Archive for January, 2009

Thanks a lot, Belgium

I had decided to take yesterday off as a Baby Day, and don’t normally post on Fridays.  But after reading Treppenwitz’s Thursday post about the recent comments by Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht in “support” of Israel’s existence, I couldn’t resist.

Trep’s post says it all about the absurdity and bizarre nature (not to mention insult) of the continuing discourse over Israel’s “right to exist.”  What other nation in the history of the world–whether conceived in peace or war, of open or closed society, of primitive or modern outlook–has been expected to explain or justify its existence 60 years after its founding?  Who has the right to decide on such a matter?  To whose benefit is the continued questioning of Israel’s right to exist?  And is that a group of people to whom the world should be giving a free bully pulpit?

Psachya, a commenter to Trep’s post, summarized beautifully the appropriate response a rational person should have to such an irrational public statement:

…And the next day, the Belgian minister voiced his unwavering support for the existence of peanut butter, molecules, the letter “F”, pot roast, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. “And we will not be budged from our position,” he said bravely…

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English rant #8: It’s

In the course of writing my rant on apostrophe abuse, I came across another Bob the Angry Flower cartoon regarding the word it’s. Here it is:

Note that while possession is often indicated by the addition of ’s (e.g. Shimshonit’s pet peeve) the word it is an exception to this rule. One makes it possessive simply by adding s, as in “The dog lost its collar.”

There you have it: Shimshonit’s shortest rant yet.

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I’m a boy, I’m a boy*

With thanks to Hashem Shimshonit, the Cap’n, and the Crunch girls take great joy in announcing the birth of Bill, the newest addition to our family. He is healthy, the spitting image of his mother as a newborn, and will be named (officially), please God, at his brit next Monday morning. Mazal tov!

*The title of this post and the name Bill are inspired by a song by The Who about a boy with three elder sisters (complete lyrics here). While it’s not part of anyone’s plan to make the boy’s life difficult, his parents are having trouble refraining from using feminine pronouns and the name of his third elder sister in referring to him. We hope these technical difficulties will iron out with time.

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This edition of Haveil Havalim is dedicated to the soldiers of the IDF and their outstanding service, professionalism, and humanity in the recent Gaza war. It is full of links to posts from the J-Blogosphere on Israel and Gaza, Israeli life and politics, Judaism, Jewish life, anti-Semitism, personal, art and photography, and humor.

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Presidential quiz

Years ago, when I was teaching American history, I put together a folder of lesson plans for substitute teachers to use in case of my absence. Remembering what a (fun) challenge it was for me as a history student to learn the names of the U.S. presidents, I put together the following exercise. To those of you who already know the presidents in order, perhaps you’ll enjoy some of the little trivia I picked up about them. For those of you with gaps (large and small), lotsa luck.

1. “Couldn’t tell a lie” (1789-1797)
2. Nicknamed “the Duke of Braintree” by his detractors in Congress (1797-1801)
3. Author of Declaration of Independence (1801-1809)
4. Chief author of the Constitution (1809-1817)
5. Called for a western hemisphere free of European colonization (“the ____ Doctrine”) (1817-1825)
6. Son of a former president (1825-1829)
7. First frontier-born president, nicknamed “the Indian Fighter” (1829-1837)
8. First president born under the US flag (1837-1841)
9. Died of pneumonia first month in office (1841)
10. First VP elevated to office after the death of the president (1841-1845)
11. Extended the US’s boundaries to the Pacific Ocean (1845-1849)
12. Died of milk and cherries (1849-1850)
13. He signed bills of the Compromise of 1850, which among other things, ended the slave trade in Washington DC and enacted the Fugitive Slave Act (1850-1853)
14. Only president from New Hampshire (1853-1857)
15. Only president never to have married (1857-1861)
16. Led the country through the Civil War, shot in Ford’s Theatre (1861-1865)
17. First president to be impeached (1865-1869)
18. Former Union general, to whom Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered (1869-1877)
19. Won by one electoral vote (1877-1881)
20. Shot (1881)
21. Approved a measure in 1882 excluding immigration of paupers, criminals, and lunatics (1881-1885)
22. Only president married in the White House (1885-1889)
23. Grandson of a president (1889-1893)
24. This president had served before (1893-1897)
25. Shot in Buffalo (1897-1901)
26. Namesake of the Teddy Bear, founded the country’s national park system (1901-1909)
27. Weighed over 300 pounds, had special “jumbo” bathtub installed in White House (1909-1913)
28. Led country through WWI, founded League of Nations (1913-1921)
29. Died of heart attack (1921-1923)
30. From Vermont, nicknamed “Silent Cal” (1923-1929)
31. Namesake of Depression-era shanty-towns (1929-1933)
32. Only president elected to fourth term; died of cerebral hemorrhage (1933-1945)
33. Ordered the dropping of the A-bomb on Japan (1945-1953)
34. Preferred to be remembered as a general than a president (1953-1961)
35. Sent “advisors” to Vietnam; shot in Dallas (1961-1963)
36. Sent soldiers to Vietnam (1963-1969)
37. Only president to resign from office (1969-1974)
38. The first person appointed to the vice presidency under the terms of the 25th amendment; i.e., first president never to win a national election (1974-1977)
39. Former peanut farmer (1977-1981)
40. Former B-movie actor, nicknamed “the Gipper” (1981-1989)
41. Served in WWII as the youngest naval aviator in U.S. history (1989-1993)
42. Second president to be impeached (1993-2001)
43. Lost the popular vote; elected by a Supreme Court decision (2001-2009)
44. First man of African descent to win a national election (2009- )

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Check out Ilana-Davita’s blog for the latest Kosher Cooking Carnival.  This is the Green Edition, with stories, traditional and less traditional recipes, and (in this edition) mostly meatless recipes.  Bon appetit!

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The Cap’n and I used to go to movies. Sunday night was usually date night, and with babysitters in Israel charging in shekels what the off-duty nannies we could get in the U.S. were charging in dollars, movie-going is not the wallet-stripping experience here that it once was.

And then it hit: the Great Movie Slump. I don’t know if the studios are turning out only garbage these days, or if the good stuff just isn’t coming to Israel. But in the last six months, we have seen “Mamma Mia!” twice (liked it the first time, were desperate for anything watchable the second time), “Quantum of Solace” (we love Daniel Craig’s Bond, though this wasn’t the best plot we’ve seen), “Tropic Thunder” (amusing, but seen more from desperation than from any other motives) and “Stepbrothers” (ditto). “Duchess” had two weeks of showing at prime time at the art film house, and then was bumped to Shabbat showings and Tuesdays at 5 PM. “Doubt” looks interesting, but I’m not in the mood for Catholic school angst right now.

Then I remembered when I was teaching years ago how hooked the other members of the history department were on the TV show, “The West Wing.” (That year, the Cap’n and I were hooked on the last year of “Star Trek: Voyager” at the time. Remember that post I did a few weeks ago on nerds?) At the time I didn’t take it too seriously because for me the experience of watching TV in the U.S. was a punishing one; I found the advertisements annoying, and the programming even worse. And yet over the years I’ve remained curious about that series and how it managed to hook the brainy history faculty.

So with the movie scene moribund and no television or cable in our house in Israel, I decided to try to get my hands on the series. After sending out a query on the Efrat chat list, I managed to acquire the complete series (and the series “Get Smart” as a bonus gift).

So now the Cap’n and I are hooked on “The West Wing.” Any time we have 43 minutes to spare, we postpone all other activity, plunk ourselves down in front of the computer, and take in another episode. The fascinating characters, witty dialog, blend of the personal with the political, and treatment of a wide variety of contemporary social and political issues are amazingly entertaining. (We’re even able to stomach the ultra-liberal views adopted by most of the administration, since some of the time they get corrected by experience or Republicans or both.)

My only question is, Since when did television get so high-brow? The Cap’n suggested that the market share interested in programming like “The West Wing” may be a relatively small one, but it’s also probably more affluent, and expected to make a reasonable return on the advertising. Beyond the bottom line, though, the notion of an American president with a Nobel Prize in economics who hires people who disagree with him and who is comfortable in his skin as the leader of the free world but doesn’t let it go to his head is understandably seductive for American viewers. I imagine it was a delicious escape for those disgusted with Clinton’s shenanigans and lapses in professionalism, as well as Bush’s tunnel vision and known dislike of contrary opinions. (What would viewers be escaping from the Obama White House? I wonder.)

I dread the day when we get through all seven seasons of the show. I suppose we’ll have to ask the same question President Bartlet is always asking: What’s next?

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