The Problem with Vampires

The Problem with Vampires

[This article was first published on Hubpages in 2010. It has since been de-indexed.]

By Aya Katz

A friend of mine is a big fan of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer. I haven’t read the books, nor do I feel any particular desire to do so. But I have seen the two movies that came out, mostly by accident. My daughter and I were hoping to see something else, but in a small rural location the choices are limited, and once we take the trouble to make it out of the house to see a movie, it seems a shame to cancel the outing just on account of the movie itself.

I mentioned to my friend that I’d seen the movies and hadn’t been impressed. She answered: “Well, of course, you weren’t. It’s just a love story!”

Now what’s that supposed to mean!?!

Does it mean that she thinks that I wouldn’t be interested in a love story? Because I’m not into love? Or because I’m not into “just love”? And what exactly is “just love”? Can any story be just a love story? Doesn’t it also have to be about something else? Can love exist in a vacuum?

This is the same friend who prefaced another movie recommendation like this: “I’m not sure you’re going to like it, because it’s not about justice.”

My friend knows me really well. Yes, I do have a fixation on justice. I would have been a really good lawyer, if justice had had anything to do with it. But… I’m not nearly that limited. I write love stories, too. Only they’re not “just” love stories, because I don’t see how love can become disembodied and detached from every other aspect of life.

How Stephanie Meyer came up with Twilight

The Beginnings of Twilight — And the Limits of Romance

But let’s face it: Twilight is a particular kind of love story. It is story about love and vampires. And it’s selling really well! Supposedly intended as a teen romance, it is being read by people of all ages — mostly women.

My friend knows a lot of the back story, because she is a true fan. According to her, Stephanie Meyer, the author of Twilight, saw the first glimmering of the story in a vivid dream. At the time, she was a wife and mother, a full time housewife, with laundry and diapers and swim lessons and all the usual. And suddenly, in a dream, she saw an ordinary girl and a shimmery, beautiful young man talking to each other in a meadow. During stolen moments from her domestic chores, Meyer began to write down the story, until she had a complete five hundred page manuscript. And then…. she showed it to her sister.

“Wait a minute,” I interrupted my friend. “Her sister? Why her sister?”

“Well, they’re very close. Her sister is her best friend.”

“Okay. Well, what about her husband?”

“Oh, she didn’t show it to her husband. He wouldn’t have understood.”

“Huh. How come?”

“Well, you know how men are.”

I laughed. “No, actually, I don’t. What are men like?”

“You can’t tell them anything.”

“Why not?”

“Because they don’t listen.”

But apparently vampires are different. Vampires listen.You could tell a vampire just about anything.


My Own Guilty Pleasure

In case you think I don’t appreciate Twilight because I am just too snobbish to enjoy a good vampire story, I’ll let you in on a secret. When I was ten years old, my favorite TV show was Dark Shadows, and I was very much intrigued by a vampire named Barnabas Collins. We were living in Ann Arbor, Michigan. We had just left Israel for good, and I didn’t have any friends. I would rush home to watch Dark Shadows, and that was about the most important thing in the world to me at the time.

Now, Barnabas Collins had a taste for pretty young women, starting with his sweetheart Josette, and continiuing with every other ingenue who showed up at Collinwood. Maggie Evans, Victoria Winters, they were all the same. Young, pretty and not very smart. They made good victims, and he was constantly at work to transform every one of them into the spitting image of his dear, departed Josette. I was just ten years old, and yet, I didn’t really identify with these girls. My heroine was Dr. Julia Hoffman, a middle aged woman who wanted to cure Barnabas of his condition.

Julia Hoffman was played by Grayson Hall, and because I was such a Julia fan, I cut out the article about her in TV Guide and pasted it to my closet door. I wanted to grow up to be just like Julia!

Julia and Barnabas make a deal

[The video has been unpublished, so you'll have to guess what is in it.]
YouTube Preview Image

The video I’ve embedded above is fairly representative of both Dark Shadows, as a series, and of the Barnabas-Julia relationship in particular. I can’t watch it now without laughing, but it’s still good clean fun! I love, for instance, that Barnabas starts choking Julia while saying: “I’m going to kill you, …. Miss Hoffman.” (It’s hard to remember a person’s name when you are choking them, but it’s nice that he announces his intentions so clearly, and bothers to acknowledge her formally.) Julia corrects him: “Doctor Hoffman!” Barnabas is so impressed by her new title that he relents in his efforts to snuff her out.

What was Dark Shadows really about? Why did I like watching it as child? To me, it explored the boundaries, not between life and death, as Julia announces in her appeal to Barnabas, but between good and evil. Barnabas was intriguing, because, despite his twisted life style, there was always some glimmer of hope. There were the moments when he was pure evil, and there were times when despite this, he was overcome by remorse or tenderness and did something unexpectedly good, sacrificing his own self-interest for what was right.

Conversely, the “good characters” were seldom entirely good. They had moral lapses. They were selfish. Like Julia in this scene, they were not always aware of their true motives.

But what about the stilted dialogue and the wooden delivery? Well, guess what: I really like those, too. You probably think that nobody actually talks like that, but I do! I really do. I talk like a book. I learned English from books, not people. And for years, I looked around waiting to find a man who also would talk like a book. Wooden delivery, stilted grammar, outdated vocabulary and all.

I’m not sure if Dark Shadows was intended to be this funny, but I still enjoy the melodrama. What I’m trying to say is this: it’s precisely because of the seriousness with which these lines are delivered that I still find them effective. There is no point in poking fun at something, unless on some level we find it deeply moving. It wouldn’t be this funny if it weren’t so true to life.

Take this exchange:

Barnabas: What is it you want?

Juila: You!

Barnabas: I don’t know what you mean by that, but it doesn’t matter…

That, in a nutshell, is the story of my life! And it is because this is exactly the opposite of what my friend has experienced at the hands of men that we have very divergent views of what men — or vampires — are like. For her, they are people you can’t have a conversation with, because they are all action and no talk. For me, they are all talk and no action.

My Fair Lady: “Show Me” (The Missouri state motto)

YouTube Preview Image

What They Are Like Depends on What We Are Like

The problem with vampires is that they are what we make of them. Much like men and women and dogs and apes. As somebody in My Fair Lady once remarked, the difference between a flower girl and a lady is not how she behaves, but how she is treated.

What are vampires like? What was Barnabas Collins like? The answer depended on who he was with. With his trusty, but dimwitted assistant Willy Loomis, he was tyrannical, despotic and a pain in the neck. With Josette, and all the Josette look-alikes, he was tender, gallant and a pain in the neck. He wanted to drink everybody’s blood — except Julia’s. He found her unappetizing, so he was just going to choke her. But his dialogue with Julia was generally better than the lines he had with his sweet young victims. Julia was somebody he could talk to. Eventually he came to trust and rely on her.

We make our own histories. Our own behavior writes the script for whoever is with us. If my friend finds it impossible to talk to men, it may be that she makes it impossible for them to talk to her. If Stephanie Meyers couldn’t share her deepest, most intimate longings with her husband, then maybe her view of romance is due for a revision. And if I want to stop being treated like Dr. Julia Hoffman, maybe I should stop behaving like her. But old habits die hard!


My friend says that the Twilight books describe experiences that all women have shared and that they give vent to the longings of all womankind for intimacy and love. But not all women long for the same things, precisely because not all women have been deprived of the same things. We long for what is missing in our lives. And the Twilight series, from what I’ve seen of the movies, appears to have been written to satisfy the fantasies of Maggie Evans and Victoria Winters and Josette DuPres. Neither Julia Hoffman nor Barnabas Collins would get much out of it.

(c) 2010 Aya Katz


nhkatz profile image

nhkatz 5 years ago from Bloomington, Indiana


I haven’t seen either Twilight movie, but enjoyed this National Review review entitled “Just bite her, already.”…

If you’re interested in a “just a love story” movie, I highly recommend “Yes Man” with Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel. It’s not really about justice but has interesting things to say about chastity and the lack


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Thanks, Nets. That was a pretty good review. However, he’s mistaken about the target audience and the fan base. It’s not just twelve-year-olds, surprisingly enough.

Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States

Read all her books, just because my adult daughter and granddaughter and all their friends and co-workers were soooo intrigued and into them. Just had to know what it was all about. Found the books well-written, and must say if I had not read them, I would not have remotely enjoyed the movies, although they were age appropriate for teens. I found it most interesting that mothers and daughters who during teen years often don’t like the same things both were clearly enjoying a shared moment.

For me, the better book was the one not about vampires.

I don’t think it’s possible for most men and most women to ever view “love” in the same context.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

  • Jerilee, thanks for your comment and for sharing your take on the Twilight books. Though I have not read her, I have no doubt that Stephanie Meyer is a skillful writer. After all, she has achieved huge success among a much bigger group of readers than her original target audience. In today’s publishing market, that is a remarkable achievement.

    My hub was not really a review of the Twilight movies, so much as a commentary on American sexual mores. Maybe it’s not possible “for most men and most women to view love in the same context”, but it seems to me that a romantic relationship can’t really be satisfying unless the two people involved do share a context.

    My frame of reference is Rand’s view of romance. While I recognize that most men (or women) are not capable of delivering a ten page philosophical diatribe immediately prior to, during, and after sex, there has got to be some sort of middle ground where ordinary people can meet.

    Most men are not Cyrano de Bergerac and can’t compose poetry off the cuff in middle of a sword fight, but in my experience they are not nearly as inarticulate as American women seem to believe them to be.

    gramarye profile image

    gramarye 5 years ago from Adelaide – Australia

    I haven’t read or watched, but this hub has filled me in with all that I need to know – thanks.



    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Gramarye, thanks! Glad you got the information you needed.


    Susana S profile image

    Susana S 5 years agoLevel 1 Commenter

    A very interesting read Aya :) I have never been into vampires in anyway shape or form – I guess I must project onto other things, lol. The only vampire film that ever really intrigued me was “The Hunger” that had David Bowie in it – it broke down boundaries around sexuality and asked philosophical questions about how long we’d really want to live for.

    I can see why vampire mythology is attractive to so many people – you point out some very good reasoning as to why this might be the case.

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Susana, thanks! I haven’t seen the “The Hunger”, but your description makes it sound like something I might enjoy.

    Shalini Kagal profile image

    Shalini Kagal 5 years ago from India

    Hi Aya – as always, a wonderfully written hub and if I’d read it before I read the series, maybe I would have been just a wee bit dissuaded, However, a teenage daughter and with all of us greedily devouring every book that comes into the house – I’m glad I did. I’ve put off watching the movies because right now, this whole fairytale like romance is so vivid the way I’ve imagined it.

    Why do most women like fairytale romances? I think it goes beyond all the fairytale stories we were fed with, the Mills and Boon, the soppy love songs. Somewhere inside, is every woman’s ideal man and while men don’t really fall in line with this image we carry inside, we keep the ideal alive in our minds and hearts with fare like this. And of course, the ‘bad’ man who changes thanks to the woman is even better! Somehow makes us feel all powerful I think. This is not to say that we are not happy – we could be as happy as can be and yet feel the need for these delicious escapades!

