Wednesday, September 26, 2007

In a Twiggy-like pose

I bet you are wondering what these crazy cool japanese people are singing (make sure to listen all the way through for the Austin Powers sounding ending) -

I was waiting for about three hours
My cat and I

At the time the phone rang
And I chatted away just like my cat
I turned down the tv and
Talked in a fake voice

In a twiggy mini-skirt
In a twiggy-like pose
In a twiggy mini-skirt
Skinny like twiggy, thats me

Pavlik Morozov and Club Penguin

If you have kids between the ages of say six and thirteen, you have probably heard of Club Penguin. It is the new hot thing - an online community of "penguins" where you can play games, meet friends, decorate your igloo, dress your penguin, etc... Of course, as a parent, one of the things you worry about is online predators. When dealing with kids this young, how do you balance allowing them to have fun, yet making sure they don't give out any kind of identifying information or engage in inappropriate conversations with strangers?

If you didn't grow up in the Soviet Union, you most likely have not heard of Pavlik Morozov. He was a little boy who supposedly denounced his father as an enemy of the State and was killed by the family in retribution. Though the whole story was contrived, he became a martyr in the Soviet propaganda machine. The reason why I bring him up is because when my son went on Club Penguin last night he was asked if he wanted to join the "Secret Agent Penguins", whose job it is to silently report other penguins to the moderators for certain kinds of violations, such as phishing(no pun intended) for identities, etc... The Secret Agent Penguins get a special Spy Phone to report the violators and they get special perks such as hanging out with other Special Agents.

I don't know why this freaks me out. On the one hand it addresses one of my main concerns about the security of my kids. On the other hand, I think there is something wrong with getting kids to spy on other kids and getting rewarded for this, especially by creating a privileged "class" of kids who became privileged by spying on others, a mini KGB of sorts.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Feelin' Allright?

Seems like I got to have a change of scene
'Cause every night I have the strangest dream
Imprisoned by the way it could have been
Left here on my own or so it seems
I've got to leave before I start to scream
But someone's locked the door and took the key.

You feelin' all right?
I'm not feelin' too good myself.
Well, you feelin' all right?
I'm not feelin' too good myself.

Boy, you sure took me for one big ride
And even now I sit and I wonder why
That when I think of you I start myself to cry
I just can't waste my time, I must keep dry
Gotta stop believin' in all your lies
'Cause there's too much to do before I die.

You feelin' all right?
I'm not feelin' too good myself.
Well, you feelin' all right?
I'm not feelin' too good myself.

Ooh, don't you get too lost in all I say
Though at the time, you know I really felt that way
But that was then and now you know, it's today
I can't get off, so I guess I'm here to stay
'Til someone comes along and takes my place
With a different name, and a different face.

You feelin' all right?
I'm not feelin' too good myself.
Well, you feelin' all right?
I'm not feelin' too good myself.

And here is a rendition by the very young Black Crowes...

The whitespace of Oral Torah - pseudorandom thoughts

I've heard it said that the Oral Law is the filling of the white space between the letters of the Written Torah. Yet in graphic design, whitespace, or negative space is just as important as the images and text. It is an important element of the overall aesthetic of the page, providing balance and elegance.

One of the cardinal sins of graphic design is to cram too much onto the page. The mark of a good artist is knowing when to stop.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Broken Lances

Sometimes the jblogs remind me of a jousting tournament where adversaries hurtle towards each other, weapons aimed to knock the other opponent off their mount. Once in a while, new knights enter the contest and make a really impressive showing.

Check out the jousting between AlreadyGone and evanstonjew on this thread...

Shylock's Gender: Jewish Male Menstruation in Early Modern England

So a while back, XGH posted about a renowned rabbi contending that Jews have a different number of teeth than gentiles. Unsurprisingly, the notion that Jews and Gentiles are physically different has been reciprocated by the non-Jewish side as well.

Unfortunately I don't have access to JSTOR - I am dying to figure out what the connection is to Shylock in this article!

"God, I want a divorce!"

Stretching the metaphor some more...

"Skeptics" (how I hate that word) are all different. As evanstonjew, in his Tolstoyan way, wrote in the comments to one of his posts, "each non observant Orthodox is not frum in his own particular way".

