Monday, November 24, 2008

R' Ovadiah Yosef - Secular teachers are "asses"

So, the fact that R' Yosef likes to drop statements like this should not surprise anyone, including myself, but in this instance I fail to understand his reasoning.

Spiritual leader of the Ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef called secular teachers in Israel "asses" on Saturday during his weekly sermon.

Yosef has previously voiced his desire that the Education Ministry be handed over to Shas' authority.

In his sermon, the rabbi said that the teachers in the secular education system know nothing, "neither Shabath, nor holiday", and teach only "nonsense", and added that people whose parents placed them in the secular education system are unfortunate.
"What do they teach? They teach history and all sorts of nonsense about world nations, that's all," he said.

So, you could argue that the secular curriculum is missing subjects that he considers essential, but since teachers usually teach what they are trained in, how does this make them "asses"? If I considered it important for my child to learn Calculus, and R' Yosef does not teach Calculus in his yeshiva, does that make him an ass?

Santa Maria Music Monday

Here is a famous cantiga of Alphonso X of Spain. Written in Galician-Portuguese, but set to Andalusian sounding music, it is a tale of a man who was crippled because of his sins. He was treated horribly by all around him and suffered greatly until he made a vow to bring a large amount of wax to the shrine of the Virgin at Salas. At this point he was cured completely and was able to walk to the shrine without any pain. At the shrine he praised the Virgin and vowed to continue his pilgrimages from this point on.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Message in a Bottle


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Never Forget

All the crazy shit that goes on now, is no worse that the crazy shit that went on then...

On December 16 [1939] John Hunt, a white millionaire and disciple from California calling himself John the Revelator, met the Jewett family of Denver, Colorado. He kidnapped their 17 year-old daughter Delight and took her back to California without her parents' consent. Renaming her "Virgin Mary," John the Revelator began sexual relations with her. He announced that she would give birth to a "New Redeemer" by "immaculate conception" in Hawaii.

Read more about Father Divine here...

Der Vorleser

The Reader (Der Vorleser)
The story is told in three parts by the main character, Michael Berg. Each part takes place in a different time period in the past.

Part I begins in an unnamed German city (Heidelberg) in 1958. After 15-year-old Michael becomes ill on his way home, 36-year-old tram conductor Hanna Schmitz brings him to her apartment and cleans him up before bringing him to his parents. He spends the next several months absent from school battling a pre-existing case of hepatitis.

On a subsequent visit to thank her for her help, he realizes he is attracted to her; embarrassed after she catches him watching her get dressed, he runs away, but he returns at a later date. After she asks his help retrieving coal from downstairs, he becomes dirty and she bathes him; afterwards, they make love. He begins returning to her apartment on a regular basis, and the two take part in an affair. They develop a ritual of bathing and making love, before which she frequently has him read aloud to her, chiefly from works of German literature. Both remain somewhat distant from each other emotionally despite their physical closeness. Hanna also is at times physically and verbally abusive to Michael.

Months later, Hanna suddenly leaves without a trace. The distance between the two of them had grown while Michael spent more time with his school friends, and so he feels guilty and believes it was something he did that caused her departure. The memory of Hanna taints all his other relationships with women.

In Part II, eight years later, while attending law school, he is part of a group of students observing a war crimes trial. A group of middle-aged women who had served as guards at a satellite of Auschwitz near Cracow are being tried for allowing Jewish women under their ostensible protection to die in a fire at a church that had been bombed during the evacuation of the camp. The incident had been chronicled in a book written by one of the few survivors, who emigrated to America after the war; she is the star witness at the trial.

To Michael's surprise, Hanna is one of the defendants. This sends him on a roller coaster of complicated emotions. He feels guilty for having loved a criminal and is also mystified at Hanna's willingness to accept full responsibility for having supervised the other guards despite evidence proving otherwise. During the trial, Michael realizes that all her life Hanna has been protecting what is to her a more terrible secret than her Nazi past: she cannot read or write. This inability shaped all her actions, her original refusal of the promotion that put her in the position to directly kill these people, and also her panic the rest of her life over being discovered. During the trial, it comes out that she took the weak and sickly women and had them read to her before they were sent to the gas chambers, Michael decides she wanted to make their last days bearable, he later decides she sends them to the chambers so they won't reveal her secret. The reader is left to interpret her motives. She is convicted and sentenced to life in prison.

During Part III, Michael, trying to come to terms of his feelings for her, begins taping readings of books and sending them to her with no correspondence. Eventually she learns to read by borrowing the corresponding books from the prison library and reading along. She writes back to him, but he does not reply. When Hanna is soon due to be released, he agrees to help find her a place to stay as well as gainful employment. Many years have passed and he is divorced and has a daughter from his brief marriage.

On the day before her release in 1984, and following a long-delayed visit from Michael, she commits suicide. Michael learns from the warden that she had been reading books by many prominent Holocaust survivors, such as Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi, Tadeusz Borowski, and histories of the camps. The warden is angry with him for not communicating with her in any way other than the audio tapes.

