Mimesis and Violence

Google Suggest
April 1, 2009, 2:31 pm
Filed under: Google, Internet, Judaism, Religion
Google Suggest

Is yahw

Let’s Be Honest
November 29, 2007, 5:44 pm
Filed under: Christianity, Domestic, Internet, Politics, Religion, Sexuality, Video

If the crowd at a Republican debate can boo a retired (gay) brigadier general with 42 years of service because he tells them that, in light of his voluminous experience, “don’t ask don’t tell” is a destructive policy that hobbles our military then it’s clear that we’re not participating in a pragmatist debate here. This is not about “unit cohesion,” offending the “Judeo-Christian values” of servicemen, or any such catchphrase bullshit. If you had any doubts (not that you should have), the video below makes it totally and completely clear that the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy is a thinly veiled cover for categorical hatred. As usual Romney comes off as a doublespeaking douche (sorry Alex, next time pick a better horse).

It’s interesting to me that the candidates (specifically Hunter, Huckabee, McCain, and Romney) are ashamed enough of the principles that they represent that they feel the need for a veil. The crowd clearly doesn’t.

November 20, 2007, 12:03 am
Filed under: Food, Judaism, Rants, Restaurant Reviews

Kosher ethnic restaurants are for me a lens looking in on a a lens looking out. It happens that both the lenses are distorted, mine by my self-imposed distance from Jewish observance and love for good food and theirs’ by their self-imposed distance from other peoples’ food.

I’ve found that such eateries exhibit an intense urge towards menu expansion, towards serving all things ethnic at one establishment no matter what kind of restaurant it is supposed to be. You’ll find supposedly Persian joints serving distinctly Israeli food, Chinese places serving sushi, teriyaki, thai, and korean, and steakhouses serving spring rolls. So when I was brought to Ozu Restaurant with promises of vegan Japanese food and sketchy kosher certification I sincerely hoped that the sketchiness of the cert and the general vegannes would contribute to a more focused menu. Instead I got apparently impeccable kashrut and disturbingly poor cooking over a wide swath of cuisines.

Don’t believe the hype (aka Sarah): Ozu is neither vegetarian nor vegan. Nor is the food any good. What they serve is anything and everything that can’t be called dairy or meat according to Jewish dietary restrictions (the preferred nomenclature is “pareve”). That includes fish and eggs. Ozu also serves anything and everything weird enough to be passed off as Japanese to a kosher client, including Portobello spring rolls (served with spicy marinara sauce!), kabocha gnocchi (served with bland marinara sauce!), and aloo gobi (seriously!). Their menu is also graced with the presence of such true Japanese classics as salmon croquettes served with couscous and a tahini lotus root sandwich.

At Sarah’s insistence we ordered the spring rolls and kabocha gnocchi as appetizers. They were as awful and bland as you might imagine. I later ordered some bland vegetarian soba noodles with mock-pork seitan and “spicy” miso broth. I’ll not delve into my thoughts on mock-food here; suffice it to say that I think it a mockery of food and that pork is much better.

Rule of thumb: chopsticks should remain as far from marinara sauce as possible. It’s just a heuristic dude, but fusion is about as hard with food as it is with nuclei.

Rule of pinky: serve things as advertised. If you tell me your dish is spicy it should be at least a little spicy. If you tell me your gnocchi are made of pumpkin they should taste just a little like pumpkin (and not at all like tepid marinara).

Rule of middle finger: If your job is to make pareve Japanese food and you’re not so talented that you can do much else with traditional Japanese ingredients then I humbly suggest you stick to the recipe. Maybe then I won’t write mean things about your restaurant on my blog.

I is in ur biblez, not eatingz cheezbrgrs
October 8, 2007, 12:27 pm
Filed under: Christianity, Humor, Internet, Judaism, Religion

I giveth thee teh lolcat Bible. For those of u who donts get it, chek icanhascheezburger.com/. I xspecially liek the translatn of Job 1:

