The Squeeze is On

Johnny looked out the window and stared aimlessly into space. Blue skies were all that he could see, endless blue skies punctuated by the occasional roof line. He sighed, long and deep and shook his head. Blue skies were supposed to be symbolic of hope and possibility. Blue skies were so often used by writers to help describe the feeling of what could be.

But as the ubiquitous "they" said, he wasn't feeling it.

No hope, no possibility. Not now, not today, not at this moment. Because at this very moment he felt like an anaconda had wrapped itself around his trunk and was slowly squeezing him to death. He grunted and looked for the head of the snake. If he could wrap his hands around it he would return the favor and teach the reptile that two could play the game.

The thought made him laugh. What the hell was he doing thinking about wrestling with a fake snake, but it was classic Johnny. He had a plan for how to deal with it and he knew that he was capable. Didn't matter how big that sucker was, Johnny was built for demolition, broad shoulders and hands that looked like they could crush boulders made it clear that this was so.

But there wasn't a snake. All he was doing was engaging in a game of mental shadow boxing. It made him feel better to do so. It was easier to paint a face onto the troubles that had plagued him for the past four years. Easier to give it some sort of name that he could curse and hate.

Again he laughed, such strong words, curse and hate but that was the feeling and in some ways it wasn't a bad description. He had lived with frustration for so long that there were moments were it felt like rage. Rage was an old friend, familiar and comfortable. He had never acted upon it and probably never would.

The closest he came was a heavy bag he kept in his garage. Sometimes at night he would slip into the garage and pound that bag into submission. Two hundred pounds of sand was supposed to keep it from moving, but it wasn't enough. Johnny and his fists of fury would batter it repeatedly and after a while it would slowly start rocking and sliding around the garage floor.

That fists of fury line made him snort. It was a ridiculous description, but he needed it. He needed to find a way to keep dreaming and to keep believing that things would turn around. He needed to feel like there was hope.

Intellectually he understood that there was no question that things would change. He was an active participant in his life. He was working to make things happen. He analyzed his actions and adjusted so that he could optimize his performance.

But emotionally he was beat up and worn out. Emotionally he felt like he was the bag that had been battered. Emotionally he felt used up and torn apart and that made it harder to deal with the frustration and feelings like it just didn't matter how hard he tried.

Someone told him that god never gives you more than you can handle and received a glare that forced them to turn and look away. At the time Johnny felt more like he had stolen fire from the gods and was being punished for it.

But there was sort of a grain of truth that he took from it, at least something that resonate with him. He was a dreamer. He was a man who had to believe that somehow he could live out his dreams and though it seemed impossible now, maybe it wouldn't be later.

So he sighed again and stared out the window and told himself that if he put his head down and kept trudging forward it had to get better. One day he'd be on the other side, because he just couldn't believe in anything else.

It Caused a Fight

Not so long ago I had to referee a fight between the children about the meaning of the word crotch. Or should I say that I explained that both boys and girls have crotches.

This led to more questions about anatomy. Ah, the innocence of children and their unflinching ability to share their observations with you, unadulterated and uncensored.

This Sounds Interesting

I have a gift card for Borders that I haven't used yet. I might pick this up.

"He was 11 years old, riding in a Cessna in a blizzard through California's San Gabriel Mountains in 1979, on his way to pick up a trophy he won in a skiing competition.

"The gray clouds were just pressing against the windows; it didn't even seem like we were moving," he recalls. "Then, there's a limb reaching out of that fog and disappearing. Then another one and another one.

"Then realizing we were in the trees."

The plane crash that followed killed his father and the pilot and badly wounded his father's girlfriend, who with young Norman was tossed violently onto the top of an 8,600-foot mountain in the freezing, February chill.

"I felt three thuds. The third one must have knocked me cold," says Ollestad, now 41. "I remember feeling those thuds in my spine -- a clear memory of that. Then I woke up who knows how long after."

The ensuing nine-hour, life-or-death descent -- in the end, he was the only survivor -- is the topic of "Crazy for the Storm: A Memoir of Survival."

Music For My Morning, Except it is Evening

Seven Spanish Angels- Willie Nelson and Ray Charles
Always on My Mind- Willie Nelson
You Are Loved 'Live'- Josh Groban
Bitter Sweet Symphony- The Verve
Jay-Z versus The Verve "Bittersweet Dirt Off Your Shoulder"- Some of you will love that and others will hate it.
Drop It Like It's Hot- Snoop Dogg Kid parked in front of my house played that three times before I had enough.

I was tempted to move my stereo and blast him with some of the following:

Thunderstruck- AC/DC
For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)- AC/DC
Panama- Van Halen
Bulls On Parade - Rage Against The Machine
Phantom of the Opera - Iron Maiden ( Bit different from Andrew Lloyd Webber)
You've Got Another Thing Coming- Judas Priest

But I didn't do any of those things. And now it is getting really late and I need to start winding down. But before I do here are some more songs from the day.

Californication
-Red Hot Chili Peppers
Under the Bridge-Red Hot Chili Peppers
Around the World-Red Hot Chili Peppers
Start Me Up-Rolling Stones (why play this when I am ready for bed? Beats me.)
Loving Cup-Rolling Stones
Gimme Shelter- -Rolling Stones

Knockin on Heaven's Door- Bob Dylan
lay lady lay- Bob Dylan

That's enough for now.

He Tried To Forget Her

She was the one who came unsought and unseen into his life and turned it upside down. She was ready but he wasn't and then he was ready and she wasn't. It was an awkward dance of ups and downs and uncertainties. It was a time of change in many things and many places and it was never clear what was really going on.

And so they took a step back to look at their lives and to review what it was and what it was not. A seesaw is a great place for a child but not always as much fun for an adult and so it seemed that if they could not be then the best thing to do would be to walk away.

To walk away and say that if it was meant to be then somehow it would work out. He said it and he meant it but deep inside it never did take. Though he did his best to try and forget her there were always things to remind him that something was missing from his life.

It was a funny sort of realization because something had been missing from his life for a long time and her arrival in it had filled that spot. It was a hole that had been there for a long time, so long that he had become accustomed to its presence.

And when he realized that it had been filled he was excited and thrilled in all sorts of ways. There was real joy in the knowledge that someone could still do that to him because he had convinced himself that it could not and would not happen.

It is probably why her absence from his life was so difficult. Think of the stories of man stealing fire from the gods and what would happen if it was stolen back. A fundamental part of your life, part of the trunk of the tree was gone.

Loss is one of those funny thing. Sometimes you don't appreciate what you have until it is gone. Sad, trite, but true.

And so he did his best to forget her. He found way to fill his days and when his thoughts drifted off he did his best to think of her negative traits. This proved to me moderately successful because though he could some up with a list he would find himself thinking about all of the good things.

It wasn't a case of denial, just reality. That was the problem. He wasn't romanticizing. He wasn't ,pretending and that is in large part why it was so hard. Inside he knew. He just knew.

For now he can't live with her and he can't live without her. Though there is no doubt that he is capable and able of walking alone and living a life in which there is no engagement with her ever again he doesn't really believe that to be the case. He doesn't really think that this is how it will go.

Because he knows that some nights when he stares out at the moon and thinks about her she is thinking about him. Because he knows that somewhere she is fighting the same battle as he is, albeit in a different place.

It had a crazy start to it, their relationship. But if there is one simple truth that they learned it was that the kiss that they used to kid around about was true. One simple kiss and it was all over.

One kiss that made it clear that sometimes there really are two people who belong together because they have what it takes to complete each other. One kiss made the impossible turn into the improbable and set off hope for the future.

So in his quiet moments of frustration he may curse the day that it happened he silently gives it his blessing. And he smiles at the moon and looks out at the sky and waits for a day that he hopes will come sooner than later.

Sometimes it is no more complicated than saying a boy loves a girl and a girl loves a boy and all that they ask for is the chance to somehow share that love.

Dreams of a future built upon hope and a memory. Fragments of a life that could have been built together and may still yet be are seen through the mist. Because if he can't forget her than what else can he do.

Bob Woodward on Investigative Journalism

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band Movie

If you are of a certain age you might remember this movie. Kind of an interesting cast:

George Burns
Peter Frampton
The BeeGees
Aerosmith
Alice Cooper
Leif Garret- Some of you girls had his poster on your wall, fess up. ;)

Age Is Just A Number....Right...

Age is just a number, right. That is what they say. It is all about your state of mind and right now my mind is covering more than a few states. Maybe I should blame it on The London Symphony and their version of The Final Countdown.

Yeah, that is the ticket. Think that I'll switch to The Moody Blues Nights in White Satin or Tuesday Afternoon and follow it up with Layla. Not that any of it matters, it is just a way of avoiding the topic of age. Or rather my way of saying that I am still adjusting to turning 40.

