storyteller doll

Retirement Planning

Yesterday, I submitted my Intent to Retire form to HR (officially called People Ops or some similar abomination I refuse to use). This should not be a surprise to anybody. My retirement day is October 1st, because for some mysterious reason they make it be the first of a month. I am sure there is a whole bunch of other annoying paperwork to do, but at least that step is done.

The big decision is whether or not I stay here when I retire. There are a lot of things I love about the D.C. metro region. I have good friends, for one thing. There are nice places to walk. I have an independent bookstore and a good coffee roaster close to home. There are plentiful international connections from IAD. And, best of all, the cultural life here is amazing, with tons of theatre and good venues for the sorts of music I like.

The downsides are that I haven’t really found a compatible Jewish community and that we are absurdly far inland. (This is the only place I have lived that is not within walking distance of the ocean / a large bay.) The weather is less than wonderful, but I am more tolerant of heat and humidity than most people. The large, slow moving herds of tourists at various times of year are a nuisance, too. (There are other wildlife nuisances, by the way. My neighborhood has a juvenile male bear hanging around. And Canada geese, the shittiest birds in creation. I mean that literally as there is goose poop all over our sidewalks. Also, snakes, though I rarely see them.)

So where might I move? There are two places I’ve been in the U.S. which had me reaching for real estate brochures. One of those is Traverse City, Michigan, but that has neither much of a Jewish community nor much cultural life. The other is Charleston, South Carolina, which is more feasible. I’ve been contemplating renting a place there for a while to see what it is like to actually live there, instead of just visiting.

But, of course, the place in the U.S. that has always felt most like home is Boston. It felt right from the first time I was there. And I loved spending my undergraduate years there. It’s very walkable, has lots of cultural options, and I have a lot of friends there. The winters suck, of course, but that can be handled by a mixture of holing up at home and minor snowbirding (e.g. a few weeks at a time in, say, Southeast Asia). The major downside is that it is pricy. But maybe I need to look further afield than, say, Somerville or Brookline.

I am not necessarily limited to staying in the U.S. The most likely option overseas is Israel and, in particular, Tel Aviv. That also has the advantage of assorted cousins scattered around. A more surprising option is Uruguay, though I don’t think I have any family still there. (I believe I may have some relatives still in Argentina, but haven’t confirmed that successfully.)

I have plenty of time to sort that all out. It is going to take me a good three years to get rid of enough stuff from here that I can even contemplate moving.
storyteller doll

Customer Service Failures

Celebrity Death Watch: Larry Kramer was a playwright, best known for The Normal Heart. Christo was an artist, known for his large installations Norman Lamm was the President of Yeshiva University for many years and a major force in defining Modern Orthodox Judaism. Irene Triplett was the last living recipient of a Civil War pension. Pat Dye was a college football player and coach. Bruce Jay Friedman was a comic novelist and screenwriter, best known for such movies as Splash and Stir Crazy. Rupert Hine was a songwriter and record producer, who produced work by such people as Tina Turner and Bob Geldorf. Steve Priest was a bassist and singer for The Sweet. Keiko Ito was a haiku poet. Kurt Thomas was a Hall of Fame gymnast who won world championships in the late 1970’s. Vicki Wood was one of the first women to compete as a NASCAR driver. Thomas Freeman was a debate coach whose students included Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barbara Jordan. Bonnie Pointer sang with her sisters. Claudell Washington played outfield for several baseball teams, including a World Series winning A’s team in 1974. Harry Glickman cofounded the Portland Trail Blazers. Mike McCormick was a pitcher, primarily for the Giants, with whom he won a Cy Young award. Sally Banes was a dance historian and critic. Charles Webb wrote The Graduate. Dame Vera Lynn was an English singer, best known for “We’ll Meet Again.” Sir Ian Holm was an actor whose roles varied from King Lear to Bilbo Baggins. David Perlman was a science journalist for the San Francisco Chronicle. Lester Crystal was a news executive at PBS and NBC. Ralph Dunagin was a cartoonist, whose work included both editorial cartoons and comic strips. I know I owned a copy of his book Dunagin’s People at some point and may still. Thomas Edward Blanton Jr. was the terrorist who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, killing four African-American girls. Milton Glaser designed the I (Heart) New York logo and co-founded New York Magazine. Julian Curry was an actor, best known for playing Claude Erskine-Brown in the TV version of Rumpole of the Bailey. Tom Finn was a founding member of The Left Banke, best known for the song, “Walk Away Renee.” Henry Martin was a cartoonist whose work was published often in The New Yorker. He was also the father of Ann M. Martin of Babysitters Club fame and illustrated a couple of children’s books she wrote. Sir Everton Weekes was a cricket player for Barbados, who is noted for integrating the sport. George Ratzinger was a religious musician and the older brother of Pope Benedict XVI. Max Crook wrote the song “Runaway.” Earl Cameron was a British actor, whose career included being the first black actor to play various sorts of roles. Ennio Morricone was a composer of film music. Mary Kay Letourneau raped her teenage student and later married him. Ronald Graham was a big name in discrete mathematics, which I don’t understand well enough to tell you more about. Charlie Daniels was a country music singer-songwriter. Louis Colavecchio counterfeited coins for use in casino slot machines. Naya Rivera was an actress best known for appearing on Glee</i>. Kelly Preston was an actress who appeared in numerous movies, including Jerry Maguire. She was also married to John Travolta. Judy Dybble was a founding member of Fairport Convention. Joanna Cole wrote the Magic School Bus series of children’s books. Grant Imahura was a roboticist, most famous for appearing on Mythbusters. Zizi Jeanmarie was a ballerina.

