Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Best Gelato in Bologna

On the off chance that you find yourself there: Gelataura, on Via San Vitale. My favorite flavors; chocolate with orange, and pinenut.


I'm in Italy, and am reminded every time I walk down the street of one of my initial impressions of Italians. The're like peacocks - the men parading around in their fine feathers, the women, drab little grey things.

With a few exceptions, of course.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Pretty Shameful

A few years before my divorce, my previously secular Jewish husband became orthodox. The one and only positive result of that experience was the several good friends that I made in the orthodox community. They all belonged to the synagogue of my husband's choice - the synagogue of Rabbi Moshe Ben-Zaken, and his cantor, Chagai Batzri, the son of a prominent Israeli rabbinical judge.

Although I had no interest in orthodoxy, I liked Rabbi Ben-Zaken and his wife. So it was a surprise and shock for me to hear about Rabbi Ben-Zaken's recent adventure. Ben Zaken- married his protégé, Chagai Batzri, to a second wife, without Batzri divorcing his first wife - i.e., a polygamous marriage. I read about it first on Luke Ford's site, and then the Jewish Journal ran a detailed article on the whole sordid affair.

Ben-Zaken's justification was twofold:

1. Sepharadic Jews allow a man to have more than one wife, so it's permissable.
2. The first wife in question - Luna Batzri - had refused to accept the Jewish court's jurisdiction in the financial settlement of her divorce - she wanted the financial aspects to be worked out in civil court.

In case you're not familiar with the laws of Jewish marriage and divorce, a few clarifications:

1. According to Jewish law, a woman has to receive a divorce from her husband. It doesn't work the other way around, a woman cannot divorce her husband.

2. A woman cannot marry two men, i.e., she needs to get a divorce before she can remarry.

3. If a woman becomes pregnant from a man other than her husband, the child is considered a bastard, and the child and its offspring cannot marry within the Jewish community for seven generations.

All of which clarifies why a woman would be anxious for her husband to give her a divorce, and why a man holds much of the leverage in this situation.

Jewish courts have of course also recognized this inequality, and therefore generally feel obliged to force a recalcitrant husband to grant his wife a divorce.

In this case, however, Rabbi Ben-Zaken went in the opposite direction. In lieu of putting pressure on Batzri to grant his wife a divorce, Ben-Zaken condoned Batzri's actions by marrying him to a second woman.

How did he pull that off? Well, in its pure form, Jewish law allows a man to take multiple wives, but Ashkenazi Jews made this practice effectively invalid more than 1,000 years ago. Sephardic Jews, however, never officially banned polygamy. Ben-Zaken used this loophole, in essence to help Batzri in his effort to force his wife to accept the financial settlement that a Jewish court would offer. And in this case, of course, it would clearly be a rigged Jewish court, since Ben-Zaken is a long-time friend, and obviously has clear affinity to Batzri.

To perhaps state the obvious, Ben-Zaken did was unconscionable in many respects:

1. He's using his power as a rabbi to help a friend (Chagai Batzri) coerce the friend's wife (Luna Batzri) into what may be a very unfair financial settlement.

2. He's putting shame to the Sephardic community by exposing and using the never-used loophole of polygamy in Sephardic practice.

3. He's essentially declaring that, although he lives in the U.S. And benefits from all the country has to offer, he is willing to agitate against use of the American court system.

I'd like to think that Ben-Zaken didn't think the whole thing through before he did the deed, but it was a formal and planned marriage, he certainly had time to think about it.

At this point the deed is done, Batzri is officially married to his two wives. Ben-Zaken cannot undo that. But Ben-Zaken should whisper in Batzri's ear that he had better give his first wife, Luna, an unconditional Jewish divorce (financial settlement to be decided in civil court).

I also wonder if civil law could be used here - polygamy is illegal in the U.S., isn't it?

As to Ben-Zaken's position and respectability as a Rabbi - well, I think you should be the judge...

