Sunday, June 21, 2020

Blowing Off The Dust - 7 Things

I kept up this site for more than 15 years.  It contains some of my fondest memories, best writing, and most helpful self-therapy.  Now that I have displeased the FB gods (very small 'g'), it seems like as good a time as any to remember why I used to post here:

1.  My house, my rules.  As in the public square, my ideas are subject only to the criticism of my peers.

2.  FB is not the public square.  They are a private company with every right to censor content and speakers.  Only the government is prohibited from interfering with free speech.  

3.  On the internet, content is king.  On my site, my content is my own.  On FB, it isn't.  After all, if you aren't paying for something, your'e not the customer... your'e the product.

4.  I'll mostly share my own content here.  Except Fridays.  On Friday I'll try to arrange a meme dump similar to what I used to do on FB.

5.  After my term in exile expires, I will probably go back to interacting on FB, but will try to keep Treppenwitz.com as my primary online 'home'.

6.  If you like anything you see here, feel free to share it by posting a link. 

7.  Please do not copy and paste content (other than memes), without asking and giving attribution.

Posted by David Bogner on June 21, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (6)

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Privilege

To all the people out there who are saying you don’t have white privilege because you had to work your ass off to get where you are, and have earned everything you have:

Privilege isn’t about how long your journey was to get to where you are now, or about being handed shortcuts or freebies along the way.

Privilege is about not being repeatedly pulled over and questioned (or worse), along the way, simply because of your appearance.

Posted by David Bogner on June 18, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Nurture Service Sector Businesses

A friend who is in the food service business asked that this be shared far and wide. Everyone should read this if they are enjoying outdoor dining:

  1. Don't run your server. Try your best to ask for everything you need at once. Remember it's going to be a long walk from the street into the building for more water or anything else. Help us out by asking for whatever you need all at once.
  2. No mask jokes or your views on them. The server has to wear it. They have no choice!
  3. The server is wearing the mask to protect you and you have nothing on to protect them. Wash your hands.
  4. You Eat....You Go....
  5. Eat your meal. Have some drinks. Relax, but please do not sit at a table all night. These restaurants are working with very limited space and other customers are probably waiting to enjoy getting out also. They can't afford for you to order 2 side salads and water and sit there for 4 hours. Yes some people do this ALL THE TIME but please not now.
  1. Don't come out if you’re sick!
  2. Social distancing. Keep your kids at the table. Yes they are cute, but if they are running around they are getting too close to other people.
  3. Cut everyone some slack. Everything may be a bit slow because this is basically a new job for everyone. Restaurants have very strict guidelines to follow. Be kind, be patient.
  4. Tip. They are going to be sweating wearing masks all day. Please treat them right and leave a decent tip. If you can't afford to tip, you can't afford to go out.
  5. Be pleasant. You should be happy. You're finally out! Everyone is doing the best they can. Relax and enjoy!
  6. Please share!

Posted by David Bogner on June 17, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Whataboutism

I’m just about out of patience with the rampant ‘whataboutism’. 

Yes, there were black Africans who were slave owners and traders. 

And there was white slavery as well (the Barbary pirates often raided coastal towns in Europe, England and Ireland).

Horrifying. 

But it has nothing whatsoever to do with the conversation regarding the history of blacks in the US. 

Black history in America has gone from horrifying, to barbaric, to cruel, to unjust, to unfair, to barely tolerable second-class citizenship (interspersed with occasional swings through random prosperity and regressions to cruelty and injustice). 

If your contribution to the current public discussion of the range of realities experienced by blacks in the United States today is to point out injustices unrelated to the American black experience, you are essentially saying “We’ve talked about this enough.  I want to talk about something else.”.

Trying to change or redirect the conversation with ‘whataboutism’ is the same as saying the original conversation isn’t important /relevant to you. 

That’s a fair and legitimate position... but be honest and just say you don’t care.

Posted by David Bogner on June 16, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, June 15, 2020

Unpopular Thought of the Day:

Calling to defund police departments over unprofessional or criminal acts by individual police officers is like calling to defund hospitals over malpractice and criminal negligence by individual doctors. 

There are incompetent, negligent and even criminal, people in every profession.  But that doesn’t mean a profession is superfluous or non-essential.

For every tragic story of negligence and criminality, there are countless, quiet acts of competence, heroism, daring and extraordinary compassion that we never hear about. 

Strengthen the system that weeds out and punishes bad/negligent actors.  Don’t destroy a system or the will of its members to continue doing good.

Posted by David Bogner on June 15, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Honeysuckle

We have a huge confusion of honeysuckle on the fence that divides our backyard from our neighbor’s. 

All summer long it wafts its intoxicating aroma across our balcony and yard.

