11/30/2002

HOMELESS BUT NOT CLUELESS One of the more depressing aspects about New York is the rather extraordinary number of homless people and beggars you see on the streets. Without wishing to go all Michael Moore or anything, this IS the wealthiest country on the face of the planet, and perhaps this phenomenon is not strictly neccessary. But last night on my way back from synagogue, I fell into conversation with a homeless guy on the subway, and it was very interesting. He was in his early thirties, not very well-dressed of course, but he was very polite. Basically he got on to the subway car, and said "Excuse me ladies and gentlement, if I couyld have your attention for a brief moment. I'm not going to give you a sob-story, but I am homless and jobless, and I'm raising some money so I can get something to eat. If you could spare anything, eveb if it's just a penny, it would be a big help. Thank you". He seemed genuine enough, and I wasn't the only person who made a donation. I asked him about being homeless, and he responded very candidly. "Look, let me tell you something, most of these people are just liars. They're not dying of aids, they're not hanicapped, they don't actually need those crutches. They're fundamentally dishonest with people. Me, I just tell it like it is and I'm straight with folks, Those other guys are bulshitting everyone, I don't like it". I asked him if there weren't any assistance programs the city runs to help people in his position, and his answer surprised me. "No, I'm afraid they're just too politically correct. There's lots of help for battered women and victims of sexual abuse, but if yiu're a guy, forget about it, they aint interested in helping you. Women are okay, and that's fine, don't get me wrong. But guys have problems too, why can't we get help? It's just insane political correctness". Wgen even a homeless guy panhandling on the subway starts condemning the PC police, you know their days are numbered. He also wanted me to pass on a message. It is this... LIVE FROM NEW YORK - IT'S SATURDAY NIGHT!
How could they miss?
Bruce poses a very good question that a lot of folks may be wondering about in the Nigerian Airliner attack. Namely - how could they miss? The discarded launchers shown on video coverage look to be SA-7s. Old Soviet manportable infrared seeker point defense weapons, manufactured by the thousands or hundreds of thousands in the late 70s and early eighties. Typical of Soviet design, rugged little beasties, probably capable of being stepped on, driven over by a tank, dragged through the mud, and still operate in the hands of a terrified conscript about to piss his pants due to an approaching western block Cobra helicopter gunship. The key here is late 70's early 80's. Shelf life. Although rugged, these things were built relatively simply, with 'crude' tech engineering. And, they went out of production about the time VW stopped making the beetle outside of Mexico and Brazil. Also, the ones that were used in Nigeria were probably part of a shipment to one of the Soviet client states - small arms were passed around somewhat like corporate types pass out promotional pens at a trade show - and the Soviets were well known for dumping the 'factory seconds' to their good friends, and keeping the 'QC checked and approved by worker 438 from collective State Defense Factory 37' models for their own use. Then consider that the new owners probably weren't to fastidious about the storage and handling of their new gizmos - too hot, too cold, too much humidity, dust, dirt, etc, etc. Also possibly being abused during smuggling operations, as well. I'm not so much surprised, all things considered, that they missed, but that the damned things even fired at all. Further, a high bypass ratio turbofan, of the type used by Boeing on the 757, produces a somewhat smaller, or less concentrated IR signature than the tight, compact engines on the helicopters these things were designed to take out. As for actually taking the airliner down - As Matt pointed out in the comments to Bruce's original post, airliners and military jets (and particularly helicopters) are engineered somewhat differently. And certainly are a much 'tougher' target than the helicopters the SA-7 was originally built to counter. Taken a step further, and assuming that at least one of the projectiles (which, by published descriptions, appeared to have been on a solely ballistic, unguided trajectory) had homed on an engine, the damage would have been out on the engine pylon, somewhat removed from the wing structure, and quite a distance from the fuselage area. Had the shrapnel caused a catastrophic failure of the engine core, the plane would still have enough thrust to stay aloft, and come back for an emergency landing. Don't mistake my critique of the methodology as a dismissal of the barbarity of the intent and act. The perpetrators should have their genetalia worked over with a broken bottle soaked in alcohol and sprinkled with kosher salt before having their mouths stuffed with bacon, and sewed up inside a pigskin bag prior to being tossed into a pit of slightly famished wild boars as preparation for their attempt to enter their 72 virgin afterlife. On the bright side, they're moronic idiots. Too bad they're homicidal, raving lunatic moronic idiots. The sooner we put them out of their misery, the better.

