Sunday, December 31, 2006


"Should it be 'Barech aleinu shana tova'?" I asked someone in shul after Avinu Malkeinu this morning. "Are you sure it isn't 'Chadesh aleinu shana tova'?"

It took him a minute to get it. Well, it is a fast day (and it's a bit of a heretical notion). Have an easy fast, everyone, and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Small Favors

God bless Gerald Ford, R.I.P. A great man.

But one thought occurs to me as I listen to his funeral- it's a good thing Richard Nixon (not to mention Pat) is dead and buried, or, to use the old Yiddish joke, all these references to how much Ford was "needed" after the...unpleasantness would've killed him. Kind of reminds me of Nancy Reagan's famous "Kinder and gentler than who?" remark.

Now I'm having uncharitable thoughts about other recent occupants of the Oval Office and any posthumous demands they might have. Ah well, history will judge.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

"Then what's that I smell floatin' down from the North-"

"-could it be the aroma of hy-pocrisy?"

Well, first things first. As that line would indicate, I finally got the 1776 DVD. Now, I've seen "Cool, Cool Considerate Men" before (on Broadway), and it's a great song, and I'm not in favor of censorship or anything, but I can definitely see why Nixon didn't like it. Maybe it's my imagination, but the goose-stepping and "heil"ing at the end are a bit much, and the National Anthem reference at the beginning is a bit uncalled for.

Anyway, the disc is great, highly recommended. Still haven't gotten to the special features, but that always takes me a while, if ever.

Now as to why I chose that quote: The aroma of hy-pocrisy is certainly drifting down thick from New England these days. Any other time, I'd say the Massachusetts high court decision not to require a vote of the legislature is an unexpected triumph of the rock-solid principle of separation of powers, etc. etc. But when it was that very same high court that ordered gay marriage in the first place- ordered, in fact, the legislature to pass it- stepping over its bounds in more ways than one- then this decision looks not only cowardly, but hypocritical as well.

Eh. The only branch of government in that state that doesn't come out of this stinking is the executive, in the form of Governor Romney, which, not coincidentally, was the only branch not to have anything to do with the mess in the first place.

Oh- good to be back! Mmmm, pretty new Blogger. Sometimes upgrades are worth it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Giving Thanks

(I had to flip the words, at least- can't have the same title twice!)

It's still Thanksgiving Weekend, right? At least for a few more hours, even if I sleep through them. So: No rants, no negatives. Let us give thanks, and links:

-For O. Henry's wonderful language, and for the thrills of recognition of the details of Old New York, still around a hundred years later, that he unknowingly provides.

-For Mark Steyn, somewhat more depressing, but whose felicitous turns of phrase are just as enjoyable. (One does wonder at the sheer stupidity and self-destructiveness of actors. Ah well.)

-For our troops, making it all possible, and keeping to tradition in an untraditional age. See the photos as well.

-For all the people who made this weekend so great, especially Ms. Beck, for the dinner invite, and Rav K., who arranged for it. In fact, for all my friends, acquaintances, and family, about none of whom do I have the slightest reason to complain. Throw in some kudos for some good shiurim and some good movies, and we have good times all around.

Nice to have a positive post. I guess I'll have to struggle to bounce back to ranting from this sunny mood, but I'll try. (Lord knows I have topics.) Perhaps, please God, I'll have even more reasons to stay happy, and won't even bother. As always, till then!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Out of the blue, a good friend asked (to my everlasting shame) when I'm going to post something new. Oh, I've got stuff- some serious, some, not so much. Just not much time lately. But a nice long weekend is coming up, and perhaps I shall be able to post then. In the meantime, have yourselves a great Thanksgiving, enjoy- and, most importantly, give thanks!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Salad Days

Back when I was at university...all right, sorry, back when I was in college, I became (thanks to a roommate of a friend) a big fan of Spy Magazine. (Warning: Scroll-down NSFW.) What a great publication! I must have started reading it in about 1995, and bought every issue from about a year after that. I still have them, years after I got rid of most of my other magazines. Then, in early 1998, it stopped appearing. I remember seeing the last issue, with JFK Jr. on the cover, on the stands for quite a while, as if they were waiting for the next issue, which never came. Much later, I was IMing with Mugger, of the New York Press, and thought to ask him about it. He told me that they'd stopped publishing and why- something to do with the magazine market being in a slump around then. (Interestingly, I think it's his review, for the New York Sun most likely, of a posthumous biography of John-John that I tucked into that last issue.)

Anyway, last week I saw a note in the paper that a new book, "Spy: The Funny Years", had been published, and the authors were speaking about it, unfortunately on a Friday night. Earlier this week, I was in Barnes & Noble and chanced across it- a nice big coffee-table book, 'tis being the season for coffee-table books. "The Funny Years", apparently, are 1986-1991, after which the founding editors, authors of the book, sold the magazine and, soon after, left it. There's even a spread inside the back cover showing the covers of every single issue of Spy, and there's a break at one point with an arrow indicating as "The Funny Years" all the issues before the break.

Turns out the magazine had folded and restarted just around the time I started reading it, and the subsequent issues and even many preceding (according to the authors, who, of course, are very likely biased) were nowhere near the quality of what came before. And here I thought it was among the funniest stuff I've seen! There's worlds to be discovered out there, not that I'm too interested in "The Funny Years."

The local Barnes & Noble, by the way, has finally lined up their flags the way I wanted them to, nice and symmetrical. (And no, I didn't tell them.) Good for them.

And I have my paper poppies, but no lapel to wear them in. A moment for our vets, God bless them.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Biased, Or Just Plain Ig'nint?

Well, that was certainly expected, if not desired. So this morning, CBS radio merrily informs me that the last time Congress changed hands was in 1994, "In an anti-incumbent surge just like this one."

Well, if they're talking about incumbents in Congress, that's just wrong. The big anger against those had peaked a few years earlier, and to no effect, as I wrote a few days back. And if they mean Clinton, that's plain ridiculous. Clinton was quite popular, coasted to reelection, and would remain so popular through all the scandals that would follow that he would've been reelected yet again if he had been allowed to.

Why did the Republicans win in '94? Simple: They had a clear-cut, popular, conservative agenda (which they delivered on) all mapped out. The Democrats, in 2006, have no such thing.

And, in fact, that's one silver lining for me. With no agenda, hopefully they'll be able to do little to no damage in two years. (And, of course, George W. Bush is thankfully still president.)

Note that I, ever the optimist, said two years. One good thing I've kept in mind ever since 1994 is how that election disproved any idea (believed somewhat before then by all) that any party "owns" Congress. (Republicans, alas, seemed to forget this in only twelve years, while Democrats, in power much longer, also seem to be unable to absorb it.) So how's that for another silver lining? Maybe the equally agenda-less Republicans will see how they have to wise up now. I doubt it- politicos are politicos-but one can always hope. (JPod makes a related point here.)

So silver linings there are, all well and good. (One particularly delicious one is the loss of Chafee, who probably would've switched anyway. As Mark Steyn pointed out here in his usual felicitous manner, "If only 100 citizens from a population of 300 million get to be senators, Lincoln Chafee should not be among them.") However, all those silver linings have a very dark cloud indeed: This isn't 1994, or 2000. As I wrote below, we have enemies who want to kill us (and quite a few others), and they watch the news- and they know what happened, even if the Democrats stop with the infantile behavior. So you'll forgive me if, among all the smiles and linings, I show a bit of gloom now and then. We will see what happens. Happier post next time, I hope!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

So after yesterday's post, I open today's paper to discover that there's a special screening, with Q&A from all the leads, at Lincoln Center tonight. I went online to see if tickets were for sale. Oh, yes: for ninety bucks. Fuggedaboudit. I'll just buy an already overpriced ticket at the theater. And the DVD, 'cause that's who I am. I wonder if, like there was the complete concert on the last Guest movie, there'll be the complete movie on this disc. I doubt it, for a number of reasons. (Like, if you could make an actual Oscar-winning film, you would. Although I hear people are already talking about O'Hara.) I do note that in each movie, the characters seem to be successively higher on the "fame" ladder. Probably doesn't mean anything, but it's a thought.

Eh. Too tired anyway. I'd like to go to Stern tonight, hear this speech on Kohen genetics, maybe ask some embarrassing questions about Jewish genetics in general, tired. Maybe it's my eye, my zero-free-time schedule, I dunno.

Voted today! With brother Sam right behind, and Pat right ahead! Of course, all the local offices were uncontested. The Queens County Republicans are always inviting me to their dinners, but they never seem to actually, y'know, run any candidates. Well, less levers for me to pull. Still never pulled one for a Democrat.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"For Your Consideration"

I knew it was coming out, and, of course, am planning on seeing it, but just seeing the poster for the new Christopher Guest movie on a construction site fence this morning was enough to bring a smile to my face.

