Archive for December, 2009

Paris Dinner x 2

December 30, 2009 1 comment

Frisée salad, Thoumieux

[Courtesy of Lonely Planet]

I suggested in my long-delayed post on Rome earlier today that I was ready at last to move on from our European trip. And I am. But not before saying a few words about the two dinners we had in Paris on the eve of our return to the US. I promised to say something about our Paris meals in my post a month ago on our overnight train ride from Milan to Paris. In fact, I started that post anticipating that I would discuss the meals, but instead got sidetracked by the exciting tale of our late evening wait in Milano Centrale for the train and the complications the next morning of reaching the Hotel Lancaster because the Champs-Elysées was closed to traffic so that Sarkozy and Merkel could jointly commemorate the 1918 armistice. (It was November 11.)

Let’s move ahead.
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Categories: Family, Food, Restaurants, Travel

Farewell, David Levine

December 30, 2009 Leave a comment

[David Levine, from the NYT, courtesy of Forum Gallery, New York]

We have spent the year with David Levine, thanks to The New York Review of Books‘s David Levine 2009 Calendar. Some months have been better than others. Eleanor Roosevelt April — good. Edouard Manet May — better. George W. Bush November — well, at least we were in Italy, Paris, New York, and Chicago through the evening of the 16th.

Our time with David was due to end tomorrow. But with his death yesterday, we must sadly say a double farewell.

Be sure to review the slide show that accompanies his NYT obituary.

Mr. Levine was as distinct an artist and commentator as any of his well-known contemporaries. His work was not only witty but serious, not only biting but deeply informed, and artful in a painterly sense as well as a literate one; he was, in fact, beyond his pen and ink drawings, an accomplished painter. Those qualities led many to suggest that he was the heir of the 19th-century masters of the illustration, Honoré Daumier and Thomas Nast.

Especially in his political work, his portraits betrayed the mind of an artist concerned, worriedly concerned, about the world in which he lived. Among his most famous images were those of President Lyndon B. Johnson pulling up his shirt to reveal that the scar from his gallbladder operation was in the precise shape of the boundaries of Vietnam … .

And see too the very short note at the website of his long-time home, the New York Review. I join many in missing his commentary and his vision.

Categories: Art, Magazines

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

December 30, 2009 1 comment

I started this post weeks ago, and even then I started it by observing that I should stop writing about our time in Europe already. With that in mind, I have let it sit, but now I will finish it and post it. Then I can move on.

One reason to push forward with it is that I can’t resist making use of the title. How often can one write “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and mean it literally? (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, of course, is the title of the great 1962 Broadway musical starring Zero Mostel, with book by Burt Shevelove and Larry Gelbart, music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim — the first musical for which Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics. My parents saw it, as they saw many Broadway shows of the time, and brought home the Playbill, which I looked at, as I would do whenever they saw a show. I couldn’t make much sense of the title at the time.)

Our version of “A Funny Thing … ” revolves around something we did that was really stupid. I could blame those crazy Romans for being disorganized, or insufficiently clear in the information they provide. And they didn’t exactly help. But I’ll take responsibility.
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Categories: Stupidity, Travel


December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Three years ago tomorrow, I got a new car. Thus, today marks the end of three years of service. I got back an hour ago from a short outing with Joel, and I don’t anticipate going out again, so I can now calculate my annual — or monthly, or daily — usage over this time period. Yes, I know that this is of no interest to anyone else, but here goes.

The odometer reads 11,640. Dividing by 3, we find that I have averaged 3880 miles per year. And dividing that by 12, we find that I average 323 1/3 miles per month.

The thing is, I made a half-day round trip to Vancouver in the car’s first month, and since then two overnight round trips, all on university business at the University of British Columbia and each involving about 300 miles of driving. These trips distort the numbers. Subtracting 900 from the total, I find that I’ve done 10,740 miles of driving over three years, or 3580 per year, or 298 1/3 miles per month. That’s more like it.

Let’s just call it 300 miles of driving per month, or about 10 miles per day. Not much, huh? It helps that my drive to school is just over 2 miles. And it would be less if I didn’t have to drive all the way past campus to get to the appropriate entrance, then double back to get to the parking lot. At this rate, my car should last, well, I suppose pretty much forever. Its predecessor lasted two months short of 15 years, at which point it had about 76,000 miles on it. It could have kept going, but for the first time, it required an expensive set of repairs, and it had only one airbag, the standard driver’s airbag. I missed out on a front passenger airbag by one model year. Gail reminded me of its absence regularly. That car too might have lasted forever, but we decided to replace it. Maybe when my current car hits 15 years, there will be some standard and obvious safety feature that it will be missing.

Tomorrow we’ll celebrate the car’s third birthday. We have no special plans for it. Perhaps we’ll get a cake for ourselves.

Categories: Automobiles

Highway 443

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Route 443

[Ariel Jerozolimski, Jerusalem Post]

I’m on unfamiliar ground in this post, given my limited familiarity with the background, but I was heartened when I read Ethan Bronner’s report in the NYT this morning on the Israeli Supreme Court’s ruling today that Highway 443, “a major access highway to Jerusalem running through the occupied West Bank[,] could no longer be closed to most Palestinian traffic. In a 2-to-1 decision, the court said the military overstepped its authority when it closed the road to non-Israeli cars in 2002, at the height of the second Palestinian uprising. The justices gave the military five months to come up with another means of ensuring the security of Israelis that permitted broad Palestinian use of the road.”

It turns out that the road was built on land taken from Palestinian villages three decades ago. At the time, “the villages objected, saying they had no interest in a new road. But the military contended that the villages would be the main beneficiaries of the highway, and the court yielded to that argument, saying occupied land could be developed for the benefit of those living there, not for the occupiers.” Yet, since 2002, the presumed beneficiaries were barred from using the road.

The Jerusalem Post article on the decision quotes Justice Uzi Fogleman, who explains, “I was not convinced that the sweeping denial of the right of protected persons [i.e., Palestinians living in the West Bank under belligerent occupation] to use the highway, under the particular circumstances in this case, and especially given that the highway is primarily used for ‘internal’ Israeli use, properly balances the harm to human rights and security needs. The additional security achieved by the total prohibition is outweighed by the total denial of the right of protected persons to travel on the highway, which was [originally] planned for their needs, and paved in part on land expropriated from them.”

The case was argued on behalf of the Palestinian villages by The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, “Israel’s oldest and largest human rights organization and the only one that deals with the entire spectrum of human rights and civil liberties issues in Israel and the Occupied Territories.”

If you’re looking to make additional end-of-year contributions to worthy organizations, you might consider ACRI, to whom one can give directly or through the New Israel Fund. We did exactly that this afternoon.

Categories: Israel

Journalist Imprisonment

December 29, 2009 Leave a comment

The New York Review of Books has a review by Louis Menand of the new Arthur Koestler biography “Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic” by Michael Scammell. (It was also the lead review in the NYT Sunday book review two days ago.) I read Menand’s review on the same day last week that Brian Stelter had a feature article in the NYT on the one journalist imprisoned at Guantanamo, Sami al-Hajj. This set up an interesting contrast, as I will explain.
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Categories: Journalism, Torture

Joel’s Arrival

December 27, 2009 Leave a comment

Joel landed in Seattle a week ago almost to the minute, ending a 48-hour journey from Grenoble. I wrote about the first half of the journey eight days ago in a post about his program in Grenoble’s having come to an end. But I never finished the story, and I also didn’t fill in some details Joel provided after he got here. Let me do so now.
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Categories: Language, Travel