Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Punching the clock

"Our society values work. We expect a job to serve a purpose and to have a larger meaning. For workers who have internalized this value system, there is little that is more demoralizing than waking up five days a week to perform a task that one believes is a waste of time.

It’s not obvious, however, why having a pointless job makes people quite so miserable. After all, a large portion of the workforce is being paid—often very good money—to do nothing. They might consider themselves fortunate. Instead, many feel worth- less and depressed....

The make-believe aspect of the work is precisely what performers of bullshit jobs find the most infuriating. Just about anyone in a supervised wage-labor job finds it maddening to pretend to be busy. Working is meant to serve a purpose—if make-believe play is an expression of human freedom, then make-believe work imposed by others represents a total lack of freedom. It’s unsurprising, then, that the first historical occurrence of the notion that some people ought to be working at all times, or that work should be made up to fill their time even in the absence of things that need doing, concerns workers who are not free: prisoners and slaves."
-David Graeber, "Punching the Clock"

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Gaza and Jerusalem

"I know, I know. It’s considered politically incorrect for me, as an American Jew who spent 15 years of my life in Israel and has recently returned to whence I came, to pass judgment on anything the IDF does.

How dare I? How dare you? How dare anyone who doesn’t live in Israel, who doesn’t live in a community bordering Gaza, who isn’t serving on the front lines right now, suggest we know the first thing about how to contain a riot or respond to a terrorist threat?

So if you’re offended by the very notion that I dare say these things, it won’t matter that I’ve witnessed massive protests in a few different countries on this planet, and feel confident that there is more than one way to contain an angry crowd.

I recognize that this is a flawed analogy on many levels. Mahmoud Abbas is no MLK and Ismail Haniyeh is no Mahatma Gandhi...Protesters in Gaza lobbing rocks and Molotov cocktails or cutting through the fence are far from the textbook definition of "peaceful protesters" engaging in civil disobedience.

But neither do they present a lethal threat to 13 battalions of Israel army forces.

Indeed, to call every teenage protester a terrorist recruited by Hamas bent on murdering Israelis flies in the face of truth."
-Ilene Prusher, "Why is Israel using lethal force against the protesters of Gaza?"

Some other good takes:

-from Ha'artz in its editorial: Stop the Bloodbath.

-The day Trump was crowned King of Jerusalem.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Too Normal

"Too Normal. I had one of those “aha” experiences over the weekend. My wonderful nephew, Ben, graduated from medical school. To be precise, he graduated from the medical school of the University of South Carolina, in the state capital, Columbia.

The ceremony was lovely. Some 85 med students who had worked their hearts out for four years got accolades from teachers. The commencement speaker hit just the right notes. The locals were friendly, and the food was superb. It was as normal as any university setting could be.

But most citizens of this state voted for Donald Trump. And deep racism continues to define the South Carolina ruling elite, as installed by the electorate. Here’s what’s so troubling. Normal daily life coexists all too easily with the destruction of what’s decent in America, in the age of Trump.

Germans, at least those who were not Jewish or gay, must have had something of the same feeling circa 1937 as they went about their daily business in Berlin. The cafes were open, the universities held classes and graduated students, couples got married, babies were born. People went to work, did their jobs, paid their bills.

Some celebrated the dictator, some ignored him. But it was too normal.

Hannah Arendt referred to Adolph Eichmann and his crimes as the banality of evil—“terrifyingly normal.” There is something terrifying about how normal so much of daily life is today. I’ve been at dinners with friends where we congratulate each other at having gotten through a social evening without mentioning Trump.

I’m not saying that daily life and happy ceremonies should be suspended for the duration. But somehow, if we are to rid this nation of Trump, we must keep the menace he represents in our consciousness even as we find joy in life’s pleasures."
-Robert Kuttner, The American Prospect

I have been having similar thoughts to his piece. I was wandering around Philly the day Trump cancelled the JCPOA (Iran nuclear accords), and feeling the same strange sense that something momentously bad had just happened and everyone was still going on about their daily lives--completely oblivious to the tremors.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Sunday roundup

-The Israeli military leadership and security establishment doesn't especially agree with Bibi. Especially on the Iran deal.

