Saturday, March 31, 2007

WaPo Learns What Playtah Already Knows

The front page of the Style Section of today's Washington Post sports a story that's no news at all to our friend Playtah.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Poetic Justice?

Kudos to my friend Michel for e-mailing this to me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Magical Thinking

I'm overwhelmed again.

I cannot concentrate on my work and the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get.

(I spent some time on the Internet looking for the source of this phrase. I can't find one. The Amish use the word "hurrieder" to mean faster, and there are a zillion references in various places, but they always quote "my father" or "an old adage" or whatever. Anybody know the origin?)

I find myself longing to drop all my responsibilities, run to Atlantic City, make my fortune and quit my job.

I know that pshrinks and students of cognition label that sort of idea "magical thinking".

So I looked up magical thinking on Wikipedia and kicked myself in the head with a reminder of the connection between magical thinking and my mental illness. To wit:

Magical thinking in mental illness
Magical thinking is often intensified in mental illnesses such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or clinical depression. In each it can take a different form peculiar to the particular illness....

In depression, examples are generally more of the good luck charm variety, where the magical thinking is used to create confidence. Self-confidence is one of the first casualties in depression, so a surrogate object is invoked to bolster confidence....

I guess I'd better not quit my day job. Magic aside, my trip to Atlantic City a couple of weeks ago --- where I actually came out ahead --- has probably used up what gambling luck I have coming to me for a while.

But the Wikipedia entry has my feelings diagnosed, spot on. I've got precious little self-esteem at the moment, and I sure felt good when my blackjack bets were coming in and my alma mater was winning at basketball.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I Love It When My Hero is On the Front Page

Longtime readers may recall that one of my lifelong role models and heroes is the late community organizer Saul Alinsky.

I last blogged about his work and legacy in the last few paragraphs of this this post.

Today's Washington Post has a front page story on Alinsky and his work.

It turns out Hillary wrote her thesis on him and Barack spent three years working for the organization that advances Alinsky's legacy.

Here's its conclusion:

Chicago organizer Gregory Galluzzo, Obama's former supervisor, who likes to describe himself as Alinsky's St. Paul, believes that Obama's exposure to the organizer's liturgy taught him that wisdom can emerge from the grass roots. "Hillary," he said, "leans toward the elites."

But Galluzzo believes that both candidates were influenced by their encounters with Alinsky and his methods. "By either one of them being in office," he said, "we're going to have a government that's more responsive to the ordinary people."

Friday, March 23, 2007

Why I'm a Nationals Fan

Growing up, I was a fan of my hometown baseball team, the Rochester Red Wings. They were then the AAA-affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles. This was right in the midst of the O's decades- long run as the savviest and best run operation in baseball.

I saw Cal Ripken play third base as a minor leaguer. As a matter of fact, I once took a young lady of my acquaintance to her first professional baseball game, at Silver Stadium, to see the Wings play the Toledo Mud Hens. I got great seats, right by third base, and was rewarded with a nine-inning running commentary on how dreamy Cal's blue eyes were.

With the sting of that memory in mind, no O's fan was any happier than I when Earl Weaver made the fateful switch that changed Cal from a decent third baseman into the new archetype for a generation of shortstops.

When I moved to DC for college, my allegiance switched easily. I'd seen most of these guys play as minor leaguers. I was there for the '83 run to the World Series, the opening of Orioles Park at Camden Yards (still my favorite ballpark), and all of the well-deserved hoopla that accompanied Cal breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak.

So when DC finally landed the Nationals, I faced a dilemma. Could I have two favorite teams, the O's in the American League and the Nationals in the National?

I decided that was too much. I'd never lived in a town with a major league team before and, by gum, I was gonna be a homer. I retired my Orioles yarmulke and commissioned a Nationals one from

It helped that the Nationals' manager, for their first two years in DC, was Orioles hero and all-around class act Frank Robinson.

