Friday, April 25, 2008

Story of the Week - April 21-25

Difficult to Bear

The teddy bear has seriously harmed our society's perception of actual bears.

This week, in reaction to a particular bear-related story, my coworker said this:

"oh, look how cute! The poor bear is on the loose in Paramus!"

Wrong. Not cute. You know how I know? You don't cancel outdoor activities when there's something cute walking around outside. Nor do you send for police and guns.

Teddy bears are cute. Were a teddy bear on the loose in Paramus, you'd send the kids outside to say hi. Then you'd take the teddy bear with you to the Stateline Diner for pancakes. And he'd sit there being cute and quiet and he wouldn't eat your pancakes.

A real bear? He'd eat your pancakes. And he might even take a bite out of you.

The 345 pound black bear was shot with a tranquilizer dart in a public park. Authorities transferred the bear to a less populated area. Said my coworker, "oh the poor bear."

Wrong. The "poor bear" eluded police for more than 2 hours as he ran past a high school and a busy park where he could have attacked any number of people. Also they didn't kill it. They subdued it and took it to a more bear-friendly place.

Still: "aw, but look at him, he's so cute." It was at this point I reminded my coworker of another bear story from this week:

Grizzly Bear Attacks Trainer

The "loveable" grizzly bear from the Will Ferrell movie, Semipro, bit his trainer in the neck. The trainer died at the scene.

Said my coworker: Look at him, he's so cute.

Said I: I think he officially stopped being cute when he killed the guy.

Coworker: Yeah but he ate, like, his best friend. He bit his trainer in the neck and killed him.

Again, I made the distinction: teddy bears are cute, inanimate, cuddly. Grizzly bears are 7 ft tall, weigh 700 pounds and eat people.

Said Coworker: I feel bad for him, though. I want to pet him.

Ok. Not me. I don't want to pet anything that weighs 700 pounds and can eat me. I also don't feel bad for the bear. Authorities are deciding whether or not he should be euthanized for his actions. Deciding. The bear gets a trial. The trainer is still dead.

Coworker: but he's still cute.

Time for visual aids:


Kills People:

I hope this clears things up. If you need more convincing, go to and watch this week's episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wednesday Waffle Wordplay

Too good to resist (I promise this time I'll maintain one position):

The leftovers of a waffle eaten by Barack Obama was posted on Ebay. That's two amazing waffle-related stories in the same month.

As stated in my "Waffle Kerfuffle" story, the key to a good waffle story is to work in (at least once) the verb form of the word "waffle."

Waffle is the perfect word for a political campaign. In fact, a synonym of waffle was the centerpiece of George W. Bush's reelection (no, not pancake) - "flip flop".

But enough about your shoes. It's Wednesday Waffle Wordplay time. Let's play with our food:

The word Waffle comes from the dutch word "wafel" which means "honeycomb." The verb form comes from the old english onomatopoeia "waff" which meant to yelp or bark, then evolved into "to equivocate" and tacked on the "le" to allow for pun-filled tales of vacillating breakfasters.

some words that can be made with the letters in "waffle": wale, leaf, flea, feal, waff, weal, flew, flaw, alef, lea, law, few, eff, awl, elf, ale.

Words that ryhme with Waffle: falafel (that's about it)

but if you stretch it - then awful. Hence the "awful waffle" a camp favorite immortalized in "Salute Your Shorts," in which a tennis racket is placed on the bare buttocks. Then a comb is scraped over the racket strings, and what you're left with is a series of waffled welts. (luckily I don't know about this from hands on experience)

I suppose "baffle" could rhyme with "waffle" if you had a funny accent.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Story of the Week - April 14-18

Dear Wednesday Wordplay,

um, What?


Yetziat New York

Here's a little something I learned in Hebrew School this week.

I learned a new verb this week, only it turns out, it wasn't new to me at all. In fact, it was one of the fundamental words of the Passover holiday and the Jewish faith.

The verb, in its infinitive form, is l'tziat.

