Archive for the January Category

STOCKINGS AND GARTERS

I do not know much about the subject of stockings and garters.  There are those who would say my ignorance on this vital subject is appalling.  On the other hand, I would say to my detractors, of whom there are many, that the absence of expertise is no reason not to write an essay on that subject.

Looking back, my mother wore cotton stockings which she contended was in accordance with the gospels.  According to Lillie, my mother, women who wore silk stockings were not really sluts but not far from it.  My sisters wore silk stockings long before there were such things as nylons and pantyhose.  More often than not, the stockings would develop what is called “a run.”   Effectively, a run destroys the stocking and it must be discarded.  Now, of course, we have nylons which are a good deal better than silk and which are long-lasting, or so I am told.  In my ignorance about writing about stockings and garters, I thought it best to seek expert advice.  Accordingly, Frances Licht and my wife Miss Chicka have been my advisors on this monumental essay.  If there are complaints about this essay, they should be directed toward Frances Licht and Miss Chicka.  I am going to contend that I know nothing about it.

Well, my mother wore cotton stockings, which was in accordance with God’s plans.  My sisters wore silk stockings, which my mother believed put their souls in great jeopardy.  Nylons and panty hose came into being I believe after my mother had become an angel.  That is all to the good.

But my main focus today is silk stockings, which preceded nylons and pantyhose.  The silk stockings had very little elasticity, which meant that they often fell down around the ankles.  To stop this downward descent, women used an arrangement on their girdles to secure the stockings above the knee.  I am at a loss to tell you exactly how this arrangement worked but it had to do not with hooks but with a clasp which held the stockings.  There were two such clasps which anchored the stockings fore and aft.    I remember with great clarity that there were women tending to their stockings, making sure that the clasps were in place.  Naturally all of this assumes that a girdle is being worn.

 

It is also possible that stockings were kept from falling by a bungee type rubber band around which the stockings could be wound to hold them just below the knee level.  There was an occasion in St. Louis when I was making a speech to mark the departure of the division superintendent. When I looked out at the audience and spotted these two fair ladies with stockings rolled below the knees.  It was distracting, but I want you to know that I did my duty even though there was hesitation in my voice while I ogled the stockings.  Rolling the stockings below the knees was considered bad form not only by me but mostly by my elder sister, named Verna.  Verna was the eldest of the Carr children and she had a tendency toward domineering.  At one time or another, Verna was not on speaking terms with my mother or with my other siblings.  But in any case, it seems to me that as a rite of passage into femininity, a girdle was required.  My sisters were fairly lean and really had no need for a girdle but after they turned 13 or 14 years of age, a girdle was required and, I assume, was worn regularly.  In a previous essay, I explored the subject of female girdles which won significant praise from Thelma Dupont, one of the readers of Ezra’s essays.  Thelma’s help on counseling me about girdles was greatly appreciated.  And it has remained in my memory ever since I wrote that essay.

Now there is one other thing about silk stockings which must be observed here, particularly as it relates to Verna.  In the back of the silk stockings, there was a seam.  It ran from the foot to the top of the stocking.  Aside from worrying about runs and looking stylish, there was also the problem of whether the seams were straight.  My sister Verna was death on women who were sloppy about their stockings who permitted the seams to go astray.  So you see, during the era when silk stockings were in fashion, women had one more travail to worry them.  Now, however, I assume that most women wear nylons which are made into panty hose which produce the desirable effect and seams are nowhere to be found.

Mrs. Licht has instructed me that girdles were not always required when wearing silk stockings.  She has pointed out that the stockings may be anchored at the top through the use of what is called a garter belt.  From my reading of the Sears Roebuck catalogue, I was vaguely aware of garter belts.  But they serve the same function as the girdle did, anchoring the stockings above the knee.  There was a time, probably during the World War II era, when silk stockings were not available.  It was during this period that a crayon came into use to mark the backs of the legs of the stocking wearer to give the impression that the seams were in place.  It seems to me that a person using a crayon on the backs of the legs was vain.