    A few grow out of these dreams. They are the wise, mature souls who see and think logically – and hats off to them! However, it’s also nice to feel that the rest of us are pretty happy escaping to the fairytale corners of our mind through the pages of our book or a movie :)

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Shalini, it’s good to have fairy tales and dreams and fantasies and ideals that are bigger than life. I don’t want to stomp on that at all. I have fantasies, too, and I cherish and nurture them.

    The points I was trying to make are these:

    1) While all women may have fantasies about romance, not all women share the same fantasy. It depends to some extent on your experiences. Women who are happily married and have all their basic needs met may fantasize about a man who can hold back. Women who are not so lucky fantasize about a man who can’t wait. It’s really quite logical, if you think about it.

    2) There IS something wrong if the male and female heterosexual ideals are greatly at variance. This is completely different from saying that we as individuals fall short of our ideals. For instance, avid Ayn Rand fans, if they are female, might fantasize about Howard Roark or John Galt or Francisco D’Anconia. It goes without saying that most men fall short of that. Avid male Rand fans may fantasize about Dagny Taggart. Most women fall short of that. But there is something definitely wrong if most women fantasize about an effeminate prince charming who does not act on his sexual desires, while most men fantasize about a racy woman. Their actual, real life romances are bound to be disappointing.

    And anyway, no two people really fantasize about exactly the same thing, do they?

    Crazy888 profile image

    Crazy888 5 years ago

    hello aya. have not been on for awhile and i am teribly sorry abou that.

    my duaghters are all about twilight. its the only thing that matters to them. the last book in particuar was a little to inaproropraite for a 6th grader. i have read all of the books and only enjoyed two of them. the first movie was not very good nor the second oe. of cource my daughters loved every second of it and bought it on DVD. i am not going to allow my daughters to see the last movie, more because it is very inapropriate. they will probualy not like my desicion but, a parent is the head ruler of the house, no mater what happends

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Crazy888, good to hear from you again. As a parent of a sixth grader, you certainly have the right to make that decision. However, be aware that as soon as the video comes out, they can always watch it at a friend’s house.

    My daughter enjoyed the two Twilight movies we saw more than I did, but she’s not really a big fan of it, either. She thought the second movie was better than the first. When I scoffed at the idea that marriage would somehow legitimize blood sucking, she replied quite coolly: “Well, they’re old enough to get married.” I had to agree with her there. ;->

    glassvisage profile image

    glassvisage 4 years ago from Northern California

    Aya, you’re so wonderful. It’s these personal, honest Hubs of yours that I appreciate so much. Thank you for this insight into the influence and role of vampires (and telling us about some vampires we may not be so familiar with. From the title, I was expecting a Hub about how people have a problem with the obsessive love shared between the characters of “Twilight”, but I see it’s much more :)

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Glassvisage, good to hear from you! I always enjoy your comments, as you are able to see beneath the surface.

    Crazy888 profile image

    Crazy888 4 years ago

    thanks for the advice aya. I know i cant hide the innapropraite stuff from her forever but i think i should wait nutil she is more mature, dont you?

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Crazy888, I agree that it is your prerogative as a parent to monitor your children’s viewing. However, if the movie you don’t want your daughters to see has not yet come out, maybe you should wait until it does and view it yourself before making up your mind.

    Crazy888 profile image

    Crazy888 4 years ago

    thanks for the tip

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Crazy888, no problem.

    lxxy profile image

    lxxy 4 years ago from Beneath, Between, Beyond

    I’d hate to think my lady couldn’t be up front with me. I’m sure up front with her. ;)

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Ixxy, I hope your lady feels free to be as up front with you as you are with her.;->

    Sunshine625 profile image

    Sunshine625 3 years ago from Orlando, FLLevel 6 Commenter

    I read the Twilight books. I wrote a hub about them. Book #4 was my least favorite. I watched the first movie, it was dull so I passed on the rest. I think I remember Dark Shadows as a young kid, but I think I’m blocking it since it probably scared the life out of me. Haha! I intend to see the movie because Johnny Depp will be starring in it. No other reason. Just to see Johnny. :)

    AudreyHowitt profile image

    AudreyHowitt 3 years ago from CaliforniaLevel 6 Commenter

    I loved Dark Shadows when I was a kid! We would troop home from school, get a snack and pile in front of the tv–

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 3 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Audrey, me, too! It was the best thing on at the time!


    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Sunshine625, I just now read your comment. Yes, DS was scary back then! Gave me nightmares!


    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    Sunshine625, I just now read your comment. Yes, DS was scary back then! Gave me nightmares!



    SweetiePie profile image

    SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

    I found your hub via Pinterest, and just wanted to add my observations of Twilight. Honestly, I really did not have an interest to read it initially, but I only did because everyone was reading it a few years ago, and I sort of need to be in the know about books to some extent. Many people would ask me my opinions about Twilight, and I thought the best way to explain it to people would be by reading the books.

    There was no crazed teenage sex in the Twilight series, well at least not until Bella and Edward get married, but there were some odd masochist aspects to it. For instance, Bella can be intelligent when she applied herself, she was good with chemistry, but early on in the book it seems her obsession becomes Edward specific. There are many other boys who like her because she is new to Forks, and thus mysterious, but she only has eyes for Edward.

    At first she thinks he is ignoring her, but eventually she realizes he tried to keep his distance because he is overly attracted to the scent of her blood, and perplexed because he mind is the only one he cannot read, which is one of his vampire gifts.

    Eventually Edward and Bella become a couple and go to prom together, which I guess plays into the fantasy of a lot of women who wish they could have taken their dream date to the prom. I think some women marry men that are different than their ideal, and I am not saying Stephanie Meyer did that per se, but perhaps she did because she felt she could not show the novel to her husband at first. Edward likes to play classical music and he reads the classics, and some men find that foo foo, and I think what is wildly popular about Edward is he is a guy that is everything the typical red blooded American male is not. Whereas many men would prefer to go off roading or watching the football game, Edward is the type of guy that would write you a love letter and take you to watch the ballet.

    Okay I do not completely relate to this, but I kind of see the appeal because I once dated a guy who just refused to ever write a romancy type love letter, but then I realized I would only want someone to write a letter like that if it were genuine. However, there is a Sex and the City episode that sort of deals with this phenomenon about how culturally American men really do not do the ubber romantic thing, such as taking a woman to the Opera and composing love songs for her. Not that there are not American men like that, but I think this novel taps into the fixation many American women have long had with the romantic type of men of years ago, or maybe the type of man who goes to operas and ballets in a sophisticated European city. It is pure fantasy, and I have talked to a lot of women whose husbands sort of poke fun at their chick flick fantasies, but the women also do not want to partake in the men’s favorite shows. This is not with everyone to be honest, but I have just seen this is in some relationships, but is why I am holding out for a person I have much more in common with. I have also seen some relationships break up over differences like this.

    What I find creepy about the series is the masochist undercurrent. Edward always shows up when Bella is in mortal danger, and thus she comes to associate he with this. In the second book New Moon Edward’s family throws Bella a party for her eighteenth birthday, and she accidentally cuts her finger on a piece of glass and it bleeds. Edward’s adopted brother Jasper tries to attack her, and has to be held off by Edward and Doctor Carlisle, their adopted father. Carlisle is the only one who can handle the scent of Bella’s blood because he works as a doctor, and he is one of those vampires who is 100% disciplined.

    Anyway, Edward comes to Bella the next day and tells her he needs to leave, and she is completely devastated. Thus begins a series of events when Bella begins acting like a jilted woman, and putting herself in danger hoping it will bring Edward back.

    I was completely turned off by the masochist aspect of New Moon, and eventually Bella dives off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean, which brings Edward back because this time she nearly drowns. The entire concept behind these novels is about how women want to secretly be rescued, and I really just cannot identify with it. I think you might be right about people lacking something in their love life if they need to find it in a book. I am not saying that is the only reason people read this book, but it makes me wonder.

    Aya Katz profile image

    Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

    SweetiePie, I can see why the masochistic element in Twilight could be disturbing. To me, it is more annoying than disturbing, because Bella is so self-involved that she doesn’t seem to realize there are other dramatic things going on in the world, besides the drama she creates artificially by endangering her own life.

    I think that to a lot of American women, the idea that a man would “restrain himself” and avoid indulging his appetites is alluring because they have never encountered men who were self-restrained around them. The idea that men don’t like poetry or art is also a weird American assumption. If you talk to real men, even real American men, you will find that many do read poetry and enjoy art and are just as artistic as the average woman. But I suppose the real problem is that they show this aspect of their personality only to the women they are not trying to get into bed with. It’s as if the American culture doesn’t allow sex and intellectual pursuits to mix, so that the women who are getting the sex are not getting to see that their men have minds, too. So they end up longing for “effeminate” men, whether they realize it or not.

    SweetiePie profile image

    SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

    Well I grew up in a very populated state with lots of men, and there is definitely a large group who are not into ballet, theater, and going to art museum. A man showing a dislike for art and ballet often happens in a marriages, not just when the guy is wanting something on the side.

    Of course you have the artistic types who are, but there are a lot of guys who would rather watch football or play xbox. There are men who can inhabit both worlds, but they are not the largest segment of the population. They poke fun at women and their Twilight fantasy type movies, but the women also poke fun at their ubber guy shows and sports fixes. Of course now there are more women who are getting into sports, and things are changing in this regard. Also, there have always been men who like art, but a lot of mainstream guys I talk to do not like the fantasy ideas that women long for with art. Also, I think being attracted to or longing more effeminate type of man is not always a bad thing, if that is what a woman truly wants. The problem is when women want guys to be macho and effeminate at the same time, and to want men to have different responses in different situations. There is definitely a lot of expectations women have out of men, and I have never actually been one of those type of women who are demanding like that. It is funny because guys are usually attracted to these type of women, and then later complain she is so bossy and demanding.


    SweetiePie profile image

    SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

    I got cut off before I added something else. I think a lot of women are yearning for this Edward type of man who write them love poetry, and who takes them to the ballet, but in every day life a lot of women do not really do those things everyday either. It is a fantasy about wanting someone from a bygone era of sorts. Women are yearning for a type of man who is not prevalent in every day society because people in general do not exclusively listen to classical music because there are many different types of music to listen to today. Back in 1914 more men would have listened to classical music because that was sold more widely. When culture in general changes, often women do not realize they have changed with it. The Twilight thing is a fantasy for a long ago era of sorts, that really only existed in the imagination.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

SweetiePie, you’ve made a lot of good points. Women who are themselves not interested in poetry and art have some twisted idea that if a man were interested in those things it would necessarily be a romantic expression of his love for them. But men who are really interested in poetry do not confine themselves to love poetry. Real artists have other things to say besides “I love you.”

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

I do not even think it is real or genuine when a so-called love poet says that frequently. The most artistic poetry I have read is about nature anyway.

Posted in Movies and Films, Opinion Pieces and Editorials, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Parents’ Early Childhood Memories and Zionism

I was born in Israel of Israeli parents, and spent my early childhood there. My mother was also born in Israel and grew up in a town called Beit Oved, to Zionist parents who took up agriculture and speaking Hebrew,  neither of which came naturally to them, as part of their dedication to a movement to form a Hebrew speaking, self-supporting nation in the Land of Israel.

