Elster's World

Thursday, December 28, 2006

My Shameful Secret

On the tail end of scandal in the J-Blogsphere, I feel bad to add to the pile. I really do. But my soul calls out for confession. So despite the bad timing, I must share my own dirty little secret:

I'm really begining to enjoy the 2006/2007 New York Knicks experience.

I know, I know - wasn't it Elster who just two weeks ago called the team an embarrasment and called for the coach's job? Yes it was, I admit it. But alot has happened since December 18. The Knicks are playing much much better basketball for starters. They are playing hard and they are playing like a team (though I am still hopeful the Knicks can succeed and Thomas still gets fired). So without further ado, my top ten reasons why you should start watching Knick basketball again:

10 - The comedic stylings of Isiah Thomas: There are the crazy suits, the smug smile, the angry threats directed at the other team's players. Someone get this guy his own show on Comedy Central. Sure as Bill Simmons would say, it's unintentional comedy, but that's often the best kind. But no matter how you slice it, he just puts a smile on your face.

9 - David Lee and Renaldo Balkman: Watching these two limited offensive players make impacts in all other areas of the game is fun. Lee is a rebounding fool who regularly goes for double doubles despite flopping between the starting lineup and bench like a fish gasping for water. He takes charges, playes hustle defense and only takes the shots he can make. Oh, and he rebounds like a sane Dennis Rodman. Balkman, booed lustily when selected in this past draft, plays strong defense, rebounds and blocks shots like someone 5 inches taller, and has a fine handle. And we haven't even mentioned the hair, which is like having a whole other player on the team. If he can learn to score, I see him as a more sane version of Ron Artest.

8 - The continuing development of Channing Frye: A very pleasant surprise as a rookie, Frye took a few steps back earlier this season. But since returning from an ankle injury, he has once again found his jumper and is playing very well. His rebounding is subpar (really needs to improve in this area), but he's developed moves going to the basket - allowing him to play both the 3 and the 4. And he has really good range on the jumper for a big man. He's clean cut and a good building block for the team.

7 - The stunning development of Eddy Curry: I HATED this trade when it happened and still worry that the Knicks will be giving a possible lottery pick to a Bulls team (and get back a crappy pick in the mid-20's next year) but Mr. Curry is begining to turn into the franchise-type, unstopable center many thought he would be when he turned pro after high school. He continues to develop and he's only 25. Needs to work on his free throw shooting and his mean streak (i.e. get one). As an added bonus, he has Ben Wallace's hair.

6 - The results of the Melee at Madison Square: Yes, the fight was ugly, terrible (insert your own word here). But the result? Thomas has been forced to use his rookies and younger players - and they have played with an energy and cohesion that the veterans don't possess. Since that game, the Kncks have lost just once and have three overtime victories despite being undermanned in each game.

5 - The possibility of getting stops: Though they have not all played in the same game yet (thanks to suspensions and injuries), the Knicks could put Q-Richardson and Jared Jeffries (and Balkman, another good defender), two legit stoppers, on the floor at the same time. Also, they can go huge with Richardson (6 feet 7 inches) at the 2 and three almost 7 footers up front. That's tall. Defense wins games and the Knicks potentially can put much better defenders on the floor now than in the past few seasons.

4 - Watching the wheels completely come off of Steve Francis: Much like seeing a car wreck with bodies strew all over the pavement, it's impossible to not watch the train wreck that is Francis' career. He's awful out there. He looks about 30 pounds too heavy, he has terrible wheels and I'm sure he couldn't even beat me off the dribble at this point. Since he never could shoot from the outside - and now he cannot drive to the basket - and he's too short and slow to contribute in other areas - he will shortly be another max contract guy getting almost no minutes. Bad times for him, good times for us. Much, much better to have the sublime Jammal Crawford in the lineup.

3 - Nate Robinson: He's 5 feet 7 inches tall (maybe), insanely talented, very exciting and completely uncoachable. When he's a 7 year veteran he will still be the guy who follows 4 straight turnovers with 10 straight points. There is neither a ceiling nor a floor for this guy, which is always fun.

