Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Polanski - WTF?

So now a slew of famous moviemakers are protesting RP's arrest? WTF? What am I missing?

This dude drugged and raped a 13 year old girl, pleaded guilty and then fled the country. he has been on the lam for 30+ years.

They finally arrest this guy and the filmmakers are upset?

' The filmmakers objected to his being arrested en route to the film festival, which held a tribute to him this year.

"It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him," said the petition'


Cherchez la femme (juive)

I don't know about other places like Paris and Moscow New York and Jerusalem, but here, in our little village of Annatevka Skokie, it seems that the most serious discussions of faith and lifestyle occur among the women in our community. From what I've overheard over the years, they regularly discuss their relationship to God and Judaism, their dilemmas of belief and practice, etc. Never have I heard such discussions among men. However, on the Internet it is the opposite. Mostly men in the blog discussions and very few women...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stanislaw Lem "The Start Diaries"

Finally reading some Stanislaw Lem. I love how Eastern European science fiction is so different from the Western kind. It is really much more introspective, philosophical and satirical.

In one story, the narrator winds up imprisoned on a planet where every midnight the entire population, who have all been made to look identical, switches jobs/roles randomly. The narrator is bewildered, and he asks about how this can work:

"...how do each of you possibly manage to practice all professions? Can you really be not only a gardener, judge or lawyer, but also a father or mother at will?"

"Many professions," replied my smiling interlocutor, "I do not perform well. Consider however that one's practice of a profession lasts but a single day. And besides, in any society of the old type the overwhelming majority of people carry out their professional duties indifferently at best, yet the social mechanism does thereby cease to function. A second rate gardener will ruin your garden, a second-rate ruler will bring disaster upon an entire nation, since both have time enough to do this, but here they do not. Moreover in an ordinary society, in addition to occupational incompetence, one can sense the negative if not destructive influence of the private ambitions of individuals. Envy, pride, egoism, vanity, the thirst for power - these have a corrosive effect on the life of the community. Here that evil influence does not exist. Indeed, here the ambition to have a career does not exist, nor is anyone motivated by personal gain. I cannot take some step in my role of today in the hopes that it will profit me tomorrow, for by tomorrow I shall be someone else, and who I shall be tomorrow I do not know today."
"And feelings?" I asked. "Can one really love a different person every day? And what happens to fatherhood and motherhood?"
"As far as feelings are concerned, we have satisfied two needs, needs that would appear to be mutually exclusive, yet they dwell within the breast of every intelligent creature: the need for permanence and the need for change. Affection, respect, love were at one time gnawed by constant anxiety, by the fear of losing the person held dear. This dread we have conquered. For in point of fact whatever upheavals, diseases or calamities may be visited upon us, we shall always have a father, a mother, a spouse, and children. But this is not all. That which does not change will soon begin to pall, regardless of whether it brings us happiness or sorrow. Yet we also crave stability, we wish deliverance from vicissitudes and tragedy. We wish to live, but not be fleeting, to change, yet remain, to experience all - and risk nothing. These contradictions, unreconcilable it would seem, are with us a reality. We have even erased the antagonism between the upper and lower strata of society, for each of us- each day - can be a king, as there is no walk of life, no sphere of activity closed to any man."
"What do you do about death?" I asked.
"Death? It is an obsolete idea. There can be no death where there are no individuals. We do not die."
"But that's absurd, you don't believe in it yourself!" I exclaimed. "All living things must die, and so must you!"
"I, and who is that?" he interrupted with a smile.
There was a moment of silence.
"You, you yourself!"
"And who am I, I myself, beyond this present role? A name? I have no name. A face? That's to the biological measures carried out among us centuries ago my face is the same as everyone else's. A role? But that changes at midnight. What then is left? Nothing. Consider for a moment, what means death? A loss, tragic since irrevocable. The one who dies, whom does he lose? Himself? No, for once dead, he has ceased to exist, and one who exists not, there is nothing he can lose. Death is the province of the living - it is the loss of someone near.
"But we never lose those who are near us. I have already explained that, I think. every family is eternal, Death for us - this would be the constriction of a role. The law forbids that. But I must go now. Farewell, O uninvited alien!"

