Friday, January 10, 2014


Monday, January 6, 2014
I thought that the phrase, “The pen is mightier than the sword,” must have originated with Shakespeare, Othello perhaps.  Actually, it first appears in the 1839 play Richelieu; Or the Conspiracy, by the English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton, even better known as the author of the infamous opening line “It was a dark and stormy night.”  The same thought, however, goes back at least 2,700 years or so to the Assyrian sage Ahiqar who said, according to WikiPedia, “The word is mightier than the sword,” although probably not in English.  Since then, others uttered similar phrases.  I found the brief article on the topic quite interesting.

You might think that the uncompromising defenders of the Second Amendment (UDOTSA) thoroughly reject this concept.  After all, their near-carnal grasping of firearms seems to empower them as nothing else does.  Somewhat like an adolescent boy under the covers at night, they appear to be governed by the principle “I shoot, therefore I am.”  That’s why I was a bit surprised by Guns & Ammo magazine dropping Dick Metcalf as a columnist.  Metcalf is a longtime contributor to the magazine and normally counted as an UDOTSA, with far-from parochial credentials as a historian at Cornell and Yale.  Recently, he wrote a column entitled “Let’s Talk Limits.”  Well, talk wasn’t cheap in Metcalf’s case.  His television show evaporated along with his magazine by-line.

This is not an issue of rights.  Guns & Ammo may publish or ban anyone they choose.  It’s just that I marvel at the manic insecurity manifested by UDOTSA when a whiff of moderation is in the air.  What’s the good of all that heavy firepower if their arsenals are really at risk from an onslaught of word processors?  

Tuesday, January 7, 2014
I thought of Dinah Washington this morning on the way to work.  I saw her perform at the Apollo Theater in 1969 on a jazz program that included, as I recall, Count Basie and his orchestra.  After so long, I still remember the reaction of the audience as she leaned over the edge of the stage wearing a low-cut evening gown.  Her greatest hit, which made it onto the Top 10 list in 1959, was “What a Diff’rence a Day Makes.”  This came to mind as I saw that the temperature sign at 72nd Street read 4 degrees; yesterday’s high temperature at 9 AM was 55 degrees. just published the following: “Eighty retired New York City police officers and firefighters were charged on Tuesday in one of the largest Social Security disability frauds ever, a sprawling decades-long scheme in which false mental disability claims by as many as 1,000 people cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, according to court papers.”  It’s just so disappointing to be reminded again of the power of greed.  I’ve noticed that when brought down, the fraudsters never seem to say “I did it and I’m glad.”  Rather, they offers tearful pleas for forgiveness and leniency.  How boring.  Can’t they even have some pride in a bad job well done?  By the way, it’s not just these literal blue collars who got caught today. “Princess Cristina, the younger daughter of King Juan Carlos of Spain, was formally accused of money laundering and tax fraud by a magistrate on Tuesday and was summoned to appear in court on March 8.”

I realize that those of us gathered under the shelter of this blog have diverse ethical, religious, moral and political views, but, unlike the fraudsters, I believe that we mostly share values based on fairness with a reluctance to exploit others.  The words that I live by are: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs, and then let’s redecorate the apartment.”

Wednesday, January 8, 2014
I was happy to find Gold River Malaysian Cuisine, 21 Division Street, open after its brief shutdown within days of its opening.  However, I was concerned when I found that I was only the second person seated around 1 PM.  Fortunately, while the other person left, he was replaced by nine others.  This Malaysian food certainly deserves a larger audience.  I had two of the most traditional dishes, roti canai ($3.50), although their too-flaky pancake/crepe/blintz made it hard to deal with the buttery curry dipping sauce, and nasi lemak ($6.95), a mound of rice surrounded by cucumber slices, boiled peanuts, half a hardboiled egg, a couple of small chunks of curried chicken and potato, fried tiny anchovies, and sambal, a spicy, chili pepper-based condiment common to Malaysia and Indonesia.  Gold River compares favorably with West New Malaysia Restaurant, in the Chinatown Arcade, one of my mainstays, because, so far, Gold River adds a little more spice to its food.  However, there’s a big menu ahead and I have my work cut out for me.  I hope that I am up to the challenge.

Thursday, January 9, 2014
Mens rea plays an important part in our criminal law.  A “guilty mind” is a necessary element in defining many crimes.  Today’s New York Law Journal reports on a yegg who put this concept to the test in his appeal from his conviction for attempted robbery.  He was arrested after he showed up at the back door of a fast food joint just before it opened wearing a mask and displaying a gun.  No, no, he argued before the appellate court.  That doesn’t prove that I intended to commit a robbery.  I might have been there to commit murder, rape or kidnapping, he contended.  The court reasoned that, since the weapon he carried was only a BB gun, murder was improbable.  Further, he didn’t know anyone in the restaurant, so the court found rape or kidnapping to be a reach.  Now, you might think that this was a trivial issue for the learned jurists, but, in fact, the vote to uphold the conviction for attempted robbery was 3-2, leaving the bad guy guilty as a bad guy instead of innocent as a worse guy.
Friday, January 10, 2014
David Goldfarb, that distinguished scholar, has challenged the validity of my claim to have eaten in scores of different Chinese restaurants in Chinatown.  Rather, David claims that there is one master kitchen dispensing foods out of a collection of storefronts.  I’ve challenged this theory before using beef satay (August 9, 2010) and chicken with garlic sauce (October 6, 2010) as examples of the unified theory of menu printing, the same name applied to diverse dishes.  Today, I encountered still another example at Thai Son Vietnamese Restaurant, 89 Baxter Street (August 25, 2010), and, as in the other cases, I am not uttering a complaint, but merely offering a rebuttal to David’s misguided idea, admittedly a rare deviation from his usual laser-like perspicacity.  I ordered Vietnamese steak with fried rice ($8.95), a very tasty dish, by the way.  However, the generous serving of rice on the plate wasn’t fried rice as I know and love it.  It was a mound of steamed yellow rice akin to what a Mexican or Tunisian joint would serve, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  Just, there was no evidence of oil used in its preparation (a healthy choice) as I was gearing up to compare Vietnamese fried rice to Chinese fried rice, probably best exemplified by Wo Hop.  Of course, I would be the last one to impose censorship or any rigor on the use of language in menus, especially as these experiments in vocabulary add another kind of flavor to my lunchtime excursions.    

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