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Oktoberfest ended with a little rain and a lot of dachshunds! And since our friend Eli was visiting with her son Leo, we all met the Bride’s family for the Annual Dachshund Derby in Germantown. Leo decided that Nashville should be renamed “Dogland,” since dogs of every variety strolled through the park with their beer drinking masters in lederhosen. Still, watching those wiener dogs race was hilarious. http://thenashvilleoktoberfest.com/dogtoberfest/

Ms Bean was delighted to sit on the front porch and watch the canine parade go by  behind the cover of a maple tree. She has staked out her territory thankfully, and the sidewalk is safe for most breeds. Corgi puppies and Great Danes stroll right by without looking up to see her eyeing them suspiciously. After all, she is a rescue mutt, origins unknown, and she’s proud of it! She doesn’t need some set of AKC papers to know she is a prey-driven lover girl!

Unlike certain people, who require validation in order to feel good about themselves. It’s not enough to be a professional for some, your pedigree must include only “The Best” schools, “The Finest” clerkships or residencies. These are the silent judges in our midst; constantly ranking others according to some inner calculation, one they are only slightly aware of and would never admit. It’s still a Dog and Pony Show world it would seem, no matter where you go.

You can usually sniff them out, the pretentious co-mingling of class and money. It’s a primal thing I suppose, as territorial as Ms Bean and my friendly mailman. Great Grandma Ada would call this person a “Noodge.” ie Someone who is a pest, an annoying critic of your every move. It’s exactly what we are currently trying to teach the Love Bug’s toddler brother to avoid – not to whine! “You’re not whining are you?” I’ll ask him. The etymology is probably Slavic, and:

likely from Yiddish נודיען nudyen ‘to bore, pester’, נודניק nudnik ‘bore, pest’, influenced by English “nudge”  http://www.jewish-languages.org/jewish-english-lexicon/words/417

Some people become lifetime complainers; their shoulders are burdened by a ton of self-generated worry. I’m sure Freud would tell us they got stuck at that two year old developmental stage, but the latest winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics may have a different answer. Richard Thaler started applying smaller psychological theories of human behavior to influence larger changes in public policy with his “Nudge Theory!”

How do we get someone to make good decisions? Bob explained Thaler’s theory to me this way – if his company offered employees the opportunity to sign up for a 401K, he would get a small minority signing up. BUT if he automatically signed everyone up for a 401K, and told them they would have to opt out if they didn’t want to save for retirement, the large majority would participate! I guess the human species is just lazy and we all need a little “nudge” in the right direction, to avoid being a “noodge!”

As for us, the rain dampened the number of people walking into lamp posts and spilling their steins of beer. Bob only had to pick up an occasional St Pauli Girl can every morning off our stoop. Things are getting back to normal in Germantown.

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Our new townhouse gets a tiny sliver of light each morning, and the sun streams in again in the late afternoon. Against all odds, I’ve decided to plant a few dish gardens because “Bloom Where You’re Planted” is my mantra. And even though my green thumb has been noticeably absent when it comes to house plants – with the exception of orchids –  I’m determined to turn my horticultural track record around and plant cacti!

After all, who could kill a cactus plant?

They grow in the desert, so water isn’t a problem. I’m really good at forgetting to water things, houseplants are low on my list of priorities falling right after dusting. Gardens, in my opinion, belong outside. But cacti, in or out, do need a fair amount of sun. Therefore I will inch my cactus gardens into that small square foot of sometimes semi/saturated/sun space and hope for the best.

We all adapt to our environment. I’ve gone from living on the edge of a bird sanctuary in Massachusetts, to the Jersey suburbs, to the mountains of Virginia. And now I’m sitting here, in the alcove of our “open plan” Living/Dining/Kitchen room in the middle of a big city. Ms Bean has adapted to a collar and leash; and Bob has changed in his own way, he’s enamored of Uber, forsaking driving, and has just walked in from his daily bike ride!

City life is looking better and better. I’m about to meet the Bride for another look at the fashions of Downton Abbey before the Cheekwood exhibit closes.

I learned a few things from my last visit to “Dressing Downton; Changing Fashion for Changing Times.” For instance, skirts began to shorten during WWI, as nurses on the front lines shortened their hemlines to avoid mud and blood. Hence the Flappers of the early 1920s. Fashion was adapting to the pragmatic needs of working women. Corsets became unnecessary, along with bustles. Eventually, women started riding horses astride in pants, they gave up the ritualized riding costume to ride like a man!

