Monday, February 28, 2005

A Good Story

After a truly craptastic day, I could not do anything except retreat to 3W and watch the PB. One of two movies that can rectify most any mood that I am in. As I was watching the movie feature after the movie, I think that all the people associated with the movie kinda got it wrong, except Mandy Patankin. He said that when he read the line "You killed my father, prepare to die" he could not help but think of his father who had died of cancer a decade earlier. Through this myth, he was coming to terms with his own life. Good fairy tales allow us to reflect on things and mythologize them, as we cannot do ourselves, because we can never be at the center of our own myth. Stories are not just for kids.
Ben, Rebecca and I were talking about the celebrity myth making culture (after I exclaimed that I liked watching the Oscars- a festive evening I abstained from to watch PB, fittingly). The only intelligent thing I had to say was that celebrity myth making is important because there need to be mythical characters in our world. Every child is in awe of their parent. "Wow, my Dad is a doctor." you think to yourself. Problem is when you actually become that doctor (lo alaynu), it ceases to be so magical. You can never be at the center of your own myth.
Movies do it though. More than theater, more than music. When movies are shot, they do not resemble the final product. When you see the movie, in its finished form, the acotrs are no longer at the center of the myth. I think that is part of the appeal of movies, no one, not even the actors that shoot the movies, are the ultimate keepers of the stories and myths they create. I wonder how this fits into my larger ideas of Hobbes' story of the Common-Wealth, and the Jewish notion of Yetziat Mitzraim and Maamad Har Sinai?

Side Note: I am really happy about the Oscar results. This is the first year in a while hat I can remember being happy with Oscar outcomes (or not being sad). MDB won for best picture, director, best use of Morgan Freeman and actress. Sideways (which I have not seen) won for best adapted screenplay and Eternal Sunshine won for best original screenplay. As screenplay is often given to the movie which, if the Oscar were more avant garde, would have been nominated for best picture- I am always happy when cool movies win, e.g. Eternal Sunshine.
To disagree with Caryn James of NYT I think that MDB won all those awards because Hollywood likes ol' timey movies. The kind that we like so much that we can imagine watching them with our grandparents and grandchildren. LotR is not one of those movies. Neither of my two grandparents would (have) understand WTH was going on and would have been quite bored. LotR is a lot of smoke and very little movie. While Hollywood likes larger-than-life, I think it likes ol'-timey better, which is why they gave such resounding approval to MDB (I stole much of this last rant from Jr. Ginsbu).

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Only Connect

So, lately I've been checking israel news daily. This is fairly unusual for me, but for a while there, it looked liked big things were about to happen. Shame about the terrorism. Today, I read this on haaretz:

The cabinet on Sunday approved Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's proposal to increase by 40 percent stipends allotted by the government to yeshiva students aged 23 and up. The move will not affect the state budget, as at the same time, the government will decrease stipends allotted to yeshiva students under the age of 23.


In other news, I went to a hooka bar last night, and smoked some tabacco. That's about as exciting as it sounds. I also finally saw "Sideways", which was quite good, but not astoundingly amazing (Giamatti is better in American Splendor, which you might want to see if you like that sort of thing.) Had a pretty dreadful shabbos (nothing dramatic, just nothing went well) after a pretty dreadfull erev shabbos (work stuff, ask me if you care.)

I haven't posted poetry in a while, so here's Coleridge's "Kubla Khan." This poem is way, way, way too much.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover!
A savage place! as holy and enchanted
As e'er beneath a waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her demon-lover!
And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced:
Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher's flail:
And 'mid these dancing rocks at once and ever
It flung up momently the sacred river.
Five miles meandering with a mazy motion
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean:
And 'mid this tumult Kubla heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the dome of pleasure
Floated midway on the waves;
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device,
A sunny pleasure-dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such a deep delight 'twould win me
That with music loud and long
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread,
For he on honey-dew hath fed
And drunk the milk of Paradise.

