Do You Have An Accent?

So here is the question of the moment, Do You Have An Accent? Not clear on what the meaning is, take a look at this link.
accent
The latter part of the definition is really what we are talking about.
The word accent in English is also understood to mean the pronunciation and speech patterns that are typical of a speech community;
As a child I never realized that all people have accents, or should I say that it never occurred to me that people would think that my own speech has an accent. I grew up on the West Coast, Los Angeles born and bred. We didn't sound like people from Long Island, Brooklyn, Nashville or Alpharetta.

And we certainly didn't sound like we had rolled out of Tel Aviv, JoBurg, Sydney or Mexico City. To be clear, I have always enjoyed accents. It tickled me pink to hear people speak English yet sound so different. In fact, there was a point in time in which I was disappointed that I couldn't speak with an English accent, but that was short lived.

It was during that famous summer of 1985 trip to Israel that I learned that people thought that I had an accent. I don't remember exactly when it happened, but I do remember some Israeli boy telling me that I speak Hebrew with a thick American accent.

Whoa. What do you mean that I have an accent.

One of the other people with me confirmed it. He was a Jewish kid from Buenos Aires. He said that I sounded like an American.

I was truly dumbfounded by this because until that point, I had never thought of myself as having an accent, that was something that other people had. But I had to admit that it made sense, it hadn't ever come up before.

In the years that have passed I have been told by others that I have an accent and I am sure that many of my international readers would agree with this. Upon occasion people tell me that they can hear some East Coast influence, or that pronounce some things like a Chicagoan.

I laugh when people think that I am from New York. IMO, my voice doesn't sound like that at all. If I am around people with a thick Southern accent it is not unusual for me to start to affect a drawl. I have been asked if I am from Texas.

As for Chicago, well half my family is from there, including my mother so there is probably some truth to that.

One of the funnier occasions came during a wedding I once attended. The bride was Irish and quite a large number of the guests had come to the states to help her celebrate her nupitals. During the reception I walked over to the bar and placed an order for a drink.

The bartender smiled and began preparing it. While he was doing so he looked at me and said:

"I have Irish relatives. What part of Ireland are you from?"

I laughed and said "Hollywood."

The bartender scratched his head and said "Wow, you know that we have a city called Hollywood too."

Now I'd like to say that it was an easy mistake to make. I'd like to say that he was competing with the band and that some trombonist was especially loud, but that wouldn't be true. The band was on a break. It was relatively quiet so I said,

"Begorra, this ale do taste mighty fine."

It probably sounded more like pirate than Irish, but it fit my mood and was lot kinder than asking him if I looked like Lucky the Leprechaun from the Lucky Charms cereal box.


And while we are on the topic of accents let me share something else. Someone once told me that Australian women loved to hear American men speak. The legend said that if you found a nice Australian girl your voice would give you an edge. As a scientist I have always been disappointed that I couldn't test that theory. In the interest of discovery and human development I would have enjoyed running a lab on that.

Anyhooo.................................................

Let's go back to the topic of the post. Do You Have an Accent?

Well, do you? And if so, how would you describe it?

My Theme Song

Someone once suggested that life would be far more fun if we could walk around with a theme song. I kind of like the idea. If I could do it than I would want to have a rotation of songs to use.

For example, here are the top five I would want right now:
  1. O Fortuna- Orff
  2. Hurt- Johnny Cash version
  3. Raiders Of The Lost Ark: The Raiders' March- John Williams
  4. Jaws Theme- John Williams
  5. The Empire Strikes Back: The Imperial March- John Williams

Do You Have Blog Envy Part II

It is close to a year since I wrote part I and not much has changed. I'd like to say that I have grown and matured a lot, but I am not so sure that it is accurate.

I still have feelings of frustration. My best posts are often overlooked and for the most part there is at best a smattering of comments. That is not always the case. There are posts that draw quite a bit of attention and a chunk of comments from the readers, but not always.

My position on why I blog hasn't changed. I don't do it for the comments. I don't do it with the hope of receiving a book deal. I do it because I enjoy it.

But....

I am like so many others. I appreciate the comments. If someone wanted to give me a book deal I would certainly have to entertain it, why not.

As I sit here in mobile office I can say that I was wrong. The blog has matured and has grown. I feel like I have a real rhythm and style. I know that I have a set of readers who visit repeatedly. I am still surprised that so many people do and that so many of you enjoy the crap I spew out here, but I appreciate it.

So in the midst of another new year here is my number one goal for this blog. I want to improve upon my writing. I want to try and raise my game and make the words just sing. I want the text to shout. I want it to feel like there are layers upon layers of texture and color. I want to write well enough that you feel like you are standing next to me, experiencing these tales together.

In the end I have to strive for this because I believe it to be true and because this is what I teach my children. You have to work hard and you have to practice. So I cannot give up on my writing. I cannot close this outlet, not yet.

Now is when I need to dig in and try harder. And there you have it, my confession. I want more. I need more from myself and if I can do that successfully everything else will come.

Do I have blog envy? Yes, I do. I admit it. But I am going to use it to motivate me. So if you are still up for another spin on the carousel I invite you to climb on pick out a horse or pony to ride.

Get comfortable, the ride will be starting soon.

Just Some Links to Some Old Posts

There is a lot going on, so much to say and so much to write about and so little time. If you are bored with the current selection try one of these:
What Do You Call Your Blog?
The Story of Two Souls
My Daughter's Favorite Book
A Little Digestive Distress- Chicken Vindaloo
I Had a Dream
The Search For Answers About Ourselves
The Most Time Consuming Part of Blogging
Cheap Sunglasses
The Supermarket
Why I Blog

Funny Newspaper Clippings


Hat Tip here and here.

Road Show, Israel Style- Daniel Gordis

Daniel Gordis released another dispatch that is worth reading. Take a look at these selections.

