Monday, February 27, 2006

Otis Spunkmeyers

As I sat down to my lunch of Code Red Mountain Dew and Otis Spunkmeyers chocolate chip muffin, it occurred to me that it must not be a mere coincidence that such yummy, yummy muffins were kneaded by Mr. Spunkmeyers. No. There must have been a story, which might tell very much like this...

Long ago there live a boy, whose parents were very, very mean. While his parents kept normal, unobtrusive names, Robert and Louise Trott, they foisted upon their only son a truly wicked and absurd name, Otis Spunkmeyers. As soon as he was allowed to play with others (which was far before most children) he was incessantly tormented for his name. What is your name, the children would ask. "Otis, Spunkm..." but the end was invariably drowned out by silly girlish laughter and the thumping of crude boys’ fists. No one liked Otis, and how could they? It is doubtful that anyone so named Spunkmeyer has ever survived the ripe old age of three (do you know any Spunkmeyers?) They either die of shame, or of older boys beating them for the crime of possessing such ridicules name.

Otis's parents wanted it this way. They enjoyed seeing him come home stale and empty, having all the shit knocked out of him on a regular, or hyper-regular basis. You see, that is why his parents named him so cruelly, and thrust him into toddler society when he was much too young, and the other children could easily pick on him. Every day they would ask Otis, "How was your day?" Only to rejoice at a sniveling and barely audible reply.

Otis was not without any luck, however. He not only learned to speak far before his colleagues, but also how to run. And run he did. Around the jungle gym, through the swings, up the slide, down the monkey bars and into the classroom, where only the mocking scars of his teachers and peers could lacerate him.

But on he lived. And while a truly tortured life, he outlived the normal life expectancy of children named Otis Spunkmeyers by 5 fold (the avg. O.S. only lives to 17 months you see). And while 7 is not a very old age, it is if you are so named Otis Spunkmeyers and have incredibly cruel parents who force you to begin school at far too young an age. You see, every day Otis would come home from school, beaten and bruised, and every day his parents would rejoice. But, after a time they had hoped that the bullies would finish the job. But alas, Otis was too fast. So they skipped him, into a class of even bigger bullies. But yet again, he outran them. So they skipped him, and skipped him and skipped him some more, but he outran all of them. So by the ripe old age of 7 years and one month, Otis was already a Junior in highschool. And it is there that he found his true salvation--HomEc.

Ms. Casey was a kind and gentle woman, from the heart of east Dublin. A heart of gold and a culinary might to match. Well, when battered and bruised (but not quite dead) Otis Spunkmeyers entered her class she knew what she would have to do. She approached him and exclaimed, "No ther boi, wy d'thay beat un yoo so?" It took a moment for poor Otis to parse the thick accent, but at last he responded, "They think I deserve it, for having such a stupid name." "Wel then." Ms Casey quipped, "wee wil ave tu doo sumptin aboot that."

And faster than you can say, "Paint my suspenders red, and call me Zarathustra." (which if spoken by a Welshman, could take five to nine years) Ms. Casey demonstrated to young Otis how to whip up a batch of her famous Chocolate Chip muffins and use them in defense of the nasty, nasty bullies. "No uze theze, an' no won 'ill evr think yu stupid ageen."

Otis was skeptical, but that day, in during Dodgeball, all the nasty boys were poised to bludgeon poor Otis Spunkmeyers. But before they could say, "Paint my suspenders red, and call me Zarathustra." Otis offered them some of his delicious Chocolate Chip muffins. Well, as you must know by now, Otis Spunkmeyers's Chocolate Chip muffins are the best source of fat, sugar, carbohydrates, calories and Mmm Mmm Good, this side of Baton Rouge. Who could hate Otis after eating such yummy muffins?

After the boys had their fill, they were too plump and jolly to be inclined to harm neigh a hair on the poor boys head. And even if they had wanted to throttle poor Otis, they could hardly run in such a condition.

Well, as you can imagine, Robert and Louise were neigh too pleased. They forced Otis to bake his yummy yummy muffins, until they burst--and burst they did. All their anger, rancor and wrath splattered their small town of Dussilvontrapvonschnit, and it tasted sweet, like Otis's yummy yummy muffins.

And that is why, to this day, his muffins are still known by his name.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Now I Get It

I just got a joke today, which was told to me over three years ago...

Three years ago I mustered up the courage to ask R. Aaron (Lichtenstein) a question that had been bugging me all through my first year of college. It appeared to me that the ethic within the university of open discourse, and the notion that dialogue will somehow lead to the betterment of Man and Humanity, is at odds with a Rabbinic sentiment that "all is contained within it [Torah]" and such prohibitions as bechukoteichem lo teleichu.

Well, I phrased the question somewhat along those lines (R. Aaron did not understand at first, so he needed to reformulate it) and as he walked to the Bank Mizrachi he explained that in the 19th century there existed this grand idea, expressed by the Romantics in particular, that Man's perfection will come through the perfection of the mind; if we pursue knowledge a bit further we would be able to perfect our universe. However, many 20th century philosophers have refuted this idea, and it seems clear that an intellectual ethic, on its own, is not particularly moral or helpful. He suggested that I go read John Henry Newman's Apologia, which articulates the point well and explains Chazal's perspective—that of essential mistrust of secular wisdom—succinctly.

I was never able to find the volume, until this weekend, when reading the New Yorker I found a reference to John Newman and remembered this conversation. John Henry Cardinal Newman was an Anglican who parted ways with the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic priest. The Apologia (appropriately titled) is a defense against the Anglicans. R. Aaron sent me to read a book of Catholic theology in order to answer the question of how Jewish thought regards secular knowledge...

...that's hysterical. What a bright, bright man.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In Context

So this is the cartoon which has spurred the demolition of Danish embassies in the Middle East. After so much hype, I can't say that I find it particularly offensive. Blasphemy is very passé in the West, it just doesn't rile people up the same way it did way-back-when.

As a thought experiment for a moment, let's pull a Chomsky and change the face of Muhammad to Sharon. Would the Jewish World be outraged? I would guess so. The distinction in our reaction comes from the implication, i.e. Islam is innately violent--since some part of us would concede that Islam promotes violent doctrines (rightfully or not) we laugh at a cartoon poking fun at Muhammad. As we consider Sharon's past very sensitive, we would likely protest the corollary. So let's call the cartoon in poor taste, if nothing more. However, it appears to me that the rioting which has ensued is not due to the equation of Islam to violence, but is in response to the heresy of displaying the face of the prophet.

I can't help but think about the infamous Ramirez cartoon five years back. People were offended, the LA Times apologized, that was that--I still do not think kindly of the cartoonist, however.

The question, of course, is not whether the response in the Middle East is justified (which it is not, in case you were wondering) but whether hurtful characterizations ought to be avoided. Cartoons are supposed to "poke fun" and are by nature controversial. They ought not be graphic (bloody limbs, etc) or otherwise pornographic (Jesus molesting little children would compel a response, I would venture to bet). However, the only real dictum I can settle on is that the cartoon expresses a mainstream opinion. If a cartoon is too far removed from "good taste" it becomes "hurtful." And, well, that is just too subjective for my liking. Alas, I am left to the Common Sense (Smell Test) which fails so many so often.

ברוך דין אמת

My thesis advisor, Professor Aryeh Leo Motzkin died last Saturday in Jerusalem. I learned a tremendous amount from him and will miss him greatly.

Jack bests the New York Times

It is simply amazing how the establishment media refuses to actually run the cartoons over which much of the Islamic world is having a tantrum. If not for the internet, the Celitic Semite would probably not have been able to come forth and debunk one of the "cartoons"

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Whither Civil Liberties?

More interesting than Bush's SotU was the Democratic response. It was delivered by a soft young Democrat, Tim Kaine, who talked about Good News (cringe). But completely omitted from the address was any talk about the hearing scheduled to be held concerning the legality (and lack thereof) of Bushes warrantless wiretaps on millions of Americans. Is that just not an issue? Do overt and causeless invasions into the lives of average Americans not licit a response, when Pres. Bush reiterated his fervor for the practice. In the words of the revered Napoleon, "Gawd."