Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Never Ending Ask

Now more than ever, even the smallest amounts help, your tax-deductible donation will ensure that you will get email from now until eternity. Both personally and on behalf of the entire organization, I thank you for reading and then deleting our message without making a donation.

My Non-profit friends,

Tis’ the season of the never ending ask. I know, you got to pay the bills. I know that the economy has hurt you.

The reality of the situation is you are better off not showering your limited donor pool with a million emails (and in some cases a hard copy letter) asking for money. Most people make their donations at the end of the year to help out with taxes and the like. But that doesn’t mean most of us don’t have a pretty good idea where we want to make our donations.

I received a message the day after I made a not huge but still not small donation to one particular organization asking me for money. I also got two copies of the exact same ask from another org sent from different people; they used a different email html frame so we wouldn’t notice…I noticed.

To paraphrase the Oscar award winning song:
You know it is hard out here for a non-profit.
When it tryin to get this money for the rent.
For the computers and the electric bill
Because you will have a whole lot of board members talkin about downsizing
Will have a whole lot of board members talkin downsizing…

There is no question that non-profits, especially larger ones with limited relevance in our current world, had a really bad year. With the Dow nose diving, particular individuals running particular “investment vehicles” that turned out not to be anything at all and corporations closing up their charitable checkbooks, it was far from a banner year.

But please stop with all the emails. Pay attention to who is sending you money especially if you say any amount will help, prove it and stop sending further solicitations to those who have supported the cause. Also don’t make the “we are understaffed and over worked” excuse. I know how hard you work. I also know that shot gun blast emails are lazy and can be better targeted with limited work.

I hope you do meet your fundraising goals as well as your organizational ones.

A happy New Year to you all,


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Where naughty is nice

I'm just a Jew, a lonely Jew, on Christmas...

But on Christmas eve I will be enjoying some Heebonism! Last year's party was great (see me at 1:56) and I hope this year's will be a little less great.

Come on down:
105 Eldridge Street
New York, NY 10002
8 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Best Gift of All

My friend Saint Tigerlily paid me a very big compliment today: She called me the only true male feminist she knows. While I am sure she knows quite a few true males, ones of the feministic variety are truly hard to come by these days.

But there are those who try. And especially in this season of giving and joy, it would make sense that people want to look out for one another. We want to show that we care, that men can be in touch with both their feminine side and still take care of their responsibilities. The good folks at CBS Cares wanted to prove that there are just a few men out there who understand, who get it.

Yup that is right; men know when it is best for “their women” to get lady tests done.

Here are the main reasons I was paid this compliment; in our conversation about this unreal video I brought these points:
1. If a woman delivered this message, saying something to the effect of “give yourself a gift of good health this Chanukah and schedule your lady test” it would have been fine and a very smart PSA.
2. The fact that a man is using the possessive —“your woman” — to describe your wife, girlfriend or partner (whatever you may call that person in your life) is as if he was saying: “At this time of year it is good to check your anti-freeze, your smoke detector batteries and your woman’s good parts, because CBS Cares.”

Come on folks! Aren’t we past this kind of pejorative sexist crap? I suppose the entire point is to get men to the point that they would be comfortable speaking to “their women” about female health issues such as cervical cancer. But this isn’t the way to go about it.

Women should have control of their bodies. Men should not tell women what to do with their bodies. (Yeah I am I am talking about that too but we are going to stick to busting on the YouTube thing and leave abortion for another day.)

In the end I suppose more people are talking about cervical cancer, but they aren’t having bagels with shmear anytime soon.

(H/T Jewschool)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Religiosity of Equality

This letter was sent to Senator Diaz’s office yesterday on behalf of the The Reform Jewish Voice (RJV) of New York State. I wrote it as a member of the Steering Committee and boy oh boy was I miffed about Senator Diaz's comment.

Dear Senator Diaz,

You were quoted in the New York Times saying that, “Not only the evangelicals, not only the Jews, not only the Muslims, not only the Catholics, but also the people oppose it.” “It” of course is marriage equality.

Now I cannot speak for all evangelicals, Muslims, Catholics, Jews or any other group you would like to unfairly type-cast as monolithic regressive ideologues. However, I can speak for a significant population of the Jewish community of this state. The Reform Jewish Movement, the largest synagogue movement in North America, has a long history of supporting civil marriage equality and I am offended by your statement.

I am a proud, practicing and religious Reform Jew. I was taught and believe that every human being was created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. This means that all of us, as perfect or flawed as we may be, are entitled to respect and equality. Let this be in the embrace of our community or the eyes of the law.

But even as our tradition embraces same-sex couples as full members of our religious community, we are cognizant that other faith traditions hold differing views on this issue. That is why it is essential that civil marriage laws are not rooted in theology, but in the principle of equal rights. Today, you allowed your generalizations of many faith traditions to rationalize your actions.

Your vote against and vocal opposition of equal rights and protections for thousands of New Yorkers is shameful. But what is worse, is that you assumed the voice of millions of religious people who vehemently disagree with your position.

Senator Diaz, as one religious person to another, please do not speak for me on the religiosity of equality, on the Jewish tradition’s idea of marriage or on how I build a family according to my faith.



Monday, November 30, 2009

Tulsa for Turkey

There was a time in my life that I believed that Thanksgiving was not a holiday but rather a place where one went, ate too much and pretended to play football like the pros (until someone got hurt). This was a great time filled with family memories, inside jokes and lots of food. And then turkey sandwiches for a snack after football.

But this rosy picture of familial harmony has long since disappeared and Thanksgiving is no longer that place of over eating, laughs and all-but-assured back injury. But over the past three years Thanksgiving has once again become a place for me and that place is Tulsa.

Getting married comes with lots of bonuses, like sharing the holiday visiting schedule. In our arrangement, my family is visited during Passover and my lovely wife’s family is visited on Thanksgiving. This set up has worked for the past few years and looks like it will hold true for many more to come.

While we don’t play football, nor do I know all of inside jokes, for the most part the overeating is a constant.

In previous trips to Tulsa I went to a Monster Truck Rally and got married. But this time the only reason to be in the fine state of Oklahoma was for Turkey, and celebrating our freedom and the historic oppression of Native Americans (which is pretty funny considering the location).

But in all seriousness, this day of copious consumption is not complete without pie. Many people will disagree with me on this point, saying that turkey is the most important or perhaps stuffing or even the sweet potatoes with marshmallows (which is often referred to as pie but not the kind I am talking about here).

Yet they are wrong.

Thanksgiving is always in need of pie. See even Saint Tigerlilly agrees with me. Pie is key.

We meet up with one of the seven of you who read this thing because his family also lives in Tulsa. After attempting to sit and talk at three different bars and the one we found forced us our through audio based torture, we headed over to what can only be described as a Midwestern Mecca of pie. For those of you familiar with Davis, it was Tulsa’s take on Baker’s Square (In fact it is owned by American Blue Ribbon Holdings which also owns Baker’s Square.) The Village Inn on Harvard in “midtown” Tulsa served me my first pie of this Thanksgiving season.

It was not even close to traditional but this cacophony of sugar, chocolate and peanut butter spoke to my soul and fulfilled my need for crusty goodness. I could eat another piece of that Peanut Butter Cup Pie right this second if only there was a place like the Village Inn here in New York City, but alas I will have to wait until next year.

I missed out on the pecan pie until Saturday night while doing some leftover eating and college football watching. This pie from some local bakery was so damn good. The custard was perfect, extremely sweet but not to the point it hurts your teeth and the crust was flaky but still moist. The pecans were also good but really we know this pie is all about the goop of nutty custard and that was stellar.

See while my pie consumption was not over the top, the rest of my holiday eating was up to par with American standards. I ate so much on Thanksgiving that I had to walk around the block three times. Thus I was unable to enjoy the desserts on that night, but I made up for it. The trip to the Village Inn accompanied by a slice of pecan pie fulfilled my holiday obligation of confectionary thanks giving.

