Saturday, December 9, 2017

Read Any Good Books Lately?

Monday, December 4, 2017
I am nearing the end of my second year in retirement and it has proved successful, so far.  I had two purposes in choosing to retire from a job that was quite satisfactory over all, more time to travel and more time to read, I mean books, instead of the legal briefs and case law that occupied me for over a dozen years.  The travel record has been pretty good.  Last year, I went abroad to London, Tel Aviv, Croatia and London/Paris, while going once to the Bay Area (San Francisco).  This year, I've been to Berlin, London/Tel Aviv, New Orleans and the Bay Area.  

Although I can't precisely tally my reading in the same period, I estimate that I have been reading about two books a week.  So, I was excited to inspect the New York Times list of the 100 notable books of 2017.

I thought that I would be weak in the fiction department, since I focus on crime and spy novels, not usually found at the height of the literary pyramid.  However, I expected that my interest in history, politics, current affairs and strange people would have directed me to some of the year's notable nonfiction works.  Nope.  Except for a couple of books that appeared in shorter form in the New Yorker, I struck out.  I hope that you have a better nose for notable than I do. 
. . .

I'm here to help.  My years as a management consultant taught me to seek practical solutions, and the fuss over the administration's tax plan has whipped me into action.  Since we all know how inefficient government is, I have instituted the Financial Fairness Initiative (FFI) to accomplish the Republican Party's objectives without dealing with red tape and bureaucratic paperwork.

FFI will take money from ordinary people and deliver it directly to rich people, eliminating Washington and waste from the process.  It will spare the current and past Goldman Sachs partners from spending time with their accountants and lawyers devising ways to game the system to maximize their wealth.  All they will need is a paper knife to slit open envelopes. 

While FFI fights for economic justice, it has other concerns.  We are currently conducting a campaign to get Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, to appear on Wheel of Fortune so that he could buy himself a vowel.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017
Just as I was striking out with the year's notable books, the New Yorker comes along and redeems me somewhat.  This week, it lists its most read stories of the year.
Here I batted over .500, reading a majority of the stories everyone else seemed to be reading.  Were that the case with the notable books, I might rank as a first-class culture vulture.  Instead, I merely follow the decline of American society, delivered to my mailbox every Tuesday.   
. . .

There was some goodish news today, but it had to come from London.  Sadiq Khan, the Islamic terrorist who managed to insinuate himself into the job of London's mayor, has announced a program for "providing more drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations" in London, with the desired byproduct of cutting down on the use of plastic water bottles.  Public water fountains are scarce in London and scarcer throughout the country.

Paris, on the other hand, "boasts a broad array of drinking fountains, including some newer ones that dispense sparkling water, and the older, but imposing, so-called Wallace Fountains created with donations from a British philanthropist, Sir Richard Wallace, in the late 19th century to provide clean water for the poor."  Wallace Fountains provide a delight for the eye, as well as relief for the thirst.  

What rocked me though was mention of public seltzer fountains in Paris.  I remember when Katz's Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street, site of Meg Ryan's self-induced rapture, had a free seltzer fountain in the back of the restaurant.  Also, a long-gone cafeteria at the southeast corner of Seventh Avenue and West 38th Street, whose name escapes me, had a free seltzer fountain, very popular with taxicab drivers, then more likely to have originated in Minsk than Mumbai.  Will someone promise that America's return to greatness include free seltzer?

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Home Sweet Home

Monday, November 27, 2017
I normally ignore all that hooey about Black Friday and the attendant materialistic mania.  So, in a masterly exercise of self-control, I only bought a new mobile phone and a tablet.
. . .
Lord Kennington, f/k/a David Brodie, in a trans-Atlantic gesture of friendship, sent me this link to a performance by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross, taking action while I was just sulking last week.
. . .
Experiments at UCLA and Princeton University support the headline: "Laptops Are Great. But Not During a Lecture or a Meeting."

I recall my own experience while attending law school at the turn of the century.  Many fellow students were typing fiercely on laptop computers and even smaller devices throughout classes.  (Others were playing Solitaire.)  They operated at a speed that I've never approached when recording my own ideas, no less than when transcribing someone else's.

Even if I owned a laptop computer in addition to or instead of the bulky desktop system that I had at the time, I never would have carried it along to class.  Not only did I type slowly, but I found it distracting, occupying my attention.  At the start of each term, I went to Staples and bought an economy pack of 5 spiral notebooks, each with a brightly colored cover, one for each subject for the new semester. 

I did this for several years, even though I really did not need new notebooks, because I found that I only took three or four pages of notes throughout the previous semester in any subject.  There were several reasons for the scarcity of notes, leaving lots of empty space: I am a lousy note taker; I had my hand up to speak more often than not; I was too engaged by the subject to do anything but listen if I wasn't talking.  At the end of law school, I had a lot of notebooks in near mint condition.
. . .
The Sunday real estate section has been a consistent source of interesting lists.  This week, it answered the question "How much do you need to make to buy a home in a major American city?"