But the decision was still much easier than it should have been. Because of this man, Orioles majority owner and managing general partner Peter Angelos:

This billionaire bully has turned a storied franchise into little more than a laughing-stock. If the team were an airplane, this uber-troll's influence would have long since transformed it into a smoking hole in the ground.

Washington Post sports columnist Thomas Boswell is a national treasure. He combines deep insight into the game with unparalleled access and a writer's keen eye for detail.

Earlier this week, he summed up the problem(s) with Peter Angelos better than I ever could.

Check it out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

It's From a Midrash

In my previous post, I mentioned a Jewish tradition that supposes G-d's reaction to angels celebrating the death of the Egyptians at the Red Sea as the children of Israel escaped to freedom. Laughing ... asked

I don't remember any angels singing at the red sea.

The only singing angels I remember from the Bible were singing about the birth of Christ. You probably don't remember that one.

Seriously, is it actually in the Bible, or is this a later made up thing?

Fair question. The story comes from later rabbinic commentaries on the Hebrew Scriptures, called "Midrash".

Here's the best summary I could find easily on the web. It comes from an April 2003 sermon by Rabbi Melanie Aron. The whole sermon can be found here.
[The story is] found in the midrash and sometimes is printed in Haggadahs [Passover meal prayer books] around the reading of the ten plagues.

Imagine the angels watching anxiously as the Israelites leave Egypt and begin their march towards the desert. The rabbis describe the angels sort of like fans at a ball game, sitting up in the bleachers, watching what's going on, and cheering on their favorites.

Hurry up, the angels urge the Israelites, who are only slowly leaving Egypt.

It's taken some time to get the Israelites moving. Packing up their belongings is a job after all they've been in Egypt for 400 years. There are children to prepare for the trip and old people. The Israelites are unaware of any danger, but the angels can see everything at once, notice Pharaoh regretting his decision to free the people, and calling up his horsemen and chariots to chase after them and recapture them.

Oh no, the angels cry, when they see the Israelites heading off in the direction of the Sea of Reeds, the Pharaoh's chariots will catch up to them from behind. They'll be trapped, the angels moan, they can't move forward into the sea, and behind them is all the might of Egypt.

It's hopeless, they exclaim, there is no way out. The angels join in the cries of the Israelites, who by now have turned around and realize the desperateness of their situation.

Of course you know what happens next. In ancient times, since they didn't have night vision goggles, armies hunkered down in the dark and didn't attack. All night the two groups remain still, the Israelites at the shore of the sea, and the Egyptian army just behind them. Then a Ruach Kaddim, a wind from the east, creates a path through the sea.

Following Nachshon ben Aminadab, the first Israelite courageous enough to step into the sea, the Israelites are able to cross safely, but when the Egyptians follow with their soldiers and heavy chariots, they become stuck in the mud and as the waters come rolling back over them, they drown in the sea.

At that point the angels break out into song, they are so happy, so relieved that the Israelites are finally safe. All that God had done for the Israelites has finally paid off, the Israelites are free at last.

God sees the angel's rejoicing, but God isn't pleased. "My creatures are drowning in the sea", God says, "and you sing songs".

The Midrash tells us that God was not angry with the Israelites for singing and rejoicing at the shores of the sea. The people had just escaped great danger. It was only human that they express their relief and their joy. But the angels were supposed to have a somewhat broader perspective. They should have kept their awareness of the spark of God that is in every person, even the Pharaoh himself.

They should have remembered God's teaching, "it is not the death of the wicked that I seek, but only that he should turn from his evil ways and live."

That story from the ancient Midrash is preserved in our Passover seder rituals even to this day. When we come to the retelling of the ten plagues, we pour some wine out of our cup, or some families take a little bit of wine with their finger at this point. We show God that we understand that our cup of joy cannot be filled to the brim, as long as others, even if they were our enemies, have lost their lives.

So where does that leave us today? From all our various vantage points, we join to pray that the war will end soon. We ask for God's guidance too in the postwar period, understanding the rejoicing of Kurds, Shiites, and others at the fall of their enemies, we pray to find the wisdom to turn enemies into friends, and establish the foundation for a more lasting peace.

