Monday, November 30, 2009

Your complaints are not against us, but against G-d.

Rabbi Pruzansky:

"The real dividing line in Jewish life today is between those who are happy with the mesora and those unhappy with the mesora. Kabbalat Ol Malchut Shamayim (acceptance of the yoke of G-d’s kingship) demands that we accept the mesora even if we deem ourselves “more enlightened;” otherwise, we – like Nadav and Avihu before us – are worshipping ourselves, and not the Almighty. And isn’t that the ultimate reality of Western man today – self-worship ? If I am unhappy with the Mesora, it is because of something within me that needs rectification. I have to bend to the Torah’s will, and not bend the Torah to suit my will. Those who live with grievances against the Torah must recognize that on some level, as Moshe once said to his flock, “…your complaints are not against us, but against G-d” (Sh’mot 16:8)."

Black Raven Music Monday

This is a slightly modernized version of a very old Russian folk song. Despite the modernizing treatment, you can hear the traditional elements - the harmonies, the melismatic stretching of the vowels. And the classic melancholy theme - death in battle.

To summarize, a mortally wounded warrior is telling the raven over his head that he will never be his prey. Yet he knows that he is dying and asks the raven to tell his beloved that he has married someone else, Death.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Obama Lied, Grandma died?

How did the Conservatives, who in general favor minimal government involvement in things like healthcare and welfare, convince the country that the Democratic health care reform will actually lead to people being put in front of death panels to save healthcare costs, etc... If nothing else, I'd expect unbridled capitalism to pressure healthcare to compromise care to save costs?

Friday, November 27, 2009

Corporate Espionage

Kinda wild...

A few weeks ago, I was exhibiting our products at a trade show when a guy came up to me and asked for a demo. He said he worked for Capital Trading, a prop shop in Chicago. He didn't have a business card but gave me his email for a followup.

When I got back, I sent him an email following up. He asked how he could download our products. I told him, we'd be happy to register him after he sat through our demo and we got some information about him and his company. We scheduled a web meeting for the day before Thanksgiving.

That morning, I happened to be on LinkedIn when all of a sudden this guy's name pops up as someone I may want to connect with. I click on his name and I find out that he works for our number one competitor.

Now things started falling into place - no business card, just a gmail which he gave me at the show. His name was not on the list of conference attendees, and when I called Capital Trading in Chicago, they never heard of him...

And he blew off our meeting and did not reply to our followup emails.

Wild stuff...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Daft Punk Music Monday - Technologic

Really creepy looking skinless child robot.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Yet More Food Posts...

Did not know this. The quintessential British food...

In 1860 the first fish and chip shop was opened in London by Jewish proprietor Joseph Malin who married together "fish fried in the Jewish fashion" with chips.


Continuing the Food Theme...

I must be reading too much B.O.T.H. because there seems to be a weird food theme to my posts lately.

From the 11/23/09 New Yorker magazine:

Cautiously, I tasted the Afghan's poutine, which was the basic fries-curds-and-gravy dish without embellishments. My response was similar to the response I'd had some years ago when the composer Ezra Laderman, despite knowing full well that few euphonious sounds had ever been coaxed out of a shofar, wrote a fanfare for shofars that I heard played at the dedication of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale: "suprisingly inoffensive."

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

This may turn me vegetarian...

Chinese go beyond the pale...
This may turn me into a f*ckin vegetarian:

In order to keep the carp alive chefs cook its body but wrap its head in a wet cloth to keep it breathing, before covering it in sauce and serving in on a plate.

The YouTube video shows diners, who are laughing and joking, prodding the fish while it is still moving, before picking it apart with chopsticks.

This reminded me, quite inappropriately of Rabbi Chaninah ben Tradyon's execution...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

And speaking of shneiders...

Michael Wex has this to say about the phrase "Kadokhes mit koshere fodem":

Kadokhes is a fever, especially a recurrent, malarial fever, the kind that always comes back just when you think you're done with it. It's used in curses and as a nastier stand-in for bupkes. Kadokhes vel ikh dir gebn, “Fever is what I’ll give you,” means that you get nothing but my contempt.

Adding kosher thread to kadokhes takes things into the realm of “Sweet Fanny Adams.” In times of distress, especially in cases of serious illness, women used to go to the cemetery and lay thread around the grave of a notably pious person, as if they were taking its measurements. The thread—known as koshere fodem--was used to make wicks for candles that were then donated to the synagogue in an effort to arouse the mercy of heaven. Making such candles was called leygn kneytlekh, “laying wicks,” and was an organized group activity, a kind of bee, a cross between a tea party and a women’s prayer meeting.

