Friday, December 31, 2010

Video of the Decade: Oklahoooooooma!

Since everything will be 'of the decade,' and since that arbitrary (and arguably erroneous) milestone is soon passing, I want to share a discovery: somebody FINALLY put on youtube one of my favorite all-time SNL skits: Wedgie Fever.

Every time someone mentions the word "Oklahoma" I think of this skit. Warning: this is a pure example of male type humor

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kosher Tooth Fairy

My oldest child lost his first tooth yesterday. This was eagerly awaited; all his friends had lost a tooth already and this is a prepubescent milestone. Considering that I lost a tooth a few weeks ago, his event was much more celebratory.

In any case, he had heard about the tooth fairy but I had planned for this eventuality: how to eliminate the Anglo-Saxon superstitions that our culture is saddled with. It's bad enough that Xmas and other Notzrei Chazarai is in the air for one quarter of the year, but there's Disney and others talking about fairies and wishing upon stars.

My solution is that in every case where there's some intercessory minor divinity required, I bring out Eliyahu Ha-Navi (Elijah). Normally, I'm loath to adduce miracle making whoozits into my religious pantheon - so I eschew sephirot, malachim, Rebbe Meir Baal Ha-Nes, and the sundry Kabbalah Masters who sadly have found locale in contemporary Orthodoxy. Fie on all this avoda zara.

Yet, I am stuck with Eliyahu Ha-Navi as an immortal, ever-present visitor: it's in Tanakh, and all over liturgy. So I might as well use it. If Eliyahu comes to every Havdalah, Bris, and Seder, he can give my kids money for their teeth.

Pic is Gustav Dore's depiction of Eliyahu going up to Heaven.

Sperber Leaves Orthodoxy?

The JTA reports today that Rabbi Dr. Daniel Sperber is the chancellor of a new rabbinical school - the aptly named Canadian Yeshiva and Rabbinical School - which is to be the "middle ground between Conservative Judaism and what they describe as an increasingly rigid Orthodox movement."

So check out the leadership: all but Sperber are Conservative rabbis; faculty? All conservative rabbis, including Joel Roth and Wayne Allen, two of the brightest and most halakhically knowledgeable of Conservative rabbis.

Going through the entire faculty list yields only one non-JTS rabbi, Aaron Levy who's a musmakh of Chovevei... which seriously doesn't help matters for both schools.

So finally finally finally Sperber outs himself for what he really is: a conservative rabbi. Yeah, Dan, we Orthodox are so rigid and have 'moved to the right' - either that or you and your cronies have been pushing the goalposts so far to the left that all I had to do was stand still.

But, you may say, the JTA article does state:
Sperber, who is on the advisory board of Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, a liberal Orthodox rabbinical school in New York founded by Rabbi Avi Weiss, says the major hurdle will be attracting more Orthodox faculty. If the new school becomes identified as a Conservative institution -- a possibility, given that most of its leadership is Conservative -- Sperber said he will withdraw.
How seriously should I take that? Well, a hallmark of conservative halakha has been a remarkable short-sightedness; they advocate rapid, jerky change and then wonder why nobody follows D'orytas anymore. In the same vein, Sperber has jumped ship without bothering for the consequences (just as he did by advocating for the so-called partnership minyans).

Bottom line is that he has been a conservative rabbi for a while now. And the crazy part is that people will interpret that statement, and he will react to that statement, by thinking it's a slur. It's only a slur if you are a bigot. I'm not: it's perfectly OK to be a conservative Jew... just don't hide what you're doing behind the veneer of Orthodoxy, that's assur.

Yet for Sperber to believe that the yeshiva is good enough to join as chancellor, but only if it's not 'conservative' means that he's a bigot. Look, Dan, do you agree with your faculty? So what if they're "conservative" in name - you agree with them in what they do. So join them in name. Do everyone a favor and stop being a meisit.

P.S. I love how all the faculty with "s'mikha" are called "Rav." I believe this is in reaction to Rav Moshe Feinstein's practice of phonetically spelling out the English word "rabbi" in Hebrew when referring to non-Orthodox rabbis. Either that or it's the standard 'through the looking glass' way that conservative rabbis take standard halakhic terms and infuse them with their new denomination specific meanings.

Pic is of Sperber from his new yeshiva's website

The Holocaust and Guns

I just finished a stint as a teaching assistant for a Holocaust history class this semester. It was a fascinating class with a brilliant professor but, naturally, it was horrible. I've purposefully kept away from the topic all my life, not because I'm trying to ignore or hide the facts, but because a little bit of emotional dread goes a long way with me (and my family). I lost many relatives; I'm named after two brothers of my grandfather who were murdered; but I have tried to avoid the soul-crushing intensity that a dive into the holocaust waters would bring.

Well, there went that plan out the window. The class met for an hour three times a week, which meant I was depressed for most of the time. True story: I got the last word in class - the last day we have a class-wide discussion and I explained to the mass of undergraduates, many of whom were born the year when I was a college freshman, that studying the Holocaust is different when you're a able-bodied single adult than when you're a married parent. As a 20 year old, you can imagine being in the resistance, escaping a ghetto, hiding out in the woods etc. As a parent, all you imagine is your children being murdered. Again, it was horrible.

One natural response of a study of the Holocaust is Zionism, but it's a bit more complicated than that. One disturbing realization of the history is that while the mass murder started in Western Europe, aided by a culture of anti-semitism that reacted to the gains of liberal Jews in Weimar Germany, for the most part the assimilated Jews of the Western countries managed to escape. E.g. 50% of German Jews escaped, and many more would have survived if they had decided to identify as Jews (and thus flee) and not as loyal Germans (and thus stay, wearing their WWI uniforms).

Who were the overwhelming victims? Orthodox Jews who were estranged from their home countrymen (Poland, Lithuania, Belarus) - and the estrangement led to a mutual hatred. One way to see it is that the assimilated Jews of Germany angered the Western European murderers who took over the backward Slavic nations and slaughtered the unassimilated Jews. One lesson I take from this is another support for Modern Orthodoxy, but the whole subject is too dreary for clean lessons.

A question I do ask is why Jews in the diaspora don't own more guns. Zionism is a natural response to the Holocaust, but Zionism isn't limited to the land of Israel. This is a large topic - the debate between political vs. cultural Zionism - but you don't need to go as crazy as the JDL to wonder why Jews don't have a gun in the tool-shed for protection against our crazy neighbors.

My quick answer is that (a) Jews in the US are primarily urban and the anti-gun laws are severe in cities, and the response time of police is quick (especially since Jews, as prima-facie middle-class Caucasians, are preferred clients of law enforcement); (b) Jews are pro-natalist (i.e. we have many kids) and guns and kids don't mix; (c) Jewish law forbids hunting, and eating food shot to death, so it's not in the culture that way; (d) it's tough to be a Jew in the military and that's where gun familiarization occurs.

Those are at least most of the reasons why I haven't already purchased a load of weapons after a semester of being scared out of my mind with Holocaust horror.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Polygamy and Pilegesh

I was at a conference on Monday at the HBI with the topic: "Polygamy, Polygyny, and Polyamory: Ethical and Legal Perspectives on Plural Marriage." Now I naturally went to the conference expecting that a massively feminist organization like the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute would *oppose* polygyny (multiple wives), polyandry (multiple husbands) maybe, but definitely not polygyny. I based this on my own knowledge of the practice which basically treats women as property and was eliminated from Western and Jewish tradition through the combined force of the otherwise disenfranchised women. It's in fact the best proof that women had 'unofficial' power over the past few centuries.