I am going to make a pie this weekend in honor of the wonderful pies I had when I went to that place called Thanksgiving. Until then my pie eating friends, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

First Published on Jewcy: DC Catholics Screw Poor Because of Gay Marriage

First Published on Jewcy

"The Catholic Archdiocese of Washington said Wednesday that it will be unable to continue the social service programs it runs for the District if the city doesn't change a proposed same-sex marriage law, a threat that could affect tens of thousands of people the church helps with adoption, homelessness and health care." - The Washington Post

The Catholic Church does not want to be forced to give benefits to gay people, so they are offering an ultimatum: See the world our way, or else we will abandon our city contracts and the most vulnerable members of society.

I am not Catholic, poor, in need of adoption or health care. I don't live in D.C.; I am straight and married. But I am so disappointed in the Archdiocese, sorry for the millions of people who rely on their services and furious on behalf City Council officials who are now forced to choose whether to support equality or support those in need.

This is anti-religious and an affront to people of conscience everywhere.

As a Reform Jew committed to the concept that all people are created B'tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, I do not agree with the Church's position on marriage equality but I understand it. But this ultimatum, this repulsive rejection of its mission of serving those most in need is something I cannot understand or ever respect. I cannot believe the Archdioceses would actually ignore its chosen obligation to serve the poor in favor of hate. The Catholic Church's power should not be leveraged in this way; it is almost Roman in approach.

I just don't understand why you can't be completely against civil marriage equality and maintain city contracts to serve the poor. It is not like they don't serve LGBT members of the community already. Of the thousands of people who work for the Archdioceses there are bound to be a few gay or lesbian social workers, a bisexual or transgender cook in a soup kitchen. It isn't impossible to believe a gay homeless man sleeps in a Catholic shelter when the temperatures drop.

People of conscience must speak up against this horrific abuse of power. It is shameful that religious people who believe one way will allow their beliefs to deny vulnerable children, sick families and mentally ill individuals the services that are also integral aspects of their religious belief system.

I, for one, am totally revolted by this power play.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dr. Ruth Sits with Sean Thibault


So my friend Sean wins the line of the year award which can be heard in this video:

"Jewish sex is my preference over non-Jewish sex."

Detention isn’t good enough?

After growing up a bit and learning that while fun it is a waste of food (and there are starving children around the world and in our backyard) I have come to see a food fight as a bad thing. But it isn’t a criminal act.

Except on the South Side of Chicago.

The New York Times reported that after an epic food fight that would have gone down in the bff notes of yearbooks around Calumet middle-school as “the food fight of 2009” resulted in 25 arrests of children between the ages of 11 to 15.

I suggest reading the article. Done? Great welcome back.

Now I thought the arrests were because the apples were really hard and people were getting hurt, possibly an orange had exploded and got into the eyes of another student or staff member. Nope. This was because the school police and teachers could not get it under control and called for back-up.

I am not from Chicago, nor do I live there but I can’t imagine that the kids in the Windy City are all that different from students in other big cities. The teachers couldn’t stop a food fight so they called back-up. Then the campus police (those are real cops) couldn’t stop it so they called more cops…unreal.

School, while no place for violence, is a place of learning and safe experimentation. What the hell are these kids going to learn about authority if they are arrested for a food fight? Are we going send a kid to the pokey for drawing on his desk or for not keeping the locker room clean? This is just such an unbearable over reaction that will only serve to screw up the kids. We had our fair share of suspensions and expulsions at my middle-school but I believe the only arrest was for a gang banger who was collared for possession with intent. (He had intent too.)

Officials at this school need to take responsibility and stand before that judge and respectfully ask for the charges to be dismissed. This all took place at one of those highly regarded Charter School too, so much for a better education via diverting state money to private institutions.

Kids will do what they can get away with. Adults are supposed to show restraint, not abuse their power and set a meaningful example. Great job Calumet middle-school setting the bar so high.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small Town Charm

After more than five years of active resistance I raise my white flag and say out loud (or at least online) that I like country music. Rascal Flats, Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Josh Gracin, Sugarland, Lady Antebellum and the rest of those gracing the screen on GMC and CMT. It is catchy, it is relaxing and it is fun to sing along with the stars of Nashville. It is also so unbelievably condescending to my and a majority of Americans’ life-style.

My favorite song is “Boondocks” by Little Big Town. As you can imagine, the song glorifies the benefits of growing up in a small town. I really love this song. I challenge anyone to not want to sing along after hearing it a few times. But the glorification of the “simple” life in small town America is fantasy.

Most people in this country live either in cities or suburbs. And for good reason: a vast majority of the wealth, culture, medical services, transportation and country music is found in and around these population centers.

Granted New York City isn’t for everyone but the glorification of New York via song always has the “it is nasty but it is home to me” mentality that is so clearly missing from the Boondocks and other “small town is better” country songs.

A few weeks back 30 Rock traveled south to find “real American” comics. But to Jack Donaghy’s eternal dismay, small town simple folk suck just as much as big city slickers. Ah the truth through popular culture.

But more than the primetime parable from NBC’s critically acclaimed and viewed only by New Yorkers show, small towns have nothing to offer besides being the subject of country songs and escape plans in high school movie classics.

Nothing is instilled by a small town. There is nothing in the water in these places (well sometimes there is mercury).

The Conservative Revolution that has taken place in our society over the past 25 years has created a false sense of safety that “traditional small town values” complete with 1950s style gender roles, an omnipotent Church and a small, feeble government will protect the true American way of life.

Wow is that stupid.

What makes America strong is the commitment to progress. Going backward -- which is what these small town activists want -- does nothing to help support the American Dream. American character is instilled by caring families, dedicated teachers, strong relationships with friends and in many cases meaningful religious experiences.

These things aren’t found only in small town America. These experiences are fostered by individuals and communities dedicated to the preservation of progress and betterment. The American Dream is no longer about white picket fences but making the world a better place for our children so they in turn can do the same for their kids.

So really this isn’t an indictment of country music, just the fantasies some of its most noted artists continue to propagate. Yet some of the other themes present in the best country music also support the above described American character building exercise.

Sugarland’sBaby Girl” kind of hits it perfectly (and it is almost as catchy as “Boondocks”). Singing to her mom and dad, Jennifer Nettles belts out:
Whaddya know, we made our dreams come true.
And there are fancy cars and diamond rings,
But you know that they don't mean a thing.
They all add up to nothin' compared to you.
Well, remember me in ribbons an' curls.
I still love you more than anything in the world...
Your baby girl.

Her parents’ support and love helped her become a star. Not the small town or the city life or anything else. It was dedicated parents who can live in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Marlin, TX, Adams, TN or Bayboro, NC. The support of her family, friends and teachers is what made her great (oh and a good singing voice…).

Monday, October 26, 2009

Living with Intention Takes more than 140 Characters

I like to use Twitter. I tweet about what is going in my life, a funny joke, some political ranting and even about dumplings. But Twitter often is a bit over whelming and has some serious limitations. Outside of the brevity of the commentary, tweeting often leaves me feeling somewhat removed from what it is that I am either tweeting about or reading about via Twitter. It creates a disconnect between what is actually happening and figuring out how to truncate the story into short 140 character descriptions.

Recently I have been reading and hearing more about trying to live intentionally. Rabbi Josh Strom of New York discussed the difficulty of living “in the right now” during his Yom Kippur sermon:

It was a blistering hot afternoon in Manchester, Tennessee, the final day of the 8th annual Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The What Stage … featured Grammy-winning soul and R&B artist Erykah Badu….Towards the end of her set, she spoke to the tens of thousands gathered on that Tennessee farmland. She looked out at the crowd and said, “Let’s just be here right now. No thinking about the past, no thinking bout the future. Just here. Just now.” And she concluded with the words, “I’m so glad to be with you, right here, right now.”

And I thought, “Yes!” I think I might’ve even shouted out something to the extent of, “That’s what I’m talking about!” This was something I’d been thinking about for quite a while. Over time, it had become sort of an unofficial thesis or mantra, if you will, something I knew I wanted to speak about for these High Holy Days. And here, standing in the overpowering sun of rural Tennessee, I shared a moment with Erykah Badu. Clearly, we were on the same wavelength.