For Jews, Midrash is part and parcel of learning Torah.

I leave the question of whether the Hebrew Scriptures, their later commentaries, or the Christian Gospels are "a ... made up thing" for another day.

In all of them, and in the Qu'ran too --- amidst a lot of stuff it's hard to wrap a modern mind around --- are inspired bits of wisdom.

Whether they are G-d-inspired, I am never quite sure.

And You Celebrate?!

Monkeyboy in DC has a pal who, at age 10, is an amatuer videographer and wannabe film director. He posts short videos on YouTube under the handle "thekidmakesmovies".

Anywho, Monkeyboy was browsing through YouTube and found video shot by an Israeli Defense Forces fighter pilot shooting down Syrian MIGs. He showed it to me expecting unmitigated excitement.

I settled in to explain that the Israeli Air Force was indeed the best in the region, and that this was a good thing, since Israel was surrounded by neighbors committed to her destruction.

But I also explained that he wasn't watching a video game and that for every Syrian fighter he saw shot down there was a Syrian mother whose son had just died.

Then I asked him if he remembered the story of the crossing of the Red Sea.

Without missing a beat he said, "I know what you're going to say, dad."

"You're going to tell me how G-d told the angels to stop singing after the waters closed up on the Egyptians, because those were G-d's children too, and they were dying."

You really can't ask more than that. We're blessed that his religious school teachers are doing such a great job with him.

(This recollection was prompted after I read this post by Ezer K'Negdo.)

Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute

Another sure sign the Apocalypse isn't too far off.

Really, I couldn't make this up if I tried.

(I didn't even know Woodsy Owl HAD a restaurant.)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Bill Frist Made My Day

I rarely get e-mail from Republican Senators. Or even Republican ex-Senators.

But I got the e-mail below from Dr. Frist.

I'm happy to share it with you:

Dear David,

Join Me in Calling the White House

Dial 1-800-671-7887 to urge President Bush to save lives in Darfur by launching "Plan B" immediately.

Once you've hung up, click here to report your call back to the Save Darfur Coalition.

Each year I travel to Africa as a medical missionary. I've just returned from my latest trip, a deeply troubling visit to the Sudan.

Due to a series of increasingly violent attacks on foreign aid workers in Darfur over the past six months, international efforts to protect civilians and provide them with food, clean water,
shelter, and medical care are in a state of crisis.

Countless men, women, and children are in real danger of falling prey to violence, starvation, or disease as a result of these attacks.

The U.S. must take the lead in working with the international community to end the violence. The lives of millions hang in the balance.

Please join me in calling the White House comment line today to urge President Bush to launch "Plan B," his tough, three-tiered plan to push Sudan to end the genocide, before more lives are lost in Darfur.

It will only take two minutes of your time and could make a world of difference for millions of people in need. Just follow the steps below:

Dial 1-800-671-7887 (toll-free)

Once you've been transferred to the comment line leave your comment using the talking points below:

I'm calling to urge President Bush to implement "Plan B" to help bring an end to the genocide in Darfur. Specifically, I am asking him to:

Enforce tough sanctions against Sudan;

Work with the UN to authorize and enforce a no-fly zone over Darfur to protect civilians from Sudanese bombers; and

Press the UN for faster deployment of UN peacekeepers to protect civilians in Darfur.

Click here to report your call back to the Save Darfur Coalition (this step is crucial - please don't skip it.)

The U.S. and the international community are all that stand between millions of civilians in Darfur and the Sudanese regime's policy of genocide. Hundreds of thousands have already been killed, and time is running out for millions more.

Without tough "Plan B" measures to accompany diplomatic efforts, the international community's efforts to end the violence in Darfur are doomed to fail.

Please follow the steps above to join me in calling the White House comment line to ask President Bush to launch "Plan B" without further delay, then click here to report your call back to the Save Darfur Coalition.