Jean Kennedy Smith was the younger sister of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy, and Eunice Kennedy Shriver and was last of her generation of the Kennedy family. She worked on issues involving people with disabilities. She also spent 5 years as U.S. Ambassador to Ireland. She had been on my ghoul pool list last year, but fell off this year because there are just too many options.

Johnny Mandel was a composer, best known for film music. His best known pieces include “The Shadow of Your Smile” and the M*A*S*H theme song, “Suicide Is Painless.”

Carl Reiner was a very funny man, both as a performer and a writer. His most classic role was as straight man to Mel Brooks for The 2000 Year Old Man. He also won the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2000. He was not on my ghoul pool list because I was sure he would live to 100. I feel robbed of two or more years of his brilliance.

Hugh Downs was a television host. His work included being a news anchor and a game show host (for Concentration). He had held the record for most hours on commercial network television for many years, though was surpassed by Regis Philbin in 2004. He had been on my ghoul pool list last year, but I fogot about him this year.

Nick Cordero was an actor, best known for roles in Bullets Over Broadway, though I think his greatest significance was originating the title role in The Toxic Avenger off-Broadway. He also was, alas, well-known for his lengthy struggle with COVID-19, documented by his wife. He earned me 13 ghoul pool points.

John Lewis was a civil rights activist, who went on to become a respected (and effective) Congressman. He seemed like a genuinely good man, who fought hard and dangerously for what he believed in. Plus, he liked cats, which is generally a good sign of character. His death was no surprise as he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December (which is why he was on my ghoul pool list, earning me 18 points). By the way, C. T. Vivian, who was another important civil rights activist, died the same day.


Non-celebrity Death Watch: Marvin Stokes was an organizer of volksmarch events, primarily in Florida, though I first met him at a walking weekend he put together in Savannah, Georgia.

General Thomas Moorman was a significant leader in Air Force space, including serving as Commander of Air Force Space Command. He also led lots of independent studies after he retired from the AF and was on the board of directors for my employer.


Minor Customer Service Fail: ( bought a laser printer (actually, multi-function). I explicitly asked about cables if I want to use it non-wirelessly and the sales guy told me it came with a USB cable. He lied. This was easily remedied via a trip to Staples (which I needed to do anyway, since I couldn’t find printer paper in my house) but it was annoying to have been lied to.

I also still have to find time to finish setting things up.

More Significant Customer Service Fail: My air conditioning failed on Tuesday. Of course, that was just before the temperatures were predicted to rise to the high 90’s. I wanted to try a couple of things (e.g. changing the filter) first, so I didn’t have a chance to call to call until Friday. I have ceiling fans in every room, so things were not intolerable, but were definitely getting uncomfortable. (It got up to 87, which is hot, even for the likes of me, who normally sets the AC at 80.) Anyway, I got an appointment for first thing Saturday morning. And the guy didn’t show up. After two calls to the company (which didn’t bother to call me when he didn’t clock in), they cancelled. They offered me an appointment on Sunday, but a friend had recommended somebody she had used and I called him instead. I was concerned when he showed up half an hour late. But he fixed the problem quickly (needed a capacitor replaced) and everything was fixed in an hour or so.

