Monday, December 29, 2003

Greek Love

I spoke this Shabbas about Hellenism, Hanukkah and Gay Marriage. One of the sources that has informed my thinking about this issue is Dennis Prager's article(s) about homosexuality in general:
I recommend reading it.

Friday, December 26, 2003

Congratulations

To Josh Joseph on being named the new director of the Orthodox Caucus! (See the Jewish Press article: New Director Ushers In New Era For Orthodox Caucus)

A friend's online article

Rabbi Meir Soloveichik's latest piece in AZURE - Issue #16 - Redemption and the Power of Man

Friday, December 19, 2003

Review: The Return of the King, a.k.a. The Very Exciting Movie with 9 Endings

Saw Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003) last night with the wife. Very exciting action; unbelievable really. Takes massive battle scenes to a new level; a combination of "Empire Strikes Back" and "Braveheart." Scary, though; I wouldn't bring children under 13 to see it (of course it's *rated* PG-13, but parents need to take that seriously). It really should be rated R, but that's kept now for movies which used to be rated X.

The 9 endings were annoying (especially after I had drunk a medium soft-drink and needed to see Ewashrum, the Lord of Porcelin). The director, Jackson, just couldn't figure out when to end it. He should have just stopped with the "bow to the Hobbits" scene and left the last 20 minutes for the DVD special edition.

As it is, he probably cost himself the Oscar. And all for greed. Not money greed, but artistic greed - he felt he had the muscle to inflict his "vision" on the consumers. That type of hubris created stinkers like "Heaven's Gate" and Jackson may be robbed of his Best Picture, and even Director, because of it.

For instance, Mystic River (2003) is perfect Oscar fodder. I haven't seen it; I hope that I live my life well and will never be subjected to it. It's about four boys, one who was abducted and raped, and the adults they become and how they handle, uh, things. Sounds perfect. My man Clint directed, and bully for him, and it got a great review from (of all people) Stephen King. But its an Oscar cliché that the winner needs to be hyperbolic dramaturgic treacle. A great fantasy yarn, that evinced superlative directorial skills and a gifted narrative vision, stands little chance against a child molesting, slow paced drama with Sean Freakin Penn and (drum roll please) Kevin Bacon.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Moral Compass

The Times reports today that the Vatican Feels Compassion for Saddam. A direct quote: "Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him," by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace.

At least I understand why the Vatican, and I guess the Catholic religion, thinks that molesting children is OK - because if they think that a mass-murdering rapist dictator is being mistreated by simple arrest and medical inspection, then the moral bar is set pretty low. Unrepentant pedophiliac sexual predators don't even show up on God's radar if Saddam barely registers.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Saddam and Shul

I'd be interested to hear what people did in shul Sunday morning in response to the capture of Saddam. I'll relate what I would have done (and what we did).

How do we define, halakhicly, this occasion?

Let's compare it to (a) victory in war against an enemy who wishes to destroy us, (b) the death of an enemy of humanity, (c) death of an enemy of Jews, (d) capture of B or (e) capture of C.

This is the capture of an enemy of Jews (E) and, one can say, the end of a war (A). Even though there's still guerilla warfare in Iraq (e.g. the suicide-slay of 17 people on the very day of Saddam's capture), there's no pretext for the war anymore.

Saddam was a specific enemy of the Jews. Because of the Bush mumbo-jumbo, people forget that Saddam declared unilateral war against Israel in 1991. He was also an enemy of humanity (mass murderer, tyrant, rapist, you name it) but the fact that he particularly aimed his destruction against Jews creates a halakhic reality.

Even if we catch Osama, we won't treat that occasion in the same way. Osama is an enemy of humanity. If we had run in and captured Stalin, we could say he was a target of Jews (although he did vote for the formation of Israel, go figure).

Also, the fact that we captured the enemy alive is a big joy. Killing an enemy, of having the enemy die of other means, is not the same level of joy about God's help. When Arafat dies, bimheira b'yameinu, even if its at the hands of the good guys, doesn't make it a day of true simcha. If we capture him (and put him on trial) then maybe so.

My conclusion was that since Saddam was a specific, unrepentant, enemy of the Jews as well as an enemy of humanity, who was captured by the good guys to be brought to justice, I consider it a day to (a) say Hallel (without a bracha, because I lack that level of authority), and (b) not say tachanun.

No tachanun for the morning, not the day, as in a bris. The joy was of the moment, when we heard the news (even though it had taken place earlier). Tachanun would be back at mincha.

Hallel without a bracha is known as "Tehillim 113-118." A simple way to recognize and thank God.

What we did in shul was: (a) no tachanun, (b) we said aloud, in unison, Mizmor l'Todah and Ezrat Avoteinu (the bracha between Shema and Shemona Esrei), (c) before Shir shel Yom, Rabbi Lookstein told us that this is a day of joy mixed with the sadness that we arrived at the day only after many lives were lost - we were enjoined to give more tzedaka and do teshuva in recognition and thanks, we then added Pslams 121, 124, 125, 130, and 134.

Religious Weirdness Alert

Dave Barry, who has made a point of keeping the world abreast of all the stark craziness on the web, linked to this site at some freaky Baptist 'anti-triclavianist' church.

I roamed around this site for a few minutes and found myself getting seriously creeped out. Check out the kids' page (with Habu the Hindu elephant, Prof. Giraffenstein the Creation Scientist and, my favorite, Hopsiah the Jewish Kangaroo from the Middle East "where his ancestors and those of all the other animals and humans alive today exited Noah's Ark 4,000 years ago. But unlike the other Kangaroos who hopped to Australia, Hopsiah's family stayed behind to witness the coming of the Messiah!")

Back at the original link, the Pastor explains his anti-triclavianist standpoint. If someone can explain the following terms he uses in the following verbatim (schizophrenic?) posting, I'd much appreciate it:
August 13, 2003: Some have criticized my stance on triclavianism as being counterproductive, arguing that making a point of doctrinal contention over not making a point of doctrinal contention over adiaphora is itself non-salvific. However, my critics are overlooking the dangers of triclavianistic doctrines: allowing adiaphora to creep into our credenda -- while possibly pushing the theologoumenic envelope and providing exciting new opportunities for supererogative works -- will most often serve to muddy the soteriological foundation of Faith, leading in general to ultramontane excesses and, in extreme cases, ebaptization (which is unacceptable pastoral malpractice, however rare it may be.) Doctrinal integrity, and hence salvific effectiveness, is best served by working to end triclavianism and similar erroneous, or simply adiaphoric, doctrines.

Um, whoa

Thurmond Kin Acknowledge Black Daughter. I guess those stereotypes *are* true.

The Enola Gay

According to the New York Times story, anti-nuclear advocates and Japanese groups protest the ennoblement and display of the "Enola Gay" - the aircraft used to drop the nuclear weapons on Japan.

I agree that the Enola Gay shouldn't be displayed as just another aircraft. It is an ominous plane; the last remaining artifact of one of the most momentous events in human history. The scientists, the statesmen, the victims, of the only nuclear strikes ever inflicted on humanity will all fade with time. This vehicle is all that remains.

However, the First and Please Dear God Only nuclear attack on people must be enshrined somewhere. I suggest in the Holocaust museum. Because the Japanese were their allies and in their own way masters of evil that we in the Western world don't often encounter.

The Nazis were straight from the Christian anti-semitic tradition; using a protestant work ethic and Western technology. The Japanese were idol-worshiping criminals against humanity . Just ask the Chinese, the Koreans, the Philiphinos, and any MIA.

We dropped nuclear weapons on them to stop their vicious, noxious evil. Two words: Pearl Harbor. Three words: Rape of Nanking.

And, I would argue, that once we dropped a nuclear weapon on people, we know what it does, and we can never do it again. And if it had to happen, I could only think of one other group (Nazis) who deserved it more.

Sunday, December 14, 2003

God is Great, Hussein is captured.

I didn't think it would happen this soon, but Hussein: in the Dog House. Two questions:

(1) will they give the bounty to the soldiers who captured him (or at least a raise)?

(2) Do we say tachanun today?

Friday, December 12, 2003

Hell Hath Frozen Over

Sir Mick Jagger

Review: Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

Not bad. Not nearly as bad as the business it did. Ironically, after this movie tanked, the pundits claimed it was because nobody wants to see 'boat-adventure' movies. Then "Pirates of the Carribean" and "Master and Commander" made (ahem) boffo box office. So what gives?

Basically, it's cuz it's rated PG. G movies are very lucrative. G cartoons especially so. Why do PG?!

Animated movies (especially Pixar) are very expensive. If the PG is from gross-out humor (like Shrek) then you'll get an adult audience (I wouldn't show Shrek to a small kid). But if the PG is from adventure and frights, then you have no kids and not enough stoner adults.

G movies make so much money because hard-working latchkey babies need to be entertained by their nannies and divorced dads. Voila! G movies are a painless afternoon of not having to speak to the kid.

