Lonely Man of Cake

August 7, 2007

Gary Trains Conan’s Palate

Filed under: Blogging,Culinary,Internet,Wine — lonelymanofcake @ 9:37 am

As avid readers of my blog, you’ve definitely watched my all time favorite episode of Wine Library TV, where host Gary Vaynerchuk teaches ordinary folks like you and me to have the precise palates of professional wine critics. Well, Gary, together with his dedicated fans (the VaynerNation) are doing something right, as last week the veritable Vay-ner-chuk featured on Conan O’Brien’s Late Night. This clip is a bit shorter than what aired on TV, but it should do the trick:

UPDATE: My blog got props (and a nice quote) over at CHOWCheck it out.

July 29, 2007

Jerusalem Heat II

Filed under: Environment,Israel,Weather — lonelymanofcake @ 1:17 pm

Check out today’s high temp (and compare it to the forecast temperature for today in my last post):


Many apartments in Jerusalem, especially those lived in by students, do not have air-conditioning.  In the States, you can go to your local Home Depot and pick up a 7000 BTU window unit for your bedroom for $100 or thereabouts.  Here, a 7000 BTU unit costs upwards of $500, not including an installation fee of $75-$100 which entails drilling through walls; something that not all landlords approve of in lease agreements.  Aging window units can be seen hanging precariously from some older apartments but are no longer manufactured or imported.

Save me…

July 26, 2007

Jerusalem Heat

Filed under: Environment,Israel,Weather — lonelymanofcake @ 12:12 pm

‘Nuff said.


July 25, 2007


Filed under: General — lonelymanofcake @ 6:45 pm

At the request of a dear family member, who I love and respect, I have disabled the comments on the Noah Feldman thread.   Please do not attempt to continue the discussion on this or prior posts, as those comments will be deleted.

July 22, 2007

Noah Feldman: Today’s Bar-Kamtza?

Filed under: America,Diaspora,Education,Faith,General,Judaism,Orthodoxy,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 8:14 pm

I read Noah Feldman’s thought-provoking essay which appeared in this weekend’s New York Times Magazine, and knew immediately that the article would draw a firestorm of criticism from members of the modern-Orthodox community, both because of what some might consider the inflammatory nature of some of the author’s comments, but more importantly, because of the timing of the article’s publication: during the nine days preceding the commemoration of the destruction of the Second Temple.

Although material discussing the destruction of the temple in rabbinic literature is scant, one returning theme is that the temple was destroyed because of the baseless hatred of Jews toward each other. Indeed, from the firsthand account of the events preserved by the historian Josephus, we may corroborate this as fact. By the time Titus arrived in Jerusalem, ready to purge the city of its rebels, no fewer than four groups of Jewish extremists fought for control of the city. The infighting verged on the outbreak of all out civil war in Jerusalem and even led to the burning of the precious food stores in the besieged city. The rebels in Jerusalem found themselves at odds with each other and also with the Pharisees and most other Jews in the country, who capitulated to the Romans without offering resistance.

The Talmud perpetuates the interpersonal hatred responsible for bringing down the temple with the story of “Kamtza and Bar-Kamtza”: A fellow is said to have planned a party, and asked his servant to invite his good friend Kamtza. The servant, perhaps out of confusion, invited one Bar-Kamtza instead, who just so happened to be the arch enemy of the host. Bar-Kamtza attended the party, perhaps seeing the invitation as an act of reconciliation on the part of the host. But the host would have no part of it and wished to eject Bar-Kamtza from the party, even after the latter offered to pay for his plate, for half of the cost of the party, and even the full cost of the party. The host grabbed Bar-Kamtza, and physically threw him out of the party. The insulted Bar-Kamtza was made to feel even worse by the fact that the rabbis sitting at the party did not intervene on his behalf. Bar-Kamtza is said to have then engaged in an act of subterfuge which angered the king and brought the destruction of the temple.

Noah Feldman is a 21st century Bar-Kamtza. He’s not perfect, but he has good intentions. He reaches out to the very institutions which leave him feeling embittered. To take the cropped photo as a metaphor, he attended the party, as did Bar-Kamtza, but was forcibly removed, with no explanations or protestations offered by his host, or by the rabbis who sat idly without intervening.

The unfortunate result reminds us of the subterfuge of the original Bar-Kamtza, who, wishing to avenge the silent rabbis, is said to have sabotaged a sacrifice offered by the king, inflicting a wound that the emperor would not have taken notice of but which would matter a great deal to the Jews, as it would invalidate the animal for sacrifice. Feldman did just that. The wound inflicted by his article should be apparent to the very community that rejected him. While people who are not close to the modern-Orthodox community may not fully appreciate the intricacies of Feldman’s criticism, the general repercussion, nonetheless, is the sullying of what had been the perceived pristine image of the modern-Orthodox movement in the eyes of the world.