I was so pumped, so fired up by this connection, this shared passion for trying earnestly to be here and now, that what did I do? I took out my Blackberry and wrote a little memo to myself, quoting Erykah so that I wouldn’t forget it. So moved, so jazzed up was I about being nowhere but in the moment, that I knocked myself right out of it with my electronic leash.

Yeah we all do it. I even live-tweeted the Dumpling Festival eating contest last weekend. It was a blast and I feel like nothing was lost on those who didn’t make it down to the festival but read about it via Twitter. The event, while supporting an important and complicated cause, was light in content. Shoving dumplings in one’s mouth really doesn’t necessitate in depth commentary.

This week JStreet is hosting its first national conference in Washington, D.C. This gathering of advocates and activists is a real accomplishment of the nascent pro-Israel, pro-Peace org and should be well documented by the press and those in attendence. However in the first few hours of this event, my Twitter feed and many of the blogs I read regularly were inundated with tweets and posts about every little detail of what was happening.

I asked, via Twitter of course, if anyone was actually attending the event to attend the event or were they only there to tweet about it. In this case, you really need that in depth commentary. You need to think about your answers and react carefully. I played into the problem and for that I apologize. But live-tweeting this event pulls you away from the seminar. It must make it harder to pay attention to the people speaking and nearly impossible to learn from them.

In an article in TechCrunch, Paul Carr wrote about a similar situation at a recent exclusive Weezer concert, sponsored by MySpace. He remarked that the "kids" and the MySpace invited dignitaries all were laden with smart phones, ready to document the event live and in real time. Here are the most important aspects of his piece:
…What were we all doing? Filming and tweeting and checking in rather than just putting our phones away and enjoying the gig. Why does the world need two thousand photos of the same band on the same stage, all taken from a slightly different angle? That kind of 360 degree imagery might have been useful on the day Kennedy was shot – not least because it would have kept Oliver Stone quiet – but for a Weezer gig? And what’s the point of checking in on Foursquare at a ticketed event that no one else can get into. You might as well tweet “I’m a dick” and be done with it.

And yet this real-time mentality – pictures/tweets or it didn’t happen – continues to seep into every aspect of our lives, both personally and professionally. Whereas once we might attend a conference to watch the speakers and perhaps learn something, today our priority is to live blog it – to ensure our followers know we’re on the inside; first with whatever news might be broken. And it’s not just journalists doing the live-blogging, but anyone with a laptop and a wifi connection.

So what happens when we tweet to prove existence? Will speakers be reduced to carefully crafting easily tweeted statement and killer sound bites? Will bands cut jam sessions so to provide the right length for direct upload to YouTube? I highly doubt Lincoln’s debates with Douglas could have been cut down to 140 character segments.

The existential tweeter is in for some troubled waters. If you tweet to prove it happened, then what is happening is diminished and therefore you are diminished. A vicious cycle really.

My mom, someone I respect deeply as an intellectual and communications expert, regularly says “ACH these people have too much time on their hands” when discussing a blogger or tweeter. In many cases I believe she is right. But perhaps the segmentation of time into 140 character tweets and witty blog posts (such as this one) actually cuts our time making it much shorter and less meaningful. (but not this blog post…please keep reading my blog.)

The real-time, right-now mentality makes it very hard to live intentionally. This isn’t anything revolutionary, but it struck me as strange today that so many advocates for Israel and peace when presented with such a rare opportunity to be taken seriously in a large group with real power in Washington, chose to tweet about it as opposed to action in the moment. The real power isn’t in the tweet, but in the people and the voice.

Social networking is great for great distances, but living intentionally is paramount to a political struggle, a great concert or even learning something from a blog post about living in the moment.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dumplings Fight Hunger

On October 24, 2009 a group of men and women gathered on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to join together in battle. With over a thousand people in attendance in the Sarah D Roosevelt Park, we the men and women of the fight gathered to eat way too many delicious Chef One Whole Wheat Organic Chicken Dumplings.

I clearly joined this battle for social justice; aiming to eradicate the horrific hunger problem in our wonderful city. It is shameful that millions of people are hungry or at risk of hunger in the richest city in the richest country in the world. 1 in 5 children in this city suffer from hunger related issues on a daily basis. It is wrong and I knew I could do something about it.

So I ate some dumplings and so did about 75 more of my newest friends.

The New York City Food Bank helped organize the first ever Dumpling Festival in New York City. With generous sponsorship from Chef One, the festival and eating contest raised many thousands of dollars and a ton of awareness about the issues surrounding hunger in the city.

I arrived at our battle station at 11:45 am to register and sit quietly. I met some of the most seasoned professional eaters in the business and got some tips on how to take down as many of those little meat packets as possible in our two minute time period. I listened. We laughed. Big Will the Champ (pictured right), a Tweep friend of mine, gave me some pointers about how to be a bad ass and also eat lots of food quickly.

And then it got serious. After a mandatory reading of the wavier we all signed by the PR folks at Chef One and an optional bathroom trip (also facilitated by the PR folks at Chef One; they think of everything) we were getting ready to go into the heat of struggle.

I was lucky enough to be in the first wave of men to hit the stage. But before I went up I spoke briefly with a Food Bank staffer regarding his feelings about an eating contest to benefit hunger awareness. He said, all the things you would expect but the fact of the matter was, he explained, that Chef One’s parent company TMI donates more than two tons of food a year to the Food Bank as well as monetary donations. This is significant cash and their food is good, some of it very healthy and nutritious. So in the end everyone wins.

As I marched onto the stage a woman from Florida (the MC) walked down the line to introduce the warriors against hunger. I was number six and my supporters numbered three (My lovely wife, Rachel R and Sapana S) until I said something clever and two people in the back started cheering for me as well. I liked them, outside of the fact he was wearing a Yankees hat; all is forgiven on dumpling day.

At the sound of the air horn, we started eating. Pro-Eater "Furious" Pete Czerwinski (he is Canadian) eating next to me had finished an entire bowl of 20 before I had polished off five. Those suckers turned into cement in the mouth. That was when I slowed down just bit, to enjoy these very tasty little bites of dumpling goodness. Took a sip of water and went back to it.

In the end I put down 18 bad boys. I believe I came in fourth in my heat and definitely did better than the worst. The other guy next to me, almost hurled and got a little dumpling on my arm but that wasn’t even close to as bad as the Canadian who dumped two bottles of water on his dumplings so to better shovel more into his mouth. He ate 52 of them in two minutes to come in second over all and the now four time champ "Gentleman"Joe Manchetti put down 53 (also pictured right) to win again. A first timer in the women’s division put down 40 to win it for the females.

All in all it was one of those crazy days on the battlefield of New York. I don’t believe I will be entering another eating comp anytime soon but I will continue to help the Food Bank of New York and our other local hunger fighting organizations in our battle to bring tasty and delicious food to those who need it in our city.

Friday, October 23, 2009

THIS JUST IN: dumpling contest will be held on Rain or Shine

I just got the final instructions from the Dumpling Eating Contest that will benifit the New York City Food Bank.

See you tomorrow!

Dear Contestant,

Congratulations to be one of the final contestants for the 6th Annual Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest, please don’t forget to bring the confirmation letter along with a valid picture ID on the day of the contest, and be at our Contestant Booth no later than 12:00PM this Saturday.

Time: 11 AM – 3:00 PM, 10/24/2009 (Saturday) at the NYC Dumpling Festival

Location: Sara D. Roosevelt Park, Downtown Manhattan, NYC (Between E Houston
Street. & Chrystie Street., right across Whole Foods Bowery store)

Direction: Take F or V train to 2 Ave, exit near E Houston Street (As it is very difficult to find parking in the event area, public transportation will be recommended)

Contact Info: In case you can’t locate our venue on the day, please contact Jenny at 1-800-Dumpling (editor's note: not really but still fun)

Please also be informed that Tang’s Natural Whole Wheat Chicken Dumpling will be used for the contest. Tang’s Natural product is now available at Whole Foods in case you would like to practice at home.

