Thursday, January 25, 2007

Of Menus And Men

Welcome to Life, the most exotic in universal dining. My name is M. Endel d’Jaquebson and I shall be your host tonight.

Life, more than just a ubiquitous smorgasbord of edibles, is a place where one can experience anything – from the delicate to the flamboyant, from the pleasurable to the painful, from the ravishing to the revolting.

Please, let me take your coat and show you to your table. I know you have waited more than five thousand years for this seat and, once you have begun dining, you’ll see that the wait (if not the weight) was well worth it. Now that you are all seated, I will leave you to navigate our bill of fare. Remember, Life is a journey, one that should be embraced with an exquisite palate.
Choose wisely.

Carte Du Jour (in English: A Day In The Life)

Chef de Cuisine: Der Aybishter

The little things that go unnoticed until they’re gone

Flirtatious Fritter
a secret whisper, batted eyelash, hair tossed over shoulder, sashaying hip

Spring Rolls
melted snow, rolled up sleeve, sprouting flower, blued sky (served at 71 degrees Fahrenheit)

Total Jerky
horns of bully, stolen lunch money, elastic wedgie

Envy Empanada
bitter covetousness, jealous smirk, sour discontentment

The watery things that may not be as substantial as they seem

Cream of the Crop
very rich dad, spiced in ivy league, toothpaste-ad smile, captain of football team

Laced Mushroom
acid reduction, kaleidoscopic hallucinations, dancing portobello belles

Soup du Jour
every day, a new energy; every energy, a different bowl

The flowery things that are sometimes tossed

Hearts of Charm
three dozen red roses, sensitive scents, topped with a valiant vinaigrette dressing

Teaser Salad
just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce) dressed in the slinkiest of negligees

Sun-Dried Humor Salad
funny bone shards, tickled cucumbers, peels of laughter, topped in egg-joke

The big things that change the shape of the world (and the shape of our hips)

Filet of Soul
sparks of spirit, finished in an organic mystical glaze

Braised Short Fibs
luscious falsehoods, garnished with hustle sprouts and raspberry sham

Chilean Sea Ass
buttered buttocks and pompous sycophant on a bed of crack-ers

Rack of Lamb
tender fragility wrapped in a warm cocoon

Cornish Men
masculine muscle, stuffed full of himself

Darkest Hellibut
fiery (apricot) pits, sinful shadows, deviled eggs

Steaks (or Stakes)
Those meaty things that are rare, yet well-done

High Stake
a deadly (b)risk-it cut, served in a saucy gamble

Reserve Cut
filet of self-restraint, seared in anti-social truffle oil

Rhyme Rib
iambic pentameter cut, accented with french-fried haikus and epic lymph odes

Black Angst Beef
anxiously grilled to imperfection, served on a toast of multi-grain dread

From the Bar
The liquid things of matter which contain the spirit

with a vainglorious kick

Whisker Sour
mustachioed frowns

Con Yak
motor-mouthed scam-artist

White Zen-fandel
meditation on the rocks (garden)

Cham Pain
it hurts so good

The indulgent things that make us feel sweet

sadness served with a broken heart

Off the Walnut Cake
drizzled in craizen syrup

Blackberry Short Cake
wireless capability

Sore Bey
many flavors, all charley-horse


I hope you’ve enjoyed your meal.
There will be 20% gratuity added to the tab either way.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Not everything is Black & White

Snow White in a fairy place
Dollar Bill green with envy
M&M red in the face
Bronzed skin on Mr. Penny

Blue Oyster’s Cult
Deep Purple’s riffs
Pink Floyd’s revolt
Black Sabbath’s spliffs

Hendrix in a purple haze
Lennon in a yellow submarine
Dylan tangled in a blue maze
In a white room lives Cream

What can brown do for you?
Just address the yellow pages
The bottle cops of NYPD Blue
And the gold-hearted sages

A Clockwork Orange tick-tock
Flemming with a Goldfinger-print
The Pink Panther runs chick-chock
Like The Green Mile at a sprint

The Picture of Dorian Gray
More Wilde than The Color Purple
Primary Colors on Election Day
Sherlock in the Red Circle

Once in a blue moon I have a glass of red wine and I unwind
Or maybe it was a red moon and a glass of blue wine – I’m colorblind!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Culture & Religion

Can Religion Be Cultured? Can Culture Be Religious?

Religion, the word itself scares most people silly. It is a word that speaks of irrational belief, naïve commitment and pathetic escapism. Religion is associated with boring, stale routine, where human creativity gives way to divine intervention. Religion, for many, is the euphemism for inadequacy, mediocrity and complacency.

Culture, on the other hand, is a word that embraces the finer things in life. It is a word that speaks of artistic accomplishment, literary genius and mind cultivation. Culture is associated with exciting, pulsating wantonness, where the human condition is tuned to perfection and the human consciousness is perfected to a tune.

As the universe’s DNA would have it, the paths of religion and culture do not often cross – and when they do, they usually stare at each other crossly. Therefore, rare indeed is the possibility of jumping the fence dividing the polar opposites – never mind straddling it.

Last week, I had the opportunity of shuttling between the creativity of Yiddish culture and the commitment of Yiddish religion. One day I’m in a shtetl called Kerhonkson (Yiddish in phonetics but English in genetics), the next I’m in place called Crown Heights (English in phonetics but Yiddish in genetics). The dichotomy between the two cannot be lost even on one who speaks no Yiddish:

In Kerhonkson, I was at a Yiddish cultural and folk arts program. It was secularism at its best – or, as the religious would have it, at its worst: choir boys were bowing to the notes of music, fanatics were worshipping the letters of literature, devotees were praying to the strokes of visual arts.

In Crown Heights, I was in a Chassidishe Shul. It was religion at its best – or, as the secular would have it, at its worst: old men in white flowing beards were swaying to and fro, their prayer shawls soaked in tears; people were yelling at each other, a farbengen reaching its zenith; children were pulling on their fathers’ kapotes, begging to go home for kiddush.

Both Kerhonkson and Crown Heights spoke the same language, Yiddish, and played the same songs, Chasidic niggunim, but there was something very different about the two.


Culture is a body; language – music, literature, art – its limbs. A body is a beautiful thing, to be cherished, cultivated, and challenged. However it is not an end in itself: Culture, like the body it represents, must have a message, a reason, a purpose with which to perpetuate. You don’t think so? Well, just ask the Greeks and Egyptians. (What, they’re nowhere to be found?!)

Have you ever walked in a forest and seen, among the evergreens, a tree whose branches bare (!) no leaves and whose skin has turned a cold gray? That is a body without a soul, a culture without a purpose, a life without meaning.

Of course, the cultured would argue that culture is for culture’s sake alone and does not need a “higher purpose” (higher, that is, than man) with which to make it come alive. But then what happens once the song stops, once the sentence ends, once the art fades, will culture then still continue to live?

It is a beautiful thing words – but even more beautiful is what they say. It is a beautiful thing music – but even more beautiful is what it sings. It is a beautiful thing art – but even more beautiful is what it paints. That’s where religion comes into the picture (or photo if you’re cultured – a la movie vis-à-vis film). If Culture is the messenger then Religion is the message: religion does not replace culture, just like culture shouldn’t replace religion – they should walk hand in hand, one complimenting the other.

A healthy relationship between body and soul is when the body communicates the soul’s message and the soul energizes the body’s communication. So should the relationship between culture and religion be, with culture communicating religion’s message and religion energizing culture’s communication.

The problem of course lies in when one or the other is misused and, thus, abused. When one worships culture as if it were religion or when one treats religion as if it were culture, then both culture and religion become distorted.

This is why many people are “scared silly” (to quote the first paragraph) by religion – the religion they’ve come across is less religion and more culture, that is, less soul and more body. And, this is also why many people see culture as false – the culture they know is devoid of any soul and spirit.

So, yeah, religion ought to be cultured and culture ought to be religious. However, don’t confuse the two words – after all, we wouldn’t want to wear a pair of jeans called “true culture” and go to the doctor for a “throat religion.”