Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Ping Me!

Fastest Meme in the West. Maybe.

Scott Eric Kaufman is trying to measure the speed of a meme. Play along, and you'll be part of academic history! [via]

Monday, November 27, 2006

Quotations #088 and a technical change

"The discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a star." -- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du Goût (1826)

"Written laws are like spider's webs; they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful." -- Anacharsis (6c bce), in Plutarch's Parallel Lives

"Just as every conviction begins as a whim so does every emancipator serve his apprenticeship as a crank. A fanatic is a great leader who is just entering the room." -- Heywood Broun, 6 February 1928.

"The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on." -- Walter Lippmann, 14 April 1945

"It was Einstein who made the real trouble. He announced in1905 that there was no such thing as absolute rest. After that there never was." -- Stephen Leacock, The Boy I Left Behind Me (1947)

Due to the increasing frequency of automated spam comments, and the now-accessible changes to the human identification system, I'm dropping comment moderation and switching to verification. We'll see. If anyone has trouble with it, let me know.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thursday Verses: Love's Been Linked to the Blues

This has nothing to do with Thanksgiving, though I wish everyone a joyous (or at least non-traumatic) day, with appropriate gratitude all around. It's not great poetry. But it's a very fun blues tune, and I was listening to Garnet Roger's rendition tonight while I made chocolate chip banana pecan bread.

Love's Been Linked To The Blues
David Olney © 1991

It was in the morning papers, the evening papers too
And I saw it on TV, so I know it must be true
This is no idle rumor, they've got the cold hard facts
They've even checked it out on little mice and rats

Just in case you haven't heard, I'll give you the bad news
Love's been linked to the blues

You start out feeling happy but then love brings you down
You're acting like a hero; you end up like a clown
In study after study, it's the heart that gets broke
They're working 'round the clock searching for the antidote

Well it's true that its sad, but it's sadder that it's true
Love's been linked to the blues

So you've got to be real careful, and always on your guard
Falling in love, you know it's harmful to your heart
It's worse than they suspected, it's as bad as it gets
The surgeon general says you're better off with cigarettes

If you must have your bad habits, why don't you stick to booze
'Cause love's been linked to the blues

Well it's true that its sad, but it's sadder that it's true
Love's been linked to the blues

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gender Behavior Quiz: Neither, or Either....

You scored as Neither. You think neither like a man nor like a woman. What you are you may decide for yourself. Most people will consider you strange, alien, weird or funny. You are probably quite interesting.


Should you be MALE or FEMALE?*
created with QuizFarm.com

Bonus fun: Wondering where you'd end up if you dug straight through the earth? No? Well, if it comes up sometime, go here and they'll tell you. [via]

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Image: Rainbows

Some fun with my photo editor. It came along with my first digital camera, so it's pretty old, but it's useable without special training, which is more than I can say for anything more recent that I've seen.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Wisdom of the Ancestors: Scholars as Public Figures

David Rosenfeld on The Torah Way" (no, he didn't call it that....)
(26) Making a "fence" for one's words: This expression means to limit in some way one's speech. (The term "fence" is often used by the Sages metaphorically, as a safeguard. See for example 3:17) The precise meaning and ramifications are not entirely clear, and the commentators offer a number of explanations.

Some commentators (Midrash Shmuel) understand this to be a general injunction to limit one's speech, as excessive talk leads to empty if not sinful speech. (See earlier, 1:17.)

R. Samson Raphael Hirsch explains in a manner more pertinent to scholars: A scholar should not be too vocal or outspoken. Although he should be prepared to speak out against injustice and take what are usually unpopular stands for truth, he should not force his views upon others. He will preface his statements as being his own understanding of the matter. Likewise, the scholar should not cheapen his words by talking too much. His words should be limited and well-chosen; when he does speak, it should be worth listening to.

Another interpretation (Machzor Vitri, Ya'avetz) is that the scholar must safeguard his words from misinterpretation. His words must be clear and unambiguous. Being a person who studies Torah and teaches it to others, he must be aware of the impact his words have upon others. If his words are misheard or misinterpreted -- whether innocently or wantonly -- it will influence others and will reflect on the Torah and Judaism accordingly.