11/29/2002

Confirmed
Yes, that is his current location. Quick - leave him lots of voice mail messages while he's out looking for dinner... UPDATE: Better yet, any local NY bloggers got the number for the local Domino's?
CURRENT LOCATION I am staying at the Pickwick Arms Hotel, 230 East 51st St, just a few blocks from the UN (grrr). Phone number is (212)355-0300 and I'm in room 1235.
HAD A THANKSGIVING DINNER THAT COULDN'T BE BEAT... Stuffed. Can't move. Turkey, yams, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie coming out my ears. Seriously incapacitated by food. Great party, Sasha and Ian were there, Ian on fine form as always, topics essentially included insulting absolutely every possible group under the sun - Jews, black people, Germans, Sarth Effricans, Ulster Protestants, Irish, English. Australians, Americans...if thetre is anyone who wasn't offended by last night, then clearly Ian Dodge and I didn't do our jobs right. I declare Thanksgiving a capital holiday, and worthy of emulation by everyone. I wanted to personally thank the Native Americans for helping the Pilgrims survive, but apparently I just missed them. They were right around here just recently, not sure what happened.... Turns out I can do a rather passable Reverend Ian Paisley impersonation. "Whore of Babylon! Papist conspiracy! Ulster will remain loyal to Britain, no matter how many British soldiers we have to kill to prove it!" Things are a bit blurred after that. Maybe Ian's recollection is better than mine. Head on over to Sasha's blog and check. And yes, he and Sasha are a VERY cute couple.
IT'S SO HARD TO GET GOOD HELP THESE DAYS... Israeli passenger jet, just taken off, moving slow, low altitude, no maneuverability, two SAMs launched, short range, no time for the pilot to react...AND THEY MISS?! Who the hell have Al Qaeda got conducting operations for them these days, the Three Stooges? I can't believe they can miss a shot like that! It was probably Crazy Achmed, thy guy who was told to go out and blow up a bus and came back having burned his lips on the exhaust pipe.
November 29, 1947 - November 29, 2002
Today is the 55th anniversary of the UN vote on resolution 181, which approved the partition of the western part of Palestine into a predominately Jewish state, and a predominately Arab state. (It is vital to recall that the UN partition plan referred to western Palestine, to underscore that in 1921 the eastern part was ripped off the Jewish National Home by the British Government and handed over to the then Emir Abdullah.) The partition plan was approved by 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions. The 33 countries that cast the “Yes” vote were: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Byelorussia, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, Union of South Africa, USSR, USA, Uruguay, Venezuela. (Among other countries, the list includes the US, the three British Dominions, all the European countries except for Greece and the UK, but including all the Soviet-block countries.) The 13 countries that chose the Hall of Shame and voted “No” were: Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen. (Ten of these are Moslem countries; Greece has the special distinction of being the only European country to have joined the Hall of Shame.) The ten countries that abstained are: Argentina, Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia. On November 30, 1947, the day following the vote, the Palestinian Arabs murdered six Jews in a bus making its way to Jerusalem, and proceeded to murder another Jew in the Tel-Aviv - Jaffa area. This was a prelude to a war that claimed the lives of 6,000 Jews, or 1% of the total Jewish population in 1948. This toll is the per capita equivalent of today’s Canada losing 300,000 lives, or the US losing 3,000,000. In addition, immediately after the UN vote, Arabs attacked their Jewish neighbours in a number of Arab countries, the murders in Syria’s Aleppo being the best known. Bruised and bleeding, Israel prevailed nonetheless. May our sister-democracy thrive and flourish. Contributed by Joseph Alexander Norland.