Want to join me? Leave a comment.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember, Remember...

...the Fifth of November...

Well, not for the famous reason: This is an American blog. But Happy Half-Birthday wishes to a former (?) reader of this blog, belated birthday wishes to my brother, estimated birthday wishes (I don't know the exact date, tsk, tsk) to one of my brothers-in-law (come to think, the other's birthday is around this time as well), and slightly-premature wishes to someone who probably doesn't even know this blog exists.

Wow! Lots of reasons to be happy, including a very nice Kollel Yom Rishon today. So let's have a little rant:

There's a popular sheet distributed called "MeOrot MeHaDaf Yomi," which is exactly what its title says it is. This week, they have a full page advertising a new book they have out about Shabbat. Here's a picture from the book they use in the advert, twice because my photography ain't so good:

Yeah, it's a family sitting around a Shabbos table in der Heim. Father, random dude (Oyrech?), son. Notice anyone missing? Oh, yeah, a mother. There is a vague humanoid shape in the shadows at the left (of course, since the candles are at that end of the table, that should be the most lit area) which, I think, we can safely assume is the woman of the house, the She who must Not Be Seen.

No, I don't think I'm being paranoid. This is, I'm afraid, par for the course in Charedi publications today. Chassidim especially have, shall we say, a somewhat odd view on the image of women, and it seems like even the velt has a right shoulder to look over. For example: A set of "Mitzvah Cards" recently was released, I think to tie in to the "Encyclopedia of the Taryag Mitzvoth" that is now being published. My rabbi happened to have the one for Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim- in two versions. One showed a yeshivish father, in a hat (like anyone wears one at the seder, but we'll let that go) and beard (natch), merrily explaining the Haggadah to his son and daughter. The other had the same picture, except the hat had become a shtreimel, the beard and payot were longer, and the daughter...had been replaced with another boy. After all, who knows what znut the tayereh kinder might be driven to if they see a drawing of a little girl on a card.

And, of course, it's much worse. A little while back, one of those "Help a family in need" letters (I think this one was an insert) went around. (The actual narratives usually make me quite mad in and of themselves, but once again we can let that pass.) Very slick, color photos of the family in question. Except all the women's faces had been pixellated out. Even the babies, although how they know the gender is beyond me. (Something similar happened when they reprinted The Bamboo Cradle.) I kid you not. After all, who knows where it can all lead? Who knows where our society will be if we allow women who write for Charedi newspapers (and books, etc.) to use their first names instead of an initial? (Never mind that the same society is the very one that, perversely and yet logically, requires those women and not their spouses to work, among other mishegas, but yet again we'll let that go.)

Well, I guess I should be grateful that all this is is a pandering (for money?) to the lowest (and I do mean lowest) common denominator (I hope), and it's not, say, Iran or the Taliban. Problem is, as Europe is finding out, you start by pandering and pretty soon they want to take over. Look at the streets of Jerusalem.

Eh. Enough Charedi-bashing. The latest issue of Tradition only serves to remind me that we MO don't have much to brag about either. It's one of my "statement" subscriptions, but this issue has me wondering about even that. Too much ranting here- maybe another time. Or maybe I'll just stick to Sherlock Holmes next time. There's always plenty there!

Have a great week, all!

Monday, October 30, 2006

More so than the wind...

...the cold weather, the end of the Chagim, the beginning of Cheshvan and Tachanun, or the end of daylight time, it's when things get temporarily just a bit warmer is when you know winter is nigh (even if it's a few months from now). Said a woman on the elevator, "It feels like Monday morning every day." Replied I, "Yeah, especially when it is."

Forgive me if I don't believe anything on the news anymore. The latest breathless report has something to do with missing weapons in Iraq. Anyone get a sense of deja vu? Wasn't there a story just like this right before the elections two years ago? The New York Times was supposed to break it a day or so before the election, but their partner in the story, CBS, jumped the gun by a few days, enough time for the bloggers to prove there was absolutely no substance to the tale.

Anyway, I'm comforting myself with memories of 1990. Anyone remember that election? (Yeah, I'm either a geezer or someone who was into politics at way too young an age. Take your pick.) That was the year the Congressional incumbents, dogged by numerous scandals (the Capitol Post Office, bad checks, etc.) were finally going to get the boot. Even the MSM (there wasn't really much else) got into the act. As I remember, in wasn't treated as a partisan thing (although most of the culprits were, if only by default, Democrats, and I'm sure that fact was glossed over) but as an incumbency one. And, I believe, somewhere from ninety-eight to one hundred percent of incumbents were re-elected. Even Time was shocked enough to run a stunned headline afterwards.

So I'm using that as a hope that Republicans won't do so bad this year. Of course, it's not why I'd want them to win- I'd much more prefer the merits, and they, alas, have few. But the stakes are too high. The crazies in Iran, Iraq, and so on do watch the news.

Moving locally, the news is abuzz with New York City's attempts to ban trans-fats. "They're bad for you!" yell the mini-fascists of Centre Street. (I'm just waiting for "the children" to come up, if they haven't already.) "It'll cost us too much!" respond the restaurant owners, doubtless leftists themselves, and, as per my current main pet peeve, unable to think out of the box. Well, forgive me for being all 1776 here, but why is no one talking about FREEDOM? It's things like this that really get the libertarian in me bubbling to the surface. Next report: The city wants calories listed on menus. "Such-and-such a burger has over 2,000 calories!" the newsreader gasps. Again, pardon me for shouting, but WHO CARES? I don't think I eat many trans-fats, whatever they are, myself, but aren't we free human beings, Americans, and New Yorkers? To these social engineers, apparently not.

Speaking of which, news is that Al Gore has been hired to consult the British government about pixie dust, or fairies, or global warming, or something. Apparently it has the power to hurt the economy more than the Depression and both World Wars. (Our lives are safe, it seems.) The watermelon socialists are worried about the economy? Right. See "social control," above. Maybe I should be grateful that they have to pretend, at least, to care about the economy, but I choose not to.

As long as we're in Europe, Gerhard Schroder has decided to grace us with his memoirs. Apparently Bush's mentions of God and religion offended him, the poor delicate flower. And, of course, he'd like us to know that he (unlike the barbarians across the Atlantic) believes in the separation of church and state. Well, he was the chancellor of a country that collects your tax dollars and gives them to the church of your choice. Bush is president of a country that forbids, to the extreme and ridiculous degree, anything that even vaguely resembles that. But Schroder's the good guy here, huh?

Well, I had a great weekend, with my old buddy Michael staying over, a Carlebach minyan, and more. Good times. I thought I'd share a story I told him as part of the discussion we had about a shiur we attended:

I stopped by the Judaica store down the block from the office last week to check out the latest. There was a whole rack of new gedolim biographies for kids, lavishly illustrated but a bit light on content. By their appearance, they seemed to have been produced in the Israeli Charedi world and, perhaps, translated for the American market.

Anyway, one of them was of R' Yonasan Eibeschitz. I flipped through it to see if there was any mention of R' Emden, but no such luck, not that I expected it. Anyway, no big deal. Like I said, it was mostly fluff, standard gadol stuff. ("Great man, wrote seforim.")

About half the book, in fact, was dedicated to a single story about R' Yonasan as a kid, which ends with an anti-Semite being dragged off to the police. The picture illustrating that scene is also the one chosen for the cover. And the funniest thing? The police station (northern Europe, early 1700's) bears the insignia of the Israeli police. Oh, the Charedim may like to pretend that they're not influenced by Zionism (of course, the usage here proves they're not actually Zionists), but they are. They are. It's like the Yiddish professor we rented a place from last year complaining that Israeli Charedi Yiddish isn't pure, as they say, for example, "Mishtara" instead of "Politzei." (He was pretty happy to meet my parents.) Now, if only they'd realize what they owe to the Zionism that is influencing them...well, maybe in time.

'Nuff for now. Later, all!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halcyon, below, wonders about dress pictures. Well, here are not one, but two lovely dresses (not to mention their wearers).
And here's another. OK, so there was a photographer to pose for, not me, but still lovely.

Speaking of Halcyon, no offense to her, but the latest addition to my stamp collection is a Beauty and the Beast issue. Now, I can understand, say, a Cinderella issue, or even Lady and the Tramp- those came out years ago, and certainly at least some are real (American) classics. But a 1990's film? It smacks too much of commercialism, "vault" notwithstanding.

Hmm. Wanted to mention Schroder, but after the last paragraph, I'll steer clear. Another time, in a more political post. Ta for now!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Mazal Tov!

A picture is worth a thousand words. So here are 3,000:

Rabbi Rakeffet, Mesader Kiddushin.

My Dad, doing what's becoming second nature for him, although the Rabbinate threw him for a loop at first. Well, it's what they do best. (That's the back of David Bat's head, by the way.)

