Sunday, November 29, 2015
Opening Bell of Eggnog Season
Hear that? That's the sound of me studiously ignoring the news (print, web, radio, TV, water-cooler, etc.), and imposing some semblance of normalcy in my day-to-day life. Lalalalala I can't hear you... I'm drinking eggnog!
For those who are new here, from Thanksgiving to Hannukah we strictly observe "eggnog season" here at chez treppenwitz.
This past shabbat morning I whipped up the first yummy batch of the season, and we enjoyed it with our morning coffee, blueberry muffins and a nice apple crumble.
For those don't have access to store-bought 'nog (or if you just want to take it to the next level), here's a foolproof recipe from a certified fool:
1 cup sugar (or Splenda)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 cups whipping cream (32% or 38%)
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup brandy, rum or bourbon (optional but highly recommended)
All liquids should be very cold. Refrigerate in advance.
Beat the eggs for 2 or 3 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed (or energetically with a hand whisk), until very frothy. Gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Stir in the whipping cream and milk (and cold booze if you enjoy that sort of thing).
Chill some more before serving (if you can wait... I never can).
Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg.
Makes a little over 2 quarts (after taking several 'samples' for quality control purposes)
Note: If for some strange reason you end up with leftover eggnog (something that almost never happens here), you can add a splash to your morning coffee and/or make french toast with it.
Kindly consider this the ceremonial ringing of the bell that officially ushers in eggnog season.
Don't thank me... I'm a giver!
Friday, November 20, 2015
[a guest post by Ariella]
There are many different kinds of silence; An awkward silence. A comfortable silence. A silence because there is nothing left to say. A silence of identification and solidarity. And a silence remembrance.
Here in Israel we observe a moment of silence every year on Memorial Day and on the Holocaust Remembrance Day. On these occasions, the entire country stands together while our shared silence is filled by the sound of a siren. We stop everything and stand together in silence no matter where we are or what we are doing. We even stop our cars in the middle of the highway in order to join the shared silence. We use this shared silence to remember loved ones as well as those who we never knew (and never will) for they are our family.
But the silence I hear now is none of the above. No one shares our silent pain with us. No one is silently identifying with what we are going through.
It is a silence of equivocation... a silence of indifference. And this silence is deafening!
Where is the button on Facebook with an Israeli flag profile picture?! Where are the world leaders condemning terror; ALL terror? Who is standing silently with us in solidarity?
I didn't know Yaakov Don personally. I had only been to a few classes he gave. But I still feel like I knew him. I had the privilege of getting to know him through the stories of my closest friends whom he taught in high school. He cared so deeply for each and every one of his students. He understood them and looked after them as if they where his own children. Countless stories I have heard over the years pop into my head just at the mention of his name. He was loved - no, adored - by his students, so I can only imagine how precious he was to his family. My heart goes out to them and to his students. אני משתתפת בצערכם. (I join you in your pain).
Now I ask you all to observe a moment of silence to remember him. You don't need to have known him. Just respect his memory with a moment of silence. And when you are done, please ask those around you break the deafening silence of indifference that is screaming in my ears and breaking my heart.
It does not matter where in the world the terror takes place! It will always be terror! Whether it's in Paris, Nigeria, Beirut or five minutes from my home... terror, wherever it occurs, should never be dismissed with silence.
Thursday, November 19, 2015
We Will Won't Always Have Paris
What can I say... I am a hopeless romantic, and that line from the film 'Casablanca' always chokes me up. Well it used to, anyway.
You see, Zahava and I have a big anniversary coming up this year, and I've spent almost half of this past year trying to convince my lovely wife that Paris would be the perfect destination for a romantic anniversary get-away together.
And by logic, Paris should be near the top of Zahava's short list of potential travel destinations, too, seeing as she is an artist... and last time I checked, Paris was chock full of art.
Add to that the beauty and history of the city, as well as Paris' romantic associations that are pretty much hard-wired into anyone who has read a book, listened to music, or seen a film in the past 100 years...
So I figured it would be a slam dunk and would go something like this:
Me: "Hey honey, what do you say we spend a week in Paris to celebrate our anniversary?"
Her: "Oh that sounds incredible!"
[cue swelling music as the husband of the year award is presented to...]
