Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Red Skull Scares Me

This entry was posted in Culture, History on by .

Confession time: Captain America has never been my favorite superhero. I’m a Marvel boy, tried and true, and even though the X-Men have my heart and most perfectly embody my geekiness, the Avengers, the team that banded together around Captain America and have him as their leader (more or less), are probably my favorite superhero team.

So, as you might imagine, I’m watching the news and the previews of Captain America: The First Avenger pretty intensely.

I don’t know if you caught the Super Bowl (I didn’t) or the TV commercials (I’ve been trying to), but there was a spot for Captain America, and it’s online. It starts as standard superhero fare — there’s this kind of wimpy soldier who gets put through the ringer, an explosion or two, he get stuck into a tube and comes out all steroidy and pumped up…

And then this guy whips on screen.


The Red Skull scares me. No, more than that: He freaks the hell out of me. It’s bad enough that most supervillains have names like Doctor Doom or Darkseid and can blast nuclear endorphins out of their palms, but this guy is an actual Nazi. He shows up in comics wearing a swastika armband. He peppers his speech with references to “the annihilation” and “the future Reich.” In a few of the more noiry comics, his I’ll-get-you speeches include personal reminisces of him and Hitler.

And this is what I was reading as a ten-year-old.

The Red Skull has always been a serious character. His “skull” used to be a mask, but at some point it became his skull. More recently, he was shown (in Ultimate Avengers) giving a superhero’s wife a choice between stabbing him to death with a fork or throwing their infant child out the window. (She chose the latter. He did the former anyway.) He’s dabbled in genetic manipulation, social manipulation (he’s been elected president and been one of the richest businessmen in the United States) and mind control. He rarely just takes a gun or a bomb and blows up Fort Knox. Instead, he just messes with our heads, which is worse, or quietly plots genocides. He’s not just evil. He’s creepy.

What do you think — is the Red Skull just pushing our buttons? Or is he pushing the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable?

Posted on February 9, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Jewish Review of Whiskies

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

If you were trying to buy my love you should start with whiskey, and mix in some excellent novels and good coffee. But whiskey is definitely where you start.

But one of the problems I have with whiskies is it’s hard to know what I’ll like, and who to trust as a good source of recommendations. Happily, I finally have a reliable source, and I say reliable because he’s Jewy, and what could be more reliable than that?

Behold, the Jewish Single Male Whisky Society, a blog that reviews Scotch and Japanese Whisky, American Whiskey and Bourbon. It is thorough and awesome and I cannot wait to read all of the archives. My only real complaint: no love for Irish whiskey? Wtf? I like me some Connemara, man.

(H/T to David A.M. Wilensky)

Posted on February 8, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Rise Of Online Jewish Deals

This entry was posted in Practices on by .

Over the past few months, I’ve signed up for a couple of the online coupon deals like Groupon and KGB, mostly because I like getting things for cheap. It’s a scientific fact that food tastes better when it’s 50% off.

The only issue I have with those sites is that they involve a daily e-mail for material that I really don’t care for. Because the only specialization you can chose when you sign up is the city you live in, a lot of the deals are useless to me beyond the fact that they are for stores in New York.

But lately, I’ve noticed two websites that have popped up on the net that make it a little easier for me to find a deal that I like. At first, I saw JDeal.com. A short, sweet name that is pretty straight to the point. But then, yesterday, I saw a second website pop up with the absurd name (though I’m sure their deals are fine) of Jewpon.com. Really? Jewpon? That’s the best you could come up with?

Of course, you have to live in a city that has enough Jewish stores to make it worth while to sign up. Currently Jewpon advertises in 29 cities, however, after a quick run through the site, I noticed a couple of the cities have yet to advertise a deal. Jdeal, on the other hand, has 11 cities, but they all seem to work.

So far, these sites have been pretty good. I’ve signed off on a couple of deals. The question is, can they sustain it? I mean, how many Jewish restaurants are there? And even more, how many of them are willing to give 50% deals in exchange for some advertising?

It’s yet to be seen whether these sites will last, but if you live in a big city, you might as well sign up and save a couple dollars.

Posted on February 8, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

A Jewish Response to Suicide

This entry was posted in Life on by .

Every year in America, nearly 35,000 people commit suicide. Many Jews are among those who take their own lives, and in an effort to respond to the absence of Jewish resources for suicide prevention, Efrem Epstein has founded an organization called Elijah’s Journey: A Jewish Response to Suicide Prevention.

Tomorrow night (February 8th) Elijah’s Journey will be joining with Uri L’Tzedek and The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, NYC Chapter to offer a special inspirational Beit Midrash on the issue.  The event will be held at Drisha, 37 W. 65th Street from 7:15-9:00 PM.  Thanks to the generosity of AFSP NYC and Drisha, the event will be free.

