10/30/09

Is Jon Gosselin Jewish?

Jon Gosselin says he is half Jew and half Korean, according to one online article. Wikipedia does not corroborate this saying, "Gosselin was born and raised in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania to a father of French and Welsh descent and a Korean mother."
Jon Gosselin Wants to Find Religion
Justin Carbone

Gosselin to find inner self

Everyone’s favorite reality star Jon Gosselin is at it again. This time, it’s to turn a new leaf and find himself some inner spiritual guidance.

Gosselin, the father of 8 and former star of TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8 claims that the excess of fame have gone to his head, and that he needs to center himself and find his inner being.

He says that he is half Korean and half Jewish and that its time for him to come to terms with his behavior of the past few months.

“I am well aware that my behavior over the past few months has not always reflected my personal and religious values. I further accept that I have allowed myself to become somewhat severed from my own moral anchor and be carried away by the challenges of fame,” he told USMagazine.com. ...

Windows 7 Upgrade a Success

We recall sitting on the floor in 1995 and struggling to figure out how to complete our horrifying upgrade to Windows 95. It was not a happy day.

This latest experience - upgrading from Vista to Windows 7 - was much better. The whole process took about four hours. The "advisor" told us to uninstall iTunes - which we had to do before it would let us continue. The actual chugging of the program went on unattended for about three hours. After that things looked pretty good. Trend Micro did not work. It took a while until we found the right upgrade on their site. Norton Ghost did not work at first. Now it does - we think we upgraded it. Our HAVA remote TV system refused to operate. We actually called human support for that and went through a barrage of firewall settings. Then after a reboot, even that started working.

The best surprise was the Windows Media center. We have a TV card in the computer and it asked if we want Windows to configure it. Wc clicked on the 'Sure, why not' button? Windows took the liberty of deciding to look for the digital HD Clear Qam channels that our cable operator sends us - instead of configuring the normal non-digital cable channels that we had before. So we were surprised to find 23 channels in HD after the config concluded. Really eye-popping quality.

As to the actual features of the operating system - we never had that much difficulty with Vista - maybe one of the few fans of the system. 7 is faster booting and has more eye candy than Vista. For an XP user, the difference will be striking in a good way. We are still finding nice surprises and we are certain that there are some not so nice ones lurking. But all told, this was a good run.

Next experiment. We are hoping to take our 10 inch Dell 10V netbook ($250) and make it into a Hackintosh with the help of our number two son and mac expert.

10/29/09

WSJ: Fully Hebrew Web Addresses Now OK

That's Great!
Web Addresses to Adopt New Alphabets
Oversight Groups Expected to Approve New Suffix Characters
By EVAN RAMSTAD and JAEYEON WOO

SEOUL -- The World Wide Web is about to start using the languages of the world.

Leaders of the private body that oversees the basic design of the Internet are expected to decide here Friday to let Web addresses be expressed in characters other than those of the Roman alphabet -- an issue for the majority of Internet users who use other alphabets in their native language. Already, portions of a Web address can be written in other languages. But the suffix, such as the "com" after the dot, must be typed in Roman letters.

The change will allow the suffix -- known as a top-level domain -- to be expressed in about 16 other alphabets. They include traditional and simplified Chinese characters, Russian Cyrillic, Korean Hangul and Hebrew. Dozens of other alphabets are likely to be added in coming years....more...

10/28/09

Does a Talmud Passage Prove That Stress Can Turn Your Hair White or Gray?

A strange post from a secular source that takes a literal fundamentalist approach to a Talmudic story.
Can hair really turn white from fright?
The phenomenon of hair turning white from fright (or shock or grief or stress) persists in literature, poetry and even a handful of medical journals.

But is there any truth to the rumor that we can actually scare our hair?

Yes and no, says dermatologist Dr. David Orentreich, associate director of the Orentreich Medical Group in New York and assistant clinical professor in the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

“It’s appealing on a literary or poetic level that a person’s experience could be so severe or terrifying that they age overnight,” he says. “But you can’t lose pigment in your hair. Once it leaves your scalp, it’s non-living; it’s dead.”

But, Orentreich says, while fear can’t suddenly cause your hair to turn white, there is a medical condition that could make people think it has.

The hair of Nancy Thompson, played by Heather Langenkamp, suddenly starts to turn white after Freddie Kruger torments her in her dreams in 1984's "Nightmare on Elm Street."

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition that attacks hair follicles, causing pigmented hair such as black, brown, red, or blonde to fall out, leaving the gray and white nonpigmented hairs behind. (Eventually most people lose all their hair entirely.)

“If someone has salt-and-pepper hair – a mixture of gray and black – and they develop alopecia areata, the dark hairs can fall out quickly,” he says. “So it appears that they’ve gone gray overnight.”

Stress, as it turns out, may be a trigger for some autoimmune disorders.

“It’s conceivable for a person who has a tendency for alopecia areata to go through a stressful experience which makes it flair up and the first thing that happens is their dark hair falls out,” he says. “And that can happen quickly – in days or weeks – leaving just the gray hair.”

Although autoimmune diseases have been around forever, Orentreich says it’s only been in recent years that doctors have come to understand their impact.