1. In teh land of Uz wuz a man calded Job. Teh man was goodz, afraid of teh Ceiling Cat and evilz.
2. Teh man hadz seven sunz and tree doters,
3. And lots of sheepz and camlez and rinoceruseses and servnts, srsly.
4. His sunz tok turns mading cookies, and they all eated them.
5. And Job wuz liek “Oh noes! Wut if cookies were sin? Gota prey, just in cased.”
6. Teh ayngles wented to seez Ceiling Cat, and Saitin wented 2.
7. Ceiling Cat axt Saitin, “Wher u wuz?” Saitin saied “Oh, hai. I’z wuz in ur earth, woking up and down uponz it.”
8. Teh Ceiling Cat sayd “Has u seen mai servnt Job? He can has cheezburger cuz he laiks me.”
9. “No wai!” sed Saitin.
10. “U just plyin favrits.
11. If u take his cheezburgers, he no laiks u no moar.”
12. Then teh Ceiling Cat sed “Okai, u can take his bukkit, but no hurtzing Job hissef.” And then Saitin went awai.
13. Wun day Jobes’ sunz and doters were eateding cookies at teh oldest wuns hoose,
14. And a mans cam to told Job a mesege. “Ur donkzeys and moo cows was eateding grass”
15. “And thens teh servnts was atacked by some dudez and ur naminals was stoldz by them and only i got wai.”
16. And then anotter mans cam to told Job a diffrant mesege. He sed “Teh Ceiling Cat maids fyr fall from teh skys and it burnded ur sheepz and more servnts and only i got awai.”
17. And thens a more diffranter mans cam to told Job a mesege. “Sum Chaldean dudez took ur rinoceroseseses and killd moar servnts and only i got wai.”
18. And then 1 moar mans cam to told Job a mesege.
19. “Ur sunz howse feld over and skishded evryones. Sry.”
20. Then Job got upt and shaved and was liek “Gota prey now.”
21. “Teh Ceiling Cat giv me cheezburger, teh Ceiling Cat takded mah cheezburger awai. I stil laiks teh Ceiling Cat.”
22. And teh Ceiling Cat sed “I winz!!”

I hereby issue a challenge to all my friends who teach at religious schools: use this as a teaching tool in some way and I will buy you a delicious dinner that meets your dietary restrictions (if u cant has cheezburger).

Oh, and just FYI

O Ceiling Cat

The Lives Of Othersjahn
September 27, 2007, 10:26 am
Filed under: Art, International, Iran, Islam, Middle East, Photography, Religion

Life Goes On In Tehran. A photoblog I was recently linked to. Stylistically a cameraphone still-life of Iran. Very good stuff.

Hubbard Hechsher
June 16, 2007, 11:15 pm
Filed under: Humor, Judaism, Mathematics, Rants, Religion, Scientology

It recently came to my attention that Scientologists don’t believe in calculus. Something having to do with Xenu and Thetans and integrating over extended perfect fields taking over our immortal souls and preventing us from reaching enlightenment or somesuch. By recently I mean that I found out about 10 months ago, though I only recently found proof.

Rate of change is this mathematics known as Calculus. Calculus, it’s a very interesting thing, is divided into two classes — there’s Differential Calculus and Integral Calculus. The Differential Calculus is in the first part of the textbook on Calculus, and Integral Calculus is in the second part of the textbook on Calculus. As you look through the book, you’ll find in the early part of the book on Calculus, “dx” over “dy”, a little “dx”, and a little “dy” — and one’s above the other on a line — predominates in the front part of the book, but as you get to the end of the book you find these “dx” and “dy”s preceded by a summation sign, or are equating to a summation sign, and the presence of this shows that we are in the field of Integral Calculus.

Now I hope you understand this, because I’ve never been able to make head nor tail of it. It must be some sort of a Black Magic operation, started out by the Luce cult — some immoral people who are operating up in New York City, Rockefeller Plaza — been thoroughly condemned by the whole society. Anyway, their rate-of-change theory — I’ve never seen any use for that mathematics, by the way — I love that mathematics, because it — I asked an engineer, one time, who was in his 6th year of engineering, if he’d ever used Calculus, and he told me yeah, once, once I did, he said. When did you use it? And he said I used it once. Let me see, what did you use it on? Oh yeah. Something on the rate-of-change of steam particles in boilers. And then we went out and tested it and found the answer was wrong.

Calculus — if you want to know — there is room there for a mathematics which is a good mathematics. And it would be the rate of co-change, or the rate of change when something else was changing, so that you could establish existing rates of change in relationship to each other, and for lack of that mathematics, nobody has been able to understand present time — you just can’t sum it up easily — or let us say, for lack of an understanding of what present time was, nobody could formulate that mathematics. So, actually there’s a big hole there that could be filled — a thing called calculus is trying to fill that hole, right now, and it can’t.

L. Ron Hubbard (founder of Scientology and science fiction author)

Incidentally there are serious mathematicians who have taken issue with the founding principles of calculus. Philosopher George (Bishop) Berkeley (for whom Berkeley, California, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Berkeley residential college at Yale are named) criticized Newton’s and Leibniz’s calculus on the grounds that the notion of infinitesimals – infinitely small chunks of space that nonetheless sum up to chunks of measurable area – was so poorly defined as to completely lack rigor. Like any fine 18th century philosopher Berkeley launched his critique in religious terms, naming his work “The Analyst,” with the subtitle of “A DISCOURSE Addressed to an Infidel Mathematician.” Indeed, the field of nonstandard analysis attempts to develop all the analytical machinery of calculus using a rigorous definition of infinitesimals.

Hubbard never got that far, though. He just didn’t like these “rates of change,” these tools of a “Luce cult” of evil New Yorkers. And why should he? What did New York ever do to deserve L. Ron’s respect?! Fuck ’em all, those infidel New Yorkers!

In that spirit (and in the spirit of my own misanthropic religious background) I’ve come up with the Hubbard Hechsher, a sign for all the faithful that a consumer product is strictly calculess – the Scientologist’s halal or kosher. Just in time, too – Travolta could use some dietary restrictions.

I give to you the official Scientological calculess symbol:

Hubbard Hechsher

Like kosherness, calculessness certification is awarded by a central authority – the Tom Cruise Center for Kids Whos Likes to Jumps on Couches. Here are some fine products made without any calculus at all.

Calculess Plane

We built this calculess airplane on trial and error, and it flies even higher than noted Scientologist Giovanni Ribisi‘s post Boiler Room career. Keep in mind that, like Ribisi’s career, we’re still in the error phase.

Tom’s Apple

Tom’s calculess apples are guaranteed to make you inscrutable to psychotherapy and impervious to public opinion. A calculess apple a day keeps those damned doctors away and ensures that, though your recent movies are just plain awful, people will still pay nine to eleven dollars to watch you prance around and steal high-end electronics in poorly named trilogies. And we would never ever use any calculus to grow Tom’s apples, not even if it made them taste 10 times better, cost 10 times less, and cure world hunger. Such is our commitment to L. Ron.


One of the great advantages of calculessness over kashrut (kosherdom for you goyim) is that pigs are naturally calculess. No processing, salting, or special killing methods are required: pigs just can’t integrate. In that respect they’re very much like the distinct and insular minorities protected by current US constitutional jurisprudence. Did we mention that calculess pigs are naturally fat free but taste exactly the same as regular fatass pigs? mmmm…guiltless bacon…doubly treif

Calculess Nuke

Finally, we’ve got the clean burning calculess nuclear power plant and companion nuclear submarine. Much less dangerous than their calculating counterparts and much cheaper to maintain too (hint: that’s because they don’t work).

“You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion.”
L. Ron Hubbard

unpublished piece
May 1, 2007, 8:04 am
Filed under: Judaism, Princeton, Rants, Religion

I wrote this article for the Daily Princetonian but it was too long for their opinion page. Figured I should do something with it.

For reference, here are some of the issues I am responding to:

In this article, am primarily responding to R.K. Urken’s “Chabad Affair” pieces in the Nassau Weekly.

Verbum Avi
I sit outside the New Media Center at 87 Prospect, the sun, slightly muted, is pouring through the tinted windows onto a copy of the Nassau Weekly that lies open on my lap. The paper is slightly transparent in the harsh light.

It occurs to me what a crock of shit sits before me, what a Vesuvian torrent of falseness R.K. Urken’s pen emits.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for pretentious writing, polemical rhetoric, and speaking as if someone has shoved a thesaurus and Dostoevsky’s collected works so far up your ass that they’ve crossed the blood-brain barrier. I’m not at all upset that Urken took well thought out quotations from me and contorted them gently to fit the frame of his polemic. Confronting people is a really good thing. So many people are so very wrong and are in dire need of being corrected. Lots of things are justified by that pursuit. But it’s damn hard to correct people with lies and one-tenth-truths, and it’s even harder to run with your foot in your mouth.

Even as I write this piece, I wonder why people care so much about Jewish chaplaincy. All the attention this issue has gotten might be construed as evidence of a media conspiracy. But we sane, level-headed, people know that there is no such thing, right? Jews don’t control the campus media! Conspiracy theories notwithstanding, the issue of a Chabad chaplaincy has gotten lots of campus media attention, most of which is pregnant with obvious bias and, as a result, seriously lacking in fact. Bias is great. Lies are not.

To remedy this dearth of veracity, I’m gonna act as your factual Pez dispenser – popping delicious candied truths out of my mouth one at a time. Let’s not single out poor R either – his is but a single quill in the quiver, if perhaps the loudest, most arrogant, and most prolific of the lot. There are lies all around us, and we should correct them all in turn.

Truth #1 – The University is very invested in the Center for Jewish Life. Princeton built and maintains the CJL and operates the Kosher dining hall within. Last I heard, the CJL is the most costly dining unit on campus. More expensive than the whole of Wilcox-Wu. Two separate kitchens, Kosher certification, and cleaning the whole thing for Passover will do that.

Truth #2 – Chabad Lubavitch is a Hassidic Jewish Movement. Though Urken admits this fact, it deserves reiteration. Having started in the 18th century, Hassidic Judaism is a relative newcomer to the landscape of Jewish traditions. I think Hassidism is cool, but it is in no way the sole heir to millennia of Jewish tradition.

Truth #3 – There is exactly one student on this campus who practices Chabad Judaism. His name is Howard Neur. I love Howie. He’s really cool, thoughtful, and interesting, great to talk to about Judaism, math, life, whatever. But when Urken offers Howie as an example of someone who the CJL doesn’t serve adequately, he gives us probably the most disingenuous argument of all time. I do not mean that to be hyperbolic. Howie’s a great guy, but he’s the only person on campus for whom the CJL is not Kosher enough.

Truth #4 – The Chabad mantra “A Jew is a Jew is a Jew” is not as feel-good as you think. First of all, the mantra has an inductive caveat – a Jew is a Jew is a Jew (who has a Jewish mother). Moreover, the slogan actually proclaims the non-existence of Jewish denominations. A Reform Jew is a Jew, as is a Conservative one, as is an Orthodox one, as is a Hassidic one. All are one in Chabad, whether they like it or not. The catchphrase disguises beliefs that many who see the issue of a Chabad chaplaincy as one of religious freedom would find quite objectionable.

Truth #5 – Rabbi Webb is not the only person on campus “who truly learn[s] the Torah and Jewish scripture.” The very statement that he does belies a particular idea of what constitutes the study of Torah that is not shared by many people on this campus and elsewhere. There are plenty of Jews on this campus who learn Torah without Rabbi Webb. Even some non-Jews. Oh my!

Truth #6 – Rabbi Webb is not an evil person. In point of fact, he is really nice, outgoing, very smart, and cares deeply about serving Jewish students. I respect his commitment and caring immensely. Eitan is also really interesting to talk to. In my experience with Eitan, Joe Skloot’s invective is entirely unfounded.

Truth #7 – Rabbi Roth is not an evil person. Nor is she the toadstool of an “Aryan” Tilghman. Whatever you may think of Rabbi Roth, her ideas about Judaism, the kind of leader that she is, or her personal politics, she is a genuine and nice human being. Despite Will Scharf’s harsh words, I do think that she would take the time to drive to the graveyard for your grandmother’s funeral. If, that is, you had taken the time to get to know her.

So I was shooting for Ten Truths. I guess I fell a bit short of divinity. Nonetheless, I’ll give a shot at synthesis.

Chabad does provide social and religious services to students on this campus. Eitan does a great job – he teaches people things they want to learn, organizes really cool events, and publicizes them really well. Lots of students prefer the environment fostered by Rabbi Webb to that of the CJL. There is a certain personal touch to Eitan and Gitty that sits in modest contrast to the CJL. At the same time it would be false to paint this issue as one of religious freedom – the CJL has not prevented anyone from practicing Judaism as they see fit. Rabbi Webb himself prays regularly at the CJL.

More accurately, it’s a matter of personal preference. Unfortunately, people seem to defend their personal preferences tooth and nail.

Former Chabad Student Board President Will Scharf ’08, calls Joe Skloot ’05 a “militant Reform Rabbi” as if Reform Judaism was the mark of the devil rather than a denomination of Judaism. Skloot, a Reform rabbinical student, on the other hand, seems to think that Chabad is akin to a fraternity in it’s relevance to campus life. Grow up, both of you.

Scharf, along with his father Michael Scharf ’64, think that denying Rabbi Webb chaplaincy is somehow anti-Semitic. Urken appears to agree, asking us whether “Princeton has progressed enough to accept as an official chaplain a bearded, be-yarmulked man.” In light of Princeton’s huge financial commitment to the non-denominational CJL, how we could possibly see the administration as anti-Semitic? While we speak of progress, why not also ask if Chabad is progressive enough to accept a yarmulke-wearing, Torah-teaching, female Rabbi?

Urken sees Chabad as the underdog in a campus wide Jewish war. To quote Urken as he does others, without permission, “It’s always fun to defend the underdog.” Indeed it is fun. However, I contest the idea that there is such a war, that Chabad is an underdog at all, or that it is permissible to treat the truth as malleable in defense of underdogism. I said earlier that I wouldn’t single Urken out. So I lied. The most pernicious thing about Urkens’ effete hipster monologues is that he knows the whole truth and withholds it deliberately.

Should Rabbi Webb be a recognized chaplain? Does personal preference a chaplaincy make? I don’t know and I really don’t care. Should people investigate matters fully and tell the whole truth? Hell yeah.