Friday, August 28, 2015

Hey, Dude

Monday, August 24, 2015
Proof reading in the New York Times is far from flawless. So, when I read a wedding announcement (as I invariably do on Sundays) that said that the officiant was "a priest of the Church of the Latter-Day Dude," I was aroused to investigate. Indeed, as an example of which side of the generational divide that I fall on, I learned that the Church of the Latter-Day Dude exists. As described on its web site, it is "the slowest-growing religion in the world – Dudeism. An ancient philosophy that preaches non-preachiness, practices as little as possible, and above all, uh . . . lost my train of thought there."

This is all rooted in The Big Lebowski, a 1998 movie written, produced and directed by the Coen Brothers. It is evidently a cult favorite today, another cult that I seem to have missed joining. I have been hesitant to expose myself to the Coen Brothers’ oeuvre since attending a prerelease screening (free!) of Barton Fink in 1991. I hated this fictional look at the travails of a New York intellectual in Hollywood. After all this time, I still remember trying to wrench loose my seat in order to throw it at the screen. I was patient with and rewarded by a few of their works, Fargo and Miller’s Crossing notably, but left physically or mentally several others within the first half hour. Therefore, when I saw a trailer for The Big Lebowski, in which bowling seems to play a prominent role, I passed, and thus may have missed my chance at apostledom.
We start this week with the stock market experiencing heavy losses as a result of the weakening of Chinese currency. I wonder if that will benefit me in Chinatown?

A medium bowl of cold sesame noodles at 456 Shanghai Cuisine, 69 Mott Street, for $4.25 did not represent a serious market correction. In fact, the last time I was here, June 12, 2014, I had the same thing for $3.75. Not really the same thing, actually, because then I found "noodles were stuck together and the sesame sauce was weak and sparse." Today, I give the noodles a strong A, with sesame seeds, chive rounds and threads of cucumbers on top. The asymmetrical serving bowl added a nice visual touch. The sauce was thick and presented no danger to my clothes. The only flaw was a slight leaning to the salty over the sweet.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015
There are many things that I know about and I’m not shy about expounding on them. However, there are also many things that I am not just uninformed about, but rather simply unable to understand, for instance, quantum mechanics, macroeconomics and modern dance. It’s not that I lack facts, but I am unable to order them in a coherent fashion. I don’t have a feel for the subject.

It is the field of macroeconomics that currently befuddles me. Not too long ago, many Americans decried the strength of Chinese currency, which allowed the Chinese to acquire assets and influence all over the world. While our exporters must have been delighted, US consumers were pressured by the relative high cost of Chinese goods (and what wasn’t made in China?). Last week, responding to internal economic stress, the Chinese devalued their currency, cheapening their goods and muting somewhat their ability to access and control foreign enterprises. The result? Cries of Foul from some of the same quarters who recently assailed Chinese economic growth. I don’t understand.

Then, we have the matter of oil prices. For decades, many of us have been disturbed by the geopolitical and environmental costs of our dependency on oil, especially foreign oil. Even as the price of gasoline rose to over $4 a gallon, oppressing our transportation industry and the movement of goods from anywhere to anywhere else, as well as many manufacturing operations, while enriching not-so-nice people, many of our politicians sat idle and pundits kept silent. But now, lo and behold, there is a crisis. Headline: "From Venezuela to Iraq to Russia, Oil Price Drops Raise Fears of Unrest" The international price of a barrel of oil has fallen from $103 to $42 in one year. Aw shucks. Those pussycats in Venezuela, Iraq, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Texas may now have to go to work for a living, create something, rather than wake up sitting on natural deposits going back millions of years. But, what do I know?

Of less global consequence is the glut of underemployed or unemployed law school graduates.
Their plight is compounded by a large debt burden. "Students now amass law school loans averaging $127,000 for private schools and $88,000 for public ones." One suggestion advanced by President Obama, among others, is to shorten the law school experience by one year, cutting the costs proportionally. I’m not enthused about this approach for a number of reasons, including the likelihood that it would attract even more students to law school because of the shorter period of incarceration and the lessened expense. In the end, there would be more law school graduates driving for Über, although carrying less individual debt.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015
Don’t reward failure. The same gang that orchestrated the disaster in Iraq now stands solidly opposed to the Iran nuclear deal.

There are too many good observations in Frank Bruni’s column in today’s New York Times to pick and choose. So, delight in it yourself.

I made my weekly visit to Wok Wok Southeast Asian Cuisine, 11 Mott Street, today. Business was good, almost every table occupied, and service was coping. Except my request for Chinese tea, accompanied by my imitation of a tea pot, did not prevent the delivery of a cup of hot water with a tea bag. This was corrected and I ordered a Street-Style Oyster Omelette ($9.50). It was very good, containing some sort of cheese, a surprise, but not an unpleasant one, along with 4 or 5 plump oysters. There was a sweet red, peppery sauce and hoisin sauce on the side. I liked them both, but they were unnecessary. The omelette sat on some lettuce leaves, but, on the whole, a side of rice, which I failed to order, would have made for a more filling meal.

Thursday, August 27, 2015
I like hot dogs, but I probably eat them twice a year, partially because I am rarely a guest at a suburban barbecue. It’s been three or four years since I bought a hot dog at Gray’s Papaya, 2090 Broadway (at 72nd Street), maybe 18 years from Katz’s Delicatessen, 205 East Houston Street, and, the best that I can remember, 1967 at the original Coney Island location of Nathan’s Famous, 1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn. Except for some of Nathan’s franchise locations, I can’t even imagine buying a hot dog from any other place than these, and you can see how bad a customer I have been. This comes to mind because of the upcoming showing of a new documentary on Nathan’s that might interest the fressers among you.

The visit to Nathan’s Coney Island was memorable not just because of the food. I went with Andy P., a dear friend whom we lost far too soon, and Debbie H., a good friend to both of us. Andy had his draft physical the next morning. Some context – 1967 saw the third most US combat deaths in Vietnam; 1968 and 1969 were worse. The lottery system for drafting young men had not yet been introduced. Andy was 22 years old, out of school and selling business computers, not a privileged position in the eyes of Selective Service. Andy was always overweight, not just pleasingly plump, but he thought that a little extra might help keep him on this side of the Pacific Ocean. I think that there was a 300 pound maximum weight cut off, but I only have been able to find evidence of a 130 pound minimum. In any case, he ate seven hot dogs that night and got a 4-F classification the next morning. I only had four hot dogs, but I already had an occupational deferment.

Unlike hot dogs, I eat bagels with great regularity, at home and on the road, as it were. This article, contributed by my brother, addresses what might be considered the Death of the Schmear.

Friday, August 28, 2015
As demonstrated yet again on live television in Roanoke, Virginia, hand guns possessed by civilians inevitably lead to tragedy. The Domestic Enemies of Sanity have successfully prevented the collection and publication of public health data concerning gun violence.
However, even the anecdotal evidence demonstrates that good guys with guns and good guys without guns consistently get killed by bad guys with guns. The NRA aids and abets murder.