Archive for April, 2009

Bible Diet

April 29, 2009

On my last trip to the health food store I bought sprouted grain bagels made by Food for Life.

The line of products is called Ezekiel 4:9. I’ve loved sprouted grain breads for years because they’re moist and dense and much more flavorful than bread made from dry grain. But what’s with naming the bread after an Old Testament verse?

Being pretty Bible illiterate, I had to trot out the old Revised Standard see what it was all about. I’m so unlettered it took a good long while to figure out the book of Ezekiel is toward the end of the Old. At least I knew which half to search. A quick scan through the first three chapters seemed to involve God’s sending the prophet a bunch of visions. First Ezekiel sees the image of the four-sided head – man, ox, lion, eagle. I’m pretty sure those are also the archangels who show up in Revelation, only this time they had separate bodies. Then Ezekiel sees the wheel. This bit I remember from a gospel hymn. I hear it in Paul Robeson’s big deep voice: “Ezekiel saw the wheel, way in the middle of the air. Big wheel run by faith. Little wheel run by the grace of God.”

God orders Ezekiel in the second and third chapters to scare the crap out of the Israelites because they haven’t been doing what they were supposed to. At some point in the distant past, I had marked the beginning of Chapter 2, where God tells Ezekiel he must talk to the people of Israel “… whether they hear or they refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house) they will know that there was been a prophet among them.”

Before Ezekiel can take his message to the children of Israel, he has to undergo a bunch of tests. The New Testament lifts that, too, when J.C. hangs out in the desert for forty days. Ezekiel gets it much worse, though he isn’t crucified at the end. He eats a scroll that tastes sweet because it contains the words of God. He is bound and gagged, so that the people of Israel will believe again when the Lord looses Ezekiel’s bonds. Then he has to create a replica of Jerusalem and mount a symbolic siege against it. For 390 days he was supposed to lie on his left side and take on the punishment for the house of Israel. Then for forty days he was to lie on his right side and suffer the punishment for the house of Judah. (He beat J.C. by more than a year.)

Finally we get to the diet: “And you, take wheat and barley, beans and lentils, millet and spelt, and put them into a single vessel, and make bread of them. During the number of days that you lie upon your side, three hundred and ninety days, you shall eat it.” verse 4, chapter 9. Later on, God tells Ezekiel he can only eat this barley cake once a day, and all he can drink is water, “the sixth part of a hin.” A hin seems to be about a half-gallon, which these days is only half of the RDA. It certainly isn’t enough for life in the desert. Heck, I drank that much water in my first two hours on the ground in Colorado, (See Rocky Mountain Dehydrated,” February 25) and that wasn’t even full desert. I’d say after more than a year of sprouted bread and a little water, Ezekiel would be hallucinating big time.

David Plotz tried the combination of grains as cereal for Blogging the Bible. He said it tasted OK but needed some sugar. It was a definite no go for a year’s worth of meals, however. Plotz calls the prophet Zeke and swears the man was sprinkling something extra on his matzo and brisket. (Matzo, I get. That was the manna or maybe the unleavened bread. But brisket? I didn’t know they had delis in biblical times.)

Anyway, I like my Ezekiel 4:9 bagels, slathered with veggie cream cheese, or with peanut butter. No need for honey or jam or any sweet stuff. I drank water with it but had some coffee on the side. I also ate other less healthy stuff for lunch and dinner. No plans for 390 days of Ezekiel 4:9 for me, either.

A little weirdness finished this whole episode. When I went looking for a bookmark so I could return to the passage, I found one in the Gospel of John in the New Testament. I think he’s the same guy who wrote Revelation. The heading over John, Chapter 6 was, “I am the Bread of Life.” Jesus is telling the people in Capernaum that the bread he conjured to feed the multitudes came from God, as did the manna that fed the ancestors when they were following Moses around in the desert. There’s some larger meaning here about nourishment, which I will puzzle out in the coming days.

BTW, Food for Life has another product line called Genesis 1:29, which they’ve apparently trade named. That verse follows the creation of Adam and Eve. “And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.” He goes on to say that all living breathing things have green plants for food. Just goes to show that Adam and Eve were vegetarians, at least until that snake came along.

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Tobacco Irony

April 27, 2009

Update: The eye doc said I’m not any blinder than I was before I scratched my cornea. He reduced the drops from every two hours to three times a day. Tomorrow I can wear my contact lenses again. It will be a blessed relief not to walk around with a halo distortion around lights and fuzz where lines are supposed to be. If you want a look at my world without lenses, check out the changing picture at the top of the site for the National Keratoconus Foundation.

This entry was supposed to go last week when a state legislative committee voted to ban smoking at Foxwoods and the Mohegan Sun. The supporters of the ban say that the tribes agreed to comply with state health laws when they signed the compact that allowed the casinos to operate in exchange for a cut of the revenue from the slot machines. The ban would protect the workers from second-hand smoke and is supported by the union that represents many of the employees.

