Nippies® - an online magazine
Summer 2005 - Issue #26

Articles & commentary:
Schadenfreude - Pleasure from others pain. Canada Inches Towards Private Health Care...GOD HELP THEM! The Grass Isn't Greener Aspartame Poisoning U.S. Trade Deficit Hits All-time High High healthcare costs cause GM to cut 25,000 jobs - work going to China Ann Bancroft has died at age 73 - Mrs. Mel Brooks will be missed by all More to come

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  • Schadenfreude - Pleasure from others pain.
  • Canada Inches Towards Private Health Care...GOD HELP THEM!
    The Grass Isn't Greener
  • Aspartame Poisoning
  • U.S. Trade Deficit Hits All-time High
  • High healthcare costs cause GM to cut 25,000 jobs - work going to China
  • Ann Bancroft has died at age 73 - Mrs. Mel Brooks will be missed by many.


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Schadenfreude: Enjoy any bad news lately?

Have you ever noticed that the speed at which news spreads is often proportionately related to how bad that news is? We at NIPPIES have. Especially this past week when it seemed that everyone everywhere was dying of, being diagnosed with, or having a recurrence of the most feared disease in America: cancer. Think Peter Jennings, Dana Reeves, Tammy Faye Baker.

You know what we mean. The phone rings, and it's a friend calling to tell you that someone you both barely know has been recently diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness. (You don't hear about the recent diagnoses of shingles in mere acquaintances). Other bits of news which travel with the speed of light are news of infidelity (especially when the cheating spouse is caught in the act), divorce, death, embezzlement, and pending imprisonment.

Spreading such news comes easily to many of us. Since you cannot often get people to do unpleasant things, there must be a bit of enjoyment in spreading news of the misfortune of others. Leave it to those resourceful Germans to come up with such a descriptive, specialized word for the pleasure we humans derive from such pleasure. The word is "Schadenfreude", and the word is literally translated as "joy from damage". (On dictinary.com, it is explained as "Schaden"=damage, and "Freude"=joy .

Perhaps we as humans reason that if something bad has happened to someone else the odds that this misfortune will happen to us are reduced. Or perhaps we are just savoring our little moment of safety as we observe disaster from our distant vantage point.

Most of us are guilty of being gossips at some points in our lives. This is, in our own personal experience, more true in youth and early adulthood than in later years. We at NIPPIES can honestly say that hearing very bad news about anyone, even people we don't like, upsets us much more than it did in our younger years. When we were young, someone elses misfortune was just a topic of conversation, and not a threat to us. That false sense of security one feels when one is young lessens each time we ourselves or our loved ones are touched by misfortune or tragedy, because we realize it CAN happen to us or our family or loved ones.

As the Walgreen's commercial goes, we don't live in a perfect world. But think how wonderful it would be if, each time we heard bad news about someone (especially those we hardly know or don't know at all), we didn't pick up the telephone to pass on the gossip, but instead said a little prayer for this person in need. It might just mean that there would be less bad news to hear about.


Canadian Healthcare - Going Private? Say It Isn't So...
" TORONTO - Canadians have long prized their public healthcare system as a reflection of national values, and have looked askance at the inequities of private medical care in the United States.

But now that the Canadian Supreme Court has ruled private health insurers should be allowed to compete with the public system, the future of Canadian healthcare is a question mark." (Scroll down to read rest of article).

Well, isn't the grass always greener? There are pros and cons to both nationalized and private health care systems. Canadians don't realize just how good they have it. If Canada doesn't fix the problems in their nationalized medicine and go the way of private medicine, as many physicians are pushing for, they will realize just what they've given up.

The truth is that wealthy Canadians always had - and will always have - the option to fly out of Canada and have surgery/treatment, etc., elsewhere. It is the poorer Canadians who will be hurt if nationalized medicine eventually meets its demise.

