Coronavirus (33): Dose #2 and Done—Or Not!

As I reported on 18 March 2021, I received on that date the first of two doses of the Moderna vaccine. As I said at the end of that Notablog post:

I made this decision for my own health, and as a responsible caregiver to my sister [who was vaccinated herself during her recent hospital stay]. True, it is not clear if getting vaccinated will prevent any of us from being asymptomatic carriers of the virus (though one study has suggested that those who took the Moderna vaccine might be able to prevent two-thirds of asymptomatic transmission after a single dose).

The decision is yours. I’ve made mine.

What’s One Dose when It Takes Two To Make a Thing Go Right [YouTube link]? Though on my way out of the facility, I was told “The Department of Health will contact you and we’ll see you in December for your Booster Shot!”

Either way, I’ll let you folks know if I end up flat on my face after this second dose. But for now, all is well in Brooklyn, New York.

My Vaccination Record Card!

Postscript (17 April 2021): So I have survived my second dose. No fever, but have had some chills and body aches, not to mention an arm that feels like somebody took a bat to it. Drinking plenty of fluids, and getting lots of rest. 🙂

With a library from left to right … 🙂

[I was asked offline to prove this was not a bot! I am alive, with a library from left to right behind me… 😉 ]

Ski and Me: Update #2

As many of you know from my first post on the subject, way back in December 2020 (“Ski and Me: An Update“), my sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra (“Ms. Ski” to all those who know her), has had quite a few medical issues with which to deal since mid-November. This is just an update for all those who have sent messages of love and support along the way.

After hospitalization for serious illness from November 13 to December 12, 2020, my sister returned to the hospital from March 8 to April 7, 2021, where she underwent successful back surgery before being transferred to the hospital’s acute rehab unit. She has now been transferred to a sub-acute rehabilitation facility, and it will take some time to get her fully mobile—for her to return back home. But we have great confidence in the facility and in all of her healthcare providers. She’s been vaccinated for COVID, and, in fact, I get my own second dose of the Moderna vaccine on April 15 (next Thursday). Indeed, as my sister’s primary caregiver, healthcare proxy, and loving brother, I have been taking very good care of myself—because if I don’t, I will lose the capacity to take care of my sister or anyone or anything else! So I’ve not missed a single doctor, dental, or other appointment, and have lots of work on my very full plate.

I’ll continue to keep folks posted—especially once she has returned home.

I just wanted to extend my deepest appreciation again for all the love and support that has been expressed by colleagues, friends, and family—and especially from all of my sister’s former students, the thousands of kids she taught and mentored, and for whom she continues to care so deeply. Your goodwill wishes are part of the love that sustains her. Thank you.

A Pearls Before Swine Potpourri!

Some recent hilariousPearls Before Swine” installments, courtesy of The New York Daily News and Stephan Pastis:

Sign of the Times (Exhibit A)
Sign of the Times (Exhibit B)
Sign of the Times (Exhibit C)
Sign of the Times (Exhibit D)
Just for Fun!

Holocaust Remembrance Day: The ‘White Coat’ in Art—and Resistance

Today is the internationally recognized date for “Holocaust Remembrance Day.” “Yom HaShoah” is observed in Israel as a day of commemoration for the approximately six million Jews who died as a result of the Nazi’s “Final Solution.” What can be said about this horrifying episode in human history that has not already been said so many times before?

As it turns out there is always some new layer of understanding that emerges with each passing year. Two recent articles that appeared in the New York Times provide us with different portraits to contemplate—in the art of painting and in the act of resistance.

The first, published on 4 April 2021, by Bret Stephens, asks: “Can We Really Picture Auschwitz?” It is a portrait of Auschwitz survivor “Buba Weisz Sajovits and her sister Icu, who arrived in Veracruz in 1946, their eldest sister, Bella, … waiting for them by the dock.” Bella “insisted that they were not to speak of what had happened to them in the war. Life was meant to be lived facing the future, not the past.” Eventually Buba married and “started a beauty salon.” And the family looked forward, never backward. Stephens writes:

Only one reminder of the past could not be erased, because it was etched permanently in ink on the inside of her left forearm: A-11147. What went with that alphanumeric was, as she would title her memoir, Tattooed in My Memory. Decades later, when she was well into her 60s, she decided to take up painting, and soon the past became more vivid.

All the volumes that have been written about this subject throughout the decades, even trips to the sites of the death camps, are unable to bridge the chasm between “what we know and what we understand”… except through the recollections of “personal experience.” We are not talking simply about the thousands upon thousands of testimonials, the documentaries and photographic evidence, or even the diaries of the dead or the autobiographies of the survivors.

In Buba’s paintings, the unfathomable dimensions of this exercise in genocidal mass murder become all too vivid. Stephens writes:

On May 31, 1944, she and Icu (pronounced Itzu), their parents, Bernard and Lotte, and the rest of the Jewish population of Cluj were deported in cattle cars to Auschwitz, a journey of degradation and hunger that lasted five days. Buba, then 18, last saw her parents on the night of their arrival in the camp, when her father jumped out of line to hand his daughters their baccalaureate diplomas.