Four of the five top spots go to California, the Holy Land coming in fifth.  "Factoring in current home prices, 30-year fixed-mortgage rates and insurance costs (and assuming a 20 percent down payment and industry-standard mortgage-debt-to-earnings ratios), the report arrived at the minimum annual income needed to buy a median-priced home in each area."

The trend is up in almost all the locations,  Median home prices in San Jose, at the top of the list, increased 16.5% to $1.165 million from 2016, requiring an annual income of $216,181.  In Pittsburgh, at the bottom of the list, the median home cost $146,000, an increase of 4.3%, affordable for someone earning $35,205.  Pennsylvania has a minimum wage of $7.25, the same as the federal standard.  Two adults working 40 hours per week at the minimum wage for 50 weeks would gross $29,000. 

Do you see a problem here?  Don't worry, help is on the way.  Deregulation of banks and financial markets, as well as tax reform, will reward honest labor and prudent conduct, making America great again.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Two recent stories illustrate a challenge to assessing foreign regimes in an ethical manner.  In the first, domestic opponents of Vladimir Putin lament the attention paid to his meddling in American politics.  "[I]t reinforces a narrative put forth tirelessly by the state-controlled Russian news media.  On television, in newspapers and on websites, Mr. Putin is portrayed as an ever-victorious master strategist who has led Russia — an economic, military and demographic weakling compared with the United States — from triumph to triumph on the world stage."

The second story describes the rise in nationalism in Iran, stimulated by the hostility shown independently by Saudi Arabia and the United States.  Without judging the underlying validity of foreign attitudes towards the Iranian regime, it's no surprise that anything less than fawning admiration is likely to build fervor for the home team.

The defensiveness shown by Them when hearing criticism from Us is almost universal.  Do we desist, as some of Putin's beleaguered opponents ask?  How much, if at all, should realpolitik influence the expression of our (universal?) values?  Is an honest opinion ultimately only for the benefit of Us, not Them?  Discuss. 
. . .
It was only a few weeks ago that we were enjoying a one-week visit to Berlin.  Adding immeasurably to our experience was meeting Marianne Motherby, a friend of a friend, whom we now cherish as a friend to us.  The only wrinkle in our relationship was her advocacy for the Eisbox, 20/21 Knesebeckstraße, one of the finest ice cream parlors in Germany, just around the corner from her apartment.  The problem was that it closed most days at 6 PM, occasionally daring to stay open until 7, even during daylight savings time. 

To show her how crazy that was, I sent Marianne this message last night: "
I just looked at the hours of 5 leading ice cream shops in Manhattan for Monday, today, end of November.  One closes at 10 PM, one at 10:30 PM, three at 11 PM. That's the way to sell ice cream."  Her sad response came quickly, "and 'my' ice cream shop around the corner has already closed for the season."  She should consider emigrating. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017 
Often during the week, Wo Hop, 17 Mott Street, the quintessential Chinatown Chinese restaurant, offers a special on soup, won ton with slivers of chicken or pork, won ton in egg drop, egg drop, or hot and sour, $1 small, $2 large.  Their small, by the way, is larger than the tiny small served in London for four times the price. 

Today, the Boyz Club unanimously availed itself of the soup special to start lunch.  Of course, we had fried, crispy noodles to dunk either in the soup or the dishes of hot mustard or duck sauce plopped down with the tea and water without asking.  We then worked our way (too colorless for the elevated mood generated by the food) through shrimp fried rice, pork fried rice, honey crispy chicken, beef chow fun, salt and pepper scallops, and beef with scallions.  Generously tipping, as always, we spent $18 each. 

Not having had enough of Tom Terrific at lunch, I joined him in the evening at the New-York Historical Society for a talk by Lawrence O'Donnell on the 1968 election, the subject of his new book.  O'Donnell had a lot of interesting things to say, much of it dredging up images good and bad from the past. 

He reminded us that treasonous collusion with a foreign government to influence our presidential election is not a 21st century innovation.  Nixon's emissaries were promising the South Vietnamese a better deal if they skipped peace talks before the November 1968 election.  Contemporaneous handwritten notes confirm Nixon's knowledge of these persuasive discussions.  Meanwhile, American military casualties in Vietnam averaged 325 deaths each week of 1968.

Friday, December 1, 2017

I thought the New York Times crossword puzzle tripped up this morning.  12 Down asked where "All in the Family" was set, 7 letters.  Maspeth, for sure, but the unarguably correct letters across didn't allow for it.  I put in what the puzzle wanted and turned to Google, which echoed the fake news.  Still unsatisfied, I sent a message to some of the New Yorkiest New Yorkers that I know, all but one born here, raised outside Manhattan.  Where was 704 Hauser Street, Archie Bunker's fictional address, Glendale, Astoria, Maspeth, Ridgewood, or Corona?  Results so far, Maspeth 2 (including me), Glendale 2, Ridgewood 2 and Tom Terrific, coloring outside the lines, choosing Flushing.

None of us chose Astoria, the dubious answer according to the puzzle and Google.  Actually, the house shown over the credits, 89-70 Cooper Avenue, is in Glendale.  What is still true after 40 years is that the Jeffersons would be the notable exceptions in any of these neighborhoods.
. . .