Have a good week everybody.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Greatest Movie Review Ever

"No, "Constantine" is not part of a trilogy including "Troy" and "Alexander." It's not about the emperor at all, but about a man who can see the world behind the world, and is waging war against the scavengers of the damned. There was a nice documentary about emperor penguins, however, at Sundance this year. The males sit on the eggs all winter long in like 60 degrees below zero." (From Roger Ebert's Review of "Constantine")
It took me a minute to get the connection. And then I cried.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

As If

I got to talk with two of my Rebeim last night. Twas awesome. First R. (Y) Blau came to speak from Hamivtar on halachik decisions concerning non-halachik matters (a crazy Gush concept). It was interesting, if a bit rushed. Bkitzur, he is very cool.
Then I went over to Jim Blocks and we talked for three hours!(!!). People wonder why I don't go over there more often. The first reason is that he is so frigin busy, but on top of that, how often can I spend three hours doing anything? Twas very sha've. What follows is a rant that I constructed:

When Hobbes sets out on the project of creating the modern nation state (common wealth) he does so by embarking on a completely artificial project. Hobbes himself says in the authors preface to the Leviathan that he is creating this state, because no such artifice exists without the invention of man. The model of "as if" (think ke'ilu) is employed in the beginning of pt. II chpt 18 (elsewhere as well) when Hobbes says that a commonwealth consists of a group of people coming together in agreement, and covenanting to assign a man or body as their ruler. This founding action (myth) of liberalism never actually happened (Locke deals with this [I hope] in the 2nd Treatise section 101), but it is a really good story, so we all accept it. Hobbes even leaves open the possibility that we won't accept the myth, at which point he says "fine, rise up, see what I care?" but if you loose, treason is punishable by torture. If you feel like you have enough numbers, sure go ahead, worse comes to worse and you just go back to the state of war.
It is the "As If" model that I really like. Shani and I were talking this summer and I was saying that there are two ways of looking at history. The first is as a point on a space time map (not a spacetime map). Lat. 42 long. 42 12:00:00a 2/22/05 exists on this plot, I can go there (theoretically) and poke about. The second conception of history is the sequential (diachronic*) view where I know something happened, because historically, it occurred at a specific place and has had implications on my life and the world around me. This would also imply that even if something happened in the first model, it might not necessarily have ant corollary in the second model. How? Well if Joe Chumus lived and died in 322 BCE in the middle of nowhere Arabia, he was not a part of my history, cause frankly, he did not matter. I think the "coke cans" model** of Maamad Har Sinai is a very similar idea. That is we construct the model of history "keilu hu yatza". We create an "as if" model, where we retroject a historical event (which may very well have happened even in the boring first model of history) that has a profound impact on our lives.
This keilu has always bothered me. What does it mean that we imagine ourselves "as if" we left Egypt. We didn't leave Egypt, and even if we ourselves did, we are certainly not doing a very good job of reenacting it. The Muslims go on the Haj, that is a good reenactment. Why don't we go down to Egypt, flee to the Red Sea, and then take hovercrafts to saftey on the Sinai peninsula? That would be a much better "as if". Our "as if" is one of nation building. It is one where we retroject a model as if we were freed from Egypt. Just as in the current model of the liberal as if, it does not matter if and group of people ever created a commonwealth. Our Seder is one where we consider the formative implications of the Yetziah.
Jim said that the secret of all these stories is that they created their nation ex nihilo. Hobbes creates citizens from rational animals in the SON (SOW), Moshe creates Jews from Egyptians (see all the myriad of midrashim about how Jews were on the 49th level of tumah, 4/5 of the Jews dies in makat hoshech, and others which talk about the Jewish depravity in Egypt)and Jesus was a Jew. These are all the dirty secrets we "as if" away, but they are really cool parts of our retrojected history.

*I have never used this word before, but I looked it up, and I think it fits here. It seems to be "one of those words" that academic people-types use.
**Brought to my attention by Miriam G. (because I am just not that smart) via Tamar Ross. The line goes something like: Even if I saw the coke cans from Maamad Har Sinai, it would not affect my emunah.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Kedoshim Tihyu.

Kedoshim Tihyu.

Kedoshim Tihyu.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


I put up the list for mishnayot lzecher my grandmother online here. If you want to take one just email me.
I also posted a new easter egg.
Here I go, slightly mad.

iTunes vs Napster

I love threads posted by irate computer geeks on slashdot. That being said, the Napster website provides a dearth of information on how their magical "all you can eat" service works.

Re:One small change would make all the difference. (Score:5, Insightful)
by splatterboy (815820) on Saturday February 12, @12:52PM (#11652591)

"As long as I could keep the songs after Ive cancelled my subscription, if I choose to do so in the future, I'd most likely subscribe to a service like this for a long time."

Is this a rhetorical staement or are you under the impression that this is what the Napster service is or what they are planning to do?

If so you're missing the point - YOU DO NOT GET TO KEEP THE SONGS. YOU DO NOT OWN THE SONGS. In a subscription service YOU WILL NEVER GET TO KEEP THE SONGS. That's the point of their buisiness model and their DRM.

This is getting to be like an apple thread where people would mention over and over that they are waiting for an X86 port of OSX or a cheaper, say, $500 Mac (oops, lost that excuse...)

If you think your model is such a great idea, why dont you start a company and give it a shot?

Because it hasn't worked and won't work. itune sells at $.99 per song and makes the tinyest profit after a couple of years... you think $14 per month for thousands of songs per subscription/month is even worth the time you took to post?

I cant wait for all the suckers to go out and sign up for Napster (sic) then start whinning about how f*scked up their files are either because of the M$ DRM or a hardware issue and now "their" music is "gone". Lets just hope said snivelling doesn't make it to /.

Pt 2. My New Shuffle
So after weeks of wait I finally got a Shuffle 1 gb. It is great save a few problems I have had. 1. When I pause it on occation it turns off. I have to turn it off and back on, which is mildly annoying. 2. The randomizer randomly chooses songs and then puts them back into the set. So after you have played the first half of your songs you have more than 50% chance of hearing a song you have already heard. This means it can take a while to hear every song on the little thing. 3. If you try to listen through, it is hard to figure out what you have already heard. e.g. you stop it and then restart it.
I like my new bubble of music, and don't intend to leave anytime soon.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

ברוך דין אמת

Ruth Berger Cohen (1913-2005)

אשת חיל מי ימצא, ורחוק מפנינים מכרה
בטח בה לב בעלה, ושלל לא יחסר
גמלתהו טוב ולא רע, כל ימי חייה
דרשה צמר ופשתים, ותעש בחפץ כפיה
היתה כאניות סוחר, ממרחק תביא לחמה
ותקם בעוד לילה, ותתן טרף לביתה, וחוק לנערותיה
זממה שדה ותקחהו, מפרי כפיה נטעה כרם
חגרה בעוז מתניה, ותאמץ זרועותיה
טעמה כי טוב סחרה, לא יכבה בלילה נרה
ידיה שלחה בכישור, וכפיה תמכה פלך
כפה פרשה לעני, וידיה שלחה לאביון
לא תירא לביתה משלג, כי כל ביתה לבוש שנים
מרבדים עשתה לה, שש וארגמן לבושה
נודע בשערים בעלה, בשבתו עם זקני ארץ
סדין עשתה ותמכור, וחגור נתנה לכנעני
עוז והדר לבושה, ותשחק ליום אחרון
פיה פתחה בחכמה, ותורת חסד על לשונה
צופיה הליכות ביתה, ולחם עצלות לא תאכל
קמו בניה ויאשרוה, בעלה ויהללה
רבות בנות עשו חיל, ואת עלית על כולנה
שקר החן והבל היופי, אשה יראת ה' היא תתהלל
תנו לה מפרי ידיה, ויהללוה בשערים מעשיה

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Snow in Jerusalem: the view from our kitchen Posted by Hello

After The End

I had a wonderful time in Puerto Rico. Everyone should do it; twice. I would blog more about it, but I doubt it will ever happen.

The Buffalo has hit the fan. In all my ranting about Western New York I never actually believed the place was as doomed as we made it sound. Apparently I was wrong. What do you do after the apocalypse? Thousands of layoffs. No more parks (even if they are a tax on the poor, they are still pretty). No more Zoo. No more libraries. No more Buffalos. So depressing.

I really feel like democracy has failed. Really and truly. Both sides, the legislature and the County Comptroller balked at raising taxes, and as a result Buffalo will die. Democracies don't do this. This is what de Tocqueville worried about and for some reason has never come to pass. Elected officials just decide to roll over and play dead. Now what? We can't make them be not-stupid.

Also, my Nonny is very ill...

Goodnight room. Goodnight moon. Goodnight cow jumping over the moon. Goodnight little house. Goodnight little mouse. Goodnight clocks and goodnight socks. Goodnight kittens and goodnight mittens. Goodnight comb and brush. Goodnight to the little old lady whispering, "hush". Goodnight stars. Goodnight air.

Goodnight noises everywhere.

- Goodnight Moon, By: Margaret Wise Brown, Illustrated by: Clement Hurd; Harper Collins Press 1947

Monday, February 07, 2005

a bird dies, a dream lives

My roomate brought home a live chicken sunday, and killed it. It was a treifa. I got to do a new m'doraisa I had never done before, "al kisui dam b'afar".

I've been doing a lot of thinking lately, about my "personal life". I think I am unsatisfied with it, for a completely unexpected reason. I am also, as usual, confused about the women in my life, mostly because I'm 21 and don't know what I want. For some reason, the Philip Glass I am currently listening to sums it up perfectly.

To anyone out there who does not reign over apes, I assign the following task: procure a copy of Pynchon's "The Crying of Lot 49", open to chapter 2, and read the first paragraph. This is extremely important. Less important, but recommended, is reading the rest of the book, what is rather bizarre but full of brilliant, subtle prose.

The music switched to Mogwai (ok, I helped it a little bit.) Baruch Hashem.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Science and Error

My new question, which I really would like someone to answer for me is: What does error mean in science?

So I think it should be a two part answer. The first part consists of inaccuracy of models and equipment. Science will say "This is accurate down to 10^-10" which means that either (a) external stuffs in nature make it too difficult for our devices to measure said phenomenon [Uninteresting] or (b) the model we are using is flawed past a certain degree of accuracy [more interesting] In this case, Science knows where the barriers to its own models are, and tells you when it stops being a good tool. In theory some version of GUFT or TOE (Grand Unified Field Theory or Theory of Everything) would not have this sort of error.

The second part to the answer is error which we expect. That is to say in any test we expect between 15-30% of the data to miss the mark. So our theory somehow cannot account for these points of error. On some level I understand that statistics accounts for this, but it is still not simple. Even on a super-quantum scale (ie the scientific world not fundamentally tied into statistics) why should we expect to see this form of error? How and why is science limited by statistics in what it can measure and how often it can measure it?

This gained new momentum in my mind when during Law and Social Theory class we discussed the impact of science on social theory. During the premodern period people believed that Science was God's headlight, leading man in the proper direction. After science was severed from theology, science still took on more of a descriptive nature- what do we observe? But with the advent of particle physics in the mid 19th century incredibly precise models are being theorized which allow for us, based on mathematical laws (e.g. F=ma), to predict what we are going to see. Every exception to a rule becomes a path for scientific inquiry, a possibility to create a new rule. Social theory takes this and appears to do the following: There are no exceptions to the rule. Those who we consider abnormal are perfectly normal, rather out models and conceptions of normal are skewed. Social theory has fought the battle to normalize the abnormal for the last century.

Does the notion of error analysis apply to social theory?

A Horst is a Horst, of Course of Course

When I woke up this morning and went outside, I saw German flags flying on the streets. Fearing the worst, I returned home and quickly checked the news. It turns out, German President Horst Kohler is here to visit Jerusalem. In fact he was driving up and down my street all night and this morning making quite a racket with a host of limousines and Israeli police vehicles. No coup, no invasion -- just a German president driving to visit the Israeli president, prime minister, and Knesset.

Speaking of the Kenesset, he's supposed to speak there today. Many MK's are boycotting the speech because it will be in German, the language that the nazi's spoke. But as Yosef Lapid, himself a holocaust survivor, points out (cf. Jerusalem Post), Theodor Herzl also wrote his book Der Judenstat in German. Now obviously Mr. Kohler won't be speaking in Hebrew, but I think I have a reasonable compromise: why not speak in Yiddish?

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

When does Easter Fall?

Entering into a discussion with my co-worker at the Reg about Easter, I was wondering how one determined when the holiday falls each year. Turns out we're not the only ones with a whacky calendar.

As it comes up in Google searches a fair amount:
March 23, 2008
April 12, 2009
April 4, 2010