean:
1-A - available immediately for military service
1-0 - Conscientious Objector - conscientiously opposed to both types (combatant and non-combatant) of military training and service. He then fulfills his duty as a civilian alternative servive worker, whatever that means.
1-0-A - Conscious Objector - conscientiously opposed to training and military service requiring the use of arms. This man would fulfill his service obligation in a noncombatant position within the military.
2-D - Ministerial Students (wethinks there will no longer be a shortage of priests should the draft be resurrected)
) 3-A - Hardship Deferment - deferred from military service because service would cause a hardship on the family
4-C Alien or Dual National - sometimes exempted from military service
4-D - Ministers of Religion
Student Postponements - a college student may have his induction postponed until he finishes the current semester or, if a senior, the end of the academic year. A high school student may have his induction postponed until he graduates or until he reaches age 20. (wethinks there will be a rise in the number of failing seniors should the draft be reinstated).

Perhaps all this fact-finding is taking our minds off the real issue: our fear of our only son being sent over to Iraq and into the hands of that madman, The Butcher of Baghdad. Yes, we at Nippies have gone on record as saying this "man" must be dealt with. We agree with Tony Blair and President Bush that something must be done about Iraq's threat to the world. However, we weren't thinking in the black-and-white terms or a real war. It is unfathomable to think of this child -and, yes, he is still a child to us - who only recently started driving and who, it seems like yesterday, still had stuffed animals on his bed, could possibly be called up by our country to face the horrors biological warfare, torture, or life in combat against an unscrupulous and blood-thirsty dictator.

We will be praying, and hoping, for peace and a non-military solution to the Iraqi problem a lot harder now.

Happy Birthday, Freddie.

September 25th, 2002

nightshift graphic by Nippies Nightshift

We at Nippies had a discussion with one of our co-workers about eight years ago which resurrected itself in our consciousness today. It was one of those long, dark winter evenings on the job when there is plenty of time to talk. Corinne, the co-worker, was fresh out of college. She was young, idealistic, full of ideas, sure of herself, and ready to conquer the world. She was working, as were we, at the telephone answering service job as a "place-between". It was not a career for either of us.

Inbetween short spurts of activity from doctors' and lawyers' clients, the conversation turned toward big business. We were working for a small, privately owned company. The facilities and equipment were not exactly state-of-the-art. We at Nippies found this endearing. Corinne found it irritating. She began to tell us about the advantages of large corporations. Her parents, she said, both worked for major corporations and the benefits, facilities, and other aspects of such employment were "far superior" to what a small company had to offer.

Well, we at Nippies could not argue with that. Our little answering service was in the incubation period. It shared a unisex bathroom with a telephone equipment repair service, owned by the same man, a guy in his thirties named Bob, in the rear of a corrugated steel building. The "breakroom" had no wall separating it from the telephone repair service. There was only a partition separating us from the owner's desk. Conceding that, yes, there were limitations to the small size of our employer, we proceeded to point out what we saw as the positives of working for a very small company.

First of all, we said, there is the friendliness and accessibility of our superior. Bob, our boss, was accessible to us at all times. If he wasn't behind the partition, he was only a few blocks - or a phone call - away. Need to switch days off? No problem, Bob would say. What was this deduction, Bob? He'd explain. No forms to fill out. No delay. And so on and so forth. We were also fond of the casual attitude, dress, flexibility, and mutual respect unique to very small companies.

Corinne countered with the "fantastic" healthcare package her parents' enjoyed. She and I worked part-time, and there was no healthcare. Well, that was one argument I couldn't win on. But I did point out to Corinne that before doctors and hospitals had become businesses instead of caring health providers as they were just beyond her memory, there was no real worry about health insurance. At least not to the degree that we worry about it today. Corinne found it impossible to believe that many doctors actually answered their own phones, came to your house when you were sick, considered advertising to be unethical, often lived in the same neighborhood as most of their patients (albeit in nicer houses and with nicer cars), frequently waived payment because they'd gone to high school with your father, had a staff of one or two, at most, didn't own the testing facilities they sent to you, and were ashamed to ask "what insurance do you have?" before scheduling an appointment. Hospitals didn't have dozens of administrators, didn't charge $6.00 for an aspirin, had private duty nurses - real R.N.s - available that you could actually afford, and allowed their patients to stay until their were fully recovered.

As the night wore on, we both thought engaged in friendly sparring about the pros and cons of big vs. small business.

We at Nippies did not convince Corinne about the pitfalls of corporations growing too large, too powerful, to impersonal and too greedy. Most likely she just considered us as nostalgic for the "old days", which, indeed, we partly were. And Corinne never did sell us on the benevolence of corporate power. And, as happens with co-workers who form tentative friendships through part-time jobs, we eventually moved on and lost touch with each other: Corinne to a job as a sales rep with a large tech corporation, and myself back to raising our family and dabbling in self-employment.

We thought of all this today as we heard about the indictment of yet another CEO. We thought of Corinne, too, and wondered if she was one of the casualties of corporate callousness or, perhaps, if she became had become a major player. And we wondered if she ever thinks of that conversation of long ago, and if she has changed her attitude toward cut-and-paste America. We at Nippies certainly haven't.

September 24th, 2002

Eye money graphic by Nippies

Gold Rush

We at Nippies were watching a show on PBS the other night. It was about the California Gold Rush. The program itself was, we believe, entitled The Gold Rush, and you can find out more by visiting pbs.org. We only caught the tail end of the program, but it was fascinating. Whole towns picked up and moved to California in hopes of staking their claim in gold. "California or Bust". It was the get-rich-quick-scheme of the 19th century. Sure, like lottery winners, a lucky few made a great deal of money. And the story of their good fortune spread like wildfire, as does any story that promises rags to riches with a limited investment. But the vast majority of prospectors died poorer than they were before they became prospectors.