Stony Brook Steve and I went back to Chinatown to try out Dim Sum VIP, 68 Mott Street, a new joint in space previously occupied by House of Vegetarian.  It has been renovated inside and out, the walls of the long narrow room painted white and left unadorned.  It holds about a dozen tables, two and four tops, less than half of them occupied while we were there.

The paper menu serves as your order when you X the little boxes of your choice.  We had steamed BBQ pork buns (3 for $4.95), "Red Oil Wontons" (6 for 6.95), pot stickers (4 for $4.95), pan fried vegetable buns (4 for $4.25), and baked BBQ pork buns (4 for $4.95).  Everything was very good, cooked to order; outstanding were the Red Oil Wontons in a spicy sesame sauce and the baked BBQ pork buns in a near crispy wrapper.  Service was very enthusiastic, if a little confused.   
. . .

Fight the power. 


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Ryan's Hope

Monday, November 20, 2017
Almost every New Yorker is amazed at how expensive her neighborhood has become, whether resulting from new construction or upgrades to existing properties.  I was surprised though by a survey of where the hot neighborhoods are at present.

The good news is that widely scattered areas of the Holy Land are proving attractive; the bad news is that there are probably few bargains left.
. . . 

I found another real estate story to be particularly interesting, but I can't explain what it all means. 

First, the idea that New York State and Mississippi share the same data point in any regard is startling.  Second, my romantic view of the past had Bubbe or Zayde (the Survivor) on the same premises as Momma and Poppa and Tataleh and Bubbeleh (Jewish Dick and Jane), in contrast to the anomic existence of modern life.  Instead, the movement in recent times has been toward multigenerational households.  "In 1980, 12 percent of the country’s population lived in such households. By 2014, that number had grown to a record 60.6 million, or 19 percent."  

Wednesday, November 22, 2107
America's Loveliest Nephrologist and the Oakland Heartthrob (OH) arrived late last night or maybe early this morning (we were sound asleep) for a Thanksgiving visit, to the delight of both of us.  To begin the celebration, OH and I went to lunch at La Salle Dumpling Room, 25 West End Avenue, notable not only for its convenience, but the quality of its food.  

We shared most of the items that I have been eating on earlier visits, cold sesame noodles ($7.95), 6 pan fried pork dumplings ($8.50), 6 steamed chicken dumplings in spicy sauce ($8.50), and scallion pancake ($7.95).  Everything was good, the scallion pancake exceptionally so, somewhat balancing its high price.  La Salle has a small menu, but what it does, it does quite well.

Thursday, November 23, 2017
Lambert, Hendricks & Ross released their first recording in 1958, "Sing A Song of Basie."  I was blown away when I heard it, probably on Symphony Sid's afternoon show on WEVD, 1130 AM on your dial.   Backed by a simple rhythm section and using multi-track recording, they recreated some of Count Basie's best numbers using their voices instead of the instruments of the band.  

The obituary today of Jon Hendricks, the brilliant lyricist who found the words to fit the music, brought back memories of that early excitement, which continued into other recordings of Basie's music, as well as Duke Ellington's and others.

Hendricks's passing reminds me of another loss.  His work, along with that of hundreds of other musicians, is contained on long playing record albums, stuck in the bottom of our hall closet.  They sit there unused, because I discarded my last turntable some years ago, whether as a result of a move or a paint job or mechanical failure, I can't even remember.  For years, the acquisition of compact discs became the focus of my music collecting and enjoyment.  Sometimes, I bought CDs that duplicated LPs that I owned.  But, not everything in one medium was available in the other and, at other times, I felt that one version was enough.

I never bought Lambert, Hendricks & Ross on compact discs.  Harry Poloner made the helpful suggestion that contemporary music streaming services might fill the gap, but he acknowledged that they usually substitute convenience for sound quality, so, with Symphony Sid gone even longer than my turntable, I'll try to keep their music alive in my head.   

Friday, November 24, 2017
Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul D. Ryan, said in a recent speech that “fixing the business side of our tax code is really all about helping families and workers.”  He also claimed that filling a trench is all about helping the shovels.

No doubt Ryan's concern for the have-less is based on his concern that the gap with the have-more is reaching an unconscionable level.

Do you think the fact that the pattern of our income growth since 1980 most resembles Russia's haunts this son of the Midwest and impels his desire for tax reform?
. . .

Football Scoreboard 
Columbia University      8-2 
New York Jets               4-6
New York Giants           2-9
With the New York Giants making a faint reappearance Sunday, beating Kansas City 12-9, only to lose to Washington last night, 20-10, and the Ivy League football season over, we are closing down the football scoreboard until next year. 
. . .

Other sports, fortunately, continue to provide us some opportunity to experience the thrill of victory.  Accordingly, OH and I went to the Rangers-Redwings game, after having dinner at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street.  We both had a pastrami/corned beef combo on rye, of course, and shared an order of French fries, welcoming the Sabbath in appropriate fashion.  We were rewarded with an overtime victory, again demonstrating the power of religion.
. . .

