Friday, December 25, 2009

Vacation, Intertube Problem

We arrived in our vacation spot (my parents' home) last night. Alas, they have limited intertube access (the network key was set my malevolent monkeys and cannot be recovered because it is their holiday today), so I'm posting quickly on the only working computer to say that I'm not going to post much. Happy day, I hear you say.


Pic from here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Today's Backposts

  1. Feb 05 2008 -
    Good Line from McArdle
  2. Feb 07 2008 - Romney and the GWOT
  3. Feb 07 2008 - The Rest of the GOP Race
  4. Feb 07 2008 - Obama and Israel
  5. Feb 09 2008 - Yglesias about Russert: Sillyball
  6. Jun 05 2008 - Sandman Material, Brewers Phrase & Fable

Sandman, Male & Female Stories

I'm on my (semi)annual reading of the Sandman. I own the 10-book series (which I bought off ebay) and there's a fascinating balance between books 4 & 5 - Season of Mists vs. A Game of You. I love Mists, and I used to hate Game, until I read the background in the Sandman Companion, and Neil Gaiman (NG) revealed that Mists is a masculine tale and Game is feminine:
HB: I've heard you refer to various collections as "male" or "female." Could you talk a bit about that?

NG: Sandman was always designed to move from male stories to female stories. Preludes & Nocturnes is a guy's tale - it has a male hero, the Sandman, who triumphs over various difficult challenges. The next book, The Doll's House, is fundamentally Rose Walker's tale, and it deals with women, relationships, and the tearing down of walls. The following book, Season of Mists, is again a Sandman story, in which Dream uses his courage and wits to deal with a problem of diplomacy. And then there's A Game of You ,which is about women, fantasy, and identity. (TSC p117)
What I find amazing about this is that he accurately describes my subconscious reactions to each book - I didn't articulate why I liked one over the other, I just did (and I *hated* Game). Now I see that (a) this was intentional by the author, and (b) it wasn't because one book was 'better written' than the other - although that can happen with authors, especially the limited ones - but with Gaiman it was purposefully a different type of story, and that it resonates with different needs and tastes; (c) I'm relieved, in some homophobic way, that I am, even subconsciously, very male. Sorry, but that's how it is.

Gaiman, in Game, elaborates on the difference between Male and Female fantasy, in the words of the antagonist, The Cuckoo (p125-126, bracketed material to clarify]:
"Little boys have fantasies in which they're faster or smarter or able to fly. Where they hide their faces in secret identities and listen to people who despise them admiring their remarkable deeds. Pathetic bespectacled rejected [Peter Parker] is secretly [Spiderman]. Gawky, bespectacled, unloved [Clark Kent] is really [Superman]. Yes? ...

Now, little girls, on the other hand, have different fantasies. Much less convoluted. Their parents are not their parents. Their lives are not their lives. They are princesses, lost princesses from distant lands. And one day the king and queen, their real parents, will take them back to their land, and they'll be happy for ever and ever.
Now this was another mind-blowing insight because it rings true - at least for me as a masculine man of the male persuasion (to paraphrase my man Dave Barry). And knowing what I've seen from 'female' stories, this also rings true (witness the plot of "The Princess Diaries" for corn's sake).

And once you take that dichotomy in mind, many stories can be analyzed. In fact, that's one reason why Harry Potter is so successful - because it combines both story-lines: he's a bespectacled outcast with amazing powers who's also the secret "Chosen One."

Note, I thought it was also Gaiman who described the male/female narrative dichotomy by claiming that the quintessential female story is "Alice in Wonderland" - because it's about person who is the only one who knows what's going on in a crazy world, and the male story is "Hamlet." I can't find this quote in my book from Gaiman, or online (is this it?) And I may just have imagined it.

The Sandman: Jewish Art?

Just another note, I have been thinking about patterns in Jewish art, especially in science fiction and fantasy (where the Jewish contribution, especially in comics, has been substantial). Is The Sandman a good example of Jewish-influenced art? Well, on one side, yes, because Gaiman mentions his feelings of solitude and strangeness that drove him to literary research and observation, a hallmark of artists - especially those in narratives - came from being Jewish in "C of E" boarding schools:
HB: ...What effect did religion have on you when you were young?

NG: I'd say the most important factor was my growing up as a Jewish kid in a Church of England school.... because it made me feel like an outsider. In a sense, it made me view everything as myth. (TSC p105)
However, the world he created is polytheistic and pagan - different from the monotheistic/dualistic world I expect from the modern Jewish identity (think Superman and Kafka). Then again, Gaiman has delved in Zohar and Aggadata - which is super-duper-crazy-pagan.

The difference is in the sense of justice and morality - monotheism claims a universal truth and thus an immutable definition of right and wrong. The right/wrong scale may be defined in opposition to a human scale (e.g. Kafka) but a universal system lends itself to satire, criticism, and I'd say even logic (a system that depends on order, right, wrong). Paganism, on the other hand, describes a world that is a chaos of unrelated oppositional forces. Nothing need make sense and there's definitely no right and wrong, only power and endurance.