Please also be reminded that there is no refund for the registration if you fail to show up or violate the contest rules and regulation on the contest.

Should you have any questions, please kindly let me know.


Oh yeah it is on!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fighting hunger by eating a lot, fast

There are a plethora of ways to fight hunger in our society. You can volunteer at your local soup kitchen. You can serve a hot lunch to isolated seniors like I did last weekend with Project ORE. You can advocate for smarter allocations of funds to food stamp and school lunch programs. You can donate food stuffs or money to a neighborhood food bank.

Or you can eat as many dumplings as you can put into your mouth in two minutes.

This Saturday I will take part in the 6th Annual Chef One Dumpling Eating Contest. This event will benefit the New York City Food Bank. Last year the three time champ Joe Menchetti put down 66 dumplings taking first place, $1000 prize money and a year’s worth of bragging rights. That is 1.81818 dumplings per second in case you were wondering. (For those of you who don’t click on links, this link goes to an ESPN radio station…yeah eating is so a sport)

But Joe, you better watch your back. This may be my first competitive eating event and I might not be able to stuff half as many dumplings in my mouth at a time as you can, but boy oh boy do I hate the fact that millions of people —-and one in five children (!!!)—- in the richest city in the richest country in the world go hungry. So you better believe I am coming after you!

In the very unlikely event that I place in this contest I promise to give a significant portion of my winnings to the New York City Food Bank and I will use the rest to pay for a personal trainer.

So, if you are in New York City this weekend and are looking for something to do, come cheer me on at the festival. I will be hopefully wearing a dumpling contest shirt but if not I will wear a “The dcc Fights Hunger by Eating Dumplings” shirt, possibly a hat too. (Replicas will be made available by order only)

The sixth annual dumpling contest will take place this Saturday, Oct. 24 during the first-ever New York City Dumpling Festival, presented by Chef One.

Saturday, Oct. 24 1 p.m.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park
E. Houston Street, New York, NY (between Chrystie and Forsyth)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Spoofing the First Amendment

Generally, I have a good idea of how to make fun of a situation in which most people are offended. But I must say I am stumped.

Last week the JTA reported that The Pamphlette, a student run humor magazine at Reed College in Oregon had to apologize after this headline: “LC students kill Jewish people.” The article started:
"In what is being called a 'tragic, but all too predictable' event, the staff of The Leaphlette, a student humor publication at Lewis & Clark College, have been accused of rounding up and gassing all of the Jews on their Portland, OR, campus."

Yeah so this is strange right?

The story behind it was about an overreaction to another somewhat less offensive satirical take on Anne Frank done by the publication that some folks at Lewis & Clark’s above mentioned The Leaphlette enabled “real genocide.”

While not that funny, it does prove a very good point…college students are idealistic numb-sculls who live in a world where nothing they do actually matters until it interferes with donorsthe First Amendment is powerful and must be respected. It also proves that when you are fighting those who satirize for a line on their resumea living you must be prepared to be hit back.

The only funny thing here is that the president of the Reed College didn’t stand up for his students’ right to publish very stupid, ill-informed and inflammatory statements. This wasn’t the student paper, it was a humor rag. Students, faculty and staff didn’t think this really happened. Nor do they think it should happen. Satire is intended to make you think.

Being offended is part of the deal of the First Amendment.

While this is in extremely poor taste, there is nothing wrong with this situation.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bitchslapping Bourdain (and Chang)

Like every writer needs an editor, every critic needs a critic. And who more needs a swift kick in the gastronomy than venerated bad boy of food, book and travel than Anthony Bourdain?

His bombastic lexicon thickened with flour, butter and years away from the line and in the spot light has placed this man in my crosshairs. His insistence to pretend he is still just one of the artists—complete with thumb wedding ring close ups and rejection of our rejection of disbelief needed for such a travel log—make him such a prime target. The insistent, pretentious and down-right silly hate he displays towards those who have destroyed cooking in America is somewhat misplaced. Just like his time in the kitchen high as a kite, we all need gateway drugs to get into the harder stuff. Clearly his ratings and nominations prove that America food-addicts are now shooting up when they used to only get the Yum-o munchies.

He gets to be such a prick and no one on his show or even the direct target of his ire (The Food Network) calls him out on his prickiness. But this Ten Things Bourdain (and David Chang) hate thing is just too much for me to ignore (because I know you all were waiting with baited breath until I made my judgment).

I first read the rants of these wunderkinds a few days back and my dad sent it to me again today and now I am done. I like Momofuku, even its “I am cooler than you and serving your food while wearing a dirty yet ironic t-shirt that cost more than my rent for that shanty in Brooklyn” scene. I watch Bourdain’s show religiously, read one of his books and believe he has one of the best gigs in the world. But Bourdain and to lesser extent Chang need to stop talking or prove something.

I still like tuna tartar even if it is passé and possibly less than environmentally sound. I will continue to enjoy the belly of most animals when served to me roasted. (On that note all should head to Resto and try their Lamb Belly Ribs, fantastic). Your holier than thou opinion matters not if you can’t put forth something better.

You complain and yet Chang, you are still serving Pork Belly and Bourdain, your safe haven of the Travel Channel is widely expected to be purchased by the Food Network…what will you two iconoclasts do?

If I were to guess (‘cause that is the point of a blog: write authoritative statements with no back up) Chang will continue to serve trendy Pork Belly and Bourdain will continue to jet around the world on the company dime, not matter who is running it.

Bourdain and to a lesser extent Chang are like those popular kids in high school who would do really trendy shit and then, when someone called them on it, would say they always did it but won’t anymore because dorks were now doing it.

The hipster attached at the hip mentality of these two culinary stars is pretty sad. I just wish someone besides meaningless bloggers and vapid Food Network personalities would take these guys one and tell them to put up or shut up. Doubt it.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

May we one day live in a world where everyone has that privilege

From a Friend on Facebook: on this national coming out day: thank you to everyone in my life who has made it possible for me to be honest about who i am and who i love. may we one day live in a world where everyone has that privilege.

Civil rights are some of those things that are often and easily rationalized away. As a straight married man, I have a unique prospective when it comes to LGBT rights in this country.

It would be very easy to do nothing and give nothing to bring about equality for the LGBT community. I could very easily say that I support the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (which is so hot right now) and not call the White House to complain. I could easily believe that everyone should have the right to get married and then not act upon the calls to action when bigoted legislation like Prop 8 are proposed. But I don’t. Most of the time.

Yeah sometimes I delete the Victory Fund emails and the Human Rights Campaign legislative alerts. I was a member of HRC’s PAC but ended my subscription (granted I was broke at the time). But for the same reason that my prospective is unique, I easily become complacent about the inequity of our country’s current legal view of gay folks.

Those pesky civil rights getting all easy to take for granted.

The LGBT rights movement in this country should have the same mojo as the civil right movement had in the 1960s. In that I wasn’t around during that time, I only know what I know from history books: all the white people in the North (each and every one of them) were so in favor of ending Jim Crow in the South that they were willing to send almost no one to the March on Washington to prove it or work in the South to stand for equality...

But seriously now, when we look back on this period of time will we be proud of our actions or will we create an apocryphal history to hide the fact that California, while voting in mass numbers for one of the most liberal presidents in a while, acted to codify discrimination in its state constitution? Will we be pleased with how we stood up to the teabagging-small-government-except-in-your-bedroom numbskulls or will we paint a picture of how these bigoted, ignorant, followers of Glen Beck were just one of many points of view that helped make our country stronger?

So on this National Coming Out Day I am coming out for civil rights…no more talking or painting pictures.

Friday, October 9, 2009

One more unsolicited opinion on the Peace Prize

Peter Lindholm: I have a vision of peace! Can I have one too?! I've officially done as much to promote peace as Obama so mine should be in the mail :) From President Obama's Facebook feed

According to my LinkedIn profile, I too have won the Nobel Piece Prize... I won it for carrot cake and apple pie. But today we learned that the President of these United States won the award for his vision and oration.

This makes as much sense as my faux culinary awards.