This picture is the best. So classic.

Well, with the captions, that's a bit over 3,000. But why not? Mazal tov all around, especially to the new couple! And a special thanks to everyone who made it possible.

Yeah, I've got some more topical stuff, including some political memories from waaaay back, but it can all wait. Enjoy the pix.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Greetings from Israel!

Well, almost three weeks in, I'm really starting to enjoy. My little eye problem turned out to be much more than that, and I ended up spending more than a week (total) in a hospital here in Jerusalem. But hey, it's not like I had a million things planned.

The eye is on its way to getting all the way better- a few drops, a few checkups- and I'm squeezing in what I can in the oh-so-little time I have left. Went to the Israel Museum today; the walk home, as always, was much tougher than the one there, due to the extra weight of all the books I picked up. (And on the way there, I inadvertently took what is literally the scenic route. Lovely- got some pictures, but not sure how good they are.) Saw the scrolls (again)- even took a tour- the newly moved model, and just a bit more, namely, the terrific exhibit on bread. (God bless whoever invented the concept of an exhibition catalog. I didn't even get to the main building, but got a catalog of an exhibit I missed, plus the bread one. Seriously, if you're here, go see the bread.) Oh, if I had the time, I'd go back. But I think I'll just get more books.

The wedding is tomorrow! And I'm expected to speak, or MC, or something. I will try to report back with all the news, photos, and more. For now, here's the now-famous shot, via Arutz-7, of Nechama and Michael at the Kotel during the recent war:

As Jelly, obm, says in Analyze This (and in a similar context), "Nice, huh?"

Friday, September 22, 2006

Shana Tova!

Here's hoping everyone has a blessed 5767.

Next time I blog will probably be from Israel (I'm bringing my camera cable) or newly returned to the well-nigh inescapable fleshpots. Till then, all the best!

Monday, September 18, 2006


That's how the kooky Left likes to describe itself. Well, have a look at this exchange posted on The Corner. After three comments refering to Whitewater, when that is not at all a topic, and digging up what Broder had to say back then (these people have serious talking points- I've witnessed it in action), and with one of those questioners (the second, in his first line) clearly suffering from some sort of persecution complex, Broder has this beaut of a line:
I would judge that president [Bush] harshly, as the majority of the voters in this country and in many other parts of the world has done.
"The majority of voters?" The last time there was an actual election involving Bush- the last time we got to see what "the majority of voters" actually feel- was in 2004, after anti-war sentiment had really been kicked up, and he won a "majority of voters."

So Broder's questioners are living in 1999; he himself (nice though the rest of his words are) seems to have some form of amnesia post-2004. "Reality-based" indeed.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

שׂוֹשׂ אָשִׂישׂ

Sooooo...Parsippany. I wrote it up as an essay for school once, but that was long ago. Probably buried somewhere in my stack of 3.5's. I barely aware of the existence of NCSY (or at least what it really was) until deep into my senior year of high school. (OK, I'll stop that.) I only went to a few events from that point, but I was hooked, and worked in it throughout college and beyond.

My first Shabbaton as an adult came soon after I started college, around Labor Day I think. Shabbos before Rosh Hashana, camp in Pennsylvania. And...the bus we were on was too full. So most of us advisors got off, and fourteen of us decided to take our chances with cabs.

You can guess where this is going. We got really, really lost. About fifteen (or thirty, but fifteen sounds better) minutes before sunset, we pulled over at some gas station in the wilds (to us provincial New Yorkers) of New Jersey, opened a phone book, and looked under "Synagogues." The one we found, as it happened, was a member of the OU, NCSY's parent, and full of the best people. I can't speak for the others, but that Shabbat in Parsippany, NJ, was one of the best of my life.

Anyway, one congregant had yahrtzeit that week, but didn't want to do the haftorah, and asked me to do it. Since that Shabbat in 1993, I've tried (succeeded, I think) in layning that haftorah- the one in the title of this post- every year.

Anyway, as you can tell my that title, I've been inspired by Z to write some Hebrew. And what a great opportunity we have with this haftorah! What words! (Courtesy of Mechon Mamre; still workin' out the bugs.)

.כֶּחָתָן יְכַהֵן פְּאֵר, וְכַכַּלָּה תַּעְדֶּה כֵלֶיהָ

.לְמַעַן צִיּוֹן לֹא אֶחֱשֶׁה, וּלְמַעַן יְרוּשָׁלִַם לֹא אֶשְׁקוֹט

.כִּי-יִבְעַל בָּחוּר בְּתוּלָה, יִבְעָלוּךְ בָּנָיִךְ; וּמְשׂוֹשׂ חָתָן עַל-כַּלָּה, יָשִׂישׂ עָלַיִךְ אֱלֹהָיִךְ

.עַל-חוֹמֹתַיִךְ יְרוּשָׁלִַם, הִפְקַדְתִּי שֹׁמְרִים--כָּל-הַיּוֹם וְכָל-הַלַּיְלָה תָּמִיד, לֹא יֶחֱשׁוּ

You may notice that I've specifically chosen the verses dealing with marriage and Jerusalem. Waaaaayyyylllll, there's a durn good reason for that. My dear sister Nechama, now of Jerusalem, is gettin' hitched!!!! Mazal tovs all around! My planned trip to Israel for the Chagim is accordingly extended by a week, and I couldn't be more excited. (Well, apart for the inevitable line I'm getting all around. Maybe I should warn people that I'm keeping count.)

I hope to stop by later in the week, or at least before I go, for Good New Year wishes to all. And, of course, I hope to have Israelblogging and more. Later! And once again, Mazal Tov and laaaaaave to Nechama and Michael!

N.B.: I hear on the news today that it's the twentieth anniversary of the Mets clinching in '86. Twenty years...that was my first baseball game. I didn't get to tear off a piece of the field, though. Now, if only the Amazin's would hurry up and clinch this one- maybe win 100? Maybe?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Premature Treppenwitz...

...seems almost to be a contradiction in terms, but I happen to experience it every now and then. I come up with the perfect line (well, I think so), but don't use it. More often than not, it's because the person who needs to hear it is a humorless leftist (which is usually a redundancy).

Just the other day, for example, I passed by the fashion show tent in Bryant Park, and there were a bunch of anti-fur protestors. "Not wear fur?" I felt like asking. "But what else should we do with the pelts once we're done eating the yummy animals?" Nope. You don't try humor on those types. (One of whom might well be reading this, so I apologize in advance, T.)

More seriously, on Sunday, I passed by Ground Zero on my way to pump some money into the local economy, as they say. The President and First Lady were due to arrive later in the day, and the loons were already out in force. There were a bunch of anti-war (or whatever) protestors with black balloons (huh?) and wearing black, with Arabic lettering (of course) on their shirts. Fools: They'd be the first to be beheaded if they had their way.

But then there was a real loon, ranting and raving in front of a huge banner held by some hangers-on. I caught a bit of it: How the Bush family (!) is responsible for all this country's ills, and how it all started in 1776, when they were on the British side. (Not true, as it happens.) I really wanted to tell him "You know, this really isn't the place for a comedy routine," but he really wouldn't have gotten it.

Later that day, I was re-watching the indispensable 9/11. Something occurred to me that had never really hit home before: The towers are burning and collapsing, and throughout it all, off-duty and even retired firemen are returning to the firehouse, suiting up, and heading down. There's just no words for that sort of thing...those sorts of people.

I have, incidentally, no sympathy at all with the various watchgroups that protested the (re)airing of that movie. Having grown up without a TV, I tend to have little sympathy with them at all, as they seem not to realize that no one is forcing anyone to even own a TV, let alone turn it on. But to pick a fight specifically with this movie is just stupid.

I have even less sympathy, of course, with the Democrats who are howling over The Path to 9/11. Sure, people have a right to protest. But when government (in the form of Congressional Democrats, or even ex-Presidents) does it, it's really crossing a line. Of course, there's a fundamental difference between private and public action that liberals tend to have a hard time grasping in most contexts. But there's a creeping...dare I say fascism, and join Jonah Goldberg, whose not-yet released book seems to hit them a bit close to the mark? Perhaps it's simply a matter of projection of themselves onto others, the same way that it was the Clinton Administration which was involved in writing TV scripts, or how this leftist in Mexico is refusing to abide by election results, or the way that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad demands a debate without "censorship." (A nice continuum there.) Kol HaPosel, B'Mumo Posel- it's always the thing you do that you use to criticize others.

Well, let's speak of better things. This time of year waaaaay back in 1989, I was already running into trouble at my new high school, well on the path to a turbulent few years. My parents, sensible people that they are, decided that suspension from school (shiur) on a Sunday was a fine excuse for doing something much better, namely, taking in the "New York is Book Country" street fair in Manhattan. What a wonderful time! (Actually, I'm probably conflating the number of times we went.)

