Tuesday, May 25, 2004

A note to all my loyal readers: Tonight is Shavuot, so I'll be offline until Thursday night (at least). Friday looks like a busy day, and I leave for London right after Shabbat, and will return next Wednesday evening. Thus, I will likely not blog much, if at all, in the next two weeks. See you later, I hope.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Man. Too much coming up in the next couple of weeks. Who knows when I shall blog again? So just saying hi to all. (Oh- and she called! Yay!)

Thursday, May 20, 2004

So now that I know she's been online, I'm not sure if I messed up, or am being deliberately ignored, or something went wrong, and I'm too milquetoast to pursue it. Darn.

-Well, Snopes tells us the German story is probably not true. Should've guessed.

-The Daily News features a story about an insurance exec who put down almost thirty grand at a strip club. That's a lot of singles. (Actually, I don't know what bills are used, because I don't frequent those kinds of establishments. But it sounds right.)

-The Forward shows a picture (sorry, not online) of a Kerry button done in Hebrew. And "Kerry" is spelled...yep, that way. They couldn't have used a kaf instead of a kuf?

-The new prime minister of India is a Sikh, the first non-Hindu to hold the position. (I wonder what religion Sonia Gandhi, who just turned it down, is.) Now, that's cool: The Sikhs are good people, and it's nice to see democracy at work. Plus, while the Congress Party is said to have the potential to roll back economic reforms (although Thomas Friedman doesn't think that's a given), this guy is said to be an "economic reformer." Now, Lenin was too, but I think they mean that in a good way.

What got to me is that he's Oxford-educated. It just seems like such a cliche- Indiana Jones, say, or James Bond will find himself in the most godforsaken part of Asia or Africa, and meet a tribal leader with perfect King's/Queen's English who went to Oxford or Cambridge or the like. Sometimes the guy is a "noble savage," sometimes he's just savage, and sometimes he's just noble. Now, I'm sure this guy earned a solid degree. But seeing it in the paper just cracked me up over breakfast this morning.

National Review, however, traces third world (particularly Indian) socialism to Oxbridge educations. Well, we'll see.

-This letter really is a shock back to reality on the sheitel issue.

-She's three and doesn't know where her father is. She does know her name (OK), and that she's from Brooklyn (cool), and that she's "Puerto Rican" (ah, the important things in multicultural America).

-"So we don't follow our religion!" say the elected Catholic Democrats. "That doesn't give the leaders of our professed religion the right to tell us we're wrong!" Oh, so stupid. And so typical.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

A letter of mine got into The Corner! Yay!

Very good news (via Arutz-7):
Two-man Knesset factions will soon go the way of one-man Knesset factions: out. The Knesset voted yesterday to raise the minimum threshold of votes required to enter the Knesset, from 1.5% to 2%. What this means is that any party that does not receive at least 2% of the vote in national elections will not enter the Knesset at all, and its votes will be wasted. A party that receives at least 2% of the vote, on the other hand, is guaranteed at least 3 of the 120 Knesset seats.

The new law was passed yesterday by an impressive 67-17 margin. Haggai Seri-Levy reports that the coalition made massive efforts to garner a majority for the bill. Coalition whip MK Gideon Saar (Likud), one of the co-sponsors of the bill, said, "This is not the end of the line for us. If we see that we can raise the minimum threshold to 3% or even higher, we'll do so. The coalition is seeking to minimize the phenomenon of splinter parties... Our goal is that the public should vote for large parties, and not tiny ones. We in the Likud have always suffered from small parties."

The only 2-MK party in the Knesset at present is the United Arab List. The Herut Party of Michael Kleiner and Baruch Marzel received, in the last election, just over 34,000 votes, some 10,000 short of the required minimum.

Actually, this wouldn't have had any affect on the last election. But yeah, raise it higher. Raise it to 4% or even 5%. Effectively raise it to 50% by creating districts, even. And then my dream, of a completely separate Executive and Legislature (and Judiciary) with a directly-elected Prime Minister who doesn't need to form a government and thus can't "fall" (although removal is an option). Get rid of the President and call the Prime Minister that instead. Yadda Yadda. (I could go on, but won't.)

Two quick hits (more later, I hope),via The Village Idiots:

After looking at this page (more specifically, the pictures), I really wonder what the point of wearing a sheitel is. Modest? Yeah, right. Let's not fool ourselves: Sheitels are made and marketed to look as sexy as possible, and make the wearer look as alluring as possible.

I found this story interesting. I found a bit at the end especially funny: The couple "are now being given sex therapy lessons." Ya gotta love the Germans: "Ve VILL teach you ze PROPER vay to do eet!"

Later, dudes and dudettes.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Looking over the blog archive, I expected to find an anti-Young Israel concert rant. But I didn't, so I'll present it here.