The New York Times reports that "the most extremist voices in the country seem to be moving more into the mainstream," but no, it was only referring to Pakistan.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

A Week On the Road

Monday, November 13, 2017
The Israeli work week is typically 5 1/2 days, beginning on Sunday and ending midday Friday.  Even in Tel Aviv, a relatively secular city, Friday is pretty quiet and Saturday is dead, commercially that is.  Few restaurants are open, but local beaches and outlying resort areas are busy, and we met heavy traffic returning to Tel Aviv Saturday night.  You could describe it as a city of Jews, but not a Jewish city. 

Physically, I've observed three Tel Avivs.  Most evident are the glitzy high-rise apartment houses.  There must be hundreds of them rising in the last decade, with office towers and hotels nearby.  While the coastline has been a popular target, open spaces to the north and west of the center city have seen the greatest development for these expensive residences, often owned by foreign Jews.  

The more established Tel Aviv consists of over 4,000 International Style, multi-unit buildings constructed between 1930 and 1954 by European architects of Jewish origin, who fled Europe.  They are typically four-story, whitewashed, boxy stucco buildings, with large windows, but no external ornamentation.  While some were torn down over time, most seem to have been extensively renovated or even rebuilt to house an expanding middle class.  

Finally, on Sunday, I became exposed to a third Tel Aviv, the crammed slums and public spaces occupied by about 20,000 refugee adults, predominantly from Eritrea and the Sudan, and their uncounted children.  About an equal number are in other parts of the country.  To escape genocidal conditions, these people move north, either into Egypt or Libya, usually relying on smugglers.  If they get to Libya, they attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, thousands drowning in the process.  If they get to Egypt, they try to cross the Sinai Desert into Israel.  Even though they are mostly Muslim, none Jewish, they view Israel as a safe haven.

Tamara Newman, Director of Resource Development of the Hotline for Refugees and Immigrants, an Australian Jewish immigrant, described the Hotline's work and the conditions addressed, when we met her on Sunday.  

Once, the Israeli government gave these African refugees a welcome reception, seeing a parallel with the plight of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s.  However, as their numbers grew, they gravitated to South Tel Aviv, next to the central bus station where they were deposited after release from administrative detention.  South Tel Aviv is a neighborhood occupied by poorly-integrated North African Jews, who already felt underserved by the government.  Now, thousands of Africans are either in administrative detention or walking the streets, unable to work legally and subject to detention or deportation, which the Jewish conscience, at least, has been reluctant to carry out.  

Hotline offers vital counseling and legal services, once to Asian and European victims of sex trafficking in Israel, now to these Africans, who are being labeled infiltrators instead of refugees.  Headline in Haaretz, August 31, 2017: "Netanyahu on African 'Infiltrators': We Will Return South Tel Aviv to Israelis"

While we Americans have little to teach the Israelis about handling refugees from tyrannical regimes ever since the Tsar fell, we have one humane policy that they lack.  Children born to refugees in Israel do not achieve Israeli citizenship, but are admitted to public schools.  
. . .

Football Scoreboard
Columbia University        7-2
New York Jets                  4-6
New York Giants              1-8

Tuesday, November 14, 2017
One thing that I love about Tel Aviv is the street names.  Almost every Jew imaginable has a street named after him.  I will resist the temptation of providing an almost endless list of Aronsons and Epsteins and Goldbergs and Kaplans and Rothschilds and Steins, but no Gotthelfs, alas.  Welcome variety is provided by Da Vinci, La Guardia, Lincoln, Rembrandt, and Toscanini.  
. . .

Visiting law professor David walked us around the sprawling campus of Tel Aviv University today, covered with modern buildings for almost every imaginable discipline.  Additionally, Beit Hatfutsot - The Museum of the Jewish People is centrally located on campus.  On our previous visit to the museum 4 years ago, we had just arrived in Israel and were kind of gaga from the flight and time change.  I can recall only about three minutes of that visit.  Today, we were well-rested, alert and relatively energetic, a good thing because the museum had so much to offer.  

Part of the permanent exhibition is a fascinating display of 21 scale models of synagogues from all over, past and present.  Since there never has been a "Jewish architectural style," the exteriors vary greatly and tended to reflect their time and place.  The interiors, however, followed denominational ritual standards, often combined with a decorative veneer that approached psychedelic heights.  

The museum also has four excellent current exhibits:
  • Forever Young -- Bob Dylan at 75
  • Operation Moses -- 30 Years After (the mass movement of Ethiopian Jews to Israel)
  • I’m Ready My Lord – A special performance art display, in memory of Leonard Cohen
  • Capturing History: The Photography of Chim (David Seymour, a Polish Jewish photographer, who recorded everything from the Spanish Civil War to Sophia Loren; killed in the Sinai Desert during the Suez Crisis). 
I'm surprised that I got out of there on the same day.
. . .

I just got the news that Tel Aviv has been named the vegan capital of the world.  Fortunately, this occurred late enough not to ruin my visit.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Annette Crohn, a member of West End Synagogue, recently relocated to Israel to be near her family, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She also shares a birthday with America's Favorite Epidemiologist, so we made our way to the suburb of Ramat Hasharon for a visit this afternoon, taking buses just like we knew what we were doing.  She has a beautiful two-bedroom apartment, with a drop dead view reaching to Tel Aviv and even beyond to the Mediterranean on very clear days.  In her 90s, Annette swims daily, reads avidly and was eager to hear about our mutual friends on the Upper West Side.  I can't decide who was happier to see whom.  
. . .

