Saturday, December 26, 2015

Winding Down

Monday, December 21, 2015
Here is a contemporary approach to communications, inspired by the venerable Mad Libs™.

Before Mel Brooks made very funny movies and broke Broadway records with “The Producers,” he had become immortal with his 2000-year-old man routines, recorded with Carl Reiner originally in 1961.  If you have never heard them, beg, borrow or steal copies, conveniently boxed as The 2000 Year Old Man: The Complete History ( @ $32.99).  Besides getting an archival copy for yourself, consider giving one to a desperately ill person who retains good hearing.

I believe that the 2000-year-old man not only provided us great amusement, but profound insight into human behavior as well.  In many instances, he identified fear as the basis for our conduct.  On transportation: “an animal would growl, you'd go two miles in a minute.  Fear would be the main propulsion.”  
On singing: “Saying ‘a lion is eating my foot off’ didn't get nearly the attention that singing it did.”
On handshaking: Shaking hands began as a way of finding out if a man had a rock or a knife.  
On dancing: By dancing a man kept another person’s hands and feet busy, so he could not get hit or kicked.
On marriage: A man needed a woman to watch out behind him to make sure an animal didn’t creep up on him. 

Today, fear continues to shape our behavior.  I cite:

In Virginia, home of Patrick Henry, a school district shut down because “Students in a world geography class at Riverheads High School in Staunton, Va., had been asked to try their hands at copying a passage known as the Shahada, or declaration of faith in Islam.”  The poor, dumb teacher meant it to “give you an idea of the artistic complexity of calligraphy,” not even telling the kids the meaning of the words.  While the teacher should probably have had the students copy a falafel recipe, the fear shown by some parents is notable.  

Mel Brooks proves that we can't go back far enough to find a world not governed by fear.  Today, Syrian refugees are the demons du jour.  Home of the Brave, we ain’t.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015
I was fortunate to be joined at lunch today by the Stanley family, Papa Jay, Momma Meg, Ben, Jack and Lucy, the latter three not yet of voting age, but as sensible as most of the announced presidential candidates, or more so.  We went to Jing Fong, 20 Elizabeth Street, that festive dim sum palace, an experience new to the younger guests.  I am pleased to report that no Yucks were heard during the meal, and all of us put away our fair share (adjusted for age and weight) of the food wheeled up to our table.

After lunch, I went to a white elephant party held by the more social segment of my department.  Not only was I able to foist off a totally unwanted, unneeded (although generously offered) gift from an earlier holiday season, but I came away with a box of Godiva chocolates, which may turn out to be my next gift to you.

While many conservative adults continue to fear anything that they don’t understand, “progressive youth” are overreacting in their own narrow-minded way.

Students at this famously liberal college “are accusing the campus dining department and Bon Appétit Management Company, the main dining vendor, of a litany of offenses that range from cultural appropriation to cultural insensitivity.”  Ironically, the student complaints include black students wanting more fried chicken, while others are dissatisfied with the quality of the sushi.  “When you’re cooking a country’s dish for other people, including ones who have never tried the original dish before, you’re also representing the meaning of the dish as well as its culture,” Tomoyo Joshi, a student from Japan [said].  “So if people not from that heritage take food, modify it and serve it as ‘authentic,’ it is appropriative.”  I imagine that I might have cause to rail against most bagel sellers in the US.  

Wednesday, December 23, 2015
The Upper West Side's Power Couple took off for a visit to the second and third generations in Massachusetts this morning.  Our path allowed us to have lunch at Nardelli's Grinder Shoppe, 540 Plank Road, Waterbury, CT.  I was predictably delighted with a roast beef sandwich, fully loaded with everything except tomatoes ($6.50, supposedly a half, but large enough to satisfy me), and a bag of Herr's Creamy Dill Pickle potato chips, impossible to find in my usual haunts.  A welcome addition to the menu was Nardelli's own brand diet root beer, quite delicious.  This was notable because, just three nights earlier, on the way to a Rangers game at Madison Square Garden with my cousin Michael Goldenberg, we met at Ben's Kosher Delicatessen, 209 West 38th Street, never to be confused with Ben's Best Kosher Delicatessen, 96-40 Queens Boulevard, Rego Park. While I thoroughly enjoyed my corned beef/pastrami combo on rye ($16.99), I was surprised and disappointed to learn that Ben's had no Dr. Brown's diet black cherry soda, in fact no diet Dr. Brown's was on hand.  What kind of doctor is that?  A floor manager, so skinny that I asked him if he ever ate here, told us that Dr. Brown's had not supplied Ben's with diet soda for some time.  Obviously, I'm fated to bring Nardelli's and Ben's together.  

 "The Typical American Lives Only 18 Miles From Mom," is a headline to get your attention.  The NewYork Times published this interesting study on mobility, which contradicts the picture of the aggressive American seeking opportunity throughout the land.

This article reminds me of a study cited (conducted?) by Andrew Hacker over 50 years ago, which demonstrated that CEO's of Fortune 500 companies lived much further from their birthplaces than US Senators.  Staying close to home was a better base for building a political than a business career, especially when top companies cluster in certain locations, while Senate seats are inherently dispersed.  For whatever it's worth, I now live just under 12 miles from my parent's last residence, although I am, believe it or not, neither a CEO or a US Senator.  

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