One has to wonder just how many in the United States get SICK trying to keep up with healthcare premiums and the ridiculous cost of prescription medicine here. Canadians who encourage the disposal of nationalized medicine will learn the hard way that privatized medicine is all it's cracked up to be. Here's what is up for the Canadians if nationalized medicine is tossed: the self-employed up there will be working and worrying almost exclusively to pay their $1000 per month health insurance premiums (which will probably go up towards $2000 in the future) which do NOT include vision, dental or prescription. And which only cover 80% of the tests, surgeries, etc. AND which have a $500 DEDUCTIBLE for each family member. Then, they will weep and wail about what they have given up.

Here's the article on Yahoo! news which alerted NIPPIES to the Canadian trend:
Canadian Healthcare


Aspartame Poisoning
Most of us don't know about this, but we should. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener found in Diet Pepsi, Eclipse gum, and a multitude of other products, can be poisonous, according to many people and some research. But you won't find wide-spread news about this. There is way TOO much money being made by the use of this artificial sweetener.

We at NIPPIES first heard about Aspartame poisoning while listening to talk radio. Jeff Rense, the Peabody Award winning radio host, has had several shows on the subject of Aspartame poisoning.

If you want to find out more about Aspartame poisoning, go to any search engine and put in "Aspartame" AND Poisoning. Or go to Rense.com and do a search on aspartame.


U.S. Trade Deficit Soars to All-Time High
In a story out of Washington, D.C. (by MARTIN CRUTSINGER, the Associated Press Economics Writer), it was reported today (June 17, 2005) that the "deficit in the broadest measure of international trade rose to an all-time high of $195.1 billion from January through March of this year (2005) as the country (U.S.A.) sank deeper into debt to Japan, China and other nations."

The story continues to relate that the United States Commerce Department reported on Friday, June 10, 2005 that this deficit represents a 3.6 percent increase from the previous quarterly record. That record was an imbalance of $188.4 billion during the final 3 months of 2004.

It gets worse. The deficit for all of 2004 hit a record $668.1 BILLION dollars, which was up 28.6 percent from the previous record of $519.7 billion in 2003.

What are American consumers thinking? Why aren't we demanding that something be done now? More importantly, why aren't WE doing something about this? We should be checking labels and buying U.S. made products whenever and wherever possible. We should be putting demands on our own politicians to limit imports. We should be giving our votes to legislators who are willing and able to do something about this. And, in the opinion of NIPPIES, we should NOT be shopping at Wal Mart or ANY retailer where the merchandise is heavily imported. Read this: Wal Mart and China: Wal-Mart's China inventory to hit US$18b this year.

"If Wal-Mart were an individual economy, it would rank as China's eighth-biggest trading partner, ahead of Russia, Australia and Canada," Xu said.
Xu Jun is Wal-Mart China's director of external affairs

Do an interesting experiment to see just how aligned Wal Mart is to China. Go to GOOGLE.com, put in - "Wal Mart" AND China - (without the -, of course), and see how many results you get. We at NIPPIES got over 999,000 when we tried it.

As we all know by now, General Motors recently announced its decision to eliminate 25,000 jobs - and send them to China where workers are going to be paid $5.50 per hour. One of the main reasons cited by GM for the elimination of these jobs in the U.S. is the out of control cost of providing health care for workers. So why aren't politicians doing something directly and quickly to stop the soaring cost of health care in the U.S.?

We know why. It is because the AMA, the pharmaceutical companies, and other health care entities have a stranglehold on our politicians. Let's not pretend otherwise. Why are we arguing about drug imports from Canada, where there are laws to protect consumers from price-gouging on prescription medications? Why aren't our legislators passing the same or similar laws? Why are our politicians not passing laws to limit advertising of prescription medications? Surely these advertisements are increasing the demand for medications that are not necessary and may even be dangerous.

Below is a link to the entire AP article by Martin Crutsinger.
U.S. Foreign Trade Deficit Soars


Ann Bancroft - Thanks for the laughs.
By now there must be thousands of formal tributes out there for Ann Bancroft. As most of us know by now, Ann died on June 6, 2005, at the age of 73, only one month after the birth of her first grandchild, Henry Michael Brooks. (Mel Brooks and Ann had one son, Max Brooks, born in 1972.) But we at NIPPIES don't want to write another bio of the great actress. We'd rather just say "Thanks, Ann. You made us laugh." And laugh and laugh.