Yep, it bothers me a bit, not so much the number itself but the guy I see in the mirror. I close my eyes and I picture myself and I see the body that I used to have. It is hard, stomach is cut and the muscles ripple as I move. Bruises, aches and pains are things that happen periodically, but they don't last long enough to be noticeable.

Sleep is something that I stumble upon every once in a while, but I don't seem to notice a lack of it. And let's not forget a very forgiving metabolism.

But that was then and this is now. Now the face that looks back at me is clearly older, no one ever mistakes me for being twenty something. And that is perfectly fine with me. I don't care about that. A few lines in my face and a little less hair aren't issues.

What I am fighting are the other things that have come along with the age. It is so much harder to stay in shape. I am certainly thicker in places than I used to be and the bruises, aches and pains visit me frequently and stay longer than they used to. I suppose that some of the elasticity of tendons, ligaments and joints has disappeared.

If the body is a classic car than it is a daily battle to maintain a clean interior and exterior. The fight to polish it is just never ending and I can understand how some people just let it all slip away.

Inertia.

Battling inertia is tough. It takes a lot of hard work and enormous discipline to do what needs to be done so that the motor runs the way that you want it to. And it is a battle that can be incredibly frustrating.

I have changed my exercise regimen and begun incorporating new elements that seem be yielding big dividends, but still one challenge remains.

Diet.

I hate that damn word. Diet- there is a reason why "die" is part of diet and it is not positive. Ok, I shouldn't be negative, you're right. But damn, I like to eat. Why must the foods I like the most be so problematic.

But I look in the mirror and I am not satisfied. I don't have to be the 20 year old I used to be. I earned these wrinkles and scars and I am ok with that.

I suppose that what I am really saying is that I am not willing to accept a body that doesn't respond better than this one does. I am not that old, not yet. There is no reason for some of this.

Confession time. One of the things that scares me is that at some point in time my body just won't work anymore. I can accept many things, but I can't accept that. So here I am with my basketball games, my weights and my kettlebells trying to do something to prevent that.

I can't guarantee that I won't ever have to deal with that, but with a little preventative maintenance maybe I can stave it off for about 68 years. And now if you'll excuse me I have to go stretch. Sitting in front of this has given rise to a kink in my back that is killing me.

But what do I care, because age is just a number...right.

Decisions...Decisions...Decisions

Come Back- Moshav

For the past three days or so I have been meaning to write this post, or at least try to write it. It hasn't happened for a variety of reasons. A little thing called life has prevented me from getting into it.

Family and work obligations and chores around the house have all conspired against me and the blog. Responsibilities and major questions have been dogging me, nipping at my heels and forcing me to confront challenges that I had been putting off.

I hadn't avoided them because of fear but because the smart way to do things is to see that you have laid the groundwork and prepared for whatever you are taking on. Yet I hate having things hang over me. I feel the weight of these decisions dragging me down. It is like a thousand hands pulling on whatever part of my body they can grab, yanking and tugging on me.

So I try to shrug them off. At first it is kind of a gentle shrug, but as I grow more agitated the shrugging grows more forceful. The vein on my forehead juts out, a sign to those who know me that now is the not the time to fight with me.

**********

Don't Give Up- Willie Nelson & Sinead O'Connor

I love that song for a lot of reasons, the lyrics speak to me. The opening fits with my mood and my thoughts nicely:

"In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail"
The fighter inside never quits. It doesn't matter how many shots to the head or body blows he takes, he keeps moving, keeps fighting. Tenacity and determination and a fire that never stops burning keep pushing me.

But the reality is that there are moments of doubt and times when I question it all. The failure that the younger version of me feared has come, more than once now. The difference now is how I view failure. I no longer obsess about what it means.

That's one of the advantages of age and life experience. I can look at the few times where things just didn't work out and view them as battles and not as the summation of an entire war. Now I try to use those moments as lessons, a road map that can be used to avoid similar pitfalls.

If I said that I didn't care about failing it would be a lie. No one really likes it and I am no exception. It is a bitter taste that I'd sooner forget. But survival is a reminder that challenges can be overcome and that is a lesson that has value.

**********
"No fight left or so it seems
I am a man whose dreams have all deserted
Ive changed my face, Ive changed my name
But no one wants you when you lose"
Stepping back into the muck I have no problem admitting that there have been moments where it seems that last quote is an apt description that hits closer to home than I'd like.

(Author's note: I probably should move that last quote and accompanying line to a different section so that post would flow better. But moving it feels wrong, because sometimes the pieces don't fit neatly.)

Haveil Havalim 223 – Hot and Humid Edition

My buddy Snoopy has the scoop. Go read it and see what is going on around the Jewish/Israeli blogosphere:

Haveil Havalim 223 – Hot and Humid Edition

80s Dance Videos

These are so bad that I had to link to them, just painful.

The Thriller
The Robot

Jerusalem Is Calling

There once was a woman in my life who would debate and discuss the biggest and most minute details of my life. And were she in the room with me she would shake her head, wag her finger and then roll her eyes at this description. It wouldn't surprise me if we'd get into a long talk about which one of us is/was crazier and whose philosophy of life makes more sense.

But that is what happens when you deal with the short and illogical half of the species, the ones that by virtue of gender are reality challenged. For those keeping score I have taken more than one and less than ten swipes at her, but they are all done with love and a smile on my face. Not to mention an iTunes soundtrack in the background.

Anyhoo, the paragraphs above do relate to the post because the theme here is about dreams of the past, dreams of the present and dreams of the future.

Dreams of the past refers to lost loves. Not every lost love is about a relationship between a boy and a girl. Some of them tie into hobbies or activities that we used to engage in on a regular basis. For example, I used to spend about two hours a day in the gym. I loved it and wish that life would give me the opportunity to do it again.

In respect to this post I sometimes find myself thinking about Jerusalem, memories of a time and a place that has never left me. Memories that extend from being a teenager into my married life. Faces, places and names float through the sky and a feeling that I can't possibly describe as anything but love comes over me.

I can give you a list of reasons why. I can tell you about the advantages that speaking multiple languages present, how a person can describe events and experiences differently in each language. I can talk about the sadness/frustration about losing your ability to effectively communicate in a different tongue.

Or I can talk about how I was certain that I was going to make aliyah and discussions I had about what it would be like in the army. But while some of these discussions make good blog fodder and could be interesting, I am not interested in going over that now.

That dream has passed and I won't ever know what it would have meant to my life. A twenty something American has different dreams and different possibilities than a kid who just turned forty.

But the thing is that though some dreams may pass it doesn't mean that we have to lay down and die or that it should kill other dreams. It doesn't mean that one day I won't find myself living in Israel or that I won't find myself living out other dreams.

I can't say what will happen in ten years or in five. It is hard to predict what will happen in two. So for now I am focused on my plan and doing all that is within my power to make it happen. In the interim there are a lot of chances to visit those dreams, to touch upon them and get a reminder of the reasons we chase them.

Part of what drives and enables me to get out of the bed is the knowledge that I can still live my dreams. I don't have to give up on everything. I don't have to accept a life that is less than what I dream it can be.

I don't and I won't.

Jerusalem is calling and so are my other dreams. All I need to do is figure out how to make them into something more than a gleam in my eye.

The Problem With Iran

The problem with Iran is not something that can be summed up in a few words. It doesn't fit into an age of sound bites and instant gratification. This is not going to be a heavy analysis that you'd submit for academic acclaim. 

No, this is just a little window inside my head where I air out the dust and share a few thoughts with you.

I live in Los Angeles. It is a city that has a substantial population of Persian Jews as well as many Iranians who identify as Muslim or members of Bahai. And they have been here for a long time now. I remember the heavy influx of Persian Jews who fled Iran after the fall of the Shah, roughly 30 years ago.

My family has had many Persian friends for years and so I have had time to hear many stories about what life in Iran was like and much about what it is like now. Don't misunderstand me, I am not claiming to be an expert, just trying to provide some foundation for my thoughts.

For years now I have heard about the influence of the mullahs and the ideology that they are pressing. I have Persian friends who remember school in Iran, chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America."

Clearly not all Iranians have bought into the line of thought that the government is passing. Clearly there are many who long for a different path. But the reality is that this is not two hundred years ago. It is not a time of log cabins and muskets. It is not a time when you could hire a world power as a mercenary force (some will argue that point) so you can't fight for revolution in the same way as was once done.

Now you have the quandary of dealing with an oppressive government who is far better armed and organized than the populace, at least that is the appearance. More importantly, the government is not there to protect the people. They are there to maintain their positions of power.

And they are willing to do so by using disproportionate force and extreme violence. The reports that are getting out make it clear that they are not slapping people on the wrist.

