Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Another Stir Fry Recipe from The Critical Mom

In a large bowl, put:

several tablespoons of fish sauce
several shakes of soy sauce (or low sodium soy sauce)
several shakes of Tabasco or if you have time, a few red chilis. Crumble them up first.
a tablespoon or two of sugar OR of honey
lots of chopped garlic (clove after clove after clove)

Stir all well and set aside.

Then, take some boned chicken and cut it into thin strips.  Or, instead, use fresh shrimp.  Put either the chicken or the shrimp into the bowl, stir, and let it marinate while you start up some rice in the rice cooker.  Basmati rice or white sticky rice are always good with this.  Thai red cargo rice is good, too.  Regular old rice is fine as well.

Get a skillet hot, pour in vegetable oil or corn oil, let that get hot while you slice some zucchini.  Or red bell peppers.  Or any vegetable that seems happy to be stir-fried.  Stir fry that vegetable--eggplant would be another possibility, with garlic powder and a little diced fresh ginger--and set aside.  Now stir fry the chicken, with the marinade, and when it's just about done, add in the veggies, mix, stir, fry a bit more, and serve.  With rice and white wine.

Guten appetit!  As they say here in Deutschland.

China and The Critical Mom

To my vast amazement, I have lots of Chinese readers.  Hello!  I'm grateful to you for reading my blog.  But I'm also amazed.  I wonder why the bemused ramblings of an American housewife somewhere in Germany--who knows next to nothing about China--could be interesting.  I started to think whether I could write anything interesting to Chinese readers, but all I could come up with was How Little I Know About China.  

What do I know?

(1) I remember the one and only Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan when I was growing up: The Moon Palace.  It was on Broadway and the corner of 112th Street, right around the corner from the building I grew up in.  My family went there often, perhaps once every weekend.  We thought of Moon Palace food as Chinese food, the only kind of Chinese food there is.  But this is like the mistake some mid-Western Americans made when they first saw a Northern German--from North-Rhine Westphalia--step off a plane.
"Where's your Lederhosen?"  asked the Americans.  Since Lederhosen are only worn in the South--a place as foreign to the Northern German as the U.S. to China--this comment did not go over well.  
When the Moon Palace closed in 1991 after 26 years, The New York Times eulogized it: 

. . . when Moon Palace served its last dish of egg foo young on Thursday night, Lyn Casals-Ariet cried, Wai-Tong Lau rushed in from Queens to say goodbye, and Camilla Koch didn't even try to eat. She sat at her regular table, drinking white wine and smoking L&Ms. "Camilla is in a state of grief," said Eugenia Montgomery, her smoking companion . . . The waiters became their family . . . And in a city where different kinds of people often live parallel lives, Moon Palace was an intersection where Chinese immigrants, Columbia University professors and nurses from St. Luke's Hospital crossed paths. Never, Ever Chic

The Moon Palace served either "Shanghai" or "Cantonese" cuisine, depending upon whom you asked, and New York was going the way of Szechuan at the time.  Probably still is.  I remember the egg rolls and the noodles, and I know it was "Chinese Food" for Americans, not any kind of food eaten by anyone anywhere in China. It was bland stuff, blanketed in white, creamy sauce, but it tasted good.

Paul Auster took "The Moon Palace" as the title of one of his best-known novels.  I'm sure he ate there lots when he was a student.

(2) I remember Richard Nixon's trip to China in 1972.  I know that he shook hands with Mao ZeDong in February of that year.

(3) I know the following version of how footbinding ended in China:

Intellectuals plucked the issue of footbinding from the realm of morals and aesthetics and remolded it into a question of patriotism. Women were told the practice was not only harmful to their own physical and emotional health, but also a costly disability to the nation, retarding its political and economic development. In 1928 the Nationalist government announced its plan to eradicate footbinding, requiring girls under the age of fifteen to let their feet grow naturally. Some local officials took a tougher stand, requiring that all women unbind their feet or be subject to fines and sometimes physical punishment. (from Joseph Rupp's History of Footbinding website)

The other version of the story remains that English missionaries founded anti-footbinding clubs, and that the group support helped parents have the courage to stop doing something to their girls that the culture continued to demand they do.

All this is relevant since one theory of how female genital mutilation could be stopped in sub-Saharan Africa is through the founding of anti-cutting clubs.

(4)  Have you noticed I've avoided all mention of political and literary controversy?  Believe me, I read about that stuff all the time in The New York Review of Books and elsewhere.  I'm able and willing to write about Ai WeiWei and lots of other things.