Every so often, when nobody is around, I pick one of the tiny flowers, pinch the tiny bulb at the base between my fingernails, pull the tiny strand all the way out until a a drop of sweet nectar peeks out asking to be tasted... and let the sweetness wash half a century away.

Posted by David Bogner on June 13, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Civics 101

The government is constitutionally prohibited from interfering with protests / protesters when they are assembling peaceably. 

Civil unrest and/or violence at a demonstration strips the protesters of their immunity from government interference. 

That interference can come from a range of government agencies including the police and National  Guard.

Those quoting the Constitution should read and understand it before using it as a fig leaf.

Posted by David Bogner on June 9, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, June 07, 2020

It Costs You Nothing...

I’ve said each of these (or some very close variation), on more occasions than I can count:

Wrong
It baffles me that people feel it costs them something to say any of these things.

 

Posted by David Bogner on June 7, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, June 05, 2020

Clarification Regarding Defunding Police

What you are saying (or at least what I am hearing/reading), is defund and dismantle all police forces. They are superfluous, unnecessary and dangerous. 

What I think (hope), you mean is:

Let’s see if SOME roles and responsibilities currently performed by armed police can be performed by unarmed social workers and/or crisis counselors in order to reduce unnecessary confrontations and violent encounters. 

Let’s see if we can adopt SOME aspects of multi-tiered foreign police force structure where only part of the uniformed force is armed, but all uniformed personnel are given protected status (meaning any attack on an officer carries mandatory draconian sentencing requirements). 

Let’s ensure that the selection of ALL police personnel is geared to weed out authority junkies, racists and abusers.  Perhaps a minimum age requirement, military experience for armed officers, and an associates degree in criminal justice or similar related discipline. 

Let’s ensure that continuous training is provided to ensure the same high level of proficiency with firearms as with deescalation and negotiation techniques.  

Let’s try to scale back the militarization of all but the most elite police SWAT and hostage rescue teams.  There is no need for typical community policing to require assault weapons and other tools of war.  A man with a hammer tends to see every problem as a nail. 

Thinking out loud here, but I truly hope this is what you mean... because it isn’t really what most of you are saying.

Posted by David Bogner on June 5, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, June 02, 2020

For the sake of argument...

Debating should be revived and made a required course throughout Junior and Senior high school... with the subject being given as much weight as mathematics, history, civics, and the hard sciences. 

The rules of polite disagreement, logic and persuasion have become scorned anachronisms in today’s climate of ‘I feel, therefore my views are as valid as your facts’. 

As a result, kids grow up unable to think critically, evaluate news and new information for logical consistency,  or test out new ideas with confidence among their peers. 

Kids must learn how to argue facts with detachment and respect for those with whom they disagree. 

They must internalize from an early age that disagreeing with someone does not make that person evil or an enemy to be neutralized or defeated. 

Oh, and ‘Robert’s Rules of Order’ should be introduced in Elementary School, and used throughout every year of education, up to and including university studies. 

Honest, respectful debate can’t take place outside a safe framework that provides unimpeded access to expression for even the soft-spoken and unassertive. 

A ‘bully pulpit’ can’t exist in a setting where rules of logic and decorum are integral threads in the fabric that clothes the intellect and instincts of a well-educated citizen.

Posted by David Bogner on June 2, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Anachronistic Product Branding

I see a lot of online eye-rolling over the decision to change the branding images and name of Aunt Jemima Syrup.

What about if a popular brand of delicatessen products was called ‘Jew Boy Deli Meats’ or ‘Shylock’s Sheeny Pickles’?  What about ‘Money Lenders Bagels’?  

And none of these hypothetical brands were owned by Jews trying to be edgy or ironic...still okay?

Asking for ‘some of my closest friends...’.

Posted by David Bogner on May 30, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 22, 2020

Yom Yerushalayim

I'm once again following the time-honored ritual below:

Find a quiet place... turn off the lights... put a box of tissues within easy reach... and press play:

Part 1

 

Part 2

 

Click here to see an interview that General Uzi Narkis gave less than two weeks before he passed away.

Partial Transcript / translation:

Colonel Motta Gur [on loudspeaker]: All company commanders, we’re sitting right now on the ridge and we’re seeing the Old City. Shortly we’re going to go in to the Old City of Jerusalem, that all generations have dreamed about. We will be the first to enter the Old City. Eitan’s tanks will advance on the left and will enter the Lion’s Gate. The final rendezvous will be on the open square above. [The open square of the Temple Mount.]

[Sound of applause by the soldiers.]

Yossi Ronen: We are now walking on one of the main streets of Jerusalem towards the Old City. The head of the force is about to enter the Old City.

[Gunfire.]

Yossi Ronen: There is still shooting from all directions; we’re advancing towards the entrance of the Old City.

[Sound of gunfire and soldiers’ footsteps.]