Anyhoo, I liked the film (I suspect I was the target audience). I didn't appreciate that they made Sinbad, of the Arabian Nights into a Greek. But thems the PC apples.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Netflix & Monkees

My wife and I use netflix to rent our DVDs. I've been using them for three years now and I have let my Blockbuster membership flag. Netflix has a much greater selection in all categories. No lines. I can have the disc out as long as I wish. Yummy.

We've been taking advantage of Netfilx's television DVD collection. We went through the first season of "Soap" (the second season ain't out yet... if anyone remembers who killed Peter Campbell, I'd appreciate it). We saw the entire first season of M*A*S*H. And we just rented the "Monkees."

Ugh. As an amateur critic and part-time buff, I must fully recognize the impact the Monkees had on culture and society. Ironically, I saw the past week the new DVD version of A Hard Days Night; which happens to be a necessary foil for the Beatles' cheap American knock-off cousin.

A Hard Days Night was revolutionary because the Beatles - four young men, unremarkable in appearance, background, intelligence; unremarkable in everything but musical talent - fictionalized their lives and captured their celebrity with a clever humility and bonhomie. The Beatles were huge superstars who could make young women screech and collapse (a fascinating psychological phenomenon that deserves study) and here they were, acting like regular blokes. Whatever a bloke is.

But life in the 50s and 60s produced a certain type of establishment thief. There was he "payola" scandal in the 50s (where record producers bribed DJs to expose trash records to increase revenue) and they got cagier in the 60s with the Monkees.

Its odd to watch them now, knowing the lie. They were presented as a heartthrob band, just like the Beatles, doing zany lovable things, like the Beatles, and demonstrating song-making & playing talent, like the Beatles. The songs were high quality, because they were written by the likes of Neal Diamond. They playing was mediocre (but so was early Beatles, face it).

And the show was innovative. They invented the concept of "absurd cutaways" (at least in American TV) and that is the staple of many recent clever shows (e.g. Ally McBeal). The show, for that alone, has merit.

So, while watching it, I wondered why I should care about the lie! Who cares if they duped millions of people into thinking they were watching an even cuter Beatles.

But the show stinks. It's annoying and puerile. And you could stand that if you felt they were doing the show as a lark, killing time between song-writing and singing . But two of them were actors (the funny ones), two were bad musicians. The only reason to watch it, back then, was to see second-rate Beatles do funny schtick.

The badness of the show became unbearable when I realized the true extent of the cynicism. That's why I am writing this now.

Monday, December 01, 2003

Movie: Ronin (1998)


Seeing this movie, Ronin (1998), around the same time I saw City of Industry (1997) birthed one of my theories of enlightened movie-watching: the best movies of stars are (usually) not their best known.

De Niro is the best I've ever seen him in Ronin; Keitel in City of Industry. Not their best performances as actors (that's probably Raging Bull for De Niro and From Dusk Till Dawn - no joke - for Keitel). But their best as character actors; the personae that make them so compelling to watch.

Keitel is so Keitel in Industry; same with de Niro in Ronin. They carry the respective movies and make them tours de force of what makes them attractive.

Using this theory, here are the other action heroes and their best character roles. In rare cases, are the movies their biggest.
  1. Schwarzenegger = Predator
  2. Eastwood = The Outlaw Josey Wales
  3. Mel Gibson = Road Warrior
  4. Sean Connery = Zardoz (just kidding: Hunt for Red October) - [although this is a close second with the Untouchables]
  5. Burt Reynolds = Sharkey's Machine
  6. Paul Newman = Slap Shot
  7. Jack Nicholson = Chinatown
  8. Bruce Willis = Last Boy Scout
Note, that I've not included Stallone. I have no idea why he ever made it big.

Wesley Clark

[I published this on Feb 16, 2005 but it was present in entirety at the below post date! I'm not changing anything - see if it makes sense]

Is Gen. Clark a viable candidate for President? According to the New York Times analysis, there are 10 democratic challengers to the Presidential incumbent:
  1. Wesley Clark, Retired 4-Star General, Arkansas
  2. Howard Dean, Former Governor, Vermont
  3. John Edwards, Senator, North Carolina
  4. Richard Gephardt, Representative, Missouri
  5. Bob Graham, Senator, Florida
  6. John Kerry, Senator, Massachusetts
  7. Dennis Kucinich, Representative, Ohio
  8. Joe Lieberman, Senator, Connecticut
  9. Carol Moseley Braun, Former Senator, Illinois
  10. Al Sharpton, ?, New York
I have heard about all 10 except for Kucinich (the bio says he is the former mayor of Cleveland, but why would anybody claim that? Obviously he doesn't actually exist).

Clark has never held elected office (neither has Sharpton, whom I mention only to say that according to the website he doesn't actually have a job right now; also, for you trivia buffs, the site states: "he began preaching at the age of four and was an ordained minister at the age of nine." )

Clark, despite not being a politician, has spent oodles of years in government work and has a tested record of leadership, administration, and shooting people.

This does feel like we're in the 1840s or so. Back then, and now, the leadership of the nation has old ideas of the new Age; and the best electoral hope comes from untested war 'heroes.' Tippecanoe and Clark Too!

I like leaders with capability and vision. People like Reagan and Clinton stood for distinct visions; Bush I & II stood and stand for bubkis; just whitebread, inbred, Old Money backward ignorance. It's sad. The slogan of Bush should be "Meet the Face of Backward!"

Clark is kinda the "Anti-Bush":
Clark: Rhodes scholar & general
Bush: AWOL dim-bulb.

Clark finished first in his class in West Point. Bush's family got him into Yale (remember, none of his siblings could get in after him, why? because the Ivies stated to open the doors to un-bush-types, like Women, minorities, Jews). Clark rose the top of a grueling, demanding profession. Bush's family got him every single job he's ever held (and lost).

Clark's views on Israel and the peace process need work. So far, he sounds like a mushy Clintonoid. Considering that he is the Klinton Kandidate, this makes sense. I'm glad to see that the Clintons have held off on foisting Hillary in '04. We shouldn't be surprised when she does become a candidate in the next few years - if Bush wins again then she's a lock for '08 (if the country still has elections by then).

My favorite candidate has been and still is Lieberman. He's about as electable as Adlai Stevenson, which worries me, but it's rare for me to actually like a candidate.

Matrix Reloaded (2003)

Movie Reviews

After many moons, I finally saw The Matrix Reloaded(2003). From this movie, I learned a great lesson: people are dumb. And petty.

The reviews for the movie were very bad. Why? It's not a bad movie. They were expecting something as earth-shattering as the original. A false hope, a stupid and untenable expectation. The complaints about the movie belied ignorance and a petty lowliness. I'm sorry to sound emotional or defensive about the movie, about which I don't really care that much, I am reflecting a proper backlash against idiocy.

"Matrix 2: The Matrix Sequel" suffers from "Empire Strikes Back" syndrome: in both cases the first movie altered the world (truly); it was made as a stand-alone prospect (even though the world it created allowed an open-ended story); it's meant to be all plot to lead the final resolution.

Certain fundamental flaws of sequels undermine both franchises, e.g. you need to get bigger and badder in sequels, but that destroys the continuity from the first film (see Terminator for the worst examples).

The philosophy is still good; the first film was about the reality of Reality and the mind-body problem, the second is about free-will & determinism and the essential definition of the human (as opposed to AI). The main concepts left in advanced metaphysics are: cloning and personal identity, moral philosophical issues of utilitarianism, the root connection between moral philosophy and metaphysics.

The movie is good, see it and understand it for what it is.

P.S. The same thing can't be said for all sequels; I finally saw "Charlie's Angels 2: The Crappening" which was poorly made, incoherent smut. And Bernie Mac should watch the dailies so he can modify his minstrel routine, I can't imagine he wanted to act that way.

Backpost finished 2/16/05 - I have no idea why it's been sitting here for so long...

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

All Hail the Onion!

Hasbro Pledges Additional 30 Marbles For Hippo-Hunger Relief
PAWTUCKET, RI—With global famine worsening, Hasbro pledged an additional 30 white marbles Monday to hippo-hunger relief efforts. "To see those starving, starving hippos just lying there, not knowing if they will ever get another chance to click and clack for life-giving marbles—it's too much for anyone to bear," Hasbro spokeswoman Lisa Reiderer said. "We cannot stand idly by while these sweet plastic creatures slowly die. It is up to all of us to get the most marbles for our hippos."
Pic from here.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Catholic Shame

Not that today's story is any different from the news which has been breaking over the past 2 years (Lawyer for Church Says He Hid His Own Sexual Abuse by Priest) but it does make me wonder what the Jewish communal response should be?

Obviously, we identify with any victim of the Catholic church. But we can either (a) stay silent and let the church hang itself on their own rope, (b) advocate victims-rights across the board, keeping the religious and historical issues moot, or (c) actively go after the Church.