2 - Seeing if, finally, Starbury can become Marbury: There is no doubt that Stephon Marbury is very talented - just look at last night's 41 point, 8 assist performance. The question is, can he ever be a team player? The Knicks have some talent, they need a floor general to maximize it. I have severe doubts that Marbury can be this guy. But maybe this is the team and the time. If Iverson can do it (and many people think he will be able to work with Carmelo Anthony), why not Marbury?

1 - Playoffs????: Seriously, not as crazy as it sounds. The Eastern Conference is a mess. The Knicks are currently 13-18 and in second place in the Atlantic. Now that they are playing well, they can probbaly sneak into the playoffs at .500 or so - not such a stretch for a team playing right now without its best player so far this season, Q-Richardson. And the Knicks have a lot to play for: Isiah's job (sadly), to stay out of the lottery and thus make their pick trade with the Bulls less of a big deal (could you imagine if the Knicks won the lottery and had to give the number 1 pick to the Bulls???) as well as pride.

So that's my dirty secret - I am secretly enjoying the Knicks this year. I even watch parts of games. I even root for them to win (earlier I was rooting for loses so Isiah would be fired).

As bad as some other blogger crimes? I don't know. But you can all judge my shame.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

DovBear Stikes Again - This Time By Accident

It seems the always controversial DovBear (no way I'm linking to him and directing even slightly more traffic his way) was caught plagiarising in no less that 14 separate instances on his blog. I'm way too lazy to actually write out my own thoughts on why plagiarism is bad (though I would think this to be obvious to anyone - stealing is bad). I'm also way to lazy to actually plagiarize someone else's thoughts on the matter. So instead, I'll link to Robert Avrech who did a nice job with this (as well as linking to other posts on the subject).

I'm also appalled by some of his supporters who seemd to think that since he's only done it a few times in thousands of posts, that makes it less of a big deal. Well, obviously those people have never written anything. Writing is creation. When an author pens an original thought, that line, that thought, belongs to them. When someone else takes it without permission, it is no different than stealing a painiting or hell, someone's wallet. Stealiong someones thoughts is always a big deal.

The truth is, I had previously stopped reading DovBear because I simply found him to be way too overbearing. I am against people who stir up controversy for the sake of controversy, a DovBear staple. In fact, DovBear's blog that was one of the prime reasons I wrote Machlokes and it's satirical follow up Public Service.

So DovBear's actions, to me, are a serious offense. Even if it's only happened a few times. And this time the controvery stirred up was unintentional.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Wet, Wild and Victorious

The table was set last night for the type of gut wrenching loss that life-long Jet fans know only too well (and that newbies will hopefully not have to discover over the next 10 or 15 years). Fans like Joe and I had really bad feelings about this game. The Jets were playing the Dolphins on a rain soaked Monday night to keep their playoff road in their own hands - a win against Miami and a win next week at home against the putrid Raiders and the Jets would make the playoffs after last year's 4-12 debacle.

But before we get to the game to notes on the Giants (ah suspense):

- Tom Coughlin needs to be fired after the season, regardless of whether or not the Giants somehow back into the playoffs. They have lost 6 of 7 and they are getting increasingly worse as the season wears on. Eli Manning's backwards spiral is the most glaring - but the stupid penalties, awful drops and hideous playcalling all point to the same thing - Coughlin must go. He's lost the team and the fans. Is ownership really going to rely on him turning this thing around next year? The only thing that can save his job (in my opinion) is some against-all-odds type run in the playoffs to the NFC championship game at least.

- Speaking of Manning - Is there a Giant fan in the world (except, perhaps Archie?) who isn't rueing this deal? Would you rather have Manning, who clearly peaked as a QB last season (and even then he wasn't all that good) or the suddenly emerging Phillip Rivers, Shawn Merriman and another high pick? Exactly. His bounce pass out of the backfield to a running back on Sunday was the absolute low point of his season.