Well, was *I* in for a surprise. I was only able to go to the first and third sessions (see the above link for the schedule) but that first session was the weirdest, most disturbing, academic panel I'd ever heard. It was filled with pro-polygamy weirdos and the audience, filled with feminists, didn't grab pitchforks and torches - rather they seemed to find the whole thing awesome.

How?! Well, in the airy academic world of anti-empiricism, all that's necessary is to have a compelling *idea* plus one or two anecdotes, and you're all set with a policy proposal! These doofi don't seem to bother with thinking about what the future would look like once the plans are implemented; I guess that's why communism is alive and well in the academy even though it's dead in every country it's been attempted.

There were some sane people in the crew. Prof. Elimelech Westreich, gave a detailed talk on polygamy in halakha, and the best stuff was from Prof. Alean Al-Krenawi who has published studies on the psychological impact of polygamy. His work shows that there's severe unhappiness and anomie in polygamous families. His was the last talk and I could see that he was nearly quivering with frustration and how all these progressives were seriously accepting what he knows to be a retrograde, and even evil, practice.

Yet, the biggest repudiation needs to be given to Prof. Zvi Zohar who spoke about his advocacy for pilagshut, a.k.a. Biblical concubinage (see above for "weird and disturbing"). His article, and a bunch of other wickedness, is found here.

Zohar's point is that there are many current social problems - a singles crisis, an agunah crisis, and his main focus: the crisis of liberal Orthodox Jews who wait until their 30s to get married but want to have sex in their 20s - that can be solved by re-instating 'pilegesh.'

To put it simply, Zohar's idea is both pernicious and ignorant. Pernicious because it will cause many more social problems than it would possibly solve, and of those it cares about, the only thing that will be helped is guiltless sleeping around. It will actually prolong the singles crisis, it won't help agunahs because he acknowledges that people will eventually get married anyway. So all he wants to do is allow nominally-frum Jews to sleep around. Yipee. It's basically the equivalent of saying "people are driving to shul, so let's just make driving OK on Shabbat!" And boy did that work out.

It's ignorant because he actually read the "Pilegesh at Giva" story as somehow advocating pilagshut instead of it being a CLEARLY OBVIOUS ATTACK ON PILAGSHUT. Its kinda like reading the golden calf episode as a support for golden idols.

Anyway, I will end my trashing of his idea with one of my favorite Onion stories: "Desperate Vegetarians Declare Cows Plants"

Weird Thought of the Day: The 90s vs 00s

My brother and I have light-hearted kerfuffles over the value of 70s music (me) versus 80s music (me). We both agree, as guys in their late 30s will do, that all music in recent years doesn't match up. However, it got us thinking about the nostalgia recreation of those two decades and whether there's an actual taste/feel of the 90s versus the 00s? Is there any difference? Probably there is, given that my taste has been blunted by the fact that I can't remember much about those two decades as I was busy living life, but it's something that I'm going to investigate further. As far as I can tell, the two decades feel indistinguishable in terms of fashion, music, and taste. Sure, one decade was filled with peace, prosperity and joy (Clinton Years) and the other was war, hatred and death (Bush years) but did that effect movies and music?

Friday, November 05, 2010

Do the Chinese Understand

That this makes the Nobel people look like they made the perfect choice?: "China Urges Europeans to Snub Nobel Ceremony":
China is pressing European governments to boycott the ceremony awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, warning that the award interferes in China’s internal affairs and that Mr. Liu is a criminal
That's one reason why I'm not entirely afraid of China, because they are terrible members of the international community, and that stuff does matter. Just like in ordinary micro-economics, you may have the best product, but if people don't respect you, they will choose every excuse not to deal with you.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Reaction to Tuesday's Midterms

Some quick reactions from Tuesday's Midterm Elections. Note, when I say "we" that refers to "Democrats" and/or "(Normal) Jews" and/or "(Normal) Americans". This is because, as I said Monday, the current Republican party is bizarrely more evil in intention than the ideas backing the Bush Years:
  1. This could have been much much worse. As the dust settles, the Democrats lost only 1 House. Many of the lost seats in the Senate should have been quite safe (PA, Ill-a-freakin'-Noise) and that's a depressing sign. But considering that Teabaggers were defeated in many places, that California stayed Blue, and that Harry Reid's Faustian deal is still under warranty, means that it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

  2. The irony about Reid is that if anyone is responsible for the current failure of the Democrats, it's Reid. As I said in the intro, it's a given that the current GOP is freakishly evil (see below), but the only places where their evil could reign was SCOTUS (which is a lost cause until Scalia and Thomas get incapacitated by their own hatred of humanity), and the Senate. Despite the Dems having a historically high 60 seats, Reid allowed the Senate Republicans to destroy most attempts to repair the economy and help America. It's that bad. And because of the deadlock in congress, more people are out of work than should be, the health care plan is flaccid, and Obama's appointees are stalled in committee. All this evil was hated by the American people who returned their ire on... House Democrats. Who were by and large heroes these past 2 years. If there was any justice, Reid should have lost, the Dems should have kept the Senate - and House.

  3. Which leads to the most infuriating result of Tuesday. While it's bad enough that the disturbing and malevolent John Boehner will be the new speaker, and that the Teabaggers have renewed vigor, what I'm especially angry about is that the GOP tactic of legislative anarchy worked for their benefit. The GOP is better at "playing the ref" than the Dems, mainly because the GOP is ideologically anti-government! Even when the Dems were trying to stop Bush's evil, in general their party is in favor of legislation. GOPers can take it or leave it. They may have claimed that they were trying to stop laws that hurt the American people, but only morons or fanatics actually believe that was true. Seriously. The proof is that the GOP supported everything they claim Obama stands for when Bush was the president. Every (non-alcoholic/moron) in Congress knew that we needed economic stimulus, health care, and bank reform - the GOP just didn't want those vitally important things to happen under a Democratic president. Which makes them a special type of evil.

    Note, this proof is the same one behind the Teabaggers: (1) if you don't like deficit spending, then why did you support Bush's epic/disgusting ballooning of the deficit? Because you want tax cuts and crazy wars? OK, yeah, you do. But it's because they're bigoted fiends; (2) if you hate health care reform, why did you support the Medicare Prescription Drug Boondoggle? I could go on but the pattern is obvious.

  4. The Republicans spent 2 years blocking vitally important legislation - that they supported and knew would help get people jobs, medicine, life - in order to help their electoral chances... and it worked. And the American people fell for it. And I just threw up in my mouth.

    And because it worked, the GOP will do it again and it will work again. It's bad enough to know that evil has gone unnoticed, it's worse to know that it will keep happening.

  5. It's possible that Obama should be blamed for not strongly broadcasting the GOP evil before Nov 2. It is my biggest cavil with the president: that I want him to fight more. Yeah, it's nice to be 'non-partisan' but evil is evil and must be stopped. However, in retrospect, I have to blame the House/Senate democrats - and thus the DNC - for the responsibility of carrying out that message. It was their gooses about to be cooked and their legislature to be explained, and thus I blame their loss on themselves.