Sheik of Araby Music Monday

I just can't get enough Django... This was not posted on YK!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Translator collapsed during Khadafy's rambling diatribe

"After struggling to turn Khadafy’s insane ramblings at the UN into English for 75 minutes, the Libyan dictator’s personal interpreter got lost in translation.

"I just can’t take it any more," Khadafy’s interpreter shouted into the live microphone – in Arabic."

[Full article]

Thursday, September 24, 2009


Why is nothing easy for me?

So the other day I was watching television and found myself in the middle of some cooking show with this guy named Anthony Bourdain, who I guess is some type of celebrity chef. He happened to be doing a show from Lebanon while the Israelis were bombing it during the last war.

The only interesting thing about this episode was him ordering an Arak while dining in some Beiruti greasy spoon. The native guide told him that Arak is typically taken by mixing it one third Arak to two thirds water and then adding ice. It is typically not drunk straight. Adding water causes the anise oil in the Arak to form a cloudy suspension, which like with absinthe is called louching.

I've only had Arak straight, and I found it to be too strong. But this sounded interesting. I figured I'd buy some and try it.

So, the next day I make my way to Hungarian Kosher and to my surprise, they are sold out of Arak. However, the guy tells me that they do have some high end Arak in the back @ $44 a bottle. For that kind of money I can buy a pretty nice bottle of single malt scotch, so I said "I'll wait for the $15.99" Arak. This is Thursday night.

My plan is to go to our friends' house and ask them to borrow their bottle of Arak so I can conduct the louching experiment/taste test. However, when I announce my intentions to my wife, she vetoes the idea. Apparently, the protocol when borrowing food is to replace the said borrowed food when you return it. So if you borrow a cup of sugar, you are supposed to return a bag of sugar, or something like that. I wasn't planning to buy them a new bottle of Arak, so I decide to wait.

Friday, my wife comes back from Hungarian with a bottle of $15.99 Arak. Apparently, they have no idea when new shipments come in. It was my lucky day - or was it. As I am about to open the bottle, I notice that it says "Molasses flavored neutral grain spirits". At this point I get paranoid. What if this is not real Arak, but some kind of molasses flavored vodka. What if it won't louche? I decide to not open the bottle yet. I return it.

After Shabbos, I go on the Internet to research Arak. It looks like there are much more authentic looking kosher Araks - but not sold in Chicago. I'd have to order online. I think my curiosity is overwhelming my cheapness. I may splurge on the $44 Arak.

At the last moment I notice that the $44 Arak is 100 proof. Now, I think maybe it is a mistake to buy it. I want the regular 80 proof Arak. What if the 100 proof version doesn't louche right?

I hold off the purchase. On Rosh Hashanah morning I convince my friend with the cheap Arak to try adding water to it. The next day he reports success - it louched!

Back to Hungarian Kosher to buy the previously returned cheap Arak. Got home, poured it, louched it, iced it, drank it, liked it!

Monday, September 21, 2009


So as I read "The History of God", one thing seems to be crystallizing in my head.

It seems clear that there is a shared human mystical experience of "God" - meaning some type of otherworldy experience. If you look at famous descriptions of this, the visions of the Old Testament prophets, Muhammad's revelation, Buddha's enlightenment, they all seem to share common characteristics, including the one where this experience cannot be described in human language. This is why Isaiah and Ezekiel, etc, all use these bizarre metaphors, yet at the same time constantly reminding us that these are just their best attempts to describe something indescribable. It is not clear whether this shared experience is actually a reality, or whether it is some kind of shared neuro-psychological phenomenon.

What is clear to me is that any type of logical or theological reasoning about anything beyond this shared experience is pointless and clearly speculative and baseless.

So, I am not sure where this leaves us. I guess the most promising path would be to pour in lots of money into neuro-theological research.

Music Monday - Jackson 5

Friday, September 18, 2009

And who by choking on challah...

