Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Hunter

The sun, as it is wont to do in this season, has been rising later and later. And I having been rising earlier and earlier to get to Selichot this week.

This morning, as I ventured out in the dark at about 5:45, I turned a corner on the way to shul and happened to glance up at the moon, now in its last crescent. A bright object close to it (a star, a planet, a space station) caught my eye, and as I looked up, I realized that the sky was full of bright lights. It was remarkably clear, quite dark, and the usual city lights weren't as annoying for some reason, and I saw the stars like I haven't seen them in a few months or more. There, right above me, was my old buddy Orion, the only constellation I ever recognize.

In an early section of his posthumous Or HaRaayon, Rav Meir Kahane, zt'l, speaks of the fact that many of the founding figures of Israel- the Avot, the Shevatim, Moshe, David- were shepherds. (I believe he may have been citing others who point this out. And I wonder if it's a coincidence that Hevel, not Kayin, was a shepherd.) The job, Rav Kahane continues, is well suited for meditation, introspection, and the like. You're out there with the sheep, not too active, staying awake at night, just watching over them. You start to think, to wonder- and to look up at the stars, and marvel at the grandeur of creation. It's not surprising that such people thought about the big ideas, and the meaning of it all, and came to find God.

That was me, shortly before six this morning. All of a sudden, 72nd Drive melted away, there were all of the thousands of visible stars instead of New York's relative handful, and I was on some hilltop in the Fertile Crescent, leaning on a crook and thinking some deep thoughts as the new year approaches.

If only for a moment. It's cold, I'm tired, I must get to shul, to work...and I'm back on a sidewalk, with nary a sheep to be seen. But the feeling lingers for a while.

I begin to understand waking early for Selichot. The feeling may be gone now- or soon- but there's always tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

More penguins!

Sure enough, the point I made about the Central Park did not go unmentioned. In yesterday's Science Times (which, it turns out, is likely the last time I will get a Times for some time- perhaps ever), after an idiotic (and, of course, politicized- it's OK if you're a liberal) piece on the history of foul language, there were letters about the penguins and conservatives. Said letters ranged from the inane to...the more inane. Samples:
...after all the clearly documented (easily Google-able) cases worldwide of
long-term monogamous gay pair bonding and child rearing that occur among
Animals aren't "gay." People weren't "gay," or even "homosexual," until recently. There were people who engaged in homosexual acts*; there were no homosexuals. To take a concept so recently created for humans and apply it to animals that have no concept of it is ridiculous. And, of course, a long-term male relationship may well have nothing to do with sex. I strongly suspect that's the case with these penguins. As to "clearly documented"...really? One story, repeated over and over, can make it big on Google.
If those penguins huddle collectively to keep warm and survive a storm, does it
mean that Americans should support the welfare state and a well-financed FEMA?
Welfare and mutual cooperation are two different things. I hope to post a bit on this later.
...perhaps they will also embrace gay partnerships, since penguins around the
world have been observed living in monogamous, long-term same-sex
They will perhaps be surprised to read about gay male penguins of Central Park
Zoo, who happily set up home (fittingly) in Manhattan, though one couple
apparently ended their relationship recently.
Honesty! Make that, of course, "the one couple." And see above.

Then there's this from a "Dr.":
They are opportunistically pair bonded in the extremes of the Arctic winter to
maximize their reproductive success.
There are no penguins in the Arctic.

I used to think the non-news sections were one of the main reasons to read the Times. No more! Goodbye, Pinch!

Oh, before I do say a final goodbye: Clyde Haberman has joined the crowd that jokes about prison rape. You can't link to it, so here it is: In talking about Kozlowski, he says, "For one thing, Attica or wherever else he winds up may not be the best place for jokes about shower curtains." Even Eliot Spitzer's made some remarks in that direction. ("Oh, he's going to state prison.") Absolutely disgusting.

*Or none at all. Both an increased acceptance of homosexuality and a hypersexualizing of society (i.e., "You must have sex with someone. Not interested in women? Then you're gay!") has led to forced identifications, including self-indentifications, and situations such as we've just seen at the Catholic Church (on the seminaries issue) and at the Yeshiva of Flatbush.