I recently found out a food blogger I follow from Charlottesville, Kathy Younger of KERF, made up with a particularly nasty troll of hers who had created a synchronous, satiric website for two and a half years. One of the many cruel and snarky comments on this other site had said that I looked like a man in my Downton Abbey-type hat. Those of you who know me know I wouldn’t really care, but what was interesting was that this troll took the commenter to task, telling them my website MountainMornings.net was actually well written and interesting!

The funniest thing is I thought the troll was a man. Why? I’m not exactly sure, the writing was sharp and witty, but Tina Fey is sharp and witty. Maybe I just couldn’t imagine a woman cutting down another woman like that. It turns out her troll was a 20 something young woman from LA, one with her own issues, and she wanted to make amends. https://www.katheats.com/i-befriended-my-troll#Z2pOl6ZWizcpyJbw.01

What I wanted to know was who was paying for this troll to write her miserable copy almost every single day? I haven’t quite adapted to the business side of the internet yet, but Kath said there “…are huge networks like Google Ads and they run all over the internet, so you can’t really pinpoint single businesses. They run on so many sites that they probably don’t even know they’re on a troll site.”

Well shame on these advertisers! And just in case you think the White Supremacists marching in Cville shouting “Jews will not replace us” – which no Jew I know would want to do in the first place – was a fluke, Facebook has just announced it will trim its targeting system for advertisers. Yep, it will no longer search for people to target in ads who are self-proclaimed “Jew haters!” I kid you not… They said they are “…building “guardrails” into its processes to stop offensive self-reported profile traits being used as ad categories.” http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-41278800

Did you know that a Jew born in Israel is called a “Sabra?” The name came from a kind of succulent that grows wild and free on the coastal areas, like a prickly pear. I’ve become rather proud of my bleeding post-potting fingers.

I hope that more platforms like Facebook and Google adapt to the troll and racist/anti-Semitic sites that pop up in the wild west of wifi, because free speech is becoming a synonym for spew all the hate you can, and we better learn how to handle this new territory.

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What’s happening in the world. As Tillerson jets to Russia with a “Make my Day” kind of deal, an Asian physician is dragged off a United plane while passengers documented every minute. This morning, the United CEO has done an about face, finally apologizing for the incident; and simultaneously lovely Melissa, oops, Sean Spicer got his apology right on the third try. Yes Sean, Hitler DID use chemical weapons on innocent people, they just happened to be Jews.

The Jewish people are used to this kind of thing. In fact, a dear friend just told me that one of her son’s friends/acquaintances is a Holocaust denier. And that they actually don’t say it didn’t happen anymore, just that it was more like what we did with the Japanese internment camps…. You know, like a “Holocaust Center?!”

Over the years, I’ve met relatives with numbers on their arms. My first supervisor at an outpatient mental health clinic was a child of Holocaust survivors. One of our Big Chill friends was conceived at a refugee camp in Italy after his parents were liberated from a concentration camp in Poland. I’ve been attending Seders now for almost 40 years, and yet this was the first time I actually ran the show. I knew something would go wrong. I forgot to give everyone some parsley, so I started a new tradition of a parsley posey.

This is the first time I’m actually afraid for the survival of the human race, not just one group of people. Seriously – will Russia decide to sacrifice another pawn. Or maybe North Korea will put us into checkmate?

What kind of plagues should God rain down upon us this time? At least I didn’t poison anyone at my Seder. I’m a compulsive germaphob in the kitchen. Ever since I nearly killed my first husband with a salmonella infested sandwich I picked up at a deli in Harvard Square. I made Great Grandma Ada wash her hands all the time, and we cooperated on the prep for the haroset. Maybe Mr T will get a bad case of boils? Or locusts could infest the Rose Garden?

Our trees are greening and birds are singing. Spring is a time for rebirth, not sarin gas and armageddon. In fact Sean, you were right in one detail, Hitler did NOT use sarin to exterminate 6 Million Jews, “innocent” people, even though it had been discovered by a German scientist. Some speculate it was because he was gassed in the First World War. But most scholars say it was because Churchill would have retaliated if he tried to use gas on the battlefield or in the camps.