So, readers in China, should I write more about (1), (2), (3), (4) or none of the above.

P.S. At the Moon Palace, and most other American "Chinese" restaurants, you were supposed to "Choose one from column A, one from Column B," and then you got a square meal, followed by fortune cookies.

The Teenager and the Critical Mom

Probably there is no comedy like the comedy of simultaneous puberty and menopause.  And no tragedy like it either.  I forget which English lord remarked that life is a comedy for those who think and a tragedy for those who feel.  Let's think, now:  Did I actually tell the fourteen-year-old that I'd wake him up early?  But no, I just told him he had to go to bed on time and then he said, "Mommy!  I don't have first hour in school tomorrow, so I don't need to go to bed on time."  And I went to militaristic default:  "Get upstairs now."
"But why do I have to go to bed now?"  
Well, because until a moment ago, he had been lying on the couch starting to snore in front of the two minutes of news he claimed he had to watch.  But you can bet your bottom dollar I won't be mentioning that to him.
I figure I'm ahead:  It is nearly ten p.m., and I know where my kid is.
"Upstairs, now!"
"But other people in my class go to bed much later and I don't have first hour tomorrow."
"It's not my bedtime."
"I'm going to count to five, and if, at that point, you are not upstairs, I am going to unplug and remove your computer."
Yawn. Yawn. Yawn.
I didn't unplug the computer because I was so tired myself that I forgot.  He did take longer than five counts to get upstairs.  He did get upstairs.
In the morning, as I was waking his brother and sister, I remembered the times I'd waked him when I'd forgotten that his first school hour was cancelled, and I patted myself on the back for remembering that he had no first hour today and could therefore sleep late.
I woke him at seven instead of at six.
"Good morning!  It's seven."
"WHAT?  Why didn't you wake me?!! GOD DAMN IT!"
"You said you had no first hour."
"But you made me go to bed early."
"Well, you seem to have needed your sleep."
Audible slap on forehead.  How dumb can Mommy be?  Loud complaints all the way downstairs.  Loud complaints at breakfast.  Until his peace-making Dad says, "For goodness sakes, Mommy and I are dying for more sleep.  Aren't you lucky you got to sleep?"
By the time he had to leave, he had forgiven me, and was telling me all about the parallel universes in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I am glad that he likes to read books.  When I get on the tram, I am usually the only person there with a book in hand, except once in a while there's a student reading a textbook, or a child reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Everyone else is putzing around with their cell phones.  But he carries his book and reads it on the tram.  We done good!  The kid turned out all right, even if he does hate us about fifty percent of the time.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Botox, Birthdays, and the Critical Mom

I'm turning 56 and thinking of botox.  Anna Quindlen did it.  Said all her friends had too.  Just saw a photo of a high school classmate who looks not one nanosecond over thirty-two and a half.  How does she do it?
She joined the ranks of Kim Catrall, Kim Kardashian, Linda Evangelista, Jennifer Aniston, Simon Cowell (who says it's "like toothpaste") Courtney Cox and . . . most folks.  You do need a disposable, or discretionary, or somewhat surplus, income.  Eight hundred bucks every three months (and really, it should be every two months) is what it takes.
Between you, me, and the fencepost I don't have an income.  I have an outgo.
How well I remember, in the days before botox, my mother's facelift.  She was a few years younger than I am now, and booked herself a room in a little hospital somewhere on the Upper East Side where, by the time I was allowed to visit half a day after the operation, the machine that was supposed to suction gook out from under her facial skin had malfunctioned, pumping it back in.  That had apparently been sorted out by the time I arrived, but she looked even purpler and greener and yellower and but-I-made-the-other-gal-look-worser than I had expected.  She had, of course, been strongly advised to remain in bed.  She vaulted out of it while chatting with me, swung a suitcase out from under her bed, and began packing for a lakeside vacation, not wanting "to scare the doormen" in our apartment building.
What about me?  Please get back in bed, Mom.
She kept packing.  And she had a lovely vacation, and the skin around her chin looked the way it might have looked with botox today . . . this was back in the late seventies . . . and if you looked very closely you could see faint white scars up around her ears.
There's no stopping her.  At 89, she didn't like her neck.  Move over, Ghost of Nora Ephron.  Mom had a necklift done, and should get a Nobel prize for being the oldest recipient of plastic surgery except, oh, yeah, Phyllis Diller once upon a time.
I'm sticking with cucumber slices, ballet class, and horizontal gymnastics.  Happy Birthday to me.