The evening will include:

* Text study led by members of Elijah’s Journey and Uri L’Tzedek

* A discussion moderated by Chaim Nissel, Psy.D., Director of the Yeshiva University Counseling Center and Assistant Professor at Wurzwieler School of Social Work and Master Trainer, American Association of Suicidology

* Personal stories from members of the community who have been affected directly by the suicide epidemic

*   Information on how to get more involved in both general and Jewish communal suicide prevention efforts

If you’re in New York I encourage you to attend what is sure to be an important and inspiring event.

Posted on February 7, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Giving Us A Bad Name

This entry was posted in Culture, Israel on by .

People always say that Jersey Shore gives Italians, especially Italian-Americans, a bad name. I’ll buy that. The reason  I love watching the show so much every week is to see how terribly embarrassing the characters can be–not necessarily to Italians, really just to themselves.

I’d rank the “Should be ashamed of themselves” members of the cast as follows: The Situation, Snooki, Deena (the best cast member by far), Sammi, Ronnie, Vinnie, Pauly D.

Pauly D comes in last place in the rankings because he is the most self-aware. While the others get caught up in the free alcohol and lodging, Pauly D is pre-occupied with cashing in as much influence as he can with his 15 (turning into 20) minutes of fame. Whether it’s getting deals to DJ at random Jersey clubs or coming up with epic catchphrases (It’s t-shirt time!), Pauly D is the glue that keep the MTV show entertaining.

There is just one little negative side effect to his awesomeness: His Israeli stalker, Danielle.

I wrote about this lady last year when Season One was airing. To sum up though, he contributions to the Jewish community leave something to be desired.

But now that the cast has returned from Miami to the Shore for Season Three, we’ve gotten the return of the Israeli lady who, according to Pauly D, “stalked his entire life.” And last week, somehow, the producers of the show convinced Pauly D to invite her back to the house–basically so he can make fun of her and wear the “I Heart Jewish Girls” shirt she made him the summer before.

Luckily, Pauly D kicked Danielle out of the house without much of an incident. Let’s just hope that this is the last we’ve seen of her. Because that lady is giving all Israelis a bad name. Yuck.

Posted on February 7, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Best of the Week

This entry was posted in General on by .

You should know that when I say that this stuff is the best of the week, I don’t necessarily mean that it’s better than last week’s material. Then again, I’m not NOT saying isn’t better. That for you to decide. Or not.

Archeological discoveries in Israel, like most things in the country, turn out to be controversial. That’s right, that coin you found on Birthright may not be as valuable as you thought. Also, this article doesn’t cover that–it’s much more interesting.

Get rid of those cans of pre-made baked beans because we have an awesome recipe for vegetarian baked beans for you. We know you’ll enjoy.

Last Shabbat, I walked over to the tomb of President Ulysses S. Grant. Pretty awesome memorial if I must say so myself. However, did you know he had a thing in for the Jews? Read all about it.

This week marks the start of Adar. Simple enough? Not really. Read why the Jewish calendar can get a little complicated.

I think that’s it for now! See y’all next week.

Posted on February 4, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Daily Show Covers The Jewish Speaker

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

The blogs were going crazy this morning because the great Justin Bieber was on The Daily Show last night in a little gag where he and Jon Stewart switched bodies.

The blogs are going less crazy about an equally as funny sketch from last night’s show where John Oliver travels to Austin to do a report on the controversy behind the Republican Speaker of the House in Texas being Jewish. No, this isn’t a bunch of Jewish liberals seeing it as a shanda that a nice Jewish boy is a Republican. The controversy is around many evangelicals thinking that the speaker doesn’t have Christian values–because he’s Jewish.

Check it out:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Jewish Speaker of Texas State House
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

Posted on February 4, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Wise Fridays: National Responsibility

This entry was posted in Israel, Life on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“Happy is the country and happy the nation that can give an account of what it has taken from others, and more importantly, of what it has given to the heritage of all humanity. Woe to the country and nation that encloses itself within its own four cubits and limits itself to its own narrow boundaries, lacking anything of its own to contribute, and lacking the tools to receive from others.”

Rabbi Ben-Zion Uziel

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on February 4, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The Ones that Missed the Cut

This entry was posted in General on by .

Earlier this week, Saul Austerlitz wrote about his recent author tour and five not-as-terrible-as-you-think movies. He has been blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

One of the trickiest aspects of writing my book was figuring out how to structure it. After tinkering with a variety of approaches, I settled on 30 chapters, each dedicated to a single filmmaker or performer whose body of work I considered to be significant to the history of American film comedy. These 30 selections were joined by about 100 additional short entries on comic figures significant enough to deserve a mention, if not quite meritorious enough to earn a chapter of their own. 130 directors and actors seems like a lot, and I got to include most of the people I wanted, but as I expected from the outset, readers and reviewers have often been most interested in discussing the exclusions. (That is, after all, a significant part of the pleasure of assembling a list, and what is a book about film other than a bulked-up list of movie suggestions?) I’ve enjoyed the discussions, kept them in mind, and pondered who else might deserve inclusion. (Second edition, anyone?)

Here, then, are a handful of performers and directors who just missed the cut.

Steve Carell

The time between completion of a book and publication makes for strange gaps, including the exclusion of Steve Carell. With the one-two-three punch of Dinner for Schmucks, Date Night, and animated hit Despicable Me, 2010 was the year that confirmed Carell as one of the most successful comedians of the moment. I excluded him first time around because I felt that, even taking into account the brilliant 40-Year-Old Virgin and Little Miss Sunshine, Carell had too short a film resume to warrant inclusion (his vaunted television run as The Office’s Michael Scott notwithstanding). 2010’s parade of hits has meant that Carell must be acknowledged as a consistently funny performer. Carell can be a wizardly comedian, but the roles he has taken on have not always adequately reflected his mastery of a certain brand of goofy lassitude.

Zach Galifianakis

Superstar, or flash in the pan? I wasn’t entirely convinced by The Hangover, but this past season of Bored to Death, HBO’s sublimely stoned comedy series about New York neurotics (what up, Brooklyn!), gives me hope for Galifianakis’ future. Audiences felt that It’s Kind of a Funny Story wasn’t, but Galifianakis’ puppy-dog indie charm may be enough to propel him to a more lasting stardom nonetheless.

Danny Kaye

One of the funniest comedians of the 1950s not named Jerry Lewis, Kaye built his career on such light-hearted burlesques as A Song Is Born and The Court Jester, where he played a carnie posing as a court jester to take on an imposter king. Kaye made a career out of his bug-eyed expressions of panic and confusion. If Gary Cooper was the absent-minded professor to a T in Howard Hawks’ Ball of Fire, Kaye was a more-than-suitable replacement in “A Song Is Born,” Hawks’ musical update of the same material. Like Lewis, and other writers and performers of roughly the same era, like Woody Allen and Mel Brooks, Kaye was a product of the Catskills—a Borscht Belt comedian trained by the tough audiences of middle-class Jews on vacation, convinced they were being swindled out of their hard-earned dollars. After that, entertaining America was a breeze.

Leslie Nielsen

I included the ZAZ team of Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and David Zucker, the brilliantly sophomoric trio responsible for Airplane! and The Naked Gun trilogy. ZAZ were masters of laugh-out-loud idiocy, and one of their most dazzling strokes of genius was understanding the untapped comic potential of stolid 1950s leading men like Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and more than anyone else, the recently deceased Leslie Nielsen. Nielsen had been a mostly undistinguished distinguished gentleman in forgettable fare, best known for the sci-fi gem Forbidden Planet, before the ZAZ boys cast him in “Airplane!” Voila—F. Scott Fitzgerald’s dictum about there being no second acts in American life was instantly voided, with Nielsen finding renewed vigor as a ludicrous leading man, leading an off-key rendition of the national anthem, or disrupting a courtroom by forgetting to unclip his microphone before heading to the bathroom.

Saul Austerlitz, author of the recently published Another Fine Mess: A History of American Film Comedy, has been blogging for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning‘s Author Blog all week.

Posted on February 4, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Mice Are Cuter Than (Some) El Al Employees

This entry was posted in Israel on by .

One time I was going to Israel and at JFK was stopped to chat with one of the El Al employees whose job was to decide whether or not I’m a terrorist. He asked if I spoke Hebrew, what shul I went to (I patiently tried to explain to him about independent minyanim, but it didn’t go over that well) and then asked me what time candle-lighting was that weekend. At the time I lived in Iowa, so I said something along the lines of, “Hmm, well in Iowa City it’s about 5:30, but here in New York I guess it’s probably a little later? But I don’t know by how much, so maybe 5:45? I guess I should look it up.” About two sentences into my musing I realized that this guy had no idea what I was talking about. He was clearly secular, and just trying to guage if I was a “legit Jew.” I could just pick any time and say that was candle-lighting and he’d nod and tell me to have a safe journey. So I just firmly said, “5:48″ and was sent on my merry way.

Well, El Al security might be about to get way more adorable, with the addition of specially trained mice. They won’t ask you where you learned Hebrew, but they are really really good at sniffing out explosives. According to PopSci

The mice are trained to respond to the chemical traces of explosives in the air as a threat, prompting them to flee into a side chamber as if eluding a predator. Doing so triggers an alarm. More the one mouse must flee into the side chamber to sound the alarm, cutting down on false positives.

It may sound a bit strange, but these tiny security sentinels have a record that squeaks for itself. The device was tested last year in a Tel Aviv mall containing 1,000 shoppers, 22 of which were carrying mock explosives. The mice went 22 for 22.

Posted on February 3, 2011

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

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