The documentary featured photos of pathetic gold pan-handlers bent over cold river beds. Men, women and children crouched on knees for hours at a time in hopes of getting themselves some gold and, in turn, a better life. Very, very few succeeded.

Later, when the big guns came into the picture, mines were built with large investments. The mines run by these opportunists, or "able dealers", as my old grannie called those of their ild, were unsafe and the working conditions were horrid. So many of the original miners of gold, by now desperate to provide for their families, went to work in the unsafe mines and ended up worse off then they were before they got to California. The owners of the mines did find gold and did make money. The original prospectors, alas, did not.

Which reminded we at Nippies about modern day "gold rushes". Take the stock market, for instance. Now that was really a gold rush, wasn't it?

The stock market has been, traditionally, for the wealthy and sophisticated. But after the stock market "crash" of October, 1987 there was a slow recovery and fortunes were made during the decade that followed. Savvy early investors, seeing the low stock prices and the opportunities the prices represented, bought heavily. The market had a decade of unequalled growth. Vast fortunes were made. Unfortunately, just like the gold rush of the previous century, the stories of these fortunes dribbled down to the blue-collar workers and less sophisticated white-collar workers much too late for them to make their fortune. By the late 1990s, when most investors had put a great deal of their savings and retirement into stocks, the downward trend had begun. And the "able dealers" had already taken all, or most, of their money - and profit - out of the market. They had sold their stock to the latecomers.

Hope springs eternal in the human mind, and in addition to hope, late investors were told to "ride it out" by financial analysts on television, in the newspapers and at the water cooler. Some are still riding out the "bottom" of the stock market, even as the market dips well below the 8000 mark.(The Dow closed today at 7683.13, a four year low). Many hard-working individuals have lost more than half of their retirement savings. They are now between a rock and a hard place. Pull out and lose, forever, their investment. Or stay in and hope the market recovers. Not an easy choice to make. But bear this in mind. As happened today, the DOW is losing 2,3,and 4 per cent of it's value on a bad day. Translate that into current interest rates, and it means it can take you up to two years to earn back in the bank what you can lose in the stock market in one day!

There were also a couple of internet gold rushes that we at Nippies are aware of. There were probably many more. Beanie babies and domain names come to mind. Let's talk about beanie babies first.

If you went to Ebay in 1999, you'd see tens of thousands of listings beanie babies for sale. The gold rush was on! Housewifes and minimum wage workers all over America were taking whatever extra dollars they had each week and buying these little critters on the internet and, sometimes, through the newspaper classifieds. The BBs were "collectors items". We at Nippies have a friend who purchased over 300 of these things during the height of the Beanie craze and had safely warehoused them in her attic for future sale. When we at Nippies questioned the wisdom of this, pointing out that there were too many of these things being bought and sold to be true "collectors' items", she balked. "But I love them!". OK.

Go to Ebay now. We at Nippies just visited the online-auction and saw whole collections of "retired" and other beanie babies being offered for sale with no takers. Ebay had over 11500 BB listings. There were few bidders on these collections. And many of the BBs that are selling are going for $1.00 or less each.

There was another gold rush on the internet a few years ago. This one had to do with domain names. The word was out that GreatDomains.com, a domain name reseller originally owned by a young entrepreneur named Jeff Tinsley and now owned by Verisign (which was previously called Network Solutions) had sold select, one-word domain names for several million dollars. Mr. Tinsley had registered the names, or the original owners for whom he sold (as a domain name broker) the .coms, had registered the domain names way back in the mid-ninties. Loans.com went for $3 million, for example, throught GreatDomains.com. Other domain names, such as Business.com, Wines.com, Drugs.com, etc., went for up to 7.5 million dollars.

Word of the huge profit made with these one-word domain names got out into the general population of internet users. Suddenly everyone wanted to be in on the domain name gold rush. Just about every word, phrase, and whathaveyou was bought up in the .com extension throughout 1999 and into the new millenium. Most of these names would be worth no more than the price paid, and in some instances even less, because they either were too long or had little or no commercial value. Again, hope springs eternal. Money was borrowed, charged cards heated up, and savings were spent by the "internet gold rushers". Network Solutions, the forerunner of Verisign, made a fortune. So did other registrars that were later approved by ICANN. Then, in hopes of making a quick buck, the .com names were quickly put up for auction on Ebay, Great Domains, and other domain name auction houses that had sprung up virtually overnight. Most did not sell.

When the .coms were all dried up, the new .cc extension was heralded as the next hottest commodity. We at Nippies even heard a pundit on the news saying that .com was going to be "passe" in the new millenium, and the new .cc was what every big company, such as Coca-Cola, would be using. The latecomers to the "gold rush" and the unsophisticated bought into this myth. They purchased the .cc extensions by the barrel-full.

Now ask yourself...when is the last time you saw an ad for BIGCOMPANY.cc? Probably never. We at Nippies never have.

So, what will be the next big gold rush? Only God knows. But remember this....save your money. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If there is a craze of buying anything, you can bet your bottom dollar, and we at Nippies hope you never are down-and-out to that degree, that you are already too late to get in on the profitable end of that particular gold rush. If you must persue your rags-to-riches dream, get in on the selling end of it, and take the merchandise, whatever it may be, on consignment. That's always were the money is.

But we at Nippies have a golden nugget of advice to pass on. The best thing to collect is money.

September 22nd, 2002

anna pillow graphic by Nippies

Anna Nicole's Pillows

We at Nippies have decided to update a few hours early. Who knows what tomorrow brings? We may be too busy. And we have thoughts.

Six hours of paperwork were what occupied us today. What a drudge. Dominos pizza for supper - 3 pies for $12.99. Shame on us. Normally, we patronize the mom and pop pizza shops just as we encourage our dear readers to do. But the money ran out before the month did. We must economize. So Dominos it was.

