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Friday, February 24, 2017

Who put the Borsch in Borsch Belt? (It's about comedy, really.)

 I was always curious about Borsch soup since an oft-used crossword puzzle clue asks "Borscht soup ingredient" Disappointing answer: "Beets." None-the-less, the recipe for this classic is below for you afictionados. I am told it is as delicious as it looks... or not.

That soup, popular in several Middle Eastern cuisines, is the name origin of the Borsch Belt area in New York's Catskill Mountains, a popular Jewish resort destination in the 1920s through the 1960s because it was close to a large population area, had a great climate and was very welcoming.

Many of the Jewish comedians who performed at these resorts and those Jews and Gentiles who built

their routines around this style of humor that prevails today are so numerous and popular that it boggles the mind. Borscht Belt humor is stylized by self-deprecation, insults, complaints, marital bickering, hypochondria, wordplay and liberal use of Yiddish. So who are some of those comedians ?

Jerry Seinfeld for one. Billy Crystal (Princess Bride and lots, lots more), Jackie Mason, George Burns (If you live to be a hundred, you've got it made. Very few people die past that age. PS: he died at 100 none-the-less), Mel Brooks, Rodney Dangerfield ("I don't get no respect. I come from a stupid family. During the Civil War my great uncle fought for the west!" and "Once when I was lost I saw a policeman and asked him to help me find my parents. I said to him, "Do you think we'll ever find them?" He said, "I don't know kid. There are so many places they can hide.")

ala Mel Blanc
And there was Don Rickles, Woody Allen, Buddy Hackett, Carl Reiner, Sid Caeser, Lenny Bruce, Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Tweety Bird and Sylvester the cat, Wyle E.Coyote and the Road Runner, Woody Woodpecker and Tom and Jerry and so many other cartoon characters), Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Milton Berle, Jerry Lewis, Estelle Getty (Golden Girls), Lainie Kazan, Joey Bishop, Henny Youngman ("Take my wife...please."), Zero Mostel (Fiddler on the Roof), Phil Silvers, Jack Benny, Bea Arthur (another Golden Girl), Morey Amsterdam, Milton Berle, Joey Bishop, Red Buttons, Phillis Diller (who I knew personally), George Gobel and Danny Kaye.

And also Howie Mandel (America's Got Talent), Most of the Marx Brothers ("Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read." and "One 
morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my pajamas I'll never know."
), Carl Reiner, Soupy Sales (who actually took more than 20,000 pies in the face on his TV show), The Three Stooges (Yuck, yuck, yuck) and so many more that you may or may not be familiar with... some of the great story-tellers and one-liners like this:

*My wife was at the beauty shop for two hours. That was only for the estimate. She got a mudpack and looked great for two days. Then the mud fell off.

* The Doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn't pay his bill so the doctor gave him another six months.

* The Doctor called Mrs. Cohen saying, "Mrs. Cohen, your check came back. " Mrs. Cohen answered, "So did my arthritis!"

* Doctor:"You'll live to be 60!" Patient:"I am 60!" Doctor: "See! What did I tell you?"

Woody Allen
*There is a big controversy on the Jewish view of when life begins. In Jewish tradition, the fetus is not considered viable until it graduates from medical school.

*A man called his mother in Florida:"Mom, how are you?" " Not too good," said the mother. "I've been very weak." The son said, "Why are you so weak?" She said, "Because I haven't eaten in 38
days." The son said, "That's terrible. Why haven't you eaten in 38 days?" The mother answered,"Because I didn't want my mouth to be filled with food if you should call."

*A Jewish boy comes home from school and tells his mother he has a part in the play. She asks,"What part is it?" The boy says, "I play the part of the Jewish husband.""The mother scowls and says, "Go back and tell the teacher you want a speaking part."

*Did you hear about the bum who walked up to a Jewish mother on the street and said, "Lady, I haven't eaten in three days." "Force yourself," she replied.

Three Stooges

Recipe for Borsch soup, as promised, here.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

The incredible power of 1

IF THIS LOOKS LIKE TWO PLANETS WITH God's hand holding earth, you're wrong! The small object 'God's' hand is holding is a hummingbird egg. Beside it is a chicken egg (thinking sunny side up) and an ostrich egg.

