Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Ranking the Comics, Part 1

{Contiued, from this backpost, started originally on Jan 24, 2009}

The comics service I subscribe to, gocomics.com claims on their homepage that Calvin & Hobbes is the greatest comic strip ever. Normally I don't take corporate claims seriously, but comics are a serious business (to me).

What are the top possible comic strips? Again, to me (in no particular order):
  1. Calvin & Hobbes (1985-1995)
  2. Peanuts (1950-2000)
  3. Doonesbury (1970-current)
  4. Bloom County (1980-1989)
  5. The Far Side (1980-1995)
  6. Pogo (1948-1975)
  7. Krazy Kat (1913-1944)
  8. Dilbert (1989-current)
  9. Get Fuzzy (1999-current)
  10. Baby Blues (1990-current)
  11. Citizen Dog (1995-2001)
  12. Sherman's Lagoon (1991-current)
  13. Foxtrot (1988-current)
  14. Ernie/Piranha Club (1988-current)
  15. The K Chronicles (1996?-current)
  16. Frazz (2001-current)
  17. Life in Hell (1977-current)
  18. The Spirit (1940-1952)
  19. Rube Goldberg's machines (1914-1970?)
Note, there are some classic strips that others do include on all time best (e.g. Lil' Abner) which I don't mainly because I just don't like reading them. Moreover, there are many really good comics out there that I like but don't think belong on an all-time list (e.g. Boondocks, Liberty Meadows, Non Sequitur). Just to note, while it's too early to say, one comic that has a potential to be an all-time-great is Cul-De-Sac.

I judge based on 6 criteria: (1) art quality [AQ] (being drawn well gets high regard from me), (2) readability [R] (a ranking of narrative/storytelling ability; is the comic a pleasure to read), (3) creativity [C] (how much does the artist/writer do with his charcters - e.g. Garfield has moments of creativity but is basically a one-joke strip, but makes it a higher rank than Beetle Bailey); (4) humor [H] (some comics are very high ranking in major categories but just isn't funny, e.g. Boondocks); (5) intelligence [I] (does the writer assume the reader is smart, how smart do you need to be to grok the strip), (6) wisdom [W] (does the writer teach the reader? Many strips get zeros in this category, taking them out of 'best of all time' running, and the ones that are highest in this category make it to the best). A seventh criterion - consistency - is hard to rank individually, so I average it into the whole series (e.g. at one point Blondie may have been a real rib-tickler, now eh...)

The full ratings and rankings in a moment. This is what took me so long to finish, originally.

Wisdom of Calvin And Hobbes

{Backpost: Started this Jan 24, 2009; This is a huge topic, so I'll cut this post off and try to finish the whole thing later.}

Is Calvin & Hobbes the best comic strip ever? Someone has claimed that, and it may actually be true. This came up because, in my Sociology of Gender Theory and Time Warp to Second Wave Feminism class, I found myself quoting/referring to the following, timeless, wisdom from the modern day philosophers of Calvin, Hobbes, via Watterson:

An example of a permanent, useful, strip (from Feb 23 1994): So I have a long discussion on this topic (so long that I had to stop writing it three months ago) and I hope to restart it in the sake of time-wasting, procrastination, and comprehensiveness.

Random Personal Firsts

As I was listening this morning to my tunes, I went through a list of personal musical/entertainment milestones - which, because I am as yet only a consumer not a producer - are all about acquisition. My wife produces (she's a moose-ishun) and I believe my role in the entertainment industry will be harnessing the talents of my kids. That said, the milestones:
  1. The first TV show I recorded on my home VCR: parts of the 1984 Summer Olympics

  2. First CD purchased: In 1986 (or so): Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles. [As with most of the following, this was a purposeful decision - to declare that this was the epitome of albumlyness.]
  3. First CDs acquired through the BMG Usury Club: "Digital Duke" by Duke Ellington, "Chronicle Vol 1" by CCR, "Rewind" by the Rolling Stones [All of these were to impress my father in the erroneous thought that he wouldn't mind me buying stuff if he liked the music as well; anon]

  4. First CD Box-sets: purchased simultaneously: The Temptations, Emperors of Soul & Led Zeppelin's Box Set. [This was my declaration that these were the two pillars of my soul-ar system - what music about which I wanted to be comprehensive.]