Okay, it's what you've been waiting for.  While Israel technically is an Asian country, I don't consider the hummus and shawarma that I've been eating serious Asian food.  So, tonight, we had dinner at Nam - Thai Cook House, Dizengoff Street 275, a real Asian restaurant that lived up to its reputation as one of the best in the city and, by default, the country.  It's a casual joint, which you can say about any restaurant I've seen in Tel Aviv in four visits.  It also got busier as the evening went on, the seats at the bar, the tables on the sidewalk and the dozen or so tables inside all filled up by the time that we were ready to leave.    

The food warranted the activity.  I had chicken egg rolls (29 NIS each or both, the bill was muddled), served with a thick hoisin sauce; and Pad Si U (63 NIS), very wide rice noodles cooked with sweet soy sauce, broccoli, green onion, coriander, spinach, garlic and sliced beef.  Madame had Pad Prik Pao (73 NIS), crispy fish filets cooked with cashew nuts, onion, green onion, dry sweet chili, Thai basil, celery, and carrots.  While the noodles were good, the fish (I poached some) was excellent.  Both were served in very generous portions, not a bad deal at roughly $18 and $21 respectively.  
. . .

My brother just sent me the following article, which so well illustrates the adage that hard cases make bad law.  Actually, I would describe this as a rotten, stinking case.

Thursday, November 16, 2017
The plan was to go to Jerusalem with David and Irit; Phyllis, dear family friend; Nir and Oshrat, cousins several times removed; and Uri, local friend, for an extensive walking tour.  Believe it or not, we all got to the Jaffa Gate to meet our guide Yomi on time, and spent the next 5 hours weaving through the narrow streets and up and down the stairs of the Old City. 

I won't try to repackage the sights, sounds and smells of this fascinating place.  Whatever your belief system (and I would recommend agnosticism), there is so much to experience and learn even after many visits.  I will provide one tip, although it may lead you on a wild goose chase.  A little Arab man, in an alley off an alley of the Christian Quarter, bakes mutabak, a very thin crêpe wrapped around a tablespoon of goat cheese, brushed with olive oil before baking and drizzled with honey.  

If you are lucky enough to find Zalatimo, you won't want to rush off to another destination.   
. . .

Back in Tel Aviv for dinner, we had very good fish and seafood at Shtsupak, Ben Yehuda Street 256.  No, I don't know how to pronounce it.

Having made one gesture towards my Asian food obsession last night, after dinner I stopped at Vaniglia, Yermiyahu Street 23, one of a small chain, to make a dent in my ice cream Jones.  I had two scoops in a cup (21 NIS), Snickers and chocolate chocolate chip, the latter probably replacing Berthillon Glacier, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île, 75004 Paris, France, as the all-time best chocolate ice cream in the galaxy.  

Friday, November 17, 2017
Our return flight is near midnight, so I have a chance to look back at some of our better meals.
Yashka - Binyamin, Nahalat Binyamin Street 73 -- Middle Eastern, Kosher, walkup counter.  I had shawarma. One of two branches.
Jeremiah, Dizengoff Street 306 -- Pub/café, non-Kosher.  I had chicken schnitzel sandwich.
Micha's Hummus, Ben Yehuda Street 191 -- Hummus, hummus and more hummus, vegetarian, Kosher.  I had Hummus Mangold (mixed with spinach).
L'aile Ou La Cuisse, Ben Yehuda Street 226 -- Beef and chicken, Kosher.  I had half a roasted chicken.  Translation: The wing or the thigh, named for a 1976 French comedy film.  Sister restaurant at  33 Rue Greuze, 75016 Paris, France, owned by the manager's father-in-law.
The Bakery, Dizengoff Street 262 -- French bakery and café, one of 5 branches.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Dairy Diary

Monday, November 6, 2017
The weekend had a variety of pleasures.  On Saturday, we were able to visit a dear and beautiful friend in the hospital, or in hospital as they say in the London.  Then, joined by Robina Rafferty, the soul of charity, we went to dinner at La Barca, 80-81 Lower Marsh, Lambeth, a fine Italian restaurant.  Not only did La Barca offer very good food and wine, and very attentive service, but Derek Jacobi sat down for dinner one table over.  To his credit, he did not stare at us.

On Sunday, we went to a matinee performance of The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, a wonderfully silly farce, brilliantly executed as the British are wont to do.  The delight generated by the performance was necessary after the disappointment at lunch.  As you are well aware, the London theatre (their spelling) district is immediately adjacent to their Chinatown, and you know what that means.  While I have enjoyed other restaurants there, I chose to research a new alternative and came up with the well-reputed (until now) Leong's Legend, 39 Gerrard Street.