We are sitting here reflecting on The Anna Nicole Show, which we caught in rerun very late the other night. We at Nippies are one of the few in America who did not watch the much anticipated preniere a few weeks ago which, by the way, broke a record for a premiere.

There is one word that can sum up our reaction to this show - painful. It was painful to watch. Anna seemes to be either drunk, stoned or drugged. We at Nippies are not saying she is any of those things, but she appears to be.

The part of the show we watched was when she was in Las Vegas at some sort of lap dance club. Ohmygosh. How embarassing it was. Her attorney comes across as a serious low life, and Anna comes across as just plain pathetic. It was obvious that Howard Stern (the lawyer, not the shock jock) was thoroughly enjoying the lap dances and that Anna, who herself was treated to a few, was not. But she attempted to portray feelings of enjoyment, for whatever reason. Are we supposed to think she's bi-sexual now or just plain politically correct in some perverse way?

After the Vegas segment ended, we at Nippies and in television land were taken to her boudoir, which she is having remodelled. There was a truly hideous hot-pink satin badly-made comforter brought in, which Anna had special ordered. And a hot-pink tufted enormous headboard to match. Very casket like. Then came the pillows. Again, hot pink with - get this - feathers on the edges. Pink feathers.

Anna's lawyer, Howard, was very critical of the quality of the comforter, pillows and headboard. The feathers were "quartered". The headboard had a small hole. Maybe he was hoping Anna would send the whole thing back. No luck. Anna loved it and didn't want to make trouble with the designer, whose gender was undeterminable even after we'd studied her/him speaking.

The piece de resistance came at the end of the bedroom segment. The new lampshades were brought in. You guessed it. The shades were covered in - hot pink feathers! Are feathers fire-proof? We hope so. The lampshades looked like those feathery hats from the old 1960's that wealthy women from Europe were always wearing in movies that starred Tony Curtis as a playboy.

The whole bedroom ensemble looked very slippery and very allergenic. We sure hope Anna has a well-padded rug and good health insurance in case she slides out of bed. We also hope she is not allergic to feathers.

We at Nippies will not be watching Anna again anytime soon. We are not gluttons for punishment.

There is one other thought on this show we would like to share. Anna's son is 16. He's not on the show because he opted out. (Thank God...he seems to have something more going for him than Anna does). But the kid loves his mother. He hasn't protested officially to her doing what she wants. Sadly, we've heard that he had to quit school because of the other kids teasing and taunting him about his mother since the show premiered. He may be able to return to school soon. The ratings on Anna's show have been nose-diving every week (except for a small jump up last week), and if the ratings don't improve the show will probably be put out of its misery before the end of his first semester.

Obviously, Anna's show is an attempt to clone the success of Ozzy's show, The Osbournes. If The Anna Nicole Show accomplishes anything, it's to prove that the ease with what Sharon, Ozzy, Jack and Kelly enthralled, entertained, and cheered us is not easily reproduced.

September 21st, 2002

Here's Johnny

One of the blurbs on the National Enquirer this week is "Johnny Carson Battling Deadly Lung Disease." Yes, Johnny does have emphysema, a fact that he wanted to keep private. Yes, emphysema is a progressive and sometimes fatal disease. But Johnny's entitled to this privacy: the man is retired from show business. And Johnny is still feeling ok and living life to the fullest.

Johnny learned of the tabloid headline after playing a 45 minute tennis game. He was forced to make a statement. He said, in essence, that he's doing fine and is dealing with the disease as best as he can. He is hardly on his death bed. The man is 76 years old and it is far from shocking that at this point in his life he would have some sort of serious disease, whether it be heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or cancer.

We at Nippies buy the Enquirer and read it. We enjoy many of the articles about the off-beat, the famous, the everyday. But there have been long periods of time when we have refrained from giving our hard earned dollars to American Media, which publishes both the National Enquirer and the Star..

We at Nippies first abstained from buying tabloids back in late 1988. About six months before Gilda died, the Enquirer ran a blurb stating something to the effect that Gene Wilder was keeping watch over Gilda, hospitalized at the time, in her last days. This was terribly irresponsible because Gilda still had many more months to live, was still very much alive and alert, and saw a copy of the newspaper while in the hospital. There was a scene which referred to this fact in the TV movie that just aired about Gilda's life:It's Always Something: The Gilda Radner Story. We stopped buying the rag for an extended period of time because we were disgusted with the insensitivity expressed by the editors of the tabloid.

Another period of abstinence was back when Enquirer photographers hid outside Audrey Hepburns chalet in Tolochanez (or Tolochenaz?), Switzerland and captured photos of the beloved star on what was referred to as her "last walk". Audrey, frail and even thinner than she normally was, but with an expression of sweet resignation and grace, was in the last stages of colon cancer and had taken a stroll with a companion in the backyard of her very secluded property. The photogs were there, probably hidden in the bushes, with their telephoto lenses to capture the moment. Did we really need to see and read about this very private moment in the life of a fellow human being? No, we at Nippies certainly did not. The invasion of Ms. Hepburn's privacy was so upsetting to us that it was quite a long time before we purchased a copy of the gossip mag again.

Later, one of the American Media mags also ran the same sort of "last walk" story on Jackie Onassis, or Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis as she is formally called. Jackie was photographed less than a week before her death as she strolled through Central Park, supported by her longtime companion, diamond merchant Maurice Templesman. Jackie was well known for her love of privacy. She looked frail but lovely, even in the last stages of illness. However, knowing how she cherished her privacy and took great pride in looking her best, we at Nippies cannot help but wonder about the degree of distress Jackie may have felt about this last intrusion into her life by the paparazzi.