We have already been doing (a). But what are our principles?

As I've stated before, I am unhappy with the Orthodox organizations. I fear that there may be leaders in the Jewish community who will side with any established religious organization out of the bizarre but commonplace socio-psychological phenomenon that all bureaucracies - across all borders - are brothers no matter what ideology or creed.

But are we afraid - like always - of being too high profile? Will our Diaspora cowardice force us to ignore yet another fight?

Personally, I'd like to go after the Church. I'd like for the Jewish community to expose the evils of Catholic politics. Is the current uproar any different from the hypocrisies of the past?

Bottom line, though, is that we should at least do category (b); vigorously support the victims' pleas for justice. It's a safe way to do the right thing.

Continental, part 3

Today's response. Better.
Dear Rabbi [Misspell]:

Thank you for your reply.

We want to be your airline of choice, and your thoughts help to point us in the right direction to assist our management team as we continue to make positive changes within our organization.

I have registered your additional comments in a corporate report that is reviewed by our senior management.

Thank you again for sharing your comments with us, and for flying Continental Airlines. Your support and feedback are genuinely appreciated.

Kind regards,

Tracy McGlothen
Customer Care Manager

Monday, November 24, 2003

Continental Part 2

The letter I sent to Continental Customer Service:
Dear Sirs
My wife recently made a reservation with Continental to fly from New York City to Houston, TX. We informed today that Continental has made a policy to not provide kosher meals on most of their flights.

I am appalled. It is shocking that even in the 21st Century a major company will discriminate against customers because of their religion.

I understand that the policy is a cost-cutting measure in response to the rising costs of security following the terrorism of 9/11. Why respond to racism with racism? Why defend Americans by going against what America stands for?

I ask that Continental reconsider its racist policy. Until there is a reversal, I will urge all those I can reach to not choose Continental.

Sincerely,

[The Styx]
The Response:
Dear Mr. [Styx]:

Thank you for your email regarding the changes with our Special Meal amenities.

I apologize if the changes to our Special Meal amenities may be an inconvenience for you. Customer preference is an important element we consider when making changes to products, services or amenities such as Special Meals.

While this amenity is not being eliminated, Special Meals will only be an option in select markets, such as long haul International flights. Since most of our domestic flights are less than four hours customers with special dietary needs or preferences have a wide variety of options to meet their requirements. We will continue to offer an option of a Special Meal amenity on select flights in markets where alternatives may not be as readily practical or available.

Please be assured that Continental Airlines neither approves of nor tolerates discrimination of any kind. This is, and remains, a matter of policy and culture.

To ensure that your concerns do not go unnoticed, I have registered your comments in a corporate report that is reviewed by our senior management. Continental Airlines looks forward to continuing to merit both your business and your loyalty.

Thank you for your interest in our company, and for choosing Continental to meet your travel needs.

Kind regards,

Tracy McGlothen
Customer Care Manager
My Reply to the Response:
Dear Tracy,

I appreciate your honesty that the airline's policy of eliminating kosher meals is part of cost-cutting and not racism. However, I am not so convinced. As far as I know, there are still meals on the flight. By not providing kosher meals, Continental is making a visible distinction that religious Jews do not deserve the same comfort as the rest of the customers. The price of the ticket is still the same, no?

I believe that Continental must change their policy to something more equitable if they want right-minded Americans to believe them.

I must reiterate my claim that "I ask that Continental reconsider its racist policy. Until there is a reversal, I will urge all those I can reach to not choose Continental."

Sincerely,

[The Styx]

P.S. As a Rabbi, as my title clearly states, I would prefer to be called by that title. Thank you.
Now, let's see what *that* does.

This is a nice thing


Bakery with Hard to Employ Workers Goes Kof-K

Monday, November 17, 2003

Join the NRA Blacklist

TPM alerted us to the NRA Blacklist- a group of people and organizations who are "anti-gun." As far as I can tell, "anti-gun" should probably mean "pro-life" but there's where I get confused.

Anyhoo, the AARP, American Medical Association, the American Bar Association, the Anti-Defamation League, B`nai B`rith, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, American Jewish Committee & American Jewish Congress (which are the same organization, trust me), Hadassah, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Union of American Hebrew Congregations and even the "American Trauma Society" - who you'd think would like gunshot wounds - are on the blacklist.

Missing: the OU. Young Israel. Agudah.

There are a whole mess of celebrities on the list. Some you'd expect (Ed Asner) some you'd not (Tony Bennett, my man Sean Connery)

You too can join! Click here.

Personally, I don't know if I'll join the blacklist. If my leaders, the OU etc, aren't on the list then YA KNOW how can I disagree with those older and wiser than me.

Also, do I really want to be on the bad side of an organization wholly devoted to guns and shooting people?

P.S. There are a mess of interesting articles on the NRA website.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Zinger Analysis

After a thorough study of the four zingers in my house: Red, Lemon, Orange-Mango, and Tangerine-Orange, and seeing the further flavors at the research library, (namely: Cranberry Apple, Raspberry, and Wild Berry)

I have come to the following conclusion to the question: "What makes a Zinger a Zinger?"

Hibiscus, rosehips, roasted chicory root (Lemon)
Hibiscus, rosehips (T-O)
Hibiscus, roasted chicory root (C-A)
Hibiscus, rosehips (Red)
Hibiscus; rosehips; roasted chicory root (W-B)
Hibiscus, rosehips, roasted chicory root (Raspberry)
Hibiscus, rosehips, roasted chicory root (Mango)

That is all.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Been There

My mom is an avid reader.

Continental Airlines Eliminates Kosher Meals

In order to save costs, many Continental Airlines flights will not offer kosher food. Why?! I've heard that it's in response to the rising costs of security.

I'm not saying that they think that since Jews were at fault for the rising security that they should take it out on us. I'm saying that Continental doesn't care about people with dietary restrictions. Also, they suck.

Even PETA has gotten into the game (God help us).

You can contact Continental Airlines consumer affairs at 1-800-932-2732 or . Tell them they are evil and we will boycott their crummy airline until they stop their racism.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Dept. of Irony

In case you didn't hear, the government is paying Linda Tripp $600,000 in damages for violations of her privacy. To review: this is the woman whose immoral recording of private conversations was used as the basis for the ugly, desperate impeachment of Clinton.

My favorite irony: Republicans hate trial lawyers.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

They Caught the Nigerian!

According to this story, Nigerian fraud arrest in Sydney (OCTOBER 30, 2003), they arrested one of the goobers who sends the Nigerians emails; he's Australian.

Has Anyone Tried This?

Scott Adams, who does not issue me specific demands but I do listen to what he says, has invented a meat substitute, Dilberito: Protein Chef. It is Kosher (the O-K) and may be a very good thing. If anyone has tried some, let me know. Thanks.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Mazal Tov

Engagement of Beth Bienenstock & Avi Morell, on September 21, 2003

P.S. I'm a little late, sorry

P.P.S. I can't report the Mazal Tovs like I used to (privacy issues), but "onlysimchas" is a good compromise.

P.P.P.S. No "onlysimchas" complaints, please. Like Artscroll or Chabad, the bad doesn't nearly outweigh the good.

Attention All English Speakers

The 11th Collegiate is out, and it is filled with many words.

Good Gift Ideas

For me:
Raiders.
Simpsons.

...not that I'm suggesting anything.

Bambino Schadenfraude

Like I care about baseball. But, still, it is very interesting to witness two "curses" animate right before your eyes. Now then, is there the "Curse of the Sick Nun" curse on the Mets?

Invented Superstitions

After Sukkot was over, I decided I'd freak people out and invent a superstition. This religious process is fun (sorta like how L. Ron created his own religion). The taboo: whatever condition your lulav & etrog are in after Sukkot, that's how you'll be next Sukkot.

It's got all characteristics of a good superstition: (1) fear of calamity, (2) inability to completely control outcome, and (3) nonsense.

I feel I have the authority to create this nahreschkeit because, ahem, my Lulav came out fresh & green, the stupid pitom didn't break, and even my aravot were live and limp.

Have fun.

Who died? Who was still alive

I don't want to diminish the tragedy of the death of any individual, but Chiang Kai-Shek's wife was still alive?!? I don't recall allowing that fact to exist. This is silly!

Chiang (Shek?), along with Leni Riefenstahl, (who died on September 13 at 101) are not only from an era with which I thought we were long gone, but they were huge players in History. It’s like hearing that Churchill was still alive, or Pershing.

In other obituary news, Jack Elam died. You know, the weird doctor from Cannonball Run, yeah. Aw.

Anagrams

I am not a natural anagrammer. My brain don't work that way. It also strikes me as bad mysticism. But Dave "The Man" Barry is obsessed with it, so I decided to find a good anagram tool. This one does the trick.