  5. First DVD: 1999 - "The Matrix" [like with Sgt. Pepper, I felt that this was the epitome of DVDyness]

And speaking of Temptations, courtesy of Dewey Cox:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sexual Abuse Among the Amish

{Backpost: From October 18, 2007, 11:33 am. All I had was the link}

This is an instructive story for those in the frum community who cannot understand that sexual predators are found everywhere. Charedim and Amish are often compared (mainly because they share wardrobes) and the lessons about predators in their midst are the same:
  1. There's an irreducible percentage of the population that is just plain bad-crazy. Total immersion in Chumash, Shas and Mussar will not change crazy. Removing outside/secular influences will not change crazy.

  2. All you can do with crazy is be vigilant and stop the sickos with the early warning signs. Halakha tells us this, ya know.

  3. You must understand that to the twisted, diseased brain of a predator, sheltered religious communities are Candyland. The victims have been taught to not question authority, and the predators are hidden by a cloud of systemic respectability (a rabbi wouldn't molest! A parent wouldn't harm his kid!) As such, even if you think that the percentage of sickos are going to be reduced because of the healing light of Shas, Poskim, and Rashi on Chumash, the predators from the outside will be drawn to these communities and the internal home-grown predators will thrive.
There is a difference between the Amish and Charedim, as the news story illustrates as seen in this quote about a victim: "Mary's father was killed in a buggy accident when she was 5."

{Amazing picture from this - totally unrelated story - on this blog.}

Mervin Verbit

Mervin Verbit is a distinguished professor of Sociology at CUNY - which was my second choice for grad school (they offered me a prestigious scholarship) after Brandeis - and I've seen his name referenced a bunch of times. But, I must admit a chronic weakness of mine, one that's shared by some of my heroes (notably, Dave Barry) which is that I cannot resist a funny name.

This man is a senior colleague in my field yet his name is a caraway seed in the dentures of my mind because his name is beautifully, tragically funny.

We were brainstorming what his middle name is: Bert? Gertrude? Murgatroyd?

Story illustrating the use of the name from this morning: I gave a gift to my eldest son: a small paper map of the 553 bus route. He loves it. It's got roads, railroad tracks, the letter T, etc. And there's the picture of the guy I call "Mr. Bus Man" - his smiling face is on a number of bus maps and the MBTA does not identify him. Is he a driver? Does he own a bus? Did he invent Boston? No idea. Anyway, my eldest asked me, naturally, who this guy was. My answer, also naturally: Mervin Verbit.

Mervin Murgatroyd Verbit, to be honest.

A la Grover, I am so ashamed.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Song of the Day: "Convoy" by C.W. McCall

One of the all time great novelty songs, Convoy (1975), by C. W. McCall. "All-time," because it's possible that the song launched the CB craze of the 1970s, which connected with concomitant 'fast driving Southerner' craze. Hence without the song, there'd be no Dukes of Hazzard (1979-1985), Clint "My Man" Eastwood's chimp movies, and the entire career of Burt "My Man" Reynolds (cf. Smokey and the Bandit 1976, Hooper 1978, Cannonball Run 1981, etc.).

Many of my all-time-favorite songs are 'story-songs' and this tune was made into at least one movie (regrettable, I've never seen it, but understandable given the cool story). Check out all of McCall's ouvre; he has consistent cool-goodness (which is the opposite of Bad Craziness). I also like snare drum music, and (what Wiki tells me is) Sprechgesang.

The music and lyrics can be found from this French site: C.W. McCall - Convoy. My clot of lawyers explains that you cannot download or use the MP3 on that site unless you purchase the song and/or are French.