We at Nippies are human. We always end up reverting back to our old ways and buying the tabloid again and again. And, of course, contributing to the enormous coffers of the American Media publisihing corporation. The National Enquirer and the Star have a combined circulation of over 4 million. At about $2.00 per copy, that means thay take in a a lot of moolah.

Which brings us to one final point. This is about hypocrisy. There was a story on the cover of the New York Post about a survivor of 9/11 who was photographed in a debris covered business suit, his hair white from the smoke and soot, as he fled the World Trade Center scene with a briefcase in his left hand and a handkerchief over his nose in his right. The picture was picked up by wire services and was seen around the world. The man named Edward Fine gained anonymous fame because of poignant photo. Later, during the recovery period, he was greatly desired by interviewers for subsequent articles about the horrors of 9/11. Somewhere during this time, Mr. Fine decided to charge a symbolic $911.00 for each interview.

Apparently, this does not sit well with the journalistic community. Unethical, they say. Hmmmm...maybe, and maybe not.We at Nippies are reserving judgment. One of the biggest critics of the story-seller was Barry Levine, who is the New York bureau chief for the National Enquirer. Mr. Levine is quoted in today's NYPost with a critical remark about paying for a story about 911.

"Paying for some of these tales of history is really something that is unthinkable," Barry Levine said. The New York Post article then went on to say:

"Fine was featured in the American Media-National Enquirer's Sept. 11 special edition, but the interview was conducted several months ago, before he began asking for money, said Levine".

We at Nippies found the self-righteous attitude of American Media to be quite hypocritical. Didn't they charge for that commemorative issue? Yup.OK, so it's alright to charge for the issue and make hundreds of millions of dollars, but it's not ok to pay a victim of 911 for a story? Hmmmm.

We at Nippies went to pick up a copy of the newest National Enquirer the other day and put it back down. We'll be saving a few dollars on tabloids for the next couple of weeks or months until our annoyance at the rag wears off.

September 19th, 2002

We at Nippies are still here...still on hiatus. We hope that all is well with you, dear readers. As for us, all is fine as we spend time with our children and catch up on things "to do".

Nippies will be updated soon. In the meantime, enjoy your family and loved ones. And don't forget to tell them you love them!

September 15th, 2002

Time out

After watching all the 9/11 programs for the past few days, we at Nippies have decided to take a few days off. We won't be gone long. We want to spend more time with our children.

We hope you like our new Nippies banner. It is our little going away present to you, dear readers. If you want to drop us a line to comment on any of our daily pieces, please feel free to do so. You'll hear from us soon!

September 14th, 2002

Writer's Block

We at Nippies have had writers' block for the past two days.

Right now we are watching the family members of the victims of 9/11 on Larry King Special Week-end Edition. It is so overwhelming. Tom Rogers cries over his flight attendant daughter, a young woman in her thirties who loved people. Tom felt great sadness upon hearing the news of 9/11, not knowing that his daughter was on one of the doomed flights. Susan Carroll remembers her son, Kevin Colbert, a 25 year old so giving that he still dressed up for Halloween each year because it made his mom smile. Their stories are only two of many, many, many thousands told by the husbands, wifes, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, loved ones, friends, and neighbors of innocent people whose lives were taken away because of one madman's blood-drenched ambitions and deep hatred disguised as religious fervor.

Nothing we at Nippies have to say can be of any worth compared to the stories the families of 9/11 are telling. So we will be taking a break until at least tomorrow to listen to those memories and feelings they are sharing with the world.

September 13th, 2002

Your Opinion

Like everyone else in America, we at Nippies have been glued to the television watching the news reports of the alleged threat made by the three med students, as reported by a nearby diner at a Shoney's. As you know, this hoax resulted in 20 miles of highway on Florida's "Alligator Alley" to be shut down. It caused tremendous anxiety, inconvenience, and who knows how much it cost in taxpayers money.

What are your ideas on this incident? Please write to Nippies and tell us. We will be posting a concensus of opinion later on.

Please don't hesitate to write to us at NIPPIESDOTCOM@Yahoo.com We will keep all responses confidential. We will not sell or pass on your e-mail addresses. We look forward to hearing from you!

September 12th, 2002

Garment District Days Remembered - On Broadway

Recently we at Nippies attended an 8-year-old's birthday party with our little one. It was one of those parties held at a play center where the kids break loose from the parents the minute they take their shoes off and place them into one of those specially partitioned boxes near the entrance. You, along with the other parents, are supposed to disappear into the woodwork for the next two hours. But of course you don't. You hover nearby incase of a split lip or sprained wrist suffered in one of those hot-air, blow-up type jumping thingamajiggies that are the petrie dishes of accidents.

This particular party went beyond the customary two hours. We parents found ourselves sitting at a table while the birthday boy opened unending presents. His mother politely oohed and aahed nearby. Having said just about all that acquaintances can safely say to each other, the uninvolved parents occupied themselves by glancing unobtrusively at their watches, smiling quickly when eye contact was made, and praying that the party would soon end. We at Nippies decided to search the place for reading material to pass the time. Lo and behold, we found a nine-month-old issue of a glossy fashion magazine near the pizza counter.

If you are familiar with this type of magazine, you know that there is very little actual reading material to be found between the front and back covers. What we at Nippies found, instead, was page after page of full-color ads for very expensive shoes, "parfum", handbags, dresses, lingerie, and jewelry, etc. The few articles pushed more high-priced items: "Tips on Making the Most of Your Vacation" (buy new luggage), "How to Sparkle for Him on New Year's Eve" (put on your two carat diamond stud earrings).

We at Nippies were intrigued. Who are these women who pay $1200 for Italian gold shoes encrusted with rhinestones atop six-inch heels? Why would you pay $115 for an orange and brown striped woolen-knit snow cap that looks like it came from the $7.99 bin at K-Mart, $160 for "plastic-frame sunglasses", $25,000 for a charm bracelet, or $295 for loafers?

