Monday, November 28, 2011

Just Because it Quacks Like A Duck.....

There’s a new deli in town called The Rye Delicatessen. Its website announces, “This isn’t your grandmother’s delicatessen - but she would love it. Really.” 

Yeah? Well, neither one of my grandmothers woulda set foot in the place.

edible Bialy
My grandpuppy Bialy 
Nestled amongst the fine line of Jewish delicacies like a bialy (not my grand-puppy but that elusive non-bagel heretofore unknown in this town), lox bagel and cream cheese, corned beef and smoked beef (not pastrami) sandwiches, are those ancient classics  the “KNIFE AND FORK REUBEN - Open faced corned beef or smoked meat, rye, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese,” it’s counterpart the RACHEL - Grilled rye, roast turkey, sauerkraut and Swiss cheese,” the “REUBEN BURGER - Smoked meat, Swiss, russian dressing, kraut, toasted bialy,”  and the perennial favorite of all Bubbes “GRILLED BACON EGG ONION AND TOMATO - Challah, burnt onions.”

Granted,  nowhere on the website does it say this is a kosher establishment but on the home page, down at the bottom, the following quote appears:

“Anytime a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies.” – Milton Berle

What could he possibly say about that challah combo? “Straight to gehenna?”

A review of said new restaurant appeared on a local website, and I gotta tell ya, I was seriously torqued by the review, and subsequently, the reviewer. He waxed rhapsodic about the place as a Jewish delicatessen, and I took exception to that because it’s not kosher. Here’s the link to TCJewfolk’s review of Rye Delicatessen; you can read the article and the “conversation” for yourselves. Usually, I would’ve suggested that his defensive, self-righteous posturing was indicative of a small body part, but in this case, I think it’s his brains, and therein lies the bigger tragedy.

Now, I’ve run on about  marit ayin , (literally ‘appearance of the eye, but really meaning ‘for the sake of appearances’) in the past, and yes, it’s one of my favorite soapboxes.  Just because something looks like a duck and quacks like a duck there’s no guarantee that it can’t be a chicken jerking your chain.

Marit ayin is a highly undervalued, albeit crucially important, commodity. Here we are in the opening salvos of an election cycle and already the photo/video doctors are out in force, twisting images and sentences and expecting the American public to believe whatever their little creative minds invent. Unfortunately the reliable old adage “seeing is believing” is no longer reliably correct. We can no longer trust our eyes to determine whether or not what we see is the truth. And that is certainly the case with our ears. Our technology is now a new tool for propagating lies….and damned lies.

While there is nothing on the Rye Deli website that says it is kosher, there’s nothing that says “kosher style” or “New York style,” both code for letting kosher people know the meat is trefe. It’s easy to be confused unless you really look hard. The political ads are no different.

So I have to ask why. What is the benefit in purposely misleading the public? Is this really just an unintentional stumbling block? Or is there a real desire to be deceitful? Is there a degree of difference between the two, or is there a religious disconnect here?

In the case of the restaurant, they are pretty scrupulous about not saying this place is even remotely kosher; even the pickles are listed as dill, not KOSHER dill, so I have to conclude this deli motif is for the benefit of gentiles looking for an exotic eating experience. I can see where they’re going, but it's still a bit murky and definitely misleading. (Ultimately, my argument was with the critic, not the restaurant…as you already know if you followed the link.)

Not so ambiguous with the campaigns. The recent use of a statement made by the President while running in 2008 has been manipulated by the Romney campaign to make it appear as if President Obama is saying,

"If we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.”

when, in fact, what candidate Obama really said was,  

“Senator McCain's campaign actually said, and I quote, if we keep talking about the economy, we're going to lose.”

Not only is the quote wrong, it’s misleading in a way that should backfire on Mr. Romney’s campaign which refuses to back down or apologize on misquoting the candidate Obama. What does that tell us about the candidate and the people with whom he surrounds himself? I sure as hell know what it tells me, and I'm not too crazy about the message. 

I don’t know about any of you, gentle readers, but my bullshit detector is already running on overdrive and we haven’t even gotten to Iowa or New Hampshire. How do we tell them to stop?

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Remember: shopping at your local, non-big box stores and markets
is best way to keep your neighborhood alive and thriving. 

Wifely Person's Bonus Tip
Wanna do an easy mitzvah? 
Wish my mother "Happy 89th!" on Thursday.

Monday, November 21, 2011

We, The People ~ Thanksgiving Edition

I am not the greatest fan of Thanksgiving. Oh, that’s not to say I don’t celebrate the day along with everyone else; I do.  I did all the usual T-day things: turkey, stuffing, potatoes, gravy. I made my own cranberry sauce, and the pumpkin and pecan pies. Yep, everything except that classic sweet potato marshmallow thing that my guys just hate.

The best of my kiddie Thanksgivings were the ones where my dad hustled us all to Lollipop Farm to get us out from underfoot. Thanksgiving could be what he called a 4-knuckler…which means the number of knuckles my mom could fit in her mouth to keep from hollering at us. If you were having 18 people to dinner in a space the size of a freight elevator, you'd be hollering, too!