  6. The big silver lining about the election is that - based on the GOP Evil Analysis above - that the hidden enemy of Republican Obstructionism now has a face. Ya see, as I've experienced in my own life, it's part of the American psyche to dismiss the excuses behind loss and failure. Bush lied, stole 2000, so what - he crossed the finish line and now we can move on to the next horse race. So too in Congress - so what if the GOP committed legislative fraud and grand evil over 2 years - it's not visible therefore its not provable. Yet now Bone-nert/Bay-nert/Boonert is the orange face of Congress. And we have a clear, easily spotted - even at night - enemy of Democracy.

  7. Other good news - Massachusetts stayed Blue. The Scott "Nudie Model" Brown debacle of 2009 did not repeat.

  8. On the unknown/bad news front: one piece of info I was looking for in the news organs is probably the most crucial factor of the Midterms - the makeup of State legislatures in those states that will gain/lose Congressional seats because of the new census. As Obama said on the Daily Show, the two biggest anti-Constitutional enemies to the Republic are (1) the filibuster, especially in the hands of the anarcho-nihilistic burglars of the GOP, and (2) gerrymandering of House districts. The GOP has succeeded in the former and may now succeed in the latter.

  9. The last reaction for now has to do with newspapers. I sought out a (free) New York Times on Tuesday morning because I felt that I needed to have a good analysis and breakdown of the effects of the Midterms. Yet, I didn't get one. Not only was the newspaper frozen in time while reporting on a constantly shifting fact landscape, what information they did contain was fluffy and pedestrian. I wanted numbers! I wanted facts about losses and wins and causes and effects. Instead the paper was filled with reaction pieces about mood and feelings. It was useless. The internet wins again - not only because its up-to-the-second in news, but because the possible info is BETTER.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Tea Party Republicans

Frank Rich yesterday claimed, correctly, that: "What made the Tea Party most useful was that its loud populist message gave the G.O.P. just the cover it needed both to camouflage its corporate patrons and to rebrand itself as a party miraculously antithetical to the despised G.O.P. that gave us George W. Bush and record deficits only yesterday."

Very true. The Teabaggers, aka The Fort Sumpterists, are the latest in the group of dupes who fall for the cynical robber-barons of the current GOP. The tea-partiers who have genuine grievances should seriously be directing their energy against the GOP, and their perpetuation of the Bush years of disgrace and plunder. They won't because, bottom line, they are bigots. It's funny how this simple fact should still be in dispute. Why is their ire creepily directed against the Black President and the Lady Speaker?

Is it relevant that the Teabaggers are bigots? So what, you may ask. Well it's crucial because:
  1. The GOP has embraced these sick fools, and that shows that the GOP is happy fellow-traveling with the scum of America. One sad lesson I get from this semester's study of the Holocaust is that the conservatives in Europe in the 1930s felt they could control the wacko radical right in their countries and while they succeeded in Italy, Romania, Hungary etc this gambit failed in Germany. And Germany was able to then take over all the conservative governments, ain't that funny. Radical Rightists are bad news no matter the era or nationalist-bugbear. And the Teabaggers are the radical right.

  2. The teabaggers will come after the Jews with the same fervor they reserve for their Nigerian Presidential delusions. Another lesson I learn from the Holocaust is that the crazies actually mean what they say. Listen to their rhetoric.

  3. There can be no Jewish Tea Party as a result, and I'd claim there should be no Jewish support for a political party that embraces Tea Partiers. Then again, the fact that a Republican candidate for Congress in Ohio happily dresses up like an SS officer should cement this conviction. Yet there are Jewish Republicans still because Obama is perceived as not a friend to Israel. Look, his state department has definitely screwed up, but as I've said many times before, there has not been one single 'fact on the ground' as a result of this - as opposed to the Bush years which gave us a Shiite Iraq, a Hamas controlled Gaza, and two failed Mideast wars - greatly reducing the American ability to contain Iran.

    Jewish republicans: don't get blinded by racism or greed! - the GOP is not our friend!
  4. One last lesson from the Holocaust for now: that in every country where the Jews felt they were safe because they were rich, or part of the ruling class, we were quickly tossed to the wolves when the Nazis came knocking. Just being Jewish is a death sentence to the radical rightists of the world. You may think this is hyperbole, or a generalization, or even a cliche, but I've been going through the historical record in detail and it's nauseating how often it happened.
Pic from here of the GOP scumball in his SS uniform. Note, according to the Wiki: "He supports Israel's right to self defense and the American obligation to support it; he opposes a Palestinian state formed by taking land from Israel, a divided Jerusalem, and believes that the UN has become irrelevant." A lesson for you holdout GOP Jews: Actions speak louder than words. Dressing as a Nazi is a red line, no? Or does it matter when your hatred of blacks and/or greed for low taxes come into play?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Video: Oy Lei!

Tonight I saw the below song from Phineas and Ferb - the only really good kids show I've seen in decades. I actually look forward to watching it with my kids. They have at least one song every show and the following is an expansion of the character Vivian Garcia-Shapiro, a Jewish Mexican. My mom will love this.

The lyrics are from the dude who put the clip up:

It's a Mexican-Jewish cultural festival!
Mexican-Jewish cultural festival!
There is kreplach on tostada,
'Cept for picking a piñata.
We kibitz when we lambada.
How are things in Ensenada?
We put bottles on cabezas
We do mitzvahs up on mesas
And we're coming to your places
With big smiles upon our faces.

(Both parts repeat at the same time.)

Robert Reich about the 2010 Midterms

This is a great essay from from Robert Reich (at Salon) about how to understand the upcoming midterm election. The key points he makes, under the rubric of advising Obama not to move to the "center":
1. There is no "center" to American politics. The "center" is merely what most people tell pollsters they think or want at any given time. Trying to move to the center by following polls means giving up on leadership because you can’t lead people to where they already are.

2. By the first midterm the public is almost always grouchy because the president wasn’t a messiah and didn’t change the world. No single president has that kind of power. The higher the expectations for change at the start of an administration, the greater the disillusionment.

3. Presidents’ parties always lose the first midterm elections because the president isn’t on the ticket, and the opposing party has had time to regroup and refuel. It’s always easier for the party on the outs to attack -- and to mass troops for the assault -- than for the party inside to defend.

4. The economy trumps everything else, even though presidents aren’t really responsible for it. So when it’s bad -- as it was during the first midterms of Carter, Reagan and Clinton -- voters penalize the president’s party even more than usual. When it’s very bad, the electoral penalty is likely to be that much larger.
But read the whole thing.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Don't Pay the Ferryman, Part 2

As I posted earlier today, I enjoy the song "Don't Pay the Ferryman" and as part of the celebration for this song, I played it for my middle child. He likes the song and was boogying around to it in our living room. When we put him in for a nap, he was still grooving to it and was singing the lyrics (which he made up) at the top of his lungs. Below is a small clip, recorded off the child-monitor audio, of his 20+ minute rendition of "Don't Pay the Ferryman" (lyrics by Chris de Burgh and Jota Minuscula Styx)

Song of the Day: Don't Pay the Ferryman (1982)

The current song of the day is "Don't Pay the Ferryman" (1982) by Chris de Burgh. This song is great because it's part of a good 1970s rock tradition of gothic storytelling, along the lines of Hotel California.

The song is cheesy, but it does what good rock should do: get caught in your head, tell a good story, and allow you to scream out the lyrics in a culturally significant way.