On the other side of the ledger, there are males who used to wear garters.  I never used such a device.  It was anchored slightly below the knee and the stocking was pulled up high enough so that it was very similar to those in use on girdles to be attached to it.  I may have been uncouth but I wore stockings at ankle length and I never thought about garters.  During my time as a soldier if someone actually wore garters, I suspect that he would have been laughed right out of the barracks.  This would have been a case almost as bizarre as the fellow from Sheboygan, Wisconsin who actually wore pajamas.  Nobody, but nobody, ever wore pajamas as a soldier.  Maybe in Sheboygan that was the fad.

Well, so much for stockings and garters.  I will confess that when I looked at the wife of Bill Haywood, my boss’s boss’s wife, at the going-away dinner, I was distracted by the two chubby knees with the stockings rolled beneath them.  But since that time in 1950, I have not given in to the temptation of looking at my boss’s wife’s knees.  I believe that I am ready for redemption.  Verna, my sister, spent the last few years of her life living with a preacher and his wife, and I heard nothing from her.  This may go to show that people who are concerned about whether other women have their seams straight in their stockings should worry about celestial things.  But Verna was Verna, and she cared about whether other women had their seams straight on their old-fashioned silk stockings.

I said at the outset that the subject of stockings and garters was one that was beyond my depths.  It is for that reason that Frances Licht and Miss Chicka counseled me.  And so I leave you with the thought that if you are ever concerned about stockings and garters and straight seams, you should consult those two women to inspire you.

 

E. E. CARR

January 16, 2011

Essay 527

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Kevin’s commentary: I didn’t even know what a girdle was, so Pop’s ahead of me at least on the subject. Though I suppose we are now even, my having been enlightened by this essay. Or at least I’ll be even once I’ve hunted down the other girdle essay. So far as garters, I was only aware of their usage in weddings. Clearly I am ill-informed.

But I think my main takeaway from this essay is that I wish to hear more about the pajama-wearing fellow from Sheboygan. While I am looking for the other girdle essay I’ll be sure to run a search for pajamas, and if I find any essays on the subject you may rest assured that they will be published here posthaste. If no such essay exists I will respectfully attempt to commission one.

A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT RICHNESS AND POORNESS

Jacob Cohen was a well-known personality who once offered the thought that “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor; and believe me, rich is better.”  I hope that there is no disagreement from my readers as to the wisdom of Mr. Cohen’s remarks. The fact is that the honorable Mr. Cohen was known as a comedian who worked using the name Rodney Dangerfield.  Unfortunately, Mr. Cohen/Dangerfield died in 2004, which denied the world of his further wisdom.

In my own case, I have never been successfully accused of being rich.  I spent my work years laboring for a firm that provided me with enough income to be considered basically middle class.  All things considered, I have no illusions about being a rich man.  If I come out even at the end of life’s game, I would consider it a great success.

That is not the view of politicians on the right side of our political spectrum.  Specifically they are Republicans who are masquerading under the title of conservatives.  Conservation is nowhere in their thoughts.  They wish to enrich themselves at the expense of the public, passing legislation that requires the rich to pay minimum taxes to the federal government.

I have been an observer of the American political system since 1928.  In all of those years, I have never seen attempts by one party to rig the bidding so that it preserves their richness and condemns other folks to poverty.  There is no attempt at equity in the year 2011.  There is a completely bald attempt to fix it so that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Amidst all of these transgressions, I find that the editorial on December 30 in The New York Times summarizes my thoughts more succinctly than I can. Besides, the editorial writers for the Times are much better writers than I am.  Here is the editorial of December 30, 2010.

 

Deficit Hypocrisy, New York Times editorial.  December 30 2010.

Deficit Hypocrisy

It was not long ago that Republicans succeeded in holding unemployment benefits hostage to a renewal of the high-end Bush-era income tax cuts and — as a little bonus — won deep estate tax cuts for America’s wealthiest heirs. Those cuts will add nearly $140 billion to the deficit in the near term, while doing far less to prod the economy than if the money had been spent more wisely.

