Passover Seder: Greek Symposium?

April 15, 2014

Passover Seder: Greek Symposium?T

The Haggadah (הַגָּדָה‎) is a Jewish text that sets forth the order of the Passover ritual meal, the Seder.

“There’s a reason the haggadah feels goyish: Formally speaking, it’s Greek. It’s a Judaicized version of a Greek genre called ‘symposium literature’. Plato loved the form. So did Xenophon. The symposium enshrined the most appealing traits of the Hellenic personality: conviviality, Epicureanism, a love of good conversation.”

–”Platonic Form,” Judith Shulevitz, Tablet Magazine

The ancient Greek symposium (συμπόσιον) was a drinking party; drinking four glasses of wine is a Passover obligation. Diners are supposed to recline while they do so, just like the Greeks.

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The Macaroons of Moses

April 14, 2014

The Macaroons of Moses

Tonight many Jewish families hold the Seder, the ritual meal celebrating the holiday of Passover. Many Americans are unfamiliar with the customs of this dinner, such as recounting the Exodus story as told in the ancient Maxwell House Haggadah and the obligation to drink four glasses of wine (oh, the sacrifices …).

One seasonal custom puzzling to Gentiles is the appearance of canned Kosher cookies in American supermarkets. Many Jews are puzzled as well, since the cookies are macaroons made with coconut, chocolate, and other ingredients not prominent in the Old Testament.

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Baseball Bats & Bubblegum

April 13, 2014

Baseball Bats & Bubblegum

Double Bubble baseball bats filled with bubblegum. Because you can’t sell chewing tobacco to kids.

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Milk & Music

April 12, 2014

“Dairy farmers have become experts in cow comfort, from barn design to climate control engineering to keep cows as content as possible. But not all the attempts to sooth cows are quite so high tech. It may sounds silly, but some farmers swear by playing relaxing tunes for their herd for maximum milk results. But can you really slow jam your way to higher milk production? Turns out that yes, you just might.”

– “Milking to Music,” Anna O’Brien, Modern Farmer

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Ruins of Ancient Washington

April 11, 2014

Ruins of Ancient Washington

The Lil Pub is no more. Capitol Hill’s 18-seat bar closed in January, leaving an empty, forlorn little hut near Eastern Market and Barracks Row. It was built in 1937 as Little Tavern No. 20, an outpost of  eatery emperor Harry F. Duncan, purveyor of tiny hamburgers (“Buy ‘Em By The Bag!“).  The last Little Tavern closed in 2008, but many of the distinctive buildings have been re-purposed

The building at 655 Pennsylvania Avenue SE was converted into a bar some 30 years ago by retired DC cop J.J. Elliott who was killed in the place by an intruder. New proprietor Howard Schurr (and the gentrification of other nearby pubs) made the place the Hill’s preeminent dive bar.

More:

“D.C. Dives: Lil Pub Reflects Old Days On Capitol Hill,” Jerad Walker, WAMU Metro Connection

“Little Tavern Locations,” Diner Hunter

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Photo by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith, 1921 — 2014

April 10, 2014

Arthur 'Guitar Boogie' Smith, 1921 -- 2014

Musician and songwriter Arthur Smith died on April third.  He composed or collaborated on hundreds of songs but is best known for two, “Guitar Boogie” and “Feuding Banjos.”

More:

“Arthur Smith, guitarist who wrote ‘Guitar Boogie’ and ‘Duelin’ Banjos,’ dies at 93,” Terence McArdle, Washington Post

“Remembering the late great Arthur ‘Guitar Boogie’ Smith,” David Menconi, Charlotte News & Observer

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America Changes the Channel on TV Dinners

April 9, 2014

America Changes the Channel on TV Dinners

“Frozen meals, long associated with the American affinity for eating dinner in front of the tube, are a nearly $9-billion business in the US, according to data from the market research firm Euromonitor. Through decades of intense growth, frozen foods have found their way into just about every American household—99% of them, according to a 2012 report by AMG Strategic Advisors (pdf).

But TV dinners are losing their ubiquity. Just ask Nestlé, which is struggling with its Lean Cuisine frozen food line. The food giant is even considering unloading its $400-million frozen foods business entirely. And with good reason. After nearly 60 years of sustained growth, frozen ready meal sales have finally started to dip. Since 2008, they have either fallen or come in just about flat.”

“America’s 60-year love affair with frozen TV dinners is over,” Roberto A. Ferdman, Quartz

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Image (“TV Dinner”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Cheney’s Legacy: Waterboarding

April 8, 2014

Cheney's Legacy: Waterboarding

Last week, former Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to a college TV audience about the Bush Administration’s “enhanced interrogation” program. “Some people call it torture,” he said. “It wasn’t torture. We were very careful in all respects to abide by the law.”

“If he doesn’t think that was torture,” Senator Angus King said on Sunday, “I would invite him … to sit in a waterboard and go through what those people went through.”

– “Sen. Angus King: If Cheney doesn’t think waterboarding is torture, I invite him to try it,” Lindsey Abrams, Salon

More:

“Dick Cheney: Waterboarding gets ‘results,’” Chicago Sun-Times

“Sorry, Dick Cheney: Torture doesn’t work,” Ryan Cooper, The Week

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Hot Dogs

April 7, 2014

Hot Dogs

“If the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council is right, Americans will eat enough hot dogs at Major League Baseball stadiums this season to stretch from Nationals Park to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field in Phoenix.

Nearly 21.4 million hot dogs will be eaten, the trade group says. And we’ll eat another 5.5 million sausages.”

– “Hail to the ballpark hot dog: We’ll eat 21M this year,” Jeff Clabaugh, Washington Business Journal

More:

“Hot Dogs Remain Top Dog For Major League Baseball Fans,” National Hot Dog and Sausage Council (press release) (Infographic)

“Hot dogs and beer: See what $20 buys at the ballpark,” CNN

The death of the hot dog & the weirdness of new ballpark food,” Stephen Mast, Fox Sports

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Short link: http://wp.me/p6sb6-j9y

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

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US Backed ‘Cuban Twitter’ to Foment Unrest

April 6, 2014

US Backed 'Cuban Twitter' to Foment Unrest

The US State Department’s USAID development agency secretly set up an anonymous SMS text messaging network in Cuba, according to an AP story this week. The service, called ZunZuneo after the Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, allowed users to send messages to multiple recipients, and system administrators to data-mine their content and information on subscribers, In its 2-year run in 2010 and 2011, ZunZuneo had as many as 40,000 users.

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