Buba was given a factory job. It came with extra rations, which she shared with her bunkmates. One day, she was called into a cubicle of the block elder, a female prisoner who was in charge of barracks discipline. The elder tore off Buba’s clothes and shoved her toward a man who had been waiting for her. “I gathered every last ounce of strength that I could muster,” she said, “and ran.”

How can we understand what it’s like to be a half-starved, naked Jewish girl running for her life from an Auschwitz rapist? We can’t. I can’t. But in 2002, Buba painted the scene, and through her painting I could catch a glimpse of what it means to be the most vulnerable person on earth.

“Needless to say,” she added dryly, “I lost my job and my ration.”


Stephens adds: “For all of its scale, the special evil of Auschwitz ultimately lay in the fact that the murder and torture was clinical, something I only really understood after seeing Buba’s painting.” Even animals depicted in some paintings wear white coats, like that of the man who attacked her.

Courtesy of The New York Times (4 April 2021)

Additional, shattering images painted by Buba can be viewed here. As Stephens puts it: “In this month of Holocaust remembrance, it’s worth pausing to consider how one brave woman’s memory, and art, help us to see what we must never forget.”

Another, very different, portrait of the Holocaust emerges from an article that first appeared on 18 March 2021 in the Times—and it was a revelation to me. Judy Batalion’s essay, “The Women of the Jewish Resistance” is a preface to her new book, The Light of Days: The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler’s Ghettos, which provides us with a history of uprisings by over 30,000 Jews led predominantly by women, who fought throughout European forests—and in at least nine cities, from Warsaw to Vilna. Batalion’s research began in London’s British Library, but extended across Poland, Israel, and North America. Batalion opens her essay with this story, which completely inverts the image of the “white coat” found in Buba’s art:

In 1943, Niuta Teitelbaum strolled into a Gestapo apartment on Chmielna Street in central Warsaw and faced three Nazis. A 24-year-old Jewish woman who had studied history at Warsaw University, Niuta was likely now dressed in her characteristic guise as a Polish farm girl with a kerchief tied around her braided blond hair.

She blushed, smiled meekly and then pulled out a gun and shot each one. Two were killed, one wounded. Niuta, however, wasn’t satisfied. She found a physician’s coat, entered the hospital where the injured man was being treated, and killed both the Nazi and the police officer who had been guarding him.

“Little Wanda With the Braids,” as she was nicknamed on every Gestapo most-wanted list, was one of many young Jewish women who, with supreme cunning and daring, fought the Nazis in Poland. And yet, as I discovered over several years of research on these resisters, their stories have largely been overlooked in the broader history of Jewish resistance in World War II.

Batalion’s research has uncovered an interesting episode of such resistance that goes far beyond tales of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. She writes:

Where I had expected mourning and gloom, I found guns, grenades and espionage. This was a Yiddish thriller, telling the stories of Polish-Jewish “ghetto girls” who paid off Gestapo guards, hid revolvers in teddy bears, flirted with Nazis and then killed them. They distributed underground bulletins, flung Molotov cocktails, bombed train lines, organized soup kitchens, and bore the truth about what was happening to the Jews. …

After Hitler’s conquest of Poland, … youth groups formed militias. … Those who were forced to labor in Nazi uniform factories slipped notes into the boots urging soldiers at the front to drop their weapons. They constructed workshops where they experimented with homemade explosives and designed elaborate underground bunkers. “Haganah!” was their rallying cry: Defense! Women who were selected for undercover missions were required to look “good,” or passably “Aryan” or Catholic, with light hair, blue or green eyes, good posture and an assured gait. …

As women, they were well positioned to do this work: Their brothers were circumcised and risked being found out in a “pants drop” test. Before the war, Jewish girls were more likely than Jewish boys to have studied at Polish public schools (many boys attended Jewish schools and yeshivas). They were, over all, more assimilated than Jewish boys and spoke Polish without the Yiddish accent, making them excellent spies.

The individual stories she tells are riveting—and worth your attention. In the end, both of these pieces teach us something profound about the reclamation of the human spirit from the depths of human depravity.

Happy Western Easter!

Here’s wishing a Happy Easter to all my Western Christian friends. My Eastern Orthodox family and friends will not be joining you in this celebration of life and rebirth until May 2nd!

Have a great day!

Epic Films for Holiday Weekend!

For the first time in memory, television networks are showing two epic Biblical films in prime time, on consecutive nights. First up, tonight, is TCM’s 8 PM (ET) showing of “Ben-Hur” (as part of their A to Z tribute to “31 Days of Oscar“). Second up is tomorrow night’s annual ABC showing of “The Ten Commandments” at 7 PM (ET).

Charlton Heston has the distinction of having starred in what many consider to be the last great “costume” epic of its time (“The Ten Commandments“) and in the first great “intimate” epic of its time (“Ben-Hur“). The former film remains a stunning Cecil B. DeMille achievement that has forever given new meaning to the phrase “A Red Sea Moment” to describe any remarkably monumental special effects sequence on the big screen. The latter film remains the all-time Oscar champ (11 Oscars, tied with “Titanic” and “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King“), directed by William Wyler, which ushered in a new kind of epic for a new era, one heavy on intimate characterization that is never eclipsed by its action sequences, including an unforgettable real chariot race, that makes CGI look fake by comparison.

Of course, what would a post like this be without at least one Sciabarra footnote. Aside from Heston, one of the key things that connects these two films is that Martha Scott plays Heston’s mother in both of them!

I could just as easily throw on the Blu-Ray of either film, but there’s still something charming about the fact that they’ll be on this weekend back-to-back. They remain truly notable achievements in the history of the cinema, however you might view them, critically, symbolically, or from a religious standpoint. Of course, nothing beats seeing these films on the Big Screen; I was lucky enough to see “Ben-Hur” for the first time, in 1969, on its tenth anniversary re-release in glorious 70mm at New York’s great Palace Theatre and “The Ten Commandments” a couple of years later at the wonderful Ziegfeld Theatre. Lacking that, find yourself the biggest TV screen to appreciate their artistry.

Epic-scale films with epic-scale scores—Elmer Bernstein’s great soundtrack for the DeMille classic and Miklos Rozsa’s spectacular Oscar-winning soundtrack [YouTube links to their “Soundtrack Suites”]—still worthy of your attention after all these years.

Play Ball!

… oh how I’ve been waiting to say that! And it’s not even an April Fools’ Day joke! And they’ll actually be a few fans in the stands!

The New York Yankees’ Opening Day will start out a little damp this afternoon; the Mets open on the road with the Nationals tonight. As a New Yorker, I’m ecumenical enough to hope that both teams give us something to cheer about. Of course, if both teams are blessed enough to make it to a Subway Series—all bets are off, and the Yankee fan in me will be on full display.

Here’s hoping for a safe, healthy, and exciting baseball season—with the return of the 162-game schedule and a grand postseason!

Postscript: Well that sucked. The Yanks lost and the Mets have been postponed because the Nationals are leading the league in COVID outbreaks! Sheesh…

Happy Passover to All My Jewish Friends!

A very Happy Passover to all my Jewish friends who celebrate this holiday.

While we’re on the subject of religious holidays, this year, the dates for Easter are sharply divergent. Every so often, the typical rule of the Eastern Orthodox Easter date is such that it comes much later than the Western Easter. So while Western Christians celebrate Palm Sunday today, the Eastern Orthodox churches won’t be carrying palms until April 25th. Orthodox Easter, which typically follows the Passover, doesn’t occur this year until May 2nd!

Don’t ask me to explain the ways in which these dates are decided upon; it’s not just a difference between the Julian and Gregorian Calendars (because the Greeks, unlike the Russians, follow the “Revised Julian Calendar“—the same as the Gregorian calendar, for every Christian holiday, including Christmas). But for Easter, it’s a Julian rule, with a quirky calculation based on full moons and the equinox! The next time that the Western and Eastern churches will celebrate Easter on the same date will be in 2025. (Since the beginning of the twenty-first century, they have coincided in 2001, 2004, 2007, 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2017). Apparently, because of various cumulative changes in the calendars, by the year 2700, the Western and Eastern churches will never celebrate Easter on the same date again!

Either way, getting back to the topic of this post: A very Happy Passover to all those who celebrate!

Coronavirus (32): Junior’s Cheesecake (or Bring On Dose #2!)

This just in from the New York Daily News (27 March 2021), by Larry McShane: “Sweet Offer from Junior’s for COVID Vax“:

Brooklyn’s famously to-die-for Junior’s cheesecake is now something to live for, too.


The quintessentially New York restaurant, beginning this Monday, will offer a free cupcake-sized version of its renowned taste treat to any customer with a COVID-19 vaccination record card.


“What we’re seeing locally, in our Brooklyn restaurant, is a lot of hesitancy to get this vaccine,” said owner Alan Rosen. “And Brooklyn was devastated by this. We’re right down the street from Brooklyn Hospital, so we decided, ‘Why don’t we do something to maybe change somebody’s mind?’”


The Flatbush Ave. eatery opened its doors back in the 1950s, founded by Alan’s grandfather Harry. The third-generation landmark business’ sweet freebies will continue through Memorial Day. The handmade cheesecakes use a special Junior’s recipe of premium cream cheese, heavy cream, eggs and a touch of vanilla atop its signature sponge cake.


“If that can’t convince you, maybe there’s no hope,” joked Rosen, tongue firmly in cheek. “But maybe, if Dr. Fauci can’t convince you, this will put you over the top.”

Indeed, who needs Brooklyn-born Anthony Fauci when you can have Brooklyn-born Junior’s Cheesecake as Incentive. Okay, the cupcake-sized one ain’t the larger Strawberry Cheesecake, but we’ll take it!

Bring on Dose #2, scheduled for April 15th!

Spring Grammar

Happy Spring Everyone! The Vernal Equinox occurred this morning in the Northern hemisphere at 5:37 am, ET. Bring on the Spring Allergies! Yay!

This has nothing to do with spring though; just an excuse to review our English grammar lessons as students move toward the end of their Spring semester.