At the end of the novel Michael visits the Jewish woman who wrote the book about the death march from Auschwitz and is now living in New York. She points out, for the first time in the story, how inappropriate their relationship was, and how it damaged him, and draws parallels to Hanna's treatment of the poor and the weak at the camp (which ring true). She asks /tells him how he must have had a short, unloving marriage (true) that resulted in a child who was away from him (also true). She refuses to take the money, saying "[Hanna] cannot buy my forgiveness so cheaply" and tells him to donate it to a Jewish charity of his choice. He chooses one that focuses on combating adult illiteracy. The woman does, however, take the old tin tea box where Hanna had kept her papers and mementos, "to replace the similar tea box which she herself had until being sent to the camp" - a small ambiguous gesture towards her former guard. After that meeting, Michael goes to visit Hanna's grave for the first and only time.

When this movie came out, it was criticized severely by some prominent people. Somehow I feel the criticisms are not legitimate. The Holocaust, like any event of enormous influence on the world, is not a simplistic black and white, good and bad story. And it cannot, should not be treated as out of bounds for any type of conversation ouside of one that is driven by malice or intolerance. I certainly don't believe that Schlink's motives were suspect.

Schlink's problematic approach toward Hanna's culpability in the Final Solution has been a frequent complaint about the book. Early on he was accused of revising or falsifying history. In the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Jeremy Adler accused him of "cultural pornography" and said the novel simplifies history and compels its readers to identify with the perpetrators.

In the English-speaking world, Cynthia Ozick called it a "product, conscious or not, of a desire to divert (attention) from the culpability of a normally educated population in a nation famed for Kultur." Frederick Raphael was blunter, saying no one could recommend the book "without having a tin ear for fiction and a blind eye for evil."

Interestingly, Schlink has said, most of the criticism he hears and reads over Michael's inability to fully condemn Hanna comes from those closer to his own age. Older generations, he said, that lived through those times are less critical, regardless of how they actually experienced them.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Music Monday - Dread Zeppelin

What happens when you take a Led Zeppelin reggae cover band fronted by an Elvis impersonator? Dread Zeppelin, of course!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Virtual Insanity


A British couple who married in a lavish Second Life wedding ceremony are to divorce after one of them had an alleged "affair" in the online world.
Second Life users can interact and form relationships with other players' avatars.

Second Life users can interact and form relationships with other players' avatars.

Amy Taylor, 28, said she had caught husband David Pollard, 40, having sex with an animated woman. The couple, who met in an Internet chatroom in 2003, are now separated.



A 43-year-old Japanese woman whose sudden divorce in a virtual game world made her so angry that she killed her online husband's digital persona has been arrested on suspicion of hacking, police said Thursday.

We cannot allow our brand to be abused!

The estate of MLK wants a share of proceeds from merchandise showing MLK and Obama. I don't know why I find that so offensive. Especially when they use the term "Brand"!

Isaac Newton Farris Jr., King's nephew and head of the nonprofit King Center in Atlanta, said the estate is entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars in licensing fees - maybe even millions.

"Some of this is probably putting food on people's plates. We're not trying to stop anybody from legitimately supporting themselves," he said, "but we cannot allow our brand to be abused."


Monday, November 10, 2008

Music Monday - Walking on Wall St

Schoolhouse Rock teaching little capitalists...

Friday, November 07, 2008

From 52 to 48 with Love

I hope this website takes off. A house divided against itself cannot stand.

Frum people voting twice against Obama?

So my wife had a conversation with a woman who told her that her father voted twice for McCain; once under his English name, and once under his Hebrew name. She said that many frum people were doing this in the Chicago community.

Frankly, I think this has got to be some kind of mis-information. I'd hope that the election administrators have some way of weeding out people who try to defraud them, but then again...

Regardless of whether it is true or not, the fact that this woman was proud of this type of behavior is disgusting.

In general, this election showed me the depth of how much bigotry exists in this country. I had conversations around a Shabbos table with college educated professionals who basically espoused the belief that Obama would be a bad president solely due to the fact that he was black skinned.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Groundhog Blog

How many reincarnations of a blog does it take to stop arguing about the Mabul?

Lately, it seems that Solomon Schimmel has been commenting on blogs like XGH and BHB. At first I was pretty stoked about that, but the more I thought about it, the more I got upset with Dr Schimmel and others like him, like David Shatz, etc... These people, who devoted their entire career to studying psychology and philosophy should be the ones leading the dialogue and debate with the more fundamentalist wings of Judaism. Not people like us, computer programmers, accountants, managers, whatever. That is if they actually want to influence the world instead of just observing it from their ivory towers.

And frankly, if they did this, the rest of us would have an opportunity to learn quite a bit, and not shoot our semi-educated mouths off.

95 Theses Rap

Some guys make a video with Martin Luther rapping about the 95 theses...

One Five One Seven... that's when it first went down.
Then the real test was when it started spreading around.
Sixty days to recant what I said? Father, please!
You've had, what? Goin' on fifteen centuries?
"Oh snap, he's messin' with the holy communion."
But I ain't never dissed your precious hypostatic union!
"One place at one time." Well, thank you Zwingli.
Yeah, way to disregard that whole "I'm God" thingy!
Getting' all up in my rosary... you little punk.
Your momma shoulda told you not to mess with no monk.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Music Monday - Ella, Elle L'a

What happens when you take a Belgian singer of Dutch extraction and have her do a cover of an old France Gall song about Ella Fitzgerald... Of course the video she made may be the worst I've seen in years, but to me there is nothing sexier than a woman singing EuroPop in French.

Those of you who have never seen EuroVision, don't know what you're missing.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

It's a Piglet Squid