Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

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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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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With about 7 billion people on earth, it’s hard to imagine that human populations were once incredibly small.

Recently, scientists ‘counted’ people who lived 1.2 million years ago by analyzing the human genome.

Some of the information in our DNA has been passed down from those times: over 48,000 generations.

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There was a time in my life when I went down to The South a fair bit.

By this I mean primarily Arkansas, North and South Carolina with a bit of driving through Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. Haven’t yet been to Louisiana, Alabama or Georgia.

As for Mississippi… well, there are people in Mississippi who don’t want to be in Mississippi! (Just kidding. Please don’t shoot me!)

(When you hear them say, “Ah hell no!”… you better run!)

I haven’t been to The South since the Passover/Easter weekend before 9/11.

There’s so much I love and miss about The South.

(1861 Navy Colt – the classic handgun of The South)

One of the most striking things you find down there is the entire gun culture. [1]

It’s not that everyone in The South has a gun. I would suspect that most don’t.

But… there is this general all-round feeling among most Southerners that is in some way supportive of the general idea of guns for personal protection.

There is a gleefulness… and also a kind of playfulness… about this mindset that I find hard to resist.

The over-riding sense is that this attitude of bravado is ‘half in jest – whole in earnest.’ Kind of like, “I’m kidding… but not really.”

I love it. I miss it.


[1] Full disclosure:  None of the friends I visited or stayed with in The South was a gun owner (as far as I know).

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Every once in a while I venture to say a few well-chosen words about fashion.

I believe my last foray into beaking off about the world of couture (haute or otherwise) was in my October 26, 2011, article “Fashionate!

I’m due for another venting.

I’d like to discuss a disturbing phenomenon of which I’ve recently become aware…

People (and by this I mean The Great Unwashed [1]) deriving a sick, perverse thrill from watching fashion models fall down.

And yes, I get the humorous angle at play here.

In The Comedy Biz, it is referred to as a Status Drop. It is as least as old as Graeco-Roman comedies… that is, when the actors weren’t parading around the stage wearing enormous phalli. [2]

The principle at work is this… an exalted person suffers a swift and sudden drop in status. The classic example from silent films is the rich, pompous and usually fat man slipping and falling on a banana peel.

A cheap, easy laugh, to be sure.

But what goes on when The Wretched Refuse watch a fashion model slip and fall is much nastier. There is a meanness of spirit that I don’t believe enters into the old Charlie Chaplin ‘fat banker banana fall’ schtick.

The Huddled Masses LOVE it. There is a fiendish glee that is simply absent when, for example, you see some chunky southern girl destroy an above-ground pool simply by going into it.

The models, people feel, somehow deserve to fall. They’ve earned the humiliation and the howls of derisive laughter. It ‘takes them down a few notches’… it ‘cuts them down to size.’

Ladies, you cannot sit still for this kind of attitude from the common rabble!

It’s bad enough that you’re treated like dogs or glorified clothes hangers from those within the business.

You must reclaim the fashion faux-pas… the runway tragedy… and transform it into something chic and glorious.

Let’s take that frown and turn it upside down, ladies. Find the fun in a bad situation!

I give you… SPAZTIQUE!!

Your slip and fall at Paris Fashion Week Spring 2012? It is no longer clumsy… it is Très Spaztique!

That time you lost your balance and fell off the runway in Milan? Proprio Spazticamente!

Everyone thinks your ankle-twisting walk on the Prada runway was klutzy? Far from it! It was Totally Spaztique!

Don’t let Walmart zombie shoppers define you!

Be Chic. Be Spaztique!!

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

This article is affectionately dedicated to my dearly beloved friend, Chelsea Dagger [3], who is tall, slender, blonde, gorgeous, smart, athletic, fun, funny, generous, philanthropic, kindhearted, sweet… and a totally spastic klutz!

If it’s beside her or near her, she will find a way to knock it down, trip over or bump into it.

Here’s to you, my darling Chelsea. You’re delightfully Spaztique!


[1] (i.e. The General Public) I doubt many in the fashion world experience quite the ‘laugh riot’ when a model twists, sprains or breaks her ankle, cracks her kneecap or fractures her wrist.

[2] See Aristophenes’ deliciously funny play Lysistrata – a hilarious account of one woman’s extraordinary mission to end the Peloponnesian War. The title character Lysistrata persuades the other women of Greece to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing the men to negotiate peace.

[3] She has, hands down, the coolest name in the world.

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Exhibit Two Gets Aished! 

(Exhibit Two at Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem earlier this month)

A bit of explanation is in order.

Aish = Aish HaTorah. [1]

Aish HaTorah is an apolitical network of Jewish educational centers in 35 branches on five continents. [2]

Aish is all about Jewish education and kiruv… drawing Jews closer to G-d. [3]

There is an expression for Jews who, through the educational and kiruv work of Aish HaTorah, become more connected to Judaism and more observant. It is said they get “Aished.”


[1] The name Aish HaTorah literally means “Fire of Torah.” As Elie Weisel said: “Aish HaTorah means to me the passion of teaching, the passion of learning. The study of Torah, the source of Jewish values, is the way to Jewish survival.”

[2] Aish HaTorah is a Jewish outreach organization started in Jerusalem by Rabbi Noah Weinberg z”l in 1974. Aish HaTorah’s goal is to revitalize the Jewish people by providing opportunities for Jews of all backgrounds to discover their heritage in an atmosphere of open inquiry and mutual respect. Aish HaTorah is regarded as a world leader in creative Jewish educational programs and leadership training.

[3] Aish’s educational philosophy is that Judaism is not all or nothing; it is a journey where every step counts, to be pursued according to one’s own pace and interest. Mitzvot (commandments) are not rituals, but opportunities for personal growth, to be studied and understood. We learn the Torah’s wisdom to enrich our own lives, and to share these ideas with all humanity.

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A very dear friend of mine, LFD, likes sushi.

LFD and I quite often work in the same courthouse.

There is a wonderful sushi restaurant around the corner from said courthouse.

Put the three above statements together and it was not long before LFD and I decided that steps of some sort ought to be taken.

OK, so there I am, across the table from a hungry, little (and I do mean LITTLE… LFD is about 4’11”, I believe) Irish girl who is trying to figure out how to eat with two sticks.

With a bit of coaching, her first attempt went fairly well.

The second attempt… not quite so well. One of the chopsticks flew out of her hand and landed at the next table.

The third attempt… well, not really so good either, with some sushimi ending up on the floor.

“Can I get you some cutlery?” I asked, watching her lean down to retrieve her chopsticks from under someone’s chair.

“No… no,” she said, gamely, accidentally catapulting some wasabi across the aisle and into a young lady’s Diet Coke. “I’m keen to learn new things.”

I suspect more food ended up in our nearby surroundings than in her mouth but she was unfazed and undaunted.

I’m afraid LFD and I became the restaurant’s cabaret entertainment that day. The owner wanted us to come back and do two shows each evening for the next two weeks. We gracefully declined.

I suppose it’s just a matter of time before she and I go back to that restaurant.

So if you should be sitting down ordering some nigiri or norimaki and two people walk in who look oddly like Santa Claus and one of his elves from the North Pole… that would be us.

Do not be disturbed or concerned. Sit back. Relax… and be prepared to be amazed.

Also, please do not try this at home. We are professionals.

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