Monday, August 31, 2009

Shallow waters

I got a couple emails from a friend of mine this morning, and tonight we had a little chat, all of which I thought might interest y'all. The first email was sent at 5:15 AM, and the second at 7:15 AM. I take no responsibility...

First Email

This link is a section from a very polemic website that has many negative things to say about Lubavitch. However, it is my opinion that the person behind it, whether he is right or wrong, is someone seeking the truth. The following link is a long dialogue between that person and a Chabadnik who I also believe is seeking the truth. (It seems that the Chabadnik is a relatively learned ba'al teshuvah, but not a major scholar, and that the other fellow is a FFB through Chabad that left the Chabad path to sojourn instead in the yeshiva world and who is also learned but not a major scholar. One line in particular, where he mentions the infinity of G-d in an overly simplistic fashion, leads me to believe he has spent some time around chareidi kiruv people.) Anyway, its an interesting read and it discusses some deep concepts. It could be that its also a great waste of time (note what time of night I sent this email), but I thought it would at least give you something to satisfy your natural curiosity at the milieu of pundits and to distract you from your jitters.
Second Email

Interesting. I have confirmed what I suspected before. This "Identifying Chabad" guy has good arguments for why some things in Lubavitch, particularly the inflation of the "hiskashrus" concept and the cult of personality surrounding the Rebbe are problematic or objectionable, but his notion that the concept of hiskashrus and "betten" a rebbe are avodah zara according to Rambam are based on his misunderstanding of those concepts and the Rambam, although its easy to see why a reasonable person could draw his conclusions from both the Iggeres in question and the Rambam.

If hiskashrus, "betten" and "atzmus u'mehus...areingeshtalt in a guf" are understood from an emotional and spiritual perspective, its not so different from the notion that a tzaddik can help a person reach G-d by getting in touch with their connection to Him or even by basking in the aura of the tzaddik and thereby "transported" to a higher level of awareness of God, or even simply the benefit of being close to a mentor. In some ways, l'havdil, even one's relationship with God is comparable to a relationship with a mentor (think master and Master, which can be terms of service, ownership, tutelage, respect, or endearment, or any combination). I once heard a rabbi talk about how "G-d is THE rebbe" to describe this relationship between man and G-d, in response to which [name expurgated to protect the guilty] who was also there whispered to me "as opposed to 'the Rebbe is god'." Anyone who's ever been close to a rabbi or a mentor, or ever studied Torah from someone or from the writings of someone dead, knows that in some way your connection to the goals and ideas they present you is shaped by and association with the person(s) themselves. That's exactly why college textbooks give you a bio of the men behind the intellectual history of the subject matter. Imagine being mentored and taught directly by those men to appreciate their fields of study.

It's when hiskashrus becomes a very literal metaphysical concept that it becomes trouble. The easiest example is the notion that "betten" truly means the Rebbe controls one's fate and presides over (not just intercedes on behalf of) one's needs and so davening to him in that capacity becomes merely a hair's distance from treating him like G-d, or that "atzmus u'mehus...areingeshtalt in a guf" literally makes the Rebbe into G-d or G-d incarnate or G-d's spirit invested in a man such that "all that the Father is, I am."

Another problem is what Leibel Groner once told me that "one cannot attach himself to G-d without attaching himself to a tzaddik" implying either that G-d is inaccessible without the tzaddik's help or that one must go through the tzaddik to get to G-d (both appear to me to be "memutzah hamechalek").

Also, this guy never properly studied idolatry in the ancient world, or he would understand the difference between prayer and "service" in the Rambam (even though the formulation of the 13 Ikarim includes prayer as only fitting for G-d). "Service" is worship or ritual devotion, its theurgy and primal and involves submitting yourself completely into unity with something other than G-d to serve that thing or to "get closer to [G-d]." I don't think that "betten a rebbe" or hiskashrus or even "making one's will in accordance with the will of the rebbe" are really practiced in the way the Rambam calls avodah zara. The website's claim that "memutzah hamechaber" is what the Rambam is talking about, and says is worse than memutzhah hamechalek, is refuted by seeing how memetzah hamechaber is exactly the opposite of giving oneself wholly to an intermediary to get closer to G-d.

Taken too literally, too far, or practiced too intensely, the concept of memutzah hamechaber does become awfully close to avodah zara, and you and I both know people who's "relationship" with the Rebbe is creepy and too absorbing. I for one am not comfortable with the fact that hiskashrus is emphasized so much even at the extreme "not so creepy" end of the spectrum, and it does hurt to see how dangerously its expressed in writing in the Igros Kodesh. But this doesn't make Lubavitchers heretics.

What makes them heretics is clearly that they pronounce things funny. ;)
The Chat

TRS: you!
i need you!
i need your email!

The Friend: ok
my email?

TRS: yes
can i publish it, expurgated for privacy concerns, on mine blog?

The Friend: there's nothing private in the emails except the sender information
and maybe my gmail signature if its there

TRS: i will clean it up i will

The Friend: first, before you post it
what did you think

TRS: yes?
i thought you had some valid points (perhaps)

The Friend: thanks

TRS: lol

The Friend: that website definitely had a bone to pick
but a simple reading of that iggra is pretty, um, foreign

TRS: which letter?
and anyway, isn't it iggeres?

The Friend: the one about the Rayatz

TRS: which said...?

The Friend: that the difference between asking a deceased rebbe for help and asking things from 'intermediaries' or the dead, is that when one pleas to the deceased rebbe, he is actually pleading to G-d Himself, since the human rebbe is really just "the complete and absolute inherent essence of G-d Himself that dwells in a physical body"
and that a chossid should devote most of his conscious thought to the rebbe
and make sure his every desire conforms to the will of the rebbe
now, fancy kabbalistic notions of panentheisim and bitul atzmus/bitul yeshus, etc notwithstanding
it "farshtinks a bissel"

TRS: ahh, such a typical close-minded litvak you are

The Friend: having a profound spiritual connection to a tzaddik and his teaching doesn't require "Shivisi HaRebbe Negdi Tamid"
and "Make your will into His Will, that he will bend the will of others towards your will"
and "know that seeking the rebbe's help from beyond the grave is not a problem because the rebbe is nothing other than G-d Himself incarnate"
I for one don't think its meant to be taken that way
but its very easy to see how this guy saw it

TRS: well, every translation is by necessity imperfect

The Friend: well, I must protest, considering that the translation is pretty specific

TRS: who translated it?
The Friend: oy
I'll translate it if you want

TRS: no, it's ok
i'm not saying that i disagree with it

The Friend: hold on
I made a mistake
the quote that is the most problematic
is not from the iggeres on devoting one's thoughts to the rebbe
its somewhere else
have to find it agian
hold on

TRS: no worries

The Friend: aha
its from a sicha
after all

TRS: nu, which sicha?

The Friend: from Acharon Shel Pesach 5710

TRS: ahh

The Friend: Likutei Sichos volume two, pages 510-511

TRS: nu, i can show you more impressive things the Rebbe wrote or said

The Friend: the truly "damning phrase" is:
Atzmus u’mehus alein vi er hat zich
areingeshtalt in a guf
the igeres only mentions memutza hamechaber
which is not necessarily a problem
although the thing about making the rebbe the focus of all your daily thoughts is creepy
cause that's G-d's territory

TRS: you like the phrase atzmus um'hus bguf gashmi?

The Friend: ?
like it?

TRS: as in, do you think it's a good phrase?

The Friend: I remember once my sister told me that she babysat for the [name expurgated to protect the guilty] kids and the art project they'd brought home from preschool was a list of mitzvos they'd done to give nachas to the rebbe on construction paper now
that's just creepy

TRS: hey, don't send your kids to a lubav school if you don't want that

The Friend: do you want your kids being taught implicitly that the point of doing mitzvos is for the sake of the Rebbe?
it doesn't matter that explicitly they are taught about doing the will of G-d
they are shown in school at the youngest stages of chinuch that in spite of all the rest of Torah, the personal connection to mitzvos is getting closer to the rebbe or making him proud of us

TRS: ok
does this disturb you?

The Friend: yes
I don't think being a devoted chossid of the Rebbe requires thinking of the personal meaning behind mitzvos that way

TRS: all right
do i annoy you?

The Friend: no
surprise me maybe
what would Zalman say?

TRS: zalmen shechter?

The Friend: who?
[name expurgated to protect the guilty]

TRS: oh
he'd agree with you in public
and me in private

The Friend: maybe
I'm not public to him

TRS: all right, he'd agree with me when talking to you

The Friend: doubtful

TRS: all right, then he wouldn't
i haven't had enough mature discussion with him to be able to accurately predict his predilections

The Friend: I doubt that most lubavs really think first about nachas for the rebbe when the do mitzvos or daven

TRS: but they should

The Friend: but wanting to feel that the Rebbe somehow knows and is proud, or would be proud of them is probably important
to them

TRS: lol

The Friend: "but they should" you are such a devil's advocate
you don't believe that for a second

TRS: i don't?
why not?

The Friend: oh please
you don't put on tefillin to please the Rebbe

TRS: your fear f heaven should be like your fear of man...