To me they are like people in a bad marriage. Some stay together for the sake of the kids. Some bury their head in the sand and pretend nothing is wrong. Some need to get out at any cost.


I love his short stories, so much, yet I can't stand his plays...


by Anton Chekhov

One fine evening, a no less fine government clerk called Ivan Dmitrich Chervyakov was sitting in the second row of The Stalls, looking through an opera glass at the Cloches de Corneville. He watched and felt the height of bliss. But suddenly. . . . In stories one so often meets with this "But suddenly." The authors are right: life is so full of surprises! But suddenly his face wrinkled, his eyes rolled up into his head, his breathing stopped... he took the opera glass away from his eyes, bent over and . . . "Achoo!!" he sneezed, you see. It is not proscribed for anyone to sneeze anywhere. Peasants sneeze and so do police superintendents, and sometimes even privy councillors. All men sneeze. Chervyakov was not in the least embarrassed, he wiped his face with his handkerchief, and like a polite man, looked round to see whether he had disturbed anyone by his sneezing. And here things became embarrassing. He saw that an old man sitting in front of him in the first row of The Stalls was carefully wiping his bald head and his neck with his glove and muttering something to himself. In the old man, Chervyakov recognised Brizhalov, a civilian general serving in the Department of Transport.

"I have spattered him," thought Chervyakov, "he is not my boss, but still it is awkward. I must apologise."

Chervyakov cleared his throat, bent forward, and whispered in the general's ear.

"Pardon, your Excellency, I spattered you accidentally. . . ."

"Never mind, never mind."

"For goodness sake excuse me, I . . . I did not mean to."

"Oh, please, sit down! Let me listen!"

Chervyakov was embarrassed; he smiled stupidly and began looking at the stage. He looked, but was no longer feeling bliss. He began to be troubled by uneasiness. In the intermission, he went up to Brizhalov, walked beside him awhile, and overcoming his shyness, muttered:

"I spattered you, your Excellency, forgive me . . . you see . . . I didn't do it to . . . ."

"Oh, that's enough . . . I'd forgotten already, and you keep on about it!" said the general, moving his lower lip impatiently.

"He has forgotten, but there is malice in his eye," thought Chervyakov, looking suspiciously at the general. "And he doesn't want to talk. I ought to explain to him . . . that I really didn't intend . . . that it is the law of nature or else he will think I meant to spit on him. He doesn't think so now, but he will think so later!"

Coming home, Chervyakov told his wife of his lack of manners. It struck him that his wife took too frivolous a view of the incident; she was a little frightened, but when she learned that Brizhalov was in a different department, she calmed down.

"Still, you had better go and apologise," she said, "or he will think you don't know how to behave in public."

"That's just it! I did apologise, but he took it somehow strangely . . . he didn't say a word of sense. There wasn't time to talk properly."

Next day Chervyakov put on a new uniform, had his hair cut and went to Brizhalov's to explain; going into the general's reception room he saw there a number of petitioners and among them the general himself, who was beginning to interview them. After questioning several petitioners the general raised his eyes and looked at Chervyakov.

"Yesterday at the Arcadia, if you recollect, your Excellency," the latter began, "I sneezed and . . . accidentally spattered . . . Exc. . . ."

"What nonsense. . . . God knows what! What can I do for you?" said the general addressing the next petitioner.

"He doesn't want to talk," thought Chervyakov, turning pale; "that means that he is angry. . . . No, it can't be left like this. . . . I will explain to him."

When the general had finished his conversation with the last of the petitioners and was turning towards his inner apartments, Chervyakov took a step towards him and muttered:

"Your Excellency! If I dare to trouble your Excellency, it is simply from a feeling, I may say, of regret! . . . It was not intentional, as you surely know yourself."

The general made a lachrymose face, and waved his hand.

"Why, you are simply making fun of me, kind sir," he said as he closed the door behind him.

"Where's the making fun in it?" thought Chervyakov, "there is nothing of the sort! He is a general, but he can't understand. If that is how it is I am not going to apologise to that stuck up jerk any more! The devil take him. I'll write a letter to him, but I won't go. By God, I won't."

So thought Chervyakov as he walked home; he did not write a letter to the general, he pondered and pondered and could not make up that letter. He had to go next day to explain in person.

