Thursday, March 31, 2005

Schiavo Dies

I received a message from the Blogmaster General that I hadn't posted a message about this whole messy situation and I was liable to lose my funding. In any case, I do have a lot to say about this topic - but I did so in a public lecture for the Chevra Kadisha of New Haven. Maybe I'll get around to posting something of a review.

P.S. the Times story: Schiavo Dies Nearly Two Weeks After Removal of Feeding Tube

Megillah Hiatus

I've been spending the past few weeks working on my perush on the Megillah - and even with the leap year, I wasn't able to spend as much time on it as I wanted. The good news, though, is that I worked out a good system - what has prevented me from writing my commentaries in the past. Due to my inherent brain problems, I have a real struggle writing my comments in a manner that's easy to turn into a book. But I may have found it. Basically, I'm making a separate file for each and every verse (not simple, but I have accumulated the proper resources to do so). This method works very well for the Megillah (and other books of Tanakh) but not so well with the Haggadah (which has been my longest standing project). But I need to turn my attention to that now if I hope to get something new together.

{2009 Update: pic from here.}

Ted Koppel to Leave 'Nightline'

Wow - not that I didn't expect this to happen (Ted Koppel to Leave 'Nightline' and ABC News) but that not one month ago I told my brother that if Koppel would retire the most logical choice for ABC - and TV news in general - is to hire Jon Stewart and the 'Daily Show' to go primetime.

Mark my words - if ABC is smart, they'll do what they did with Bill Mahr (it was ABC, no?) They took "Politically Incorrect," a top-rated comedy-news program, and brought it to late-night network TV. Mahr soon imploded, true, but that's because the show was a (poor) one-man show with a (poor) one idea-pony.

Stewart is the future of journalism (ironically, by being a Swiftian retro satirist) and Stewart has often mentioned that Koppel was the only one on TV that he really respects. I hope that this synergy happens.

{2009 Update: 1. Boy, was a I wrong; 2. the pic is from here.}

Friday, March 18, 2005

Bond Marathon

We have an extensive film collection here at the Casa de Styx, and I have enjoyed showing them to my wife who was rightfully ignorant of much of the pop-culture ditchwater that I had immersed in for years.

She's a trained classical musician and successful academic acolyte, so how would she have encountered "Ghost Busters" or "Big Trouble in Little China" (especially since she was a wee child when these movies came out, if that). Alas, we have covered every movie in my collection that she would enjoy without my making a hard hard sell. "The French Connection" and "Chinatown," for example, are great films but they are also violent and shocking and who really wants to see that stuff when you want to relax; a logical point - even if I don't follow it. I mean, I often force myself to watch films that I "should" see - just to increase my education. My free time to watch is quite limited, and my desire to be entertained is such, that I am now failing in my education and feeling more like my wife's point of view.

For example, I rented The Rules of the Game (1939) by Jean Renoir because it was the top rated foreign film of all time by nearly every film critic. It's unwatchable muck. Oh, I tried - black and white doesn't bother me and normally subtitles are fine - except that I usually sort piles of my papers while watching films and I can't do that in a heavy dialogue film. But here's the thing - it's not entertaining, interesting, or broadening. Compare it with other films from that year: The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights and Gunga Din.

I tried to watch the second highest rated foreign film: The Battleship Potemkin". For this stinkeroo there's not much year comparison (1925 was not a banner year) except for "The Gold Rush," by Chaplin (which I own). For those who don't know about the "Battleship" thingy - it's a communist propaganda film that has the intellectual and emotional depth of a political smear.

All that is to explain that I am not so high and mighty (much). But we still need to find something to watch while we're half-dead on the couch, watching our son tear his way through the furniture. That's when I decided to initiate the Bond Marathon.

As an earlier post explained, I have pain-stakingly sought and individually accumulated all 22 Bond special-edition DVDs. Twenty Bond films, plus Never Say Never Again, and Casino Royale. I have showed them all to my wife, but out of order. Now we get to see them from the beginning. Considering our pace, we should finish by the time the next Bond comes out.

P.S. The best thing about the marathon is that we recognize how much of a debonair superman my son is becoming. I have begun calling him "Doodle-O 7"

{2009 update: image from here}

Friday, March 11, 2005

Day of the Timed Disasters

Tuesday was nuts. First of all, my Tuesday's are generally my busiest, with my office hours in the morning and my shiur in the evening. This week was to be the long awaited "Holiness of Israel" class that was canceled last week for sickness and postponed from two weeks ago for the conference.

Two members were in the hospital early in the week (and for a small shul, this is significant). I had hoped to get down to see them after lunch. But, by the time I left the shul, it had started to snow. By the end of lunch, a full storm had hit, sending this sleepy New England hamlet apoplectic with the Snow Freaks.

Before lunch I went to check my email and saw that the computer had frozen. Not an infrequent occurrence with Windows. I manually restarted the ol' battleship but instead of whining to life the "tower" emitted warning beeps and stayed good and dead. I tried a few times, unplugged all the peripherals, shut down all the power-strips and surge-protectors. Nothing. The computer was dead. Hardware level, dead.