The Friend: and your motive for doing mitzvos is that its G-d's command, its 'what you do', its what a good chossid of the Rebbe does, since a true chossid lives up to his Rebbe's teachings, etc
not that it pleases the Rebbe
you should fear G-d as if he's as clearly real to you as a person, but not that you should revere man as much as G-d
don't make reverse kal v'chomers
anyway, enough advocating
you have my permission to post my rantings

TRS: i appreciate it
how about your rantings on this forum?
also properly edited of course...

The Friend: uh

TRS: well, you decide

The Friend: well, ok

TRS: you are truly a friend indeed

The Friend: now how about the fact that you are getting married in two weeks

TRS: less!
quite exciting

The Friend: really
no bedwetting?

TRS: no bed wetting

Sunday, August 30, 2009

What's that you say?

"Sir, it has come to my attention that-"

"What has come to your attention?"

"It has come to my attention that some-"

"Don't just go on repeating yourself like a jack in the box, I don't need to hear the same information thrice-fold, just deliver it fresh."

"It has come to my attention-"


"It has come to my attention, Sir, that some people are saying that, and I quote, 'Your posts pretty much beg for themselves', followed by a most indelicate wink."

"Beg for themselves what?"

"Beg for, I believe, comments."


"Yes Sir, comments."

"So this, this, this trollop has the effrontery to say that I beg for comments?"

"Yes Sir, that would appear to be the case."


"Might I also point out, Sir, that your calling her a trollop will hardly recommend you to the fairer half for a more generous treatment-"

"Well, dash it, she started it, didn't she?"

"Sir, I believe you in fact did start it, if I may use so indelicate a verbiage."

"Me? Commence such a ridiculous undertaking? Speak up now, my man, tell me when!"

"When did you commence?"

"You mark my meaning most astonishingly. Now get on with it."

"Well Sir, it appears that you started the whole thing by inquiring as to the absence of commentage."

"You mean that most innocent of verbal jousting has been hijacked to represent a most gross liberty?"

"You've smoked my drift most exactingly, Sir. As you say, what is was that you said has been taken in quite the wrong manner."

"Perverted, no doubt, by a most malicious will designed to take me down in my prime, to dissemble that which I have created so lovingly, with so much care and effort. Sick, I say, sick."


"What is it now? Can't you see I'm having a most delicious huff?"

"Sir, you mistake the meaning of that word."

"Which word? 'Huff?' You don't think for a moment I refer to Aubrey, do you?"

"Not at all, Sir, your use of that word is entirely consistent with the best dictionarians in the land."

"Well then, what is it?"

"Your use of the word 'dissemble,' Sir, while sounding on the board, is actually quite fallen off it."

"You mean I used it in the wrong sense."



"I couldn't have said it better myself."

"No profanity-laced tirades coming from your mouth, eh?"

"No, I'm too full of myself for that."

"I noticed. Regardless, enough of the chortling. There's serious issues afoot, and I want them to be solved, and solved now!"

"You mean this insidious suggestion that you pander to your audience for comments?"

"Yes. What's to be done to respond to such horrendous accusations?"

"I don't know. Perhaps your readership has a suggestion or two?"

"An excellent idea. Hopefully they can come up with something."

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SOS from London

Help! I'm stuck in London, and I've just had all my possessions taken off me by a vicious (and, dare I say, viscous) squid that was attached to a computer's arm by a large hard drive. Anyway, as I was saying, I'm getting married in a little over two weeks, and I'd love to be there for it, but if I don't get four thousand dollars from you wired to my account now then I might just not be able to. Which would seriously stink.

Listen, I know that many of you are probably skeptical of this. Let me be the first to say that if I was you (which I'm not, thank the one above) I'd also be intensely skeptical. But please, hear me out. What happened was this. I signed up for a facebook account, and I was immediately transported to London. I don't know either. All I do know is that after a few moments of wishing I was traveling on British Airways I landed on top of the London Eye, and then immediately plunged onto the Millennium Dome, which doesn't exist anymore. I immediately realized this, and promptly fell into the nothingness that is now there. All right, that's not true. But the rest id I promise!

Anyway, I hit the roof of the O2, and then rolled off it and into the arms of the squid. I was quite surprised, because most squid don't have arms, but this one did. Don't believe me? Your loss. Actually, it was my loss, because that squid took all my earthly possessions, not to mention my ashes, which were floating above earth with Gene Roddenberry and three hundred carburetors.

So there I was, penniless, alone, in London, redundant tautology, and I didn't even have a tuna sandwich. What would I do? Where could I go? What could I do? Where could I go?

After ruminating over these thoughts for a while I decided to give my hungry mind a rest and decided to turn to you, my faithful facebook friend, in the hopes of quick salvation at your hands. Credit card. Same difference.

Good. So you want to help me get home? Just click here....

Friday, August 28, 2009

Free associations... (slightly expurgated for content)

April 8, 2002

I am free writing right now, isn’t that wonderful and exciting. I know that you think it is wonderful and exciting also, otherwise you would not be reading this wonderful product of not so raving insanity. Okay? Got that? Well then, that is absolutely wonderful, if you get my drift. I certainly get my drift, though that is probably to be expected as most drifts drift in and out regardless of the consequences of drifting. That is a good kind of drift. A bad kind of drift is the kind of drift that leads to any drifting that the original drifter did not intend for the drifter to get, if you get my meaning.

Life is Beautiful is a movie and I saw it with B.J. over two years ago. My feet stuck to the floor as we entered the theater and I remember thinking of a story someone once told me about rats in the Har Mar movie theaters. I used to raise rats for money when I was in junior high. The one that was my favorite smelled a bit like dry corn kernels and was able to walk a tight rope from one end of my room to the other. Nerf grew a tumor in her second year and had to be put to sleep. I wonder if the vet actually put her to sleep or if they just took her in the back and drowned her-- it would be a good way to save money, and after all, she was only a rat.

Diagonally is the way my horizontal blinds cut the light off in the living room as it shoots through the window at the end of the day. The blinds leave a diagonal shadow upon the living room wall which casts a weird dark look upon the portrait of Chuck Close that happens to be hanging there. Chuck Close was always one of my favorite artists because he was so good at those paintings and when he got sick and had to be in a wheelchair like in Six Degrees of Separation, he continued to paint brilliant cells of color, just as large as his original paintings, but sectioned into small portions that were accessible to a man who could barely control his motor skills.

scar hemoglobin hemoglobin or hemoglobin? because hemoglobin is funnier okay?! interrobang I have no idea what the heck you are talking about clueless that's me bad english heavy metal punk rocksid vicious who?! so young... too bad. so sad.not so true that surely you are insane I will return the compliment. You are nuts!!!Cashews. Peanuts are not nuts. I am allergic to peanuts-HA chew chew what sneeze Bless you church steeple fingers chicken pieces sitting in the tree. Who knows?

April 17, 2002

Noble-Nobles were French men who liked mustard, named after the noble who made it instead of the cook, which is sort of like calling a Mac a Steve Jobs as opposed to a Jonathan Ives. John is a cool guy, entirely unlike his namesake who terrorized England, and spawned Robin Hood. Monty Python is sometimes funny, though his protege, John Cleese is much funnier. Faulty towers is absolutely brilliant. The Psychiatrist one is the best. Physcho analyzers are divided into two classes, as are sports teams. There are the have and have notes. Haves would be the Packers, who are about to get rid of Antonio Freeman, a very stupid thing to do, just like Apple licensing Microsoft stuff which was very dumb. Microsoft is of course evil, stemming from its stealing of Apple.

˝Write about a Frenchman who loves mustard."

Pierre was a buffoon who loved all food, even Tortilla chips dipped in hot mozzarella with carrot sauce on top. His favorite food, though, was mustard. He consumed it though, day and night, and never let the cook who made it get him down. The cook was an evil rapscallion who stole all the food in the house and got drunk and ate baguettes all day. One day, the cook decided to commit suicide, because Pierre ate too much mustard. But there was no rope in the house, and so he got drunk, got fired, and enlisted in the Foreign Legionaries where he met Beau Geste. Beau Geste means a meaningless gesture, something like the movie by that name. It is an excellent ,movie. The carpet color orange is not very exciting. Better is white, or off white to hide the stains better. I do not know how to hide stains well, so this is an imperative. Imperatives are usually not kept anyway, so what is the point of keeping them. Who knows? I certainly do not know. More do I want to know.

April 29, 2002

Handkerchiefs are white, or at least they should be. William Brown had all white ones, until they got dirty. When things get dirty, then you need tyde. Don't ingest it though, for you will suffer massively, just like the Vikings this year. They are going to be destroyed by the Packers. Brett Favre is a brilliant genius, no matter what he says. And he is not dyslexic. This fact is proven by his brilliant speech after a brilliant performance over Baltimore when I was in Seattle. It always rains there, which means it has the highest suicide rate in the nation. Or so I have been told.

Birthday cake is usually very good. The icing isn’t, probably because it is equal amounts of sugar and food coloring. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with food coloring. Anyone who says so is itching for a fight, just like those who want the right answers on Michael Feldman's show.The name escapes my mind. Will I fall asleep tonight, sometimes I don’t fall asleep when I cant think about something. Isn’t that just so sad. It literally makes me want to bawl and cry with gusto. It is really pretty pathetic that, but I do not mind as I am a kind and compassionate soul, full of of kindness and compassion, even for those whose souls have led them on the path of wickedness which can only lead to eternal damnation. This is the path of the Democratic party.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ze Narrative


My first hockey game was an experience that I will never forget, especially now that I am writing this down. But back to the hockey game: It was a cold November day, less than a week after my sister’s wedding. The hockey game was to take place in Xcel Energy Center, which is a stone’s throw away from the site of the nuptials, the Landmark Center.