So what do you do about this. How does the world respond to such a thing. Ahmedinajad and company are not going to step down without being forced out. And it is highly unlikely that any sort of military operation is going to be launched with the intent of ousting them.

It is one of those moments where you wonder if perhaps there are senior members of the Iranian armed forces who would be willing to lead a coup d'etat, assuming that they had the support of the troops. But this seems rather unlikely.

So we come back to the question of what do we do. What sort of support can be provided to help support a real revolution and an overthrow of the existing government.

And again we have to note that a government that treats its citizenry like this would be exceptionally dangerous as a nuclear power. Can that still be stopped, or have we reached a point of no return.

Many questions, no good answers.

Inspired By Michael Jackson

Figured that if I sifted through the archives we'd find a few posts that are due to Michael Jackson's influence:

Spontaneous Subway Dancing (A "Thriller" moment)
Phillipine Justice (Another "Thriller" moment)
Thriller With Legos
Michael Jackson : Thriller : Indian Style

And as a special bonus those wacky inmates are back:

The Fall

When I arrived at the crossroads I had no idea that I would tumble over the side. The fall sent me careening down the hill with no idea when I would hit bottom.

(Fragments of Fiction post- will be added to throughout the day.

The Heart Wants What The Heart Wants

Originally run here

Someone once told me that the heart wants what the heart wants. I don’t know if that is a line from a book or a movie, it could be. Then again it might be one of those pithy statements that people come up with. I’d ask the person who told me but I can quite remember who said it. Hell, it might have even been
me.

The heart wants what the heart wants. You know what that means? It is a statement made by people who can’t explain why they are in love with person xyz. It is what you say when there is no logical explanation for your actions. It is a catchphrase, a tagline, a slogan and a motto.

The heart wants what the heart wants. It reminds me of Shakespeare, “Life is a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” Somewhere my high school English teacher Mrs. McDonnell is smiling. Little Jimmy actually remembered a line from Macbeth. See ma’am, I told you that I could hear just as well in sunglasses as without..

The heart wants what the heart wants. It is the kind of thing you hear people say when they are trying to explain why they are hung up on someone from their past. Or maybe it is what you say when you stop denying the love that is in front of you.

If love were rational, if it were based upon logic life would be easier. When I think about some of the things I have done because of love I want to scream. When I consider the self-inflicted misery I have endured I want to cry because it seems so very foolish. How could I waste so much energy on such a silly thing as a woman, a single woman. The world is filled with millions of women. It should be easy to replace her. It should be as simple as changing shoes, but it is not. It is not, it is not.

The heart wants what the heart wants. It does and mine has chosen someone that is far more special to me than all of the others. My lips remember hers. I can still feel her touch. The pillowcase has never been washed because I have this fantasy that I can still pull it close and smell her.

Sometimes I think that reincarnation must be real and that in a past life I must have stolen fire from the gods or committed some other heinous crime. Because there is no logical reason why I would be punished in this manner. I found the woman that completes me. I found the person that makes me whole and I let her go.

She would have stayed. She would have held my hand. She would have helped save my soul but I couldn't say the words. I couldn't make myself do it. Even though I knew it to be a simple thing. A brief plea for help and she wouldn't have left me. I wouldn't have been left to live in shadow and night. I could have been whole. Her love was enough to let me believe that I could have been something more.

But like I said, in that past life I did something. I earned the wrath of those who sit in judgment. Or maybe it is nothing like that. Maybe there is no reason why. Maybe this is all there is and happiness is based upon some sort of random something or other.

The heart wants what it wants and mine has betrayed me. In a different life it lay in a green garden beneath bright blue skies and now it is filled with weeds and fields of shattered stone and black night skies.

Once I might have hoped for salvation. Once I believed that I deserved better than this but now I understand that not to be so. Hades has issued his decree. I stand next to Sisyphus. Tantalus is my brother. Happiness is something that I can see but can't reach.

The heart wants what the heart wants.

Facebook Follies- Too Many Notifications

It is time for another edition of Facebook Follies, the blog posts that provide you with the key information you need to become a master of Facebook.

Ok, that is an exaggeration. Most of these Facebook posts are commentary about it, but some of them do include practical information. Take what you will from them.

Anyhoo, let's move on and talk about Facebook Notifications. Many of us have friends who use Facebook extensively throughout the day. They take every quiz that comes along and publish the results filling our news feed with all sorts of useful information about what state they should live in, what kind of fruit/animal/superhero they are and so much more.

I don't know about you, but I find it to be a bit tedious, tiresome and obnoxious. To be fair, I have to admit that I use a couple of Facebook apps that send out notifications. However, I try to do a couple of things to mitigate the ensuing the mess.

1) When I remember I turn off the notifications because not everyone needs to know or see that the state of Ohio has begged me to come for a visit.

2) I go through my profile and delete entries. A little cleanup of the clutter goes a long way.

3) I use lists. I have my Facebook friends divided into groups and have the privacy settings adjusted accordingly. Not everyone gets to see everything that is listed there.

Let me be clear, I don't post things that I want to be kept secret. I assume that anything that goes up can be seen by anyone. It doesn't mean that it will be, but it provides structure and that is useful.

Still, there is no reason to give everyone full access. There are people that I friend that do not need to know or see some things. If it happens that they stumble upon them that is one thing, but I don't have to make it easy for them.

Let's circle back to notifications as that is really the main point of this piece. You know who you are. You who update your account seventeen times an hour and take every quiz. You are cluttering up our feeds with nonsense and gibberish. We may love you dearly, but we don't always need to have the knowledge that if you were a tree you'd be a Buckeye or what your birthstone says about you.

Sometimes silence is golden.

Coming Soon

Hang around a few and you'll see a few new posts. I have a Johnny and June floating inside the old melon, a comment or two about social media and the MSM and a few others.

Michael Jackson

There are a number of reports that Michael Jackson has died. Blogs and Twitter are all buzzing way with news of his death, but I have yet to see report on the MSM confirming that he has died.

However, there are many reports of his having suffered a heart attack.

This gives me an idea for a blog post that I'll probably write later on.

In the interim here are links to some of his old stuff:

Thriller
Beat It
Billie Jean
Bad

And Then He Died

Three years ago I stood in the emergency room of the hospital and listened to the doc explain that my grandfather had died. And then I went to the room in which his body lay and say with him. I wrote about that moment in The Bearer of Bad Tidings- One Less Set of Footsteps.

Two thoughts come to mind about that post. I can't read it without choking up a little. It is raw and it captured the moment so well that three years later I still feel it. But I was and still am very appreciative of the comments. It was one of those moments where I knew without a doubt that the blogosphere is a real community.

It is hard to believe that three years have gone by, especially when I think about all that has happened. Some of the hardest and most challenging moments of my life lie before me and I sorely miss his advice and support. I would have liked to have been able to discuss some of this with him.

He would have listened and shared some thoughts. Chances are he would have told me a story or two. I never got tired of them. Grandpa was a very fine storyteller. He did an excellent job of painting a picture that you could see.

In my mind's eye I have a million images of the Chicago of his youth and the things that he did. It is not hard to imagine what life in the carnival business was like, winters in New Orleans or the things that he did in the army.

He would have taken so much pleasure from his great-grandchildren. It makes me a little sad that the dark haired beauty has completely forgotten him. Sure, she knows his name and recognizes his picture, but she doesn't remember him. She doesn't remember how he came to the hospital the day she was born and held her or how he told me that it was ok to make sure that her boyfriends were afraid of me.

So many good memories and so many stories to tell. He took me to my first Dodger game. Taught me how to throw a punch and told me that if I hit someone to make sure that I was ready to take what came afterwards.

When I was learning how to drive he took me out, had me drive back and forth through Laurel Canyon and around Farmer's Market. There were movies and lunches and so much more.

One of my favorite memories comes from my sister's wedding. I wrote about it in a post, but I can't remember exactly where. I really should find it because it is a great story and it deserves to be told properly.

A handful of years later I find myself visiting my grandfather at the hospital. We're exchanging stories and he is filling me in on his health. He tells me that if he had known that he was going to live so long he would have taken better care of himself. I tell him that I am sure that he is going to be around another twenty years.

He shakes his head and tells me no. He is serious and he looks me in the eye and says that he knows that the finish line can't be that far away. Tells me that he is going to fight for every breath and that if there is a such a thing as the angel of death, he is going to kick the crap out of him.

I laugh and ask him how. He smiles and tells me that he'll punch him in the nose and that when the tears well up in the angel's eyes he'll slip out the door. We both laugh at this and then we are silent.

A few minutes later he closes his eyes to go to sleep and I look around the room. Beeps and whistles and the whirring noises of various machines are all that I can hear. I move closer and am comforted to hear him breathing peacefully.