All is well now, but I was decidedly hot under the collar.


Other stuff: I’ve continued playing board games (Code Names, Dixit, Fibbage, and others) one or more times a week. I went to two story swaps in the past week, as well as listening to a couple of storytelling shows and some music programs, including the Urban Arias production of Why Is Eartha Kitt Trying to Kill Me? which is a very amusing opera.

I am also crazy busy with work. And it seems horribly unfair that caffeine is not an adequate substitute for sleep.
storyteller doll

From the Clipping File

I am clearing out various clippings that have been cluttering up my desk.

How My Governor Thinks: I generally like him, but Ralph Northam isn’t always the most articulate or decisive politician around. Since he is a physician by trade, it is particularly distressing that he dithered for a while re: Covid-19. His staff apparently circulated the following gem:

We have a 6 phase plan to reopen the state. The plan will be a phased plan that we will plan to utilize in phases. The phases will be planned and the planning will be phased. We will move quickly and slowly to open but will remain closed. I have created a staff of staffers who will plan the phase and planning while phasing their phases.


From the Mixed Metaphor Department: The Washington Post had an article on how zoo animals are reacting to the absence of people visiting zoos. Anna Peele wrote, "The blue crowned pigeon approaches his mate and begins davening, twerking his tail toward the skylight of the Cape Mazy County Zoo aviary as his beak dips towards the earth."

First of all, "davening" just means "praying." The back and forth movement associated with Jewish prayer is called "shuckling." Secondly, I can’t imagine how one would shuckle and twerk at the same time. Oy.

On a More Serious Note: The WaPo also quoted a poll that described the racial breakdown of Democrats outside of the South as 60 percent white, 17 percent African American and 23% Latino. Obviously the statistics vary from place to place, but I know that my neck of the woods is at least 14% Asian American. The Asian American percentages in several other cities are also quite significant – 23-30% in the Bay Area, 44% in Honolulu, 14% in Los Angeles. Another problem is that the Census counts Latinx people independent of race. That is, they can be considered black or white, but not as a separate racial category. Pollsters don’t have to do it the way the Census does, of course. But I thought that the reporting here was fishy.

Frozen Delight: Susan Dennis was talking not long ago about community cookbooks. That reminded me of a favorite recipe, out of the Appetizers & Beverages section of a church cookbook that my mother was given by one of her neighbors.

frozendelight

Hmm, maybe I will make some frozen delight tonight.
storyteller doll

Quarterly Update

There’s no reason for me not to continue doing my quarterly updates on books, movies, and goals. Two of those are easy this quarter. I didn’t see a single movie, which is not really surprising, given that I normally watch movies either on airplanes or at film festivals. As for goals, I completed one, as I entered the Style Invitational four times. And I even got ink once! I made minor progress on household paperwork, but I really haven’t done much on any of my other goals for the year.

Books: I only finished 6 books this quarter. So I am well off the pace I need to get through 52 by the end of the year. I did, however, manage to read the Sunday Washington Post every week and am close to caught up on magazines.


  1. Bernard Malamud, Pictures of Fidelman: This is a collection of stories about an American Jewish artist ho goes to Italy to paint and to study art. He gets involved with various dodgy characters, including a prostitute who poses for him. Fidelman isn’t entirely likeable, but he is interesting. Overall, I thought this was reasonably good. A solid B.

  2. Anthony West, Elizabethan England. This slim volume was part of a series of books that my parents had which are intended to provide overviews of various subjects. It covers a wide range of topics – from religious wars to architecture to industry to the arts. It’s superficial and basic, but does have a lot of pictures. The writing is rather dull, but, overall, this doesn’t pretend to be anything other than the quick overview that it is.

  3. David Hirschberg, My Mother’s Son. This was a book club selection. It tells the story of a Jewish family in post-World War II Boston. Joel and his brother help their grandfather and his friends run numbers, get involved in a scheme to keep the Braves from moving to Milwaukee, and try to figure out how many of their family stories are true. The characters are interesting and colorful, particularly the aunt whose diary entries are interspersed with Joel’s reminiscences. There are big events behind some of the action – ranging from the polio epidemics of the 1950’s to Kristallnacht to the Korean War lithis was interesting and worth reading, though implausible at times. Recommended.