One of the hallmarks of horror is to delve into paganism - to have an undercurrent of meaninglessness to existence (Lovecraft was excellent in this genre). An irritant of Gaiman's Sandman world, for me, is that there is no powerful cosmic good - especially via the protagonist who is evil in familiar yet inhuman ways. Human evil often comes from a descent into the animal - a single-minded drive to satisfy desires. That type of evil is exemplified, in the series, by the Incarnation "Desire" (simple enough) - a concept that is Freudian and very very Jewish.

"Dream"s evil comes from powerful indifference and while it's not as renowned or infamous as bestial evil, close observers of the world see it as, theologically and philosophically, more damaging. In my mundane existence, I rarely come across the bestial evil - the thieves, murderers etc. But I do see indifference to suffering - and not abstract suffering (ironically people are good about Saving The Whales or Saving the Earth) but real concrete, immediate, suffering.

I have enough faith in Gaiman to believe that he recognizes that.

Updated Links
  1. Neil Gaiman's Official Website
  2. Sandman FAQ
  3. The Annotated Sandman [Link Updated]
  4. The Wake
  5. The Dreaming : Neil Gaiman
Top pic from here of Gaiman's bookshelf. Second pic from here of a collage of Jewish superheroes.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Pengu Competition!

Pengu competition, contenders submitted by reader codename "Shanna":

Bronze Medal (old: 75.8) new: 69.9

Copper Medal (old: 207.1) new: 207.9

However, since yesterday's posting, there have been new awards by The Styx:

New Bronze (old, by Shanna, 69.9) new by Styx: 65.4

Gold Medal: (Old, by Styx, 189.7) New, by Styx: 188.9

The Games Continue! Contribute your awards.
Bronze (short bounce) 65.4 [Styx]
Copper (long dart) 207.9 [Shanna]
Silver (long bounce) 323.5 [Styx]
Gold (short dart) 188.9 [Styx]

Friday, December 18, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Today's Backposts

  1. Jan 20 2009 - Maintenance and Labels, Part 1
And more from the 2008 Election:
  1. Jan 13 2008 - Hillary and Civil Rights
  2. Jan 13 2008 - TPM, Hillary, Obama
  3. Jan 23 2008 - McCain about Romney

"I Am A Robot, I'm Going to Clean You"

Cute Kid Alert.

If you say the word "robot" to my son, he will then say - in a robot voice - "I Am A Robot, I'm Going to Clean You" while moving his arms, elbows locked, up and down, making a "vvvt vvvt" voice.

/Cute Kid Alert.

Video of the Day: Agony of Defeat

The picture core I use for my self-made demotivator of the 2004 Election is of the iconic "agony of defeat" ski-jump crash of hapless Yugo/Slovenian skier Vinko Bogataj.

I looked a for a few minutes, right now, on google images and elsewhere for a better quality photo of the Vinksters crash, but couldn't find any. I did come across this awesome wikiness though:
The melodramatic introduction [of Wide World of Sports] became a national catch phrase that is often heard to this day. While "the thrill of victory" had several symbols over the decades, ski jumper Vinko Bogataj, whose dreadful misjump and crash of March 21, 1970 was featured from the early 1970s onward under the words "...and the agony of defeat", became a hard-luck hero of sorts, and an affectionate icon for stunning failure. ....

Bogataj's mishap is also commemorated in Rich Hall's book Sniglets as "agonosis," which is defined as "The syndrome of tuning in on Wide World of Sports every weekend just to watch the skier rack himself."
Yes. Yes I had agonosis for years and was only diagnosed a few minutes ago! But Youtube has cured all of we agonosis suffers, and those with similar afflictions, which is why we can say we live in a glorious agem - freed from television's cruel schedule. (Note, I may have to make a better 'tube):

Pain of Living the Past

As you've noticed, I'm going through a lot of backposts, and while much have to deal with the 2008 election, I'm also fixing up the earlyblog which takes me back to 2004. Oh boy, if you're finding yourself not hating Bush as much as you used to, go back and read newspapers from 2004-2005. That'll get you hating again.

Pengu Awards

Yes, yes, Pengu is disturbing because it appears that the masochistic penguin *likes* being swatted hundreds of yards downfield by a Yeti with an ice Louisville Slugger. But, hey, for all I know penguins do enjoy such delights - even if it results in landing snout deep in the tundra. But for those of you who enjoy virtual sports and have few PETA qualms, here are the 4 Trophies/Titles to compete for. I will accept competing scores to my own with a valid screenshot. Those who photoshop these for their own advantage will be exposed eventually through DNA evidence.

Terminology: Pengu, once successfully swatted, will soar through the air and either bounce off the pitch or lawn-dart into the snow. It all depends on the angle of impact and thousands of calculations involving liquid-Quantum-Electrodymics, multi-linear regression equasions, and penguin physics. Bouncing pengus give either the longest distance or the shortest and both are award-worthy. No bounce/Lawn Dart Pengus are harder to achieve and the range difference between the longest and shortest is smaller - and both are award worthy. The following four awards are in increasing order of difficulty:

4. Bronze Medal: Shortest "Bounce"
3. Copper Medal: Longest "Lawn Dart"
2. Silver Medal: Longest "Bounce"
1. Gold Medal: Shortest "Lawn Dart"

Current Styx Record Holders

4. Bronze Medal: Shortest "Bounce": 75.8

3. Copper Medal: Longest "Lawn Dart": 207.1

2. Silver Medal: Longest "Bounce": 323.5

1. Gold Medal: Shortest "Lawn Dart:"189.7

Lieberman, The Nut

As I just explained, one of the heroes of my 20s, Senator Joe Lieberman, has turned into a real monster. This was apparent soon after the 2006 Midterms and, according to my social-psychological calculations, was the major trigger for is now 3 year long psychotic episode. There have been many effects, his endorsement of McCain and speaking at the RNC Convention are major league sins, but his recent behavior about health-care-reform is just unspeakable.

Repercussions of His Monstrosity

He's no longer my senator nor quasi-congregant, so why should I care? Well, besides my early ardent support (just see my blog posts from 2003-2006), he is probably the most prominent Orthodox Jew in the world. And because his behavior is terrible, it is a chillul Hashem. In a year following Madoff (and the Jewish *sounding* Goldman Sachs, a point for another time), we Hebrews are taking a major hit. Prominent pro-Israel schmucks like Lieberman contribute to the mainstreaming of anti-Zionism, as well.

An Example

Many decent, moderate-leftists have been pillorying Lieberman over the past few days - and with good cause - because he has just killed the public option for health-care-reform. Mark Kleiman, of the Reality Based Community, states:
In 2000, when Al Gore selected Joe Lieberman as his running-mate, Jesse Jackson decided to throw a tantrum about it, portraying Lieberman as some sort of crypto-reactionary creep. My reaction at the time was that Jackson was acting like a jerk and helping hand the election to the Republicans.

Of course I had no idea how close the election would be; as things turned out, Jackson’s move was probably the difference between having George W. Bush as President and not having him as President, which means the difference between war with Iraq and no war with Iraq. So Jackson was, indeed, acting like a jerk.

But, as Joe Lieberman has amply demonstrated, Jackson wasn’t wrong.
Now, while I will write Kleiman and suggest to him that in 2000 Joe wasn't so bad, I feel torn about lending any credibility to Lieberman and his rishus. But the crucial point of Kleiman's post isn't the original author, but from one of his commenters Ed Whitney" who says :
"[Lieberman's] goody-goody sanctimony combined with regressive politics was captured by Calvin Trillin in The Nation in 2000. He wrote his contribution to the tune of "O Tannenbaum" that went in part:

Joe Lieberman, Joe Lieberman,
A Democrat who’s newish,
Joe Lieberman, Joe Lieberman,
We’re awfully glad you’re Jewish.
Though welfare kids may live on gruel,
At least you’ll always go to shul,
Joe Lieberman, Joe Lieberman,
Your Shabbas rides are fewish."
OK, got that? Some random blogger, in reminiscing about how bad Lieberman is, needs to quote treife-celebrating, Xmas-ogling, self-hating Jew Trillin to write an anti-Semitic jingle against Lieberman (in 2000!) set to a Xmas carol.

That's how chillul-Hashems work, my friend. And especially how Trillin - the terminal sinner - comes off as a better person than Lieberman, the Orthodox Jew. And I can't really argue that point now: Lieberman's actions are indefensible.

Defending Myself

His fall has been swift, in my mind and the shame I feel is mitigated by my feeling/knowledge that he wasn't always like this. I made a similar point when I had my final break with John Mamzer Edwards:
many people are correct only by chance. For example, the smartasses who said that John Edwards was *of course* cheating on his wife... basing their assertions on the sole facts that (a) Edwards was good-looking, and (b) they disagreed with Edwards' policies/profession/accent.

Not liking somebody, and thus attributing to the disliked person all sorts of crimes, does not make your criticisms prophetic. You just got lucky.

However, if you said that Edwards was a wife-cheater because of certain provable factors (e.g. you knew of some shady behaviors, you read in his book that 'cheating on your cancer-stricken wife ain't the worst thing a person can do', or if you personally slept with him), then - fine - you can be considered a perceptive prognosticator.