P.S. For an interesting perspective on German women and Botox, see

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Cultural Dissonance, Part 2: Hello, Goodbye, and The Critical Mom

When I first moved to Germany we lived in Bavaria, and I learned to say "Grüß Gott!" which literally translates as "Greetings to God!" but means "Hi y'all!" And when one lives in Southern Germany, which remains intensely Catholic, friendly greetings equal greetings to God.  In the small town in which we lived, at any rate, Catholicism retained one of its original meanings:  universal, in this case universal friendliness.
Then we moved to Northern Germany, and I walked into the bakery the day after we moved and said "Grüß Gott," which is weirder than, but akin to, saying "Hi y'all" in Manhattan.  Since my accent is not Bavarian but American, I amused the baker even more.  And then I wanted sliced bread, and little did I know that in German only one letter separates the word "sliced" from the word "circumcised."  I asked for the latter and nobody enlightened me for a long time.  "beschnitten Brot," instead of "geschnitten" Brot.
After I realized what I'd been saying I had my husband buy the bread for a while.
Then there was the matter of how to say "goodbye."  In Bavaria, it was "God be with you," or ""pfüat di/euch" which sounds like "Fear Dich," and which I at first thought meant "Be afraid, you!"  It means approximately the opposite--"bye-bye and God protect you" is the basic translation.  Well, I knew not to say that in Northern Germany but I didn't know what I should say instead, so I kept my mouth shut.  And lo and behold what seemed utterly macabre moments assaulted me:  friendly, sweet, politically correct Germans would wave goodbye, smile, and say, "Jews!"  Or something that sounded just like "Jews!"  As in, "So long Jews--there aren't anymore of those folks around here!" But I couldn't believe they could be saying anything like that.  My ears continued to deceive me until I realized what they were really saying, which was "Tschüs."  This Northern German salutation, meaning "Bye!" is pronounced sort of like "Choose"--imagine you're trying to say "Choose," but you pucker up your lips and make a hissing "s" sound instead of a "z" sound.  Now you can say bye-bye in Northern German.  "Tschüs!"  not "Jews."

Friday, January 18, 2013

Piers Morgan, The Right to Bear Arms, and The Critical Mom

If only repeat-fire assault weapons didn't stand for liberty, masculinity, and national pride, Piers Morgan would not have had to point out that his first amendment right to free speech meant a right to criticize the NRA's position on the second amendment.  As Scottie Hughes responded to his question about whether the second amendment granted her the right to own a tank by saying that yes, it did, and that she needed one for self-defense, Dana Loesch chortled with rage.
"Of course it did!"  said her grin.  She didn't deign to respond.  Poor Piers was left bleating, "You're not answering the question!"  I sat down with my coffee and wondered.  I just sat in my Stoppersocken and wondered.  And I took a sip of coffee.
In one corner Scottie Hughes put up her dukes.  A modern-day Meanad, bristling with silicone breasts and a helmet of gold ringlets, she looked very sex-change operation.  In another corner,  Dana Loesch,  baring her teeth at Piers every chance she got.  Those teeth looked very UltraBrite.
And the Tea Party said he should "go home!" to England that is, for his unpatriotic attack on the American bill of rights.
And as I sat in my little corner at home, my Stoppersocken sticking to the floor, I wondered how these young women--in their early to mid-thirties--would feel when they are my age.  I'll be fifty-six next week.  They made me remember Anita Bryant.  She was just about their age when she hit the big time singing about the "Florida Sunshine Tree" while campaigning against gay rights. If God had wanted homosexuality, said Anita, he'd have created Adam and Steve, not Adam and Eve.  That was back around 1977.  She was divorced a few years later, and admitted to Ladies Home Journal that she now believed in "live and let live."  She'd been through a bad marriage and thought the church should wake up to women's issues.  She's sadder and wiser.  
But these two--Scottie Hughes, whose brother was killed by her nanny's son, Dana Loesch with that ferocious grin--where will they be in a few years?  About where Lance Armstrong is right now?
Or maybe in some alternate universe somewhere Scottie will say to herself:  "Look, you cannot bring back your brother by brandishing your right to bear arms, and the tank you want to sit in does not have walls that can shield you from your pain at losing him ."
So I sat in my Stoppersocken counting my lucky stars and bemoaning my utter lack of power and influence.   Sometimes I hum myself a little song, to the tune of the Beatles's "I've Got a Feeling":

I've got a blog--a blog that no-one reads
Oh yeah!
Oh yeah!
I've got opinions: "Don't like NRA creeds!"
Oh yeah!
Oh yeah!