As was usual, Isaac Asimov himself was at the Doubleday booth, signing books. He'd just published Prelude to Foundation (actually in paperback, but the Lamms decided we'd better get the hardcover, seeing as we'd want him to sign it and all), and although I was never such a huge fan, I figured I'd better get it, meet him, and get his autograph. After all, it was Isaac Asimov!(Come to think, I've had more brushes with Great Men than you'd think. Not sure if I shook his hand, though. And, of course, we didn't know that he wouldn't be with us for much longer.)

I walked up to him. "What's your name?" he asked, flipping open the book. "Ummm...Nathan," I answered. When you have two names, you're never sure which one to give.

"Took you a second, eh?" he smiled, signing, "To Nathan, Isaac Asimov" on the cover page. (I'm looking at that volume right now.)

"Schreib nukh a bissel!" ("Write a little more!") my mother called to him in Yiddish, which, of course, he understood.

"I've been writing all day!" he answered, mock-complaining.

"But you're a writer!" she answered. Like I said, always sensible.

"Ah- but I use a typewriter!" he answered.

What a man. Did you know he was credited as a consultant on the first Star Trek movie? (I knew I had to work in Trek, my main love, on its fortieth anniversary.)

It was later I started reading some of his work, such as the Black Widowers. I remember I bought the posthumous sequel to Prelude, but never got into it. I never really got the whole series, although I read some of the Robot stuff. But his I first read some of his science guides, which my brother has, but later got his Shakespeare and Bible guides. Great stuff.

Anyway, why do I bring him up? Because it's September 14th (or was when I started typing this). On the morning of this day, in 1814, Francis Scott Key witnessed the events that would inspire what would later become the National Anthem. And Asimov wrote a wonderful piece on the anthem (along with what looks like a cute story), which I encourage you to read- you can find it here, and all over the Internet.

I first read that piece as part of a full-page ad by Reader's Digest in the New York Times. I still have it tucked away in a drawer. What strikes me in particular are some interesting turns of phrase by Asimov. From the very end:

I hope you will look at the national anthem with new eyes. Listen to it, the
next time you have a chance, with new ears.

And don't let them ever take it away.

Now, I'm not sure what he means, exactly, by the last line. I do know one thing: The black-shirted anti-Americans at Ground Zero wouldn't approve.

Even better, from the beginning:
In 1812, the United States went to war with Great Britain, primarily over
freedom of the seas. We were in the right.
"We were in the right." Let's not fool ourselves: Asimov was an unreconstructed leftist. But he loved this country with a passion. I'd like to hear- just once- the likes of a Harry Reid or a Nancy Pelosi use language as simple as that. Don't get me wrong- there are liberals in this country- real loons- who sometimes surprise me with their actions and words. I look at some differently after, say, I see them on a USO tour in Afghanistan. But their kind, and those feelings, are more and more rare. I'd like to think it's not just projection of my wishes that thinks that Asimov (braver than I?) would have gone up to that ranting loon at Ground Zero and delivered my premature Treppenwitz for me.

Anyway, that's enough for now. Have a good weekend, all- perhaps I'll be able to write up a bit about the Parsippany story over the weekend- and, of course, go off on who knows how many tangents. Till then!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

"Infrequent"? Moi?

A few weeks back, the OU emailed to tell me they'd be printing my latest missive to Jewish Action. To be perfectly truthful, I'd written it so much earlier I'd forgotten all about it. Ahhh, quarterly publications... But they printed it, and all thanks to them.

I'm flattered that Gil Student has seen fit to compliment the letter in a post devoted to it. Thanks, Gil! And in all honesty, I was going to post the next few items even before your remark about the infrequency of my blogging spurred me on further:

First, as regards yesterday's post, Schumer gets it, a bit. A very little bit. But not so bad, for a Democrat. Of course, he doesn't really make sense, but he's Schumer. (Go back to The Corner and see the other posts on this, though.)

Two comments caught my eye in the paper today:

First, there was a piece about how the WTC Memorial Foundation is appealing for donations through advertising. Now, I've seen these ads. I think they're disgusting, in and of themselves, not to mention the fact that the proposed "memorial" is simply disgraceful: Two holes in the ground. One can only hope that, like the tower, it will improve over time. Perhaps a big donation will get the ball rolling. For a fleeting moment this morning (well, OK, longer than that), my mind was full of one outrageous idea for a monument after another, most of them, inspired by Arne Darvin, quite offensive to our Mohammedan brethren. But you know what? We've proven that we can get it right; let's just apply moving and heroic on a larger scale.

Then there was a photo of some of the members of the polygamist cult whose leader was arrested the other day. They were said to be in "traditional dress" or some such. Well, the women were: They were in what looked like 19th Century or Amish-style dresses. The boys, on the other hand (poor kids, they'll probably be thrown out as soon as they hit their teens) were in plaid shirts and jeans.

Say what you want about the crazy stuff Chassidic men make their women wear (yeah, I know, they really like it, yada yada), at least they, the men, wear stuff that's just as crazy if not more. But this sect...and even more so, the Muslims: London is full of Muslim men and their women. The latter (sometimes clearly converts, God help us) are in the full get-up. The former? You only know they're Arabs from their color. Sometimes we Jews get it right.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Religion of Peace

Well, it seems like quite a few people are outraged by the granting of a visa to former president Khatami. Being a Normal-American, I'm pretty upset myself, especially by this idea that he has something to contribute to a discussion of cultures getting along- and in honor of September 11th, no less! Nor do I see Andrew Stuttaford's point here: It's not like he's currently in office, and, even if he was, I don't see what could be accomplished talking to these lunatics.

What really put the icing on, though, was this piece from Arutz-7:
When the chief rabbi began speaking at the closing ceremony, held on Tuesday,
the Iranian delegation, led by former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami,
stormed out of the hall.
Yeah, Khatami has a lot to contribute.

Note also this, from the same piece:
In his remarks, Rabbi Metzger expressed his disappointment that he could not
talk with some religious leaders because he was Jewish.
Which leaders would that be? The Buddhists, maybe? The Hindus? The Jains? Oh, I was around when Political Correctness got started (and am proud to say I published an article against it in my school newspaper back then), and now it's killing us. Witness this story out of California, merely one of quite a few we've seen recently: Dude's name is "Omeed Aziz Popal." Irish? Italian? African-American? Well, the San Francisco Chronicle won't be the one to tell you. The do mention, almost in passing- thank God for small favors- that he wound up trying to kill people in front of the local Jewish Community Center, but the PC that's killing us by a thousand cuts, and sometimes more, won't let them put two and two together. Hopefully someone- we all- will before it's too late.

Oh, one more thing: Palestinian journalists ask for protection from the PA. (Here, via here.) The kicker?
They also denounced the recent kidnapping of two Fox News journalists in Gaza
City and said those who carried out the abduction acted against the interests of
the Palestinians.

Hmmm. And if it was in their interests, it'd be OK?

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"Dear God! What brave men I must lose this day!"

...bayamim ha-hem, bazeman ha-zeh. (In those days, in these times.)

I took a trip into Brooklyn today. It's really some borough, which I don't see enough, and, thanks to getting off the train a stop early, I got to see more of it than I had expected; to wit, the Gowanus Canal district, location of a thrilling Sherlock Holmes story (sorta).

Anyway, after a nice walk, I got to where I was going, namely, the Old Stone House:

Doesn't look like much, does it? And yet, on August 27, 1776, 230 years ago this month, in the course of the Battle of Long Island, 256 Maryland soldiers* died while attempting to take and hold this farmhouse, which the British had turned into an artillery position. (Sound familiar?) Their sacrifice was what prompted the observing George Washington to murmur the remark that is the title of this post. (If you want to get the full impact of it, watch the movie version of 1776, and see how the actor playing Thomson reads it.)

*Hence the state flag on the left; on the right is this one. Thankfully, they are now hung correctly. I'm sorry that enlarging doesn't seem to work today.

The museum is small, but gives a very full presentation. Of course, I went mostly for the actual experience of what is rightly called "hallowed ground." The actual anniversary will see a recreation of the battle, which I might well attend.

Earlier in the morning, I had had my doubts about going at all. After all, I awoke to this news, which, of course, got worse as the day progressed, and my mood was turned. However, the night before, I had read not only this piece, but this one as well. The latter ends with this trenchant observation:

The disconnect between those who serve and those of us who are beneficiaries of
their service has always felt great to me, but never greater than at that
moment...I went to my car and drove to work with no ambition for the day other
than to be worthy.

There's so little I can really do to express gratitude and to help. I hope, today, through men who died over two centuries ago, I can appreciate, if only slightly better, the sacrifices of their heirs of today, both in the US and in Israel, who continue to fight- and die- for all of us.

Here, by the way, is a picture that, as Dr. Watson would say, has "long lain in my portfolio":

Those are two Yeoman Warders ("Beefeaters") inside the Tower of London. My parents and I, in our trip to London for a family celebration last month, happened to be visiting the Tower on July 7, the one-year anniversary of the bombings in that city. The Warders are preparing to ring one of the ancient bells at noon, when the UK observed two minutes of silence.

All in all, a very good (but very brief) trip. Good to see family especially, and I also got to touch on a few sites I'd long wanted to see- the Cabinet War Rooms and its new Churchill Museum, the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, the Sherlock Holmes Museum, and more.

Getting back to today, before leaving Brooklyn, I also stopped at the Transit Museum:

Yes, that's the entrance- it's a converted subway station, which is very cute, and useful. Highly recommended. I'd gone to see their exhibit on Robert Moses and the Triborough Bridge, but at the start of the tour was a fascinating look at the building of the subway. My goodness, what work went into it. And lives, too: I was particularly struck by the account of ten workers killed while digging the tunnel at 190th and St. Nicholas Avenue- a station I've used. Two were named, the other eight were Italians, names unknown (!). In a way somewhat related to what I've written above, it makes you appreciate even more the fact that on a Sunday, I could get from Queens, through Manhattan, to two stops in Brooklyn, and back again, so quickly.

The day concluded with a wonderful first birthday party for my darling niece Aurelia. Here she is with her proud parents. I think she's just anxious to get to that cake, made to perfection by her mother. (I know I was.)

What a great party. My sister and brother-in-law came too, which was great: I don't see them nearly enough. Too many other pictures to choose from to post them here- but I must send them to my other sister! My birthday was last week, and while I got great cards and gifts from all my siblings and parents, I must post a picture of what she sent me, for its sheer originality:

Front and center are the gummi candies she knows I like so much. (It goes without saying that a Charlie Brown card was included.) As for the rest, well, my Bar Mitzvah parsha (which it doesn't look like I'll be layning this year, sniff) contains the famous pasuk about the sheva minim. So, straight from Israel, she sends me (clockwise from left) crackers flavored with, among other things, olive oil, pomegranate juice, five-grain cakes, figs and dates, and grape candies. So cool, huh? Thanks, Nechama! I hope to see you real soon!

Hmm, not much more to report. It's always sad when someone dies, even at 86 after a full and successful life, but I cracked a smile when I heard about Esther Snyder today:

Walter: "And, yes, we'll be near the..."

Donnie: "In-N-Out Burger."

Walter: "We'll have some burgers...some beers...some laughs..."

That's the best I can wish to you all. And so some email, and so to bed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Challenge of Creation

This post by Stanley Kurtz, particularly the line about how depression "can even lead to philosophical introspection- or religious epiphany" got me thinking about The Lonely Man of Faith, which I am currently reading through for the first time, thanks to an impulse buy of a new paperback edition. I do not mean to say, of course, that the Rav was clinically depressed, as he himself makes clear in the opening pages. As it happens, Kurtz's point is that such technical details don't really matter in the over-medicated world we live in. In any event, it's a bit comforting to yours truly, who still gets the occasional nudge from some friends to solve all my problems (not depression, of course) with a nice little pill. Not that I'm doing anything as creative as writing a book of philosophy, of course.

This particular edition is good for one big reason- it starts with a fine introduction by Dr. Shatz that really opens the work up. (For another introduction, see this cute story.) (On the other hand, the typesetting of the Hebrew phrases is awful. One day I must go through my other edition and correct this one.) If I was half the intellectual I sometimes pretend to be, I'd write a thoughtful blog entry about all the places I find myself taking issue with the Rav (generally on side points), and on the far more, and more substantive, places where I find myself in awe of his sublime writing and ideas. But that, believe it or not, is not the point of this entry, even though the title could easily apply to the Rav's work as well.

This entry, of course, is about R' Natan Slifkin's new book, or rather, the launch event I attended last night at the Young Israel of Kew Gardens Hills. (I'm pretty proud it was in my neighborhood.) As I left, I found myself whistling the "Ascot Gavotte" from My Fair Lady- you know, "Everyone who should be here is here..." Indeed, the place was packed, and among the crowd was a veritable who's who. I got to see lots of people who, well, I just enjoy meeting. And as Dr. Shatz was there (among other YU people such as Drs. David Berger and Shalom Carmy, R' Blau, and R' Feldman), I thanked him for the new edition, stressing what a help his introduction was.

But on to the main topic: As he was signing books, I reminded R' Slifkin that I had gone to the zoo with him last year, and then surprised him by asking him to sign not the new book (which I got as well), but the original, "The Science of Torah." "What's this?!" he exclaimed, "Put it in the genizah!" Instead of signing with his standard "Hope you enjoy the book," he wrote "Hope you enjoyed this fossil!" He's really a great guy.

So before getting to the speeches, who else was there? Well, Steven I. Weiss, who it's always good to see, and a bunch of people from the neighborhood, including Steve Brizel, who I met live for the first time. (He referred me to the post here, and I've commented.) I had best leave the rest anonymous, eh? True to my code as a vexillologist, I inquired as to the odd flag flying up front from the rabbi, and got a solid (if perplexing, to both of us) answer. That's always nice. Side note: With all the triangles in Young Israels, I sometimes wonder about Masonic plots.

I must say, R' Tzvi Hersh Weinreb spoke remarkably well. He began by speaking about the current war in Israel (I do hope I will have my own modest bit to say about it soon), and then, masterfully, linked to the topic of the evening by using the verse in Zechariah about the fasts becoming holidays- "VeHaEmet VeHaShalom Ehavu." He spoke about the importance of truth, and peace, and finished by discussing the point of view that God wants us to study the universe- a Lammian (not me, and yet my view as well) view, I should point out.

Gil Student then spoke very well about ignoring bans. He focused on halacha, and who is entitled to decide bans and the like. I have to raise some points and objections here, though: First, I'd like to point out that just as there may be opinions as whether or not to ban a book, so too there are (or should be) opinions that books are not to be banned, period. (Henry Jones, Sr.: "It tells me that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try reading books instead of burning them.") After all, when all is said and done, what happens if, following your "Gadol knows right, so long as I get to choose the gadol" hashkafa, you can't find one to choose? (OK, I'm an Apikores. But I won't surrender my God-given mind.)

More importantly, there was a lot of apologetics last night, as well as within the book itself. "This book is not meant for certain people" and the like. Now, I understand that part of this may have been meant to stave off further bans, as if that would help and as if they would hurt any more. But it strikes me more as groveling. (Chip Diller: "Thank you sir, may I have another!") More importantly: Charedim seem to have no problem dismissing any point of view that isn't their own, openly saying that everyone should be like them (if they don't simply ignore everyone else). Why can't the Modern Orthodox do the same? Why do we look over our right shoulders instead of saying, plainly, that intellectual openness is the one true path in Judaism, and ultra-Orthodoxy is illegitimate?

Eh, I'm shouting down the wind here. And detracting from the main point, which is that the gathering was quite good, and the book, from what I've read so far, is remarkable too. R' Slifkin, God bless him, sees the folly in Gosse as well as in Intelligent Design, and shows said follies in a lucid way. He spoke as well, of course, getting (through a humorous tone) right down to the main issues involving the book. He answered (or dodged, as appropriate) a few questions, and signed some more. I recommended the Darwin exhibit at the Museum of Natural History to him, and headed home.

The next event, in Teaneck tonight, would be a bit much for me, I think. Go if you can! Maybe I'll catch him at Stern at the end of the summer. A big yasher koach to R' Slifkin (and to Gil!), and wishes for all future success to them.

Please God, I shall have something substantive to say on Israel soon. Until then!

Sunday, June 18, 2006

"I will do such things- what they are yet, I know not; but they shall be the terrors of the earth!"

It's all in the delivery, as I've noted below. So too the line above. To be perfectly honest, while I studied King Lear in my senior year of high school (with Mr. Schoenberg, OBM) and have seen it here and there, I don't think I ever really knew that the line above was from there. I have seen it in various contexts, however, like here, and I guess I knew it was Shakespeare. (And not in the "don't know a source of a quote, just say Shakespeare" way.)

On the face, it seems pretty fierce: "Oh, what I'm gonna do to you is so bad, I haven't even thought of what it is yet!" But today, I saw the Boomerang Theatre production in Central Park. I've always liked these outdoor Shakespeare productions: In fact, later in the day, I passed the location of the famous "Shakespeare in the Parking Lot" productions, which I hope are still around, if only for the name. (Update: Yup. Yay!) Sue me, but the idea that Shakespeare is always produced, and in such settings, stirs some deeper parts of my nature.

