This will be one of three pieces on my favorite subject –– humor. Most of it is taken from my book In-house family stories (as compared to outhouse stories) are rarely funny to those not in the household. There are a few exceptions. I hope you’re amused by these real-life commentaries.

When Chie and I were married 18 years ago, I bought her an extremely expensive kimono to wear during the wedding reception. For the ceremony itself, she still wanted a white wedding gown. What choice did I have? I did suggest that we rent a gown razther than buying one. “After all,” I said, “you will only be wearing it once.” Her quick reply: “How do you know? Since then, during our 21 years together, she has gotten even sassier. She is becoming a wise-ass. Recently, after suffering a small criticism, I put on my pouty face, mimicked tears and whined, “My wife doesn’t love me anymore.” She looked me in the eye and said, “You mean she used to?” I have created a monster. I sometimes get even. Chie is Japanese and, like most Orientals, has problems differentiating between the letters “L” and “R.” These two sounds do not occur in Japanese and Chinese. (Readers may remember bad jokes about “flied lice.”) What an opportunity! At voting time in early November, whenever we visit friends, I tell that that Chie is very excited because it will soon be “erection” day. English is Chie’s second language. She speaks it almost perfectly, but I have fun with her regarding certain expressions. One day, when I was getting out of the shower, she looked at me and said, ‘Marv, you are an eyesore.” “No, my dear,” I replied. “Your choice of words is close, but not exact. What you mean is that I am a ‘sight for sore eyes’.” Chie is 39 years younger than I am. Consequently, she frequently worries about being left alone after my demise. Once, when she voiced her fears for the umpteenth time, I tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry,” I told her. “I will give you at least another 20 years. “Do you promise?” she asked. My prompt reply, “Cross my heart and hope to die.” Chie often complains that her legs are too short. Not so. Still, I need to correct her misconceptions from time to time. “Look,” I say, Your legs are exactly the right length. They are long enough to reach from your body to the floor. ” She doesn’t buy it. While it was I who taught Chie to drive, she now insists on chauffering., since she no longer trusts my driving. She claims that I doze off at the wheel. “that may be true,” I told her, “but I want youto know that I drive better when I’m asleep than most people do when they’re awake.” She doesn’t buy that either. A popular fur in Japan is Tanuki –– a member of the raccoon family. An American friend suggested that I buy Chie an ankle-length Tanuki coat. My response was that “ankle-length Tanuki” is a contradiction in terms. Having been born and raised in Japan, when Chie first arrived in New York, she was not exactly subservient, but she certainly deferred to authority, particularly male authority. Personally, that was fine with me but, in an aggressive society such as ours, her attitude was detrimental to her career prospects and ambitions. Sensing that a change was necessary, I tried very hard to convince her to become more aggressive in the outside world, while remaining soft and agreeable at home. Unfortunately, just the opposite has happened.

When I questioned may daughter Sari, then 15 years old, what she would like to be when she grew up, she assumed a pixie look and answered, “an Heiress.” My immediate response, “Over my dead body.” In a discussion with my sons, Jonathan and Jay, about the growing number of suicides at college campuses, I expressed my concern and commented that, in my eyes, there was only one thing worse than suicide. “What is that?” they asked. In my most curmudgeonly voice, I answered, “Patricide.”

My sister Inez was a wonderful person, but a tight lady with a buck. Just before her death at 86, so as not to burden her family, she wsent to a funeral parlor, made all the arrangements and prepaid the bill, One question she asked (and, believe me, she was serious) was, “Do you give senior-citizen discounts?”

This item of family memorabilia may be difficult to swallow, but I swear that it is true. A number of years back, my niece Sylvia married a magician. Six months later, he disappeared. # # # # # # # # # #


December 14, 2007

Twenty-five years ago, I spent ten days in Beijing, China on an engineering mission. I recently revisited China for the first 25 years, this time on a commercial mission., I can only express my reaction with one word.

WOW! The changes are spectacular, phenomenal, in fact almost unbelievable,

Twenty-five years back, there were hardly any cars on the road. Those I saw were primarily government vehicles. Substituting for automobiles were tens of thousands of bicycles. Today, there are still plenty of bicycles, but the streets of Beijing, Shanghai and other major Chinese cities now suffer from the same curse as other major world cities, namely traffic jams.

