Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jewish Wisdom

(I don't usually post stuff like this, but this was of an exceptionally high quality!)


A Jewish woman goes to see her Rabbi and asks, “Yankele and Yosele are both in love with me, who will be the lucky one?''

The wise old Rabbi answers: " Yankele will marry you. Yosele will be the lucky one.


If a married Jewish man is walking alone in a park and expresses an opinion without anybody hearing him, is he still wrong?


My father says, "Marry a girl who has the same belief as the family." I said, "Dad, why would I marry a girl who thinks I'm a schmuck?"


Jewish Marriage advice "Don't marry a beautiful person. They may leave you. Of course, an ugly person may leave you too. But who cares?"


Morris went to his rabbi for some needed advice. "Rabbi, tell me is it proper for one man to profit from another man's mistakes?"

"No Morris, a man should not profit from another's man mistakes" answered the rabbi.

"Are you sure Rabbi?"

"Of course, I'm sure, in fact I'm positive" exclaimed the Rabbi.

" Ok, Rabbi, if you are so sure, how about returning the two hundred dollars I gave you for marrying me to my wife?"


The Italian says, "I'm tired and thirsty. I must have wine."

The Frenchman says, "I'm tired and thirsty. I must have cognac."

The Russian says, "I'm tired and thirsty. I must have vodka."

The German says, "I'm tired and thirsty. I must have beer."

The Mexican says, "I'm tired and thirsty. I must have tequila."

The Jew says, "I'm tired and thirsty. I must have diabetes."


Jewish proverb: "A Jewish wife will forgive and forget, but she'll never forget what she forgave."

Greatest Moments of Singing XIII

Pure baritonal greatness! John Charles Thomas sings "Open Road," from Strauss's "Gypsy Baron" (1939).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A purely legal question

For several months now, I have wanted to write a post comparing the Roman Catholic Church to the Lutheran and Episcopal denominations, which in many ways were forms of "Reformed Catholicism."

I wanted to compare Vatican II's solutions to certain problems with Martin Luther's solutions to the very same problems, 500 years previous.

I wanted to write about Henry VIII's reasons for reforming the church, which went well beyond, "He wanted a divorce."

I wanted to write about both his and Luther's love of the sacraments and about their reverence for the best aspects of the Catholic liturgy.

I wanted to discuss the differences and – more interestingly – the similarities in the theologies of the Catholic, Lutheran, and Episcopal faiths.

I wanted to write about the benefits of running a church democratically without sacrificing the theology.

I maybe even would have gotten a little bold and written about the commonly held opinion that allowing female and married priests would, as a whole, produce a healthier crop of priests.

I wanted to write about all these things.

But I saw something in the paper today. Something disturbing.

And so now I have a new question. It is not a religious question, or a theological question, or a dogmatic question, or a spiritual question. It is nothing more and nothing less than a legal question.

Today – Thursday, March 25, 2010 – I looked at the news. And I read about the sex scandal in Wisconsin. And I read about Pope Benedict XVI's role in both keeping the matter away from the police and in putting the offending priest back in contact with minors.

When a similar issue came up with Cardinal Law, here in Boston, there was a straightforward legal course to be taken. You have a crime. You have an individual, in this case the Cardinal, who may or may not have borne some legal responsibility for said crime. You have a court proceeding to arrive at a verdict of either guilty or not guilty. Standard legal procedure in the United States or, indeed, most any modern nation.

This procedure never happened. Cardinal Law got sent to the Vatican, a state with whom the United States does not have an extradition policy. No trial.

Now, whether or not the Catholic Church decides to punish a wrongdoer or reward him – in this case, with a prestigious position at one of Rome's greatest churches – is its own business. Another alternative would have been to send him to a monastery in rural Wyoming, where in time he might have grown to understand the seriousness of his crime. (Hard to understand such things when you work in a patriarchal basilica and have 14 servants.) They made their choice. Fine. That is not my point here. My question is purely legal.

Here is my legal question:

I live in America. I have to follow American law. You live in America. You have to follow American law. Even if you don't live in America, if you bear responsibility for a crime that takes place here, you stand trial here and, if found guilty, will probably serve your sentence here – if the prosecutors are successful in physically bringing you here in the first place.

But here is an organization, the Roman Catholic Church. The organization is a non-profit corporation that receives and disburses money on our soil. The corporation has filled out the necessary paperwork so that it is allowed to conduct business on our soil. But members of this corporation – including the Cardinals and, sadly, now the Pope himself – have been implicated in crimes for which they cannot be prosecuted. If you think Cardinal Law was unprosecutable, how prosecutable is the Pope going to be?

Now the legal question:

Why is this corporation allowed to do business in the United States?

I'm actually dead serious. This isn't a hoax; it's an honest legal question that I have. Corporation X follows American laws. It is allowed to do business in America. Corporation Y breaks American laws but then shields itself from prosecution. It will thenceforth not be allowed to do business in America.

I would like to know, then, why this particular corporation is allowed to do business in a country whose laws it is not required to follow.