I hope you will help me spread this message of urgent action by forwarding my email to your friends, family and co-workers and asking them to join you in taking two minutes to call the White House.

Thank you for your ongoing advocacy on behalf of the people of Darfur.


Senator Bill Frist, M.D.

P.S. Will you join the Save Darfur Coalition in future calls to action? Click here to join our Weekly Action Network and commit to taking one action each week to stop the genocide in Darfur.


The Washington Post runs a great feature on Sundays, in the Style Section. But it has a stupid name.

It's called "Life is Short: Autobiography as Haiku." But the pieces it runs in this feature are not haikus. They are short biographical sketches.

Nonetheless, here's a great one. It fits in with my old Let's All be Merry and Gay post, and with Rachel's two most recent ones at A Comedienne's Sidekick.

Guinness Appreciation Day

Thanks Tara, this is a great idea.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

They Hear Everything

So, Monkeyboy is deeply engrossed in his Gamecube game, trying to extend his few minutes of play time 'til I schlep him off to Sunday school. RFB is getting ready to go out grocery shopping.

In fairly quiet voices, not in the immediate vicinity of the Gamecube or the critter attached to it, I say:

"OK, I'm going to stay at shul all morning, I'll bring [Monkeyboy's real name redacted] home today too. I've got two meetings this morning. At 10 I'm in the bagel bar discussing the new preschool/extended care program. At 11 I'm going to the meeting about sex."

From deep in MarioCart Double Dash land I hear a 9-year-old voice:

"Meeting about sex? What meeting about sex?"

I opened my big mouth, so I explained it.

If you're interested, the meeting about sex is to discuss implementation of a new curriculum about sexual ethics in the upper grades at our religious school. It's been devised by the Union for Reform Judaism. It's called "Sacred Choices," and I think it's pretty good.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Random Crap

There's a game I absolutely do not understand at Random Crap.

Play along, maybe you'll understand. I'm not at all sure if that's a good thing or not.


Monkeyboy in DC just played too. I'm still confused.

Darfur Videos - From Refugees in Chad

Here's a link to three harrowing videos.

Please do not avert your eyes.

Please do what you can, even if it's just sharing this with others. has other suggestions for action, as well.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Where Babies Come From

A mom and her 10-year-old daughter had a very open relationship. They'd talked about the birds and the bees and the mom had always told her daughter she could ask anything she wanted to know and not be ashamed or embarrassed.

One afternoon, mom and dad got frisky upstairs while their daughter was engrossed in a video downstairs. Taking a chance, they got friskier. Mom started going down on dad.

To their horror, they heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Their daughter walked past their nearly closed door before they had a chance to shut it all the way or at least break their clinch.

But the daughter walked on past and they figured they'd dodged a bullet.

The next day, mom discovered otherwise.

"Mom," asked the daughter, "I saw something yesterday that really confused me. Now I wasn't spying or anything but when I walked past your bedroom door yesterday, I saw you and dad. You told me babies get made when dad puts his, well, um, you know, in your vagina. But I thought I saw him with it in your mouth. Really, I wasn't spying, I just saw it, and you said I could ask anything about this stuff without being embarrassed so I am."

Mom took a deep breath.

"Baby, what I told you before is right about where BABIES come from. What you saw yesterday is, um, well, it's where JEWELRY comes from."

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Air and Space

Today I'm sitting at my desk with too much to do and not enough time to do it. I'm stressed.

RFB and Monkeyboy in DC are on a field trip to the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum.

Last week at this time I was waiting for my first poker tournament of the trip, at the Showboat. I didn't win any money but I lasted longer than my friend, the doctor-in-training. I declared it my first moral victory of the trip.

Mr. Peabody, where are you, Sherman and the Wayback Machine when I really need you?!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007


Over at e.clec.tic spaghetti, Tara has declared it "Sell Something to a Pawn Shop/Steak and Blissful Joke Appreciation Day".

Regrettably, some folks have not recognized Tara's gift for euphemism.

Check it out.

Happy Pi Day

If you haven't noticed, today is Pi Day. (I never would have, but RFB works as an actuary and gets excited over number type things.)

Pi Day, you ask?

3.14 is the date and a close approximation of Pi.

I'm told that at 1:59 pm, at places like MIT and CalTech they eat pie. (3.14159 is an even closer approximation of Pi.)

I've posted this too late for the Eastern time zone, but for any of you in the Central, Mountain or Pacific time zones, please have a slice of pie for Pi Day at 1:59.

If you're in the Eastern time zone, go ahead and have the pie anyway. It's never the wrong time for a slice of Pi.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Playing Molecule

So, I visited Atlantic City with a gaggle of pals. We're all allegedly grown men, ranging in age from 28 - 44.

A bunch of them got to the common suite we all used as home base before me and started a game that lasted the weekend. It's called "Molecule".

Home base was on the top floor of a time share building; a suite that slept 10, more-or-less comfortably. (Being a degenerate gambler, I had use of a comped room at a boardwalk casino for sleeping, but I spent a lot of waking hours at the time-share suite.)

The tradition apparently arose in their first trip up the elevator shaft before I arrived. I was in for a rude surprise the first time I got in an elevator with them.

As the elevator rose 30+ floors, these nuts began tossing their bodies (and mine) randomly off the walls of the ascending cab.

As molecules go, at least in this crowd, I'm more a helium or hydrogen than a strontium, lead or cesium.

For the remainder of the trip, I tried only to enter elevators when there were non-members of our posse also entering. Mostly, these lawyers, CPA's and entrepreneurs can be counted on to behave, in public.


More tales to follow.

Show Us Your ...

During my trip to Atlantic City, I walked out onto the boardwalk and found a Saint Patrick's Day parade, a week early.

There were festive floats, bagpipers, beauty pageant winners and all manner of frivolity.

From many of the floats, riders were tossing out green strands of Mardi Gras-style beads.

I did what any sensible person would do; I lifted up my shirt.

No one threw me any beads.

I shouted to the passing float, "Hey, I lifted up my shirt, you're supposed to throw me some beads."

The guy on the float shouted back, "I saw that. I oughtta throw you a razor."

But he relented, and tossed me a strand of green beads.

I caught them on the fly.

They're RFB's now. It's the least I could do to thank her for letting me go on this trip. It was great.

More stories to follow.

Monday, March 12, 2007

G-d is Love

One of the cool things about a blog is that occasionally someone finds a post from some time ago, like "Prayer for Darfur" and posts a new thought on it.

Sometimes, not so much:

I'M WITH JESUS said...
March 10, 2007 3:59:00 AM EST

In other matters, the trip to Atlantic City was great. The GW Colonials won the A-10 tournament and are headed for March Madness.

Hail to the Buff and the Blue!

(Don't ask. At least our mascot isn't a Billiken.)

Re-entry has been a bitch but I'll post embarrassing stories when I get a chance.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Oops - One Last Book Recommendation

My Brother Joseph : The Spirit of a Cardinal and the Story of a Friendship, about Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, by Eugene Kennedy. Words do not exist to praise this book highly enough. What a life Cardinal Bernardin led; what a gift he was from G-d.

This Jew learned more from this book about American Roman Catholicism and about love and grace and faith --- as Roman Catholics understand these issues --- than I did in college level comparative religion classes, informal interfaith dialogues and the general knowledge base an attentive Jew learns about Christians just by being a member of a minoritarian faith in America.

Kennedy, a former priest and lifelong friend of Bernardin's, has paid a lovely and loving tribute to a man he truly loved. It's a fairly slender volume, easily readable in a couple of sittings.

It's very much worth the trouble to seek this book out and read it.

Hail to the Buff and the Blue - AFK

I will be away from the keyboard from Wednesday through Sunday. I'm going to Atlantic City with a bunch of George Washington University friends for the Atlantic-10 (A-10) men's basketball tournament, some friendly poker among the guys, maybe some serious poker in a casino and maybe the odd hand of blackjack.