11/28/2002

TO THE TERRORISTS Bite me.
WHERE ARE ALL THE PEOPLE? Parts of Manhattan look like there's been a neutron bomb strike. It's about as deserted as it ever gets. Apparently there's some sort of festival on, something to do with Puritans, Turkeys and a football game. I didn't catch the details. Native Americans appear to be involved in some way, but people go all vauge when I ask if they are still involved in the proceedings. Something about being resettled to the west, just following orders, and not having personally been aware of anything. As Dave Barry puts it, the Pilgrims landed at Plymoth Rock, determined to stand on their own two feet, make their own decisions, formulate an independent style of government and practice a hardy self-sufficiency. By spring, most of them were dead.
AMERICANS AND DEMOCRACY I beg your indulgence about this American trip - right now I'm sort of soaking impressions up. The more detailed analysis, and Alexis de Tocqueville-style insights may have to wait until I get back to Australia and have time to think about what I've seen and heard. But something happened last night which did rather impress me. I was in the bus heading back to New York, which was full of Cornell students going home for Thanksgiving. The driver who was supposed to be there had gotten lost, apparently turning up in Watertown, so a local driver was used instead. He didn't know the route at all, and got hoplessly lost trying to get into Binghampton. Which is NOT the world's bigges and most confusing metropolis, let me tell you. Finally the kids snapped, and some of them went up front and gave him directions. Very cool. But then later, after a new driver was found and we were on the way to New York City, came a very American moment. Greyhound company policy is to break a long journey with a 15-minute stop for food, but we were already running way behind. So the driver said "Okay, we can have the regulation stop, or keep going. QWhat do you want to do?" After a little discussion, the passengers voted to keep going. THEY VOTED! How American is that? I don't think such a thing would happen in New Zealand, we're much too cowed by authority. It was just a little thing, but it made me smile. These people are in charge of their own destiny in a very real way, and are used to expressing their opinion and making their own decisions. I think it's great.
AMERICAN GUNS AND 500 MEN... Canadian history is actually pretty interesting. Not satisfied with having beaten the Americans in the War of 1812 (the scorch marks can still be seen in the White House), they had a prime minister during WWII who was as mad as a cut snake. McKenzie King used to take advice from his dog, and habitually used a decision-making system whereby he would say yes to a proposal if the clock's minute hald was on the top half, and no if it was between quarter-past the hour and quarter to. He was their longest-serving leader (1921 - 1948 with a break in the 1930s) and seemed to do no more or less harm than anyone else, so maybe politicians could be replaced with a magic 8-ball. One of the best ways to learn about Canadian history is to buy CDs by folk group Tanglefoot. I was introduced to them by the family I was staying with in Ithaca, Rabbi Ed Rosenthal, the Rabbi at the Cornell University Hillel, his wife Mindy (who says Bad Words under stress), son Jonah and daughtr Gabe. We were all in the car and the kids started singing this great song, and I made inquiries, and now I have the CD!

Come all you brave young soldier lads With your strong and manly bearing I'll tell you a tale of a woman bold and her deed of honest daring Laura Secord was American-born in the state of Massachusets But she made her home in Canada and proved so faithful to us Chorus There's American guns and 500 men So the warning must be given And Laura Ingersoll Secord was the stalwart heart Who braved the heat and the flies and the swamp To warn Colonel Fitzgibbon There's soldiers pounding at the door And they come from across the border American officers march inside It's food and drink they've ordered In comfort they have dined and drunk Their own success they've toasted But they pay no heed to the woman who hears their plan so idly boasted Chorus Oh, James I've overheard it all A surprise attack they're making Fitzgibbon they intend to smash His men for prisoners taking And James a warning never you'll take with your wounded knee and shoulder I myself must carry it past the sentries and the soldiers Chorus It's an all-day tramp to the British camp By way of Shipman's Corners There're snakes and flies and sweat in her eyes There is no respite for her She's lost her shoes in the muck of the bog Her feet are torn and blistered But there's many a soldier lad to be spared if the message be delivered Chorus So all you Yankee soldier lads who dare to cross our border Thinking to save us from ourselves Usurping British order There's women and men Canadians all Of every rank and station To stand on guard and keep us free From Yankee domination

The Rosenthals are friends with Tanglefoot's lead singer, who lives in Ithaca, despite being Canadian. It's a great band, and anyone who can get an American family singing a rousing song about Yankee domination can't be all bad, eh?
THIS SNOW IS AFFECTING MY BRAIN, EH?