“War is chess. Hitler would have sacrificed a lot of pieces that he couldn’t afford to lose.”  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/retropolis/wp/2017/04/11/hitler-refused-to-use-sarin-gas-during-wwii-the-mystery-is-why/?utm_term=.9dc38985fc9d

The Nazis constantly searched for more efficient means of extermination. At the Auschwitz camp in Poland, they conducted experiments with Zyklon B (previously used for fumigation) by gassing some 600 Soviet prisoners of war and 250 ill prisoners in September 1941. Zyklon B pellets, converted to lethal gas when exposed to air. They proved the quickest gassing method and were chosen as the means of mass murder at Auschwitz.

At the height of the deportations, up to 6,000 Jews were gassed each day at Auschwitz. http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005220

6 Thousand a day, 6 Million in WWII. Holocaust centers, killing camps. Sarin gas vs Zyklon B vs chemical weapons. A gaffe is a gaffe is a gaffe. And this whole Trump administration is one big gaffe.

Today we rode along Skyline Drive to get the long view, the balcony shot. I wish we humans could just decide not to play chess with our lives on this planet.  IMG_0305

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Here we go again. Last night our administration did a 180 on Syria, the whole America First thing was a sham, a synonym for Wall Street First. As a famous general pointed out this morning, we are now fighting a “proxy war,” It’s happened before – a tactical missile strike – in 1986 when Reagan bombed Libya, and last night. It’s a classic “Let’s you and him fight” scenario. We are backing the royal family of Saudia Arabia in the region, as usual, and Russia and Iran are backing Syria’s Assad regime.

And this morning all the pundits are talking. On Twitter, a Brian Williams hashtag took off because it appeared as if the network couldn’t trust Rachel Maddow to report Breaking News. In this house, I was watching Huck try to escape a sinking car on Scandal. We had been under a tornado watch, so trees were still creaking and the wind was moaning. I’d been furiously cleaning and occasionally “cooking” for Passover, which begins Monday night.

Jews everywhere will be preparing a Seder and reenacting the Exodus at their dinner tables. I am a novice Seder-maker, a maker-of-haroses for many years, but never the principle player. There will be half the number of people at my Southern table, and I won’t be making certain fried delectables in chicken fat that nobody eats. Lucky for me Ada and Hudson will be here early, so I will be tutored in the art of making perfect matzoh balls for the chicken soup!

Just as we will detail all the plagues that finally convinced a Pharaoh to let our people go, to leave slavery behind and wander in the desert, let’s examine what led up to our tactical tomahawk missile strike last night.

There was a chemical attack on innocent people, and we saw the pictures in living color. Civilians have been dying and fleeing Syria for years now, but the immediacy of watching “beautiful babies” suffer must have been Mr T’s red line. And he is a knee-jerk reactor as we know from his Twittersphere.

This last week we discovered more connections linking Trump with Russia:

  1. Eric Prince (founder of Blackwater and brother of Betsy DeVos) met a Russian official in the Seychelles with a crown prince of the UAE;
  2. Jared Kushner met a Russian banker, Sergey Gorkov, in NY, and hey, he’s willing to talk about it;
  3. Carter Page (ex-policy advisor on energy to T’s campaign) met a Russian spy, Victor Podobnyy, in NY.  http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/05/politics/trump-associates-russians-meetings/

But let’s not forget that St Petersburg was recently the target of terrorism…and that Secretary of State Tillerson is cozy with Putin…and that we called Russia to let them know we were going to strike that air base. Is that something you would do to your enemy? I can’t help but think that behind the scenes, even though Putin must publicly decry our actions, something else is going on in this proxy war. I wonder if Mr T asked his “friend,” China’s Xi, down at the Florida palace what he would do now? #WWXD?

What we know is that instead of talking about trade with China, this airstrike has taken precedence. “One of the most urgent issues for the US is North Korea, which is trying to develop an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of hitting the west coast of the US with a nuclear device. It fired a medium-range missile into the Sea of Japan on Wednesday, the latest in a series of launches.” http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39517569

I wonder what North Korea is thinking this morning. That is truly our existential crisis. I’m living in a whirlwind of Seder preparation and packing, sometimes it feels like I’m sinking inside that car Huck was trapped in, bleeding and hallucinating. I wanted to wake up this morning and think it was all just a nightmare…what US president would bomb a country without notice against international law? Like Asia and Kim Jong-un, we are dealing with an unpredictable leader who travels from the Hill to the links at his Mar a Lago resort, treating his presidency like a lark.