My father, on the other hand, was born in Poland to Zionist parents who spoke to him only in Hebrew. He came to Israel when he was four years old and grew up in Jerusalem.

All my grandparents were Zionists and atheists.  They did not attend religious services, they ate non-kosher food and they did not follow Jewish traditions. They rejected the traditional  Jewish background of their grandparents in order to build something better in a land they hoped one day to claim as their own. They chose Hebrew not as a holy language, but as a secular one to unify people who came from many different countries to build a new home together. They read the Old Testament, not for the religion, but for the history, the literature and the language.  The Old Testament is not a Jewish book. There are no Jews mentioned in it until we get to the Book of Esther. By then they are in exile. The point of Zionism was to end the exile and go back to what people did when they were not called Jews.

If I tell people these facts, or even a small part of these facts, they will jump to the conclusion that I must be Jewish. But Judaism is a religion, and I don’t belong to it. And to the extent that “Jew” is also an ethnic designation that is related to the culture of the diaspora, I was never raised that way.  I was raised Israeli, though my great grandparents all hailed from Poland, where they were considered Jews, and this fact was not  up to them to decide — it was stamped into their identity papers.

Theodor Herzl, who founded Zionism,  was no fan of traditional Jews.  In fact, religious Jews to this day are incensed at some of the “anti-Semitic” things that Herzl said and wrote. If you don’t speak Hebrew, the video below will be too tiring to watch, but I can at least tell you about the opening sequences.  The first story is about how Herzl hoped to get people of Jewish ancestry to be baptized en masse in order to get them equal rights in Austria-Hungary with other citizens. Then we hear that he liked to listen to Wagner and admired Bismarck. Then he is quoted saying things against Jews, especially traditional Jews and wealthy Jews.  At about 6:33 in the video, various people in Israel in a mall today are stopped by a pollster and read a shocking statement against Jews. Then they are asked: “Who  said this?” Most of them guess “Hitler.” The true answer is Herzl.

YouTube Preview Image

Naturally, this video is produced by a religious group in Israel and is very anti-Zionist. Zionists and traditional Jews never got along. The reason is that the existence of the Zionists threatened the state-sanctioned monopoly of the leaders of the  traditional religious Jews. Since the State in most of the countries of Europe assigned religious affiliation to people at birth, and people had no right to leave one religion except by converting to another, many people of Jewish origins had no choice but to remain Jewish, whether they liked it or not. For most atheists, converting to Catholicism was not something they were willing to do just to get out from under Judaism, since they had no religious conviction and would feel like hypocrites.  Zionism offered another option.

Zionists had been living in the Land of  Israel (aka Palestine) long before World War II, as far back as the turn of the century. They lived there under the Turks, and later under the British Mandate. Today very few people outside of the State of Israel understand this, thinking that Israel owes its existence to the Holocaust. In fact, the Holocaust was an unfortunate event that had nothing to do with Zionism. It was a calamity for the people in Europe, but it was also a calamity for Israel, because what was meant to be a secular utopia was co-opted by traditional Jewish elements.

People in Israel became much more identified as  ”Jewish” after the holocaust happened, partly because they were forced to assimilate and integrate into their society  on short notice  a lot of dislocated diasporatic Jews who were not at all Zionist before the Holocaust happened, and who would much rather have stayed in the European countries where they were born. There was even a forced  re-indoctrination program called “the Jewish Consciousness” that was instituted in the schools after Israel became a State, that went into effect sometime in the 1950s. Before that, Zionists liked to distinguish themselves from Jews, just as Herzl did, and they said not a few unflattering things about the practitioners of Judaism.

It’s a complicated story about shifting cultural allegiances, and different people will find themselves remembering it differently according to their sensibilities. My mother, for instance, is a very well-socialized, gregarious person, and she never was exposed to life outside Israel before she became an adult. She has no anti-Jewish sentiment, unlike my father. She does not mind it if someone calls her a Jew, though she is an atheist.   Her sense of herself came from her community, where agrarian values of hard work and thrift were emphasized. She is a native born Israeli.

Early pictures of my mother often show her in a group with other children close to her age in Beit Oved (בית עובד). Children were sent to the kindergarten from the age of two and a half. Both parents worked on the farm, so this was in actuality a shared day care arrangement.


My mother (standing, right) in 1940 with her kindergarten teacher Esther and fellow students.

Beit Oved was built on Qeren-Qayemet land (קרן קימת) — this was land lawfully purchased and paid for by Zionist organizers.  Zionists abroad would collect money donations, and then Zionists who wanted to be settlers were given plots of land to farm on. It was all open and above board and legal. If you look all around in the picture, you can see that this was a desolate, uninhabited place where the Hebrew settlement was part of the Zionist program to make the deserts blossom. The land there was so sandy that children did not need sandboxes to play with.

My mother’s parents planted orange groves and avocados and other fruit bearing trees. They worked very hard at work that traditional Jews in Poland did not do. They came from the middle class, but they performed the work of laborers. It was a labor of love that was rewarded, in their case, with success.

In order to be a settler in the Moshav of Beit Oved, you had to be married. Unmarried men and women were not allowed to live there, but outsiders did come to work there in support positions. For instance, Esther the kingdergarten teacher, pictured above, was a single woman living in Nes Ziona when she started keeping the children in Beit Oved. In time, she did get married, but she kept living in Nes Ziona and working in Beit Oved.

My mother’s parents had an equal partnership on their farm. Both worked very hard. My mother grew up among the children of the other Moshavniks, and they all treated each other like extended family. They were more like brothers and sisters than just neighbors. That is why people from Beit Oved did not tend to marry each other.


My mother is the girl on the top right


In pictures from her early childhood, my mother is usually part of a group. On the other hand, early pictures of my father show him alone or with one or two other people. My mother’s running memory only begins at age six, but my father had very vivid memories from his early childhood in Krakow. I know, because he not only shared them with me verbally. He also wrote them down in his unpublished autobiography.


My father on his tricycle in a park in Krakow in 1939 when he was four

My father had memories of being in his crib in his parents’ bedroom in their Krakow apartment. He remembered his mother, a native speaker of Polish, speaking to him only in Hebrew, because that is what Zionists do. Even though her accent was imperfect in Hebrew, Hebrew was the first language my father spoke. His father was a classicist who knew Biblical Hebrew inside and out.


Page one of Chapter Two of Amnon Katz Autobiography Manuscript


My father had a lot more toys than my mother seems to have had. One of his favorite toys was a horse.


His first word was סוס (horse)

The first word he ever spoke was סוס.


Although they lived in a very small apartment, they always had a live-in maid.


The maid, a Polish young woman, also served as a nanny. She took my father to the park. The first one, that my father could not remember, but that my grandparents were so impressed with that they mentioned her even when she was no longer in their employ, was named Manya.


My father and Manya

I know this, while my father did not know it when he was writing this, because I found her name on the other side of this photo. For a long time, I believed that this photo was of my grandmother and my father when he was a baby. I inherited the photo in a frame from my grandmother. But over time I became skeptical that it was my grandmother, because it does not look like any other photo of her. So yesterday I opened up the frame, and on the other side of the photo my grandmother had written in Hebrew: “Amnon with Manya in Krakow May 12, 1936.”


We have no pictures of my grandmother holding my father as a baby, but we do have a picture of Manya the maid! Please keep in mind they had to traverse borders at night with a very light load to leave Poland in 1939. What pictures we have are the pictures they carried on their person. Manya must have been remarkable! She picked up Hebrew from her Zionist young charge.


Keep in mind that all this time my father was being groomed for the Hebrew settlement in Palestine, nobody told him anything at all about being Jewish. His parents did not discuss anything like that with him. When he played with other children in the park, and they spoke up in Polish against Jews,  (“Beat the Jews!”), neither they nor he had an idea that it might apply to him. Hebrew was being taught, but “Jewish consciousness” was withheld on purpose, according to the teachings of Herzl.

Once arrived safely in Palestine,  my  father grew up in Jerusalem believing that when Israel achieved its independence, it would be a secular state without establishment of religion, where everybody who spoke Biblical Hebrew fluently, Christian, Moslem, Pagan, Jew or atheist, would be treated the same.  In the end, people whose Hebrew was not nearly as good as that of his classical scholar father or his Zionist mother, came to dominate and set the agenda. Establishment of religion was part of the new state apparatus.  Eventually my father  joined the Canaanite movement. And when that did not help, he left Israel for good.

Zionism was never meant to lead to the establishment of a state Jewish religion in Palestine. That is not why Herzl invented it. Herzl wanted to free Jews from both Judaism and Jewishness. But most people are so confused about the history of Zionism that they don’t know this.


Posted in Opinion Pieces and Editorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and the Windows XP Sound Recorder

[This filk song was published on Hubpages in 2009 and was later unpublished because of "pixelated images" at a time when HP thought Google would give them their traffic back if only they did not allow pixelated images.]

Tune: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious by the Sherman Brothers

When using your computer to send a song to me,

Please try the sound recorder built into your XP.

It isn’t high fidelity, and yet the sound you get

Can serve as an attachment — you don’t need a cassette!




Supercalifragilistic XP sound recorder!

Despite the sixty seconds thing,

You can use it — sort of!

Just click “effects” and “decrease speed”

Over and yet over!

No more sixty second thing!

You can keep recording!


It doesn’t cost much money. It’s easy to afford.

You find it in your start bar, and you have to press record.

But you will need a microphone, as Microsoft makes clear:

If you neglect to use one, the sound card cannot hear!



So please don’t go to Wal*Mart, to buy cassette recorders,

I don’t believe they carry them, except for special orders.

Just email me your snail mail and I will send a mike,

And you can start recording anything you like!



(c) 2009 Aya Katz

Microsoft Instructions for Using Sound Recorder 

Image Credit:


Image Credit:  


Posted in Music, Musical Styles | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is It Libertarian if it Features Rebellion Against Government?

Lately I have noticed people making lists of Libertarian movies and books to recommend to their non-libertarian friends. Among these such classics as 1984 and the Star Wars franchise, as well as relative newcomers like The Hunger Games have been mentioned.

I have heard people say things like: “Look, they are fighting against an evil, oppressive government, so it must be libertarian!”

I don’t want to seem too negative, but you don’t have to be libertarian to oppose an “evil, oppressive” government. Everybody I know is against “evil.” I don’t know one single person who is in favor of “evil.” I don’t see any politicians campaigning on a platform of “evil.” Same goes for oppression. I bet if you took a poll, one hundred percent of Americans and at least ninety percent of Europeans would come out solidly against “oppression.” The problem is in deciding what exactly that is.

The fiction that seems to be doing very well at the moment is the fiction that skirts making that distinction. I am not an expert on The Hunger Games. for instance, as I have not read the books and have only seen two of the movies, but it appears to be about an oppressive government that makes people fight to the death in a public arena in order to punish a rebellion that took place a long time ago when part of Panem (or PanAm?) tried to secede. So it begs the question: is this about the American civil war and what happened during reconstruction?  Somebody actually asked this online. They were told no, it was not, it was just about oppressive government, but thank you very much for making the connection.