If there were ever a court hearing to determine if this corporation should be allowed or disallowed to transact business in the United States, I would hope that the prosecutors would request the corporation to explain the following phrase:

Huiusmodi causae secreto pontificio subiectæ sunt.

This sentence may be translated as:

"Cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret."

The phrase appeared in the 2001 epistula, De Delictis Gravioribus ("On More Serious Crimes"). The author of this epistula was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later promoted to Pope Benedict XVI.

I will leave you this evening with a story, one of the saddest ones I ever heard.

A pastor with whom I once worked told me this story. It was about a friend of his. This friend was abused by a Catholic priest. Several decades passed. Finally, after holding in this secret for so many years, he found the courage – who knows how hard it was – to tell his mother what happened.

She slapped him across the face and exclaimed, "Don't ever let me hear you talk about a priest that way again!"

Thankfully, that generation of parents is dying off. The new generation is better educated and asks more questions. Questions might arise about the transubstantiation, or about original sin. The Catholic theologians can fend off those questions. But how will they fend off the legal questions? What will they do when these young Catholics start asking, "How can a corporation break our laws, evade prosecution, and still be allowed to conduct business here?" That is the legal question that I am now asking.

Greatest Moments of Singing XII (Buon Compleanno, Magda Olivero!)

Today the amazing Magda Olivero turns 100 years young, her marbles still very much intact. Here is the glorious Cherry Duet from Mascagni's L'Amico Fritz, where she is joined by another legend: Ferruccio Tagliavini.

The recording is from 70 years ago. Magda was 30!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Evviva Lidia!!!

This afternoon I was like some sort of star-struck teenager, meeting my favorite rock star. It still hasn't sunk in that I met Lidia today, at Williams-Sonoma right here in Boston. (As you can see, Antonino met her as well.)

The book signing began at 5. We got there at 4:25. Already a line had formed; there were 12, maybe 15, people ahead of us. Nino was impressed with how long the line was growing behind us. I asked him, "How many people do you think are in this line?" He said, "I think a million."

While we were waiting, the crew at Williams-Sonoma passed out samples of Lidia's Salsicce all'Uva. Lidia herself didn't make it; the staff prepared it following her recipe. Still, it was a tasty treat.

The staff of WS had everything down to a science. Only books that we had purchased at that actual store could be signed (which means I brought two books from home for nothing. Three books made for a heavy backpack on the return trip!). While still in line, we were given a yellow sticky, on which we wrote what we wanted Lidia to say. I mention this because when we finally reached Lidia, she looked at my name on the sticky and said, "Oh, you're the one who sent me that link" (i.e., the previous Faultbook post). Then she said, "So, you're a musician." I was floored that she remembered that much about me.

She treated my Nino, and all the children there, like members of the family, with great down-to-earth-ness and a warmth that was in no way false. That, I am convinced, is what sets apart her cooking. She has the culinary techniques of the greatest virtuosi, yet she has the taste and the love of the Southern Italian peasants (though she is a Northerner). My Sicilian grandmother used to always say, "No amuri, no sapuri" ("No love, no taste"). This, my friends, must certainly be the secret of Lidia.


Salsicce all’Uva

Serves 6

From “Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy,” published by Alfred A. Knopf (2009)

¼ cup extra- virgin olive oil
8 plump garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
2 ½ pounds sweet Italian sausages, preferably without fennel seeds (8 or more sausages, depending on size)
½ teaspoon peperoncino flakes, or to taste
1 ¼ pounds seedless green grapes, picked from the stem and washed (about 3 cups)

Pour the olive oil into the skillet, toss in the garlic cloves, and set it over low heat. When the garlic is sizzling, lay in all the sausages in one layer, and cover the pan. Cook the sausages slowly, turning and moving them around the skillet occasionally; after 10 minutes or so, sprinkle the peperoncino in between the sausages. Continue low and slow cooking for 25 to 30 minutes in all, until the sausages are cooked through and nicely browned all over. Remove the pan from the burner, tilt it, and carefully spoon out excess fat.

Set the skillet back over low heat, and scatter in the grapes. Stir and tumble them in the pan bottom, moistening them with meat juices. Cover, and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the grapes begin to soften, wrinkle, and release their own juices. Remove the cover, turn the heat to high, and boil the pan juices to concentrate them to a syrupy consistency, stirring and turning the sausages and grapes frequently to glaze them.

To serve family-style: arrange the sausages on a warm platter, topped with the grapes and pan juices. Or serve them right from the pan (cut in half, if large), spooning grapes and thickened juices over each portion.

The above was copied from Lidia's Facebook page:

"A Leonardo Ciampa
Tanti cari auguri
Buon appetito
Lidia Bastianich"

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lidia Comes to Boston!


The one and only Lidia comes to Boston for a book signing this Monday!