The 'houses' at the Rodney
The salmon and his Zayde
After those, the best were at the Rodney on Collins Avenue in Miami Beach which started once we were all grown up and living our own lives. The whole family went…and I mean the WHOLE family. We would take a line of apartments and everyone would be in each other pots for five days or so. The uncles had the annual French Toast-off, there were endless games of Scrabble on the beach, the annual night at Dania Jai-Alai for all the "young" people. For T-day itself, every “house” housed a different course. We cooked like crazy, everybody making one specialty or another. (I did pies.) Siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, out-laws, friends….everyone came; it was quite the crowd. Literally. Of course, my favorite year was that very first one. Unbeknownst to us, we carried back a little souvenir from that first Thanksgiving on the beach and a year later, when we all reconvened at the Rodney, it was with crib, car seat, bibs, diapers, and the joke that the salmon were swimming upstream.

These days, it’s just me and my father-in-law in the house, and I don’t feel much like doing a big Thanksgiving.  Thankfully, my machatunim* live close by, so we go there. It’s a lively table, the his 'n' hers nonagenarian grandpas get to visit and that’s always nice. We are lucky. We have a fine family with whom to hang. We all like each other, there’s no drama except for my grandpuppy’s whining when it’s time to sit down to the feast. The conversation rolls along at a good clip, the food is superb (the rolls are always spectacular because that’s my machutin’s* specialty), and there’s plenty of coffee, tea, and sweets to please everyone at table. 

But like I said, we’re lucky. Very lucky. Too many folks are facing Thanksgiving with uncertainty. Some are saying thanks for having a job, other for still having a job, and some because despite the economy and their circumstance, they still have a roof overhead. And some, without so much as a roof, may be saying thanks because on this day they have a hot meal.

Somewhere along the way We, the People stopped noticing how much we consumed and perhaps, more tellingly, where it all came from. We stopped manufacturing and started importing. We lost the sense of "made in America" and replaced it with "cheap." Our own insatiable demand for stuff fueled this economic bonfire until it raged out of control and now, when faced with a pile of smoldering ash, we want to blame someone else for the destruction.

In truth, we cannot. We own this sagging economy because we allowed it to sag. When we first noticed something was wrong, we did nothing to stop it. We shrugged our shoulders and watched movies like WALL STREET and OTHER PEOPLE'S MONEY. We cheered Edward's redemption in PRETTY WOMAN, but we knew corporate raiders don't have sudden changes of heart. 

So as we give thanks, let’s also be thankful that we still have a voice and a vote. Now all we need is the will to use them.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
If you're making pecan pie, 
try using grade B maple syrup for at least half the brown sugar.

Bonus vocabulary words: Yiddish is the only language with specific words to define the relationship between parents-in-law
                Machatunim: the parents of your child's spouse
                Machutin: your child's father-in-law
                Machatenista: your child' mother-in-law
[This is the gutteral CH as in Chutzpah...which is not pronounced shuts-pa like certain politicians think]

Monday, November 14, 2011

Not Just For Right Wing Irregulars

An odd benefit of being read online is that you sometimes have the odd yet exhilarating experience of email from total strangers. And while many are of the “screw you and the horse you rode in on,” variety, I figure the least I can do if someone takes the time to write to me is to write back. I already know what I think; I’d rather hear what other people think. And a few of these folks have become jolly pen pals.

Janis Joplin

So when a recent exchange with one of my right wing irregulars included the line,  "I still have an hour commute. Janis Joplin on the iPod and it’s raining."  I just had to ask, "Joplin?  This guy?"  Suddenly I suspected things were not right wing as they may have seemed. I countered, "You must've been a radical liberal once, back in the day, when you still had hopes and ideals....when you believed in equal opportunity and the communal good. No one is born cynical and sardonic; that develops with age and experience. What made you change?"

I think I caught him off guard. He said he had to think about that one, and he apparently he did, because a while later he wrote a rather thoughtful response that included the phrase:

For whatever reasons, I came to the conclusion a long time ago that the only person you can rely on is yourself.

Now, I’m probably just as cynical as the next person, but hey! who wouldn’t be these days? We’re involved in two underfunded land wars in Asia (despite Vizzini’s sage advice to the contrary.) Our economy is in shambles. Jobs have evaporated, people are without health coverage, and all too often they’re trying to figure out whether to put food on the table or meds in their mouths. Even hope becomes a precious commodity.

The Republican mantra to deny President Obama a second term doesn’t come with much else besides tax breaks for the superrich... and we already know how well “trickle down” works. Their view of social responsibility does not include recognizing not everyone has disposable income. It seems if you lack that, you become the disposal part. 

And the Democrats, much to my dismay, are posing as poster children for political impotency.

How can you not be cynical?

But do you tell a construction worker who's lost his job that he'll just have to tough it out while there are roads and bridges desperately in need of repair...yet no funding to fix them? Can you say it's okay to reward companies that offshore jobs while pretty much telling the laid off workers, “Sucks to be you?”  Can you force a woman to carrying a child to term, and then let the child languish because there's no available health coverage or plan for education? Can you shout you want less government intrusion but say it's okay to intrude into our bedrooms?