Not so long afterwards I am alone in a hospital room with him. This time there is no peaceful breathing, no snoring. Although his hands are still warm I know that in a short time they won't be any longer.

For a moment I stare at his body and inside my head I can hear someone say, "and then he died."

You might also be interested in these posts:

Pictures, Videos and Memories
My Grandfather Laid Tefillin
The Challenge of Aging
The World's Fastest 95 Year-Old Man
Passing The Baton- Grandma is 94
Not Quite Goodbye- And Some other Thoughts

This Weeks Sign of The Apocalyse

This Weeks Sign of The Apocalyse comes from our friends at Haaretz who report the following:

Is Britney Spears set to star in a Holocaust movie?

"Is American mega pop star Britney Spears set to return to the big screen, seven years after starring in the box office flop Crossroads? According to reports, Spears has been offered a part in the upcoming Holocaust film The Yellow Star of Sophia and Eton, which integrates time travel, concentration camps and a love story.

If she accepts the role, Spears will be taking on the title role of Sophia LaMont, a woman who invents a time machine and succeeds in traveling to the time of the Second World War. According to the script, LaMont ends up at a concentration camp and falls in love with a Jewish prisoner named Eton. However, the budding love story is cut short when both are killed by the Nazis."

I can't decide what I like best about this. Britney will be perfect as a genius who invents a time machine that just happens to take her back to WWII so that she can be incarcerated in a concentration camp, fall in love and be killed by the Nazis.

Rumor has it that this film will be followed up by a blockbuster history piece about David Ben Gurion and Golda Meir starring media giants Perez and Paris Hilton respectively.

Oh and did I mention that Spielberg is negotiating with me for the rights to produce a feature film about my life. Stay tuned because in this wacky world anything can happen.

Crossposted on Yourish.

Musical Morning

Ring of Fire- Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson
Folsom Prison Blues- Johnny Cash & Willie Nelson
Homeward Bound- Paul Simon & Willie Nelson
Don't Give Up- Willie Nelson & Sinead O'Connor (who thought that you'd see this pairing)
Don't Give Up- Peter Gabriel with Kate Bush
Everything I own- Bread (Oh those 70s.)
Relay- The Who
Love Reign Over Me- The Who
"How Soon Is Now?" The Smiths
"It's Been A While"-Staind

Living The Bachelor Life

I am man, hear me roar. Watch as I burp and scratch and revert back to my bachelor life. The family is as they say....Gone!

Here I sit at the computer, unshaved and unwashed. There are a couple of dishes in the sink and newspapers spread across the table. Last night I stayed up well past the witching hour and thoroughly enjoyed the silence and the solitude of my man cave.

I woke up this morning sans alarm, wife and children. In other words I woke up as nature intended. For a moment I wondered if it was all a dream and then I remembered that it wasn't. With a yawn, a stretch and a big smile I rolled out of the bed and strolled through the house.

The quiet, oh, the blessed quiet.

I paused and looked around and smiled. It won't be long before I miss the chaos and the racket. It won't be long before it is almost too quiet, but for now I am doing my happy dance around this joint.

Truth is that it is not particularly messy or cluttered. I don't like that much, but I don't have to be the role model so I don't have to do it all immediately. I don't have to do anything that I do not want to do.

For a while I was tempted to get in the car and go somewhere. Last night around midnight I played with thoughts of going to Vegas. A short while ago there was no one who could play, but now that life has happened and some of the boys are single possibilities exist.

So at a few minutes past 12 I called and asked if was up for a road trip. I had a full tank of gas and offered to drive. He laughed and told me that he wanted to, but had to be at a dinner meeting today.

I said no problem and he laughed again. He believed that I could get us there and back in time for the meeting, but said that he didn't think he'd be rested enough for the meeting.

And that my friends is the difference between who we were twenty years ago and who we are now.

Of course I should stipulate that I considered the state of my personal economy and remembered that Obama and company haven't offered to bail me out. But I'd be lying if I didn't think about how time at the blackjack table could solve that. With a little luck and a short run I could provide my own bailout.

Maybe next time.

Instead I consoled myself by playing Viva Las Vegas while writing a brief and sending out 1,876,993 emails for work. And then for good measure I wrote three posts that I immediately deleted.

And now I sit here, staring at the computer screen, wondering whether I feel like cooking or barbecuing my dinner. It is summer in LA and in a short time the weather will be perfect for dining outdoors.

All I have to say is that some days it is good to be a man.

Who Invented Balloons

Here at The Shack we are constantly in search of useful information and answers to the questions you wish that you could ask. If we do our job properly you'll dominate Trivial Pursuit and be a force to reckon with on Jeopardy. Can't promise that you'll be able to use this information to be Macgyver or Roy Hinckley, but who knows.

Today we decided to spend some time talking about balloons. No, not the hot air kind, but party balloons. So we searched high and low on the web and discovered that a number of sources say that Michael Faraday is responsible for the invention of the balloon. Yes, the same Faraday who discovered electromagnetic induction is the man to thank. (Editor's Note: If you are doing a school report double check this information, the Shack isn't really designed to be in your bibliography.)

However, there are other sources that say that there are challengers to Faraday. If you head over to Beermasters you'll see that the Aztecs made good use of their cats:
"The first use of balloons at a festive event dates to the Aztecs, whose empire in central Mexico was from the 14th through 16th centuries. Their balloons were not the fun-colored latex or Mylar one sees today, however. Their balloons were made of cat guts. Feline intestines were sewn together, filled with air and then twisted into funky shapes--as if an inflated mass made from cat guts wasn't funky enough.

Function

Aztecs placed their balloons at the altar during festivals and ceremonies as an offering for the gods. They may have wanted good luck, a victory in battle or any number of other wishes that the sacrificial balloons would help bring. They may have even asked for more guts to make more balloons. If a large batch of cats were diseased and dying, the Aztecs sacrificed humans and used their intestines as balloons to ask for more cat intestines."
Balloon Headquarters has similar information as well as information on the art of Balloon Modeling, in fact if you go there you can find out about The National Association of Balloon Artists (NABA) and the International Balloon Association (IBA). In fact you can even read about T&JAM 1999 - The convention dedicated to balloon twisters.

Don't forget to take a look at the photos.

Who says that we are full of hot air.

Goodbye Ed

CNN reports that Ed McMahon has died. It has some interesting information. I was unaware that he served as a Marine in WWII andKorea

What Are You Doing In There

The dark haired beauty looks up at me through a mass of dark curls and giggles. She is up to something, I know it and she knows that I know it. The key question is what has she done and why are her eyes sparkling.

I won't have to wait long for the answer. In a matter of moments she'll be unable to contain herself and she'll confess. I already know from experience it is unlikely to be serious because when she thinks she is in trouble she remains silent. Of course her older brother is usually happy to try and tip me off, getting the little sister in trouble remains one of the joys of being an older sibling.

Of course it goes both directions as she is more than happy to try and tweak his nose. They are typical siblings and exhibit the standard behavior of love/hate for each other. Most of the time they get along beautifully, but they have their moments. Ah, the joy of children.

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Sometimes when those moments come I find myself asking questions that many parents ask, such as why didn't I wear 19 condoms or if I leave now can I be in Vegas before nightfall. A half second later reality sets in and I go to the second set of options.

That famous second set which consists of wondering how long I let them try to work it out before I get involved and if I get involved, how many years will I ground them for.

It is a serious thing. You have to teach them how to cope when things don't go the way that they want. You have to help them learn how to share and negotiate their way through life. So when I wonder how long I need to wait before interceding there is an educational component to it. But there is also the question of my sanity.

How long can I listen to them kvetching at each other. And of course the joy of having a home office is that during the summer you have substantially more exposure to the joys of your life.

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Sometimes if you are me you have also adopted a strategy of heading off to the second office. You can blame this on having watched Happy Days as a kid. Fonzie always took Ritchie into the bathroom and we all know that he was the coolest guy ever, at least until he jumped the shark.

Anyhoo, there have been some occasions when I have opted to answer the call of nature during these little dust ups. And upon occasion inquiries have been made as to whether I really was busy or not as it seemed far too convenient for me to be in there at moment.

I of course have always offered to provide proof and was always turned down, until recently. That dark haired beauty decided that she wanted to see for herself. Standing outside the door, she asks me to open it so that she can see for herself. I pause for a moment and suggest that she find something else to do.

Without missing a beat she tells me that she is almost five and besides she has seen boys go to the bathroom before. So I open the door and just as I am about to tell her what I think about all that she starts laughing because she knows that she has gotten me.

Then for good measure she steps inside, sniffs the air and proclaims, "it doesn't stink in here, you are just hiding from us."

And people ask me why I am losing my hair.