That should have been evidence enough that the Republican Party’s one real priority is tax cuts — despite all the talk about deficit reduction and economic growth. But here’s some more:

On Dec. 22, just before they left town for the holidays, House Republican leaders released new budget rules that they intend to adopt when they assume the majority in January and will set the stage for even more budget-busting tax cuts.

First, some background: Under pay-as-you-go rules adopted by Democratic majorities in the House and Senate in 2007, tax cuts or increases in entitlement spending must be offset by tax increases or entitlement cuts. Entitlements include big health programs like Medicare and Medicaid, for which spending is on autopilot, as well as some other programs for veterans and low-income Americans. (Discretionary spending, which includes defense, is approved separately by Congress annually.)

The new Republican rules will gut pay-as-you-go because they require offsets only for entitlement increases, not for tax cuts. In effect, the new rules will codify the Republican fantasy that tax cuts do not deepen the deficit.

It gets worse. The new rules mandate that entitlement-spending increases be offset by spending cuts only — and actually bar the House from raising taxes to pay for such spending.

Say, for example, that lawmakers want to bolster child credits for families at or near the minimum wage. One way to help pay for the aid would be to close the tax loophole that lets the nation’s wealthiest private equity partners pay tax at close to the lowest rate in the code. That long overdue reform would raise an estimated $25 billion over 10 years, but the new rules will forbid being sensible like that.

Even worse, they direct the leader of the House Budget Committee to ignore several costs when computing the budget impact of future actions, as if the costs are the natural course of politics for which no payment is required.

For example, the cost to make the Bush-era tax cuts permanent would be ignored, as would the fiscal effects of repealing the health reform law. At the same time, the new rules bar the renewal of aid for low-income working families — extended temporarily in the recent tax-cut deal — unless it is fully paid for.

House Republicans obviously believe they have a good thing going with voters by sanctifying tax cuts and demonizing spending. That’s been their approach for 30 years after all, and it unfailingly rallies their base.

The challenge for President Obama and Democratic lawmakers is not to get drawn into that warped mind-set. They need to present an alternative, including investments — in energy, technology, infrastructure and education. They also need a plan for long-term deficit reduction that recognizes what the Republicans ignore: Never-ending tax cuts make the deficit worse. Prudent tax increases need to be part of the solution.

 

The New York Times has done a formidable job in gathering all the facts. Regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum, I do not see how you can argue with the conclusion.  The Republican politicians are aiming to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.  They are abiding by the dictum laid down by the former Vice President Cheney: “Deficits don’t matter.”  May I say to Mr. Cheney and his ilk, “The hell they don’t!”

My thoughts were set off by the recollection of Mr. Cohen/Dangerfield’s observation that “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor; and believe me, rich is better.”  Unfortunately, I have never been a rich man so I will have to take Mr. Cohen/Dangerfield at his word.  You may also recall that this same fellow is the comedian who said, “I don’t get no respect.”  Mr. Cohen/Dangerfield is gone now, but I would give him all kinds of respect for his observation that rich people have a better go of it in this life than those of us who have to get by on more modest means.

 

E. E. CARR

January 4, 2011

Essay 523

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Kevin’s commentary: I am curious what Pop would do with more money if he had had it. He doesn’t strike me as the type who is given to frivolous spending, and he already seeks out unorthodox purchases. For instance, for a birthday I once received a card saying that he had donated a water buffalo to a poor village in Asia in my name. One of the cooler presents I’ve ever gotten.

Oh, and I read this article the other day. Apparently since 2009, 93% of income growth has been for the 1%. I realize that I am from a family that probably belongs to this latter category or close to it, but this is nevertheless pretty darn messed up. I am not sure how sustainable these patterns are for the country.

 

THE ABOMINABLE MONTHS OF THE YEAR

For all of my long life, I have detested months that have 31 days in their duration.  At the moment, we are enduring the grim days of January in the new year.  When two months of 31 days follow each other, that is the cruelest time of year for every creature known to me.