-China disregards the incoming sanctions on Iran, and continues its new train route to Tehran  Who is Deng Xio-Gault?

There are just three countries in the world that don't provide mandated time off for new parents: Papua New Guinea Suriname United States of America #MothersDay

-Parenting is often seen through a Western lens, but conceptions can be quite different in other cultures. 

-The bill for motherhood, from the Brookings Institution.

-The subversive side of Mad Magazine, and why we need it again.

-On how weed arrests still skew black and brown.

Kneeling for the National Anthem is an insult to the troops! If NFL players want to protest more respectfully they should simply mock POWs and war heroes with cancer.
-Danny Zuker

-Mike Lupica with a great essay on how America these days is not what McCain fought for.

-And Dana Milbank on how McCain is the single greatest political leader of this age.  He raises a stellar point about McCain at the helm after 9/11.

-Meanwhile, John Kelly needs to give his family tree a good shake.

-The Lexington Herald-Leader on how Trump's foreign visa cuts hurt Middle America and Trump voter in particular.

“The greatest threat to American democracy isn’t communism, jihadism, or any other external force or foreign power,” he continued. “It’s our own willingness to tolerate dishonesty in service of party, and in pursuit of power.”
-Finally, Michael Bloomberg on what really threatens our country: dishonesty among the power that be.


Lentils take a while to cook. Anyone who has made them knows this. Outside of a pressure cooker ala the haldron collider, u can prob expect a good 45 min.

But I had some "miracle" lentils that promised they are ready in 6 min.

So I tried it.

 45 min later they are still cooking.


"Christians have been warning about the Antichrist for 2000 years. So when he finally shows up, they vote for him."

Saturday, May 12, 2018


On America, an Italian immigrant once said:

"I came to America because I heard the streets were paved with gold. When I got here, I found out three things: first, the streets weren't paved with gold; second, the streets weren't paved at all; and third, I was expected to pave them."

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Foreign Policy run by arsonists and liars

The Iran hawks are the new Iraq Hawks.  Something wicked this way comes....

BS Jobs in Academia

No shortage of BS jobs in fair academia...

Bibi puts his foot in it

Culinary Diplomacy done sh-t f-cking wrong: Bibi serves Japan's PM Abe dessert in a shoe. 

There isn't a culture in the world that would consider this an acceptable thing to do to your worst enemy, let alone the prime minister of the world's third largest economy and a culture that values honor above all else.  In days past, such an insult would have led to a Hattori Hanzo sword being brandished.

Bibi is the worst shlemiel and deserves to be tried for crimes against gastrodiplomacy-- among the litany of other offenses of which he is guilty. This inept, bumbling schmuck already put his foot through Oslo and is about to put his foot through the Iran nuclear accords.

Monday, May 07, 2018

North by Northwest

"Russian-backed terror group selects noted international arms smuggler as its new President"
-The Daily Edge

Image may contain: 1 person

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Sunday Round-Up

-How American racism influenced Hitler.

-How public servants are losing their foothold in the middle class in America

-How social media is tangibly spreading hate in South Asia

-The neighborhood of Lil LA in Mexico City that brings a taste of Los Angeles back to the Mexican capital

-The fight between Spain and Mexico over Manchego cheese:

Esteso, whose family have been producing the cheese for four generations, said the word manchego should only be used to describe something with links to the central Spanish region of La Mancha - “like Don Quixote or Sancho Panza”.

Is China becoming a colonial power

Saturday, May 05, 2018


"Every citizen in America should get $130,000 because Donald Trump is fucking us all."

Two Spaces

Scientific proof that two spaces are correct (!).

And we pray....

Not quite "A Prayer for Owen Meany," but for Donny Trump:

Almighty and everlasting God, from whom comes every good and perfect gift, give Rudy Giuliani the gift of discretion. Lead him no more, I beseech thee, to the Altar of Hannity. Grant him the wisdom to know what he does not know, and the courage not to fake it. Give him pause when he would speak about those who say they have lain with me.

Eternal God, ruler of all things in heaven and earth, bring peace to the souls of those who have departed my legal team, some before they began, including Ty Cobb, John Dowd, Joe diGenova, Victoria Toensing, Dan Webb, Tom Buchanan and Marc Corallo. I commend to thy Fatherly goodness those afflicted souls who have fallen in service to me, especially Ronny Jackson, David Shulkin, H.R. McMaster, Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, Tom Price, Steve Bannon, Anthony Scaramucci, Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort and Richard Gates. But not Andrew McCabe.

Deliver me, O Lord, from Robert Mueller, and deliver me no subpoena. Lead me not to plead the Fifth. And of Thy mercy cut off mine enemies, particularly Rod Rosenstein and Adam Schiff. O Prince of Peace, spare me James Comey, for he hath persecuted my soul.

O God, fountain of wisdom, make people none the wiser that I lied about the hush money. Pardon me, heavenly Father, as I have pardoned Scooter Libby and Joe Arpaio.

Almighty God, inspire the evangelicals to remain faithful to me, with everlasting and unlimited forgiveness. Lift up my followers at Fox News, especially Neil Cavuto, who has lapsed.
Forgive me my debts, O Gracious Father, to Michael Cohen, for the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York would notice further payments. Look with compassion on Michael, and inspire him to turn toward you, and not be turned by prosecutors.

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven, heal those who are broken in body and spirit. (Yet do not hesitate to send down on Michael Avenatti a case of laryngitis.) Restore, I pray, the dignity of Sarah Sanders; she knows not what she says. Revive Harold Bornstein from his fragility, and inspire him to take it down a notch.

Watch over Thy child Scott Pruitt, O Lord, and grant him a day without a new scandal. May John Kelly, guided by Thy Providence, cease calling me names. May Marco Rubio complain no more about the tax cut. May Jared Kushner not revise his financial disclosures for the 41st time.

By your grace, hold the tongue and pen of Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and many others, that they grant no further interviews nor write memoirs.

Bless Alan Dershowitz. Raise up Devin Nunes. Strengthen Bibi. And, for heaven’s sake, cut the mustache of John Bolton.

Finally, O Eternal God, grant that my greatness be known throughout this land. For mine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory. Amen.

How to survive your 40s

Not quite there yet, but a good guide nonetheless: how to survive your 40s.


Hansel and Gretel

I exited my apartment to find two pigeons, Hansel and Gretel, in the hallway. I managed to get Hansel out an open window but Gretel has hidden in a crevice under the stairs.

 Hansel is circling the building up above look for his mate, so now I am trying to coax Gretel from under the stairs, down the hall and out the window with a trail of potato chip crumbs.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Gastrodiplomacy Flâneur

My way of dealing with the boring, mundane life in America is wandering aimlessly aisle-by-aisle through the local Vietnamese grocery store--taking in the colorful products and pungent smells that puncture the sterile American landscape. I am a gastrodiplomacy flâneur

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Eggs Maledict

Instead of English muffins, 
Wonder Bread 
Instead of ham, Spam 
Instead of hollandaise, 
Kraft mayonnaise 

Eggs fried instead of coddled

“Eggs Maledict” a poem/recipe by Howard Nemerov (1986)
h/t JJ

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Happy Birthday, Karl Marx

“No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.”
-Karl Marx

Ol' Karl turned 200 the other day.  Worth taking a look back at the man whose ideas would shake the world asunder:

"In 2002, the French philosopher Alain Badiou declared at a conference I attended in London that Marx had become the philosopher of the middle class. What did he mean? I believe he meant that educated liberal opinion is today more or less unanimous in its agreement that Marx’s basic thesis — that capitalism is driven by a deeply divisive class struggle in which the ruling-class minority appropriates the surplus labor of the working-class majority as profit — is correct. Even liberal economists such as Nouriel Roubini agree that Marx’s conviction that capitalism has an inbuilt tendency to destroy itself remains as prescient as ever."

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

False Creek

False Creek, Vancouver 2017
The beauty of photography is that it immortalizes a moment that has long past and been forgotten.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Central Europe Blues

“The young take liberty for granted. They never had to fight for it.”
Marcin Matczak, in NY Times' Roger Cohen's piece on Poland and Hungary's descent into authoritarianism.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Passover Thoughts

Kudos to Abba for a nice selection of readings:
"We still have a long, long way to go before we reach the promised land of freedom.
Yes, we have left the dusty soils of Egypt, and we have crossed a Red Sea that had for years been hardened by a long and piercing winter of massive resistance, but before we reach the majestic shores of the promised land, there will still be gigantic mountains of opposition ahead and prodigious hilltops of injustice...
Let us be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of wealth and comfort from the inner city of poverty and despair shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice.
Let us be dissatisfied until those who live on the outskirts of hope are brought into the metropolis of daily security.
Let us be dissatisfied until slums are cast into the junk heaps of history, and every family will live in a decent, sanitary home.
Let us be dissatisfied until the dark yesterdays of segregated schools will be transformed into bright tomorrows of quality integrated education.
Let us be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as a problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of diversity.
Let us be dissatisfied until men and women...will be judged on the basis of the content of their character, not on the basis of the color of their skin.
Let us be dissatisfied until from every city hall, justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
Let us be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout, “White Power!” when nobody will shout, “Black Power!” but everybody will talk about God’s power and human power."
-Dr. King, August 16, 1967 at the Annual SCLC Convention, Atlanta

Of Time and Freedom: Thoughts on Matza
How improbable that the central symbol of the great event in Jewish history is a cracker! Why matza? When told to "hurry up," Mary Moody Emerson (aunt of Ralph Waldo Emerson) once responded, "Hurry up is for slaves."

Time is the most precious human commodity. If we cannot control our own time, we are not free. We all have obligations, but only a slave has no control over his own time. Matzah represents the forced hurrying of the slave.

Our tradition took this symbol of hurry, of slavery, and made the bread of affliction the symbol of Passover freedom. Israeli scholar Israel Yuval writes: "In the ancient world, the rising and leavening of dough, represented the power of civilization, of human activity, and interference in nature, while the matzah was a symbol of simplicity and primitivism, the bread of the unsettled nomad, and the bread of affliction that lasts a long time."

Pesach is a bracing meditation on time and freedom. In leaving Egypt, there was no time to bake bread. The fleeing Israelites transformed the "hurry up, slave" message of matzah into a declaration of freedom for all humanity.

Time is the most precious human commodity. Let the message of the matzah not go unnoticed - let us not rush through our own lives, lest we become enslaved to our own Pharaoh.

Grain, Water, Zeal, and Spirit
Buff Maniscalco
Bread - "The staff of life." Matzah is the most basic bread, the simplest food made by man. Matzah is a combination of the basic elements: earth, water, air and fire. The ingredients of matzah are flour and fresh water -- nothing more.

Flour from grains. Grains grow from the clay of the earth. Nourished by the sun and the soil. They are cut down and ground into dust.

Fresh water from the sky, appears like manna, a gift from Adonai. When fresh water is breathed into the dusty flour, the sweet sugars hidden in the dough are released.

Yeast, a bacteria found naturally in the air, enters the dough to eat its sweet sugars. Their life span is limited to 18 minutes -- no more, preventing over-population and fermentation of the dough's sweet sugars. The dough is poked and prodded, preventing it from becoming gaseous or puffed up.

Quickly, to overcome the influences and limitations of time, the matzah is baked. Acting with zeal and speed, the matzah is flat, even and humble; the foundation of spiritual growth.

The words "mitzvah" and "matzah" are analogous. As it is said, "When a mitzvah comes your way, do not allow it to ferment." Or simply put, "When the opportunity to do a mitzvah arises, seize it."

As we perform the mitzvah of eating matzah, may we be inspired with; a heightened connection to Adonai, to our world and to each other, steeped with a deep awareness of time, and a greater zeal in all that we do.


"Character is what you are in the dark."
-Dwight L. Moody

Saturday, March 31, 2018

In the Woods

"What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with truth is fundamental but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies and concealment and every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely, spending hours and days stupor-deep in lies, and then turn back to her holding out the lover's ultimate Mobius strip: But I only did it because I love you so much.

I have a pretty knack for imagery, especially the cheap, facile kind. Don't let me fool you into seeing us as a bunch of parfit gentil knights galloping off in doublets after Lady Truth on her white palfrey. What we do is crude, crass, and nasty."
-Tana French, "In the Woods"

H/T Pogo.