Friday, June 25, 1999

Life in the Styx, June 25 1999 (Old Styx)

Hello Styx!
  1. Mazel Tovs 
  2. Personal: The Excuse 
  3. Jews: Holiday Alerts 
  4. Styx: Styxlist Chart 
  5. Styx: Table o'Contents Improvements 
  6. Personal: What Are You Doing Now? 
  7. Dunkin' Donuts Alert

1. MAZEL TOVS

A. Mazel Tov to [named redacted]. Since this column was supposed to go out last Friday, I had already devised proposed names, as is the Styx minhag (I couldn't send it out due to an unavoidable bout of fear and loathing; and we all know that fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.)

Proposed Names:
  1. Korach (or "Baldy") 
  2. Tzitz (or "Yatzeitz-Tztiz, from the flowering staff) 
  3. Shekeid (or "Yigmol Shkedim", from the almonds) 
  4. Tarzan (over the upcoming premiere)

B.-D. [Names Redacted] 

2. PERSONAL: THE EXCUSE

I should apologize for a lack of writing recently. I injured a finger earlier in the week (in a method that is too stupid to relate) which makes typing painful. My computer, suffering from age, heat fatigue and obsolescence has been crashing like the Sudanese stock market . It's nearing 6 years old -- way too old, given the dog-years ages for computers -- and I plan on replacing it when I finally move out of this crime ridden slum.

3. JEWS: HOLIDAY ALERTS

Just want to warn everyone that the fast of the 17th of Tammuz is next Thursday, July 1, starting at first light (alot-ha'shachar) and ending at nightfall (tzeit ha-kokhavim). In New York, those times are 4:16 a.m. and 9:13 p.m. (sunset is 8:31) respectively. The three weeks starts a period of mourning, so get yer haircuts in. And a Sukkot reminder. Because by the time Sukkot comes around, all the summer supplies have been removed from the shelves, it's a good idea to buy the necessary outdoors equipment now (e.g. citronella candles).

4. STYX: STYXLIST CHART

As mentioned in the previous Styx, I have removed everyone's email address from my webpage.
But, due to improvements in atomic-age technology, I have placed the Styxlist in a chart. Now you can see what your nickname is as well as the real names of everyone who is, or has been, on the Styx in its nearly four years of existence.

If you lack time and/or the ability to see the chart, just ask me and I'll send along your information.

5. STYX: TABLE O'CONTENTS IMPROVEMENTS

Another public works project in production is that I'm adding improvements to the Table of Contents by putting in subject headings. I recognize that not many people have time to read the Styx; Lord knows that even I don't read it that often; and that people scan the table of contents for specific information -- like Mazel Tovs or my effervescent commentary on current events in Israel. The subject headings will allow easy reference to "news you can use".

Examples of headings:
  • MAZEL TOVS = duh 
  • PERSONAL = for things about my life right now, 
  • NEWS = commentary about current events, 
  •  JEWS = discussions about Jewish issues 
  •  STYX = issues relating to the Styx and its construction [no title] items of frivolous or humorous content

6. PERSONAL: WHAT ARE YOU DOING NOW?

So, what am I doing this summer?

YU has a "June Zeman" which ends Friday, the 25th. After that I will be up in the Heights until I find an apartment on the East Side. Over the summer I will be still in shiur. Rav Yonasan Sacks -- a big Talmud-Hakham and anav who's a Ram in YU and a shul-Rav in Passaic -- will be "saying" shiur for the summer. I was in his shiur last summer as well and it was quite worthwhile. I hope to be finishing up my outstanding work in Revel this summer as well.

My first appearance at [name redacted] as rabbinic intern will be on Tisha B'Av. I'll be giving a shiur an hour before Mincha on Tisha B'Av afternoon. Topic to be determined; I am debating between either (a) the moral lessons we learn from the Talmudic/Aggadic passages about the destruction of the Temple, or (b) reading recipes aloud from the "Joy of Cooking"

I will be teaching two classes at [name redacted] as one part of my internic duties. One will be a parsha class on Shabbas. Naturally I am looking forward to that. The second class will be part of the shul's official adult education curriculum. I have not yet solidified a topic but I am tending towards the Laws of Chessed -- e.g. charity, hospitality, visiting the sick, etc. Commentary and suggestions are always welcome.

