Just When You Thought People Were Getting Smarter

no naziUnder no circumstances do I find Nazi references funny, cute or appropriate, but sometimes people are just stupid.

For instance, I expect some dumbass politician to accuse his opponent of being “soft on Hitler” because he opposes the death penalty; the guy’s idiot campaign manager probably told him it was a good way to get the Jew vote.

And when Madonna tells reporters that her treatment as the world’s first cone-breasted Kabbalist is the same one she imagines she’d receive if she joined the Nazi party, I think that her publicist must have been in the bathroom.

But when a pair of 13-year-old blond, blue-eyed twins sings about the glory of the Führer and the superiority of the white race, there’s no mistake here. The Nazi twins, named Lynx and Lamb, were featured on an ABCnews clip today and their site claims they’ll be “crossing over to the mainstream alternative rock scene” any day now.

If their cutesy Aryan Olsen twins gig doesn’t work out for them, I’m sure they have a future in hate porn.

On a related note, Spanish authorities are hot on the tail of infamous Nazi “Dr. Death,” now a decrepit 91. Hope ol’ Simon W. is smiling from above.

Smarter, Shmarter

Remember that study that came out a few months ago that “proves” the higher intelligence of Ashkenazic Jews is in our DNA? It seems I’m not the only one who finds such a theory disturbing: Jennifer Senior has published a verrrrry lengthy feature about why it’s such bad science.

The best parts of “Are Jews Smarter?”, however, are the quotes from the many Jews who dis the study, such as former mayor of New York Ed Koch, who declared,

“I have always believed that the smartest people in the world are Asians.”

Book Review: Unthinkable Thoughts

unthinkable thoughtsEven though it was duly mentioned in a post written from a press release last January, I finally got around to actually reading The Unthinkable Thoughts of Jacob Green by Joshua Braff. (It had been waiting on my nightstand for months while I muddled through Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, a densely written tome about magic and fairies in 19th century England that has absolutely nothing to do with Judaism, but I’m diverse like that. Highly recommend that one.)

First off, Unthinkable Thoughts was not nearly the arduous read as the book that came before it, thank Hashem. In fact, the narrative was so fast, funny and fresh that I ate the whole thing in a day.

Second son Jacob Green begins his story as a New Jersey yeshiva boy overshadowed by his older brother’s charisma but not nearly hidden enough to escape their control-freak father’s wrath. Abram Green believes himself to be the life of the party, the guy everyone loves to kibbitz with, but his children understand him to be a maniacal narcissist of the greatest order. Jacob, who can’t seem to finish his bar mitzvah thank you notes but can read Torah like an angel, is tormented by his father for the former but used by him for the latter to assuage his ego — “look at my son reading scripture! Aren’t I a wonderful Jew?”

Among the themes of coming-of-age and dysfunctional families, I found the one of “obligational Judaism” most fascinating. As someone who eagerly seeks out Jewish knowledge, the idea of having it shoved down one’s throat as a kid is horrifying. No wonder so many people who had religious upbringings completely turn away from their roots; the association of tyranny with Torah wouldn’t get me to synagogue after adulthood, either.

This isn’t the first Braff to write about a controlling father; Josh’s bro Zach cast Ian Holm as the psychiatrist who dopes his son to the gills to “save” him from the pain of paralyzing his mother in his movie Garden State. Brothers Braff swear up and down that neither father figure was autobiographical, but the similarities are there. I don’t know these boys, but if they were oppressed by their real dad, they certainly have their literary revenge.

Anyway, the best reason to read it is the dialogue — yeshiva boys screaming “Jesus Christ” at each other is just the beginning.

Is My Tinnitus Acting Up or Is Everyone Talking About This Book?

star bookThere’s been a little buzz going on in the (my) Jewish world (which merely means I heard it mentioned by an editor at work and my mother told me about it on the same day) about a new book called Stars of David: Prominent Jews Talk About Being Jewish by Abigail Pogrebin. Celebrity Jews who not only admit they’re Jewish but who get down and talk about Yom Kippur, Hebrew school and (not) keeping kosher? Dig it.

Turns out the buzz is getting louder by the minute: My favorite kvetch goddess Esther Kustanowitz not only features the book on her blog this week, but has interviewed Pogrebin, a former “60 Minutes” producer, about the process of sitting down and talking to the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Kenneth Cole and Sarah Jessica Parker about their “Jewishness.” (Not “Judaism;” if being a Jew is solely about religion there’d be very few Jewish celebrities.)

The interview is available as a pdf file from Esther’s post and you can order the book at your local independent bookstore.

No T-Shirt Of the Week?

travel bagIt’s finally happened; this site has featured every single slightly cool Jewish t-shirt available on the Internet. Next comes trying to fit all of them in this nifty yiddishkeit travel bag from Rabbi’s Daughters.

If there still room in this pocketbook to beat all pocketbooks (c’mon, doesn’t your bubbie call it a “pocketbook” instead of a purse?), I might have to broaden the category include all schmatas (rags), tsotchkes (little collectibles that collect dust) and chozzerai (crappy little collectibles that collect dust)!

Do You Lulav Sukkot?

sukkahI promised my son that this year, we would clear away the dog poop and broken glass and build a sukkah in the sad patch of earth we call our backyard. Bad Jewish Mother! Who designed a holiday to just sneak up like this when I’m still soaking the kugel dish from the post-YomKippur potluck?

I’m sure back in the agrarian days it was perfectly convenient to hammer together some sticks and a peek-a-boo roof and serve up a vat ofcouscous to the neighbors, but I’m notsomuch a “tool” kind of person, and those ready-made jobbies are too damn expensive. Combined with the worldwide lulav shortage* and the impossibility of finding an etrog at Safeway, it looks like Sukkot will go uncelebrated yet again at the Yenta household.

Unless we get to count making these delectable edibles.

Chag sameach best we can, right?

*Breaking news: JPost reports that one importer from Bnei Brak was able to bring 100,000 lulavs out of Egypt and break up the greedy cartel that was price-gouging the celebratory fronds. Talk about shaking ’em down!

Sometimes I Feel Like…Somebody’s Watching Me

Eye of G-dBehold “the Eye of God,” sent to me by my mother. From her e-mail, which was forwarded to her in Hebrew and English:

This photo was taken with the aid of the NASA Hubble telescope, and it only happens every 3000 years. It is called the Eye of God. A lot of miracles happened to those that have gazed upon this, so make seven wishes, even if you do not believe in it, and see what happens, what changes in your life. Send this to 18 (Chai) people on whom you would like to bestow well wishes.

Because I want to bestow well wishes on every single person who happens upon this site, I’m sharing it with you.

However, because I’m a nosy little thing, I’ve discovered that this lovely sentiment is a minor Internet hoax, although who benefits is beyond me. According to UrbanLegends.com and Snopes.com, it is indeed a photo, or rather a composite of a series of photos of the Helix Nebula taken by the Hubble telescope. And rather than it only occuring once every three millenia, it’s always there. Just like God.

So go ahead, enjoy it, but don’t feel compelled to wish so hard upon a star that you get a migraine.

Hat tip to my mom.

Madonna: Typical Pushy Jewish Woman

madgeOh yeah, the former Material Girl is taking her affinity for controversy to new heights: The NY Daily Dish reported last week that “her Madgesty” has long been kabbalah-courting Oprah Winfrey “in hopes that her fellow icon could help bring the Artist Occasionally Known as Esther’s belief system to mainstream America.” Stay tuned for a Religious Celebrity Spokesperson Death Match with Tom Cruise.

Also in the news before the High Holy Daze: Some rabbis have their tzitzit in a wad over her new album Confessions On A Dance Floor, which is dedicated to 16th-century kabbalist Isaac Luria.

“Jewish law forbids the use of the name of the holy rabbi for profit. Her act is just simply unacceptable and I can only sympathize for her because of the punishment that she is going to receive from the heavens,” Rabbi Rafael Cohen, head of a seminary named after Luria, told Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv.

Being the macher that she is, Madonna has done double duty by simultaneously making her new album and Isaac Luria household names. Sheesh, the least she could do is cut the rebbes some profit for the free publicity.