The reason this series about rebellion against an oppressive government is doing so well is that people who think the Civil War was a great humanitarian war to end slavery and people who think the Civil War ended constitutional republican government in the United States can all go see the same movie and eat popcorn and candy and feel happy to be rebels. It does not change anything in their ideology, but it only serves to convince them that they are good people and  that they would fight against evil, too, if evil ever showed up. But in real life, there is no evil, and all is well with the world. Or alternatively, some of them think they do recognize evil, but they are on diametrically different sides when it comes to defining what that is.

I recently saw Star Wars  listed as libertarian. I have always been ambivalent about the Star Wars franchise because I was not really sure what it was that made the evil Empire evil, other than dressing in black. I used to dismiss it as unintellectual entertainment for people with no particular axe to grind. But in 1999 something happened to convince me that Star Wars was actually anti-libertarian.

At the time, I went to see the latest movie in the series, The Phantom Menace, in the company of my newborn daughter. It was hard to concentrate on the movie, as the baby needed constant attention. She was about eleven days old. But I swear the people on the screen seemed to be saying that the bad guys were evil because they did not want to pay taxes imposed on them by the good guys!

This was the text of the opening crawl:

Turmoil has engulfed the Galactic Republic. The taxation of trade routes to outlying star systems is in dispute.
Hoping to resolve the matter with a blockade of deadly battleships, the greedy Trade Federation has stopped all shipping to the small planet of Naboo.
While the congress of the Republic endlessly debates this alarming chain of events, the Supreme Chancellor has secretly dispatched two Jedi Knights, the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy, to settle the conflict.

So basically the greedy Trade Federation was like Amazon, selling things without sales tax, and the planet of Naboo was like the state of Missouri trying to impose sales tax on them. Which side should the Amazon Associates on Naboo be on? Which side should the consumers on Naboo be on?  Tell me more about greed… Is that the attempt to get something for nothing?

I’m still not sure. I had a friend once who told me she enjoys going to the movies for the symbolism of the thing, regardless of the overt ideology. So she could enjoy a symbolic rebellion against evil and come away feeling catharsis, and it did not matter that the Hollywood establishment was getting to define evil in a way she disagreed with.

It does not work that way for me, and if you are serious about pitching libertarianism to your friends, I suggest that this is not a good strategy. If evil is not defined in a way that allows us to distinguish free market from forced market, then it’s not libertarian.

Everybody is in favor of freedom and against oppression. Libertarian fiction defines what freedom and oppression are. If that definition does not make socialists and statists  and theocrats cringe just a little, then it’s not libertarian. It’s mainstream.


Posted in Books and Authors, Opinion Pieces and Editorials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stray dogs came in all breeds and colors, but a type of dog often encountered was one with stippled black-gray-brown coat, representing the natural blending of several unnaturally produced breeds.

Stray dogs came in all breeds and colors, but a type of dog often encountered was one with stippled black-gray-brown coat, representing the natural blending of several unnaturally produced breeds.

[This article was first published on Hubpages in 2008 , but it has since been de-indexed, so I am republishing it here.]


Tamsui Oxford University College had beautifully manicured grounds. It was said that the President of the University had given orders that all strays on the premises be fed scraps from the cafeteria.

Tamsui Oxford University College had beautifully manicured grounds. It was said that the President of the University had given orders that all strays on the premises be fed scraps from the cafeteria.

In Tamsui, ten years ago, one could not go far without encountering a stray dog. The campus of the university where I taught was full of them. On every walk through the town or by the river, I would meet up with many a stray. They had no collars or tags, and they didn’t bother anybody. If you happened upon a dog in an alley, the dog would go out of its way to avoid an encounter. He might cross over to the other side of the street to give you a wide berth. These dogs were polite, discreet, and wary. They minded their own business,  and they expected you to do the same.

When I complained to the locals that none of the dogs would let me pet them, they were scandalized. “Aya, do not touch the dogs. It is not safe.”

The Tamsui river feeds into the Formosan straits that separate Taiwan from the MainlandBut by the same token, the dogs did not seem to think it would be safe to touch me, either. So we always went our separate ways after each brief encounter.

Tamsui is a city built on the banks of the Tamsui River which flows into the straits of Formosa that separate the Island of Taiwan from the Mainland of China.

one stray let me touch him

one stray let me touch him

The campus of Tamsui Oxford University College was very well tended. During my first few weeks there, before I rented an apartment, I stayed on campus in a building called “The White House”. Every morning, when I went out, no matter how early, there were people with wide brimmed hats manicuring the lawns and tending to the foliage. The president of the university took great pride in the appearance of the campus. When someone asked why there were so many strays on campus, we were told that the president himself had given orders that any strays on campus should be fed daily with scraps from the cafeteria.

A beagle on the TOUC campus in the evening

A beagle on the TOUC campus at night

This presented quite a contrast to me from the way strays are viewed in the U.S. In America, people are discouraged from feeding a dog, unless they plan to adopt it. In U.S. cities, strays are routinely rounded up, and those who aren’t adopted after a short of period of time are euthenized. People who adopt dogs from the pound are told they should have them neutered, in order to avoid adding to the “excess dog population.”

In Tamsui, stray dogs seemed to flourish, without necessarily belonging to anyone. They lived natural lives, producing young, and dying of natural causes. They had enough to eat, but I never saw an obese dog on the streets of Tamsui, and even though they were strays, none of them begged for food. In fact, every time I tried to give a dog some food, the dog declined.

A stray dog eyes me warily beside a derelict bus
Of all the strays I met in Tamsui, only one let me pet him. He was a cute little mixed breed with the head of a German Shepherd, but a much smaller body. I first met him when I was walking back to the White House from a restaurant that a group of us had taken to frequenting. A colleague from Canada and I were waiting to cross the busy intersection of a main thoroughfare.
Traffic consisted of cars, buses, bicycles and mopeds.Traffic in Taiwan is hard to negotiate, especially if you are a pedestrian who believes that he has the  right of way. Cars don’t slow down for a person trying to cross the street, even when the traffic  signals are in your favor. Suddenly we saw a dog dash into the street and make it through the cars that never even paused at the sight of him. We held our breaths. We were sure he would be run over. But no! He was waiting for us on the other side, as we made it across. Unlike most of the dogs in Tamsui, this one was friendly, and he encouraged us to pet him, and followed us all the way home, to the White House. We felt sad that we couldn’t offer him anything. Neither of us could afford to adopt a local dog. We were just passing through, and we couldn’t make a commitment. The next morning, if he was still there outside the wall, I was planning to give him some scraps, but he wasn’t there.

Stray cats can be found near open garbage receptacles.

Stray cats can be found near open garbage receptacles.

After I moved into my own apartment off-campus, I sometimes prowled the streets of Tamsui taking photos of sights that I found interesting. When I showed the photos to my local friends, they would laugh, asking: “Why did you take a picture of that? That’s not interesting. It’s just a bunch of garbage cans.”

“No,” I would answer. “It’s a picture of stray cats.”

“Oh. Don’t they have stray cats where you come from?”

“Well, yes. But these are Taiwanese stray cats,” I would answer.

Small shrines as well as temples dot the side-streets.

When foreign faculty (from the U.S. and Canada) mentioned the stray dogs, they felt regret that they couldn’t do more to help them. But there was also this latent criticism of the local system that tolerated the population of strays, neither rounding them up nor taking complete responsibility for them.

My own feelings were ambivalent. I was concerned that these dogs weren’t vaccinated, and yet they were the best behaved strays that I had ever seen. They maintained a healthy distance from strangers, and they seemed amazingly self-reliant. Most did not even look as if they wanted a master.

All except for that little guy who had crossed the street with us that day. I saw him again on one of my walks through the city, and I happened to have an ice cream cone at the time. I stopped to pet him, and he was very happy to see me, but when I offered him a bite of my cone, he wasn’t interested.

Many months passed before I saw him again. I was invited to a party given by a high ranking professor in our department. He and his wife had bought a new house, which they had renovated with hardwood floors and all the latest trimmings. They had their entire lives mapped out, and there was a room in the house to represent every step of the way. They showed us the room they planned to have his mother live in when she could no longer live on her own.They showed us another room, which would be the nursery, once they had kids. “And we have already got one dependent living with us,” they said cheerfully. “Want to see?” We nodded. They opened a door, and in trotted our friend, which I and my colleague from Canada immediately recognized. It was the dog who had guided us safely across the intersection. He had finally found a home!

The stray who found a home

I think that a country that tolerates strays is not necessarily a bad place for dogs. If the strays of Tamsui had been in the U.S. instead, how many would have been allowed to live full, complete lives? All would have been rounded up. Those not adopted would have perished. Those who were adopted would have been mutilated and de-sexed, in the name of population control.

Sometimes the kindest thing we can do for others is to leave them alone. It’s not necessary to fix every problem we see. Trying to fix the lives of others without understanding their point of view can cause them irreperable damage. We can’t be responsible for every one we meet. Sometimes, the right thing to do is to live and let live.



(c) 2008 Aya Katz



Go to last comment
joyride profile image

joyride 5 years ago

This problem, with unwanted animals, unfortunatelly seem to be a problem, all over the world, and that s a shame, that people have so little concideration, for the well being of the animals, all around the globe, and it deeply saddens me, that all these animals, have to suffer so much, in so many countries, it doesn t reflect good on us as humans, how we treat the animals, and neglect to see them, and recognize their needs, and their rights, kelly ann

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Joyride, I, too, used to think what a shame it was that there are all these homeless animals. However, seeing how it worked in Taiwain, that stray dogs were allowed to live complete lives, (including reproducing and caring for their young), even though nobody owned them, I came to see the limitations of the Western approach to strays.

It was a very happy thing that the particular dog who befriended us found a good home, but it was also happy for all the dogs who had not found a home, that they got to live out their lives in freedom and with dignity.


