Friday, February 26, 2016

Three Time's A Charm

Monday, February 22, 2016
The Supreme Court has pursued the legal fiction that corporations are "persons," yet entitled to exercise political influence far outstripping the average person.  However, it's a rarified form of personhood that has privileges denied to ordinary persons, such as "inversion," a multinational form of tax dodging.   Read the following account of a human person's attempt to emulate a corporate person's tax strategy.  

"Yes, I curse in front of my kids."  The author has an entertaining and informative essay on a subject that concerns many loose-lipped parents and grandparents.  Warning -- She curses.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
"How Jeb Bush Spent $130 Million Running for President With Nothing to Show for It"

Among the many fruitless expenditures was the hiring of "a public relations company in Bethesda, Md., specializing in 'thought leadership'”.  Maybe Jeb! should have turned to Bob Dylan for thought leadership, because a study shows that he is the most quoted songwriter in American legal opinions.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016
I have to back up a bit to explain why lunch for the Boyz Club at Joy Luck Palace, 98 Mott Street, was free.  The large, bright restaurant is open only a month and specializes in dim sum.  Last week, in the midst of Year of the Monkey New Year celebrations, Jon Silverberg, his sons and I tried to get in without success.  It seems that 5 jumbo jets from Hong Kong landed in front of the restaurant just before we arrived.  Today, as the rain fell for several hours and with the monkey busy at work, access was no problem.  

The food carts came frequently and their contents were of high quality, although the women drivers often had difficulty explaining what they offered.  Things were going fine until one of the Boyz went to the bathroom.  He is our most accomplished skier and has skied some of the world's finest slopes, usually with enjoyment and without any particular difficulty.  However, his slide down the steps to the restaurant's basement resulted in contusions and abrasions up and down his left arm.  In spite of the stairs' apparent non-slip surface, hand rails and good lighting, we had a wounded warrior.  On the other hand, he had finished eating, and the very concerned manager came over to us immediately and picked up the check.  So, there was some joy at Joy Luck.  

Thursday, February 25, 2016
Harvard University has just announced that the long-established title of House Master, used for residential advisors, is being abandoned, because of its suggested connection to slavery.  

Therefore, the Grandpa Alan Institute for the Advancement of Faux Indignation is announcing its prize for the most sensitive replacement for MasterCard.  Entrants may include appropriate evidence of their angst, however manifested or treated.  Promotional considerations provided by American Express.

Friday, February 26, 2016
Now that I am retired, my lunches are not constrained by time and place, so, I was happy to venture to Biang, 153 Second Avenue, with Amy C. and Stony Brook Steve. Biang is owned and operated by Jason Wang, the founder of Xi'an Famous Foods, a deservedly successful group of restaurants that started as a kiosk in Flushing and now has about a half-dozen locations in Manhattan and Queens. 

Biang is a "nicer" version of the Xi'ans, which are usually no larger than two telephone booths with tree stumps to sit on.  Biang actually had waiters and a bar, but the menu is very similar.  We shared Spicy Barbecued Beef Skewers ($6), Spicy & Sour Lamb Dumplings ($8.50), Spicy & Tingly Beef Biang-Biang Noodles ($9.75) and Concubine's Chicken Biang-Biang Noodles ($8.75). Biang-Biang noodles are wide hand-ripped noodles. Every dish was spicy, spicy-hot or spicy-very hot; fine by me.  A word of advice: None of their noodle dishes can be eaten neatly. Sloppy slurping is required to consume any of it.  

Sarah Huckabee, Mike’s daughter, joined DT's presidential campaign yesterday.  She said that "Mr. Trump is pro-life, pro-marriage, and will appoint conservatives to the courts.”   Actually, she repeated her announcement three times, once for Ivana, once for Marla and once for Melania.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Publish Or Perish

Monday, February 15, 2016
Yesterday morning, as I drank my coffee just before 8 AM, the official local temperature was 0 degrees.  It eventually crawled up barely to two digits.  It was the coldest day here in 22 years, and (appropriately) the coldest Valentine's Day here forever.