The tribes say that the ban infringes on their sovereignty and that it would violate the compact. That violation constitutes a breach of contract that would allow them to withhold millions of dollars in slot revenues.

I sympathize with the workers. Being around second-hand smoke is disgusting and dangerous. On the rare occasions when I’ve been at either casino I’ve run for the smoke free areas. (See Bobblehead Fingers. Is there any significance to the name Hall of Lost Tribes for the smoke-free area?) I’m also a member of the UAW, which represents some of the workers. The union supports the ban as well.

In this case I have to come down against the workers, even my fellow union members. I agree with the Pequots and the Mohegans. If tribal sovereignty doesn’t mean the right to decide what happens in one’s own house, then what does it mean? That house may be commercial space, but it’s also foreign territory just as much as Mexico, or Canada, or the United Nations. The U.S. government and its various subsections have taken every opportunity to erode the rights of Native Americans since the colonizers wrote and broke the first treaty hundreds of years ago. It would be great if the tribes made the casinos smoke free on their own, but the state should not be able to force the rule down their throats.

The irony here is that this fight is about a product that the tribes used as part of a sacred ritual. They regarded tobacco as a gift of the creator. It was to be treated with reverence. The colonizers seized it, planted it in huge quantities to make money, and abused it. Over the course of three centuries it went from ceremonial object to glamorous habit to vile addiction. And it’s still making money for the companies and the government.

Aside from the constitutional issue, the state can ill afford to lose the slot revenues. Foxwoods and the Sun kept eastern Connecticut alive after the Soviet Union collapsed and the country no longer needed all those expensive weapons that came out of Groton. The casinos provided jobs, tourists, and a substantial infusion of cash to the state. Of course the revenues have declined some, along with the rest of the economy, but the tribes still put $400 million annually into the state budget.

If the state goes through the ban, that money will be lost. There is also the prospect of huge costs from a long and expensive court fight. I don’t want my tax dollars spent that way.

Regardless of the fact that fewer and fewer people smoke, it looks like the ban is not popular with the state’s residents. Three-quarters of the people who took a Hartford Courant poll agreed with me and opposed the ban.

Another Hiatus

April 22, 2009

The blog is taking another brief leave because I have an abrasion on my cornea that needs to heal. Dr. C. said keep the eyes closed as much as possible. I can do lots of stuff, but reading with my eyes shut is still beyond me! Hope to be back soon.

The Blues Lives On

April 21, 2009

Quick update: The consensus was that the icy precipitation we heard yesterday was hail not sleet, which makes sense considering it was about 45 degrees. As far as I could tell there was no wacky weed smoke at the concert, but the purple haze of cigar smoke outside the door made even the cigarette smokers gag. The rest of us ran inside as fast as we could.

Buddy Guy put on a show and half. The audience would have stayed for two more hours, but he didn’t even play an encore. The grips were packing up his guitars before he finished signing autographs and throwing out picks.

He paid tribute to B.B. and to Albert, to Muddy and John Lee and Eric Clapton. He rocked the house with “Mustang Sally.” And made me cry with his song “Skin Deep”: “A man in Louisiana/He never called me by my name/He said “boy do this and boy do that.” I kept thinking of my grandfather, another Louisiana man, who couldn’t vote and had to say “Sir” and step off the sidewalk into the street when a white man passed.

Like B.B., Buddy made the audience work by pointing the mic into the house when he sang the chorus to songs “Feels Like Rain” and the other stuff we all knew. The audience wasn’t all age 70 plus. There was a good selection of folks in their twenties and thirties, which means the blues will live on.

Buddy Guy

April 20, 2009

In the midst of cleaning my office and preparing for a talk to the Stetson Book Club on Saturday, I’m takin’ a break tonight and going to listen to the great blues legend Buddy Guy.

This is my third concert. The first one was in a tiny smoky basement club in Montreal – back in the Middle Ages. He appeared with Junior Wells. So sorry the man’s no longer with us. About halfway through the first set someone came on stage and handed Buddy a note. (No one calls blues singers “Mr.”) There was a quick huddle, some whispering, then Buddy stepped up to the mic and said, “The king is dead. Long live the king.” It was August 16, 1977, and Elvis had died. As I said in “The Blog Is Back for Real This Time” (March 5), it feels like every time I go on vacation, some big incident occurs.

After the concert I was invited back to the dressing room along with a couple of other folks. Buddy and Junior got into an argument about who really was the King. They decided it wasn’t Elvis, but one claimed it was B.B. King. The other said Albert King because he was “more real.”

A year or so later Buddy and Junior came to Philadelphia where I was living. I caught them at an even smaller, smokier little club that I’m sure violated the fire code. The place was so tiny that the tables were basically foot-wide planks, just wide enough to hold a drink. Patrons had to sit sideways to keep from kicking each other, which was fine because the stage was set perpendicular to the tables.

