Monday, September 29, 2008

Manchester Monday

I believe in God, and I believe that God believes in Claude- that's me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


May we all have a good New Year. To all my readers, a heartfelt Shana Tovah!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lost in Translation

Dmitry of Tver was a Grand Prince of Vladimir (1322 to 1326) and Grand Prince of Tver from 1318 to 1326. He was also nicknamed "Dmitry, the Terrible Eyes".

Of course, his name should be more properly translated as "Dmitry, the Terrifying Eyes", but alas the translation seems to have taken hold.

I envision poor Dmitry with a set of really thick spectacles.

Repetition Compulsion








Sunday, September 21, 2008

Chevy Chase

I always wondered what the name Chevy Chase meant. Finally looked it up today. It is a ballad about two noblemen, one English, one Scottish who slaughtered one another's armies in the 14th century over the right to hunt. The Brits wrote a 30 verse ballad about this.

God prosper long our noble king,
Our lives and safeties all!
A woeful hunting once there did
In Chevy Chase befall.

To drive the deer with hound and horn
Earl Percy took his way;
The child may rue that is unborn
The hunting of that day!

The stout Earl of Northumberland
A vow to God did make,
His pleasure in the Scottish woods
Three summer's days to take.

The chiefest harts in Chevy Chase
To kill and bear away.
These tidings to Earl Douglas came,
In Scotland where he lay:

Who sent Earl Percy present word
He would prevent his sport.
The English Earl, not fearing that,
Did to the woods resort,

With fifteen hundred bowmen bold,
All chosen men of might,
Who knew full well in time of need
To aim their shafts aright.

The gallant greyhounds swiftly ran
To chase the fallow deer:
On Monday they began to hunt
Ere daylight did appear;

And long before high noon they had
An hundred fat bucks slain:
Then having dined, the drivers went
To rouse the deer again.

Lord Percy to the quarry went
To view the slaughter'd deer;
Quoth he, Earl Douglas promised
This day to meet me here;

But if I thought he would not come
No longer would I stay
With that a brave young gentleman
Thus to the Earl did say:

Lo, yonder doth Earl Douglas come
His men in armour bright -
Full twenty hundred Scottish spears
All marching in our sight.

Show me, said he, whose men you be
That hunt so boldly here
That, without my consent do chase
And kill my fallow deer?

The first man that did answer make
Was noble Percy, he
Who said, We list not to declare
Nor show whose men we be.

Yet we will spend our dearest blood
Thy chiefest harts to slay.
Then Douglas swore a solemn oath
And thus in rage did say:

Ere thus I will out-braved be
One of us two shall die!
I know thee well, An earl thou art
Lord Percy! so am I.

Our English archers bent their bows,
Their hearts were good and true;
At the first flight of arrows sent
Full fourscore Scots they slew.

At last these two stout Earls did meet
Like captains of great might;
Like lions wud they laid on load
And made a cruel fight.

They fought, until they both did sweat,
With swords of tempered steel,
Until the blood, like drops of rain,
They trickling down did feel.

O yield thee, Percy! Douglas said,
In faith, I will thee bring
Where thou shalt high advanced be
By James our Scottish king;

Thy ransom I will freely give,
And this report of thee,
Thou art the most courageous knight
That ever I did see.

No, Douglas; quoth Earl Percy then,
Thy proffer I do scorn;
I will not yield to any Scot
That ever yet was born!

With that there came an arrow keen
Out of an English bow,
Which struck Earl Douglas to the heart,
A deep and deadly blow;

Who never spake more words than these
Fight on, my merry men all!
For why? my life is at an end,
Lord Percy sees my fall.

Then leaving life, Earl Percy took
The dead man by the hand;
And said, Earl Douglas! For thy life
Would I had lost my land!

O Christ! my very heart doth bleed
With sorrow for thy sake;
For sure a more redoubted knight
Mischance could never take.