"Sometimes, a simple drive on a highway in the Jewish State is all is takes to restore perspective, to revive hope. A road, its exits, the places to which they lead and the history they recall – and you suddenly find yourself with faith in the future restored. If only all of us could take those drives. For especially light of these past months of grief and of disappointment, of coming to terms with the war that we lost (as a senior IDF general admitted publicly yesterday), what we need is perspective, a reminder of where the Jewish people was just decades ago, and how far we’ve come."
And
"And then, one day in the middle of the war, I was driving the Jerusalem - Tel Aviv highway. This time, staring aimlessly out the windshield, I found myself looking at the metal remains scattered alongside the road. I drive the road so often that I hardly ever notice them anymore, but this time, I did. Immobile, but carefully painted so as to preserve them, lay the shells of the trucks that were destroyed as Jews tried to break the Jordanian siege on Jerusalem in 1948. The carcasses of these trucks were a reminder, a source of perspective. If you had told someone in 1948, when Jews in Jerusalem were besieged and out of food, water and medicine that we’d be OK, you’d have sounded like a dreamer. You’ve have had nothing on which to base your confidence. Except, perhaps, for perspective, and for the knowledge that in the end, the Jews have always figured out how to survive. That there is something about our people that defies explanation, but which is real, no less real than any of the challenges we face.

The highway is a reminder of that. The road from Tel Aviv to the capital road still snakes its way up through the hills to Jerusalem. And Israel is still surrounded by enemies. But the difference? Jerusalem is rebuilt, and thriving. And the main problem that we have on that road now is the traffic. Sixty years after the siege, our problem is too many Jews in Jerusalem. Jerusalem overflowing with Jews, living in and visiting the Jewish State. It’s a good problem to have. And not one that we thought we’d have back in 1945.

Further on down the road, I pass the exit for Latrun, the site of devastating battles in the War of Independence, the same Latrun that Ariel Sharon tried to conquer when he was a young commander. But he failed. His troops literally dying of thirst in the sun-scorched battlefield because they didn’t even have canteens, Sharon had to withdraw. And today? There’s a tank museum there. And at the amphitheater there, Israeli soldiers are inducted into their army units in ceremonies overflowing with pride and with confidence, a reality wholly other than what witnesses of Sharon’s battle would have believed the future would hold. "
Perspective- think about it.

Excerpts From the National Intelligence Estimate

The latest brouhaha is in regard to the leaked portion of National Intelligence Estimate that some people and news sources have used to prove that the current war in Iraq has made the US less safe.

To refute this point the Bush administration has declassified more of the report. CNN has a copy here. I read it and wanted to share some selections from it with you.
"We assess that the Iraq jihad is shaping a new generation of terrorist leaders and operatives; perceived jihadist success there would inspire more fighters to continue the struggle elsewhere.

• The Iraq conflict has become the “cause celebre” for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement. Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight.

We assess that the underlying factors fueling the spread of the movement outweigh its vulnerabilities and are likely to do so for the duration of the timeframe of this Estimate.

• Four underlying factors are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement: (1) Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness; (2) the Iraq “jihad;” (3) the slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations; and (4) pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims—all of which jihadists exploit.

Concomitant vulnerabilities in the jihadist movement have emerged that, if fully exposed and exploited, could begin to slow the spread of the movement. They include dependence on the continuation of Muslim-related conflicts, the limited appeal of the jihadists’ radical ideology, the emergence of respected voices of moderation, and criticism of the violent tactics employed against mostly Muslim citizens."
And
"The jihadists’ greatest vulnerability is that their ultimate political solution —an ultra-conservative interpretation of shari’a-based governance spanning the Muslim world—is unpopular with the vast majority of Muslims. Exposing the religious and political straitjacket that is implied by the jihadists’ propaganda would help to divide them from the audiences they seek to persuade.

• Recent condemnations of violence and extremist religious interpretations by a few notable Muslim clerics signal a trend that could facilitate the growth of a constructive alternative to jihadist ideology: peaceful political activism. This also could lead to the consistent and dynamic participation of broader Muslim communities in rejecting violence, reducing the ability of radicals to capitalize on
passive community support. In this way, the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror.

• Countering the spread of the jihadist movement will require coordinated multilateral efforts that go well beyond operations to capture or kill terrorist leaders.

If democratic reform efforts in Muslim majority nations progress over the next five years, political participation probably would drive a wedge between intransigent extremists and groups willing to use the political process to achieve their local objectives. Nonetheless, attendant reforms and potentially destabilizing transitions will create new opportunities for jihadists to exploit."
And now for the two minute analysis. So what do we make of this. In short there are several things. Iraq is a key issue. The perception of the outcome there is very important. If the US and company are perceived to have lost this war then it is likely that it will serve as a tool to increase terrorism.

If we win, well then it appears that it will serve to reduce the number of terrorists that are being recruited into the fold.

That win is a combination of military and political solutions, ie the establishment of some sort of democratic society. However, it is not clear that this is something that can be established there yet, so I am not holding my breath.

What is most clear is that any sort of real reform has to come about because of changes within the Muslim world. We can push, pull, tug, beg, plead and cajole, but without their participation it is just not going to happen.

How You Found Me

Here is a short snapshot of some of the search terms you used to find me:
random thoughts
yalla ya nasralla
women's voices men hearing
men and emotions
whiskey lullaby song meaning
anger management funny
the nasrallah song
justice scalia's thoughts on living constitution
fish meaning prison
jack is a sexy man
meaning of currency
dennis wolfberg
dr.seuss and worth war two
boy sit to pee
giant asian hornet
besheret vs. basheret
besheret
meaning to five
will you walk with me and december 2005
shakira la tortura meaning
meaning of birthday
tai kwan leap
story for kids that happened on yom kippur
3.13% the meaning of tears
the giant asian hornet
the hedyot
blessing children
incredible orgasms
marni levine
dead walking
darren sherman j date

Walking With The Dead

The beauty of a child's desire to ask "why" is that it forces you to take a hard look at your own beliefs. Do you tell your daughter that she was carved from Adam's rib or do you explain that she evolved from monkeys.

When my grandfather died this past June I knew that it would be a source of many questions for my son. So when I told him that grandpa had died I tried to do the best that I could to make it easy. At 5.5 there is no reason to overly complicate things, but at the same time I do my best to be quite honest with him. I don't want him to be afraid to live his life. I want him to savor and enjoy it and part of that comes from removing the mystery of the things that scare us.