In kadokhes mit koshere fodem, the heartwarming piety that would normally have suffused a phrase like koshere fodem turns into its opposite. The idea is: “All you're going to get from me is a fever so bad that they'll be measuring graves and making candles in a desperate attempt to save your life.” The koshere fodem is similar to the English “. . .and the horse you rode in on”—it makes the curse even worse.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ot Azoy Neyt a Shnayder - Music Monday

Kind of an interesting version of the old Yiddish song - in a swing style. It reminds me of the Al Wilson song - "The Snake". Listen to them both and see if you agree.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lou Dobbs and the polarization of the media

The Lou Dobbs story is interesting. This article really shines a light on the "business" aspect of the media.

Especially telling is the part where they are talking about CNN trying to position their "brand" as middle of the road, compared to "left" MSNBC and "right" FOX. So they are crafting their positions, and their commentators have to toe the line or get the boot.

This ties in nicely in my head with the recent New Yorker article about how the Internet really amplified "group polarization" where people only socialize and communicate with like minded people, hearing their own opinions reinforced and creating a feedback loop which drives them to extreme beliefs. One key point that article makes is that while most people think the Internet gives us the ability to find any piece of information out there and so be more informed, in reality, what it gives us is an unprecedented ability to customize our sources of information to filter out anything we don't want to hear.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A bit of history

So, this all started after I found a YouTube video on Ben Atlas' blog. He is right - it is a pretty amazing song. In his post, he doesn't really explain or translate, but I think I will do so here...

The band is starts out singing a 19th century "Kantonist Song". Many of you probably don't know who the "kantonists" were.

When peasants were drafted into the army in early 19th century Russia, their children would be sometimes be sent to "kantonist schools" if they did not have someone to look after them. There they were fed, taught some basic crafts, some religious education. Typically at 18 they would then go into the army themselves. Jews, however, were not drafted into the army and so they were spared this particular tribulation.

Then Nicholas I had a great idea. Why not draft the Jews into the army. And while we're at it, why not convert them as well. And since according to their own religion they become adults at 13, we can start drafting them at 13. And we can send them to these "kantonist schools" until they become adults.

The each community had local Jews appointed as responsible for finding these recruits. If the quota was not met, they would take from their own household. So to make sure that didn't happen, these guys would grab whoever they found and pass them off as 12 year olds. It's not like they had passports or birth certificates.

The poor kids would be put on a cart and taken to the closest highway where they would then be marched on foot, under armed guard to somewhere far away to make sure they did not try to sneak back home. Sometimes they would walk for months.

Once they made it to the "school" they were actively proselytized, tormented, beaten. Many were broken. Many did not give up their faith.

One fascinating thing about this is that in these schools they had their own subculture in the form of songs. Little remnants of Biblical stories and names, bits of Yiddish and Hebrew mixed in with Russian, Ukrainian, or whatever language was spoken in the area.

The songs in these videos are these songs. Here is one in translation:

In the Jewish faith, oh, you must arise so very early.
Arise so very early, and say Moydeh Ani.
Say Moydeh Ani and pour the Neygl Vasser.
Pour the Neygl Vasser, and run to the Beis haMidrash.
Run to the Beis haMidrash and put on the Tallis un' Tfillin

What is so fascinating to me about this song is that while the theme is Jewish, the style is so traditionally, authentically Russian. The polyphony, the repetitions, the "Ekh, lyuli lyuli" refrain. Also, the repetitive nature of the song. This is clearly a marching song, or a working song. You can tell by the rhythm.

Another song (I think) became a Chabad niggun - "Ne zhuritse khloptsi". This is what evanstonjew posted in the previous post's comments. Chabad has a very elaborate drash on the meaning, but in the pshat it translates:

"Let's not worry lads,
What will happen to us,
We'll soon make it to the inn,
There'll be vodka there"

These are boys being marched to an unknown destination. Their old life is gone and it is not clear what's ahead.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Oy ir narishe tsionistn

It's amazing now, but a hundred years ago, Zionism was not this untouchable ideal which cannot be criticized without being called a self hating Jew or worse. Here is a song written around the time of the Russian revolution which makes fun of the Zionists for being utopians. These guys sing it in Yiddish, English and Russian.

Of course the Zionists did build a working state, whereas the Jewish communists/socialists were all shot by Stalin. So not sure who had the last laugh.

Georgian Music Monday

I've always loved Georgian music - very melodic, and a little melancholy.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Start spreading the news...

I'm leaving today. I wanna be a part of it...

Anyway, lot's on my mind, but no posts this week due to me going out of town and working my a** off in the Big Apple.