Friday, October 26, 2007


A Jewish Vampire Story


H/T Olvlzl

Update: Weekly Parsha Blogging

I ended up giving the D'rash last Friday night. If I had my wits about me, I'd have brought up the story linked to above as it deals with the theme of this week's readings: hospitality (one can also relate it to the Akedah -- also in this last week's parsha -- what with all the blood and such). Anyway, I gave a tried and true speech (which nonetheless seemed to impress people given its impromptu nature) about the difference between Abraham's mentality as a saint vs. what the Mishna refers to as the mentality of Sodom: "what's mine is mine and what's yours is yours" -- Sodom and 'Amora (however is this rendered as "Gommorah"? I just noticed last week how unlike Gommorah is the Hebrew pronunciation) going so far as to make any hint of saintliness into a sin.

I also mentioned Woody Allen's brilliant take on the Akedah and how Abraham went too far and didn't understand bounderies. Similarly Lot failed to understand certain boundaries. Also noteworthy is that, as was pointed out by the usual "Sermonator" at our shul, Abraham involves his family in the Mitzvah of hospitality while Lot doesn't, except when offering his daughters into sin. Some would argue that Lot also was insufficiently eager to be hospitable, but our shul's other resident bearded lefty moonbat pointed out that Lot had his reasons for trying to get rid of the guests ;)

I also mentioned that it is interesting that it is Sarah, who does all the (behind the scenes) work, rather than Abraham the host with the most, who really receives the blessing (Abraham already has Ishmael, but Sarah is rewarded with Isaac and the line going through Isaac). This contrasts, as I've pointed out on this blog, e.g., before, with the teachings of other faiths in which God rewards the host(ess) rather than the workers. Nu? What does that say about Judaism and the idea of kidush b'mitzvotav vs., e.g., justification by faith? Of course, if what really does matter is practice, then we Jews better practice what we preach as opposed to those who may preach even antinomionism or atheism but live by God's law. If the importance is on works, what does it profit us to point that out rather than to live what we say?

Question of the week: did Abraham violate the laws of Kashruth by offering the angels a calf with milk? DAS silly midrash says: nu? this is how the laws of kashruth came to be. Y'all know angels don't eat. Nu? The angels had to come up with an excuse not to eat, so they said "erm ... this meat and milk thing -- it isn't kosher" and Abraham said "nu? what's kosher" ... and well, that's how it started ;) So Kashruth is the "punishment" for Abraham's, e.g. with Isaac's near-sacrifice and with foisting food on others a la a Jewish mother, lack of boundaries? It is to promote bounderies even in mitzvoth like hospitality?

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Somewhat Delayed Lech Lecha Blogging and Sticky Santorum on the Sheets

Far be it from me of all people to defend Santorum's remarks about Islam in comparison to Christianity, but I think I understand what Santorum is getting at -- he's not being the hypocrite or un-religious person people may think he's revealed himself to be (although, from a Catholic point of view, he's likely revealed himself to be a heretic ... but nu? how's he different than Donohue, et al, then?), but rather there really is a difference between certain strains of Christianity and even the most liberal forms of Judaism and Islam here: certain strains of Christianity would hold that living a Christian life only involves having faith in the truth of certain Christian doctrines and not falling astray of certain moral dictates, while Judaism and Islam certainly are comprehensive ways (c.f. the meaning of halacha) of living.

Indeed, while this distinction really is one more of theory than pratice (even many sola fide Christians are inspired daily by that faith to live lives in the constant pursuit of tzedakah while for many Jews, Muslims, etc., religion is kept in a box of the Sabbath and the festivals), it's a distinction that we Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Taoists and even some Catholics often keenly feel: we do wonder about the sincerity of certain Christians for whom their religion (lit., binding) is not so much a binding way of life but a set of faith principles and otherwise unjustifiable prohibitions (mainly relating to teh hawt sex). But we need to understand that this is indeed how people approach faith ... and that they see our religious weltbild as being fundamentally un-Western and un-Enlightened. To a certain kind of Christian, even a liberal, "conform" (assimilated into Western culture) Jew like me must have an amazingly exotic and foreign weltbild.