Next year I will be commuting up to YU by day (and by night I will don a cloak and fight crime under the code name "The Panda.") My required course-work will be lighter next year than it was this year which was such a demonic year that I officially will not recognize that it exists (it has taken three years but I finally have the First Lesson of RIETS knocked into my head: never take classes if you can avoid it).

In addition to the [name redacted] position, and finishing my rabbinic training, and finishing my masters degree from Revel, I will still be doing the Torah U-Madda project lecture series. You'll be hearing about that as usual.

I will also be spending considerable anguish and brain-power in trying to figure out what I will be doing with my life after I am ordained and kicked off the [Fellowship] gravy-train. Word on the street is that the city is hiring college-educated men for ditch-digging. But that's only one option.

7. DUNKIN' DONUTS ALERT

I am told by reliable authorities that the Dunkin' Donuts on East 85th is no longer under any form of hashgacha. I endorsed this establishment due to my unbridled horses for donuts. (Note to all you concerned health care professionals: I am a fan of the metaphysical nature of donuts more than the physical -- hence do not worry about my daily consumption of the high-fat treats, it is merely between 0 and 1).

However, there still is a Kosher Dunkin' Donuts in Manhattan. Informants reported this to me a few weeks ago and I have not yet confirmed it via personal experience, but there is information about it listed in the Shamash Kosher Database (which is good enough for me).

Better yet, the hashgacha is pretty reliable (Rabbi Aaron "Bud" Mehlman of Congregation Ohev Shalom on 85th Street between Broadway and West End). Here's the info from Shamash (with deletions and emendations from yours truly). [Data Redacted]
 more later,
Shabbas!
Styx :]

Thursday, May 20, 1999

Life in the Styx vol. 6, no. 24 (Old Styx)

Life in the Styx vol. 06, no. 24, May 20, 1999 (Excerpts):

SHAVUOS

Don't forget to make an Eruv Tavshilin! Anyway, I'm off to Princeton for a fin-de-si├Ęcle Pentecost. Because of my accumulated exams, plus the nasty allergies (Gd, gotta love 'Im, has decided to use my face as a filter for the earth's vacuum cleaner -- letting the past week's full quantity of dust and organic goo to derange my allergies; actually, I need to look at everything as a blessing, so thank you Gd for turning my head into a barometer of Air Schmutz), plus having received no feedback, I have changed my lecture topic from Milk & Meat Cases to a discussion about the Book o' Ruth. This is a sign of my future rabbinate as well, I'm afraid.

COMMENTARY ON [1999] ISRAELI ELECTIONS


Two caveats. I have no time for a full analysis (when have you heard that before?). The second is a general problem about my relationship to Israeli politics -- I don't know very much. I am stuck here in the states (hence why this is called "Life in the Styx" remember?). I am woefully ignorant about the nuances of Israeli politics that's necessary for advanced political analysis; I let my senior political analysts, like respected journalist [friend, EG], fill me in on the important details.

That said, here's some commentary.

There was obviously a personal backlash against Netanyahu. Heck, I had thought Israeli politics was above, or below, personality politics but I guess that it's even more so there than America.

That's why I was rooting for Penina Rosenblum to get a seat (almost!). Penina, for those who don't know, was a bikini model turned businesswoman who ran for Knesset on those assets alone. I rooted for her because, even aside from Tommy Lapid (the shock-jock who galvanized anti-orthodox hate into a six-seat parliamentary monster), her only qualifications for office were (a) celebrity, and (b) a pretty face.

If she had won a seat then Israel will finally have made it into a mature nation status -- i.e not defining themselves in terms of whether they exist or not (Stage One: see with the hard right vs. hard left) and not defining even by basic ideological issues (Stage Two, as seen in Lapid vs. Hareidim). Penina would have been a person elected on charisma and flash alone; and only a secure country can have that sort of piffle.