Yes, you have a Canadian Attitude. Is that okay?
Yes, you have a Canadian Attitude. Is that okay?
You're a conciliatory, wishy-washy, igloo-living, army-lacking, gun-hating,
crossborder-shopping, politeness-overdoing, American-by-Association
Take the What the Hell Kinda Attitude is That? Quiz at aka cooties

11/27/2002

BRUCE'S SENSE OF SNOW Time taken to go from "Wow! Snow! Amazing, magical, wonderful!" to "Goddman snow, I HATE it!" - approxiamately one and a half hours. Sitting in a car with bald types, at the top of a hill, staring down at a road where several cars have just smacked into each other after having fishtailed uncontrollably all over the place, is NOT A GOOD PLACE! I've missed my bus, we nearly went into a ditch on the way back to the house, the Rabbi's wife who was driving was shaking...mind you, the kids thought it was more fun than Six Flags. "Again Mommy!" Mommy said several Bad Words, despite being a Rabbi's wife. I mentally said Amen to all of them. So - stuck in Ithaca. Let's see if I actually make it to New York tonight.
WEDDING BELLS ARE RINGING! For Andrew Ian Dodge and Sasha Castel. I can confirm that this in not a rumour, in fact I have known about their engagement for some time, but managed to keep the secret, despite being a journalist. I'm sure all of us in the Blogosphere wish them all the best in what I'm pretty sure is the first blogger marriage. Naturally, it is an international affair, with Sasha living in New York and Andrew in London. Welcome to the modern world, where parts of our lives are lived electronically.
SNOW! Two inches overnight here in Ithaca. The place looks like a Christmas card. I'm sure I'll be less pleased about this after the bus trip back to New York this afternoon, which may be delayed a bit. On the other hand, the locals here assure me that New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are well set up to handle snow, and the snow ploughs are extremely efficient at keeping the roads clear.

11/26/2002

...COUNTING THE CARS ON THE NEW JERSEY TURNPIKE... I gave up at 147. But then I realised it was probably just one of those metaphor things Paul Simon is so fond of. Damn Jews, always showing off. Nevertheless, there I was on a Greyhound Bus on the New Jersey Turnpike. How American can you get? The New York skyline was a line of grey in a golden morning haze, with the Empire State Building once again doing duty as the tallest landmark around. Rolling through northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania was something of an education. Life looks to be pretty hardscrabble in some of those small towns we passed though. At one, where the bus stopped for 15 minutes, we all crowded into the store, where I overheard one local guy talking to the girl behind the counter about how good he was at killin' and dressin' bears. I think he was actually trying to impress her. They truly terrifying things was, it seemed to be working. Folks around those parts (they're not people, they're "folks") seem to be pretty patriotic. Every house seemed to have an American flag hanging from the front porch. The local schools were very well looked-after, with sports feilds maintained to within an inch of their lives. Buit it was clear that times are tough, and in fact may never have been particularly properous. The L&N don't stop there anymore. But the houses, no matter how old, all looked to be basically clean. As the bus wound up into the hills of northern Pennsylvania, the various hollows and hills began to look positively Appalachian. When I passed one sign that read "Hog Hollow", I have expected to see Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yoken from the Simpsons, setting by the side of the road with Lurleen and a bunch of young'uns, pointing at the bus saying "Lookit kids. They'se from New York City. Reckon theyse all Jews 'n commonists". I'm a Bad tourist. Bad, bad, bad. Dealing in these awful stereotypes. Shocking. Ought to be a law against it. I'm reminded of a Doonsebury cartoon, that shows a southern type sitting on his porch, listening the the radio. "The President has announced that in an effort to reach out to ordinary people, tomorrow he will visit the town of Fritters, Alabama. Ha ha! "Fritters"! What a joke!" And then the Southern guys says: "Less'n of course y'all happen to live there". I'm currently in Ithaca, home of Cornell University. There's a year-round population of 30,000, but it doubles when the students are in town. It's absolutely glorious physically, with gorges and waterfalls all over the place. In fact, I'm going on a gorge walk right now. If you don't see any posts from me for for a couple of weeks, alert the Ithaca police. Tell them to arrest Cletus, he's the one whut done it.
Quite a quandry
Dave Barry poses an interesting question that maybe one of Australian readers will shed some light upon - Just exactly how does one measure a kangaroo's farts?

