Posts Tagged ‘humor’

While technology (warming trays, thermostats, timers, X10, Shabbat settings on refrigerators and ovens) have largely made the Shabbos goy an anachronism, it was once a necessity.  Illustrious personages such as Martin Scorcese, Mario Cuomo, Colin Powell, and a teenaged Elvis Presley once assisted Shabbat-observant neighbors in the US.  My paternal grandmother (whose parents in America were no longer Shabbat-observant) reported back from a 1930 visit to family in Poland that the Polish Catholic Shabbos goy still faithfully executed her duties every Saturday morning.  The following account by Joe Velarde, posted on Batya’s old blog, is a lovely tribute to the friendship that once existed in Brooklyn between Jewish and Christian neighbors.  Enjoy.

Snow came early in the winter of 1933 when our extended Cuban family moved into the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn.  I was ten years old.  We were the first Spanish speakers to arrive, yet we fit more or less easily into that crowded, multicultural neighborhood.  Soon we began learning a little Italian, a few Greek and Polish words, lots of Yiddish and some heavily accented English.

I first heard the expression Shabbes is falling when Mr. Rosenthal refused to open the door of his dry goods store on Bedford Avenue.  My mother had sent me with a dime to buy a pair of black socks for my father.  In those days, men wore mostly black and navy blue.  Brown and gray were somehow special and cost more.  Mr. Rosenthal stood inside the locked door, arms folded, glaring at me through the thick glass while a heavy snow and darkness began to fall on a Friday evening.  “We’re closed, already”, Mr. Rosenthal had said, shaking his head, “can’t you see that Shabbes is falling?  Don’t be a nudnik!  Go home.”  I could feel the cold wetness covering my head and thought that Shabbes was the Jewish word for snow.

My misperception of Shabbes didn’t last long, however, as the area’s dominant culture soon became apparent; Gentiles were the minority.  From then on, as Shabbes fell with its immutable regularity and Jewish lore took over the life of the neighborhood, I came to realize that so many human activities, ordinarily mundane at any other time, ceased, and a palpable silence, a pleasant tranquillity, fell over all of us.  It was then that a family with an urgent need would dispatch a youngster to “get the Spanish boy, and hurry.”

That was me.  In time, I stopped being nameless and became Yussel, sometimes Yuss or Yusseleh.  And so began my life as a Shabbes Goy, voluntarily doing chores for my neighbors on Friday nights and Saturdays: lighting stoves, running errands, getting a prescription for an old tante, stoking coal furnaces, putting lights on or out, clearing snow and ice from slippery sidewalks and stoops.  Doing just about anything that was forbidden to the devout by their religious code.

Friday afternoons were special.  I’d walk home from school assailed by the rich aroma emanating from Jewish kitchens preparing that evening’s special menu.  By now, I had developed a list of steady “clients,” Jewish families who depended on me.  Furnaces, in particular, demanded frequent tending during Brooklyn’s many freezing winters.  I shudder remembering brutally cold winds blowing off the East River.  Anticipation ran high as I thought of the warm home-baked treats I’d bring home that night after my Shabbes rounds were over.  Thanks to me, my entire family had become Jewish pastry junkies. Moi?  I’m still addicted to checkerboard cake, halvah and Egg Creams (made only with Fox’s Ubet chocolate syrup).

I remember as if it were yesterday how I discovered that Jews were the smartest people in the world.  You see, in our Cuban household we all loved the ends of bread loaves and, to keep peace, my father always decided who would get them.  One harsh winter night I was rewarded for my Shabbes ministrations with a loaf of warm challah (we pronounced it “holly”) and I knew I was witnessing genius!  Who else could have invented a bread that had wonderfully crusted ends all over it — enough for everyone in a large family?

