Friday, August 31, 2007

The Larry Craig Experiment

A crazy philosopher I used to work with always said to me "e-Kvetcher, experiment proves all!"

So as I was sitting in a bathroom stall, I started thinking about poor Senator Craig and his bathroom troubles. I'd like to give the guy the benefit of the doubt - mistakes can happen and can be misconstrued. So I tried to spread my legs wide enough to reach into the next stall - IT'S NOT POSSIBLE. The pants naturally restrict the range of motion of the legs. The only way to do this would be to not have your pants down, or to swing both legs to the side to allow one of them to go under the stall divider.

Of course, all experiments should be repeated to verify the findings.

Ite, missa est!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Now they blame the Jews for christianizing Russia

Would you believe that I stumbled onto a site (community board type thing) of some Russian pagan, Aryan metal fans. They have a very elaborate theory blaming the "Byzantine Jews" for bringing Christianity into the pagan Russia and destroying their country...

Lift not the painted veil...

A few months ago, I saw a really good movie - "The Painted Veil" - and I am ashamed to admit, did not recognize the title came from this poem by Shelley...

Lift not the painted veil which those who live

Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,

And it but mimic all we would believe

With colours idly spread, --- behind, lurk Fear

And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave

Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.

I knew one who had lifted it --- he sought,

For his lost heart was tender, things to love,

But found them not, alas ! nor was there aught

The world contains, the which he could approve.

Through the unheeding many he did move,

A splendour among shadows, a bright blot

Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove

For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Another Jewish Rapper - I'm kvellin'

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Partners in Creation: Fertility, Modern Medicine, and Jewish Law

YU Medical Ethics Society is sponsoring a lecture that sounds very interesting.
The event is entitled "Partners in Creation: Fertility, Modern Medicine,
and Jewish Law." It will take place on October 14 from 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM.
Pre-registration is required; you can register at the following link:

The event boasts speakers such as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Chief Rabbi of
Britain, Dr. Richard Grazi, the man who wrote the book on infertility, and
YU's own Rabbi Kenneth Brander of the CJF, Rabbi Dr. David Pelcovitz and
many more.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Help me understand!

Steg writes:

Devarim/Deuteronomy 6:10-12
And it will be, when God, your God, brings you to the land which he swore to your ancestors — to Avraham, Yitzhhaq, and Ya‘aqov — to give to you; great and good cities, which you did not build. And houses full of all good things, which you did not fill, and hewn cisterns which you did not hew, vineyards and olive trees which you did not plant — and you will eat, and be satisfied. But be careful, lest you forget God, who took you out of Mitzrayim, from the place of slavery.

Talmud Bavli, masekhet Hhulin 17a —
And R' Yirmeya bar Aba said, Rav said (on this passage):
[The 'all good things' referred to is] strips of pig-meat.

On this statement, Rashi comments —
Dried pigs, which are called bacons.

How am I supposed to understand this? Am I supposed to believe as an article of faith that as part of the Divine Revelation at Sinai, G-d told Moses the Oral Torah to explain the Written Torah, and part of this Oral Torah was an explanation that the phrase 'All good things' means bacon strips? And this tradition was handed down throughout the generations to Rav who mentioned it and it became part of the Gemara?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

They're nihilists, Donny, nothing to be afraid of....

Another perspective on the meaning of life from a thoughtful nihilist...(emphasis mine)

280 Million Years of Nihilism

It's a characteristic of the human mind to turn simplicity into subjective complexity and to construe difficulty from life where none exists. Today the archetypal question for philosophers is "why are we here?" Ask a human and serious responses will probably involve complex reasoning involving mystical deities or introspective analysis. But before we leave the final answer with humanity I think we need a second opinion.

Some 280 million years ago the first amphibians began life outside water. These Labryinthodonts named for their infolded tooth enamel typically had large triangular heads and wide, flat bodies that looked like giant road-kill without the tread marks. Tetrapods like these crawled around on land eating worms, maybe a few bugs but basically whatever they could catch and digest. Not much to look at or admire yet they gave rise to all other land vertebrates, reptiles, birds, and yes eventually even literate humans.

If we could ask the same of a Permian tetrapod what mysterious, and enlightening answers would they provide? Perhaps something like "I don't understand the question, I just want to avoid death."

Odd isn't it that they never had any goal or god, no soul or hope of an afterlife indeed they lacked any purpose beyond the brief struggle for life and yet millions of years later here we are reading this because of it, because they existed and evolved. We as humans exist in the same physical universe, subject to the same rules of physics and biology, the same need for sea-water salinity body fluid, the same protein and amino acids ... Decades of scientific inquiry and careful research all to reach the inescapable conclusion that the point is there is no point. The joke is on us because we turned the absurdly simple into the dangerously complex. Indeed if scientists would or could get out of this loop they'd notice the likely conclusion that science itself is doomed because even archaic mythologies provided more appealing cosmic answers for public consumption!