My favorite one for my name: A PSYCHO JESUS

And then there were two

This morning, my pre-order for Thunderball has been filled. Which means I'm two left from the complete James Bond series. I need "Live and Let Die" (which I like) and "A View to a Kill" (which is the worst Bond ever).

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Top 5 Success

As you may have guessed, I'm doing my semi-monthly google search for my name. I came across this Top 5 list which quoted some of my submissions: The Top 18 Amish Horror Movies

Jews and Tattoos

I was interviewed a while back by a Forward reporter who was under the deadline gun. I automatically identify with, and have pity on, someone with a deadline (since I live that way 24-7). The reporter was asking about the Orthodox Jewish attitudes about Jews with tattoos (especially as it relates to burial practice). You can see the article here: FORWARD : Forward Living

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Reality to the Test

I don't know which part I like better. There's just so much to like.

First of all, we managed to kill a mess of terrorists.

Second of all, the Palestinians claimed that the Israelis performed a massacre.

Third of all, the Israeli Army videotaped (with a spy camera) the actual event which destroyed the story of the Palestinians.

Fourth, the New York Times still needs to give equal credence to "both sides" (After a Deadly Attack, Arab Rage and Israeli Videotape) - claiming that both had "concrete" evidence. The Israelis have a videotape, the Palestinians have "eyewitness testimony."

Fifth, the Palestinians are shown to lead the world in falsehood. And the world will ignore it.

Sixth, the Palestinians falsely accuse the Israelis - for performing an act of evil that only they perpetrate! They fire on civilians! They wait for crowds to gather before attacking again.

This is yet another instance where the truth is so large, and so clear, that the idiots will actually find it easy to ignore it.

What a world.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Say What?!?

According to today's Times, UJA money goes to fund a "anti-zionist" magazine called "Heeb" (A Sardonic Jewish Magazine Expands Its Ambitions). How, again, did this happen?

Our shul just had our annual Yizkor-UJA appeal. I want the money back. Or at least away from the self-haters and their cheap thrills magazine.

Discuss.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Brother in Promised Land

My brother went to Israel for Sukkoth. You Israelis out there, take care of him, he's important.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Communists in our Currency

It's bad enough that they warped the pictures on the bill, giving Andrew Jackson and like warped cartoon heads, now they're adding color to our money! I wish Andrew Jackson were alive to see this - he'd whomp on those responsible with a hickory switch.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

We Have Entered a Whole New World of Weird

This is embarrassing. Arnold "The Living Parody" Schwarzenegger is now Governor of California.

I voted, I hope you did. I could vote because, according to CA statute, you can vote either as a citizen of California or, and I quote, "a visitor from another planet" (Section 70200-70202 - this was passed in Prop 67).

Schwarzenegger is one of the only actors in our day who is able to be caricatured. If you check the pre-War 2 Bugs Bunnies, you'll see how the characters always imitate the famous movie stars - and can do so by the fact that until the 1970s, all actors sucked. Cagney, Bogart, Gable, Carey Grant - all of them speak funny and don't know how to play more than one type of character (a caricature of themselves). The last era of bad actortude was in the Shatner/Heston time - when you could breathe deeply after each syllable and still get away with it.

So who nowadays fits the old movie star caricature quality? Only Schwarzenegger.

Also, normally, big actors don't go into politics. The biggest til Arnie was Clint Eastwood; but he became the mayor of his own community, which is not a national office. Until Arnie, the only actors who became high level, national, politicians were rinky-dinkers: Sonny Bono, Jessie "The Mind Body Problem" Ventura, Ben Jones ("Cooter" on Dukes of Hazzard - a Rep. from GA, he lost his seat to Newt Gingrich), Fred Grandy ("Gopher" on Love Boat, a Rep. from Iowa), and the biggest small actor to get big office, Ronald "Bedtime for Bonzo" Reagan.

With Arnie's win, that makes Predator the highest ranking movie in the electoral college (he and Ventura star). And it's a fine fine film.

Fair and Square (so far)

In any case, the way the numbers turned out, the vote satisfies my fear of "tyranny by the masses." According to the Times (Voters Voice Deep Dissatisfaction With Governor's Record):

"With more than 98 percent of the votes counted, the recall question on the two-part ballot was passing by 54.7 percent to 45.3 percent, .... In the contest to replace Mr. Davis, Mr. Schwarzenegger led his nearest competitor, Lt. Gov. Cruz M. Bustamante, 48.1 percent to 32.2 percent"

That's fine: as a straight election, Schwarzenegger beat Davis by 48.1 to 45.3. I'm cool with that.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Music Quiz, part 2

Ready? "Clearly the neumes have been transmogrified into square shapes." Clearly!

P.S. "neumes" is pronounced "noooomz" - ain't music great?!

California Recall

My favorite part of politics is the way that intelligent people invent bogus reasons why they support certain candidates. There are two ways to vote: for or against. It is very rare to vote for an individual. So all we get - for individuals - is an "against" style.

In general, people vote for parties. And that's when the contradictions start abursting like cheap internet ads. Republicans, great and small, need to defend: (a) the Recall, (b) punch-card voting, and (c) Schwarzenegger as a candidate.

And, because the Democrats feel like they were backing a winner, they were perfectly fine to defend Bill Clinton for all of his major and minor problems. And were the tables turned in California, they would be saying and doing the same things as the GOP now.

My point is that it's disgusting no matter which side does it (and it should be expected that people will do it). Just don't act so high and mighty when you're "defending your principles" about this because, face it, you don't have any.

By the numbers: a rational person knows that: (a) the recall is legal, because it's in the State constitution, but it's a pretty stinky way to run a state; it's as close as we get to having a cheap European style parliamentary system - with all the concomitant instability and populism. But Republicans are supporting it because they can win this one.

Same thing with (b) the "chads" The voting system is stupid, antiquated, and very well should be unconstitutional. But it worked for the GOP in 2000 - and will work again here - so they need to defend it even though it should be against their "patriotic" principles.

Rational people also know that (c) Schwarzenegger is a very poor candidate. He doesn't seem to have any knowledge of governance; he has ducked debates (a sign of a figurehead politician, and also bad citizenship and bad judgment); and his personal qualities are shady.

But the same GOP two-faced hypocrites who went after Bill Clinton on Feminist terms - and, hilariously still attack Hillary C on those same grounds - defend Schwarzenegger against all the abuse accusations. And as for having no executive branch qualities? That never stopped the GOP before - they seem to take pride in having brain-dead pretty boys be their executives. It may actually prove the GOP point that big government is wrong and it's only use is to preserve the status-quo and not take so much (if at all) of their money.

My opinion? Schwarzenegger is a pig. He's a no-nothing celebrity who is chosen only because he's electable. Which makes him a perfect Kennedy.

Monday, October 06, 2003

Aww, poor babies

Over Yom Kippur, we wondered how the world would react to Israel's act of self-defense. The New York Times, always open for a little culture rape, sides squarely with Syria (Arabs' Fear: A New Crisis to Add to a Troubled List)

Evidently, Israel's attack is just another 'crisis' the beleaguered Arab world needs to take. I agree! It's tough enough to kill babies, why force mass-murderers - psychos in revolutionary clothing - to look over their shoulders!

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Shaping Up to be the Best Movie of All Time

As I'm sure you've heard, Bubba Ho-tep will be released on its own recognizance - able to be seen for a few measly dollars. The plot (according to IMDB):

We find Elvis (Bruce Campbell) as an elderly resident in an East Texas rest home, who switched identities with an Elvis impersonator years before his "death", then missed his chance to switch back. Elvis teams up with Jack (Ossie Davis), a fellow nursing home resident who thinks that he is actually President John F. Kennedy, and the two valiant old codgers sally forth to battle an evil Egyptian entity who has chosen their long-term care facility as his happy hunting grounds.

If you were looking for the mamzer love-child of the Evil Dead Trilogy and Six String Samurai - you got it right here.

Yup, it's looking to be a fine 5764.

Barukh Dayan ha-Emet

I'm slow in my newsgathering, so I only saw this obituary today, Erev Yom Kippur:Rabbi Ephraim Oshry Dies at 89

Rav Oshry was the Rav of Kovno (where my maternal grandmother a'h is from) when the Evil Ones made it into the Kovno Ghetto. He was faced with the task of answering the most horrific shylas (questions of Jewish law) that have been imagined since the destruction of the Temples.

His responsa, Shaylot v'Teshuvot Me-Maamakim, have been partially translated into English in the book "Respnosa from the Holocaust" - a book that I read every Yom Ha-Shoah and Tisha B'av to get myself into the right mindset.

Rav Oshry died on September 28 - Rosh Hashanah - as befits such a great tzaddik.