It was nearly 20 years ago when our only blood-related aunt, who recently passed away herself at the age of 88, called us up on the telephone. "Hurry. Put channel so-and-so on. There's a hilarious movie starting right now that I want you to watch."

Obediently (we at NIPPIES knew Aunty M, the family matriarch, would quiz us later to see if we had, indeed, obeyed), we flipped through the channels. And there was Fatso just beginning. In the background was sad Italian music, and there were scenes of a chubby little Italian-American boy being fed, by his sturdy-legged mother, a cannolli, spaghetti, or piece of crusty bread everytime he cried. Just from the opening scenes, we fell in love with this 1980 film.

Fatso was written and directed by Ann Bancroft. She also starred in it, playing a very unglamorous housewife/card shop owner named Antoinette. More importantly, she played the matriarch of the DiNapoli family and the elder sister of "Dom DiNapoli" (Dom DeLuise).

Fatso never won any Academy Awards®, and we don't think Ms. Bancroft wrote it with the intention of winning any. We at NIPPIES think it was just a film that came naturally to the Italian-American actress, who was born Anna Maria Italiano in the Bronx in 1931. But Fatso is a real winner in the feel-good category of films. And you don't need to be have any Italian blood in you to appreciate it. We suspect, however, that it might help you to better understand the humor if you have lived among or known some good-hearted Italian-American families. (As opposed to the type portrayed in the Godfather films.)

After the opening flashback eating-for-comfort scenes, we are taken to the present: a traditional old-fashioned Italian wake and funeral. Cousin Sal has died a few days earlier from a heart attack. He was only 40, but he was much more than 40 pounds overweight. There is much weeping and wailing at Sal's wake, which takes place in the home of Sal's widowed mother. (Home wakes were once the norm in not only Italian families, but in Irish-American families, as well). Sal's elderly mother, dressed in all black with grey hair pulled back into a severe bun, weeps and cries hysterically over the body of her baby-faced son. Antoinette (Ann Bancroft) also wails over her cousin Sal's portly body and cries out "Why, why, why?". Dom silently sheds copious amounts of tears for his "favorite cousin", but mostly he sneaks into his aunt's immaculate white kitchen to dip a crust of Italian bread into a large pot of simmering tomato sauce before heaving a sigh of contentment.

Somehow, all this doesn't sound funny in writing. But it is very funny to watch. And it is during the wake scene (followed by an equally funny burial scene where various and assorted family members drop flowers and say their good-byes) that Antoinette confronts Dom about his own weight problem. Dom's domineering sister has made an appointment for him with Dr. Schwartzman, the "diet doctor". Sal, it seems, was supposed to go visit Schwartzman a few days before he died. He went and had a pizza instead.

Antoinette, Dom, and Frankie DiNapoli, Jr. all live in the same family-owned and spotless New York brownstone, presumably where they were raised by the now-deceased immigrant parents. Dom and Frankie-Junior (the "baby" of the DiNapoli family) live upstairs in a spacious but modest apartment, and Antoinette, her husband and two young children (Ms. Bancroft is supposed to be in her late forties in this film, as she was in real life, so her character obviously married late) live downstairs in theirs. The DiNapoli siblings are so close that there isn't even a privacy door to each of the apartments- only a sliding partition door at the bottom of the common staircase.

Dom and Antoinette run the DiNapoli Card Shop, which is frequented by regular customers (such as "Mrs. Goodman", portrayed by Estelle Reiner, aka Mrs. Carl Reiner) and off-the-street customers who are treated to fresh pastry, milk and coffee daily. "Junior" keeps the DiNapoli family garbage business, begun by "Pop" many years before, up and running. Junior has a habit of bringing treasures home from his daily pick-ups: hubcaps which are turned into candy dishes, for example. On the first day back to a normal life after Sal's burial, Dom and Antoinette open the shop, and Junior heads off for his garbage run. Antoinette and Dom, after a few very funny scenes in the card shop which include the pair dancing to a rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown", shoos Dom off for his fat-doctor appointment. And the fun begins.