But I'm as dated as The Beatles, because I still believe that the second amendment grants the right to bear only the kind of "arms" that were manufactured in the eighteenth century.  The America that believes a "well armed militia" means the kind of assault weapon any maniac can now buy on the internet, the America that totes an arsenal in so-called "self-defense," is an America that would make the founding fathers flip in their graves.  Things have spiraled into mass hysteria again.
Before the United States existed, we had the mass hysteria of the Salem witch trials in colonial times, and this hysteria reappears with disturbing regularity--Joe McCarthy, the Japanese-American internment camps in the Second World War, Anti-Arab feeling ever since 9/11--and now this:  guns, guns, guns--the idea that guns are gift from God, who would want us to point them in "self-defense" at our enemies.
So here is my final, dated idea, from before any other reader was born:  "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Thank you, Pogo.  (You young folks can look up Pogo on Wikipedia.) I'll go swallow my Klosterfrau now, the German equivalent of Geritol.
And if there are any readers out there who actually agree, then please do leave me a comment.  Click on the ads while you're reading, too--I might actually make two cents if you do.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cultural Dissonance and The Critical Mom, Part One

I thought I was buying a candle.
For all the years I've been in Germany, I've been drawn to a pretty blue box with some nuns on it at the local drug store--DM, the German equivalent of Rite Aid or CVS.  Klosterfrau, says the label.  I've picked it off the shelf once or twice over the years, thinking--since it had nuns on it--that it must be some industrial strength white church candle that would burn a long time,  and wondering if it were the kind that would fit in one of our candle-holders.  Sounded economical.  I like a lot of candles.  Or was it just a bunch of little tea lights?  I wasn't sure, so I didn't buy it.
 But today I thought ah, why not, we could use a few candles.  So I bought it.  Inside was a quaint bottle, label courtesy of the fin de siecle, plus a little plastic cup.  Which usually means that you're supposed to drink whatever is inside, but I wasn't sure . . . tooled around on various websites, found that indeed you can both drink and rub on the stuff.  No wonder.  In addition to lots of healthy herbs, plucked in the moonlight or under peculiar conditions having something to do with seasons and tides, the formula includes 79% alcohol. It smells sort of like 4711 eau de Cologne and hmm . . . could these two substances have been bottled in the same factory?  I'm even starting to wonder if they just pour one big vat of whatever this stuff is into bottles, half of which get Klosterfrau labels and the other half 4711 labels.  
So my husband came home and I told him the whole story and he laughed and said his mother and aunt used to drink Klosterfrau, which promises to fix nerves, heart trouble, tummy trouble, "Kreislauf," in other words the German disease, which translates as "circulation" meaning "circulation problems," but means so much more. It's good for everything, and they had a rhyme:

Wenn's vorne juckt und hinten beisst, nimm Klosterfrau-Melissengeist

in other words:

When the front of you itches and the back of you bites, take Klosterfrau-Melissengeist, that is, "Cloister-lady Melissa-spirits"

And now, in some clubs in Berlin, folks mix this with Red Bull, down it, and dance all night.  Think they regard it as organic schnapps.

So, Guten Abend, all, from a Critical Mom who just unsuspectingly swallowed ten milliliters.  It burned going down . . .

Lance Armstrong's Doping and The Critical Mom

How much will a guy like Lance Armstrong do to win at all costs?  Sacrifice his balls?  That’s the least of it, apparently.  He's way ahead of the British cyclist Tommy Simpson, named Sports Personality of the Year by the BBC in 1965.  Simpson's formula, "if it takes ten to kill you, take nine and win," did him in on July 13, 1967, during the Tour de France, when he'd taken amphetamines and brandy to keep going.  Armstrong seems to be aiming for a slower, more tortuous demise, starting with a soon-to-be-unveiled crucifixion on TV in the form of an interview with Oprah Winfrey, here cast as Mary Magdalene.

 No bargaining chip would give Armstrong pause.  When I imagine him conversing with his lawyers and federal prosecutors, I can almost hear him asking if we’d take his right hand as a reward for forgetting all about the doping.   He’d need his feet to keep biking, but he could get along without the hand.  I can see him relishing the religious implications of the offer and wondering if the Bible belt would buy it.