Friday, September 16, 2005

I thought something was fishy... pun intended, when I read the Science Times article on "The March of the Penguins": There was no mention of the Central Park "gay" penguins! After all, if you're trying to claim that a movie loved by conservatives isn't so conservative after all (they've bemoaned this situation at least twice), why not point to the obvious? (I will leave untouched the fallacy that we can apply current defintions of "sexuality" to any other species- or era, for that matter.)

Well, today, I got my answer: The Central Park couple is no more. One's taken up with a female. My theory? The Times reporter called Central Park to get a quote, found out the truth, and decided it was too damaging to his (and his readers') tidy litte worldview, and supressed it. Paranoid? You betcha.

I do love this quote in the latter article, though:
"Liberals can find something in it too," he told me. "The male penguins take
care of their children. They sit on the eggs for days and days. They don't
complain that they're not allowed to drink a beer and watch the Bears game on
TV. They just do their duty. It's quite humbling, actually."
Oh, sure. Because that's what conservatism is all about. Neglecting your kids.

And now I just remembered: They even wrote a book about it! Oh, the humanity! Errr...penguin-ity.

Speaking of takes on movies, there's a little contrast here: The new movie "Just Like Heaven" seems to be well-reviewed, and seems to, somehow, come down on the pro-life side of the Terri Schiavo issue. How to deal? Well, the Washington Post savages it, potentially spoiling it, and the New York Times praises it, but dismisses the pro-life stuff, claiming that the movie "turns them into the stuff of farce." How odd. I had no plans to see the movie (hey, I don't even get around to seeing most of the movies I do plan on seeing, even on DVD), but now...

Eh. I'll just read it on The Movie Spoiler. That site saves me time and money: I read the end and no longer have the desire to see a movie.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Amid all the talk...

...of whether Bush will appoint the "first Hispanic justice," I thought I'd point out that that title was taken long ago by Benjamin Cardozo. Hey, if Bill Richardson (or Linda Chavez) can be "Hispanic," he certainly can be called that.

Of course, Democrats often do this. Lieberman was supposedly "the first Jew on a major party national ticket," and after Abraham Beame died, we were told how he was New York's "first Jewish mayor." Both, of course, were preceded by decades by others that at least had a claim to being Jewish, but who were, unfortunately, Republicans.

A few links before I fly off to Boston again:


And three excellent pieces on Katrina:

Mark Steyn.

Ben Stein.

And the Irish Times.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Today's New York Times op-ed page contains five separate sets of questions various thinkers would want to ask Judge Roberts for his confirmation hearings. For your convenience, I shall link them:

Jean Edward Smith's first question is odd. It's a classic "We could all get along if we were all liberals" sort of thing. Otherwise all is cool.

Glenn Reynolds is OK. He seems to be the only Normal-American of the bunch. [Correction below.] He's a bit fixated on his pet ideas, but that's what's expected here, I think.

Ron Klain can't spell his own name. He also seems never to have heard of the word "abortion" (note the euphemism repeated in question one); not to be able to imagine that others may have different starting principles on what should be law (question two); to too-cutely try to avoid labels, even for others (question three); and not to recognize the difference between private and government actions (question four). The last question is just stupid. Clearly a Kool-aid drinker.

Whoa, another Normal-American! Dick Thornburgh has normal questions, as we tend to. It's the others that go nuts.

However, it's Kathleen Sullivan's contribution that's the most troubling. This is a famous law professor, author of casebooks (I think I used one), maybe even a justice herself one day? Question one is cool; two is out of the box (I'll give her the benefit of the doubt and assume she's sincere). Four is a bit of a Kool-aid question. Five tries for the ridiculous "The real activists are conservatives!" line. (See here.) But three is the worst:
3. Do you believe that the Constitution contains commitments to any rights or
structural principles that are not expressly set forth in the text? If there are
tacit structural principles, like federalism, must there also be unenumerated
rights, live privacy?
Tacit? The great professor thinks that federalism is "tacit" in the Constitution? Has she ever read the thing? That's the whole point of the document! The entire Article IV is about that! Has she ever seen or thought about the Tenth Amendment? Does it mean anything to her?

As to her cute close, ha ha ha. I'd agree privacy is "tacit," but like Mr. Klain, she obviously means abortion.

Oh, so only crazy racists and right-wingers are trying to exploit the tragedy. No mention that the left has done nothing but that since it happened.