To go to the game, I had to skip school, which was fine by me, though the educators who were paid vast sums of money to inculcate in myself the lessons which would be of a superior sort of use to me in my next lifetime (post education), were not exactly happy campers, considering, of course, the fact that the camping season was over, the temperature being closer to zero than thirty.

We got to the arena in plenty of time to get lost, but admired the apartment buildings which make up the St. Paul skyline while trying to find our seats. Eventually, we found them, and they had little towels draped over them, presented by Wells Fargo. (They were just like Homer Hankies, but smaller and actually able to be used as towels. Hankies are only usable as pieces of cloth which are waveable whenever the urge strikes one. Or two, but we won’t get into the schizophrenic part of life).

The actual game, a 4-3 Dallas Stars victory over the luckless Minnesota Wild, was punctuated by two 20 minute intermissions, each having a trip into the beautiful bathrooms (much nicer than in Target Center, where the Timberwolves and Lynx play, or the Metrodome). The game featured a third period comeback, which fell short in the final seconds.

After exiting, (one thing about the exiting scheme in Xcel: It is brilliant. There are staircases all over the place, painted with the team colors, with which one may exit the arena post-game, quickly efficiently, and quietly; unless of course the fans are drunk which they often are) the stadium with a brand new Wild cap, courtesy of the father figure, we got into the car, and went to Fishman’s for dinner.

The food there wasn’t exceptionally amazing, but filled my stomach like corn fills a chicken gullet. Or how it should fill an avarian belly, if the fowl isn’t anorexic, or alternatively, hasn’t been done in by some fowl play. (grooaan). My next game was just as exciting, but missed the exhilaration which can only be found in a first experience, and, alternatively, in the foibles of an imperfect memory.

Post Script: Any overused expressions were put in here to facilitate the readers imagination, and were probably intended facetiously. If not, then it sure is not my fault.

The River


The boxcar rumbled slowly, having already cleared the junction, its occupant could not think of a reason why. He was a smallish man, five foot six, with blue eyes that never had the sparkle attributed to that characteristic. With him in the boxcar were two dogs, but as they do not feature in this story at all, they will no further be mentioned. Also with him was a flashlight without any batteries, and so he did not see what was obstructing his train.

It was, in fact, nothing. The track ahead was clear, and the signals were all bright green. But the engineer did not go, because of two reasons. One, was because the bridge two miles up had been hit by lightning only half an hour before, and was burning brightly in the rain soaked air. The other reason, and the more pressing of the two, was that his cup of coffee was cold. On an ordinary night, this is a calamity. However, in the rain, with your train not moving, and the ticketed passengers complaining, it is a disaster. When a man needs his caffeine, he needs his caffeine.

(She was being chased by a giant hedgehog, which was eating her money as she flung it out of her wallet. She screamed, turned around, and tried to punch it. It stopped, she ran, it ran, she flung money, it ate money, and this continued. Now back to our scheduled story, brought to you courtesy of moi.)

The coffee had spilled, and he was ineffectually trying to clean it up when the head steward brought him some paper towels, and more importantly, another cup of coffee, steaming hot, with cream. The engineer hated cream. However, as beggars can’t be choosers, he took it. The moment the steward left, he threw it out the window onto a freezing cold tabby cat, which, though appreciating the warmth, did not like cream either. He ran off screaming into the night. With the mess cleaned up, the engineer called headquarters and asked what to do. They told him to sit tight, and keep warm.

This he did, with some success, but the passengers were still annoyed, and he still needed a caffeine boost. He got out of his ivory tower, actually a plastic chair with a little Oakland Raiders sticker attached from a previous occupant, and went first to the galley and thence to the public address station in the back of the engine. While mixing his drink, he absentmindedly poured in salt, rather then sugar. Mentally composing his speech, he trotted off to the PA system microphone. While doing that, he tripped and spilled the coffee. Cursing the gods, and frightening an elderly woman in the process, he went back to the galley for yet another cup of coffee. Little did he know that he had just saved himself from drinking a disgusting drink. This time, he put on a plastic lid, and walking slowly, arrived at his destination. Taking a sip of coffee, he retched. No sugar.

Going back, he poured the coffee out the window, and made sure to do everything right. It worked, and switching on the microphone, he began with a greeting, “Good evening, this is your captain speaking,” (rather pompously, many thought) and continued, “I regret to inform you that the bridge ahead of us is out of commission.” (The head steward snorted his cup of coffee, while thinking, “Oh yes, only burned down and decimating the local deciduous forests.”) The engineer continued, “We will stay here indefinitely, at least until high command sends me orders.” He was, of course, a big fan of WWII movies.

Meanwhile, the man in the boxcar was cold, hungry, and in a MEAN MOOD! He rushed out of the car, tripped, kicked the door back into its place, and broke his legs, arms, and pinkie toe. The pinkie toe hurt the most, but he couldn’t even massage it, because his arms were broken. Moaning pitifully, the burned tabby cat rushed to him, licked the blood off his muddy face, and ran for help.

The tabby headed in the direction of the bridge, but ran back. His efforts were to no avail, but we will get to that part later. After downing his now perfect cup of coffee in a single fell swoop, the engineer considered his work with grim satisfaction. He had showed himself to be a man of action and great fortitude with his brilliant speech. Unfortunately, he had also shown himself to be a WWII movie buff, which was on the whole not a terrible thing, except that in these circumstances it was a horrible mistake. The boss of the firm had been trying to cultivate a love of Vietnam movies, and had threatened to sack any who made references to other great wars. That was another reason why the engineer was going to take as long as possible in getting back to the station. He wanted to savor his last minutes in his plastic chair with the ugly Raiders sticker on it.

Munching on the large piece of apple pie that the steward had given him, the engineer wondered why he had gotten it. “Probably because of my great speech,” he thought, “that he gave me this great piece of pie.” Actually, the steward had given him the pie in order to shut him up and not allow him to talk again.

Now to the part of the tabby. John, the name of the tabby, ran hard through the cold forest along the shining track towards the man he had sworn to save. He was gone. It hurt him, that a man with both legs and arms broken had left him. He could still see the blood, so John knew he was in the right place. In reality the as of yet nameless hobo is now in an ambulance where we join him.

“What is your name?” asked the young and suave ER dropout.

Answered the hobo, “John.” Is not this a curious coincidence that the man and his savior were both named John? But the coincidences were to get even larger, so forebear this prattle and get on with the story.

“What a curious coincidence,” said the dropout, “John is my name also!” See? I told you. By a curious chance, John was the name of every male in this story. Except for one, because his name was Joe. Joe Pinella. He played for the New York Leatherstockingtons, a team that played baseball with the name of the old Yankees. He was the center fielder. He was not very good, but he did get the job done. He was sitting in the third car, the first class one. Behind him were two cars, second and tourist classes, and then the boxcar which the unfortunate John had lived in. He had lived in there because his former home, also a boxcar, had been disengaged in the junction. And now his home in the new boxcar rumbled along, heading towards the burnt out bridge-- John, the engineer had decided to commit suicide because of his fateful WWII reference. The train slowly built up speed. The head steward, realizing what was happening, ran to stop it. Running to the door of the cockpit, he twisted the handle. It broke off. John, the steward, pushed the door. It did not budge. He pushed again. It caved, and John fell with a shock onto the linoleum floor. With a gasp, he realized it was still wet from the coffee. He tasted it. Creamer! ”So,” John thought, “he threw out the coffee that I made for him!”

Flying into the wall, he got up with an extra impetus to avenge the spilling of his handiwork. But he was too late. The train was only one hundred feet from the cliff. He mentally counted them out as he watched the terrain go by. He did not notice, however, the second track which was rapidly coming beside them. Fifty feet! Forty, thirty, twenty, ten, five! He screamed. At that same moment, by a curious chance, Jean Valjean awoke in her prison cell with a terrible fright. She had just had a terrible nightmare! It was about a hedgehog eating all her money! The fact that she had none did little to comfort Jean. She rushed to the window, and stared outside as the rain poured down and make cute little patterns in the river. An ambulance pulled up into the prison driveway, with a tabby running beside it. A train sped past her cell on the new line, which had just been finished ten minutes before. It hurtled into the distance, with one loud WooHoo! emanating from the front.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lord Washington


My name is Sir George Edward Washington. I was born in London, the son of the late Sir George Herbert Washington. My life, compared to his, has been relatively tame, but still sufficiently full of interest to warrant recording it here. As my father always said, it’s not how you live, it’s whether someone will pay to read your biography. As an example, he always brought forth his two friends; Don, the infamous robber baron, and Keith, the great pastor of Nottinghampshire. Don was a very evil person. He drank excessively, played cards excessively, robbed, killed, raped, and maimed excessively, and yet his biography would be just as thrilling as a story of H.G. Welles. Keith, on the other hand, was a saint. He took care of his flock for over fifty years, never drank or played cards, and was a vegetarian. His biography would take up five non-thrilling pages.