  4. Sajal Badani, The Storyteller’s Secret. Another book club selection, this novel tells the story of Jaya, whose life is in turmoil after a third miscarriage. She goes to India to see her dying grandfather, but arrives too late. Instead, a family servant tells her the story of her grandmother, who had struggled against the limited roles for women in India during the Raj. There aren’t any real surprises in the story, nor is it particularly elegantly written. But I still got caught up in it very quickly and enjoyed reading it. Recommended.

  5. Tom Cantor, Changed. I have no idea why I bothered to read this offensive and poorly written tract which showed up in my mailbox. I’ve thrown it out to prevent others from making that mistake.

  6. Berton Roueche, Sea to Shining Sea. Roueche is best known for having written a really interesting series of magazine articles about epidemiology. This is, however, a collection of travel essays, including both U.S. and European travels. I liked his style of travel, which mostly had to do with getting to know people in what seem like ordinary places. For example, he hopped a series of tugboats pulling barges down the Mississippi River, followed a small town doctor in New Mexico through his rounds, rode trains from France to Switzerland, and visited the last Shakers living in a village in New York before that village closed. I read only one or two pieces a day, so this took a while, but I enjoyed it.

storyteller doll

Sorry For the SIlence

I have a couple of things to write about at some length, but I am frustrated with the length in one case and the general situation in the other.

I'm okay - just angry and frustrated. I will attempt to write about some other things until I can sort those issues out.
storyteller doll

Finishing Off May

Continuing the catch-up, May finished on another busy note.

I went to a Story Swap the last Thursday of May. The next day (i.e. the last Friday) I went to a Profs and Pints lecture about cats in folklore, which was pretty entertaining, though a bit Eurocentric. (There was some material about Japan, but I don’t recall anything about Latin America or Africa. However, I was tired, and it is always possible I just zoned out.)

The weekend was occupied with my (virtual) 40th college reunion. Actually, I dialed into the graduation ceremonies on Friday, which was surprisingly moving,, with an especially good speech by Admiral McRaven. Saturday was Tech Day, with talks about current research and a theme of Geniuses and Game Changers. The most interesting talk was about food safety by Deborah Blum. She talked about some of the horrible history of food adulteration, e.g. “preserved milk,” which had formaldehyde added to it. Other talks had to do with nanoparticles, AI, and brain complexity. After that were several overlapping sessions and I chose one on experiential learning (including undergraduate research) in the time of COVID-19. I was, frankly, too tired at that point to really listen well. There really needed to be breaks between sessions to get up and move around, but the Q&As tended to un all the way to the end of the time slot and there was barely time for a bio break,

My class didn’t participate much in the Tech Challenge games. I usually enter a lot of haikus into the poetry competition, but only managed 3 this time:

My world’s moved on-line
Instead of face to face life,
I’m a box on zoom.


COVID-19 has
upended all our lives. Mask
wearing’s now routine.


Zoom's gallery view?
Or is it the opening
to Hollywood Squares?


That last one did get read out when they were reviewing results, which is about all one can really hope for in this sort of thing.


Later in the day, my class had a get-together, which featured a couple of space-related talks. One of my classmates was an astronaut and was quite entertaining. The other talk was about TESS, a mission to search for exoplanets. I’ve heard several talks before on that subject, so it wasn’t as interesting. We had a brief around-the-room catch-up for everyone after the talk, which was nice. It was a good event, but I really would have liked more social time.

The annual meeting of the alumna group (i.e. women graduates) was on Sunday. Aside from the business meting part, there was a keynote speaker, who talked about COVID-19 vaccine development. There were also break-out sessions. I went to one that had a topic about self-care, which proved to be rather too new age woo-woo for my tastes. Fortunately, the break-out sessions were short, and we reconvened for a closing ceremony, I should also mention that my freshman year roommate was on the call, but I didn’t talk with her. Which is kind of like our actual experience sharing a room. Let’s just say, we were remarkably incompatible roommates, but we got along okay by ignoring one another.
storyteller doll

Mostly About the Jewish Food Festival

But first, here’s a funny tidbit I left out of my last entry. During the 1992 L.A. riots, my mother called me. She asked if my brother was okay. I asked her why she didn’t ask if I was okay and she said, "I know you can take care of yourself."