For twenty years I have sought out all the Italian cooking shows, everyone from Biba to Pasquale to Carlo Middione. Lidia is, in my opinion, "La Regina dei Cuochi Televisivi." Every time I see her pick up a utensil and move the food in the pan, I feel like I am watching Horowitz touch the piano keyboard. The footage from Italy is thrilling; she doesn't just grate the pecorino, she shows footage of the sheep grazing, and the woman in the shop who has made pecorino the same way for 67 years. Jeanette can testify that when Lidia's show comes on, whatever I had been doing comes to a grinding halt. This has a deleterious effect on my music but a marvelous effect on my stomach!

So in case you're looking for me next Monday, I will be at the Williams-Sonoma in the Copley Mall. (The exact address is 100 Huntington Place C9, Boston, MA 02116. For more info: (617) 262-3080)

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Television's Greatest Moments IV

Again, not PC. But this is, in my opinion, Foster Brooks's greatest performance on the Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts. Don Rickles is almost likable here.

Television's Greatest Moments III

This sort of humor is no longer PC. But the talent of Foster Brooks and Dean Martin cannot be denied.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Television's Greatest Moments II

One of comedic history's finest hours: Milton Berle and Harpo Marx in 1959, at the height of their powers:

The Essence of Chutzpah

Chutzpah: a Yiddish word meaning gall, brazen nerve, effrontery, sheer guts plus arrogance; it's Yiddish and, as Leo Rosten writes, no other word, and no other language, can do it justice.

A few of my friends shared with me stories that they felt were the epitome of chutzpah. I got some extraordinary answers!

  • The Hungarian definition of chutzpah is when you poop on somebody's threshold and then ring the bell for toilet paper.

  • A little old lady sold pretzels on a street corner for 25 cents each. Every day a young man would leave his office building at lunch time, and as he passed the pretzel stand, he would leave her a quarter, but never take a pretzel.
    And this went on for more then 3 years. The two of them never spoke. One day, as the young man passed the old lady's stand and left his quarter as usual, the pretzel lady spoke to him.
    Without blinking an eye she said: "They're 35 cents now."

  • An old woman, after much persuasion, convinces her son and daughter in law to let their 5 year old boy go to the beach with their grandmother. Two hours later, after driving in horrendous traffic, the alta kocka and her cherished boychick are sitting on the beach at Far Rockaway. He's at the water's edge, wearing a little white hat his obsessive mother insisted upon to avoid the sun's damaging rays, playing with a shovel and bucket. The bubbe, of course, is 50' up the beach, doing the Times crossword puzzle, holding a little battery powered fan in one hand. The rest of the shoreline is jammed with people.
    Suddenly, a tsunami sweeps the beach. When it pulls back, only the grandmother is left. She looks down on the spot where her cherished boy was playing only a minute before; she squints and looks up at the heavens; and begins to kvell to God . . ..
    "How could you do this to me? How could YOU do this to ME? It took me three weeks to get a day with my grandchild. Now, you're gonna make me drive back to the city, two hours, IN TRAFFIC, no less, just to tell my son and his no-good worrywart wife that I, not you but I, lost their son? How could you do this . . . "
    She's interrupted by another tidal wave. When the wave pulls back, there's the kid, like nothing happened, beaming at her and playing with his shovel.
    The grandmother looks at the boy; looks up, and says . . .
    "Um, he was wearing a hat . . . "

  • This Cuban drug dealer has an important meeting to make in Miami. He is circling all over the place trying to park, getting more nervous by the minute. Nothing. In final despair he looks at the Heavens above: "Lord, I must be on time for this most important meeting of my life! Give me a parking place and I will go to church every Sunday for five years, I will stop cheating on my wife, and I will donate $50,000 to the poor!" He looks around – and there is an empty spot. He looks up again: "Never mind! I found one myself."

  • Chutzpah is when you murder your parents then plead for mercy because you're an orphan.

Many thanks to all of my friends whose stories I ripped off without even asking them, purely for my personal gain. Now that's chutzpah!

Television's Greatest Moments I

Remember "Mahna Mahna," from the timeless Muppet Show?

I don't know what the song means, but it has Jim Henson's immortal spirit all through it.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Greatest Moments of Singing XI

Last Thursday was the 50th anniversary of Leonard Warren's tragic death on the stage of the Old Met. With no offense to Merrill fans, I cannot help but feel that Warren was the greatest American baritone of all time. His production had a ring and color that usually one had to travel to Europe to hear. His high notes were the envy of many tenors, yet his voice had a purely baritone timbre. A "baritenor" or "tenortone" he clearly was not. He was positively unique, and positively supreme. Here he is in Rossini's immortal Largo al factotum:

Monday, March 1, 2010


Today marks the 200th birthday who, for most of my life, has been my ultimate favorite composer.

It can be said that some Brahms sounds like Schumann or Beethoven, or that some Bach sounds like Pachelbel or Buxtehude. Whom does Chopin sound like? He must certainly have been the most original composer in the history of Western music.

I'm happy to announce that in September and October of this year, I will play six Chopin recitals at First Church (formerly First & Second Church) in Boston's historic Back Bay. It will be a labor of love.