Friday, February 24, 2012

Supreme Court Justice Woody Allen

Monday, February 20, 2012
Presidents Day or is it Presidents’ Day?

Last night we dined at the Goldfarbs to celebrate several famous Americans. The meal not only displayed Connie’s outstanding talent in the kitchen, it reflected her Syrian heritage. The menu, which David typically prints for guests, was Yebra, L’akhma Ajeen, Baba Ghanooj, Kiber fi Senieh, Mechshi and cherry pie to return us to the here and now. So, what exactly did we eat? Yebra = meat and rice-stuffed grape leaves; L’akhma Ajeen = flat disc (maybe a small pita) with a dollop of meat on top; Baba Ghanooj = mashed eggplant; Kiber fi Senieh = a pie filled with bulgur (grain) and ground meat; and Mechshi = a stuffed tomato. All that was missing was desert sand.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Today is Mardi Gras and I imagine that my extensive network of New Orleans relatives are frolicking in the streets, ingesting potent beverages and, possibly, taking liberties with strangers. On the whole, I think I’d rather be here.

Happy Express Café, 6 Allen Street, is a little joint in a part of Chinatown that still awaits development. It has 12 two-person tables in a floor space about 1/3 taken by a counter fronting a cooking area. The menu is very limited with few things of interest, but I had chicken with rice ($3.75) and was pleased that it turned out be a good large snack. About half the chairs were occupied by Chinese people limited to plastic forks as I was. I think most of them were lingering to wait for one of the numerous cheap busses that come and go from this part of Chinatown to cities throughout the Northeast at very low fares.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Yi Zhang Fish Ball Inc., 9 Eldridge Street, is new, neat and clean. Most of the rectangular floor space is empty because seating is only provided along two long counters running down opposite walls of the restaurant, with the ordering and preparation space at the rear. When I walked in, a young woman employee asked me quizzically, "Eat here?" "Of course," I replied heartily and explained that I had grown big and strong by eating almost anywhere. To simplify communication in this English-free zone, I pointed to the bowl a nearby customer was stooped over. I got what they called, I learned later, dumpling soup ($3), a tasty version of wonton soup. It contained 10 one-inch round dumplings with a thick wrapper around a dollop (twice in one week) of meat with a tinge of spice. When I asked for a menu on the way out, since none appeared or could be seen during my visit, the six-year old girl helping her mother at the cash register told me next time. By the way, Yi Zhang Fish Ball should not be confused with Young City Fish Balls just up the block at 21 Eldridge Street (January 25, 2011).

Thursday, February 23, 2012
I want to take this rare moment to acknowledge a misapprehension of mine. For several months last year, I groused about the delay in completing the renovation of Columbus Park, particularly the playground at its southern tip. I noted that after tearing up the existing surface in August, no activity was conducted for many weeks wasting summer playtime. Finally, the area, which featured three basketball half-courts, reopened in late October in time for wind, rain and cold. Well, how could I have predicted the rise of Jeremy Lin and the uncharacteristically warm weather this winter; it was 61 degrees at lunchtime today, high of 57 yesterday. The result is that the three basketball courts are humming with activity. Maybe better late than never.

Speaking of miscues, I returned to New York Foo Chow Restaurant, 68 East Broadway (May 24, 2010) without reading my previous comments. I ordered oxtail with mei fun ($6) from the Foo Chow side of the menu. However, I received ox tail soup with mei fun; the soup was silent on the menu. I would have enjoyed it more if it was really winter outside.

Friday, February 24, 2012
Chilly and damp enough to keep me from wandering, although I've spotted one or two new (to me) joints on Eldridge Street that I'll aim for next week.

Last night, we watched Midnight in Paris on a DVD borrowed from the New York Public Library. It is written and directed by Woody Allen and, even though he does not appear on the screen, his mentality and voice permeates the movie, which I enjoyed. So, I thought of Antonin Scalia whose mentality and voice permeate his legal opinions on the United States Supreme Court, which I don't enjoy. It's not only Scalia's often acerbic arguments that distinguish his writing, but how they reflect his biography. He is a devout Roman Catholic who regularly attends a Tridentine Latin mass (thought to have been obsolesced by the Second Vatican Council), was brought into government by Richard Nixon, appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan, and hangs with Dick Cheney. While not my cup of tea, all of that might be okay if Scalia's judicial opinions didn't mimic his personal and political predilections (although I'll note below one possible deviation from the script). A Scalia opinion is easily recognized not just by its vocabulary or even its resolution of the matter at hand. A Scalia opinion reflects a world view that seems free of doubt or caution in understanding human affairs. Only on capital punishment does the church-goer go away from most of his church's contemporary teaching -- Pope John Paul II, January 27, 1999 in St. Louis, MO, "I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary." In Thompson v. Oklahoma (1988), Scalia dissented from the Court’s ruling that the death penalty could not be applied to those aged 15 at the time of the offense, and the following year authored the Court’s opinion in Stanford v. Kentucky sustaining the death penalty for those who killed at age 16. Don’t worry, the Pope’s words in 1999 had no effect on Scalia in this regard. Cf. Atkins v. Virginia (2002). In German, verbissener means dogged, grim, stern. In Yiddish, we Jews use the variant farbissener meaning an angry, bitter, vocal person. Scalia anyone?

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