Anyway, on to what I have been up to (aside from work).

The Great Big Jewish Food Fest: I mentioned David Sax’s interviews on the state of the deli. I listened to / watched several other talks of this event, which finished May 27th. (I also donated some money to their food relief efforts).

Ben Katchor did a session related to his new book, The Dairy Rrestaurant, which is in my to-read pile. Most of those institutions are long gone, but I know I used to have a cookbook from Ratner’s, which was one of the most famous. I love lots of Jewish dairy dishes – blintzes, pierogi, and especially borscht. I have probably told the story before of my mother buying 12 cases of borscht, 24 bottles per case, at a public TV auction. Katchor wasn’t the most fluent speaker, but was still interesting. My favorite thing of what he said was about lactose intolerance, which is common among Jews. His response was “pain was part of eating.” (In truth, fermented dairy products, notably sour cream and yogurt, are more digestible. I am still glad for lactaid.)


Another interesting session was one by Rachel Gross and Jordan Rosenblum on what Jewish food means. They pointed out that the only specifically Jewish food is matzoh, while other foods are more widespread. That said, I don’t know non-Jews who love gefilte fish with horseradish the way I do. They also talked about the growing dominance of middle Eastern food, after years of what they called Ashkenormativity. That is, when people think of Jewish food, they think of things like pastrami on rye, not, say, malawach (Yemenite pancakes) or a Moroccan tagine. Hummus and falafel and shakshouka have somewhat taken off, recently, however. Anyway, it was an entertaining talk.


One of the talks I was most looking forward to was with Joan Nathan and Ruth Reichl. Their conversation was pretty wide-ranging. I thought I had written some notes, but I can’t find them. The only thing that is really sticking in my mind was a discussion of pickle soup, which sounds both wonderful and horrible. I will probably give it a try at some time to make up my mind.


After the fact, I listened to a recorded talk on Soviet-Jewish cooking, which reminded me of how much my father enjoyed multiple types of herring, a food that, to this day, I have refused to even try. (There is an even worse food – ptcha, which is calves’ foot jelly, a black gelatinous mass that looks and smells too disgusting to contemplate.) I can deal just fine with foods like kasha and black bread, however. But, for the most part, I still think a lot of my relatives emigrated from Eastern Europe in search of a good meal.



There are several more recorded talks (at least 6 hours worth). I’d love to find the time to listen to at least a few of them.
storyteller doll

Racism, Police, Enmity

I have much lighter stuff to write about, but it’s more important to talk about current events. Let’s start with a couple of stories.

1992: In 1992, I lived in Los Angeles. My brother was visiting, at a conference downtown at the Biltmore. We joked about whether the Biltmore garage wanted a grand. We (me, him, and his girlfriend, who he later married and even later got divorced from) went to see a play in Westwood – a live version of a Brady Bunch episode. That night, the news about the acquittal of the cops who had beaten Rodney King came out and the city exploded.

The Biltmore is near what was then the Parker Center, L.A.’s police headquarters. The next day, the rest of my brother’s conference was cancelled and he was more or less trapped at the hotel. It was a couple of days before he could get out of downtown L.A. I thought things were nice and safe on the Westside. But at work, I heard from one of our admins about her husband being shot at during lunchtime. We got dismissed from work early. I had the sense to drive home via the 405 instead of La Cienega Blvd, and when I got home turned on the news,, where I saw stopped cars on La Cienega having their windows smashed.

The news was full of looting and arson. The fires would eventually reach to within about a mile of my apartment. People in my neighborhood were worried, but figured things would be okay as long as everything stayed east of Robertson Blvd.

Soon, there was a curfew and there were National Guard officers all over. For some reason, I found it particularly upsetting to see the National Guard outside a nearby convenience store. But, the bottom line, was that I was safe, albeit mildly inconvenienced. The LAPD did implement some changes and there was a lot of talk about community based policing and the good old days of beat cops, instead of officers who were cocooned in their patrol cars.