"I ventured to disturb your Excellency yesterday," he muttered, when the general lifted enquiring eyes upon him, "not to make fun as you had said. I was apologising for having spattered you in sneezing. . . . And I did not dream of making fun of you. Should I dare to make fun of you, if we should take to making fun, then there would be no respect for persons, there would be. . . ."

"Get out!" yelled the general, turning suddenly purple, and shaking all over.

"What?" asked Chervyakov, in a whisper, turning numb with horror.

"Get out!" repeated the general, stamping.

Something snapped in Chervyakov's stomach. Seeing nothing, hearing nothing, he reeled to the door, went out into the street, and went staggering along. . . . Reaching home mechanically, without taking off his uniform, he lay down on the sofa and died.

(translated by Constance Garnett, with minor alterations by me)

The Agunah Problem

Israel and G-d stood under a chupah and looked forward to years of married bliss. But, as in many marriages, things went south very quickly. There were accusations on both sides, charges of infidelity, violence, alienation of affection, abandonment...

And now He's gone somewhere; been gone a long time. He doesn't answer His calls anymore and she is not even sure He is still around. But the Law says that as long as He's gone, she is chained, bound, "an agunah". "He is dead!", say some of her friends. But she needs proof, one way or another. She needs proof so she can move forward. Until that proof comes, nothing can change.

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Balthazar (Isaac) Orobio de Castro was a philosopher, physician and apologist, born at Braganza, Portugal about 1617, and died at Amsterdam on November 7, 1687.

While still a child, he was taken to Seville by his parents, who were Marranos. He studied philosophy at Alcalá de Henares and became teacher of metaphysics at the University of Salamanca. Later he devoted himself to the study of medicine, and became a popular practitioner in Seville, and physician in ordinary to the duke of Medina-Celi and to a family nearly related to the king.

When married and father of a family, De Castro was, at the instigation of a servant whom he had punished for theft, denounced to the Inquisition as an adherent of Judaism, and thrown into a dark and narrow dungeon, where he remained for three years, subjected to the most frightful tortures. As he persistently denied the charge, he was finally released, but compelled to leave Spain and to wear the sambenito, or penitential garment, for two years. He thereupon went to Toulouse, where he became professor of medicine at the university, at the same time receiving from Louis XIV the title of councilor; but, weary at last of hypocrisy and dissimulation, he went to Amsterdam about 1666, and there made a public confession of Judaism, adopting the name "Isaac." In that city De Castro continued the practice of medicine, and soon became a celebrity, being elected to membership in the directory of the Spanish-Portuguese congregation and of several academies of poetry. Esther, his wife, died on July 5, 1712.

(thanks Wikipedia)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Gates are Closing

and there is not much time left for us sinners...

This had been a frustrating week as a commenter in the jblogosphere. I have never realized how many people have created their own religion and call it Orthodox Judaism. Talk about denial... In general people seem to be getting snappy and edgy. Let's hope this is a seasonal overload thing...

I've been re-reading the old posts on evanstonjew's defunct blog. I think I am beginning to understand where he's coming from...

I don't feel good about where I am right now. I feel like I have been pigeonholed in a sense by positions I have to take in these discussions, yet in many ways I share many of the emotions of my adversaries. I don't want to deny God, or the Mashiach, or the fact that the Jews are a special people, and that there are huge upsides to living in an Orthodox community. At the same time, I cannot rationally accept things that are not rational.

So because of this, I get labelled a rationalist by evanstonjew? But there is a difference between a rationalist as an adherent of a philosophy and simply being a rational fellow. You can drink tea from an empty cup, yet in the end you will still be thristy.

I am not unsympathetic to those who feel rationalism is not the way. Heck, I imbibed Russian literature and art with my mother's milk. I appreciate Harms and Mayakovsky, Malevich, Kandinsky. Yiddishkeit runs through my veins. My ancestors came from the shtetls around Zhitomir. They were neighbors with Bialik and Sholom Aleichem. I stood on top of the graves at Babiy Yar.

So what to do? For now, collect my thoughts and harness my emotions. The Day of Atonement is near. That's it for now. Guys, take it away...


There's only one thing in the world worse than being witty and that is not being witty

Not being witty, I will have to steal a quote from Papa...

There are people who want to want to know everything and those who are sick of what they already know. The latter say nothing to prevent things from turning for the worse, while the former interfere in all, hoping to make things better.