Twenty-five years back, virtually all adults wore the same type of tunic-like clothes —either dark grey or blue. Colored clothes could only be seen on children. Today, every color variety and style can be seen on the streets, in restaurants and in shops. Many of the best known haute couture designers — Gucci, Armani, Comme Des Garcons, Hanae Mori, Hermes, Hugo Boss,Vivienne Westwood, Louis Viton, Chanel, Calvin Klein, Yamamoto, Karl Lagerfeld––these and many others now have outlets in China.

Twenty five years ago, I stayed at the Beijing Hotel. It was the best hotel in town though, while the public rooms were impressive, the private rooms were small and spartan. Still, it was by far the best of the five or six hotels Beijing boasted at that time. Today, there are hundreds of new hotels all over China, with numerous ultra-modem 4-star and 5-star hotels in major cities. Many are branches of U.S. and international hotel chains and comparable to branches in major cities worldwide.

Twenty-five years ago, in the evenings, almost all hotel residents gathered around the bar, never leaving the  hotel. Understandable, since there was literally no night life in the city, no entertainment and a very limited m number of restaurants. In addition, most visitors were fearful of leaving the hotel after dark. This is amusing, since Beijing was then one of the safest cities in the world. I personally spent many evenings taking long walks, encountering few pedestrians except for a number of youngsters who approached me to practice their English. One exception. Wandering through a lane connecting two roads, I passed a grassy area which was obviously a lover’s lane, with two bicycles leaning together near their intertwined owners.

Another change may seem small but is highly important. Twenty-five years ago, I wasaccompanied by a “guide” wherever I went. I was not allowed during the day to wander anywhere on my own. And, of course, the use of cameras was strictly forbidden. Today’s visitors to China are free to go almost anywhere, to traavel between cities on their own, and to take as many photos as they wish. I feel certain that there are spots where photography is not allowed, but they are few and far between.

In short, there is relative freedom. I had been advised that conversations about’ democracy or about Taiwan are unwise but, other than that, visitors are aware of few constraints.  Sounds great, and it is. But not all is peaches and cream in China. Westerners will be fascinated by Shanghai, now a glittering, modern international city. As one U.S. Consulate member told me, “You can buy just about anything here. Well, you might not be able to locate a Jewish deli for a pastrami on rye, but almost everything else is available.”

Shanghai is the star of the cities along China’s coast. And that coastal area is where you will find almost all of China’s successful entry into the 21st century. Great prosperity, a happy work force, foreign investment coming in, –– development, development, development. However, once you travel 100 miles into the interior, everything changes. There is unquestionably some improvement in people’s lives, but on a far, far smaller scale than on the coast. Still plenty of poverty, with all the problems that poverty provides.

On a happy note, the direction is upward and onward. Still, China still has a long way to go.

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December 7, 2007


Italians have an expression,”Traduttore traditore,” — a translator is a traitor. As an international salesman for many years, I frequently observed the confusion that exists among translators. Many funny mistranslations result from the fact that English abounds in words having double meanings.

Unintentionally amusing signs found everywhere in the world are particularly common in countries where English is a second language. For example, most Israelis speak English, but often without the subtle knowledge required to translate idioms and colloquialisms While working there years ago,I saw many signs or notices which made me grin, laugh or howl.

Outside a doctor’s office: Dr. I. S. Cohen, Gynecologist — Women and Other Diseases.
In a dress shop window: Sale Going On. Special Dresses for Streetwalking.
On a butcher shop door: Sol Ben Ami, Butcher—Slaugherst Himself Daily at 4:00 P.M
In a hotel lobby: Visitors Should Complain at the Office Between
9:00 A.M. and 12 Noon.
In a gift shop: Ici, On Parle Francaise; Habia Espanole; English
Spoken Here; American Understood

Don’t be too amused at the distinction between “English Spoken” and “American Understood.” Many of the differences between English and American can be embarrassing. A faggot in England can mean a meatball. A fag, however, is a freshman at a private school, required to perform menial tasks for upper classsmen. If you hear an Englishman saying,”John Jones was my fag at Eaton,” don’t jump to the wrong conclusion. And of course there’s the old chestnut about the young English lass, an overnight guest at an American home, asking the host’s son to,”Please knock me up at 8:00 A.M.” She just wanted to be awakened with a knock on her door.