The answer to "why are we here" is no different for human, Labryinthodont or jellyfish because we live in the same world subject to the same physical limitations and end up in the same place after death, well some leave better fossils than others. Now we see why fear of death is such a natural instinct and why religion exerts so much concerted effort to contradict that instinct.

The human mind creates ethics, moral codes, rules to die by, excuses and justifications for the deepest epiphany and the most trivial event alike. Some even go so far as to hijack random events and misinterpret them as self-created, the psychological principle known as 'illusion of control'. Unfortunately the complexities of the human mind merely make it easier to believe in fantasy and entertain delusion. Such an effort to find greater significance where there really is none and this only leads to wayward guidance and specious justifications. Those concocted reasons are then used to justify what need not be justified like our continued existence except based upon lies, setting up everyone for the fall when the myth erodes. Everything would move onward quite smoothly without any human minds around to believe in God, Satan or any other fictions, it did before us and it will after. Instead the Nihilist is concerned with the things that matter whether anyone believes in them or not; all those forces and factors that influence even the things that don't think.

Although evolution has no goal and our purpose may be just as elusive that doesn't void significance, it doesn't make action and consequence irrelevant, an important distinction too often confused within nihilism. Nihilism doesn't preclude significance or a naive refusal to extract lessons from history just as a lack of the traditional mystical goal does not necessitate futility. Extinction events for example are significant, after all we wouldn't be here without them. The only cosmic justification supported by any tangible evidence is the impetus for continued existence, the self-justifying purpose of tautology. And truthfully demanding any further justification from most simply foments confusion and foolish behavior. Furthermore it's likely that anything beyond that basal maxim is just an artificial construction. So, nihilism is not an issue of existence so much as a series of questions regarding the value if any that those artificially constructed meanings have. Where do they take us and do we really want to end up there? And can we really outsmart natural selection, for instance?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Circle of Life

Went to a bris this morning and a funeral this afternoon.

Spammed by BreslovWorld?

What's up with that?

Monday, August 20, 2007


Seventeen-year-old New Yorker Hava Aaronson, a self-consciously observant Jew, is nonetheless unorthodox in many ways. She has spiked hair, loves punk culture, and punctuates her colorful, rebellious language with four-letter words (though she is reverently careful to refer to the Supreme Being as "G-d"). Her best friends are her confidant Ian, who is gay and not Jewish, and her platonic soul mate Moishe, who makes offbeat films and practices a kind of countercultural Orthodox Judaism.

In its original nature, the punk culture has been primarily concerned with individual freedom, which tends to create beliefs in concepts such as individualism, anti-authoritarianism, anarchism and free thought. Punk ideologies have often included a critical view of the world; seeing modern day societies as placing extensive limits on humanity.

"Never Mind the Goldbergs" is fiction, so I don't know if there are Orthodox punks - but if they do exist, I don't understand how they rationalize their existence. Of course, everyone is free to believe what they choose, but it seems to me that these people are confused about their beliefs since they appear self-contradictory.

Mental Masturbation

"Your blog used to have interesting stuff on it, but now it has become mental masturbation," said his wife.

Friday, August 17, 2007


Never ceases to leave a sick feeling in my stomach. Came across this on the Net and thought it should get translated...

ORDER №-014/К
of 21 August 1922.


Reminder of mandatory announcement to the population of the region of the execution of hostages by firing squad.

For the attack on the Tuim garrison by the Soloviev band and the murder by them of a Red Army soldier, shoot the following hostages at the Julius mine:

1. Ayeshin, Alexandra (26 years old)
2. Tobrov, Eudokia (24 years old)
3. Tobrov, Maria (17 years old)

For the murder in village Uzhur of vice-komissar comrade Echile shoot the following hostages:
1. Ryzhikov, A (10 years old)
2. Ryzhikov P (13 years old)
3. Fugel, Fekla (15 years old)
4. Monakov V (20 years old)
5. Baydurov, Matvey (9 years old)


For wide dissemination in announcing to the population only provide the last names of the hostages

Commander Armed Forces of the Achinsk Military District

For the murder of a commander by the Kulakov band, by the decision of the extrajudicial troika, shoot:
1. Taydokov, Anna (18 years old)
2. Kidiekov, Maria (15 years old)
3. Kokov, T (11 years old)


Achinsk subsidiary GAAK

Here is the original...

ПРИКАЗ №-014/К
от 21 августа: 1922 года.