Doping is nothing new.  The ancient Greek athletes indulged in opium juice or "droop," from which come the word "dope."  They tried wine, meat, animal hearts and animal testicles.   The first Olympic athlete known to nearly die of doping--in this case a mix of brandy and strychnine--was Thomas Hicks, in 1904.  Hitler is thought to have taken steroids, and German soldiers in the Second World War were given testosterone and its analogs to make them stronger and meaner.   In 1989, soldiers attacking peaceful demonstrators in China's Tianamen Square were given stimulants to make them more aggressive.  On August 26, 1960, a Danish cyclist, Knut Jensen, became the first Olympic athlete known to die of doping, on Aug. 26, 1960 at the Summer Olympics in Rome.  He was taking an amphetamine called Ronicol. 

The Armstrong story makes me remember Joseph Kennedy Sr.  telling his children that coming in second was no good, and making it clear he'd lose interest in any child who was not committed to coming in first at all costs.  John, Robert, and Ted tried to keep up with him, and I don't believe any of them led happy or fulfilled lives.  What's the story with Armstrong?  Where did he get his drive?  Some soccer mom type on steroids, so to speak?  

The critical mom thanks her lucky stars that she's been telling her kids all their lives that it's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game.  And I'm glad, awfully glad, that sporty as the boys are, they're nowhere near Olympic levels.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mexican-American Immigration and the German-American Ninth-Grader

My ninth-grader came home with a grin and an interesting story:  his geography class was asked to study the border between the United States and Mexico and plan an escape route for an illegal alien from Mexico to Texas.  The teacher asked the students to do the following:

(1) Before leaving, find and purchase in Mexico all needed supplies that can be found more cheaply there.
(2) Select on the map a good place to cross the border into Texas.
(3) Find the kind of job you don't need a green card for in Texas--farmworker?  Stocking shelves at Walgreen's?  Bartending?

"What do you think of that, Mommy?  What would happen if they did that in the States?"  I tried to imagine such a lesson being taught in a geography class in Arizona, where draconian anti-immigration legislation, SB 1070, meaning Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods act, was passed in 2010.  This new law makes it a crime--a misdemeanor, but still a crime--for any alien to be in Arizona without carrying their registration papers with them.  Any police officer may lawfully detain anyone when they believe that "reasonable suspicion" suggests that the detainee is not an American citizen.  Homes of suspected aliens or of those believed to harbor them may be searched.  (This may not sound so strange to Germans, who regularly carry identity cards and are legally required to register whenever they move to a new city.  But the U.S. has no such legal requirement, and most people keep their passports in a drawer at home unless they are planning to take an airplane.)
Shades of the 1930s, when, without due process, many Mexican-Americans were forced or pressured to leave the United States--the exact number of forcibly "repatriated" persons of Mexican descent is not known; Wikipedia puts the figure at "as many as 500,000," adding that "some 35,000 were deported, amongst many hundreds of thousands of other immigrants who were deported during this period."  They were easy to round up:  poor, identifiable through their skin color and their accents, they could be herded into trucks if they didn't happen to have their passports with them, and the border was so close that it never took too long to dump them on the other side of it.  Sometimes, often, they were unable to phone home to let their families know what had happened to them.  The authorities didn't want proof that a person had lived in California for generations.  They wanted those "not really Americans" back where they came from.  They didn't want to make it easy for those with legal papers to get back into the United States.
So, Mommy, what would happen if a teacher taught this lesson in Texas?  Or in Arizona?  My first thought was whether, given lack of gun control, the teacher would survive the lesson if an irate parent unsympathetic to immigrants happened to enter the room.  My second thought was to wonder whether American schools teach anything about the Mexican-American border in the highly politicized border areas, especially Arizona and Texas?
My favorite answer came from the  January 13, 2013 edition of Latino Voices in The Huffington Post, which offered the following banner headline:

7 American Studies Books Banned From Tucson, Arizona Classrooms:

And here they are:

Now, The Guardian says they are only "confiscated" not actually banned . . . what's the difference?  You can't get ahold of them if you are a student in the library of a school in Tucson, Arizona.  

All this reminds me of the Mad Magazine parody of  Emma Lazarus's sonnet welcoming immigrants to the United States, which since 1903 has been engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the lower level of the pedestal of the statue of Liberty.  The most frequently quoted lines of the original sonnet are: 
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
 Back in the sixties, Mad Magazine re-wrote the lines more honestly, as an accurate depiction of America's real policies, replacing the very last line with:  "And we'll send 'em right back, we'll send 'em right back, we'll send 'em right back to you!"

