Friday, March 1, 2013

Take Two Potato Chips and Call Me In the Morning

Monday, February 25, 2013
My cold was sufficiently annoying to keep me home from work today, which gave me time to consider geopolitical issues. I’m not sure who are the bigger babies, Arabs or Jews. I know about the insecurities and exaggerated reactions to any slight by the Jews. After all, some of my best friends are Jewish. My familiarity with Arab manners and mores is much slighter. I’ve been to the Middle East twice, separated by 26 years. I’ve read a lot about the region and its people; I've seen Lawrence of Arabia twice without commercial interruption.

I’m considering this right now because of the Jerusalem Marathon, scheduled to be held on March 1, 2013. Running has never been my thing, even in the distant days when I showed some athletic prowess. I was always slow and awkward. I consider jogging to be an activity slightly less interesting than butter churning. I lengthen my stride only when approaching a buffet table. Admittedly, I pay some attention to the New York Marathon because it finishes barely three blocks from Palazzo di Gotthelf and I am usually able to recognize a few familiar faces among the galloping hordes. However, until a week or so ago, I had never heard of the Jerusalem Marathon, which was apparently been held twice before. It is presented by a Jerusalem municipal agency, and New Balance sneakers is the most prominent sponsor. The route connects to landmarks in Israeli history, beginning at the Knesset, the national legislature, and ending nearby after passing the Supreme Court building, the Israel Museum, the Sultan’s Pool (a reservoir built in 1536), Ammunition Hill (a site of fierce fighting in 1967 between Jordanian soldiers and Israeli paratroopers) and going through Zion Gate and Jaffa Gate, two of the Old City’s eight gates.

Inevitably, the route abuts and enters Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, a section of Jerusalem that many Arabs anticipate as the capital of a future Palestinian state. This has aroused protests. According to the New York Times, a lawyer representing Palestinian government agencies has written to New Balance and an international hotel chain threatening a boycott and legal action if they did not withdraw their sponsorship of the Jerusalem Marathon. The letters read, in pertinent part, "As the marathon neither caters to the needs of Palestinian civilians nor serves any genuine military purpose, the marathon constitutes an illegal activity in occupied East Jerusalem under international humanitarian law." It needs a more profound legal mind than mine to analyze this claim. I suspect that it is gibberish.

On the other hand, I don’t think that this dispute is ultimately rooted in international humanitarian law, but, rather, the continuing desire by each side to really annoy the other. No doubt that another route could have been chosen to avoid unfriendly neighborhoods, part of the rationale for the cancellation of the New York City Marathon in November in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. This concern, though, would probably bar the Jerusalem Marathon if it came anywhere closer to East Jerusalem than Barcelona. And, in the eyes of many Arabs, the hurricane began on May 14, 1948 and shows no sign of letting up. So, an opportunity for thousands of vigorous visitors from around the world to explore and enjoy a fascinating city incorporating diverse cultures and populations is threatened.  Good job, guys. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
I made it through half a day at work, before retiring to my home to be surrounded by tissues, cough drops and hot cups of tea.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013
It is a perfectly miserable day, with rain driven by high winds, a front that came in last night. And I felt fine, comparatively. As usual, I am somewhat behind in my reading and only dug into the New York Times Sunday Magazine today on the subway and at lunch. The cover story is about food engineering, the "optimization" of packaged food to maximize sales and profits. Not surprisingly, the secret of optimization often lies in the addition of salt, sugar and/or fat. Howard Moskowitz is described as one of the leaders in this area of endeavor. He is quoted as saying "I’ve optimized soups. I’ve optimized pizzas. I’ve optimized salad dressings and pickles. In this field, I’m a game changer." He has been at it 30 or more years, after earning a Ph.D. from Harvard University in experimental psychology. He began his career working for the U.S. Army, exploring soldiers’ preferences in field rations. Apparently, at some point, Moskowitz confronted his own fiscal cliff. "There’s no moral issue for me. I did the best science I could. I was struggling to survive and didn’t have the luxury of being a moral creature. As a researcher, I was ahead of my time." Now, we can shower accolades on the researcher who brought us Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper. As Howard likes to say, "there are no moralists in the snack food aisles."

Thursday, February 28, 2013
Tonight is a big night, but one that is likely to breed confusion or worse. Violinist Itzhak Perlman is holding a concert at the Barclay’s Center, the new arena in Brooklyn, that is home to the Brooklyn Nets and soon the New York Islanders. Barclay’s has already housed Barbra Streisand, Jay Z and a variety of other entertainment programs. Appearing with Perlman is Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, well known singer/chanter of Jewish liturgical music. Helfgot – backwards. This might produce mayhem as people try to figure out why Gott isn’t first. To ask religious people to put a verb before the Greatest Noun of All is cruel even. I wash my hands of it. I plan to worship in my own way, watching the Rangers on television.

Friday, March 1, 2013
The quantity and quality of the Singapore chow fun ($7.50) at Nice Green Bo Restaurant, 66 Bayard Street (September 16, 2011, March 29, 2010), large and high, took me a bit by surprise, maybe because I was thinking more of my crossword puzzle than my appetite when I went out to lunch. Like several other restaurants in Chinatown, Singapore chow fun per se does not appear on the menu, but the presence of Singapore mei fun and various chow funs is a signal that you will not be rebuffed. The large plate was near-overflowing with noodles bearing a spicy tang that often is barely noticeable at other places. Additionally, the dish contained a generous amount of shrimp, egg, green pepper, red pepper, chicken, onion, bean sprouts, and three kinds of meat, distinguishable in appearance, but not necessarily identifiable. I left over about a third, but felt thoroughly satisfied.

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