I voted for President Obama in the primary and the general. I knocked on doors in Pennsylvania, called lots of people in Ohio, Florida and Nevada and organized trips during the primaries. I was pulling for him since I heard him speak at the 2004 Nominating Convention.

But this award doesn’t work for me.

In recent weeks media outlets have started asking if President Obama is loved by all and feared by none. This is a problem considering the situations he has to deal with as the leader of this country. We are at war with some pretty nasty people. We have a gnarly economic situation to fix with people who need to fear the power that is fixing the problem. The healthcare crisis in this country is going to bankrupt us if we don’t change it now but Congress is dragging its collective feet.

Without the big stick, speaking softly is pretty boring.

This is only complicated by this Prize. It used to mean something. You used to have to sign a treaty or something, end a war, establish meaningful change for a group of people, you know get something accomplished. Awards are for accomplishments.

But now we see people win the Peace Prize for increasing awareness about climate change or inspiring hope. I get it Nobel people: we didn’t like President Bush either, but stop cheapening the Prize. One day President Obama may be worthy of the Nobel Committee’s praise but today, less than a year into his presidency with little accomplished outside of some killer speaking engagements, he doesn’t deserve this Prize.

Flying to Stockholm is nice this time of year, but perhaps he should focus on the wars, the economic issues, healthcare and maybe winning another Grammy instead of being awarded for his vision.

I am all for cheering the success and defending the failures of our President, but honoring nothing is a waste of time and devaluation of the Prize.

But what the hell do I know?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Feigning Sadness

So Gourmet is shutting down its test kitchens, recalling its correspondents and stopping the now-digital presses. Hundreds of thousands of foodies around the epicurean capitals are throwing themselves to the ground, donning sackcloth and ash to pontificate on the meaning of food journalism in the wake of this tragedy for which the same foodies are directly responsible.

This ad still pops up when you leave the wonderful Epicurious website (owned by the same folks who just shuttered Gourmet in case you didn’t know). It asks us free-riding foodies to put down just $1 an issue for two great food mags. But clearly we didn’t do that. Closing the magazine, firing its unmatched staff and saving some trees is about revenue.

So all of the digital shiva calls, the what I am sure will be many late night tweets maligning the decline of culture as we know it, and email recipe exchanges in honor of Ruth Reichl are just for show. If you were a subscriber to the magazine over the last two years, which I doubt considering that its year-to-date ad pages were down nearly 50%, you are entitled to your piety party. But the rest of us, we deserve this and were the only people who could have stopped it.

Good bye Gourmet, I will miss the pop-up ad when I close Epicurious the most.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Selfish Food

He suggested that while it’s “very bourgeois” to constantly talk about food, it’s also very bourgeois to criticize people’s enjoyment of talking about food.

“I mean, I get it. I understand the douchy aspects, I really do, and your little super-artisanal South Brooklynite can make anyone want to kill themselves,” he said. “But if you have things that captivate your interest, then whatever. Go ahead and talk about 800 varieties of cheese, or be some asshole talking about how he kills pigs in his
own backyard. Go for it! Have a blast! It’s nothing to hate on.”

So perfect

Sometimes people just nail it right on the head and you can’t say it any better.

The above quote is from the very funny and spot on article exploring the yuppie New York City food obsession. My very cool and hip mother sent me this post; I bet she found it on her Twitter feed. Joe Pompeo of The New York Observer interviews 20s and 30s somethings from around the city to find out why they are no longer talking about important things like sex in favor of talking about other things with which they stuff their mouths.

And while the article is tongue-in-cheek about the cultural shift about eating, it also honestly exposes the selfish nature of our foodie and foodiot (exactly what you think) mentality. It is a critique of not only the stupid blogs like this one but also a more penetrating observation. The picture accompanying the article online is a photo of Boulud and Maccioni sitting at a classically French appointed dining table at Le Cirque. The caption reads: “Back when dining was fine, not ‘mine’: Daniel Boulud and Sirio Maccioni at Le Cirque in 1990.”

Food, like all good things, is better when enjoyed with others. But when we cut out people because they don’t like escolar or really enjoy a Big Mac, foodies fail. We food snobs of the world have an obligation to know better than to judge based on norms. I mean some of us cook and eat pig head. I think it is fair to say that seems kind of nasty. (It tastes pretty damn good though.) Then again some foodie type people I know have an obsession with Popeye’s Chicken...well just one and no, it isn’t me. You know who you are...

I suppose the quote with which I started this post sums it all up: Yeah it is smug to talk about your farm-to-plate mentality, but it is also smug to judge those who talk about it. But go deeper: This is about life-style and culture and class.

Over the last five years of so, people have started to spend significant sums of expendable income on food as entertainment, as cultural exploration and for bragging rights. It isn’t the first time this has happened in the United States. (If you want to learn more about that, head to your local library and pick up The United States of Arugula.)

But this time it isn’t just the rich doing it; it is the struggling artist who is paying for the artisanal cheeses and farm fresh lamb leg at the hip new place run by that chef we all know from somewhere. The food space is where the rich aren’t emulating the artist for cultural advancement; rather the artist is emulating the rich.

There are about a million problems with the way we eat in this country and even our new hip and earth friendly food mentality. But we can’t forget this is a class question. What and where we eat is 100% based on our class and how we choose to express it. We are lucky to have the option of terrine of pig head or Popeye’s chicken in this country. In reality the cost (not, the time of course) is pretty close. To say that you had a slow cooked meal with friends and family is not just a statement of fact, but a statement of values. These are class values: how we spend time, money and energy is always about how and where we see ourselves in the world.

We all have to eat and in reality we all should—and can—eat better. If we can remove the snobbery and some of the classist mentality associated with foodies, and their black sheep cousins the foodiots, we might be able to make a significant change in the way this country consumes. Until then, eating food from sources you know or taking in a well made localized meal at an independent restaurant will remain an elitist action.

Foodies of the world can unite to achieve great eats for all…or we can stay in our little clubs, talk to the same people and continue to isolate the good food experience. For all the talk of the slow food groups, the Pollans, Waters and all those suicide-inducing South Brooklynites, we are selfishly limiting the admission into our club based on the fact people don’t have the knowledge that can only be gained by being let in to the club.

While we can’t end the hate we see from the other side, foodies can do a better job of adding just one more place at the table and explain a few things without the air of snobbery that we all tend to fall into when talking about our meals. I think there are many people, Saint Tigerlily and The Boss especially, who do this exceptionally well.

We can all do better. So why not come over and we can talk about it. There is a great cheese shop near my place; I will get some of the reserve and we can discuss over wine.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shabbat Solidarity

The days between the High Holidays are a time of reflection, apology, prayer and introspection for the Jewish people. While Shabbat affords us this opportunity each week, I feel like the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Shabbat Shuvah, is all the more special and powerful. So last Friday night I joined more than 100 young adults (both in age and in spirit) at Temple Shaarey Tefila for Shabbat Unplugged. This service is a celebration of Shabbat, bringing together people of different backgrounds, creeds and orientations to sing, celebrate and be together as a community to welcome the Sabbath bride.

I take the community aspect of this service very seriously and feel it is perhaps the most important aspect of my Shabbat. That is why I got up early on Saturday morning to travel to Congregation Beth Elohim in Park Slope to help this community—a community of people from different backgrounds, creeds and orientations—enjoy and sanctify the Shabbat.

Unfortunately the Westboro Baptist Church, the infamous hate group, was outside of Beth Elohim trying to deny this community of its Shabbat Shalom, its peaceful and meaningful Shabbat. Hatred needs to be combated with love and support, so I went to stand in solidarity with this community as it celebrated a young girl becoming a woman in the eyes of the Jewish people, to sit together with members and guests to learn some Torah portion and to take action in the face of injustice and hate.

It was a pretty sad showing from the Westboro contingent; no more than six or seven people with disgusting signs that will not get air time on this blog. But on the good guys’ side, there were more like 150 people from all walks of life. There were rabbis, priests and pastors. There were gay, straight and bisexuals community members (I know because the good guys had signs explaining these things). But the thing that was best about this was the positive message of the good guys’ counter demonstration.