“These phenomena would occur but they were completely mysterious,” he says. “No one had any inkling that the immune system could cause hair to fall out. There was only a primitive understanding – if any understanding – of the immune system.”

Fear, shock or grief, on the other hand, were something people could wrap their brains around, which probably explains why emotions play a huge part in most of the stories about hair turning white overnight.

According to a 2008 paper in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the first documented case of sudden hair whitening was in the Talmud in 83 A.D. The victim was a 17-year-old boy who was appointed chief of the main Israeli Talmudic academy. His sudden white hair was said to have been a “consequence of strenuous studying.”...more...

The TTB Endorsements You've Been Waiting for: Corzine and Weinberg

We urge you to vote for Corzine and Weinberg.

The PJ Voice has a great interview with Teaneck's own, Loretta W.

"...Loretta Weinberg is a veteran of close elections having won the Democratic Nomination to New Jersey State Senate seat by 112-111 at the Democratic caucus leading up to the November 2005 special election. Polls indicate that the race in New Jersey is too close call. Volunteers are invited to contact Corzine/Weinberg campaign offices throughout New Jersey..."

YouTube: Marvin Silbermintz's Kiddush Fork and other Funny Jewish Inventions

Marvin Silbermintz writes for Jay Leno. Here are his Kiddush Fork and other Funny Jewish Inventions.

10/25/09

Is Sergey Brin Jewish?

Yes Sergey Brin, the billionaire co-founder of Google, is a Jew. The Jewish Standard of Teaneck profiled him in their cover story in March of 2007.

Now the Times wrote up a story about the first stirrings of his philanthropy - a million bucks to HIAS in gratitude for helping to bring him and his family over from the Soviet Union.

See the problem is that we watched 50% of the easy money disappear last year in the crash. So we don't agree with the go slow philanthropy philosophy of Brin and others. Non-profit organizations are in need now.

We find it utterly contemptuous that Brin ask the Times to publish a disclaimer that he is not entertaining proposals for funding. "Don't bother me with your shnorring?" or as he put it, “Our foundation is not soliciting proposals. Please make sure to include that.” Is that so?

It's like these rich guys have 2 brains. (No not those 2.) One for business and one for charity.

Use the same brain! Gmail was in "beta" for ten years. Take some "beta" charity proposals. New ideas in google services are developed in "labs." Get yourself some projects to try out in "labs."

Hello. Use the same thinking for charity that you use for business!

Anyhow, it is so nice that Brin arranged to dole out a few bucks to HIAS.

Jstandard Cover Story: Israeli Nobel Prize Winner Ada Yonath and Her Ribosome Breakthrough Scientific Achievements

The science behind the Nobel Prize award to Israel's Weizmann Institute scientist Ada Yonath and the story of the winner are told brilliantly by the Jewish Standard of Teaneck's expert science correspondent Dr. Miryam Wahrman in this week's cover story.

Koren Sacks Siddur Advertisement Uses Woman's Image and Controversial Phrase


Before you advertise a sacred book with the image of a woman you need to get some careful guidance from professionals in the field.

We were told by a friend who saw this siddur ad that the phrase "Experience the Difference" sounds like it could be in a condom ad.

In fact a basic google search confirms that the phrase is used elsewhere in that very context.

10/22/09

Haaretz: Racy Refaeli Revelatory Rendering Roils Rabbis

Great publicity for the company.
Bar Refaeli highway billboard roils rabbis
By Nati Toker and Adi Dovrat-Meseritz

A billboard on the Ayalon highway for the Fox clothing company, featuring model Bar Refaeli, has raised the ire of the ultra-Orthodox.

Rabbi Mordechai Bloi, chairman of the Haredi group Guardians of Sanctity and Education, says the community is considering boycotting Fox. Prior to the billboard, Fox's provocative ad campaigns featuring Refaeli had been limited to TV and Internet, to which members of the community are not exposed.

Whether people wish to see this or not is a personal choice, and we don't tell people what to do in the privacy of their home. But they cannot be permitted to poison the public environment," Bloi said. Fox has a big Haredi clientele and a large store in the religious community of Bnei Brak, and stands to lose from a boycott.
Attention companies! For a modest fee we will arrange to have a rabbi condemn your billboard, order a boycott of your company, and hold a press conference to denounce you.

10/20/09

Our Writing and Publishing Activities Have Cut Into Our Blogging Efforts

We are working on five book publications - four of our own and one, helping our number one son with final details of his own soon to be announced and published book.

We are still in the phase of writing our highly original opus on prayer, every day, morning, afternoon and evening, while sitting at home, while traveling, when we rise in the morning and before we retire at night. Our writing aligns with our teaching at JTS. Our students are amazing - shh, don't tell them.

We received our Crumb Genesis and we like it! Been reading it on and off all night. Especially like one phrase in his introduction where he says about his veneration for the text, "I believe it is the words of men. It is, nonetheless, a powerful text with layers of meaning that reach deep into our collective consciousness, our historical consciousness, if you will... " Honest and simple words. The kind of reflection that comes before and after a few years of hard work.

10/19/09

TNR: Robert Alter Reviews Robert Crumb's Illustrated Book of Genesis

In a rather long and rambling review, Robert Alter heaps mainly praise on R. Crumbs new graphic version of Genesis.