I want one

24 Win MacArthur 'Genius Awards' of $500,000

Friday, October 03, 2003

Equal Treatment

The Jerusalem Post reports that Israel News : Jerusalem Post Internet Edition: "Fatah gunmen execute 'collaborator' in Ramallah hospital". This is how I know that Arafat, and the Palestinians, don't want peace. It's even more simple than the fact that Fatah is Arafat's own organization. It's that if Arafat and crew were really interested in peace, they'd be labeled as 'collaborators' and shot!

Halakhic Activism

How involved should Jews, especially orthodox Jews, be in lobbying the government. Should we pro-actively try to get a Torah agenda applied to America? Should we cower like good little Diaspora Jews and only speak up when the government sanctions a pogrom (if then)?

The Republican controlled House is making great Christian strides to ban abortions (Bill Banning Abortion Procedure Advances). We can leave aside the nettling questions of pro-activism for the moment. Even leave aside the issue of religious reciprocity (meaning that why should we cower when the muscular majority, especially under Pope Bush II, is unabashed at shacking up church and state).

Halakha insists on partial-term abortions when the life of the mother is at stake. As the Times' story states: "The bill's opponents say it is unconstitutional because the language is so broad as to ban more than one type of abortion and because the bill does not include an exception allowing the procedure in cases where it is necessary for the pregnant woman's health."

We cannot allow a law that makes Halakha illegal. Whatever you feel about the abortion question, Halakha is crystal clear about this. Write your congressperson.

What did I tell ya?

The newest in the Governator assault (from the Times): Schwarzenegger Admired Hitler, Book Proposal Says

And there will be more. There are videos of Arnie groping the women who accuse him (I read about this in a Premiere magazine expose a few years ago). I predict that these videos will find their way onto the nightly news. The image of the Teutonic body-builder pawing petite victims will be shown over-and-over-again. California, the land of Rodney King, can't resist the power of the image.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

J. M. Coetzee Wins Nobel Prize for Literature

The NYTimes reports that J. M. Coetzee Wins Nobel Prize for Literature.

It's not often that I've read the Nobel winner's work (it helps that this dude writes in English), but I was forced to do so in my Freshman English class (Lit-141, Vic Brombert). I'm very glad he made me read Coetzee for two reasons:
  1. I was still a Freshman which meant that I was still doing the required reading
  2. I can unequivocally say that the Nobel Committee has bat-poo for brains.
I have often hated the great works of literature (just as I hate many of the "great" movies). Waiting for the Barbarians (the bat-poo in question) in no manner matched the earlier books in the class (on Modernist fiction), e.g. Primo Levi, Virginia Woolf and a whole mess o'Kafka. And all of them are superlative, none of them Laureates.

Considering that there are a bare few Nobel laureates worth reading (e.g. Winston Churchill) - I don't know why we even care.

But, for those who do, the timetable for the rest is as follows:

Medicine - Monday, Oct 6 (Yom Kippur)
Physics - Teusady, Oct 7 (Isru Chag)
Chemistry - Wednesday, Oct 8 (Nothing, really)
Economics - Wednesday, Oct 8
Peace - Friday, Oct 10 (Erev Sukkot)

In the running for the peace prize: Arafat (again, the Swedes love it when your body-count hits a new order of magnitude... it's like watching the odometer roll-over).

(And if you want to see grade-school art, check out the diplomas the laureates get)

The Governator

As I had predicted, the enemies of Schwarzenegger's candidacy are waiting until the week before the vote to bring out the big guns: his history of chronic sexual harassment. More, I'm sure, to come. See the story here: Schwarzenegger Says He's 'Behaved Badly'

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Avoid the Tritones!

My wife is taking an advanced course in Medieval Music Theory & Aesthetics (T&A as it's called). Every week, I need to quiz her for her weekly, uh, quiz. The course started with Greek Musical Theory and is now in deep Medieval - which means that the quizzes are about absolutely deranged material in a weird language.

Yet, quiz her I must! Except that I don't know what the questions, or answers, mean.

An actual question: "What musical process is the figure 'que vocatur sinemenon' and why might one need one?"

Answer: "A fictal, adding accidentals, to avoid the tritones."

And, by gum, it does!

West Bank Wall

Just in case you are as confused as the New York Times (Israel Expected to Approve Plan for New West Bank Barrier) - the "security fence" is for one purpose only: to create a border. All security experts, and even doofuses like me, know that fences keep terrorists out as well as screen-doors keep out flies. The wall is to be a fact on the ground that is more lasting, and more salient, than the settlements were - but without the human cost.

News about Nazis

The AP-wire just broadcast this headline: Report: Nazis Used Hospitals for Killings

Whoa! They found that out all by they-selves. And only 70 years after it happened!

Thank you AP. Next news flash: Nazis wore shiny black boots.

Why We Hate Bush?

Ted Rall demonstrates the danger of liberal philosophy; or at least the danger that poses if I get labeled a liberal. While I generally agree with him that it is moral to despise the government of G.W. Bush, he also despises the Israeli government – an act I consider immoral.

Most Orthodox Jews who support Bush do so because vis-à-vis Israel his government has been the best towards Israel in years. I disagree on principle but agree in action. Meaning that Clinton’s government was closest to Israel – they believed in Israel as a sovereign nation and as a friend – but only with the definition of Israel under the Labor government .

Bush’s crew supports Israel with a freaky neo-conservative, Christian Right, perspective which frightens me to death. But, so far, they support Likud (whom I support), so materially they are doing well for Israel.

Which, all told, is still not all that good. When the American government allows Israel to arrest Arafat, punish terrorists, and protect their citizens, then I will declare that government "good for Israel."

Liberals detest Israel largely because of bias and ignorance. The bias is against any government – the liberals think that individual citizens (especially unionized) are always correct when up against Big Interests (like governments and companies). Ironically, the best definition of a domestic liberal is someone who believes in big government, but that’s the Foreign Policy vs. Domestic Policy flip-flop that a lot of people suffer from (like me, I guess, hmmm).

The ignorance I refer to is the fact that these people are not acquainted with the facts. They see Arafat as a freedom fighter – which he would be if you only read headlines. It’s the same way I treat the Pakistan-Indian conflicts; that is, I don’t know any details and I make decisions based on gut.

So… why do I hate Bush. Rall says its not because Bush is an idiot. Nor because Bush is a hypocrite. Nor because of the fascism. Rather its because Bush stole the 2000 election.

I disagree. The stolen election is infuriating, but (alas) its History and not much we can do about it. I hate Bush because his government is using any excuse possible to mislead the nation as to their real objectives: making themselves rich and oppressing those who they dislike. The Bush administration is low, mean, and petty.

And because Bush & Co. are low, mean, and petty about Domestic issues – I fear that their attitude towards Israel is the same. As my man, Dave Barry, once said: "If he’s nice to you, and mean to the waiter, then he’s not a nice person."

Walkout

For the second time, and on the same issue, somebody said that they were tempted to walk out of my sermon because I touched on a very, uh, touchy issue: teshuva as a reaction to tragedy.

Rambam, and subsequent Maimonophiles, state that our reaction to tragedy is to do teshuva. The Jewish people suffer tragedy because we sin. What sin? We don't know. The victims' sin? We too cannot say, but for our purposes, no. So, what's the point? The point is to do teshuva, dammit, and not argue. Do you need an excuse *not* to do teshuva? Evidently so!

These concepts sound too much like SFT (Stupid Frummie Thinking) which states that tragedy comes as a direct result of sin, or bad mezuzahs, whatever comes first.

Because it *sounds* like SFT, people think it is SFT. So they wanna walk out.

Naturally, I felt insulted by the insinuation. They think that I'm stupid! Yet, I have to apply the same rules to them as I want applied to me.

That is, I am blaming my listeners for not actually listening. I imagine them sitting there, thinking of cheese, and perking up only intermittently when a strange word hits their ear (or they run out of cheese). If what I say sounds like something they already know about, they assume that I said the familiar and not actually what I said.

But can I blame them for thinking that I'm stupid when I think that they are stupid? I need to be clearer in my sermons. I had a good excuse on Rosh Hashanah - some idiots were making a commotion in the front row (and eventually left the room) which thoroughly threw me off. I had to curtail my talk and I couldn't say what I wanted to say. But when someone misunderstands my sermon, I need to blame myself first.

Bottom line is still the same: tragedy is hitting us all around, do teshuva. Gmar Tov.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Elia Kazan, dead

The overrated hack director of unwatchable, hyperbolic melodramas, dead at 91

I forget my Dante; which circle of Hell is reserved for the betrayer of friends?

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Dave Barry was in New York


And I didn't get to switch identities with him!

Moose Alert!

As Nietzsche said, in the fight between you and the moose, back the moose

Differences Between Nigeria & America

Two headlines on the same page.
All I know about Nigeria, really, is that every person with an email account has had their mailbox filled with stone-cold-weirdos, claiming they are important Nigerian nationals, who need help with their fully legitimate but oddly structured money laundering programs. Since all these emails come from major businessmen and government officials, a close observer must come to the conclusion that the economy of Nigeria depends on successfully reaching some easy spending pudding-head. A.K.A. the Nigerian economy is based on Spam.

