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Jonathan's Coffeeblog: Previously Posted

"The meaning of life and other trivia." Copyright ©2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 Jonathan David Leavitt. All rights reserved.

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Kvetching - 2:53 PM Thursday, December 4, 2008
[It's the economy, stupid.]

What, Me Kvetch (Coffeeblog)

A joke: Somewhere, back in Russia, a traveler gets on a train and sits down next to an old Jewish man. Before long, the old Jewish man starts muttering, "Oy, am I thirsty." The traveler ignores him, for a while, but the old man persists: "Oy, am I thirsty. Oy, am I thirsty." He keeps it up and finally the traveler can stand it no longer. He gets up, walks to a car where drinks are sold, and buys a bottle of water. The old man accepts it gratefully, drinks it, and settles down. A few minutes pass. The traveler can feel the tension building up in the old man sitting next to him. Finally, the tension gets the best of the old man, and he blurts out, "Oy, was I thirsty!"

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Thanksgiving Day - 11:49 AM Thursday, November 27, 2008
[No American would consider eating a bald eagle.]

Thanksgiving Day (Coffeeblog)

Today is the day that North Americans celebrate their good fortune, whatever it might be, and express their gratitude to whomever they feel it, divine entities optionally included. It is traditional to eat turkey on Thanksgiving day, probably a reminder that wild turkeys were abundant when the first European settlers arrived. At the very least turkey eaters can feel gratitude to the bird who gave its life, unwillingly as it were, for the festival dinner.

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To the Shores of Tripoli - 11:23 AM Friday, November 21, 2008
[The Songs of War, Part 6]

Piracy Then and Now (Coffeeblog)

And so my multipart series on the songs of war continues. For the latest episode I had in mind a song related to the American Revolution, but events on the news during this past week influenced me to choose another song, the official hymn of the United States Marines, which is also the oldest official song of the United States military. The event that inspired this blogpost? The hijacking of a Saudi Arabian oil tanker with a petroleum cargo reportedly worth $100 million. Did the United States Marines intervene and rescue the crew and salvage the cargo? Well, no. Not this time (as of the date that I am writing this.) What, then is the connection? The connection is the second line of the first stanza of the Marines' hymn, "to the shores of Tripoli." [YouTube video] That second line refers to an important historical event known as the First Barbary War (1801-1805), important not only in US history but to the maritime history of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, to European and American relations with sovereign Islamic states, and to international policy on piracy on the high seas.

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The Third Rome - 10:49 PM Sunday, November 16, 2008
[Translatio Imperii, Part Two]

The Third Rome

I recently wrote in the Coffeeblog about a medieval political theory called, in Latin, translatio imperii, meaning transfer of power, promoting the idea that the Germanic kingdoms of Northern Europe were direct descendants of the Western Roman Empire. At this moment I am extending that idea to Russian history, beginning with a mysterious monk from Pskov, his Legend of the White Cowl, and his compelling idea that Russia was the Third Rome. The First Rome, of course, was the western empire ruled from Rome itself, which according to legend was founded by brothers Romulus and Remus. The Second Rome was the name for the Byzantine Empire, ruled from Constantinople, and created by Constantine the Great. According to the Pskov monk, whose name was Philotheus (Filofey in Russian), Constantine had given a white cowl to the pope, who sent it to Philotheus, who passed it on to the Archbishop of Novogorod, which was an important medieval Russian city. The Archbishop died in 1352. In 1453, 101 years after the Archbishop's death, Constantinople, the Second Rome, was taken by Ottoman forces and has been ever since a major Muslim capital, now called Istanbul. Russia, having received the white cowl, became the successor to the Byzantine Empire according to Filofey's doctrine of the Third Rome. This doctrine is not a mere historical footnote, but an idea to be taken quite seriously during our present era.

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Ukraine - 3:16 PM Saturday, October 25, 2008
[But Ukraine is no Disneyland]

Ukraine (Coffeeblog)

I must say that I have mixed feelings writing about Ukraine. It gives me butterflies in the stomach. More about that later, but I will start with a 2002 article by US ambassador to Ukraine, where he asserts that Ukraine is not "a political football between Russia and the United States." OK. Political, maybe not, but football? It seems to me that Ukraine's long history of being fought over by opposing "teams;" and of her inhabitants being kicked around for ages (as well as kicking each other around) justifies the football metaphor.

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Seltzer - 8:00 PM Monday, October 20, 2008
[Better for my health than the milk]

Seltzer (Coffeeblog)

Old-timers like me remember an early TV show featuring a marionette named Howdy Doody and a malicious clown named Clarabell who, once per show, spritzed the emcee, Buffalo Bob Smith, with pressurized carbonated water from a bottle. All Howdy Doody fans, and most Jewish kids of the era knew what was in that bottle: seltzer. It wasn't until a few decades later that I learned that my maternal grandmother's forebears earned their living selling that very same beverage, which was dubbed, in the New York of the 1930's, "Jewish Champagne." Although my mother served milk, not seltzer, with every meal, I still love to drink effervescent mineral water, preferably the kind bottled at Italy's Pellegrino source, or in the interest of saving money, our local California seltzer, Crystal Geyser. It turnes out it's a lot better for my health than the milk.

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Rough Draft on an iPhone - 5:23 PM Sunday, October 12, 2008
[A park or a beach, for example. ]

iPhone Rough Draft (Coffeeblog)

The laptop freed the writer from his office, and the iPhone freed him from his laptop. An iPhone is compact and light enough to be carried almost everywhere, and the writer can now choose the setting in which to write his article: a park or a beach, for example. I began this blogpost on my iPhone while lying in bed, on my back. The choice of setting can enhance the writer's creativity, diminish his anxiety, and help him find more time during the day....

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Gloomy Sunday - 7:00 PM Sunday, October 5, 2008
[Dead people in the streets. Everywhere.]

Gloomy Sunday

Yes, it's Sunday, and yes it's gloomy. Not totally gloomy. In fact, the sun is out and it's near the end of a beautiful day. So why am I writing about this? Because I'm feeling kind of gloomy, and there's no better day to write about gloomy Sundays and about the song "Gloomy Sunday," which has an interesting story behind it. If you had read my last blogpost, you might have gotten the idea that I was skeptical about the huge financial bill that was pending before the US Congress, skeptical because the same people who caused the financial crisis were now lobbying hard for a $700 billion-dollar fix. And, although there is much evidence that the bill was opposed by a large majority of Americans, it was passed anyway. And, yes, it's October, autumn already, and yes, it's Sunday, the gloomiest day of the week second only to "blue Monday." My last two blogposts were grim, melancholy, and morose, and now: Gloomy Sunday. Will I ever pull out of this spiritual nosedive? You betcha. But not in this blogpost, which is all about gloom. Not gloom and doom. Just gloom.

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The Hyas Muckamuck's Skookum Potlatch - 7:45 PM Sunday, September 28, 2008
[Chinook jargon has something to tell us]

Potlatch (Coffeeblog)

The past few days I've been distracted by major political/economic events, which have caused me great concern, worry, and frustration. As I write this the US Congress is supposedly closing a deal where hundreds of billions of dollars of bad debt will be purchased at a discount, purportedly by zhlubs like me, the American taxpayer. My mind boggles. I am no economist, but I am caught between the threat (the collapse of the world economy!) articulated by our Hyas Muckamuck, US President George W. Bush, and the knowledge, reinforced by plain common sense, that the same muckamucks who got us into the mess are now promising to get us out. Fortunately, I have found another way of understanding this whole mess. You see, I have just returned from a vacation in Alaska.

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