Please take the simple test at  I think that it raises some interesting questions about human behavior, including a possible refutation to my theorem that rich people understand percentages and poor people do not understand percentages.  Rich people lend money at compound interest; poor people borrow money at compound interest.  The research cited in the article, however, concludes that "[p]oorer people tend to value a dollar more consistently [than more affluent ones], irrespective of the context, [that is, the percentages involved]."  I confess that I answered the test just like an affluent person.  Better not tell Bernie Sanders.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016
The Upper West Side's Power Couple hied off to Massachusetts again for some advanced placement babysitting.  To celebrate Michael Jordan's birthday tomorrow, all three generations dined at CK Shanghai, 15 Washington Street, Wellesley, a highly-reputed Chinese restaurant.  Unfortunately, I can't join the chorus of approval.  The scallion pancake ($5.75) and the cold sesame noodles ($6.95) were very good.  The pancake was pan fried in oil, giving it a crisp exterior around a thick middle.  The noodles were angel hair (vermicelli), seemingly regenerating as every forkful was removed.  

I skipped all the dishes that were ordered "not spicy," for the women and children as they rushed to the lifeboats.  Two special appetizers were especially disappointing -- the crispy chicken roll ($8.95), 7" long and 2" round, hid the chicken almost entirely in a filling of shredded lettuce, and the beef scallion pie ($9.95) was no more than a couple of thin small slices of dry beef in a scallion pancake.  

The two main dishes that I shared were average, tangerine crispy beef ($14.50) and chicken with Yu-Shiang (spicy garlic) sauce ($11.50).  In all, Grade B.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016
I spent part of the afternoon with my grandsons catching up with the travails of Kung Fu Panda.  It wasn't too trying considering that the seats at the Framingham multiplex cinema are electronically-controlled reclining loungers.  Consequently, I slept peacefully through about 2/3 of the movie.  

Our fabulous daughter-in-law actually prepared a chocolate soufflé for dessert tonight.  I can't recall ever having a soufflé served outside a restaurant, but this one was special regardless of the context.  I'm sorry that you missed it, although that left more for me.

Thursday, February 18, 2016
Linda Greenhouse provides some valuable insights into the ideologically-based jurisprudence of Antonin Scalia.

Let the Domestic Enemies of Sanity posture about judicial activism as their poster boys rewrite the Second Amendment, campaign finance legislation and voting rights (oh guys, I forgot that when 5-4 on the Supreme Court overrules a unanimous Senate, that's real restraint).  

Friday, February 19, 2016
This weekend, keep your eyes on the Book Review included with Sunday's New York Times.  Rumor has it that a familiar name signed a letter to the editor.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

I Concede That Pastrami Is Romanian

Monday, February 8, 2016
We have just returned from celebrating the birthday of Super Bowl Baby Boy Boaz, in Massachusetts.  Today, of course is the Chinese New Year, the year of the fire monkey, a character described as "ambitious and adventurous, but irritable."  If that describes you, it probably means that you were born some multiple of 12 years ago, corresponding to the Chinese annual zodiac.  Here are some dos and don'ts for the year of the fire monkey for all of us, but especially Australians.

Regardless of the character of the year ahead, we need to eat.  Here is a collection of recipes that I encourage you to try out; I'll sample the results, if asked.

If fate keeps you away from New York City the next time that you are hungry, you can sample Chinese food in the Boston area.

I agree with the critic's admiration for Sichuan Gourmet, 271 Worcester Road, Framingham, which our three generations have enjoyed visiting several times.  Even our little ones appreciate their scallion pancakes before wandering table to table.  

Tuesday, February 9, 2016
Chinese food is not my only passion.  I am also devoted to the New York Times crossword puzzles, and the paper has taken the trouble to analyze 74 years of clues and answers, with some fascinating results.
 How about "1995 court V.I.P" or " Am ___ blame?" or "Skater Midori" for an answer that appeared over 100 times?

I haven't heard of anyone objecting to the term "Chinese New Year" yet (something to do with big crowds maybe), but we can look to Brown University for inspiration.  In April 2009, the faculty voted to change the name of Columbus Day to the Fall Weekend holiday.  Now, probably because Winter, Spring and Summer had their feelings hurt, they voted to designate the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day.
How about all the capitalists who feel left out on Labor Day?

Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Last night, after admiring Kim Sykes's latest paintings on display (through April 4th) at the Cornelia Street Café, 29 Cornelia Street, Mr. & Mrs. Stony Brook Steve, America's Favorite Epidemiologist and I went to dinner at Rasa, 25 West 8th Street, featuring Malaysian and Thai food and sushi.  The room is long and relatively narrow.  About one-third of the floor is taken by bars, liquor and sushi.  Seating is on benches running along the available wall space, with black leather(ette?) cushioned back rests. opposite dark wooden tables and chairs, holding about 40 people in all.  By 7:30 PM, all seats were taken.

Since I have gotten familiar with Malaysian food in Chinatown, I ordered two of my favorite dishes, roti canai ($7.25), the thin flaky Indian pancake with curry dipping sauce, and Rendang beef ($18), "simmered until dry with exotic spices, lemongrass, lime leaves & grated coconut with thick coconut milk."  The only thing memorable about either dish was the price, about twice what superior versions cost at Wok Wok, Southeast Asian Kitchen, 11 Mott Street.  On the other hand, the art, the company and the conversation were excellent.

Thursday, February 11, 2016
Jeffrey Heller, major league humanitarian, touted Trader Joe's scallion pancakes to me.  They come frozen, 4 to a package for $3.49.  Each is about 5" round and nearly 1/2" thick, weighing slightly less than 1/4 pound.  I had three for dinner tonight and was very pleased.  They contain more vegetables than the typical Chinatown version, onions, scallions, leeks, carrots, closer to a frittata than a crêpe.  I pan fried them with a shpritz of vegetable oil.  They are vegetarian, but not vegan (sigh of relief).  Fill your freezer with them for a quick and satisfying breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Once upon a time, many Jews avoided saying "Jewish" when identifying themselves and tried to deflect its usage by others.  I thought that was past us in the US until two very disparate things caught my attention.  Today's New York Times crossword puzzle gives "hora" as the answer to the clue "Romanian wedding dance."  While Wikipedia defines hora as "a type of circle dance originating in the Balkans but also found in other countries," I guarantee that the last 94 horas any of us witnessed were at Jewish celebrations, weddings and b'nai mitzvahs.  I just don't think that New York metropolitan area party spaces are teeming with Romanian weddings.

Then, there was Bernie Sanders's speech after winning the New Hampshire primary.  "I am the son of a Polish immigrant."  I'll bet that his father didn't call himself Polish and Poles didn't call his father Polish.  He was Jewish and he wasn't allowed to forget it.  "Jews (and not only in Poland) tended to view Polish society and Polish history as being in a perpetual process of growing anti-Semitism," according to Grzegorz Krzywiec, a member of the Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of History.  Once they got to the Goldene Medina, Jews and Poles did not ignore their historic differences and dance the hora together at Romanian weddings.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Mangez, Mon Amis

Monday, February 1, 2106
There are times when my physically big head seems to contain a very small mind.  One example is in the realm of gender.  Recently, "the 127-year-old American Dialect Society anointed 'they,' the singular, gender-neutral pronoun, the 2015 Word of the Year . . . where they is used for a person who does not identify as male or female."  See

I didn't have a vote, but I would not have chosen to abandon the classic distinction between singular and plural when an obvious alternative exists when he or she is inexact:  It.

My interest in Chinese food is well known, but now there may be reason to classify it as an addiction, not merely an affinity.  It seems that some restaurants in China have been adding poppy capsules to their food.  They are "made from the dried pericarp of the ripe fruit of an opium poppy plant."

Yes, I looked up pericarp -- "the walls of a ripened fruit."  So, chopsticks may be as dangerous as hypodermic needles.  

Here is a headline that probably delights old and young alike: "Grandparents Who Babysit Are Less Likely To Develop Alzheimer's." 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016
I'm sorry but I missed a very important dispatch late last year, possibly because it appeared on Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday.

France’s Foreign Ministry has compiled La Liste, "an ambitious ranking of what it claims are the 1,000 best 'tables of exception' in the world."  The top spot in the world went to Restaurant de l’Hôtel de Ville, Crissier, Switzerland. 