July 15, 2007

Jerusalem of Gold… and of Stolen Cars

Filed under: Automotive,Israel,Security — lonelymanofcake @ 8:16 pm

While foreign governments may recognize only Tel Aviv as the capital city of Israel, Jerusalem, political arguments aside, is the uncontested stolen car capital of Israel.

In 2006, more cars were stolen from Jerusalem (4,539) than from any other city in Israel, according to an article published on Ynet today.  Surprisingly, Tel Aviv came in second place, with 3,891 thefts.  All in all, some 20,000 cars were stolen in Israel last year; an astounding 7% of all cars in the country!

What are people stealing?  The top three contenders:

  • Subaru: 5,208
  • Mitsubishi: 2,449
  • Mazda: 2,379

I’ll spare you the color commentary.  I can rant to you in person, if you so request.

July 8, 2007

Ode to Gary Vaynerchuk

Filed under: America,Culinary,Education,Internet,Wine — lonelymanofcake @ 9:16 am

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am a huge fan of Gary Vaynerchuk, the host of Wine Library TV.  As I also mentioned, Vaynerchuk was featured in TIME Magazine in a piece which, some would say, makes him the “Wine Man of the Year.”

If you’ve had a chance to watch any of Gary’s video (I made a few recommendations here), you’ll notice his unorthodox style, which at least one critic (who I hold in high esteem) found to be lacking the dignity and sophistication appropriate for the wine-appreciating community.  Here is my response which I submitted elsewhere, but I would nonetheless like to share it here as well:

As one of the younger members of the forum, I feel that Vaynerchuk’s daily videos are responsible for opening up wine culture to the younger, less economically sound crowd in a way that no critic or publication has done in the past. I’m all for a more “sophisticated approach,” but the fact is that wine, through the ages, was always something shared by all segments of the population, only recently (relatively speaking) becoming the province of the elite and demanding “a more dignified approach.” I don’t see any good in the assumed exclusivity and elitism in contemporary wine culture other than concern emanating from those currently entrenched in the community that they will have to associate with people possessing less wine knowledge, and perhaps lower social stature.

A similar debate can be (and probably has already been) held regarding some of the shows on the TV Food Network. Emeril Lagasse was also considered unorthodox when he began with his antics, but his shows, and those that followed, allowed people a glimpse of the high-end food industry while being both entertaining and not breaking the bank.

Vaynerchuk is unorthodox in the same way. Occasionally, he can be crass. On Thursday night’s segment dealing with a wine called Beauzeaux (pun clearly intended), he compared the nose to a sweaty jockstrap dipped in mouthwash. Granted, that is undignified. But his entertaining approach has attracted a not insignificant mass of followers and enfranchised a population segment which would have otherwise been alienated by the prevailing stuffiness and exclusivity.

Watching the show on a pretty consistent basis, I think it’s safe to say that while there is a certain conflict of interest in reviewing the wines you sell, Vaynerchuk will often take issue with Parker’s high scores on expensive bottles (which people want to buy), dismiss all 3-4 bottles tasted during a given show, and will freely disparage bad wines alongside good wines with questionable QPR.

Vaynerchuk’s antics encouraged me, and gave me the know-how to train my palate, break out of my Sideways-esque Merlot boycott, and experiment with out of the ordinary varietals. But the “undignified” approach does not necessarily breed a generation of ignominious connoisseurs. It is a warmer, more inclusive approach. It encourages savvy shopping and experimentation. And Vaynerchuk knows he’s onto something. He closes each episode with the following line, occasionally throwing a cork at the camera for emphasis: “Because you, with a little bit of me, we’re changing the wine world, aren’t we?”

July 5, 2007

New 2 Shekel Coin

Filed under: Currency,Israel,Judaism — lonelymanofcake @ 8:52 am

The Bank of Israel is set to issue a preliminary run of a new 2 Shekel coin, which, if successful in answering to various tests and sets of standards, will be mass produced in the coming weeks.

Information about the pending release is scant, and explanations regarding the need for such a coin are nowhere to be found.  There is also something of an uproar regarding the fact that the coin will be produced in Holland, and not in Israel.   What we do know is that the coin will be larger than the 1 Shekel coin and smaller than the 5 Shekel coin.

A sample of reactions (talkbacks) to the news:

  • How about a 99 Agorot coin?
  • Why a “Hellenistic” motif on the coin and not a Jewish one?
  • Will vending machines recognize the new coin?
  • Why does the English on the coin (and all coins and bills) mix languages and say “New Sheqalim” and not “New Sheqels”?

July 4, 2007

And We’re Back!

Filed under: General — lonelymanofcake @ 11:45 am

It’s July 4th, and as promised, I’m back blogging. Things have been quite topsy turvy since I last posted. Though I (somehow) got out of one major assignment which would have been due two days ago, I was not afforded any extra time for blogging because I’ve been taking care of the insurance claim on a stolen car for someone near and dear to me. That has occupied the past week, and dealing with some insensitive people and major bureaucratic hurdles sent me into an outrage so deep that on Sunday I was ready to pack a small bag, take a taxi to the airport, get my open ticket stamped, and get on the next flight back to the States. I recovered towards Sunday evening, but it happened again on Monday. I recovered once again, but suffice it to say that if the insurance company comes up with some lame ass excuse not to dole out a full settlement (or anything at all)…

Here’s what’s been going on:

  • The heat in Jerusalem was unbearable last week and did not even give the usual nightly respite of your typical Jerusalem summer. Thankfully, a cool front moved in on Saturday night and the weather has been hot, but pleasant.
  • Israel’s eighth president, Moshe Katsav, was offered–and accepted–a watered down plea bargain which is an affront to the justice system and any woman who has ever stepped forward in Israel after being sexually assaulted. While Katsav is indeed innocent until proven guilty, it boggles the mind that this case was allowed to circumvent the court system. No detailed explanation has been proffered, as of yet, from Israel’s attorney general, who drafted and offered the plea deal.
  • Israelis enjoy the various satirical programs offered on television, but nothing comes close to the incisiveness and intensity of satire and criticism found in Anglo blogs writing on life in Israel (my own included). Here is an article (Hebrew only) from the Israeli portal Nana (Israel’s “Yahoo”) which reflects on the electronic musings of Anglos, with specific reference to the blog Zabaj, which I have mentioned here in the past. As is my custom, I perused through the comments to the article to assess how Israelis handle their portrayal. Some comments are flattering towards Anglos, while others (surprise, surprise) assert the superiority of Israeli tact, poor pronunciation of English, and overall bad manners.
  • Wine, as you know, plays a central function in my social life. In a period of snobbishness, in which I shunned Merlot and vowed to drink only Cabernet, I completely lost my appreciation for other red varietals and especially white wines. So I resolved that I would get back into whites, especially considering that I deem my palate for whites much more evolved than for reds. (It’s easier to say that a wine has aromas and flavors of peach, pear, and apple than blackberry, blueberry, and raspberry when I am much more attuned to the differences between the former group than the latter.) I enjoyed, along with company, an inexpensive bottle of Gamla Sauvignon Blanc last week, which was delicious considering that it was chilled and the heat oppressive. I’ve also been foraying into Rose`, but haven’t yet found anything to write home about.
  • Speaking of wine, Gary Vaynerchuk, the host of Wine Library TV, the daily video blog which I urged you to watch over the “break,” was featured in TIME Magazine. I haven’t had the fortune of meeting Gary personally, but having watched the show for a few months now, I agree with everything stated in the article. Go Gary!
  • MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann is my hero. Watch this video to understand why.
  • The iPhone is now a reality. As much as I covet the device, I’ll hold out (minimally) until the next generation of the phone.
  • Pursuant to this article and the appended recipe, I prepared my first batch of cold brewed iced coffee. I’ll let you know how it is after I’ve mustered up the bravery to drink it.

June 19, 2007

Busyness and Craziness

Filed under: General — lonelymanofcake @ 8:31 am

It looks like I might have to put blogging on the back burner for the next two weeks or so because of a whole bunch of jobs that I’m juggling along with some major projects that I need to complete for my studies.

I think that my link-bar to the right gives a pretty fair representation of the sites that I visit, so feel free to check them out.  I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of my favorite sites of late, Wine Library TVWine Library is (I think) a wine superstore in Springfield, NJ and they run a very entertaining daily video-blog on everything wine.  I have a few personal favorites:

  1. If you’ve always wondered how it is that wine critics are able to sniff out and taste all of those esoteric flavors, this episode will show you how to train your palate.
  2. Here is an episode on Kosher wines!  I’m not so happy with the selection, i.e., I think that there are far better wines that do justice to the kosher wine industry, but I’ve been in touch with the host, and maybe we’ll get an episode on fine Kosher Israeli wines.
  3. And it is always entertaining to see professionals disagree with one another over expensive, and purportedly excellent, bottles of wine.  In this episode, the host takes issue with four wines that were given 95-point scores.

Enjoy!  Leave comments (even though I know you won’t)!  And I’ll see you again starting on July 4th (depending on how bad my fast-day headache is)!

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