A Taiwanese 5 years ago


<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:????; panose-1:2 2 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-alt:PMingLiU; mso-font-charset:136; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611969 684719354 22 0 1048577 0;} @font-face {font-family:”\@????”; panose-1:2 2 5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0; mso-font-charset:136; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-1610611969 684719354 22 0 1048577 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-parent:”"; margin:0cm; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:none; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-fareast-font-family:????; mso-font-kerning:1.0pt;} a:link, span.MsoHyperlink {color:blue; text-decoration:underline; text-underline:single;} a:visited, span.MsoHyperlinkFollowed {color:purple; text-decoration:underline; text-underline:single;} p {mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0cm; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0cm; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:????; mso-bidi-font-family:????;} /* Page Definitions */ @page {mso-page-border-surround-header:no; mso-page-border-surround-footer:no;} @page Section1 {size:612.0pt 792.0pt; margin:72.0pt 90.0pt 72.0pt 90.0pt; mso-header-margin:36.0pt; mso-footer-margin:36.0pt; mso-paper-source:0;} div.Section1 {page:Section1;} –>

>seeing how it worked in Taiwain, that stray dogs were allowed to live complete lives,This unfortunately is wrong. Taiwan is not a stray dog friendly, not even a pet friendly country. Take a look at this stray puppy…was burned up alive by 3 junior high schoolers.… the puppy later died while the kids were never punished. Why? Because to the gov., it’s “just” a dog.Please also spent some time look through this gallery: . Photos posted there were only taken by photographer himself. Can you imaging how many other suffering souls are out there in this little island? Most strays in Taiwan can only live for up to 2 years. .. not a full life. Please also take a look at this post:… . The dogs in photos were captured by the gov. pound. Do you see what the gov is doing to them on their last days (these strays were destroyed after a few days as no one were there to claim them. ) The feces were all over the place… and they were fed with chills and vegetables… not to mention illegal restaurants all over the place that slay dogs for meat. Most strays in Taiwan have to seek for food and water from garbage dumps, eating sands and stones to alleviate their hunger, been kicked away from stores to stores, house to house…etc. Most of them face insurmountable danger everyday. Dangers such as animal abuse by human (using knife, rubber bands, ropes, boiling water/oil, fire, dragging by motorcycle, beating, poisoning and chemical burns..etc.), car accidents, bear traps, dog meat restaurants, puppy mills and of course, captured and euthanized by government-owned animal shelters. What I just mentioned is just a tip of the iceberg… I am sorry that I left such a long message… it’s just I saw sad things to these poor animals everyday… Lastly, just take a look at how many puppies were put to sleep in yunlin county:… They were born and captured by the pound.. only 5-10% got the get out of jail card…they lived for a few months and have to be put to sleep. Their mom, too. Wouldn’t you wish those strays were never born?…

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Taiwanese, thanks for you comment and for sharing this information.

When I was in Taiwan, I didn’t see the cruel treatment myself, but I did see stray dogs who knew how to take care of themselves, and were very cautious of humans. I was not under the impression that all Taiwanese were kind to dogs, and this was not the point of my hub. The point was, that despite the less than paternalistic treatment of dogs, many managed to live good and natural lives. It is natural for a dog to be sometimes hungry and to hunt for food. It is not natural for all dogs to be obese and grain fed, as they are predominantly in the U.S. It is natural for dogs to have puppies and for not all the puppies from each litter to survive to adulthood. It is not natural for a dog to be neutered.

You mentioned puppies put to death and asked: “Wouldn’t you wish those strays were never born?” You can say the same things about people who end up having bad and even tragic things happen to them. Wouldn’t it be better if all people who were ever murdered had never been born? I think the people themselves would give a different answer. In life, we hope. We all die in the end. It’s what happens between birth and death that matters. Nobody wants to die prematurely or under horrible circumstances, but ask most, and they will not tell you they would rather never have been born.

It used be commonplace for people to take the pick of the litter and drown the rest. While we may all frown on this practice, would we really like to live in a world where the only dogs that exist are of two kinds:

(1) pets who have been neutered


(2) breeders owned by government sanctioned puppy mills whose sole function in life is to reproduce?


A Taiwanese 5 years ago

Once upon a time, human lived their lives in the wild, too. Why do people now choose to live with the benefits of a city than living in the wild nowadays? Would you rather live in the wild with little food supply or you would rather have the opportunity to live comfortably at home?… this link shows a group of strays living in the mountain, end up loosing their legs. Do you think they would rather live this kind of life or be an altered pet where they have food and shelther and don’t have to worry about danger or hunger.

As long as people still live on this world, there is animal cruelty, then there is suffering for those poor animals who can’t speak for themselves. What you have seen in Taiwan is just a few dogs, you don’t know how all of them ended up anyway. If no one take them in, they are probably be dead within a year, no matter how curious they are. Most of them end up dead of car accidents or torture – even been put down is a torture. This is how government pounds put dogs to dead: Your article gives people the impression that stray dogs in Taiwan can survive but they don’t. Maybe a good way to phrase my question was wouldn’t you rather they never “exist”? Spay and neuter is the only humane way to lower down the overpopulation. Or you think killing and torture is more humane? Or you think cruelty should be done to more strays? (no alteration=more strays) 

A Taiwanese 5 years ago

Once upon a time, human lived their lives in the wild, too. Why do people now choose to live with the benefits of a city than living in the wild nowadays? Would you rather live in the wild with little food supply or you would rather have the opportunity to live comfortably at home?… this link shows a group of strays living in the mountain, end up loosing their legs. Do you think they would rather live this kind of life or be an altered pet where they have food and shelther and don’t have to worry about danger or hunger.

As long as people still live on this world, there is animal cruelty, then there is suffering for those poor animals who can’t speak for themselves. What you have seen in Taiwan is just a few dogs and for a short while, you don’t know how all of them ended up anyway. If no one take them in, they are probably be dead within a year, no matter how curious they are. You thought they know how to take care of themselves, but they don’t. Most of them end up dead by car accidents or torture – even been put down is a torture. This is how government pounds put dogs to dead: Your article gives people the impression that stray dogs in Taiwan can survive but they don’t. Maybe a good way to phrase my question was wouldn’t you rather they never “exist”? Spay and neuter is the only humane way to lower down the overpopulation. Or you think killing and torture is more humane? Or you think cruelty should be done to more strays? (no alteration=more strays) I live on this island and care for those poor strays for a long life and I know none of the strays had a good ending. Unfortunately I am not rich enough to take them all in. All I know is spay and neuter can stop the next one from suffering.

(Mill dog is another story… government is pro human. they won’t care about how the puppy mills are run. All they care is the people can make money and survive…)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Taiwanese, thanks for your comment. Why don’t we spay and neuter humans first! Then there will not be a problem for dogs.

The truth is that no one wants to be neutered at the whim of someone else. We don’t do it to other humans against their will, because such a solution to the human overpopulation problem would be inhumane. How can you believe it is humane to do this to dogs?

Dogs can’t speak for themselves. True enough. You are not speaking for them. When a delegation of dogs shows up and asks to be neutered, then I may be convinced that this is what some dogs want. Not necessarily all dogs, though.

Your solution is a totalitarian decision to allow only certain privileged institutions to breed dogs. Can you imagine what this will eventually do to the genetic diversity of the canine population?

Many of the so-called animal rights activists are really lobbying for the destruction of entire breeds and species in the name of reducing suffering.

The only way to stamp out all  suffering is to stamp out life!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Taiwanese, I unintentionally ignored your question to me: “Would you rather live in the wild with little food supply or you would rather have the opportunity to live comfortably at home?”

It is a good question. My answer is: “I would rather have a choice than to have others make that decision for me.” I don’t live in a city, nor within the confines of any municipality. I have woods behind my house, where wild rabbits and deer run. I have a pasture. I have an orchard that gives fruit. I shop at the Wal-Mart, but I also live off my own land. If tomorrow there is no Wal-Mart, I and my family will still survive, including the stray dogs that we adopted.

Julaha profile image

Julaha 5 years ago from India

The strays in Taiwan seem to be extremely well behaved.

Here in India they are very assertive. They think they own the cities where they live, especially at night.

Many citizens hesitate to venture out at night for fear of the strays. I myself have experienced this in Delhi which has perhaps as many strays as there are Delhities. We are returning home after visiting the Taj in Agra and it was near midnight. The city was aspleep. The bus dropped us near our home and there was just a short walk. We had with us a couple of small children and we were walking home. Suddenly the strays surrounded us menacingly, several of them, huge shaggy beasts with glistening teeth. We were terrified. Luckly, our shouts of fear aroused a watchman of a society who came to our aid with his lathi (bamboo stick). If he hadn’t turned up at the right moment, I wonder what would have happened to us on that night.

I remember another incident of my childhood days. A cow had given birth on the streets, but even before the calf had emerged properly, it had been bitten to death by a gang of strays.

In Ahmedabad where I live now, we have similar stray problem. When it turns dark, the strays take over the roads and chase any two-wheeler that passes them. This has often lead to accidents in which people have been injured.

In our society, a bitch has taken residence and has given birth to a litter of puppies. They look cute when they are young, but as they grow bigger, they become aggressive and bite children, who can then die of rabies.

More pitiably, the puppies are so dumb that they get easily get run over by the cars in the society when they are shunted for parking. And it can be traumatic for small children to witness such violent death right in their societies.

So there is no wisdom in feeding strays or encouraging them. The city is not the place for animals. It is for human beings, primarily.

True city people can get nostalgic about animals. They should visit wilderness areas or zoos to get over their nostalgia.

It is neither kindness nor pragmatism to encourage stray animals, whether they be dogs, cats, cows, pigs or any other domestic animals.

Unfortunately Indian cities are overrun with all these.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Julaha, thank you for your thoughtful comment. You bring up a very important point: in order for us to respect stray dogs, they also have to respect us.

Some of the commentators from Taiwan wrote that I don’t understand, and that the Taiwanese are really very cruel to these dogs, so it would be better for them never to have been born. I never saw anyone in Taiwan being cruel to a dog, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. In fact, from the way the dogs reacted to meeting a stranger, I gather that there is cruelty, that they witnessed it, and that because of this, they avoided humans. In fact, it almost seemed as if their mothers discouraged them from taking food from the hands of a human, because there was a history of poisoning.

All this I inferred from the behavior of the dogs. But this is precisely what made the stray dogs so well behaved, and created a balance between the right of humans to be safe and the right of the dogs to exist.

It sounds to me as if, from your own description, there is no such balance in India. Perhaps, because of Hinduism or other cultural issues, people are TOO kind to dogs, even vicious dogs, to the point that the dogs take advantage. This is going too far the other way.

What we need is a balance. In order to co-exist, each species should be made to respect the rights of the other.



Julaha profile image

Julaha 5 years ago from India

I have a friend who is an animal expert. He tells me that neutering strays is hardly an effective strategy.

There are so many dogs to be neutered and there are so few resources, and if you don’t neuter them all, the entire program fails, because non-neutered dogs quickly replace the neutered ones and soon begin to breed again.

The best way to control strays is proper garbage management. The dogs subsist on garbage. If the garbage is properly disposed, they won’t have anything to eat and there would be no dogs either.

But Indian cities have a long way to go before they can manage their garbage properly.

Religious sentiments could have something to do with it too. People here are vegetarians, and the Jains, who are quite numerous in Ahmedabad, abhor any kind of violence.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Julaha, yes, I agree that neutering is not a solution. Proper garbage management is a good idea, to keep down rat populations as well. 

Prasoon Joshi 5 years ago

Interesting post. Stray dogs are never a problem I think, they are more of a society that co-exists with us. I’m not saying that it should be encouraged or discouraged, just accept things are if the two societies cross each other’s roads in an obtrusive way then measures may be taken to resolve the issue.

I did a similar article on my blog, do read it, you’ll get insights into a particular city in India, Bangalore.…


Prasoon Joshi 5 years ago

Interesting post. Stray dogs are never a problem I think, they are more of a society that co-exists with us. I’m not saying that it should be encouraged or discouraged, just accept things are if the two societies cross each other’s roads in an obtrusive way then measures may be taken to resolve the issue.

I did a similar article on my blog, do read it, you’ll get insights into a particular city in India, Bangalore.



Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Prasoon Joshi, thanks for your comment and for providing a link to your article on the the dogs of Bangalore.