On the other hand, the above article claims that the laws of Nigeria demand that a woman who has extra-marital sex will be punished with stoning (the stone kind).

In America, extra-marital sex is considered a private matter and is so commonplace as to be seen as a national pastime. However, spam (the phone variety), is now against the law. And the email spam is soon to follow.

I like America's priorities better.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

The Cider is Back


If anyone wants to drink the bestest instant drink in the world. Alpine Spiced Cider lives again at Yourgrocer.

Monday, September 22, 2003

A Nice Warm Hello from the Scariest Guy in America

John "Huggy Bear" Ashcroft has struck again. First he insisted that Federal prosecutors seek the Death Penalty in any and all possible cases. Now, possibly after reading his own Bible, he extends that to insisting that all cases should seek the maximum penalty. Before, we thought he just liked people dying. Now we see its part of a larger "hate humanity" thing. Good for him. Lets give this guy another job, huh?

Socolnomics

The single most important action has been accomplished by Yeshiva University President Joel... the beginning of the de-Socolization of YU. Bravo.

This bodes well for the future of the Institution.

Friday was 'Talk Like a Pirate Day

Last Friday, September 19, was the 8th Annual Talk Like a Pirate Day. I did, did you? (No, I did not give my sermon like a pirate, the day was wrong. And no, I don't know what I would have done if they coincided).

My favorite book buyer

For those who've asked, this website is my favorite to search for books: Anybook4less

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Met Game


A good friend and his wife treated my wife and me to a Met game today. He had a share in season tickets in a primo space: first section, behind home plate (netting above us). These were corporate boxes but for rinky-dink tri-state companies you'd never heard of ("Bob's Glass & Roofs," "The Jersey Clam Hut, LLC"). The day was sunny and in the 70s. Perfect! Except that the Mets play like sick nuns.

Note, my baseball knowledge is leaky and weak but I have a good "Sicknunnometer" and it was ringing so much I put it on vibrate. Still, I loaded up at the kosher food stand. One of each ... for under 30 dollars! Not bad for lunch for 2. Especially when lunch is oily and in earth tones.

Side note, ever think about what the team names would be like if you translated them into another language and then translated them back? It'd be the New York Municipals vs. the Montreal Trade Fairs! Or the New York Subways (which would make sense, mind you).

As usual with Met games, the peripherals were more entertaining than most of the gameplay. The fans getting whacked with foul balls, the best job in the world (the guys who shoot T-shirts from a cannon) followed by the worst job in the world (Mr. Met Ball Head). A wonderful time was had by all.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Tuna Fish

Friday is Tuna Fish day where I work. One rule of life, enforced by Bernie Mac (who will seek out violators personally to inflict "boot to rear" surgery), is to never disrespect those who give you food. Especially gratis. As part of my generous package at the shul, I get breakfast and lunch with the school. Yum.

But I will take some time to muse about the "what if" world where Tuna Fish was never invented. Why exactly it worked its way into mass production is a mystery. It's our number one item of strange lunch filler to compare with other countries. Like how in Europe they regularly eat bizarre foods (e.g. Sweden eats pickled moose doots on Kaiser rolls, the British eat Marmite which was developed during WWII as a epoxy substitute). So when a Swede or Brit comes to America, they must treat Tuna Fish as their "make fun of American foods back home" food.

Another food mystery is about Peanut Butter. The school can no longer serve it - even to faculty. Some kids, if there is a single molecule of Peanut Butter (periodic table symbol "Go" for "goober") in the atmosphere, will die on the spot. So bad is the situation that Peanut Butter has been declared a Weapon of Mass Destruction by Bush Jr. (because that's all they found so far; the Iraqi Brand of course, "Jihif").

We live in a strange world where weeks old fish soaked in raw egg paste is more benign than processed legumes.

Any of you Styxen who study epidemiology take a look at this peanut thing, please, for me. It's getting absurd. Lactose intolerance I understand - I mean, if people were meant to drink milk then God would have made milk spurt from the human body! But peanuts?? Maybe it’s a kitniyot thing.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Arafat Update

Here's a copy of the "Cabinet Communique"

**Cabinet Communique - Sept 11, 2003
Information Department, Israel Foreign Ministry - Jerusalem
Website: http://www.mfa.gov.il
E-mail: feedback@mfa.gov.il

Jerusalem, September 11, 2003

Cabinet Communique (Communicated by the Prime Minister's Media Adviser)

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has today (Thursday), 11.9.2003. instructed the security forces to act relentlessly, continuously and determinedly to eliminate the terrorist organizations and take all appropriate measures against their leaders, commanders and operatives until their criminal activity is halted.

The aforementioned activity will continue night and day, uninterruptedly, until such time as the Israeli government is satisfied that the Palestinian Authority is taking tangible steps to dismantle and eliminate the terrorist organizations.

Events of recent days have reiterated and proven again that Yasser Arafat is a complete obstacle to any process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel will work to remove this obstacle in a manner, and at a time, of its choosing.

Israel is not interested in the question of the identity of the Palestinian Prime Minister; however, Israel must underscore its position that it will negotiate only with a Prime Minister who acts immediately to dismantle and remove the terrorist organizations, implements and carries out full reforms of the Palestinian Authority, and fully upholds the other commitments that the Palestinian Authority has taken upon itself according to the roadmap, as it has been adopted by the Israeli government.

The Israeli government rejects any idea of a ceasefire as a way of dealing with terror; terror will stop only after the terrorist organizations have been dismantled and liquidated. This is the obligation of the Palestinian Authority and it will be judged solely by its actions and results, not by its statements and declarations.

To these ends, the Cabinet authorizes Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to use such military forces as may be necessary for increased activity against the terrorist organizations; the Cabinet further directs that the necessary means for the foregoing be put at the disposal of the security forces.

The Cabinet has decided to accelerate the construction of the security fence.

John Ritter, 54

No kiddin'?

Johnny Cash, 71


Oh man, what a year it's been! Johnny Cash, dead at 71. Naturally, I feel a link with anyone known as "The Man in Black." I tried to listen to Cash, knowing that he was supposed to be the meat & bread of all cool people. But I found his music to be in the same category of his 'cool, black-clad' contemporaries - Roy Orbison & Elvis - to be palatable in small, measured doses.

But we feel the vacuum of the loss of a Cool Icon.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Kill Arafat?

According to the Times, Israel has authorized themselves (I guess) to take Arafat out, someday.

No doubt, the man deserves to die. But put him on trial first. Bring all of the evidence. Then bring out Old Sparky.

9/11 Retrospect

For all the movies I talk about, I am not a TV person at all. I never saw the images of 9/11 until much later and - like my attitude towards the Holocaust - I avoid the images as much as possible. I hold mass-graves and people jumping from buildings with the same feeling of taboo.

I remember sitting in our first weekly staff meeting and hearing a phone call over my senior rabbi's speakerphone that a plane had hit the Towers. We thought that it was a pilot error but then a second phone call came in and we knew it was big.

I sat in my office, listening to the radio, hearing about the Pentagon, about the towers falling. I saw the Hatzoloh guys rushing around, the mission in their eyes. The most vivid memory I have about the unique-ness of the day was the radio message that all police officers, no matter how long retired, were requested to go on active duty.

As clergy, I had a role to play. It was my first year running the Beginners Program and we tried to cope with the spiritual repercussions. However then, and now, I still don't find September 11th to be a day that changed my outlook of the world. Rather, I was part of the minority that felt it reinforced my existing, Stygian, worldview.

I keep a copy of the memo I had sent to the synagogue administrator on September 10th - asking him if he thought we were adequately prepared for a terrorist attack on the High Holidays. I felt in my bones that something horrible was going to happen. This is similar to the letter (which I cannot find) I sent a friend following Yom Kippur, 1995, when I was in Israel, when I remarked that the spiritual state of the nation was so noxious and bleak that I also expected the worst.

For the record, I don't feel the same premonitions now.

But let's be clear: the world has not changed one bit since September 11th. Israel is still a pariah and the world's favorite scapegoat. The world does not recognize that you can either be a friend of terrorists or against them.

My favorite part is that our fearless leader, Bush II, has burned away any and all diplomatic capital that came from our being the victim of a craven calamity. The war with Iraq was bungled from the beginning. The war with Afghanistan is still going on, last I checked. We have casualties daily from Viet-raq, sometimes from big suicide attacks.

My feeling about the war with Iraq is similar to mine about Oslo. The idea behind it was laudable (attack a terrorist state, Peace in Our Time) but the execution (haw) was so flawed as to undermine any of the positive ideas behind it.

What have we gotten from the war with Iraq? A peaceful population? A dead Saddam? A dead Osama?! An object lesson for the Arabs? Its hard to impress a camel-jockey when he's daily kicking your tailbone.