Lyrics (from here):

It was late at night on the open road,
Speeding like a man on the run,
A lifetime spent preparing for the journey;

He is closer now and the search is on,
Reading from a map in the mind,
Yes there's the ragged hill,
And there's the boat on the river. And when the rain came down,
He heard a wild dog howl,
There were voices in the night - "Don't do it!"
Voices out of sight - "Don't do it!
Too many men have failed before,
Whatever you do,

Don't pay the ferryman,
Don't even fix a price,
Don't pay the ferryman,
Until he gets you to the other side;

In the rolling mist, then he gets on board,
Now there'll be no turning back,
Beware that hooded old man at the rudder,
And then the lightning flashed, and the thunder roared,
And people calling out his name,
And dancing bones that jabbered and a-moaned
On the water. And then the ferryman said,
"There is trouble ahead,
So you must pay me now," - "Don't do it!"
"You must pay me now," - "Don't do it!"
And still that voice came from beyond,
"Whatever you do,

Don't pay the ferryman,
Don't even fix a price,
Don't pay the ferryman,
Until he gets you to the other side;

Don't pay - the ferryman!
While I know the song from listening to 'greatest hits of the 80s' albums, others know it because of a priceless scene from MST3K:

One My Favorite Comics

Short Post: the attached comic is one that cracks me up every time. It's gross, but funny.

Long Post: It's a too-cool-for-school trait for people to bash Garfield. There's a now infamous product of the 21st Century, Garfield Minus Garfield, which capitalizes on the hatred, attempting to show the strip is funnier without the title character. Yet I, he who takes comic strips way too seriously, find Garfield a reliable read. Why the dissonance from the screaming masses (a.k.a. why am I right and they wrong)?

I believe there's two main reasons for the cultural opprobrium: (1) it's an old strip and people who feel they are out of comic-page reading can attack it as a symbol of the youth they've left behind, and/or to attack the child they used to be and hate.

(2) More likely, it's because of the crass commercialism of Jim Davis, head of Garfield Inc. He's unabashed in his desire to create Garfield for mercenary purposes, and the comic is exploited in nearly every possible way. Note, this exploitation was also performed by Charles Schultz of Peanuts, but he was given a pass because his strip is so deep (it was rarely *funny* but it was solid - almost literary in its resonance and application; Dickens was commercial too, but he's still assigned in English class - Schultz is the Dickens of comics, and you can quote me).

Garfield is very rarely deep, it's commercialism runs through its core. And while Schultz was drawing the strip until days before his death, Davis (early on) outsourced the strip to others (as far as I know Davis just picks up checks). So the main opprobrium comes from cultural doyens, like me to be honest, who resent a guy being so successful in art by intentionally abusing the form.

Two caveats: (1) Some people may actually not find Garfield funny at all - hey, there's no accounting for taste. You may be excused. I'm dealing with people who attack it while not actually reading it (see below). (2) However, the Garfield-bashers, the subconsciously honest ones, don't attack it for being without merit, mainly because they know they can't. It's sorta like attacking Dane Cook - whose success is resented and hated, but whose act can only be considered mean/evil/crass/mercenary and not just straight out inexplicable.

This example, Garfield as Dane Cook, is to distinguish these artists from those who achieve opprobrium for being straight out insults to existence - i.e. they are so unfunny/untalented that it's insane they are still being published/paid. So, in comics, the go to example is often Marmaduke. Which I'm fine with, but it's not so exclusive - the comics page is clogged with strips who have the equivalent of tenure: creative thinkers who may have been productive once, but who have been ossified into obsolescence by the passage of time: Hagar, B.C., Broom Hilda, Hi and Lois, Beetle Bailey, etc.

Who's the stand-up comic equivalent of Marmaduke? Maybe Jay Leno? It's harder to find a comparison, because standup is the most brutal art form there is and has no tolerance for coasters. Maybe Robin Williams has become Marmaduke - except that when Robin was young (and, sad to say, coked out the wazoo) he was the funniest on stage. Wow was he good. I can't imagine Marmaduke was ever good.

This brings up another fascinating point, alluded to above: most of those who attack Garfield don't read the current strip. People just *know* that it's an acceptable bashing-body. How do we know this type of thing. I'm sure, as a half-sociologist, I should know the phrases/reasons, oops.

But it's sort of how I just know that I, as a late-30s male, am supposed to (a) be preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse, (b) hate clowns, and (c) mock Twitter and Facebook. So too, people know that you're supposed to mock Garfield. I probably would too, if I didn't actually read comics.

The Mandelbrot dies, 85

The Benoît B. Mandelbrot has passed away, at age 85, from cancer. From the Times: "[he] was born on Nov. 20, 1924, to a Lithuanian Jewish family in Warsaw. In 1936 his family fled the Nazis, first to Paris and then to the south of France, where he tended horses and fixed tools." Pretty tough dude, Litvak Shoah survivor, mathematical genius. Sigh, I'm now imagining the 6 million of people like him who were murdered (a terrible after-effect of my being a teaching assistant for a class on the Holocaust).

My brother knows his son. And, no, I don't think Benoit invented the paisley tie, let's not sully his name.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Oren: "An End to Israel's Invisibility"

I guess one of the only reasons to read the Times is for Michael Oren's occasional op-ed. Thank God for Oren - he's really the only competent member of the current Israeli government. Op-Ed Contributor - An End to Israel’s Invisibility -

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Friendly Note of Bile

A piece of cynicism I created a bunch of years ago came up in conversation this morning so I felt I should put it out on the tubes. There was a hippie slogan from the 60s: "What if they gave a war, and nobody came." This is in line with John Lennon's doofus song "Imagine" (great song, moronic context).

The bile is: Well if nobody came, then the hippies win. If only one side comes, then that's called conquest.

Pic from here.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

It's 10-10-10

It's an arbitrarily significant day!

Monday, October 04, 2010

10-4: Talk Like a Trucker Day

It took these guys (which had a picture of the greatest trucker who ever lived, Jack Burton) to inform me that today is Talk Like a Trucker Day (get it, 10-4?).

Here's a set of phrases to help ya'll out. Go here for my nostalgia for "Convoy" to get yo'self in the mood.

Back out from Bean-Town. Bah-bah.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Erev Rosh Hashanah Prize

Most of the shomrei Shabbat teachers, including professors, that I know have a subtextual contest with each other about who has a worse holiday teaching season. Because Labor Day was Monday, and Erev Rosh Hashanah is today, most schools started this week and the schedules have forced tzorris, schpilkis, and agita among the whole profession. I was present at a one-upsmanship session where I was able to present the winner of the worst teaching schedule prize, won by me by proxy for my wife:

My wife's first day of teaching is *today* and she's teaching until 5:00 pm.

Please, please, hold your applause. But send help.

Pic from here.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Top 5 Reasons to Make Aliyah

5. The dream of 2000 years has finally been fulfilled

4. Married to a Gush guy

3. Pesky Cossaks

2. Am a Jew born in any country besides Israel or U.S.

1. Want to avoid three-day yuntif

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Why We are Americans

I've heard of Canadians, Mexicans, and others who associate themselves with this hemisphere of the Americas protest why the residents of the United States refer to themselves as "Americans." The argument is that USAers shouldn't hog the name "American" - because everyone in North America and Central America and South America are also "Americans." (See the lyrics to the above song to hear the full set of whines).

So two reactions to this, and one answer:

Reaction 1: The impetus to this complaint seems to be envy badly disguised as pique.* Why else would anyone want to claim the title of 'American' if it weren't so cool/important to be from the United States? The whiners could claim that since they are also in the Americas, they are tarred with the same opprobrium of we in the U.S.