But that is easier said than done and not something that you can accomplish with the snap of a finger or the roll of the dice.

One of the things that my son has been mulling over is the cemetery. It is a place that he was intrigued by. In his mind it was frightening, but at the same time his curiosity made him want to go visit.

As I mentioned above I think that part of the way that we overcome fear is to try and understand whatever it is that frightens us. So with this in mind I thought that it made sense to take him to the cemetery. At the same time I wanted to be certain that he was truly comfortable with it.

During a conversation a couple of weeks ago he asked me again if I would take him on a special trip to see grandpa and I agreed to do so. I then intentionally waited a while to try and gauge where he was at, not to mention that my work schedule conflicted with the hours that the cemetery was open.

We finally got a chance to go and I have to admit that it was with some trepidation that I set out with him. My concern wasn't because of my son. I was confident that he would be alright and we both agreed that if he changed his mind I would turn the car around.

No, it was because of me.

I hadn't been back to the grave since the day of the funeral. And in some respects I wasn't ready to go and see the place where grandpa was buried. As I drove along the 405 I felt myself get a little choked up and I found myself lost in memory.

I turned on the radio and Vin Scully's voice helped bring me some peace. My first Dodger game was with grandpa and my dad. The Dodgers beat the Padres. There were fireworks, Farmer John Hot dogs (if you are a Dodger fan how can you not associate Scully and Farmer John) and peanuts and so much fun.

By the time I entered the cemetery and was headed up the hillside I was ready to handle any question that the little boy threw at me. So I parked the car and walked over to the grass.

We held hands and walked towards the grave. I looked down and saw a somber face taking it all in.

"It is really green here dad."

"Aye, it is."

Don't ask me when I became Scottish or began saying "aye." I just know that for a moment or two it was what came out of my throat.

We reached the grave and I sat down. He came around and sat on my lap and together we read the name on the marker and then the name on the tombstone of the grave next to it.

"Hey, that is grandma."

"You are right, it is."

"I wish that I could see grandma now"

"Do you still remember her?"

"No."

"Well, you were only 2.5 when she died. She really loved you and so did grandpa. As I said that there was a big sigh from both of us and he buried his little head against my chest. We hugged each other tight and sat quietly for a moment.

And then suddenly he stood up and asked if we could go on an adventure. I said yes and together we walked down the hillside looking for bad guys. In no time at all I had to explain to him that it wasn't ok to hop from tombstone to tombstone.

He smiled and said "ok, we can just walk with the dead."

It was an interesting response, but I knew that what it really meant was that he felt comfortable. The cemetery was no longer such a scary place to him.

As we walked back to the car I turned back and looked graveside. I was hoping to see grandpa standing there waving goodbye, if only in my mind. But all I saw were the leaves blowing in the wind and the long branches of a tree swaying.

It may not have been what I wanted but my son felt better and that was enough.

Scared To Comment

This post has received more than 1,023,083 visitors and yet less than one percent of the visitors have left a comment.

Make of that what you will.

Is Your Blog Open On Shabbos?

A question for those bloggers who are Shomer Shabbos, but really for anyone who wishes to answer.

If you had a choice would you close your blog for Shabbos? Does it bother you that people are reading/commenting upon it during Shabbos?

The floor is open.

Vietnamese Israeli family takes a long trip 'home'

I thought that this was interesting.
"In 1977, an Israeli cargo ship nearing Japan spotted a leaking boat crammed with 66 Vietnamese men, women and children out of food and water.

They were among the hundreds of thousands of "boat people," fleeing their war-ravaged country following the end of the Vietnam War. Despite desperate SOS signals, the refugees' distress had been ignored by passing ships from East Germany, Norway, Japan and Panama.

The Israeli ship picked up the weakened passengers and took them back to Israel. There, Prime Minister Menachem Begin authorized their permanent admission to Israel, comparing their plight to that of Europe's Jewish refugees seeking a haven in the 1930s.

What happened to the Vietnamese refugees, and the hundreds that followed them, in "the land of the Jews"?

In one of the opening scenes of the Israeli film "The Journey of Vaan Nguyen" (screening locally on Sept. 30), Hanmoi Nguyen, one of the original refugees, has been in Israel for 25 years. He works hard in a Tel Aviv restaurant, lives modestly, and with his wife is raising five Israel-born, Hebrew-speaking daughters.

The oldest girl, Vaan, is a writer, has served in the army and feels Israeli -- except for her looks. In their classic up-front style, her fellow sabras keep asking her whether her eyes are slanted because she eats so much rice and if she is related to this or that Chinese martial arts star.

In the evenings, the father writes Vietnamese poetry and joins his friends in nostalgic songs about the beautiful land they left behind.

In Vietnam, Hanmoi Nguyen was the son of a wealthy landowner, and he dreams of returning to his village to reclaim the property and settle scores with the communist functionary who kicked him out at gunpoint.

He scrapes together enough money for the trip and returns to a land and a people he hardly recognizes. In a curious parallel to the Holocaust survivors who returned to their homelands to reclaim their old homes, he is met with suspicion and hostility by the new inhabitants and red tape by officials.

Even the hated communist functionary, like the Nazi bully in Germany, is now a nice old man who urges that bygones be bygones.

After a few months, daughter Vaan joins her father to dig for her own roots. She is happy that people on the street look like her, but has trouble negotiating the language and has no patience with the elaborate circumlocutions of social intercourse.

To the natives, Vaan herself has become a foreigner, and she laments, "I am a tourist, I am an Israeli."

The agony of being suspended between two civilizations, without being fully at home in either one, is sensitively, at times heartbreakingly, portrayed, but the film by Israel's Duki Dror (a UCLA alumnus) is not without humor.

One hilarious scene shows the newly arrived boat people being welcomed by an effusive Jewish Agency representative in Hebrew, of which the polite audience doesn't understand a word.

Shortly afterward, an equally enthusiastic integration official tries to teach the refugees a lively Chanukah song.

On the reverse side, the returned father tries to explain Israel to puzzled Vietnamese villagers. He finally comes up with, "They have one lake and eat strange foods."