What Santorum has done is not to show his lack of faith, but to show that the divide between "faith" and "religion" cuts both ways. Just as we who answer God's call of "Lech Lecha" (see, I did work in the parsha) to Avram don't get how the religiosity of our self-appointed moral guardians of the religious right can be so "shallow", they also don't "get" us. Let us not gloss over those differences or dismiss them whilst trying to build alliances (e.g. to "defend" Israel), but let's also not let them spill into hate. We Jews alas no all too well what can happen when these sorts of misunderstandings spill into hate.

So Rick Santorum -- if you're reading this: I'll try to understand your point of view about religion being for Sundays and matters of prohibiting teh hawt sex, if you'll understand that many of us for whom religion is not just for sacred time can still be productive peaceful and indeed liberal (perhaps for you, too liberal) citizens in a modern state.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


The Most Bizarre Fruit Ever

Scuppernongs ... they have taste both bitter and smoky and sweet and nectary. And they are highly addictive, I think.


OTOH -- why do I hate grapeseeds? I see no reason why I should dislike them: the taste is something I usually like as is the texture. So why, whenever I bite into a grape and mistakenly eat a seed do I feel this sense of loathing at what I have done? If I were Leon Kass, I'd conclude grape-seed eating is immoral.


The Most Bizarre Fruit Ever

Scuppernongs ... they have taste both bitter and smoky and sweet and nectary. And they are highly addictive, I think.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


It's almost like they collectively look forward to taking the advice Dick Cheney gave specifically to Patrick Leahy

What is with the Democrats? And what is with "even the liberal" NPR?

So GW Bush has a new Iraq funding bill out. The Democrats need to make a stand against just throwing money at Iraq without benchmarks, accountability, etc. I'm sure if the Democrats would unite in saying such a thing in a clear and understandable manner, the American people would love the Democrats to complete electoral victory in 2008.

But do the Democrats do this? No. What do I hear on NPR? After I hear the President say something to the effect of "this bill presents an opportunity for the Dems. to show they support the troops even if they don't support my leadership", what do I hear from the Dems? I hear David Obey say "we ain't gonna let this bill outa committee". WTF? Obey should know better than to say this.

Of course, afterward NPR reports (doesn't play) a statement from Sen. Reid which makes more political sense (why didn't they just play the Reid quote? why the inflamatory Obey quote? it's like NPR wants the Dems. to look bad ... nu?) ... but the damage is done: we heard Obey all but say he's holding the troop funding hostage for partisan reasons and now Sen. Reid and the "liberal" NPR have to cover for it -- at least that's the impression given.

What's the deal with the freakin' incompetence, though? Obey was a whip, IIRC -- he of all people should know the value of message discipline. So why wasn't he exercizing it?

And you know what happens? Because the Democrats have failed to be partisan and present a unified front, they'll end up looking more partisan because of remarks like Obey's. Reid's message was pretty good -- it coulda been crafted a bit better and hit a few more salient points (pointing out "what's wrong with benchmarks? even the President says its the best way to ensure progress [in No Child Left Behind]", aping the President's words about an earlier Democratic bill and asking for the President to "send a clean bill"), but you need to tell the American people why your doing something like this ...

When the first Dem. response the American people hear to "support the troops by supporting my bill" is "ain't no way we're passin' this bill", they'll think Faux News is right about liberal patriotism. Why did NPR play his statement and not Reid's? I don't know ... but if we had party discipline, Obey would have stayed on message and it wouldn't have mattered (and, ironically, we'd look less partisan by being more partisan!).


Update -- it gets weirder: I just wikipedia'd Obey and it seems just about a half-a-year ago Obey got into a tussle with liberals arguing for defunding the war. So now Obey's flip-flopped on it? That'll be good press for the Dems ... or is Obey just trying to discredit this particular "liberal" point of view by implimenting it in a ham-fisted manner that'll be smeared as divisive and partisan? What's Obey up to? And why? Something is very odd here if y'all ask me ...

Sunday, October 21, 2007


Dolly Blogging

On one of my favorite country music singers, the great Dolly Lama.

NPR had something that actually was, um, shall we say politically correct. And I mean correct in terms of my politics (and it was very pro-feminist) as opposed to the usual PC pablum of NPR. But alas, I'm so used to digging at NPR, I've forgotten what it was I wanted to praise them for. I guess Agnew was right about my ilk being Nattering Nabobs of Negativism.

Oh yes ... I remember: it was the discussion on To The Best Of Our Knowledge about motherhood (go figure ... it wasn't NPR but rather WPR). I wish they would have gone deeper into the political aspects of it, but it's good to finally break the ice around the cult of mommy-magic that is used to make so many women feel so guilty about what are really normal situations and emotions.


Rocky Patel Vintage 1990

On a tip, I tried a Rocky Patel maduro ... all I could find was the Vintage 1990, which was surprisingly affordable. And good ... real good (very meaty, earthy and cedary with the herbalness toward the beginning rather than the end and with coffee notes throughout). But I'm not sure if it's worth the money considering that you can get Onyx Reserve relatively cheap around these parts, actually.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Election Prognostication

How much ya wanna bet (sorry, "king of the gods" ... no french-fry bets ... I've learned that lesson not to bet against you a long time ago) that if Giuliani and/or Romney wins the GOP nomination (as looks increasingly likely), the media will forget about Giuliani's foreign policy team and Romney's kissing up to the right and frame the nomination of a "socially liberal Republican" as a sign the GOP has turned back from extremism and is the true party of moderation?

How much do you wanna bet that if the Dems. nominate Obama or Edwards or almost whomever, the person will be presented by the media as "a candidate of the liberal base of the party" while if HRC wins, she'll be presented by the media as "a candidate widely perceived to be too liberal" (no matter what polls actually say about perceptions)? Meanwhile if the GOP nominates a righty-tight, it'll be IOKIYAR ...

And no matter what, how much do you wanna bet that the editorials will support the Dem. candidate, reporters will sneer at the GOP candidate and patronize the "salt of the earth people" supporting him, and everything else will happen such that the GOP can continue to play the "even the liberal media" game whenever the media tacks toward the GOP and play the "liberal media is biased against us game" when the media uncovers anything bad about the GOP?

It's amazing how that all works ... you'd almost think something was up with that ... hmmm ... nu?

Monday, October 15, 2007


TNR funnies

Go to TNR and search for Pinker (or, I guess, Lakoff): it seems they are having a grudge match in the pages of TNR. How exciting! If you, like me, don't have a life ;)


What I should have said ...

... in my sermon last Shabos as an example of what Deutero-Isaiah meant regarding buying food without money:

The synagogue I attend is a small, lay-led synagogue in which everyone plays a role. As our ritual chair says "there's no such thing as a free kiddush lunch"; everyone has to play a part in the religious service. Does that mean we all have to fork out sponsorships? No ... what it does mean is that we all have to perform some sort of service to buy our food. And perhaps the best form (self-servingly says the poor post-doc) is when you don't have to pay with money but with love of God with all your soul, heart and might. C.f. what Rev. RMJ said about hospitality ...


Speaking of things which do satisfy, however. My fiancee's been making turkey meat-balls for the young-'un. Which has tempted me to make turkey meat-balls for myself. Which I did.

I like to deglaze the pan afterward by pouring a (drained) can of crushed pineapple and a little rum on it. With some extra spices, you get a wonderful pineapple-rum chutney to go with the meat-balls (and either pasta or rice). I usually like to use Dominican rum, which I couldn't find yesterday. So I tried Cruzon dark instead. It's a very bizarre rum -- I guess it's the oak aging, but it tastes quite herbal actually. Anyway, it was excellent in making the pineapple-rum chutney!

In other cooking notes -- I tried to make bagels this past weekend. They came out good, but not quite bagel-like. I think it's the recipe (from the normally excellent Settlement Cookbook) ... or at least I'll blame the recipe rather than myself. Anyway, why should I have trusted a bagel recipe calling for milk (I substituted soy)? Who has heard of such sacrilege?


Update: I mixed some of the rum with lime seltzer. Judging by the results, I bet (again, no french-fry bets Debu) Cruzon rum would make a mighty good (as judged by my outer Epicurean if not my inner Essentialist) daiquiri, which is only a chick drink if you make it with flavorless white rum ... not if you use full flavored rum. ;)

Uh oh ... do my feminist credentials get yanked for using the phrase "chick drink"?



I heard him speaking on NPR. I started listening in the middle of the interview ... I didn't even know it was him at first. He was giving intelligent, reasonable answers to questions. I thought he was a senior civil servent at State or the DoD -- definitely not like a president -- who knew the issues of which he spoke and wanted to offer some constructive comments and food for thought for the listeners so they'd understand the situation better. For better or for worse, the POTUS generally is evidently not supposed to sound so reasonable, thoughtful and well-versed. If he sounded like any president in recent memory (even beyond my own personal memory) -- Obama sounded like Nixon.

As I said, I started listening in mit'n dereinin ... and mentally tuned out a few times as I was tired at the time ... so I don't know whether he was speaking particularly to NPR or to a more general audience. We NPR listeners tend to think we're smart, so if this was an NPR specific interview I heard, Obama has done well to know his audience. OTOH, if he's coming off like this in general, he ain't gonna win the general election if he wins the primary. He'll get the same treatment as Al Gore did -- the media want sexy, not nerdy. And they've convinced too many people of this too. Although, speaking as a nerd -- and c.f. my mentioning of Nixon above -- maybe we don't want a nerd (not sayin' that Nixon was a nerd, but he sure could sound like one at times) -- or someone who sounds too smart -- as president (c.f. also the Talmud -- "never live in a city ran by scholars"). But it's better than turning presidential e[r]ections into a "whom do Tweety and Lil' Tim wanna hump" contest ...

Friday, October 12, 2007


Al Gore's Nobel

So how much backlash is this gonna cause ... along the lines of "see you can't trust those Yurpeans ... they awarded a Nobel to Al Gore to make a political statement ... this is why we can't trust Dhimicrats who lurve effete Frenchie-fifis"?

IMHO: the Nobel committee should have awarded the Peace Prize to GW Bush, citing him thus "GW Bush, by being such a jerk-wad, has thoroughly discredited the notion of pre-emptive warfare (except among "serious" American pundits) and thus will have, in the long run, benefited the cause of world peace".

< / snark >

Thursday, October 11, 2007


Armenian Genocide

What everybody on the left side of the 'nets is saying.

Yep. We understand why Bush (like other Presidents) is trying to block the resolution. It's bizarre that the Israel lobby is against the resolution (and, violating Godwin's law, so much, given Hitler's statements on the matter, for them being supportive of Jewish interests ... therefore are W&M really anti-Semites?).

But ... my question: why now? People want the Dem. Congress to pass laws to bring the troops home, not to pass non-binding resolutions regarding something that happened almost 100 years ago. It just re-enforces stereotypes about Congress and liberals and our effeteness.

Of course, there is always "if not now, when?" ... but who, even among us Jews, actually pays attention to Pirke Avos anymore?

Unless this is part of a clever scheme to stop the war without the Democrats being blamed as the party that lost the war -- by provoking Turkey to withdraw their support leading to a forced withdrawl by us. Very clever indeed. But won't the Democrats still get blamed for provoking Turkey?


Better NPR

They actually called it "spying" rather than "surveillance" and let the Democrat speak first. Does this -- and their relatively balanced reporting of the auto-workers' contract negotiations (they've not made the workers out to be a bunch of whiners itching to strike as was their wont) make up for their CAFTA boosterism as of late?

BTW -- Rep. Hoekstra's an idiot who seems to have flunked civics: what rights are we extending to "jihadists" that we don't extend to others? since when do we "extend" rights anyway? I thought rights were supposed to be inaliable -- and only should be taken away with proper legal processes ... Rep. Conyers may have been using bumper-sticker level slogans (good for him, actually! this gets the point accross better than we Dems. usually manage to do), but at least he seems to understand how a democratic republic works!

Monday, October 08, 2007


Shorter NPR (Commute to work this morning edition)


we don't understand why CAFTA isn't universally liked in Latin America. Perhaps the problem is that the US is a democratic republic? If those pesky Democrats in Congress wouldn't object to CAFTA sending "mixed-messages" about our government's support of the plan [where have we heard this complaint before? hmmm ...], then it would be an easier sell for the admin which so wants CAFTA and it would be so sad if CAFTA isn't expanded? One thing we don't understand -- if CAFTA, according to those pesky Dems, hurts the US, how can people in Latin America claim that CAFTA will hurt them too? After all, even as we accuse liberals who might as well be socialists of engaging in flawed "zero-sum thinking", we engage in it ourselves and claim that if CAFTA hurts the US it must per force benefit Central America. Oddly, it's rural farmers in Central America who are most opposed to CAFTA: because they can't compete with US farmers able to sell produce at lower prices thanks to the super-efficiency [I guess that's the new code for farm subsidies?] of US farming methods. Oh well, at least CAFTA passed in Costa Rica, so that's one step in the right direction for us defenders of neo-feudalism.
OK ... it isn't that much shorter ... it's pretty much what they said. As they say "you get what you pay for", and who's paying for this blog?

Anyway, has anybody called the media (on free-trade, on the Iraq war, or whatever) when they make what are pretty much treasonous statements to the effect of "the problem is that we're sending 'mixed-messages' [the term they often use, in fact] because the Dems. won't just agree with the President"? After all, these comments are essentially wishes for a dictatorship abolishing our democratic system of a balance of powers. And people still say the media is "liberal"?


There was also some bizarre, hardly parseable reporting about the Israel/Palestine situation (they were trying way too hard to be balanced, I think -- they shoulda just stuck to the facts and let us interpret them as we may), but maybe it's just the Israeli government's amazing ability to make self-fulfilling prophecies regarding the lack of resolve of the Palestinians in rooting out militants that's bizarre. Note to Israel: if you think that the Palestinian police are not doing a good enough job of rooting out militants, maybe the tying their hands and causing delays when they try to actually root out militants is the last thing you should do rather than the first thing you should do. At the very least, such behavior makes others think all of Israel's actions are in bad faith and moreover re-enforce certain stereotypes about us Jews. Israel is a in bit of a pickle, it's true -- but they need to stop doing things that interfere with the ability of Palestinians to stand against militancy (or to reject militancy) and then complaining about the lack of ability or desire of Palestinians in rejecting militancy -- you know, pissing, wind, raining ...

OTOH, the bizarre focus on the Palestinian situation by many on the so-called left is kinda out of hand. How many Bihari refugees live in squalor in Bengladesh? The willfull ignorance on the part of many so-called leftists regarding how the Palestinian refugee problem fits into the larger scheme of things in the rush to blame Israel may have a little to do with why some people think those leftists are motivated by anti-Semitism, perhaps? I wonder -- if, e.g., us palefaces set up a homeland for the spiritual descendents of Anasazi in the middle of Dine territory: would that project be labeled as imperialistic or colonialist? Or is it only colonialist when the beneficiaries are Jews? Hmmm ....


Update: Yesterday's CAFTA reporting was little better (especially in light of what certain centrist Democrats claim as their agenda vs. what they actually manage to impliment) ...

People in manufacturing jobs don't like "free trade" because it hurts them. That means we need to do a better job at selling free trade, which won't be a problem if we were to have a European style safety net in this country [which will happen as soon as pigs fly]. Centrist Democrats [see the "liberal" bias in NPR?] are in the best position to convince people to support free trade now because they also plan [when pigs fly] to impliment a stronger safety-net [as soon as Republicans agree to it -- anything else would be too shrill and partisan].

Sunday, October 07, 2007


He's Back

I dunno how many of y'all noticed he had threatened to step out of blogland, but anyway, Rev. RMJ has decided he just can't stop giving us bloggy goodness. Consider my comment on his latest post to be the weekly parsha blogging. I'm giving the D'var Torah next week in shul, so you'd think I'll more to say soon.

Thursday, October 04, 2007


Pissing in the Wind and Complaining about the Rain

Let's see ... if Walt and Mearsheimer (sp?) say the so-called pro-Israel lobby is too powerful, they must be anti-Semitic. So if AIPAC says they are all powerful, does that make AIPAC anti-Semitic?

Memo to the Jewish right: stop pissing in the wind and then complaining about the rain. If you act exactly according to anti-Semitic stereotypes, you can't complain about people accusing you of acting in a stereotypical manner. Or maybe that's the defense? If you're so over the top that any criticism of your behavior looks like it's lifted from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, then you can deflect any criticism by labeling your critics as anti-Semites?

In any case, this behavior can't be good for the rest of us Jews or even for the Zionist cause these people claim to back. But we've been through this time and time again, nu? why should things change now?


On another note -- what do you wish someone today? "I wish you that all your Assemblies today be truly and fully Solemn?" I like the line in the Musaf service today: "An joyful holiday of solemn assembly" ...

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