Answer: What is the country of Canadians? Canada. What is the country of Mexicans? Mexico. I could go on, but if you look at a list of the countries of the world, you'll see that there is only one place that has the word "America" in its name: the U.S.A.

Reaction 2: Given that logic states we should be called "Americans," and that the only reason to protest the name is pique or terminal whinging, I do need to ask what these fragile freaks suggest we call ourselves? Uniteds? Meh.

* L'havdil, it's akin to every aggrieved group claiming their particular tragedy is a 'holocaust.'

Friday, August 20, 2010

Birthday-Anniversary Season

The mid-summer has many happy occasions for my immediate family; in a 4 week period it's the birthday of: my brother, father, and myself and the anniversary of: me and my parents. So, a little late, but the official celebration videos:

For all the birthdays:

and, of course, for the Anniversaries.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Moonraker (Two Thoughts)

Moonraker is now on. OK, I promised not to live-blog this, but just two thoughts: (1) for those making lists of necessities for evil overlords, need to make room on their rosters for The Countdown Guy ("twenty seconds and counting...")
(2) The ending is fine, it has the "big battle in the enemy strong-hold" that we loved in other films, even if it's a crazy cheezy space battle. But the part of the movie where Bond needs to shoot down the death-gas capsules with the space-shuttle laser is one of the best scenes in all Bond-dom. I must admit this, in sheer honesty.

And, because I can't let it rest, I must explain why the ending is so damn good: because it's necessary within logic and the plot. Most of Moonraker involves absolutely idiotic, near suicidal, behavior. Nobody does anything that makes a lick of sense; even though numerous action sequences occur, false tension is created, but no logical person would feel emotion since everyone is a cartoonish gasbag. But the ending is necessary, plausible, and tense. Honor due.

The Spy Who Loved Me

Many stupid Bond fans think this is a decent movie. It ain't. It's on TV now, and I want to comment via live-blogging.

"The Spy Who Loved Me" was made during the plot-rails Roger Moore era. His plots usually were driven by the external Hollywood need to have exciting action and not to follow earthly human reason. Basically, the series had gone on long enough that the writers/producers stopped making 'spy thrillers' and just made 'Bond films' (which meant: gadgets, exotic locations, and weird fights).

The movie's premise is stolen from You Only Live Twice - e.g. a third party terrorist kidnaps vehicles from the US and USSR in order to induce WWIII - and this includes the fun 'major army takes over kooky evil man base.' That's good, no question, but it's derivative. And YOLT was better because (a) it was first, and it had (b) Connery, (c) ninjas and (d) a volcanoo. Also, the plot point of a eugenicist billionaire was recycled for the next, and even worse, movie (Moonraker).

But a key problem of recycling from YOLT is that while that movie used a spaceship to swallow up other (US/USSR) spaceships, TSWLM has a big boat swallow up submarines. OK, so lets see how the premise doesn't carry. In 1965, spaceships were basically just non-maneuverable orbiting bricks and so there's some logic that they could be kidnapped by being swallowed from behind.

But submarines being swallowed by a surface ship? They are called submarines for a reason. They just need to go DOWN! And if thinking in 3-dimensions is too hard for Hollywood writers (I assure you, all mariners and aviators are trained to do so, but hack writers can't) then the submarine still has guns and torpedoes! Shoot the frickin' boat before it swallows you! It's what they sub does at the end of the movie when it needs to escape, so it's not like they didn't know about guns in their planet.

Also, each ship was kidnapped because the bad-guy wanted their nuclear weapons (which, unbeknownst to the crew, were to be launched against all major world cities - in a purposeful plan of world annihilation). That's a quite crazy plan, admittedly, but I believe that all nuclear sub crews would kill themselves willingly than let their subs be captured by a hostile - because even one rogue nuke is a world nightmare.

Logical, no? So when the submarine is swallowed by the supertanker - by sitting there on the surface, like Tanya Roberts being kidnapped by a blimp in "A View to a Kill" - and Stromberg threatens to kill the crew with cyanide, they all give up. Why?! Given, the dire nature of captured nukes, they should never had been there in the first place and should also fight to the last man.

Anyway, skipping to the end: after Bond succeeds in diverting the nuclear missiles, and enjoys some success, suddenly the ship starts exploding - forcing their escape. Why?! There's no actual cause for the explosion! Except, as they say on TV Tropes, it's made of explodium.

Hollywood Idiocy: The Showdown

At the end of the movie, Bond asks the Pentagon to hold off destroying Stromberg's base so he can save Anya. Bond builds a jet ski (seriously; even though the sub has to go the base anyway in order to shell it - this is a worthless action by Bond) and then sails to Stromberg. When he shows up, Stromberg tries to kill him with the elevator, but Bond outsmarts him (it's dumb). Then Bond, gun drawn, confronts Stromberg - asking him where Anya is. Stromberg doesn't say and instead he asks Bond to sit down... and Bond does! Why?!? He has only a few moments before the sub shells the station, and he sits down?!

Ah, it's because the plot requires it. Ya see, Stromberg has a clever device - a gun that is immobile and only can kill someone if you're sitting in JUST THAT CHAIR, and so Bond is forced to sit there. Oh, the gun has only one shot. So Bond sits down, Stromberg pulls the trigger, and Bond jumps up before the bullet - made of marmalade? - travels down the bullet tube. OK, so then at that point Bond gets angry and kills Stromberg by pointing the gun in the exact tube and firing - thus shooting Stromberg in the gonads.

Do you understand the logic in all this? Bond kills Stromberg - which he could have done when he came in, but waits to get some info - and after Stromberg is disarmed... Bond shoots him anyway. Stupid and pointless. It's only there to allow Bond to blast the bad guy in the nuts.

Anyway, earlier in the movie, Stromberg recognizes Bond as an enemy agent. Earlier in the film, Stromberg kills some scientists by dropping them through a false bottom in his elevator. He doesn't do this to Bond. Rather he lets Bond go and tells Jaws to kill him outside the ship. Why? Stromberg was already willing to kill people in his own ship before. The only reason to do this is to create a chase scene. Which hurts my brain!

And Jaws' plan for killing Bond? To send a motorcycle equipped with a rocket propelled bomb disguised a sidecar. Which of course misses. Then, when that fails, Jaws chases after Bond in a car - shooting at him with a pistol. Then when that doesn't work, he has the best looking Bond babe ever (seriously), named Naomi, shoot at Bond with a machine-gun toting helicopter.

Now, I'd like to explain how a person is supposed to write a fiction plot: there's supposed to be a correspondence to how people in the actual world think and act or otherwise people (like me) cannot suspend our disbelief - because logic is the food of consciousness. Without logic, my brain rebels.

OK, so according to the writers, Stromberg, the genius billionaire's, plan is to not kill Bond in the same secret untraceable way which worked before but instead to do so in public using a wildly untested method of unguided remote control sidecar explosives. Why? So it would look like an accident? And he said to himself "We'll use the sidecar bomb and even though it's foolproof, you Jaws should follow after him in a car and shoot at him with a pistol - even though shotguns are better at that range and for hitting moving targets, and we doubtless own shotguns if we can purchase or manufacture a custom made motorcycle bomb.... Oh, and above all, surveillance will be from a highly effective helicopter, used the world over to destroy tanks, and it will only be used if my idiotic stuff fails."

