Monday, April 04, 2011


I can attest unequivocally that the shot of Laphroaig I had yesterday, finishing a bottle I started almost seven years ago, was the most gratifying drink I've had in my life, on all dimensions including taste, meaningfulness, and company. I would say it was transformative, but I'd already changed. This was a celebration. Thank you Yoni for sharing such a poignant toast.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

He who seeks truth

I heard Moshe Safdie speak on TED and he concluded with this profound poem:

He who seeks truth shall find beauty

He who seeks beauty shall find vanity

He who seeks order shall find gratification

He who seeks gratification shall be disappointed

He who considers himself the servant of his fellow beings shall find the joy of self-expression

He who seeks self-expression shall fall into the pit of arrogance

Arrogance is incompatible with nature

Through nature, the nature of the universe and the nature of man, we shall seek truth

If we seek truth we shall find beauty


-Moshe Safdie, 1982

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Smile today, it's good for you!

I just came across this video today and wanted to share it. 98.038% guaranteed to put a smile on your face. I recommend turning the sound up and viewing it fullscreen (which means you'll have to leave to see it on YouTube, but that's ok- I'll still be here when you get back).



See www.wherethehellismatt.com for his story and more videos.


orig. 1/19/09

Friday, February 04, 2011

20 Albums

The Rules: don't take too much time to think. Name 20 albums you've heard that you can't get out of your system. List the first 20 you can remember in 15 minutes. Tag 20 friends including me because I'm interested in my friends' choices. If you break this chain, you'll produce eight generations of Celine Dion, Michael Bolton, and Avril Lavigne fans.

  1. John Williams - The Guitarist
  2. Eric Clapton - From the Cradle
  3. Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More
  4. Andy Statman & David Grisman - Songs of Our Fathers
  5. Eddie Vedder - Into the Wild (Soundtrack)
  6. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - Nothing But the Water
  7. Franz Schubert - Symphony No. 8 in B minor (Unfinished; D.759)
  8. HaBanot Nechama - HaBanot Nechama (הבנות נחמה)
  9. Orchestre Andalou d'Israel - Maghreb (المغرب)
  10. David Broza - It's All or Nothing (זה הכל או כלום)
  11. Squirrel Nut Zippers - Perennial Favorites
  12. Neil Young - Mirror Ball
  13. Buena Vista Social Club - Buena Vista Social Club
  14. Miles Davis - Sketches of Spain
  15. Eden MiQedem - Eden MiQedem (عدن من قديم)
  16. Pearl Jam - Ten
  17. The Felice Brothers – Yonder is the Clock
  18. Girafot - Misochecah im Kise (ג'ירפות - משוחח עם כסא)
  19. The Low Anthem - Oh My God, Charlie Darwin
  20. Etnix - Welcome to Israel (ברוכים הבאים לישראל

Friday, January 28, 2011

Coming Home: A Love Story

This 50 sheqel note was in my wallet when I left Israel on August 15, 2001 and resided there until January 1, 2008. I had kept it for those 2,331 days in חוץ לארץ as a sign for myself, a comfort and palpable assurance that I would return to Israel to spend it. (To satisfy your curiosity, I spent those 50 sheqels on a bus ticket from Jerusalem to Eilat- a sojourn through the beautiful Negev must be a worthy expenditure for this worn, weighty bill to complete its own journey.)

Because of jet lag, I wasn't able to sleep our first night, in Jerusalem. So I arose at 4 AM and left the hotel (before the buses started running) to walk to the Kotel for prayers at sunrise (vatikin). The streets were empty, dark, and quiet. The world was so still, it felt like walking through a photograph. I had a decent memory of the 3.5 km route and set out with my old map in my backpack, for backup.


Walking around is like déjà vu, only I've really been here before, these places, these streets. Sights I haven't seen in years and I have forgotten, or those that have faded, trigger in an instant a flood of memories. It's like carrying a Geiger counter through a hot area; pockets of some potent, invisible radiation set off flurries of activity.

It absolutely does not seem real- It just doesn't make sense that I'm in Israel. And yet, I am.