Lyrics (fixed by me) [I need to make an annotated version]
(Uh breaker 1-9 this here's the Rubber Duck
you got a copy on me Pig'Pen? C'mon.
Uh yeah 10-4 pig-pen for sure, for sure.
By golly it's clean clear to Flag-town, C'mon.

Yeah that a 10-4 there Pig-Pen, yeah we definitely
got the front door good buddy.
Mercy sakes alive looks like we got us a convoy)

Was the dark of the moon on the
sixth of June in a Kenworth pullin' logs.
Cabover Pete with a reefer on
and a Jimmy Hauling hogs.
We's headin' for bear on I-one-oh
'bout a mile out a shaky-town.
I sez pig-pen this here's a Rubber Duck
and I'm about to put the hammer down.

(Cause we got a little ol' convoy rockin' thru the night
Yeah we got a little ol' convoy ain't she a beautiful sight
Come on and join our convoy ain't nothin' gonna get it in your way
We gonna roll this truckin' convoy across the USA. Convoy. Convoy)

(Uh breaker Pig-Pen this here's the Duck and a-you wanna back off with them hogs? Uh, 10-4. 'Bout five mile or so, 10. Roger. Them hogs is gettin' in-tense up here.)

By the time we got into Tulsa town we had eighty trucks in all.
But they's a road-block upon the clover-leaf and them bears was all to wall.
Yeah them smokies as thick as bugs on a bumper they even had a bear in the air.
I sez callin' all trucks this here's the duck we about to go a-huntin' bear.


(Uh you wanna gimme a 10-9 on that pig-pen?
Uh negatory pig-pen you're still too close
Yeah them hogs is startin' to close up my sinuses.
Mercy sakes you better back off another ten)

Well we rolled up Interstate 44 like a rocket sled on rails.
We tore up all of our swindle sheets and left 'em settin' on the scales.
By the time we hit that Chi-town them bears was a gettin' smart.
They'd brought up some reinforcements from the Illinois national guard.

There's armored cars and tanks and jeeps and rigs of every size.
Yeah them chicken coops was full of bears and choppers filled the skies.
Well we shot the line and we went for broke with a thousand screamin' trucks.
And 11 long haired friends of Jesus in a chartreuse Micro-bus.

(Oh rubber duck to sod buster come on here yeah 10-4 sod buster
Listen you wanna put that micro-bus in behind that suicide jockey?
Yeah he's haulin' dynamite and he needs all the help he can get)

Well we laid a strip for the Jersey shore, prepared to cross the line.
I could see the bridge was lined with bears but I didn't have a doggone dime.
I said Pig-Pen this here's the Rubber Duck; we just ain't a gonna pay no toll.
So we crashed the gate, doin' 98. I sez 'let them truckers roll.' 10-4.

CHORUS (with catcalls and hoots)

(Uh, 10-4 pig-pen what's your 20? Omaha!?
Well they oughta know what to do with them hogs out there for sure.
Well mercy sakes good buddy we gonna back on out of here.
So keep the bugs off your glass and the bears off your tail,
And we'll ketch ya on the flip-flop.
This here's the Rubber Duck on the side. We gone. Bye Bye.)
This Youtube clip is from some dude who put pictures to the lyrics (an art form which probably has a name, but I don't know it); the song is low-quality, the images even lower, but it's worth a glimpse:

Madoff and Me Update

Mr. Nonymous, an unknown Brandeis student (I believe), commented on my original post about the Madoff Chair, said that the plaque had been stolen. This was a good rib-tickler, or so I thought. Turns out that she/he was telling the truth (as the picture attests): someone took the plaque down. Will Madoff's trechery not cease?!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Not to criticize the profession of psychology, but do we really need a specific word or fear of clowns (Coulrophobia) - I mean, who doesn't fear clowns. That's sorta like defining 'fear of being poked in the eye with a sharp stick.' Although, it's true that I don't actually fear clowns as much as I distrust them. I certainly wouldn't let them marry...