In this regard, the scholar must see himself as somewhat of a public figure, under public scrutiny and ideally, one from whom others will learn. And of course, there are always those who are all too eager to find faults in leaders, especially religious ones -- perhaps in the interest of somehow justifying their own religious laxity. (Notice how focused the media always is over priestly misconduct (apart from society's general infatuation with such topics).) Rabbis, like political leaders, will always be quoted out of context and will have their words either naively or willfully misconstrued. (I'm sometimes amused after sending a class to be told by readers exactly what I said. ;-) Thus, the scholar should be prepared to speak out firmly and unequivocally when necessary, but should ever be aware of the consequences of errors and the potentially malicious intent of his detractors.
No matter how wise and knowledgeable a scholar you are, it might all go to waste if you're not a good politician -- or at least a good public speaker.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Thursday Lyric: Alleluia, The Great Storm is Over

This is the song that was going though my head this morning, and it's going to be going through my head tomorrow, too, so here it is. The first version of this I'm familiar with is the Garnet Rogers version, which is wonderfully heavy-handed and anthemic (it leaves out the more biblical third verse); my spouse is partial to the more complete and gospel-like John McCutcheon version (which also, if memory serves, refreshingly replaces "lame" with "lost"). Bob Franke has a blog.

Alleluia, The Great Storm Is Over
Words & Music by Bob Franke
©1982 Telephone Pole Music Publishing Co(BMI)

The thunder and lightning gave voice to the night;
the little lame child cried aloud in her fright. .
"Hush, little baby, a story I'll tell,
of a love that has vanquished the powers of hell.
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
"Sweetness in the air, and justice on the wind,
laughter in the house where the mourners had been.
The deaf shall have music, the blind have new eyes,
the standards of death taken down by surprise.
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
"Release for the captives, an end to the wars,
new streams in the desert, new hope for the poor.
The little lame children will dance as they sing,
and play with the bears and the lions in spring.
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
"Hush little baby, let go of your fear:
the Lord loves his own, and your mother is here."
The child fell asleep as the lantern did burn.
The mother sang on 'till her Bridegroom's return.
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!
Alleluia, the great storm is over, lift up your wings and fly!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Go Vote!

I love this country.

Join me in celebrating its most ancient and significant ritual, its most enduring tradition and its source of strength: vote or be damned.
Update: Thank you all. Voter turnout was up in something like 46 states.

Here, in honor of the day, is a special "Freedom and Democracy"-themed collection of quotations:

"Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods." -- H.L. Mencken

"Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it." -- George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903)

"Liberty does not consist merely of denouncing Tyranny, any more than horticulture does of deploring and abusing weeds, or even pulling them out." -- Arthur Bryant, 24 June 1939

"The enemies of Freedom do not argue; they shout and they shoot." -- William Ralph Inge, End of an Age (1948)

"Liberty is liberty, not equality or fairness or justice or human happiness or a quiet conscience." -- Isaiah Berlin, Two Concepts of Liberty (1958)

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." Thomas Jefferson, 13 November 1787

"Only reason can convince us of those three fundamental truths without a recognition of which there can be no effective liberty: that what we believe is not necessarily true; that what we like is not necessarily good; and that all questions are open." -- Clive Bell, Civilization (1928)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Wisdom of the Ancestors: Evil in the world

Quoth David Rosenfeld:
The amount of suffering we witness in this world, both individual and national, just does not lend itself to rational thought or explanation. The world as we see it is not an understandable place, and very few of us -- being the truth-seeking, concerned Jews we are -- possess the mindset to accept that. When we see what appears to man senseless tragedy, the success of evil so twisted as to glorify suicide for the expressed intent of killing and maiming as many innocents as possible, our minds and hearts cry out. And it is not only a cry for revenge. It is something much deeper. It is a cry for truth -- and for reality. The world is too dark and too painful, and it just does not make *sense*. Should not the world be a place of truth and goodness -- a reflection of the all-good and benevolent G-d who created it? But instead we see evil, suffering and distance from G-d, and our very faith in the world and humanity is shattered -- along with the shattered glass, bones, and lives in a world in which evil reigns.

And yet our mishna's words cry out.We must accept such givens -- that we cannot make sense of the world. For only then may we begin to study Torah.

For the most part, we study Torah in order to make sense of the world. Torah study is perhaps the surest manner of infusing our lives with meaning and understanding, of bringing G-d's light to an otherwise dark and terrifying universe. The more we study, the more everything fits in, and G-d's plan for the world and for each individual within begins to make sense and form a pattern.

But there are limitations. We cannot go into Torah study assuming that it will answer all of our questions -- at least in a manner we can understand. Even worse, there are those who -- millennia after the Torah was given -- attempt to "judge" the Torah's wisdom, even making their own observance dependent upon what makes sense to them, as if advanced and sophisticated 21st Century man can behave as arbiter over all which preceded him.
Not all. I still think the idea of "God's plan" is one of the most corrosive in all human theology. Nor do I think that the Torah is sufficient as a source for our ethical and practical morality. But I'm willing to grant it much more leeway than some....

Friday, November 03, 2006

Actually, I liked him more in the 90s

Your 80s Heartthrob Is
Michael J. Fox

One thing I don't like about blogthings is that there doesn't seem to be any way to see the other options. The other results I've found (Bill Gates, Jason Bateman, John Stamos) are definitely NOT it, though.