A few years after that I went to Buddy Guy’s Legends, his club in Chicago. He wasn’t there and my only memory was of the city, not the place. It was so cold that as soon as I stepped onto the pavement I could feel the cold seeping up through the soles of my rather expensive suede boots.

This concert promises to be the best. First of all, there won’t be any smoke, unless people decide to be part of the High Times party. Secondly Ridgefield Playhouse has comfortable seats and will have a much larger crowd, which will make the energy good. When we heard John Mayall the average age was well past 50. Of course he’s past 70, so it’s no surprise that his fans are geriatric, too.

Gotta get my blues groove on, which might be tough since it just began to sleet!

Reiki II

April 17, 2009

Dentist, post office, general craziness today. Going for my Reiki II certificate tomorrow. (See post of January 16).

Promise more of substance next week.

Vindication Of A Sort

April 17, 2009

Sam Zell finally confessed that he screwed up. Back on December 10, 2008, I wrote in “Tribune Troubles” that he had gambled with money belonging to Tribune Company employees and retirees to transform the company from a public stock operation into a private corporation. Not long after the transformation occurred, he lost all that dough and had to go Chapter 11.

Now he says, “I made a mistake. I was too optimistic in terms of the newspaper’s ability to maintain its position.”

That’s it? No, “Well, I think we should honor our contracts”? How about, “I’m willing to take some of the megamillions I’m going to make on selling the Cubs to restore some money to these folks”?

I never have understood why media companies own sports teams. (Cablevision with the Knicks and Rangers; News Corp. with the Dodgers; New York Times with part interest in the Red Sox – I mean for city loyalty couldn’t the Times at least have part of the Yanks or Mets?) Somehow the skills and knowledge required to run a successful (well more or less successful) news operation don’t transfer well to picking good pitchers, point guards, and puck handlers. Since Mr. Z. made his money in real estate, the skills he brought to running newspapers, television stations, or baseball teams do not appear to have transferred at all.

But he is a gambler, so maybe in the long run he’ll know when to fold ‘em.

Quick Hit

April 15, 2009

A quick note today because I’ve spent the day answering an intimidating pile of snail mail and battling a headache the size of Texas. In the meantime, here’s some funny stuff from our friend Lewis Black. He’s probably the only human on the planet who can look completely uncomfortable, out of place and pasty white in an island paradise.

For more about him see “Bobblehead Fingers.”

What’s Up With Amazon?

April 15, 2009

The flak catchers at the giant must be working overtime. But maybe they should get their stories straight. After a number of authors complained about missing ranking numbers, Amazon first blamed a computer “glitch.” But the problem affected “adult,” mostly with gay and lesbian subject matter. Ooops, nope, it also covered topics such as health and “mind and body.” Netizens understandably went wild. I mean it’s OK to buy Howard’s End but not Maurice? It looks like somebody or somebodies at Amazon thought so.

The best part of this whole episode is the Twitter responses, mostly listed at #amazonfail and #glitchmyass.

On a more sinister note, it seems that Amazon flags stuff for “adult” content, and someone hit the wrong button. My question: why were they reclassifying books that were already listed? This sounds suspiciously like what happened when I requested that Amazon remove the “look inside” for my mom’s books. It happened and then a few months later, it was baack for Harriet Tubman and Tituba of Salem Village. An exchange between Amazon and the folks at publisher HarperCollins led to the following They are still researching how they popped back on in the first place and are putting steps in place to make sure they don’t pop back up again.” Needless to say I check every few months.

Here’s my suggestion: Buy from a local bookstore or from Barnes and Noble. The company doesn’t try to steal content and doesn’t have a “masters of the universe” mindset. (See “Authors Can Silence Kindle”).

Bustin’ A Sag

April 13, 2009

Should boys and young men be allowed to wear their pants low enough to show their underwear or their behinds? Our president says no. A bunch of towns from Michigan to Florida say no. Most public schools say no. Setting aside the school issue (it is arguably a safety thing), I echo the opinion of another baby boomer who says if they’re not naked, what’s the problem? It looks awfully uncomfortable. They certainly can’t run. They have to text with one hand because the other one is holding up their pants. But if it’s their choice, why not?

These fashion-forward folk I assume realize that the “style” originated in prison, where cons and suspects are deprived of any item that could be a potential weapon or gadget to commit suicide with. Taking the look to the next level would involve wearing bright orange jumpsuits. Somehow I doubt that most male teens and twentysomethings will want to look like larger versions of Kim Jung Il. At least I hope so.

On the other hand, equating the right to expose one’s underwear with the right to protest higher taxes or global warming or gun control seems a bit extreme. Nevertheless, in a close reading of the First Amendment droopy pants would probably fall (pardon the pun) under the penumbra of free expression.

More importantly on a list of priorities, I do think the police have far better things to do than bust kids for bustin’ a sag.