Maybe, in this case, is a synonym for a dead-lock cinch. :)

The Colonials this year are a scrappy bunch, well-coached by Karl Hobbs.

Go Colonials!

Monday, March 5, 2007

Lawrence of Arabia

My friend Stephen recently ran across this article from the Sunday Times of London.

It's dated 22 August 1920.

For Mesopotamia, substitute Iraq.

Substitute a few other words and dates and the Sunday Times could run the same damned article this weekend.


Sunday, March 4, 2007

Chag Purim

From sundown last night until sundown tonight , it was the Jewish holiday of Purim. It's a holiday that revolves around the biblical Book of Esther.

It's also a festive holiday, with special pastry called hamentaschen and a tradition of telling the story of Esther in a joking, parody format.

Our Purim speil (parody play) last night was a hilarious take-off on the Star Wars oeuvre.

But none of that is the reason I'm putting up this post. I'm doing that because Purim also usually involves masquerade. Most kids, and many adults, dress as characters in the story of Esther. Others where superhero, lady bug, ninja or other such fanciful garb.

I generally shave off half my beard and moustache. (I generally do it for Halloween, too.)

RFB got a picture of it this year. And so, without further ado:

OK, now I gotta go shave. My employer is pretty cool about letting me show up to work on Halloween looking like this, but if I show up looking like this for no good reason tomorrow, it could, quite reasonably, test their patience.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

101 - It Worked for the Dalmations

Ever since I posted my list of book recommendations yesterday I've been thinking of books I should have included.

Citzen Cohn: The Life and Times of Roy Cohn, by Nicholas von Hoffman --- Man is this a good read. Nick von Hoffman was a hero of mine when I was a kiddy watching him make mincemeat of James J. Kilpatrick every week on "60 Minutes" in its Point/Counterpoint feature. Pre-Shana Alexander.

Roy Cohn was, for me, a living embodiment of the evil in this world.

Von Hoffman dishes, and digs deep. It's hard to understand America, from the McCarthy era to the Reagan era, without understanding a bit of how Roy Cohn became, for a time, one of its most powerful figures. Von Hoffman's final picture isn't pretty, but it's nuanced, complex and, I suspect, true to its subject. It's also kinder than one might expect.

The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, by Todd Gitlin --- Gitlin has written a "biography" of his own times. He was a participant in the rise the New Left. He's now a professor. Both attributes serve him well in this detailed socio-political history book. He attains detachment in most cases, provides first-hand witness in others, and manages not to put you to sleep in a book with 22 pages of endnotes.

Inside: A Public and Private Life, by Joseph Califano --- Not only has Califano been an eyewitness and actor in history, he's led a varied and interesting life. The politics fascinate a wonk like me, but the intertwined story of his personal life, including his understanding of and wrestling with his Catholic faith, were an unexpected education.

Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin, by John D'Emilio --- The fact that you do not recognize Rustin's name is the tragedy of his life. Martin Luther King's 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial would never have happened if Bayard Rustin hadn't organized the March on Washington.

He was the foremost American teacher and practitioner of non-violent resistance. That's not me talking, that was Gandhi's assessment. Yes, that Gandhi.

His homosexuality condemned him to the sidelines far more than his imprisonment as a draft resister during World War II ever did.

And his intellectual honesty and vision meant he was practically absent from the Viet Nam war resistance organized by the foolish, arrogant, jejune young whipper-snappers of the "New Left." These are characteristics of that benighted cadre that Todd Gitlin chronicles in The Sixties just as well as John D'Emilio does here.

On a related note, Monkeyboy in DC has been tolerating my monopolization of the computer long enough that he feels he's entitled to make a book recommendation too. He recommends any of the Judy Blume books that feature a boy called Fudge.

Friday, March 2, 2007

100th Post - Book Recommendations

I know your hundredth post is supposed to be momentous.