Ernest Hemingway

Irreconcilible differences

evanstonjew commented:

Think of a frum professional. At the office he's Joe, at home Yossi...Such a split need not be a disorder unless a person has a problem with it. There is no mitzvah min hatorah or min Freud to integrate everything.Of course, if the guy has five selves and they begin fragmenting so he falls apart...that's a different story. Your trouble in understanding might stem from an overdose of Torah u'Madah, where everything has to be integrated.Witness the sad case of Mr. Slifkin. Charedim don't try to integrate very much.

I'd like to think I am open minded. I freely admit that there are many things that I don't understand, or have wrong ideas about. Is this one of them?

I guess my opening position is that in general, it is human nature to try to integrate the information around us into a coherent mental model of reality. This is essentially what our brain is designed to do. At a more macro level, the notion of cross disciplinary scholarship has really improved the gains in understanding in many areas of research. At my alma mater in Urbana-Champaign, the Beckman Institute combined biologists, physicists, neurologists, computer scientists and psychologists all working together.

I think part of my discomfort with evanstonjew's comment is that there is a difference in my mind between a lack of integration and essentially a dissonant contradiction. I think a person who compartamentalizes being a hardnose boss at work and a loving father at home is an example of harmless lack of integration. At the other extreme, DovBear posted about Nazis enjoying themselves at Auschwitz. He says:
You can't help but ask yourself: How in the hell? Was it bifurcation? A form of mental illness? Or did these smiling men and women simply come of age in a foreign time and place, a time and place where people mattered less (Jews especially) and such things were unremarkable?
Don't get me wrong. I don't believe that a human being in isolation is a rational creature. I will not deny an individual their right to retreat into an irrational state. I don't deny a Kugel or a Schiffman their personal POMO lifestyle. But as a society, people do have to be rational. Is it possible to have a whole culture built on a foundation of irreconcilible paradoxes?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Dr Kugel and Mr Hyde

How does one destroy the foundations of Orthodox Judaism (as it is known conventionally) and yet consider himself a Modern Orthodox Jew? I suppose you could say he is just posing, that he, like many others, has too many emotional bonds to his lifestyle that inhibit him from actually practicing what he preaches. But perhaps it is deeper than that. Perhaps the cognitive dissonance has created some kind of split personality condition, two souls living in the same body, one frum, one frei, and not realizing the comic tragedy of their circumstance. During the week, methodically, inexorably destroying the emunah of the Modern Orthodox, then sitting in shul on Shabbos morning, staring, bewildered, at the blood on his hands.

Monday, September 17, 2007

"...his books emit an odor of heresy"

Just read about the blacklisting of Rabbi Jose Faur in Wikipedia. A couple of highlights:


While teaching at JTS, Faur also offered Torah classes to members of the Syrian community in Brooklyn, New York. This aroused the opposition of certain circles of the right-wing Yeshiva world since they indentified him with the Conservative movement (to which denomination the Jewish Theological Seminary did indeed belong to).

Faur, however, received the support of the Chief Rabbi of the Syrian community, Rabbi Jacob Kassin who signed an open letter attesting to Faur's religious standing. Kassin explained that Faur did not agree with the Conservative movement at all and that he had only taught at the school in order to earn a living.

Lined up against him, however, were several high profile Haredi Rabbis from both the Sephardic and Ashkenazic communties, including Rabbis Moshe Feinstein, Ovadiah Yosef and Elazar Shach.

The pressure was such that Rabbi Kassin retracted his previous support and joined the campaign against Faur.

In the summer of 1987, Faur received support from an unexpected source. The Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem, Rabbi Chalom Messas convened a beit din which examined the allegations against Faur and came to the conclusion that he was innocent of all charges. Chief Sephardic Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu later affirmed the decision as well. But the controversy did not abate. The Lithuanian Yeshiva world's weekly Yated Neeman of February 8, 1998 carried an ad which called for the prevention of the appointing of a Conservative Rabbi to the Syrian congregation Shaare Zion in New York. Aside from his involvement with the seminary, the ad accused him of "speaking improperly about great medieval Ashkenazic sages and this his books emit an odor of heresy". The declaration was signed by 17 Sephardic heads of Yeshivot. Again, under intense pressure, Rabbis Messas and Eliyahu withdrew their earlier support.