The long, dark room, meant to resemble a traditional wooden house, was crowded, as so many other restaurants in the neighborhood seemed to be on Sunday afternoon.  We were seated and then the waitperson, obviously taking waiting very seriously, left us alone for 10 minutes.  Some vigorous waving finally got her attention and we gave her a relatively simple order: hot and sour soup for one (£3.50), steamed vegetarian dumplings (£7.50), scallion pancake (£??) and "Signature Taiwanese Oyster Omelette" (£10.50).  The soup was very good and, like Hikari's Friday night, served in a very small portion.  I guess that hot and sour soup is a rare and expensive delicacy in London, even though you get it for a buck or two in the Holy Land.  

While I've lost the price of the scallion pancake, it was quite good, though smaller than I am used to.  The dumplings presented no problem also, but it was getting that Signature that fouled things up.  Did you enjoy the oyster omelette?  What, you never got it?  Me, too.  After 45 minutes and reminders to 3 waiters, either the chicken or the oysters could not be convinced to cooperate.  On the other hand, the Signature Taiwanese Oyster Omelette appeared on the bill, which took only one glower to correct.  

Fortunately, on the way to the theatre, we passed a Pret A Manger, omnipresent in London, and I pulled a freshly-made hoisin duck salad wrap (£3.75) off the shelf, a good deal in any currency.  
As I said, the theatrical farce made up for the culinary farce and in a few hours we were ready for another meal.  Lord Kennington, f/k/a David Brodie, stooped to my level and, upon request, suggested Fishcotheque, 79A Waterloo Road, for fish and chips.  And a very good choice it was.  Madame had a "regular" order of cod (£10.95) and I had a "large" order of haddock (£13.95), each accompanied by a large pile of chips (French fries), closer to American crispiness than British mushiness.  
. . .

Football Scoreboard
Columbia University          6-2
New York Jets                    4-5
New York Ghosts (Giants have disappeared) 1-7
. . .
While Fishcotheque was a fine example of its kind, today we went to the other end of the British dining spectrum, with appropriately superlative results.  We ate at Outlaw's at The Capital, 22-24 Basil Street, Knightsbridge, the Michelin-starred dining room of The Capital Hotel, an elegant establishment that I have never penetrated beyond the ground floor restaurant.  On my first trip to London in 1985, I gave myself a big treat by going to the restaurant, not yet bearing Chef Nathan Outlaw's name.  I have returned many times since for the near-bargain fixed price lunches.  Today, it was 2 courses at £29 and 3 courses at £33.  

I started with Duck Scrumpet, thereby adding a new word to my vocabulary.  It was, in fact, a croquette, served with an interesting homemade ketchup.  Madame had the Cornish Fish Soup, which had a touch of orange.  Outlaw's features fish, so I had "Hake with Roast Chicken & Mushroom Dressing and Smoked Leeks."  Allow me to explain that the "Dressing" was a pureed something, not particularly evocative of chicken or mushroom.  The hake itself was excellent, cooked just right.  My young bride enjoyed "Plaice with Tartare Sauce & Sprouting Broccoli."  Believe it or not, we skipped dessert.  Really, that should read: Believe it or not, I skipped dessert.

Service was exquisite, as usual.  What differed from past visits, however, was the casual dress of the male patrons, who were almost the only patrons.  Short sleeve polo shirts predominated.  The quartet of men at the next table gave gaudy jewelry a bad name.  

Tuesday, November 7, 2017 
Last night, we saw Ink, an excellent new play about the rise of Rupert Murdoch.  While we were unfamiliar with some details of British politics and journalism at the time (1969), the themes of "populism" and "disruption" struck very close to home.  
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British Air and El Al, the most likely candidates to offer efficient service from London to Israel, could only deliver us to Tel Aviv at 3 o'clock in the morning.  So, we flew EasyJet, a bargain airline that charged for each piece of luggage, seat selection and anything to drink, in exchange for a very convenient flight time and low fare.  They avoided putting turnstiles on the toilets, however, so, in all, a reasonable compromise.

We were in our rental apartment in a residential area of North Tel Aviv by 7:30 PM and visiting the second and third generations a few short blocks away by 8.    

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
It was announced this morning that Anthony Scaramucci will visit Israel on November 19th.  His host, the CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, said, "Our excitement to partner with Anthony Scaramucci in this quest knows no bounds."  The good news is that we will have left by then.  
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Here is an attempt to understand why so many mass shooting take place in the US as opposed to other countries. 

In summary, the answer seems to be, because they can.
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Thursday, November 9, 2017
On Tuesday, we left London and flew to Tel Aviv.  In London, the British pound (£ or GBP) was worth about $1.30 (USD).  Shopping was pretty easy.  Pretend that the number of pounds is the number of dollars.  Cappuccino at Pret A Manger (as reasonably-priced place as you will find in London) £2.35, not bad.  That delicious hoisin duck salad wrap £3.75, a real bargain.

In Tel Aviv, 1 USD is worth about 3.5 shekels (NIS for New Israeli Shekels, no symbol), or 1 NIS equals 28-and-a-half cents ($.285).  So, I go into a supermarket and pick up a container of milk that's either a quart or a liter, priced at 10.90 NIS.  I think that may be a lot, even by New York standards, but I have to stand in the aisle for a few moments doing the calculation.  Then, I look at the box of Special K that will be the center of my breakfast for the next few days -- 29.90 NIS, over $8.50, twice the conventional New York price.  

Prices probably reflect the cost of importing merchandise and the tax regime.  No doubt military spending is an important component of Israel's budget.  As of 2015, Israel was third in the list of per capita military spending at $1,882, just ahead of the US at $1,859.  The United Kingdom was eighth at $1,066 (appropriately).

However, when viewed as a percentage of its national economy, the burden of Israel's military weighs heavily.  According to the CIA's reporting, not entirely current, Israel's defense spending was fifth in the world at 5.69% of gross domestic product (GDP).  The US was ninth at 4.35% and the UK 28th at 2.49%.

I've never had a feel for macroeconomics, so I can only observe that Israel has an expensive army and breakfast cereal, while the UK has the Queen, and Queens, New York has the Mets.  Living in Israel also offers the privilege of being admitted to all the local country clubs.  
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Not only am I challenged by the local currency at the supermarket, but I can't even seem to get that expensive quart or liter of milk right.

When I poured from the container on the left into my coffee (and that's another story how the Israelis flock to cafés for high quality coffee, while serving mostly instant at home), I got what Little Miss Muffet got, curds and whey; not what I was expecting.  Yes, it was laban, a fermented milk product, close to yoghurt, not named for Jacob's father-in-law.  It might have been obvious to any local school child, even without the benefit of going to Stuyvesant High School, CCNY, Cornell University or Cardozo Law School.  With this information, I am obliged to set the record straight about the price of milk.  My liter of laban was 10.90 NIS.  Had I reached for milk, it would have cost 5.60 NIS, that is $1.60, a reasonable price, with or without a great air force.
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While New York prices compare favorably with London and Tel Aviv, an e-mail from Jon Silverberg reports on one example of wretched excess back home.  In the golden oldie days, Jon and I often ate at Hwa Yuan, 42 East Broadway, until we saw a very big rat run across the room.  After the owner died, probably before the rat, the restaurant closed in 1992.  Now, the family has renovated the bank building that took over the location and reopened Hwa Yuan as a fancy three-story operation.  Jon, impatient for my return, went to lunch there alone yesterday.  Orange Flavored Beef cost $28, twice as much as anything comparable in Chinatown.  I'm not rushing home for that.     
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Friday, November 10, 2017
Even if the only English-language television here seems to be episodes of 30 Rock, uninterrupted by commercials, we are not out of touch with events in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave, although the 5,676 miles separating us has a palliative effect.  I think that future generations will cherish the wisdom of Jim Ziegler, Alabama State Auditor, commenting on the Washington Post report of Republican senatorial candidate Roy S. Moore's conduct with a 14-year old, when he was a 32-year old assistant district attorney.  Moore allegedly "took off her shirt and pants and removed his clothes.  He touched her over her bra and underpants, she says, and guided her hand to touch him over his underwear."

Ziegler (a Jewish name?) said, according to the New York Times, that the girl's age was “the only part that is concerning.”  Had the girl been 16 at the time and not 14, he added, “it would have been perfectly acceptable.”  Burying suspicions about his ethnicity, Ziegler went right to the top.  "[T]ake Joseph and Mary.  Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter.  They became parents of Jesus.”

Saturday, November 4, 2017

There'll Always Be a Bagel

Monday, October 30, 2017
Several of us made a small effort this weekend to fill the large loss of Stanley Feingold, the CCNY American government professor, who kept educating us for more than 50 years after we left his classroom.  About 50 people gathered at Bar Boulud, 1900 Broadway, to eat, drink and schmooze about our memories of him.  It was not only his absence that distinguished this event from the periodic lunches that we shared with him over many decades.  We were better dressed, more polite and focused on our admiration of him, a topic that he would have immediately squelched, a denial of free speech that he would never otherwise countenance. 
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I lived in a single-family home for less than 4 years of my life.  Although I endured two infestations of bees, two mudslides down my vertical backyard and one backed up plumbing system, which taught me the meaning of Roto-Rooter, I didn't exactly hate the experience.  However, I had little regret fleeing the property and the marriage that went with it. 

I imagine that most Americans posit the single-family home as their desired residence, a symbol of independence maybe as potent as automobile ownership.  The weekend's real estate section profiles the newly-constructed single-family home market.  Most had 3 bedrooms or more; 3 bathrooms were most typical.  The outright majority were built in the South, although many may have to be rebuilt after the current hurricane season.  The median size was 2,422 square feet and sold for $316,200.  More details at
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I sent this finely-crafted letter to the New York Times book review section last week.  "Condoleezza Rice's discussion of the Russian Revolution in the Book Review seems to incorporate some of the associated turmoil.  She cites 'The Anatomy of Revolution' by one Brinton Crane.  However, the author was Crane Brinton.  Admittedly, the WASP custom of eschewing real first names could lead to such confusion."  Unfortunately, the book review stole my thunder by printing a tepid correction yesterday.
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Accusations of sexual predation, now exploding globally in almost every area of human activity, are frequently countered by blaming the victim.  However, there is never an excuse for stepping outside the bounds of civilization to exploit another human being.  I cannot ignore, though, the instinct for self-degradation shown by some women, even in the absence of rapacious men.  This is the subheading of the story below, addressed to the presumably sophisticated female readers of the New York Times: "The prostitute, courtesan, sex worker — all as presented in popular culture — are exerting a strong influence on the looks you may want to wear now."  Why?  
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Sports Scoreboard
Columbia University    6-1
New York Jets             3-5
New York Giants          1-6

Tuesday, October 31, 2017
In case your trust fund is underutilized, here are New York's Michelin-starred restaurants for 2018.   It seems that each year I fall further behind in the I-can't- believe-that-dinner-cost-that-much department.  

While I personally can't keep up with local expensive restaurants, the country as a whole is possibly growing weary of having just too many places to eat.  

The articles states that "[t]here are now more than 620,000 eating and drinking places in the United States, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the number of restaurants is growing at about twice the rate of the population."  Chain restaurants account for much of this growth, as Americans spend about 44 cents per food dollar in restaurants.  For better or worse, the proliferation of low cost, fast food restaurants probably offers their own low paid employees a rare option for dining out.     

Wednesday,  November 1, 2017
Some airlines, such as El Al, Lufthansa and JetBlue, name individual aircraft after a city in their home country.  Virgin America takes a more whimsical approach, with planes named "An Airplane Named Desire," "My Other Ride is a Spaceship," "Scarlett O'Air" and "Spruce Moose."  Now, Deutsche Bahn, the German state railway system, has aroused harsh criticism by planning to name a new high-speed train after Anne Frank.  The connection of railroad cars and the Holocaust is still vivid and raw.  Anne and her sister Margot were deported by train from Amsterdam to the Bergen Belsen concentration camp in Germany, where they died.  The railroad claims that it "made a deliberate decision to help keep Anne Frank’s memory alive."  

As I write, I not reached a conclusion about this.  Maybe you wish to tell me your opinion?
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One of the branches of Grand Sichuan was located at 307 Amsterdam Avenue until recently.  I found it inferior to its homebase at 229 Ninth Avenue and its sister spot at 123 Canal Street, gone with the building that once housed it.  So, I was optimistic about its replacement, Lily's 74.  The interior has been redone, bright and simple.  The bare walls are painted white above waist-level wainscoting, dark brown as are the tables and chairs.  Off-white ceramic tiles cover the floors.  Lighting comes from cylindrical pendants.   

I skipped the two dozen lunch specials, either $8.95 or $9.25, including rice and soup, and ordered hot and sour soup ($3.45) and sesame cold noodles ($5.95), not available as a lunch special.  The soup was excellent, just what I needed for a stuffy head on a chilly day, except the tiny bowl was vastly over-priced.  The good noodles, by contrast, were fairly priced.  
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Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, a leader in its field, has the motto "More science, less fear."  Today's paper has the headline "Pruitt Ousts Scientists From Panels At the E.P.A."  Less science, more fear.
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Tavish McMullen and I were not the only ones comparing bagels recently.  Grub Street, a reliable web site under the aegis of New York magazine, has its say.

Whether a bit of a joke, it finds Absolute Bagels, 2788 Broadway, has the absolute second best bagel in New York.  The Tablet, a general interest magazine with a Jewish perspective, has an update on the fate of Absolute Bagels, which it considers second to none, that is when it literally cleans up its act.  No joke.

Friday, November 3, 2017
The Upper West Side's Power Couple are off again.  We are flying to London during daytime hours today, a change from the usual overnight over-the-ocean journey.  We expect to be settled in our hotel in time to watch Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers, if they happen to be on British television when they are supposed to be.  In any case, this narrative will resume from over there.
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The trip to JFK was uneventful, but I became concerned when we got our gate assignment.  A3 was the first gate on the left, past the over-priced M&M store.  There were hundreds of feet of passageway stretching ahead that we did not have to traverse.  What was wrong?  Had they gotten our reservation wrong?  Was this a case of mistaken identity?  Why were we being spared the inconvenience of walking the last mile and then some to get to the aircraft? 

I did not press the matter and settled into a comfortable flight across the Atlantic.  However, the balance of equities was restored once we got to Heathrow.  The plane pulled up near the Welsh border and it took a friendly shepherd to direct us towards London.

We dashed in and out of our hotel room in no more than three minutes, hungry to enjoy dinner in the land of bangers and mash, fish and chips, and steak and kidney.  Fortunately, not a hundred meters away or a fortnight or some other obscure unit of measure was Hariki Sushi & Noodle Bar, 2 Kennington Road, Lambeth.  We   aimed at the noodle side of the menu with very satisfactory results. My young bride had vegetarian pad Thai (6£), while I dug into a very large portion of "Malaysia Style Stir Fried Ho Fun" (the wide rice noodle a/k/a chow fun) (6.80£).  It had eggs, scallions, shrimp, pork, bean sprouts with some hot pepper flakes mixed in for a kick. Mission accomplished.