I was not a bright child, as my nurse used to say, not a chip off the old block. When she said this, she would turn deliberately and wink at my mother, who would show her a gimlet eye and then explain that she had no idea what the nurse could possibly be talking about. The nurse knew better. Not only was I dumb, but I was also a coward as a child. My father used to joke that this ran rampant in the family, saying that after all, hadn’t my great-great-grandfather also been a coward? My father was no American, as he proudly said, but he knew that he would never live down what he perceived as his shame.

In fact, his shame was an entirely different matter from what he imagined it to be. He thought that the other people in the House of Lords laughed at him because his peerage had been a gift, and had not been earned in the conventional way. Actually, most of the other Lords predecessors also had done nothing for their rights, so it didn’t really matter. What, you don’t know what happened? Well then, I must clue you in on how my father got to become a Lord.

It all started on a wintery day at Valley Forge. General George Washington’s troops were tired, hungry, and most importantly, cold. The General decided that the only way to save his troops would be to arrange a surrender. This he did, and in exchange for his giving back the Americas to the British, he was awarded a hereditary peerage. Thus our family was reborn. My father’s shame did not lie in the fact that he had done nothing to deserve his knighthood, instead, it was over the simple matter of his butler. We had had Thomas Aldridge as our butler for as long as I could remember. He was a genius, and indispensable to the running of our household. Unfortunately, he committed suicide when he spilled some tea over the dress of the late Dowager Duchess of Davenport. When he saw what he had done, he pulled a knife out of his coat pocket and did the ancient Japanese rite of Hari-Kari. Others in the House of Lords always joked about “Washington and his Japanese butler.” He never lived down either of his shames, but he did not die penniless. He died eventually, of course, from a rare mental disease known as Disconnectidus-Brainus. I was left all his money. And am currently spending it in riotous living. In fact, that is why I have written this story. I needed more gambling money. I guess I was actually a chip off the old block.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Charlie and Karl on the course

"So," said Charlie, "what do we have here? Four murders in the last twenty minutes, and you're looking for what?"

"The murderer?" asked Karl, "isn't that who anyone would be looking for?"

Charlie answered, "Well, that's what you'd think, right? Right. But no, Doug here has to try and figure out who's gonna be the lead investigator here. Idiot."

Doug began to defend himself, saying, "Hey, look, don't blame this on me. The department mandated that I make a history type thing for them-"

"Oh come off it," said Charlie, "we all know why you're here: the department has no money, they sell the rights to any future crimes to your publishers, you write the book, we get some money."

"Yeah," Karl chimed in, "This is hardly history-you're selling us here. In fact, you'd probably like a cop to die, huh? Would make for a better story, eh?"

Doug felt that he was rapidly losing control of the situation, and he figured he'd end the conversation before anyone (himself) got hurt. "So what you're saying," he said, "is that right now there is no lead investigator here?"

Charlie and Karl pretended to ignore Doug, and as they walked downstairs, passing Doug's tastefully appointed office and pausing for a quick doughnut at the local Dunkin, they muttered to each other about the sick taxpayers, whose fault this whole thing really was. Doug followed them, a worried look on his face; you could tell he was worried because he didn't even stop for a doughnut before getting in his journalist/police car and preparing to follow Charlie's 1999 Crown Victoria as it drove to the scene of the four murders in the twenty minutes.

By the time the two cars, three people got there, the bodies had been cleared so that the foursome behind them could continue on. Charlie stepped onto the sixteenth green, just behind the tee where the foursome was preparing to launch their drives, and asked them if they had seen anything unusual. "Oh, unusual?" said one of them, "well, now that you mention it, it was quite strange to see blood all over the sixteenth green. I don't think I've ever seen blood all over there-you'd have thought that the guys ahead of us would have had the courtesy to clean up after themselves. The bunkers especially were horrendous-all that blood just clumped together with the sand and made it impossible to play the game properly. I shall have to take it up with the committee as soon as possible."

"Very good," said Charlie, "you may now carry on."

With this permission granted, the first member of the foursome hit his tee shot into a tree on the left of the fairway, and he announced to no one in particular that he'd be taking a mulligan on this one. Charlie snorted in derision (she was after all the sectional champion in regional qualifying for the Ladies USGA three years running), but Karl looked concerned for a moment, and then said, "I'm placing you under arrest." Saying this, he took out his hand cuffs and placed them around the golfer. Charlie looked confused, and Karl explained. "It's very simple," he said, "basically, he ran ahead of his group after 'losing' his ball in the trees on the sixteenth, and murdered the group ahead of his own with the rake, which, you will notice, is incorrectly placed inside the bunker!"

Charlie grasped Karl's intent immediately, and she said, "Oh, I see it. Hmm."

Doug, who had been negotiating the purchase of a hot dog from the green's attendant while all this was occurring, came up the group just as some mustard was beginning to fall onto his shirt. "So what happened?" he asked, "have you apprehended the killer? Was anyone hurt? Who is the lead investigator here?"

Karl and Charlie exchanged disgusted looks, and walked back to Charlie's 1999 Crown Victoria, dragging the golfer between them, who was crying piteously. Karl just said, "Really? They provoked you with a seven iron? Tell it to the judge." Charlie laughed a cold, dark laugh that made shivers go down everyone's spine, and made mustard go up Doug's (who had been hurrying to catch up) nose. "Really?" said Charlie, "a mashie niblick on a 3 par 218? A likely story."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Hero Drank the Chocolate

The Hero Drank the Chocolate
April Fool's Day, 2004

In honor of Too-ticky.

Mr. Johnson stood by the stove waiting for the kettle to boil, hoping that this time at least the old maxim would not hold true. It did. Mr. Johnson sighed and walked to his living room to finish off the last of that morning’s paper. He had just got to the good part in the sports section, the part where duck hunting tactics were explained, when the kettle started to whistle. Mr. Johnson was not a duck hunter. He hated killing animals, hated eating duck, and couldn’t stand the sound of whistles. He didn’t know why he liked reading about the subject; it just seemed natural. He lifted the kettle off the stove, poured some of the boiling water into a cup, and put the kettle on a cold burner. Too late he realized that the chocolate packet said to put the ingredients into the cup first; Mr. Johnson put a tea bag into the cup and made another for the chocolate. Now he would be able to finish up the duck section in peace.

Mr. Franklin trudged through the blizzard up the hill, pausing now and then to check if the small cat wrapped securely in his inner pocket was still alive. The fifth time he checked the cat had died. Mr. Franklin knew this because he flicked the small cat’s whiskers and it didn’t bite his already bloody finger. Mr. Franklin put the cat down on top of a snow bank where he would find it the next day. Then he would eat it, for food was scarce in the valley even in spring, and if he did not eat it his neighbor Mr. Johnson would. Not that Mr. Franklin had anything against Mr. Johnson. In fact, it was toward his house that Mr. Franklin was slowly trudging. It was just that he liked to eat his own dead cats.

Mr. Franklin was a hero, and Mr. Johnson was his faithful friend. Mr. Franklin always walked into town in the hopes of being a hero. He usually succeeded, and consequently walked around town with a medal that said, “Official Hero of Fairington.” Mr. Franklin was a very humble person, but he knew that it made the locals happy to see the medal they had spent half the town’s tax money on. Mr. Johnson always knew to have a cup of hot chocolate ready for his friend at six o’clock.

Mr. Franklin came into view of Mr. Johnson’s window. Mr. Johnson hurried to open it for his shivering neighbor, who immediately shed his clothes and flung himself on a couch before the fireplace. There was no fire there now, but Mr. Franklin was a great believer in symbolism. Mr. Johnson hung up the soaked clothing and brought Mr. Franklin his chocolate. Mr. Johnson began to speak in hushed tones, fearing that his normal booming voice would cause the snow on the roof to come crashing down onto the frozen rose stems standing valiantly in the garden just beneath the window.

“I left here at half past twelve hoping to reach Fairington by sunset. The blizzard delayed long enough for me to make good time, and I had been sitting in the library for half an hour before the last red rays slipped beneath the high windows and plunged the library into darkness. I cursed the librarian for not lighting candles, and went about the room, bumping into bookshelves and tables before finding a match for the candle in my hand. I lit it, and saw a small cat staring up at me. I realized that I had not done by hero’s work for the day, and so determined to bring the cat here and nurse it back to health. The cat did not particularly want to leave its warm home, but I insisted, so it eventually agreed to come with me here. In the middle of the journey up the hill the cat died, so I left it on a snowbank to freeze for tomorrow's dinner. Now I’m here, and I must say that this chocolate is very good. Perhaps you’d like to come with me to do a hero’s work in Fairington tomorrow?”

Mr. Johnson replied that he would not, and that he was very satisfied to stay back and make hot chocolate. He then inquired as to Mr. Franklin’s choice of books for that evening’s entertainment. The two choices were Pride and Prejudice and Robinson Crusoe. Mr. Franklin chose Jane Austen’s classic work, so Mr. Johnson began to read to the great hero.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Mr. Franklin interrupted Mr. Johnson’s reading to ask him for some more hot chocolate. Mr. Johnson got up to get him some more. Finding the kettle cold, Mr. Johnson put in fresh water and waited till it would boil again. Mr. Franklin picked up the newspaper to read in the interim. All that was left was the section on duck hunting. Mr. Franklin loved duck hunting. He found it to be one of the most exhilarating sports known to man. He loved killing animals, loved eating duck, loved the sound of whistles. Unfortunately for the paper though, he didn’t like reading about duck hunting. This was unfortunate for the paper, because they could not put an official “Approved by the Official Hero of Fairington” sticker on the duck hunting section of the paper.