For the record, I didn't believe the rumors that Edwards was cheating on his wife because I didn't think that someone as successful as him (self-made multi-millionaire, young Democratic senator in a red-state) would do something so destructive and stupid. I mean, it was Spitzer-esque! And even then, I had some glimmering that Spitzer was a sexual-schkutz because he intermarried. Ya see, that's a provable indicator. Sex crime here leads to sex crime there. But Edwards? Why would someone running for president - someone who constantly references his wife's terminal cancer - have an affair on the campaign trail.
I feel the same way about Lieberman, and not just because I have counter-proof: what Lieberman is doing now is new and while his sanctimoniousness is a constant, and makes his wickedness especially galling (a holier-than-thou villain is hard to take), it is not his current crime. So those who say they were right for hating him in 2000 are deluded: his sanctimoniousness wasn't a crime then, nor now. His moderate-contrarianism wasn't a crime then, nor now. He's not being just 'contrary' now, he's being a Republican, and it's because his only friends now are Republicans (McCain, Graham - who, it should be said, are being shoved off by their own party).

So, Smarty Pants, What Happened?

When I lived in New Haven, I was told these main reasons for why Lieberman changed/was changing:
  1. In general, Joe is not the brightest bulb in the electric menorah. No, he's definitely not stupid - he's not in the Bush league (har). It was tough for a Jew to go to Yale in 1964; to quote the Wiki:
    "He received a dual Bachelor of Arts in political science and economics from Yale University in 1964 and was the first member of his family to graduate from college. At Yale he was editor of the Yale Daily News and a member of the Elihu Club. He later attended Yale Law School, receiving his law degree in 1967. "
    But he's not in the league of Bill Clinton or even Al Gore.

  2. He's not a Natural Politician = This needs to be added to the intelligence problem: he's not really an ambitious suck-up, like Bill Clinton, or a political legacy, like Al Gore or Chris Dodd. From what I heard, he became a politician because of a collection of friends, hangers-on, and especially because of his Mother. And that leads us to the most crucial reason for his fall from grace.

  3. He lost his Political Soul in 2001 and again in 2005: For these facts, you needed to be on the Connecticut inside, but basically Joe lost two people over that time, his political head and his political heart: Jimmy O'Connell in 2001 and his mother in 2005. I will let this Chicago Tribune story from 2006 give the details:
    But the chapter that started in November 2000 would not end, not only because of the presidential campaign, but because of personal tragedy.

    Since Lieberman first ran for the State Senate in 1970, Jimmy O'Connell was Lieberman's eyes and ears on the Connecticut ground, one of those political pros who seemed to know every Democrat in every town-and someone who could tell the boss where he may have to make a phone call or a diner visit to calm an angry town chairman.

    In December, 2001, O'Connell, 53, was found slumped in his car off an exit ramp off I-91 in Windsor, the victim of an apparent heart attack.

    Three and a half years later, Lieberman's mother Marcia died. Lieberman for years has taken comfort and advice from four strong women: Brown; his wife Hadassah; Washington chief of staff Clarine Nardi Riddle; and his mother.

    Joe and Marcia Lieberman were not only close, they were political soulmates. Marcia Lieberman had traveled the country with her son in his national campaigns, vigorously defending him before voters and reporters-and one of the few people able to tell the senator when things didn't seem right.

    After her death in March, 2005, Lieberman seemed different to his extended family, less inclined to dive into intraparty politics. Ornstein, for one, said he regular lunches with the senator stopped.
    All of that corroborates what I heard in New Haven, and it should be said, that the Tribune story was in August 2006 - before it became totally clear that Lieberman was cracking up.
To review: Lieberman, not super-intelligent and a bad-fit politician, had his career created and sustained by two people - O'Connell and Joe's mom - who both died between 2001 and 2005. What I heard was that O'Connell was Joe's political brain and Joe's mom was his heart.

Is it any surprise, then, that Lieberman seems to be a stunningly stupid politician - as his August 2006 primary performance showed - and also a person who has lost his neshama - as his Republicanism of 2008-2009 shows.

Makeh B'Patish: The Final Hammerblow

The primary loss of 2006 has been, correctly, credited as the moment when Lieberman The Good became Bizarro Lieberman. For any outside observer, it's when he felt that his true friends were not Democrats - who abandoned him - but his Senate pals McCain and Graham. But with the above data, you can see why 25+ year political veteran (10 years in State Senate, 6 years as state AG, 3 terms as CT Senator) felt betrayed by a political - not personal - setback. Because he's not a natural pol; he actually felt he had "friends" in politics; and since his political & moral compasses had, by that year, both died, he made decisions not as a politician but as an aggrieved, friendless, persecuted old weirdo.

So I do not regret supporting him in 2006 - before it became known how nuts he was; and possibly, had the idiot leftoids of the Nader Democrats not tried to kill him in '06, he'd be a friendlier ally right now (to paraphrase the ultra-fictional Omar: "if you come at the king, you best not miss.")

But since his opposition to Obama in '08, I've grown apart from him, and now I must repudiate him as a politician. It's not personal, Joe. But you're a chillul Hashem and you seriously need to do teshuva.