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Mango Update

Mangos are back at Trader Joe's! I've been remiss in reporting - they were back already last week, which made it about a 6 week shortage... Now that I've subsisted on a diet of frozen strawberries, and then Ralph's frozen mango, I can tell you with assurance that Trader Joe's are the best. Sweet and ripe, as opposed to Ralph's sour and green variety. But then again, they weren't able to keep them on the shelves. I hope this time we'll have uninterrupted supply. That would add to my overall happiness.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

So So Well Said

I wrote just a few days ago about the NYTimes Ambien hysteria. Here's Maureen Dowd's take on it, for your reading pleasure:

...The next mishap is sure to be sleep-governing. A headline on Wednesday read "Study: Ambien Users Invade Countries in Their Sleep; Wake Up With No Memory of Reasons for Invasion, No Exit Strategy." The story was written by the humorist Andy Borowitz, who also imagined that an Ambien side effect might be a tendency of some politicians to concoct incomprehensible prescription drug programs while asleep...

Poor Phrasing

A big sign, repeated several times along the 405 north of L.A., in bright lights, says:

Don't Drink and Drive. It Saves Lives.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Also Polarizing...

Like dill, coconut, and marzipan - Maureen Dowd today proclaims that senator from the north (the female senator, the one who used to be first lady, the one whose name rhymes with pillory, you know...) to be polarizing. I agree with Maureen Dowd. And I'm on the negative side of the polarity. If Hillary's nominated for president, I might even vote Republican...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The NYTimes vs. Ambien

In the past week the NYTimes has run two large articles about the
unthinkable dangers of Ambien. The first claims that Ambien is now a
leading cause of traffic accidents, because, per the article, people take
Ambien, then get out of bed in their nightrobes, drive their car, pee in
their undies, crash their cars into trees...

The second claims that people taking Ambien get up in the middle of the
night, eat candy bars, forget the next day that they ate anything, end up
gaining 100 pounds with one year of use.

And of course, because it's the NYTimes, we're supposed to believe it...

Who was the PR guy (I assume for the competing sleeping pill, that I shall
not name, or perhaps a rabid anti-sleeping pill activist) that got these articles published? Who is it that edits that NYTimes, and doesn't realize these articles are ridiculous? Maybe Sophie

Just for the record, this entry is written by a huge Ambien fan, that hasn't
yet gained 100 pounds, hasn't even detected a missing candybar in her
pantry, and has yet to drive around in her nightgown while peeing in her

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A Trader Joe's has Opened in NYC

That was my first requirement to consider NYC as a possible place to live. Now if only they would improve their yoga scene...

Is Dill Polarizing?

Yesterday's NYTimes article about the first Trader Joe's opening in NYC, quotes one of their food tasters saying that the flavor of dill is "polarizing".

Apparently "polarizing" is a common term in the food industry. I've heard the same term used by a chocolate consultant claiming that the flavors of coconut and marzipan are polarizing. Unlike the flavor of chocolate, that is not.

I take that to mean that people either love or hate marzipan, while the flavor of chocolate doesn't provoke both extremes. People like it, love it, or are indifferent to it (rare) but few people hate it.

This idea is extensible to movies. Some are polarizing, Crash comes to mind. Seems that you either love it or hate it, and you know where I fall on that side of the equation. Conversely, some films, like March of the Penguins, are like chocolate. Very few people would hate them.

BTW, I'm on the side of loving dill, marzipan and coconut. Regarding chocolate, I just like it. That's as far as I'll go.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Best Picture Oscar to Crash???!!!

Crash was the one film this year that I absolutely despised.

I saw it a few months ago, it had been highly recommended, and I found it so profoundly and obnoxiously PC - a self-flagellation about supposedly rampant, unconscionable L.A. racism - and so totally annoying in its contrived plot turns and its happy ending setup, that I thought everyone else who saw it would feel the same. But I guess that's art. Most people I've talked with loved it. They told me I should think of it as a fable...

Still, I was stunned when it was nominated for the Oscars - and of course
even more blown away that it won. What can I say?...

BTW, how come Kiss Kiss Bang Bang didn't get any nominations? Very strange.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Big Food

For reasons I won't go into right now, I've been watching Universal Studios newsreels from the 30's. The point is that almost every reel has a news item about something I'd call Big Food. As in "Giant Ice Cream Cone Feeds 200 Orphans". Or, "World's Larges Strawberry Shortcake feeds 600". And of course you then have footage of a man scooping ice cream from a giant cone and giving out small cones to little children. Or women cutting up the shortcake and handing out plates to the crowd.

It took me awhile to realize that these are depression era films. People
were hungry...