The wife started yelling at me this morning because apparently the shul dues have to be paid or no holiday tickets for us, and it is my responsibility to make sure that they get a check. A responsibility which I shirked...

I was trying to come up with a good excuse, and nearly choked to death on a piece of challah which I was chewing at the time...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

I don't know it when I see it...

I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so.
But I know it when I see it...

-Justice Potter Stewart

Balthus' paintings are stalking me. Is it art or pornography? Does it matter?

"It's an erotic scene. But you have to understand, it is not in the least quirky, none of the usual little naughtiness you show around under cover with winks and nudges. No, I want to proclaim in broad daylight, with sincerity and feeling, all the throbbing tragedy of a drama of the flesh, proclaim vociferously, the deep-rooted laws of instinct. Thus to return to the passionate content of art. Down with the hypocrites!"


He is talking about his painting - "The Guitar Lesson".

Thought to be based on the Pieta of Villeneuve-les-Avignons:

Let's say it is art - then what about this photograph inspired by Balthus by Naoto Kawahara? (BTW, I decided to blur the naughty bits in case the US government decides that it is not art after all. The thought of becoming a registered pedophile is not one I find pleasing)

A History of God

I am finally slogging through "A History of God", and boy, I am really enjoying the book.

One thing that this book reinforces in my mind is the realization of how philosophically advanced the pre-moderns were. We tend to think of them as primitive, superstitious morons who were arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or coming up with easily overturned proofs of God's existence, but that is not the case at all, at least not in the case of the Greek Christians and the medieval Muslims. And in any case, even if their answers are not satisfactory, the questions that they raised are quite sophisticated. I also have a much better understanding of the via negative, the apophatic methods of the Greeks and the Muslims, later adopted by the Rambam and Rabbenu Bachya.

Farmer Boy

This year, my wife made a little garden in the backyard. Learning from last year's mistakes, when all our tomatoes were eaten by critters, she put netting and fencing around the garden this year. It looks like a battlefield from WWI.

The thing is, somehow the critters still got in there and ate most of the tomatoes. I was out there yesterday surveying the situation and it looked bleak.

It really gave me a sense of what it was like to be alive back in the days when people grew their own food and their lives depended on it. I can go to the Village Market and buy more tomatoes, but what if I lived 400 years ago, and the fact that the birds and squirrels ate my food meant that I was going to go hungry that week or month?

Plus in typical fashion, I got a little angry - how is it that I, a college graduate, seem to be outsmarted by squirrels and birds? How the heck did they get through the nets and fences?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

This world we live in...

Hamas officials welcomed the Goldstone report's unusually harsh condemnation of Israel, but rejected criticism of itself.


Monday, September 14, 2009

Joe Dassin Music Monday - Bip Bip

A nice jazzy tune from a while back

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Take a look at this video - why are these people running?

This is a re-enactment of a scene from a Spanish movie "Intacto". The premise of this movie is that luck is a property which people possess and the property can be transferred from one person to another. So in this case, a bunch of people run blindfolded through a city. The ones who don't get killed by traffic or run into a brick wall are the ones who are lucky. They will move to the next level of competition to find which among the luckier is the luckiest.

In the movie there is a whole 'nother plot with Holocaust survivors and casinos and people being able to steal other people's luck.

I have to say, for some reason this idea really appeals to me because despite my totally rational outlook on life, deep inside I have this superstitious belief that luck exists.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Death Penalty

“The prospect of killing an innocent person seemed to be the one thing that could cause people to rethink their support for capital punishment. Some who were not troubled by statistical arguments against the death penalty—claims about deterrence or racial disparities—were deeply troubled that such an extreme injustice might occur in an individual case.”

Stuart Banner, "The Death Penalty"

This quote from an article in the New Yorker really stood out at me when I read it. Mainly because I find it so incongruous that we as a country would care so much about an individual miscarriage of justice, yet we do not march in the streets when we hear about collateral damage in Iraq or Afghanistan. Is it because they are not American citizens?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Le Dragueur Music Monday

Continuing my descent into the guilty pleasures of French dance music... (though this time sung my a Italian woman). "Le dragueur" is French for a dredger, one who catches fish by dragging nets through the water. It's also slang for a men who are constantly on the make for women.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Are you ready for some football?