Rabbi Andy Bachman, who is the spiritual leader of CBE, took a strong stand against a counter-protest but was open to the peaceful show of communal support that was emanating from the crowd last Shabbat. He lead this group from different backgrounds, creeds and orientations in a Shofar service, using the ancient horn of the Jewish people to shock us awake from the indifference that allows the Westboro brand of hate to flourish. He also called upon us to, in the tradition of the God of compassion to welcome the stranger, to accept all human beings as God’s creation and to never allow hate to triumph over tolerance.

He also called upon us to act in the tradition of the God of Groucho Marx and stick our thumbs on our noses and wave our hands at the protestors…you can’t be serious all the time (even in Park Slope).

But all this show of hate and counter-tolerance was not the most important aspect of this day. After the visitors from Kansas left, we all went inside to services. A young woman became Bat Mitzvah. A rabbi celebrated his 50th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah. A member of the congregation gave a d’var Torah that dug deeper than most sermons and a guest from the Upper East Side took part in a beautiful Shabbat Morning experience.

People told me I was doing a great thing and I happen to agree. But the singing and dancing in the face of the hatemongering anti-Semitic homophobes was nothing important. The real power and meaning, a place where we found true Shabbat Shuvah, the Shabbat of return to the community and people of Israel, was that this group of people from different backgrounds, creeds and orientations, joined together in what we were going to do anyway. The evil of those Wichita base bigots changed nothing. Together this community stood strong in the face of injustice, stuck our tongues out at hatred and joined together in a joyous celebration of the Jewish people.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nutty Homophobes Picket Nice Brooklyn Shul

I learned about this via Dan Sieradski and read more from the Congregation Beth Elohim blog. Those nut-bag-crazy-homophobic-racisit-anti-semite bastards from the so-called church, the "Westboro Baptist Church" -- the same people who run "" and other such big tent and love thy neighbor type websites -- will be there protesting the Jews and the gays this Shabbat in Park Slope. I will be there to support CBE, will you?

Here is the congregations statement on the situation:
CBE Official Statement on Westboro Baptist

Congregation Beth Elohim
September 22, 2009
Dear Friends,

On Saturday, September 26, from 9:45 AM - 10:15 AM, Congregation Beth Elohim will be picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist anti-Semitic, anti-gay independent church based out of Topeka, Kansas.

They plan to send representatives who will stand on our sidewalk displaying disturbing signs and provoking those entering our building. They try to create enough confrontation to incite others to provocation. It is their constitutional right to picket.

Congregation Beth Elohim does not welcome this group's message or actions in any way. Our focus and mission as a community is to build an inclusive Jewish community that celebrates the strength of diversity. It is a home for individuals and families of all backgrounds to grow and to learn and to care about and deepen their connections to one another.

We have clear priorities during difficult moments such as these. Protecting our members and visitors, and most importantly our children, is a primary goal. Our internal security team is already in action and local police authorities have been alerted. Although you are entitled to your right to free speech, we ask that you calmly pass these protesters and walk directly into our building without incident.

For more information about the Westboro Baptist and for educational materials about responding to hate groups, please download a PDF provided by the Anti-Defamation League.

Congregation Beth Elohim is an amazing community in that it is a warm and welcoming place. This group will be picketing us because of our commitment to those who desire community. Though Saturday may be upsetting, it is important to remember that our precious values are truly a source of great pride. Our best and only response is to conduct ourselves as usual.

And this Shabbat we have so much to celebrate: Natalie Chertoff becomes Bat Mitzvah; Shir l'Shabbat and Yachad meet in a wonderful, family learning and Shabbat atmosphere; Rabbi Emeritus Weider celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of his own Bar Mitzvah in the Lay-Led Minyan; and Alt-Shul is hosting its bi-monthly traditional minyan. Truly a diverse and celebratory Shabbat worthy of our values of openness and celebration as one community!

Let's focus our energy and attention on making this truly a Shabbat Shalom at Congregation Beth Elohim.

May you all be blessed for another year of life, tolerance, and well-being.


Rabbi Andy Bachman
Elana Paru, Executive Director
David Kasakove, President

Monday, September 21, 2009

Going out in shorts and a sweatshirt

This weekend my sister was in town for the holiday and after our prayer was completed, we went out to a bar her friends had chosen. She was leaving the next day so we figured this would be a good time to hang out, grab a beer and chill.

Very often my sister and her friends choose great places to hang out and have a good time. Places of less than stellar repute, but great drink specials and possibly even free hot dogs are often the preferred location for this group.

But this weekend, the choice of The Ginger Man proved to be a bit higher on the reputation scale but with significantly fewer drink specials, no hot dogs and a seriously high level of trying too hard to have a good time.

I was wearing my favorite multi-color Adidas low-tops, a pair of well loved plaid shorts and a Brooklyn Cyclones sweatshirt and was the only guy in the place not wearing either a button down, polo shirt or designer-T with a blazer over over-priced jeans. Granted a guy did come up to me and say “great hoodie, man.”

This place felt like a bar out of the “Look at my striped shirt” nightmare that made the Internet rounds a few years back. I mean there was a line for the men’s bathroom. On any fall weekend, a bar (which this was, not a gastro pub or club or beer hall or anything else; it was nothing more than a bar with too many beers on tap to possibly be fresh in the keg) should have football on TV. This would have cut down on the number of Blackberrys and iPhones that were constantly in the hands of those “gentlemen” leaning on the bar.

Granted the back area where we were hanging out had fewer striped shirts per capita and we did get to enjoy the comfy couches, not all was lost in this trip.

The part of the evening that pushed me right over the edge was this guy—-complete with bouffant, too much cologne, expensive-tapered jeans, low-cut-man-boots, a fitted blazer and pastel shirt with just one too many buttons undone—-turning to my lovely wife and flirting with her as I finished reaching over the bar to get our change. “Enjoy that Goose Island IPA, I brought it here,” he says. “Next time you should try this one; it is [some name I forget because I was trying to figure out how I could kill him and get away with it]. Want to try mine?” At this point my she said no, flashed me a look and I was starting to position myself between this tool and my wife.

He proceeded to tell us he was the [big name beer company] rep for the bar and that he was trying to get [big name beer company] to mass produce this very expensive and exclusive beer for wider distribution, but because he was such a great guy he had it put into his account because he cares. Thank you [big name beer company] rep, you did a great job. Needless to say it was good thing I was holding my seltzer water (my stomach was not so pleased with Rosh Hashanah eating choices) in my right hand or he would have had a broken nose...I mean maybe.

The true saving grace of this place was that my sister was there and having a good time with her friends, so we were able to just chill and enjoy the time at The Ginger Man. It was fantastic to see her and her crazy bunch of overly intelligent friends (who more often than not make great choices about bars).

Oh and the house beer there is awful.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Getting ready for the New Year

Tomorrow night is Rosh Hashanah and Jews will gather the world over to pray, eat and hope for the best with the Book of Life thing. My sister is coming into town from Chicago to visit my wife and me and will join us for services. It will be lovely. I am planning a roasted chicken, with a side of wild rice and a succotash of late summer veggies. (Corn, Peas and Tomato, in olive oil and garlic) It will be very nice.

This year has flown by me. A year ago I had just started a new job, was engaged to be married and green as a member of our community. I wrote about not knowing how to be a “real adult” on and now I think we have figured out how to pretend to be adults. I will report on how that goes next week.

Even as the year passed without a break, there is work to do to get ready for the beginning of the next one. I have my calls and apologies to make, as well as dinner.

However, there is much more to this than simple apologies and good food. I personally need to be in a place that is conducive to thinking, reflecting and Jewish-ing during the High Holidays. If I am not—which is currently the case but it seem to be moving in the right direction—the holiday is lost to me.

Last night getting ready for bed I lamented the fact that we would miss some wonderful college football this weekend and my wife rightly stated I would have been upset if she had made a similar comment about services. I clearly am not there yet.

So I have been writing Jewish stuff about our community, going to see Jewish art and trying to think about Jewish things. I sure hope it works.