This production happened to be quite good. And the line of the title of this post was delivered in a way I'd never have thought: Imagine Lear, played here by an older, white bearded actor. They added an interesting touch: Lear has changed from the suit he wore at the beginning of the play to a plaid shirt and chinos while carousing with his men. It was still early on in the play, but I got the thought, as soon as I saw him, of "Damn. He gets thrown out while dressed down like that."

Now he's being thrown out by his daughters, crushed, insisting (against all evidence) that he will "not weep." And he delivers the line: "I will do such things..." And he pauses, and, voice faltering, finally says, "what they are yet, I know not..."

And it's over for him. Oh, he can finish, "but they shall be the terrors of the earth!" And that might even restore a bit of his dignity or authority. But it doesn't really matter. We've seen that he has no power, no idea what to do. Perhaps he never did. And he will have none until he dies.

Whew. Makes you think. As I said, a good production, a good location, a good crowd, a great cast and direction. And what lines!
This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune,
often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun,
the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly
compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards,
liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence; and all
that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on: an admirable evasion of
whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!
And then there's something Cecil Adams wrote:
My epiphany happened during my freshman year in college, when I took an
introductory lit class with one of the great teachers, a fellow named Bergen
Evans. One day Evans was lecturing on King Lear. After some buildup about the
sense of despair in this play, he read the famous lines: "As flies to wanton
boys, are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport." The last few words were
said with a sort of quiet hiss. I suppose you had to be there. All I know is, I
didn't question Shakespeare's genius after that.
Not quite the way it was delivered here- more as a shout to the heavens- but I said it along with the actor this time. What truths.

Jam-packed Sunday, as it happens. I got a haircut (saved unimaginable amounts of time and money), and went straight off to the Museum of Natural History, to see their Darwin exhibit. Very well done, and lots to report on that (or based on that), but it'll have to wait for a more decent hour. Then off to Lear, and you've seen about that.

Oh- there've been some good flag-related pieces in the Times lately. Here's one about my dream job, and here's one from today. Regarding the latter, I have to say I approve- especially considering that we know what the alternative is. (Hint: It wears headscarves.)

Anyway, I hope to have more about evolution later. Until then, have a great week, homes!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Happy Flag Day!

Only a few minutes left to Flag Day (and the US Army's birthday), so I'd better blog about it. Sotheby's today auctioned four Revolutionary War flags; you can read about it here. They were kind enough to extend an invitation to the pre-auction luncheon to NAVA members, so that's where I was this afternoon.

It was a sight to see. I've never been to an auction before, and this one was pretty impressive. The unit that was the original possessor of one flag has been re-established, and there were re-enactors there in full costume.

I took this photo without a flash, before seeing that everyone else was using one and turning mine on. The Dragoons wore horse tails on their helmets, which reminded me of the Rohirrim. (Perhaps Tolkien meant it to be the other way around.)

Also there was the great-great descendant of the British officer who had captured the flags and brought them back to England; they've been in the family since. I think I even heard him mentioning that he was wearing his ancestor's cufflinks. He posed with the unit of re-enactors in front of the flag, which was quite nice. (A bit fuzzy, sorry.) The auction was packed, standing room only. The individual unit flag, the earliest surviving example of a thirteen-stripe US flag, sold for 11 million dollars. The three regiment flags from Virginia sold together for four and a half million. They both went to the same bidder (on the telephone), who, after fees and taxes and all, will pay about 18 million dollars. I do hope they'll be on public display somewhere.

I made sure to thank the auctioneer, who had extended the invitation, and picked up a free catalog. In the cab back to work, I took in the magnificent buildings on Sutton Place. What lovely houses. (Sotheby's, a more- very- modern building, is nothing to sneeze at either.) All in all, a good way to celebrate Flag Day.

Monday, May 15, 2006

"So long as they don't do it in the streets and frighten the horses."

That's what Ellen Terry said after Oscar Wilde was arrested. [Correction: Terry, while supportive, never quite understood exactly what Wilde was accused of doing. The above comment was made by another actress.] It came to mind after seeing a performance of The Importance of Being Earnest yesterday. As one woman sitting behind me, flipping through the program, complained to the audience member seated next to her, "They spend so much time talking about the scandal that there's nothing about his writing!" Which, unfortunately, was true. I'm not saying that things have to be swept under a rug (or, better, into a closet). But to give over a play without telling us of the play itself- its history, what Shaw had to say, its influence? Without telling us that Wilde was a great writer, who wrote The Picture of Dorian Gray, Salome? Instead, the program- I'm paraphrasing, but this is the gist- tells us that Wilde was born, went to college, wrote some articles, met Alfred Douglas in 1891, and that was the end of him.

He met Bosie in 1891, as the program states. His most famous works followed in the next few years. Nothing. But such is the state of Culture that it must be done in the streets, the horses- and Wilde himself- be damned.

Speaking of which, I found it ironic that one of the eulogists at A. M. Rosenthal's funeral described him as the man who "kept the Times straight." Now, this was an old dude, probably meaning the word as it's always been. But, as I said, ironic, considering, as I've mentioned here before, that under Rosenthal, they couldn't even use the word "gay." Now? Horse-frightening time!

Oh, the play was magnificent, by the way. It was the last performance of Peter Hall's production at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Harvey Theater. (The theater is named for one Harvey Lichtenstein, but the first name is shorter and easier to pronounce than the last, I guess. There is a [Roy] Lichtenstein print inside, interestingly. And the building is...also interesting. By "interesting," I mean, "looks like it's about to fall down." As the guy sitting next to me said, they probably can't afford to fix it up just now, so try they pass off the boarded-up-for-decades ruins as "authentically Brooklyn" or some such.)

Whoa, I'm really getting distracted with my rants. The performance! Wonderful! Lynn Redgrave as Lady Bracknell. Every actress I've seen brings a little something different to the role, even while staying true to the original. I always pay special attention to how the "handbag" line is delivered. When I saw Patricia Routledge perform the role in London, it was an annoyed bellow, coming after Jack's endless revelations. (A news item in The Times about the Queen Mother's two daughters taking her to a performance for her birthday alerted me to it being on. I liked the way The Times offhandedly referred to how "even Aunt Augusta" sang "Happy Birthday" with the rest of the cast, as if we're all just supposed to know what that means and implies.)

Edith Evans (in a movie with another Redgrave) delivers the line with a shocked, but still upper-class nasal, cry. Judi Dench sort of sighs it, in resignation. Ms. Redgrave, yesterday, just said it, dismissively, her head almost turned, her mind already made up about Jack.

Anyway, kudos to the cast, crew, and BAM. An enjoyable three-borough Sunday, starting with a very good Kollel (as always) and ending with a bit of Wilde. What's not to like?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"I don't care who went here...their spirit is DEAD!"


Well, I figured I'd drop the topics promised in the previous post (including, regretfully, Szyk, but check him out here) in favor of a discussion of Isaiah and the Messiah. But then, yesterday morning, I heard a bit on the news I felt compelled to comment on. And then another and another. So the Messiah, figuratively speaking at least, will have to wait. I'm sure my huge audience (wherever it is) is sorely disappointed on all points.

The news kicked off with a bit about Tax Day, pushed off two days to Monday this year. Here in New York, however, because we send our hard-earned money to the ever-rapacious government via their processing center located (somewhat appropriately) in Andover, Massachusetts, we got one more day, since it was Patriot Day there Monday. (It really should be the 19th, I guess, but the three-day weekend, God bless it, usually- but not always!- wins out over history.) The Mets even had free tax help last night.

Anyway, I heard that bit, and fell in love with the USA all over again. Ain't this a great country, with a great federal system, with local days and the like? It sure is.

And then came the next bit. Some pissant state legislator babbling incoherently (as the Left is wont to do) about the need to let cops break into people's homes to see if their kids are drinking. The scariest part was that somewhere in his ravings, he mentioned the need to find "balance" or some such. If this is "balance," I shudder to think what he thinks is a reasonable extreme. Taking kids from parents at birth and having the State raise them, I guess. Oh, wait, we do that already. And they always said it was the Right who'd bring us Fascism.

Anyway, this guy was from Connecticut. In New England. Had he been around on the Eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five, he'd have been lucky to get away with some tar and feathers.

That got me thinking of Paul Revere, as I like to do, and that always makes me feel better. "The Regulars are out! To arms!"

In war news, I think it's hi-larious that Moussaoui is now pleading a tough childhood. When you get down to it, these jihadis are just big infants. With bombs, of course.

Meanwhile, Hanoi Jane, in an interview that shows just how much like us (not) the privileged Left is ("Oh, I love to fish on Ted's property in Argentina!"), tells about how she'd have loved to protest the Iraq War, but had too much "baggage." Fortunately, Cindy Sheehan was there to fill in. Cindy has no baggage, apart from being a raving anti-American, anti-Semitic loon.