Yeah right... it didn't go anything like that. It was actually more like:
Me: "Hey honey, what do you say we spend a week in Paris to celebrate our anniversary?"
Her: "Um... are you out of your mind?! We're Jews, honey... Israeli Jews! I'm pretty sure that the members of the North African Muslim gangs roaming the streets of Paris get 500 Euros and automatic French citizenship for killing us!"
Me: "But think of the art museums... the Louvre... the Pompidou ...the candle-lit restaurants... the little cafes on the Left Bank... the romantic walks along the Champs-Élysées...."
Her: "... the fancy funeral after they fly our bodies back to Israel for burial..."
I spent months trying to change her mind. I even had a neighbor's wife, who had spent much of last year studying at the Sorbonne, try to talk her down out of the tree.
Bupkis! Nada! Merde!!!
I should know by now that once Zahava has made up her mind about something, any (obvious) effort to change it only further entrenches her and solidifies her resolve.
To her credit, there was no 'I told you so' moment following the news of last week's attacks. Just that silent and all-too-familiar tectonic shift that takes place when a contentious topic of discussion comes suddenly into sharp focus... and moves over to her side of the big marital 'stuff that's been irrevocably decided and no longer needs to be mentioned again' board.
So, on an unrelated topic, I'm open to suggestions for romantic anniversary get-away destinations...
Wednesday, November 18, 2015
John Kerry has said so many imbecilic, misguided, delusional and plain offensive things during his tenure as U.S Secretary of State that it seams almost mean-spirited to continue pointing them out.
But since, as the U.S. government's top diplomat, Kerry's statements ostensibly represent the positions of the Obama administration (and by extension the United States of America), one can't really sit by and give his loony pronouncements a pass.
Speaking yesterday to staff at the U.S. Embassy in Paris about last week's terror attacks around that city, Kerry offered the following doozy:
“There’s something different about what happened [in last week's attack] from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that...There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of — not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, ‘Okay, they’re really angry because of this and that.... This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people. It was to attack everything that we do stand for. That’s not an exaggeration.”
I guess one should at least be thankful that Kerry is distancing himself from Obama's previous statement that the HyperCasher attack was a ‘random shooting’ of ‘some folks’ at a deli.
Okay, so if I understand him correctly (always a cognitive hail-Mary, at best), he's trying to say that the previous Paris terror attacks (the ones that targeted the Charlie Hebdo magazine and the HyperCasher Market), were understandable because the magazine's editorial staff and the kosher supermarket's predominantly Jewish clientele had angered the terrorists. Whereas this past week's ISIS attack was just out of the blue!
With French military forces actively participating in attacks on ISIS strongholds in Iraq and Syria, he has no idea whatsoever why ISIS might want to target the French capitol? This was just another random, inexplicable terror attack?
And he has no clue that looking for (and actually stating) your theory as to the motive behind terror attacks is a form of justification?!!!
Does this man alternate which foot he puts in his mouth on any given day... y'know, to allow the leather to dry out a bit?
When will Kerry and his boss realize that terror is terror. It can never be justified or rationalized!!! Because to give voice to the terrorist's perceived or stated justifications is to accept, if not condone them!
The failure to understand this simple concept is what has kept the US from seeing the idiocy of their expectations of Israel in the face of unrelenting terrorism.
The U.S. and France would never consider opening negotiations with ISIS. That would legitimize terror as a tool of diplomacy.
Yet each time Israel is attacked, instead unequivocally condemning Palestinian terror, the U.S. uses the occasion to call for Israel to re-open negotiations with the people financing and controlling the terrorists.
I'm guessing that, somewhere, Dan Quayle is doing a touchdown dance and thanking every deity he can think of (and spell), for offering up an imbecile who is even more clueless and intellectually adrift than he was.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
'First, Do No Harm...'
The title of this post, often seen in the original Latin - Primum non nocere - is one of the core tenets of bioethics taught to medical students.
But what few of us realize is that this maxim is also the cornerstone of modern, western society.
Modern society, as we know it, has evolved to allow as much individual freedom and development as possible, by establishing and enforcing laws, rules, social norms and taboos that prohibit (or at least discourage), anyone's freedom from infringing upon (i.e. harming), the freedom of anyone else.
On the most basic level, that means that the only limits to your right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness should be that that pursuit not deprive anyone else of the same.
So, in theory, anyone arriving in a strange modern country with no knowledge of the local rules, should be able to avoid running afoul of the law if they simply examine their own actions to ensure they do not physically or financially injure / deprive anyone else. Everything else should be a matter of local custom.
This model has served us well for hundreds of years here in the west. And any time individuals within modern society have suffered, you can pretty much guaranty that one of two things has been allowed to happen:
1. The government has become so strong that it can act with impunity contrary to accepted modern societal norms of behavior, leading to dictatorships & totalitarian regimes.
2. The government has become so weak (or non-existent) that accepted modern societal norms of behavior can no longer be enforced, leading to a complete breakdown of order (think 'Lord of the Flies').
Why should that be? Why should the relative strength or weakness of the government be the deciding factor? The answer is simple: The basic rules that have created and nurtured modern society are man-made rules, not natural rules.
Human beings don't instinctively protect and respect others. These societal rules are actually quite contrary to human nature... and to nature in general. And they require both a leadership and social structure capable of enforcing them, and a populace forced (by law and/or cultural pressure) to adhere to them, for the system to function.
Lacking one or both, we find ourselves back in the forests living or dying according to narrow, unforgiving rules that can be observed at your leisure on The Nature Channel.
The events we are seeing on the news these days are the result of both of the extremes mentioned above.
We have an entire region whose governments are either so strong as to be able to act with impunity towards its populace and neighbors, or so weak (or non-existent) that the populace is allowed to revert to the cruel laws of nature. In both cases, 'do no harm' is nowhere to be found.
Whenever a western country has devolved into one or the other of the extremes mentioned above, either the populace or its neighbors have been able to draw on the collective cultural memory of the basic rule to 'do no harm', and rediscover (or re-impose) social balance.
But this region, with its two default extremes - too much or too little ruling power - is like a run-away train with no brakes. There is no collective cultural memory of modern societal rules to slow it down or reform it. The norms of behavior in this part of the world are (and always have been) more akin to the laws of nature.
Where the governments are strong, the animals are kept caged. Where they are weak, they wander free. In both cases, the animal's instincts and behavior remain un-blunted; guided by natural, rather than artificial rules. The concept of 'do no harm', does not appear among their rules.
Sadly, we in the west have not yet realized that the laws of nature and the laws of civilized society do not coexist comfortably. Anyone who has encountered a predator in the forest understands this.
We think that just because we live in clean, well lit, modern societies full of rules and protective customs, that we are safe from the animals of the forest. Yet we fail to see that the cages of the zoos are swinging open, and the predators of the forests are on the move, seeking easier hunting grounds.
Because for a predator, the easiest prey is the one whose central creed is 'first, do no harm'.
Monday, November 16, 2015
Well, that didn't take long!
I figured it would take at least a week for world governments to start suggesting that the Paris terror attack was caused by the frustration of the Muslim world over the plight of the poor Palestinians.
It took less than two days!
Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, came out with the following doozy while offering her country's take on the Paris attacks:
“To counteract the radicalization we must go back to the situation such as the one in the Middle East of which not the least the Palestinians see that there is no future: we must either accept a desperate situation or resort to violence...”
Right. I want to hear what she has to say after the first big Islamo-terror attack on Swedish soil.
Just look at France.
Even though France has habitually scolded Israel to show restraint in the face of terror and to refrain from feeding the 'cycle of violence' in the wake of attacks here, within hours of the attacks in Paris, French fighter jets were pounding ISIS targets in Syria and the French President was screaming about how "France will be merciless in her response to barbarians".
And Sweden is almost as awash in restive Muslims as France.
I imagine that when the inevitable bloodbath begins in Stockholm, the Swedes will be equally incapable of taking their own advice.
Buh-bye, Europe. 'Been nice knowin' ya.
Sunday, November 15, 2015
Dying Not To Offend
I wish I could blame today's post on the savage multi-pronged terror attack that took place in Paris over the weekend. However, given that literally not a single day has gone by in decades without an atrocity or three (what we in the west delicately call war crimes), being committed by Muslims, in the name of Islam, somewhere in the world... this one is long overdue.
I'll begin by asking the reader to perform a simple exercise. Do a web search for any / all of the following:
- Brit Milah
- Jewish Ritual circumcision
- Kosher slaughter
- Gender separation Judaism
- Women's role in Judaism
- Women Western Wall
- Egalitarian Judaism
Any such google search will turn up literally thousands of news and opinion pieces that have appeared in mainstream western media over the past decade; dissecting and critiquing orthodox Judaism's tenets and practices at an incredibly granular level.
Granted, many of these pieces were written by members, or at least proponents, of denominations of Judaism other than orthodoxy. And some are certainly penned by groups within one or the other extreme of Judaism's orthodox branch, who are advocating for either greater flexibility or greater stringency in the application and interpretation of Halachah (Jewish law).
But the very fact that this sea of text dealing with what needs to be changed (or preserved) within Orthodox Jewish observance flows freely into the mainstream media, and does not appear exclusively in, say, insular journals within the Jewish community, suggests that a significant number of non-Jews feel they should be knowledgeable about, and have a stake, if not a say, in the inner workings of the Jewish world.
So why is it that the western mainstream media is nearly empty of any meaningful journalistic scrutiny of mainstream orthodox Islam, Islamic practices and Islamic law?
Considering that less than 0.2% of the world's population is Jewish, and almost 25% of the world's population is Muslim, I find our willful ignorance and lack of interest in what their faith demands in terms of belief and practice, to be nothing short of astounding.
Oddly, whenever a Muslim individual or group is involved in an act of terror (executions, kidnappings, rapes, slavery, honor killings, etc.), or vandalism (destruction of non-Muslim historical sites, shrines, holy places and/or houses of worship), there seems to be a formulaic, knee-jerk rush by the western media (and its consumers), to quickly dismiss such brutality and violence as the act of extremists who are not behaving according to normative Islamic law, and who do not represent 'mainstream Islam'.
Which begs the question: Do any of us even know what that last expression even means?
I think that most of us instinctively want the term 'mainstream Islam' to refer to the religion as practiced by quiet, unobtrusive Muslims like the ones living in suburban Indonesia, whose values somewhat resemble our own, and who may even enjoy a quiet beer in the privacy of their own homes in the evening.
In short, it seems that when we say 'mainstream Islam', we are expressing a secret hope that the 'real' Islam is an easy-going, Islam-lite, somewhat analogous to reform Judaism as practiced in the US. In other words, something culturally evocative of its ancient heritage, but flexible enough to yield when it finds itself in conflict with modern mores.
Sadly, that sort of wishful thinking has landed us where we find ourselves today; at war with a culture about which we have very little reliable knowledge. And what we do think we know and understand is full of contradictions and hypocrisy.
If we are willing to accept that women can't vote, drive, swim, travel un-chaperoned or dress as they wish in Saudi Arabia, we have no right to consider the stoning of women for having been raped in Yemen to be an aberration. Both demote women to sub-human status.
If we are willing to turn a blind eye to lashings, disfigurement and beheadings carried out by Islamic governments we call 'allies', how can we condemn the same practices by non-governmental groups carrying out the same punishments in the name of Islam?
If Iran hangs homosexuals from building cranes, how is that any different from how ISIS or Al Queda metes out punishment to gays? And if last month our leaders and diplomats could sit comfortably in plush Swiss conference rooms negotiating with the one, why are we now vowing to stamp out the other for acting the same way?
Our aversion to examining Islamic law and practices goes far beyond political correctness. Deep down we know that with such knowledge would come an imperative to act.
And we are loathe to admit to ourselves that by desperately trying not to offend what we consider to be the violent, extreme practitioners of Islam, we are actually avoiding such scrutiny because it might require us to admit that perhaps the beast we are seeing on the bloody streets of Paris, London, New York, Jerusalem and Madrid might just be representative of the normative practices of this aggressive, anti-social and inhuman religion.
And what would we do then?
Hard to explain...
The presidential candidates in the Democratic Party -- supposedly the champions of diversity -- are all white.
The Republican candidates, on the other hand, include an African American, two Latinos, a woman, a man of Indian descent, and a man with profound mental disabilities.
Hat tip to my old friend Albert Fuchs
Wednesday, November 11, 2015
Somebody Stole My Snark!
Okay, it isn't like I discovered cold fusion and someone stole the formula.
Even though the video below sorta parallels my post from a couple of weeks ago, it's pretty obvious, as snark goes.
No harm, no foul: