Tuesday, August 14, 2007

"Still a little bit of summer left..."

You know, this week marks the twenty-fourth anniversary of the performance (on CD as "Comedian" and on film as "Delirious") in which Eddie Murphy uses that line. And you know what? I have two cookouts coming up. Neither in "my house!" (Um, no links here, sorry. Family blog. My reviews are on Amazon.)

Brooke Astor has died, R.I.P. Just this weekend I was reading about her, on the penultimate page of Tom Wolfe's "Radical Chic":
And it didn't particularly help the situation that Mrs. Astor got off a rapid
letter to the Times informing them that she was not at the
"party." She received an invitation, like all sorts of other people, she
supposed, but, in fact, she had not gone. Thanks a lot, Brooke Astor.
Yay for Brooke Astor! For so many other things, too! One wonders what the current heiress to the Waldorf will do with herself at 105.

Meanwhile, on hearing of the death of Phil Rizzuto, the first thing that came into my mind (the keychain on Seinfeld, oddly, only arriving later) was the quote from Yogi on hearing of DiMaggio's forthcoming marriage to Marilyn: "I don't know if it's good for baseball, but it sure beats the hell out of rooming with Phil Rizzuto."

Well, a Chodesh Tov to all. Every Rosh Chodesh, during davening (links added in lieu of translations), I am reminded of two Tehillim-related stories. Fortunately, Rosh Chodesh is two days this month, so I hope to post them tomorrow.

Oh, and by the way, Yay! The crass political line aside, I'm actually pretty flattered by the first paragraph of the answer. I should make it my tagline here.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A few random thoughts:

The Jerusalem Post had a few interesting articles yesterday. Reading pieces like this, on the looming Haredi implosion or whatever they call it, often makes me think the writers are engaging in wishful thinking. On the one hand, all the facts are certainly on their side. On the other, you never know how corrupt institutions will find ways to perpetuate themselves. Visit your local ultra-Orthodox shul and look at the diverse membership. Eh. Hoping he's right, and hoping not too many people (and certainly not Israel as a whole) are hurt in the process.

Sometimes one wishes that even big rabbis would have someone able to take them aside and be a Dutch uncle to them. "Maybe, k'vod harav, you should consider retiring from the public stage. Or at least not talking into microphones any more. Or at least realizing you have an open mike and that people hear you and discuss you. Or at least realizing that this is 2007 and adapting your language accordingly. Or at least wear normal clothes and end the personality cult." Well, the last (the clothes, at least) is probably asking for too much. (The reisha, by the way, may seem- perhaps- to apply only to Sephardic Chief Rabbis past and present [but probably not]; the seifa certainly applies to many more.)

By the way, a more significant angle from this story than the personality of R' Yosef is an important halakhic historical point: Notice how well- word for word, almost- this ties into the GRaCh's "Rupture and Reconstruction". Ah, I have some nice memories of the history of that article.

Then there's this. Now, I'll admit I've always been a big fan of Hecht- all of his works, in fact, not just the Israel stuff- with the important caveat, as an NCSY advisor who saw me reading Perfidy said, that "you have to love Israel before you can hate it." [I'd put "hate" and "it" in quotes.] (And that led me to an appreciation of Bergson, who, thank God, is getting more and more admirers by the day. See here for a way he's entered the common parlance; see here for a real practical step. Yad Vashem, of course, hasn't taken such a step, leading me to the uncharitable but, I think, justified thought on my part that I'm proud I've never been there. Nor do I think it's a coincidence that Yad Vashem is the institution behind this extraordinarily weak effort to rehabilitate Kastner. Oh, and see this somewhat related piece as well- I think Bergson was on board. Meir Kahane once lamented that "[n]ot one in 100 outside Israel" knows about the Altalena, so it's good this was written. But I digress, a bit.) Even so, I think Lapid's assertion is very odd. Granted, the era of the Holocaust was a terrible time, and who can know or judge what people did then. But if that idea taken to an extreme, one would have to question why anyone- Jew or Nazi- would ever be held to account in court. I think that the trial (especially in a case like Kastner's) is more for us than for them- a lesson for us, telling us how we should act in, God forbid, similar circumstances or under any pressure. And so, of course, we can't be sure. But the lesson must be learned, one way or another, and there must be moral absolutes taught, or else it's all meaningless. (Of course, one can imagine what someone with Lapid's politics would answer to that. But they'd be wrong.)

Finally, there's this. I especially point to the line where Derb writes, "Ron Paul has got the Jew Thing", with a link to his article on the subject. Exactly right- it's the first thing I always think of. I don't think it's parochial of me- think the old "canary in the coal mine" analogy- to instantly judge anyone who gets the Jew Thing. There's been this whole discussion of Russell Kirk recently, for example, and yet, I, in my ignorance, can only think, "Jew thing...Jew thing..." about him. Sure, I'm Jewish and Zionist and sensitive about such things. But I think that succumbing to the Jew Thing, at whatever point, is a good sign of intellectual sickness, or at least senility. Is this a "my way or the highway" thing? Of course not. As a Kahanist, I don't expect anyone prominent to agree with me. (Sometimes it seems bashing Kahanism is a requisite to being prominent, witness Noah Feldman.) But the Jew Thing is almost always bigger than that, obvious, and troubling. I guess I shouldn't mind if others, especially non-Jews, don't let the Jew Thing of others get to them as much as it does to me, but that doesn't mean I'm free to ignore it. Oh, and yes, seemingly harmless statements about "Israel" are perfectly legitimate indicators of the Jew Thing, in my humble opinion.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Most Important Things

Well, my birthday has come, and, in keeping with custom (I think- I can't find the post), it has not yet gone, although it was yesterday. I think this year I shall hold out for one more week- my Hebrew birthday, after all, is next Tuesday.

Well, said birthday has certainly shown me how blessed I am. My family- parents and siblings, near and far- all checked in through various communications media to send best wishes and more, and the Rakeffets joined us for a great lunch. My friends and work colleagues treated me to a bit of cheer as well. In what matters, I'm doing great. Who needs more?

Oh, and the week started off (on Tu B'av, in fact) with a wedding. At City Hall (well, technically the Municipal Building, but who's keeping track?), which actually let me witness about ten weddings in a half hour. And you know how I, the sap, reacted to that.

Anyway, congrats to Halcyon, the DH, and all the family! They were all so nice to me, I almost thought for a second that I was the guest of honor. :-) It was great being there, meeting them, at long last (we've known each other for quite a few years and only met in person for the first time last week), and sharing in the happiness. All good wishes for a wonderful life together!

Here's a photo of the new couple:

Ah, I'm in a photoblogging mood. Here are some more:

With Hal's parents. I'm sorry I didn't get such a good shot with the two shviggermuters (their word, heh).

The actual ceremony. I was offered a better spot, but didn't want to be too much in the way. I was trying to stay out of everyone's shots as it was. Anyway, I got a good angle of an amazing hairdo (Hal's- obviously not the hubby's):

And, after trying to stay out of shots, I was honored to be invited into a "friends" pic. (Credit: Hal's bro.)

Anyway, all good wishes to everyone, participants, readers, and the world at large. Happy Birthday!