Needless to say, we shared our find with the other mothers. The fathers had long since retired to cars to listen to the radio, have a smoke, or take a nap. We had a terrific time passing around the magazine and having a laugh about the price of these over-priced luxury objects. There was no envy. One mother even remarked that she'd give the money away to a family in need before she's buy a sweater for $900. We had to agree with that wholeheartedly.

What we didn't admit is that at one time we had been residents of the "fashion world". While we were never in the fashion major leagues like the women who buy the items in our used fashion magazine, there was time when we would blow half-a-paycheck on a red angora sweater to go with our "winter-white" woolen pants. As we sit here and type in our unmatching pajama top and bottom, we must admit we were a different person, with different priorities, way back then.

For six years, we worked in various positions at a well-known department store chain located on the East Coast. The most interesting position we held during this time was as a buyer. Very few people, except those who have worked in the fashion industry, have an idea of what it is actually like to be a clothing buyer. So we at Nippies will fill you in on the details of what that particular job.

First of all, fashion is a business. Although many in the world of fashion would deny it, the primary purpose of making new clothes and new designs each year is to create a new need and to make money, and lots of it. And working in fashion is not nearly as glamorous - at least from our experience - as it is portrayed in movies such as the classic "Funny Face" with Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire or any of the other movies we've seen. Hollywood often glamorizes beyond reality.

When we were buyers, we had to go into New York every Tuesday - on a bus! The alarm went off at 5am. Because we were young and most often were out until midnight the previous evening, getting up that early was not easy. All that aside, we hopped the bus near the employee entrance of the department store with all the other buyers and department heads and settled down for the two hour plus trip to Manhattan.

After a few hours of sleeping, reading or talking quietly to pass the time, the skyline of Manhattan came into view. The bus would go into the special bus line i Secaucus, New Jerser and everyone aboard would begin to gather brief cases, appointment books, hats, coats, and various other articles stowed away under seats and in the overhead department of the bus.

We always departed the bus in front of the Empire State Building with a reminder to meet back at the bus by 6pm sharp, unless you had planned an overnight stay. This occasionally happened.

Macy's was the first stop for all fashion buyers. The famous department store was considered the gold-standard in fashion at the time. Perhaps they still are. It was a standing order from the store executives that buyers were to go through the store each week and see what the newest trends were, as New York is always ahead of any city when it comes to fashion - at least on the East Coast. Then, after a quick breakfast at a greasy spoon, it was off to our first appointment.

In those days, Broadway was where nearly every fashion house was located in the moderate to better dress market, which was our field of expertise. Appointments had been set up ahead of time with about forty minutes set aside for each appointment. We at Nippies spent many hours in 1400 and 1407 Broadway which was in the heart of the "garment district", as well as in various other skyscrapers which were home to hundreds of fashion houses. We'd ride the elevator for our first appointment, go through the usually heavy glass doors, and introduce ourselves to the receptionist.

There was often a vast difference in decor amongst showrooms. Some were very plush with heavy carpeting, velvety curtains and artfully curved furniture. Others were very plain and utilitarian. Many had the actual workrooms right behind the scenes where designers, cutters, sewers, fitting models, etc., toiled away. One secret we learned from an honest salesman in a plush showroom: often identical garments are shipped under different labels and sold at different prices. A budget department store will often receive the same dress as a more upscale store and sell it well below what the pricier store is asking. Placing different labels in identical garments aids in this illusion.

After the sales rep offered us coffee (and sometimes cookies or other pastries in the cushier showrooms), made a few polite inquiries about our health and family, and just generally established what passed for camaraderie, he or she would roll out a large screen specially built to hang the new designs upon. We would take notes in special fashion shorthand buyers develope after a few months on the job. Believe it or not, there is a name for every type of sleeve, waistline, neckline and hemline as well as fabric and trim and everything else you see on a sweater, dress, blouse,skirt, pants, vest, etc. We'd make notes such as "poet-waist, garbardine 4 pocket slacks- nice", "trapunta dolman-sleeved banded-waist sweater in cherry, avocado, cream- gorgeous!", or "polyester knickers - no way". KThis last item nearly bankrupted one large manufacturer.

By the way, the most difficult part about choosing fashions as a new buyer is learning to be objective. You do not choose what you would wear yourself, but rather what you know, or think you know, will actually sell. This is the part of the fashion business that must be learned by an assistant-buyer over a period of many months or perhaps years. No matter how good your taste is, you have to buy clothes for a large variety of shoppers or your selections will be passed over by anyone who does not share your specific taste in clothing. And merchandise that sits around becomes the dreaded mark-down! (One unfortunate buyer once bought a surplus of pink-polyester pants - what was she thinking?? - that actually were marked down to twenty-five cents each before we got rid of the last of them.)

One appointment after another would follow until it was time for a brief lunch. Sometimes you would meet up with other buyer friends, other times not. And, occasionally, you would have lunch with a salesman. This was allowed as long as you did NOT allow the salesman to pick up the tab! That would amount to payola, according to our supervisors back at the department store. It was alright for us to pay for their lunch, however, from the generous allowance the store gave us each week for just that purpose.

After lunch, it was back to appointments. One after another. Then it was time to go back to the bus and settle down for the trip back home. It was as simple - and unglamorous - as that.

The real work began in the office - in our case it was more like a closet located just off the sales floor - the next day when you would review your voluminous notes and begin to place orders. Budgets had to be checked. We had nearly 40 stores in our chain, so decisions as to which fashions, sizes and colors would sell in which stores had to be made. Each store has a certain "clientele" and a good buyer knows where an item will fly off the rack and where it will not. Then, after those initial decisions were made, what ratio of sizes to send to each store had to be decided upon. Yes, believe it or not, some stores had more larger women who customarily shopped there than did others. After you wrote up your order, it still had to be approved by your merchandise manager and then by the comptroller and vice president of the store. However, a lot of confidence was placed in the more experienced buyers and orders were usually approved.