July and August are 31-day months when the weather is warm or hot.  At least July and August have the saving grace of occurring during the baseball season and they are the location of the birthdays of my wife and myself.  So in fact I can live with July and August, even though they are 31-day months, which means that the banks and the investment houses can keep our money a day or two longer before returning the meager interest to us.  So in my case, I can survive the grimmest months of the summer because of the presence of baseball broadcasts.  I enjoy baseball’s pennant races and some of the trades that occur at that time of year.

But July and August are one thing.  When we reach the end of the year, we are confronted with the grim prospects of another pair of 31-day months known under the Julian calendar and perhaps under the Georgian calendar as December and January.  The weather is cold at this time of year in the northern hemisphere.  Bad news abounds everywhere. There are slips and falls, and complaints about inadequate heat are joys to the gas companies’ ears.  December is long and grim, ending in the Christmas season.  I am fully aware that there are those who take great delight in the coming of the Christmas season.  Unfortunately the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays is not among those who find delight in Christmas.  Beyond that, in the instant case, the end of December in New Jersey was marked by a snowfall that measured somewhere between 24 inches and 32 inches.  Immediately following hot on the heels of the long month of December is January, an equally grim month.  January is cold and long, and the days are short.

So I am proposing a means of keeping track of the passing of time that will not accord with the Julian or Gregorian methods now in use.  From all that I can gather in my research, the debate about the Julian and Gregorian systems had to do with the timing of Easter.  I cannot say that Easter brings joyful tidings to this old beat-up body.  Sometimes Easter comes early and sometimes it comes late, and often the women have to dress in their finery to greet Easter on a cold day.  But I am proposing a means of taking care of the long months.  It will probably not meet with the approval of the banks and holding companies.  But after their performance in recent years, they deserve to be held to account.

As I have said, there are two methods of keeping time in centuries called the Julian and Gregorian calendars.  The first was named after Julius Caesar and the second was named after a pope, both of whom presumably were Roman Catholics.  I am proposing that we do away with the Julian and Gregorian calendars and instead employ a method named after my father to be known as the Ezraine system of counting our days.

Actually the Ezraine method should have the word Senior in its title so that it would not be confused with the presumptions of a youngster such as myself.  I wish to point out that the method of Ezraine Senior occurred to me during the recent great snowfall when the ground and the highways were covered with pure white snow.  Snow whiteness of the ground leads me to believe that my method of counting our days is not only immaculate, but was perfectly conceived.  I believe it is fair to say that this was an immaculate conception.

What I am proposing in the Ezraine Sr. system of accounting for our days is that every month would have no more than 28 days.  Obviously I have taken my cue from the month of February, which has only 28 days.  During the month of February, there are faint signs of spring. We know that at the end of February, baseball players report to training camps.  From time to time there are warm days in February when we can see that springtime is not far off.

The main inducement is that February has only 28 days, which should be the model for every month in the year.  And if the banks and investment houses have to pay off their customers three days early, I would say, “More power to the people!  The hell with the banks and the investment houses!”

I am aware that if every month had only 28 days, there would be some days left over.  I am proposing that the leftover days be gathered in a bunch and should be celebrated by calling them the month of “Ezraine Junior”.  Further, I am proposing that this new month occur in October or late September, which would mark the end of the baseball season.

The month of Ezraine Junior was named after the Bible scribe of Jerusalem who was named Ezra.  It seems to this observer that for all of the previous centuries, the Julian and Georgian calendars celebrated the Roman Catholics.  Giving a shot to the Jews seems only fair to this observer who is neutral on all religions.

That is my contribution to the advancement of civilization.  The idea for every month having 28 days occurred to me on a snowy day when the ground and all the buildings were covered in white.  Thus the proposal has the background of being conceived in innocence and immaculately.

I now ask you who in this world could be opposed to the Ezraine Senior method of counting our centuries?  The obvious answer is only the bankers and the investment houses that plunged all of our prosperity into the ditch as recently as two years ago.  Don’t worry about the banks and investment houses as they are instruments of Satan.  I can only say in all honesty that the Ezraine Senior method of keeping track of centuries strikes me as entirely holy.  And I ask you, who can be opposed to holiness?

