Friday, January 13, 2017

Filling The Gap

Monday, January 9, 2017
Even a large snowstorm in the Boston area did not lessen our enjoyment of the weekend in Massachusetts with our second and third generations.  However, the ride home, while only briefly through swirling snow squalls, held a major disappointment.  About halfway through the trip in the middle of the afternoon, we pulled off I-84 at exit 25, near Waterbury, Connecticut, to have lunch at Nardelli's Grinder Shoppe, 540 Plank Road, one of the Western Hemisphere's major culinary destinations (May 2, 2014, December 23, 2015).  Lo and behold, it was closed.  Never on Sunday.  

Many of you were probably not yet born on August 7, 1964, when Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, authorizing wide expansion of the US role in Vietnam.   Now, "the evidence suggests a disturbing and deliberate attempt by Secretary of Defense McNamara to distort the evidence and mislead Congress."

An article this weekend that I found insightful maintains that the Vietnam experience altered a fundamental basis of our democratic politics, trust in government and its leaders, which continues to haunt us.

The article incidentally illustrated the ever-growing gap between the haves and have-nots by looking at the military service of Yale students over time.  In World War I, 227 died in combat; 514 in World War II.  Apparently, only 3 Yale students died in Vietnam and none in combat since then.  I certainly don't suggest that CCNY students made up the difference.  The too many dead came from places and families far removed from our own and the end of the draft seems to ensure that future American combat deaths will not touch our friends and families.  

A seemingly unrelated statistic is the claim that 1 in 8 Americans have worked at McDonald's.  The origin of this factoid is somewhat obscure, but what I find significant is my inability to name anyone that I know who has ever worked at McDonald's.  That is a notable gap, too.  While I have been unemployed in the past, going back as far as parttime work in college, I never held a job at the minimum wage, which is where many fast food workers are stuck.  What do we really have in common?

Wait a minute!  Enough of this soft-hearted, liberal, empathetic navelgazing.  Maybe there's a problem in the gap between me and the kid working at McDonald's.  But, what about the gap between me (and you and almost everybody else) and the coterie of billionaires descending on Washington to repopulate the swamp?  CBS News reported that, "Mr. Trump is surrounding himself with a historic level of wealth that’s at least 50 times greater than the Cabinet that George W. Bush led."

Pop quiz -- The following was written by the Communist Daily Worker or Forbes (a/k/a the Capitalist tool)?  "A populist wave may have propelled Donald Trump to the nation’s highest office, but he is proving to be no man of the people. Trump has already proposed what appears to be the wealthiest Cabinet in modern U.S. history, a collection of elites that includes a billionaire heiress, ExxonMobil’s CEO, a former Goldman Sachs partner and an investor who made millions off underwater mortgages during the financial crisis."

Tuesday, January 10, 2017
The New York Times says, "Why Mr. [Oliver] Schmidt [formerly Volkswagen’s top emissions compliance executive in the United States] risked arrest by traveling in the United States remains a mystery."  Not to me.  I heard  that he was looking for a position with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017
In an article about WBGO, 88.3 FM, the Newark public radio station devoted to jazz, I learned that it is only the country's second largest jazz radio station.  KKJZ, 88.1 FM, in Los Angeles has almost 40% more listeners, although it serves a smaller population; LA 18.68 million in 2015  vs. NY 20.2 million.   Also, New York is far hipper than Los Angeles (hard to quantify, but readily experienced) with a much richer jazz history.  I see one reason for the disparity.  Cars.  The sprawl of Los Angeles and the lack of a mature rapid transit system put people in automobiles for hours at a time, encouraging radio listening and drive-by shootings.  
In any case, I listen to WBGO now more frequently than any other radio station, even sports talk stations.  Am I finally growing up?

Stony Brook Steve would insist that I haven't grown up, but he agreed to have lunch with me at the awkwardly named Hao Noodle and Tea By Madam Zhu's Kitchen, 401 Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue), a very well-reviewed restaurant at a classic Greenwich Village location, just below West 8th Street.  The boxy space was very attractive, mostly occupied by communal tables.  The two long walls are exposed brick, keeping the sound level high.  A pretty ceiling light fixture resembled a cloud of tiny lights.

As I replied to the hostess when asked, the food was interesting.  Expensive (left unsaid to her), but interesting.  We shared spicy beef with dried orange peel ($16), a small portion of one of the hottest spicy dishes that I have ever had; "Eight spice crispy tofu" ($10), squishy cubes that could have been marshmallows as far as I could tell; sticky rice bacon siu mai ($8 for 4 pieces).  The cheapest pot of tea was $6, which we skipped; a small bowl of white rice was $2.  Had the beef not been so spicy, we might have noticed that we did not have that much to eat.  As we walked through the old streets of Greenwich Village afterwards, we agreed that, in the words of Mother Ruth Gotthelf, this was not "real Chinese food."  

Thursday, January 12, 2107
I was wrong.  It seems that it wasn't a few Russians who determined the results of our presidential election, but one FBI director.  J. Edgar Hoover would be proud.

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