A knight among the Scots there was
Who saw Earl Douglas die;
Who straight in wrath did vow revenge
Upon the Lord Percy:

Sir Hugh Montgomery was he called,
Who, with a spear full bright,
Well mounted on a gallant steed,
Ran fiercely through the fight;

And past the English archers all,
Without all dread or fear,
And through Earl Percy's body then
He thrust his hateful spear.

This fight did last from break of day
Till setting of the sun;
For when they rung the evening bell
The battle scarce was done.

And the Lord Maxwell in like case
Did with Earl Douglas die;
Of twenty hundred Scottish spears
Scarce fifty-five did fly;

Of fifteen hundred Englishmen
Went home but fifty-three;
The rest were slain in Chevy Chase
Under the greenwood tree.

Next day did many widows come
Their husbands to bewail;
They washed their wounds in brinish tears,
But all would not prevail.

Their bodies bathed in purple gore
They bore with tbem away;
They kissed their dead a thousand times
When they were clad in clay.

God save our king, and bless this land
With plenty, joy and peace,
And grant henceforth that foule debate
'Twixt noblemen may cease!

Music Monday - Gymnopedie #1

Erik Satie - wild stuff... The music fits my mood lately.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Open Source Halacha

I don't really get why they call it open source...

Monday, September 15, 2008

World Domination

I've always liked Google, but a recent article in The Independent suddenly put me into a paranoid mood. To the untrained eye, Google is just a bunch of nerds trying to make the world a better place. Google gives us everything. Freely. Because the Internet is great, and they want us to be able to take advantage of it.

But what if one day, the benevolence of Google turns into a HAL like nightmare. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Google is on its way to achieving absolute power.

Here are some examples:
1) Google Earth/Street/Maps - Google has as much intelligence as the US military. Plus the ability to perhaps doctor or manipulate this data can have drastic effects on society.

2) Gmail/Google Docs - All your information is stored in Google's data centers. Where it can be searched or manipulated without your knowledge.

3) Google news - we saw how an old story about United Airlines that showed up on the newswires by mistake almost destroyed that company's stock. News manipulation in today's world can wreak Orwellian devastation.

The latest article on Google moving it's data centers off shore into international waters is a bit scary. Ostensibly they are doing it to use the waves' energy to cool the data centers and make them run more green, but it also puts them out of jurisdiction of any country...


Zap Mama Monday

Zap Mama is fronted by a half Belgian/half Bantu woman and the music is pretty unique.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

My Poems...

My poems, written early, when I doubted
That I could ever play the poet's part,
Erupting, as though water from a fountain
Or sparks from a petard,

And rushing as though little demons, senseless,
Into a sanctuary, where incense spreads,
My poems about death and adolescence,
--that still remain unread! --

Collecting dust in bookstores all this time,
Where no one comes to carry them away,
My poems, like exquisite, precious wines,
Will have their day!
(May 1913)

Marina Tsvetaeva
Translated by Andrey Kneller

Monday, September 08, 2008



This pic of Krispy Kreme bacon cheeseburgers reminded me of an old Abdominal song:

I got a passion for fast food, that's undeniable
I like my food fried until
Everything be that same uniform shade of golden brown--
But don't pad it down, please
'Cause the grease be helpin' it slide down the hatch more easily
Drive-thrus on the other side of the road be teasin' me
Beckonin' and callin' like culinary sirens
Makin' me wanna divert my tires and just hop the median
To get my hands on some fries and a patty of meat
In between those two sesame-seed buns
Though it leads to the runs when I eat tons
I still need some, is my attitude
So if you spot a Kentucky, we're passin' through
'Cause Hammer's gone but the popcorn chicken remains
I can't get enough of those chicken remains
So, you behind the window-pane of the drive-thru,
Make me up a family-size, dude, plus could you slide through packets of sauce
One BBQ, one sweet-and-sour
Add a little flavor to this meat that I devour
****** to describe it as just "regular"
Tofu is the God? Fuck it, I'll stay secular
I worship fast food as the one and only deity
The only real sin in this religion is a diet, see
My confession booth be the drive-thru microphone
I get excited when my meal tastes like it wasn't made at home
If I wanted home-cooked, I'd stay at home
I want artificial ****** to the bone
Hitting fifty hot-wings at one sitting
When I say fast food's my life, I'm not kidding

I swear to God, I'll do it!
Fifty-wing suicide, right now, let's go...