Faur reminisces about his time at the [Lakewood] Yeshiva:

"The first lesson I heard by Rabbi Kotler sounded like a revelation. He spoke rapidly, in Yiddish, a language I didn't know but was able to understand because I knew German. He quoted a large number of sources from all over the Talmud, linking them in different arrangements and showing the various inerpretations and interconnection of later Rabbinic authorities. I was dazzled. Never before had I been exposed to such an array of sources and interconnections. Nevertheless there were some points that didn't jibe. I approached R' Kotler to discuss the lesson. He was surprised that I had been able to follow. When I presented my objections to him, he reflected for a moment and then replied that he would give a follow-up lesson where these difficulties would be examined. This gave me an instant reputation as some sort of genius (iluy), and after a short while, I was accepted into the inner elite group. My years in Lakewood were pleasurable and profitable.... At the same time the lessons of R' Kotler and my contacts with fellow students were making me aware of some basic methodological flaws in their approach. The desire to shortcut their way into the Talmud without a systematic and methodological knowledge of basic Jewish texts made their analysis skimpy and haphazard...The dialectics that were being applied to the study of Talmud were not only making shambles out of the text, but, what was more disturbing to me, they were also depriving the very concept of Jewish law, Halacha, of all meaning. Since everything could be "proven" and "disproven", there were no absolute categories of right and wrong. Accordingly, the only possibility of morality is for the faithful to surrender himself to an assigned superior authority; it is the faithful's duty to obey this authority simply because it is the authority and because he is faithful. More precisely, devotion is not to be measured by an objective halacha (it has been destroyed by dialectics) but by obedience. Within this system of morality there was no uniform duty. It was the privilege of the authority to make special dispensations and allowances (hetarim) to some of the faithful; conversely, the authority could impose some new obligation and duties on all or a part of the faithful. To me this was indistinguishable from Christianity".

Abraham's bloodlust?

The rabbi spoke of why the angel had to speak Abraham's name twice. He proposed an interpretation that once Abraham made up his mind, he was overtaken by some type of bloodlust, some kind of almost hypnotic state where he wanted to draw blood, and he had to be shaken out of this state by the angel. That the test was not whether Abraham could bring himself to kill Isaac, but whether he could stop himself after he made up his mind that it was truly G-d's commandment.

As wild as it seems, parts of this idea ring very true to me. I know that many times when people are forced to do something unthinkable, they seem to have some type of mental break and once they are put on that course of action they will attempt to follow through on it, even if someone tells them that they no longer have to go through with it. It's as if once they realize that they have gone beyond rationality, they cannot allow rationality to interfere again.

I have never heard this interpretation before. Does anyone know its source?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A cosmological conversation

4-year-old: Daddy, how did Hashem get made?
Father: Hashem didn't get made, He was always there. He made everything else.
4-year-old: Is Hashem the sun?
Father: No, He is not the sun. He is everywhere, but you can't see him.
4-year-old: No, He is the sun. Mommy told me.
Father: Mommy told you?
4-year-old (muttering as he's walking away): He is hiding behind the clouds. They told me in nursery school.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

You gotta have faith - says the Christian theologian

Although this is a quote from a review of a "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan, it seems quite apropos to the comment wars on some of the religious blogs.

From the September 2007 issue of The Atlantic:

This spurious show of open-mindedness recalls Hans Kung, the Swiss theologian who uses a comparable technique when defending Christianity against secular critics. The similarity is not surprising, considering that our dietary and religious habits are both acquired in early childhood, which makes them hard to break no matter what we learn in later life. The Pollan-Kung Technique goes like this: One debates the other side in a rational manner until pushed into a corner. Then one simply drops the argument and slips away, pretending that one has not fallen short of reason but instead transcended it. The irreconcilability of one's belief with reason is then held up as a great mystery, the humble readiness to live with which puts one above lesser minds and their cheap certainties.

Monday, September 10, 2007


Today I bought a 3-pack of Underberg bitters. Very interesting...

It's like Ricola flavored very smooth brandy. Definitely something worth trying once. Although, against the directions on the package, I think I will try mixing it into a drink instead of drinking it straight.

Mis-understanding Chassidus

Reading "Faith of the Mithnagdim", I realize how little I understood of the Chassidus and the split between them and the Mithnagdim.