Now back to the show:

Last night's game was ugly for the first 40 minutes - Chad Pennington was clearly effected by the rain and Joey Harrington was, well, he was Joey Harrington. I don't know how he still has a job in the league but last night I was sure glad he did. Neither team could move the ball on offense at all and it appeared that Pennington was attempting to kill receiver Laverneous Coles by throwing slow, wobbly balls at places where Coles was getting shellacked by Dolphin defenders. Coles was hit hard three times in the first half, culminating with what appeared (to me at least - Theisman said it was a forearm) to be a helmet to helmet hit by Zach Thomas which dazed Coles and kept him out of the rest of the half. He returned in the second half but was admittedly woozy, ending up with 2 catches for 9 yards.

I ignored the chest pains and watched Pennington, under extreme up the middle pressure, get off his best throw of the night, a 30 something yard strike to Jerricho Cotchery for a huge score. (On a side note, after listening to Tony Kornheiser rip Pennington and his arm all game, it was nice to see Penningotn make a great throw like that. Really Tony, your daughter can throw better than Pennington who has twice led the Jets past the first round of the playoffs and has thrown for more than 3,000 yards this season despite two major shoulder surgeries? Really? Jackass.)

Then all hell broke loose. With the Jets up 10-7, the defense made a huge stop, forcing a punt. A poor punt ensued, but ended up hitting linebacker Brad Kassel's elbow and Miami recovered. For a few minutes as i contemplated another Jets loss at the hands of the cruel, cruel foorball gods, I wondered if Mrs. Elster was going to come down the stairs the following morning to find my carcass on the floor with a Munch-like shreik on my face. With a short field, Miami settled for a field goal and tied the score at 10.

The came the great Leon Washington run and Mike Nugent's big kick and it was all over - the Jets had won a wild one 13-10 and all that was standing beween them and the playoffs was a home game against the Raiders next week.

Some notes from the night:

- Mike Nugent has really turned his season around, making some clutch kicks and hitting a bunch in a row (his streak, I believe is at 15 but I'm not 100% sure) after a terrible start. I'm not saying he was worth a second rounder (he still gets no distance on his kickoffs) but at least he is no longer a complete bust. I'm starting to not feel terrified every tme he trots onto the field and that's something.

- I think the Jets really missed Cedric Houston last night. He is much quicker than Kevan Barlow but just as tough inside. I think he could have been more successful than Barlow.

- The Monday Night Football crew is terrible - especially Tony Kornheiser who adds nothing to the show. They have no chemistry and made the broadcast paindul to watch. The sideline interview with the Williams sisters was some of the most horrible television ever produced.

- You really have to hand it to Chad Pennington. Despite being really thrown off by the rain and his throws looking bad, he managed to show up when it counted - converting 2 huge third downs with his legs and a couple more with his arm - as well as making a tremendous throw to Cotchery under pressure for the touchdown.

And so it comes down to next week. The Jets contol their playoff destiny and are playing a Raiders team which is probably intentionally tanking it at this point to secure the number one pick in the draft next year.

So why do I have such a bad feeling about next week's game?

Monday, December 25, 2006

New Storyteller's Post

Here's my little present to you...2 days after Chanukah but way early for Purim.

The reason I'm so nervous right now? HUGE game for the Jets tonight against Miami. If they win, they are in the driver's seat for the playoffs. Lose and...well let's just say Elster's World will be gloomy for a while. Wish me (us) luck.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

New Storytellers Post Up

David on the Lake graces us with an unsolicited post (my favorite kind). It's an ode to Twain. Check it out.

Please also read the link to MOC's plea right below.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Favor for a Fellow Blogger

At the request of Blogger MOC, please read this.

Have We Made Enough Substantial Progress Yet?

Substantial Progress.

That is what Jimmy (I have no idea what I am doing running professional sports organizations) Dolan mandated from Knicks coach Isiah Thomas this season on the heels of the Larry Brown debacle last year. Show ownership that the roster Thomas assembled were not a hodge- podge of players who could never play together. Show ownership that you could squeeze more wins out of the same group than Brown did. Show ownership…something.

After Saturday’s disturbing brawl with Denver, the question needs be asked. Has Thomas shown us all enough that it’s time to cut the cord with him once and for all and blow up this disaster once ad for all?

Reports are surfacing that Thomas may have ordered the hard hit on a Nuggets player as retaliation for the fact that Nuggets coach George Karl left his starters in when the game was essentially over and was letting his players run up the score. (It should be noted that Karl and Larry Brown are very good friends and Karl has been openly critical of Thomas and the way the Knicks handled the Brown situation 0 so it’s not inconceivable that is exactly why those starters were still on the floor.) In fact the tape of the game seems to indicate that Thomas warned Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony (a total thug in his own right) not to venture into the lane. 17 seconds later, Mardy Collins clothes lined a Nuggets player and it was the 2004 Pistons Melee all over again (though not nearly as bad).

Sure Anthony was the worst offender. But still, the Knicks could not possibly be a bigger embarrassment in the league right now. They have just 9 wins, cannot win on their own floor and despite oodles of “talent”, they flat out stink. Mix in a healthy dose of “this is the roster that Thomas himself created as team president”, and who else in the world can we blame for this mess?

A week ago, Dolan had once again confirmed that Thomas has until the end of the season to show the progress. But shouldn’t promoting brawls and putting out an awful product every night speed up the process? Is Cablevision really going to force us to watch this for the remainder of the season when everyone knows there is no way Thomas can turn this thing around now. It’s a bigger mess than last year – if only because no one considered Brown a joke.

So please, Jimmy D, we are begging you here. Just pull the plug. We don’t even care who you bring in to coach – just get rid of Thomas before you lose your fan base for good.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Loveable Laverneous

First a quick word that has nothing to do with the New York Jets:

Whether the timing was intentional or not, kudos to 60 Minutes for running a story about the until now closed Holocaust archives in Germany - recently opened to the public for the first time. Millions and millions of files of all the people killed by the Nazis were made public. The information that these murderers collected (including mail records for the prisoners - like they had people alive to even send mail) was unbelieveable.

The show even brought three survivors to the archives to examine records about themselves from when they were prisoners. They saw their own handwriting on their admittance cards to camps like Buchenwald and matched the serial numbers on the cards to the numbers forever seared into their own flesh. Very powerful stuff.

At a time when the Iranian president is denything that the Holocaust even took place, 60 Minutes showed 16 MILES OF DOCUMENTED EVIDENCE THAT IT DID - including Adolph Hitler's birthday present, that a Jew would be killed every 2 minutes.

One more note - it occured to me as I watched this that the last of the living witnesses to the Holocaust are slowly dying out. The onus will be doubled on every living Jew to NEVER FORGET even when all the survivors are gone.

After last week’s disappointing loss to the Buffalo Bills, this week’s New York Jets tilt with the Minnesota Vikings became an absolute must win in terms of playoff implications. And while that sentence was ugly (as was the game at times), there was nothing ugly about the W the Jets earned after 60 minutes of play.

The game started horrifically as Pennington fumbled the ball on the second play of the game (and rookie center Nick Mangold lying on the ground with an apparent leg injury), setting up a Brad Johnson TD toss and a quick 7-0 Vikings lead. It seemed as though the wheels, which had begun falling off the Jets season last week, were going to completely snap off early. But on the very next drive (with Mangold back at center and uninjured), Pennington led the Jets on a beautiful, mostly pass drive, and they quickly tied the score at 7-7.

And that set the trend for the entire game. Minnesota’s defense came into the game allowing less that 55 yards a game rushing and the jets used a short, precision passing attack in lieu of running the football. The results, Pennington went 23 of 39 for 339 yards, one touchdown toss and one terrible interception (which had the added negative bonus of almost killing Laverneous Coles – more on him in a second). They got tough inside yards from Cedric Houston (21 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown) and ran the passing game to perfection. Pennington even took a few shots down the field, including a 52 yard pitch and catch with Justin Mcareins.

The defense held up its end as well – giving up only 68 yards in the ground. Much of the Vikings 270 yards in the air came with the game well decided.

Mike Nugent (dare we say the accurate, long footed Mike Nugent?) kicked four field goals after a botched hold on his first attempt, including a 52 yarder, and special teams were solid in all aspects. Wallace Wright continues to be effective as a gunner on punts and kickoffs.

But the real star of the game, start to finish, was Laverneous Coles. His 12 catches for 144 yards and a score told half the story. He made at least two sensational grabs and a tough touchdown reception as well. He led a Jets receiving corps which made all the catches – no bad drops, no bobbles – they caught everything thrown at them.

The coaching staff did a nice job of getting the team to rebound from an atrocious previous week and coordinator Brian Schottenheimer came up with the perfect offensive game plan to counter the Vikings run defense. We will simply pretend that the 3 false start penalties on four plays in one series in the second half (completely inexcusable) never happened.

Will the Jets make the playoffs? It’s still too early to tell. But had the Jets rolled over after last week’s tough loss, it would have been over. Now the Jets go to Miami for a Christmas Day battle with the Dolphins (6-8) and their season will be on the line. And if they win, they play New Year’s Eve against the Raiders and their season will still be on the line. Like Joe said last week, meaningful games in December.

And when your team went 4-12 the year before, that’s a big deal.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Don't Sit Idly By

Sometimes things happen in the world which demand, simply put require, us, as Jews, to take a stand. To raise our voices and say “no, we will not silently stand by while these things occur”.

Sadly, there are many instances recently which call for us to speak. I have previously posted about the scandal surrounding Yehuda Kolko (will not call him Rabbi here, as far as I’m concerned he has lost his ordination the first time he touched a boy) and will not do so again. You can read my thoughts on it here. Suffice it to say, if the accusations turn out to be true (and let’s face it, where there’s THAT much smoke, you know damn well there’s a fire), then there is a special place in hell where he, and hopefully those who shielded him all those years, will burn eternally for their sins. I do not want to rehash this issue again, you can find it as much as you like at other blogs. Writing about this disgraceful human being once was enough for me.

But Kolko’s acts are small potatoes compared to the international conference currently going on that “examines” the “myth” of the Holocaust. This sham is being headed by non other than Israel hater Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and brings together some of the most stunningly awful people in the world – ranging from Islamic fanatics to KKK members, European “intellectuals” who deny the Holocaust and, most horrifyingly of all, members of Ultra Orthodox Jewish groups who hate the state of Israel so much, that they seem to have forgotten that the Holocaust has nothing to with Israel. They would rather deny that their own grandparents and great grandparents were wiped out in Europe, and ally themselves with the most evil of men, than stand by silently while the State of Israel exists.

How can one stand up in the face of such fanaticism? Does it even pay to give these people the time of day or do we just ignore them?

Though Britain and America, and of course Israel, have harshly condemned this conference, the real question is, where are all the groups and countries who condemn Israel at the slightest drop of a hat? Why aren’t they all screaming from the rooftops that this conference is a disgrace? Where is the outcry from the United Nations? How is it that people can simply sit back and say nothing while the souls of the voiceless six million are forced to suffer once more?

The answer is, that we cannot be silent. And I for one will not be silent. Though my voice may be small, it will be heard. And I encourage each and every one of you to speak out as well. To be silent in the face of evil is tacit agreement with that evil. Well I do not agree. I condemn. Ahmadinejad gains power each time his madness goes unchecked. He is turning one of the most dangerous countries in the world into one of the most important as well. Does anyone really think a man this insane would really hesitate attacking Israel with nuclear weapons if Iran develops a nuclear weapons program? He routinely calls for Israel to be wiped off the map, and with him it just doesn’t seem like his threats are empty.

And he continues to grow stronger as the world watches in silence. Though I do not agree with a lot of this country’s recent policy, I do applaud the fact that the White House recognizes the danger in Iran. That they see Ahmadinejad for what he is.

Quite simply, a monster.

Monday, December 11, 2006

New Storyteller's Submission

- The great Maggid of Bergenfield checks in with a long awaited update to Storytellers. Please check it out here. You can also check out the Maggid's site weekly as he brings nice parables on the weekly parcha. it's really good stuff.

- I cannot rationally discuss the putrid stinkfest otherwise known as the jet game this week so there will be no update. I'm sure Joe gives it fine service.

- Please check out the 2 posts below. They are some of my better recent stuff.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Public Service

In light of my heavily traffic-ed last post (I got record setting hits for me at least) - I thought that, in order for us all to better understand what we are talking about when we are bashing people different than us, I would publish a Guide To All Of The Sects Of Judaism. You know, to make everyone's generalizations regarding everyone else much easier. Obviously, and in the interest of time, I am cutting corners - but I'm sure you all realize that people can be summed up in a sentence or two so it's totally ok. So without further ado, a handy dandy guide to All Of The Sects Of Judaism* (I hope everyone realizes to take this post in the spirit in which is it meant):

*Please note, this guide only works in America. Israeli sects are way beyond my simple grasp.

Reform: Mmmmmm, Pork

Conservative: "I hope there are enough parking spaces in shul this shabbos. Last week I had to park my car 2 blocks away and, get this, walk to shul!"

Left Wing Modern Orthodox: Uses his knowledge of the Talmud and other Judaic sources to find a Kulah for internet porn.

Modern Orthodox Centrist: (Wait, do these people really exist in the Real World or only on paper? Besides the Rav, of course.)

Right Wing Modern Orthodox: Really, really wants to live a totally Torah life but can't quite seem to give up on Lost, The Amazing Race, 24 and ER. Still trying to figure out why some kids at the co-ed camp his daughters go to were caught using drugs and alcohol during learning groups.

Yeshivish: Must wear a white shirt and black pants at all times (yes, even to sleep) and, of course, a hat on shabbos. Must be armed with a list of 20 yiddish phrases - one of which can be used in any situation. If single, he's either (i) tall, lanky, acne faced (greasy, scraggly beard optional) and not showered, or (ii) a little too muscular. If married, it's to a Hot Chanie.

Yeshivish Hocker: Same as above except he's limited to 10 yiddidh phrases, doesn't know which way Hebrew is read and he is wearing an enormous key ring with dozens of keys that don't open anything/turn anyhting on. Oh and he's an active member of Hatzolah.

Left Wing Chassidish: He's obviously wearing all the right garb, but you'll see him at the Williamsburgh Blockbuster exactly 35 seconds after Havdallah on Saturday night. He makes no bones about his reconcilliation between the tenets of his faith and his love of Keira Knightly, who he thinks was just fabulous in Bend it Like Beckham.

Centrist Chassidish: On top of the right garb (see above), you will never see Mr. Centrist Chassid in the Williamsburgh Blockbuster 35 seconds after havdalah on motzei shabbos. That's because he drives to the non-Jewish area of Brooklyn to get his movies, thank you very much.

Right Wing Chassidish: Finally we come to the holiest of the lot. The Right Wing Chassidish man. And what, you ask, sets this most holy of creatures apart from all others? Is it the flowing beard? The earth shattering piety? The way he avoids eye contact with any woman, including his own wife and daughters? No my friends. It's the fact that when he purchases a tv, he brings it home in an "air contioner" box so no one knows he has one.

We here at Elster's World hope that this Guide will serve you well the next time you are "forced" to write an angry, hate-filled comment on a blog about someone who is different than you. Because after all, "know thine enemy", right?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


- Did you know that the secular Jews of Israel were the cause of the war with Hezbollah this past summer?

Actually no, it was the Chareidim and their intolerance of anyone not like them (especially homosexuals) that caused the war.

- Did you know that American Chassidim are a bunch of insular, Kool-Ade drinking cultish wackos who force their families to live like they do or face terrible consequences?

Actually, it’s the modern orthodox Jews that are the problem. They are a bunch of hypocritical, have your cake and eat it too phonies who think you can live a Torah lifestyle while still floating around in the secular world.

-Did you know the “frummies” moved into Far Rockaway and destroyed the once proud White Shul (all while single-handedly refusing to pay dues)?

Actually no, it was the old time, modern orthodox Jews who refused to bend to the will of the new majority.

- Did you know that the women of Lawrence are a bunch of hypocrites too? They pretend to be “very frum” but we all see them walking around Central Avenue in their too tight shirts and, gasp, long shaitels.

Well at least they are better than their more modern counterparts who dress in such a way that you honestly could not tell them apart from non-Jews walking the same streets.

And on and on it goes. The more I jump from J-blog to J-blog, the more I see that the battle lines of the posters, and those commenting, are as clearly drawn as can be. Simply put, the majority of J-blog readers and writers fall into one camp or another. There is such a lack of color, it is all black and white, that I find myself wondering if there is something wrong with me for not seeing things as clearly as they do. The amazing thing is that both sides are so convinced they are correct, I find myself bewildered re: how every single issue has two right answers that are exactly 180 degrees apart from each other.

I will not pretend this is a new problem. I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half (give or take) and I guess the opposing masses have always been there. When I was more of a rookie, I just assumed I had stumbled onto the blogs where everyone fought all the time. Then as I became more confident in my own blog (as well as the limited number of blogs I tried to read), I simply stopped reading the incendiary blogs I had first started on. I stayed away from blogs which talked for the most part about politics or religion – I read blogs to escape – and so I tried to stick with the entertaining blogs.

Recently (and due mostly in part to slower days in the office as the year winds down), I have come back to these blogs and I am really disturbed by all of the negative energy there. As I mentioned above, people seem to align themselves in the extremes. Something is good or that thing is bad. There is simply no in between.

Sometimes, this is fine. When the topic is a movie, I have no problem with the definitive “I hated Borat, it sucked”. I do, however, have problems with people making such definitive statements about more serious topics – like "are Chassidim good or bad"? or "are Modern orthodox people really considered Jews"? or "since the OU is a modern orthodox hechsher it is not reliable to any 'yiddidhe neshama'".

These extremes bother me to no end. It’s funny, I recently stumbled upon the blog of a Chassidish man who no longer believes in Chassidism at all – he felt so closed off from reality that he eventually decided to just not believe at all. Sure, he still has all of the external trappings, but that is only so that his children can get married to “fine” matches. He writes of his double life and the toll it takes on him. He is constantly asked by people commenting: why not just live a Jewish, but not Chassidish life – why not live as a Modern Orthodox Jew? His answer, basically, is that modern orthodoxy is a big form of hypocracy – trying to be Torah Jews while living a non-Torah lifestyle is simply an unattainable goal, he argues.

And this type of answer just kills me. Here’s a guy who you would think would at least try to be more tolerant of things (and beliefs) which are different than him. Instead, he simply groups all "MO’s" into one big category of "hypocrites".

But the question is, does he even understand that not all modern orthodox Jews are the same any more than Satmar chassidim are like Lubavitch? And how offended would this same man be if some ignorant modern Jew would proclaim “all Chassidim are the same”. "The same?" he would ask. "Feh, you are an ignoramus." Well couldn't that possibly be true about modern orthodoxy as well?

I recently finished Unchosen – The Secret Lives of Chassidic Rebels, written by Helena Winston. She focuses (narrowly) on a few cases of Chassidm who have left the fold and she declares that Chassidus is suffering from a problem – too many of its people are finding themselves repressed and are thus leaving the fold. In the book she (an unaffiliated Jew) makes the same mistake re: modern orthodoxy – by definition (or so she seems to believe those chassidim who tell her this) a modern orthodox woman wears pants and doesn’t cover her hair when she gets married. But that’s simply false. There are plenty of so-called MO women who wear tzniuous skirts and hair coverings after marriage and, GASP, follow the Torah's other commandments as well.

The point, of course, is that we cannot simply group people together into extremes, into camps, into black and white. People are too individual for that. Even groups are too unique for that. But if that isn’t your philosophy, then you simply don’t care enough to learn about your “enemy”. It's oh so much simpler to just throw them on the bonfire too.

Machlokes. In the time of the Talmud, machlokes described the arguments of the sages regarding various legal points of Jewish law. But that was the beauty of the talmudic machlokes. I once read (cannot remember where) that while the sages disagreed on the means, they always agreed on the ends. For example: You cannot eat milk right after meat according to all, the communities simply argued over how long you must wait. Everyone agreed you must check certain rows of a wine cellar for Chametz prior to Pesach – Beis Hillel and Beis Shammai simply argued over how one fulfills his checking requirements. The means were always agreed upon.

Today, it’s simply not like this anymore. It is almost like there are multiple forms of Judaism. And everyone must pick a side. You either wear jeans or you wear a Streimel. You either drink all milk (per Rav Moshe) or non-cholov yisrael is treif. There simply isn’t a middle ground. And as the middle disappears, we actually are creating multiple forms of Judaism.

Strife is part and parcel with our people. Three Jews, four opinions is the saying (or something relatively close to that). The question is, where does it end? The vitriol I see on blogs – the anti- whatever sentiment, is too strong to be just there for incendiary purposes. Everyone seems to have an agenda – which is to push their point of views. To spread, dare I say, hate.

They don’t see it that way of course. After all, when you speak the truth how can that be considered hatred? But you know what? I’m going to take an extreme position, I’m going to emphatically state that it is hatred that is being spread – it is hatred that you feel when you start writing an anti - whatever rant. It’s in your words. It’s “they” and “them” - like you are talking about a different race as opposed to a different sect of your own people. It’s about spreading blame for all of your troubles.

I have no answer for the question, but here it is. Why? Why do some people feel they have more in common with the slutty girl in the office next door who comes into work every Friday morning hung over and with crazy stories from the night before than they do with a tzniuously dressed woman from Boro Park? Why do the ultra orthodox consider modern Jews as though they are not jews at all? Why so much strife? Why the machlokes? Why the absolute lack of tolerance?

Silly me but - why can't we all just get along?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Gang Green Lights Up The Frozen Tundra

Dominating performance by the Jets today on offense, defense and special teams.

They crushed Green Bay from the opening gun, survived a poor third period, and won 38-10 at historic Labeau. A couple of missed penalties by the refs (2 blatant pass interference cnon-alls that I can think of) did not mar the outcome.

The Jets were magnificent in the first half, scoring four touchdowns and an FG on their five possessions. Chad Pennington realy knows how to manage a game - making his poorer decisions only after the Jets had a huge lead.

Once again, the Jets defense did a much better job of stopping the run. Bryan Thoman continues to evelove and Kerry Rhodes, quiet most of the game, had another pick.

All in all the most impressive win of the season and perhaps one of the most impressive wins of the last several seasons.

One more note - the offensive line looks better every game. With the exception of pete Kendall, everyone on the line is young - which bodes well for the future of the line and the offense. Speaking of improvement, Jerricho Cotchery is turning himself into an elite receiver.

Good game all around.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Short Fridays

I'm really tired today, having suffered through some failed attempts to "Ferberize" my littles angel. And so, here I am, 11:30 in a morning that is creeping by and not feeling like doing anything more than exchanging cryptic emails about Tom Glavine (well at least one of you gets that) - but finding it difficult to complain too much.

See, being an observant Jew has some advantages. One of them is the winter Fridays at work. With suns setting in the four o'clock range, I'll be out the door at 1:30 today. 1:30 to leave to catch a 2:00 train - getting me home at 3-ish and giving me about an hour to get ready for the upcoming Shabbos. So even though the day is creeping, and even though it's only 11:30 - I'm still leaving to go home in two hours. Excellent.