Pics have been used before by me, except the Palpatine one, which I've thought for years, and the Wonder Twins from here.

Updated Labels: Shunned, Nut

Back at the beginning of the year, I worked on the epistemological task of updating my blog-labels. One change was to add titles to politicians, e.g. instead of plain old Bill Clinton, he became Citizen Bill Clinton. I explained the change thusly:
Herr is a title for evil politicians (and the appropriate gender specifics, e.g. Herr Cheney, Frau Coulter);

for good guys (for the most part; I'm being generous by including Krugman here);

for bad leftists (e.g. Ralph Nader).
Since that time, early January, I've added a few more categories:
  1. "The Nut" = This applies to people I used to align with but who have since either gone completely crazy or whose previously existing crazy has shown to be no longer useful. This applies to my bygone favorite politician Joseph Lieberman who has transformed himself into a monster, and Martin Peretz (editor of The New Republic) who has always been crazy but while it was useful during the Bush Years and the two Israeli Wars of 2006-2008, his anti-anti-Zionism has gotten too shrill and unhinged to be useful.

  2. "The Shunned" = This applies to people/politicians who's early promise was destroyed by subsequent immorality and/or incompetence. This applies to John Edwards and Ehud Olmert. Edwards had such promise but it turned out that his tacky lack of judgement was deeper than I could have imagined. And Olmert, oy, whose talent as a consummate political strategist and in-fighter was unbalanced by his utter inability to lead a nation, resulting in thousands of innocent deaths.

  3. Miscellaneous additional titles = Extremely crazy or evil right-wingers get added fascist titles, e.g. "Mayorissimo Herr Rudolf Giuliani" or adding a "von" to the middle of the name "Herr Ronald von Reagan"

  4. Borderline cases = Despite my grand disappointment with Paul Krugman, I've given him a "Citizen" title; Hillary Clinton, once she joined the Obama admininstration earned her a "Citizen" title as well. But these can be lost.
For the special cases of Hillary and Lieberman, I will explain more of my thinking anon.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Just a random Citizen Dog that gets the Ikea feel just right.

Today's Backposts

  1. Feb 12 2007 - "Anti-anti-Semitism Defended" by Bret Stevens
  2. Feb 13 2007 - What Kind of Lies Constitute Anti-Semitism?
  3. Feb 24 2007 - 2007 Purim Torah: Funny Kosher Announcements
  4. Mar 8 2007 - Magical Thinking, Jewish Oompa Loompas
The last one (Magical Thinking) is especially important.

Update: 2008 Election
  1. Jan 10 2008 - Kerry & Clinton
  2. Jan 13 2008 - Contra-Wilder Effect

Brother Going to Portugal

For professional reasons, my brother is leaving tonight, [yeah yeah on a jet plane like there's propeller ones still around], for Portugal. You guesers (Portuguese-ers) better treat him well. I don't want a repeat of the 16th Century, or, ironically enough, I will get Medieval on you.

Pic from here.

Another Person's Invisible Pain

This Citizen Dog reminds me of a long time pet-peeve of mine: people cannot see most of the pain a person can suffer. Unless there's a cast/bandage/missing limb, the pain is invisible. And many of our words for ailments or injuries are not menacing enough: headache, allergy, a cold, and depression. These terms each have either a range (headache can go from mild to migraine), or are used colloquially (when a person is feeling 'depressed' it can mean either they are feeling the blues or are clinically diagnosed and can be a suicide-threat).

Bellyaching personally [warning: the next paragraph is wangsty], I suffer from many problems that are invisible: allergies, stomach weakness, back pain, etc, that make me appear normal but on the inside can render me inoperable. And, self-conscious that I am for appearing as a malingerer, I have fantasized that as a type of super-power to throw my maladies onto another person for a minute. And, as part of this fantasy, once the person is suddenly stricken, he will collapse stunned and agonized. In fact, this led to my enacting a basic curse: for anyone who thinks I am lazy/shirking or making my problems up/exaggerating, my curse is that they should suffer my pains for a minute, like in the fantasy.

OK, enough unseemly ranting. But this observation comes from a greater point which is the need to exaggerate a self-description in order for your listener to take you seriously. See the Dilbert above for my point; transcript (from here):
That's right...cough-cough! ...I won't be in to work...cough-wheeze-cough... - Bad cold? Well, no, actually I have a bad headache... - But I don't know how to make a headache sound over the phone.
[I actually worked on this idea, within semiotics, for my Princeton JP and one day I will publish it BE"H.]

No Snowflakes Alike?

Prompted by this Citizen Dog: I've long doubted this factoid. First of all, how many snowflakes are there in 1 snowfall on 1 day in 1 square mile? Millions? In the world at this second, there must be billions or even trillions of snowflakes. Today alone. And of those snowflakes none are 'alike'? Well what level of similarity are we restricting here? This seems to render the definition of 'alike' useless.

The wiki quotes the claim that:
It is next to impossible that two snowflakes are exactly alike due to the roughly 1018 water molecules which make up a snowflake, which grow at different rates and in different patterns depending on the changing temperature and humidity within the atmosphere that the snowflake falls through on its way to the ground united.
So thank goodness, the resident genius of the Straight Dope is on the case: whose answer demonstrates that we think so much alike that I should declare here and now that we are not the same person:
Chances are, in fact, that there are lots of duplicates. What the snowologists really mean is that your chance of finding duplicates is virtually zero. It's been calculated that in a volume of snow two feet square by ten inches deep there are roughly one million flakes. Multiply that by the millions of square miles that are covered by snow each year (nearly one fourth of the earth's land surface), and then multiply that by the billions of winters that have occurred since the dawn of time, and it's obvious we're talking unimaginable googols of flakes. Some of these are surely repeats.

Second pic from here.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

A Glimpse Into My Cleaning Method

From Citizen Dog, April 09, 1998 an accurate window in my life and how I clean my office.

Last Citizen Dog, May 26, 2001

One of my favorite comic strips of all time is Citizen Dog by Mark O'Hare. In my infirm state, trapped by pain-paralysis, I've decided to go through the CD archives on Go-Comics. For the purpose of history, the above pic is the last one published. I'm glad to say that the rumor I had heard of MOH's demise is false and that he's working happily in comics (and, if his Wiki bio is correct, that he was instrumental in one of my favorite comic TV shows, The Ren and Stimpy Show.) You'll see more of the comics over the next few days.

Song Hall of Fame: "Law of the Land" by The Temptations

As I've mentioned before, I'm a Temptations fan, and the following song is one of my favorites, not only because of the music, but because it's on a favorite topic: man-made rules of ethics and ettiquete. In Hebrew, the title would be "Derekh Eretz."

Basic lyrics were from here but the transcriber basically got at least one word wrong in every line (no kidding, e.g. the first line is "Some people will always have it made" but he had "Some people are always Heaven made"). Note, is even worse. There are still some hard-to-decipher parts (marked with ?), but I did my best. Here are my corrected lyrics:
Some people will always have it made
Some people will live in poverty for the rest of their days
Time marches on
Yesterday is better than tomorrow
Life is uncertain, let me hear you say, "Yeah"
Death is final, oh yes, it is
There'll be days of sunshine and laughter
But don't forget you gonna have to shed some tears, oh

It's the law of the land, my brother, [oh]
Whether you like it or you'll understand, [ah hey hey]
It's the law of the land [hey hey, hey hey]
Laws made by Almighty Man

Live by the good book if you're able
You must lay your cards on top of the table
When you gamble, you either win or lose
In life's everybody's got to pay some dues, well

It's the law of the land, [well well well]
Whether you'll like it or you'll understand, [you can't change it]
It's the law of the land, [ah how]
Laws made by almighty men, [oh hey]


CHORUS (soprano)
Hey, it's the law, the law of the land
Whether you'll like it or you'll understand
It's the law, the law of the land
Laws made by almighty men

A teacher man can't be found
Until you find yourself, [think about it]
You might not like being who you are... but you'd better start likin' it
'Cause you sure can't be nobody else

In other words, I can't be you, [ain't no quit, yeah]
You can't be me, [well well]
That's how it feels (?), my sisters and brothers
And that's the way that the Good Lord meant to be, [hey ho]

It's the law of the land, [well]
Whether you like them or you understand, [say say]
It's the law of the land, [hey yeah oh]
Laws made by almighty man [Look at here]

The tools(?) of a man's day is governed by a clock
For your own protection your doors you must lock
What goes around, comes around
And what goes up, [yeah], must come down, [aha]

It's the law of the land, [well well well well]
Whether you like it or you'll understand
It's the law of the land, [well well well]
Laws made by almighty man, [aha]

It's the law of the land, [everybody else say]
Whether you like them or you understand

Friday, December 11, 2009

Which is the Most Goyish Holiday?

Depends what "goyish" means. Most people think it's a synonym for "Christian," or just "non-Jewish antgonist" but I'd say the range would be from 'another religion that's not Judaism' or 'super-duper pagan.' Christianity and Islam are serious monothesitic religions and so their most serious days could be the most 'goyish' but they also have pagan aspects (especially Xians). So the most goyish could be Easter on one side and possibly Halloween the other. See above for Citizen Dog's take on Halloween.

Bert and Ernie

This Citizen Dog emphasizes a point I've made on other occasions, that Bert and Ernie are are archetypes - which is why they're on an educational show aimed at children. They exemplify personality types, just like Oscar as the child "grouch" (similar to Charles Schulz's Lucy), Grover as the earnest self-assured klutz, Big Bird as the mistake-ridden, invisible friend having, insecure klutz; Telly Monster as the worrywart; Elmo as the annoying late addition who angers GenXers who pre-dated him, Cookie Monster as the fat kid (and/or personal hero of millions), and Herry Monster as the, uh, hairy kid.

