Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Following my Freedom of the Press Worldwide atlas, I bring you…

The Bribery Atlas!

Percentage of a country’s population that has paid bribes.

bribe-map(The Baksheesh Boys!)

Again, it pans out pretty much as I thought it might.

Glad to see the Italian bribery percentage is as low as it is.

As for the No Data category, perhaps the makers of this map should have bribed some government officials for the stats.



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When I am really honest with myself, this is what I would love an Italian grocery store to be…


They would carry everything you need. Maybe not everything you want… but definitely everything you need.


Pasta, bread, cheese, meat, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, oregano, basil, rosemary… maybe some fruits and nuts.

castagne-arrostite(Castagne arrostite!)

They might also have a few little things extra.


Espresso percolators…


… Italian playing cards…


… pizzelle irons.

My first wife, Susan, and I were right around the corner from such a place when we lived in St. Clair & Dufferin neighbourhood in Toronto in the late 70s.

italian-vegetable-market(Frutta e verdura!)

What I wouldn’t give to live once again a 2-minute walk from a place like this!


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When I am in The Heart of the Old World [1], there is a certain pervasive sound you hear… a kind of omnipresent background music… a gently swaying ‘bed track’ to the place. It is a general all-encompassing soundtrack permeating the entire area… made up from the voices of hundreds of Jewish girls and women.

It is useless trying to explain a symphony with words,. I will at least give you a tiny taste of some of the lyrics. Try to imagine the sing-song tones blending in and through each other, above and underneath each other, mixing and intertwining, separating and repeating, like a Bach fugue.

Those who know what I am talking about are well familiar with the melodies, counter-melodies, tempos and keys. To the uninitiated, I can only say that one cannot describe a colour adequately with words… it must be seen to be fully understood. Similarly, like a Shakespearean play, the words are meant to be heard, not read. [2]

At the grocery store, on the sidewalk, in the coffee shop, in the parking lot… it binds us and keeps us together. It forms a warm comforting blanket around us.

And now… let us listen… and hear those precious voices all around us…

Boruch HaShem! Im Yirtzeh HaShem. B’ezras HaShem!

It’s all shtuss. It’s just a bunch of shtuss.

Yes, bli neder. Absolutely, bli neder! Of course, bli neder!

 Make a brochah, Shmuley. Did you make an after-brochah?

Chas v’sholom! K’neine hora! Lo aleinu!

You hold by that? We don’t hold by that! Who holds by that?

Look at that punim! What a shayna punim! Can you believe the punim on this kid?

Where are you for Shabbes lunch? You’re coming for Shabbes dinner, right?

Where does he daven? What time do they finish davening over there?

She lives in Beit Shemesh now. Ramat Gan. She’s in Bnei Barak.

Monsey. Crown Heights. Lakewood. Boro Park.

She’s engaged? Who’s engaged? She’s getting married!

Mazel tov! How wonderful! They should know only joy and happiness.

Simchas. Only Simchas! Next by you. It should happen by you.

Narishkeit. I’ve never heard such narishkeit!

Really? You’re serious? You’re not serious. You are? Really?

When’s shkiah? What time is shkiah? When’s candle lighting?

What time’s Shabbes over? Come over for havdalah!

She’s a giyeres. They’re baalei tshuvah. Frum from birth.

They’re moving to Atlanta.  It’s a very nice community there.

As my Bubbie, olav hasholom, would day, “It’s from fainting!”

Are you ready for Pesach? Oy, please. Don’t remind me!

Where do you get your challah? You make your own!?

I buy frozen gefilte fish and bake it! It’s mamish ok.

We have an aufruffen to go to. I’m at a bar mitzvah.

Nu? Shoyn? Oy, a broch! Vey iz mir!

Zeit nisht meshiggah!

Genig shoyn. Enough, already!

Again with the shtuss?

In the Heart of the Old World, as it is in any Jewish neighbourhood, this is the soundtrack to our lives!


[1] Bathurst Street in Toronto, between Lawrence and Wilson.

[2] This YouTube video, Shduss Frum Girls Say, although a comic look at the subject, gives you sort of a taste…

As does the second video in the series, Shduss Frum Girls Say 2

And how can we leave out Passover Shtuss??…

These videos are the work of Zehava G, whose works can be found on YouTube at…


Or on Facebook, at…


Zehava… you’re the best!

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Saw this disturbing article the other day at the Telegram.co.uk…

Chinese toddler’s karaoke tantrum ends in bloodbath

Now before you have visions of berserk toddlers going on a murderous rampage, let me assure you that is not the case. Well, at least not here.

(Somebody is NOT happy!)

It was more like…

“Toddler’s refusal to give up the microphone during a

family karaoke evening started a quarrel that left

two men hacked to death with a meat cleaver!”

(Are you ready to rumble??)

OK, here’s what happened. A couple were celebrating the Qixi Festival (i.e. China’s Valentine’s Day), with a singing session at a local karaoke parlour. So far, so good. Trouble starts when the parents’ four-year-old son hogs the karaoke mike and the doting parents were indulging him. [1]

(Beijing… we have a problem)

Mayhem ensues when two of the karaoke kid’s uncles berate the father for having raised such a spoiled child;  a “Little Emperor”, as the Chinese say [2]. Push literally comes to shove, then shoving proceeds to punching. A nephew grabs a meat cleaver and hacks the uncles to death.