Aren't people who speak out against Bush so brave? So very, very, brave and daring? It's the last piece that's the most disgusting, painting those who wish for apolitical rememberance as politically driven, snidely pointing out that the government didn't shut down an "art" exhibit (as if it ever does, much as these "artists" wish they did), and, in general, having such a condescending tone toward other newspapers, family members of victims, and any of us who can't grasp how one might use bacterial cultures and rank juvenile stupidity as "art" that it just might drive me to cancel my subscription, even if that does leave me without my favorite blog whipping boy.

You know, in their ignorance of the private/government difference, their pretended bafflement over how terror works, and their rank incompetence in their chosen fields, the "artists" here and the professors above have quite a bit in common.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


It's (lovely) days like this, as literally hundreds (if not thousands) of bike riders pass my window in one of their grand citywide tours as I sit at the computer, that I really wish I knew how to ride a bike. As it is, the only thing with wheels I've ever learned to handle is a car, and that only recently and only barely. Bikes, skateboards, rollerskates- even anything for ice or snow- nada. Sigh.

I do wonder why they chose humble 141st Street, though. Well, I hope they enjoyed it.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Rav Kook, OBE?

I was flipping through a book on Rav Kook ("An Angel Among Men", by Simcha Raz), and came across something fascinating: A photo captioned "A letter from Herbert Samuel, the British High Commissioner, informing Rav Kook that King George V has decided to present the Rav with a medallion of honor".

The letter in the photo isn't clear*, but on the same page is another photo, showing Rav Kook wearing the "medallion" in question. The caption to that photo goes on to say, "Notice that it is partially covered, because of its cross shape." Indeed, a fold of Rav Kook's coat covers one arm of the cross**, but it's clear that it's an Order of the British Empire, probably a Commander's badge, based on the dark (in a black and white photo) ring at the center.

(Commander is the third of five levels. This badge might indicate a higher rank, in which case Rav Kook would be a Knight and thus "Sir Kook" if residents of Mandatory Palestine were British citizens or subjects- I don't know if they were.)

Anyway, I've searched, but can find nothing more on this. I'll admit I'm not the biggest student of Kook-studies, but does anyone else know?

*It's typed in Hebrew, signature in English. I can make out that it's dated June 11, 1922, and has words that would translate to "Order of the British Empire," ending with the word "BeYoter"- "high degree."

**Rav Kook is holding a book at the point where the coat folds over the cross. Is the fold inadvertent? Was he holding the book to cover up a deliberate fold? Is it possible an arm was broken (after all, a covered cross is still a cross) and he's covering that fact, not an actual arm?

William Rehnquist, R.I.P.

The President, of course, said it best. But I'd like to add this one bit, courtesy of Wikipedia. It was the first thing that came to mind:
Rehnquist also created a unique robe for himself as Chief Justice in 1994. It
has four golden bars on each sleeve. In the past, Chief Justices had not dressed
differently from any of the Associate Justices. Rehnquist's robe was modeled
after a robe he had seen in a production of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta
Iolanthe, first staged in London in 1882. The costume that inspired Chief
Justice Rehnquist, an acknowledged Gilbert and Sullivan fan, is worn by the Lord
Chancellor, a character called upon to settle a dispute among a colony of
What a man. I'm glad I got to be welcomed to the Court by him.

I'm liking the Clement idea, provided, of course, that she really deserves it. (Hmm. All but race.) As well as NR's convention idea.

Hillel Goldberg has a nice piece in the latest Commentator about the JTS fire of '66. (Hat tip: El Presidente.) Since I heard about his story earlier in the year, though, I was a bit troubled by one point: Didn't they worry about how R. Lieberman would feel when two YU students came to him with the question: "We want to save your institution's sefarim, but lots of us think that JTS isn't worth working for. How do you pasken?" Offended? Hurt? Puzzled at the dichotomy?

I hope R. Goldberg was more diplomatic than that. Say, "Well, we have no problem, but some of the 'frummer' students do." Or, "We have no problem with JTS, but guys are wondering whether any sefer is worth the bittul torah/zman." At least I now know that the books weren't actually burning when they asked (I think).

Oh, as long as I'm on the Commie: It's nice to see that old tradition of IBC-bashing is alive and well. Not. And Norman Lamm proves how pessimistic he can get, so long as others can be blamed.

Nu. A happy Labor Day! Did you know that May Day originated in the US- and we're the only country whose Labor Day is at another time? I wonder if they were trying to limit the Commies.