Friendly conversations can also lead to funny and embarassing statements. I remember traveping in a car with two Englishmen. a Welshman, and his Israeli wife whose English left something to be desired. In a teasing manner, we told her we had heard that, prior to her marriage, she used to pick up men and take them home to sleep with her. She defended her virtue in no uncertain terms. She might have necked or petted, but she had a “limit” beyond which she would not go. That’s what she meant to say. Instead, she said, “No, I didn’t have to do that. I had a “border.” (To our ears: “boarder.”) The poor lady could not understand why everyone couldn’t stop laughing.

Other language shockers arise from pure coincidence. In Thailand, they tell of aMoslem visitor who spoke no Thai and communicated only in limited English. In a restaurant, he wanted to make sure that the meat dish he was ordering did not contain pork, taboo in his religion. He wanted to order a beef dish, but couldn’t remember the word for cow, so he asked the waiter for “Moo.” When the waiter brought the dish, the Moslem man reehecked. “Moo?” he asked. “Moo,” replied the waiter. Several days later, the visitor discovered that in Thai, the word for pork is (guesswhat?)”moo.”

Signs, however, still provided the majority of my amusing experiences with mixed up translations. Or sometimes just due to u n i n t e n d e d word juxtapositions. A chain of restaurant/gas station combinations on certain U.S.highways wanted travellers to fill their gas tanks and their stomachs in a single stop. Their sign read: “Eat Here.Get Gas.” Then there are signs which in themselves are not funny, but where some imaginative soul has penned in an added thought, either out of whimsy or irritation. One great one come to mind. A British Airways poster in a London rail station read:”Lunch in London. Dinner in Paris” Beneath this, an obviously abused soul added: “Luggage in Bermuda.”

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In a Japanese hotel room: Please Take Advantage of the Chambermaids.
In a French rooming house: Clean Tub afterWashing. Landlady.
On a Swiss restaurant menu: Our Wines Leave Nothing to Hope For.
In a Zurich hotel: Because of the Impropriety of Entertaining Guests of
the Opposite Sex in the Bedroom, It Is Suggested that the Lobby be Used for This Purpose.
In a Tokyo bar: Special Cocktails for Ladies with Nuts.
In a Hong Kong tailor shop window: Ladies May Have a Fit Upstairs.
In a Greek tailor shop: Order Your Suit Now. Because is Big Rush, We Will Execute Customers in Strict Rotation.
In a Moscow hotel room: If This Is Your First Visit to the USSR, You Are Welcome to It.
At a Bangkok dry cleaner: Drop Your Trousers Here for Best Results.
In a Rome laundry: Ladies, Leave Your Clothes Here. Spend the Afternoon Having a Good Time.
In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: Ladies Are Requested Not to Have Children
in the bar.
In a Paris hotel elevator: Please Leave Your Values at the Front Desk.
In a Budapest zoo: Please Do not Feed the Animals. If You Have Suitable Food, Give it to the Guard.
In a Russian Monastery: You are Welcome to Visit the Cemetery where
Famous Russianand Soviet Composers, Artists and Writers are Buried Daily except Thursday.
From a Tokyo car rental brochure: When a passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, then tootle him with vigor.

The Manager Has Personally Passed All Water Served Here.

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December 8, 2007

(quite a variety)


Marv Rubinstein’s books can all be purchased online at and

Note: The above piece is one of many delightfully funny shticks you will find in the author;s book


A smorgasbord of e-mail and Internet wit blended with humorous incidents from the author’s wild and wooly life, sure to light up one’s lonely moments and any social gathering.

Author’s Warning: This book should not be read in a single sitting. Uncontrolled paroxysms of laughter can be dangerous to your health. Better to read only two or three sections at a time. A safe suggestion: Keep this book on your coffee table or your bedside night table, and dip in to it from time to time. Or use it to while away a few minutes when you are relaxing in the john, or to while away a few hours on the train or bus or when flying to anywhere by way of Sandusky.

On second thought, perhaps you should not read it while on public transportation. Your howls of laughter will not be appreciated by your fellow travelers. They will think you’re an idiot.

But then again, who cares? Marv’s motto is, “Always leave ‘em laughing.”

