Monday, January 31, 2011

Death in context

After the bombing of the Moscow airport, I watched their government warn of the retaliation for the terrorist act. So I had this thought about how as human beings certain contexts make us freak out about death, while others leave us completely unperturbed. The fact that thirty some people died as a result of a bomb freaks everyone out, yet had it been a bus crash, it would not have made the news. By targeting rampant alcoholism, environmental pollution, poor healthcare, etc, Russia could probably save an order of magnitude more lives - but they don't focus on that.


What an odd byline...

... for this article.

Dr. Milton R. Wolf is a board-certified diagnostic radiologist, medical director and cousin of President Obama. He blogs daily at

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hong Kong Mambo

In honor of fellow blogger ATBOTH's guest post on the LoveLoveChina blog...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Circle of Life Weekend

Lots of births, bris, shiva calls, funerals. Another Holocaust survivor dead. Stories of close calls. Names of obscure Polish towns... Hamakom yenachem atchem...

Bossa Nova Monday - Desafinado

If you listen to one Brazilian piece of music, it should be this...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

So a couple of Jews decide to hijack a plane

On June 15, 1970 a certain Jewish baby boy was born in Kiev. On the same day, a group of desperate Soviet Zionists attempt to hijack a plane and fly it to Israel. The attempt failed and they were arrested on the tarmac. The leaders were sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted after an international outcry. (Full story)

Did my parents know about this as they were taking me home from the hospital? Was it discussed in the Soviet press to set an example or was it completely hushed up to prevent others from getting any ideas? Does anyone remember this act today or has it been relegated to the cob-webbed archives of history?

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Not in Kansas Anymore

"The nobility of the Redskin is extinguished, and what few are left are a pack of whining curs who lick the hand that smites them. The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they should die than live the miserable wretches that they are."

L. Frank Baum, editorial in the The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, December 20, 1890

Monday, January 03, 2011

"Putin is always right"

Wow, sometimes life makes me do a double take. With the trial of Khodorkovsky in the news, I saw mention of "Churov's Law". I had to look it up, since I'd never heard of it before. Here's what I found out.

Vladimir Churov is a Russian official and politician who became famous when he pronounced to a bunch of journalists - "Putin is always right!"

It took me a few seconds to realize why this slogan sounded so oddly familiar to me. High School English - George Orwell, "Animal Farm" - "Napoleon is always right".

Mr. Orwell - I take my hat off to you.

The Pit

This past week was kinda hard for me... It started when I stumbled upon a video on YouTube. It's a clip from a documentary by a man, a fairly famous Russian Jewish poet, who went back to Belarus to search for his roots.

He is singing at a memorial to the Jews who were slaughtered in Minsk during the first couple years of the war. The place is called "The Pit". To my surprise, I hadn't heard of this place before. For some reason, when I looked at the video, I assumed he was in Babiy Yar. But I had been to Babiy Yar about the same time this clip was filmed, and I did not recall seeing the sculptures descending into the pit... Well, I guess there are more places where Jews were massacred than I was aware of.

The song touched me deeply. As did the video. I know that the people standing there, listening, with the bouquets in their hands, are there remembering their kin, and the suffering, and the sorrow. Previously, I made a promise to myself not to translate poetry and lyrics - it just doesn't work and it sounds terrible in translation, but I can't seem to stop myself.

My cheek leaning against my hand,
Tired from life's misery,
I look wistfully at a snapshot,
The year is 1920.
Dust whirls over the shtetl,
Cherry blossoms are falling,
My mom's name is Rakhil,
My mom is twelve years old.

Under a green carpet of grass,
My mom now lies,
The flimsy shield of David,
Alas did not protect her,
And whichever of my relatives,
I happen to recall,
Is either getting old in foreign lands,
Or is lying killed in a ditch.

Completing its scheduled run,
The sun is melting behind the hill,
The troubled 21st century
is completing its second year.
The tall grass is drying out,
The Old City is dressed in darkness,
My granddaughter's name is Rakhil,
My granddaughter is twelve years old.

May she be serenaded by spring songs,
May tears pass her by,
And staring directly at me,
Are my mom's eyes.
Lord, forgive us our sins,
And keep our children from harm,
My granddaughter's name is Rakhil,
My granddaughter is twelve years old.