A couple of other things that may not be related to this: Some years later (maybe 2000?), I spent a day at a storytelling event in Watts. I had a great day, with nothing traumatic. I came home to my apartment. I was living further west by then, in Palms, a neighborhood filled with UCLA students and young professionals. I went out to return a video and, on the way, home stopped at the convenience store at my corner to pick up some orange juice. While crossing the street from the video store, I saw two boys running up the street, but didn’t really think anything about it. When I went to buy my juice, I learned those boys had just robbed the store at gunpoint. (By the way, I should clarify that I use the word “boys” because they looked about 13 or 14 years old to me.)


In 1998, the manager of a hostel in Harare, Zimbabwe told me that he thought Zimbabwe was not at all racist. But he didn’t understand why his dog barked only at black people.

In 2004, I was in Sofia, Bulgaria. On the train there from Thessaloniki, Greece, someone had warned me about Roma thieves. (Except he used the slur, “gypsies.”) He was not particularly receptive when I pointed out that, if you refuse to allow people to get an education and discriminate against them in jobs, it isn’t surprising if some of them turn to criminality.


Minneapolis: I have been to Minneapolis a few times. One of those times, I was taking a bus from downtown to the airport. (This was before the light rail was built). One seat on the bus was covered with a newspaper, apparently because someone had puked on it. A black woman commented that the city transport department wouldn’t send out a new bus because It was just the 100 bus, mostly ridden by Somalis. (I am not sure that is the correct number, but it doesn’t matter for this story).

Minneapolis is also where, in 2017, an Australian woman named Justine Damond called the police to report a possible rape in the alley behind her apartment. When she saw a police car arrive, she went out to talk to the cops. She was shot and killed by one of them, Mohamed Noor. He was convicted of 3rd degree murder and sentenced to 12.5 years in prison. Justine Damond was white. Mohamed Noor is black (a Somali-American). There was also a large civil settlement to her family.

I don’t know the geography of Minneapolis well enough to be sure, but I have heard that incident was in the same general neighborhood as where George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin, with three other police officers standing by. Minneapolis police training allows choke holds, which most police departments do not. Derek Chauvin had had numerous complaints against him. He’s been charged with 3rd degree murder and manslaughter. It will take a while, but I’d suggest that the same 12.5 year prison sentence would be appropriate for him at a minimum.


More generally: There are countless incidents of cops over-reacting to incidents involving black people, many of whom are not committing any crimes. I’ve heard endless examples, both from the news and from black friends. It is probably worse in some places than others, but racism is endemic in the United States. It goes back to the same problem as the Roma story I mentioned above.

As for protests and looting, I think there’s a mixture of things going on. Some is outside agitators. Some is frustration leading people to want to destroy things. Some is the police (and our President) doing everything they can to do exactly the wrong thing. Especially the latter, but that is completely in character for him.

I do want to add one thing that is often misunderstood about civil disobedience. You have to be willing to accept the punishment, even if you think the law is a bad one. Gandhi and Martin Luther King and many others served time.

So can we fix things? I like to think so. I believe that the majority of police officers join up wanting to do good for their communities. We can do a better job of getting rid of the ones with impure motives. We can train police on how to diffuse situations without violence. We can build a society which is not based on fear of the other. We can start with young children and teach them history and get them to learn about the rights and dignity of all people. As bad as things are, they’re not as bad as they were 200, 100, 60, 30 years ago. The pendulum will still swing up and down, but maybe we can dampen its amplitude.
storyteller doll

In Which I Learn About Weird Things

Crossposting from Dreamwidth is supposed to be working again, but doesn't seem to be for me. My apologies if you see this twice.