For the Full Story Click here.

A Bad Job

And That Is The Way that it Was- A New Year's Reflection

So as promised I am trying to produce a relatively short state of the blog. It is not easy. There are so very many posts to sift through and I am getting started far too late to do this properly. But I'll give it a try and we'll see how it goes.

Last September was filled with posts about Katrina, a post dedicated to Bob Denver, a rundown of my experience in the ladies room, information about firewalking, birth control, the Marx Brothers, where I am from, teenage sex, 31 years of friendship, Havana Gila, and some of my comments about the Southern Baptists.

In October I wrestled about some New Year's thoughts and the usual animal story. We talked about whether you could have too much sex and interspersed more thoughts about my grandparents.

There was also the post about actors with bad accents and of course I bored folks with more political commentary. There were also musings about the Akedah, Yom Kippur and more ranting about the Southern Baptists.

My post about The ACLU received a lot of attention as did posts about the car accident I was in as did some posts about my children. Halloween was covered as was the value of a college degree. There were assorted conversations about values and more. It was a busy month.

November was a busy month. There were the many experiences with the hate mail from my troll and time with Scooby Doo. Moneyball played a game and who can forget The Germophobe. There were posts about France burning, Haveil Havalim #43 and gems about my kids. See, they are a constant theme.

Things got nasty with a new troll but I found a way to distract myself by discussing peanut butter. I even got a chance to discuss bullies and Winston Churchill. The Flying Spaghetti Monster made an appearance as did Pat Robertson.

Wow, as I look back I can see it was a very busy month. It really got a little nutty when I said that Happy Holidays is An Appropriate Greeting. Religion maintained its place as did science. I wondered if Judaism requires G-d and asked parents to share their children's most irritating toys.

There is so much more, but I don't want this post to be exceptionally long so we'll move on to December.

The month began with a bang with news about the first Western female sucide bomber, picture of the Crab Nebula and a post in which I made fun of curling. As usual I found that the serious topics received fewer comments. My post about actors from the 80s was a hit but it didn't get as much attention as asking if people had Blog Envy.

I found the blurb about the Titanic to be very interesting. I had a post called Why I blog that was followed by the question of How Many Blogs Do you Read? A little later I Beat Up Santa Claus.

There were all sorts of different posts about things that caught my eye, feelings I had about life and a tribute to my son on the occasion of his fifth birthday.

In January I continued with posts about blogging. They consistently receive the most comments. This theme proved to be true as my posts about the JIBs received quite a bit of attention.

It was the also the month in which I learned that I am just Not That Funny. It was also the month in which my son and I talked about MLK and why people hate others.

WHOA!!!!!!!!

I am far too short on time to continue this so I am going to shift gears and share a few thoughts. I find reviewing my old posts to be hard. All too often I cringe when I read them. It seems to me that I have written this before, so I am not going to belabor the point.

A new year is upon us. I choose to view this as an opportunity to be taken. A time of hope and of joy. It is also a time of sadness and reflection.

It is a time to look inwards and ask the hard questions. I ask the questions that we often don't want to. Am I the man I want to be.

If you think about it that is a very deep and profound question. I am not going to get into it here, but I take it seriously.

When I daven (pray) there is a point in time in which I always pull my tallis over my head. I do it to try and help me to focus. I want to block out all distractions. It is important to me to have that moment.

I always remind my children that no matter how loved they are, at the end of the day we are alone with ourselves and it is important that we be able to enter slumber time feeling good about ourselves.

And so I wish you all very sweet and plesant year. May this be a year in which we see a more peaceful world. A year in which the sick are healed and life improved for all.

שנה טובה וחג שמח

כתיבה וחתימה טובה

Seinfeld In Prison

Ahmadinejad Says That Zionists Are Not Jews

Just a quick comment here.

The Washington Post has a transcript of Ahmadinejad's news conference. It would be easy to call the man names, to say that he is a certified wack job, but it would create issues. In particular it is a huge mistake to view the man as being crazy.

He is very deliberate in his approach. If you ignore the statements that are downright controversial it would be easy to minimize the danger he represents. Take a look at this:
"Many governments and groups that had no role in World War II, regretfully, are impacted by the consequences of World War II."
Every situation in the world is impacted by the past and it is simply foolish to pretend that we can ignore the things that took place. We cannot say that situation xyz was the responsibility of our grandparents or great grandparents and pretend that we do not have to deal with the outcome. We do.

The question is to what extent. Life is often complex and things are complicated. But I don't want to get bogged down by this. Let's move on to his comment about Zionists.

"These Zionists, I want to tell you, are not Jews. That's the biggest deception we've ever faced.

Zionists are Zionists, period. They are not Jews, they are not Christians, and they are not Muslims. They are a power group, a power party. And we oppose oppression and the aggression that any party that seeks pure power, raw power goes after."

This is a very dangerous statement. What he is attempting to do here is dehumanize the people he calls Zionists. The nazis did the same thing and we all know what path that led down. It would be a mistake not to point out his actions and to make it clear that he is being watched very carefully.

Let's not forget that he said on a number of occasions that he would like to see Israel wiped off o the map. Don't be fooled by the words of a snake.

Jumping on Jameel's Coat tails

Ok, Jameel has compiled an end of the year review of his blog. And now it seems I am inspired to try and follow suit.

I make no promises as my time is restricted and I probably have close to a thousand posts to run through. Seriously, it is around that, give or take a hundred.

For those who are wondering in the 2.5 years that I have been blogging I have constructed more than 4,000 posts. Not all of them are still in existence as some have been removed for various reasons.

However, the majority are still up there. So we will see if old Jack can come up with the time and energy to take on this project.

ANTI-AHMADINEJAD RALLY

For a rundown on the rally you can check out Atlas Shrugs, Yourish, Boker Tov Boulder, One Jerusalem and many others.

It is worth following. Take a look.

Grandpa, Dad and I

In the prior post The Pain In My Grandfather's Eyes I spent a few minutes reminiscing about my grandfather and an experience that I shared with him. This post should in theory be a little bit different, hopefully I won't muck it up too badly.