Pic is of Tim Curry unbelievably evil clown in Steven King's It. Backpost finished on 2009-12-03.

The Doodle-Flu

My youngest son a stomach-flu two weeks ago, which spread quickly to my whole nuclear family. It started on Tuesday, the week before Purim, and my last day with it was Purim itself. The symptoms were all gastric (pretty similar to the ones of the food poisoning in Airplane!; I'll see if I can find a clip).

I call it the "doodle-flu" because I call my kids 'doodles' (yeah it's cutsie-poo; there's a long story behind it, but my kids are cute so it works for them).

We knew he wasn't feeling well because he had a lack of appetite even when we were in our favorite restaurant (as you can see in this pre-dated story): the Brandeis cafeteria. Then, near the end of the meal, my youngest let loose with a truly heroic Yorq.

We were mortified (this happened a few months ago to our oldest and we think that there's an unwritten 'three-yorqs-you're-out' clause somewhere). But they were very nice about it. We thought it could have been caused by any number of factors (kids don't need excuses to boot; for the first 12 months of their lives they boot frequently), but as the night progressed we saw that it was part of a constellation of symptoms that developed into the Doodle-Flu.

Now my youngest probably got it from some of his miscreant toddler friends at day-care, and when we called our doctor's office they told us that it was running rampant through Boston.

And that's what I was willing to believe, until this morning.

In preparation for telling the Campus newspapers about my Madoff chair, I went to the website of one of the two papers, The Hoot, where I saw this headline:
Kosher food not responsible for G.I. bug
by Ariel Wittenberg
March 13, 2009

The Health Center confirmed that there was no food poisoning in Sherman Dining Hall after 29 students came to the center complaining of vomiting and diarrhea.

The complaints came from students falling ill after eating at the dining hall, specifically, in the Kosher section; however, Nursing Director Kathleen Maloney said that these students were suffering from a norovirus, or “tummy bug,” and not food poisoning.


... [Nursing Director] Maloney said that only three of the 29 students who went to the health center with the virus reported on their health records that they followed a Kosher diet, despite the fact that rumors had speculated that Kosher food was to blame.

Jenna Rubin ’11, who chairs the Student Union’s Dining Services Committee, said that she heard the rumors of food poisoning from multiple students who, after becoming sick, refused to eat food that came from the Kosher Dining hall.

“They wouldn’t eat kosher food, so they couldn’t eat any food on campus,” she said. “They were eating chips and fruit for two days because they were so afraid of it.” [more]
Circumstantial evidence falls to blaming my young son - who is too cute for serious punishment; I still feel guilty.

Pic of a doodling bug, a doodle-bug, from here.

Madoff and Me

Unwittingly, I have occupied the Bernard Madoff Chair at Brandeis University. My recent, favored, seat in the library is in the Farber Mezzanine computer cluster/study area. I've found that it's quiet, the computers are good, and I was given a gift of a free copy/printer card that only works at that cluster. On pure chance, the carrel I prefer to use is on the far wall, and I've been sitting at the carrel for the past few weeks without noticing that it was donated by "Mr. & Mrs. Bernard Madoff." It could be the Madoffs of Hoboken, Weehawken, or Sheboygen... but I think it's Inmate # 61727-054.

I told the library people and they'll probably tell the campus newspaper (if not, I will), so this will become news soon. But it's my scoop, heh.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Steve Greenberg and Conservadox

One of the topics which I hope to spend more time researching (and publishing) is that of the denominations in Judaism. I am especially interested in the new formation of 'non-denominational' or 'trans-d' or 'post-d' (especially paired with the new 'partnership minyans') because these people, I claim, are basically conservative Jews who don't want to admit it.

Either they grew up Conservative and don't identify with them anymore - either because C is too liberal, too wishy-washy, too materialist, or what have you. I don't know too well because I haven't interviewed these people, but that's my assumption.

The ones I do know, who do belong to Partnership Minyans, are liberal Orthodox Jews who were taught Torah and Halakha but not about the philosophy of the halakhic process and were basically Conservative Jews for years without even knowing it.

No matter what they call themselves (trans, post, non) I still think of them as Conservadox: and by that I mean that they have the ideology of Conservative - which includes the conception of the halakhic process as constantly mutating and mutable - but with the basic practice of ignorant (Modern) Orthodox.

The ignorance is an important component; because while there are ignoramuses in both Modern and Charedi Orthodox, the ignorant Charedi does not have another system to fall back on to fill up the lacunae of knowledge: when they don't know what to do, or why they do what they do, they fall back on either superstition, minhag, or the combination of the two (what I label "tabloid halakha").

Ignorant Modern Orthodox fill in their gaps of knowledge with modern culture which makes them think like 21st Century Americans; which also fits in very well for whatever passes for Conservative halakha at this time.

The biggest aspect of the Orthodox born conservadox - again the people I'm most familiar with, so it could be for the whole group - is a bigotry against being called Conservative. They hate the label and will do whatever they can to still be called either 'Orthodox' or at least not-conservative.

Part of the bigotry comes from plain ignorance: they don't know what the terms mean; but related to that is the main impetus: when these people grew up, in their home cultures, being Orthodox was 'good' (authentic, real, valued) and Conservative was 'bad' (fake, invented, unauthentic). And to these labels they cling.

I have had many conversations with these people where I have to assure them, repeatedly, that being Conservative is OK if that's what they are. I emphasize that being honest in what you are, and what you believe, is important to yourself and to others. This is especially important for rabbis (see below).

The motto of Conservadox is "where there's a rabbinic will, there's a halakhic way." This motto, invented by Blu Greenberg (On Women and Judaism (JPS 1981) p.44 sez this), is the whole denomination in a nutshell. Blu herself is classic conservadox (her husband is more like Doobie-dox or who knows).

If you believe the truth of that statement then:
  1. You are ignorant of the halakhic process - get up right now and rush into a yeshiva and start learning
  2. You are on notice for being Conservadox
  3. Which I think is fine as long as you're honest about it
Why isn't it an Orthodox belief? Because there are some things which just can't be explained away with legal mumbo-jumbo. It only appears that it can from the position of someone who knows how halakha works from listening to (bad) rabbi sermons or reading the footnotes in the Artscroll Chumash.

Steve Greenberg

What does this have to do with Steve "The Gay Orthodox Rabbi" Greenberg? Well, this morning I had a discussion with my bar-plugta about him because he was the guest rabbi in Brandeis over Shabbas.

Side note: my bar-plugta (an Aramaic term, from the Gemara, meaning a sparring partner in learning) is the driver of my daily car-pool. That's the basis of the name I'm giving her in this blog as well: Bat-Plugta.

Anyway, Bat Plugta is a very spiritual, and religiously knowledgeable person, who nonetheless holds the diametrically opposite view on almost everything from what I have. We even disagreed about whether we like fast days (she does, I don't). She's conservadox with a capital D - e.g. she puts on tallis and tefillin - yet she is under the impression that she's comfortably within the Orthodox definition. Even though she admits that David Weiss-Halivni is her posek.

Anyway, she went to hear Steve Greenberg and was gushing over his perspective on halakha. While normally I bite my tongue when conversing with benefactors (the carpool is very helpful and I'll ride with a J4J if it shaves 2 hours off my commute), but I needed to put my foot down about Steve.

Basically, I stated, that while I sympathize with Greenberg's plight - the closet is hell - I repudiate his fundamental dishonesty about halakha. Like many gay clergymen, he tries to find a way that being gay and 'frum' is OK. It is not; that is pretty much fundamental. Yet in his machinations and contortions to make being gay A-OK he ends up following the 'progressive halakha' methodology of Conservative halakha.