Dinners start at $297; a fixed price lunch is $196.  However, the joy of victory was short-lived.  The 44-year old chef, Benoît Violier, promptly committed suicide.

Per Se, 10 Columbus Circle, New York, is ranked #2 in the world and #1 in the USA.  Before you spend $325 to curb your hunger (but not your thirst, that's extra) at Per Se, you might check out the its latest review in the New York Times, containing "Slips and Stumbles" in the headline.

While we have never been to Per Se, America's Favorite Epidemiologist took me for a belated birthday dinner at the French Laundry, 6440 Washington Street, Yountville, California, the senior creation of Thomas Keller, on April 1, 2003.  The nine course dinner cost $135 back then plus drinks plus an 18% service charge.  It was good, as I recall, but only the copy of the menu that I saved reminds me of what I actually ate.  

La Liste brings back more vivid memories of what I consider the finest meal that I have ever had.  It designates La Maison Troisgros, Roanne, France, as #8 in the world.

I went there alone on my first trip to France in October 1985.  I chose the dinner menu for 350 francs, plus drinks and 15% service charge.  David Goldfarb, bon vivant, helped me with the translation of the menu that I removed at the time and kept ever since.  The meal consisted of
Mixed salad greens with currants
Soft-boiled egg with caviar
Fillet of salmon in sorrel sauce
Lobster poached in tomato sauce
Veal kidney with sweet peppers
Cheese platter
Dessert cart
Petit fours

I remember particularly the egg and the lobster.  When the captain wheeled over the dessert cart for me to make a choice, I unleashed my high school French and said, "Tout."

By the way, 350 francs converted to $45.50.  That you don't forget.

Thursday, February 4, 2016
Headline: "Health Care Signups Exceed Hopes, With 4 Million Newcomers to Federal Marketplace"

Marco Rubio's web site tells us: "One of the first votes Marco took in the Senate was to repeal ObamaCare, and he has fought to replace the failed law ever since."

Ted Cruz, another member of the Buena Vista Social Club, states, "I support repealing every single word of Obamacare."

And, DT, my fellow New Yorker promises, "I would end Obamacare and replace it with something terrific, for far less money for the country and for the people."

My conclusion, vote Republican and meddle with success, or, at least, strip healthcare coverage from millions of Americans.  Of course, if Ben Carson is right that "Obamacare is really I think the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery," I may want to change my mind.

Friday, February 5, 2016
Even though I don't have the privilege of walking the streets of Chinatown every weekday any more, I try to keep up with developments down there, especially new joints.  Art S. and Jon S. (no relation) joined me at Wu's Wonton King, 165 East Broadway, open only a couple of weeks.  The place was freshly decorated, with off-white walls making for a bright interior.  It has 8 round tables and 20 two tops usually pushed together to seat four people.  It was busy because of or in spite of the fact that it is located as far east as the entropic Chinatown has grown.  

Wu's has a very large menu covering several major strands of Chinese cooking, but it doesn't have any hot mustard.  There are 30 lunch specials, all $5.50, including a small bowl of soup with a small clump of chicken.  We passed around Shrimp w/Peanuts w/Spicy Sauce, Beef w/Broccoli, and Chicken w/Black Bean Sauce.  The portions were quite generous and shared the plate with a large mound of white rice.  Additionally, we shared a large plate of Beef Chow Fun ($8.95), notable for its tender beef.  All the dishes were good, but the flavors were muted.  

Wu's is the second Chinese restaurant at this location, important in Jewish culinary and literary history as home to the dearly-missed Garden Cafeteria.

When I lived in Greenwich Village, I used to ride my bicycle to the Garden Cafeteria (if not to B&H Dairy) on Sunday mornings for lox and eggs and onions.  By the 1980s, the only Jews left in the neighborhood (whose dietary restrictions gave rise to the Garden and B&H) seemed to be politicians  (like Sheldon Silver) who had iron-fisted control over the local political clubhouses.  B&H, with 8 stools and 4 tiny tables, survived; the Garden, seating maybe 100 people, folded.  

Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?