Growing up I didn't know anyone with the same last name. It wasn't until I got to be teenager that I even came across someone with the same name and we couldn't figure out any sort of relationship.

My grandfather was one of five but his only brother never married and never had any kids. My father's younger brother died twelve years ago. He didn't have any children either. So for those of you keeping score that made me the keeper of the line, a responsibility that is now being passed on down to my son.

While I consider myself to have been very close with all of my grandparents, it was a little different with my grandfather. In part it is the shared name. In part it was because I remember the time after my grandmother died and before he got remarried. In part it is just because of the nature of how things work.

My father and his father were very close and I was very close with both of them. It is easy for me to see how they both impacted me. I have habits that I can attribute to both of them. Physically I am much bigger than my grandfather was, in that I more closely take after my father. But aspects of my temperment are far closer to my grandfather than my father.

I am a blend, a mutt. And should my other grandfather read this he should know that I definitely have my share of his traits as well. And you know grandpa that I don't say things like that just to say them.

Anyway...With the new year approaching I naturally have been thinking about what has happened and where I have been. And I find that I miss my grandfather more than ever. I miss the friendship that we had developed.

We were always close, but after I became a father our relationship changed. As I came to understand what it meant to be the sole source of income and to understand the awesome challenge of raising children it grew deeper.

I miss having him around to bullshit with. I miss just sitting in the living room with him and my father. Sometimes the three of us would say nothing, just stare off into space or drift off into sleep in our recliners. The silence was never awkward. It was natural.

I miss the road trips that the three of us would take, the trips to Dodger games, movies and more. I miss the secure feeling that I got just knowing that if I had a problem I could call either one of them.

Back in that crazy summer of '04 I spoke with him about what it would be like after he was gone. He smiled and told me that I shouldn't worry about it. I told him that I didn't, but that I would miss having him around.

He smiled again and told me that even though his own father had died close to thirty years earlier he still missed being able to speak with him. And then he said that I would just figure it out.

And that my friends is in some respects the quintessential summation of our philosophy for living. Life isn't fair and it isn't always easy. Get over it and figure it out.

I have to print that out and give it to my kids. In another 20 years or so they'll really appreciate it.

The new year is coming and I can feel the chill of his absence but the memories warm my soul. Time for this old man to run.

Lailah tov from LA.

The Pain In My Grandfather's Eyes

It feels like forever since my grandfather passed away. I think that in part this is because he started to slip away long before his soul left his body.

Some people claim that his mind had started to go and at just short of 92 it is not totally unreasonable. I disagree with this. His mental faculties were intact, but his emotional capacity to deal with a body that no longer functioned as he wanted to was worn down.

Though we try to outrun the coming darkness there is a time in which we cannot maintain the pace and slowly the sun begins to set. In some respects it was like watching a row of dominos collapse. First his legs began to give him trouble and after a while he needed a cane to help him get around.

That worked for a while and then his pelvis gave out, there was a fracture and a stay at a rehab facility. There were various hospital stays for odds and ends. Things that never would have slowed him down suddenly turned into issues and led to other issues.

This is how it went. He would face some sort of medical challenge and slowly but surely he would overcome it. And each time he would come back home I would see that the fire in his eyes still burned, but the truth was that sometimes it was dimmer than before.

My grandfather was fiercely independent and I know without question that if his body had held up better his will to live would have kept him around longer. It is selfish of me to say that, but it is true.

As his body went, he retreated into memories of happier times. He became less responsive. It began to be more of a challenge to get him to talk. I worked on it. I tried to get him to tell me those stories that I loved so much. It didn't matter that I had heard them a thousand times, I never got tired of them.

I can tell many of them, virtually word for word, but they lack the authenticity that he gave them. There are many to choose from but some stand out from the others. One in particular struck me.

It was the summer of 2004. The summer in which my father nearly died. For that reason alone it is a summer that I will never forget, but in regards to this particular story here is the relevance.

My grandfather was telling me stories about the Chicago of his youth. Interspersed were tales of his time with the carnival and of winters in New Orleans. At one point he changed gears and told me of a disagreement that he had had with his father.

The details of the disagreement aren't important to this story. What really struck me was the hitch in his voice and the pain in his eyes as he told me this story. He remembered feeling ashamed that he had disappointed his father more than seventy years earlier.

So much time had passed, but sometimes the pain we experience doesn't always go away. For a brief moment I could see the young man that my grandfather had been. For a moment I was able to relate to him in a way that I had never had before. For a moment the pain in my grandfather's eyes took me back in time and then it was gone.

And now, so is he.

What Do You Like Best About Your Blog?

So here is the question of the moment. What aspect/feature do you like best about your blog?

What I am Listening To Now

Here is snapshot of what is playing on my iPod now.
Crawling
Linkin Park
In the End
Linkin Park
Blue Monday
Orgy
Hate Me
Blue October
Harry's Game
Clannad
The Adventure
Angels & Airwaves
Bring Me to Life
Evanescence
Precious
Depeche Mode
Burn Down The Mission
Elton John
May It Be
Enya
The Memory of Trees
Enya
La Soñadora
Enya
Insomnia (Monster Mix)
Faithless
If You Could Read My Mind
Gordon Lightfoot
Boulevard of Broken Dreams
Green Day
Knockin' On Heaven's Door
Guns N' Roses
Gollum's Song - performed by Emiliana Torrini
Howard Shore
The Breaking of the Fellowship (Featuring "In Dreams")
Lord Of The Rings Soundtrack
It's Been Awhile
Staind
Fire on Babylon
Sinéad O'Connor
Gone Away
The Offspring
Somebody Told Me
The Killers
Mr. Brightside
The Killers
Crazy
Gnarls Barkley
Joey
Concrete Blonde
Carry That Weight
The Beatles
Lay, Lady, Lay
Bob Dylan
The Fire Inside
Bob Seger
Nobody's Fault But Mine
Led Zeppelin
Long Walk to Freedom (Halala South Africa)
Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Criticizing Islam

During the past year there have been numerous issues surrounding the Islamic world and the west.