One of the key points the author makes is that the key disagreement between the two groups lay not in their views on the core Jewish theology such as the immanence of G-d, nor their belief in the importance of Kabbalah, but their evaluation of the ability of the regular Jews to properly understand the concepts. The Mithnagdim basically felt like only a few select, elite few could possibly understand the hidden mystical secrets after a lifetime of preparation. The Chassidim introduced a new concept, very different from Lurianic Kabbalah, in that the common people can automatically participate in the various tikkunim without even being aware that they are doing it, and that the mystical secrets are available to anyone who looks.

The Chassidim of Poland, Ukraine, Byelorussia were essentially trying to democratize the secrets of Kabbalah, to make it available to everyone. In some ways their logic made sense. Nadler quotes Meshulam Faivush of Zaborocz, Yosher Divrei Emeth:

I have heard from the holy mouth of R. Menahem Mendel [of Premyszlan], of blessed memory, that nistar is anything that a man is unable to communicate to his neighbor, such as the taste of a given food, which one cannot possibly relate to another who has never tasted of it. . . . So, too, the love and fear of the Creator, blessed be His name, cannot be communicated from one to the other—this, then, is called nistar.
As for those who refer to the wisdom of the Kabbalah as nistar, what kind of nistar is that supposed to be? For is it not true that anyone who wishes to study the Kabbalah has the books ready before him. And if he is unable to understand the books, he is simply an ignoramus, and for such a person, the Gemara and the Tosafoth are also called nistar. Rather, the concept of nistar as referred to in the Zohar and the writings of the ARI is the ability to achieve devekuth.
What is interesting to me is that somehow the Chassidim went from populists to monarchists, with the cults of the rebbes, the metaphors of the courts and royalty. From modernizers to the strong conservatives, where any new concept in either religion or lifestyle is viewed with mistrust and antipathy.

Lest we forget : Land of the Free - part 9

Preston Smith Brooks (August 5, 1819 – January 27, 1857) was a Congressman from South Carolina, notorious for brutally assaulting senator Charles Sumner on the floor of the United States Senate.

On May 22, 1856, Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner with his Gutta-percha wood walking cane in the Senate chamber because of a speech Sumner had made three days previous criticizing President Franklin Pierce and Southerners who sympathized with the pro-slavery violence in Kansas ("Bleeding Kansas"). In particular, Sumner lambasted Brooks' kinsman, Senator Andrew Butler, who was not in attendance when the speech was read, describing slavery as a harlot, comparing Butler with Don Quixote for embracing it, and mocking Butler for a physical handicap. Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois, who was also a subject of abuse during the speech, suggested to a colleague while Sumner was orating that "this damn fool [Sumner] is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool." (Jordan et. al The Americans)

At first intending to challenge Sumner to a duel, Brooks consulted with fellow South Carolina Rep. Laurence M. Keitt on dueling etiquette. Keitt instructed him that dueling was for gentlemen of equal social standing, and suggested that Sumner occupied a lower social status comparable to a drunkard due to the supposedly coarse language he had used during his speech. Brooks thus decided to attack Sumner with a cane.

Two days after the speech, on the afternoon of May 22, Brooks confronted Sumner as he sat writing at his desk in the almost empty Senate chamber. Brooks was accompanied by Laurence M. Keitt, also of South Carolina, and Henry A. Edmundson of Virginia. Brooks said, "Mr. Sumner, I have read your speech twice over carefully. It is a libel on South Carolina, and Mr. Butler, who is a relative of mine." As Sumner began to stand up, Brooks began beating Sumner on the head with his thick gutta-percha cane with a gold head. Sumner was trapped under the heavy desk (which was bolted to the floor), but Brooks continued to bash Sumner until he ripped the desk from the floor. By this time, Sumner was blinded by his own blood, and he staggered up the aisle and collapsed, lapsing into unconsciousness. Brooks continued to beat Sumner until he broke his cane, then quietly left the chamber. Several other senators attempted to help Sumner, but were blocked by Keitt who was holding a pistol and shouting "Let them be!"

Sumner was unable to return to duty for more than three years while he recovered. He later became one of the most influential Radical Republicans throughout the conduct of the American Civil War, and on through the early years of Reconstruction.

