Elections

Israelis went to the polls earlier this week – a propos, this wonderful commentary from David Hirsh (I stole it from his Facebook page).

Israelis are voting today and determining their own future. This fact makes the hearts of all democratic people soar. This signifies the defeat, so far anyway, of the antisemitisms, Nazism, Arab Nationalisms, Islamisms and the Communisms which tried to prevent the endurance and the self determination of Jews.

Some Israelis are people whose families never left Jerusalem, the Middle East or North Africa; people ethnically cleansed from the great cosmopolitan civilizations by Arab nationalism and Islamism, from Cairo, Alexandria, Beirut, Yemen, Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Tunisia…

Some were driven out of Europe at the time of the pogroms in Kishniev and elsewhere.

Some are descended from the undead of Europe, survivors of the largely successful campaign across Europe to define, seek out and kill them.

Some limped away from the ideological and physical attempt to wipe them out which was called Russian Communism.

Some trace their ancestry to the expulsions from England in 1290 or from Spain in 1492.

Some Israelis come from Africa, ancient communities of Jews, endangered by famine and by isolation.

The continued existence of Israel is a victory for democratic life, democratic thinking and democratic practice.

Young Israeli men and women fought and died to defend their freedom against annihilationist aggression, notably in 1948, 1967, 1973. Israel still has to fight for its right to exist and Israelis still have to fight for their right to be part of the global community of human kind.

If you cannot celebrate Israel’s existence, if you do not feel that its survival is also your survival, there is something wrong with the way you think and the way you feel.

True, Israel and its neighbours might have done better in getting on with each other. But that thought does not constitute a *but* to this post. It is another, separate, thought.

(Emphasis mine.) That second to last paragraph represents precisely my views on what Israel means – and it represents why I have distanced myself from certain relationships. I refer not just to my anti-Semitic relatives (of whom I have written from time to time on this site) but also to some old and new friendships of mine that have gone to the wayside. (I have had an experience similar, though not identical, to this.)

Charles van Doren

Charles van Doren died this week. For those of you to whom that name means nothing, he was at the centre of the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. Robert Redford directed this excellent film about it all. Because it has no car chases or shooting and the actual scandal didn’t involve anything sexy, I can’t see it attracting any Millennials, but I highly recommend it – a nostalgic portrait of a time when we expected honesty from people. It is also about the van Dorens. My family was never quite so glamorous, but my parents — like van Doren’s mother and father — were extremely competitive and had huge expectations for their kids. I always felt a lot of pressure.

The film’s trailer:

National Poetry Day

So today is National Poetry Day. Last year I posted a poem I wrote for more or less the same occasion – you can read it here. And for today I am posting this – inspired by a conversation Significant Other and I had during our recent trip to Italy. Are we not deep? Shall I send it to the New Yorker?

Ode to the Banana

You truly are the King of Fruit and so inspired

Your merry yellow countenance is nature’s perfect wrapping, no polluting-our-seas plastic required

I carry you without a Kleenex and my fingers don’t feel sticky and icky

Like when I hold grapes

And when I carry you about, I feel very much at one with our cousin apes.

 

When peeled you still aren’t a sticky and icky kind of loot

At least as much as, say, your brothers in fruitdom, the orange, the apple and the grapefruit

Your potassium picks me up after illness and your sugar picks me up when I’m lackadaisical

You are inexpensive too

And ubiquitous, available in France and probably Timbuktu and Kalamazoo.

 

Oh, they say you are gross when you get all mushy

With black spots and inconsistency and feeling all squishy

But you can be the proud foundation of a smoothie

Or better yet, the reason to make that comfort food known as banana bread

From a recipe used to often I no longer need to read it, it is stuck in my head.

 

Oh, they say people slip and fall on you – is this what Sir Joseph Paxton wanted?

Your peels discarded on sidewalks, streets and paths leave some daunted

But if it wasn’t beneath Ethel Merman, Buster Keaton and Woody Allen

Then why treat it as some sort of evil plan

Better yet, you lazy souls, take those peels and put them in a garbage can.

 

Oh, they besmirch your name: Cavendish, Chiquita (top banana in the world today!) or Dole

By using it as a synonym for crazy, nutty and out-of-control

When their own names would better do the trick

How about the name of an actual nut to replace such words?

For “macadamia” and “pistachio” are two of the craziest-sounding words I have ever heard.

 

Cherries have pits, so much effort required to eat them

To open a durian you need a team of engineers on standby, and peaches have fur, biting into them

the gourmet equivalent of nails down a blackboard

You are also easy to draw. What is your flaw? Your only one as far as I can see

Is that you hide the deadly black tarantula, as sang Harry Belafonte.

 

But even scary, hairy spiders need a place to sleep

And dear banana, you give them that, a place to sleep deeply

And you give us B6, C, folate, manganese, on top of the aforementioned

So please dear banana, take a bow

And I mean right now.

Molly Gallivan’s

For St. Patrick’s Day, another memory from last year’s trip to Ireland: a visit to Molly Gallivan’s, a cottage, shop, farm and restaurant in County Kerry. It overlooks the Sheen Valley – what absolutely stunning views. But what was so charming was the history of the place (click the link above), and the “poitin” we drank. Poitin is a kind of local potato whiskey – moonshine, I guess. The Irish call it “mountain dew” (not the pop), and Molly Gallivan’s owner, Stephen O’Sullivan (photo below) gave us a talk about its history, before pouring us each a glass. It hit the spot, that’s for sure.
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St. Patrick’s Day

For St. Patrick’s Day, here is a photo from my trip to Ireland last year: it’s Maureen O’Hara’s house on Bantry Bay! (She doesn’t live there now, obviously, as she is dead.) FYI, The Quiet Man is on TCM tonight – you are a fool if you don’t watch it (or at least tape it to watch it later). And if you don’t get TCM and/or haven’t seen The Quiet Man, purchase/rent the film, pronto.
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