We should have our copy by tomorrow from Amazon where the book has climbed to #5 on the bestseller list, prerelease.

Example from Alter:
The destruction of Sodom--especially the third of Crumb’s four panels, which shows faceless and mummy-like writhing figures, backs enveloped in flame as more fire and brimstone rain down from above--is a tour de force, combining biblical apocalypse with a comic-book science-fiction vision of worlds destroyed. The bizarreness of Pharaoh’s two dreams, prophetic of the years of plenty and of famine, is brilliantly caught by Crumb in his depiction, for the first of the dreams, of the seven "meagerfleshed" cows as savage-looking creatures cannibalistically chomping down on the flanks of the seven fat cows.
Hat tip to Henry.

10/17/09

new yorker takes down the utterly exasperating marxist catholic theology of terry eagleton

Bravo to James Wood on a brilliant reading in the new yorker of the utterly exasperating marxist catholic theology of terry eagleton (Reason, Faith and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate) (and when a title has to resort to title language like "reflections on" we know that it is a circular file of random high-thoughts, i.e., without a real agenda. now this book is 177 pages, from the terry lectures that eagleton delivered at yale. and we were reading a few weeks ago another in the series from 1938 by carl jung. it seems pretty much a sure thing to me that eagleton is not of the stature of jung and hence appropriate to lament how far the yale series has fallen since the pristine good old days of the ancient giants. on the other hand jung's lectures are barely of any use to me, so maybe it's always been hopeless to invite an allegedly great thinker to speak about science and religion)...more than a review, "God in the Quad: A don defends the Supreme Being from the new atheists."

From the abstract (subscribe to read it all):
Oddly, despite God’s general discrediting, serious theological argument is being done by literary and cultural theorists alike. Terry Eagleton’s “Reason, Faith, and Revolution” attacks the new atheism as a kind of secular counter-fundamentalism. It makes a sharp, limited case against Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, better than any previous book of its kind has. But its own incoherence is symptomatic of the frailty of what might be called the new anti-atheism. Discusses the influence of Thomas Aquinas and Maimonides on Eagleton, a Marxist Catholic literary theorist who taught English for many years at Oxford. Eagleton shows little interest in the central claim of Christian belief that Christ was God incarnate. Jesus is less important to him as the Son of God than as a proto-Marxist. Heaven is not really about a world to come but about the transformation of the world we have. Eagleton recoils from the idolatrously human appropriations of the televangelist or the mullah. The Princeton philosopher Mark Johnston argues in “Saving God” that most religious belief is idolatrous. Johnston is humane and philosophically nimble, but his rarefied and almost scholastic definition of the ideally non-idolatrous God is not obviously very helpful to anyone but a rarefied scholastic. Considers Wittgenstein’s view of religion as a form of life. John Rawls’s “A Brief Inquiry into the Meaning of Sin & Faith.” If the new atheism offers an inadequate account of the varieties of religious experience, so does its most vigorous critic, Eagleton. What is needed is neither the overweening rationalism of a Dawkins nor the rarefied religious belief of an Eagleton but a theologically engaged atheism that resembles disappointed belief.

We are backing the Emoji Dick Translation project on kickstarter

Don't ask why, cuz we don't know. It just seems so brazen, we like the idea. Translate a big book into emoji characters via Mechanical Turk tasks. One day we will even try to figure out what that means.

Of course, when we do figure this out, as a seasoned translator of the Talmud, we will start to think about translating the Mishnah into emoji characters.

Times: Crumb's Bawdy Underground Comix Version of the Bible: Genesis

Sounds interesting to us so we ordered a copy.

About Robert Crumb at the Times.

Is Robert Crumb Jewish? No, he is not a Jew. He comes from a Polish Catholic family from New Richland, Minnesota according to a family history on his web site. Wikipedia (unsourced) says he is of English and Scottish roots.

We always thought the biblical book of Genesis would be amenable to such a graphic arts treatment. It's quite a bawdy book at parts and Crumb is noted for his penchant for the erotic.

The reviews are strong and the book is already #53 in sales at Amazon - prior to its official release date. We would not be surprised to see it hit the top ten list.

Here is what Allen Salkin says in the Times:
Sketching His Way Through Genesis
By ALLEN SALKIN

CONSIDERING that barely a word has been changed from the original, the warning on the cover of a new, illustrated version of the Book of Genesis — “Adult Supervision Recommended for Minors” — might seem surprising. Until, that is, one reads the name of the illustrator: R. Crumb.

Mr. Crumb is known almost as much for his bawdy underground comix featuring characters like Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural as he is for “Crumb,” the 1994 documentary about him. But he has been driven less by his sexual impulses in recent years and more by the 45 minutes he spends in seated meditation every morning in the medieval town house he shares with his wife, Aline (they became grandparents this month), in the south of France.

One day 15 years ago, for no reason he can remember, Mr. Crumb decided he wanted to read the myths of ancient Sumer. Eventually he found a scholarly work that said some of the myths were similar to the stories in Genesis. He read Genesis closely, and the idea of illustrating it clicked. He told a literary agent friend that if he could fetch a big enough advance, he’d do it. W. W. Norton & Company came through with $200,000, which seemed enough; Mr. Crumb thought he could bang out the project in a year or two. It took four.