Daniel Pipes has an essay in which he comments on the controversy surrounding the pope and provides some background on the response of some members of the Muslim world to things that they find offensive. Pipes also comments on whether this was an intentional remark by the pope. Let's take a look:

"Whatever the pope's purpose, he prompted the near-predictable furor in the Muslim world. Religious and political authorities widely condemned the speech, with some calling for violence.

  • In Britain, while leading a rally outside Westminster Cathedral, Anjem Choudary of Al-Ghurabaa called for the pope "to be subject to capital punishment."
  • In Iraq, the Mujahideen's Army threatened to "smash the crosses in the house of the dog from Rome" and other groups made blood-curdling threats.
  • In Kuwait, an important website called for violent retribution against Catholics.
  • In Somalia, the religious leader Abubukar Hassan Malin urged Muslims to "hunt down" the pope and kill him "on the spot."
  • In India, a leading imam, Syed Ahmed Bukhari, called on Muslims to "respond in a manner which forces the pope to apologise."
  • A top Al-Qaeda figure announced that "the infidelity and tyranny of the pope will only be stopped by a major attack."

The Vatican responded by establishing an extraordinary and unprecedented security cordon around the pope. Further away, the incitement spurred some violence, with more likely on the way. Seven churches were attacked in the West Bank and Gaza, one in Basra, Iraq (prompting this ironic headline at the "RedState" blog: "Pope implies Islam a violent religion ... Muslims bomb churches"). The murder of an Italian nun in Somalia and two Assyrians in Iraq also appear connected.

Second reflection: this new round of Muslim outrage, violence, and murder has a by-now routine quality. Earlier versions occurred in 1989 (in response to Salman Rushdie's novel, The Satanic Verses), 1997 (when the U.S. Supreme Court did not take down a representation of Muhammad), 2002 (when Jerry Falwell called Muhammad a terrorist), 2005 (the fraudulent Koran-flushing episode), and February 2006 (the Danish cartoon incident)."

It is no secret that there are people who claim that there is a war against Islam. Most of those people fall into the category of what some people would call Radical Muslims. As you can see from the Pipes essay there is a history of these types of reactions many of which predate the current issues.

There is also a real question about how many people can be termed as being Radical Muslims. This term suggests that they are a minority and clearly leads into the area we call Moderate Muslims. Surely there must be a group of moderates, but we almost never hear from any who can clearly be identified this way. Why aren't they marching?

Back to Pipes for a moment. He makes a critical comment that I am going to place in bold:
Third reflection: the Muslim uproar has a goal: to prohibit criticism of Islam by Christians and thereby to impose Shariah norms on the West. Should Westerners accept this central tenet of Islamic law, others will surely follow. Retaining free speech about Islam, therefore, represents a critical defense against the imposition of an Islamic order.
This is not the first time that Pipes has stated this. You can find earlier comments here and my response here.

We shouldn't set out to intentionally offend others, but at the same time we cannot allow these violent responses to temper our ability to voice our thoughts. Violence is unacceptable.

In one of my posts about the cartoon controversy I cited Hosni Mubarak's comments:
"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak warned that the insistence of European newspapers on printing the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) risked provoking a terrorist backlash,..."
When the leader of a nation says that criticism may create a terrorist backlash we should be greatly concerned. More comments and thoughts about this.

Our friends the Saudis have schoolbooks that are definitely not designed to spread tolerance and understanding. I blogged about that here:

FIRST GRADE

" Every religion other than Islam is false."

"Fill in the blanks with the appropriate words (Islam, hellfire): Every religion other than ______________ is false. Whoever dies outside of Islam enters ____________."

FOURTH GRADE

"True belief means . . . that you hate the polytheists and infidels but do not treat them unjustly."

FIFTH GRADE

"Whoever obeys the Prophet and accepts the oneness of God cannot maintain a loyal friendship with those who oppose God and His Prophet, even if they are his closest relatives."

"It is forbidden for a Muslim to be a loyal friend to someone who does not believe in God and His Prophet, or someone who fights the religion of Islam."

"A Muslim, even if he lives far away, is your brother in religion. Someone who opposes God, even if he is your brother by family tie, is your enemy in religion."

I cited a Dennis Prager essay in which he discussed some of what is going on in Islamic nations. I also blogged about the Afghani convert to Christianity who at time faced the death penalty because of his conversion.

Want to see some of the cartoons from the Arab world. Just click here.

The examples of unacceptable behavior and inconsistencies are endless. For me, the bottom line is that we must draw a line in the sand and dictate that violence and threats of violence are unacceptable.

There must be a reformation and as one of my commenters said in an earlier post it must come from within Islam. But they need our help and that means we make it clear that we will not be bullied or threatened.

Until we reach a point at which violence and or threats of violence are not the first response to things that they find offensive you can expect it to be a very rocky road and a challenging relationship.

I do not believe that all Muslims are bad people. I do not believe that Islam is incompatible with the west. But we have a long road ahead of us and much to do before we get to a point in which we can just relax

Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day

Arrr, welcome t' my blog. Today is talk like a pirate day. Aye. Aye, i encourage you all t' join in the festi'ities. Aye.

Ahoy, if you need help speakin' pirate you can find assistance har. Aye, me parrot concurs. Or try this video:



ARRRRRRRR!



Signed,

Captain Jack- One-eared Dog the Damned

2 siblings reunited after being separated in Holocaust

What a story.
"After 65 years, in which each of them thought their sibling had perished in the Holocaust, and after they searched for each other in Israel and abroad, Hilda Shelik (75) and her brother Simon Glasberg (83) met Monday. With the help of Yad Vashem's website, the two siblings' grandchildren discovered that family members had indeed survived the Holocaust, even though they had previously been led to believe otherwise.

"I am happy today. All the years that passed I didn't believe my family survived. Even when my grandchildren told me they had survived, I didn't believe it. Today I am happy," said Hilda.

Their older brother, Karol Weiner, thought that Hilda perished in the Holocaust, and therefore submit a Page of Testimony to Yad Vashem in 1999 in Hilda's name stating such. About a month and a half ago, her grandchildren found the Page of Testimony written by Hilda's brother. Karol passed away the same year, without knowing that thanks to him, his siblings found Hilda in Israel."
Click here for the full story.

