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!