Speaking of the war, this piece by Ben Wattenberg is one of the stupidest things I've ever read. Ben loves immigints. More than bears. He thinks they provide lots of bodies for the armed forces to stop bullets with. He likes assimilation, but not enough to mention it more than once. He produces this zinger:

Most Jews want their children to marry other Jews, but half of them don't.
Israel Zangwill was right; we are a melting pot - although Pat Moynihan used to
point out with glee that Zangwill later emigrated to Palestine!
Well, "most" is not "half." And Zangwill died in England. But I digress: This paragraph is pointless, and makes no sense, to boot.

Then he ends with this:

Native Americans, slaves in chains, George Washington, Albert Einstein, and the
guys who started Google came from somewhere else. With earlier restrictions we
could have become Australia or Canada. (Canadians let in a lot of immigrants in
a wiser manner than we do, and then many of them promptly come here, including a
few terrorists.)
Ahem. George Washington, one of the "guys who started Google," and lots of other people were born here. And terrorism should not be an afterthought.

In any event, it's a dumb show. A nation that can't keep out illegal drugs,
can't keep out illegal immigrants. If we try to do it harshly, we are begging
for trouble with Mexico, and with observers around the world.
Sure, let's worry about what the world says! Let's give up and surrender! Let's sign California over to Mexico! (I'd give up Puerto Rico first.)

Oh, Lord. On to Israel.
I wonder. Bush and all like to talk about how the vote for Hamas wasn't for terrorism, but against corruption, for better services, yada yada. I wonder if they'd make the same argument about Kadima- it wasn't a vote to withdrawal, but against...hmm. Kadima is the party of corruption. Nevermind. Let's take voters at their word, or, better, accept that once they vote, it doesn't matter what they had in mind.

Meanwhile, Katsav had this winner of a line:

"I oppose negating the citizenship of Israelis because of their religious [sic], nationality, or race, no matter what the reasons are. The rights of Israel's Arabs are not conditioned upon their fulfilling obligations [to the state], just as their obligations are not conditioned on the receipt of rights."

OK, that makes no sense. Rights may be immutable, true, but there are certain obligations that we have nonetheless. As he, he makes less sense than Ben Wattenberg. Or maybe more...I dunno. I'd say you should only be allowed to hold office if you have a good grounding in political theory and rights, but that's arguing for a government of lawyers, God forbid. We've got that in the US, and they still don't know anything about that. Anyway, Katzav owes his position to an imitation (God knows why) of the British monarch, and as an English friend of a friend once put it, "We don't count on our Royals for brains."

As that link shows, some, alas, do. But as long as I'm linking to the Telegraph, I found something fascinating there: Shiite Islam believes in 36 hidden righteous people. (Of course, their loony president probably thinks he's one of them, which alone would be a sure sign he isn't.) Is it a coincidence that there's a similar Jewish belief? Well, maybe.

Well, we muddle along, confident that the body of the people, anywhere, is so much better than the politicians who purport to lead them. And that is what makes countries great. On to the last day(s) of chag, Isaiah, and the Messiah! Enjoy, all!

Monday, April 10, 2006


A few random links, courtesy of The Corner:

The Queen is worth 23 millihelens. Brava, and Happy Birthday! (You, too, Hef.)

What's interesting here is what no one has yet mentioned- all these modern, successful, politically correct women- all staying home with the kids, bragging about how many they're raising. (Follow the link to the original piece, then click on the next piece, for yet another Chillul Hashem. Me, I saw the biggest seagull this morning. All that trash.)

Kurtz comes close, but doesn't quite admit what's going on here: McCain's in a position to win. Had he won the primaries in '00 (with CFR passed anyway, why didn't I support him?), you can bet the media would've dumped him then too.

Steyn's latest hits a bit close to home. The Corner (apart from the resident kike) has been making some good points as well.

The free paper today provided a laugh. Turns out that Charlize Theron and the beau (some other actor) are declining to marry until gays have the "right." I love it! Another way for guys to avoid committment, with added bonus of being Mr. Sensitive! "Oh, I'd love to settle down, baby, but the poor gays..."

Of course, silliness isn't limited to celebrities, as the same paper will reveal. Although here it's more sickening: A young person is dead, and the talkers and PTB argue over whether it was a hate crime? Does it matter? (And I ask that as a victim of a similar attack, fortunately ended a bit better.) Charge them with the crime! Jeez! This is identity politics run amok, along with these idiotic hate crimes laws. (You remember Pataki's idiotic line, about how they might have prevented Hitler.)

Anything else? Oh, yes, the Szyk exhibit and associated ironies. And multinationalism. Tomorrow, perhaps.

Thursday, April 06, 2006


Call me sensitive, but this rioting in Borough Park is really getting to me personally. I generally don't approve of starting up with anybody, and especially people who are serving you. And now I have to worry that every cop who sees my headgear will think I'm just like one of these animals? (As evidenced by this chat board that's been posted.) It's bad enough that someone named Weissman down South has to go fighting the Pledge of Allegiance. Change your name, buddy. Better yet, shut up.

Anyway, apart from the worst aspect of it- the rioting itself- one thing that really gets to me is this accusation (as if it somehow absolves the rioters) that the Chief of Police used the word "Jew" somehow. Jews, especially those who are visibly Jews, have really got to wake up to certain realities. Namely, if you appear unusual somehow, people will notice and it will stick in their minds. This is especially true of Chassidim, the whole point of whose life is to be different. So if the Chief is faced with the already unusual situation of a Chassidic riot, and sees a mob of men in coats and hats and peyot, what do you expect to pop into his head? (I guess it's somewhat related to that little tiff of putting "Jew couple" on a bill.)

Don't get me wrong: This is a great and tolerant country, where the vast majority of people, of all classes, races, and so on, have no problem with Jews and may even think they're terrific. I've been to the most WASPy events and seen evidence of this. (And no, it wasn't an Eddie Murphy-style "Especially not when I'm around" type of thing.) In addition, America is a very polite place, where even the most racist individuals are circumspect in their language, and not just because they're PC-whipped. This in opposition to wonderfully tolerant Europe, for example.

However, people notice details of skin color, head coverings, and more. It's natural, it happens to all of us, and Dov Hikind should cut it out.

Another troubling absolution-of-rioters is the harping on the original arrest. Right or wrong, I think it reflects a deeper Orthodox (and Jewish, and middle-to-upper-class) neurosis- that somehow, certain people don't "belong" in jail or shouldn't have trouble with the police. I noticed this recently in a blog entry criticizing attempts to get rabbis and the like to write letters for clemency for Abramoff. I'm sure the practice is common in many communities, and may not be completely wrong. But it certainly reflects this mindset- that there are no Jewish criminals, or, if there are, they shouldn't do hard time. And this leads to the excitable starting riots when cops do to a Jew what they do to others every hour of the day.

Anyway, put me foursquare on the side of law and order on this one, and against the enemies of society.

Wow. Back to ranting! Well, I better give it a rest for the Chag. Later, all!

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


First things first- it's Mom's birthday! Happy birthday, Mom!

It happens to be Jonah Goldberg's as well- Happy birthday!- and, as it happens, I wanted to mention this column by him. [Off topic, Brookhiser has never seen The Merry Wives of Windsor? The horror! Oh, and also: John Podhoretz is really, really, out of his element in The Corner.]

Anyway. Quoth Jonah:
...I think it’s better for everybody concerned if we start from a foundation of
libertarianism and build up from it. In public policy — as opposed to cultural
politics — I think the default position should be libertarian and then arguments
should be made for why we should deviate from libertarian dogma.
(Come to think, Ben Chorin's post is somewhat related.) The important thing is, with all this talk of new movements and all, I'm beginning to think of myself as a "Goldberg conservative." Well, as a Lamm-conservative, but he's more famous.

There's also this:
I can still be stunned by the barbarism of really anti-Semitic e-mail. What’s
even more depressing is the anti-Semitic e-mail from people who are otherwise
normal and then slip it in because they simply get comfortable.
I hate to say it, but the man has a point. Of course, it comes out on the Left more. Just see this.

One last thing: What sort of question is this?
"Do you believe this, that the war in Iraq and the rise of terrorism are signs
of the apocalypse? And if not, why not?"
Huh? Is she trying to trap Bush as being for it or against it? What do you answer to that? Well, what Bush did answer, I guess.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

What the...?

I don't doubt the quote from the Vaad president here is true. It's just a prime example of not letting greenhorns into positions of influence before they realize what's what.

Of course, it's not like native do a much better job, but first things first.

Reading the dude's site, it seems clear he's pulling the old "be a troublemaker and claim they don't like you for other reasons" shtick. It also seems clear that YU is pulling the old "don't like someone and claim he's being a troublemaker" shtick. Wouldn't things be so much simpler if people were honest, and YU had lawyers and staff who had certain, well, values, aside from PR?