Celebrity Death Watch: Nick Kotz was a journalist who wrote primarily about politics. Peter Hunt directed the musical 1776. Robert May did significant work on chaos theory. Denis Goldberg was an anti-apartheid activist. Gale Halderman co-designed the Ford Mustang. Robert Park was a physicist and critic of pseudoscience. Sam Lloyd was an actor who was best known for appearing in Scrubs and Galaxy Quest. Gil Schwartz was a humorist, who wrote under the name Stanley Bing. Samuel Roger Horchow was a theatre producer and catalog purveyor. Don Shula was a Hall of Fame football player and coach. Michael McClure was a beat poet. Barry Farber was a conservative talk show radio host. Iepe Rubingh was the founder of chess boxing, a rather unlikely combination of the two forms of competition. Moon Martin was a a singer-songwriter, most famous for “Bad Case of Loving You.” Carolyn Reidy was the CEO of Simon & Schuster. Jorge Santana was a guitarist, who was a lot less famous than his brother, Carlos. Fred Willard was an actor, who worked on several Christopher Guest mockumentaries. Wilson Roosevelt Jerman was a White House butler, who spent over 50 years on the staff at that facility. Lucky Peterson was a blues musician. Ken Osmond was an actor, best known for playing Eddie Haskell on Leave It To Beaver. Willie K was a Hawaiian musician. Annie Glenn used her role as an astronaut’s wife for activism regarding speech disabilities. Alan Merten was the president of George Mason University during a time of its significant expansion. Mory Kante was a Guinean singer and bandleader. Stanley Ho turned Macao into the Las Vegas of Asia

Irrfan Khan was an Indian actor. He is best known in the west for his Hollywood work, which included Life of Pi and Slumdog Millionaire. But I would particularly recommend The Lunchbox as an interesting movie he co-starred in.

Maj Sjowall was a Swedish mystery writer. Her Martin Beck series, co-written with her late husband, Per Wahloo, was a particularly good example of the use of police procedurals for societal criticism.

Jean Erdman was a dancer and choreographer, who incorporated myth into her dancing. She was also Joseph Campbell’s widow. She earned me 25 ghoul pool points (13 for her position on my list and a 12 point uniqueness bonus.)


Little Richard was a rock and roll legend. From the mid-50’s on, he influenced numerous other singers and pianists with his lively style.

Barbara Sher was a lifestyle coach and writer. I know several people who were devotees of her book Wishcraft. Later on, she tackled what she called “scanners,” i.e. people who have multiple interests and don’t want to focus on just one. I actually went to one of her day-long workshops on that subject and found it somewhat useful in my life, mostly as reassurance that I’m not alone.

Jerry Stiller was a comedian and actor. I have to admit I found his work with his late wife, Anne Meara, much funnier than his acting roles on TV shows like Seinfeld.

Phyllis George was Miss America 1971 and went on to a career as a sportscaster at a time when that was pretty much unknown for women.



Last week: Monday night I played board games with the usual group I play with.

Tuesday night was the kick-off for The Great Big Jewish Food Fest, with David Sax interviewing several deli owners about how things are going for them in these times. The answers were more hopeful than I expected, with a lot of take-out business, but it is still difficult, given that restaurants are low margin businesses. It was an interesting program. And, by the way, David Sax is very good-looking.

Wednesday night was book club. We had a lively discussion of My Mother’s Son by David Hirshberg. I liked the book, though it started out a bit slowly. Most of the group liked it, but one person didn’t care for it at all. It actually makes for better discussion when we have dissenting opinions.

Thursday night was a Better Said Than Done storytelling show. I particularly liked Anne Rutherford’s story. And, of course, Andy Offutt Irwin is always a hoot.

Friday night was a reading of my friend, Patrick Cleary’s play Parthenogenesis, which involves interesting questions about what fatherhood means. One nit is that a mother with Type AB blood cannot have a child with Type O blood.

Saturday included zooming into two virtual Balticon sessions - one on Amazons of the Dahoney Kingdom and one on Jews in Space. Both were good, but the latter was particularly entertaining. I zoomed into a session on Sunday about Weather Satellites, which was okay, but didn’t really cover anything I didn’t already know. And I zoomed into a session on Monday (Memorial Day) called The Left Fin of Darkness, which was an interesting attempt to find animal models for the sexual lives of the Gethenians in Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.

Other things I did on Sunday evening were a story swap (hosted by Community Storytellers in Los Angeles) and a chavurah tag-up. And I played board games again last (Monday) night.

In between that, there was work and some errands on Sunday.


Cooking For the End of the World: I tried a new chicken recipe, which involved a marinade that had olive oil, lemon, garlic, ginger, and cumin. To go with it, I made tahini-glazed carrots, which involve olive oil, tahini, cumin, and curry powder. It was a nice change of pace, a good break from my usual stir fried random odds and ends. I have a slightly different tahini-glazed carrot recipe I want to try, which includes silan (date honey) so I bought some of that on this week’s grocery excursion.