As unlikely as it may seem, Mr. Crumb has become something of a Bible scholar. In a telephone interview from France, he bristled at a description of his book by his British publisher as “scandalous satire.” “I had no intention to scandalize the Bible,” he said. “I was intrigued by the challenge of exposing everything in there by illustrating it. The text is so significant in our culture, to bring everything out was a significant enough purpose for doing it.”

During the interview he described his thinking while working on certain sections. His answers have been condensed and are in the slide show [at the Times site].

AP: Lovely NY Neighbor Sues Madonna for Dancing and Loud Music

Duh! to the third power. What else is new? When you let her in to the building, maybe did you think she spent her time sitting quietly, meditating and studying the Kabbalah or the Talmud?

So which lovely neighbor is suing her? We will follow this, and we will let you know.
NYC Neighbor Sues Madonna Over Loud Music, Dancing
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK (AP) -- One of Madonna's New York neighbors says the superstar's loud music and frequent dance sessions are causing a commotion.

Karen George, of Manhattan, lives above Madonna in a building on Central Park.

She said in a lawsuit filed Friday against the building's co-op board that the Material Girl is using her apartment as a rehearsal studio, forcing neighbors to endure ''blaring music, stomping and shaking walls,'' for up to three hours each day.

George complained about ''unreasonably high-decibel, amplified music'' and vibrations pouring through walls, ceilings and radiators.

The building's board says it has already threatened to evict Madonna.

Madonna's representatives didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

10/16/09

NY Post: J. Ezra Merkin Going to Court

Not much detail, but clear enough. Mr. Merkin, Mr. Madoff's big feeder funnel, will have his day in court.
Merkin move

A Manhattan judge told Ezra Merkin's law yers that he would likely reject a motion to dismiss New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's lawsuit accusing the financier of fraudulently raising funds for Bernard Madoff's fraud.
Bloomberg reports on the fate of Merkin's art: -- Financier J. Ezra Merkin’s $310 million collection of Mark Rothko paintings, sold earlier this year to a mystery buyer, will be exhibited at Moscow’s new Garage Center for Contemporary Culture next spring.

Fern Hill, Ruth Brin, Ron Meshbesher, Marshak among the real names dropped in Coen Brothers' silly film "A Serious Man"

Maybe some day we will review a movie here on TTB, not today.

Fern Hill, Ruth Brin, Ron Meshbesher and Marshak are among the real names dropped in "A Serious Man" - the Coen brother's latest bizarre movie where the main character, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg) is the brothers' counterpart to "A Righteous Man," the biblical sufferer, Job.

We lived a block from Fern Hill Park in St. Louis Park, MN for 19 years. We knew Ruth Brin, a poet and liturgist who recently passed away. She was a serious woman but not at all in the silly sense that the Coens have cooked up in their send-up of their native hunting grounds.

Ron Meshbesher was a celebrity lawyer in the Twin Cities some years ago. He and Ruth Brin and Marshak all have names that the Coens must have liked. The use of those names has little to do with the real people. In fact nothing in the film has any resemblance to real people, living or dead. And that's totally OK with us. We used to read comic books that cost 10 cents. Now we can go see them on the big screen for $12.50.

And poor Marshak. The real one (Marvin) was (and still is) a professor of physics at the University where the brothers' dad Ed Coen taught economics. The comic book one is a rabbi who refuses to counsel Gopnick and who then lists the members of the Jefferson Airplane when he meets Gopnick's son at his bar mitzvah interview and returns to him his confiscated transistor radio. We think it was particularly mean to portray that the rabbi in the scene cannot recall Jorma's last name and that the boy has to remind him.

Accuracy. We don't think that the Talmud Torah buses had those words in Hebrew painted on their sides. The Coens land a bit harsh on characters who are Koreans and hunters. Did we really laugh at their gags? Nervous titters were heard around the Houston Street theater. We laughed at the use of the name Marshak because it is a funny name.

Seems to us like the boys had some serious hangups about rabbis, Jewish schools and bar mitzvahs. Inside the attempts at funniness, there was a story about a why bad things happen to one good person. That question is timeless and should stay that way. The story of Job has never entertained a soul - up to and including now.

We were going to criticize how the film shortchanges the women characters making them into buffoons at best. But then it isn't just the women. It's the men and the children, lawyers, professors, teachers, well it just seems to us that the Coen boys do not like people.

The film starts with an inane yiddish scene in which Fyvush Finkel plays a dybbuk. It makes as much sense as the rest of the movie, i.e., none at all.

All told let us just call this debacle, "A Serious Failure" and move on.

10/15/09

WSJ: Rubashkin Kosher Slaughter Trial Begins in Iowa

RubashkinThe WSJ Law Blog reports on the not so Kosher meat business trial. [Hat tip to Yochanan Hashlishi]

Iowa Kosher Meatplant Trial Begins With Prayers And Crinkled Dollar Bills
By Nathan Koppel

Earlier this week, we previewed the criminal trial of Sholom Rubashkin, the one-time manager of an Iowa Kosher meatpacking plant.