Anyway, as I have said before, Bibi had one thing going for him that the other candidates lacked: America. The only thing that can save Israel's political system is a heavy dose of American government structure. Eliminate the cheezy parliament -- it's so 18th century -- and get with a regional representative system. All politics is local, so we're told by Tip O'Neill, and that's how a state should be ultimately governed. It heightens the need to compromise, lowers defining people by ideology. And make elections every 2 years, or something to make each legislator accountable for his/her actions.

I want a two party system; not because I'm an American with a football mentality (one team vs. one team, with plenty o' cheerleaders). Two parties force everyone to take one general side and accept compromise as the only option. That's why I want the direct election of prime minister kept in place. Notice two elections in a row the multiple candidates all poured down into two: Left and Right. And despite the demonetization of Bibi, the guy is not a right-winger (he's a demagogue, fine, but not an ideologue); he's the same as Barak, a political animal -- and a two party system will generally create a run-off between two moderates.

And, we can learn a lesson about two-parties from this past election as well. Just as in America the two candidates can be "just the same" (e.g. a common idiotic rant back in '96 about Clinton-Dole) a candidate is defined by his bedfellows. Bibi was identified with Shas and thus he lost almost everyone. Barak intelligently played the coalition charge (notice how he brought the negligible Meimad party along, just to get some kinda Gd injection). But Barak also brings with him the ravenous wolves of Meretz and Shinui. And those two parties, one committed to anti-Zionism, one committed to anti-orthodoxy, that will define the next few years in Israel. Gd help us!

Chag Sameach, Happy Pentecost, Chag Bikkurim Tov, Gut Yuntif,

JC :]

FRIVOLOUS POSTSCRIPT

There's a great line in the recent New Yorker (5-24-99, p.72) by Earnest Hemingway about William Faulkner:

"I musn't comment on [Faulkner's book] until I have read it or failed to be able to read it, but one thing I know is that writing would sure be easy if you went up in a barn with a quart of whiskey and wrote five thousand words on a good day without syntax."

I love it!!

Friday, February 12, 1999

Life in the Styx, vol. VI, no. 16 (Old Styx)


Yo Styx,

CONTENTS
  1. Mazel Tovs
  2. Doctor Doctor
  3. Parsha Page
  4. TV-Themes
  5. Thimk Award
  6. Impeachment
  7. King o'Jordan
  8. Israeli Politics

MAZEL TOV

1. Mazel Tov to [names redacted] on the birth of a son, their second, on Tuesday night, February 9th. Name suggestions will be according to the rapidly approaching holiday of Purim (duck!) and the surrounding haftarot:
  • 1. Shekel
  • 2. Hodesh
  • 3. Parah (my favorite)
  • 4. Zakhor

2-4 [names redacted]

5. Mazel Tov to my brother, [name redacted] who successfully defended his thesis on Tuesday, Feb. 9. See report below.

6. Mazel Tov to Marisa Kantor Stark '95 on being nominated for a 1998 National Jewish Book Award! Hers was one of 5 books that were nominated, along with such pushover competition like Philip Roth and Isaac Bashevis Singer (who's evidently a hard man to keep dead). The winners will be announced on Feb. 22, but it certainly is an amazing recognition for someone's first novel (which was Marisa's senior thesis at Princeton).

2. DOCTOR DOCTOR

As many of you know, my brother has been slaving away for years in Rockefeller University on the Ph.D. leg of his kamikaze MD-Ph.D. Well, after 4.5 years, and many moles, of work he has not only finished writing a 250 page thesis but on Tuesday he successfully gave an hour-long "thesis talk" to the Rockefeller community, and then proceeded to pass his oral defense. While he will be hooded in June, he is (in our eyes at least) a Doctor. He returns to Med school on the 22nd.

While I was sitting in the funky "thunder"-dome auditorium (those of you who've driven past 67th & York, or been near Sloan Kettering, know which dome I mean), listening to all these strange big words coming out of his mouth, I was struck by a few random thoughts. First of all, his work (in somethingorother biochemistry) required him to create many mutants and I must admit that any job which allows you free reign to create mutants is a good job.