Which means that when he calls himself an Orthodox Rabbi, he's lying. Bat Plugta, in arguing with me, claiming Steve's still an Orthodox Rabbi, brought up all the bad proofs I fear (including 'rabbinic will, halakhic way.') She also brought proofs of his Orthodoxy from rabbis that, alas, are on the cusp of being booted from the definition. But, critically, she said that Greenberg claimed that he doesn't like 'labels' and that he doesn't need to embrace being 'Orthodox' while at the same time she said he said (and now I'm saying) that he doesn't identify as 'conservative' either.

Well bully for him. Sadly, Steve seems to have stepped from one closet into another: and that's what Conservadox is, it's a closeted conservative trying to pass as Orthodox.

Note, you can be Orthodox and gay. Either you are celibate - which means a life of righteous self-torture - or you are a lifelong compelled sinner. I have compassion for those who are compelled, through uncontrollable urges, to sin. They fall under a specific category of "mumar l'teyavon" (sinners of appetite) and can be trusted in halakha for many things. It's a sad life - it would be unconscionable for me to deny the difficulty - but it's honest, and as halakhic as possible.

Jewish law about homosexuality, as opposed to other modern prohibitions (like women's learning etc), is consistent: halakha severely limits sex. It's clear. And halakha is pretty much anti-compassion when it comes to violating Torah prohibitions. If you think not, then you need to learn more. If that's not the kind of Judaism you like, then, again, either learn more, or find another Judaism - just don't call it Orthodox; it's dishonest.

The last word, for now, on this huge troubling concept: what I'm very worried about is how examples from Modern Orthodoxy of halakha that *has* progressed - e.g. women's learning, Zionism, secular learning - are being used by these deluded sinners to substantiate their attempts to step beyond the line. I'm worried because, when push comes to shove, allowing women to learn Gemara should not lead people to believe that homosexuality is mutar. And if the connection is made too often, then Modern Orthodoxy will die: it'll be a horrible sacrifice to jettison women's learning in order to persist in forbidding homosexuality, but it will be a sacrifice that the Orthodox leadership will make.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Irkutsk is Real

As you well know, the Onion is one of the finest sources of truth and wisdom; an example:
Risk Champ Flunks Geography Test
December 15, 2004 | Issue 40•50

ALBANY, NY—Alfred Wu, the 13-year-old winner of the 2004 East Coast Risk Championship, flunked his 8th-grade world-geography test, social-studies teacher Jane Laurent reported Monday. "His test paper was filled with names like Kamchatka and Yakutsk, and the Ukraine spread over half of Europe," Laurent said. "And, by his account, the U.S. is made up of only three states: Eastern United States, Western United States, and Alaska." Last week, Wu received an "F" on a paper he wrote about Napoleonic military Stratego.
Except, as I found out recently when looking at a map of the Former Soviet Union, these Risk provinces are now back in play.

For example, see this recent news story (from Vos-Iz-Neias) about a synagogue in Irkutsk!: Irkutsk, Russia - After 70 Million Rubles A 130-Year-Old Synagogue Fully Restored

Saturday Morning Watchmen (Video)

As I've mentioned before, I love me my Watchmen, and I dread my obsessive need to watch the (terribly reviewed) movie. Anyway, for those who know the book, and have a sick sense of humor, here's an awesome parody: "Saturday Morning Watchmen." The inside humor is vicious and delicious.

The original is from here, but some nice guy put it up on the 'Tube:

Monday, March 09, 2009

Simple Pleasures: Pom-Poms

We (my that I mean my wife) had as a project, to while away the time on a Sunday afternoon (easily the toughest parenting day at my kids' age - they need to be occupied and we still haven't built the hamster style energy-saving flywheel for them to scamper around in) to put together their Purim costumes. Since both my boys are addicted to Thomas the Tank Engine and associated products (an addiction I encouraged back in the day, more on that another time), the idea was to make train costumes. And to do so, we (again, my wife alone, mea culpa) had to go out and buy art supplies.