We admit we’re sort of taken with the facts in this case. Who would’ve thought, for starters, that the nation’s largest Kosher plant, Agriprocessors, would’ve been based in Iowa. Plus, how often do we get to write about someone being accused of violating the federal Packers and Stockyards Act by failing to promptly pay cattle suppliers?

Rubashkin, who moved to Postville, Iowa, from the Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood of Crown Heights, is accused by prosecutors of cheating a bank, laundering money, destroying evidence, and, on top of that, harboring hundreds of undocumented workers. Rubashkin has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Thankfully, WSJ’s Lauren Etter was present Wednesday for Day One of the trial in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. (The trial was moved at Rubashkin’s request.) Here’s her full report.

Rubashkin’s lead defense attorney, Guy Cook of Des Moines, called Rubashkin an “honest family man” in over in his head in a complex business.

The defendant was trained as a rabbi, not a businessman; at most, his lawyer said, he was guilty of “sloppy” business practices. Rubashkin’s counsel also characterized Agriprocessors as a “true American success story” that contributed to charity and helped boost Postville’s economy.

Rubashkin, wearing the traditional long beard and black trousers of Hasidic Jews, had a large posse in tow. His wife and nearly 20 other family members and supporters ─ some of whom traveled 22 hours by bus from Brooklyn ─ watched the proceedings in court. At times, Etter reports, they chanted Hebrew prayers under their breath.

“The big hats will need to come off,” a court guard told the group several times.

This Des Moines Register article adds some more color. Rubashkin’s supporters came from as far as Australia and Israel. “More than 40 young men, most in their teens or early 20s, huddled around a big-screen television in a spillover room to watch the proceedings on a live feed,” the Register reports. “A black fedora, filled with crinkled dollar bills, passed from hand to hand.”

Specifically, the government says Mr. Rubashkin engineered a scheme that illegally diverted millions of dollars in customer payments away from First Bank Business Capital, Inc., a subsidiary of St. Louis-based First Bank, which had issued him a $35 million revolving line of credit.

Rather than depositing payments into a depository account, as a loan agreement required, the government says Mr. Rubashkin put funds in a separate account used for his business. He then allegedly used third parties, including a kosher grocer and a Torah education program, to “launder” the funds to make it appear as if Agriprocessors had more funds coming in than were actually available.

The trial is expected to last four to six weeks. And then a second trial, on immigration-related charges, will start one week after the first trial ends.

Announcing a New Photo Blog: Real Jerusalem Streets

Announcement from a friend:

The Real Jerusalem Streets is a new photo blog showing day to day life in Jerusalem, which is not often what you see in the media.

Family not in Israel worried about the reported threats over Sukkot? Now they can see photos of some of the thousands of people out to celebrate, not the few trouble makers that get international press. Maybe coworkers in the office or lab want to know more about Israel after some negative photo in the paper?

Please pass on to your email list, we would like to inform as many people as possible about....... the Real Jerusalem Streets.

See the weekly posts.

Bulletin: President Obama Coming to Teaneck to Campaign for Corzine

U.S. President Barack Obama will speak at FDU in Teaneck on Wednesday 10/21 at a campaign event for New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine.

And now this Teaneck Police bulletin makes more sense to us:

The Teaneck Police Department is advising our community that on Sunday October 18, 2009 at approx. 2pm the New Jersey State Police NorthStar Helicopter will be participating in a police training exercise at Farleigh Dickinson University's main parking area (weather permitting).
Please do not be alarmed as the aircraft will be flying very low over the west side of the Township during this time frame. The general public is invited to watch the landing and take-off and there will be a designated safe area where you can park your car located on the extreme west side (closest to the river) of the main parking area to view the aircraft.

10/14/09

Is Pilot Chesley Sullenberger III Jewish?

We don't know, but we don't think that Pilot Chesley Sullenberger III is a Jew.

We don't think it matters what church he attends.

Whatever his religion, he is a true modern hero for landing a plane in distress today in the Hudson River and saving 155 lives.

Truly we give thanks that the hand of God guided his brave actions.

I cried when I saw live TV shots of the passengers standing on the wings of the plane in the river.

I knew I was a witness to a miracle.
(repost from 1-15-09)

Times: Michael Jackson's Estate Gets busted Triying to Steal Paul Anka's Song

We are sure that the Michael Jackson estate has a really good story to explain how it happened that they tried to steal a song co-written by Paul Anka.

But they were busted! And the outcome - even-steven royalty sharing.

What in the world were they thinking? Well of course! They weren't really thinking at all.

An entity made up of pure ego cannot cogitate.
Paul Anka to Get Half the Royalties for the New Michael Jackson Song
By Ben Sisario

Michael Jackson’s new song “This Is It” could prove a significant payday for Paul Anka. Although the song had been advertised as an unheard recording left behind by Mr. Jackson — and written by him alone — it became clear after it was released on Sunday night that “This Is It” was not new at all: it had been written by Mr. Jackson and Mr. Anka 26 years ago, and recorded by the singer Safire in 1991 as “I Never Heard.” Late Monday afternoon, the Jackson estate acknowledged Mr. Anka’s role and said he would be given credit. On Tuesday, the estate also confirmed that Mr. Anka would receive half of all due royalties for the song, which could be substantial. The song will play over the end credits of the film “This Is It” and feature prominently on its soundtrack. In addition, Mr. Anka would be owed fees for any licensed use of the song to commercials or other films. The Jackson estate is said to be in talks with Coca-Cola about possible use of “This Is It” in a large ad campaign, according to people with knowledge of the discussion who were not authorized to speak about it.