Напоминание об обязательном объявлении населению района о расстреле заложников.

За нападение на гарнизон Туима банды Соловьева и убийство ими красноармейца, на руднике Юлия расстрелять заложников:
1. Аешину Александру (26 лет);
2. Тоброву Евдокию (24 года);
3. Тоброву Марию ( 17 лет);

За убийство в с. Ужур зампродкомиссара т. Эхиль расстрелять заложников:
1. Рыжикова А. (10 лет);
2. Рыжикову П. (13 лет);
3. Фугель Феклу (15 лет);
4. Монакова В. (20 лет);
5. Байдурова Матвея (9 лет);


Для широкого распространения в объявлении населению сообщить только фамилии заложников.
ком. вооруженными силами Ачминбоирайона
и замкомчонгуб

За убийство командира бандой Кулакова по решению чрезвычайной тройки расстрелять:
1. Тайдокову Анну (18 лет);
2. Кидиекову Марию (15 лет);
3. Кокову Т. (11 лет);

Ачинский филиал ГААК.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Proving one's Jewishness

I've been reading some hellish stories about Russian olim getting married in Israel. One of the big things is proving one's Jewishness.

I understand why this would be an issue, but I started thinking about it. How does one prove it? I suppose for me it is actually pretty easy, since I think my parents still have their original Soviet passports, with the famous "Point #5"(Nationality) line on it. But what about here in the States where religion is not tracked in any official documents? Say your ancestors were not religious, but Jewish nonetheless. How do you PROVE it?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Muskens must mean "Balls" in Dutch

AMSTERDAM - A Roman Catholic Bishop in the Netherlands has proposed people of all faiths refer to God as Allah to foster understanding, stoking an already heated debate on religious tolerance in a country with one million Muslims.

Bishop Tiny Muskens, from the southern diocese of Breda, told Dutch television on Monday that God did not mind what he was named and that in Indonesia, where Muskens spent eight years, priests used the word "Allah" while celebrating Mass.

"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem."

Read more here...

Whoa, who is this Anti-Moses?

They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that you performed among them, but they stiffened their neck and appointed a leader to return to their slavery in Egypt.

(Nechemiah 9:17)

Is this mentioned anywhere in the Torah? I cannot recall an episode where the people chose a leader to return to Egypt. Can anyone help me out?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This national revival is more difficult than we thought...

"And in conclusion - a couple of words about the Estonian national renaissance. As is customary in such cases, the new national government passed a few laws in various degrees of cost, offensiveness, and uselessness. Among other things, it was decided that meetings of local governments must occur, without exception, in Estonian.

This thought, in itself, was not so bad perhaps. However, there is in Estonia a town called Narva which is 96 percent Russian. So the majority of the officials of the local council know Estonian about as well as the Russian old ladies in Bat Yam know Hebrew.

At first the people tried to meet in broken Estonian. Obviously, nothing good came of that. And then someone exhibited some Russian ingenuity... Now, the local government meets thusly: first there is a REHEARSAL of the meeting about which the law says nothing, at which point everything is discussed in Russian. And only afterwards the official meeting is formally started, where everyone harmoniously votes in Estonian."

Spontaneously translated by yours truly from here...

What's it like being at work these days, Vyvyan?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Night of the Murdered Poets...

...happened between Aug 12 and Aug 13 in 1952.

Read about it here.

Explanation of the novel's title

A magazine excerpt from the novel was originally published as Catch-18, but Heller's publisher requested that he change the title of the novel so it would not be confused with another recently published World War II novel, Leon Uris's Mila 18. The number 18 has special meaning in Judaism and was relevant to early drafts of the novel which had a somewhat greater Jewish emphasis.[3]

There was a suggestion for the title Catch-11, with the duplicated 1 in parallel to the repetition found in a number of character exchanges in the novel, but due to the release of the 1960 movie Ocean's Eleven this was also rejected. Catch-14 was also rejected apparently because the publisher did not feel that 14 was a "funny number". Catch-17 was also rejected so as not to be confused with the WWII film Stalag 17 So eventually the title came to be Catch-22, which, like 11, has a duplicated digit with the 2 also referring to a number of déjà vu like events common in the novel.

Source: Wikipedia

Friday, August 10, 2007


How I wish everyone could understand every language on Earth... A tremendous story from here. I hope the author doesn't mind a spontaneous translation of one of these stories.