Happy New Year to the Jews, a meaningful Ramadan to the Muslims and happy weekend to the rest of you.

Oh yeah this too:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Subway Music - A PSA

Please excuse this public service announcement:


While it is your choice to listen to very bad music, we don’t need to hear the latest hip-hop mariachi mash-up first thing in the morning. That tin-can-sound of off tempo, non-lyrical rap your cousin “produced” on his computer does not put anyone else in the mood to get their day started. Some like coffee in the morning and others blasting Ramones, but you often don’t see people pouring their cup-o-joe on other subway riders, so it is time to turn down the music, punk.

The people around you thank you for your cooperation and participation in the turn your own crappy music down project.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


“Now you will have something to blog about,” said my lovely wife as we waited to take the turn in the Emergency Room parking lot at 8:25 pm on Sunday. My response at the time was heavily influenced by my lack of hydration. “I will never blog about this.”

After four hours in the ER in Southern New Jersey and a few days of felling pretty much like death-hung-over I decided it was time to find a teachable moment here within my food poising. Once again, my lovely wife was right.

Here is the timeline:
Friday night – Eat Evil Food Never to be Consumed Again
Saturday morning – Feel not so hot; consume Gater-aid and pepto and hope for the best as we leave to go to our friend’s wedding in South Jersey.
Saturday night – Attend rehearsal dinner; feeling a bit better; ate stupid food for my condition, goes way down hill very fast
Sunday morning – Sick like dog
Sunday afternoon – Get ready for wedding; a sudden and dramatic change in condition that makes me worried
Sunday night – Condition unchanged; Go to Hospital
Sunday night/Monday EARLY morning – Enjoy two lovely bags of IV drip, get tests taken, find out not much, given meds, sent to Pharmacy, get drugs, go back to hotel and sleep.
Monday – SICK, travel back to NYC, sit on couch, sleep
Tuesday – SICK, see doc, he said ER was right
Wednesday – Back to something that could be considered human

Ok, now you know what happened. Needless to say it was a tough few days.

(Quick sidebar: My wife was 100% supportive, holding my hand when it sucked (it sucked a lot), laughed at my really pathetic jokes, made me feel better and helped me make the right choices about the care I needed throughout this process and I would have been totally screwed without her help. Thank you honey.)

I am blessed to have a great job where I am challenged every day, where I have to work hard, think in and outside the box and a lot is demanded of me both personally and professionally. However in exchange for this commitment my employer has supplied me with, among other things, fantastic health insurance.

This insurance that I got because I work for a fantastic company, allows me to walk into any ER when I need to go and get treated with a co-pay of $60. I was prescribed two sets of pills each costing $10 and were filled right away at 1:45 am on Monday. I saw my Doctor on Tuesday for $25. After not being able to eat or drink for two days, I was treated in two facilities, was given what I needed and now I am on the track to being healthy again for a grand total of about $105.

If I didn’t work for a fantastic company, I would be broke now, possibly in debt for years. But I am not because I have a wonderful job and a fantastic company.

So we reinforce in my story, the story of a very well off young white man who ate some very evil food and got what he needed quickly and manageable cost, the need for a national healthcare system. The care I received should not be a privilege of my job, my status or my checkbook.

I am so lucky to have been in the situation I was after eating the evil food. Who knows what would have happened if I was one of the millions of people out of work across this country when I made a poor choice for dinner.

So all five of you reading this blog: the time is now to act. Call you people in DC and demand action. There can be no more excuses from the right wing nuts jobs. Stand up to the stupidity and demand a reasonable, logical and useful healthcare system in our country. The President called upon Congress tonight and I call upon all five of you now.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Top Chef without a soap box

You may remember last week when our intrepid social justice chef Ashley Merriman took to the camera all indignant like because she being gay couldn’t have a bachelorette party. Now that was not what she said but it sure felt that way.

Anywho, this week’s show had the chefs making a meal for 300 Airmen and their families. Anything from Chef Merriman on the injustice of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell? Nope. Not a word. Now here is a ridiculous, homophobic and downright disproven idea and our culinary crusader of the order of Lamdba put down her rainbow flag in order to rally around the stairs and stripes.

Please do not misunderstand this post. I love this country and am proud of the men and women who choose to fight to protect it and our interests (see what I did right there). But Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell doesn’t get the press it deserves. I mean a few weeks back the New York Times wrote a major piece on women serving in combat rolls. They shockingly have sex with their fellow soldiers and they are still able to kick ass and take names.

This fact flies in the face of the entire argument against having LGBT service personnel. The idea that they would be so distracting is a) disproven and b) just not enough to take away someone’s right to protect his or her way of life. If (and only if) our country is fighting to keep our liberty and freedoms unobstructed by extremist nut job terrorists who read just one book and then take aim to kill as many people who don’t do and think the same way as a narrow-minded reading of that book dictates, don’t you think that gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans individuals may want to pick up a gun fight back too?

ACH I say.

There was a great soap box moment for any of the gay chefs this past week and it was missed. Bravo being that LGBT safe-zone is also a controversy free safe-zone. While marriage equality is controversial it is very widely accepted in the liberal, affluent communities that make up the target audiences of Top Chef. But, talk about the troops, perhaps challenge the sitting Commander and Chief regarding promises he made on the campaign trail regarding LGBT rights, then you may face some problems. I would be interested to see the uncut interactions from Merriman and other gay chefs regarding this episode. However I would be shocked to see anything different than what came out in the final cuts.

Here, call your Senators, House member and the White House and say Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a policy that needs to change.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Slow food’s fast idea

The Slow Food movement is not an American movement. This is not to say it is un-American. Our culture is not one to savor but rather one of getting the big event going. To say we are a nation of fast food junkies is a bit short-sighted, but in reality the number of people choosing to spend time on a farm to see how food is grown for vacation is relegated to a small number of wacky journalists.

Food Evangelists like Alice Waters and Michael Pollan will harp ad nauseam about the need for local, organic and other-catch-words-of-the-week foods. I like to eat organics and foods that are locally grown, but sometimes you can’t do it. Sorry Alice, it just isn’t possible in the current market. I think we should increase our organics and local food intake and learn more about the process. I mean I am blogging about it what more do you want Michael?

But earlier this year the Slow Food USA decided to take action away from the table and things are beginning to move a bit faster. This weekend, Labor Day to be exact, will see nearly 300 lunch time rallies calling upon Congress to allocate $1 more per student for school lunch programs. That is a lot of money in case you didn’t want to do the math. This however speaks to the average America more than enjoying a piece of aged Gouda or a raw goat’s milk brie. (Which reminds me I should plug my local Formagerie, The Big Cheese. If you live in NYC, you should go. Tell them I sent you. I will do a bigger post on them another time.)

This protest movement is represented in nearly every state in the country and will bring together concerned parents (remember Soccer Moms and NASCAR Dads?) to learn about the crap schools offer for lunch all while eating good, local foods that are most plentiful right now. What better way to engage in meaningful food politicking than to eat with friends and neighbors? I would love to go to this event but I will unfortunately be on the road at the time of the ultimate food fight with Washington.

I don’t think we need to get the Gouda or brie on the lunch line, but some green veggies that have not graced the warming embrace of fry oil might be a nice step. School is more than learning the three Rs (which is so stupid it hurts my head), but about culture and becoming members of our society. This includes learning how to interact with different kinds of people, conflict resolution and learning how to eat on your own. Granted none of these are “organic” but are controlled by the school administration.

Don’t misunderstand me: New text books are more important than fresh veggies in the lunch line. But there is something to a healthy meal being offered in place of the tots and soda. It is all about fostering a better, smarter, healthier generation of leaders, inventors, scientists, authors, artists and such. So way to go Slow Food USA for figuring out people like to get together and eat outside on Labor Day.

Find a Time For Lunch event near you.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Not good

This come by way of the "God Blog" written by Brad Greenberg. He explores in his post could these horrible fires be seen as acts of God. It is interesting. The comments section is where it gets a bit out of hand.