Everything Happens For a Reason

This post did consist of text, but I didn't like it. So this replaces it.

DNA Testing Reveals Our True Relatives

This story about personal DNA testing is quite interesting. I know a few people who are doing this. Take a look at this excerpt:

"Take Cezary Fudali, a 41-year-old business and securities lawyer living in Ottawa, Ontario. He has always been drawn to books about Israel and Middle Eastern architecture. But it wasn’t until he turned to his own family history that he began to see a connection between his intellectual curiosity and his own life.

Through an Internet ancestry site, he met a cousin from New Jersey who asked him if he knew his mother was adopted. Fudali was shocked. She told him that in the summer of 1943, during World War II, his maternal grandparents passed through a train station in Rozwadow, Poland, where they met a poor woman who begged them to take her child. Miraculously, his grandparents took the baby home and raised her as their own. His mother, who still lives in Poland, never knew she was adopted until her son heard this story, and his great aunt confirmed it. His mother still doesn’t believe the story is true.

Fudali, however, got some convincing evidence in 2003, when his ancestry research led him to a company called Family Tree DNA, one of a number of new companies selling cheek-swab tests that reveal genetic origins through mitochondrial DNA, a type of DNA inherited from one’s mother. Fudali, who was born into a rather typical Polish family in Warsaw in 1967—his father was Catholic by birth, but called himself an atheist—took the DNA test and was shocked to find he fell into a group called H-6A1, which is DNA that has only been found among Eastern European, Moroccan, Algerian, and Turkish Jews. Fudali concluded that his mother was of Judaic origins, and this information led him to believe that the woman who had given up her baby was most probably a Jew trying to save her daughter from the Nazis.

In 2006, a group of scientists discovered that 40 percent of the world’s Ashkenazi Jews could now be traced back to four women—two years later, a team of geneticists at universities in England and Spain discovered through Y chromosome testing that 20 percent of the population of the Iberian Penisula has Sephardic Jewish ancestry. A large majority of these hidden genetic Jews had converted to Catholicism during the Spanish Inquisition, and many had migrated to Italy."

Hat Tip to: Rabbi Fink

Star Trek Operetta

Love this.

A Father's Day Post

Confession time. I have listened to Josh Groban sing You Are Loved about eight times in a row. There is something about it that grabs my attention. I haven't watched more than thirty seconds of the video.

Canto Della Terra with Andrea Bocelli & Sarah Brightman does it too and so does Springsteen singing Tunnel of Love. Don't know exactly what it is, but they touch me. I listen to those songs and others and find myself wishing that I could sing.

Second confession. If I could sing, I mean if I could really sing I'd want to be able to do a couple of things. First, I'd want to have the sort of voice that made you stop in your tracks. Second, I'd want to have the sort of presence that made you feel like that when I was singing it was for you only.

Third confession. I do sing and have sung for you before. You might not remember, or perhaps you do, that day so long ago on Hampshire Road or was it somewhere else, in a secret garden all of our own. The world that no one else has seen. There I sang softly, quietly because that is the only way that my voice sounds ok.

Perhaps I shall sing again for you, perhaps not. Somewhere, some day along that Hampshire Road.

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The kids couldn't wait until Father's Day to give me their gifts. They were far too excited and insisted on my receiving them earlier this week. I didn't mind. They were both handmade and will be gifts that I hold onto for more than just sentimental reasons.

The big guy gave me a travel mug that has a note from him and a picture of him holding a football. His sister the dark haired beauty gave me a desk tool that holds papers and was decorated by her. I don't want her to feel like she is getting the short shrift here because I am already using it. It really is something that is helping me to stay organized and it is beautiful because she made it.

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As it happens tomorrow is the third yahrtzheit of the death of my paternal grandfather. I have been fortunate to have been close to my grandfathers and am glad that I still have my maternal to hang out with. But not a day goes by that I don't think about my other grandfather.

Tomorrow I'll see my dad and we'll celebrate Father's Day together, but it will be different for me. Different because I'll get to do it as both a son and a father. It is different because when things are hard and I feel like I need to lean on my father I can still do it. If I want his advice or to just bitch about things, he is there.

But my dad doesn't have that option any more. I haven't forgotten listening to him talk at the funeral and how he said that his father was his hero.

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Three years have passed since I had to call my father and tell him that grandpa had died. Fifteen since I had to tell him that his little brother had died. When my grandmother died I was young, so I didn't have to pass that news along.

He doesn't hold it against me and never would, but when I think about it I sometimes feel badly.

Tomorrow night he'll celebrate the day with half of his grandchildren and most of his children. It will be a lot of fun, but I am sure that there will be a moment or two where he thinks about his dad and misses being able to talk to him.

Not because he is in dire need of his help, but because sometimes it is nice to be able to talk to your dad. Because there are moments where it is just nice. One of the best Father's Day gifts I got was reading my son's report card. It was just awesome to see how we'll he had done and to read about how much he had grown.

I couldn't help but call my folks and tell them about their grandson. The kid is smart and has always done well, but this was just something else. I got a lot of pleasure out of telling them about him and how he deserved most of the credit because had done the work.

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So tomorrow I'll make a point of asking him if he wants to go visit grandpa. And if he does I'll offer to drive and the two of us will go say hi. And if not, well that is ok with me because it is Father's Day and the whole point is to ask my father what he wants for his day.

Happy Father's Day Dad, I love you.

The Best of Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere

It is Haveil Havalim time. Take a moment to check out the latest edition of the Best of the Jewish/Israeli Blogosphere. You can find the latest edition right here.

My Cover Letter

(This is a copy of the cover letter I send out when I am looking for work)

Dear Hiring Manager,

If you are need in of adding to the mediocrity of your department and want someone who can fill a cubicle than I might be the right person for the job.

Most days I’ll come in somewhere close to our agreed upon starting time. I’ll slowly make my way to my desk and then collapse in my seat where I’ll spend precious moments building a paper clip necklace or staring aimlessly at the calendar.

While I wait for my computer to boot up I’ll head over to the kitchen because you can’t really expect me to start working without a cup of coffee. With any luck Jim or Sue will have had the good sense to bring in some donuts because a day at the office without a donut just isn’t the same.

Eventually I’ll make my way back to my desk to begin my day. But before I get started I’ll have to check my Facebook account and see if any of my friends have put up any funny jokes that I can steal and claim for my own.

Besides I learned in business school that happy employees are far more productive than unhappy ones. Or maybe I read that on one of those Facebook quizzes. You know I took one that told me that told me that this position is the perfect job for me which is another reason why you should hire me.

Anyway, I hope that your company offers a lot of breaks. I read online that some countries in Europe have a mandate that every employee be given at least two hours of nap time. Some of them even require that companies allow them to bring their pets to work or pay extra for doggie daycare.

When you call me for my interview please make sure that it is not before ten am or you’ll wake me up. Oh, and don’t call after five because that is when I like to go to the gym. Can’t wait to hear from you and tell you why I am going to be your next employee.

Sincerely,

Jack B

The Wiggles Don't Play Here Anymore

The end of the school year has finally arrived and as promised my children were given instructions to go through their toys and figure out what they want to hold on to and what they can give away. The dark haired beauty put her hands on her hips and and glared at me for having the temerity to ask her to help cut down on clutter.

All it took was one a glare and a step towards her room to spur her into action. She understands that though I may be thoroughly in love with her I am in complete control of my actions. Manipulation only takes place when the old man is willing to allow it.

And as Father's Day is around the corner it is nice to know that my glare is continuing to improve. Perhaps I'll try it on my old man and see if it works. It will be a battle of two jedi masters. Ok, who am I kidding, those icy blues of his are more effective than mine, or maybe it is that whole kabed et evecha thing. Who knows.

Anyhoo, as the kids went through their stuff they brought it over and and built a small pile of things that they said that they were happy to give away. As I looked at the pile I saw that there was a Wiggles coloring book on the top. I imagine that I must have had a wistful smile on my face. It seems like yesterday that The Wiggles were a treasured favorite.

But those days are gone, The Wiggles do not play here anymore.

Truth is that they disappeared a long time ago. So long ago that I truly have to think about how long ago it was. Her big brother was a dyed in the wool fan of the Aussies. For a while, a long while the house was consistently filled with the sounds of their songs and or videos. Sometimes I would catch myself at work singing about Fruit Salad or the Big Red Car.

And then one day he decided that he was done with them and they dropped off of his list. But the dark haired beauty has no bigger hero than her brother so she kept up the tradition...for a while. She never did want to watch the videos the way that he did. In part that was because she found Dora, a girl, far more interesting.

Still she would play their CD and dance around to their music, but that ended too. Again, I can't really say when. It just kind of fizzled out and faded away.

Now that she has graduated from preschool she is interested in big girl pursuits, this she has made clear.