Rose 5 years ago

This Is soo sad! I wish i could help all these animals. Its so mean what people can do to animals! I am a animal lover! & i just really hurts me when i see all these animals on the streets. I will always keep the animals in my prayers. I also really hope that god helps them. I also hope that they find a loving home. & that no one else hurts animals!


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Rose, thanks for your comment. Some of this is sad, but there is a part that isn’t sad. It is happy when a stray dog finds a good home where he is loved and wanted. And it is also happy that dogs who have not found a home yet are still allowed to live freely. It’s a terrible thing to live in a country where the only dogs who are allowed to live are those who find a home.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

It sounds like Tamsui has a good way of dealing with their stray dogs. I enjoyed the story about the nice one finding a home.

  • Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Thanks, SweetiePie. I do think we could learn a lot from the way the stray population is handled in Tamsui. I was so happy to see that my dog friend found a good home, too.

Muhammad 15 months ago

I recokn you are quite dead on with that.


Posted on by Aya Katz | 1 Comment

Candy From Strangers

[This article was first published on Hubpages on 09/26/09. It got 39 comments. It has since been deindexed.]

Candy from Strangers

Image Credit: The Wikipedia
Image Credit: The Wikipedia


When I was a little girl, my grandmother tried to impress upon me how important it was not to accept candy from strangers. If I disregarded this advice, she informed me that what I could expect was a fate worse than death. It was the surest way to be sold into white slavery known to man.

Now, I didn’t exactly understand right at first what white slavery was, but I spent a lot of time wondering about it. It sounded mysterious and even romantic. Some of my earliest creative writing attempts were about children who were sold into slavery because they accepted candy from a stranger.

Mind you, that same grandmother was the person who believed that London cab drivers routinely deliver tourists to factories where they are turned into sausages. She also took me to Paris and then suspected the manager of a restaurant where we dined of plotting to murder us.

My grandmother was a little bit paranoid, to say the least. But this is not entirely a bad thing, as it was this very paranoia that saved her and my father from certain death during WWII. Relatives urged her to remain behind in Poland while my grandfather made a stealthy border crossing. Nobody else believed that the Nazis would murder women and children. But my grandmother was sure they would, and so she insisted on coming along.

Paranoia has survival value.

What is a Stranger? Should you talk to them?

As odd as my grandmother was, she didn’t invent that story about candy and strangers. It is conventional wisdom that she picked up in the same place that she learned to be suspicious of traveling salesmen and gypsies and anybody not of her own kind. It is part bigotry, part common sense, and you don’t have to be a human being to have this maxim deeply ingrained into your psyche. Stray dogs that I met in Taiwan acted as if their grandmothers had told them the same thing.

“Don’t take candy from strangers.” It is the kind of thing parents still tell their children today, and the way this advice is interpreted is very much dependent on the child.

In following a policy of not taking candy from strangers, a child needs to understand what we mean by “strangers.” Is it anybody outside your own family, or just anybody you’ve never been introduced to formally? Does a formal introduction qualify a person as a non-stranger? What if he introduces himself?

Or are strangers people who don’t live in your town and clearly don’t belong there? Are all foreigners automatically strangers?

After I graduated from college, as a special treat, my grandmother took me to Paris — and then admonished me not to speak to strangers! I remember standing in line to buy theatre tickets, and the man behind us wanting to make conversation. “Don’t talk to him!” my grandmother shushed me. “He’s a stranger!”

“Grandmother, they’re all strangers! We don’t know anybody in Paris. How am I supposed to practice my French if I don’t talk to strangers?”

The English word “stranger” comes from a French word, étranger, whose root means both foreigner and someone strange. In many languages those concepts come from a single root. In Hebrew, for instance, the word מוזר [muzar] meaning “odd” or “strange” is derived from the same root as the word זר [zar] meaning “stranger” or “foreigner”. We do recognize foreigners and strangers because something about them seems “not quite right” or “strange.”

In polite society, we socialize our children to overlook other people’s “strange” attributes and to treat everybody just the same. We send a lot of mixed messages to our children. For instance, when my daughter first started preschool, she refused to speak to anybody there, because they were all strangers! It took a lot of effort to get her over this natural reticence. The lesson she learned: you must talk to strangers!

We expect our children to obey all sorts of strangers. When a new busdriver shows up, children are encouraged to treat him or her just as they would the old bus driver they have known for years. When a substitute teacher appears suddenly, for just one day, they are expected to treat her with the same degree of trust as the old teacher. When a new child enrolls in school, they are expected to be nice, and to speak politely to the child’s parents, whom they have never met before, when they pick up the new kid from school.

Under these circumstances, all the natural prejudice against strangers that our children have is bred right out of them. Why shouldn’t they accept candy from strangers? They talk to strangers everyday. It wouldn’t be polite not to.

My Concession to Open Concession Stand

Even if talking to strangers is not something that our children can avoid, surely accepting candy from strangers is different? Surely, we still can tell our children not to accept candy from strangers, not necessarily because the strangers are bad, but because candy is bad for them? Well, it’s not as easy as you would think.

At my daughter’s school, once a month, the student council presides over “open concession stand.” At this time, candy and soda are available for sale at school. Parents are encouraged to send their children to school with money to purchase sweets. When my daughter was in kindergarten, I decided not to give her any money to take to school. I figured it would be better for her dental and overall health if she didn’t have any candy.

Imagine how surprised I was to learn that she had purchased candy with all the others and consumed it there on the spot. But how? The janitor had felt sorry for her, seeing she was the only child without money, and had given her fifty cents!

I was really upset and returned the fifty cents to the janitor, explaining that I had deliberately not given my daughter the money, so she wouldn’t have sweets. The janitor reluctantly accepted my fifty cents, looking askance at me. Clearly, I was the stranger here, and nobody could understand my strange ways.

No matter how many times I tried to explain this policy, none of the people at school seemed to understand. In second grade, a teacher actually instructed another child to share some of her candy money with my daughter — as a lesson in socialism, no doubt.

After this, I gave up. I send my daughter to school with money for candy, knowing that if I don’t do so, strangers will give it to her!

Candy and the Bus Driver

Every once in a while my daughter returns home from school with candy, even though it’s not Open Concession Stand day. “Where’d you get that?” I ask her.

“The bus driver gave it to me.”

If I react in any way, she adds: “Everybody got one!”

Last year, on the last day of school, the school bus was nearly thirty minutes late delivering my daughter home. I was worried. I phoned the school. “Oh, the bus driver just took all the kids out for chips and a soda,” I was told by the school receptionist. “Don’t worry. They’ll be there soon.”

They need a signed permission slip to go on a field trip to the park with their teacher. But the bus driver can just unilaterally decide to take the kids to the store and buy them junk food?

I was pretty upset. My daughter, when she finally came home, said: “The bus driver was just trying to be nice.”

Is it nice? I don’t know. I don’t want to be like my grandmother, but something seems a little bit strange about this. It could be, though, that the reason I don’t understand it is that I am a stranger to these parts!

Trick or Treating

Image Credit: Wikipedia
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Trick or Treating

I feel bad that my daughter has never gone trick or treating. As a child in the U.S., Halloween was one of my favorite holidays. Dressing up and trying to look scary were just part of the fun. The best part was that you got to go and knock on strangers’ doors and ask for candy! We went without our parents and without any sort of supervision. We went walking in the dark of night to far away neighborhoods where we knew no one. It was the one night of the year when taking candy from strangers was allowed. Let’s face it: the best part wasn’t the candy. It was flouting the rules and interacting with total strangers! We could do it, because we trusted in the goodness of our fellow man. Even though we’d never met them, we knew they would do us no harm!

When we moved out here to the country, my daughter was two. We settled in in late September, and were all ready for our first Halloween in the U.S. (We had been living in Taiwan up till then.) I dressed her up as Po from Teletubbies and I filled an orange bowl with candy, and I told her that people would come to ask for candy, and we would give it to them. I put the porch light on so they would know someone was home. But nobody came. Not one person. By the end of the night, my daughter was disappointed. “Why didn’t they want our candy?” she asked.

Apparently, trick or treating has gone out of style. There’s always a Halloween party every year at the community center and the kids are given a big bag full of candy just for coming. Some parents do take their children trick or treating, but only under tight supervision, and only to the houses of family and friends.

Nowadays, children accept candy from strangers every day — except for Halloween.

(c) 2009 Aya Katz

In Case There’s a Fox


 Last updated on December 31, 2010

Comments 39 comments


Ef El Light profile image

Ef El Light 5 years ago from New York State

Dictums of sustenance and diet in true

Perception would leave sugar out of view.


ngureco profile image

ngureco 5 years ago

Hello, Aya katz.

You must have learnt that being a parent is never easy.

On one hand, you have to teach your child to keep off strangers because you do know there is always the potential for danger in what you don’t know. It can be fatal to trust everyone and everything. Whenever there is abduction, rape, and molestation of a child there usually is a sign of the child accepting candy from the stranger. It is natural to exercise caution and protect our children. It is abnormal to trust openly and without question.

On the other hand, children must learn how to share with others, learn to be kind and to obey their seniors (regardless of whether strangers or not), learn to be civilized, etc.

In Paris, your grandmother wants you not to talk to strangers but she also wants you to practice your French. It’s now your turn. It’s all about being a parent. It’s all about life. It’s all about risks. You have to sacrifice one at the expense of the other.

  • robie2 profile image

robie2 5 years ago from Central New JerseyLevel 1 Commenter

ahhhh yes taking candy from strangers–I too remember those admonotions. So now you ask– who is a stranger? and when is it OK to take candy from strangers? Fascinating hub. I loved it.

That natural human tendency towards tribalism bordering on paranoia has saved our lives in the past and also gotten us into deep trouble. It’s how wars are made after all.

It’s interesting too that though people are suspicious of foreigners in most circumstances, when it comes to sexual attraction, the foreigner or stranger usually seems exotic and very attractive. Could that be nature’s way of broadening the gene pool? Just a thought:-)


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

F.L. Light, thanks for the couplet. Our body operates by burning sugar, so it’s not surprising that all of us, and especially children, crave it. A diet of straight sugar is not good for us, because it is better to make the body work for it, by converting other substances, such as fats, into sugars. However, an occasional piece of candy never hurt a child. As a parent, I would prefer to be the one to decide how much and when.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Ngureco, thanks for your comment. You’re right, it’s never easy to find just the right balance between trust and caution.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Robie2,thanks! Tribalism definitely has its downside, as you noted, but I think that deep down inside, we all long for a society of intimates, where everybody knows us by name and where we know everybody else. On the other hand, it’s true that the stranger has an exotic sex appeal that must have to do with the need to expand our gene bank. After all, in many tribes, exogamy is routinely practiced.


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 5 years ago from United States

I’m right there with you on parental rights to decide how much candy, etc. but found that impossible to enforce in the public school system. Almost as hard in the private schools too.

Grew up in the tuck and duck era that at the same time was quite permissive in terms of freedom to explore the neighborhood, etc. Yet, taking candy back then was also a big no-no.

There was a saying in our house “sugar makes you stupid” enacted by my very authoritative husband at the time upon all 5 kids (3 step/2 mine). He forbid candy, soda, and junk food. They were all between 10 and 15 years in age at the time. This was a war he could not win. It made them different in the eyes of other kids, the social kiss of death according to them.

