Thursday, July 27, 2006

יום ז'אב תשס"ו

Zev Day (the seventh day of the month of Av) is my favorite day on the calendar. So, like in years past, I ask you to do something Zev-like on said day, which this year falls out on August 1st.

Every year I get the same question: what is something Zev-like? The answer to that is, you know as well as I. With what sorts of things do you associate me with? Hopscotch? Equestrians ballet? Spelunking? Let the circumstance of the day lead you to impulsiveness...Happy birthday Oren.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Letter to the Editor

Here is an excellent letter to the editor of the Washington Times I found describing the threat of Hezb-allah and why their attacks should be taken more seriously by the West.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


A few years ago my friend took me to Shira Hadasha in Yerushalaim. I found that my main objection to Egal is not so much in the theory, but it the Egal (as in other branches of Judaism) just has a more experiential view of religious ritual than traditional Frum shuls do.

Does anyone know of an Ortho-Egal shul that has hot kiddush, 1 1/2 hour Shabbes Shachris, and strict rules about nusach from the ummud (none of this aspirated neo-Israeli pronunciation garbage)? If so I am very curious ;)

M.E. Regional Flare-Up

Just one thought about this current mess:

Every conventional military in the world sucks at a-symmetric warfare (Israel less so than most). As this conflict become more symmetric, the conflict becomes more "favorable" for the Israelis. The inverse and the transpose also hold. Watch for Hezbollah to do more ducking-and-running, oscillating the power of their aggression.

Under these assumptions I cannot understand what Hezbollah stands to gain by firing Katusas on Israel...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The proof is in the bombing

In the 1890's David Emile Durkheim saw a spike in the suicide rate and saw it to be a symptom of a deep social change sweeping Europe. He reasoned that such a rash venture as to takes one's own life must have some deep cause, and could not happen by arbitrarily. To this end I am trying to synthesize Robert Pape's remarks on suicide bombing and nationalism in the 21st century. If nationalism is truly outmoded, why does it produce such violent affects? Take note all ye political theorists, it is significant.

In the mellifluous words of the poet Wu Tang KRS-1, "suicide, it's a suicide, suicide, it's a suicide." Maybe this set of suicides should prompt a similar line of questions as the former epidemic. Apparently Pape does address Durkheim specifically in his book, "Dying to Kill," but as he is an IR guy and not a theorist, it appears is if there ought to be a lot more work to be done to better explore this relationship, beyond simple psychoanalytic prescriptions for suicide, rather looking at the theoretical germ of the outbreak. (Brownie points for the person that shows me the article that already stumbled upon this.)

In Pape's words:
To clarify Pape's argument I decided to transcribe a particularly lucid and concise passage from his book.
The data show that there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any of the world's religions...Rather what nearly all suicide terrorist attacks have in common is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that terrorist consider to be their homeland. Religion is not the root cause, although it is often used as a tool by terrorist organizations in recruiting and in other efforts of the broader strategic objective ("Dying to Win" by Robert Pape p. 4)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

You are how you read Returns

I saw Superman Returns with my brother motza"sh and was fairly impressed. One shot in the movie caught my particular attention, however. Towards the end of the movie we see Lois Lane pining for her lost love while the camera moves through her study (it might not be hers, but she looks awfully comfortable there). The angle starts low and proceeds through two bookshelves, opposite one another, chock full of books. Not binders or legal books but paperbacks and hardcovers, different sizes, shapes and publishers. There must be six five-foot cases all told. Lex Luthor, to contrast, is seen to own a boatload of sets, the kind of thing you pick up to fill shelves that you will not actually read (self-irony noted, if not intended).

While I think the latter choice says less about Luthor, I really think Bryan Singer crafted the scene with Lois. Lois was never portrayed as a brainy one in the past, but I think Singer composed the scene with the bookshelves to help cast a more contemporary interpretation on Lois as a really smart, contemplative (and, gasp, even intellectual) journalist who is also independent; with or without Superman (why do books=independence? Non-trivial question, with a set of trivial answers; also has to do with the scene--her pining contrasted with her Pulitzer, which she won definently wo/ Superman). Whether Kate Bosworth communicates that is a different issue...

Your are how you read

My dad starts, "There is a store over on Main that makes brass plates for bookshelves. So the question is, what categories do you use to categorize your library."

"Easy," I replied "Literature, Art & Graphic Arts, Politics & History, Social Theory, Religion, Science* & Math, Philosophy and Sifrei Kodesh."

And like that, I realized how simply (re: crudely) I saw the world. Drama is just literature; anthropology, social theory etc. Definitely a worth while exercise.

* by science I "really" mean physics, where biology is just tacked on, the way platypi are kind of like mammals.