They are also brothers. I emphasize this first of all to work against the perverted/pedophilic drive to call them gay. I always thought they were brothers because they acted exactly like me and my brother. I was Ernie, if that's any surprise.

I see it with my two boys as well; and as Citizen Dog shows, it's a common life and comedic pairing.

Second pic from here.

Crosswalk Button Morality

One thing that impressed me in New Haven, and now in Newton, is that the crosswalk buttons actually work. Not so in NYC, they were like elevator 'close door' buttons - something there to amuse the police on closed-circuit cameras. Like in the above Citizen Dog from January 04, 2009.

Note, a moral question I struggled with when I first arrived is whether or not I should use these crosswalk buttons - which will stop all traffic going in every direction, costing drivers a batch of time - or whether I should cross on the red-light like I did in NYC (and in previous hometowns). The question is: is it justified for me to waste the time of every driver at a cross-roads (could number in the dozens of people!) for my own needs. Selfishness is one of my main pet-peeves and I consider it the root of most evil I witness in life. I especially hate behavior that gains advantage at another's expense: it's basically robbery. So, is using the cross-walk button robbery?

After a few weeks in Newton/Boston I realized that the drivers here are truly the worst I've ever seen. They are stupid, aggressive and selfish. Thus for reasons of life-and-death, I feel it's justified to use the button.

Today's Backposts

  1. 5/4/07 - Website of the Day: Museum of Hoaxes
  2. 3/26/07 - Gay Rabbis and Newsweek's Best

Fun Site of the Day

This blogger goes by the name of "Jake" on Balloon Juice and is an all-around good feller with a sense of humor.

Backpost from 4/30/08, moved it to today because why not.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Today's Backposts

  1. 6/14/07 - The Last Sopranos
  2. 5/1/08 - Is this Anything Like Facebook?

Ezra Klein - How liberal is Obama?

All I can say about this Ezra Klein piece from today is 'Amen Brother.' Obama's critics from the loony left irk me no end: Ezra Klein - How liberal is Obama?:
The first year of the Obama presidency has been a long tutorial on the difference between liberal ends and liberal means. If I told you America has a president determined to pass large amounts of Keynesian stimulus spending (that's particularly concentrated in impoverished areas), a near-universal health-care plan, and a bill addressing climate change, you'd say liberals had recaptured the White House. Ambitious liberals, even.

But though Obama's program is quite liberal, he doesn't seem to care much how it's achieved. A public option would be nice, but if it's not there, then that's fine, too. Full auction of permits is a good idea, but if most get given away to corporations, then that's how it goes. Infrastructure spending is good, but if tax cuts are the price of passage, then tax cuts there shall be. The best description of the administration's ideology probably came from Rahm Emanuel when he said, 'The only nonnegotiable principle here is success.'

You could imagine a lot of presidents more dogmatically liberal than Obama, but I wonder whether there are a lot of plausible hypotheticals in which they amass more liberal achievements than Obama. At the executive level, it might be the case that being too liberal is a liability to, well, liberalism.
H.t. Sullivan.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Young Obama Statue Officially Unveiled In Indonesia

From the TPM:
Young Obama Statue Officially Unveiled In Indonesia

Eric Kleefeld
December 9, 2009, 12:18PM

The new statue of Barack Obama in Jakarta, Indonesia, commemorating him from when he lived there as a child, has now been unveiled.The statute is made of bronze, and stands two meters tall, including the pedestal, with a nearly life-sized likeness of the young Obama. It is located at Taman Menteng Park, a site that was used as an athletic field by Obama's elementary school. It was paid for through a private non-profit group, called Friends of Obama.

Central Jakarta Mayor Sylviana Murni said at the unveiling ceremony: "There is a message through the young Obama statue that any child and anyone from any background can reach their dreams if they fight for it persistently."
The peanut gallery in the TPM comments think the right wingers will freak out. Even TPM pushes this with their headline: "Winger Bait."

First of all, stop caring about the freaks on the right. They need no substance to fuel their crazy. They live in a frictionless vacuum of stupid hate.

Second of all, why should the Right wing get angry about Obama when there's a life-size statue of George W. Bush passed out drunk in the basement of a Waco Arby's?

Croup in the 21st Century

Monday night, my son's cold turned into a more serious 'barking' (and barfing) cough. The nurse, over the phone, said that it was probably Croup - which was confirmed by his doctor the next day. Evidently, it's not as bad as I remembered, especially after reading Mark Twain's Experience Of The McWilliamses With Membranous Croup which permanently placed the disease as a nightmare. Turns out "membranous croup" is what we now call Diphtheria. Oopsie.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Picture of the Day: Clown Meat

Just roaming through the demotivational posters online. Came across a total win:

Today's Backposts

  1. Sept 2006 - Bush Placed by God?, a letter to Sullivan
  2. July 2006 - About Dmitry Salita, the frum boxer.
  3. Oct 2006 - Foley and the GOP for November, a letter I sent to TPM
  4. Nov 2006 - Schadenfreude Alert: Bush Twins
  5. Nov 2006 - Webb, The Blame for Iraq, another letter to TPM

Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi a'h

I just heard that Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, Salo Wittmayer Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture and Society at Columbia University, passed away today at 77. His book Zakhor is a classic in Jewish studies (a must read). Barukh Dayan ha-Emet.