I would have tried to take the computer in, or even summon a technician to the house, except that my wife had been hit by my kid's stomach flu. As you can expect, with me or my kid out of commission, the house can still function; with my wife poleaxed, we were all doomed.

With my computer dead, I couldn't prepare source sheets; contact online help - etc. The competing pulls and needs that day were enormous, but by taking things in order of importance (Child, Wife, Hospital, Shul, Shiur, with Computer at the bottom of the list) I managed to juggle.

Only after I got back from the shiur (which ultimately had to be cancelled when only 2 people showed up and they recommended that we all go home while the streets were being cleared, somewhat) did the full impact of a hardware-broken computer hit me.

The next day, I sat on the phone waiting for the good hour or so to speak with the Dell Sub-Continent Help Desk. It turns out that my memory cards had popped off their moorings (they discerned this through the multi-colored A-B-C-D lights on the back of the "tower" - cool). And after I cracked open the 'puter like a briefcase and fiddled with the innards, by the late afternoon, I was back in business!

Highly satisfying (to have the computer fixed over the phone) but I lost two full work days. And now that the weather was getting a bit better, it's starting a whole new storm. My wife is a bit better from her flu and my son is still the stalwart trooper.

Conclusion: Boo freakin' hoo. Poor me.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Jewish POWs under the Nazis

I was just alerted to this NYTimes piece from the end of February which describes how some American Jewish POWs were treated under Nazi Germany: The Lost Soldiers of Stalag IX-B

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Oscar Aftermath 2005

As you can see from the following day's papers (Academy Award Winners) I was again devestated by the Hollywood establishment. My ma said I should blame my influenza-feueled delirium. Sure, why not. It's not far from the truth.

Ya know how in a math test if you make one miscalculation (x=1 instead of x=2) then the whole test is bolloxed? That's what happens every year to me with the Oscars (as it did in 8th and 9th grade math, mind you). One big mistake that I would have caught had my head not been superheated to 102F was that Clint Eastwood was not given due reward last year for "Mystic River." Because of the sea of Hobbit feet, all awards went to the Lord of the Rings and not enough to Clint. He was being paid back this year. I should have caught that.

I also didn't know that Hollywood hated Scorsese as much as they obviously do. They hate him so much they spell it with three 'a's: haaaate. That's 4. But that's how much they hate him, too.

In any case, I feel like an economist; my forecasting was poor, but the analysis was still very good :)

End in Sight for the Phlegm Monsters

My flu may be over the hump. My temperature has stayed down and even though I still feel like I've been stepped on by a big boot, and my head is the current repository of our strategic phlegm reserves, my insomnia has returned!

Yes, normally I consider my insomnia to be a curse and the primrose path to madness (as seen in the documentaries Taxi Driver and Fight Club). But, in this case, it shows that my illness isn't strong enough to overpower damnation. [Which is a good way to describe the flu in any case: Stonger Than Damnation].

As it is, my waking hell is back so I may be able to get back to work. Of course, I'm still too tired to think, but not sick enough to sleep, but that's God's business.

Don't Encourage Them

Evidently some dude with too much money and way too much free time just flew around the world in an airplane - without stopping to refuel: Solitary Round-the-World Flight Concludes With Smooth Landing.

The first feeling I had when reading the account wasn't wonder, or awe, or pride in the achievement of a fellow mammal, but the disgusting realization that the pilot was trapped in a "cigar shaped" cockpit for the entire ordeal. How did eat? How did he go to the bathroom? How did he eat after he had to go to the bathroom in his, doubtless space-age, pants?

I want there to be a law that whenever some dude decides to waste his money this way, he's forced to immediately give those funds to me. I will spend it entirely on digital imaging equipment to capture my son's every move - and the world will be better and happier. Maybe I'll hire the millionaire fly-boy moron to take the pictures so he'll have something to do with his wasted life. Either way is fine with me, and with my son, who enjoys new company.

{2009 update, finally found an appropriate pic online}

Movie Review: Shaun of the Dead

Call it karma, but I saw Shaun of the Dead (2004) soon before I contracted this asinine illness and was forced to relive the basic premise of the movie over and over again. The movie is really, really good - a "rom com zom" (as it's called) - a romantic comedy with zombies.

What makes it good is that not only is it funny, smart, and quick-moving, but it's shot with a stunning verisimilitude. It feels so real; like a documentary; or just a detail-rich description of how a horrible event can happen on the periphery of your normal life.

After living through a few world shattering events, I know how that feels, and while I think I would behave better than Shaun and his pals, their behavior is all very realistic and convincing. For days after seeing the film, I had to actively remind myself that it did not happen.

The reason why the movie overlaps with the flu so well is that people infected by the Zombies would develop flu-like symptoms before they would turn into the walking dead. In the movie, a zombie is a metaphor for the brainless modern existence people consign themselves to (especially in modern Britain... a complaint that's been around for a while as seen in the Punk movement or Pink Floyd or "Synchronicity"). But being a zombie is also a good metaphor for the flu. You stomp around, the walking-dead, groaning, needing Tylenol, cursing your fate. Cannibalism is where the comparison stops, however.