I can only hope for our sake that Tillerson and Putin are fighting a fair proxy war, and that chemical weapons will never see the light of day again. Ask yourself four questions, Mah Nishtanah – 1) How was last night different from 1986?  2) Why did we only warn Russia of the attack? 3) Why is a chemical attack worse than a bomb? 4) Is this just another ploy to distract us from the Russian Connection?

And will somebody tell the South that a Passover section in the grocery store should NOT contain anything with flour! I’m going to try and make kugel muffins, with matzoh meal or potatoes. Wish me luck!  wide-spinach-kugel-cupcakesjpg

 

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Things are springing up around our little house. Crocus are about to bloom, daffodil leaves are reaching for the sun, and temperatures have been hovering around 70. No bugs or humidity yet; “This is what California is like all the time,” I said to Bob in my most ingratiating tone of voice.

When we were living in New England, this time of year was called “Mud Season.” Snow was melting and everyone coveted a “mud” room, a place to ditch your dirty clothes and hats and gloves and boots before entering your house. The rest of the country might call this a back porch. But Berkshire sentimentality aside, I love seeing bluebirds playing on my deck. Spying a Tiffany-blue breast makes me want to break out in song!

Bob breaks out the tractor and the gardening tools. For him, this is pruning season. When we built this house we picked out every tree and shrub, which means we now must keep them from enveloping us entirely. My French friend looked us up on Google earth and said we must live in a forest, and she’s right. Our tract of land demands constant vigilance! A herd of deer trim our most succulent new growth all winter, and now it’s time for Bob to play his part.

The viburnum, the hydrangeas, the crepe myrtles! No one is immune to Bob’s pruning shears, loppers and hedge trimmers.

Ms Bean must do her part too. She refuses to come in when all the gardening work begins. She offers up a tiny dead field mouse to our back door, while Bob shows me an abandoned bird’s nest at the front door. These “gifts” are received calmly, while I check to see if anyone has taken up residence in the bluebird houses Great Grandpa Hudson put up years ago. Anyone that is, besides the flying squirrel who scared me half to death with her bulging black eyes!

But usually I prefer more indoor activities. The National Men’s Indoor Tennis championships have been taking place at our gym, so exciting matches are on the docket all the time. And when I’m not watching tennis, I was learning how to string and knot pearls this past weekend. It’s slightly meditative once you get the hang of it. It’s an escape from the news.

When a friend told me she and her husband were in a Jewish Community Center yesterday when a bomb threat was phoned in, I didn’t realize it was one of many seemingly coordinated around the country. And I wondered if the Love Bug’s preschool was shut down again for the third time since Mr T’s inauguration. And a knot formed in my stomach, the kind that’s always there whenever I try to suppress an emotion.

I wonder how a president who shouts down an orthodox reporter and scolds him for asking  a complex question about anti-semitism, only to bring up his polling numbers again and again can possibly protect this nation and heal our divided people.

Here is my second attempt at knots, with pearls and lapis – a “so-called” selfie/portrait with Bean and an old gardening broom in the background. img_0119

 

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Instead of a curse, let’s end our Yiddish journey today with a little blessing. Let’s honor the opening of Star Wars this week with an homage to another favorite sci-fi franchise of mine – the logical, side-kick, Star Trek character, Spock. Did you know his famous greeting, the Vulcan salute with the ring and middle finger separated, actually came from an ancient Orthodox Jewish blessing?  “Live long and prosper.”

This is the shape of the letter shin,” Nimoy said in the 2013 interview, making the famous “V” gesture. The Hebrew letter shin, he noted, is the first letter in several Hebrew words, including Shaddai (a name for God), Shalom (the word for hello, goodbye and peace) and Shekhinah, which he defined as “the feminine aspect of God who supposedly was created to live among humans.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/arts-and-entertainment/wp/2015/02/27/the-jewish-roots-of-leonard-nimoy-and-live-long-and-prosper/

Leonard Nimoy worked tirelessly to keep the Yiddish language alive. He said it was the only way he could communicate with his grandparents. He recorded many stories in Yiddish for the Oral History Project of The Yiddish Book Center. This is a valuable resource for anyone who would like to learn more about the language. And pssst, Ada, they even have a podcast! http://www.yiddishbookcenter.org

A leben ahf dein kop

A long life upon your head

This is usually said while praising someone like; “Well said! Well done!” Plus, who doesn’t want to live to be one hundred and beyond? Today, thanks to modern medicine, many of us will! But better it should be a long, healthy journey, which is often determined by the luck of our gene pool.