If fast food's wrong, I don't wanna eat right
I'll probably get fat, and my dentist says my teeth
Might fall outta my head, well hey,
'Cause if the grub is greasy, I'ma gobble it

My fast food fetish is no flash-in-the-pan (pun intended)
I was sippin' Shamrock Shakes when they were invented
I ate Chicken McNuggets the first week they were available
I ordered so many that the girl behind the counter
Thought I wasn't capable of eating 'em
But of course, I did it...

Whether it moos, clucks, bleats, grunts or ribbits
Stick it in the deep fry and it's all food to me
When I'm in Québec, I catch ****** poutine
The poutine's ****** chiller
If meat is murder, then I'm a serial killer
'Cause I tend to mangle Junior Bacon Burgers from Wendy's
They always tempt me to be a jew who's friendly with pork products--
But don't tell my rabbi, he'll be, like,
"Oy vey, that Abs guy is definitely getting struck down!"
...if the grease doesn't get me first
But before my major arteries burst,
I got one last chance to chase my blues away
By makin' up a dime bag worth on Toonie Tuesday
That's ten chicken pieces, plus five orders of fries
And as a matter of fact--could I get it super-sized?
See, if I'm goin' out, at least it's on a full belly
And that right there is the leftfield philosophy.


Found this article in the NY Post about a transgendered Prof at YU. R Moshe Tendler is outraged:

"He's not a woman. He's a male with enlarged breasts," said Rabbi Moshe Tendler, a senior dean at Yeshiva's rabbinical school and a professor of biology and medical ethics. "He's a person who represents a kind of amorality which runs counter to everything Yeshiva University stands for. There is just no leeway in Jewish law for a transsexual.

"There is no niche where he can hide out as a female without being in massive violation of Torah law, Torah ethics and Torah morality."

What I don't understand is that it seems to me that Halakha, from the Mishna to Shulchan Aruch,deals with the questions of androgeny and transexualism, and seems to do so in a non-judgemental and a-hysterical fashion. In light of this, I find R Tendler's quote puzzling. is it a matter of bedieved vs l'hatchila?

Here is an article giving a good summary of halacha of tumtum and androgenous.

Puritans and Prigs

From James Wood's review of Marilynne Robinson's latest books in the New Yorker:
She loathes the complacent idleness whereby contemporary Americans dismiss Puritanism and turn John Calvin, its great proponent, into an obscure, moralizing bigot: “We are forever drawing up indictments against the past, then refusing to let it testify in its own behalf—it is so very guilty, after all. Such attention as we give to it is usually vindictive and incurious and therefore incompetent.” We flinch from Puritanism because it placed sin at the center of life, but then, as she tartly reminds us, “Americans never think of themselves as sharing fully in the human condition, and therefore beset as all humankind is beset.” Calvin believed in our “total depravity,” our utter fallenness, but this was not necessarily a cruel condemnation. “The belief that we are all sinners gives us excellent grounds for forgiveness and self-forgiveness, and is kindlier than any expectation that we might be saints, even while it affirms the standards all of us fail to attain,” Robinson writes in her essay “Puritans and Prigs.” Nowadays, she argues, educated Americans are prigs, not Puritans, quick to pour judgment on anyone who fails to toe the right political line. Soft moralizing has replaced hard moralizing, but at least those old hard moralists admitted to being moralists.

Famous Blue Raincoat Music Monday

This may be my favorite song ever - though, what the heck is the song REALLY about?