Mr. Johnson returned with the hot chocolate and gave it to Mr. Franklin. He then picked up the book and read it out loud.

“Darcy, as well as Elizabeth, really loved them; and they were both ever sensible of the warmest gratitude towards the persons who, by bringing her into Derbyshire, had been the means of uniting them.”

Mr. Franklin asked who the them in the beginning of the story had been referring to. Mr. Johnson answered that it meant the Gardiners. Mr. Franklin “Aah,” and then looked at the clock, saw that it was half past nine in the morning, announced his intention of going home and thence to bed, and also his intention of brushing his teeth in a particularly heroic manner. Mr. Johnson thought that all of this was a good idea, and accompanied his friend to the door. They parted ways amiably, shaking hands as Mr. Franklin said that he was sorry about the cat, but that he hoped it would be a good dinner the following day. “I’ll bring it to you before I go a’heroing tomorrow, and then you can make us a nice meal with it.” Mr. Johnson thought this fine, and asked what kind of wine he should baste the deceased in. Mr. Franklin decided on a nasty little chardonnay with hints of garlic and vinegar, and so the matter was settled.

The next day an express messenger ran to Mr. Johnson’s house with an express message. It read:

The Coroner’s Office

Bad Tidings

To my dear Mr. Johnson,

I have terrible news to impart to you. I fear that it will cause you great distress, so sit down while you read this. {Mr. Johnson, being the best friend a hero had no need to sit down} [The letter continues] Your dear friend, the Official Hero of Fairington, has died being extremely heroic. He saw the ice crack beneath the feet of the post man, Mr. Billups, and ran out to help. He ran over to help, and jumping from ledge to ledge almost made it back to safety. I had just come out of my office, (I so dearly love to fish, and it’s so convenient) to applaud the valiant and heroic efforts of the great hero when he just missed clearing a gap and fell under the ice which immediately closed over his head. Mr. Billups catapulted to safety, but our great hero did not surface. After what seemed an eternity, but couldn’t have been more than 2 hours, we got an auger to investigate. His body was nowhere to be found, but we found his medal lodged in the crack. I have enclosed it here. The memorial service will be tomorrow at ten in the morning. Again, I would like to condole with you.

Mr. Johnson stood in disbelief. He could not cope with the fact that the Official Hero of Fairington had left his town without a certified icon. “No, he had been more than that,” thought Mr. Johnson, “He had been a veritable idol to which all looked up to in times of distress.” Mr. Johnson knew that his friend would have liked to have a simple memorial, but also that this would never happen. Mr. Johnson decided that there was only one way to properly remember his friend. He ate the cat, toasting the Official Hero of Fairington with the chardonnay it had been cooked in.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


How do you know if you're battling demons? Do they politely knock on your door and, armed with calling cards and blueberry pies, begin to demonize? And how about these personal demons we're always hearing about? Is it more classy to have personal ones than public ones?Are personal demons more demonic than others? And how do you arrange to have personal demons? Can you order them from your local pizza- delivering system together with a pepperoni and extra cheese? Or is it perhaps a specialized system, with a special board set up to determine who should get what. And what happens to these demons when they're gotten rid of? Do they get recycled, or maybe they're sent out to pasture? And what would a pasture for demons look like? What do demons enjoy? I mean, besides demonizing. One would assume that they enjoy demonizing. Or perhaps they don't have very high job satisfaction? Has anyone ever done a study of this? Because I think someone should. If we only knew what was going on in the minds of demons (another study: do demons have minds?) then we could really learn to integrate them much better into society. Because really, demons are, for lack of a better word, demonized. What did they ever do to you? Have you ever battled your personal demons? And if you did, whose fault was it? Who caused those personal demons to come anyway? And even if you did have a good excuse, who said you had to do battle? Why can't we all just get along?

So anyway, as I was saying, how do you know that you're battling demons? After all, maybe they're really angels in disguise? All the time you see retired athletes desperate for someone to pay attention to 'em talking on some lovey-dovey television show about how they battled their personal demons (ahh, is that it? If you're a rich athlete, you get personal demons?) and are now stronger for them. Or else broke. Or both. Point is, if they're stronger because of these personal demons, then they were never demons anyway! They were just angels in disguise! That's right folks, you heard it on TRS first: alcohol, drugs, gambling, dog-fighting, whatever it is-all angels in disguise!

In fact, maybe all demons are angels? All right, probably not. For every guy out there who got saved there's thousands who died fighting their demons, or else they just got really sozzled at every opportunity, or whatever it was. So I think that what we've got here is a case of racial profiling. Sure, there are bad demons out there, but there are also good ones! And the demons have been demonized by the media. Yup, it's all the right-wing media's fault. Jerks. Just like it's wrong to paint all Jews as money-loving criminal-minded cabal-participating circumcision-inflicting bar-mitzvah-ultra-hyphenating jc-killing monsters sent by satan himself (yeah, his budget was cut, he had to fire his executive assistant and lower the temps in hell by a few degrees [did we mention that satan is now running hell in an environmentally conscious manner?] and in addition stop serving doughnuts) to pester the world for all time and space, so too is it wrong to portray all demons as being evil. Rather, they're in general a pretty good bunch, but some are bad apples. Or maybe, because they're demons, the good ones are the bad apples, and the bad ones are granny smiths. I don't know what standard's demons are held to. Another interesting idea for a post-doctoral thesis.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

"What regiment is this?" " First Minnesota," replied Colvill. " Charge those lines!"

In the summer of '03 TRS and LdT took several trips, including to Gettysburg. Above is TRS pictured with the monument to the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry which was the first state volunteer regiment formally tendered to the Federal government under Abraham Lincoln's call for 300,000 troops in 1861. They also played a pivotal role in the battle at Gettysburg, as detailed here, with an 83 percent casualty rate, which stands to this day as the largest loss by any surviving military unit in American history during any single engagement.
Here we see TRS' back. But you had probably guessed that by now.
As you can see, I'm wearing a t-shirt from EAA AirVenture 2003, which LdT, Josh Hoffman, Ira, and I had attended earlier that summer in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. On my head is a South African rugby hat.
I look like a linebacker in this one!
And last but not least, here's me wearing my Buffalo Bill t-shirt holding Aloysius!
In other news, if I was a Vikings fan, then (z×y)²=

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

This space for sale-contact TRS for details

Continuing with the TRS Yosemite trip '05...

Here we have, left to right, TRS, Levi Schusterman, Yale Spalter, YL Heber, and Nochum Tennenbaum.
Here we find TRS and YL Heber at the Chabad House in Fresno. The squint is because I had suddenly seen a bright alien apparition. Or maybe not.
That's better.

Monday, August 17, 2009

TRS in Yosemite

So what do we have here? This would be TRS' yeshiva trip to Yosemite national park in early summer '05. Pictured above we find, from left to right, Peretz Wolowik, TRS, Falie Levin, Yehuda Leib Heber, and Levi Schusterman.
Here we find TRS and Moishe Gourarie praying to the Good L-rd. And yes, I see that tefillin strap too...
TRS sleeping like a babe-notice the negel vasser and the hat (TRS is very chassidish).
TRS stoking the flames of brotherly love. In the background with the floppy hat is Nissy Gansbourg, who I used to learn Chassidus with Shabbos mornings.
And right before Maariv. Notice TRS (not even) speaking softly and carrying a (relatively) big stick.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

American Involvement in Australia During WWII

American Involvement in Australia During WWII

March 14, 2003

War started in Australia on September 1, 1939, with the British declaring war on Germany. As Australia was bound up with England in the British Commonwealth along with countries such as Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa, they were officially at war. The Australian homeland, however, did not fully mobilize for war until December 7, 1941, when the Japanese launched a surprise attack on the Unites State’s fleet based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Soon after, the Australian port city of Darwin was attacked by planes of the Japanese empire, precipitating their active involvement in the hostilities which had overtaken the rest of the world. The Australians and the US would forge a strong partnership, both militarily and culturally, as the war progressed.

As the war continued, the Australian government shifted from a subservient vassal state of England, and transferred its allegiance to the United States. After the war, it set out on its own course, and tried to assert its identity in the new, post war world. For a country with a prewar population of just over 700,000, the war was traumatic. Over 10,000 woman left with American servicemen, one million of whom eventually passed through the country. The change was not easy, as evidenced by the riots known as The Battle of Brisbane, which resulted in the death of one and the wounding of several. Americans were loud, drank too much, partied too much, and were over-sexed, according to the Australians. Many resented the intrusion, but were powerless to prevent it.

Americans changed the Australian culture, bringing more “American Style Life” to the continent than war materials. Before the war, the British had dominated Australia, economically as well as culturally. Australians imported various forms of American music, prior to the war, but jazz, swing, jive, and the blues only flourished when the Americans came. Nightclubs popped up everywhere the troops did, along with many women, who hoped for a better life with the servicemen. Hollywood continued to dominate the film industry, but its hold on the entertainment industry began to falter as the Australians began to take control of their own movie making. During the late 1930s, attendance at sporting events and theater rose dramatically, as people tried to enjoy life as much as they could before the impending war struck. Americans introduced baseball to the land down under, though it did not stick as most preferred cricket, soccer, and the homegrown “Australian Rules Football.” In addition to their culture, Americans brought nylon stockings, as well as the first serial killer in Australia, a US serviceman in Melbourne.