I spent the first half of our trip in euphoric disbelief that I was actually back. Standing, seeing, conversing, being on Israeli soil reawakened feelings that had lain dormant, atrophied from disuse with time spent in America. During the second half of our trip, my struggle was coming to terms with the fact that I'd be leaving again.

This time around, we spent the last of our sheqalim in the airport on chocolate and chips (no, not that kind). We aimed to contribute as much as we could to stimulate Israel's economy, and we knew we'd be back to spend more.

Earlier, back in the States, a fellow extern at Creedmoor, a Jamaican Christian, was excited to tell me about her mother's Christmas trip to Israel. She asked me, "Do you have a lot of family still in Israel?" People assume we came from there and left family behind. Jamaican = from Jamaica; Dominican = from the Dominican Republic; so Jewish = from Israel, right?

They don't quite get the distinction among scales of history, but in a sense, they're right. It is we Jews who artificially, inappropriately cleave the awareness of recent generations in Europe and America from the resonance of our millennial history and our homeland.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Eyes shut tight

We in the Israeli and international Jewish communities are continually astounded by the extremes of the double standard to which terrorist Islamic extremists and the State of Israel are held. The world media, and of course the UN, condemn Israel and remain blind to the IDF's efforts to preserve all human life, at the cost of time, money, resources, security, and the lives of its own soldiers and citizens. The Arab terrorists seeking Israel's annihilation play dirty. In more formal terms, they violate international laws of warfare as a matter of tactic. Such repudiation of moral conduct alone should cause people to cease referring to them as "militants." They are not soldiers, they are not combatants, they are terrorists. Their priorities should be clear from their operations. They endanger their own civilians to protect their own lives and to provoke an Israeli response that can be vilified by the world.

The violence and deaths are tragic, the strife is saddening, but the absurd politics are frustrating and astounding. This goes beyond exclusion, selection, and confirmatory biases. This is distortion and self-delusion.

Here an IDF spokesperson shows some of the difference between Hamas and IDF tactics, and demonstrates how Hamas violates international and Islamic law.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hibernation

I took a short walk outside today. It was the first time I'd stepped out of my building in seven days. I normally have a couple free days during the week, plus my assorted clinical responsibilities were suspended for the federal holiday, so I had a lot of days with nowhere to be. The beginning of the week, I was working on my Master's thesis, and I'm generally a homebody anyway, so I didn't feel the need to get out. I started coming down with a bad cold on Wednesday night and was sick the end of the week, so I didn't go out (I had externship on Friday, but called in sick).

By Shabbos morning, I was getting cabin fever and really needed to get out of my apartment, but I was still feeling sick and miserable. I'm feeling a lot better today, but less cooped up and still tired. However, I thought its probably not a good idea to be so homebound for so long, so I went for a short walk before dusk. It felt good to break the cycle, especially because this coming week bodes the same schedule for me- nowhere to be until Friday. I just have to make sure to get out again before then.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Purple Frog

First told 3/5/05

There once was a purple frog. There are such things as other purple frogs, but he was the only purple frog in his town. The green frogs made fun of him and otherwise ignored him.

He also had a burgeoning gambling addiction. Every weekend he would go to the local froggy casino and spend his paycheck, distracting himself from his purple otherness.

One weekend at the casino, after losing a day’s pay at the blackjack table and not doing much better at roulette, he approached the poker table. The dealer, a cute chameleon, was having trouble dealing the cards because her hands were sticky, as all chameleons’ are (that's what makes them such great climbers).

He won the first hand and felt bad for her dealing troubles. She saw that he was empathic and decided she liked him.

“So how did you get purple?” she asked spunkily.
“That’s a personal question; I never tell on the first meeting.”
She turned purple and said, “So we’ll have to have another.”
“Really?!”
“I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“I said, “Really?’”
“Oh, I thought you said ‘Ribbit!’”

He went home excited, even though he usually would stay gambling into the night. He couldn’t sleep, he was so excited. He hadn’t seen her at the casino before and realized that he didn’t know her name or number, and they hadn’t set up a time or place to meet. He started worrying about how he would meet her again. Now, he was a worrier, but not a pessimist, so he thought things would just work out.

On Monday, he put on his froggy overalls and froggy hardhat and went to the construction site, where he worked helping put up a hi-rise office building. His construction buddies weren’t real friends, but they didn’t make fun of him. They saw how excited he was and asked what was up. Over a lunch of grilled cheese and flies, he told them what had happened, but they didn’t believe him.

Meanwhile, the chameleon was called into the manager’s office.
“Lindsay, we love you, you’ve got great energy and a great work ethic, but you’re obviously having some difficulties as a card dealer and your sticky hands didn’t help you much at the craps or roulette tables.”
“Mr. Toad, I love working here, I love the people and dealing with all the customers. Is there some way I could stay on?”
“Well, I have an idea. The main gambling hall has a high ceiling and whenever a light bulb burns out, we have to bring in a huge ladder to change it.”
“I know, people always get distracted and stop gambling.”
“Right, Lindsay, and when people stop gambling...”
“We lose money.”
“Exactly, so here’s my idea--can you climb?”
“Sure, Mr. Toad, I’m a chameleon!”
“So instead of bringing the big ladder onto the floor and disrupting the customers, you can go up and change the bulbs.”
“Well, that’s great Mr. Toad, but that doesn’t happen too often. You would pay me just for that?”
“Lindsay, that’s only half my idea. I know how great you are with the customers and how much you enjoy dealing with them. I’m going to keep you on the floor as a cocktail waitress. With your tacky hands, you’ll never drop a tray of drinks. What do you think?”

On Wednesday night, already early in the week, the purple frog went back to the casino to look for her. He went straight to the poker table, but she wasn’t there. He raced all around the casino looking for her but he didn’t recognize her because she was wearing her cocktail waitress uniform and her skin matched the plaid skirt. There were other chameleons working there too, so he couldn’t exactly ask after her in particular.

He left, dejected, and stopped at the ice cream parlor to temper his panic with a root beer float with flies on top. He’d never been able to afford such luxuries before because he always gambled his money away. At work his buddies asked him how things were going with his chick. “She’s not a chick, she’s a woman!”

On the weekend, he went back to the casino, hoping to see her, and for once pessimistic. He meandered around, not gambling, just searching for her. No luck. He went to the bar to drown his sorrows in a root beer float. The bartender saw how downtrodden he was and asked him what was going on.
“I can’t find this woman who actually seems to like me for who I am.”
“That’s tough buddy. How about I toss some sugared flies on top of your float, gratis?”
“Yeah, sure, whatever…”

Lindsay, still plaid, came up to the bar.
“Hey, Max, we need a Shirley Temple; a Reptile with Diet Dew; an Islay, neat; and a Red Frog."
Just then, she noticed the purple frog staring into his drink.
“Speak of the devil! So are you going tell me how you turned purple?”
“That’s a personal question; I never tell on the first- HEY! Hi!”
“It’s good to see you around here again. I can’t talk now, I have to finish serving these drinks, but I finish my shift in three hours, maybe we can go get some coffee and cricket biscotti.”
The purple frog, easily excitable but usually clearheaded, said “That’s great, but I don’t want to risk losing you again. Would you mind writing down your name and number?”
She laughed and wrote down her information on a napkin.

Epilogue:
Over coffee our fuchsia frog told her how he turned purple. His mother had been swimming around her little pond, doing her pregnant froggy water yoga. An inordinately lost octopus, in its stress and confusion, let loose a cloud of ink just as the mother was laying her eggs. Octopus ink isn’t very good for froggy eggs and she lost most of them. Instead of thousands, only a few hundred survived, including our purple protagonist, all indelibly violet-hued.

All the purple brothers and sisters went there separate ways, the purple population explosion having disrupted the sensitive politics of the little pond. Every ten years, they had a reunion. At the next one, our froggy brought his chameleon bride.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sunday in the park without George

Now that the chagim are over, I'd been hoping to get back in the saddle, but it's hard to get motivated, so T. offered to borrow her friend's bike and come along for a jaunt. It was my longest ride yet, all the way down to 120th St. and back up to Dyckman, and a great day on the river. We keep grabbing the nice-weather days because winter's coming and we think it'll be the last one for a while, but they keep coming. Go Global Warming!