Earlier tonight she asked me to open her nail polish so that she could make herself my beautiful princess. I smiled and told her that she is always my beautiful princess. She smiled and told me that she could be even more beautiful if I opened the bottle. And then for good measure she offered to draw me pretty pictures every day.

Lord help us all when she really figures out how to negotiate. Anyway, I bent over and kissed her forehead and told her to go brush her teeth. She started to try to negotiate again and I gave her a look and that ended it.

As she walked away I looked at her and thought about how big she has gotten and sighed. The Wiggles Don't Play Here Anymore.
Scenes from a mall

Two guys arguing about Kobe and LeBron. I look at them and ask if they know the real difference between them.

"Four championships"

Murder- He Said That He Is Going To Kill Me

This is not something that I have made up.

I just received the following threatening email from someone called Mustafa Babar. Good to know that I am being targeted by a man named after an elephant who is the beloved protagonist of children's books.

ATTN.

LISTEN VERY CAREFULLY ,THIS IS THE ONLY WAY I CAN CONTACT
YOU, my TEAM HAS BEEN PAID TO ASSASINATE YOU, I HAVE EVERY REASON TO
CARRY OUT THE CONTRACT,BUT I DECIDED TO GIVE YOU A CHANCE AND SAVE YOUR FAMILY THIS PAIN,THIS YOUR ALTERNATIVE,I WISH TO HELP YOU UNLESS YOU
DONT WANT TO HELP YOUR SELF,I WILL SEND YOU ENOUGH EVIDENCE YOU NEED ON A VIDEO TAPE RECORD
TO NAIL MY EMPLOYER DOWN WITH THE LAW.

BEFORE THAT YOUR REQUIRED TO MAKE AVAILABLE THE SUM OF $70,000. USD,
AFTER WHICH I WILL DIRECT YOU ON WHAT TO DO NEXT TO SAVE YOUR SELF AND
YOUR FAMILY FROM THIS PAIN THAT WOULD HAVE BEFALLED YOU FROM MY
EMPLOYER,THE MONEY WILL BE USED TO SETTLE THE TEAM MEN INVOLVED TO GO
BACK TO THERE DESTINATIONS AND YOU BETTER KEEP THIS INFORMATION TO
YOUR SELF BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW WHO IS WHO WHERE YOU ARE NOW,IF HE
FINDS OUT I HAVE BETRAYED HIM TRYING TO HELP YOU,YOU WILL HAVE YOUR
SELF TO BLAME, I HAVE ORDERED MY MEN TO SATY AWAY FROM YOU.

DO WE HAVE A DEAL OR NOT ?

NOTE: YOU HAVE TWO OPTIONS HERE, (1)YOU HAVE TO GET HIM ARRESTED WITH
THE INFORMATION I WILL GIVE YOU AFTER THE PAYMENT OR ( 2)YOU HAVE HIM
KILLED TO SAVE YOUR SELF.

I WILL VISIT YOUR HOUSE AGAIN BUT NOT NOW,MY BOYS EYES ARE ON YOU SO
GET BACK TO ME AS SOON AS POSSIBLE


Here is my response to the email address he provided, mustaphababar009@yahoo.com.cn

Dear Mustapha,

Though I suspect that this may be a scam I have passed along your information to the F.B.I. and local law enforcement as I do not take threats on my life lightly. They should be visiting you in the very near future at which point in time you'll gain a new residence.

But on the very slim chance that you are serious about this allow me to confirm that any assault on myself or my family will be met with a swift and severe response. Understand that this is a guarantee and not a promise.

-Jack

Blog Cliques/Blog Communities

Someone asked me if there is such a thing as a blog clique or blog community. I smiled, said yes and then told them that they aren't part of mine. And then I stuck my tongue out at her, pulled her hair and kicked her in the shins.

For some reason at 40 that doesn't receive the same response as it did when I was six. Back then they told my parents that I was an awful, terrible child who would never have any friends. Now it warranted a visit from men with silver bracelets and dark suits. Not to mention some guy named Mike who showed up with a Louisville Slugger and promises of using my head for batting practice.

I guess that Mike hasn't watched as many action movies as I had or he would have known that as he swung the bat I would grab it and stop it in mid flight. Then while he stared blankly I'd take it from him and pop him in the mouth.

Moments later I'd be surrounded by his three dopey friends. They'd circle around me and I'd glare at them, all the while spinning the bat in my hands like some sort of baton. Seconds later the first one would come charging at me only to learn the same lesson as Mike, Jack's fists of fury cannot be stopped.

In the end they'd all end up lying in various states of ass kickery wondering why they were dumb enough to listen to a guy like Mike, who trusts a man who looks like a muppet anyway.

Ok, none of that really happened. I didn't get arrested, didn't beat up any muppets or kick a girl in the shins. But I did talk to someone about blog cliques and communities because they do exist.

A clique is sort of an odd term to try and apply to the blogosphere. If you apply the old school definition you have a group of people that have some sort of terms for membership. If you were in school that could potentially be problematic or tricky because it could be hard to make friends.

But not here, not in the blogosphere.

The thing about cyberspace is that it is broad, it is vast and it offers lots of places to hang out. So you very well may stumble upon blogs where it is clear that the commenters have developed some sort of relationship that isn't very welcoming to newcomers. So what, who cares.

Take advantage of the space and go elsewhere. That is the beauty of it all. Don't fret about being excluded. Go find a community that has similar interests and hang out with them. I can guarantee that they exist, as in plural. Why hang out with people who aren't friendly when you don't have to.

Fly, be free.

Kettlebells

I recently started using kettlebells for my workout. I love it.

Who Is Mir Hossein Mousavi?

CBS News offers the following information about Mousavi.

(CBS) His supporters may have taken to the streets - even died for his cause. But Mir Hossein Mousavi is neither a champion of democracy as we know it, nor an advocate of great change within Iran's Mullah-dominated government.

"He's not a secular intellectual in the molds of Western intellectuals," said Baqer Moin, an Iranian commentator. "No, he's coming from within the revolution."

In fact he was part of the revolution, a supporter of the Ayatollah Khomeini when he came to power in 1979 - a government minister during the Revolution's turbulent early years.

"Then he became prime minister and was prime minister for nearly eight years," Moin said.

"Very much an establishment figure," asked CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips.

"Absolutely," Moin said.

Even if Mousavi came to power, the change he represents is more of tone than policy.

He may not deny the Holocaust, but he has made no promise to end Iran's support for the militants in Hezbollah or Hamas on Israel's borders.

And while he might be prepared to talk about it, he too is committed to Iran's nuclear program.

"He's a moderate, he's a pragmatist moderate," Moin said.
I don't know. Is he really any better than Ahmadinejad . I am not convinced and not sure what to think. You'll forgive me for being a skeptic, but history has taught that sometimes caution is warranted.

Ahmadinejad is the devil we know. We know where he stands and what he wants. There is something to be said for that. That is not to say that it is impossible that Mousavi is better or that real reform isn't on the horizon, but I wonder.

Recent Posts

Some recent posts:

I Love LA
Dinner For Two
Music to Play At My Funeral
Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing
Why Be Jewish
Lost Among The Rest
June's Music List
You Don't Really Know Me
Iraq & Afghanistan

I just realized I haven't had a physical in 3.5 years. If I suddenly disappear see Soccer Dad about H.H.

Damn, time moves far too quickly.

I Love LA


Hate New York City
It's cold and it's damp
And all the people dressed like monkeys
Let's leave Chicago to the Eskimos
That town's a little bit too rugged
For you and me you bad girl

Rollin' down the Imperial Highway
With a big nasty redhead at my side
Santa Ana winds blowin' hot from the north
And we as born to ride

Roll down the window put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys baby
Don't let the music stop
We're gonna ride it till we just can't ride it no more

>From the South Bay to the Valley
>From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody's very happy
'Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day

I love L.A. (We love it)
I love L.A. (We love it)

Look at that mountain
Look at those trees
Look at that bum over there, man
He's down on his knees
Look at these women
There ain't nothin' like 'em nowhere

Century Boulevard (We love it)
Victory Boulevard (We love it)
Santa Monica Boulevard (We love it)
Sixth Street (We love it, we love it)

I love L.A.
I love L.A.
(We love it)

Dinner For Two

Dinner For Two is the title of a new blog I plan to start. I have many different ideas for it. Sometimes I picture it as being an upscale restaurant where couples go on a date.

This restaurant is a bit different because while we watch the date we also get to listen to them talk to us about what is really going on inside their heads.

Or maybe it will be something entirely different. Maybe it will be the setting for three scenes. Maybe it will serve as the intro, middle and end of their relationship.

You know, the place where they go for their first date, anniversary date and then the place where they eventually break up.