A note about cannibalism: for some reason, all the supernatural monster movies seem to require the antagonists to be cannibals. It's the worst part about their attack; what we find the most disturbing. A zombie is just disquieting if all it did was walk about and moan. Even vampires (my preferred supernatural enemy) aren’t frightening except for the biting fetish. I guess it's the very worst thing in the human imagination - it's not enough to be evil, the desecrated walking dead, or flying bats - the depths of evil are only reached when you eat another person. (See "Sin City" as well, but that's another topic altogether)


Can't sleep. Phlegm monsters ate my brain.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Song Hall of Fame: "My Wife", The Who

The cognoscenti have long said that "Who's Next" is the Who's best album. I can't judge well, because I would only buy the albums the cognoscenti talked about, so I don't have what to compare. I'm hoping that the new music technology revolution (ringtones? subcutaneous CIA implants?) that destroyed records will go against CDs just enough to keep them both cheap yet in circulation... so I can buy enough to judge on my own.

In any case, "Who's Next" is very good and a song that had run through my head over and over was "My Wife." I hadn't bothered looking at the lyrics, but whatever I could make out made no sense. First of all, I thought it was "My Life" and the first line was "My life is in the Chesapeake" and after that I could only make out occasional phrases "machine gun" "aeroplane" "lead boots" - which go with each other but not with the Chesapeake.

Anyway, just now I decided to get the real lyrics. They're hilarious.

The first stanza:
My life's in jeopardy
Murdered in cold blood is what I'm gonna be
I ain't been home since Friday night
And now my wife is coming after me
Not that my wife is anything like this (nor I - there's something characteristically British about weekend-long booze benders).
Give me police protection
Gonna buy a gun so
I can look after number one
Give me a bodyguard
A back belt Judo expert with a machine gun
None of these funny words are enunciated well enough to make out. But now I can chuckle with the cognoscenti.

2009 Update: Some nice dude put up the song with corresponding lyrics on Youtube.

Useful Link for Supervillians

Some kind hearted geek with way too much free time made a beginners guide to psychotic megalomaniacs: The Evil Guide. I especially like the primer on evil hideouts (preferring the hollowed out mountain/volcano above all).

For You Dafyomiites -

I've heard good things about this - a whole shas-worth of Dafyomi shiurim on one I-Pod:

Considering that I don't own an I-Pod yet, this may be just the ticket.

Genesis in Pig Latin

Either there's a sophistimacated computer program to do this or someone had way too much free time - either way, check out the Book of Genesis in Pig Latin

{2009 Update, pic from an unrelated site.}

Recent USAToday Poll

This poll, from, shows Bush with a remarkable 52% approval rating. I don't know how he does it, but it frightens me. The key is question #2 - how is Bush handling Social Security, and only 35% approve, 56% disapprove. That either means people don't like his Hooverization of America plan or they think he hasn't gone far enough.

Check out the rest of the poll for some other crazy numbers (e.g. Hillary Clinton with a 53% approval rating - which shows this poll's out of whack)

{2009 update, pic from here} 25% English Sets Sale

The sale ends Tuesday, March 8th - 25% off English sets at (The crazy thing is that I own pretty much everything I want on this list... scary)

Barukh Dayan ha-Emet

From the KJ List: 3/2/05 - 7:45 a.m.

Dr. Noam Shudofsky passed away this morning. An indefatigable personality who, in partnership with Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, literally built Ramaz School these past 40 years. He is the husband of Nechi Shudofsky, and the father of Binny, Rachel and Leora.

Funeral services 2:00 p.m. TODAY, March 2nd, in the Main Synagogue at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, 125 East 85th Street, between Lexington and Park Avenues. From KJ, the family is leaving for Israel on El Al Flight #002 leaving at 7:30 p.m. The burial will be around 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 3rd, in Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem.

The first half of shiva, in Israel, will be observed at 21/2 Koreh Ha-Dorot Street in Talpiot. The phone number in Israel is 011-972-2-673-1416 (be mindful of the 7-hour time differential). The family is returning stateside early on Sunday morning, March 6th, to complete shiva at the Shudofsky residence, 209 West 86th Street, Apt. 917, NYC 10024. The phone number there is 212-877-9053. Services there, beginning Sunday morning, will be Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m.; Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 7:30 a.m.; and Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings at 5:45 p.m. Shiva concludes on Wednesday morning, March 9th, following services.

Condolence Emails can be sent to

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

100 Day III

I don't know what's going on but the fever has not really gone away (it hasn't hit 102 but it's hovering in the C-note). I don't have the symptoms of Strep, so that's good, but my throat is very painful.

I had to cancel my halakha class tonight - the first time I've ever done so because of illness. I had a good excuse: every time I try to talk for more than 30 seconds I start coughing and hacking and ouch. Also, the Siyum Ha-Shas was tonight and a bunch of people were going to that; and also a big thing at the JCC; and ouch. I haaaaate cancelling class. Oh, also, there was another Nor'easter so it's snowy. And ouch.

The main reason why I need to get better is so I can hug my son. I miss him and he misses me. Also, so I can help hold him down while my wife changes him. He loves twirling around and acting all acrobatic on the changing table now - which makes de-poopifying him a two person job.