Nope, nobody but an idiot - or a Hollwywood writer - would use their resources in this manner. It's only there to create a chase scene modeled after a video game; that's all. and it hurts my brain. The fact that people like this movie is as explicable as people liking the latter Lucas films - most movie-goers, even the nerds of TVTropes - do not possess logic sensors in their heads.

Note, every single problem I've just elucidated, is present from the very first minute in Moonraker, which starts with Jaws surviving a free fall from thousands of feet because he lands on a circus tent... and goes downhill from there. A similar live-blogging of that movie would burn up my keyboard.

Second pic from here.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Expendables (2010 film)

I really so much want this movie not to suck. True, it's written and directed by Sylvester Stallone, so that's two strikes against, but I really really want it to work, since it contains nearly every single decent action hero over the past 30 years: Stallone, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis, Dolph Lundgren, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Randy Couture, and Steve Austin. The only ones missing are Jean Claude (who refused a role, sayeth the Wiki, which shows his choice in roles is as sharp as ever) and Steven Seagal, who also refused. Idiots.

So what are the odds that this will actually be decent? Low. And maybe low expectations will save it.


No thank you, I don't like Ceratops.

That joke comes courtesy of the first Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode my brother and I watched back in the 90s; a joke of such quality that we felt this show would go places.

Anyway, I was told recently that "scientists" had discovered that the Triceratops isn't; that it's just an immature stage of another dino (the Moogooraptor or whatever). I surmised that since everyone in the Western world grew up, and has loved, the Triceratops, and no layman has heard of the Doofusatops, that "they" would just allow the old standby to win. Right? Well, hard earned bitter experience reminds me that the popular will of American 8 year-olds didn't save the Brontosaurus from being renamed the dippy "Apantsasaurus" or whatever. This is the same case? Will the 'tops go the way of Bronto?

Well it looks like sanity, taste, and the combined might of our inner 8 year old has prevailed 'Triceratops' name will stay: "'Triceratops' name will stay" say the newspeople.

This triumph of art and taste over scientific tin-ears gives me hope that maybe we can now save Pluto!

Pic from here.

Today's Backposts (Citizen Dog)

Citizen Dog Series:
  1. December 02, 2009 - Belly Button Trivia
  2. December 08, 2009 - The THX Menace
  3. December 11, 2009 - Crosswalk Button Morality
  4. December 11, 2009 - Bert and Ernie
  5. December 11, 2009 - Which is the Most Goyish Holiday?
  6. December 12, 2009 - Last Citizen Dog
  7. December 12, 2009 - A Glimpse into My Cleaning Method
  8. December 13, 2009 -No Snowflakes Alike?
  9. December 13, 2009 - Another Person's Invisible Pain
  10. December 13, 2009 - Ikea

Dave Barry and Bob Graham

As you know, my man Dave Barry has stopped writing a weekly column and has spent the past few years writing children's novels of unknown worth and following his wife to sports events. But, like with Calvin & Hobbes in newspapers, the powers that be have been reprinting old Dave columns. Most I've read already but sometimes we get lucky and there's a 'new' (meaning so old that it wasn't published in any of his books) column. So it was a week ago when I was able to read a 1983 interview between Dave and then FL Gov. Bob Graham (D).

I advise reading the whole column, but suffice it to say that Graham is possibly the sharpest politician I've seen interviewed, based on his extraordinarily swift wit. Mario Cuomo struck me as sharp and funny but just read this amazing interchange, which Dave swears actually happened, and was not pre-planned:

BARRY: What can the state do about harmonica safety? I don't know if you have any idea how many Floridians die every year in harmonica accidents....

GRAHAM: Well last year we actually made some substantial improvement. In 1981, there were four people who died of harmonica accidents. Now actually, I think it's only fair to count three of them, because the fourth one was actually, I would say it was more of a swimming-pool accident. He was playing the harmonica in the swimming pool and actually jumped off the shallow end, hit his head, and we don't know whether it was the fact that he swallowed the harmonica, or the brain damage. They counted it as a harmonica accident. Now, this year, or 1982, the last year for which we have statistics, we only had two harmonica accidents. I think it was the result of the public-service ads that I did....

BARRY: The Harmonica Safety Day I think was a wonderful....

GRAHAM: ...and we built it around the theme that if you want to play Dixie, it's fine, but don't do it in front of the air- conditioning duct, because that's where we found that most of the deaths occurred. It was the vacuum that was created.

BARRY: This leads us pretty much directly to toads. I've been staying at a house in Broward County, and there are, every morning out on the patio, toads the size of mailboxes. What can we do?

Just to 'fact-check', I searched to find if there really had been a Harmonica Safety Day. Nope. Gadzooks, what a guy!

I remember when he ran for president in 2004 and now I'm even angrier that he didn't make any headway. If he had run instead of John "Choke" Kerry?! Think about it: a sharp, savvy, popular Governor and Senator from Florida who opposed the Iraq War! Grrr.

Pic from this completely unrelated site.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Droid Update

As mentioned here and here, I purchased a new phone, the Motorola Droid, to replace my aging and cracked Palm 680 Treo. It's been a few months and while I still need more time to test it, my confident judgment is that this is not only the worst cell-phone I've ever owned, it may even be the worst purchase I've ever made in my life.

I hate this phone so very much. My biggest problems are (a) its dependence on the touch-screen (I understand that all phones are going this way, aping the accursed I-Phone, but I still can ladle my hate on the subject) - I believe my fingers aren't made for touch-screens, or something, but I'm constantly doing things I don't want to do with this freakin' phone because the screen alternates between being unresponsive and too-sensitive. Hate hate hate.

(B) The second, and big, problem is that the phone sucks up energy. My treo could sit for a day or two without draining its battery, but the Droid eats energy just by sitting there. Hate^3.

I'm stuck with this tech-turkey for another year or so. And I have nobody to blame but myself (oh, and the entire country of tech users who have forced all phones to be these asinine toys instead of TOOLS).

Pic from here.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

The Day the Cheez Doodle Died

My brother alerted me to this sad news, the death of the inventor/creator of the Cheez Doodle, Morrie Yohai a'h. According to the Times:
Morrie Robert Yohai was born in Harlem on March 4, 1920, one of four children of Robert and Mary Habib Yohai, Jewish immigrants from Turkey. The family later moved to the Bronx. Mr. Yohai graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1941 and began working for Grumman Aircraft on Long Island. After enlisting in the Navy during World War II in 1942, he transferred to the Marines and saw action in the South Pacific.
How proud am I? That my beloved Doodles were invented by a Sefardi Jew who fought in World War II as a Marine. Man alive! A Jewish USMC hero of WW2 *and* who invented the cheez doodle. I'm sad I didn't know this before, and the world will miss this creative genius.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Chelsea's Wedding

So Chelsea finally got married, and to get the stuff out of the way: (1) her husband is "Jewish", (2) she did not convert, and as such it was an (3) interfaith wedding (as shown in this quote from the Times: "The interfaith ceremony was conducted by Rabbi James Ponet and the Rev. William Shillady. Ms. Clinton is Methodist, and Mr. Mezvinsky is Jewish." I guess the rabbi is my old New Haven colleague Jim Ponet of Yale Hillel who is a Reform rabbi and possibly knew the President at school. The picture of the chossun shows him in his tallit, so way to go Jim for doing that, and it wasn't during the 9 days, but it was on Shabbat. Oops.