It is really odd, at first, placing orders for bathing suits in the midst of winter and for woolen coats when the buds are just coming out on the trees in spring, but that is the way it is done and a buyer becomes accustomed to this. Everything runs about six months ahead of time in the fashion world when it comes to placing orders. After all, it takes time for the manufacturers to plan, cut, sew and ship their designs to the individual stores.

All the planning and work was well worth it when, after seeing your merchandise placed "on the floor", as we in the biz referred to the sales floor, a customer would come along and actually buy what you chose for your department even though they didn't really need that dress, shirt, sweater, pants, etc.

Which brings us full circle to where we began. Fashion is not about need, but about creating a need. Funny how what you desire changes with your station in life. We must admit that while it was fun to buy red angora sweaters that cost half-a-paycheck in the old days, we wouldn't dream of making such a frivilous purchase today. However, if our little one asked for just such a sweater, or pair of shoes, or coat...well, it's her turn now.

September 11th, 2002

In memory of the many who perished on 9/11, we will have a day of silence. Thank you.

September 10th, 2002

Moe, Larry, Curly, and The Couch

When I was a child I never missed an episode of The Three Stooges. I loved that show even though the episodes were, at that time, already several decades old.

I was also fond of hiding somewhere in the house and waiting for my parents or older siblings to find me. Listening to my family run up and down the steps and opening and closing closet doors was somehow very satisfying to me at the time.

I remember one particular hiding episode. I'd hidden behind the maple-armed couch in the TV room, which was then called the living room. This was a favorite place to hide because it offered a vantage point of kitchen, parlor and staircase. Being a quiet child with a sometimes too-vivid imagination, it was no problem for me to sit there quietly and daydream for what seemed like hours while my father, mother and two sisters sought me out. Every five minutes or so they would return to their meeting place right in front of the couch - I could see their feet - to trade progress reports.

"Gee, Daddy. I'm worried. Where can she be??" our teen-aged sister would say in a loud voice.

"We'll have to call in the police if we can't find her in a little while. It will be dark soon," responded my dad, concern dripping from every word.

Nothing, I thought, could draw me out of this warm, dark and cozy hiding place. At least I thought so until I heard the words that got me out from behind that couch faster than you can say "Moe, Larry, the cheese". The words uttered from my mother did me in.

"What a pity she's not going to be here to watch the Three Stooges. They'll be on in five minutes. Oh well."

Well, you guessed it. I popped my head up and called out,"Here I am!!"

Yes, I loved Moe, Larry and Curly. Every night at 5pm I watched those three lovable goofs right before supper. (It was supper and not dinner in our home. We were very informal). I never, ever tired of watching their antics of pratfalls, slaps, nyuk nyuk nyuk nyuks and the like. It was wonderful. And, I realize now as I watch them on AMC, very unspohisticated.

A lot of kids today don't like the Three Stooges. Ours don't. They don't see the humor. And their lack of amusement cannot be explained by the mild violence (slaps) because certainly kids' entertainment today has plenty of not-so-mild violence.

We at Nippies think that the children of today are just a lot more sophisticated than we were, and even their toys are more sophiscated than ours were. We played with blocks of brightly painted wood, lengths of rope with wooden handles, board games and hula hoops. The most hi-tech toy of the time was Etch-A-Sketch. Classics such as Play-doh, coloring books, Slinkies and Colorforms aside, our kids, for the most part, push buttons for instant gratification. Yes, kids today have a lot more, know a lot more, have seen a lot more, and have most definitely experienced a great deal more than we have.

We spent most of our time outdoors playing with the other children on the street. Our parents did not concern themselves about entertaining us. That was our job. And cries of "I'm bored", which we frequently were, fell on deaf ears or, worse, were answered with the pat "OK, then go do some homework" or, worse yet, "I wish I had time to be bored. I'll give you something to keep you busy." Yes, you learned not to complain about being bored pretty early in life back then.

We played "street games" of kick the can, relevio, hopscotch, jumprope, hide-and-seek, etc. We played with paper dolls or rode through the house on broomstick horses. Little boys spent hours with cheap plastic (100 for a dollar) soldiers of green and tan. Yes, we were different. We even called each other in a different manner than today's children by standing out in front of each other's houses and singing/calling the name of our playmate..."HELLLLOOOOOOOO MARYANNNNNN", a custom that has gone with the wind. Once we told our children about the singing/calling routine. Why we would do such an uncool thing was beyond them. Why didn't we just instant-message or make a phone call to our friends, instead. Oh boy.

I suppose we are seeing the last hurrah for the Three Stooges reruns. No doubt they will be retired to the archives within the next decade or so, along with old comedy classics like "I Married Joan" and "Amos and Andy" that were even before my time.

But this is to be expected. I remember wondering what my father found so funny about "Abbot and Costello" and "Laurel and Hardy". I didn't find them funny at all. Their humor seemed corny and was related to a different time and a different life: my father's childhood of long, long ago. And so it goes.

Thank God some things never change. Little children still like to hide - and to daydream.

September 9th, 2002

Are You A Columbo/Peter Falk Fan?

Are you a Columbo and/or Peter Falk fan? We at Nippies are both and have been for many years.

If you are a fan of either the actor or the character, you will be happy to hear that a new Columbo made-for-TV movie begins shooting next month. It is scheduled for broadcast early next year and is entitled "Columbo Likes the Night Life" because, according to the New York Post, Peter Falk's character gets caught up in the club scene. That should be interesting, considering Peter Falk will celebrate his 75th birthday on September 16th. But this great actor can pull any role off.