I have other ideas for what it could be. Other thoughts on how to turn this plain canvas into something other than what it is.

And perhaps I will share those thoughts with you. Maybe I'll give you a glimpse inside that world and let you tell me what you think of it.

We shall have to see. For now I'll let it ride for a bit. Sometimes it is good to let the thoughts and ideas marinate in a little brain stew, adds all sorts of flavor to it.

In the interim you're welcome to take a walk in my garden. Take a moment and look around you because never quite know what you might find here.

Music to Play At My Funeral

Had a discussion earlier this week with what sort of music to play at a funeral. Ok, this isn't really so much for a funeral, but any sort of memorial service. Truth is that when I am dead, I am dead, so anything can happen.

I don't want a lot of tears and fuss. When the day comes and I take that final breath I want people to smile when they think of me. And to be clear, I haven't any intention of dying any time soon. I have plans to fulfill. Got to walk down that Hampshire road through the burning river and decorate a few places.

Got a little covent tree that I am going to take care of. But I'll cover all that in a separate post. For now this is the beginning of music for my funeral or memorial service. Call it whatever you want, I won't be in attendance in the corporeal sense.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Soundtrack- Haven't found the entire soundtrack in a clip that plays straight through so here are a few different links. Good Music.

1
2
3
4

Theme from the Magnificent Seven
May it be- Enya
Theme from Harry's Game- Clannad
I will find you - Clannad
Hero of The Day- Metallica
As Time Goes By - Casablanca
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)- Bruce Springsteen

More to come, or not.

Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing

In a relatively short period of time the dark haired beauty will graduate from pre-school and one more chapter of my life will come to a close. After her there are no more children in the pre-school or waiting to enter. She is the last and in a few hours that will be it.

Just a few more hours and that girl will be a kindergartener waiting to run on the big yard and do everything that her older brother does. Truth is that she has spent all of her almost five years on this earth trying to be just like him. She has no bigger hero than him.

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As I sit here typing a thousand thoughts are going through my mind. I am listening to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Ennio Morricone. It is fantastic, one my favorite albums. This music is the inspiration for the title of this post, Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing. Although in my mind it could also be used as the name of a school, not that it matters.

It is a strange feeling this one that I have now. I couldn't be any happier or prouder of her. This little dark haired beauty who curls up on my lap and tells me that she loves me. Dark brown eyes and long black curls dangling. She looks at me and tells me to read her a story.

Sometimes she sees that distant look in my eyes and she hugs me or holds my hand. I remember when those fingers weren't big enough to do more than grip my index finger. Now that she is a big girl she can grab several fingers at a time, but she still wants to know if her hand will ever be as big as mine.

When she is feeling shy or nervous about meeting people she hides behind me. She tells me that she has a boyfriend and that I can't do anything about it because they are in love. I tease her about it and tell her that I am going to punch him in the nose when I see him. She puts her hands on her hips and tells me that he knows karate.

In the days that come she'll decide that they aren't in love anymore and tell me that it is ok to punch him in the nose now. Watch out boys, the dark haired beauty is both mysterious and dangerous. More importantly she is studying how to manipulate us men.

Maybe they should be more afraid of her than me, who knows. ;)
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The music has taken on a more ominous tone and I can feel the tension rising. Somewhere ahead of me trouble awaits. The wind is whipping up the dust so that I have to pull my bandana up over my face, all you can see are my eyes peering out from beneath my hat. I slow my horse down but am prepared to begin riding hard for cover.

I look around and try to figure out where the attack is going to come from because it is going to come. It is not a question of will, but when. If I were them I'd wait until after sunset and use the cover of darkness to help me. But I hope that they aren't that smart. Because I know that if they come sooner I can use the sun to my advantage.

That bright burning orb in the sky will come from behind me and force them to squint. With any luck it will give me the edge that I need. It is one on three. If I didn't have to worry about the guns I'd feel better. If we were face to face one on three would be perfectly fine, I can handle that.

A soft rustling noise catches my attention and I turn and watch the tumbleweeds blow across the place I had been.

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Time is up. I can't sit here and record my thoughts any longer, it is time to get ready for that graduation. In a moment I'll stand beneath the shower and think about it all and picture a sign that says: Welcome to Tumbleweed Crossing.

Why Be Jewish

Some posts write themselves. I pick the topic and the words flow straight from the keyboard onto the cyber canvas you read them upon. Sometimes it is much more challenging. Sometime it feels like a war in which I engage in multiple battles to produce a post that is worth publishing.

This particular post has been part of the latter. I have tried to write it many times but have consistently been disappointed in it and consequently deleted and started over. But I decided that perhaps I was over thinking it and so I sat down and banged out the copy that you are reading now.

Religion is a funny thing. Some people cite it as the source of all that is good in their lives and others blame it for every possible ill. I have had more discussions than I can count about Israel with people who blame the conflict upon religious/ideological warfare.

So it got me thinking about a number of things such as why do people believe in whatever faith they believe in. Adult converts are easy. At some point in time they decided that they were not satisfied with whatever they believed and made the decision to change. But the question for those of us who did not convert is why.

Why be Jewish? Why are you a Jew? What makes you want to do it? Is it only because you were born into it or is there something more. So I conducted an informal and unscientific poll in which I emailed somewhere around 100 bloggers from the Jblogosphere and asked them to answer the question.

I received back from very interesting responses and thought that I would share them with you. In the interest of confidentiality I'll share their words but I am not going to identify them. It will be their choice to step from behind the curtain.

I'm Jewish because I was born Jewish. I have to be honest, if I wasn't born Jewish I don't know that I'd have become Jewish. I tend to be the sort of person who goes with the flow. If I had been the product of a mixed marriage, I really don't know which way I'd go. Though I suspect in such circumstances I'd probably choose one or the other religion.

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I am Jewish because it is my heritage.


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I am Jewish because having a purposeful life is imperative.Because of all of the purported purposes in the world, this one makes the most sense to me.There is no "dead space" in a well-lived Jewish life. No "killing time."

There is nothing that doesn't matter, from when we wake up until we go to sleep -- and even our sleep time can be sanctified.

When I was young, "free, white and 21" was a popular explanation for why I could do whatever I wanted to do. And that was freedom.

As I lived a while, I realized that freedom like that is only the freedom to screw up. I think I felt truly free for the first time in my life when I understood what the boundaries were.

Adults are not so much different from children, after all. We also play with the most joy and abandon when we know where the walls and the cliffs are located, and that they are clearly marked.

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Judaism connects me to my father. His memory is what caused me to seek out Judaism.
I thrive on the structure that the Jewish calendar imparts
Keeping Kosher makes me think about God every time I eat.
I love how the world melts away when I light Shabbat candles.
I love that every week, we have a reason to celebrate.
I have children who remind me daily that there is something bigger than me in the world.
The music and liturgy of Shabbat morning services soothes my soul.
I love the Jewish community and sense of extended family that I have found.
My heart sings when I hear my almost 5 year old son singing Ma Yafe Hayom at the top of his lungs while showering. Or when my 9 1/2 year old asks the Hazzan if she can lead part of the service.
I have the world's most precious gift that I can pass along to my children.
Oh. And because I was born that way.

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The fact of it is that I am Jewish because my parents are Jewish and I was born Jewish. Maybe that goes without saying but if I were not born Jewish, there is no reason to believe that I would have sought out Judaism because the values so deeply resonated within me.

I happened to go to Jewish summer camp and fell in love with the friends and community I made. Years later, you could insert "Israel" into that sentence. It sounds a bit odd and irrational to say something is such an important value when I don't feel like I ever really CHOSE it but that's life.

How many Amish, Catholics, or charedim would have chosen their lives if they hadn't been born into that world?

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I am a Jew because I believe I am part of something bigger than myself that is real. I grew up in a non-religious home and have become more religious on my own. I have felt a connection to HaShem if my life and my travels to Jerusalem. I am a part of something special, and I am proud of my heritage and the future of my people.

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I grew up with it, in a watered down religious way, and in a home of immigrants who had been persecuted because they are/were Jewish. I had lots of my own experiences here in the States, both as a youngster and as an adult. One fine day I realized that I owe my very existence to Jew hatred - without it, presumably, my parents would have never fled their home countries, and presumably would have never met, thus obviatingmy conception. Can you believe it Jack; I, a Jew, owe my existence to Adolph Hitler?

And people think I'm weird. Anyway, as I've grown older, Judaism has grown in and on me. At this point in my life, I can't do without it.

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Why am I Jewish?The answer goes beyond the simple accident of birth, that chance fusing of DNA from the son of Polish Ashkenazic immigrants and the daughter of Russian Ashkenazic immigrants. That alone would suffice, but it would not explain why I - a devout skeptic - put on tefillin and a tallit and say my prayers almost every day.