However, I was only able to understand about 2 minutes of the talk. My brother had learned the primary rule of quality academia: you must introduce your paper/talk by explaining why your work is relevant. So, as far as I could tell, besides being heavily into mutants, his work was about how the organelles within human cells communicate both in and outside the cell. The rest is commentary.

But all the commentary was *fact* That's another advantage he has (besides the mutant thang) -- he's dealing entirely with fact while we anthropologist-rabbi-cultural-critic-social philosophers mainly try to carve out pretty lies from the ugly.

Yet, sitting there smiling blankly in my auditorium seat while the rest of the audience seemed to be grokking the talk, I realized that: this talk is 100% fact and, Gd love 'em, I couldn't care less.

3. PARSHA PAGE

Well, after hours of fiddling, I am ready to present the newest addition to my webpage, the Parsha section. Soon, I hope to present my own Torah stuff, but now primarily I'm using the site to organize all the decent Torah sources that I've accumulated and accrued on the net. There are 7 Torah sources featured: Menachem Leibtag, Yeshivat Har Etzion, Yitz Etshalom, Eitan Mayer, Rav J.D.B. Soloveitchik, Nechama Leibowitz, and The Judaic Seminar. Only Yitro and Mishpatim have any Torah on them (and, just noticing now -- I'm in Potomac while writing this -- the page looks very different on this machine than on my computer at home, grrr).

[2013 Update: this eventually became my famous parsha page on a separate web-address]

4. TV-THEMES

While surfing for Torah, I came across many good pages that I hope to use to update my linkpage (that's the next project). One category o'treasure are many pages of sound & music resources of theme songs for TV Shows. This is, of course, Gen-X heaven. There are so many shows where the theme song had more drama and narrative than the entire series (e.g. The A-Team, Dukes of Hazzard, The Fall Guy, Knight Rider). My favorite is still "The Six Million Dollar Man." You must hear it again.

Check out the best source (you'll need the right software): http://soundamerica.com

5. THIMK AWARD

I routinely give the "thimk" award to the person who best misspells my name. I can't reveal the name of this year's winner (since it would be loshon hara) but I recently received a letter addressed to "Joel Bypress"

6. IMPEACHMENT

While I have nothing to say just now about the acquittal in the Senate, I will refer ya'll to today's JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency) report (Fri, Feb 12):

"All 11 Jewish members of the U.S. Senate voted to acquit President Clinton on both articles of impeachment. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), the only Jewish Republican, joined with the 10 Jewish Democratic senators in rejecting the perjury and obstruction of justice charges brought by the House of Representatives."
10%+ of the senate is Jewish?! That's a better ratio than at Princeton!

7. KING O' JORDAN

So, hey, King Hussein is dead. According to all news reports, Hussein was a great peacemaker and a wonderful guy who loved puppies and nice things. I wonder how the parents and children of those who were killed in the Six Day War (and other Jordan fostered military action) feel about the great peacemaker? I wonder how the Palestinians feel about the butcher of Black September? I wonder how soon we forget that King Hussein was chief cheerleader of Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War. Never forget those who murdered Jews with smiles on their faces; never.

But I will point out one conspiracy issue that has been overlooked in the media. Notice how *Michael* Jordan stepped down from basketball at the same time that King o'Jordan steps down from the throne. Think about it!


8. ISRAELI POLITICS

A very quick point. I was waiting and finally Labor is the first to whip out the ol' Nazi epithet against Likud, and in record time!

III. Labor Links PM's Election Slogan to Nazi Era
(IsraelWire-2/2-08:00 -IST) Members of the Labor opposition party have attacked the Likud's new election campaign slogan, "a strong leader for a strong people" drew comparisons to Nazi propaganda. "The sound of 'a strong leader, a strong people' is coming directly from he conceptual framework of the Third Reich of 50 to 60 years ago," Labor MK Avraham Burg stated in an interview with the Reuters News Agency. [...]
Anyway, Shabbas is way too close to continue. Later.

Styx :]