Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Capitol of Punk

There's a fabulous site at Yellow Arrow which offers an interactive I dunno, what would you call it, cyber walking tour of the 70's and 80's locations for the Washington D.C. punk scene. It has video podcasts with interviews and music, and reminds me of many an ill-spent teenage night with my first love. We've still friends, and thankfully memories remain sweet, so I'll make sure we reminisce of mosh pits and sweat until late into the morning.

Not to be missed. via BoingBoing

D.C.'c harDCore scene birthed among others Bad Brains, Void, The Faith, Dag Nasty, Black Market Baby and Minor Threat, and later Fugazi was a major player. I have to admit, I haven't done the whole tour yet, but I am mystified by the apparent absence of the Slickee Boys - someone: fill in this gap! I also want to give a second-hand shout out to Ian Svenonius, who in addition to his musicianship, is also the son of the infamous philosophy professor, Dr. Lars Svenonius.

HardCore seems to be enjoying a mini revival, as a book came out a couple of years ago (2003)
Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital
Dance of Days: Two Decades of Punk in the Nation's Capital by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins (Paperback - Aug 1, 2003), which mentions my favorite bands promiscuously.

There's also a 1988 book on the DC punk scene:
Banned in D C: Photos and Anecdotes from the Dc Punk Underground
Banned in D C: Photos and Anecdotes from the Dc Punk Underground by Cynthia Connolly, Sharon Cheslow, and Leslie Clague (Paperback - Nov 1, 1988) although I can't vouch for whether it's good or not.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Get Ready for National Talk Like a Pirate Day

Jews get ready, repeat after me, “arrrrrgh, would it kill you to call your mother?”

American Jewish gangster books, move over: apparently lots of pirates were.. Jewish. Tomorrow is National Talk like a Pirate Day, so get ready to celebrate your Jewish pirate heritage.
..Tales of Jewish piracy, which stretch back thousands of years, aren’t in the public’s consciousness, and Hollywood even has been known to remove a pirate’s Jewish background. As a result, we’re stuck with portrayals of pirates as wayward English seamen on a murderous rampage. …

Kritzler has studied pirates for 40 years, and said that the public is fascinated with them because they’re “rugged individuals in a world of conformity. They carved their own identity, independent of the rules and strictures of society.”

But determining the exact number of Jewish pirates is difficult, Kritzler said, because many of them traveled as Conversos, or converts to Christianity, and practiced their Judaism in secret."

crossposted to Jewschool

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Think she'll do something about the agunot?

From JTA breaking news
First female Israeli High Court chief sworn in
The Israeli Supreme Court swore in its first female president.

Dorit Beinisch was sworn in Thursday at a Knesset ceremony attended by Justice Aharon Barak — the court’s outgoing president — Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Interim Justice Minster Meir Sheetrit and Dalia Itzik, the country’s acting president.

Crossposted to Jewschool

As long as you’ve got your health….

My colleague Arieh Lebowitz, at the Jewish Labor Committee posted the article below as a comment, but I think it should get a post of its own.
Here’s another article from Ha’aretz on the topic for a fuller picture.

It’s nice to know that the privatization monster is taking over this territory too. I wonder what else we can undermine by privatizing? Money, after all, should be our top priority when we consider our children’s health, on a national level. But hey, kids are hearty - who needs school nurses?


Israel Public health nurses’ struggle against transfer of school health services to manpower company - more a struggle against sweeping privatization of health services than a battle over employment conditions.

Privatization today, illness tomorrow
By Avirama Golan / Ha’aretz / September 13, 2006

The public health nurses’ struggle against the transfer of school health services to a manpower company can of course be described - as Finance Ministry officials are doing - as a battle over employment conditions. Not that that’s so terrible: After all, there seems to be some logic in a person’s desire to preserve job security. But in the case of the nurses, who in recent years began working under a private association and are not civil servants in any case - that is not the main thing. At the heart of the attempt to minimize the blow to these services lies a much more important struggle - against the sweeping privatization of the health services.

The case of the schools exposes privatization’s failure in preventive medicine in particular, and in the health services in general. Preventive medicine is the mainstay of a developed society. It is not by chance that the OECD countries decided preventive medicine is a condition for growth, and defined it as a threshold requirement for joining the organization. A World Bank paper states, “In places in the world where preventive medicine services have been transferred to competitive bodies, there has been a decline in immunization coverage and an increase in the extent of illnesses requiring immunization.”

Nobody in the treasury can claim not to know these things. What is also known is the simple calculation that shows, in black and white, that when hearing or vision problems, eating disorders, depression - or even abuse - of children are not diagnosed in time, these children soon become a heavy burden on the education, health and welfare systems. Even if they drop out of - or are dropped by - all the systems and fall ill or disabled, or turn to crime, they will cost society and the government much more than a nurse’s salary or pension.

But for years the treasury has been waging a stubborn and systemic war of attrition against the health services, a war whose most blatant symptom is the blow to preventive medicine. Every few months a focus of privatization erupts into public awareness. There was the transfer of the well-baby clinics to the health services organizations, thus eliminating - for reasons of economic feasibility - preventive treatment for remote, weak populations: small peripheral communities, the Bedouin, foreign workers without residence permits, et al. There was the plan to privatize the hospitals for the mentally ill, and now there are the school health services.

In all these cases, the direct victims are those who cannot afford the increasingly expensive health services, and worse, anyone who is unable - due to economic or geographic reasons, or simply due to a lack of awareness - to arrange diagnostic tests for himself and his children. Israel is justifiably proud of its hospital system, which in spite of overcrowding and budgetary problems entitles everyone to emergency treatments and complex operations. But these treatments are the last (and most expensive) stage, and should be rendered superfluous by preventive medicine, including diagnoses, inoculations and counseling.

Economically speaking, this is a big mistake. A comparison between Israel, where the health care privatization process is still moving slowly, and the United States, which has fulfilled the dream - reveals the infant mortality rate there is higher than here, and life expectancy is lower, despite the fact that the U.S. government spends far more on health care per person than the Israeli government. In every other respect - social, humanitarian, civil-democratic - this is a matter of dangerous neglect.

The percentage of children per capita in Israel is the highest in the western world. (38 percent of the population is 18 and under). Since 1997 the number of students in Israel has grown by 33 percent, whereas the budget for school health services (which in 1997 was transferred from the Education Ministry to the Health Ministry, by dint of a government health law) has declined steadily. Public health nurses visit not only the state schools but also churches and mosques where children study. The treasury, which is pleased about erasing expenditure items, may not be interested in who replaces them. They should know: In every Arab community where the state avoids its civic duties, it is replaced by charities of the Islamic Movement, which distances its members from the state and leads them to political radicalism.

The Arab periphery is only the most extreme example of the folly. A society where only the children of the rich receive inoculations and diagnostic tests, whose public health nurses - once the clear symbol of the system’s responsible, professional and human touch - speedily leaf through the files of thousands of children at record pace, while being tyrannized and exploited by manpower companies (see: security and caregiving firms) - is a society conducting its expenditure accounts blindly and obtusely, because it has apparently given up on tomorrow.

crossposted to Jewschool

“Tikkun Olam” -the new “kosher?”

English is an amazing language. It will chew up and digest anything. Here is the apparently latest gastronomic adventure of my native language: Tikkun Olam.

See the story here. As one poster on Jewschool noted, it is a better way to pander to Jewish voters than the usual pandering.

Crossposted to Jewschool

Hot in DC right now

Actually, temperature-wise it’s pretty moderate for September. Probably because of the rain. But there are a lot of events going on right now inthe Jewish community. Here’s a couple.

An article today in Express (the free Washington Post owned daily - really it’s just something to read while riding the metro. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear actually post online what appears in its pages. Sorry.) mentions the D.C. Labor Film Festival which takes place this weekend (largely on shabbat - sigh). GO, commiserate with the evils of bosses, and remember, “Don’t oppress your fellow, and don’t steal; don’t leave the worker’s hire with you until morning” (Vayikra 19:13); and “Don’t oppress the hire of the poor and needy from your brother or the proselyte in our land and gates; give him his hire the same day, don’t let the sun set on it, for he is poor and his soul is set on it; so that he should not call against you to HaShem, and it will considered a sin in you.” (Devarim 24:14-15.)

DCJCC is sponsoring the Jewish literary festival: The Annual Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival is September 10 - 20
“The Hyman S. and Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival brings books to life each autumn by featuring the writers and personalities behind the pen. It offers our nation’s capital a unique glimpse at the year’s best in American and international Jewish letters, recognizing both emerging and well-established writers. ”

The International Spy Museum has a new exhibit starting this Sunday: The Secret History of History Moe Berg: Baseball’s Man of Mystery about Moe Berg an apparently mediocre baseball player who nevertheless played with five major league baseball teams (Including the Washington Senators), spoke five languages, and a photography hobbiest…. which after ending his baseball career, he turned into a career as a spy for the OSS.

Crossposted to Jewschool

Monday, September 04, 2006

A political statement for mature audiences only

This is ladies underwear with , along one leghole, a fringe of "hair" sewn in as a statement against shving pubic hair. Of course the question is to whom one is making the statement... after all, you don't need to buy these if you aren't shaving the hair already, and to whom are you showing them, anyway?
Of course, you could make a more public statement -if you're feeling European- with under arm hair shirts.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

How could I have missed THIS?

Reader Becca pointed out that in my post on the delightfully obvious toy made from tampons, the tampon gun, I clearly neglected to surf the rest of the site from which this delight was culled. I have to admit, it never occurred to me that there might be additional Judaica found on this site, but nevertheless, here it is: the tampon menorah. Not to be missed. Thank you, Becca!

P.S. Please - no one write in to tell me about the earrings. *shudder*

"Hanukkah - festival of lights, now the festival of feminine
hygiene. Pull up on the "wicks" to light these menorah candles."

Friday, September 01, 2006

It's not just the meat!

I have no idea how I end up putting up all these meat-related posts. While I like a good burger as much as the next carnivore - I’m rarely a carnivore, since our house is dairy-kosher, nd there are desperately few kosher meat restaurants where I live (and truthfully, even fewer that I would consider palatable, let alone worth the money and the trip to get to them. Ah to be back in the kosher meat restaurant paradise of Los Angeles). Oh well. This note at least is about a bit more than just meat. As it points out, kashrut in general has been raised up to new levels of fences. From discussions that I, and colleagues of mine, have had with formerly mainstream mashgichim who are now considered unacceptable (except when most people don’t see the names out front - such as a certain individual whose hechsher is generally considered not acceptable, but whose supervision of certain here unspecified products in the USA is more or less hegemonous - and thus accepted) it seems clear that the business of hashgacha in the USA is in serious trouble in all sorts of ways.

Glatt Kosher Meat Is Not All It Is Cut Out To Be

Marc Shapiro | Fri. August 18, 2006

Due in no small part to the recent controversy at the AgriProcessors slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, there has been a lot of talk of late about how glatt kosher meat is produced. Yet for all the sensational headlines about whether the standards of kashrut are being met, little attention has been paid to how those standards are actually determined.
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In nearly every Orthodox community today, glatt kosher has come to stand for unquestionably kosher, with the result being that food carrying the regular kosher label is shunned.

This is more than simply an issue of certification. It is a significant transformation in the religious lifestyle of the Orthodox, a group that, ironically, claims to embody religious continuity.

Regular kosher might be okay if you’re in, say, Montana, and it’s the only meat available. Even then, though, you might want to think twice before bringing home such food. If you’re thinking of having a barbecue for Orthodox friends and throwing some regular kosher hot dogs on the grill, don’t be surprised if your guests suddenly develop a distaste for meat and profess that they’ve recently become vegetarians. You might as well be serving Oscar Mayer franks, because the reaction will be little different.

For hundreds of years, halachic authorities disagreed as to what exactly could be considered kosher. The “Shulhan Arukh” insisted on no adhesions — glatt means smooth, and refers to the fact that the lungs of animals slaughtered according to glatt kashrut do not have any adhesions. Rabbi Moses Isserles disagreed, and ruled that an animal could be declared kosher even with certain adhesions.

In the Ashkenazic lands, regular kosher was the standard, with glatt being reserved for the exceptionally pious, who were also willing to pay more. This is also how matters were in America until about 30 years ago.

Since then, the Orthodox have adopted a new standard in kashrut, one that defines only glatt kosher as acceptable. Regular kosher has been relegated to Conservative Jews and others who don’t take kashrut as seriously as the Orthodox.

Recognition of the change in kashrut standards has, by all indications, been picked up by the Jewish community at large. On numerous occasions I have been informed by non-Orthodox relatives or colleagues that I can eat the food that is being served since, they told me, it is glatt kosher, with the emphasis on glatt. This community-wide acceptance of glatt in the United States is quite significant, as things are rather different in Israel and Europe, where regular kosher is still very popular among the Orthodox.

In previous years, it wasn’t simply the masses who ate regular kosher. The great rabbis did as well. Many of them, including Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, even provided hashgachot, or kosher supervision, for non-glatt kosher meat.

So how did we reach this point in the United States where a practice that was basic to Orthodox society simply disappeared and came to be no longer regarded as acceptable? Much of the blame — or praise, depending on your outlook — falls on the Orthodox Union, which is considered the gold standard of kashrut supervision in the United States.

As part of its effort to achieve universal acceptance, even in the most right-wing circles, about 30 years ago the O.U. stopped providing supervision to non-glatt meat. Once the O.U. no longer recognized the validity of non-glatt, it soon became verboten for the average Orthodox Jew. The great irony here is that the leading Modern Orthodox organization is itself responsible for creating a situation where virtually all Orthodox Jews in this country, even the most liberal among them, would not dream of buying anything but glatt kosher. It is also impossible for a restaurant or hotel to attract an Orthodox clientele without being exclusively glatt.

The O.U.’s move to glatt is not the only example of the organization adopting policies that are not in line with the Modern Orthodox tradition of its founders. Many Forward readers, I am sure, have wondered about the Popsicles and other products that have absolutely no milk in them yet are still stamped “OU-D.” Or, for that matter, the yearly Passover guide that tells people that their candles and laundry detergent do not need a special Passover hashgachah, but do need a regular one.

It was the O.U.’s move to glatt, however, that had a truly momentous impact and changed the religious landscape of American Orthodoxy. Other hashgachot soon followed the O.U.’s path, leaving supervision over regular kosher in the hands of hashgachot that in many people’s minds were regarded as less reliable. Even if these hashgachot were, in truth, completely dependable, the fact that they agreed to certify meat that the O.U. and others would not reinforced the idea in people’s minds that there were problems with regular kosher. It took just a few years following the O.U.’s decision before regular kosher was no longer regarded as acceptable in American Orthodoxy.

Yet this is not all there is to the story, and here things get even more interesting. The very meaning of glatt kosher in the United States is not what most people think, namely, meat that has no adhesions. While this is indeed the original meaning of glatt and the meaning most people identify it with, the word as used today means something more expansive, depending on which kashrut organization you ask.

For some, it simply means that they hold themselves to a very high halachic standard in all areas of meat production. For others, it means that they permit only a couple of small, easily removed adhesions, a type of glatt that was actually quite common among Hasidim in prewar Europe. One thing that is certain is that glatt in the United States does not mean that an animal’s lung is completely smooth. Sephardim, who are supposed to eat only real glatt, are under normal circumstances not permitted to eat the typical “American glatt,” and they therefore have their own special “Beit Yosef glatt.”

While the kashrut organizations have not exactly hidden this information, and will tell you the truth if you ask, they have not been exactly forthcoming about it either. There is, for example, no explanation on the O.U. Web site as to what it means when it stamps a product glatt. The closest you get is an article titled the “The Kosher Primer,” which explains that real glatt is free of all adhesions on its lungs. The primer does acknowledge that, “Recently, the term ‘glatt kosher’ is increasingly used more broadly as a generic phrase, implying that the product is kosher without question.” Yet there is no clarification that the O.U.’s glatt falls into the second category — which also explains how the organization believes it appropriate to certify “glatt chickens.”

A great deal has been written about how the Orthodox have in recent years adopted new religious standards. The turn to glatt, however, is in its own category, because here the Orthodox have indeed adopted a new standard, but it is not what most people think it is. If they knew the facts, they might not be so attached to the glatt-only culture of contemporary Orthodoxy — which is something worth chewing over the next time you munch on a Hebrew National regular kosher salami.

Marc Shapiro is a professor of Judaic Studies at the University of Scranton
crossposted to Jewschool