To be a Jew means more than to be an ancestor of the people who escaped Egyptian slavery and who stood at the base of Mount Horeb. Those stories go to the heart of our nation-building experience, but they do not completely explain the curious combination of deep moral vision and common sense that are the essential components of the Jewish belief system.

We Jews are, ideally, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, a light unto the world - who would not want to be a part of such a nation? That is why I am Jewish.

Our national history teaches us to love our neighbor as ourselves, to not shun the stranger - for we were strangers in the land of Egypt. Who better than to carry the torch of social justice, to set a positive example?

To us Jews, faith is important - but deeds are much more so. That is why I am Jewish. I am Jewish because I am the descendant of people who were not content merely to pray to God, but had the chutzpah to bargain with, argue with, and cajole Him.

I am Jewish because we need no intermediaries between us and the Almighty, an ineffable Spirit who does not need to incarnate Himself in order to understand the deepest thoughts of His creations, who created them without sin or blemish (and without perfection) - but with Free Will. That is why I am Jewish.

Plus...gefilte fish!

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Why am I Jewish? Birth. That's all. I mean, ashreinu ma tov chelkeinu, etc,

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Birth for a starter. I wasn't raised in a religious home, but we knew we were Jewish. I could have turned away into an American universalist. In my childhood days, most people had religion, except for the rare intermarried family.

Today no religion is more common.

I'm the type who likes to be part of something, and if I'm part of something I take it seriously. So, today I'm a Torah Jew, aka Orthodox.

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Quite simply, I AM Jewish because I was born into a Jewish family with Jewish parents. It doesn't take much more than uterine luck to be a Jew in many cases.

It's what one does with that birthright that defines his or her Judaism. I've written about my belief that every Jew is a Jew by choice, but I've never really gotten into the why, so here we go.

I am a practicing Jew because the basic concepts work for me. Observing commandments like keeping kosher make me feel connected to something much bigger than me; it connects me to thousands of years of heritage and to all kosher Jews around the world today.

On a more theological level, I like being part of a religion that allows its adherents to question everything and often encourages the practice. I could not be in a faith where such grappling is not a core value. I mean, we've devoted whole books to wrestling with core ideological questions and they'll never be done.

Judaism is a living thing unto itself and that's pretty damn cool. We infuse everything from mundane tasks to sublime revelations with holiness. Who else makes a religion out of eating but the Jews?

More than that, we have crammed a holistic way of life into our faith without being absolute.

Finally, I'm Jewish because it resonates with me. I find comfort in the memories of my home during holidays, of the friends from various youth groups and Hebrew school and college classes, and of the incredible hospitality I've encountered in my travels.

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You could look at painter Marc Chagall's reply when he was asked 'who is a Jew?'. He defined a Jew as anybody the world treated as one.

It's certainly one answer, even for those totally assimilated 'progressive' Jews on the Left who may one day find out exactly how Jewish their political allies see them as.

We are a religion and a nationality at the same time, the only group of people whom I can think of for which that can be said.

Why am I a Jew? Because it is part of whom I am. It is as natural to me as breathing.

To deny it would be an act of self-hatred. The simplest answer, of course, is that I am a Jew because Hashem made me one, and it was not an accident.

Embracing that in all its facets without apology or second thoughts is a fascinating experience, especially if you believe, as I do, that G-d has a special purpose and plan for the Jewish people.

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Born Jewish. Went to Jewish school. Went to very non Jewish university. Didn't know how to be Jewish on my own. Dated non Jewish men. Parents rather angry. I didn't really get way, because we weren't strict in our Jewish practice, did the eating non Kosher thing when we were out and about and didn't keep Shabbat at all.

In fact Shabbat was spent shopping.

Anyway, eventually married non Jewish man. I had a bit of a life eye opener a couple of years back when, i nearly died. Emergency surgery and a couple of years of "finding myself" and i found myself back (sort of) where i started practicing my religion once more, only more strictly (and more seriously) than i had with my parents.

Why am i Jewish? Because after years of not behaving Jewishly, "being Jewish" is a better fit for me spiritually.

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I was born to a Jewish mother. they tell me that that makes me Jewish. Recently this issue has been bothering a student I've been working with in school. It comes down to trust in the oral tradition, to the idea that the written Torah is shorthand.


I was once a witness for a friend before he got married in Jerusalem. A large, tough looking rabbi asked me if my friend was Jewish. i said yes. Then he surprised me by asking, "Eich atah yodeah?" My basic answer was "homina, homina, homina," but included some details like the fact that my friend went to day schools/yeshivot his whole life, his father was a rabbi, and (my favorite) everyone assumed he was Jewish. The big man bought it.

As far as I know I am Jewish. My understanding is that this can not easily be undone, and maybe it can't be undone even with great effort (G-d forbid). We are called G-d's children, and there's no divorce for children. The question asked was why am I Jewish, so I guess that answers that.

One could wonder why am I or my compatriots actively Jewish. What compels me to be a Jewy Jew? To me, that's a more interesting question than why I am technically Jewish and a much more difficult question to answer. I think so much in life that we present in life as ideology is actually largely sociology. Why we hold the opinions and beliefs that we do is very much about what we've experienced in life. Pursuant to that point I feel that I can never thank my parents enough for having sent me, from Kindergarten on, to Jewish Day Schools.

I could go on and on with this question, expanding it, branching it out into related question upon question: why am I Orthodox (and what does Orthodox mean?), why am I the kind of Orthodox Jew that I am (and what kind is that?), why am I a rabbi? , why do I teach Jewish Studies, what do I believe are the important actions, elements, beliefs of a Jew?, and on and on and on.

I'm going to close this answer up now. I'm not sure if it fits so much as I'd like it to, but I'll end with an analogy. In Gadi Pollack's Once Upon A Tale (translated by Devorah GoldshmiedtI the following moshol is presented in the introduction.

A man was staying with a close friend of his, in an inn, in a foreign land. He was dependent on his pal, because he did not know the language of the country they were visiting.

One day, during a rare moment our protagonist found himself alone in his room. The innkeeper stormed into the room and began shouting in a his language. The star of our story didn't understand a word.

The other gentleman started screaming more frantically, pointing at the clock on the wall, motioning to the door.

All the guest could think of was that he was about to be thrown out if he didn't pay up. he offered the owner money to no avail The scene replayed itself in a perpetual loop until the other guest returned.

He immediately understood that the proprietor was warning them that there was a fire at the other end of the hotel and that it could spread and that they'd best get outside right away.

A lesson from this story that we can glean is that often in life messages are being sent our way from G-d.

This I believe.

We sometimes misinterpret messages based on our own biases and lack of knowledge of the language of G-d. The messages I've been sent in my life, and continue to receive have made clear to me that a traditional Jewish life is the path of truth.

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I was born Jewish, so evidently it is God's will that it be so. I bend to his will and do the best I can to keep the traditions alive and pass them down to my children and to my students. But had I been given a choice before birth, I would have chosen not to be Jewish. I think that life would be easier without all the burdens that Judaism places upon us.

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I'm non religious. My Dad was raised in an orthodox orphanage in 20s/30s Berlin; my Mom was raised by her Christian mother and her assimilated Jewish father. Both converged in Palestine, though.

My Dad was lucky enough to have a teacher who was making Aliyah take my Dad with him. He ended up helping found a kibbutz in 1935. He also became a Marxist, abandoning his religion. He died a Reagan Democrat, with a respect for religion, but he never went back.

My Mom's assimilated Jewish father was profoundly affected by Herzl's Zionism. He made his first journey to Palestine in 1912, or so, along with such other Austro-Hungarian Zionists as Stefan Zweick.

He eventually moved the family to Tel Aviv in 1935, and my Mom, at 13, started school there.

My Mom had good religious training in the schools, but was never religious herself.

During WWII, my Dad was in the RAF; my Mom was in concentration camp in Indonesia (long story).

After the war, both were repatriated to Palestine, and both fought in the War of Independence. My Dad, for about 5 minutes, until a bigger fish came along, was the first Jewish commander of Jaffa since the Roman era; my mom was a draftsman for the Army.

I am, therefore, deeply connected to Israel.

When my parents came to America, they continued to be nonreligious. They didn't realize that it's one thing to be a non-religious Jew in a Jewish country, and a non-religious Jew in a Christian/secular country.

So religion isn't my Jewishness. And yet I still feel Jewish.My parents friends were, without exception, Jewish. My parents social reference points were, without exception, Jewish.

My Dad's jokes were, with few exceptions, Jewish. Our sense of empathy was tied to Jews -- those who died in the Holocaust and those who lived in Israel.

I know I'm Jewish and I make sure my kids know they're Jewish.

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 ...