11/24/2002

I"M BAAAAAAAAAAAK!!! And not a moment too soon by the look of it. You turn you back for ten minutes and the the spitfire, kickass, takenoprisoners, inyourface blog has turned into "What I did on my holidays" By Bruce Hill aged 41 1/2 and Gannie Wind Riders cooking for the arterialy challenged! I'll see you all in my office first thing in the morning... err whenever that may be in your relative time zones.
One last item on 'The South'
Bruce will know for sure he's out of 'The South' if he goes into a local restaraunt, orders an iced tea, and isn't asked "Sweet or Unsweet?" Lack of that question indicates one of two things - 1) You aren't in the South, or, 2) You may geographically be in 'The South', but are dining at a 'Generica' chain restaraunt founded or owned by Yankees or somebody from California.
Hey, even if you don't feel like cooking...
Follow Michele's advice and feed the IDF!
A strange, shooting pain, running down my left arm...
Is the best way I can describe the reaction to Tom's post about chicken. And that 'recipe'. Words fail me. Pathetic. Must be some sort of left coast fantasy recipe. I'm surprised it desn't direct you to garnish with avocados and bean sprouts before serving. Although I thought the squash/spinach recipe would be the last, the abomination that Tom posted below just cannot go unanswered. Ok, now if I'd known he was interested in Southern Cooking! Guess I was lulled into a false sense of security by Meryl talking about out of the way, hole in the wall bar-b-que joints, fried okra, and all. We could have talked about something much more intricate and interesting Friday than how to take a picture of the USS Cole and the TR without being dragged off to a Navy brig. Ahem. WARNING to New Zealanders and Australians:
Do NOT make the chicken recipe Tom Paine published and serve it to an American Southerner and call it "Fried Chicken". A Fight may ensue.
Fried Chicken (and note, please this in no way involves an OVEN, PARSLEY, or OREGANO). Raw Materials Some chicken, cut up into frying size pieces. Use own judgement. Some flour. About a cup and a half or so if you want an exact 'amount' but it usually isn't ever the same. Some salt. Just enough so it isn't too much. Somewhere between a teaspoon and a tablespoon. Enough to make the 'about right size' little pile in my hand. Some pepper. Same instructions as with salt. Some milk, in a bowl. Some Accent flavor enhancer (optional). Generous dash. Basically, MSG here. 1 Can of Crisco. (A 'Merickan' brand of vegetable shortening) About 8 to 12 ounces of liquid cooking oil. Wesson, Crisco, corn, sunflower, whatever floats your boat. I sometimes also add one 'glug' of peanut oil, just to flavor it a bit. The big pot. Mine is about 12" in diameter, and about 6" Deep. Two handles, one on either side. Teflon coated, but this isn't important. I do have a rather large iron skillet that could be used, but this way is easier. A gallon size ziploc bag. Directions Put the entire can of Crisco into the big pot. Add enough additional vegetable oil so the pot is a little over half full. Put it onto a large burner on the stove. Medium to medium high heat. Hot enough so drops of water flicked into it will dance, but not so hot the oil is smoking. Yes, you can burn the oil, and with as much warning as it gives before it gets to the really disgusting and burnt stage, you have only yourself to blame if this happens. Do not put it on HIGH to save time. This will burn it. Just use the medium to medium high heat setting. It will be ready by the time you get the other stuff you have to do ready. Combine flour, salt, pepper, and Accent into ziploc bag. Close ziploc. Have fun tossing it around to mix ingredients. Set aside. Wash off the cut up chicken, even if you think its clean enough. Hey, its chicken, water won't hurt it. Check for any pinfeathers that the automatic pluckers may have missed. Sort of shake the water off, but don't get all involved with 'patting it dry' or anything. Again, this is just chicken. Dunk the chicken in the milk, and then toss the pieces into the ziploc bag. After all the pieces are in, close the ziploc, and repeat the shaking exercise from before, only about twice as long this time around. If you want to make a funny, imitate a really bad twangy southern accent and say "Its shake and bake, and I helped". Ok, thats enough. Stop playing with the plastic bag now. Check the oil. Wet the ends of your fingers at the sink, then flick the excess water towards the big pot. Do not do this with your face directly pointed at the big pot. Its hot enough when some of the water just dances immediately, but enough stays liquid to sink and make really loud muffled popping noises from the bottom of the oil. If it takes more than a couple of seconds for it to make the muffled popping noise, it isn't hot enough. Give it about 5 minutes and test it again. The chicken isn't going anywhere...it should already be dead, and you should have closed the top of the ziploc bag. One sign you may have done this incorrectly is flour and chicken pieces all over your kitchen from the mixing step. Once the oil is ready, open ziploc, and put in pieces one at a time. If you're really in a