10/12/09

WSJ: Amazon Pays $150,000 in Kindle Copyright Aftermath Settlement

There's no more heinous a crime than a publisher who violates copyright law. It eats into the core of the enterprise mission of the firm and undermines the single essential relationship in the industry.

Unless... the publisher violates copyright and then, in trying to remedy the violation, destroys its clients' personal property.

Hard to imagine how this could happen except that it can in the strange world of Amazon's Kindle machine. From 10/1 -
Amazon Pays for Eating Student’s Homework

Amazon.com has settled a lawsuit with Justin D. Gawronski, a Michigan high school senior, whose copy of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” was deleted from his Kindle in July.

Gawronski claimed that when Amazon wirelessly deleted the book, it also got rid of notes he had taken on the device about the book, which he needed for a homework assignment.

In the settlement first dug up by the Seattle blog TechFlash, Amazon agreed that it would not “remotely delete or modify” digital books, magazines or newspapers on Kindles (with a few exceptions). Amazon also paid Gawronski’s law firm $150,000, with the stipulation that the money be donated to charity.

Amazon didn’t respond to a request for comment, but its CEO Jeff Bezos has apologized publicly for the incident.

Gawronski’s lawyer, Jay Edelson, says Amazon did “a lot of aggressive negotiating” to reach the settlement. “It is one thing for a CEO to go out and say we will never do it again. It is more serious when it is in a legal document and it establishes legal rights,” he said.

The settlement says that Amazon can still delete content from Kindles if they get a judicial order and if they need to stop a computer virus. The promise also doesn’t apply to third-party apps (which, as of yet, aren’t sold on the Kindle), or prevent the process by which “transient” content such as blogs and newspapers are replaced with newer content.

As for Gawronski, he only got a small payout. Several weeks ago, Amazon offered all of the people who lost the book to have it redelivered or given a $30 gift certificate. Gawronski chose the $30, according to his lawyers, because he had already re-started and completed his “Nineteen Eighty-Four” assignment.

Getting rich was never his client’s goal, Edelson said. “He was just interested in setting precedent in this new area of the law.”

10/11/09

Times: Kosher Shabbat Elevators

One facet of Orthodox Judaism is observing a set of Sabbath taboos - categories that quantify what is "rest" and what is "work."

This is part of the meditative mindfulness that is built into rabbinic life. Instead of observing a subjective day of "rest" Orthodox Jews have to mind many everyday activities to insure that they are observing an objective day of "rest."

That mindfulness can get tricky at times as the Times' writer points out in this story on Shabbat elevators, "Another Landlord Worry: Is the Elevator Kosher?" by PAUL VITELLO.
...Does that elevator “know” how many people are on it?

The question is at the core of a ruling issued by a group of prominent rabbis in Israel on Sept. 29 that seems to ban the use of many so-called Shabbos elevators: elevators fixed to stop on every floor from Friday evening until Saturday evening so that observant Jews do not have to press any buttons.

Since the 1960s, when high-rise apartment buildings became ubiquitous, the Orthodox rabbinate has made such elevators one of the few exceptions to Talmudic rules prohibiting 39 categories of activity on the Sabbath, including manual labor or the use of electrical devices. Like flipping a light switch, pressing an elevator button is considered the use of an electrical device....more...

10/9/09

Barack Obama Wins the Nobel Peace Prize - Is it good for the Jews?

We have been a supporter of Obama from day one because he is a visionary, a progressive and a man of peace.

His award of the Nobel Peace Prize confirms that others consider his record thus far astonishing. Just winning the election - that alone changed the landscape of our world. A black man is president of the United States.

If he did not one more thing, if he sat in office for 4 or 8 years on his hands, his accomplishment of being there more than merits the prize.

As the Passover prayer proclaims, Dayenu, that miracle would be enough. It says to every person in the non-white world that they can ascend and achieve. It empowers multitudes and changes human destiny.

This award to Obama is good for the Jews and good for all peace loving people on this planet.

We recall in this context just one event, his courageous speech in Cairo which we wrote about on June 4, 2009 as follows:

President Barack Obama cited the Talmud in his Cairo speech. Obama may be the first US president to cite the Talmud in a major international address.

It was not a particularly deep, meaningful or well-known citation. It was a passage from Gittin 59b, that was tacked on to his speech at the end, along with miscellaneous quotes from other religious texts. He said,
The Holy Koran tells us, "O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another."

The Talmud tells us: "The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace."

The Holy Bible tells us, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God."
Soncino translates the citation as: "But the whole of the Law is also for the purpose of promoting peace, as it is written, Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace?" (Prov. 3:17).

כל התורה כולה נמי מפני דרכי שלום היא דכתי׳ דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותיה שלום

It looks like Obama obtained his quote from a quick google search.

This was a long and content-rich address that needs to be studied and scrutinized, indeed like a Talmudic text, as a Time magazine writer suggested yesterday for another Obama document.