Ben Plonie writes:
In the absence of Biblical-quality prophecy, it is not easy to connect the dots between the spiritual and the temporal. The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways. It doesn’t seem fair somehow after Prop 8 passed, although the issue is not yet dead. But that’s just me. Ah well.

Ok I can get behind that, I think...not really sure though...oh no...biblical homophobia, sorry missed it in there.
Or could this be related to Obama’s fawning over the Muslim community at the expense of Israel and the worldwide Jewish community (as predicted by this reporter and every other observer with at least half a brain)?

Going forward, this could be Obama’s Katrina, or one of them. Let’s see how he handles it. After all, he did have a white grandmother, who could easily have been a victim of the fires. But no matter what Obama does, we can count on the the former Katrina protesters to give him a rave review on his performance, even though he has run out of funny-money after all of his crony payoffs and grandstanding. Obama’s lack of response will all be the fault of right-wing talk radio.
Wait hold on, only whites are getting burned out of thier homes? No Hispanics or Asians in the area? And for that matter only blacks lost thier homes during Katrina? I am lost.

ACH I say to this! What crazy-town talk. So I reply:
I am not one to take away from the horrific affects of these fires, living through a few close brushes when living in LA, but saying this will be President Obama’s Katrina is just silly. While this fire is far from out, Los Angelinos have lost 62 homes to NOLA’s 275,000 in the aftermath of Katrina. This idea and for the rest of your comment it would seem like the half of brain you may have isn’t working very well.

I did get a (respectful) note from Brad saying that this kind of exchange happens regularly when Plonie leaves a comment on the God Blog. But I have to wonder why an intellectual conversation about theology and current catastrophes always has to bend to the nut bag of the week's ideas? I suppose I am guilty of playing into it but can you leave such ridiculous statements without response?

Why not sit back and think about the concepts that Brad explores. Say “huh, I could be a better person in my daily life” or “wow, I really could do more with the community to make this a better world” as opposed to running your mouth about what you think is wrong in the world. But then what would be the point of blogging? Without this free, unregulated platform how would people like me Plonie ever be heard?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What do you eat at a gay wedding?

Bravo TV is without a question a LGBT safe zone. Complete with a wide variety of reality shows that host about 45% openly gay contestants, it is hard to call the network or its programming homophobic or even heteronormative. But last week this well established fact was called into question by Ashley Merriman on Top Chef.

If you missed the show, the group of 16 remaining boys and girls were broken down into teams of by gender to do a bachelor and bachelorette party for a couple complete with twists and turns that make it a worthwhile TV show. But the thing that took me back was Merriman’s distaste for the challenge because she can’t get married legally. The other three openly gay chefs on the show (if not more) didn’t touch on this issue and Ash Fulk was even able to make a self-effacing, somewhat homophobic joke without worrying about his rights being called into question by this challenge.

My position on marriage equality is well documented and taking to the street, soap box or blog to fight for equality is a great thing. But I am a little confused about this protest. I can only assume that Chef Merriman will open her Seattle restaurant to a wedding party and she would provide food to a client who was hosting an engagement celebration. So why now put up a fight in when she is on TV? Platform or not this seems like a silly way to protest a serious issue.

In other marriage equality food news, Ben & Jerry’s is celebrating Vermont’s celebration of marriage equality (the law goes into effect today) with a slight twist on a favorite flavor. For the rest of the month lovers of the vanilla-malt-fudge-covered-peanut-butter-filled-pretzel-nuggets classic will need to order Hubby-Hubby. While I love Ben & Jerry’s for no other reason than they make some really fantastic ice cream, this kind of simple, consumer-based activism makes me smile. Here hoping that they continue to sell B&J south of the Mason Dixon.

No word yet on a lesbian wedding ice cream.

Finally—while not really food related but kind of because the essay explores a “wife’s job” in the “traditional sense”—I suggest reading this past weekend’s “Modern Love” in the New York Times. We read of two women who were married, had kids and call each other wife. They wanted to raise political awareness by using the term wife but it gave way to a term of practicality and life together. One (the author and self described more culturally womanly) is the bread winner and the other (the author describes her as “butch” and has been known to enjoy power tools) stays at home with the couple’s children. The author notes that she gave birth to both kids. I found the story to be both well written and thought provoking. On side note, the author is working on a book about fatherhood…

Monday, August 31, 2009

Yelp is a stupid word

“Yelp: Where 10,000 smug and self-satisfied hipsters, can’t be wrong. – The Gore

Well played The Gore, well played. It seems some folks are done with anyone giving the make-or-break review of a local restaurant and thanks to the New York Times food blog by way of the San Francisco Chronicle food blog we know that bloggers with names like The Gore are sick of learning about things from just anyone and once again will heed the review of the real experts.

So the back story: Mel’s Dinner (a chain in California) is giving 20% off to customers in possession of a self-written Yelp review. It can be good, bad or indifferent.

I never really got Yelp, but some people swear by the reviews provided by people they don’t know. Granted it seems like the perfect convergence of Web 2.0 and brick and mortar service establishments. You have 10,000 (or so) smug and self-satisfied hipsters educated consumers providing their opinions on everything from the best local sandwich (with organic bread and shade grown tomatoes) to the fastest place for a manicure (without VOCs).

As I sit and write my smug and self-satisfied response to this well-executed marketing move (I mean the Chronicle and the Times both wrote about it) I got to wonder, as the Mel’s GM stated, how big of a deal could this be if only one or two people a week bring in a review? Why are people so worked up about giving a discount to dedicated customers? I guess it is degrading the holier-than-thou Yelp review process. Hipsters don’t like their stuff to be disrespected but are fine with messing with others because it is so clearly inferior.

Don’t like this? Then Yelp the blog; I will give you 20% your next comment if you send me the review.

Damn it

Thank you Beaver for making my day.

(via FU Penguin)

Friday, August 28, 2009

The worst of the worst form of government

“It isn’t enough for the mayor to have gamed New York’s term-limits law so that he could seek four more years. He also has no interest in making this election a fair fight.

“He has applied a sliver of his fortune to burying cash-starved opponents under an avalanche of television ads, while using another sliver to rent political operatives who normally would have worked against him. In a different society, he might well have draped giant posters of himself on the outer walls of public buildings.” – Clyde Haberman, New York Times (8/27/09)

It is no secret that I am a liberal. But for the past few years I have been intellectually challenged by the once-Democrat, once-Republican, current-Independent mayor of my town Michael Bloomberg. He took a no-nonsense approach to the city that I thought would work for New York. His plans had logical, practical applications and it didn’t really seem to care about his popularity, which made him very popular in a city of “I-don’t-care-what-you-think” individualists (who crave attention and blog about stuff).

His wealth put him above interest groups and lobbyists, he said. It seems, however, as if he forgot about one interest group and its persuasive lobbyist: his ego.

Michael Bloomberg, with the help of the City Council, over-turned a term limit law allowing him to run for mayor once again. It is hard to argue against some of his accomplishments in the years since taking over the City and running it like a business, but there is something about the rule of law. We invade other countries, ones that produce far less and are significantly less important than New York City, over people changing the election law. It is surprising that the Bloomberg pictures haven’t started popping up in subway stations under the heading of Obey. (Someone should get on that.)

But as Mr. Haberman outlines in the above quoted column, New Yorkers don’t have good alternative for mayor. I am told that Bill Thompson is the guy to vote for but I am not excited by a guy who spent the last eight years as the CFO to Bloomberg’s CEO and only recently decided he is adamantly opposed to the Bloomberg policy shop. He has some union support but 51% of the City doesn’t have enough info to form an opinion about the man. And Tony Avella doesn’t have a shot at the primary let alone the general election.

S do we vote for the guy that we know little more than the fact he recently discovered he disagrees with his boss but has the Party’s support or vote for the guy that has done a pretty good job for the environment, rich people, real estate developers, businesses and tourism in the City who has lackluster respect for election law?

Nothing good comes from this situation. Perhaps Thompson will get out there and really let the City get to know him and love him; I sure hope that happens. But that will be very hard in a race where his opponent has unlimited resources and can do no wrong in the eyes of the media. Vote today and Bloomberg wins…vote in November we will see.