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

"You are a Pirate!" and The Critical Mom

"You are a pirate," says the 13 year old to the 8 year old, who folds her arms and glares at him.
"I am not!"
"You are a pirate."
"I am not!"
"You are a pirate."
"I am not!"  
Sometimes I listen to conversations like this for a long time; they go on and on and the dialogue continues without variation.  Sometimes I intervene, advising one party to quit bothering the other "or else" meaning I will count, and the end of which counting some treasured pastime, like computer time, will be revoked.
The usual result of such interventions is that the warring parties construct an immediate alliance:  they are now friends and I am very uncool.  This has many variations.  When my daughter had another run-in with some friends who were fighting over her .  .  . I never realized how much being a popular child could become stressful . . . I finally told her I thought we should call her teacher and get some help.  This after many tears, much discussion of how she didn't have to be in some club her friends wanted to have every recess, and an unwise promise on my part not to tell anyone.  Finally I said we had to let her teacher know--"your teacher was a girl once, too, and she knows all about girls and the fights they have.  None of this will surprise her."
"Noooooo, Mommy!"  
"I love you very much and you will feel much better, I promise."  As soon as I told her I'd discussed her friends with the teacher, my daughter wanted to hit me.  "And I'll break your finger!"  All the way home from school it was "Give me your finger, mommy!  I'm going to break it."  (When had my little angel started hanging out with Tony Soprano?)  She was furious, but I had the feeling she was relieved I'd told the teacher.  And furious that she was relieved.  Breaking Mommy's finger can seem like a really good idea under such circumstances. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Fireworks, Germany and The Critical Mom

About.Com offers the following information regarding New York State Law and fireworks, which, in view of American lack of gun control, strike me as curious:

To begin with, ALL consumer fireworks are banned in New York State (except for those who have a permit. For information on obtaining one, visit Regulations for Pyrotechnics Permits in New York State.) So anywhere in the state, and this obviously includes Long Island, the use of fireworks by those who do not have a permit is strictly illegal.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2010, approximately 8,600 people were treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries that were associated with fireworks. Over half of these injuries were burns, and most of the injuries involved people's heads ---including the face, eyes and ears-- as well as hands, fingers and legs.
Another sobering fact: more than 50 percent of the estimated injuries involved children and young adults under the age of 20.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that among those who were harmed were: a 49-year-old man who was fatally injured in an explosion.

A slightly different tale is told by US, which claims to be able to ship "consumer fireworks" to every state, adding the following regarding New York State--Connecticut has a similar list, incidentally:

Based on the information available to US Fireworks at the time this data was compiled, the following legal requirements are in effect for the State of New York.
  Bottle Rockets: With Local Approval
  Sky Rockets: With Local Approval
  Roman Candles: With Local Approval
  Firecrackers: With Local Approval
  Sparklers: With Local Approval
  Smoke and Punk: With Local Approval
  Fountains: With Local Approval
  Missiles: With Local Approval
  Novelties: Legally Allowed
  Crackle and Strobe: With Local Approval
  Parachutes: With Local Approval
  Wheels and Spinners: With Local Approval
  Sky Flyers: With Local Approval
  Display Shells: With Local Approval
  Aerial Items (Cakes): With Local Approval 

Now, where I live in Germany, the local supermarket stocks all of the above, and we shot most of them off from our backyard on the evening of New Year's Day--the kids had all fallen asleep too soon on New Year's Eve, so my husband shot the candles from an old champagne bottle around eight in the evening and we all had a great time.
We had sparklers too, which we lit and waved around, while dancing and shouting "Expecto patronum!"

You can buy fireworks in Germany AND YOU CANNOT BUY GUNS without more red tape than most people are willing to endure.  You can buy fireworks with no red tape, because German citizens are uniformly careful, and it remains an established, immovable part of Deutsche Kultur to have, read, and follow instructions to the letter.  When, for example, you purchase certain electronic items at Ikea, you read the instructions in the language of your choice.  Sometimes the German language edition of the instructions differs from all of the others; instead of giving you the usual step-by-step self-assembly guide, it instructs you to call the electrician--but that seems to occur only when the German powers that be decide that risks could be taken even considering the loving care most Germans devote to the following of package instructions.  
Germany life tends toward the carefully-regulated; it is less spontaneous than the lively, individualistic culture of the United States.  But who needs a spontaneous guy with a gun?