American goods poured into Australia, and one man came who would be just as important to the war, and Australia, as the war material. His name was General Douglas MacArthur. As the commander of all the troops in the SWPA (South West Pacific Area), he often appeared to locals to have more control over their country than Prime Minister John Curtin. MacArthur’s brash style made him popular with his troops, and his brilliant delaying techniques in the Philippines made Australians happy to have him, even if they considered it be a dubious honor.

MacArthur, born in 1880 to an aristocratic family, entered West Point, the US Military Academy, in 1899. He came to Australia in 1942, and set up the SWPA. Earlier, the US, Great Britain, Holland, and Australia had established the ABDA (American-British-Dutch-Australian) joint command in December 1941. The organization proved to be unwieldy, and was disbanded on February 25, 1942. When MacArthur took over, he assumed control over all Australian forces, including the air force, army, merchant marine, and the navy over which he had control with Admiral Nimitz. MacArthur planned his island-hopping campaign from the relatively safe city of Brisbane. He had virtual control over the wartime government, and Australians commanders were forced to listen to him, except when his war-planners put their troops in excessive risk. Even then, they only had the right of appeal to their government, though nothing was guaranteed.

The SWPA was comprised of the 6th and 7th Australian divisions, together with the 41st and 32nd US divisions. The RAAF (Royal Australian Air Force) relied upon American aircraft, and earned 23 United States Awards. With most of Australia’s merchant marine devastated by German and Japanese submarines, General MacArthur had to rely on Liberty Ships, crewed by Americans, to transport his men and material. The Air Observer Corps kept track of US fighter, bomber, and transport aircraft. On Jan 15, 1942, ATC (Air Transport Command) aircraft began to fly the 7800 mile route from the west coast to Australia. This enabled the US to bring in much needed supplies in days, instead of the weeks that it took on ships.

Nimitz used Australian ships in the Battle of Coral Sea, and they provided support for American landings in the Philippines, the Solomons, Guadacanal, and New Britain. Australian planes provided top cover for landings at Hollandia, Wadke, and Biak, and mined the ports in Guadacanal, using US made Catalinas. RAAF Mobile Works Units deployed with US troops when they landed at Aitape, and they built an airfield there in just 42 hours, a full day ahead of the schedule set by American planners. Aging Brewster Buffaloes were used in the Malaysian campaign. The RAAF used B-24 Liberators, Vengeance dive bombers, P-40 Kittyhawks, and A-20 Bostons in their fight against the Japanese. Australian airlines also flew American planes, including the Lockheed Electra, Lodestar, and 14, along with the popular workhorse of the war, the Douglas DC-3 Dakota. ANA (Australian National Airlines) used sixteen planes on loan from the United States Army.

After the Japanese took control of the island of Timor in early 1942, Australian troops were landed to help the locals fight a commando war against the invaders. In 1943, the commandos were forced to pull out, and made their escape on the American submarine Gudgeon. On Portuguese Timor, US made Hudson bombers supplied commandos, and bombed the town of Dili, and as well as other targets, in order to help the Australians disrupt Japanese lines of communication, and generally harass the conquerors.

Australian production of aircraft began in 1936 when the Air Board Technical Commission toured the United States, and acquired a license to build the NA-16, from North American. From this plane, the CAC (Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation) developed the Wirraway, which they used disastrously as a fighter against the Japanese. The NA-16 has been designed as a trainer, and was no match for the speedy Zeros which the Japanese sent to combat the slow and ungainly Wirraways. Later in the war, the CAC licensed the P-51 Mustang, also from North American, and built 18 out of the 350 ordered. Testing began in May of 1945, but by then the war was nearly over, and the order was canceled.

Australian built DeHavilland Mosquitoes used Packard built Merlin engines, while Pratt and Whitney licensed the Wasp and Twin Wasp engines to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, which built all 680 and 870 ordered, respectively. Several other American-made engines were tested and ordered, but the war’s close precluded their being built.

The war proved to be a two way street, with American troops using Australia as a base, and more importantly, as a surrogate home. The Australian government relied on American aid to help it defend itself from the Japanese. Since the war, the two countries have been allied in Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and elsewhere.

In conclusion, the war provided a jump start to US-Australian relations, and let them grow to understand each other, if not love each other. Americans came in, prepared to take over, but left impressed by Australian courage. The Australian government weaned itself from the British, and came into its own on the world stage.


Dear, I.C.B. ed. The Oxford Companion to World War II. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1995.

Rigge, Simon. War in the Outposts. Chicago: Time Life, 1980.

Taylor, Michael J.H. ed. Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation. New York: Random, 1993.

Jane’ s Fighting Aircraft of World War II. London: Random, 2001.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Designated Hitter in Baseball

One of the many great and wonderful things about being at home is that there's a ton of shtuff lying around on my computer that I wrote many years ago. This piece, for example, was written in 2004 for college credit in a PSEO course through the University of Minnesota. Enjoy:
Over the years, there has been much controversy over the Designated Hitter, or DH, rule. The DH rule states that “A hitter may be designated to bat for the starting pitcher and all subsequent pitchers in any game without otherwise affecting the status of the pitcher(s) in the game” (Rules Handbook 6.10). The rule allows for a player to hit in place of the pitcher in the batting order. Some people think that the DH rule negatively impacts the game principally because it allows for a player who only hits, and therefore takes away from the fundamental democracy of baseball where all the players are on the field for both the offensive and defensive phases of the game. However, there are several reasons why the DH, which is used in the American League but not the National League, improves the game and makes it more exciting. One of these reasons is that the DH allows teams to have nine genuine hitters in a lineup. Another benefit of the DH is that older players, who simply don’t have the physical skills to contribute defensively, can still help the team with their bats. The rule is also good for pitchers, because they can concentrate on what they do best, which is pitching, and leave the offensive aspect of the game to players who can hit.

There are many ways to manipulate but not necessarily improve the game of baseball, such as lowering the mound or tightening the strike zone, but the DH is the only one which does not fundamentally change the game. All the DH does is allow for offenses to take advantage of all nine spots in the lineup. The rule is beneficial because pitchers are notoriously weak hitters, which means that without a DH, only eight of a team’s nine batters will hit well and in a consistent fashion. Offenses improve when the pitcher is not forced to bat and the entire lineup is capable of scoring runs. As Tom Trebelhorn, former Milwaukee Brewers manager said, “In the American League . . . I face nine bona fide outs” (Will 121). Having a pitcher in the batting order simply decreases offenses’ potency.

Replacing the pitcher with a DH in the batting order increases batting average and, therefore, offense. In 1972, for example, the year before the DH rule was implemented, the American League hit a combined .239; the next year, with the introduction of the DH, they hit .259 (Costas para 14). The twenty-point increase in average between the two years might not seem like much, but in a sport where each team will have over 6,000 at-bats (defined as any time a batter gets either a hit or makes an out) per season, twenty percentage points translates into 120 more hits, almost one more per game per team.

Before the DH rule, pitchers had to bat for themselves, and as a result, teams’ offenses suffered. For instance, on a recent Saturday, box scores taken from the Pioneer Press show that pitchers in the National League were seven for thirty-two, an average of .218 (13C). The pitchers laid down four sacrifice bunts, walked three times, and hit two doubles (13C). Not a single pitcher hit a homer or even drove in a run. Out of the sixty-one pitchers who threw on that Saturday, only nineteen ever came to the plate (13C). On the same day, the American League DHs (who batted instead of the pitchers) batted eighteen for fifty-one, an average of .353 (13-14C). They hit one homer, three doubles, walked six times, stole twice, and got seven RBIs (runs batted in) (13-14C). The American League’s batting statistics are very telling as they show how DHs batted over .200 points higher and reached base over twice as many times as their counterparts sin the National League. Statistically, the pitchers struck out almost twice as often as the DHs.

Another reason why the DH rule improves the game of baseball is that it allows older players to continue to play the game. This is important for baseball as a business, and therefore for the game itself. One of the goals of baseball teams is to build up a fan-base. This is done in many ways, one of which is to build a relationship between a player and the fans. By allowing older players to continue playing, teams can draw more fans who have built up relationships with the players, and therefore make more money, which in most cases is reinvested in the teams. The most well known of these older players is Paul Molitor, who in 2004 became the first player to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, despite having had most of his at-bats as a DH. Similar to Molitor is Edgar Martinez, the first DH to ever win a batting title (Lilley para 11). Sadly, many competent players become too injured to continue the wear and tear of playing in the field; however, the DH rule allows players who cannot physically play in the field to continue to contribute to the team by batting while not having to risk further injury in the field and at the same time allows pitchers to concentrate on their game, which is pitching.

Pitchers benefit in may ways because of the DH rule. No longer do pitchers risk being hit by a pitch or tweaking their muscles on the base-paths. There are many injuries, such as wrenched backs, torn hamstrings, and broken fingers, that can beset a pitcher while pitching. Even a blister on the pitching hand may necessitate a visit onto the Disabled List. Batters also are exposed to many situations where they can become injured. Pitchers should not have to become exposed to batter’s injuries considering that they are more delicate than their offensive counter-parts. Moreover, pitchers are more exposed to injuries suffered by batters because they haven’t built up the muscles which are necessary for players who hit. Pitchers are light and slender, with the main focus of their training regimen centering on the arms and hands. Hitters do work out their arms and hands, but power, which is the main consideration of the modern game, is generated by most players with their legs and back. Pitchers need to be lithe, batters strong. The DH allows pitchers to continue to perfect their part of the game and hitters theirs.

There are other ways in which the pitcher benefits from the DH rule. Before every game pitchers have a meeting with their catcher and manager to decide how they will pitch in the upcoming game (Garagiola 17-20). The meeting is used to discuss the pitcher’s personal history against the batter, which includes personal matchups between the pitcher and batter, as well as the batter versus the team and the pitcher versus the team, their personal history in the ballpark, what the weather is like, who is catching them, and even at what time of day the game will be played. This meeting and the accompanying thinking which it involves is very important, as it allows the pitcher to focus on the game and “zone out” everything else. The batter has to concentrate on many of the same things as the pitcher. The batter also has to think about the defensive alignment of the infield and outfield, and if and where his teammates are on base. Pitchers need to be allowed to focus on their pitching duties. In a game where every pitch is important the pitcher can’t afford to lose his concentration and think about batting. The DH allows pitchers to concentrate on pitching rather than worrying about batting.

Not only does the DH rule improve hitting and pitching, but it also makes managers’ jobs easier. One important part of a manager’s job is his decision process involving players who are or have been injured, those whose defense is not up to snuff, or even those who just need a break from the demanding job of fielding; in the National League, the only solution for any of these problems is to bench the player. Players who can’t contribute defensively might come in and pinch-hit, but their services will not be able to be used for the rest of the game. On the other hand, the DH rule in the American League allows the manager to rest a player as well as benefit from their bat. Players just coming off injuries often aren’t ready to play full time. In the National League, the only option for managers who need to rest players is to use them as pinch-hitters, which delays their return; conversely, the American League manager can pencil in this player as the DH and allow him to slowly acclimatize to playing.

There are several reasons why baseball purists prefer the National League, where there is no DH. One reason is that baseball is a democratic game, which means that, theoretically, every player should have the chance to do everything. All nine players play defense, and all nine play offense. Initially, this theory makes sense; after all, shouldn’t every player be made to play everything? For example, if a manager is to switch a shortstop and center fielder, each will experience some difficulty, but both will be able to perform satisfactorily; however, if the manager switches a pitcher with the center fielder, things will be very different. The pitcher does not have the same fielding skills as outfielders, and consequently, many fly balls will drop in for hits and many singles will turn into extra-base hits. The center fielder will not have the accuracy, velocity, endurance, or knowledge needed to pitch, and any potential batter will most likely walk on four pitches. With the pitcher’s inadequacy at any position (save his own) exposed, it is hard to accept the argument that baseball is a fundamentally democratic game. Pitchers can’t hit, and hitters can’t pitch.

Some still say that even though pitchers can’t hit well, they can hit. However, players who DH often can not play defense. This argument-- that the DH is the only specialized player in baseball-- is invalid. When one sees the kind of pitchers in modern bullpens, it becomes clear that the DH is not the only specialized player in today’s game. Most relievers are specialists brought in to pitch only in certain situations. For example, it is much harder for a right-handed batter to bat effectively against a left-handed pitcher, and consequently, many pitchers are just brought in to face one batter. In many games, pitchers are brought in to face one batter and are then taken out. These pitchers never come to bat; they are more specialized than even a DH, who bats the entire game, regardless of the who the pitcher is.

Opponents of the DH, like NBC sportscaster Bob Costas, also dislike the rule because they claim it takes away from the strategy of the game. To give an example: The Mudhens are down two to one in the bottom of the eighth inning, with a runner on second and one out, and the pitcher is up to bat. If there is a DH, there is no problem. With a pitcher batting, however, the manager is faced with a major conundrum. If the manager allows the pitcher to stay in and hit, he probably will not drive the runner home, but if he calls in a pinch-hitter, he loses the pitcher who has thrown a great game. Proponents of the DH rule argue that there really is more strategy involved with having a DH. With a tying or winning run on base and the pitcher up to bat, the manager’s decision is actually simple: if the manager trusts his bullpen, he’ll call in for pinch-hitter. If he doesn’t have a good reliever, he’ll tell the pitcher to sacrifice the runner to second. With the DH, the manager must decide on the basis of pitching and pitching alone. With a DH, a pitcher is forced to stand on his own merits, pitching-wise, and not be subject to the dictates of the offensive game plan.

The first DH was Ron Bloomberg of the New York Yankees. In his first at-bat he drew a bases-loaded walk (Lilley para 5). Since then, many players have been the DH. All of them had something in common: they could all hit. Some DHs were playing at DH because they were inadequate defensively, others were coming off an injury, and still others just needed a break. Because of the DH, pitchers have been able to concentrate on pitching, and offenses have finally been able to have nine batters who were all capable of getting hits. Some might say that the DH is not an improvement for baseball, because it takes away from the equality of the players or the strategy of the game, but this claim is simply not true. With the DH, everyone on the team has an assigned role. The pitchers pitch, and the DH hits. Neither the pitcher nor the DH is required to try and do what they cannot. With the DH, managers are required to judge a pitcher on his pitching, and on no other factor. With the DH, offense is increased without neglecting defense. As Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles wrote, “A great pitching duel is much appreciated. But good hitting, timely hitting and power hitting — those are the most attractive aspects of baseball” (USA Today para 8). The only way to insure “good hitting, timely hitting, and power hitting” is to have a DH, a player who will always have a much better chance of increasing offense, thereby increasing excitement in the game.

Works Cited

Adams, Cecil. “The Straight Dope” Chicago Reader. Sep. 5, 2003. Aug. 10, 2004.

Angelos, Peter, Bob Costas. “DH rule: Angelos vs. Costas.” USA Today. Aug. 10, 2004.

Aug. 10, 2004

Aug. 10, 2004.

Daugherty, Paul. “It's time for DH in NL.” The Cincinnati Enquirer. Sep. 16, 1997. Aug. 10, 2004.

Garagiola, Joe. Baseball is a Funny Game
. 2nd ed. New York: Bantam, 1972.

Juipe, Dean. “Selig wrong to think DH expendable.” Las Vegas Sun. Aug. 10, 2004.

Lehmann-Haupt, Christopher. Me and Dimaggio. New York: Lyons Press, 1986.

Lilley, Bill. Aug. 10, 2004.

Official Rules regarding the Designated Hitter.” Aug. 10, 2004.

Redabaugh, Blake. “Looking Back at the ‘Effect of the Designated Hitter.” Aug. 10, 2004

Saturday’s Box scores. Pioneer Press 8 Aug. 2004, sec. C: 13-14

Selig, Bud. “Transcript of Commissioner's chat.” July 9, 2002. Aug. 10, 2004

Will, George F. Men At Work. New York: Harper Collins, 1991.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The young think

Want to see how the fifteen year old TRS's mind worked? Enjoy:
The problem, as I see it, is that conservative and reform Judaism only work for one generation. This first generation knows of all the strictures put upon them by the Torah; they can truly enjoy the “freedom” given to them by shedding its commandments. The next generation is, however, ignorant of what their parents have abandoned. To them, the rituals which their parents still observe are meaningless, and they have no connection with them. This is the reason that Conservative and Reform Judaism have hard time retaining their population. They have abandoned the safeguards which Orthodoxy has in place to prevent young people from leaving the fold, and consequently, when they try to stop their children from leaving the “Temples” for the gentile world, they can bring no reasons to back themselves up. Telling a child to not intermarry is easy for an Orthodox parent. All they have to say is that Jews are different, and they only marry other Jews. This ia all that necessary in most cases, and if the parents are not listened, a Rabbi can come in and show why the child should stick to marrying one of his or her own. The child of reform has parents who will tell him the same thing-namely that Jews are marry those of their own kind. The child will question this, however, saying that their parents wanted to integrate with the gentile world, and they are only completing the move from Jew to “Citizen of the World.” The “Rabbi” that is brought in can have no words to say to the child. He or she does not know enough of traditional Judaism to bring any proof from that. Bringing up the Holocaust also does know that. In the past, people had a strong sense of Jewish pride, and knew that it was and always had been a them versus us proposition. Reform and Conservative Judaism, on the other hand, has struggled to erase any boundary between Jew and Gentile. They can not have it both ways, integration and separation.

Once their has been intermarriage, reform and conservative try to bolster their ranks by accepting the non-Jewish spouse and and any children that the couple may have as members of the tribe. According to Jewish law, a person is not Jewish unless they have a Jewish mother. Reform and Conservative Rabbis will get around this with conversion. In the orthodox world, conversion of gentiles is not sought after. Proselytizing is expressly forbidden, while applicants for conversion are drilled mercilessly in an effort to prevent them from becoming Jewish. They are told how hard a religious Jews life is, how they have been persecuted by all in the past, and what their families will think of them if they do it. If the applicant is converting for the purpose of marriage to a Jew, they are summarily dismissed. The only acceptable reason for converting is because one has acknowledged the truth of the Torah, wants to live the life it proscribes, and fully abandons the non-Jewish world. No half-measures will be tolerated, only one who has a commitment to a Torah-true lifestyle is allowed to join the ranks of practicing Jews. Once this has happened, however, one is forbidden to remind a convert of his previous status, and they are treated like any other Jew.

On the contrary, reform and conservative Judaism teaches its adherents to be on the look out for converts. Instead of the lengthy process demanded by Orthodoxy, reform and conservative will accept anyone based on “how Jewish they are.” Compassion is not the exclusive property of Judaism. Some people love Jews, but can’t give up that cheeseburger of lobster. Orthodoxy will tell them that they can help Jews in many other ways. For example, they could come to local Synagogues to help on Saturdays when work is forbidden. They could defend Israel, or even contribute money to the myriad of worthy Jewish causes that have constant financial issues. In this way, these non-Jews can help Jews, and yet not abandon their life. Reform and Conservative Judaism will accept virtually any applicant, and these people are then accorded all the status of “true Jews.”

The children of reform and conservative couples have no grasp of what Judaism truly is. One method of keeping them in the fold is by exposing them to Israel. This is fine, but then they are taught that Israel is a sacred land, and must not be given away to Arabs. This is ridiculous to all but the dumbest reform or conservative child. Why should the Israeli government keep “poor Palestinians” locked up in squalid “refugee camps?” They have just as much a right to the land as the Jews, and perhaps even more! For an Orthodox child, this is no problem. The Arabs may have lived in Israel for 2000 years, but the land was not given to them by G-D. It was given by G-D, however, to the Jewish people and so it is theirs by right. To a conservative or reform child however, G-D does not even exist. Certainly, they must have compassion for all the poor Palestinians who inhabit the country, and seeing as the land was their before 1948, they should get it. To the original Zionist settlers of what was then Palestine, the land of Israel was theirs by right. They had been raised in Orthodox households, and still held onto certain beliefs. Their children were not raised with these beliefs though, and fail to see why the Israeli government represses the poor Arabs. In much the same manner, the children of reform and conservative people come to Israel and see only the repression of an entire nation. It goes against everything they have ever been taught. They remember their lessons on the Holocaust, and how 6 million Jews were murdered. Is this not the same thing? It takes a fanatic to believe that it is not, and these children have no sign of the fanatic about them. They are merely typical American children, forever questioning authority, forever lapping up cynicism. When they question their parents, they say that the Jews have a right to the land. This argument makes no sense to their children. The Arabs have lived their since 70 CE. The Jews have lived there since 1948 CE. When these children's parents tell them that when the Palestinians stop resorting to violence they will be negotiated with, their children are puzzled. Didn’t the American colonials “terrorize” the British. Isn’t terrorism just a normal response to repression? The parents have no answer for this. There is a paradox in the Middle-East, one that is not understand by the Western mind. In the Arab world, if you don’t stand up for yourself, then you’ll be killed. To the western mind, bred on peace and the idea “working out differences,” this is seemingly incomprehensible. They can not understand how it is impossible for Jews and Arabs to live on an equal footing.

Once these children of reform and conservative think the Israeli-Palestinian issue through, they will come to the only natural conclusion that they must help the repressed Palestinians establish a state of their own. Their leaders, rather than despair of them, decide instead to incorporatee their ideology into their Judaism. Thus is born Humanistic Judaism, a pseudo-religion which is based on its practitioners own beliefs. Orthodox Judaism works because it demands complete subjection to the notion of a supreme being. It does not allow its adherents to base any of their belief system on their own intellect. In the Ten Commandments, their is a Mitzva to honor ones parents. This makes sense, and everyone subscribes to it, regardless of race or creed. The problem with saying that this commandment is solely based on ones own intellect is that if this is followed, then their is no reason for following another commandment, not to commit adultery. In a world without a bible, man would have no moral code with which to conduct himself. As can be demonstrated, kindness without a central authority commanding it is useless. In Nazi Germany, there were strict fines imposed on people who abused animals. In such a seemingly moral environment, 11 million people were killed. This is because Nazism was based on the intellect of man, and the belief that there was a concept of undesirables, and that such people had to be wiped out. This was the morality of the time! The same reasoning applies to the issue of homosexuality in America today. There is no reason why they should not be allowed to marry. A self-professed Conservative atheist can bring no divine authority to bear; only someone who believes in G-D can say that since He has forbidden homosexuality, it should not be done. Without this, there can be no reason for denying anyone the ability to marry. This could be carried even further, to the point of saying that there should be no concept of marriage. Too many people, however, benefit from this venerable institution, and such a thing would never happen.

For a conservative or reform Jew, who has thrown off all divine authority, there is no reason for them to continue to even be Jews. Why not just be a moral citizen of the world, a man just like all other men? Religious Jews have the answer to this, but it is not given to the reform and conservative youths. They continue to rebel until there is nothing left, and then search for meaning in their meaningless lives. They try out a myriad of Eastern religions, but these leave them with an empty feeling. They give one a sense a belonging, a feeling of an authority smarter than oneself, ready to give sage direction. Unfortunately, when the guru is human, he or she will make a mistake, and this will make the student disillusioned. True Judaism will give them a feeling of belonging, because there is no supreme human intellect guiding them along. Instead there is a divine authority, one that directs and and has never made a mistake before. This belief of infallibility needs to have a leap of faith just as much as any other religion, but also fills one up like nothing else can. Saying that living like a Jew is hard is not a good excuse. Freedom does not mean that one can do whatever one likes. That type of “freedom” just means that instead of riding along a straight track, one is taken on a roller-coaster, jumping from one fad to another, feeling no satisfaction from any. Without responsibility, there can be no savoring what one is working to. This is why there is the concept of a workaholic. He or she has the responsibility to provide for any number of people, and throws themselves into their job, but feels no happiness from it. Freedom to many means freedom from all moral restraint, the freedom to pursue all pleasure, without taking into account what this pursuit will make on into. Judaism offers the freedom of a set of rules that have been followed forever, and that almost without exception, there has been little deviance from them.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All it takes is love

What is it about growing up in Minnesota that turns regular people like myself into raving lunatics (liberals)? Why couldn't I have been a typical Crown Heightser, imbibing Sean Hannity like mother's milk and espousing Rush Limbaugh as if he was the second coming of the guy we crucified 2000 years ago? Instead I'm stuck with that most midwestern of diseases, a conscience. I'm sure to engender outrage when I posit that these strange feelings of mine are directly responsible for my defending this dude. You'll surely say, "But how?" Consciences are for starving children in Africa, not for certified nuts proselytizing the bad word. How can I possibly say that I sympathize, or even (horror of horrors) empathize with this crazy man who is undoubtedly driving away thousands from the Judaism we all know and love?

Well, facts are facts (and certain people will love me for this), but Jewish reality is not the seamless tapestry we'd often it to be. In fact, it's more of a Jackson Pollock drip-fest, with all sorts of shtuff competing for attention, and only some or other breaking through to meet our consciousnesses, and the rest fading away, as demonstrated somewhere here, there, and everywhere. Judaism is filled with plenty of crazy shtuff, and there's absolutely no reason to dent it. It's funny how certain disagreements got canonized, like those in the Talmud and other assorted holy books. Those disagreements are holy holy holy (אלו ואלו דברי אלוקים חיים, right?). Other ones though? Not so much. It's ok to say that Hashem or Hezekiah is Moshiach, but not anyone else?
All right, quick commercial break: Is it just me, or do umpires really love throwing replacement baseballs to pitchers?
And we're back! Where was I? Oh, right. So some crazy nut case crack head person says some incredibly dumb things, I defend him a bit, and some people (enable your Blogger profile, people!) go ballistic.
(Another commercial break) You know, I was thinking today that if Lubavitchers would only keep their mouths shut then Lubavitch would have a much easier time marketing itself. Which of course is a paradox, because the only way to market one's self is by opening one's mouth.
And once again, we're back! It's like when an inning starts and then they announce that a reliever is coming in-right back to Dodge and McDonald's! Anyway, right, yeah, Lubavitch. We in the middle occupy precarious ground, with the crazed hordes screaming for our heads on the left side (our Flatbush et all friends [though I must admit that their Kosher Subway serves up excellent fare]) and on the right (those messianists with their yellow flags and other exciting paraphernalia). What generally happens is that we lash out at both sides, cursing in one breath the snags who plague us and in the other the tzvatim who do much the same. But really, why are we so convinced that we're right and they're wrong? Of course, we're always right. Or more to the point, "I" am always right. But are we? Or is this just the case of the victor deciding history? There is of course no victor yet, which leaves us in the curious position of writing our own story. Actually, this is what everyone is doing all the time. It's only when we move beyond the past that we can see what's actually going on, or else think we see what's going on.

My point? Just because you disagree with someone, even radically disagree, doesn't mean that they're wrong. After all, maybe they have sound theology? Or even worse, maybe their theology is close enough to yours that you feel threatened by them? After all, the old joke that "Lubavitch is the closest religion to Judaism" isn't necessarily a patent untruth.

Is there right and wrong? We like to think so. In fact, as we like to say, "We know so". Problem is, everyone out there is also saying that they've got the truth. Now I of all people hate to get into convoluted arguments over absolute truth and whether David Ortiz cheated or not, but there it is. In conclusion, I think it's safe to say, "Stop the hating!"