In the meantime, there is a non-Columbo movie about to be released, as well. According to yesterday's article in the NYPost, the movie is entited "Undisputed" and also stars Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, and Fisher Stevens (who played a young Spielberg-like director with a dark secret in his past in one Columbo movie). Peter Falk plays a boxing-loving mobster - a bad guy.

Before you say you can't picture our beloved Detective Columbo as a villain, remember that he was quite believable in the 1960 film Murder,Inc.. In that movie, where he received fourth billing, Peter Falk played the very murderous Abe "Kid Twist" Reles, a mob bad guy who got his comeuppance when he was thrown out a window near the end of the movie.

We all know by now that Peter lost his right eye at the age of three to cancer.

But we've dug up some trivia about Peter Falk - courtesy of imdb.com database, the NYPost article of 9/8/02, and our own fond recollections - that you might not already know:

Peter Falk was an accountant - a CPA - before he found his true calling as an actor. During this time, he worked as an efficiency expert for the state of Connecticutt.

He has been married to Shera Danese, a talented actress several years his junior, since 1977. Shera has acted in a couple of episodes of Columbo with her husband, but never played his wife. (Of course, how could she? We all know tht on Columbo, his oft-referred to wife is never shown).

Peter is an accomplished artist. His favorite medium is "black and white, charcoal, crayon". His drawings exhibit a great deal of talent. A year ago, according to the NYPost article, Royal Caribbean commissioned him to draw his Columbo character for one of the line's ships. We at Nippies saw a photo of the portrait and it's quite impressive.

Columbo was off the air for over ten years after its initial run in the early to late seventies. Columbo returned in February, 1989 with an episode called "Columbo Goes to the Guillotine". Columbo fans everywhere celebrated the long-awaited return our favorite detective with "Columbo Parties". We at Nippies purchased donut holes from Dunkin' Donuts and let the kids stay up late.

"Thee raincoat" that is his trademark was Peter Falk's personal coat. He bought it on 57th Street in Manhattan during a rainstorm several years before the series began. Falk still owns the original and has promised it to the Smithsonian.

Finally, and this is the most unbelievable fact of all, Peter Falk is not Italian!. According to the imdb.com information, Peter's mother was of Russian descent, and his father, Polish. Even we at Nippies, who thought we knew everything about him, were shocked to learn Peter Falk wasn't Italian.

Peter Falk, naturally, has done several movies throughout the years in-between his roles as Lieutenant Columbo. Our favorite is Happy New Year, a 1987 comedy about a May-December romance between a con-artist (Falk) and a sophisticated, thirtyish antique store owner (Wendy Hughes) who meet when he and his partner (Charles Durning, another favorite of ours) are in the process of setting up the robbery of a pricy jewelry store.

Near the end of Sunday's article in the NYPost, Falk laments the lack of roles availble in Hollywood to actors his age. We can't imagine that there would be any shortage of roles being offered to anyone of Peter Falk's considerable talents, but Detective Columbo wouldn't lie, would he? So we can only cherish each and every opportunity to see him on the screen - large or small - and hope that he will be around for many more years to come.


But does it work?

We at Nippies saw a very interesting commercial on television the other day. It was for a book called Joey Green's Magic Brands. The book has over 1000 alternative uses for common household products. For example, you can use baby wipes to clean up a spill on your rug. Or you can use maple syrup to tame frizzies and split ends. (We assume - and hope - that the book tells you to shampoo it out after applying! Otherwise, Elmer's glue would do the trick...)

September 8th, 2002

Doing "The Twist" with Stats

We at Nippies took a course in statistics when we were in college ??? years ago. One of the first things our professor told us about statistics is that they can be skewed to tell nearly any story you want to tell.

We were reminded of that lesson recently when we heard an advertisement on the radio for a investment advisory firm which employed a husband and wife team. The ad bragged of over "45 years combined experience" between the two partners.

We knew the couple. They are in their early to middle forties - tops. So we chuckled to ourselves as we realized that the 45 years "combined experience" really means about 22 or 23 years each. Those credentials are impressive enough, but 45 years does sound better. Then, as is our custom, we allowed our mind to wander.

Hey, we thought, our local McDonalds' employs about 45 people. Maybe more. Each might have an average of 2 years experience. They could run an ad for "90 years combined experience" of flipping burgers!

From there our mind sauntered over to our local public school. The teachers at that place never leave because they are amongst the highest paid teachers in the nation, especially when the low cost of living in our area is compared to the mid-5-digit average salary the schood district pays to teachers. We at Nippies checked and there are 212 teachers in our school district. We have to guess at the average amount of teaching experience they have, but we'd say 15 years is a very fair guess. So, 212(teachers) x 15(avg. years of experience)= a whopping 3,180 years of teaching experience in our school district. Isn't that amazing?

From there we at Nippies remembered a infomercial - a very comical informercial, and if you saw it you know what we mean - that we saw a few months ago on late, late cable television. This particular infomercial was for an "all natural" product that promises to make a certain part of the male anatomy 25% larger. No, we won't go there. But we will explore the part where the host, who is actually a porn star, brags that there are over 1,000,000 capsules of this particular product taken every month. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? That statistic makes it sound like every Tom, Dick and Harry is on the stuff. And with all those men popping those capsules every day, you'd feel left out if you weren't, right?

Ok, let's break that down. If over 1,000,000 capsules are taken every month and there are 100 capsules in each bottle, that means there are 10,000 bottles sold every month. Now, divide that amount by the days in the month. That comes to about 333 bottles sold each day. Divide that amount by 8 hours in the work day. That means the "factory" they show on television produces 41-41 bottles per hour, or a single bottle every 1.42 minutes. Hmmmm....when looked at that way, we picture a one or two man operation. The operation is not exactly Pfizer, is it?