The good doctor lets a cigarette dangle from his lips and coughs profusely as he listens to Dom's heart. There is an assortment of johnny-coated and overweight patients, just like Dom, wandering from examing room to examining room. Finally, a Mount Sinai hatted-nurse gives Dom his instructions before he leaves: no candy, cake, pie, cookies and ice cream. Also no pasta, bread or creams, or custards of any type, etc. In other words, everything that Dom has come to love is excluded from his eating regimen. The rest of the movie is a delightful story of Dom trying to stick to his diet and the DiNapoli family trying to help him in his efforts. More importantly, Dom falls in love with Lydia, "Sweet Lydia", who happens into the DiNapoli card shop one day to buy gift wrap for her about-to-open antique and gift shop around the corner. Lydia and Dom find they have a lot in common: both have an Italian parent, both are Catholic, and both have a younger brother named Frankie. But Lydia (Candy Azzara) is also half Polish, blonde, health-conscious ("diabetes runs in my family") and reminds you of a cream-puff: her skin is creamy white, she wears lots of pink and white ruffles, her hair is piled into soft curls, and her voice rarely rises above the whisper level. She is sweet, and Dom falls hard.

The rest of the movie is just a delight and there are many, many funny and/or warm scenes: Dom and Lydia talking about her "almost virginity"; the regular Sunday-night family card game gatherings in Antoinette's apartment; Dom and his "Chubby Checkers" friends trying to keep each other from falling off-the-wagon, as well as a variety of typical Catholic scenes such as neighborhood summer Church picnics. We loved the film so much that we ordered it and watch it at least once a year. And, having grown up in a town which has a large Italian-American population, we can tell you that the way the DiNapolis are portrayed is accurate when measured against our experience: most of the Italian-American families we knew were self-employed (nearly every corner store, restaurant and barber shop in our town was owned by an Italian-American), took great pride in their heritage (Italian-American Citizens' Clubs abound), and had a penchant for moving into the same neighborhoods as their parents and other relatives. And most of these families were, and are to this day, very close-knit, sometimes to the point of exclusivity.

So, once again, thanks, Ann, for the laughs. We at NIPPIES know what a great actress you were. But you were also a great writer and director. And comedienne. Perhaps Mel Brooks had an influence on your humor, or perhaps you influenced his. Or perhaps not. At any rate, we will think of you, and thank you, every time we watch Fatso.


Remembering Judy Holliday
We at NIPPIES woke up too early today. It was 5:30 AM when our eyes opened. We had only slept 5 hours. But, like many of life's slightly annoying situations, there was a bright side to waking up too early. TheThe Three Faces of Eve (1950, Joann Woodward and Lee J. Cobb) was on American Movie Classics followed by Born Yesterday.

If you read NIPPIES on a regular basis, you know that we rarely watch a movie without going to IMDB.com to do a little research about the stars. This time was no exception.

Judy Holliday was born Judith Tuvim in 1921 in New York City. She was an only child whose mother went into labor while attending a play.

Judy/Judith was enrolled in ballet classes at a young age, and was interested in performing from an early age. It took her a little while (she worked as a telephone operator in her early years), but once her career took off, there was no stopping her. Our favorite Holliday movie was 1950's Born Yesterday, which also starred William Holden and Broderick Crawford. In this movie, Ms. Holliday convincingly played Billie, a whiny-voiced, uneducated bleached blond who, under the tutelage of William Holden's character, develops into a woman of culture and intelligence. Our favorite line in Born Yesterday is delivered by William Holden: "The whole history of the world is a struggle between the selfish and the unselfish." How true.

Judy herself was very bright. According to her IMDB.com bio, she has a measured IQ of 172.

Judy Holliday died in 1965, a victim of throat cancer. (Some sources claim it was breast cancer that caused her early death). She was a remarkable actress who is well known among die-hard movie fans, but she never reached legendary status as did her contemporary, Marilyn Monroe. But her movies are memorable, her performances are unforgettable.


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