(The problem solver)

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Karaoke-related violence is a real problem in the East.

Other karaoke massacres have taken place in the Philippines, where the Frank Sinatra song ‘My Way‘ has had to be removed from many songbooks after sub-standard renditions provoked a string of killings.

(Clearly a trouble-maker)

In Thailand, meanwhile, a man shot eight of his neighbours, including his brother-in-law, after tiring of their tuneless reprisals of John Denver’s ‘Country Roads.’

(An incitement to violence)

In the United States, a woman punched a man for continuing to sing Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’ after she had told him he was not up to the task.

(It would have driven Mother Teresa to violence)

In her defence… it WAS a karaoke version of Coldplay’s ‘Yellow!’

Ghandi would have punched this guy out!


[1] NB: Karaoke is taken very seriously, not just in China but throughout Asia.

[2] There is no shortage of criticism inside China for the bad behaviour of the Little Emperors, the children raised under the strict one-child policy and doted on by their parents and grandparents.

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One night when I was driving down from Canada to Arkansas, I stopped at Jackson, Tennessee.

A few months before, an old girlfriend of mine, LK, introduced me to a wonderful place in Jackson called Casey Jones Village and I thought I would pop by to see if it was still open.

As I pulled in and parked, I could tell they’d had some kind of festival or concert there and, sadly, it looked like I’d missed it. Everyone seemed to be packing up. Rather than head back out on the highway, I decided to get out and stretch my legs and have a bit of a poke around.

I’ve never had bad luck meeting people in The South.

I headed toward the Old Country Store & Restaurant as there was group of musicians gathered there just to the left of the store. Looked like maybe they were a family. Two young ladies on violin. Two older gents on guitar. A stand-up bass. A banjo. Perhaps a harmonica.

I’d almost reached them when they lifted their instruments.

And that is when I heard it.

That small group of musicians started playing the beautiful Tennessee Waltz.

I just froze in my tracks, taking it all in. I was transfixed.

I’m not sure if any of you have ever experienced a perfect moment. I did that night at that place.

The music. The night. The mild night air. A gentle breeze blowing the long blonde hair of one of the girls playing the violin.

I was in awe.

It was like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.

Although I know it’s not possible, it seems to me I held my breath the entire time. I was so afraid that if I spoke, if I moved, if I did anything… I would spoil the absolute perfection of the moment.

I’ve always liked the Tennessee Waltz. But on that exact night at that exact time and place… it was the most beautiful tune I’d ever heard.

When they finished, they began packing away their instruments.

As I quietly came forward, I noticed a big old mason jar with some money in it. Not a lot of money, I’m sad to say.

I took all the cash I had on me and rolled it up, put a $5 bill around the outside and placed it into the mason jar. It must have been around $400, I think. And I actually felt guilty for not being able to pay more… to pay them as much as they were worth in my eyes.

You see, I wasn’t giving them money. I was merely trying to pay back a small token amount of what they had given to me that night.

You can’t put a dollar value on perfection.

I’ll always remember that night… and The Tennessee Waltz.

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One of the things I miss most about The South is the Stars and Bars.

Otherwise known as the Confederate Battle Flag. [1]

Now I am mindful of that fact that this particular flag is a controversial image. There have been protests and petitions trying to get the Stars and Bars removed from state flags and even to stop flying the flag on schools, government buildings and other public property.

I’m not a part of that history. I wasn’t born in The South. I’m not even American. The baggage associated with the Stars and Bars is something I don’t carry. I can have positive feelings about that flag because I can pick and choose the things with which I associate it.

And I am the first to admit that my associations with the flag have virtually nothing to do with reality and everything to do with a fictional romanticized concept of what I personally feel the flag and The South was, is and should be.

I am sometimes met with a mixture of righteous indignation and moral outrage on this subject. “How would you feel if someone expressed positive feelings about the swastika and Nazi Germany?” Truth be told, I probably wouldn’t feel too good about it. That’s probably because I have a connection to that symbol and what it means.

But all that doesn’t seem to have any effect on me when it comes to the Confederate Battle Flag. Maybe it should… but it just doesn’t.

All the times I’ve been down in The South… all the people I’ve met and befriended… all the places I’ve been to while I was there… all have been positive experiences for me.

When I think of The South, I have nothing but good memories and good feelings. When I think of The South, I remember friends and loved ones.

When I think of The South… I picture the Stars and Bars.


[1] Also known as The Confederate Naval Jack.

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My last bacon-related post set off an avalanche of requests [1] for more bacon unrelated bacon-related products!

Sure, there are bacon-flavoured products that raise the old eyebrows…

But what about products that are bacon-inspired yet serve no edible purpose.

Bacon clothing, for example…

Or bacon personal products?

Or bacon-inspired nerdy t-shirt products?

Bacon shoes…

Or slippers!

Bacon-scented candles…

Bacon suits for the kiddies!

How about a bacon iPad cover!

Bacon home decor!

Yes, bacon is everywhere…

(Bacon Xmas decorations!)

To bacon infinity and beyond!

It’s as if Canada and the U.S. have become one giant Bacon Land!

As they say, “It’s to die for!”

You’re welcome!


[1] One.

(Thanks to Stephen Balen for the bacon photo inspiration!)

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