As far as how many men are taking the product...well, there might not be as many as you think. If they sell about 10,000 per month (and each bottle is about a month's supply), that means about only about 1 our of every 6,000 men are actually buying a bottle of this product each month (if you assume that about half the male population of the US, or about 60,000,000 men, would be in the age category that would even consider ordering the product). So, if you are a customer, you just might be the only one in your town popping that capsule and looking for results each night. Feeling lonely?

Another interesting statistic was flaunted on the internet last week. It stated that 1 out of every 32 Americans are involved in the "correctional system". We at Nippies went to a party later that evening attended by about 40 family members and close friends. In light of the previously mentioned statistic, we were looking around to see who among us was the "1" who was on parole!

Finally, we at Nippies have always been amazed at how many American presidents have lived to a very ripe old age despite the claim that the average life span, up until the 20th century, was only somewhere in the 40s. (Check this out for yourself....most presidents lived to be 70+ years old!) Were American presidents given a super-vitamin that was withheld from the general population? Did they have better doctors? What, oh what, was their secret to a long life?

Then one day the answer to this mystery occured to us after we did some research on our ancestry.

We at Nippies had traced our earliest ancesters back to our 6X greatgrandparents, who lived in the 18th century, and learned that both of them lived to be over 80 years old - without the benefits of modern medicine or hot and cold running water. So did several of their children and their childrens' children. But! there were several children from each generation who died at birth or from childhood diseases. Aha! Then we realized that, until the advent of antibiotics and sulfa-drugs in the 30s and 40s, until the common practice of childhood immunizations, and until hospital birthing became a common practice during the first half of this century, there has historically been a very high infant mortality rate, as well as a high death rate from childhood diseases. When all these deaths were figured into the age pool of deaths, it would bring the average life span down to where it was throughout most of history - 30-40ish.

So, now you will be a little savier the next time you hear a statistic that inspires awe, fear, anomy, envy, or any combination of emotions. You will NOT automatically go "wow", but will look behind the numbers to the possible agenda - and there is almost always an agenda - that is driving the statistician.

September 7th, 2002

We at Nippies devoted today to our little one. It was "her day". So, please forgive us for not updating. More "Nippies" will be coming soon...

September 6th, 2002

To Build or Not to Build

There is a lot of controversy over whether the site of Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center, should be rebuilt, to what degree it should be rebuilt, and if, instead, it should remain as a memorial.

It's a touch decision for those involved to make. However, former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard B. Kerik had a very touching and sensible answer when asked, today on CNN's Talkback Live, what he thought about the matter. Former Commissioner Kerik spoke of the many who died at this site on 9/11. He said that in light of the fact that so many, many bodies were not recovered, will never be recovered because they literally were vaporized in the intense heat and their remains went to their eternal rest at Ground Zero in the air, the trees, and on the ground, he considers the former WTC site as "hallowed ground".

Well, Mr. Kerik certainly convinced us with that statement. We at Nippies got chills as we realized the very sad truth in what he said. Ground Zero is the final resting place of many, many souls who perished that day. We do not, however, think that his opinion will be shared by those with the power to make the decision on this matter.

That land in Manhattan is some of the most, if not thee most, valuable real estate not only in the United States, but in the world, as well. We at Nippies cannot fathom that sentiment will win out over commerce in this decision. No matter how right it may be, we really think the site at Ground Zero will have a memorial of limited size built and the remainder will be rebuilt into the usual skyscrapers.

But only time will tell on this one.


Thong Opinion

When upscale retailer Abercrombie & Fitch started pitching scanty panties, or "thongs", to the 7-14 year old age group, parents spoke out and were heard.

One Small Voice:On May 17th, there was an article in the Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee) abour one 40-year-old mom who walked into an Abercrombie & Fitch store and picked up a pair of nearly backless panties, popularly called thongs, in the girls' department. The woman approached a sales clerk and demanded an explanation. She was told she was "the fourth one" that day to complain about the inappropriate undergarments. Apparently, she also took the time to contact a newspaper about her concerns. The Journal Sentinel story, by staff writer Vikki Oritz, went on to describe Ms. McNamara's justifiable outrage towards the famous retailer for attempting to sell the sexy panties to little girls ages 7-14.

"I think of myself as fairly hip, and I think it's just disgusting," said Julie McNamara, a 40-year-old mother from Whitefish Bay who discovered the thongs while shopping for her three children.

A spokesperson for A&F, Hampton Carney, was quoted in the article as saying (about the panties),"It's cute and fun and sweet,". Apparently Ms. McNamara and scores of concerned parents of young children did not agree. Their voices, thanks to the Journal Sentinel article, were heard around the nation. The story was picked up by a national wire service. As a result, Abercrombie & Fitch received over 8,000 e-mails on Tuesday, May 21, protesting the sale and marketing of the scanty panties, which had "eye candy" and "wink wink" written on them, to young girls. The phones of the New Albany, Ohio company started ringing off the hook, as well.

By the following day, the panties had been pulled from Abercrombie & Fitch's shelves. A follow-up story, also written by Vikki Ortiz, appeared in the Journal Sentinel on May 23rd. Ms. Ortiz quoted Julie McNamara, the parent who originally complained about the thongs, as saying, "It was so obvious that this item was blatantly pornographic, and I think their company probably banks on publicity that they get from objectionable items."

Well said, Julie!

The story continues to make the rounds. We at Nippies heard it early this morning on National Public Radio. And we agree totally with the philosophy that little girls should not be depicted as sex objects or be encouraged to be "sexy". They only get to be little girls once in their precious, sweet lives. Why can't we just let them be the innocent little girls they were meant to be?

Of course, the most obvious reason for banning the sale of these panties is that it's just plain stupid to dress little girls in sexually appealing clothing of any kind. To a sexual predator that is like waving a red flag at a bull.

Again, one small voice has traveled around the world and has been heard. Ms. McNamara, Vikki Ortiz, The Journal Sentinel, and everyone else who took the time to voice their concerns are to be congratulated.

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