The verb appears repeatedly in the Passover seder, in basically 3 contexts:

  1. hamotzi lechem min ha'aretz. the bringer of bread from the earth.
  2. motzi matzah - the part of the seder when we take out the matzah from under its cover and eat it for the first time.
  3. the theme of the Passover Seder is Yitziat Mitzraim - the going out of Egypt. (as seen in the song "Deyenu" in the line "ilu hotzianu mimitzraim" (for bringing us out of egypt).
My Hebrew teacher offered another context for Yitziat Mitzraim that I decided to share with my handful of loyal blog readers this Passover season (and in light of a story that dominated this week's news)

Here's the portion of the article we read in class that I've translated as best I could:

Passover is an important, meaningful holiday in Judaism. It emphasizes the transformation from a group of people into a nation - from a group of slaves to a free people.

Yitziat Mitzraim is the turning point in the tale of the Jewish people, an event that completely changed our history.

We asked the students of Ulpan Akiva: do they also have their own Yitziat Mitzraim - a meaningful event, after which their lives never seemed the same.

The article chronicled a diverse group of Jews who at one time or another faced a moment of Yitziat Mitzraim. It's an interesting question, one that can enrich and make current the conversation at any seder, as a way of fulfilling the seder's request that each of us think of ourselves as having personally gone out from the land of Egypt.

My story of the week is a mini Yitziat Mitzraim - not a life altering event, but one that illustrates that new verb I learned - L'tziat (to take out, go out. It has a lot of meanings. In one context it means "to spend money" or as I like to think, to bring forth money from one's wallet). I call it Yitziat New York.

This year's seders fall on a Saturday and Sunday. That timing means that few Jewish Young Adults living in New York City have to face a difficult decision - to stay in the city and go to work, or to be home with family on Passover.

Then there's another timing thing - The Catholic Church, in the form of its leader, Pope Benedict XVI, has invaded New York City. With traffic everywhere blocked off and diverted on the streets, extra security in the Subways, and the Mets and Yankees both on the road (not to mention the ascension of thousands of gawking, goyish tourists), it's the perfect weekend for the young Jews of New York to go out from the land of Manhattan, to cross the sea (already conveniently parted by the miracle of modern bridges and tunnels) and enter into the promised land of good family and delicious food.

Minus, of course, the wandering for 40 years in the desert. Because, hey, some of us have to work Monday, and the Holy Father will be gone by then anyway.

For now, it's Passover, time to remember and to celebrate the Original Yitziat Mitzraim.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Wednesday Wordplay feels Neglected

Dear Full Circle,

It's Thursday again, and I know you have an overwhelming stack of words from the Big Word a Day calendar from Avalanche publishing just sitting around not doing anything. So how about some love for your old buddy? It's been weeks, I'm dying here.

I understand, as this blog's deuteragonist, it is your prerogotive to collocate me as you see fit. In deference to that, I have been quiescent, shown equanimity, and demonstrated prodigious forebearance in the face of your resplendent intransigence.

I have tried to maintain rectitude despite the opprobrium, but I cannot continue to stand idly by while you parade a series of unprepossessing, sententious stories of the week onto the blog without so much as a passing glance at your friend, Wednesday Wordplay. I must remonstrate this turpitude.

And so I fastidiously compose this letter, that i may macadamize whatever fiduciary pothole (so to speak) that may have formed in our short yet prosperous time together. I do not wish to obfuscate the terms of our relationship with an angry, juvenescent rant. I only hope to put an end to this aeonian delay, and to restore Wednesday Wordplay to its rightful regularity, for a preponderance of Wednesdays to come.

Yours truly,
Wednesday Wordplay.

deuteragonist - n. the actor taking the part of second importance in a classical greek drama.

collocate - v. to set or arrange in a place or position.

deference - n. submission or courteous yielding to the wishes of another.

quiescent - adj. being quiet, still, or at rest; inactive.

equanimity - n. calmness of temperament.

prodigious - adj. impressively great in size, force or extent.

forbearance - n. tolerance and restraint in the face of provocation; patience.

resplendent - adj. splendid or dazzling in appearance.

intransigent - n. refusing to moderate a position; uncompromising.

rectitude - n. moral integrity; righteousness

opprobrium - n. public or known disgrace or ill fame that ordinarily follows from conduct considered grossly wrong or vicious.

unprepossessing - adj. not overtly impressive; unremarkable; nondescript.

sententious - adj. short and pithy

remonstrate - v. to protest, object

turpitude - n. depravity; baseness. A base act

fastidious - adj. possessing or displaying careful, meticulous attention to detail.

macadamize - v. to cover or pave, as a pathway or roadway, with small broken stone.

fiduciary - adj. involving a confidence or trust

obfuscate - v. to make so confused or opaque as to be difficult to perceive or understand.

juvenescence - n. the state of being youthful or growing young.

aeonian - adj. lasting for an immeasurably long period of time.

preponderance - n. greatness in number, strength, weight, or influence.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Story of the Week - April 7-11

Waffle Kerfuffle

Here's something I learned this week that I never knew before: chicken and waffles is a popular dish. Very popular, in fact. And I'm not sure how I feel about that. I mean, one minute I think, "hm, sounds good," and the next minute I think "no, it's either breakfast, or it's dinner, but you can't mix them." On the other hand I think maybe you can.