Ink!: The most exciting news of the past week was that I got an honorable mention in the Style Invitational (the Washington Post’s humor contest) for my “fictoid” about spring. Namely, “most tulips actually have four to six lips.” So I am no longer a one-hit wonder!

Don’t Analyze This Dream – Part 1: I was at a zoo and there were two large kiddie pools filled with whales. There were also creatures that were a sort of cross between whales and giant humanoids lounging in overhead bins above the pools. A child I was with was given a beeper to follow a red path around the zoo.


Don’t Analyze This Dream – Part 2: I was in Singapore for a job interview. The person interviewing me was upset when I refused to eat raw vegetables on the grounds of hygiene. He proposed that we should eat in Chinatown the next night. I complained that my hotel room had not been cleaned sufficiently, as I found noodles in the kitchen drain. Also, for some reason, Singapore was only an hour flight from Boston.
storyteller doll

Songs and Stories

Things I’ve done over the past couple of weeks include playing board games twice, going to two story swaps (one of which I co-hosted, while I told a story at the other), performing in a storytelling show (which is available to watch until May 24th), listening to an excellent storytelling show with Noa Baum an Kevin Kling at The Grapevine, listening to a Yiddish music show, and having a couple of tag-ups with friends (one via zoom, one via a phone call). There was also work which was particularly busy at the beginning of last week as we had to put together a background briefing for a senior leader in a couple of days.

I expect this week to be just as crazy, since I have something on my calendar every single night.

In the meantime, I did aa fun and interesting challenge on Facebook. The 30 Day Song Challenge had a series of prompts, with the goal to find a song for each. Here’s what I used:

Day 1 – A song you like with a color in the title: Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell

Day 2 – A song you like with a number in the title: Another Hundred People – from the original cast recording of Company

Day 3 – A song that reminds you of summertime: In the Summertime – Mungo Jerry

Day 4 – A song that reminds you of someone you’d rather forget: 1978 Durse: Pass the Buck – from the original cast recording of The Curse of the Bambino

Day 5 – A song that needs to be played loud: Hey Johnnie Cope – The Tannahill Weavers

Day 6 – A song that makes you want to dance: Johnnie Can’t Dance – Wayne Toups and Zydecajun

Day 7 – A song to drive to: Drivin’ – Pearl Harbor and the Explosions

Day 8 – A song about drugs or alcohol: I Spent My Last $10 (on Birth Control and Beer) – Two Nice Girls

Day 9 – A song that makes you happy: Dirty Water – The Standells

Day 10 – A song that makes you sad: S’brent (It’s Burning) – Mark Glanville

Day 11 – A song you never get tired of: Sympathique – Pink Martini

Day 12 – A song from your preteen years: Build Me Up Buttercup – The Foundations

Day 13 – A song you like from the 70s: Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick – Ian Dury

Day 14 – A song you’d love to be played at your wedding: Yo Hanino, Tu Hanina – The Voice of the Turtle

Day 15 – A song you like that’s a cover by another artist: Rising Sun - Snakefarm

Day 16 – A song that’s a classic favorite: Fly Me to the Moon – Frank Sinatra

Day 17 – A song you’d sing a duet with someone at karaoke: Soon It’s Gonna Rain – from the original cast recording of The Fantasticks

Day 18 – A song from the year you were born: La Bamba – Ritchie Valens

Day 19 – A song that makes you think about life: When We Refuse to Suffer – Jonathan Richman

Day 20 – A song that has many meanings to you: Dance Me to the End of Love – Leonard Cohen

Day 21 – A song you like with a person’s name in the title: Buffy Come Back – Angel and the Reruns

Day 22 – A song that moves you forward: You Will Go to the Moon – Moxy Fruvous

Day 23 – A song you think everybody should listen to: Hay Una Mujer Desparecida – Holly Near and Ronnie Gilbert

Day 24 – A song by a band you wish were still still together: Rant and Roar – Great Big Sea

Day 25 – A song you like by an artist no longer living: Sodade – Caesaria Evora

Day 26 – A song that makes you want to fall in love: Au Jardin d’Amour – Pierre Bensusan

Day 27 – A song that breaks your heart: Streets of London – Ralph McTell

Day 28 – A song by an artist whose voice you love: Anchored (from Convergence) – Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell

Day 29 – A song you remember from your childhood: Lizzie Borden – The Chad Mitchell Trio