Other kids would buy them candy. Other adults would by them candy. The worst was the schools having fund raisers of candy, in which the whole class was asked to sell it and if everyone sold the alloted amount of candy they got pizza. Another teacher gave free passes to get out of a quiz for those who met their quota. Since all the kids were selling candy at the same time, no one of course wanted to buy it. Real sure most parents were buying the candy or pushing it off onto their co-workers and relatives.

So our kids were told they could not sell candy by Mr. Sugar Makes You Stupid.

The middle girl who was the most peer pressure oriented of the kids, defied her father and snuck them in the house. One of her siblings stole and ate the candy, maybe even more than one (I still don’t know to this day). She owed the school $80 in candy money before the secret came out. LOL He promptly gave up on the candy wars.

Kaela doesn’t like candy so it’s not a problem these days.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Jerilee, thanks for sharing your experiences with the same issue. I agree, it does seem to be impossible to get any headway with candy in the public schools.

I never intended to forbid Sword candy altogether, as that would surely backfire. I just wanted her to experience it under my supervision. I prefer for her to enjoy high quality chocolates made with real milk chocolate and actual sugar. The things they sell at school aren’t even made with sugar, most of the time. HFCS is everywhere.

At home, we do have our girls’ night celebrations where sweets play a part. But I wish she had more freedom to roam the neighborhood and fewer adults offering her candy!

archdaw profile image

archdaw 5 years ago from Brooklyn

When I was little I never got a chance to go trick or treating, because my brother and I was taught that it was begging. My children grew up Trick or treating, but I always inspected the unopened ones as well as the occasional apples and oranges.

Very informative especially this time of year. Great hub.

  • Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Archdaw, thanks! It sounds as if you found a happy medium between the too strict attitude of your parents and anything that might endanger your children.

I would love to be able to allow my daughter to go trick or treating the way I did, but since it’s no longer customary, where we live, I don’t want to endanger her by having her be the only child to go trick or treating unsupervised.


loveofnight profile image

loveofnight 5 years ago from Baltimore, Maryland

it is sad that we live in a day and time where we cannot allow our kids to roam freely as we use to take a village to raise a child now we’re afraid to allow them to get close.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Loveofnight, thanks for your comment! I think the village metaphor is often misapplied. In the villages of yore, everybody knew everyone else, and everyone knew who the parent of every child was. The way the village helped when it came to raising the child was by understanding that each child belonged to its parents, and by not coming between the parent and the child. Nobody would dare offer candy to another person’s child, except on Halloween, when it was allowed –as a special exception. Today, everything is backwards. We don’t know our neighbors, but strangers give our children candy every day, knowing that we can’t do anything about it!

  • maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny SpainLevel 2 Commenter

‘Don’t take candy from a stranger’is a saying common around the world I think, I know more than fifty ok sixty years ago my mum said that to me. lol.


annie laurie profile image

annie laurie 5 years ago from England

My mum use to say don’t talk to strangers and don’t take any sweets from them and I just wish that I had heeded this. I didn’t and I have written a poem called Just another day which tells the story of what happend to this little girl when she didn’t heed that warning.


newkyork com 5 years ago

Terima kasih


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Maggs, yes, it does seem to be a universal saying. At one time, it was understood that someone who didn’t know a child and offered candy must be up to no good. Because we all knew the saying, as adults, we didn’t dare offer candy to children we didn’t know, for fear of being taken for a bad person.



Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Annie Laurie, I’m very sorry to hear about what happened to you. Did you tell your mother? Did she call the police?


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Newyork, you’re welcome.

  • kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 5 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

This reminded me of years ago when I tried to tell my son, who was around 4, about strangers. He couldn’t grasp the concept and I remember going around in circles trying to explain it to him – you write really well! Kartika


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Kartika, thanks. The concept of the “stranger” is a really tricky one. It’s very hard to explain to children, particularly if we have not quite worked it out for ourselves.


Choke Frantic profile image

Choke Frantic 5 years ago from Newcastle, Australia

I’m glad that as of yet I don’t have children to worry about. This is just another step of parenthood, I guess.

  • Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 5 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Choke Frantic, thanks for your comment. Yes, the candy dilemma is one of the many issues of modern day parenting.

Crazy888 profile image

Crazy888 4 years ago

ohhh Aya! i have not spoke to you in a long time…

i guess i must be carried away by buying presents for Christmas! Do you celebrate Christmas? My kids are very exited and joyus…that they are making my head spin. One of my children says she wants a purple ipod nano….do you have any advise of should i get it for her? she already has a cell-phone and the texting is over the top. i thought it would be a good idea of coming to you for this since there is only four more days left! great hub! i hope dearly of listening to your advise soon….im running out of time! Christmas comes soon! of course my daugter tells me she wants this right after her friend got it for an early winter gift! please reply…and if i don not see you again, MERRY CHRISTMAS….or i you do not celebarte it have a good holiday! its full of snow up here…where do you live. Do you get snow.??

with love and care

THE crazy888 family

love and peace


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Crazy888, nice to hear from you, though your comment has little to do with candy or strangers. We celebrate Christmas with a tree and presents.

I can’t possibly advise what to get your daughter, knowing neither you nor her nor the rest of your family. Only you and/or your spouse/co-parent can know which gifts are good for your child to have. However, if it’s a question of staying on budget, give each child a spending limit and make them present you with a wish list that falls within the budget.

Crazy888 4 years ago

im very sorry about my coment, from now on i will relate questions to your hub. What your grandmother did when you were a little girl reminds me what mine did! very good hub!

from snowy new england

  • Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Crazy888, no problem. I guess we had similar grandmothers.

It’s snowing today in the Ozarks, too.


Crazy888 profile image

Crazy888 4 years ago

where is the Ozarks? anyway…i think (my opinion) that halloween is a symbol of fun. I dont let my kids just go anywhere they want but i think that halloween is one of those things that a kid just grows up with. I dont disagree with your hub….i just have a different opinion.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Crazy888, I refer you to this discussion of the Ozarks region:

I think Halloween is fun, too. So I don’t think we disagree!


Crazy888 profile image

Crazy888 4 years ago

thanks for the link aya.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

Crazy888, you’re welcome.

davidhamilton 4 years ago


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 4 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

DavidHamilton, thanks for your comment. Most people feel that way these days, but it’s sad that things have changed so much and people can no longer trust their neighbors.

SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

Well I am a liberal and I used to teach, but I never believed in giving money to the kids for things like going to buy candy. The reason being there is a school lunch program if kids are hungry, but legally I am not sure a teacher is allowed to make another student give money to a student who does not have money for candy. Most teachers I have worked with felt that kids should not give kids money because of these issues. Kids still drank sodas at the high school when I was teaching, but at the elementary level they were trying to discourage soda and candy, and would not have been selling it anyway.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

Another thing is our policy as teachers was if there was a rare day when treats were allowed, then the teacher would bring these. Actually, one thing I do not miss about teaching is the onus was always on the teacher to provide treats and fun for the kids on the certain holidays when the more outgoing teachers make a todo about it. I was scolded once for not providing some elaborate Christmas party for students, when my co-teacher only handed out candy canes. At Halloween I was made to feel guilty because I only brought candy for the kids, whereas other teachers bought fancy decorated cupcakes. After that I felt compelled to spend a lot of money buying treats for the few days out of the year when the other teachers were giving parties. I do not miss having to buy lots of treats for kids just because every other teacher wants to have a party day around Halloween or Christmas. Sorry that is sort of off topic.


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

SweetiePie, all of these customs — expecting children to buy candy and soda at school, giving them money if they didn’t bring any, forcing other children to give them money, and teachers and other school staff buying treats and throwing parties for children — all seem very strange to me. Both in terms of nutrition and in terms of inappropriate financial pressures on parents and teachers, as well as fellow students, this seems so wrong!

When I went to school in Israel, in third and fourth grade, there was no cafeteria, we ate our own homemade lunches on our desks, nobody sold candy on the school grounds and children were discouraged from bringing candy to school. We learned a lot more, too, but the school day was much shorter. When school was over, there was plenty of time to play. And there was no school bus. Those children who were not picked up by their parents simply walked home.


SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

I do not miss those aspects of teaching. I think here they banned the fund raisers now, and we have something called Williams law where a school might get in trouble if they asked a kid to furnish money for another kid to get the candy. Now the onus is on the teachers to buy the candy, but in California most of the schools discourage it for most of the year for nutrition reasons, and then go high of the hog at Christmas and Halloween.

Honestly, I have never felt guilty about not buying kids candy because it is the one thing they can always get, and probably have too much of. Growing up now one was buying me tons of candy, and I rarely drank soda.

I have no problem with school lunches and cafeteria for kids to eat in. Plenty of kids still bring their own lunch, but there is a school lunch program for those who really need it. California has been a very populace state for a long time and we have always had cafeterias, busses, and the like. It is not going to change here, and I do not want that drastic of changes. I just do not think anyone should have to be pressured about candy.

There is some weird and worse stuff that goes on in private schools though as well, so they are not immune. I had friends who worked really hard, and were always given bad grades compared to other kids. This one girl truly thought she must have been a bad student, but then she got to college and started getting A’s, and realized her teachers have been handing out grades to favorites, and often parents who made larger donations to the school.

I do not think any school system is superior to another, and ultimately I have always believed you learn the most when you go to the library and are self-driven to read things on your own, beyond what the teacher assigns. I have had people my age who went to both private and public school, and they would ask me, how do you know about this current event, or something that is going on in that country? Well, because I read about it on my own. A lot of things I learned was because I wanted to learn about it, not because it was assigned,


Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

SweetiePie, I certainly agree that the best education is the one we give ourselves when we are driven by an internal compulsion to find out about something. That was one of the minor points in Vacuum County that I think a lot of people missed. Verity ended up learning a great deal more when she was researching the history of Vacuum County than when she was enrolled at UT full time.

  • SweetiePie profile image

SweetiePie 2 years ago from Southern California, USALevel 2 Commenter

Maybe you can write another hub about this aspect of Vacuum County. I am not trying to take your hub off course, but I do have to admit the one thing that irked me about both pro-public and pro-private school parents is this: both camps want the teacher to be a miracle worker their kids. It seems parents forget maybe they could allow children to have their own interests, and explore new topics. A lot of parents act like the teacher is the one who has to do everything, and I think even sometimes parents are smothering their kids telling them what they should be reading or learning. I just decided around the age of 12 no school was ever going to answer all the questions I had, and teachers did not usually seem interested in those anyway. I had to read myself if I wanted to learn. Not sure if I would even go to college these days with the way tuition is rising. Is it worth it? I know some people who did not go to college who are making a lot more than I am.

Aya Katz profile image

Aya Katz 2 years ago from The OzarksHub Author

SweetiePie, I think you and I agree about this. Neither teachers nor parents can be the miracle workers we sometimes expect them to be. Ultimately, it’s up to the child. Not everyone can or will learn everything. But every child is going to learn a lot more about what he’s really interested in when driven by his own curiosity.

I agree that college is not a good investment for young people these days. They should go if they want the college experience, but they should not expect any financial return on their investment.