And imagine my surprise to find out the famous Hannukah game of chance, the dreidel, was actually derived from an Irish game! “…the dreidel was brought from Ireland to Germany during the late Roman period. Men would gamble with a top known as a “teetotum” in bars and inns. Originally the letters on the teetotum corresponded to the first letters of the Latin words for “nothing,” “half,” “everything” and “put in.” Read more: http://forward.com/culture/326379/the-true-history-of-the-dreidel/#ixzz3uIViitvK

I’m so happy the Bride sings the Yiddish lullaby that Great Aunt Mary taught me about raisins and almonds. Now when I start to sing “Rozhinkes min Mandln” to the Love Bug, her eyes start to flutter.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uLrvZiU7slc

Happy Hannukah from our house to yours!  IMG_3538

 

 

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I remember what our cousin Jamie said to me a few days after 9/11. Her husband worked on Wall Street and she lived just a few blocks away from us on the Jersey Shore. “This is how the Israelis live every day.” It made me stop and think. To live in fear of the next suicide bomber on a bus, of a woman totally covered with hijab or a burka, or a terrorist, dressed as a policeman, with a bomb-exploding vest strapped to his chest. You learn not to trust anyone unless you know them, you build a safe room in your house, and then you go about your life.

I had to tell myself that the 9/11 terrorists shaved their beards and tried to look “normal” when they boarded our planes if I found myself profiling people in airline terminals. I remembered the Irish girl who’s Arab boyfriend packed a bomb in her suitcase the day before we landed in Heathrow. She was flying ElAl, so of course even in the 80s they found the bomb and arrested them. When the Bride lived in Paris her Junior year at Duke, she was profiled while trying to attend high holy day services at a synagogue. Could she recite the Hebrew prayers? After all, she didn’t “look” Jewish. Terrorists don’t all look like ninjas.

One news affiliate reported that one of the French suspects wanted to kill Jews, but his handler told him it was better to avenge their prophet by killing cartoonists. In a way this was a mistake. Because explaining the massacre of Jewish people, even today, fits into a tidy European notion of the Mid-East Conflict playing out in their neighborhood. It’s like saying black-on-black or gang-on-gang gun violence in the US doesn’t really matter because it doesn’t affect US. Mais non, let them kill each other is what conservative talk radio will say. Arab vs Jew? It’s a biblical dilemma right?

The Islamist terror campaign in Europe has focused on Jews and cartoonists, but it will not end with Jews and cartoonists. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2015/01/europe-is-under-siege/384305/

But flying planes into the Twin Towers, and now this massacre at a satirical French weekly, Charlie Hebdo, this brings the utter monstrosity of these Islamist zealots to light. It’s not just that they hate Jews, which they do, but they hate all of us…Westerners who speak freely and allow our art to be exhibited and our women to walk without covering our hair in the street.

Yes we allow photographs of a crucifix dipped into the artist’s urine to be displayed, and a painting of the Madonna in elephant dung to be in a museum. I am rather peeved that only the Huffington Post had the balls to publish the offending prophet cartoons. I guess the NYT doesn’t want to employ armed guards for its editors? Maybe every publication in the free world should pick a day to publish the offending cartoons? We should be like the Danes in WWII.

What this Paris attack has shown us, is that we are all living like Israelis now, whether we admit it or not.

If you want an in-depth look into how disaffected, home-grown terrorists are recruited from Europe and the US and taught to hate and kill in Yemen and Syria and Iraq, I’ve found this Foreign Policy website to be most instructive: http://foreignpolicy.com/2015/01/09/live-coverage-multiple-hostage-standoffs-in-charlie-hebdo-hunt/

The terrorists in Paris want to die as martyrs, I say let them, and change the word to criminals.

By Ruben L Oppenheimer

By Ruben L Oppenheimer

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