Regardless of what I think, this dish previously unbeknownst to me is well beknownst to others and has a rich and diverse history and even mythology behind it. But that's not why it's an essential part of Story of the Week.

The story of the week involves a pair of restaurants that specialize in Chicken and Waffles - Roscoe's House of Chicken n' Waffles in California (actually a chain of restaurants), and Rosscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles in Chicago. Roscoe's sued Rosscoe's for trademark infringement, and won. First though, the curious history of Chicken and Waffles.

The curious history of Chicken and Waffles may have begun in the late 18th century, when Thomas Jefferson brought a waffle iron back to America from Paris. Soon after, chicken and waffles started appearing in southern cookbooks.

But some say the waffle iron was brought over earlier by German and Dutch settlers and to attribute its arrival with Thomas Jefferson is silly. The Pennsylvania Dutch to this day put creamed chicken on waffles and possibly a host of other savory ingredients once found their way onto the indented delights. The traditional Chicken and Waffles dish may also have originated in the south as a luxury meal for newly freed African American slaves, who subsisted mostly on table scraps.

Of course, not everyone agrees on that origin. Many historians aren't certain at all and often go back and forth ascribing to different theories. There is little consensus to be found until the 1930s, when Chicken and Waffles went through a renaissance in Harlem, at the famous Wells Supper Club.

Wells was frequented by the likes of Miles Davis, Sammy Davis, Jr, and Frank Sinatra. The restaurant was famous for staying open late. So late, in fact, that in the wee hours its clientele struggled to decide between breakfast and dinner. Wells didn't want to see its clients risk ordering dinner only to regret not ordering breakfast. Instead (perhaps hearkening back to old southern traditions, and perhaps not, then again perhaps...or not) Wells compromised, slapping down some fried chicken on top of a waffle, and the dish was born again.

In the early 1970s, Herb Hudson took the dish west to Los Angeles and opened up Roscoe's House of Chicken n' Waffles, where it has become a fixture in California's obsession with fast food and fast food oddities.

Which brings us to this week's story.

Roscoe's has thrived in California and grown into a popular chain. I guess there are a lot of indecisive people in California. Then again, maybe chicken and waffles is just that good. Then again...

Anyway, all was well with Roscoe's until recently, when owner Herb Hudson learned of Don Johnson's new restaurant in Chicago, IL. The restaurant is similar to one Johnson owned in Harlem in the 1990's and is called Rosscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles.

Herb Hudson took exception to the new restaurant in Chicago and sued Don Johnson for trademark infringement. Don Johnson can't have been surprised by this move. The names of the two eateries are nearly identical. The extra "s" and proper spelling of "and" aren't fooling anyone. Both restaurants also have the same logo - a cartoon chicken standing in front of a waffle (though one could argue that's the only natural choice). There's also an eerily similar menu (but again, when the name of your restaurant is "Chicken and Waffles" you're kind of pigeonholed) and both restaurants offer "sunrise" and "sunset" drinks (ok that's going too far). A lawsuit was inevitable.

On the other hand, maybe Don Johnson could have felt surprised. That's because when Johnson owned Rosscoe's restaurant in New York for 8 years, Hudson knew about it and did nothing. Hudson says he didn't plan to open any restaurant in New York, so he let it go. But he wants to expand to Chicago, soon in fact. He plans to open a Roscoe's in Chicago within a year. So he's no longer indifferent to there being a Rosscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles in the windy city.

Another reason Hudson might be suing is the hideous response Rosscoe's in Chicago is getting. Customers have been complaining of poor service and long lines, and naturally compare it to the original, more famous Roscoe's in California. No more though, as Don Johnson has agreed to change the name to "Chicago's House of Chicken and Waffles", change the signage and get a new logo and everything.

Hudson isn't done. His attorney is seeking damages.

Said Don Johnson (seemingly the big, big loser here): "I'm as happy as a chicken eating waffles."

Which brings up the most important question of all: just how happy is a chicken eating waffles? On one hand, he's very happy. Waffles are delicious. But, maybe chickens don't like waffles, in which case they wouldn't be very happy eating them. Well maybe chickens think waffles are ok, but they don't affect their moods. On the other hand, how can you tell whether or not a chicken is happy? Then again...

I was surprised to find that someone getting sued for trademark infringement and about to get taken for a substantial sum of money could be happy at all. Maybe he's also happy to have poor service and bad reviews. Or, maybe a chicken eating waffles isn't very happy after all.

Happy or not, the chicken and waffles battle will continue, one-sided as it appears to be. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan is pleased with the way the case is going so far, and its good to know that all involved understand the most important issue: that "waffle" is both a noun and a verb.

Said the judge at the end of Wednesday's hearing: "I see that both parties understand the issues and facts of life and none of the parties are waffling on the issue."

I couldn't agree more. Well, I could agree more but it doesn't feel necessary. On the other hand, I could disagree. Then again...

Friday, April 4, 2008

Story of the Week - March 31-April 4

I'm back. Thanks for waiting.

Read about my trip and how it's going to turn into an amazing book:

Time for story of the week, back and better than ever. Or maybe just back.

The Nappy Headed Hos: Where are they Now?

Friday marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It also marked the one year anniversary (a coincidence few in the news media picked up on a year ago, strangely enough) of the day Don Imus made his infamous racially charged insensitive comments about the Rutgers Women's Basketball team. So what's happened to all the players from the overblown media circus? Let's take a look:

The Rutgers Women: The Lady Scarlett Knights fell short of duplicating or surpassing their '07 success this season. They were eliminated by Connecticut in the Regional Finals. However, the school remains one of the elite teams in Women's Basketball, and they have developed a staunch rivalry with UConn.

Rutgers coach, Vivien Stringer, used the incident to put her team and herself into the national consciousness. She has written a book out called "Standing Tall" that will no doubt be a best seller because she'll be promoting it on Oprah later this week.

Don Imus: Imus is proof of the axiom "no publicity is bad publicity." After about six months of sitting in the corner with his head down, Imus inked a deal with ABC Radio. Imus returned to the air in December of '07 and ABC got an instant and pronounced boost in its ratings. In February his ratings were more than double what they were at the old show, proving that people who listen to ABC's other personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity had plenty of time left to tune in to another narrow minded old white man and don't give a shit about women's basketball (and they probably agreed with Imus' original description of the Rutgers players). The one key difference between the CBS Radio Imus and the ABC Radio Imus is the addition of 2 black cast members. I guess now any further controversy can be avoided because Imus has black friends and he was just kidding around with them or something.

Governor Jon Corzine: the NJ Governor provided a bizarre twist during Imus week a year ago when he was speeding to Princeton to facilitate a meeting between Imus and the Rutgers women. Corzine wasn't wearing a seat belt when his car crashed and broke seemingly every bone in his body. Corzine recovered, apologized, even taped a morbid public service announcement, and has had a much better 2008, especially when compared to either governor of New York.

MSNBC TV and CBS Radio: The network fills its morning time slot now with "Morning Joe", hosted by former Florida congressman Joe Scarborough, who has about as much charisma as a pair of khaki pants, and brings in about half as many viewers as Imus did. WFAN NY, the Imus flagship, replaced the highly rated morning show with Boomer Esiason and newcomer Craig Carlton, and it has fallen far short (just like most of Boomer's passes! Zing!). Both nets are probably wishing the Imus controversy never happened, or at least, never escalated the way it did.

Al Sharpton: The Reverend was outspoken about getting Imus fired, but, as he so often does, failed to continue the conversation and turn the controversy into a constructive discussion about race in America. Maybe that's one reason he's become an afterthought in the first serious African American campaign for the Presidency.

America: As a nation, we might have been better off if everyone had let the Nappy Headed Ho's thing go the way of Imus' dozens of other offensive over-the-top comments. It didn't bring about any intelligent discussions on race and it made Imus richer. In other words: he got away with it.

And all we as Americans have to show for all that trouble is "Standing Tall: The Vivian Stringer Story."