Some Things I Know About My Readers

Oh the beauty of the blogosphere is the interaction with others you might not ever encounter. It is one of the things that I really enjoy. During the course of this interaction I have learned a few things about some of the people that hang out here.

Here are a few nuggets:

Visitors to the Shack are employed by such companies as:
  1. Disney
  2. Microsoft
  3. Canadian Defamation League
  4. Jewish Federation
  5. US Army
  6. US Navy
  7. Symantec
  8. Nortel
  9. GE
  10. 7-11
Job Titles/Professions include:
  1. Attorney
  2. Software Engineer
  3. Doctor
  4. Mother
  5. Zookeeper
  6. Certified Professional Schmuck
  7. Rabbi
  8. Public Servant
  9. Man Servant
  10. Retired Postman
  11. College Professor
Favorite Flavors of Ice Cream
  1. Chocolate
  2. Chunk Monkey
  3. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
  4. Vanilla
  5. Rocky Road
  6. Mocha Almond Fudge
  7. Creamy Delight
Pretty nifty, don't you think.

Spiderman in Japanese Is Spiderman

The Jewish Pirates of The Caribbean

The Jewish Journal has an interesting article about Jewish Pirates.
"But now a forthcoming book hopes to change that image by focusing on Ladino-speaking Jews whose piracy grew out of the Inquisition. "The Jewish pirates were Sephardic. Once they were kicked out of Spain [in 1492], the more adventurous Jews went to the New World," said Ed Kritzler, whose yet-untitled book on Jewish pirates will be published by Doubleday in spring 2007.

Jewish piracy has been around since well before the Barbary pirates first preyed on ships during the Crusades. In the time of the Second Temple, Jewish historian Flavius Josephus records that Hyrcanus accussed Aristobulus of "acts of piracy at sea."

Kritzler has studied pirates for 40 years, and said that the public is fascinated with them because they're "rugged individuals in a world of conformity. They carved their own identity, independent of the rules and strictures of society."

But determining the exact number of Jewish pirates is difficult, Kritzler said, because many of them traveled as Conversos, or converts to Christianity, and practiced their Judaism in secret.

While some Jews, like Samuel Pallache, took up piracy in part to help make a better life for expelled Spanish Jews, Kritzler said others were motivated by revenge for the Inquisition.

One such pirate was Moses Cohen Henriques, who helped plan one of history's largest heists against Spain. In 1628, Henriques set sail with Dutch West India Co. Admiral Piet Hein, whose own hatred of Spain was fueled by four years spent as a galley slave aboard a Spanish ship. Henriques and Hein boarded Spanish ships off Cuba and seized shipments of New World gold and silver worth in today's dollars about the same as Disney's total box office for "Dead Man's Chest."

Henriques set up his own pirate island off the coast of Brazil afterward, and even though his role in the raid was disclosed during the Spanish Inquisition, he was never caught, Kritzler told The Journal.

Another Sephardic pirate played a pivotal role in American history. In the book "Jews on the Frontier" (Rachelle Simon, 1991), Rabbi I. Harold Sharfman recounts the tale of Sephardic Jewish pirate Jean Lafitte, whose Conversos grandmother and mother fled Spain for France in 1765, after his maternal grandfather was put to death by the Inquisition for "Judaizing."

BTW, Talk Like a Pirate Day is Tomorrow.

Jack Tries To Start a Trend

As many of you know I am a summer camp junkie. I loved it. Camp was one of the greatest experiences of my life. Some of you understand and others think that I am a loser. Doesn't make much of a difference to me what you think, I am too busy worrying about holding a birthday party.

During the Summer of my twenty-second year walking this planet I ventured off to a new camp that was located in a different country. To clarify, it wasn't a new camp, but it was new to me.

I was part of a small group of three that left the land that we knew for the splendor known as Ontario. It was in Canada that we decided we would spend time. It was in Canada where we were completely unknown that we decided have a summer of fun, frolic and some debauchery. And it was in Canada that we decided we would try and start a new trend.

The idea was that we would go to camp and try to convince all of the people there that if they wanted to be on the cutting edge they would use an expression we created. In our minds it was simple. They'd want to be cool, they'd want to be hip and they would look to us to help them.

Yes, I know that it was arrogant to think that a few guys from LA would convince a bunch of Canadian yokels into thinking that we were cool, but it made sense to us. How could they not believe us. They didn't have real money, the bills looked like they belonged in a Monopoly game and they had coins with goofy names like Looneys. And don't get me started on those funny accents and expressions. I was familiar with Bob and Doug Mackenzie. What else did we need to know about Canada.

If you are not familiar, here is a short clip:



Back to the story. We quickly decided that the easiest thing to do was to come up with a word or expression and try to convince the folks at camp that they should use it.

Combrodonate.

That was the word.

Combrodonate. It sounds ridiculous, but looking back we didn't think so. We thought that it had that special something that would endear it to people and most of all we thought that we could sell it.

Well, we convinced a bunch of people and for a short time it appeared that it might work. But just when it seemed most promising it started to fizzle out. I can't say that I know exactly why because the truth is that for a short time it hung on and we gained some mindshare and momentum.

Looking back I suspect that there were a couple of reasons why it didn't catch. It didn't have enough pizzazz to support what is really kind of a dumb word and the boys and I were too busy chasing the women to focus on it.

I'll let you combrodonate upon that and for now I'll wish you a pleasant evening. See you in the AM.

The Birthday Party Dilemma

If you are a parent of young children you just might find that this post is applicable to you. But even if you are not a parent or your kids are older I encourage you to join me on my walk through the mental morass I call my mind.

But please be careful. Beware the clutter and please I beg of you do not stray off of the path or feed the animals.

The birthday party dilemma sounds simple. How many children can we invite to my son's party. Here is the rub, the party must include family, friends and of course the kids from school.

There are two kindergarten classes. That works out to a total of 45 children. If you add the family (read cousins) you can figure that there is another 10 or 12 children. And then if you factor in the close family friends you can easily increase it by another 20. Yes, I said 20.

For those of you who are keeping score this works out to be almost 80 children. It doesn't cover their parents and at age six you can guarantee that there will be at least one adult with each child and in some cases two.

