Saturday, April 30, 2016


Au revoir Passover!

So long matza--le pain de l'affliction.

Bonjour croissaints et pain au chocolat!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Not feeling the Bern

"With the Democratic primary basically over, I want to step back a bit and explain the big-picture reason that I never warmed up to Bernie Sanders. It's not so much that he's all that far to my left, nor that he's been pretty skimpy on details about all the programs he proposes. That's hardly uncommon in presidential campaigns. Rather, it's the fact that I think he's basically running a con, and one with the potential to cause distinct damage to the progressive cause.

 I mean this as a provocation—but I also mean it. So if you're provoked, mission accomplished! Here's my argument.

Bernie's explanation for everything he wants to do—his theory of change, or theory of governing, take your pick—is that we need a revolution in this country. The rich own everything. Income inequality is skyrocketing. The middle class is stagnating. The finance industry is out of control. Washington DC is paralyzed.

 But...the revolution that Bernie called for didn't show up. In fact, it's worse than that: we were never going to get a revolution, and Bernie knew it all along. Think about it: has there ever been an economic revolution in the United States?"
-Kevin Drum, "Here is why I never warmed up to Bernie Sanders"

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The commercialization of empowerment

Hillary the Hawk?

I admit, I read the article about Hillary the Hawk and got a little uneasy.  I have been supremely pleased with President Obama's reticence to get us involved in more wars.  Was she really a vulcan, and where would lead us as president?  I am glad to read this piece that looks a bit deeper at the claims of Hillary the Hawk, and gives it a bit more nuance.  Also, this one about her Iraq vote.  Both stories allay my fears a bit.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Paris Pics

Joyeuse Pâques

"Joyeuse Pâques" as they say in France!

Happy Passover! Matzah goes soooo much better with stinky French cheeses and wine.

Mmm...matzah with chevre and pesto is worth fleeing Egypt... and matzah with bleu cheese and honey is worth 40 years in the desert

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Return to Tours

Passing three-armed giant windmills amid fields of spring gold in the French countryside. The low-hanging white clouds dot the blue horizon. The sea of yellow is radiant, and reminds me of a long-forgotten ride from Varanasi to Delhi.

The return to Tours began first with a return to Paris. I flew out in the evening on Iceland Air via Reykjavik to Paris. The stopover in the Icelandic capital reminded my why I am keen to visit the isle of ice. The terrain always looks so otherworldly—in its mix of black soil covered with green-orange moss.

I arrived without incident to Paris Orly and caught the RER train from the station to Invalides, and then the metro on to Le Marais to meet my mother at our AirBNB apartment. She had arrived earlier that morning on a flight via Chicago. It was a rainy afternoon, and we hung out before grabbing some delicious french onion soup and a caprese salad at a nearby cafe.

A bit of jet-legged sleep, and the next morning we feasted for breakfast on some wonderful comte cheese that we had bought the night prior at a local fromagerie. We ate the rich comte on a 7-grain baguette from a nearby boulangerie.

We made our way to the top of Montmartre to enjoy the view across the city. I managed to get out of a hustle by speaking a few words of Wolof to some Senegalese touts trying some bracelet scam. They laughed that I knew a couple key phrases and left us alone. We wandered through the meringue Sacre Coeur, and down Rue Lepic—stopping for coffee at the Amelie restaurant.

We headed over to the area Monceau—the home of the Jewish nouveau riche from a century ago. My mother had read a book about the area and the families that inhabited it. We visted the Musee de Nissim Camondo, which hosted the decorative art collection of the Camondo family. The Camondo family was a wealthy Jewish banking family who had emigrated from Constantinople in the mid-19th century. Moise Camondo was a prolific art collector, and with the death of his son Nissim in the Great War, he willed his extensive collection and palatial mansion to the French state to become a museum. The museum and collection was excellent, and a sombre story as the family perished in Auschwitz.

From here, we headed down to the center of town to take a ride on the Seine on the bateux mouche—the boats that tour the vein of Paris. Neither of us had ever done this tour, and it was a wonderful little tour that offered a different view of Paris.

After the ride, we headed back to the Marais and had a similar dinner of French Onion soup, gnocchi in blue cheese sauce and a warm lentil salad with duck breast.

Saturday consisted of a similar breakfast of rich comte cheese and crusty grain bread. We made our way over to the Jardin de Tuileries to visit the Musee d'l Orangerie to see Monet's waterlilies. These waterlilies were enormous panels that wrapped around the austere grey room. These were some of Monet's finest works, with enormous panels of the lakes in his gardens reflecting the clouds, trees and waterlillies. The rest of the collection of the museum was great too, but this was spectacular.

The rains came back in the afternoon, and after a delicious late lunch of grilled paninis, we headed over to southern Paris to visit the ugly Tour Montparnasse. While the skyscrapper is ugly, the view across Paris is spectacular. Neither of us had visited the tower before, and it was quite a vista.

That has been the trick of the trip—finding different views of Paris that neither my mother nor I have seen prior. We have both been to Paris many times, but between the bateux mouche and Tour Montparnasse, I found a few new experiences, as well as the Musee d'l Orangerie, which she had not visited.

We ended the night in Boulevard Saint Michele in the Quartier Latin. My mom surprised me with her desire for a kabob, so how could I refuse. We wandered our way back across the city, stopping for some immaculate gelato at Amorini—a place I had not visited, but will visit again.

