Thursday, December 27, 2012

No Christmas Cheer at Mark Pi's

No Christmas Cheer at Mark Pi’s
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
December 27, 2012

To enter the service and culinary gates of hell, visit Mark Pi’s China Gate and Sushi Bar on North Meridian Street in Carmel.

Surly to bed and surly to rise should be the philosophy of the management and wait staff at Mark Pi’s who did themselves a disservice by remaining open on Christmas.

For openers, there was the waitress who at first appeared to want to take our order, but while we briefly deliberated over a particular menu item, turned and walked away not to return for several  minutes. On her next attempt at taking our order she directed her attention to a neighboring table. When asked if she was planning on taking our order, she snapped that she was busy and seemed irritated that we dared to bother her.

Several minutes later the waitress brought me my Miso soup, slamming it down on the table to the shock of the four of us, and with such force that enough soup flew out of the bowl to fill the bottom of the saucer. She also forcefully dropped the four empty plates on the table as though they were radioactive.

Clearly by the look on my face the waitress knew she was in the wrong, took my soup away, and brought back a fresh one that remained in the bowl along with an apology.

Next up were the Spring Rolls – six on a plate, each roughly the size of a wine bottle neck. Tasteless and greasy at best; devoid of any nutritional value.

Bring on the entrees, bring on the spice. I ordered the Classic Hunan which as advertised is spicy hot, but as food is supposedly made to order, I specifically requested non-spicy. One bite and I was reminded of a Bobby Slayton stand-up bit eating spicy Chinese – “head on fire!” More chili peppers than a Santa Fe ranch. Back it goes. Second attempt was better, but there should not have been a need for a second attempt if the server was doing her job and looking at the actual plate prior to serving it.

Then there was the Pad Thai – or should I say the Pad the bill Thai. Two orders of Pad Thai proving that all dishes are not created equally. Both were ordered with chicken (at an additional charge, no less) and while one was appropriately prepared, the other may have had two minute pieces of something resembling poultry. Back it went, this time with an exasperated waitress. Clearly, sifting through the dish, it was painfully obvious that the restaurant was trying to rip us off.

But adding to the culinary cacophony was the speed by which the waitress brought the bill – two of us were barely halfway through our entrees and she made us feel a part of the Indy 500. The four of us agreed we had not felt this rushed in ages.

And adding insult to injury was the insolent attitude of the manager who couldn’t be less patient listening to our legitimate concerns – concerns that when addressed properly would make future patrons’ visits more enjoyable than ours. This manager, said his last name was Wang, claimed not to have fielded a complaint in his 30-plus years in the restaurant business – a virtual impossibility.

Needless to say, a fine time was not had by all as this was the first and last visit to Mark Pi’s in Carmel. I am happy to furnish a copy of this review to their corporate office in Columbus, OH.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN. He has enjoyed fine Chinese cuisine and service in New York City’s Chinatown, NJ, Washington, DC and Chicago among other locales.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Of G-d and Guns

Of G-d and Guns
Commentary by Sanford D. Horn
December 17, 2012

If there has been one constant amidst the hellish carnage and horror that not just befell Newtown, CT but shook the nation to its very core, it has been a clarion call for prayer.

From the teachers in Sandy Hook Elementary School and the survivors – student and staff alike who were interviewed, to politicians all the way to the White House and Barack Obama himself, “thoughts and prayers” were offered repeatedly and liberally.

Synagogue and church services across the nation, even athletic events from high school to the professional level, called for prayers and moments of silence for reflection – that was the immediate gut reaction – it is natural and it is normal. There can’t be too much prayer.

Even jaded newscasters repeatedly said “our thoughts and prayers” are with the victims’ families (unless it was reflexive lip service – yes, I can also be just as jaded).

Obama’s first words in addressing an assembly in Newtown on Sunday night were, “scripture tells us…,” later adding, “I come to offer the love and prayers of a nation.” Obama approached his conclusion with, “G-d has called them all home,” in reference to the 20 children as well as the six teachers and administrators who were senselessly massacred on Friday, December 14 by a piece of detritus whose name only deserves to be cursed for all eternity.

Yet, for all the synagogue and church services, the words of prayer, the quotes from scripture, the moments of silence, it begs the question of why we the people are not preemptively praying to begin with? How far has this nation sunk into the quagmire of moral decay and vituperativeness that prayer and the word of G-d are to be shunned, even mocked and ridiculed?

The constant barrage of attacks on religion in general, and this time of the year on Christmas, specifically demonstrates people’s lack of knowledge of the first 16 words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”

“…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” stand out most for me. Part of the moral decline of American society commenced with the removal of G-d from the classrooms – eliminating prayer in school, the removal of the 10 Commandments, the cessation of reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as well as the ability of a school to actually mete out real discipline.

“…or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” which allows for prayer in school – which admittedly should be optional for those Atheists who object, but not to have prayer eliminated because of the small number of said Atheists who object. A non-sectarian prayer that mentions G-d, but not Jesus; for although Christians are the majority faith in the US, not all students believe in Jesus, but the major religions do believe in G-d. After all the Declaration of Independence says we are endowed by our Creator.

Daily prayer recited in school when my parents, both of Blessed memory, grew up in New Jersey – the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) – did not turn them from observant Jews into Christians. As an observant Jew myself, I support prayer in school. If a student wants to pray in class before an exam or in the cafeteria before or after eating lunch, as long as it doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s beliefs, they should be allowed to do so without penalty. The same support is offered for having a member of the local clergy offer a benediction at a graduation ceremony.

More G-d in people’s lives, especially in school, and fewer condoms in school would be a good start to reversing the trend of a godless moral decay.

With unfettered abortion on demand to the point where your daughter can be suspended from school for carrying and taking an aspirin, yet can get the surgical procedure to murder her unborn child without parental permission or even notification, life is sadly devalued. When life is devalued, it becomes easier to eliminate it.

This same devaluation of life is fervently visible in the motion pictures and video games created for mindless entertainment. Here too, when people, especially young people are exposed to the countless hours of such violent stimulation, they become desensitized – often to the point where fact and fiction become blurred and real news stories of, say, the tragedy in Newtown seem unreal or fictionalized. There becomes a point where those exposed to such stimuli become numb and lose their ability to empathize with a given situation.

Couple that with the gun culture that has manifested itself in American society. Make no mistake, I fervently support the Second Amendment to the Bill of Rights and believe that were an armed teacher, administrator, or security guard present at Sandy Hook Elementary School on that fateful Friday, the death toll would have been lessened.

And while there is a negative connotation to a gun culture – the ease of obtaining a firearm, the glorification of gun violence on television and the aforementioned entertainment genres of film and video games, a better armed society would be a safer society.

Responsible gun owners are typically the targets of government, really as the unintended consequences of legislation where gun control laws come into play, when the targets should be the criminals who will go to any lengths to procure firearms for their nefarious plans. Additional gun legislation is not needed when there are literally hundreds of laws already being violated daily by miscreants who shoot their way into schools and slaughter 26 people, or shoot up a movie theater killing a dozen innocent movie watchers, as occurred in Aurora, CO on July 12 of this year. Perhaps if another theater patron was armed, lives could have been saved.

Just as the answer to hate speech is not less, but more speech; the way to combat gun violence against innocent people is not by stripping them of their ability to defend themselves, but to enable them to not only defend themselves, but others as well. If more law abiding, responsible gun owners possessed conceal carry permits, it is less likely lunatics would shoot up schools or other venues. It was reported that when the murderer of 26 innocents at Sandy Hook was about to be confronted by law enforcement, the coward took his own life. Were there an armed guard on duty at the school lives would have been saved as the school already had its doors locked and the killer had to shoot his way into the building.

All schools – suburban, rural, inner city, public, parochial, charter – should have cameras positioned at all entrances and monitored in the main office, as well as metal detectors, armed security personnel, a strict sign-in/out policy for all visitors – whether UPS deliverymen or parent volunteers who come and go every day.

Retired police and military personnel returning from overseas duty would be optimal sources of security detail for schools. Many soldiers who serve 20 years and retire are still in the prime of their working years. The aforementioned security materials, as well as the existence of police and military as guards do not infringe upon the freedoms of the staff and students entering, exiting, and going about their daily lives in school.

However, Obama is prepared to limit the freedoms of all Americans. During his Newtown vigil speech Obama said, “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

According to the Constitution of the United States, the answer to Obama’s question is yes. Without sounding callous, there is a slippery slope of diminished freedoms – case in point, his healthcare program – and sacrificing one freedom leads to the loss of many more and this republic becomes an unrecognizable entity embracing socialism or worse. Stripping guns from the citizenry is how folks like Stalin and Hitler maintained and expanded their despotic regimes.

To be fair, and I know this will upset some uncompromising people, but I do believe the gun show loophole ought to be closed. If a potential firearm owner is required to undergo a background check when purchasing a gun from a gun store, why shouldn’t the same rules apply when seeking to procure a firearm at a gun show? There should be a level of consistency.

But here’s a quandary that concerns me as a Constitutionalist – what to do regarding military-style assault weapons. Should there be unfettered access to any and all firearms? How about artillery? Bazookas? How about parking a tank in one’s driveway? Where should the line be drawn? If there is a ban on assault rifles is that the beginning of the slippery slope toward too much government? On the other hand, for what does one need this kind of firepower? It certainly isn’t for the sport of hunting animals; and folks can protect their families and homes with any number of other firearms. There is a blur between the lines of too much and protecting Constitutional rights.

Further, while we have a responsibility to protect those who might do harm to themselves, we have the same responsibility to protect society from those very same unbalanced people by not permitting them to possess firearms. Clearly there are people in our world who are not in their right mind and they need help.

How often are serial killers and mass murderers described as solitary, quiet, loners who may have abused animals as a child, been abused at home, been bullied in school, are clinically depressed, are on the wrong medications, are part of Goth culture, have unnatural obsessions with Nazism and Hitler? Far too often; and signals are missed or diagnoses are not made because the mental health system works on a conveyer belt where a patient sees a doctor for maybe 10 minutes.

As a preemptive answer of how to pay for the increased security and mental health care, severe cuts to entitlements must be made. The safety of our children should take precedence. Additionally, a child in an unsafe environment is full of fear and not the knowledge to be provided by their teachers.

The above “symptoms” should not be ignored. They should be taken seriously and be paid attention to for the possibility of treatment. Society cannot lock them away simply because someone thinks they may commit a crime, but it is vital to monitor them for their own safety as well as the safety of others.

There is too large an incidence of mental instability among mass murderers. But, make no mistake, that is no excuse for their crimes against society. They must be removed from free society in order to preserve the freedoms of the innocent. They must suffer extreme consequences for their actions. And this is where Obama is dead wrong about sacrificing freedom for the potential safety of children.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety,” said Benjamin Franklin and it is more poignant than ever before.

Sanford D. Horn is a writer and educator living in Westfield, IN.