[Yelling of commands to soldiers.] [More soldiers’ footsteps.]

The soldiers are keeping a distance of approximately 5 meters between them. It’s still dangerous to walk around here; there is still sniper shooting here and there. [Gunfire.] We’re all told to stop; we’re advancing towards the mountainside; on our left is the Mount of Olives; we’re now in the Old City opposite the Russian church. I’m right now lowering my head; we’re running next to the mountainside. We can see the stone walls. They’re still shooting at us. The Israeli tanks are at the entrance to the Old City, and ahead we go, through the Lion’s Gate. I’m with the first unit to break through into the Old City. There is a Jordanian bus next to me, totally burnt; it is very hot here.

We’re about to enter the Old City itself. We’re standing below the Lion’s Gate, the Gate is about to come crashing down, probably because of the previous shelling. Soldiers are taking cover next to the palm trees; I’m also staying close to one of the trees. We’re getting further and further into the City. [Gunfire.]

Colonel Motta Gur announces on the army wireless: The Temple Mount is in our hands! I repeat, the Temple Mount is in our hands! All forces, stop firing!

This is the David Operations Room. All forces, stop firing! I repeat, all forces, stop firing! Over. Commander eight-nine here, is this Motta (Gur) talking? Over.

[Inaudible response on the army wireless by Motta Gur.]

Uzi Narkiss: Motta, there isn’t anybody like you. You’re next to the Mosque of Omar.

Yossi Ronen: I’m driving fast through the Lion’s Gate all the way inside the Old City.

Command on the army wireless: Search the area, destroy all pockets of resistance but don't touch anything in the houses, especially the holy places.

[Lt.- Col. Uzi Eilam blows the Shofar. Soldiers are singing ‘Jerusalem of Gold’.]

Uzi Narkiss: Tell me, where is the Western Wall? How do we get there?

Yossi Ronen: I’m walking right now down the steps towards the Western Wall. I’m not a religious man, I never have been, but this is the Western Wall and I’m touching the stones of the Western Wall.

Soldiers: [reciting the ‘Shehechianu’ blessing]: Baruch ata Hashem, elokeinu melech haolam, she-hechianu ve-kiemanu ve-hegianu la-zman ha-zeh. [Translation: Blessed art Thou L-rd G-d King of the Universe who has sustained us and kept us and has brought us to this day]

Rabbi Shlomo Goren: Baruch ata Hashem, menachem tsion u-voneh Yerushalayim. [Translation: Blessed are thou, who comforts Zion and builds Jerusalem]

Soldiers: Amen!

[Soldiers sing ‘Hatikva’ next to the Western Wall.]

Rabbi Goren: We’re now going to recite the prayer for the fallen soldiers of this war against all of the enemies of Israel: [Soldiers weeping] El male rahamim, shohen ba-meromim. Hamtse menuha nahona al kanfei hashina, be-maalot kedoshim, giborim ve-tehorim, kezohar harakiya meirim u-mazhirim. Ve-nishmot halalei tsava hagana le-yisrael, she-naflu be-maaraha zot, neged oievei yisrael, ve-shnaflu al kedushat Hashem ha-am ve-ha’arets, ve-shichrur Beit Hamikdash, Har Habayit, Hakotel ha-ma’aravi veyerushalayim ir ha-elokim. Be-gan eden tehe menuhatam. Lahen ba’al ha-rahamim, yastirem beseter knafav le-olamim. Ve-yitsror be-tsror ha-hayim et nishmatam adoshem hu nahlatam, ve-yanuhu be-shalom al mishkavam [soldiers weeping loud]ve-ya’amdu le-goralam le-kets ha-yamim ve-nomar amen! [Translation: Merciful G-d in heaven, may the heroes and the pure, be under thy Divine wings, among the holy and the pure who shine bright as the sky, and the souls of soldiers of the Israeli army who fell in this war against the enemies of Israel, who fell for their loyalty to G-d and the land of Israel, who fell for the liberation of the Temple, the Temple Mount, the Western Wall and Jerusalem the city of the Lord. May their place of rest be in paradise. Merciful One, O keep their souls forever alive under Thy protective wings. The Lord being their heritage, may they rest in peace, for they shalt rest and stand up for their allotted portion at the end of the days, and let us say, Amen.] [Soldiers are weeping.

Rabbi Goren sounds the shofar. Sound of gunfire in the background.] Rabbi Goren: Le-shana HA-ZOT be-Yerushalayim ha-b’nuya, be-yerushalayim ha-atika! [Translation: This year in a rebuilt Jerusalem! In the Jerusalem of old!]

Posted by David Bogner on May 22, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (3)

Sunday, December 29, 2019

The Honeybee's Defense

With each new report of violent attacks on Jews and their property around the world, I am sorely tempted to join the chorus of Israelis imploring our brothers and sisters in the diaspora to pack up and move to Israel before it is too late.

But each time I am able to resist that temptation because I truly believe that the Jews of the world aren’t experiencing 1933 all over again (at least in most places), and such comparisons are deeply misplaced. Further, I actually believe that the existence of Israel, combined with the legal protections of laws in most civilized countries, means that Jews no longer have to pack their belongings and flee in the night with whatever they can carry.

It bears reminding that living in Israel carries no guarantee of safety from anti-Semitic attacks, as our Palestinian 'peace partners' so ably remind us with alarming frequency.  And if Ezra and Nehemiah were powerless to persuade the affluent Jews of Babylonia to return to the land of Israel when the prospect of rebuilding the Temple was a reality and not some wistful dream, what can I, as a modern Israeli, possibly say to persuade American or European Jews to give up the comfortable lives they've built for themselves and start anew?

While Israel was certainly founded as (and continues to be) a refuge for Jews in need of escape/protection, it also serves as an example of how Jews need never apologize for, or shy away from protecting themselves.

To that end, every Jew – no matter where they live or how invisible they think they are – must take responsibility for their own defense.  That means carrying pepper spray… a knife… a gun… whatever the law of the land allows.  And they must be prepared to use these, and any other weapons that comes to hand. 

Those who are increasingly finding sport in attacking Jews must know that to raise a hand against any of us is a death sentence; that they will not be left alive to plead insanity, inebriation or incapacity!

We are not wasps or hornets whose nature it is to attack and kill… but rather, like honeybees whose industry and ingenuity benefit all who allow us to prosper peacefully in their midst. 

But any who raise a hand against us must know that a heavy price will be exacted, without hesitation… and without remorse.

Posted by David Bogner on December 29, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Compliment or Flirtation?

Okay, here's strange topic for a happily married man to be writing about publicly:  'Compliments that might be misconstrued as flirting'.

What I'm about to say is about me and my perspective, but IMHO applies equally to men and women in both the online and offline worlds.

I'll begin by saying that most normal people want to feel good about themselves; about their achievements… about their position/standing… and certainly about their appearance.

Yet as we grow older, even as we collect achievements and advance in our positions… there are fewer and fewer opportunities to receive positive feedback about who we are; especially as pertains to how we appear to the world. 

Those of us who are married don’t have things like a busy dating life or scintillating social calendar to use as measures of our attractiveness/desirability.  Heck, most of us 'of a certain age' privately wonder if we're even still interesting or attractive (if we ever were!).

To be clear, I'm not talking about the feedback/compliments we should all be paying to our spouses and significant-others.  I try to be mindful of this.  But even when we are consistent about telling our loved-ones they look good and make us happy, when we get such a compliment, we secretly wonder about our spouse's objectivity and candor.

So, back to the subject at hand:  I'm talking about the compliments and encouragement friends, acquaintances and colleagues give one another (on and off-line).  It can be as overt as telling someone their hair or outfit looks nice… to innocuous things such as 'liking' an achievement they have 'shared', or offering a few encouraging words when they mention they've had a personal setback.

However, it gets tricky when these compliments and words of encouragement are shared with people of the opposite sex.  If the compliment is appropriate to the relationship, and both the giver and recipient of the compliment are secure and happy, the result is (or, at least should be IMHO), a self-esteem boost and a strengthening of the friendship.  But even so, when I do it, I try to make sure my  - or their - spouse is within earshot or able to see the exchange online… y'know, to minimize the possibility of misunderstandings.

Two Examples:

Me (addressing a female friend without my wife nearby):  "You look really nice, is that a new dress?" [a little creepy]

Me: (addressing a female friend with my wife next to me):  "You look really nice, is that a new dress?" [sweet]

See, same compliment; but totally different vibe based on the setting and audience.

But sometimes, despite the best of intentions, misunderstandings do happen, and compliments and words of encouragement (chaste, platonic words of friendship), are taken as something more than that.  And the vague, uncertainty of many online exchanges only increases the chance of such misunderstandings.

I've written all this because I recently received a completely inappropriate private response to what I had thought had been a completely appropriate public compliment.  And as a happily-married, unremarkable-looking middle aged man, it occurred to me that if this happened to me, it probably happens a lot more to younger, more attractive people who think their interactions are simply 'polite', 'nice' or 'supportive'.

I've unfriended and blocked people with whom I've had contentious or aggressive political interactions… but this is the first time I've had to do so for an overt sexual overture.

The world is getting more and more chaotic, and rules and customs seem to fall by the wayside on a daily basis.  But some things will never change:  I will continue to try to be nice to my friends, regardless of their gender.  And I will continue to love my wife madly… and faithfully.  

So please let me know if I ever say or do anything that seems to blur those lines.

Posted by David Bogner on November 27, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, October 05, 2019

Alone With The Dishes

[I wrote the first draft of this back in 2004 to describe the mental process I go through at this time of year.]

One gets to do a fair amount of thinking late at night, alone with the dishes.  To be clear, my wife does her fair share of the dishes.  But for the big jobs - particularly after dinner parties, large Shabbat/holiday meals, etc. - I’m the one left surveying the wreckage and not knowing exactly where to begin.

So it is (for me) with the approach of Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. 

For me, looking back at the year is like surveying the aftermath of a wild dinner party; one where invitations were extended to far more people than the house could comfortably accommodate… the kind of rollicking soirée that is talked about and savored (and paid for), for months.

But every such a party comes at a cost.

Rosh Hashanah (for me) is roughly analogous to standing in the doorway between the kitchen and the dining room looking aghast at the damage.

What was I thinking?!

Every horizontal surface is stacked high with dirty glasses and dishes. 

Empty bottles of Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay stand abandoned beside half-empty bottles of bourbon and scotch. 

The sinks overflow with greasy dishes, and the dessert service (dishes, tea cups and saucers), seem evenly distributed between the diningroom table and the various kitchen counters.

Soiled linen napkins sit balled on (and under), chairs.  And glasses of every description seem to wink at me from wherever the wandering conversationalists happen to have abandoned them.

On Rosh Hashanah I stand slumped in that imaginary doorway trying to make the insurmountable seem, well, surmountable; trying to place the soiled contents of my slovenly year into some kind of framework where things can be addressed in an orderly fashion.

Anyone who has ever been left to clean up after a big party understands the daunting nature of the task. At first glance it seems the house will never be clean again, so why bother?!.

But then you pick up that first wine glass (with the half-moon of lipstick on the rim), and place it in such a way as to demonstrate to the long departed guests and sleeping house that this spot on the sideboard is where the crystal will be gathered. 

And so Rosh Hashanah begins (for me)… nothing getting washed just yet; just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Several circuits of the house bring more dirty wine, whiskey, and water glasses than I ever knew we owned, to join that first one there on the counter.

Then, after emptying the sinks of their precariously piled contents, I draw a basin of hot soapy water.

As the basin fills, I designate other places for dishes and for cups and for saucers - each to each - all according to size. Warming to the familiar task, while I work I take comfort in the muffled sound of the water under its foamy cloak… almost like a prayer.

And so Rosh Hashanah continues (for me).  Nothing getting washed just yet… just making the insurmountable seem surmountable.

Next the sterling flatware and serving pieces are gathered into a pot full of soapy water, and the linen napkins are bundled with the tablecloth into the hamper in the laundry room.

With the leftovers wrapped and put safely into the refrigerator, and the trash bundled to the bin, the place is starting to look more sane… not one iota cleaner, mind you... but some semblance of order has begun to emerge from the chaos.

Now pots and pans of every shape and size are filled with hot soapy water and placed on the stove and sideboard to soak. Measuring cups and carving knives are placed beside legions of serving platters. Spices are returned to their racks, and canisters of flour and sugar are placed back on their shelves; each gestures creating a bit of space… and again, I am comforted by the suggestion of emerging order.

And so Rosh Hashanah ends (for me)… nothing having been washed just yet… but the insurmountable finally beginning to seem surmountable.

If I've done that much, it seems less daunting to stand in the spiritual doorway between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur… balanced on the threshold between what has happened... and the tantalizing suggestion of more good things that might still lie ahead.

I haven’t yet washed a thing, although some of the bigger problems have been identified and been placed in to soak. The glasses all sit with their fellows and the dishes are stacked according to shape and size. Everything still bears the smudges and smears of too much fun… too much indulgence. But now, as I look around, the task seems somehow more manageable… surmountable. 

As I stand listening to the soft ahhhhhhhhhh of the soap bubbles as they settle in the sink, I am almost ready for Yom Kippur. I have a clearer idea of what has to be washed… and I know (hope) that after the necessary work, I will find myself at the end of the process with sparkling china… lovingly polished sterling… and immaculate crystal.  And the house  - and my life - will be looking - and feeling - ready for a fresh beginning.

May we all be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

Posted by David Bogner on October 5, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (5)

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

Time To Bake!

Click HERE or the link below to sign up!

https://challahbakeinternational.com/sign-up 

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Posted by David Bogner on August 7, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Just This Simple

This evening at sundown marks the beginning of Holocaust Remembrance Day here in Israel.

There are many important lessons to be learned from this horrible period on our history.  But for me, there is only one lesson that matters:

It's that the labels and distinctions we all hold so dear... Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, Re-constructionist Jews, Right wing Jews, Left Wing Jews, Humanist Jews, Gay & Lesbian Jews, Secular Jews, Hasidic Jews, Trans Jews, Charedi Jews, Sephardic Jews, Ashkenazi Jews, Bi-Jews, Yemenite Jews, Ethiopian Jews, Crypto-Jews… can’t possibly be important enough to cause us to hate one another, when those who hate us and want to do us harm don’t care one bit about such distinctions. 

They hate us because we are Jews. Full Stop.  So we need to find a way to love and look after one another for the very same reason.

Posted by David Bogner on May 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Yes, Mary Poppins is Actually a Bit Racist

Nobody reads anymore. They just seethe and share without bothering to perform even the most perfunctory scratch test to see if their outrage is actually justified.  And then there is the counter-offensive of seething and sharing by people who are upset over how hyper-sensitive everyone is over nothing.

I'm talking about the latest rumblings over Disney’s classic family film, Mary Poppins, being accused of having racist content.

In this case, it certainly wasn't worthy of extensive outrage... but it also wasn't exactly nothing.

I’ve seen at least ten posts this week screaming about how silly it is that the PC police are all woke about the ‘blackface’ scenes (where Julie Andrews and the kids smear soot on their faces to look more like Dick Van Dyke and his fellow chimney sweeps.

Rare-1

The problem is, if anyone had bothered to look around a bit, they would have learned that the blackface issue isn't any sort of reference to minstrel shows, but rather an anachronistic colonial reference from the British Empire's crowded closet that keys into a historical [white] British fear of black Africans.

The central problem is the use of the word 'Hottentots' in the film as an obscure homage to an earlier book version of Mary Poppins where chimney sweeps were insultingly mistaken for Hottentots (an archaic slur for black South Africans).

Here's the relevant passage from an excellent article that explains what are, IMHO, a couple of small but real problems that most people wouldn't even catch (not because the racism isn't there, but because it is buried in an historical anachronism that the typical Disney audience - then or now - wouldn't recognize):

Writing exclusively for The New York Times, Daniel Pollack-Pelzner – a gender studies professor at Linfield College in the US – claimed the iconic chimney sweep scene where Andrews and Van Dyke sing ‘Step in Time’ could be seen as ‘racist’ because their faces are covered in black soot. Rather than wiping the soot off her face, Mary Poppins rubs it in, making her face dirtier. Pollack-Pelzner pointed out that the scene may seem comical – if it weren’t for P. L. Travers’ novels on which the film was based.

He pointed out that in the 1943 book Mary Poppins Opens the Door, a housemaid calls a man a “black heathen” when he reaches out his hand and later calls him a “Hottentot” – an archaic slur for black South Africans.

For Pollack-Pelzner, the film is problematic because character Admiral Boom calls chimney sweeps in the film Hottentots.

“We’re in on the joke, such as it is: These aren’t really black Africans; they’re grinning white dancers in blackface,” he wrote. “It’s a parody of black menace; it’s even posted on a white nationalist website as evidence of the film’s racial hierarchy.”

Pollack-Pelzner pointed out Hottentot was also used in 1952’s Mary Poppins in the Park novel, with Mary herself reportedly telling a young child that he’s behaving like a Hottentot. [source]

So yeah, there's some problematic stuff there, even if almost nobody today would recognize it as such. 

To be clear, I'm not suggesting banning the film, any more than I would suggest banning Shakespeare's 'The Merchant of Venice' because of the anti-Semitic treatment of Shylock, or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories over his unflattering reference to Jews which are jarring to a modern reader, but reflect the typical sentiments of the audience for whom it was written. 

I'm just saying that it is a teachable moment that is being mostly missed because most people would rather rage than teach (or learn).

BTW, it took me exactly one quick Google search to find both the New York Times article and the well written piece I've excerpted above.  So maybe look around just a tiny bit before trying to show everyone how woke you are.

Posted by David Bogner on February 6, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Farewell to Elisson

There's a fraternity of sorts that exists among those who were early adapters of online journaling / blogging.   Even if we didn't 'follow' one another closely, we recall the people we tuned into each day; if not by name, than by online moniker.

Back when this medium was new-ish and not everyone who had embraced it had a clear understanding of what they really wanted to say, a few clear, strong voices emerged from the clutter... and Steve Krodman (AKA Elisson), was as strong as he was prolific.

While some people wrote about politics and others shared food porn or did mommy/daddy blogging, Steve wrote a funny, irreverent, unblinking account of both his current world and his most cherished memories.  By making it clear that what he shared on his blog were his own impressions, recollections, and experiences, he headed off any potential arguments, disagreements or naysayers.  After all, how can you argue with something so subjective?

I won't try to summarize who Steve was in a few short paragraphs.  After all, most of us who followed his prolific output for years can't claim to have truly known the man.  But there were certain inescapable conclusions one could jump to after reading him for even a short time:

For instance, Steve was a family man, in the old-world sense of the title.  His self-applied moniker - Elisson - was, first and foremost how he saw himself; Eli's (his father) son.  He also frequently referenced his role as husband and father through the mention and frequent referencing of his wife and two daughters.  But he chivalrously shielded them with their own loving code-words ('She Who Must Be Obeyed', 'Elder Daughter', 'Mistress of Sarcasm').

He also wrapped himself warmly and un-self-consciously in the religious and cultural heritage of his fathers.  The observances and celebrations of the Jewish calendar were beautifully described - as they should be - through the lens of food and drink.  Even the weekday morning minyan, of which he was a regular, was framed lovingly as the precursor to the post-prayer gathering at the local 'smoked fish emporium'.

Steve sought out and savored tastes and experiences related to food and drink.  I don't think of him as a 'foodie', though.  His posts about food and drink were about sharing his deep enjoyment, not about showing off or putting on airs.

And even his tastes in food and drink were of the old world sort.  Yes, he like good wine.  But, long before it became hip to do so, he was describing his favorite tipples; classic cocktails, aperitifs and digestifs

And his sartorial tastes likewise reflected a respect and longing for the past; with seersucker suits and straw fedoras on unabashed display.  Admittedly, the colander was a decidedly modern touch... but we all have our eccentricities.

I only met Steve and his wife, Donna, in person on one occasion, during a trip they took to Israel a few years back.  But, aside from having my pre-existing impressions confirmed, that meeting was just another layer of the onion that I'd been peeling for years with each tidbit that was revealed in his writing.

He called his blogging "exercises in time-wastage and self-aggrandizement", but it was neither; not for him, and certainly not for the reader.  As his daughters so correctly pointed out in the announcement of his passing:

"[his blog was]...a repository for all of his warped humor and twisted rants. Suddenly - and finally! - an audience for his schtick beyond his nuclear family. Over the years this creative outlet grew from a little hobby ...into a fertile space for him to mold his rich internal life and tremendous stores of knowledge into beautiful and humorous pieces. We believe he got to know himself more greatly through writing this blog. It, along with family, friends, and Jewish Life, gave him purpose. We also believe that he was/is a man worth knowing, and so we are glad he found a way to generously share himself."

Just to give you an idea of how he reveled in outlandishness and the popular perception of him as its chief purveyor, here are some 'pull quotes' from the sidebar of his blog:

“Got-dam Philistine! Is NOTHING sacred to you?” - Acidman 

“The Bard of Affliction...” - Houston Steve

“My hat’s off to Elisson! All hail Elisson!”
Laurence Simon 

“Elisson’s blog: mysterious...like unraveling a turban and finding a moist dildo inside.” - Kevin Kim 

“...Obi-Wan Kenobi of Georgia...”
- Cowtown Pattie 

“The Shakespeare of poop jokes.”
John Cox 

“...when I grow up, I want to be Elisson.” - MetroDad 

“Elisson ain’t right. We know that.”
Velociman 

“Elisson...has totally gone off the deep end.” - Dax Montana 

“...of many talents...”
Rahel Jaskow 

“...the ever insightful Elisson...”
David Bogner 

“...Elisson, my man...I’m impressed...you are the man...” - Straight White Guy 

“You make my heart sing.”
Sissy Willis 

“...maniacal, obsessive rants about duck fat...” - Steve H. Graham 

“In a world almost entirely without heroes, Elisson stands alone...”
skippystalin 

“I really want to whup [Elisson] upside the haid...” - Meryl Yourish 

“The world is a much stranger place since I began reading your blog, Elisson.”
Kimberly 

“…the cat’s ass in his trademark white fedora…” - Jim 

“...R’ Blog Shem Tov...”
- Erica Sherman 

“By gadfrey, sir...You’re the most amazing character... there’s never any telling what you’ll say or do next, except that it’s bound to be something astonishing.”
Ivan G. Shreve 

“Elisson, you are such a Renaissance Man you make Newton, Descartes & Copernicus look like Larry, Moe & Curly!”
El Capitan 

“You... are a plethora of useless information.”
K-Nine 

Steve showed us all that being grown up didn't need to mean abandoning our childish sense of humor, or the child's innate ability to identify and point out the absurd.

And in the online world where - based just on their writings and correspondence - platonic 'blog-crushes' and deep 'bromances' could blossom between people sharing this new cyberspace, Steve became a good friend and generous mentor to me. 

For years he used his personal example to demonstrate the careful balancing of grown-up responsibilities and childish irreverence.  Fine dining experiences and scatological humor shared pride of place on his blog, as he virtually dared the reader to play the straight man to his clown.

Steve was the uncle we all wish we'd had; the one that parents became worried about if their children were left too long unattended in his charge.  New vocabulary words and a precocious understanding of excretory functions would certainly result from an afternoon spent with 'Uncle Steve'.  But he would also doubtless return the little dears with a newfound respect for the value of family... and for pickled herring.

And when, a few short months ago, Steve announced to the world that he had been diagnosed with ALS, he effortlessly pivoted from using his blog to show us how to live well... to showing us that it is also possible to die well. 

He generously let us in on what he was thinking and feeling throughout his descent into stillness... and in so doing, he spared us a tiny bit of the terror that is inevitable when confronted by the finality of what southerners call 'that sweet by-and-by'.

Steve, I will deeply miss your unique and unbridled spirit in my online wanderings.  Nobody else seems to have the courage to point out the many emperors without clothes.   I look for an offered finger to pull... but propriety seems to have suddenly taken hold.

My heart goes out to your family; I know that their loss is incalculable.  But if stories and fond recollections can keep a person's memory alive, you will have achieved immortality through the many generations who will doubtless continue to share accounts of the wonderful husband, father and friend you were during the all-too-short arc of your time here on this mortal coil.

Rest Well, my friend.  I will raise many a cocktail to your memory in whatever time I have left... until we meet again.

Steve-Krodman-Hat-243x300

Posted by David Bogner on January 13, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (4)

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Should Old Antagonists Be Forgot...

[I’ve written about this in the past, but it has been increasingly on my mind lately as a read the news.]

New Year’s is a time to ponder, compare and contrast… it is a time to take stock of the situation, and to try to discern trends.  One inescapable trend is that anti-Semites are feeling less inhibited and restrained in expressing their Jew-hatred in voice and deed.

I know we Israelis tend to sound preachy and condescending to our coreligionists in the diaspora when we point to antisemitism as a contributing factors to our decision to move/remain here in Israel.   But then again, I suppose any uncomfortable truth sounds a bit preachy when one is on the receiving end.

Of all life's moments that flash through my mind on New Year’s eve, there is one that is so sour and negative that it cancels out virtually all the wonderful and positive nostalgia I have for the date:

Back in the early '90s, I played trombone in a ‘rehearsal band’; a jazz big band that met in a studio on W42nd street in Manhattan once a week to play through charts from the Big Band era of the '30s and '40s. 

The bandleader was an older musician from that bygone era who had acquired most of the original Count Basie ‘book’, as well as a nice sampling of music from the other top-tier (Miller, Goodman, Ellington, et al), bands' repertoires. And the players were a mix of professional and amateur musicians ranging from college age to retirees. 

Those few hours playing big band jazz with serious musicians were the highlight of my week.

Once in a while the leader would get a call for a gig and we would get to play the old tunes for an appreciative audience.  One such gig was the annual New Year’s Eve Black Tie Gala at the exclusive Downtown Athletic Club.

There’s an old joke about the Downtown Athletic Club posits that the only minorities one is likely to spot inside the hallowed halls of the club are the wait-staff… and the recipients of the Heisman Trophy (which is awarded there every year). 

We Jews tend to ‘pass for white’ in the modern world, so we largely see such discrimination as a cause to be championed rather than a first-hand problem to be overcome.  This gig changed that worldview for me.

The event was as glitzy and high society as you probably imagine, and it felt like time traveling to be playing WWII-era jazz in such a historic NYC setting on New Year’s eve.

While the band was on a break between sets, the bandleader came over to me and a trumpet player who was also religiously observant musician and told us that we would have to take off our kippot (yarmulkes).  It isn’t clear to me now if the demand came from the party host, a guest, the bandleader himself or some combination thereof.  What was clear – and remains so – is that someone took exception to a barely noticeable scrap of black cloth in a sea of black tuxedos, starched white shirts, champagne and party streamers, and felt empowered/entitled to demand that the offending religious article be removed from view.  

That was then. 

Now, more than 20 years later I don’t think anyone can reasonably deny that Jews in America (and elsewhere in diaspora), are less secure or less apt to experience discrimination and attack in the course of their daily lives.

Antisemitism has never disappeared, or even waned. It has been a historical constant; perhaps the oldest hatred in recorded history. What some mistake for it waxing and waning is it going through periods of being more or less socially acceptable to express in public. 

It may surprise you to hear that I honestly don’t mind Antisemitism or anti-Semites.  I've come to accept it as a constant reality that will never go away.   

What I do mind is having to face anti-Semites on their own turf and on their own terms. 

Over here, I know I am hated for being a Jew (even though they give that hatred the fig leaf of calling it anti-Zionism).   But as an Israeli, I have the privilege of ignoring the haters who no longer hold power or influence over me… and of defending myself - without explanation or restraint - against those who still operate under the misconception that they do.

Just something to ponder as you go about your rationalization of how 'it isn't as bad as it seems'.

Happy New Year!

Posted by David Bogner on January 1, 2019 | Permalink | Comments (1)