hurry, dumping the whole thing in at once will not help. It will probably earn you a trip to the local ER for getting burned by hot splattering oil, though. Using some sort of stirring implement, stir it around ONCE after its all in. Now walk away. Or not. Yes, you can stand there and watch it, but it isn't really going to do anything spectacular for the next 5 minutes or so. This is just chicken. If you have a timer, set it for 6, 7 or 8 minutes, your choice. When the timer goes off, go back and stir things around ONCE. Reset the timer for about 5 more minutes. When is this stuff done? Good question. Look for some of the smaller pieces to start floating. This is a good indication that the interiors are heated enough to create steam. After the smaller pieces (such as wings) begin to bob around, give it a few more minutes to brown a bit. If it browns too fast, then you overheated the oil. Was it smoking? Didn't I mention not to do that? Ok. Once most of the pieces start floating, and the outside is a 'nice golden brown color' you're just about there. Give it another minute and a half at that point. Then fish it outr with a slotted spoon. Its a good idea to have a plate ready to put it on. If you want, you can be all neat about it and put a folded up paper towel on the plate, but there really shouldn't be too much oil draining off of it. If there is a lot of oil, your oil may not have been hot enough. Did the water dance when you tested it? Did it make the loud muffled popping noises pretty quickly, or did it take a while? Let it cool for a few minutes, unless you really enjoy burning the crap out of the roof of your mouth and your tongue. Once cooled off a bit, enjoy! Now, for the biscuits. Simple. Buy box of Bisquick. Follow directions. Caution, the directions for plain biscuits is usually in a small obscure out of the way place on the side of the box. Do not follow the most prominent recipe on the box, or you may end up with Belgian waffles or some such. One sure way to stay out of trouble is to avoid anything on the box with 'powdered sugar' as part of the ingredients list. If anyone is really interested, I'll call my great aunt and get her to remind me of her recipe for scratch drop biscuits. Do not substitute anything from a round cardboard tube that you pop open with a spoon. Bisquick is an acceptable shortcut, but anything marketed by that fat giggling 'dough' thing spokeswidget is a foul. Actually I would recommend cornbread to acompany. Washed down by copious amounts of sweet iced tea, with lemon.
MY BIG FAT KLEZMER CONCERT White people should not attempt to dance. If neccessary, they should be forcibly prevented from attempting it, at gunpoint. Still, on rare occasions, and if no-one else is watching, I suppose there's no harm is displaying how spazzed-out and geeky we can look. Such was the case last night at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden Education and Library Complex, where Judy Bressler of the Klezmer Conservatory Band gave a concert. It was billed as "Klezmer Kabaret", and inclided Yiddish favourites, as well as some English songs from the early decades of last century. Judy was, of course, excellent. She's been a favourite of mine for years, and I have several KCB albums in my collection, although Klezmer music is not neccessarily my all-time favourite musical style. But what interested me as the audience reaction. When an entertainer urges the audience to get up and dance, I'm afraid my inner WASP kicks in and I tend to cling to my seat. I am perfectly aware of how stupid I would look attempting to dance, which is why it never happens. But the Jews of Richmond have clearly not acquired the Anglo sense of reserve, and dancing there was, in the form of long conga-style lines. I'm not saying that everyone who was dancing neccessarily knew what they were doing, or had any rythmn, or indeed basic motor skills, but it was heartwarming to see folk make the attempt. There was one girl there, who looked to be about 14 years old, who was a very keen dancer. She had NHS-stlye round glasses, braces on her teeth, and had crinkly blonde hair. Not neccessarily the American teenage ideal - Britney Spears - but my word she loved dancing, and had absolutely no self-conciousness at all. If the boys don't start lining up round the block to date her, I will be very surprised. In fact, one teenage boy got up during the finale ("Rumania!") and did a Rumanian dance, which impressed the hell out of me. Try getting a tenage boy to do anything in public and se how far you get. Kudos to him. When Judy introduced the song, she said it was about one of the old homelands of the Jewish people, and there must have been a little growl from the front row, because she immediately said "Yes, I know, we left in droves. We had to flee for our lives! But what are you gonna do?" The encore saw the klezmer band of Congregation Or Ami (Reform) join Judy and her musicians, and I have to say they were actually pretty damn good. It was Or Ami who organised the concert, but lots of people from different shuls were there. Once again, I keep running into Jewish population centres containing three times the number of Jews than there are in my entire country, who complain about how small and isolated they are! Only in New York do I not hear this. American Jews are in fact spoiled rotten, but that's just from my perspective. I wonder what an American Jew would think if he or she came to New Zealand? Now that would be an interesting experience...
'MERKIN FAST FOOD Oh god, Popeyes is good! Why don't we have it in Australia and New Zealand? It's essentially Cajun-style crispy chicken, with lovely spicy rice and these utterly amazing things called "biscuits". Now these aren't what Antipodeans like me would call biscuits, our biscuits here would be called "cookies". No, these are delicious hunks of a slightly fried breadlike substance, crisp on the outside and softer on the inside. They are to die for! And I speak as someone who has had the corned beef at Katz's Deli on the Lower East Side. Well, until someone decides it's time Australia got a taste of some of the best fast food in the world, I guess we'll just have to make our own. Here's how: BUTTERMILK FRIED CHICKEN & BISCUITS 1 frying chicken, cut into- serving pieces 1 1/2 c. buttermilk 2 1/2 c. flour 2 tbsp. chopped parsley 1 tbsp. dried oregano 1 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. pepper 1/4 c. shortening 1/4 c. butter 1/4 c. chicken broth or water 1 tbsp. sugar (opt.) 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder 1/2 tsp. soda Parsley for garnish Place chicken in a bowl, pour buttermilk over chicken and marinate for 1/2 to 1 hour. In another bowl mix 1/2 cup of the flour with parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Remove chicken from buttermilk. Reserve 3/4 cup of buttermilk and pour remainder into a shallow, buttered casserole. Heat shortening and butter in heavy skillet. Brown chicken pieces for 4 to 5 minutes over medium to high heat. Place browned chicken into the buttermilk casserole. Strain fat from skillet into measuring cup. There should be 1/3 cup of fat. If not, add enough melted butter to equal 1/3 cup. Pour broth into skillet, scrape up brownings and pour around chicken. Bake, uncovered at 375 degrees until crisp and tender, about 1 hour. Mix remaining flour with sugar (if used), baking powder, and baking soda in a bowl, stir in butter and reserved buttermilk to make a stiff dough. Knead lightly, roll out on floured board and cut into 2" rounds. Bake in same oven with chicken for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve along with chicken. Makes about 10 biscuits.
DRIVING FAST AND TURNING LEFT That may be the key to success for NASCAR drivers, but off the speedway, Virginia drivers tend to be, as Meryl Yourish is fond of pointing out, pussies! Driving with Miss Yourish is a constant education on the many and varied ways Virginia drivers betray feline antecedants. In fact, if my brother Murray ever gets here and the both of them are in the same car, I fear a Traffic Abuse Convergence of extraordinary magnitude may result. If you ever see little old ladies on their way to church sitting on the side of the road anywhere in Richmond City or Henrico County, pale, shaking and taking a wee drop of something for medicinal reasons, it's a fair bet they've been on the wrong end of a detailed analysis of their driving techniques from the Yourish/Hill Helpful Motoring Hints service. One thing which definitely is pretty damn stupid, so dumb that even a non-driver like me can work it out, is that the Virginia road authorities have decided to place the on-ramps to the highways before the off-ramps. This naturally results in people fighting to get into the right-hand lane to get off, with the merging traffic getting on. The only reason for this that I can come up with is that the highway designer had brothers in the tow-truck, paramedic and funeral home businesses. But the key problem is courtesy. Virginia is the South, and while it may not have plantations, spanish moss, and women in hoop skirts going "Fidle dee-dee" all the time, it does like to think of itself as the Home of Niceness. This can infuriate out-of-state drivers, especially those from parts of the country where they use a handgun rather than the horn to signal irritation. Everbody wants to be the Ultimate Southern Courteous Driver, to show their level of politness. In fact, this can lead to serious problems. Mrs Lillian Q. Phaffenwhacker of Richmond and Mrs Augusta May Honeysuckle of Henrico County, have been sitting in their cars at the same intersection since 1967, both insisting that the other should go first. Neither is likely to back down, both being long-standing Daughters of the Confederacy. And that's another thing. Remember the Civil War? You were taught iT was 1861 - 1865, it was about slavery, and the Union won, right? BZZZT! Wrongo! Down here it's the War of Northern Aggression (1861 - Present), and it was about....ah.....states rights? Well, whatever it was about it wasn't...erm....the "peculiar institution". I get the impression that the word "slavery" isn't much used down in these here parts. It's impolite, discourteous and just plain not nice. Not being nice is probably a hanging offence. I may have more to say about the Civil War, once I am safely acrosss the Virginia/Maryland state line.