There was an “International” aspect to my teen years in Williamsburg.  The Sternberg family had two sons who had fought with the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain.  Whenever we kids could get their attention, they’d spellbind us with tales of hazardous adventures in the Spanish Civil War.  These twenty-something war veterans also introduced us to a novel way of thinking, one that embraced such humane ideas as ‘From each according to his means and to each according to his needs’.  In retrospect, this innocent exposure to a different philosophy was the starting point of a journey that would also incorporate the concept of Tzedakah in my personal guide to the

In what historians would later call The Great Depression, a nickel was a lot of mazuma and its economic power could buy a brand new Spaldeen, our local name for the pink-colored rubber ball then produced by the Spalding Company.  The famous Spaldeen was central to our endless street games: stickball and punchball or the simpler stoopball.  One balmy summer evenings our youthful fantasies converted South Tenth Street into Ebbets Field with the Dodgers’ Dolph Camilli swinging a broom handle at a viciously curving Spaldeen thrown by the Giants’ great lefty, Carl Hubbell.  We really thought it curved, I swear.

Our neighbors, magically transformed into spectators kibitzing from their brownstone stoops and windows, were treated to a unique version of major league baseball.  My tenure as the resident Shabbes Goy came to an abrupt end after Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1941.  I withdrew from Brooklyn College the following day and joined the U.S. Army.  In June of 1944, the Army Air Corps shipped me home after flying sixty combat missions over Italy and the Balkans.  I was overwhelmed to find that several of my Jewish friends and neighbors had set a place for me at their supper tables every Shabbes throughout my absence, including me in their prayers.  What mitzvoth!  My homecoming was highlighted by wonderful invitations to dinner.  Can you imagine the effect after twenty-two months of Army field rations?

As my post-World War II life developed, the nature of the association I’d had with Jewish families during my formative years became clearer.  I had learned the meaning of friendship, of loyalty, and of honor and respect.  I discovered obedience without subservience.  And caring about all living things had become as natural as breathing.  The worth of a strong work ethic and of purposeful dedication was manifest.  Love of learning blossomed and I began to set higher standards for my developing skills, and loftier goals for future activities and dreams.  Mind, none of this was the result of any sort of formal instruction; my yeshiva had been the neighborhood.  I learned these things, absorbed them actually says it better, by association and role modeling, by pursuing curious inquiry, and by what educators called “incidental learning” in the crucible that was pre-World War II Williamsburg.  It seems many of life’s most elemental lessons are learned this way.

While my parents’ Cuban home sheltered me with warm, intimate affection and provided for my well-being and self esteem, the group of Jewish families I came to know and help in the Williamsburg of the 1930s was a surrogate tribe that abetted my teenage rite of passage to adulthood.  One might even say we had experienced a special kind of Bar Mitzvah.  I couldn’t explain then the concept of tikkun olam, but I realized as I matured how well I had been oriented by the Jewish experience to live it and to apply it.  What a truly uplifting outlook on life it is to be genuinely motivated “to repair the world.”

In these twilight years when my good wife is occasionally told, “Your husband is a funny man,” I’m aware that my humor has its roots in the shticks of Second Avenue Yiddish Theater, entertainers at Catskill summer resorts, and their many imitators.  And, when I argue issues of human or civil rights and am cautioned about showing too much zeal, I recall how chutzpah first flourished on Williamsburg sidewalks, competing for filberts (hazelnuts) with tough kids wearing payess and yarmulkes.  Along the way I played chess and one-wall handball, learned to fence, listened to Rimsky-Korsakov, ate roasted chestnuts, read Maimonides and studied Saul Alinsky.

I am ever grateful for having had the opportunity to be a Shabbes Goy.


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Contrary to my first impression, a paraprosdokian is not an Armenian.  It is, in fact, a “figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently used in a humorous situation.”  “Where there’s a will, I want to be in it,” is a type of paraprosdokian.  Here are some others to enjoy.