South Carolinians sent Brooks dozens of brand new canes to replace the one he had broken. The Richmond Enquirer crowed: "We consider the act good in conception, better in execution, and best of all in consequences. These vulgar abolitionists in the Senate must be lashed into submission."

Brooks survived an expulsion vote in the House but resigned his seat, claiming both that he "meant no disrespect to the Senate of the United States" by attacking Sumner and that he did not intend to kill him, for he would have used a different weapon if he had. His constituents thought of him as a hero and returned him to Congress. However, Brooks attack on Sumner was regarded in the north as the act of a cowardly barbarian. One of the bitterest critics of the attack was Sumner's fellow New Englander, Congressman Anson Burlingame. When Burlingame denounced Brooks as a coward on the floor of the House, Brooks challenged him to a duel, and Burlingame accepted the challenge. Burlingame, as the challenged party, specified rifles as the weapons,and to get around American anti-dueling laws he named the Navy Yard on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls as the site. Brooks backed out of the challenge, claiming that he would be murdered on his way north. There was probably some justification to that claim, but Burlingame's reputation as a deer hunter and a deadly shot whith a rifle could also have been a factor. Brooks remained in office until his death from the croup in 1857 and is buried in Edgefield, South Carolina.

(thanks, Wikipedia)

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Gilgamesh original for sale

Its a different world

The back to school dinner tonight featured a magician for entertainment. Last year it was a jump rope whiz.

The funniest thing is when these guys pick kids from the crowd for audience participation:

"And what's your name?"

It always takes them by surprise. The kids seem like regular kids, the parents seem all American, (except for the yarmulkas, of course), yet here are these bizarre names, like performing before a bunch of Pakistanis or Koreans...

Friday, September 07, 2007

G-d interfering

One of the constant refrains often heard from modern theologians is that G-d's existence cannot be proven. Of course, this is consistently refuted in the Tanach. G-d's whole message is that He proves himself by messing with the other guys... Half of the Chumash is setups for G-d to show his might. The Pharaoh's magicians, the test of Korach, Elijah vs the priests of Baal...

On a lighter side, here is some dialog from the "Frisco Kid"

Chief Gray Cloud: Can your God make rain?
Avram: Yes!
Chief Gray Cloud: He doesn’t.
Avram: That’s right.
Chief Gray Cloud: Why?
Avram: Because that's not his department.
Chief Gray Cloud: But if he wanted to he could?
Avram: Yes.
Chief Gray Cloud: What kind of a God do you have?
Avram: Don’t say my God! He’s your God too!
Chief Gray Cloud: Dont give him to us, we’ve got enough trouble with our own gods
Avram: But there’s only one God!
Chief Gray Cloud: What does he do?
Avram: He can do anything!
Chief Gray Cloud: Then why doesn’t he make rain?
Avram: Because he doesn’t make rain.
He gives you strength when you are suffering, He gives us compassion when all that we feel is hatred, He gives us courage when we are searching around blindly like little mice in the darkness , but He does not make rain!

(A sudden flash of lighting, clap of thunder and a sudden cloudburst.)

Avram: Of course, sometimes, just like that, he changes his mind!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

JBlogs vs The Kotzker Rebbe

All that is thought should not be said, all that is said should not be written, all that is written should not be published, all that is published should not be read.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgensztern of Kotzk


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Stuck in my craw...

So, I usually glance at the Likutei Peshatim flyer every Shabbos to see the local 'happenings'. Last Saturday, I caught this disturbing paragraph and it really rubbed me the wrong way (emphasis mine):

Hashem used reverse psychology. Hashem understood that if it would be prohibited, man would desire to transgress the prohibition. Hashem wanted to remove the evil inclination’s influence for a captive woman during war by permitting this under certain circumstances.

Is it just me that thinks that this sounds perversely ridiculous?

Two roads diverged...

I once had a conversation with my wife about what type of house/decor we would want to have. I can't remember which one of us said it, or perhaps we both said it - we said we would want to have many houses that we could decorate in their own styles. We could not think of a way of doing all the things we wanted to do in one house.

I sometimes have the same feeling about my life. It is not that I am unhappy or dissatisfied. Just that my choices thus far have locked me into certain decisions which effectively preclude other options. The only way to solve this problem is to live multiple lives.