The National Council of Young Israel throws a concert in Central Park every year on the same day as the Salute to Israel Parade. The two are unconnected, but I guess the idea is that you should go to the parade and then head up to the concert (they overlap slightly).

All well and good. But it still makes me mad. First, the parade is a truly universal Jewish thing. Everyone comes, and everyone has a good time. I even just got an email from the Jewish Republicans saying that both they and the Jewish Democrats will be marching this year (not together, I suppose, although that would be nice too). (Even though I'm volunteering, maybe I can still hook up with the Republicans- and YU- somehow.) Even the anti-Zionists come out from under their rocks to enjoy the day (I've blogged about that already).

So: Why does there have to be another event? Ah, but that's not all. Perusing an ad for the concert, one is struck by how parochial the event is. The parade? All are welcome. The concert? Well, just see who it's dedicated to. (I'm paraphrasing, but not exagerating. I'm only listing a few dedicatees. Oh, and it's not like I don't agree with all these ideas, but see below.)

-The anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem and the independence of the State of Israel. In that order. That speaks volumes right there.

-The Jews of Hebron, Yehuda (funny, I thought it included Hebron), Shomron, Greater Jerusalem (they mean Jerusalem past the Green Line, of course, but don't want to say that, and so lump in Har Nof et al), Gaza, Golan, the Jordan Valley (huh), etc. etc. If you live in Haifa, Holon, Tel Aviv, Be'er Sheva, Eilat, Ashdod, Petach Tikva, Rishon L'Tziyon, Ramat HaSharon, or Bnei Brak, well, you're outta luck. No concert for you.

And the kicker:

-The 36.6 million Jews (5 million in the West, 31.6 million in the Far East) who want to make aliyah, especially to Yesha (natch). Among them are 20 million Patans (sic, what's meant are Pathans) and 5 million Keren (sic, perhaps giving a more Jewish flavor to the Karen people).

This requires much analysis. There are 13 million Jews in the world. Five million are in Israel, and a handful in the Far East. Five million are in the US. That leaves three million elsewhere in "the West"; even if all (in France, the UK, the former USSR, Argentina, etc.) wanted to make aliyah (what's stopping them?), that means that there are two million in the US who wish to do so (again, what's keeping them/us?). Right.

So. Where do these mythical (literally, as in the Ten Tribes) 30 million Jews of the Far East come from? Of course, it's clear what's meant: The Amishav organization, actually headed by a cousin of mine, has been finding many lost Jews- or people who claim to be (there's room for skepticism, let's be honest)- around the world. There's a bit of a contretemps in Israel, as many are moving to Yesha, making leftists who wish to keep Jews out of there unhappy.

But, even allowing for all the claims being made, the concert people are being just plain dishonest with these numbers. The people claiming to be Jews are only a relative handful of the millions of Pathan and Karen and Kashmiri and even Bnei Menashe peoples. Most are quite happy where they are.

So why is the claim made? Well, one has to go to the last item on the list of dedications:

-No to a PLO terrorist state. (Bold in the original, also interesting is the waffling through the use of "PLO terrorist" instead of "Palestinian" or even "PLO.")

Now, being the rabid Kahanist I am, I'm just as opposed to a Palestinian state as the next man- more, as we'll see. But this type of declaration always irks me. After all, there are millions of Palestinians in the Territories, and more in neighboring countries (not to mention in Israel itself). What're you going to do with them? And here's where the opposition to a Palestinian state breaks down, not only among Likudniks but among Young Israelites. They have no plans. Say what you want about Kahanists, but at least they have ideas.

So what are they left with? A pipedream that there are millions of potential immigrants to Israel sitting there somewhere, just waiting to come in and overwhelm the Palestinians with their numbers. (Not that that would solve matters either, but hey- it's a pipedream anyway.) Oh, they'd never dream of expelling Arabs. And so they turn to the "Patans" and the "Keren." Yuck.

The concert, as it happens, is always quite a balagan, with people wandering around and things being generally confusing. Anyway, this year, if people ask me (as they always do) where the concert is, I'll either play dumb or tell them not to go.

Ah, who'm I fooling? My nicer instincts (yes, I do have them) will win out, and I'll tell them. I guess.

More later, I hope. Now to call a lovely young woman and see if we can go out.

Friday, May 14, 2004

I met the mayor! Yay!

The meeting was packed, actually. Pat Dolan, bless her, ran a tight ship, and it came off very well. My brother had to leave after a little bit, but lots of pictures were taken by the Association's picture (and web) guy. Anyway, the mayor came with lots of important folk- the Police Commissioner, the Community Relations Commish (I went to college with him, and said hi), traffic and planning people, and others. Even Bloomberg's girlfriend was there, standing in the back. I thought that was nice- even said hi to her.

Anyway, he swore us in. I do believe he's getting a little looser and more comfortable in speaking. He basically gave a stump talk, but it was good, and afterwards, he answered all the questions posed. When he took a picture with Pat, I found myself standing right next to him, and so shook his hand and thanked him for coming.

Well, as Pat just put it in an email, let's hope some good stuff results from it.

Also, Brad and Jennifer Martin, my old NCSY advisors, joined the board. Nice! They're great people.

Speaking of great people, my cousin Craig will be here for Shavuot. Yay! Hope all goes well.

Hotel reservations are made.
Joey: London baby!

Chandler: Okay, 'cause that's not gonna get annoying.

Joey: (louder) London baby!!

Chandler: Hey, y'know what? I was wrong.

(Courtesy of the Friends archive.)

I keep promising to post about idiocy, and I never do, and the incidents of such keep piling up. Ah well. Maybe later.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Well, made it to the last few seconds of the meeting, at least, thanks to a ride home from a good friend. Two rounds of idiocy to report on today, so keep posted!

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Via The Village Idiots, a very interesting initiative (or whatever you want to call it).

I myself will be going to a meeting for volunteers for the parade referenced there this evening (I've volunteered for, oh, must be going on four years now). They'll have sushi, which, thanks to someone who's been initiating me into a whole lot of new stuff, I'll be trying. Alas, it seems I will miss the Civic Association board meeting tonight (I thought I'd least come for the very end). The big news is that Mayor Bloomberg will be at our general meeting Thursday. We're starting our new terms, and he's going to swear us in! Yay!

After heading down to court today, I checked out the exhibit in the Grand Central Terminal branch of the Transit Museum of subway-related cartoons from The New Yorker. Quite good, and funny. I also went to the British Tourism office, which is across the street from mine, and picked up a bunch of pamphlets. Got to hear a bunch of British people talking- puts you in the right spirit.
Wow. Blogger, providers of this fine service (I never knew they were owned by Google- hmmm!), has a new interface. Very nice.

Not much to report. To quote Joey from Friends, "LONDON, BABY!" Yup, got a wedding of some cousins in a couple of weeks, and my brother and I are going. Yay! Will have more as it progresses.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

Tomorrow's Friday, when the movie reviews run. And Elvis Mitchell is leaving the Times. I'm gonna miss him. Above all, no one can write a review of a truly bad movie the way he can. I'm thinking of Battlefield Earth, for example. Boy, did he do a good job on that. But the link isn't working, for some reason.

Another movie regret: The Tribeca Film Festival is on, and for the first time, I'm not working on it. Having a regular job is good, but you miss out on stuff.

Anyway. I finally found the ArtScroll "Hallel." Guess what? They have a lengthy dedicated section dealing with Yom Haatzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim, discussing all aspects of Hallel on those days.

Right. If you believe that, I got a bridge to sell you. Great view of Brooklyn. The majority of Jews- vast majority of Orthodox Jews, even- say Hallel on particular days, and Artscroll (enough with the stupid mid-capital) doesn't see fit to mention one. fricking. word. about it. Not even a footnote. I mean, I didn't really expect it. But it still makes me mad.

On that pleasant note...nah, I'm happy. Having brought up the Brooklyn Bridge, I'm now remembering happy walks across it. Lots of events coming up soon. But first, come tomorrow night, I shall sleep. Sleep well. Please God.

Later, folks.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

First, it's Cinco de Mayo. I had no idea of the history of the day- it's fascinating. That also means it's the (secular) birthday of one of my devoted readers. Propriety forbids me from sending flowers again (or that just be the cheapo in me talking), so please accept my warmest wishes here.

It's also Pesach Sheni. Happy happy, all.

A recap of last night first; I hope to have a few rants later.

The YU Alumni Awards were last night, at the Center for Jewish History. Basically, the various undergraduate alumni associations give awards to alumni who've accomplished a lot. The closing speaker put it best: You worry you'll be bored at these things, but then you get an idea of what an incredible university this is, and how much it's contributed to the world. Not just from that year's awardees, impressive as they are, but looking over the list of past awardees...wow. It's inspiring, and especially so if you, too, are a product of YU.

Anyway, it was all nice. But there was an interesting dynamic- one of the awards went to R. Kenny Brander of Boca Raton, and another to Toby Weiss, wife of R. Avi Weiss, who was alumni director herself once. Naturally, her husband was there (I think he got an award once too). Maurice Lamm got an award too, and his brother Norman accepted it on his behalf. And Richard Joel was there, of course.

Now, not too long ago, Avi Weiss' new yeshiva made the news when Howard Jonas blasted YU as "gutless, spineless, brainless, and mindless" at the yeshiva's dinner. (Someone even wondered if Jonas was there last night.) Brander was at the dinner, and wrote a letter condemning Jonas to the Forward. Norman Lamm's son wrote a letter provisionally condemning Weiss (pending Weiss' response, which hasn't come) to the Jewish Week. And here was everyone, getting along and happy. I guess that's a good thing. I must've missed it myself, but the person sitting next to me pointed out that Brander specifically talked of YU having a "spine" and "brain." Zing!

There's talk on Protocols of Brander being tapped to be the new dean of RIETS, but I wasn't able to ask him about that.

Anyway, a nice event all told. Now it's time to decompress. Anyway, I have unrelated things to post; just gotta check my notes.

Dear Protocols: My rabbi doesn't really deliver sermons. There, you may now link to me. Heh.

YU is giving an honorary degree to Hier. Oy. At least the other honorees deserve it.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Shoshana, in a comment below, mentions Jewish Geography. (By the way, Shoshana, say hi to Sivan- I didn't get to talk to her enough last night, alas.) I forgot to mention the wildest part of the evening:

I was seated at a table up front, by the screen. There were a bunch of guys at the table (mostly men throughout, come to think), many of them lawyers (we're everrrrryyyywhhhheere!). One introduced himself as Jay Ziffer, which sounded very familiar. Eventually, about halfway through the meal, I asked him where he works, and he said he works at a firm that handles jobs for the State Public Administrator (the people who decide what happens to estates). That's when it hit me- this is the guy who's handling the estate of our late old friend (actually my grandfather's last living talmid from the pre-war Europe days), Arthur Brill. We had a good laugh over that. Alas, it seems my family will be getting very little of what it's looking for. (We're not looking for money, but to give some tzedaka from the estate and the like.)

Isn't Google grand? I really needed to talk to a human at Amazon today; said company does not list a phone number on its webpage. And so to Google, and so...voila! My problem wasn't really solved (no fault of Amazon's), but I've got other options, I think. (Update: I learned a while ago that when all else fails, turn to the publisher. Bingo. Well, I hope.)

"Here she is, your komodo draaaaagon...."

Have you ever seen The Freshman? It's a very funny movie. Maximilian Schell in particular is quite good, particularly in his first scene. ("Carmine said one boy, here are two!") It's he who sings the song above (I think). Anyway, someone mentioned the movie at the dinner Sunday night, and they weren't half wrong. A bit of background:

The Orthodox Union had a whole-day conference Sunday (in my neighborhood) on various issues of kashrut, expeciallyof exotic animals. This was spearheaded by a couple of people from Israel who investigate things like this (they're also the people behind the tekhelet revival). One issue is that to continue a tradition of an animal being kosher, you must receive word about it personally from someone who knows. As the Jewish community grows more centralized, we've stopped eating many of the animals once commonly consumed, and if the situation continued, we'd be stuck with chicken and turkey, for example, for birds.

So they went around to lots of old shochtim in Israel with various birds to ascertain that they are, in fact, kosher. They aranged a meal in Jerusalem where people could come and actually taste the birds and animals- thus having a hand in the transmission themselves. They even served kosher grasshoppers.

Well, that led to the conference here, and it was pretty good. Lots of interesting speakers, live birds (and grasshoppers!) to show, videos, books, even a good lunch. Rabbi Leiman spoke, essentially the same shiur as he gave on Shabbos, but with enough tweaks to still be fascinating. And after eight hours of this- yup, eight- it was off to the dinner.

There must've been a few hundred people easy at the conference; there were well over a hundred at the dinner. It cost- but it was worth it. Levana's prepared not just elaborate dishes made from exotic animals- bison, venison, quail, sparrow, dove, pigeon, wild turkey (and the bourbon, too), goat, sheep, and others- but they also had interesting food, kashrus-wise. There was an undeveloped (fleishig) egg, soft Sefardic/Yemenite matza, and others. (They couldn't get the pork-like fish, but had a good substitute.) Again, there were speeches, slides, videos- good times. No grasshoppers, alas- the OU wouldn't allow it- but they had chocolate ones as part of dessert. All that and good company, and Torah, and being part of a Mesorah- good times, good times.

It's a busy week, actually. Last night I went to a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and met a few people I wanted to (finally). I just might make it to the convention after all. And surprise, surprise, Sivan Rabinowitz was there! I haven't seen her in a while. She used to work for the RJC, it turns out.

Tonight is the YU Alumni Awards ceremony. I think the rest of the week will be spent decompressing (I better change my response to an Evite).

And in closing, a directed comment- sometimes life can be good, y'know? It's perked up a bit more in the last day.

Peace out, people. Maybe I'll have a bit more later.

Monday, May 03, 2004

You'd think that after working so hard to put the name "Halliburton" in the headlines as some sort of boogeyman, the news media would think it was familiar enough to mention by name when one of their contractors escapes from his captors in Iraq. But no, that might diminish Halliburton's "evil" image, so he was working for a generic "contractor."

What a weekend. What. a. weekend. More will follow, I hope.