We got ourselves out this morning with the usual Parisian breakfast. We handed back over the apartment key and hopped the metro to Gare Montparnasse. From there, we caught the fast yet smooth TGV train to Tours. The French bullet train sped out of the capital and through endless fields of yellow.

Monday, April 18, 2016

On Choices

"There is no simple choice between the children of light and the children of darkness”
Saul Bellow, in his Nobel acceptance speech

Sunday, April 17, 2016

On the Artist

"Perhaps the primary distinction of the artist is that he must actively cultivate that state which most men, necessarily, must avoid; the state of being alone. That all men are, when the chips are down, alone, is a banality — a banality because it is very frequently stated, but very rarely, on the evidence, believed. Most of us are not compelled to linger with the knowledge of our aloneness, for it is a knowledge that can paralyze all action in this world. There are, forever, swamps to be drained, cities to be created, mines to be exploited, children to be fed. None of these things can be done alone. But the conquest of the physical world is not man’s only duty. He is also enjoined to conquer the great wilderness of himself. The precise role of the artist, then, is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place."
-James Baldwin, "The Price of the Ticket"

On Human Existence

“The sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”
-Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections

Death of a Video Store Salesman

Willy Loman's last VHS lament. The poignant piece on the connections between community and its video store, and the human ties that bound in VHS rentals as the last of the dying industry closed:

"That was flattering and sad, and ultimately all we could do was agree: Yeah, we wouldn't be there. There were tears and gifts and genuine concern (not unfounded) about what my coworkers and I would do to survive, a phenomenon both touching and illustrative of how identified we were with the role we played in their lives. A great video store is built on relationships, in some cases relationships that had gone on for years. Our customers were losing the people who'd helped shape their movie taste, who'd steered them toward things we knew they'd like and away from things they didn't know they'd hate. We were losing the people that we, in our small way, had been able to help. We were all grieving the loss.

Over the years, we'd come to know our customers' tastes, their pet peeves, and their soft spots. Our experience and movie expertise helped us make informed, intuitive leaps to find and fulfill entertainment needs they didn't even always know they had. I've had parents hug me for introducing their kids to Miyazaki and The Iron Giant. Nice old ladies have baked me cookies for starting them off on The Wire. "

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Brazil's soft coup

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff is facing a trumped-up impeachment that looks more like a "soft coup."  Similar to the Republican leadership's impeachment of President Clinton over his immoral dalliances, while they all had their own paramours (except Hastert who had been fondling children), the Brazilian politicians gunning for Rousseff all face far worse charges.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Euro round-up

With all the focus today on the problems in the Middle East, it's easy to forget that for most of the 20th century, Europe was the central US foreign policy problem and the source of massive wars that cost millions of lives. The solution to this problem was European integration — a heavily American project, in large part because it served US interests so well. 
And, broadly speaking, it has been an enormous success. Sure, the European Union spends an absurd amount of time failing to decide things and talking about the proper curvature of bananas or the health effects of chlorine-washed chickens. But such technocratic boredom was always the goal for Europe, and it is an infinite improvement over bombing each others' cities. Europe became peaceful and prosperous, in effect a solved problem after centuries of conflict.

-The Czech Republic may be becoming "Czechia."  Personally, I would go with Bohemia--which has a much better brand association than some unknown construction that is Czechia or Czechlands.  Or just create a union with Slovenia and become: Czechoslovenia.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

The revolution is not coming...

Let’s start by stating the obvious: I agree with Bernie Sanders on almost every policy issue at the macro level. I do, in fact, think the game is rigged for millionaires and billionaires. I like peace. I think his proposed reforms for criminal justice will do more for black and brown people than anything any of the other candidates are suggesting. I think climate change is real, and a real problem.

 What’s more, I like Bernie Sanders. I like irascible New York Jewish liberals, and I would be one if one could choose such a thing. He’s the only candidate running for President this cycle that I would want to have a beer with. But, I won’t be voting for him in the New York Democratic Primary. Bernie
Sanders has failed according to the terms he established for himself. His stated plan for enacting the lofty goals and principles he talks about on the campaign trail is that he will usher in a “political revolution” that will sweep away the entrenched opposition of Republican officials and established Democrats.

After many speeches and debates, I see no “revolution” coming in the poll results. Bernie’s support comes from educated white males, young white women, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and the Screen Actors Guild. That’s not a political revolution, that’s the check out line at Whole Foods."
-Elle Mystal, "I'm with her...I guess"

H/t GM

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

I am

I am—yet what I am none cares or knows; 
My friends forsake me like a memory lost: 
I am the self-consumer of my woes— 
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes 
And yet I am, and live—like vapours tossed 

Into the nothingness of scorn and noise, 
Into the living sea of waking dreams, 
Where there is neither sense of life or joys, 
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems; 
Even the dearest that I loved the best 
Are strange—nay, rather, stranger than the rest. 

 I long for scenes where man hath never trod 
A place where woman never smiled or wept 
There to abide with my Creator, God, 
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept, 
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie 
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.
John Claire, "I Am"

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Auguries of Innocence

To see a World in a Grain of Sand 
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour
-William Blake, "Auguries of Innocence"