Anyway, rather than lament about the nature of intermarriage among American Jews, or some other weirdness, I would like to point out that we live in a remarkable age when in a single administration the President and Vice President (both non-Jewish natch) have children who married Jews. Cheslea to Mark Tallisdork yesterday, and Al Gore's daughter Karenna Gore Schiff (OK, the Schiffs are now separated but its (a) besides the point and (b) pretty typical for intermarried couples, especially who name their firstborn son "Wyatt".)

To make this point clear: the two most powerful men in the world, two men permanently engraved in American history, have Jewish inlaws. And you can even add that the same president had a Jewish mistress, you can see that Jews have come a long way (oy). OK, forget the mistress and concentrate on the marriages.

While intermarriage is terrible for the Jewish people, and will bring sadness and teeth gnashing to non-Orthodox Jewish continuity, to think of either Clinton & Gore's marriages as 'intermarriage' misses the point: it would have been assumed that for this to happen in a previous era, possibly up until the mid-1960s, the Jew would have been the one to convert. What an age we live in when we would even assume that the daughter of a two-term popular Baptist president would herself convert to Judaism. Let's get real, people.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Fletch on Movies

As part of my Shabbat/convelescent reading, I've been going through the "Fletch" novels of Gregory McDonald. Like every red-blooded Genxer, I was introduced to Fletch via the movie, which I often put in my top 5 favorite movies. The first book has basically the same plot skeleton, but is not nearly the same level of comedy, as the film. I will have more to say about the books soon, but I wanted to jump the topic with a quote from a later book in the series, "Fletch's Moxie" which is about the movie business. McDonald sets his books in different 'worlds' and will go on a particular author-filibuster on that subject (e.g. the art world, journalism, politics).

"Moxie" is about movies and actors, and the following speech is a wonderful description (something I wish I'd written) about the terrible 'message movies' that usually win Best Picture, and what is mistaken as 'serious' filmmaking:
"I’m just reading this filmscript.” Fletch jiggled his knee under it. "I don’t know, of course. Never read a filmscript before. It strikes me as pretty terrible. The characters all seem to be like people you meet at a cocktail party—all fronts and no backs. They don’t talk the way people really talk. I do a little writing myself—on days when there are hurricanes. It seems to me, in this filmscript much time and space are wasted while the author is floundering around trying to arrive at an idea. All that should be cut away. Don’t you think writing should begin after the idea is achieved?" Mooney was looking at him like a bull bored with the pasture. "It treats controversial old issues in an insulting, offensive way. Instead of trying to create any sort of understanding, my reading of it is that it is trying to provoke hatred—deliberately."
Apply this to any number of the Best Pictures of the past decade (e.g. American Beauty, Crash, Million Dollar Baby, anything by Ron Freakin' Howard after Apollo 11).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Missing Old Enemies

My birthday's coming up (and my brother just hit the Big 4-0) so I've been listening to a lot of 70s and 80s music. Just now, hearing "Burning Heart" by Journey Foreigner Survivor, reminds me of a point about our old enemies, the Commies, and our new ones, the Sicko Mooslims. If you recall from the song, and the accompanying movie (Rocky IV), the Russians were a technocratic menace able to create chemical-mechanical monsters to dominate the world. While the reality was sad (Russia seemed to be a third world country with a first world reputation, hence their designation of the 'Second World' in that particular triad), there's an essential fact here: the Commies were totalitarian, fascist, brutal, atheist, racist, and implacable. Their core idea, Marxism, is seductive - especially for the third world, and the Soviets were undeniably trying to take over the world. We must remember these facts. Yet, I miss one key aspect of having them as enemies: their denial of God came with a veneration of science and the arts. This enemy insisted on having high education, music, dance, and critically: science and technology. And because our enemies were trying to dominate these fields, we needed to keep up.

Why did JFK's famous Boston accented boast "putting a man on the moon at the end of the decade" actually happen? I ask this because many pundits like bloviating that if a president makes such a boast then we can accomplish it (Bush tried this, so did His Honor Jed Bartlett). The reason we got to the moon wasn't because of JFK's boast, it was because we were in a death race in tech and science with the Rooskies. The moon was just Vietnam in space.

I miss this part of my old enemy - their primacy of science and technology meant we needed to do that too. It made us invest seriously in education (e.g. my mother was sent to grad school on a Defense scholarship to learn Spanish - because Commies were everywhere, we needed to know what they knew... nowadays we discharge linguists from the military if they're gay). The commies converted the isolationists and anti-intellectuals - who now vocally dominate the GOP - to celebrate American international achievement in every endeavor. *

Our new enemies, radical Muslims, are similar in some respects, and worse in many others, than the Soviets. Ironically, one of the main crimes of Communism - atheism - turns out to have been a mixed blessing. If you had asked a normal American back in the Cold War 50s, why we were fighting the Commies, they're respond "atheism!" This is why we made "In God We Trust" our national motto, and put God in (badly) the Pledge of Allegiance. That's even what I recall reading in the words of the Rav. Yet the radical Muslim enemy is quite theistic, and it's their theism that makes them much worse than the Commies could ever hope to be.

The God Fearing radical Muslims, because they fear a god, hate science, technology and art. Six months before 9/11, the Taliban dynamited famous, and 1500 year old, statues of Buddha - the violence driven by righteous religious belief.

As a child of the 80s, I lived in fear of the Commies, especially with Reagan and Thatcher rattling their geriatric sabres, but my antagonism of the Soviets wasn't about their atheism as much as their desire to turn the whole world into a totalitarian hell-hole. People argued that their cruelty came from atheism, yet not many people become suicide bombers if they don't believe in an afterlife.

The god the radical Muslims trust in, the one they are under, is what motivates their very worst behavior. Suicide bombing? Slaughtering children? All because of theism. And like with the old rock Buddha, these God-fearers hate science and art. In fact, universities are as much a target for these God-fearers as idol worshiping Hebrews and Nazarenes.

And this leads to the crux of the matter: because our current enemy is animated by religion and hates science, our counter-response is one of beliefs and not of science. The growth of American power in the Twentieth Century came from our choice of enemy. Our new enemy is going to help us go down the dismal road of religious fervor (to combat theirs) with full throated anti-intellectualism - because that's not the perceived battleground.

The further sick irony is that it's precisely in science, tech and art that we can beat the Radical Muslims. Not only does the rest of the world treasure the Western World's dominance in science and art (just ask the billions or so heathens out there, a.k.a. Chinese, Indians, Japanese) but it is only through a desperate push to replace oil as fuel that we will defeat our enemies. George W Bush and cronies thought we could beat the Mooslims by conquering them (hence the Iraq War) but the only way to truly conquer them is to destroy their power from within - eliminate our dependency on oil. Just as we conquered Communism by impoverishing them in the arms and space race, so we can impoverish our enemies now in a more direct fashion. If we invent easy solar power, for example, the terrorist funding will turn into thick black mud.**

This is why I miss the commies: they were good enemies not only because they allowed us to create decent James Bond films, but because they brought out the best of the West: science, tech, and art; and because they turned our idiot religious thugs to at least accept all religious people - even Jews - and to reject isolationism. Our current enemies are bringing the worst in us: religious intolerance, rejection of science, fighting over belief and not excellence. We were cursed in 2001 to have the worst kind of president to respond to the current enemy (ironically his father was pretty bad in his response to the fall of the Berlin Wall, but like in everything Bush Jr. made Bush Sr. look like Abe Lincoln). I hope that Obama is able to convince America that we need to take the science-tech response to our current enemies... it's the only thing that can save us from a pretty bad next decade.