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Concerning New Laws against the Jews, in which Old Ones are Confirmed, and New Ones are Added

So, I have been looking at the Forum Iudicum, the Legal Codes of the Visigoths. The laws make it all but impossible to be a Jew, which I guess was the point.
III. Jews shall not Absent themselves, or Remove their Children or Slaves, to Avoid the Blessing of Baptism.
IV. Jews shall not Celebrate the Passover According to their Customs, or Practice Circumcision, or Induce, any Christian to Renounce the Church of Christ.
V. Jews shall not Presume to Keep the Sabbath, or Celebrate Festival Days, According to their Ritual.
VI. Every Jew shall Cease from Labor on Sunday, and on all Appointed Holidays.
VII. Jews shall not make any Distinction in their Food According to their Custom.
What's interesting is that up until the late 6th century, the Visigoths were mainly Arian Christians, and for some reason along with the Arianism came tolerance for Jews. However, many of their subjects in Hispania were Catholic, which would introduce religious strife.

In 589, King Reccared converted to Catholicism which did not bode well for the Jews.

Fast forward to 672 CE and King Wamba of the Visigoths. Almost immediately after his succession to the throne he faced a rebellion in the French Riviera, in Nimes, Narbonne, Maguelonne. Among the rebels were a large number of Jews.
With the rebellion thus put down, the Jews of Narbonne were expelled the same year. There was also a formal expulsion of all Jews in the kingdom who didn't convert to Christianity on grounds of the particular ferocity of the Jewish revolutionaries and of their community's noted support for the rebellion.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Word of the Day - Zoetelaar

A sutler or victualer is a civilian who sells provisions to an army in the field, in camp or in quarters. The word, like numerous other naval and military terms, came into English from Dutch, where it appears as soetelaar or zoetelaar. It meant originally "one who does dirty work, a drudge, a scullion", and derives from zoetelen (to foul, sully), a word cognate with "suds" (hot soapy water), "seethe" (to boil) and "sodden". (wikipedia)

A traditional occupation for Jews, including during the American Civil War.

I didn't think it was possible...

But I think this country is even more divided now then it was 4 years ago. It is utterly sad and depressing.

It's funny to watch the politicians fan the flames of hatred and divisiveness, and it is perplexing to watch the people respond predictably, like trained animals in a circus. I can't decide if so many are clueless of this manipulation or just complicit. Lie to me, I want to believe you.

And the media in the mix, like traders in the pit. They win when there is activity - don't matter if the market is going up or down. They can make money on either side.

Monday, September 01, 2008

The Fire and the Light:A Novel of the Cathars and the Lost Teachings of Christ

A Tale

by Edgar Allan Poe

THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal --the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."

It was toward the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence.

It was a voluptuous scene, that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven --an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different; as might have been expected from the duke's love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue --and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and lighted with orange --the fifth with white --the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet --a deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that protected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all.

It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when the minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians of the orchestra were constrained to pause, momentarily, in their performance, to hearken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before.

But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel. The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not.

He had directed, in great part, the moveable embellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fete; and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the masqueraders. Be sure they were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm --much of what has been since seen in "Hernani." There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these --the dreams --writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, for a moment, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away --they have endured but an instant --and a light, half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods. But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven, there are now none of the maskers who venture; for the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-colored panes; and the blackness of the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulge in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments.

But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length there commenced the sounding of midnight upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, too, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive of disapprobation and surprise --then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust.

In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince's indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood --and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror.

When the eyes of Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its role, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage.

"Who dares?" he demanded hoarsely of the courtiers who stood near him --"who dares insult us with this blasphemous mockery? Seize him and unmask him --that we may know whom we have to hang at sunrise, from the battlements!"

It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly --for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand.

It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the prince's person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple --through the purple to the green --through the green to the orange --through this again to the white --and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers, while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry --and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which, instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form.

And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

Music (Cover) Monday #2

Check out the Red Hot Chili Peppers' cover of the Ohio Players' hit - "Love Rollercoaster"