This is the double-deck cantilever Richmond-San Rafael Bridge that crosses the San Francisco bay and San Pablo bay to majestic Marin County California from Tony Bennett's favorite city. It is 5.5 miles in length and 185 feet above the water at its tallest point. It was completed in 1957, 30 years after it was first proposed. And as all things in salt water environments that carry 24-hour-a day-heavy traffic, it needs considerable reworking to the tune of $70 million.
So if these two objects--the quarter-inch humming bird egg and this magnificent almost-wonder of the world bridge had a serious face-off, who would win?
Hint: do not bet against the egg. Especially an egg from the species, Anna's Hummingbird, protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which, to my knowledge has not yet been reversed by President Trump. The nest, about half the size of a fist, was discovered just a week before work on the bridge was to begin. Until the egg hatches, there will be no reworked bridge. 
(Actually, I'm for the hummingbird. As I would paraphrase my mom's recitation of Joyce Kilmer's Trees, "... bridge are made by fools like me but only God can make a hummingbird." Loses a little in translation but I still like it. Thanks mom.)
Ah, the incredible POWER OF ONE!
And what about David and Goliath? Now there's another story with a scenario you may not know. In his book, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, And the Art of Battling Giants, Malcolm Gladwell gives his perception of that classic battle with a newer... and believable back story.
Goliath was a giant of his day... 6 feet 7 inches tall. He was a man of men... a force to be feared. No one dare challenge this killing machine. So when the Philistine warrior issued a not uncommon man-to-man challenge to the Israelites as a way settle their conflict, no Israelite would step forward. Goliath chided the opposition until David, the shepherd boy, asked to be the one, much to the doubt and dispair of the Israelites. The battle hinged on this unfair conflict... giant and hardened, fully armored warrior verses a simple, unarmored shepherd boy, winner take all.

David picked up five smooth stones and put them in his pocket. Goliath was fully armed and protected showing no apparent weakness. As the two approached one another, Goliath with his second leading the way and David, alone and bearing nothing but a sling and stones, the outcome seemed never in doubt.

Yet, Gladwell theorizes, a shepherd with a sling was most proficient in protecting his sheep against wolves and any other peril with a sling that could propel a rock with great accuracy at the speed of today's bullet. He practiced daily and used the sling to get his food and against those creatures who would harm his flock.

Goliath taunted David to come closer. David stood his ground. 
David was agile, Goliath slow moving and clumsy, ladened with heavy armor. This was not the way fights are fought in Goliath's world.
Gladwell perceives from the retelling of the story that Goliath was not a well man, most likely suffering from the effects of his enormous frame and lacking of medical help and eyeglasses not yet invented. His vision was failing and he needed his second to show him where David was approaching. 

When David held back, the giant called for him to come closer to better see and grab hold of the slight shepherd boy. Once in Goliath's grip, no mortal was a match.

But David kept his distance as he took one stone and placed it in his sling. He whirled the sling with rock around his head, it's speed increased dramatically until, at the exact right moment when David let loose of one end of the sling, propelling the rock to Goliath's only opening, his forehead.

The stone struck true and Goliath staggered and fell. Quickly, David reached Goliath's sword and beheaded the fallen giant. He then held the severed head up in victory, much to the disbelief of the Philistine army, which retreated in panic.

The underdog by biblical standards had vanquished Goliath. The power this of one changed history.

Interesting thing about The Power of 1... it can be blantantly obvious or so subtle that you might not even know when or how its effect is felt. It often manifests itself without knowledge or conscious effort... like being a good example, or smiling to a passer-by who needs a smile. It can be overwhelmingly incredible like grabbing hold of a stranger's elbow as he is about to step off the curb into an approaching car or slaying a giant, metaphoric or real. It makes a difference...often an amazing difference. 
Want more totally amazing real life examples:

Their names are Violet and Allen Large of Nova Scotia and you probably never heard of them... but that's the thing about the Power of 1... heroic actions are usually not notable for who, but what and how. Being a hero is often a selfless, quiet action that positively affects others. Though Violet is currently fighting cancer,  the Larges, who won $11 million in a lottery, donated the entire amount for various causes including their local fire department, hospitals and organizations that fight cancer, Alzheimer's and diabetes. Said Allen, "The money that we won was nothing. We have each other." 

Hollywood has a neat way of showcasing the Power of 1. Movies (and television, books, etc.) can show the perspective of all the characters and showcase cause and effect actions. How about It's a Wonderful Life that was built around the greatness of George Bailey in the way he lived his life of personal character without ever realizing the positive effect he had on those he touched. (I love that movie.)

An organ donor highlighted in the news recently, saved a dozen strangers... and the film clip showed the donor's wife listening with awe and wonder to her deceased husband's heart beating in another's chest. Very powerful. (You an organ donor? You should be.)

  The Power of 1 in hearts and minds often enriches both giver and receiver... but the giver always seems to benefits most.

Most of us will soon celebrate the upcoming Easter season because of one man born about 2000 years ago. Need a better example of the Power of 1?

May this year strengthen your resolve to unleash your Power of 1 for a richer you.