Here, - said the demiurge Mazukta. - This is your share in the world to come.
The man turned his share this way and that way, rolled it on his palm, and raised his puzzled gaze at the demiurge.
-Why so little?
-That's what I should be asking you, why so little, - retorted the demiurge. - You must have not tried very hard.
-I suffered! - the man stated with dignity.
-And since when, - wondered Mazukta, - has suffering counted as merit?
-I wore sackcloth and rope, - stubbornly frowned the man. - I ate bran and dry peas, drank nothing but water, did not touch women and boys, though, you know yourself, sometimes I really wanted to. I mortified my flesh with fasts and prayers...
-So what? - interrupted Mazukta. - I understand that you suffered - but for what precisely?
-For your glory, - answered the man without thinking.
-Well, what fine glory I seem to have! - Mazukta got upset. - Seems like I torment people with hunger, make them wear all sorts of rags and deny them the pleasures of sex?
-In general, yes, - quietly remarked the demiurge Shambambukli, who was sitting to the side.
-Don't interfere, - Mazukta brushed him off. - This is a different situation. In this world I play the Good Guy in Heaven.
-Ah, got it, - nodded Shambambukli and became silent.
-So what about my share? - the man reminded them.
Mazukta pensively scratched behind his ear.
-How can I explain it, so you'd understand... Take, for example, a carpenter. He builds a house, and also sometimes the hammer lands on his fingers, and he suffers because of it. But, nonetheless, he builds a house. And then receives his honestly earned payment. You, on the other hand, did nothing but bang your fingers with a hammer. And where is the house? Where is the house, I am asking you?

Converso Dualities in the First Generation: The Cancioneros

Fascinating look at converso culture through poetry and literature of the age.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Credo Quia Absurdum Est

There is a school of thought that says that G-d can't reveal G-dself to us since that would remove the free choice to believe in G-d. I never understood this philosophy in light of many obvious revelations in the Tanach.

Contrast this school of thought with St Thomas the Apostle in Christianity. "Doubting Thomas" refused to believe in Jesus's resurrection until Jesus revealed himself to Thomas and allowed him to touch his wounds, at which point Thomas proclaimed his faith, and henceforth was known as "Thomas the Believer!"

Reb Dovid'l

Rabbi Itzikl's son by his third wife Chana Sima, Reb Dovidl, succeeded his father as Skverer Rebbe. He was known to be ascetic and exceedingly reticent. He once said, "Men shvagt un men shvagt, dernoch riet men abisl un men shvagt vater" ("We keep silent and we keep silent; then we rest a bit, and go on keeping silent").


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Paradigm Shift

Most people these days receive hundreds of emails at work that they meticulously file away in their outlook folders. Not me. I leave them right in my mailbox to the scorn of those who see this and call me disorganized.

Why would you want to spend your time filing them away when you have powerful search capabilities that allow you to almost instantaneously bring up any email just by searching for it?

People are still stuck in their 20th century paradigms.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Stendahl Syndrome or "How Wang-Fo Was Saved"

Another condition similar to Jerusalem Syndrome is Stendhal Syndrome.

Also an animated film which some of my visitors may find interesting:

How Wang Fo was Saved (Part 1)


How Wang Fo was Saved (Part 2)

The subject matter is juicily ironic given the presentation medium...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Narcissism of small differences

I stumbled upon this concept today and it connected two posts which I came across lately: one in my own blog, and one in Chana's.

The Narcissism of small differences is a term coined by Sigmund Freud in 1917, based on the earlier work of British anthropologist Ernest Crawley[citation needed]. The term describes the manner in which our negative feelings are sometimes directed at people who resemble us, while we take pride from the "small differences" that distinguish us from them.

The term appeared in Civilization and Its Discontents (1929-1930)[1] in relation to the application of the inborn aggression in man in ethnic conflict.

Glen O. Gabbard, M.D. suggested Freud's "Narcissism of Small Difference" provides a framework within which to understand that in a loving relationship there can be a need to find, and even exaggerate, differences in order to preserve as feeling of separateness and self. [2]

(from Wikipedia)

Whoever says rap can't be poetry

Should listen to this...

Opium of the Masses

Avanti popolo, alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa, bandiera rossa
Avanti popolo, alla riscossa
Bandiera rossa trionferà

Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Bandiera rossa la trionferà
Evviva il comunismo e la libertà

In contemplating the fate of Communism in the last century it is easy to forget that the reason it spread so quickly was that it was addressing a real problem of oppression and terrible miscarriages of justice that were experienced by the working classes in Europe and Central America. The hope of true equality and control over their own destiny is what made the movement so inspiring.

One curious thing about Marxist communism is its antagonism toward religion. On the surface this doesn't make sense, since communism is ostensibly an economic model. But when looked at more closely, it is clear that communism is also a political movement. In both of these respects it was competing with organized religion in the regions, which also doesn't leave things to Caesar but in many ways needs to influence both economic and political aspects of society. This is especially true of the Catholic Church in Europe.