Taking predatory advantage of someone who comes in good faith to get a mortgage is a vicious, morally bankrupt act. People may be generally stupid when it comes to deciphering fine print, but preying on them is expressly forbidden in that Bible book the candidates are always thumping. Stumbling block? Blind? Sound familiar? Oh, wait! There are no metaphors in their literal word world, are there? 

© 2011, Steven G. Artley, ARTLEY CARTOONS

Explain why anyone would want to strip away all environmental regulation.  What? Dumping toxic waste in rivers is suddenly okay?  I guess they’re guessing everyone can afford bottle water. And then, what do you do with the plastic bottles?  And who says our food isn't safe? Just ask the Iowa egg guys, the peanut guys in Georgia, or the cantaloupe grower guys in Colorado. They’ll assure you, scouts’ honor with a cherry on top, that we don’t need no stinkin’ food regulation in this country. Yep. All our food is all perfectly safe.

So here's my question: how do you get to the place where you can look in the mirror and say, “I don’t care what happens to air quality or nuclear waste or kids or the food chain or any of that stuff so long as it doesn't touch me personally?”

Everyone starts out with ideals that include social justice; you learned them in kindergarten when the teacher sent home notes about “works and plays well with others.” Maybe the challenge we face as Americans is re-convincing ourselves that we really do want to live in a society where life is as fair as we can make it, and that there are times when people actually do need help, and those who can should lend a hand.

Everyone has to ask "Can I live with what I do to contribute to the wellbeing of this community and this country?" and everyone has to answer it with brutal honesty. You don’t need to discuss it anyone, but you do have to look yourself squarely in the eye when you’re done and say, “I can live with this answer.”

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Got extra coats? Coat drives abound this time of year.
There are more cold people than available coats.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What? Me Worry?

So, the junior son got a smart phone. As I have previously noted in this space, I do not want a smart phone; I want a dumb phone that rings when someone wants to talk to me. I don’t want it to sing, or speak, or honk or even whistle. I want the damn thing to ring. Is this asking so much?

But this is not about my phone. The kid has offered me his "old" iPod Touch. It’s actually  a pretty new one, and since I already have my iPod, Steve’s iPod (which is much, much lighter than my G1...that Steve gave me...yes, I was an early adaptor) and a Shuffle that I won in a raffle…I figured I could handle an iPod Touch, so I said yes. Then I thought about it a while. Then I called my daughter-in-law and said, “I told him yes…but other than play music, what does the thing do?” She explained in concise, simple terms…which is why I called her and not him...that it has apps. Hmmm. I’ll let you know what 'appens next. At least he's re-purposing the thing...he's giving it to his Troglodyte mother. 

Dr. Grandin's Cow Ramp
Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, I’ve been following the multiple attempts to pass a jobs bill, and with it, an extension of unemployment benefits. This is really interesting stuff. The bills sorta meander through the Washington stock shoot before they get to the slaughterhouse known as Congress. It’s not a pretty sight. None of those really cool curved ramps designed by Temple Grandin for calming livestock. Instead, whoever's written the latest version lobs it over the dome and onto the House floor where it's stomped to smithereens by Congressional pod people whose only interest is in preserving their own temp jobs and bennies. The hell with the rest of the country.

Keeping in mind that Congress's approval rating hovers around 9% these days, (and that's an optimistic figure),here's how I see it playing out:

If you follow the Republican line of thinking, the cessation of benefits is a necessary disaster. Cut off the bennies, all those lazy people will be forced to seek employment even if it's not in their field. Accountants will become farm workers, and factory workers will learn how to work in livestock and slaughter operations. Teachers can learn to flip burgers and clean hotels with great precision, thereby setting fine examples to all the kids coming out of high school and college.

#30 - December 1956
A new labor class emerges. These workers are highly educated and often highly skilled but unable to find jobs commensurate with experience and knowledge. Those entering this new work pool are needed to fill positions vacated by illegal aliens. Now if you're part of this new class, these jobs will get some income into your pocket even if the rate is minimum wage, the hours may not be regular or permanent, and it's unlikely there are benefits like health insurance or vacation days.

The Democrats, on the other hand, know that their approval ratings are equally in the toilet, so they're betting the farm, the factory, the schools, the libraries, and the clinics that the people in their district/state want something "else," so they just stomp on their own ideas in order to look like their fighting for something, only they're not really fighting for anything. They can rant and rave about the need to protect the elderly, the poor, the disadvantaged children, the huddled masses yearning to be free and whatever else they want to parade down 5th Avenue, but the truth of the matter is that they are not standing up for anyone or anything. They are merely enabling those who would be midwife to the birth of that new labor class while looking pathetically helpless. 

These clowns just don't get it. Not the right, not the left, not even the center. 

So don't count on any extension on jobless benefits. The shift of jobs is going to happen, and it will be sooner rather than later just based on the inaction of Congress. Of course, a really good pandemic would significantly help cull the herd.

The Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
The Talmud says it is the responsibility of parents 
to teach each child how to swim and a trade.
If you think about it, these two things are the keys to surviving in an adverse world.