In the address, Obama enunciated clearly the basis for his support of Israel and reiterated his aversion to antisemitism and Holocaust denial:
America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed – more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.
More to follow.... (such as now, the award of the Nobel Peace Prize....)

10/8/09

CHE: Harvard: Where students don't matter much

Tragic. Harvard and many other research Universities do not even see their students on the radar. (Hat tip to Yochanan Hashlishi)
The 'Veritas' About Harvard
By Kevin Carey

What happens when the gods of high finance dump a gigantic pile of gold on the richest university in the world?

It sounds like the kind of hypothetical one might pose in a smoke-addled dorm room at 2 a.m. But it is, of course, what actually happened to Harvard University, along with a few of its elite competitors, over the last 20 years.

The answer is that the university reveals its true self. It shows the world what it cares about—and what it doesn't.

In 1990, Harvard had an endowment of about $4.7-billion. That was still a lot of money, about $7.7-billion in today's dollars. Only five other universities have that much money now. Over the next two decades the pile grew to colossal heights, $36.9-billion by mid-2008.

Harvard spent the money on many things. But not a dollar went to increasing the number of undergraduates it chose to bless with a Harvard education. In 1990 the university welcomed slightly more than 1,600 students to its freshman class. In 2008, $32-billion later, it enrolled slightly more than 1,600 freshmen.

That is remarkable stinginess. Harvard undergraduate degrees are immensely valuable, conferring a lifetime of social capital and prestige. The university receives many more highly qualified applicants than it chooses to admit. Because the existing class includes underqualified children of legacies, rich people, politicians, celebrities, and others who benefit from the questionable Ivy League admissions process, Harvard could presumably increase the size of its entering class by, say, 50 percent while improving the overall academic quality of the students it admits....more...

Is the new $10.88 Penguin Talmud by Norman Solomon worth the money?

Where can you get a new big book about the Talmud for $10.88? At Amazon. But is it worth the money?

Norman Solomon, a fellow in Modern Jewish Thought at the Oxford Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, has brought out a 900 page one-volume anthology of the Babylonian Talmud.

It's advertised as an intelligent selection of texts and an erudite translation. As the marketing text says,
The most important text in Judaism after the Old Testament— available for the first time in Penguin Classics

One of the most significant religious texts in the world, The Talmud is a compilation of the teachings of major Jewish scholars from the classic period of rabbinic Judaism. In a range of styles, including commentary, parables, proverbs, and anecdotes, it provides guidance on all aspects of everyday life. This selection of its most illuminating passages makes accessible to modern readers the centuries of Jewish thought contained within. Norman Solomon’s lucid translation from the Bavli (Babylonian) is accompanied by an introduction on The Talmud’s arrangement, social and historical background, reception, and authors.
And now we have a copy and we have read it.

This book has a lot of Talmud in it. It is nicely copy edited. The author demonstrates to you in this book his erudition and his wide reading of books about the Talmud and his mastery of Talmudic texts.

But is that worth $10.88 to you? If you are a friend or relative of Norman, yes. If you don't know him, but want to know about the Talmud, want to understand what the Talmud teaches, maybe...not.

A few questions came to our mind when reading this volume. What is the point of a book that calls itself, "The Talmud: A Selection"? Sure there are those who believe "Shakespeare: A Collection" is worth $10.88, even if you get not a single play, just selected scenes and acts from every one of them. Or there are those who are okay with a recorded collection called, "Classical Opera: A Selection" that serves up from the great corpus of Opera some famous, but mostly random, arias.

A lot of anti-Semites out there write nasty things about the Talmud, without any basis for them at all. We have to say that a nicely edited book full of random learning and erudition about the Talmud is a good thing, especially this book -- where it is clear that the author reveres the corpus.

On the other hand, good copy editing (which this book has) is not the same as good editing (which this book lacks). Here is one prominent paragraph at the head of the second major section of the book to illustrate what can be wrong when editors do not do their jobs -- page 94.
Introduction

Two tractates (Shabbat, Eruvin) cover the Sabbath laws in meticulous detail: Betza deals with their application to festivals. Appendix I has an explanation of the Jewish Calendar with a complete list of festivals.

Two festivals lack a dedicated tractate in this Order. Shavuot (Feast of Weeks, or of First Fruits) is to some extent covered in Bikkurim, in the Order Zeraim. Hanuka, however, comes in only for incidental mention, and this omission may have been politically motivated: perhaps Judah ha-Nasi, under Roman administration, deemed it imprudent to publish a tractate on a festival celebrating resistance to an occupying power.
Fine. We have here an introduction that is in fact an anti-introduction. When we call something an introduction, we enter into an agreement with the reader to introduce what follows, to summarize, epitomize, set the context, etc.

To say that the tractate covers laws of the Sabbath in "meticulous detail" without next telling us a single overriding concept, theme or notion, is tantamount to introducing Mozart by saying his music contains "a multitude of notes." It does and it does. Or not, who is to say what meticulous or multitude means?

To introduce an item of substance by telling us what is not there, not what is there, is a clever distraction, as is the reference preceding it to "Appendix I" and its "complete list of festivals." Why is that in an appendix when it should be here in the introduction? We don't know and we aren't going to find out, but we are supposed to be impressed with the completeness and careful cross-referencing of this tome to its supporting appendix. And for that reader anxious to dive right in and consume the laws for the festival of the Shavuot festival, well hold on there pardner, there ain't no such tractate.

And then we come to the part of this short anti-introduction avec speculation. Another thing that is not there, we are told, is a tractate on Hanuka, because "perhaps" it was "imprudent" to publish that. We get it. Rabbis could endorse all Jews lighting candles for eight days in public in their doorways and that was prudent. But writing a few pages in an esoteric written rabbinic code about doing just that would be "imprudent." Okay then, we now know what a perfect anti-introduction looks like.

The subsequent individual chapter headings do try to focus back on the content that is there. But they do not succeed in focusing any light any sharper. And so without further ado, the first excerpt presented in tractate Shabbat makes reference to the festival of Hanuka.

A lot of heat in this doorway, but not a lot of light. We really wanted to like this book. But that would be imprudent.

10/6/09

Twins Win in Metrodome in the Bottom of 12th - Watch Out Yankees!


Homer hankies waving, the Twins Won tonight in the Metrodome in the Bottom of 12th - Watch Out Yankees!

Nobody wanted to leave the stadium after the game. It reminded us of game 7 of the 1991 World Series at the Dome. We were there behind home plate. The best ballgame we ever saw - ten innings (picture above). The 1991 World Series ranked by ESPN as the best ever.

Is Family Guy's Wife Lois Griffin Jewish?



Yes, in Sunday night’s episode, “Family Goy,” the matriarch of Seth MacFarlane’s Animated show Family Guy, Lois Griffin, learned that she is a Jew and then conducted a Seder during which Stewie recited a berakhah in perfect Hebrew. [Hat tip to Mimi. 10/6/2009]

10/5/09

Orthodox Leaders: Punish Wrongdoers with Sermons and Deter them with Seminars

We simply cannot make this stuff up.

Orthodox leaders have announced with pride (!) that they are going to combat the outbreak of serious high crimes and misdemeanors that Jews have committed this year with... sermons!

Oh - my - goodness. Not sermons! Anything but that!

Ben Harris of JTA reported that, "Yeshiva University President Richard Joel was one of six Modern Orthodox leaders who signed on to a letter asking pulpit rabbis to address Jewish ethics in their High Holidays sermons."

Harris says, "The Orthodox world has been paying markedly greater attention this holiday season to promoting Jewish ethical behavior."

And don't think they are doing this with sermons alone. No. They are also holding "seminars on the topic" and have published two books on Jewish business ethics.

That should do it - the one, two, three punch of sermons, seminars and books. You won't see any more Jewish crooks for a while!

But wait, there is more, just for good measure, they are throwing in a story about the world to come. Nothing deters evildoers like a scary story about hell fire and brimstone - or in this case about a serious interrogation, or actually about being asked one direct question.

"Noah Alper, founder of the Noah’s Bagels chain, notes in his new book 'Business Mensch' that the first question departed souls are asked by the heavenly court is how did they conduct their business."

Now we've got them where we want them. We know that Jewish crooks like Bernie Madoff, Ezra Merkin, Marc Dreier et. al. would never lie in heaven.

We commend our Orthodox leadership for their ingenious and diligent work - as usual.

Is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Jewish?


Yes, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was born a Jew according to the Daily Telegraph as JTA reports.
British paper claims Ahmadinejad born Jewish

LONDON (JTA) -- The author of a book on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is refuting a British newspaper report that the Iranian president was born to a Jewish family that converted to Islam.

The Daily Telegraph based its report Saturday on Ahmadinejad's original family name of Sabourjian, which according to the article is a common Iranian Jewish name, especially among those from Aradan, where the Iranian president was born.

The paper claimed that the family converted to Islam when Ahmadinejad was 4 years old and published a picture of the Iranian leader holding up his identity card during last year’s election campaign in a way that shows his family's previous name.

But in a blog on the Guardian Web site, Meir Javedanfar, co-author of "The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran," wrote Monday that rumors that Ahmadinejad's family converted to Islam from Judaism are false.

Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli Middle East analyst, said Ahmadinejad's father was a religious Shia Muslim who taught the Koran before and after the Iranian president's birth and their move to Tehran.

The newspaper reported that Sabourjian means cloth weaver, or specifically tallit weaver. It adds that the word "sabour" means tallit, and the suffix "jian" indicates that his family was practicing Jews. The Telegraph also reported that the name is included in an Iranian Home Ministry list of names reserved for Iranian Jews.

Ahmadinejad has never denied that his family changed its name when it moved to Tehran in the 1950s, but has never stated the family’s original name.

The Talmudic Discourse

10/1/09

Was Michael Jackson Jewish?

No, Michael Jackson was not a Jew.

Like many celebrities Michael explored various religions. His parents were Jehovah's Witnesses. He practiced that until the Jehovah's Witnesses criticized his Thriller album.

In 2007, he studied Islam at the urging of his brother Jermaine who converted to Islam. There were unconfirmed rumors that Michael converted to Islam in 2008.

Michael was seen at times wearing the red string symbol of Kabbalah.

Michael spent some time several years ago with celebrity rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who recently has published a controversial book of interviews with Michael. The book has been criticized by Jackson's fans and by readers on Amazon.