Now, I love art supplies. Always have. And my sons are chips off the old block. But the best part was how my youngest developed a sudden, and intense, lust for the fuzzy art supply pom-poms.

When my wife and two kids returned home, my youngest was clutching the bag of pom-poms as if it were a teddy-bear (did he know?). He wanted to have the bag opened immediately and I can imagine he was hoping to dive into the poms like Scrooge McDuck.

When I came back, after an hour or so, to the art-room (the basement playroom), it turned out that my youngest had opened both bags and had systematically strewn the poms all over the floor. It looked like, and I said so at the time, a muppet had exploded.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Jastrow Online

Over the past few days I have been obsessively going through the free downloads on Google Books. In general, I am a huge fan of the Google Books project - it is a dream of mine that I could do complete library research (with downloading and printing) while sitting at home (preferably in pajamas).

Google has been trying to scan books into their online engines; personally, were I a man with power (=money/elected office), I'd make a law to have every new book loaded online into the Library of Congress. Not scanned - like the googlers - but the actual text: since every book passes through a word processor at one point, this shouldn't be so hard.

Yeah, I know, Napster has killed popular music (note, it hasn't as far as I can tell), so Google Books will kill books. Bull-sheisse. Every author I know (including myself), while they naturally like money, like fame even more. And if a book is available to EVERYBODY at all times, like it would if it were online, then fame is as rapid as a key-word search.

Ahem. Anyway, Google, as part of their book project, has been scanning into downloadable PDFs as many books as they can that have lost their copyright. Which means many century, or more, books are now free for the taking. This includes a lot of Judaica, and that's what I've been plundering over the past few days.

One of the best finds? One half of the famed Jastrow Talmud dictionary is online, free to download: Jastrow: A Dictionary of the Targumim,etc. vol. 2

Volume 1 is still missing as a bulk download (but each page of the original is available here - but grabbing it page-by-page is too arduous for even this obsessive).

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Leonard Cohen is One of Us

I came across Leonard Cohen the way most people did - through Jeffrey Buckley's cover of Cohen's Hallelujah. The lyrics were amazing, and Buckley really sang the heck out of it (and the fact that Buckley suicided soon afterward gave extra pathos to the song.

But I was intrigued enough by the lyrics that I sought out the original version... and, when I heard *that*, I thought it was a joke. Compared to his natural cognate, Bob Dylan, Cohen's lyrics are better but his voice is worse! Yes, it's possible.

So I kept a space in my mind for honor for Cohen while staying far away from his mumbly monotone singing. But just now, I read a NYTimes story that says that Cohen is shomer shabbat! Which now raises my esteem for him to the highest level.

h.t. Imshin, pic from here, Backpost finished 2009-12-06.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Women Reading Megillah For Men (Hirhurim)

So you may have heard that Rav Ovadya shlit"a allows women to read megillah for men. According to R' Gil Student at Hirhurim this is not news and as such not as earth-shattering as it sounds. Read what he sez.

Pic is my crop of the Hirhurim logo. Backpost finished 2009-12-03.

Reagan Started It

Balloon-Juice sends along this good article/line from Joe Klein: (and you know it's good because I've been saying it for a while):
In truth, class warfare is what the Reagan Era gave us: thirty years of tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of the common weal, thirty years of lax regulations which enabled the bankers to strip-mine the savings of average Americans while reaping huge rewards in Ponzi schemes, like the micro-dividing of mortgage assets that were really debits. Once again, I'm not sure Obama's proposals will work--some will surely be more successful than others, there's a good chance that rather than being too bold, he isn't being bold enough--but I am absolutely certain where the continuation, or augmentation, of Reagan-Bush policies would leave us: even worse off than we are now."
Pic from here. Backpost finished 2009-12-03.