September 11th should remain in our memory, and one conclusion we can bring is that Bush and his sick gang of squinty-eyed thugs and thieves need to be voted away. Let him move in with his father; they can write their joint memoirs: "The Bush Years: What's the Difference?"

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The Cafe Hillel Bombing

I was in Cafe Hillel at the end of May, when I was on my honeymoon. For the record, I hated the place. The food was not so good and the service bad and stupid (anyone who has been there understands why I say that). But it was very crowded. And we went there because it was the "in" place to go - especially in the in-est neighborhood in Jerusalem, Emek Refaim.

It doesn't get more ironic, and tragic, than the head of emergency medicine for the largest hospital in the largest Israeli city to be killed in an "ordinary" suicide bombing. Where else but Israel, right? And what the irony police won't allow in fiction is that his daughter - who died with him - was to be married the next day? This is where fiction cannot go.

Every time they commit an unpardonable tragedy, we say that the world cannot look at us with the same indifference or hatred. But we know that they will hate us forever - whether we're strong or pathetic. But I urge all of you to use the recent horror to be a litmus test for the media people. Maybe now some of them will tip into humanity.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Rami's Closing

According to Kashrut.com Rami's in Framingham will be closing. That restaurant was my savior during a long non-kosher wedding. My wife and I ducked out during the cocktail "hour" and I got a decent schwarma - both savoring the coup of avoiding a no-food wedding *and* finding a kosher restaurant in the middle of nowhere. Sad.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

Gregory Hines, 57

Man oh man, a lot of my favorites are dropping this summer. I admit, the first time I saw him in a movie was with Billy Crystal in "Running Scared" and that defined him for me forever. Farewell.

Monday, August 04, 2003

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Poodle Hat

No question, I have not outgrown my supernerd upbringing. There's a new(ish) Weird Al Yankovic album out. I am proud of my heritage! Because he parodies the most catchy of the modern songs, I can listen to the enjoyable music but actually have intelligent lyrics (e.g. instead of Eminem's foulness, we get "Couch Potato."

Speaking of Eminem: the guy is such a macho tough-guy that he refused to let Weird Al make a parody video. Someone should tell Mr. M that machoness is synonymous with *high* self esteem.

For you who are brave enough to embrace your inner (outer) Nerd, please purchase the album (or download it, whatever) and listen to his on-spot homages/spoofs to/of Bob Dylan and Frank Zappa (in "Bob" and the superlative "Genius in France" respectively).

As Al says, "Sign my poodle, s'il vous plait"

Monday, July 28, 2003

Bob Hope, 100

Bob Hope has died. I could make a "Road to" joke here, but I won't.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Best Argument for Iraq

As usual, Joshua Micah Marshall, from a July 22 post has managed to give a balanced anaylsis of our Iraq situation. While he has been a vocal critic of the government's reasoning and behavior, he give the neo-cons in the kitchen cabinet credit for pursuing the war in Iraq for positive ideological reasons.

That is, instead of claiming that we're in Iraq so that the Bushies could win 2002 & 2004 (which is so obvious that it's not even considered a problem - just being a politician means that you will start foreign entanglements to be re-elected; it's so much part and parcel of politics that it carries no more shame than being a politician itself) he brings some nuance.

Here's Marshall's analysis of the war reasoning:
"But over time after 9/11 one overriding theory of the war did take shape: it was to get America irrevocably on the ground in the center of the Middle East (thus fundamentally reordering the strategic balance in the region), bring to a head the country's simmering conflict with its enemies in the region, and kick off a democratic transformation of the region which would over time dissipate the root causes of anti-American terrorism and violence: autocracy, poverty and fanaticism."
Alas, Marshall overlooks the main reasoning: (a) Bush is a younger and less-accomplished Ronald Reagan, (b) like Reagan, Bush Jr. needs an issue to paint the world black & white, (c) Communism has been succeeded by International Islam as the newest world threat.

We needed to attack Iraq because Bush needed a cause to give gravitas to his otherwise aimless and worthless presidency. Before 9/11 what did Bush stand for? "Not being Clinton." And, honestly, except for the sex, what has Bush done different from Clinton? His administration has been even more underhanded with the truth and we don't even have prosperity to cushion the blow! He has driven our country into an economic free-fall, like his daddy, and has tried to inject right-wing extremists into the judiciary.

Despite the recent destruction of Yogi and Boo-Boo Hussein (whatever their names are), we still have not been able to establish why we attacked Iraq. As Krugman said yesterday:
"By cooking intelligence to promote a war that wasn't urgent, the administration has squandered our military strength. This provides a lot of aid and comfort to Osama bin Laden — who really did attack America — and Kim Jong Il — who really is building nukes."
We must demand accountability from our (ostensibly) elected leaders. At least treat Bush Jr. with the same respect and honor that we gave his predecessor.

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

We Got 'em!

Well, we finally found and killed Saddam's two sons. Even though there's the ironic element (Saddam tried to kill Bush's father, Bush killed his sons), we have finally seen a real result of the war.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Fast of Tammuz

The preceding dark views are courtesy of the seventeenth of Tammuz.

Iraq-Nam

According to the NYTimes, we are considering having year-long tours for the military in Iraq. Someone should explain to Bush that while he was drinking heavily and flying National Guard jets, the rest of the country was shooting itself in the foot over Vietnam.

The President Lied??!

I can't believe that this is a doubt in anyone's mind. The President needs to actually know what he's saying to be called a liar. Give the guy a break, plunging the country into war on false premises against nearly universal international opposition isn't nearly as bad as what Clinton did. If you recall, Clinton was almost impeached for lying about a heinous act of taste. It's not the same thing, people! You need to be blind and stupid to consider Bush Inc. as bad as Clinton.

Now, had we happened to find a scrap of WMD, or weren't getting our pasty white rumps kicked every single day in Iraq, then maybe we'd cut Bush some slack. As it is, we have descended into

I was all for the war in Iraq. But not for any of the Bush reasons. And good thing too. I supported taking out a tyrant and for showing the world that the U.S. was as crazy as Israel (meaning that just as Israel will go into any place on the world, kick A and take names, so now America will too). Bush was for the war so he could look like a chief executive and not as a plundering, retrogressive misanthrope.

Maybe the tanking economy, the grotesque deficit, the abandoning of the State governments, and now the idiocy of our Iraq policy will show Americans that we need to kick these bums out.

Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Man Shoots 5 Co-Workers, then Himself

Maybe in Mississippi they don't look askance when someone repeatedly claims that they want to come in and shoot up their coworkers. Repeatedly. Yay for gun ownership! NYTimes story here.

Saturday, July 05, 2003

Barry White, 58

What's with all my men dying?!?

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Buddy Hackett, 78

Buddy Hackett died. He is one of those comedians that I've always heard was very funny - and whatever material I've read from him confirms that - but I never experienced him in the ways I should. We was supposed to be very dirty (and hence, very funny) and garnered respect from the right people (e.g. my father, Al Franken's father). What a few weeks - Gregory Peck, Leon Uris, Katherine Hepburn, and now Hackett.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

Friday, June 27, 2003

I Blame Hillary's New Book

We have to blame somebody! The New Jersey authorities claim that they were "lured perhaps by the smell of dirty diapers in the trash" -- but we all know what *that* is a code-name for!

Latest Addition to Stupid or Evil Debate

According to the New York Jewish Week, the head of a Russian Jewish newspaper claims that the UJA's "2002 Jewish Community Study of New York" undercounted the Russians by 100,000.

Valery Weinberg of the Novoye Russkoye Slovo states that the undercounting “was done intentionally to diminish the role of the Russian-speaking Jewish community.”

Now, after spending a few years as a public servant, I recognize that when someone says something that idiotic, they are often trying to position themselves for greater power. Either that, or they're nuts.

I guess Valery (if that is his real name) is like every other low-self-esteem minority spokesman. He thinks that everyone else in the world actually *cares* about his rinky-dink organization.

Why on earth would UJA undercount Jews? As far as I know (and I base my knowledge on parlor jokes from the 1950s) the UJA will seek out Jews on desert islands in order to get a donation.

In any case, I just relish the irony that Russians can ever be undercounted.

Do you have enough Fluff in your life


Probably not

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Supreme Court Shocker

Clarence Thomas voted against people having sex! I guess when faced with voting against Scalia...

Strom Thurmond, dead

How can they tell?

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Leon Uris, Author of 'Exodus,' Dies at 78

Baruch Dayan ha-Emet.

Terrorist Creep

It is inevitable, I guess, once we accept that one terrorist organization (the PLO) can be negotiated with, all organizations are fair game. Either that, or the New York Times - and the Western World - has finally acknowledged the functional equivalency of Hamas and the PLO. See the Story: Israel Seizes Militant Suspects in Mass Raids on West Bank

Cockney Rhyming Slang

Now hear this, now hear this, I have determined that Cockney Rhyming Slang is about as cool (and useful) as speaking Elvish or Klingon. That is all.

Monday, June 16, 2003

In Case You Weren't Scared Enough

According to Debka, Iran will have the bomb next year. Sleep tight.

Kix Has Done a Bad Bad Thing

I received this Kashrut Alert from my kosher hotline:
The following kashrus alert is from the Kosher Overseers of America on June 11, 2003.

Kix Cereal, General Mills, Inc., Golden Valley, MN has been switched to Dairy status and the OU symbol has been removed from the boxes. Boxes of Kix lacking the OU symbol should be regarded as OU-D. Consumers are always urged to carefully check products for changes.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

The Times Strikes Again

The circle of violence continues with the New York Times cheapening lives and Jaysoning the truth: Israel Strikes in Gaza Soon After Bus Explodes in Jerusalem

As long as they show balance, eh?

The New York Times makes a mistake?!

Now, we all know that the New York Times sets all the standards for journalism. That's admitted by every journalist. Remember that fact when you complain about the Times because it means that everything else out there is worse.

Anyhoo, after reeling from the "Jayson Blair" incident (where a reporter, named Jason, consistently faked the spelling of his name), the Times is paying closer attention to their other rampant falsehoods (which, again, are the best falsehoods in the whole journalism world).

Today, the offered a noteworthy correction:
An article yesterday about the dismantling of a rusty tower by an Israeli settlement in the West Bank as a gesture of compliance with the American-led peace initiative misstated the origin of Israeli control of the territory. During the 1967 war, Israel seized the West Bank from Jordan and took Gaza from Egypt, not from the Palestinians.
Isn't that wonderful? They are so brainwashed by their fake news that they actually printed yesterday that the Palestinians ever had land! What a day.

Check it out before they eliminate their evidence.

Feldheim Sale

25% Sale at Feldheim Books. G'wan! Git!

Debka

To keep informed (and by that I mean to make yourself feel arrogantly knowledgeable and scared out of your gourd) you must read the Debkafile. Basically, government officials and spooks of all nations give preferred leaks to Debka. One way you know its tippy-top secret and important is by following the color scheme of the news stories. Personally, I have no idea why some stories are blue, green, fuchsia, what-have-you. But *they* know.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Devils Beat Ducks

Regional loyalties notwithstanding, it's scary to say "Devils rule the World!" Poor duckies.

Monday, June 02, 2003

We're Back

From outer-space, na na na na, etc. After a not so nice oodles-hours trip from Ben Gurion airport to JFK through Geneva, we arrived home around 4 pm. My wife went to sleep immediately; I went to get the milk (not like we needed any, but that's the "after trip" ritual I learned from my village elders). Then *I* went to sleep -- just to get the edge off the exhaustion of the trip, dontcha know. Woke up at 1 am. Dee-yamm! Love that jet lag. And I have to be at work tomorrow too.

Saturday, May 31, 2003

Going Back

We're on our way... leaving the hotel at 2:15am to make a 6:15am flight - designed to make nobody happy with this. More when we get back to the states. Thanks to the Groners for a wonderful Shabbat send-off replete with good food and cute babies.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Book Store Alert!!

Attention Mr. & Mrs. Israel and all the ships at sea.

A crazy ol' coot in a twilight zonish bookshop gave me the heads-up of the best bookshop in Jerusalem. It's 6 Shatz Street. I was there last Thursday but the store was closed and the only place open was a cruddy little outhouse of a bookshop that I remembered from years ago. The new shop, opened 5 years ago (after I had already left) but expanded only one year ago, is immense. I purchased books I had only dreamt about. Shatz street is near Pomerantz, but don't confuse the two.
The Book Gallery
6 Shatz Street (26 King George), Jerusalem 94267
tel: 02-623-1087, fax: 02-625-5513
info@bookgallery.co.il
http://www.bookgallery.co.il

Monday, May 26, 2003

Israel Diary, Day 2 - Part 2

Our main tasks on this trip are:

(a) to enjoy two weeks away from the daily, minute-to-minute pressures of the synagogue and the City as well as the brutal commute my wife enjoys for most the week to sunny New Haven,

(b) revisit all the nostalgic wonder of my years in Israel [note, most of that wonder is in the Sniper Zones and we may not get to that right now],

(c) eat shwarma, and other delicacies of the Holy Land,

(d) buy books, a whole mess of books,

and (e) shop for thangs that only Israel provides (like tzanua women's clothing and affordable hats).

We also need to (f) visit and see all of our friends in the country. This turns out to be a very heavy agenda.

Every day we set out to a new neighborhood to explore, eat, and shop. On Day 2, we explored Emek Refaiim. I'd never really spent time in the neighborhood and I see why - no book stores. Plenty of restaurants... we had lunch in Kapit with a good friend and dinner at Norman's with about a dozen yeshiva boys who should have been at night seder.

That night we heard the comedic-monologue of Israel Campbell at the Hartman Institute sitting in a room with the student bodies of Pardes and HUC. This guy was very good and I'm going to try to bring him to my shul.

As for the book buying, we started a three-day excavation of Stein's Book Store. Both the Emek Refaiim restaurants and Stein's Books are distinguished by being the closest to our hotel (not "Close" as nothing is close to our hotel except other hotels and the stupid Windmill thing). More on the Stein's adventure later.

Sunday, May 25, 2003

Israel Diary, Day 2

[Note: All the fulminous bloggin' that I was able to do erev Shabbat was courtesy of the our Shabbas hosts' yummy computer. I am now in the Panorama and this is bound to futz up, here's hopin']

I was able to share a minyan with the school-trip in the morning (the rest of the time I've been on my own, I'm not sure where the school went... rumors say the Negev) and we enjoyed the hotel's complimentary breakfast bar. So far, this hotel has been way better than the King David. I have no idea why the KD has appeal. I think its because of the hotel's history, or the wealth of the average occupant. But it's a poor hotel.

Example: this hotel has internet access, a useful gift shop, a decent breakfast, and complimentary newspaper every day. The KD had no internet (18 months ago when I stayed there) no gift shop, a slightly bigger breakfast and NO PAPER. That steamed me: what self-respecting hotel doesn't give you at least the cruddiest paper in the morning. If it weren't for hotels, the USAtoday would probably have folded (just as rental cars keep the "Probe" and "Sebring" on the lots and cabs & cops keep the big American cars on the market).

Anyhoo, the breakfast. As you probably can tell, I find food fascinating. Yummy too. And breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I guess its because every culture recognizes that you have been "fasting" all night and that break-fast is the most important meal of the day. This gives you, the literal consumer, license to eat whatever you want. Meat? go ahead! Pizza & coke? Strange, but acceptable. And traditional breakfast food is so filling and, dare I say, yummy, that you have permission to eat it all day. As any bachelor knows, breakfast foods - cold or pre-packaged n'frozen - are the staple of the lazy man's diet.

As I said, every culture knows this about break-fast... except Israel. Israeli breakfast, at least how I learned about them in yeshiva, are pathetic. How Israel manages to safeguard a county on morning diet of cucumbers, watery white yogurt, and brown ditch-water coffee is beyond my ken. Must by a God thing.

Hotel breakfasts try to be at least Continental in style, with an occasional nod to the American fascination with cereal. So, no matter the hotel, the breakfast is the same. A big pile of vegetables, many of them already, conveniently, smothered in white creamy paste; an extraordinary collection of high fat cheeses, cut fruit, and random pastry. The Panorama does a decent job of keeping me fat and happy - but even the vaunted King David, with their 50% larger buffet, is bigger because they put out a greater variety of things I wouldn't eat even if you paid me.

Friday, May 23, 2003

Israel Diary, Day 1 - Part 3

The first day the hotel was filled with a "God TV" convention. As far as we can tell, these were television evangelists from Manchester, England. Philosophically, were such creatures to exist, then they *would* exist in the Dan Panorama hotel.

We didn't have much time that night to do anything big except attempt dinner. We set out from the hotel - which is near bloody nothing except the other hotels - in search of my favorite restaurant: The Blues Brothers, on Ben-Yehuda.

I like the place because of the cheap food, the good food, and the name. Alas, the store... she is dead. I guess bad business (although it could be bad meat). That was very sad. Instead we had a mediocre Italian experience at Luigi's on Yoel Solomon. Good cappuccino. Good bread. The soup tasted like Osem's finest and I find that all Israeli tomato sauce is too sweet. Israeli tomatoes are too dignified and yummy on their own to be whomped into paste. That ol' Israeli spirit.

We returned to the hotel to khopp Maariv with the school trip. Oh, did I say that on our two week "get away from everything" vacation we happened to choose the same hotel that the eighth grade school trip was also using. Hee hee. I can't complain, though; got good minyan out of it.

More anon, till then, Shabbat Shalom.