* We can still see vestiges of the Kommie Kompetition with our fear of the Chinese - and there's potential there for the old Cold War rivalry to be renewed. Except that the Chinese don't seem to care about taking over the world, unlike the USSR, and while they are a brutal threat to key allies (ask South Korea and Japan how much they like China), common Americans may not fear the Chinese like the way we did the Soviets, and the fear is what drove our country to excel in science, tech, and art.

** Note, they still have drug money, but one problem at a time.

Top pic from here. Second and third pics from the Wiki. According to the Wiki, the second pic is of kids pledging allegiance with the "Bellamy Salute" - invented by the Pledge's author - yet was adopted by the Italian Fascists and later the Nazis. Wow, life is ironic.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reverse Boycott Time

While I'm not in favor of anti-Semites, and their Halloween costume cousins Anti-Zionists, being so loud (hate speech is rough on the psyche) I am glad when they are vocal. According to Jacob Weisberg's recent Slate column (h.t. Goldblog), a number of celebrities are boycotting Israel. A great quote:
What they're saying instead is: "We consider your country so intrinsically reprehensible that we are gong to treat all of your citizens as pariahs." Instead of warning that Israel risks becoming an apartheid society if it fails to make peace, boycotters have concluded that Israel already is an irredeemable apartheid society.
Now, as I've mentioned here, I keep my eye on those moral artists who davka tour Israel, so I'm happy to track the opposite side of the spectrum as well. So, according to Slate, here are the new immoral anti-Zionist scum: Meg Ryan, The Pixies, Elvis Costello. Now I have no idea who the Pixies are, and now I'm glad that I don't have to, but I have experience with the other two scumbags and I find a bittersweet silver lining to the hate cloud.

First of all, sweet anorexic airhead shiksa Meg Ryan. What red-blooded American GenX male has not feared her presence in any movie? She's in the category of "pretty only to women" (other members of this group: Julia Roberts and Sarah Jessica Parker) and her one character, recycled in numerous romantic comedies, is the same shrill high-maintenance ditz we discovered when Sally met Harry. Those of us who have secretly detested her reduction of femininity to the most irritating traits (helpless, brainless, neurotic, impossible to please, materialist, irresponsible) can have a concrete reason to hate her.

But the real prize is Elvis Costello. Man oh man, I do not like that guy's music. And yet, all the pallid hipster music snobs have insisted for decades that he's some kind of genius. Yet, these aesthetes seem to overlook that the man sings like a geek. It's his own pretentiousness, the arrogance of his fans, and his utter lack of voice quality that has earned my ire before his latest bigoted escapade. And, hey, look at the Wiki, it says that "Elvis" (a.k.a. Declan Patrick MacManus) had a famous incident in 1979 of publicly calling James Brown and Ray Charles the N-word.

So here ya go, the great entertainers and the moral conscience.

Cotello pic from here.

Big B and His Tongs

This is a video of my eldest back when he was just learning to walk. The original vid was silent, taken from a low-res digital camera. The moment captured on film is priceless: Big B, wearing his overalls Snuffy Smith style (one strap), holding his then favorite kitchen appliance: black plastic catering salad tongs (from Stella's of New Haven ob"m). He had one tongs in one hand and strides over to the drawer which usually housed the other pair. Noticing it empty, he wheels around, spies the prize on the floor, siezes it, then strides off, wanging the two tongs together, looking for a fife (for all we know). Enjoy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dental Day Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I'm going in for a dreaded dental procedure. My dentists in New Haven botched a root canal, and the crown has fallen out, the tooth irreparable... good times. So I'm going for a full fledged tooth extraction. Following that, I'm told that I can't blow my nose for three days and that sneezing could be dangerous. Again, good times. I may be stuck in bed for a while so I may be able to blog some stuff (the backlog on the blog is enormous).

Image from here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Rav Yehudah Amital Zt"l Updates

Some links to eulogies and other resources for my recently departed Rosh Yeshiva. These are from the Yeshiva and I'm just reproducing their list (however I want to emphasize the one from Jewish Ideas Daily which is a great web-resource, and subscription source in general).
1) R. Yoel Amital (Hebrew) (audio)
2) R. Shlomo Brin (Hebrew) (audio)
3) R. Aharon Lichtenstein (Hebrew) (audio)
4) R. Moshe Taragin (English) (audio)

...Some others from around the blogosphere. The first three are from Yeshiva alumni.

Elli Fischer
Michael Eisenberg
Alex Israel
Jewish Ideas Daily
"A Rare Breed this Simple Jew" (Ha'aretz)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Rav Yehudah Amital Zt"l

My Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yehudah Amital, died this morning at age 85. He was a gadol b'Torah and gadol b'middot, a truly angelic person who radiated warmth for Torah and for humanity like his teacher, Rav Avraham Yitzhak Kook. Rav Amital zt'l was also a Shoah survivor who came to Israel in 1944 and fought in the War of Independence as a member of the Haganah. Thus, he was an embodiment of modern Jewish History as well as an embodiment of Jewish wisdom and spirituality.

Barukh Dayan ha-Emet.

Update: Some links to eulogies.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Tea Party?

The current Tea-Party takes their title from the Boston Tea Party. From the beginning, I've been disturbed by the imagery because even though the original Tea-Partiers became heroes of the American Revolution, at the time they were committing treason. And the current teabaggers, by using that event as a standard, are thus declaring to the world that they intend treason. No?

That established, the Tea Party is in fact the wrong image - because bottom line, the rebellion/treason that they intend to enact is Fort Sumter. Not just because the Teabaggers are generally egotistical misanthropic crackers, but also because they hate non-Whites and especially our Black president.

Image from here. And, note, these people are proud of their Frankenstein imagery.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Color Video of Israel in 1947

Thanks to my friend Shaul Kelner for sending me to this video below:
Fred Monosson, a Bostonian, came to Israel beginning in 1947 with the latest model COLOR movie camera. His son recently discovered reel upon reel of film stored in an attic and was about to throw it away when he happened to mention it to an Israeli film director. The trove was saved. No other color film of this era is known to exist.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Happy Flag Day

Flag Day always brings up, for me, this classic Onion piece:
Nation Hoping For A Windy Flag Day
June 5, 2007 | ISSUE 43•23
Have a flappy Flag Day everyone.

Pic from here.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Flotilla Context: Another Mexican Shot by US Border Patrol

Just to give some context to the Gaza Flotilla-Palooza, see this top-story from the AP (not found on the NYTimes front page) about the murder of a Mexican teenager by the U.S. Border patrol. OK, you can say that it's not news because we're Americans and we generally get a free pass to kill people whenever we want (it's called He Who Has the Most Nukes Makes the Rules) - like the unmanned wedding-crashing drones in Afghanistan - but let's dig deeper:
The killing of the Mexican by U.S. authorities — the second in less than two weeks — has exposed the distrust between the two countries that lies just below the surface, and has enraged Mexicans who see the death of the boy on Mexican soil as an act of murder. Mexico's government says the number of Mexicans injured by U.S. immigration authorities has increased this year. ... [The boy] was found 20 feet (six meters) into Mexico, and an autopsy revealed that the fatal shot was fired at a relatively close range, according to Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office. Mexican authorities said a .40 caliber shell casing was found near the body, suggesting that the Border Patrol agent might have crossed into Mexico to shoot the boy.
Compare and contrast.

Pic presumably of the Mexico-US border from here.