I haven't been much of a sports fan for most of my life, but I may change my mind...

Lingerie football league formed!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Unfortunate phone number...

Reading a story about some guy who got his finger bitten off in a fight. Check out the number to call if you have any info on the assailant!

After a fight that lasted only a few seconds, Bush said, he heard Rice say, “He bit my finger off,” and he saw a stump.

Bush said he later found the roughly 1-inch piece of Rice’s finger next to the traffic island about 20 feet away.

The suspect fled the scene, authorities said. He was described as a short man with a medium build, wearing a blue cap, black shirt and black shorts. He remained at large this morning.

Anyone with information can call Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Georgia on my mind...

Enjoying a small glass of Georgian wine. I am more of a beer man, but I have a weakness for sweet wine. This Georgian wine is pleasantly semi-sweet.

On the back is a statement in Hebrew attesting that this wine was made under the supervision of God fearing Jews, keepers of the Torah and mitzvot and therefore it is fit for all ritual uses.

Then in English it gives what I believe is WAY TOO MUCH information about the origin of the wine:

100% Saperavi varietal, from the Kindzmarauli microzone of the Kvareli area in the Kakheti region, Republic of Georgia.

Really, does anyone care that much? How about giving us the lat/long of the vineyard?

It seems unlikely, but I would love to travel there - a lot to see in Georgia...

Saccharine Frumness

Just listened to a calling post message from the kids' school. The principal has the standard yeshivish accent and manner of speaking, that sort of lilting, slightly lisping and nasal sound. It struck me as I listened that all these guys sound the same; they all have this weird saccharine quality to their speech. Not the accent specifically, but the content. They are just too damn sweet - it's like listening to Forrest Gump. They seem to talk to one another as you would to small children.

And then I thought that probably I am just a mean guy, not nice like these guys. I am much more of a jerk. But then I also thought - isn't that the classic Jew? The Lenny Bruce, the Jackie Mason. My Yiddish speaking forebears, always with the salty saying, tweaking and teasing one another. Yiddish is a language for scoffers, for mean people, for teasers and verbal bullies.

Have frum people always been nice, even hundreds of years ago? Were they always these heilige, saccharine, plastic people? Or is this a new phenomenon?

Developmentally Delayed

About 18 months ago, a few years shy of my fortieth birthday, I randomly learned to snap my fingers - something I had been unable to do as a child and frankly, had given up on many years ago.

Now, it seems that after a lifelong aversion to coffee, and hence looked upon as an outcast by mainstream society, I find out that I actually enjoy the beverage, especially a dark roast with some cream (no 2% milk for me) and sugar.


Hypocrisy - Dutch to prosecute Arabs over Holocaust cartoon

A disappointing story out of Europe. Some Arab group published a cartoon denying the Holocaust and is now facing prosecution for "insulting a group and distributing an insulting image."

Don't forget that not too long ago, the publication of cartoons making fun of the Prophet Muhammad was defended with the "free speech" argument.

The Arabs complain about hypocrisy and they are totally correct:

"Freedom of expression is only a pretext to make life bitter for Muslims ... and if (they) try to bring this hypocrisy to light, that right is denied them."

Bouzerda [the Arab center's spokesman] said anyone should be allowed to publish insulting material in the interest of public debate.

Of course, I will bet dollars to doughnuts that this Bouzerda guy was not out there defending the Muhammad cartoons a few years back. What a joke.

As an aside, Jews are upset:

Ronny Naftaniel of the Center for Documentation on Israel, which filed a complaint against the cartoon, said Jews had nothing to do with the Muhammad cartoons, so it didn't make sense for the league to retaliate in this way.

"Imagine if Dutch Jews insulted Muslims every time they heard an anti-Semitic remark. What kind of perverse world would we be living in?" he said.

He is missing the point here - they picked a topic which they knew would cause controversy. If they drew a cartoon about Albanians in Italy, it really wouldn't be the same...