1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
2. The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it’s still on my list.
3. Light travels faster than sound. This is why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
4. If I agreed with you, we’d both be wrong.
5. We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.
6. War does not determine who is right – only who is left.
7. Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
8. Evening news is where they begin with ‘Good Evening,’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.
9. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
10. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops. On my desk, I have a work station.
11. I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.
12. Whenever I fill out an application, in the part that says, ‘In case of emergency, notify:’ I put ‘DOCTOR.’
13. I didn’t say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.
14. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut and still think they are sexy.
15. Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.
16. A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.
17. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn’t work that way. So I stole a bike and asked for forgiveness.
18. You do not need a parachute to skydive. You only need a parachute to skydive twice.
19. Money can’t buy happiness, but it sure makes misery easier to live with.
20. There’s a fine line between cuddling and holding someone down so they can’t get away.
21. I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.
22. You’re never too old to learn something stupid.
23. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.
24. Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.
25. Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.
26. Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.
27. A diplomat is someone who tells you to go to hell in such a way that you look forward to the trip.
28. Hospitality is making your guests feel at home even when you wish they were.
29. I always take life with a grain of salt. Plus a slice of lemon, and a shot of tequila.
30. When tempted to fight fire with fire, remember that the Fire Department usually uses water.

And finally, words of wisdom from Jon Hammond: “The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.”

(Hat tip: Pop)

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When I was growing up, my parents had a number of remarkable strengths and talents.  One was a seeming encyclopedic knowledge of card games, which they taught and played with us.  Another was a love of unusual food preservation techniques, like drying food (either with the food dryer my father built himself or on the roof of the carport in midsummer, producing genuine sun-dried tomatoes, leftover Thanksgiving turkey jerky, and fruit leather), smoking fish (in the smoker my dad converted from an old refrigerator, in which we smoked fish we’d caught ourselves), and making apple cider in the fall with a cider press my dad built from a kit.  And then there was the spring we went to Florida and discovered my father know how to sail, which meant hours of fun on the Gulf of Mexico in the sailboat we’d borrowed from friends.  A fourth was telling us nonsensical stories.  Here’s a sampling:

Ladies and Jellyspoons, I come before you to stand behind you to tell you of a subject I know nothing about.  Next Thursday, which is Good Friday, there will be a ladies’ meeting for fathers only.  Admission is free; pay at the door.  Take a seat and sit on the floor.

One fine morning in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight.  Back to back , they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other.  A deaf policeman heard the noise and came and shot the two dead boys.

If it takes a chicken and a half a day and a half to lay an egg and a half, how long does it take a monkey with a wooden leg to kick all the seeds out of a dill pickle?

Somehow, I merited to marry a man who is also a sailor, and rather than being a whiz with food drying (my friend Sigal does that), I am the cake decorating enthusiast.  (I won’t go so far as to say maven; one of my efforts at a castle looked like Toad with two melting ice cream cones on his head, dubbed forever after as the Frog and Toad cake.)  But I’m passing on the nonsense to the kids.

Anyone got any others for me to share?

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Sandy Cash is back with another song, this one hailing the upcoming Free Gaza Flotilla II.

In case Allen Krasna’s masterful video editing makes you miss some of the lyrics, here they are:

HEY JEWS (parody lyrics based on the song Hey Jude by Lennon & McCartney)

Hey Jews, we’re setting sail
Bound for that big jail that’s known as Gaza.
“Flotilla” was once a word no one knew;
Here comes number two, we’re back to Gaza.

Hey Jews, don’t be afraid,
You know your blockade can’t last forever.
The Egyptians tried too, but let down their guard.
Deterrence is hard; surrender’s better.

And if we hide Iranian bombs, hey Jews, come on!
We’re all just humanitarian sailors
With ammo belts and bars of steel.
Hey Jews, get real!
Code Pink buys the same at Lord and Taylor.

Hey Jews, don’t lose your cool,
The revolution is all around you
From the Golan to Sinai’s lines in the sand.
We’ll cross overland ’til we surround you.

No matter what we smuggle in, hey Jews, give in.
We’re riding the wave of world opinion
‘Cause don’t you know when we attack and you fight back,
It tightens the noose we hold your head in.

Hey, Jews, can’t you excuse 10,000 rockets on civilians.
You’ve spent all that dough on reinforced rooms,
The whole world presumes you want to use them.

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Following a discussion on the Efrat chat list about the best way for an American-Israeli (with an expired Maryland driver’s license) to drive in the United States, someone posted this anecdote:

A friend of mine was driving through the Texas panhandle when he was pulled over by a policeman. When my friend presented his international [driver’s] license, the policeman said that he had never seen one before, so my friend showed him that the list of foreign countries that accepted the license included the USA.

The policeman responded: “This ain’t no foreign country.”

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The tailor

After writing recently about the proposed ban on circumcision in San Francisco, I was both surprised and delighted to see that there is an annual Jewish film festival there (which actually claims to be the oldest and largest Jewish film festival in the world; who knew?).  Not only that, YouTube has a page dedicated to the festival which currently includes an entire six-minute film by Gordon Grinberg entitled “The Tailor,” a cleverly shot and witty short based on an old Jewish joke.  Is it black, or is it blue?  Be sure to watch it until the end, including the credits; the story doesn’t end until the screen goes black.

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I mentioned in a recent post that I was thinking of instituting a feature on the blog that would be a departure from the frequent politics and angst one finds in my quadrant of the blogging universe.  After some thought, I have hit on Feel-good Friday (I actually accidentally typed “Feel-food Friday”; Freud said there are no such things as errors, and I have always agreed with that).  From now on, Friday at Shimshonit will be something upbeat, funny, or extremely tasty.  We should all have something jolly to take into Shabbat with us.

So for this auspicious occasion, I’ve decided to go for funny and share my family’s recent favorite short subject, “The Ultimate Dog-Tease.”  Dog-owners will howl with recognition, and those whose feelings about dogs range from indifferent to hostile will enjoy some sadistic pleasure.

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On Sunday evening, after most of the events of Nakba Day had occurred, the Cap’n and I drove to Beit Shemesh for a little R&R.  While prowling through old grocery store (stocking up on things we can’t find in Efrat or Jerusalem), we met up with an acquaintance from our old neighborhood.  After a brief discussion of the day’s news, she told us she’d once been to a talk given by someone who was an expert in positive thinking.  Among the things he said he did to pursue a glass-half-full attitude was the following: “I haven’t read a newspaper in 10 years.  You don’t have to go looking for the news; it will come find you.”

That’s certainly true enough.  And if it doesn’t come find you, maybe it wasn’t worth hearing about after all.  Reading Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz’s interview with President Shimon Peres in last Friday’s paper did little for me but confirm my astonishment at the willful self-delusion of the Israeli Left.  (Horovitz:  So you still see Abbas as a peace partner?  Peres:  Absolutely.)  I’d actually rather I hadn’t read that.

One of my favorite blogs is Jen Yates’s Cake Wrecks.  Jen shares photos of purportedly professionally baked and decorated cakes that shock, amuse, and appall the viewer, accompanied by Jen’s barbed, hilariously witty commentary.  But after a whole week of wrecks, Jen reserves Sunday for the really professional, eye-poppingly masterful cakes, called Sunday Sweets.  These are the weekly reminders that skill, creativity, and good taste still flourish (somewhere) in the professional cake-making world.

I’ve been wondering if it wouldn’t be a good idea to take a day each week and have some such thing on my blog to cleanse the psychological palate from some of the stuff that goes on in the world.  I’ll work out the details later, but to post something amusing, allow me to share the following video of one of Judaism’s premiere comedians (and fellow convert), Yisrael Campbell.  This is the second installment of a series called the Jews Report.  (You can check ’em all out on YouTube.)

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While I don’t condone watching The Daily Show or Stephen Colbert in lieu of reading real news sources, they often take grains of truth or news and grow them into excellent entertainment.

One of the truths many traditional Jews are aware of is the contempt and distrust with which we’re viewed by our less religious brothers.  This segment of the Daily Show shows how that contempt and distrust surface when the frummies try to erect an eruv in the Hamptons.  Enjoy.

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Four kids home for 2½ weeks.  ‘Nuff said.

Here’s a cute thing Aish.com put up for Pesach.  Enjoy.

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When I first learned of the existence of separate women’s and men’s beaches, my next question was, “So does that mean women can wear whatever they want?  Or go topless?  Or go nude?”  Of course upon further education, I learned that modest beachwear is preferable even on separate beaches or during separate swimming hours.  And for the haredi crowd, nothing beats a shvimkleid (swim dress), like the one to the right, for modesty.  That, a terry cloth turban, black shoes that go with everything, and you’re set.

For an account of impromptu hashgacha pratis in Miami and the importance of having a good shvimkleid, watch the video below.  It’ll make you smile.

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Spreading the Word

My mother sent me the following joke the other day:

There was a knock on the door this morning.  I opened it to find a young man standing there who said, “I’m a Jehovah’s Witness.”  I said, “Come in and sit down.  What do you want to talk about?”  He said, “Beats the hell out of me; I’ve never made it this far before.”

I’ve heard jokes and stories about door-to-door missionaries for years, some of them real, some apocryphal.  A woman I once knew would allow missionaries to come in on one condition: they could talk about their religion for 10 minutes, and she would talk about hers for 10 minutes.  A former religion teacher of mine in Catholic school was a former monk, and missionaries used to leave his house utterly disillusioned after a cup of tea and a serious theological dressing-down.  My brother once claimed to have opened the door to missionaries wearing nothing but a Frankenstein mask.  But my favorite story is of a friend who got a knock at his college dorm room door while he was studying.  Did he want to participate in a Bible study in the lounge?  Never one to miss an opportunity to learn some Torah, he grabbed his chumash and joined the group.  When they began reading from their English translations, he looked up in mock horror.  “You study the Bible in ENGLISH?!”  And with that, he snapped his book shut and went back to his room and his books.

I sometimes wonder why people are attracted to cults that peddle God as others peddled vacuum cleaners and encyclopedias in the old days.  I suppose they start out as lonely people, and the kinds of people who find them sitting alone on park benches or smoking dope in alleys offer them some sense of belonging, of friendship, of security.  I have compassion for such people as far as that goes.  I have a little less for the kind of people who go to churches where they claim Catholics aren’t Christians, or anyone who doesn’t go to that particular church is going to burn in hell for all eternity.

Over the years, I have found Christianity disturbing on a number of levels, and one is its general departure from the lessons contained in the Hebrew Bible.  Once, when I was learning with my rabbi before my conversion, he asked me why the Torah begins with the story of Adam and Eve instead of with the Exodus.  It’s a question that has come up periodically throughout my years of hearing sermons.  The answer is that the story of the Jews is the story of all people.  We are all created in God’s image, and we all share a portion of life on earth, as well as a share in the world to come.  God cares about all people, not just the Jews (though the Torah indicates that God has a greater stake in the Jews than in other people, for good and ill).  We are not to rejoice at others’ misfortune, either by rejoicing at the drowning of the Egyptians or by keeping plunder upon conquering cities in Canaan (unless expressly told to do so).  By the same token, how others treat the Jews is supposed to determine in some part their own fortune.

Perhaps this is why, when I was approached by a couple of starry-eyed evangelical Christian undergraduates in the middle of my conversion (and a dual master’s degree) and invited to a Super Bowl-pizza-Bible study party, my blood pressure rose.  What the Bible has to do with American football and pizza utterly escapes me, and when I politely declined, despite promises that it would be “fun,” they asked, “Well, aren’t you a Christian?”  I answered, no, as it happens, I am not.  And they got that look such Christians always get, like they’re talking to someone who deals drugs, eats cockroaches, or murdered someone (which, as a Jew, they probably thought I had).  But didn’t I want to be a Christian?  And this is where my patience gets seriously tried, because I can’t help thinking to myself, you’d all be better off spiritually as Jews, and you could enjoy your Super Bowl and kosher pizza without having to canvass weary graduate students to join you.  But I don’t say that.  I firmly but politely decline, and refrain from telling them that their religion is a lie, a farce, and a bill of goods, and that the path to salvation, redemption, God, and the world to come is a lot simpler for them as non-Jews than they could ever imagine.

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Cannibalistic cake

Since beginning my illustrious career as a transcriber and editor, I haven’t had much time to keep up with other blogs (including my own).  Instead, I take advantage of occasional snatches of time between finishing a file and picking up Bill, while the kids are coloring in the playroom after school, or late at night, to go on blog-reading binges.  We were in this Shabbat and I had a light cooking day on Friday, so I thought I’d catch up on Cake Wrecks.

Like me, those who agree with Jen that cake says it all (including things that would be better left unsaid) will be fascinated to hear her speculative history behind the evolution of baby butt cakes into pregnant torso cakes, and then into, well…read for yourself.  It’s rare that I find myself yelling at the computer screen (because I’ve found from experience that it doesn’t really help), but this was one of those occasions.  Enjoy.  (And then, to cleanse your palate, check out one or more of her Sunday Sweets pages.)

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More help wanted

I’m back after another gander at Israemploy’s offerings.  Included in the job listings for February 2, 2011, are the following:

Android Developer, Android Expert needed in Kfar Saba.  Wow, I’m back in the 1970s again.  Does such a person get to build Artoo Deetoo?  Seethreepio?  I’ve seen the movies, but I wouldn’t call myself an expert.  Guess I’ll have to pass.
Tel Aviv needs an Ant and Maven Expert.  If they want an ant expert, I can give them Yossi’s phone number—he takes care of my ant problem.  But a maven expert?  Isn’t that redundant?
They need Child Minders in the North.  I’ve always had difficulty with this British expression.  Does it mean the child is supposed to mind (i.e. obey) me, or I’m supposed to mind the child?  And isn’t that a brand of canned soup in the UK?
Someone in Jerusalem needs a Female Coach for Housework.  Wouldn’t a housekeeper do just as well?  Or is there a need to have a whistle around my neck and a loud voice to shout out orders?  “Dishes, step lively!  Grease, got off that stove right now!  Bathtub ring, move out!”
Rehovot needs a Fishmonger.  Whenever I used to yell as a child, my mother told me I sounded like a fishwife.  I never knew what she was talking about (did I look like I was married to a fish?), but I still have a loud voice.  (Fishmonger must be the politically correct term for a fishwife.)  Of course, if I want to work on the production end of things, I can apply to be a General Worker for a Fish Farm up in Beit She’an.  Probably less yelling involved in that.
And then there’s this one from the Center: “gestionnaire de compte motive de langue maternelle française”; in other words, if you can’t read this, this job is not for you.
Someone in Givat Shaul needs a Lady’s Companion.  This sounds delightfully old-fashioned, left over from the days when wealthy women hired less wealthy women to be their friends (because sometimes you have to pay for quality).  They would read, converse, do needlepoint together, keep one another company.  I decided to see what this would entail in the 21st century.  It says, “Seeking woman to walk with lady on Shabbos by night and motzei Shabbos.”  Take walks two nights a week?  That’s it?  What, no novel reading?  No needlepoint?  This description also carries with it the standard statement that “This position is considered suitable for members of the Haredi/Ultra-orthodox community.”  I’m never sure what to think when I see that.  Does it mean that I won’t be forced to mix with men, non-haredi Jews, or other unsavory characters?  Does it mean I’ll make enough money two nights a week to support a husband who sits in yeshiva all day, plus eight to ten children?  Or does it mean I won’t be expected to know about evolution, how to use the Internet, or who the prime minister is?
Jerusalem is also looking for Matchmakers.  Oy, don’t ask me.  The one time I set up two friends whose only thing in common was that they were secular, it was a disaster.  (I guess for a relationship to work, you have to have more in common than being willing to eat out at a seafood restaurant on Shabbat.)
Python Expert needed in Tel Aviv.  Say, I didn’t know there was a reptile house there.  And I invested all that money in a lion-tamer hat!  Well, it turns out these must be pretty smart snakes, because the qualifications for this job are “3 years experience designing and implementing web UI; programming experience in Java Script, HTML and XML; 4-5 years experience in Python development; knowledge of relational database back-end such as MySQL or PostgreSQL; and knowledge of C/C++, SVN and Linux.”  Forget me for this job.
Sales and Channel Manager Rest of the World (Israel & Latin America).  Note to self: the rest of the world is Latin America.  Brush up on Spanish and learn Portuguese now.
And finally, someone in Jerusalem is looking for a Yiddish Speaking Nanny for childcare and light housework.  You’ve got to be kidding!  If you find someone who speaks Yiddish, it’s going to be an adopt-a-bubbe, and housework will have to be limited to making chicken soup, tending a carp in a bathtub, and teaching the kid the elements of matchmaking (so she can grow up and take a job like that in number 8).

Another day, another giggle; another day, and no work.

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Zionist animal spies

Sometimes I close my eyes and wonder if all the wild accusations against Israel are really true.  Has the unresolved Israeli-Arab conflict really exacted an unconscionable toll in American blood and treasure?  Is the Zionist conspiracy to control the world real?  Is Israel really the only thing that stands between humankind and world peace?  Have I been hoodwinked by what seems like a normal life, among normal people, in a country nominally recognized by the United Nations of Planet Earth?

And then I look at what Israel’s enemies actually accuse it of.  In December, Egypt’s Sinai riviera suffered a series of shark attacks which they accused Israel’s Mossad agency of unleashing to hurt Egyptian tourism.  (Watch the Colbert Nation report here.)  And earlier this month, a vulture with a GPS monitor chip on its Tel Aviv University leg tag inspired Saudi Arabia to conclude that the vulture was a Zionist spy.  (Again, Colbert covers it here.)

As Stephen Colbert warns, “I say we keep an eye on the Israelis.  Arab governments have already proven they control the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.  It’s only a matter of time until they get the beasts of the land, too.  Pigs, you’re the only ones we can trust.”

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An English friend steered me to this.  For those who remember the Two Ronnies (Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker z”l), this is Ronnie Corbett back to take the mick out of modern technology.

(hat tip: Andy)

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Snarky quotations

A friend and I just spent a totally fruitless morning in Jerusalem dealing with bureaucracy, red tape, and the power needs of drones clerks in the Finance Ministry offices.  Upon my return (which was expedited by taking a Hebron bus, getting off a few stops early and walking home along the highway rather than waiting an hour for the next Efrat bus), I have time to post, but no time to write.  This is where my Word folder entitled “Friends and Inspiration” comes in handy; it’s my stash of humorous, witty, or otherwise entertaining reading.  Someone sent me the following snarky quotations which may incite a giggle here and there.  Extra points if you leave a comment identifying whom the comments were made about.  (I can identify a few, but not all of them.)

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.”  – John Bright

“He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire.”  – Winston Churchill

“A modest little person, with much to be modest about.”  – Winston Churchill

“I’ve just learned about his illness. Let’s hope it’s nothing trivial.”  – Irvin S. Cobb

“I’ve never killed a man, but I’ve read many obituaries with great pleasure.”  – Clarence Darrow

“He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary.”  – William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words?”  – Ernest Hemingway (about Faulkner)

“Thank you for sending me a copy of your book; I’ll waste no time reading it.”  – Moses Hadas

“He is not only dull himself, he is the cause of dullness in others.”  – Samuel Johnson

“He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up.”  – Paul Keating

“He had delusions of adequacy.”  – Walter Kerr

“There’s nothing wrong with you that reincarnation won’t cure.”  – Jack E. Leonard

“He can compress the most words into the smallest idea of any man I know.”  – Abraham Lincoln

“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But, this wasn’t it.”  – Groucho Marx

“He has the attention span of a lightning bolt.”  – Robert Redford

“They never open their mouths without subtracting from the sum of human knowledge.”  – Thomas Brackett Reed

“He inherited some good instincts from his Quaker forebears, but by diligent hard work, he overcame them.”  – James Reston (about Richard Nixon)

“In order to avoid being called a flirt, she always yielded easily.”  – Charles, Count Talleyrand

“He loves nature in spite of what it did to him.”  – Forrest Tucker

“Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?”  – Mark Twain

“I didn’t attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”  – Mark Twain

“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.”  – Mae West

“Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go.”  – Oscar Wilde

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.”  – Oscar Wilde

“He uses statistics as a drunken man uses lamp-posts … for support rather than illumination.”  – Andrew Lang

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When art and life meet

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Hava Nagila

While locating videos on YouTube for my Allan Sherman post yesterday, I stumbled across several interesting versions of “Hava Nagila” (the tune to which Sherman’s song, “Harvey and Sheila,” is set).   I had no idea this song had such universal appeal, but I think you’ll agree from some of the versions I found below that it’s been adopted by anyone who has come into contact with Jews (and probably a few who haven’t).  Wikipedia says it was probably written in 1918 and based on a Ukrainian folk melody.

Just to introduce the song in its purest form, I shopped around for a totally straight version of it.  I thought I’d found it in this version by a Hong Kong choir (reassuringly entitled “Israeli Traditional”), but partway through, the percussion and harmonies started going all wonky and I knew that wasn’t it.  Then I found this version by a singer named Dalida, which starts in Hebrew at least (but then veers into French).  Nice version, nonetheless.

Beatles fans, here is the video for you, sung by a group calling themselves The Moptops.  (A skillfully edited version.  My only question is, who is standing in for George?)

Hey, everyone loves the song, though they don’t always want to stay in minor key.  Here is a bagpipe ensemble playing it (in major) while marching in a 2008 Israel Day Parade.

Exotic foreigners love it too.  Here’s Bollywood’s version (though the lyrics go pretty far afield of the real Hebrew lyrics).  And here is a delicate, Persian version from our friendly neighbors over in Iran.  This is the Trio Balkan Strings playing it—three men, one guitar.  And for something truly foreign, here is the Texas version.  (Gotta love the Latin faces getting into it.)

Think its appeal is confined to the 20th (and 21st) century?  Not on your life.  Even the (partially Jewish) crew of the Enterprise loves it.

For those who can’t hear the song without wanting to get up and dance, here is a dance to the song from the Efim Aleksandrov dance company.  (Amazing how Judaism is appreciated more for its music and dance than for its real substance.)

And for those who by now are ready to see some Yidn play their own tune, here is Bob Dylan, Peter Himmelman, and Harry Dean Stanton playing it (after confirming the lyrics with a Chabadnik m.c.).

Shabbat shalom, everyone.

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My children’s favorite CD to play in the car these days is Allan Sherman’s “My Son, the Greatest.”  It’s a compilation of some of his most popular hits pulled from albums like “My Son, the Box,” “My Son, the Folk Singer,” and “My Son, the Nut.”  What amazes me is not only what an amazing lyricist Sherman was (d. 1973; the tunes are mostly lifted from much older songs and classical pieces), but the fact that they’re so well written, I can still smile and chuckle at them after over 10 years of listening to them.  Here are some of our favorites, thanks to YouTube.  (You can ignore most of the videos as homegrown and lame, but listen to the lyrics and Sherman’s amazing band.)

“Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” is probably the one people are most familiar with, which seems to have even made the Hit Parade in the UK in 1963.

“Harvey and Sheila,” set to the tune of “Hava Nagila,” is an utterly conventional love story coupled with Sherman’s love of American acronyms.

Here’s a version (not by Sherman) of “Sarah Jackman,” which my two youngest (yes, even Bill asks for “Jock”) request over and over and over and over again.  (I looked for one with Sherman and his female co-singer, but couldn’t find it.  This man gets Sherman’s part down pretty well, but the chorister needs a tuning fork next to her ear, and a few lessons in New York accents.)

“You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louie” is my personal favorite, though it’s not easy to choose.  (I also love “The Rebel,” but couldn’t find a video of it to post here.  Such a shame.)  Enjoy, all you students of European history.

And finally, for those who can’t get enough of exaggeration and name-dropping, “Good Advice” should satisfy you…and then some.

Enjoy these, and tune in again tomorrow for some more video goodies I found while researching this.

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