Posted in Costumes for Halloween, Education: Teaching and Learning, Family | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Books Available from Inverted-A Press

Inverted-A Press carries the following Titles:

The Portrait of a Lover by John Wheatcroft.

A Thousand and One Stories of Pericon de Cadiz

Transatlantic Lives by Jesse Bier

Theodosia and the Pirates by Aya Katz



Vacuum County by Aya Katz


Our Lady of Kaifeng


Posted in Books and Authors, PubWages Staff | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Misconceptions about Population Statistics

In the western world, in modern times, life expectancy is higher than it was in the past and higher than it currently is in the third world. But is that entirely a good thing? Most people think that it is, but many of us may be misinterpreting the statistics, myself included.

One of things you have to be very careful about is who is being counted when the statistics are compiled. For instance, when we read that the average life expectancy in Swaziland is 39.6 years and the average life expectancy in the United States is 78.2, we might think that living in the United States is much better. By the same token, if we hear that life expectancy in the United States a century ago was around forty years and today is closer to eighty years, we might think that we have made great strides forward due to modern medicine and our current lifestyle.

In the table below, the first number represents healthy average life expectancy and the second one represents actual average life expectancy and the third figure is the percentage of life expectancy that is healthy.


Swaziland has a high healthy life expectancy but a low absolute life expectancy

But there are two factors to be considered that we usually forget to consider:

  1. How does absolute life expectancy compare to healthy life expectancy?
  2. Who was counted as a person for purposes of the calculation of absolute life expectancy?

According to the chart I posted above, the average person in Swaziland could expect to die at 39.6 years of age, but he would be perfectly healthy, without experiencing any sort of illness until he turned 38.1. That means that for about 96 percent of his life, a person in Swaziland would have no health issues. If having a healthy population is your goal, that seems to be the best country in the world to live in.

But wait, who wants to die so young? Wouldn’t it be better to experience more health difficulties, and even undergo surgery or become dependent on drugs, if that will nearly double your lifespan?

In the chart below we see that in the United States the average person could expect to live a healthy life until age seventy, after which he might continue to live an unhealthy life until he was about seventy-eight years old. While those last eight years might be excruciatingly painful and involve several surgeries and being on drugs and a reduction of quality of life, still seventy years of healthy life sounds pretty good, compared to thirty-nine in Swaziland.


American Healthy Average Life Expectancy is 70, after which Americans get to be sick for another eight years before they die

But what if we have entirely misinterpreted those numbers, based on not thinking about what “average” means, and who is being counted as a person for purposes of the average?

I believe that for purposes of these statistics, a newborn baby counts as a person. Now, when you realize how high infant mortality is in undeveloped countries, and how high the birth rate actually is, then it changes the picture completely. Instead of imagining the average adult only getting to live to be thirty-nine, we can imagine that for every adult who makes it to seventy in Swaziland, there might have been a baby who died before age eight. Totally different picture! It means that it’s tough to be an infant or child in that country, but the benefits of surviving are a long and healthy life.

There is a story they tell about the photographer Leni Riefenstahl. After she realized that she had been wrong to support Hitler, she tried to make up for her previous actions by going to Africa and photographing native populations in all their diversity and beauty. But people still accused her of being a fascist. “All the people you photographed were beautiful and healthy!” they said to her. “Why didn’t you take pictures of any ugly or sick people?” She answered: “I didn’t see any ugly or sick people. All the people I saw were beautiful and healthy.” I don’t know if this story is true, but I did read it somewhere. It made me think.

What if in the United States, we are not lengthening our lifespan by a single year with our modern medicine? What if the average adult person has always lived to be about seventy? What if by reducing our birth rate and our infant mortality, we have simply changed the way we count people? We don’t count all the people who would have been born, but haven’t been. And we don’t let our newborns die, no matter how sick they are. That doesn’t make for a healthier population or a longer life. But it does increase the percentage of the economy that is dedicated to healthcare.

I’m not saying this is necessarily the case. My calculations about Swaziland were entirely speculative. I don’t actually know how high their infant and child mortality are.  Nor do I know to what extent American reduction of infant mortality has led to the average lifespan going up from the previous century. I’m just saying that we need to look into average life expectancy more closely and ask ourselves who is being counted for the purposes of these calculations, because the figures could be doctored in order to convince most voting adults today that they need healthcare in order to live a long life.




Posted in Health, Opinion Pieces and Editorials | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Art of Conversation

There is an art to brilliant conversation. It is more than each person talking in turn. It is more than showing courtesy to your interlocutor, pausing when needed, and listening just as much as you speak. Real conversations, the ones that are truly meaningful, allow occasional interruptions of one speaker by another, to interject additional relevant facts, to help with a word choice, and in all other ways to support the better flow of information between and among speakers.


Many of us who are socially awkward have been led to believe that if only we master turn taking, everything will get better. Of course, we all know people who insist on giving a monologue or a speech to everyone they meet, and that can be annoying. It certainly isn’t a conversation. This is a problem that can and should be worked on with someone who has trouble with social interaction.

However, I have also seen the converse problem. There are some people who are so well schooled in turn taking, that they entirely forget the purpose of a conversation. I have watched some people who are socially intact but otherwise cognitively impaired take turns talking at each other. They very courteously pause to let the other person speak, but what they say after the other person has spoken in no way relates to what he said. Or it only very tangentially relates, as in sharing a general topic, but having nothing to do with the point that person just made.

A true conversation is a dialogue in which the participants are collaborating on creating a coherent text. In all my writing, and in my favorite books that I read as a child, that is the whole point of conversation. Certainly, in order to do this, some social housekeeping is required. We can’t all speak at the same time, because then nobody will be heard. But turn taking is only a very minor concern, one that can at times yield to the greater needs of the conversational flow. It is all right — and even required — to speak out of turn when you have an important point to make. The purpose of the conversation is to exchange information and build a coherent understanding of the topic. The point is not just to socially interact with whoever happens to be there.

Now, when I was a child, we practiced such conversations at home. The text of the conversation was dictated by the general topic and the specific issue being explored, not by the importance of the people involved. The very smallest person at the table was allowed to interject a relevant point, even speaking out of turn. But  a person who was ranked socially higher had better be silent if he or she had nothing to contribute to the conversation. It was not about rank. It was not about civility or conviviality. It was about content.

When I began to put conversations such as this into my fiction, I encountered some critics who said that the conversations were contrived, because real people don’t talk like that. Only characters in nineteenth century books do.

In fact, it took me years until I met someone outside my own family with whom it was possible to have coherent conversations. He did not agree with me about much, but our conversations made nice, coherent texts, which when written down looked a lot like a dialogue from a book. I have always valued the ability of people to have such conversations, and as rare as that quality in a person is, I think it is an ideal to which we should all aspire.

If autistics need more schooling in turn taking, I think most neurotypicals should also undergo training in conversational coherence. They should be taught that turn taking and social rank are not everything and that ultimately, if you have nothing to contribute to a conversation, you should remain silent. This also applies to publishing professional papers and books in which no actual content is present.

There is an art to conversation. The partners in a dialogue are contributing to a text. The value of the contribution depends on the needs of the text, not on the rank of the contributor.  Coherence is a quality in conversation that needs to be upheld, and it should yield to the lesser value of turn taking.



Related Articles

Posted in Books and Authors, Child Rearing, Education: Teaching and Learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Reciprocity and Turn Taking in Love


It’s a common saying that there are many different kinds of love. Just because someone else’s idea of love is not the same as your own does not mean that it is not love. In a way, that is true, simply because people are using the same word to mean very different things. This is a linguistic issue, not an objective question of anyone’s feelings. It is possible that the word love covers a wide variety of more specific emotions, feelings that we could name, if we tried.

Here are some of the kinds of love that we may encounter:

1) Nurturing, committed and parental love that revolves around caring for someone who is not your equal. It can be a baby, a dog or cat, or even an elder in his dotage. Whoever it is may be a source of joy to you, but the relationship is unequal because of the power differential. The inequality may be temporary, as in a child who will grow up and become self-sufficient or it may be permanent, as in a pet who will always be your dependent.

I wrote about my experiences with this kind of love here:

Love and Commitment and Chimpanzees

2) Nurturing and committed love for someone who is ostensibly your equal, but to whom you have formed a close attachment.  This would be like the love that husbands and wives have for one another, whether or not they  have a strong sexual connection and whether or not they admire each other. It’s that thing that sets in to cement a relationship for the long term, when all the excitement and glitter have worn off. But it’s not just for husbands and wives. It is also something that siblings or close friends can feel for one another or parents and adult children can experience, if they are working together or living together in a way that allows for a close bond.

3) Limerent love – A love whose main component is admiration and rapt worship of the Love Object (LO), though not necessarily any desire to take care of them or use them sexually. Limerent Love is the love we have for those we feel are far above us, and it may include gods as well as men.

4) Sexual Attraction – This is the earliest form of love and we share it with all forms of life that reproduce sexually.

I wrote in more detail about limerence here:

Love and Limerence

From a biological standpoint, (1) and (2) on my list above are actually the same emotion with the same biological markers: attachment and bonding. It is designed to keep families together long enough for the children to be cared for.  Therefore, even if they are equals, pair bonded couples may each feel a parental-like desire to nurture one another, each regarding the other a little bit like a dependent.

Because they cannot both be the parent at the same time, this mutual nurturing can sometimes lead to turn taking when it comes to playing the nurturing role or the dependent recipient role.

What I have noticed, though, is that many, many people across the world associate “true” or “pure” love with selflessness, so much so that they sometimes feel compelled to play the role of the selfless parent-like provider in the pair bond.

To me, this way of conceptualizing love is troubling, because all forms of love are ultimately selfish, and because this privileges the role of nurturer as the “good” lover and the role of recipient as the “bad” lover. Turn-taking then becomes about who gets to be  ”good” at the moment.


I used to teach a composition course in Taiwan, and among the assigned topics was to write about the perfect love. One of my students wrote that a perfect love is selfless, and she thought if someone really loved her he would give her a fortune and then leave her alone to lead her own life, without bothering her anymore. (She conceptualized this perfect love as coming from a rich uncle.)

While I found this composition amusing, I was never able to quite wrap my mind around the concept. It is only through this trick of requiring love to be selfless that any person could conclude that complete detachment and non-involvement would be a sign of true love. By her reckoning, receiving pure love would be like winning the lottery.

All forms of love, from the highest to the lowest, are biologically based. All are directly connected to the reward center of the brain. Mothers are rewarded for caring for their young by the joyous feeling that their involvement brings them. Lovers are enraptured by their contact with each other, and the truer the love, the less it requires turn-taking to experience it. Even when a passion is unearthly, as in worshiping a hero or a god, the reward is immediate if the love is genuine. Love is not something you give to someone else. It is something you experience yourself.

In all my books, whether the love is reciprocated, as in Theodosia and the Pirates, or one-sided as in Our Lady of Kaifeng, I make that point. Love is not a contract or an arrangement or a relationship. It is not a policy, and it does not require work. It is a feeling, and it is its own reward!






Posted in Apes and Language, Opinion Pieces and Editorials, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments