Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year!

I'm mostly on vacation, having fun. Just wanted to show you how my Israelisms mug improves the look of my mug.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Serena Ryder -- Unlikely Emergency

I just realized, except for the whole electricity and cooking thing, we were kind of Shabbat-y this Shabbat. On the big continuum of observance we were a lot closer to shomer Shabbos than usual. No driving, no buying stuff. We made pancakes, but SOMEONE got the TBS and TSP confused when putting in baking powder, so they ended up a awfully soda-y. We sat around. We played computer games. We napped. We walked the dog. I took gorgeous pictures and then, in a USB-to-Computer snafu, the photos got wiped from the memory card. So you can't ever see how wonderful it looked from the balcony to see the Pacific covered in clouds with the sunlight shining brightly on them. We're up at 1500 feet, so it's often like this, us in sunshine and Santa Monica and Malibu down below underneath the blanket of clouds. It was mid-70s today, early winter. If you squinted just right the clouds became snow covering the ocean, and at the horizon, Catalina Island barely managed to push above to bask its top in the sunlight.

We are off to an Xmas-eve dinner at this restaurant in Pasadena. We're going because my brother and sister-in-law and band are the night's entertainment and there's a big banquet, and my mom is a sucker for all the Christmas stuff. And I'm giving everyone their presents, so we'll see how they like their notecards. My daughter will get showered with way too many presents, which suits her just fine.

And tomorrow my girlfriend comes back and we all can start Chanukah!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Sufjan Stevens -- The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades is Out to Get Us

This is a photo of the homeless cat guy. I took a photo from really far off, and cropped out everything else and photoshopped about. I like the result because the image is really flattened and stylized, but you get the essence of the cat guy and his bent back. The smudge of orange in his lap is the cat. At least I imagine that's a smudge of orange. Maybe the cat isn't visible. I am such a coward, too, taking a photo far off, I know.

I am so tired, but I have to walk the dog before I can go to bed, but I don't want to put my shoes back on, so I am sitting here instead. How hopeless and silly.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Neil Young -- Expecting to Fly

So on the way to the subway yesterday after work I saw my cat man riding a bicycle across the street, a cigarette between his teeth, his cat crouching comfortably on his shoulders. Even riding a bicycle, he is bent forward, in this case, perhaps, to make it easier for the cat to keep its footing.

I am almost finished with all my Chanukah presents. Since I'm not giving that many, it wasn't that difficult. I printed out particularly pretty pictures I'd taken and made notecards for people, sets of 12, some desert wildflowers, some photos of Los Angeles buildings that I'd messed with in Photoshop. I'm always making presents. I never feel competent with it, but I do it, nonetheless. I never get past the feeling of being a kid and scribbling something and thinking it's the most wonderful thing ever and bringing it with pride to my parents, expecting them to burst into applause or tears at its beauty.

I remember when I was 6 I drew a picture of a zebra in a zoo cage with a zebra baby, and at the time I was very impressed with myself and my skill. Today, I wonder just how weird it must have looked, and how I managed to keep the zebra stripes separate from the cage bars... I can still remember the way it looked through my 6-year old eyes, and I can't see it as I'd see it at 40. For better and for worse, inhibitions develop as we age. However, mine are not as developed as most peoples', I think... they're big enough to make me wonder whether my mom will say, as she has done at certain gifts- "What is this? What am I going to do with this? I'll never use this..." but it's not enough to stop me from doing it. My need to give my notecards and framed poems and drawings, etc. etc. etc., overcomes my reluctance to risk people hating my work. Of course, my mom has probably reacted that way twice in 35 years of getting gifts from me several times a year. So that's over a hundred gift-giving occurrences, and she's responded negatively a few times, but I'm always a bit nervous. Such a fragile person, I am.

Thank G-d I don't live in some small town in a small state with a decent cost of living -- I'd probably get some bizarre idea I could make a living doing the artsy craftsy thing and quit my job and do something like calligraphy. In LA, I'm not even as good as the average amateur. But if I was in some small town, I'd be doing invitations and photography at weddings. In small towns (at least in my imagination) interest and passion is more important than talent and skill.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

John Doe -- Repeat Performance

There's a lot of homeless guys begging downtown, especially where I work, because it's the financial district, and that's where the people with money are. Many are obviously suffering from mental illness (the homeless guys -- the people with money can afford medication), having conversations with themselves or people who arent' there. Many seem perfectly normal and amiable men, and if it wasn't for their grimy clothes and skin and unshaved facial har, they'd fit right into life downtown.

Most guys just ask each passerby for money and thrust out a paper cup. Some have cardboard signs declaring themselves homeless, Christian, veterans. All are standing.

All except for one. One guy sits silently, a cup in front of him, in the pose of a Buddhist at prayer. But his hands are not held in some meditative pose -- they are always cradling a full-grown orange tabby cat. He is very thin, with glasses. He's mostly bald with closely shaved head, and he sometimes has large scabs on his scalp. Lately, he's been wearing a cap, which is a good thing. On the side of each of his eyebrows is tattood "5150" in the plain, thin style typical of gang or jailhouse tattoos.

"5150" is a California code relating to the conditions under which someone can be involuntarily confined for psychiatric evaluation. One has to be a danger to oneself, a danger to others, or gravely disabled. My cat guy is probably suffering from a serious psychiatric ailment -- most homeless men are -- but it says something additional about someone that they would have their faced marked permananently this way.

But whatever problems and obstacles this man has aren't evident when he sits and pets his cat and politely thanks people who give him money. He's often on my way to work, and I've taken to thinking of him sometimes more as a Buddhist mendicant than a homeless guy, so singular a figure he is. When I give him a dollar or two, it's more like when someone bums a cigarette. When I used to smoke, I'd welcome the opportunity to give someone a cigarette. It was a little connection with someone else, an opportunity to do a little good deed. And it didn't matter if it was a homeless person or someone obviously well-off -- we had the nicotine bond. I think this guy and I have a bond because I have never been good at sales-- if I were homeless, I'd probably sit there with my cup, waiting for people to put in money while I tried to think about positive stuff. I couldn't ask people for money or hold a sign. And it would be so nice to have a cat in my lap all day.

This morning as we said hello and I gave him a couple dollars, he asked how I was. I told him "Fine, but I am dreading how busy I'll be at work today!" He said, "I'm sorry," and gave me a smile and wished me a Merry Christmas. And only after did I recognize that it could be considered off to complain to a homeless guy about my job or to say anything really personal at all. But I had seen my sitting cat guy and been happy he was there, and spoke with him as I would any other casual aquaintance.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Wilco - Reservations

I am making my Chanukah presents right now. Actuallly, I'm sitting while my printer churns out photographs, but that's pretty much my present. I'm making notecards with photos I've taken stuck to their fronts -- Joshua Tree National Park wildflowers and landscapes. Each set of notecards will have a couple copies each of five different photos. I love digital photography. Now we can take thousands of photos and only print out the ones that don't suck. I am not a photographer, my camera isn't that fancy, but I have good pretty photos. When you take dozens and dozens of photos, you get lucky. I'd share some with you, but I can't. For some reason, the blogger interface on my Mac is missing a few buttons like the Add Picture button. But boy, you'd have been impressed.

There are so many things I'd like to say, but I'm sleepy. And it's before 11! This is noteworthy, because I'm usually a night owl. But recently I've been pretty consistently getting to bed earlier. And ever getting up earlier. It's going to be a great 2006. I can tell.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Kate Bush -- The Painter's Dream

Saw King Kong yesterday. As a movie, in every respect -- plot, pacing, character development, special effects, etc. etc. etc., this movie kicks ass over Lord of the Rings. I guess because Peter Jackson wasn't as constrained as he was with Lord of the Rings. He's totally changed the whole point of the story, in a way. Peter Jackson can make really good small-scale movies -- Beautiful Creatures is a really good movie with a small budget, for instance, that shows that he has always been good with characters and emotional stuff-- but with these big stories he is such an exuberant filmmaker. The sheer joy of movies is on every moment, and it goes for three hours, but you seriously won't easily be able to say it would be better if you snip this or that. (And no three or four false endings like the LOTR.) You have your tearjerking melodrama, you have wonderfully over-the-top and perfectly paced chases, you have some of the best creepy-crawler thriller stuff you'll ever see. It's going to be a movie people will see over and over again. You'll have women seeing it for the romance angle, you'll have men seeing it for the cool chases and things getting smashed and squished real good. Or not -- I don't know that I'd see it again in the theater, at least not right away -- that's the problem with this time of year. Everyone releases their Oscar vehicles at the same time so voters have them fresh in their minds, and there are just too many movies to see. Anyway.


Friday, December 16, 2005

Ofra Haza - Horashoot

OK. So now I know what's going on. It's not a game show thing, it's a stunt. The chair part is for a cameraman. A stuntguy is now attached to cables with some sort of harness over most of his body, with cables attached to his legs and arms. He's on his back, and they keep dropping him and as he plummets down, the cameraman is zooming up and past him on his chair and they are practicing the shot. And other cameramen are setting up their shots underneath. Anyway. It's pretty cool to see all the work that goes into something that will be on screen for a second.

Yes -- Perpetual Change

So, I'm at work and my cubicle has a nice window view, and the view (of Westlake buildings and the Hollywood Hills and the Hollywood Sign) today is obstructed by a huge crane set up in the parking lot next to my building. It's holding up a scaffolding to which are attached pulleys and cables, and apparently they are filming an episode of one of those shows like Fear Factor, because they have been doing test runs doing controlled free-falls with a fancy chair with harnesses and junk and there's guys setting up with cameras and the like. The chair, when hoisted as high as it goes before the dropping, is about at my level. I'm hoping they are filming today before I go home, because I have a perfect view from here, and I'd love to be working while people scream in freefall outside. That way, my internal state would be perfectly reflected in the outside world.

I am stressed and nervous about deadlines and major huge obstacles, but I'm feeling pretty darn good, so that's nice to experience. Recently I've been knowing everything is great and feeling like crud, and now I'm doing better. And it's Shabbat, and it's gonna be nice and quiet and relaxing. Shabbat Shalom.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Magic Numbers -- I See You, You See Me

So I just got back from walking the dog. Nice long walk, the moon still barely full tonight, cold enough to need my jacket and just right so I can walk and walk and not get hot. Winter is my season, the moon my celestial body. At least in Los Angeles. In Hartford it was fun being in below-freezing weather for a few nights, but I'm sure living in it would quickly wear.

While I walked, I listened to "Supper's Ready," the best Revelations-related piece of art ever, my favorite Genesis thing. So I was walking the dog, admiring my moonshadow, humming and whistling along, having a wonderful time.

And then it got better, because on the way back, I passed by The Maserati House, and not only was the Gransport there in the driveway, very politely parked where I could appreciate it, but was was right next to it? A brand new Quattroporte! This guy is my hero. But perhaps it's a visitor's, because he's having a Christmas party. And a damn late one; as the dog sniffed the bushes and peed and I sniffed the air for new Maserati smell, people were pulling up in limos and getting out with presents, at 9:45pm. Now that's a cool Christmas party.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Vashti Bunyan -- Same but Different

Today I say Baruch Dayan Ha'Emet for Tookie Williams. Arnold followed in the trail blazed by Wilson and Davis and refused clemency for Tookie. I don't blame him as much as despair of all our elected officials and the Sodom and Gomorrah group they are now pandering after. Governers used to commute the sentences or pardon hundreds of people, and over the years, as the "law and order" stance has become popular, have stopped doing it at all. So we have the weird juxtaposition of huge numbers of people being released after decades of incarceration as DNA proves they were convicted improperly, yet when Tookie refuses to say he's sorry for a crime he's insisted all along he didn't do, there is no admission among the powers-that-be that, well, judging from all these folks being released left and right after decades in jail because they were innocent all along, perhaps Tookie isn't guilty. Perhaps he's innocent too. And it's not like clemency would have freed him. It would have merely made Tookie live for the rest of his life behind bars. Which is, in itself, an amazingly harsh sentence. But Arnold has to continue the masquerade to placate the hang-em-high set, the shoot-then-ask-questions set, the scared and hurt people who are so afraid of the world that they'd rather slaughter innocent people than let a killer live imprisoned for the rest of their life. (And this is just one of many masquerades we watch all to placate these people who want to hide their heads in the sand. Our drug policies are similar lies spun to make people feel like an unwinnable war is going well, we still try to treat undocumented aliens as if we could stop them from coming over if we cracked down harder and built better walls, etc...)

Last night, as I drove home in terrible traffic for almost two hours with a terrible migraine, I started to pray to G-d, chanting 'bring Moshiah now' over and over. I started to believe in Moshiach's immanent coming and hoping it would be last night, solely so Tookie wouldn't get executed last night. Usually the whole Moshiach thing seems silly, and the whining and begging seems so childish, but that was me last night, because was so tired of the death penalty and our society and I felt the sooner Moshiach got here the sooner we'd stop the craziness. I've been protesting these things since college and despair of change. So why not? Bring
Moshiach now!

Vashti Bunyan. One of the oddest names ever. But great music. She put one one album, Just Another Diamond Day, in 1969, and then, apparently disappointed in the response and with the music business in general, walked away, went off and had a family, and then in 2000, her album was reissued and people took interest. And this year, she released Lookaftering. It's very interesting to discover someone and be able to listen to pretty much her entire body of work in two hours with two albums that were recorded thirty-five years apart, and to hear the difference those years have made. This is, I guess, English Folk music. It's very pretty, but not cutesy at all. It's all acoustic guitar and clean chimey sounds and flutes and that sort of thing. Her first album is very much from a young perspective. There's lots of wood walking and animals and pastoral stuff and whispering fairy stories till they become real. Her new CD has her singing more about relationships and children and love and loss, but with the same gorgeous sounds. The reviewer on said that this album could have been made 300 years ago, but he meant it's timeless, not dated or ancient... anyway. It's remarkably singular stuff. Gorgeous, gorgeous.

Friday, December 09, 2005

T-Rex -- Wind Quartets

I've been in Hartford on business all week. It's been nice and cold, and today it's snowing like crazy. Very nice to be inside this warm office and look out at snow falling. My flight leaves late enough today it looks like I'll leave on time.

It's been a week of dinners and banquets and evenings drinking with work people, and while I love my coworkers -- our department is filled with really exceptional people with big hearts -- I don't do well with large groups and noisy conversations. I am looking forward to getting to the airport and reading. I have two new books-- Salvador Plascencia's The People of Paper and Luis Alberto Urrea's The Hummingbird's Daughter . These are some of the most interesting sounding books I've seen in ages. Then again, I have not been really paying attention. I've read whatever books everyone else is reading, stuff on the top ten lists, so perhaps books like these are filling independent bookstore shelves. Anyway, I'm sure to have a wonderful trip back, though I may fall asleep reading and doze the whole way back. I'm getting some good work done today, so I'll have a jump on next week's catching up.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Jews in Alabama Podcast

Well, Eric isn't going to brook bris discussion for a month, but I had a thought about this I have to post -- on the podcast, Eric and Raya have talked about their being pregnant. Eric is not sure if he wants to have the baby bris'd if it's a boy. So there's been discussion.

One of the things I said was that I was uncomfortable at his being a convert and having bris issues. I acknowledged it wasn't fair of me, and surely lashon hara and all sorts of other things, but it was an important reaction to note.

He reacted by saying it wasn't as if he was saying Jesus or the Rebbe was the Messiah, to which I replied, well, to me, not having your boy bris'd is worse than saying Jesus or the Rebbe is the Messiah. Which Eric disagreed with to such an extent that he says we perhaps both can't be Jews because the positions are so different. And he was terribly emphatic and certain that you can't be a Jew and believe in Jesus. Which is interesting, coming from someone who is saying this in the context of saying it's OK and appropriate to question all the mitzvot.. How one can be so emphatic about a belief while not being so emphatic about practice? Is this a sensible approach? Now, do I think that being Jewish and believing in Jesus is compatible? No. But is not getting your son a bris comparable in seriousness as believing in Jesus? Oh, you bet it is.

Saying that Reform don't require a bris, as Eric did, helped me see the truth in my odd little argument. I'm not looking towards Reform as the example I should follow. On anything. So when Eric says that perhaps we can't be in the same religion, I start to agree. I get the point of the Orthodox who insist that non-Orthodoxy is not true Judaism. And now I have to decide if I will be in Orthodox, or in the Judaism-is-whatever-we-want-except-you-can't-believe-in-Jesus (at least not THIS decade--- who knows what the uncircumcised Jews of a few decades will decide is appropriate Jewish behavior--).

I think this whole thing has been useful for Eric because I don't think he was aware of how the bris issue is really about as close to a third-rail issue as any in Judaism, and while it's possible to find Jews who don't get it done, it's an issue that stirs up emotion like few other.

That being said, I have a last point to make about WHY saying Jesus is the Messiah (or the Rebbe is) is right up there with not giving your kid a bris. I actually have many, but this is the main one.

The early believers in Jesus were Jews. What did they stop doing that directly led to their identification as Christians and not Jewish believers in Christ? Mainly dumping the mitzvot, two in particular. Kashrut went out the window when Peter had that cool dream(all the animals on the big tablecloth), and Paul won the argument against Peter re: no circumcisions for the new believers. With these two main mitzvot gone, Paul was free to get believers more easily, and we got Christianity. If the Jews like Peter who thought Jesus was the messiah had continued the Jewish practice as they were doing at the beginning of Acts, they would have ended up like the believers in any number of other false messiahs-- after a few generations, if that, they would have forgotten about their failed messiah and ended up back in the normative Jewish fold. When you stop the mitzvahs, however, you tamper with that which is central to Jewish identity. It is not so much falling in with a false messiah as stopping the mitzvot that sets you down the path away from Jewish identity and practice. Once they're gone, it's hard to bring them back, whereas beliefs are comparatively easy to take up and lay down.

And this is a big problem with all non-Orthodox Judaism... we are tossing the mitzvot that kept us Jews till today. That has done a lot more damage and led to a lot more assimilation than someone's beliefs in one person or another as a messiah --- a LOT more people convert to Christianity because they grew up secular, without practice or mitzvot, and fell in love with a Christian than converted due to deeply held belief. That's certainly why I did.

Oren Bloedow and Jennifer Charles -- Lamma Badah

This is a gorgeous CD, La Mar Enfortuna .Not only because of the very pretty cover, but because it's Sephardic love songs in Ladino as done by Bloedow and Charles Very, very cool. Some are done traditionally, others are done with English lyrics and jazzy sounds... Jennifer Charles has one of the neatest voices ever. Her voice is one you want to drape over yourself at night, because it's so warm and snuggly, except it's also arousing and teasing, so you won't sleep a wink. This is important, because I can't understand Ladino and so have no idea what's going on, except when the words are the same as Spanish and in my limited vocabulary. That Jennifer Charles sure can sing.

Oren Bloedow and she are also Elysian Fields, but this is a side-project thingie they did for Tzadik Records a few years ago. I read about it when it came out and I wanted it, but it wasn't anyplace I could get it online, and I don't buy real CDs anymore -- it's too cost-prohibitive. Then earlier this month, apparently, all the Tzadik Records releases got onto, which is really exciting stuff. There's tons of great music I'll be downloading the next few months.

So much happened over the Thanksgiving break:

Harry Potter
The fourth movie is the best one so far. As my g/f says, it's still not our kind of movie, but it was good stuff.

Currently I am putting aside my vegetarianism for Thanksgiving and Pesach. Thanksgiving we had a great spread and great family. I was the only guy there... the rest was my mom, daughter, sister, g/f, and her friend and her friend's two daughters. It was a great time. And lots of turkey.

My body was totally thrown off by so much turkey... I ate turkey at every meal until breakfast Sunday. Now I'm back to eating vegetarian, and none too soon. I had very odd intestinal issues.

I love the beach in the fall and winter. Perhaps it's because my grandmother lived at the seashore in England and I remember when we lived there. But being near the ocean is important, and all the better the colder it gets. So we took a nice long walk along the ocean. Because it was so cold, it was deserted, and all the shorebirds were out, enjoying the solitude. The ocean smelled so clean... and the Santa Monica Bay doesn't always smell that good, trust me.

I fell asleep on this movie, it was so boring. But my daughter liked it. SO there you go.

The Drowsy Chaperone
This is a new musical at the Ahmanson. It's apparently Broadway-bound, and is a great choice for people who love musicals or hate musicals, because the neat conceit is that the audience are guests at this nebbishy guy's apartment and he's playing us the soundtrack of this old 20s musical... so it's a typical silly 20s musical but with the added dimension of the guy making all sorts of comments and stopping the action to tell us what became of the actor playing this character and that character, all sorts of stuff like that. It was a gloriously fun and interesting musical, which is a lot coming from me, because I am easy on plays but terribly hard on musicals. Almost a year ago my g/f took us to see Les Mis and I didn't like it at all. Anyway. Good stuff. Expensive -- but good stuff. All of a sudden the past few years we've been seeing a lot of plays and musicals and I'm almost thinking perhaps it's worth the cost.

Real Food Daily

I love this restaurant -- vegan AND kosher, in West Hollywood. A nightmare for my daughter -- she is happiest eating steak and potatoes and green beans, and finds anything else a real challenge, but I didn't mind that much yesterday. I had a great seitan fajitas thing... very different than turkey and stuffing and cranberries and gravy...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Matisyahu -- Got No Water

I seen the ways of the world intoxifying on pride
Young man don't you know drugs impurify your mind
When Israel left mitzrayim four fifths got left behind

I just downloaded Matisyahu's Shake Off the Dust... Arise a few days ago, and it's good stuff. How else can you learn Torah while listening to reggae? And the above part of "Got No Water" interested me. I hadn't heard that 4/5 of the Jews in Egypt didn't make the Exodus, so I googled it, and found that this interpretation comes from one of many possible ways a single word in a single line of Torah can be read... Shemot 13:18 says "...And Children of Israel were armed" and Rashi says that the word for "armed" can also be understood to be derived from the word "five" and this implies that one out of five departed Egypt and the other four fifths died in the plague of darkness. And earlier, when this plague is discussed, apparently the Jews who didn't want to leave Egypt died... so this would mean that four fifths of the Jews in Egypt didn't want to leave Egypt and died as a result. But how many of us can really say we honestly want to leave Mitzrayim today? After all, we never really left. That's why we are still doing the Haggadah every year. That's why we say Next Year in Jerusalem. That's why Jews living in Israel are still really in exile...

This reminds me of what our rabbi said on Shabbat about the real crime of Sodom and and Gemorrah (as opposed to the Christian idea that it's all about non-vaginal sex, which seems to spring, as many Christian ideas do, from poor translation of the Hebrew). So, according to the rabbis, what made Sodom so terrible? That they believed "What's mine is mine, and what's yours is yours." Simple. And scary. After all, isn't that basic common-sense property law? Isn't following this idea what defines one as "law-abiding?" The Sodomites forgot that they were wealthy because G-d had blessed the land and made it fruitful, and they started to think it was from their merits, and they wanted to keep from having to share any of their wealth. So this is the real reason the crowd came to Lot's house to harrass the guests -- it wasn't a crazy gay sex party, it was to basically beat the shit out of the guests because they wanted to discourage visitors and immigrants who would be a drain to their treasure. They were so greedy they did things like fence in fruit trees, even the tops so that no one, not even birds, could get at their fruit.

It's beautiful stuff. We are all in Mitzrayim, but we are also in danger of becoming Sodomites, and we can see Sodomites all around us! We have to watch ourselves and our attitudes towards those who have less than we. We must remember that the source of all our blessings isn't our hard work, but G-d, and that G-d gives some of us more than others just so we can act as G-d's representative and properly disburse this extra money to those that need it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Kate Bush -- An Architect's Dream


My g/f's youngest was Bat Mitzvahed this weekend. She and my g/f have been working on the various aspects of this along with the father and me and planners, etc, etc, for months and months. It's finally over. This Thanksgiving we're not going anywhere. We're getting the turkey and trimmings from the supermarket, premade. We're too tired to do anything else.

There's an awful lot of work involved -- first, there's the theme. And the decorations. And the invitations. WHo sits at what table. The menu. The entertainment. Learning the torah portion trope. ANd on and on.

ANd then there's the custom of doing custom prayerbooks for the service. So my g/f and her daughter had to pick special readings and prayers. And since the theme was "A Secret Garden" we got a good passage from the book into the prayerbook for the amidah part, and my g/f found other good garden/growth/plant-related stuff to put in... she stuck in one of my poems I'd written her years ago, and I got to do a reading-- something by Chabad rabbi Tzvi Freeman I'm sure was a reworking of something "the rebbe" said--

There are people who do many good things, but with pessimism, because to them, the world is an inherently bad place. Since their good deeds have no life to them, who knows how long they can keep it up? We must know that this world is not a dark, sinister jungle, but a garden. And not just any garden, but G-d's own pleasure garden, full of beauty, wonderful fruits and fragrances, a place where G-d desires to be with all G-d's essence.

If the taste to us is bitter, it is only because we must first peel away the outer shell to find the fruit inside.

My daughter helped me memorize and work out the phrasing, so when I read it at the bimah, I was reciting it, rather than reading it. I did a pretty good job, making good eye contact with everyone. It's a perfect shul for that, being in the round, with the bimah at the center and the seating all around on three sides. After I did the reading, as I was going back to my seat, the cantor pulled me aside and said I missed my calling and I should have been a rabbi. (Based on how I read a mystical Chabad thing to the rationalist Reconstructionist congregation, mind you. ;-) ) My reaction was "Who says I can't still become a rabbi!?"

(Part of the reason I did so well getting into that reading was that I was listening a lot to Matisyahu's CD, which is just great, great stuff for getting you into the appropriate Chabad/chasid mindset. I was finally the imperfect prophet I've alwasys wanted to be.)

Anyway, so we had a nice service, and then the party to end all parties, with all sorts of wonderful music and food and dancing, and then the brunch on Sunday, and by then I was so damn exhausted and grumpy my daughter and I spent yesterday afternoon and evening lying around doing nothing at all. The bat mitzvah girl and her mom, meanwhile, were up till 1am opening presents and making up thankyou list stuff.

So it's odd. time passing, kids growing up. Getting older. My daughter will be 13 next year. Very odd.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Kate Bush -- Pi

So. I got my new glasses -- they are cool Flexon Magnetics -- instead of 'clip-on' sunglasses, the sunglass part attaches with nifty magnets that sit unobtrusively in front of the hinges. When the sunglasses are on it's really hard to tell they are not just rx sunglasses, and you don't have as much of an irritating gap between lens and sunglass lens as you have with clip ons. The shape is a tiny bit boxier than my previous glasses. And they are matte black. My eyes had not gotten worse as far as distance, but had gotten a bit more astigmatic, so I got new lenses and frames, because my old frames were busted. And while I get a headache from new glasses, I love the odd 3-D feel I get from a new pair, when things are extra crisp and focused. I could tell especially looking at Mars last night and seeing it clearer, and seeing the Moon clearer...

A while ago I bought a book by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, "Growth through Tehillim" and now I am reading it as part of my lunch break. Pliskin has written all sorts of books I guess would be considered "mussar" in that they are all based on self-improvement. One my dad gave me years ago is called "The Gateway to Happiness" and is all about how being happy is a mitzvah. There are parts that detail why it's a commandment to be happy, and then there are parts that are all about how to become more happy... anyway, it's like regular self-help books but about twenty times as dense and more useful for learning Torah, since everything is based on some written or oral reference.

Anyway, so now I am reading a psalm a day and Pliskin's bit on that Psalm. To be organized, I'm starting from Psalm 1. I like Psalm 1 because it has a nice image of the tree deeply rooted next to brooks, so it's well-watered. Also, like Pliskin says, it purposely emphasizes positive behavior, when it starts out "Praiseworthy is the man who walked not in the counsel of the wicked..." rather than "Cursed is the man who walks in the counsel of the wicked..." That's always my weak spot when I parent -- I fall too easily into taking good behavior for granted and commenting on negative behavior, rather than commenting on positive behavior, for instance. And with me as well as with my daughter. And Pliskin points out that sometimes, doing mundane stuff, we feel like we aren't doing anything positive. And he points out that in just being occupied doing something mundane, we aren't at that moment doing anything wrong. And in avoiding evil, we are for all intents and purposes doing a mitzvah. That's my big struggle. It's really easy for me to lose focus at work and get distracted by stuff. Like blogging, for instance!

Maybe with my new glasses I can keep these lessons in better focus. Couldn't help that one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Kate Bush -- Nocturn

Most of the lyrics are very good on this CD... my favorite so far is "Nocturn":

Sweet dreams...

On this Midsummer might
Everyone is sleeping
We go driving into the moonlight

Could be in a dream
Our clothes are on the beach
These prints of our feet
Lead right up to the sea
No one, no one is here
No one, no one is here
We stand in the Atlantic
We become panoramic

We tire of the city
We tire of it all
We long for just that something more

Could be in a dream
Our clothes are on the beach
These prints of our feet
Lead right up to the sea
No one, no one is here
No one, no one is here
We stand in the Atlantic
We become panoramic

The stars are caught in our hair
The stars are on our fingers
A veil of diamond dust
Just reach up and touch it
The sky's above our heads
The sea's around our legs
In milky, silky water
We swim further and further
We dive down... We dive down

A diamond night, a diamond sea
And a diamond sky...

We dive deeper and deeper
We dive deeper and deeper
Could be we are here
Could be we are in a dream
It came up on the horizon
Rising and rising
In a sea of honey, a sky of honey
A sea of honey, a sky of honey

Look at the light, all the time it's a changing
Look at the light, climbing up the aerial
Bright, white coming alive jumping off the aerial
All the time it's a changing, like now...
All the time it's a changing, like then again...
All the time it's a changing
And all the dreamers are waking.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Kate Bush -- Pi

Oh. I never manage to look at the cam in Antartica when it's daylight down there. I always think of Antarctica when it's summer here and winter and sunless there. But today I remembered, and it looks positively balmy!

Kate Bush -- A Coral Room

You know, last week I was reading a lot of Chabad-related stuff, especially about the apparently-prevalent belief that Shneerson, their last Rebbe, was Moshiach, and how Chabadnicks tend to believe one of the following three things as well about their Rebbe-- 1) the Rebbe isn't really dead at all 2) the Rebbe is dead, but is coming back to life as Moshiach 3) not only is he coming back, but he's Divine to boot!

Now, last week, this all seemed insane. It seemed like every Lubavitcher was some variant of kook. I mean, he was nice and all, but Moshiach? Where's the lamb lying with the lion? Where's world peace? Where's the rebuilt temple? But at the very same time, something odd was happening, something so magical and unexpected that it totally changed my opinion.

For Kate Bush fans, the last twelve years have been a long, long, long, long time. The wait for the next Kate Bush album even inspired a book called "Waiting for Kate Bush" that appears to be about a fan who puts off killing himself if he can be assured that Kate Bush releases her CD within six months -- he'll still kill himself, I think, but after hearing her new CD. And for me, I'd been waiting for such a long time, and seeing such sketchy information on the web, that I hadn't even been paying attention this year. I'd given up hope, I guess. She had her man, she had a little boy, she was probably too happy. It was just as well.

So imagine my surprise when I stumble upon her new CD and glowing reviews all over the internet! How did this happen without me knowing? Not only did she put out a CD, but a double CD with 16 tracks and two major song-cycle thingies and songs that are as unabashedly Kate as ever but even better. She has made a CD that's so domestic in focus it even out-domesticates Bjork's Vespertine. So it's all I'm listening to. It's just amazing.

When I was a little boy, I had a nap and dreamt I had a blue balloon in my hands. When I woke up I reached for the balloon. It wasn't there. The wonder and disappointment, all mixed up, as I realized the balloon wasn't real is something I still can feel today. Kate Bush releasing an album gives me the feeling of dreaming I have a blue balloon, then waking up and having the blue ballon in my hands, smelling of ozone and crackling with static electricity from its voyage from my dream to my waking life.

So now the silly, the impossible, the heretical? Bring it on. It's all possible. But I don't want Moshiach quite yet -- I'm busy listening to Aerial, a gorgeous, unexpected gift of an album.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Genesis -- Firth of Fifth

Well, I was starting to feel that perhaps I judged Frist too harshly. Just because he wanted to investigate the leak about the torture prisons didn't mean he didn't care about the terror prisons, I thought.

Hah. Today I learn that Bill Frist is even more immoral than I thought!

Kind of figures, doesn't it? He's a doctor, and all too often, we forget that doctors are involved in the torture process. I'm sure Frist knows just where to place the electrodes and knife-edge.

Israel lives with real terror threats all the time and has strong anti-torture laws it upholds fastidiously. If they can do it, the United States can, surely.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sondre Lerche -- Things You Call Fate

Oh. Several things happened I forgot to mention.

1) The King Tut exhibit was a huge ripoff. Most of the artifacts weren't King Tut stuff. I remember when I was a kid in the early 70s they had the cool exhibit. This time, they used the sarcophagus images on ads, but no sarcophagus or anything else that was King Tut's beyond a few items buried in the sarcophagus. If they hadn't hyped it so much, it wouldn't have been a disappointment. My daughter had got it into her head that there'd at least be the sarcophagus, and of course it wasn't there. Some other Egyptian's sarcophagus was there, but of course, we were waiting to see King Tut's.

2) My g/f and I saw a David Mamet play this weekend, Romance. Very funny play. It was like a modern variant of a Marx Brothers thing. Cool.

It's raining today. In LA, that means everyone freaks out. Not only does everyone freak, but the roads tend to accumulate lots of oil and grease all summer, so until there's a huge amount of rain to clear off the roads, rainfall usually means slick roads... woo hoo!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Frank Black -- Pray a Little Faster

So. Word gets out that the US has set up prisons for terrorism suspects in former Soviet-era facilities in Eastern Europe. And the Republicans have quickly sprung into action. To denounce the US hiding its dirty work of depriving people of basic rights as laid out in the Geneva Convention? Of course not! Frist and Hastert have sprung into action to call for investigations to see who leaked. Yeah. That's effective leadership and moral character.

Oh, there's some quote about a people getting the leadership it deserves, isn't there? I am too busy to google it. So you know I'm damn busy.

Crowded House - There Goes God

This is a silly song. The best part is

Hey don't look now
But there goes God
In his sexy pants
And his sausage dog
And he can't stand
'Cos he looks so good
in black, in black

Anyway. Today is election day in California, the special election costing $50 million or so that was called for by Arnold because he's a dork. The "reforms" he argues will fix California are typical Republican approaches. I have been back and forth on Arnold. I have thought highly of him at times. Admittedly briefly, but I don't think I've ever felt positively about Bush, for instance. Right now, I think Arnold is a dork. Bush's ineptitude is dripping onto Arnold and I see Arnold as hapless more than anything else. Oh, well.

And today my body is holding a referendum on whether or not I'm getting sick. The past few days it's been considering it, and I've been achy and exhausted. Last night I slept a lot, and today I seem to be a bit better. I hope they just do an up or down vote. Sick or Healthy. One or the other.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Wolf Parade -- Dinner Bells

I know nothing of The Wolf Parade except it's a band of guys from Canada. And I keep playing their CD Apologies to the Queen. I listen to a fair amount of new CDs each year, but I don't find myself listening to them over and over. This year that's been true of relatively few CDs, like The Arcade Fire, Spoon, Bloc Party, Fiona Apple, Bright Eyes, Paul Weller, TV on the Radio, the Magic Numbers... and now Wolf Parade. There's a ton of other stuff I've listened to that's been nice and all, like the new Franz Ferninand CD, for instance, that I've never found myself pining for. Apologies to the Queen. is a CD of songs that come to me in the middle of the day when I am not thinking of songs at all.

Tonight I'm taking my daughter to see the King Tut exhibit at LACMA. She loved studying Egypt last year, so she'll really enjoy herself. It'll be a weird commute--- I'll take the train back home 30 miles to get her and drive about 7 miles west of where my work is, but hey. Life in LA is endless commuting.

Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Paul Weller -- Fly Little Bird

The Jam was the most interesting and exciting band to come out of England in the Punk years. Yeah, that's what I said. It wasn't just Paul Weller-- while his songs and guitar work were great, Bruce Foxton's bass and Rick Buckler's drumming were the solid base and soul of The Jam upon which Paul could hang his guitar work and lyrics. And though I will always resent Paul for breaking up the Jam (Pauls seem to break up stuff -- Paul McCartney broke up the Beatles, and Paul broke up the Jewish movement of Jesus followers and created Christians as his solo project), I do see the point of Weller partisans who say it was better for Weller to see their best work was behind them and to quit on top, rather than do a slow, agonizing slide into mediocrity. I dunno. When he started The Style Council, I hated the sound and tuned out until a few years ago, when Illuminations came out. I then went and got the rest of his solo stuff. And now we have a new CD, As Is Now, so I am a happy guy.

While many artists of the 70s haven't aged that well physically or musically, Paul Weller has. He isn't trying to be the angry young man he was in the late 70s, when Peter Townsend (one of Paul's Big influences) met him and afterwards said something along the lines of "he's a tougher egg than I ever was." You can still tell Weller's agressive guitar work immediately (if you don't know The Jam but know Peter Gabriel -- it's Paul Weller playing guitar on "Through the Wire,") but he's grown out of his youthful mimicry of Townsend's early Who tricks. And while he's still political, but it's not the raw stuff of his younger years. Here's what he did roughly twenty years ago, on the Style Council song "Money Go Round"--

The good and righteous sing their hymns
The crimpoline dresses who have no sins
Christians by day, killers in war
The hypocrites who know what they're fighting for
Killing for peace, freedom and truth
But they're too old to go so they send the youth

Watch the money-go-round, watch the money-go-round
I don't think he was an astronaut
Watch the money-go-round, watch the money-go-round
I must insist - he was a Socialist!

Perhaps not evident from this snippet but obvious from the lyrics as a whole -- he's talking about Jesus. Now, I am a Socialist kind of guy, I see the world in Marxist terms unless I work really hard at it, but when I read the Jesus narratives, I don't think "Socialist!" But thank G-d, Paul Weller did.*

And here is a bit of "Savages" from his new CD--

Savages, you can dress it up,
give it a name and a fancy uniform,
and a flag to fly, to hide behind,
can you not see the truth that's on the ground?

You have no love--
it has all gone cold on you,
you never had it so you take it out on
those whose love is growing,
that's what you hate most when you're savages.

See how much calmer and introspective he is now? :-)

Anyway. Power to the People. Except the People who watch Desperate Housewives. Or Bill O'Reilly. Or listen to Air America. Or voted for Bush. Or who care more about an embryo than a live child. Or listen to music on the radio. Or who drive BMWs. Or who have bumper stickers on their cars. Oh, forget it. Power to ME! I'll be a good dictator. You'll see.

*Socialists in England have an interesting habit of trying to recasting old stuff in a Socialist light. Billy Bragg, in his wonderful album of Socialist anthems, The Internationale, does a gorgeous version of Blake's Jerusalem. And if you listen to it from a Socialist perspective, it can make sense that way, but I doubt it's what Blake intended.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Wolf Parade -- Dinner Bells

I am getting tired of wearing this brace, tired of holding my hands up off the keyboard and sitting up straight. I long to slouch back into ignorance of myself and my positions. I have had a resistance to using keyboard trays because they are wobbly, and wobbly things make me dizzy, so when we moved here last year I didn't even give this one a go, but now I'be been made to try it by my ergonomics specialist, it turns out that it works well for being a keyboard tray. Very solid. But my mouse keeps wanting to fall off of it.

Halloween today. My daughter is an AWD. Angel-Witch-Devil. Rather than buy a costume, she bought the appropriate props. Rather, I bought the props for her, and it cost a bundle. Angel wings, witch hat, devil tail. I wanted her to get a pirate eyepatch but she thought that would be overkill. Oh, well.

Every year at this time, when we start over at Bereshit (Genesis) again, I resolve to keep up with the Torah portion each week. Somewhere in mid-Vayikra (Leviticus) I get really lost trying to understand the commandments for sacrifices and boils and the like and stop. We'll see what happens this year. There's no point in me entertaining the idea of doing Daf Yomi (a page of Talmud a day -- takes 7 years to complete) someday if I can't read the Torah portion once a week for one year.

But so far, it's the second week, we're reading Noach, and I'm totally on top of it, man!

But they key to this is my getting a good night's sleep each night, and I always manage to stay up too late. Forget keeping Shabbat. If the world got 8 hours of sleep just one day, Moshiach would come.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

No Music - iPod dead

I am working at a different office and my iPod is dead and I don't have a charger. Whatever.

I am doing a training over the phone with dozens of people soon. I'm a bit perturbed.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Destroyer -- Hey, Snow White

Naprosyn. It's special stuff. Very special stuff. My right hand is better but I have to keep it in a splint and rest it, so I am typing one-handed. Which merans this is all I am doing today. Except "Baruch atah adonai, rofeh hacholim." Blessed are you, G-d, who heals the sick." And who inspired scientists to make Naprosyn, a miracle drug if ever there was one.

Typing one-handed is no fun on a Microsoft Natural keyboard, by the way.

Friday, October 21, 2005

REM -- Everybody Hurts

I wasn't planning on writing about this, but when this song came on, it became obvious that I should write about this.

My right wrist is KILLING me. For the past ten years I have been dealing on and off with wrist issues. First it was wrist strain. Then it was tendonitis. And each time, I'd do exercises, take pills, try more "ergonomic" stuff, and get relief. But the past few months, my wrist has hurt more and more until now, it's constant pain. I start a new year committing myself to work on myself and improve my life and my wrist gets out of hand, so I have a full plate of changes I have to make to add to everything else! There's way too much for me to do in my work life and personal life! And I either stop working, because I have to type to work, or I work in pain, and it's very frustrating. I don't have any doubt that G-d has everything in my life for a reason, but I have no clue what the reason is. My boss routinely has aches and pains from her cancer surgery scars and my wrist hurting seems so silly and insignificant comparatively. And let's face it... I don't mind excruciating pain much if my hand still functions. But I think this sort of tendon issue can make it so I can't use my hand properly -- I had a friend whose carpal tunnel got to be so bad that she could not do ANYTHING with her hand -- so the whole thing is scary.

I have to stop typing this so I can go type other stuff... all the time, I have this glorious burning feeling in my forearm...

But tonight I will lay off my wrist and light the candles with my left hand and give my wrist a rest.... that's a tongue-twister, isn't it?

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Air -- Mike Mills

So, my computer likes to crash. Not all the time, mind you, just when I am doing something extra important. And it's not an exciting Blue Screen Of Death. No. It just freezes. No I/O at all. It's like it doesn't want to admit there's a problem. Perhaps it thinks I won't notice it if it sits perfectly still, like the response we see in some animals when a predator comes. Stop. Don't breathe. Blend.

So it did it again just now, and so I dutifully called in to the "Support Desk" and talked to a guy who dutifully took the report. We both knew it was for nothing -- the local IT guy will, rather than waste time trying to figure out my PC, just call for a rebuild, and I'll get it back, and after a while, it'll start crashing once a week again. And then I can call in another ticket.

I know what you are thinking. "Your computer only crashes once a week? Amazing! YOur computer is obviously state-of-the-art! Stop kvetching!"

You know what's funny? My iBook crashes too. You know what's funnier? Then only time my iBook crashes is when I am running Virtual PC!!. I know the reason it's crashing is that Virtual PC is a heavy duty program with all the software emulation of the Windows hardware, but still... when I am at work, I get authentic PC crashes, and when I am at home, I get the Virtual PC crashes.

Sometimes when you put your iPod on Shuffle, does it seem like G-d or some other Being is arranging the music? Right after the Air instrumental, now it's playing a Blur instrumnental. If the THIRD song is an instrumental, I'll know something is going on.

Anyway. I gotta try to make my PC crash again... but after I save this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Fiona Apple -- Window

A lot of Jewish people don't like Chabad. And the reasons are too many to go into here.

Although my father and his wife daven at Chabad (the Conservative shul in his area recently moved out of walking distance, so it's Chabad or stay home for him on Shabbat, and he is shomer Shabbat) I have only talked to Chabad folks in person for about five minutes, and it was almost exactly three years ago.

It was a Sunday, and my girlfriend and I were walking in our town's little downtown, and Chabad guys were there and asked if we were Jewish, and they had us do the blessing and shake the etrog and lulav. Which was rather cool, because they were very happy to see us. It was like they were able to help someone do a mitzvah and that was exciting for them.

But I read all the time, and I learn a lot. While I have issues with Orthodoxy in general when it comes to women v men and gay v straight, I LOVE Chabad because they are so dedicated, and I guess because I love the Baal Shem Tov, when you get down to it. I love the way Chassids look at the world.

I love things like this, which I just read in an article about Katrina by Yossi Tauber, the Chabad rabbi in New Orleans:

And then, in a moment of quiet, the teachings of my mentor and teacher, the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ring in my consciousness: "It is wrong to try to explain suffering or to excuse G-d for it, because then we would justify it somewhat. Rather, our role is to help alleviate suffering."

This truth is simultaneously painful and comforting. While we believe there is a "vast eternal plan" we should not attempt to understand the cause for the suffering of others. If we understood, it might become somewhat acceptable. Instead, we must become a partner with our Creator, using our energy and ability to help rather than blame or explain.

There's always these elements that are in tension with the other, as this Chassidic teaching says (referenced at :

"a person must always carry around with him two conflicting ideas. In one pocket he must put the sentence "I am dust and ashes" [Bereshis 18:27]. In the other pocket he must place the sentence "For my sake the world was created" [Sanhedrin 37a]."

Sometimes G-d feels so close that I know that G-d has me in the palm of his hand, just like in Psalm 145, which we recite every day as a central part of the afternoon prayer -- "You open your Hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing." G-d feels that close. Closer, really, because of that mind-blowing realization that our bodies and everything we sense is made of G-d. And then, soon enough, sometimes even in the next moment, the very idea of G-d seems silly, because how can those old folks drowned in their beds, little kids buried in earthquake rubble, dying as their lungs are violently crushed, be in G-d's palm at all? We can't contain the opposites comfortably.

It's like the last chapter in Kohelet (Ecclesiastes)and the way it ends -- "fear God and keep His commandments" after warning the young person how they will get old and stop desiring women and return to dust. It was to serve God that we were created, and it is only through doing this we can find meaning in life. When we are confronted by suffering and hunger in this world we must "partner" with G-d. We must be Her eyes and arms and legs and ears in this world. That is why we were created.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Bright Eyes -- Road to Joy

A wonderful, wonderful day. We have thunder and lightning and rain right now, clouds gray with rain, and I am so lucky to have my window view.

There was also thunder and lightning from 1am until 3:30am or so this morning, and while it was easy to get back to sleep each time, I kept waking up. In my half-asleep state, I was trying to remember which blessing to say over which phenomenon, "who makes the world of creation" vs "for his strength and power fill the universe." It made for odd dreams, especially since I watched the movie Constantine last night and its simplistic reading of Job worked its way into my dreams a bit as well.

But there's lots to do today, so I am going to go do it. Happy Monday!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Ayub Ogada -- Obiero

I love this music -- Ayub Ogada is a guy from West Kenya that sings and plays a particular kind of lute called a nyatiti, that's apparently a really ancient instrument. Anyway, it's really nice. I have no idea what he's singing, but it's very soothing.

Over the years, I've developed a nice collection of "world" music. My sophisticated method? I blindly buy albums on the Real World label. If it has that stripe of colors along the side, I buy it. It's a lame way to pick music, but it's worked so far. Some of the best album art ever is on Real World album covers.

So hey! On Yom Kippur I afflicted my soul...I didn't eat or drink or bathe or work. However, I wore leather shoes, and I decided not to afflict my girlfriend's nose, so I did brush my teeth in the morning.

Speaking of which, I really got an appreciation for the traditional mechitza (the barrier separating men and women in Orthodox synagogues) yesterday. Our synagogue, of course, doesn't have one. And when I was a teenager and going to morning services, it wasn't an issue, because women never went. (If there had been a teenage girl at morning services, though, perhaps I'd have kept going rather than dropping out after a while...)

But I could see how I was getting so easily distracted with women about.... the older women behind us were commenting on the services the whole time, my girlfriend and her friend were talking from time to time, teen girls were getting in and out of their seats... it was distracting for me. And of course, once you are conscious of being distracted, EVERYTHING was distracting. Now, I am a straight guy. Honestly, I can't remember any guys in the synagogue besides the rabbi and cantor on the bimah, and there were hundreds there. But I can remember all the women and teenage girls and where they sat and what they were wearing, that one blonde sitting on the aisle a couple rows back that was wearing profoundly inappropriate fishnets, the girl in front of me who was actually studying for the GRE the whole service... . Of course, the traditional rabbinical line seems to be how easy it is for weak men to be distracted by pure and holy women, so we need to stick the barrier up so we can pray without the distraction of all that female stuff.

And this sucks in a way, because I don't want my girlfriend and her daughter excluded from anything. But there are also surely benefits to women when they are able to be with each other and not burdened by being distracted by men. We have all seen how girls often do better in school without the distraction of boys. Currently, there is lots of attention being paid to womens' practice, like all the Rosh Chodesh groups being started up. And we see a small but growing number of feminists find great power and freedom in supposedly sexist practices like muslim headcoverings and Orthodox Jewish "modest" dress, because they are free to be themselves and be judged on who they are, not their body.

Also, another possible benefit is that you emphasize community when you have the men with the men and the women with the women. Honestly, I tend to stay joined to my girlfriend's hip -- I'd be a lot more likely to meet and mingle and get to know guys at synagogue if I were just with guys.

This is all speculation, and I don't see myself in a shul with a mechitza any time soon, but I can understand the reasons in a way I never have before. Who knows. I could be wrong.

Services were good, but by the middle of the afternoon yesterday I had a killer headache and was really grumpy. When it was all over, and we were at our friend's house for break-the-fast, I got a cup of coffee and enjoyed the act of drinking, and then I piled a plate full of kugel and eggs and bagel and tomato and onion and I reconnected with the wonders of food. And within fifteen minutes, I was SO happy. We had a nice time seeing folks we only see a couple times a year on big holidays. It was so nice, sitting at tables under the stars, seeing everyone illuminated in candlelight, all us modern mostly-secular Jews still fasting and celebrating together.

And then when we got home, I did the bedtime Shema and had a great night's sleep...

And now Shabbat is on us and I haven't got hardly anything done. It's amazing how fast time flies. Everyone have a good Shabbat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

An Easy Fast....

Well, I have to get home so we can eat our festive meal before sunset, and then it's Kol Nidre. I love fasting, and I'm looking forward to going all night and all day tomorrow without eating or drinking, just because I can (with G-d's help!). And as odd as it seems, I really like Yom Kippur as a holiday. I love the prayers, how evern the Reconstructionist synagogue we go to will have a long, long service with the proper prayers and shofar.

A friend of my girlfriend has a break-fast at her place every year with wonderful breakfast food and lots of people, so it'll be nice.

So an easy fast to all, and may you be inscribed in all the good books.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Gillian Welch -- I Dream a Highway

Podcast Outlaws is an useful site. They review podcasts you may not never have found on your own.

This whole Jewish thing is depressing me today. If I had grown up in some average American Reform or Conservative synagogue I wouldn't be feeling angst. I'd be happy with my level of (non)observance and not irritable. But with my odd upbringing, I have been for the past 27 years, in one way or another, trying to find my way into some sort of Jewish practice and not judge myself for not being perfect and not judge half the Jews I run into for silly reasons that have to do more with my insecurity than anything else. Either I'm not accepting of them or they're not accepting of me or they are too easily accepting, or they are not practicing enough, or they are too Zionist, or they are too anti-Zionist.

Perhaps in 5766 I won't commit every single one of the 44 sins of the Al Chet. A cursory glance tells me I've commited a lot today alone --- impure speech, foolish talk, scoffing, evil talk, prattle of our lips, glance of the eye, casting of the yoke, passing judgment, tale-bearing...

It's like the quote says:

"A pious Jew is not one who worries about his fellow man's soul and his own stomach; a pious Jew worries about his own soul and his fellow man's stomach." – Rabbi Israel Salanter

I have been way too worried about judging everyone else's behavior and opinions and not enough about controlling my own behavior respecting other opinions. I have to really work on myself this year.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bob Marley -- Easy Skanking

I was listening to this song this morning, standing in gorgeous gold sunlight, standing on a streetcorner and waiting for the light to change. Then, from my right, I saw five bombsquad trucks with lights flashing coming down the street, and I started to hear the sirens over the music. They went down a block before pulling to a stop outside some skyscraper or another. An unattended bag, I'm sure.

Something about Bob saying

Take it easy.
Excuse me while I light my spliff,
Oh, god, I gotta take a lift,
From reality I just can’t drift,
That’s why I am staying with this riff...

while the bomb squad rolled by... something about it was just sublime. It was magic.

So, Rastafarians have their spliff and Jews have their Shabbat, and I plan on getting totally lifted tonight with my daughter. We're gonna light the Shabbat candles and cuddle up and read and relax and ascend from weekday reality into cosmic reality, man....

Gut Shabbos!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Franz Ferdinand -- I'm Your Villan

You know, terrorists are so stupid. New York has this subway alert. Fox News says "A NYPD source told FOX News that the threat involved 19 suitcase bombs to be placed in the subway system."

These terrorists are going to stick out so easily. In London they were smart enough to use backpacks. Suitcases? No one uses suitcases anymore... --

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Beatles -- I'm Only Sleeping

This is in my top five Lennon songs. I have no idea from time to time what other songs are up there, besides Julia, but those two are always in my top whatever Lennon songs.

I have been listening to Beatles all day... I just spent two hours with a coworker visiting from Denver... we were sitting here in my cubicle running reports all different ways to get data on a particular account-- my head hurts from the number crunching and account-specific questions--- but we listened to a lot of great songs while doing it.

You know, 5766 is a kickass year so far! I am getting enough sleep, I am being more focused than in 5765, my yetzer tov is totally ruling over my yetzer hara, I am praying... and it's almost the 3rd of Tishrei already! And I get to go and pick up my daughter now, so it's hard to get any better. :-)

Beatles -- Something

You know how George Harrison was just reaching his creative peak with "Something" and put out the amazing All Things Must Pass after the breakup (well, except for the jams on the last side) and then went downhill with increasingly goofy songs?

I keep wanting to make statements or arguments about this, tie it to some larger observation, but I can't figure out why the thought popped into my head. I love the song so much. It's one of the best guitar solos ever.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Magic Numbers -- Mornings Eleven

This song is so damn catchy that when I played it in the car for only the second time, my daughter started singing along. When I wondered aloud how she'd already heard the song (I never listen to the radio, so I have no idea whether the music I listen to is getting radio play or featured on some ad or something) she said "No, you've played this song, like, ten times already!" I hadn't. I had just played it once. It's just that the chorus is so damn catchy and the song has tempo changes that reinforce the catchy chorus so well, that one time really sticks with you.

So. It's 5766 already. And I hardly got anything achieved in 5765 at all! But last year I was so unprepared for Rosh Hashana, and I didn't take off work. And on Yom Kippur I fasted but I worked. So this year, I'm taking off work, I'm going to services, I'm doing the whole thing. Well, not really. I'm going to wear my leather shoes and belt. I'm not wearing white. I'm not walking to shul. But I'm farther along the path than I was last year. It's painfully slow progress, but progress nonetheless.

So to everyone out there, L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem!

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Thomas Dolby -- Radio Silence

OK. This is NOT the album I bought in 1982. When "Europa and the Pirate Twins" and "Radio Silence " came out I bought the original US release of The Golden Age of Wireless, which had a much better album cover-- Thomas Dolby standing on a stage with some sort of Jules Verne machinery behind him, and it was all golden. The album was a wonderful, wonderful thing. I played it to death. Radio Silence was especially cool to me, with the bizarre lyrics "Oh to paint her eyes of red, and her lips of blue/carve her likeness on the mast, Caroline 452/When they come to call for her, I will be there too" sung with such urgency you knew it was important, whatever it meant. And then, in the best part, there was Lena Lovich doing a mantra, chanting "Try to think of nothing" over and over again.

But every song was cool. Many of them tied in specifically to the wireless/technology theme. And it was a masterwork of synth stuff. This was one of the best albums of the new wave period. Then Dolby ruined the whole thing. Because then he did "She Blinded Me with Science." And that song became so big that they re-released the album, changing the album art, the song order, tossing great songs to stick in other songs, and even putting in a dorkier version of "Radio Silence." Dolby had a rock sensibility to him (he played rhythm guitar on Foreigner's Four album) and a funk sensibility, and the two sensibilities were balanced on The Golden Age of Wireless. Then his dorky funk sensibility won out, and I never bought anything of his again.

But at the time, I didn't care, because I had the original version of the album, and all was well. And then I lent the album to Fernanda Murillo.

Fernanda was one of the girls with whom I was in love in high school. I would make friends with girls and develop crushes and mope about in love with them like a dork. So anyway. She misplaced the album somewhere. And I never got it back.

After high school, I went to college and Fernanda went into the Army and became a medic. I once sent her a care package of clove cigarettes. She wrote back that the other soldiers hadn't ever smelled cloves -- some thought it was pot. (My first cigarette was a clove cigarette I smoked at the Balboa Pier at night with a gaggle of friends... I loved smoking cloves, especially at night by the ocean.)

I saw Fernanda a few times over the next few years, but we lost touch. A few years later, around 1990, I drove down her street and her parent's house, and all the other old bungalows on the street, had been replaced with an apartment complex.

Maybe she helped her parents empty out the house before they moved out and left the house to the wrecking ball. Maybe she found the album. Maybe she keeps it on a high shelf, safely out of the reach of her kids, in case she runs into me again. In the meantime, I hope she keeps it in its protective plastic sleeve, because it's valuable.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

John Lennon -- Woman

I think I'm going to talk about artists and albums for a while.

Double Fantasy was the first album I ever bought. And it was the only album I ever returned for a refund.

I was 15, and it was early 1981, and John was dead. I knew John had been a Beatle, but that was it. I didn't know most Beatle songs. My mom loved "Something" and she had the single. So I knew that song, and the B side, "Come Together," but I don't remember knowing other Beatles. I was just not clued into music that wasn't on Top Forty.

I had heard "Starting Over" and "Woman" on the radio, and I really liked them. So I went to our local K-Mart and bought the album. I took it home, and I was horrified. What the heck was this Yoko Ono DOING? I had bought an album that was half great songs and half screaming! I was terrified! I put the record back in its sleeve and back into the cover and I went right back to K-Mart to return the album. The manager said I could exchange it. But I didn't know any other music, certainly none I wanted to buy. At that moment, the only other thing I wanted to buy was Beatles stuff, and they didn't have any. After looking around for a while I asked the manager to please give me a refund because there wasn't anything else I wanted. He acquiesed, and I went home.

I ended up not buying any Beatles music for many years, because those of you old enough will remember that the radio stations at that time ended up having Beatles-on-the-brain and had weekends where they played every single Beatles album. So I taped almost all the albums off the radio. For almost two years after that, I pretty much only listened to Beatles and new wave stuff on KROQ. It was late 1982 before I bought another album.

I felt really bad that I hated Yoko's "songs," too. I wanted to like her music. I didn't know anything about her at the time, except that she was John's wife, and he loved her very much. I could tell that from the cover. And I look kind of like John Lennon from the side when I am kissing my woman.

A tangential Beatles-related thing --- I and my brother and sister exist because my mom picked up my dad from across a crowded club in Germany by mouthing the words to "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" while looking suggestively at him and gesturing. It worked. I exist because of the Beatles. No wonder they are the musical yardstick by which I measure everything else.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

David Bowie -- Looking for Water

David Bowie is the coolest. I've been thinking that for 23 years.

I didn't like Let's Dance when it came out. And I didn't know any older Bowie. I was a senior in high school and taking community college classes at the same time. I took an archeology class that involved doing excavation out in the desert. So one weekend, we're sitting around a campfire with kangaroo rats lurking in the shadows, and one older student is singing and accompanying himself on guitar. Blah, blah, whatever. Then he sings "Space Oddity." I'd never heard the song before in my life. It was amazing!

I bought the Changes One compilation immediately thereafter. I then gave my friend Russ Changes One as a gift. He loved Space Oddity so much he made a 90 minute cassette tape of just Space Oddity over and over again, and he listened to that tape for weeks. Anyway. So it's been Bowie ever since.

There's no other performer I like as much. When he comes out with new stuff, I buy it right away. Ten years or so ago, when Outside came out, I and a small caravan of Bowie fans drove from record shop to record shop in my town on the day the album was released until we found a shop that had it in stock. I'm not always able to be at the record store the day the albums come out, but usually it's within a couple days. Then I play it to death.

I have dreams about David Bowie from time to time. Usually he's staying as a houseguest and we get to hang out.

David Bowie is also the one performer I can think of where I actually have an aversion to seeing him in concert. I've never gone to see him perform, and I don't think I ever will. I HATE his live renditions of his songs. It's unfair of me, but there you go.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Joe Strummer -- Minstrel Boy

Earlier today I posted a great entry. Wow, it was awesome. It tied in novelist Anchee Min's experience of America (where she can be more Chinese than she was in China) with the farcical "anti-war" marches of this weekend and bemoaned the Left's loss of vision and embrace of isolationism, and how it reflected the Left's failure to believe in its own ideas anymore (with the exeption of Christopher Hitchens). Finally, it argued that true advocates for Palestinian rights in the West Bank and Gaza do not belong to groups like Peace Now, because Peace is not possible now. Peace will only be possible when Palestinians have civil rights and an effective and corruption-free government, and that anyone who cares about Palestinians can NOT support peace now, because there is not an infrastructure and an effective government in place to allow for peace.

And then something Bad happened and I lost the whole post. But trust me. Woo! It was a great one.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Shearwater -- The Ice Covered Everything

It's Shabbat again already. I think I got a few important things done this week. Maybe next week I'll try for a few more.

If I was a single-minded person, I'd stay focused on waste and corruption in Washington. Because if enough people get mad about it, maybe things will change.

But with a daughter who is becoming a teenager, I am worried about women and body image, and so my focus is on the Kate Moss debacle. Not because I care about Kate Moss or fashion models, but because I am angry at the nasty hypocrisy of the media and fashion industry. Moss has been using all sorts of drugs for years, and now she is tossed out on her ear because she was caught snorting on film? There are two facts that are clear:



(Sure, we have "plus size" models. Recently, there was an uproar over Dove's Campaign for Real Beauty and its "real" models. The company's ads feature attractive women with attractive bodies of different shapes and sizes. Sure, Dove is selling stuff, but the message is a good one -- beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. But this very message was drowned out by negative comments, because our perception of beauty has become so skewed and narrow that the average American apparently thinks that the average American -- themselves! -- is just unappealing and unattractive, and that beauty is a rare quality possessed only by fashion models and certain movie actresses.

Anyone with half a brain knows that for models to stay unnaturally thin, they must be doing unnatural things. The phrase "heroin chic" MEANS something, people. The fashion and music industries are fueled by legal and illegal stimulants and depressives of all kinds, and no one cares as long as the results are good. Our culture accepts and endorses drug use, as long as you hold it together.

LA's Stew (the best damn singer/songwriter in America, dangit) says in the last line of "Re-hab,"

When she got out of re-hab for the twenty-second time
her new take on life was very deep and empty
she traded mainline for online then she took up web design
now she's paid in full and blows the horn of plenty
once she said "hey listen baby I ain't gonna lie
there just ain't nothing I like more than getting high"
and funny how the maniacs who took the time to sob
seem to not mind a junkie with a well paying job--

Or as David Lee Roth and many other people have said "I used to have a drug problem, but now I make enough money." Because no one has a drug problem unless one has to get a fix and is reduced to prostitution or theft to get the money.

Or as Cher says in the great 90s film Clueless "It is one thing to spark up a dubie and get laced at parties, but it is quite another to be fried all day." Because it's OK to USE drugs, just not ABUSE drugs.

And how do you know the difference? Well, it's all how you carry yourself. It's a matter of poise and class. A model ought to do everything with style, with her body and hair and clothes just so. Kate Moss committed the worst crime possible. She was caught doing something properly kept private and discreet, sure -- this IS a great crime in America (and the reason Clinton was impeached). But worse than that, Kate Moss the fashion model, someone who must have poise and style and grace at all times, was caught in the most tacky poses possible, snorting with no sense of panache or style. She made cocaine and its users seem crass, dirty, and pathetic. And this, my friends, not the fact that she uses, it what the fashion companies could not stand.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Jam -- Start!

So. Russ Feingold for President, anybody? I am not a Democrat and so can't vote in the primaries, but I wanted to toss that out there. After hearing him in the Roberts hearings and reading why he voted to confirm Roberts, I am impressed by how he operates from a position of principle.

At least, can we all agree that it's Obama as the VP? We could all save some time and just fill that position right away. We could have bumper stickers, _______/Obama 2008!

I have no idea why I am thinking so politically lately. Oh, yeah. Eric at That's why. I try to stay away from politics because my candidates lose elections. Except for Clinton/Gore, I've never supported winners... I don't want to get my hopes up. But seriously. __________/Obama 2008!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Arcade Fire -- Wake Up

Usually the songs I happen to be listening to while typing these entries don't mesh well with the subject matter. But today, "Wake Up" fits rather well.

Someone like John McCain, who is really a mainstream Republican, comes off as a real maverick these days, what with his insistence that the government cannot spend oodles of money for Katrina without finding it somewhere. McCain thinks the place to look is in porkbarrelcrap like Alaska's infamous "bridge to nowhere," a $223 million dollar project to build a bridge as long as the Golden Gate Bridge to connect an island of 50 with the town of Ketchikan, which only has 8,000 people. They already have a ferry that leaves every fifteen minutes and takes five minutes to cross. This is a pathetic abuse of power by AK representative Don Young, and you can read all about it in this USAToday piece.

And, of course, the real story here is not that Don Young is evil. Don Young is just playing the game by the rules. And Democrats play it just as hard as Republicans. And they play it all to the detriment of the country. No one really voted for that porkbarrel, or any of the other billions of dollars in our budget going to fund bizarre projects like this that help a few contractors get rich and screw everyone else in the country. These items get passed into law via "earmarks" in huge massive bills so large that NOT ONE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES WHO VOTES FOR THE BILL EVER READS IT. The system, my friends, is broken. We need billions for Katrina damage and we have no easy way to find the money. The president won't raise taxes on the rich, Congress won't do anything meaningful to reduce costs, and people like McCain who want to be fiscally responsible are far and few between.

I never know where I fit exactly politically -- I vacillate between libertarian and libertarian-socialist poles, I think. Optimally, I'd be living in a kibbutz 60 years ago, with workers in charge and long and involved discussions over everything. I know that the kibbutz movement is dying. I'm not sure if it's because it was an unworkable idea or that too few Israelis tried it. Anyway. I gotta work.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Tim Finn -- Subway Dreaming

Dave of Israellycool has a good bunch of information and obits on Simon Wiesenthal, who just died.... and as he reminds us -- one of the most important blessings is the one when we hear such news -- Baruch Dayan Ha-emet. Simon Wiesenthal is one of the few people I think we really KNOW made a difference, a real tzaddik. He made sure people never forgot the Holocaust and he made countries and individuals be accountable. I think today's "truth commissions" in places like South Africa are due to the way Wiesenthal insisted that the injustices of the past had to be dealt with and confronted. He made his whole life about seeking justice for the 11 million plus victims of the Nazis.

The Wiesenthal Center & Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles is a strong lasting testament to his work, and to his viewpoint on the Holocaust.

The LA Times has a great quote from Wiesenthal -- 'The great things in life are never done by normal people. They're done by crazy people.' May all of us find ourselves touched with at least a little craziness, so we can do great things.

Common -- It's Your World

Hey. Thunder and lightning last night and this morning, and a little rain. Very cool. I am a thunder and lightning fool. There are specific blessings for both, but I couldn't very well get out my siddur while driving to look up the blessings, and I haven't been very good at memorizing blessings I don't use all the time. Of course, now I have my siddur out and my blessings ready, nothing is happening outside. Well, the clouds are appropriately puffy and gray, it's misting, but no thunder or lightning.

The blessing for lightning is Baruch atah adonai elohenu melech ha'olam, oseh ma'aso bereshit." Blessed are you, Hashem our G-d, ruler of the Universe, who makes the work of creation.

Thunder is "Baruch atah adonai elohenu melech ha'olam, se'cocho ug'vurato maley olam." Blessed are you, Hashem our G-d, ruler of the Universe, for Her strength and power fill the universe.

If a rainbow comes out, I have that blessing ready, but I can't sound it out properly, let alone transliterate it here! Luckily, my building faces West, and any rainbows happening for the remainder of the day will be to the East...

I just ate banana bread for lunch. My girlfriend's daughter made it last night. Very good stuff. But I'm still hungry, and the only food I have beyond a single box of raisins is supposed to be part of my earthquake kit.

Speaking of which, now I have my earthquake supplies together, can we please have the earthquake, already? We have several earthquake faults lurking under downtown, and it's just a matter of time before we have The Big One, and I'd rather we had it now, thank you very much, because the next few years are going to be very busy for me with graduate school and my daughter being in high school and all that.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Kanye West -- Touch the Sky

The Shabbat Bride is almost here. You can hear the rustle of Her dress, smell the spices in her perfume.

You know, I am terrible about getting my butt to shul and I have all sorts of excuses for it. But Friday night I get a bit closer to doing what I am supposed to do with Shabbat. And I really love the language of Lecha Dodi, phrases like

Shake off the dust, arise, don your splendid clothes, my people...
Awaken, awaken, for your light has come, rise and be bright, awake, awake, utter a song, the glory of the Lord is upon you revealed...

because the "glory of the Lord" is basically being with your family and friends and really paying attention to them, eating your best food on your best china and enjoying each other's company. And even when the teenagers are set on going out, you can usually get them to wait until after the blessings and the candles and the dinner, and there really is something like the Shabbat bride with us, some tiny little imagining of the perfection of the world to come, whether it comes in this world or the next.

My daughter is with her mom this week, and I miss her -- she loves fire, and she loves to light the shabbat candles. So Shabbat Shalom to everyone.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

X - I Must Not Think Bad Thoughts

The Roberts confirmation hearings are lots of fun. I loved constitutional law, so it's nice to be reminded of that class. More importantly, the Democrats are suffering for their huge failure to connect with American voters. Everyone knew, before the hearings started, that there was no reason for Roberts to give too much up in the way of substantive answers.

And why? Because Republicans don't need Democrats' votes, because Democrats are losing seats to Republicans, because Republicans are better at connecting with voters, because Republicans have a soul, a central organizing ideal, around which everything else flows. Voters see a Republican and they see someone who built a platform on a foundation of religion (even the low-taxes bit is religious in origin, from the 1800s economic darwinist movement thing popularized by Protestants).

Democrats are, on the other hand, a party currently consisting of people running around with planks and trying to build a platform without agreeing on the foundation and shape and building materials. Issues galore have the Democrats, but no discernable central theme or soul. And this is why Democrats are so frustrated today. Because John Roberts is, from what I can see, a good old fashioned conservative, someone whose highest allegiance is to a single ideal --the law, and they have no way to relate to that. Because the best they have is an allegiance to a bunch of positions -- gay marriage, affirmative action, wetlands protection. There is no central ideal at the core of their being.

That being said, my favorite bit from the hearings so far is the funny bit from Charles Schumer:

It's as if I asked you: What kind of movies do you like? Tell me two or three good movies. And you say, I like movies with good acting. I like movies with good directing. I like movies with good cinematography.
And I ask you, No, give me an example of a good movie. You don't name one. I say, Give me an example of a bad movie.
You won't name one. Then I ask you if you like
Casablanca, and you respond by saying, Lots of people like 'Casablanca.'
You tell me it's widely settled that Casablanca is one of the great movies.

Because it illustrates Schumer's frustration, appropriately illustrates the way Roberts won't be direct in his answers, and shows the important idea of movie preferences being Important. Our favorite movies are supposed to be windows into our souls, hints at our unique perspective and experience of the world. I'm not sure how true it is, but Roberts actually replied to Schumer by saying his favorite movies are Dr Zhivago and North by Northwest. So now thousands of movie buffs are probably trying to tease some hint at Roberts' inner life from these movies... since I never saw one and saw the other only once, I am useless in this regard.

But at the end of the day, it's obvious that Bush nominated someone who can do the job, and no one can argue with that. If the Democrats want to make nominees give them more answers and reassure them, and if Democrats want to have justices that suit their ideas, Democrats have to win more elections. And until they get a soul that burns as bright in their hearts as the Republican's soul burns in theirs, that isn't going to happen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Silver Scooter -- Terrorism Lover

First off, this song predates the Eleventh of September, 2001. Unfortunately, Silver Scooter broke up years ago.

Secondly, when are we going to start the Revolution? I just read a review of The Republican War on Science and I am itching to get started. Just when I decide that I'm being immature, and that a bloody revolution will cause more harm than good, I am reminded of just where our country is headed if drastic action is not taken. There will be no scientific advances in the US if Republicans stay in power, because there is an evil axis of fundamentalists and business working to undermine science. From global warming to secondhand smoke to evolution, Republicans are manufacturing "controversy" where none really exists. No longer content to attack the legitimacies of policies based on science, they are attacking the science itself.

Last year I prayed that the American people wake up soon, so we could vote the crazy idiots out of office, but we had huge numbers of scientists endorse Kerry and decry Bush's hostility towards science, and the American people showed they didn't care by voting for Bush anyway.

So if a slim majority of Americans are idiots, how can we change things? Well, only around a third of Americans supported the American Revolution. Another third were firmly in the English camp, and a third basically were too busy to care much. If we can get ten percent of Americans to really give a crap about the future of our country, we can leverage our numbers and convince those who we can convince to join our cause. And then we can try winning the 2008 elections. And if that doesn't work, we can find our course of action laid out in the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

A newspaper reporter said of Emma Goldman that he agreed with everything she said, and that her only problem was that she was 8000 years ahead of her time. For anarchy, perhaps, but I hope we don't have to wait that long for intelligent leadership.

At core, all this comes down to my faith -- or lack of faith -- in my American brothers and sisters. Maybe it's a lost cause, and my future lies in making aliyah, like Israelisms' Carol and Charley talked about today. Or maybe when I have been in Israel for a decade or so, I'll agitate for Revolution there, as well. But no Che posters, please.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Beethoven -- Symphony #7

An hour or so after I made my last blog entry and talked about being really conscious of how important it was to be prepared, Los Angeles lost power. It started in waves. At first, we lost SOME power -- the lights were out, but the computers and network were still working. Then all power was gone, except for the emergency lights, which were powered by our building's backup generator. We waited around for a few minutes, until the security folks told us that all of downtown was without power, and then we all walked down the ten flights of stairs and went home for the day. I got to my girlfriend's house, fixed all the clocks, and watched the newscasters say the silliest things while the helicopter cameras filmed backed-up traffic at non-functioning intersections.

Within a couple hours, everyone had power back, but it was rather eerie before we knew the cause of the blackout. Another reminder for me to work on my emergency/earthquake supplies.

I love that a single person mistakenly cutting a cable caused millions of people to lose power on their own. It's great to know that one person really can make a difference in America.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Common - Love Is...

That Assam the American guy and his taped threat against Los Angeles have gotten everyone in my little group a bit more aware of our need to have supplies at our desks, either for earthquake or terrorism or flood or fire. It's always a bit disconcerting to have helicopters buzzing about nearby, a little more so now, as conversation often turns to idle speculation of how terrorists would attack which targets in LA (Hollywood studios? Financial District hi-rises? Dodger Stadium?) and how they'd do it (planes? poisoning water supply? truck bombs? subway bombs?).

But enough serious stuff-- I have mostly ignored hiphop or have been turned off by it, especially the vapid materialist tilt everything has taken--the Benz and Courvoisier and Rolex and Marc Jacobs, rims and woodgrain, blah blah blah. The narrative seems to be that one day, kids get ahold of a Barneys catalog, and then realize that their lives won't be complete until they are wearing $10,000 in clothing and accessories. In need of $10,000 quick, they naturally turn to selling drugs and pimping in order to get the stuff. And now, they have the bling. And we get to hear about it and see it, and it's all the worst of American consumerism. There's no soul.

Of course, this is totally unfair, because there's more to hiphop than what you see on MTV. I listen to dozens of new CDs a year and rarely do any of them get more than college radio airplay, and I would never judge the state of indie rock based on MTV or the local rock station, but I've done it with hiphop.

Then this weekend, I decided to give Kanye West a listen, honestly because of his "George Bush doesn't care about black people" fame, and I liked a lot of the songs.

And then I listened to Common's Be album. The whole CD is cohesively built around the idea of be-ing, loving the life you are living, and the intro starts out with a little litany of social and political problems and then

Waiting for the Lord to rise
I look into my daughter's eyes
And realize that I'ma learn through her
The Messiah might even return through her
If I'ma do it, I gotta change the world through her

which is, of course (except for the whole Messiah returning thing) just what every father has to feel at some point or another, and I knew that this was someone I could listen to. It's a great CD. So there's probably this whole niche of hiphop, or particular songs on CDs I'd like, and I think I'll listen to more.

Back to work!