One more thing: I'm certainly glad I never vote for Democrats. Mayersohn represents my district. I've never voted for her.

On a completely different note: Memo to self: There are certain people out there (especially on Mail-Jewish, it seems) who take the things they have a strong interest in very seriously indeed. Do not anger them. You've done it too many times (three at least) already.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sheloshim Yom Kodem HaChag...

(Not to neglect Caesar, of course.) Well, a bit more on Purim, in honor of Shushan Purim. (In Chevron, they celebrate both days; as a friend of the family's said to my sister, "We exchanged Purim Shel Galut for Yom Tov Sheni Shel Geulah. Hee!)

After Shacharis yesterday, I spoke with the Rabbi a bit about the two famous repeated words in the Megillah- he'd given a shiur once about what the correct version was, and I wanted to know what to do, as our Megillah has the "incorrect" versions. Turned out his does as well. In any event, we fell to talking about what may have caused this- perhaps the fact that "leharog" is mentioned twice before (and, he point out, bifneihem earlier in Tanakh with similar words) led to them being written in those forms here.

I then mentioned the fact that some people repeat "B'Omrom" when that is certainly just a k'tiv; he told me that he asked the Grach that very point, and he said the same thing. But as I read the Megillah later that day, I realized that B'Omrom, too, occurs earlier, and there may have a been a similar- and, obviously, much older- mix-up leading to the k'tiv.

Something to ponder. And now on to Pesach!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Kol Rinah V'Yeshua B'Oholei Tzadikim...

Well, that's the "official" explanation of the word "Krovetz." Probably just a form of "K'rovah," but that's typical, as we will see shortly.

What a great Purim! Relaxing and exhilirating at the same time! It does remind me that I've wanted to comment of the "Krovetz" for Purim for a while.

A passing reference at a shiur of R. Leiman led to some research in the Encyclopedia Judaica, where I made an interesting discovery: The nineteenth bracha in Shemona Esrei is not Minim, as we've always learned. That was always there, at least as a general request to defeat enemies, with the later Tanaaitic "creation" (merely) being the addition of language against internal enemies. (Come to think, the Gemara seems to differ with that idea. Anyway.) The actual nineteenth blessing seems to have been "Et Tzemach," the content of which would seem to be covered in the previous Bracha. (Or, perhaps, according to the "traditional" view, it was incorporated there by some to maintain the eighteen total?) That it wasn't added until much later, at least in Israel, can be seen by the fact that the various weekday k'rovot (and, despite what your siddurim of today will show, there were many, for many weekday semi-holidays), written in Israel, do not contain added text for that bracha.

Of course, Artscroll, proudly obscurantist to the last, as a glance at their catalogs (arrived today) will show, chooses to ignore this (if they ever knew it). Instead, they give a cock-and-bull story about how Esther and Mordechai were from the family of Sha'ul and thus there's no k'rovah for the bracha dealing with the line of David. Typical.

My father, in fact, was m'chaven to Artscroll and thought of the same reason on his own. But he, you see, is not editing a new siddur. (Nor am I.) Artscroll is, and should know better.

Speaking of siddurim, I had another interesting experience. I was going through siddurim at the YU library recently (don't ask why), and came across the Kabbalah Centre's [sic], by none other than "Rav Berg" [sic]. Right away, I flipped through to the "Shelo Asani" brachot. After all, if you're changing for a modern audience, that'll be the first to go- and not entirely without halakhic support, if I may. I was much surprised- not a word was changed. There were lots of explanations, of course, about how "goy" doesn't mean, well, "goy" and so on, but nothing too far from what Artscroll will give you. It made me wonder if the Bergs relate to their center (notwithstanding that they created it) in a similar manner to the Young Israel rabbis I discussed here- that all that stuff may be good for them, but there are some lines they can't bring themselves to step over. Odd.

One good thing about taking the day off was that I got to hear Rush for the first time in a while. He was great- oh, how I've missed him. One good moment, however inadvertent, occured right after Rush, responding to a caller, explained all about why entitlement programs, specifically Medicaid, have to (or want to) push for "customers" so hard. It was followed immediately by an ad trying to convince people that they really need to sign up for the...Medicaid prescription medication, program.

As long as we're on politics, the little bit at the end here is just ridiculous. It's not like the reporter didn't know full well where the President gets his news- and with the kid and his family right there, he tries to score a cheap point. Bush, of course, pulled it off great, God bless. (Hat tip.)

A new Tradition, and it's a beaut. Congrats, especially, to the new online editor!

Oh, and I must quote this email in full:

Dear NAVites,

Many thanks to everyone who responded to Geoff Lester's question
about his "mystery flag." Below is the email that I received from him
today. I didn't mention last time that he was referred to us by the staff
of National Geographic. Both the referral and our response are convincing
proof that NAVA is "where it's at" when it comes to vexi-matters. Well
done, everybody!

Peter Ansoff

President, NAVA


Dear Peter: What a response! The flag turns out to be that of the West Indies Federation, 1958 to 1962. I do very much appreciate your help and have thanked those who responded to your request, namely: James Ferrigan, Nathan Lamm, Steve Wheatley, Whitney Smith, Roger Baert, Luc Baronian, John Ford, David Ott and Fred Barcel. I salute you all. Geoff.

Me and Whitney Smith in one sentence! Oh, my, goodness. What a great Purim.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Leave an entire month without a blog posting? And risk messing up the index on the side? (Yes, that's how my mind works.) Well, despite a request not to put up pictures of the simchot, I, quoting Patrick Henry, say, "Forbid it, Almighty God!" And so, some thoughts:

-As kids, we had a Purim coloring book which began with a picture of snow falling. I remember thinking that was silly- snow was for Chanukah! And this morning, the first day of Rosh Chodesh Adar, we get snow! And they say the world's getting warmer. Or cooler. Or something.

-On the bus home Sunday, I observed, as I have a few times recently without comprehension, an advertisement for Burger King, in Spanish. Above it, someone had added the observation that we "have Bush to thank for this," and advising those coming to America to "learn English or go home." Below this fine sentiment was another, in a thicker pen, altering "America" to "Amerikkka", as is the way of the Left, and calling the former editorialist a (you guessed it) "racist." Well, I'm omitting some of the more pungent New York tawk. But you get the idea.

Anyway, it just made me marvel how we've reached a point where the supposed fanatical right-wing president is defended, at least somewhat and on some grounds, by the Left. Go figure. Someone on National Review recently made the point of how the lack of will among Republicans to take on certain issues (immigration, multiculturalism, etc.) only encourages the real loons further right. (Or left, or what-have-you.)

-I was on the bus as I was returning from Kollel Yom Rishon. Very good, as always. Rabbi Blech had a line that, well, spoke right to me, but was sort of rendered moot today, at least for now. And the Yiddish from the other presenter (both, really) was kept down to somewhat tolerable levels. (That reminds me- I still haven't done a review of the book I received. Not sure if it would be polite to write too honestly.) As long as I was up in the Heights, I took in a fine and hospitable siyum by a good friend and the last day of the Sefarim Sale. I didn't buy anything this time, but it was nice to see as it wound down. Although I regret giving my number more than getting it, as seems to be a theme.

-Finally, the status of gedolim seems to be an issue, as one may see here (and here), here (and here), and here (don't miss the comments on any of those posts). Two Sundays ago, I attended the OU's second Mesorah Conference, just as good as the first (although no big dinner after, alas). One thing I noted especially: The audience were ba'alei (and ba'alot) bayit, serious, certainly, but I would imagine not particularly "into" the big fights, followers of the blogosphere, militant Modern Orthodox, or anything like that. And yet whenever something particularly silly done by contemporary gedolim came up- not gratuitously or maliciously, to be sure, but these things happen more often than ever nowadays, it seems, and so come up they did- there were reactions ranging from knowing titters to outright guffaws. An offhand mention of Slifkin, laughter. An example of poskim deciding things not at all in their purview, the same.

Oh, and one more thing- it seems there's a growing number of Orthodox (again, leaning right, not part of any of the categories listed above) who have taken a real interest in Masoretic issues. An offhand reference to Ben Asher and Karaism by a speaker at the conference brought an impassioned reaction from one audience member, for example, and I've been seeing quite a bit of this in recent times. I'm getting the strong feeling that a lot of people are starting to grasp that something's not quite right with the party line ("every letter from Sinai" is just the tip of the iceberg). Lord knows where it will end, especially when combined with the other sentiments above.

Enough for now. I'll write about the Artscroll treatment of the K'rovot for Purim closer to the day itself, I hope. For now: Was there really no other option than to write the word "Bavli" over and over again in the edition of Shekalim?

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Auld Acquaintance

Today is the 230th anniversary of the first hoisting of the Grand Union Flag, predecessor to the modern United States flag. A real reason to celebrate! Hope you all have a great 2006!