Oh, did I mention that my son has friends who no longer go to the same school but they are people we still see socially. WTF. How did I end up with a number that is more suited to Bar-Mitzvah reception.

Some of you are chuckling. You are thinking that old Jack has lost his marbles and that all that needs to be done is a simple chop job on the invitation list. Here is the challenge.

Here are two potential compromises.
  1. Have a small party in which my son and a few friends do something bigger like a trip to an amusement park. Of course if you go this route you are still out a solid chunk of change.
  2. Have a party that is exclusive to boys. This reduces the number of children who will be invited but it still leaves an incredible number of people to invite, albeit smaller. It also requires a theme that is boy oriented.
I am not a sheep. I have no problem being independent, but I don't want to do it at the expense of my son. He has already been invited to a half dozen birthday parties and it appears that the basic deal is that each family is going to invite all of the students in both classes.

See, part of the fun of kindergarten is that we try to protect the feelings of the children and that means that we push to invite all of the kids to every party. In a short time this will change, but we are not quite there yet.

I don't want to impact his social position by being the parent that didn't invite the kids that invited him to their parties. At the same time it is important to me that he understands that we don't care about keeping up with the Goldbergs, Smiths, Jones or Berkowitzs.

Another potential option is to have a joint party with a couple of other children. It makes for a massive party, but the financial burden is split and from a selfish perspective it does reduce the number of weekends in which I get to attend said parties.

One of my concerns with this ridiculous nonsense is that he really doesn't need 50 gifts. He has plenty of toys, more than he can play with at one time. His mother and I are very seriously considering making it a gift free party.

And here is my confession/dream. If we ask that everyone who attends pay a $25 cover charge I could make this one hell of a party. Maybe what I should do is invite everyone and then ply the adults with copious amounts of alcohol.

In all sincerity, I am troubled by all of this. I am going to be careful with this. I am simply not going to go bankrupt on a birthday party. It won't happen. I also won't put a six year-old in a position in which he is trying to defend principles. I will teach him about said principles and I will use this occasion to do so, but again he is six. He doesn't need to sit on the playground and try to explain why he only invited half the class.

There is a lot of room for learning here and that includes his old man. Look, the upside of this is that if this remains the worst problem that I have to deal with it means that my life is pretty damn good.

I am off to ruminate on other thoughts.

In Reference To The Pope's Recent Comments

I ran this next blurb last March, but it is appropriate for now as well. Here it comes, in its entirety:
"In a more culturally confident age, the British in India were faced with the practice of "suttee" - the tradition of burning widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands. Gen. Sir Charles Napier was impeccably multicultural:

"You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: When men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks, and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours."

This makes sense to me. It ties in well with stories about converts who face death sentences, riots based on cartoons or murders of people because of their ethnicity/religion. The time is coming when we are going to have to make a decision whether to push or be pushed.

A Plumbing Problem

The joy of owning your own home is sometimes tempered by the cost of maintaining your domocile. Sometimes they are minor irritants and sometimes they are larger and of greater concern.

And certainly your response to the challenges that you face is in direct response to the cost and inconvenience you face relative to your own checkbook.

At the moment the Shack is dealing with a plumbing problem that was discovered late last night. Plumbing problems are never fun, but those that are discovered closer to the midnight hour are even more troublesome.

Listen carefully and you just might hear my roar of frustration. This just sucks.

Saturday Night's Alright For Blogging

If you don't know the musical reference in the title than you should find out. Don't ask me why because I don't have an answer.

I always feel a bit unsettled, just before the Jewish New Year that is. I don't exactly know why. I have my suspicions. I have my ideas, but I don't really know if any of them are all that accurate.

Maybe it is because I am antsy. Maybe it is because by nature I sometimes find it hard to sit still. Of course, I also am the complete oppposite of that. I can lie on a beach or hammock and just do nothing for hours at a time. I love to sit creekside and listen the water murmur and the whisper of the wind on the trees. I love to hear the roar of the waves.

Today my daughter climbed into my lap and ordered me to read a book to her, so I did. Actually we read it about eight times. She turned and twisted so that she could look into my eyes and then she took her tiny hands and stroked my face. I melted. She kissed my forehead and said "I love you!"

Ok, that is not entirely true. She screamed it. Screaming and shrieking are new things for her, but she loves them. Don't know what it is about shrieking and little girls, but every little girl I have ever known has done so.

My son has a million questions about the world, especially before bedtime. My daughter doesn't ask too many questions, instead she claims to be starving. They both make me smile.

I remember being a child and wanting to stay awake. They have that same fear that I had that if they go to sleep they'll miss something.

Now I don't fear missing anything but sleep. Kind of funny how that works.

I am not a fan of the Catholic Church, can't say that I like the pope but I don't like what I see happening now. That is, I don't like the temper tantrum that many Muslims are throwing. People get offended all the time. Grow up and act like adults.

You are entitled to ask for an apology. You are entitled to be upset and offended. You are not entitled to use violence to try and obtain said apology.

I am glad that it is football season. I love watching and love playing the game. I miss some of the older players. I miss watching Emmit Smith, Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson and Walter Payton play. Those guys were just a lot of fun.

Sometimes I miss being 20. Ok, I don't miss the experiences I had that year, but I miss the physical condition I was in. I miss having a metabolism that allowed me to eat anything. I miss having a body that you couldn't bruise. I miss being able to function on three hours of sleep for months at a time.

OTOH, I like not living in a dumpy apartment. I like having a full refrigerator. I love my family and I enjoy having more than two dollars in my checking account.

I am sorry that the Jameel/DovBear lovefest fell through, but I am curious to get the full report as to what happened at the big Psychotoddler/Blogger meet.

I almost flew out just to say that I was there, but then again maybe I was. Maybe I am writing this from my room at the Hyatt Grand Central. Maybe I spent time playing Three Card Monty with a little man at 42nd and Lex or maybe I just hung out at home and discovered that I have a plumbing problem.

Lightning Is About To Strike

Lightning is about to strike again, not a doubt in my mind that we're going to see it live and experience in 3D. Some lips are bound to ...