 

E. E. CARR

January 4, 2011

Essay 522

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Kevin’s commentary:

Would the baseball season be extended into the Ezraine Junior month? That’s really the key question there. I think a very short extra month could be rather nice, actually. Maybe it’d be a holiday month where everyone is required to stay home and watch baseball. Or listen to baseball as the case may be.

“AND HE NEVER SAID A MUMBLIN’ WORD”

Those of you who have been reading my essays over the years, know that spirituality is not a function, major or minor, in my life.  But music that celebrates spirituality is something that I treasure.  I treasure it for the music, not for the spirituality.

I am fully aware that some people, perhaps most people, are inspired by the music’s spirituality.  But in this case, my inspiration comes from the music alone.

Over the centuries, sacred music has been written by composers of the first rank, Bach, Beethoven, etc.  I enjoy that music but in the final analysis, it may be a bit too fancy for me.  In my case, I’ve always had a affection toward what are now called spirituals.  Those spirituals used to be called “Negro spirituals.”  One of the commentators dubbed them “Afro-American spirituals;” the cadence just did not ring true.  On other occasions they referred to them as “black or colored” spirituals.  But in this essay, I am going to revert to the term Negro spirituals, which is much more authentic in my estimation.

This morning, out of the blue, came thoughts about a Negro spiritual that I have not heard for maybe 50 years.  The spiritual is named “And He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word.”  It is a sad spiritual in that it refers to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.  Negro spiritual music often is celebratory.  In this case, the spiritual is, I suppose, about the manliness and bravery of Jesus as he was about to be crucified.

The lyrics to this sad spiritual refer to “Herod’s bar” meaning the bar of Roman justice.  Herod was the Roman ruler of Palestine at the time of the crucifixion of Jesus. I understand that Herod was born a Jew.  This song is best sung by a male choir without accompaniment, that is to say, a cappella.  Since I have thought of this spiritual this morning, it will not leave my brain.  Miss Chicka’s computer was able to locate the lyrics to “And He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word.”  As far as I know, no one has claimed authorship to the music or the lyrics.

Without further ado, I would like to acquaint you with this old spiritual.  I wish that you could hear it sung by an unaccompanied male choir such as the Morehouse College Choir.  But if anyone is interested in hearing the music and has a computer, it is available by title from www.amazon.com or just Google the title, “He Never Said A Mumblin Word.”   There are six verses.  Here are the lyrics:

FIRST VERSE:

They led Him to Pilate’s bar
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word
They led Him to Pilate’s bar
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word
They led Him to Pilate’s bar
But He never said a mumblin’ word
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word

VERSE TWO:

They all cried, “Crucify Him”…

Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word
They all cried, “Crucify Him”…
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word
They all cried, “Crucify Him”…
But He never said a mumblin’ word
Not a word, not a word, not a word, not a word

SUCEEDING VERSES CHANGE AS FOLLOWS:

3.  They nailed Him to the tree…

4.  They pierced Him in the side…

5.  He hung His head and died…

6.  Wasn’t that a pity and a shame…

Each of the foregoing verses ends with the line, “He never said a mumblin’ word.”

As I have said on many occasions previously, the music of Negro spirituals is repetitious but inspiring to me.  If you have a computer and you go to “Negro spirituals.com,” you can also obtain the lyrics.

I certainly realize that not everybody in the world shares my taste in music.  Negro spirituals stem largely from slavery that white people imposed upon the Negro race.  They sing of their despair and their hopelessness.

In any case, I hope that your musical horizons have been enhanced by my telling you about “And He Never Said a Mumblin’ Word.”  But I warn you that when you listen to this music, you will find yourself humming it for days on end.  And if you hum this music, you will find a kindred soul in the proprietor of Ezra’s Essays.  Perhaps the time will come when we will be able to hum it together.

 

E. E. CARR

January 16, 2011

Essay 541

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Kevin’s commentary: A capella music is something I have generally avoided since graduating from college, where it was inescapable. This version of the song has minor accompaniment and sounds a whole lot like something Sufjan Stevens would write.