The THX Menace

This may be my favorite, or at least most quoted, Citizen Dog: about the evil of the ear-blasting THX intro. Does anyone enjoy that? It seems designed by bullies and braggarts: "we need to hurt your ears, and waste your time, to show you how great we are." A pox on whoever invented that promo and for every filmmaker that includes it at the start of their film.

Geography of a Recession

A scary trip: a movie clip that shows the growing unemployment over the past 18+ months, here. Below are screenshots I made of the before (March 2007) to after (October 2009). Dark colors are bad (purple = 10% unemployment) ...

h.t. Sullivan

Another Reason to Be Happy to Be a Hebrew

Around the X-mas season, I see the stress and pressure people have to buy personally-specific disposable consumer items for every acquaintance who they don't want to anger. And they write mass-Xmas messages about their whole family, with pictures, and then send those (or similar cards) to everyone they know. If they do neither, they will also incur wrath. Then they need to get together with the whole family in the depth of winter. There's a much higher suicide rate at this time of year as a result of all this family induced, 'friend' emphasized pressure.

What interesting is not that they have these things and we Hebrews don't. We have them all too except (a) spread out over the year, and (b) much less impact, (c) much less selfish/wasteful.

#x = XMAS

The Comparison

1x. Xmas Trees = wrestling with a stinky, sticky foliage; bringing it indoors and letting it shed needles all over; decorating the tree with lights and fragile items; waiting for weeks after the holiday to take it down.

1J. Sukkot - here the foliage structure is outdoors and in the rainy cold autumn. It's the closest that a Jew feels 'goyish' insofar that we all have to build something; the annual visit to Home Depot is the most goyish thing I do all year. The same decorations used for Thanksgiving (fruit, gourds) & Xmas (lights, tinsel, santa clauses inked in black) are used for the Sukkah. There's also indoor foliage - the arba minim - but the smells of that - Etrog, Hadas - are usually good (except if you left your lulav in its holder from last year - that's a bad stink). Same danger of being stuck although Xmas trees give lighter wounds than the ornery palm fronds.

2x. Gift giving to every person you know, which involves an enormous expenditure as well as the stress of trying to think of non-insulting gifts (something they like? something they won't hate? something that they can't use against me in armed combat?), and the stress of making sure that everyone is remembered.

2J. No one-time equivalent. Each component is present thusly:
  1. Gift giving = barely on Hanukkah, and only for the more secularly inclined.

  2. Enormous expenditure = Passover is the closest equivalent, either for food & cleaning or for taking the whole family away to a Pesach resort. But here the spending is focused on practical matters (well, I think going away for Pesach is baal tashchit, but whatever) - i.e. food and entertaining. OK, after Pesach, when you have thirteen leftover boxes of Celery Flavored Crispy-Os, it feels like a waste of money - but how would you have known that little Mendele would hate the cereal (he liked it last year!). But that pales in comparison to buying singing fish to your 13 co-workers.

  3. Making sure you remember everyone or they'll hate you = isolated for major/minor simchas. It's the same stress, I believe, but instead of every year, it's only for the bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings (and, yeah, if you're very frum that could be every year, but whatever).

3x. Sending Xmas cards with updates to everyone (or they'll hate you)

3j. People do this around the "high holidays" but (a) it's also, I think, more for the secularly inclined, (b) mainly women to women, (c) and not everyone does it - it's totally not expected.

4x. Whole Family congregating - creating strife for all involved (and the suicide watch for those without family)

4j. Ironically the only thing that comes close is Thanksgiving. Because all the other holidays have an issur melakha which means that not everyone can come at once. I guess the simchas could be the other equivalent (see above).

So, as you can see, while we do have the negatives of this holiday, the stress and expense is spread out over time.

As for the positives? Well, I'm on record that every positive associated with the celebration of Xmas (holding aside the weird virgin birth mythology) can be found better and more frequently on an ordinary frum Shabbas.

What do people like about Xmas? (1) family getting together, (2) big meal, (3) presents, (4) Xmas carols, (5) Xmas decorations/lights

And Shabbas, every Shabbas: (1) family meal together, (2) cholent, (3) no specific gift giving but many people make extra special things for Shabbas, whether it's flowers, special jewelry, etc. In our house it's Shabbas cereal and gleeder; (4) zemirot, (5) neirot, clean linens, the good silverware.

Pic from here.