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Posted in Uncategorized December 8th, 2007 by Marv | Edit| No comments

December 3, 2007


President Bush, Secretary of State Rice and others in the administration never miss an opportunity to trumpet their dedication to democracy as a panacea for the world’s problems. Forget for the moment the hypocrisy of, at the same time, having friends and allies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan — hardly epitomes of proud democratic governments. More important, however, is the big question: Do we really want to expand what passes for democracy in much or the world and particularly in the Middle East? I think not.

About twelve years ago, an election in Algeria provided a case in point. The Islamic fundamentalist faction won the election, but the prior military government negated the results.. This writer somewhat shamefacedly cheered this move. Half of me cried out that, in a democracy, the majority should prevail; the other half that the winners would so pervert the democratic process that no opposition party would ever obtain a free franchise again.

The same dilemma exists today. If really free elections were held in Saudi Arabia, Egypt and even Jordan, we would without question end up with radical Islamist governments probably antagonistic to U.S. interests and almost certainly dedicated to making certain that no future “democratic” election would prevent perpetuation of their power. Iran provides a clear-cut example of the direction these countries would take.

We all approve of democracy as the best form of government, but the problem lies in a slippery definition of democracy. The simple fact that a country holds an election and that people vote, does not a democracy make. If you need proof of the pudding, just look at recent “democratic:” elections in Egypt, Iran and Pakistan.

Perhaps the best dissection of this dilemma was strangely enough provided in a speech given about fiftee years back at Rice University by James A. Baker III. It was entitled, “Conflict and Cooperation in the Post-Cold War Era.” With admiration, I quote some excerpts:

“… the emergence of democratic government as a near universal ideal has offered extremists a convenient tool by which to generate popular support and seize political power.The idea that democracy actually feeds movements based on religious, ethnic or linguistic particularism is perhaps the supreme irony of the current era. In the former Soviet Bloc and the Middle East, ultra-nationalists and Islamic extremists have assumed, with some success, the rhetorical mantle of democrats. Individuals and groups are using the democratic process to arrive at power, only then to monopolize it.”

Baker then went on to describe the sine qua non’s of a vibrant democracy. We should not be fooled into believing that the existence of elections define democracy. Elections only open a door. Democracy is essentially a way of life. There are certain basic requirements.

First, the population and its leaders must recognize that every individual has certain inalienable rights regardless of his religion, ethnicity, language or political point of view. Difficult as it may be, there must be a large degree of tolerance for differences, particularly those on such
fundamental concepts as the meaning of life or the existence of a deity.

Other essentials include the following:

A free press and the freedom of assembly. Without a free press,you have an uninformed or, worse, a misinformed, populace. You can have as many elections as you like but, with a controlled press, you have voters without a knowledgeable basis on which to vote. The recent vote in Russia was obviously not democratic for, while there was no overt coercion, the Government totally controlled the media, which spent months extolling the virtues of Putin.Tha ttype of voting does not indicate a democracy. Similarly, without the freedom to assemble to present one’s views to our leaders, democracy as we know it does not exist.

A reasonably educated population. A free press is valueless if people cannot read. Democracy does not require a country full of Harvard scholars. It does, however, require that a sizeable majority have at least the equivalent of a high school education, so that they can understand what they read or see on TV and can discuss governmental policies with friends or associates. Learned debate is not necessary, but the ability to absorb important information is.

A substantial middle class. Countries with too wide a gap between rich and poor –– countries with a tiny upper crust of wealthy individuals and a thin layer of middle class — have problems creating a viable democracy for any extended period of time. Ultimately, the poor get restless and stability is endangered.

At least two political parties with divergent views. We have all read in the press of single party elections in Russia and elsewhere where one candidate gets 98 percent of the vote. Saddam Hussein’s election and the elections of Yasser Arafat are cases in point. In spite of claims to the
contrary, nobody believes they were democratically elected. They weren’t. Unless you have at least two clear-cut choices in an election, the election is a sham.

These are the essential elements of a democratic culture. Without them, you may have a formal democracy, but you do not have asubstantive one. Whenever you hear political drumbeats for democratizing countries with no traditional or cultural dcemocratic history, take a second look
— and a third,

Will our experiment in Iraq lead to a stable substantive democracy.? The jury is still out but, unless the criteria given above are first realized, the chances for success are slim. President Bush claims that winning a war is hard work. Creating our kind of democracy is even harder.

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