Sorry, I used up all my bombast on genocide posts this week. If you'd like to do something to celebrate my hundredth post, go to and make a donation, sign a petition, or both.

But I have been meaning to make some book recommendations, so I'll make that my 100th post celebration.

(Readers who've been here since the very beginning know this is actually my 102nd post. Two early, thoroughly indiscreet and thoroughly inappropriate posts got put up here before I realized people I knew would find this thing so fast. They've been deleted forever --- except, I suppose, in the unbelievably robust set of data that never dies, thanks to Google. I'm counting on their "Don't Be Evil" philosophy in hoping those two posts never see the light of day.)

Biographies and autobiographies (and a memoir/ethnography) I've enjoyed in the last couple of years:

Personal History, by Katherine Graham. She did not win the Pulitzer just because she herself was a publisher. This is a warts-and-all look at one of the more remarkable lives of the 20th century. I wish I'd known her.

Life of the Party, about Pamela Harriman, by Christopher Ogden. Great dish. Lots of behind the scenes stories about people who shaped our world and, a woman whose romantic conquests included statesmen, princes of industry, royals, the odd theatrical impresario, Edward R. Murrow and others too numerous to mention. She was Winston Churchill's daughter-in-law. Her foster son from one marriage (Peter Duchin) married her step-daughter from another (Susan Hayward). She ended her life as Bill Clinton's Ambassador to France, and appears to have had a jolly, influential time her whole life long.

Joe DiMaggio: The Hero's Life, by Richard Ben Cramer. Demythologizes a complicated man who insisted on being introduced as America's greatest living baseball player.

Sandy Koufax, a Lefty's Legacy, by Jane Leavy. The opposite of the DiMaggio book. Koufax, if anything, seems to be a better man than anyone ever gave him credit for. Also, Leavy makes Larry King out to be the ass he really is.

Leavy's recounting of Koufax's stock answer to being asked if he's a recluse is priceless: "Gee, my friends don't think so."

Excelsior!, by Stan Lee. It's not too strong a statement to make to say that Stan Lee helped teach me to read. A must-read for anyone who grew up on Marvel Comics in the 60's through 80's. But it's a piece of fluff. If you have nothing invested Stan Lee to start with, this book won't help you understand why he's one of my greatest heroes.

The Home on Gorham Street and the Voices of Its Children, by Howard Goldstein. Details the history of the Jewish orphanage my father grew up in. It uses him as one case history. Since my dad had killed himself by the time I was 26 months old, this book gave me a lot of details about his life that I'd never known. Caveat: The book contains a characterization of my parents' marriage that my mom found totally inaccurate and hurtful besides. If you read this one, please also read my Amazon review of the book.

Maybe for post 200, I'll recommend the junk science fiction, mysteries and thrillers that would be a more accurate reflections of my typical nightstand reading.

I Never Knew That

I've just learned something very reassuring.
Stressed is Desserts, backwards.


Thursday, March 1, 2007

A Survivor's Story

As I've already posted below, I was mistaken about how my friend Michel escaped the ovens of Europe as a child.

However he managed it, I thank G-d that he did.

Here's a bit more of Michel's story.

It was originally published in a book called The Triumphant Spirit: Portraits & Stories of Holocaust Survivors Their Messages of Hope & Compassion.

He's updated it a little since its original publication:



Michel Margosis remembers the sweetness of life before the war, strolling through fairs, attending movies and Yiddish theater. Life as a child in Belgium seemed easy.

Michel was born in September 1928. Eleven years later, World War II began: Belgium was attacked in May 1940. "We heard the sirens shrieking and the sound of explosions throughout the city, and we saw heavy black smoke," Michel wrote.

Michel's father had already fled persecution during the Russian Revolution likely because of his teacher Menachim Bialik. He was interned in Siberia in the 1920's, but he escaped and journeyed by foot to Palestine. He later settled in Belgium as a journalist. He eventually owned and edited two weekly newspapers, one in Yiddish and the other in French. Very outspoken against dictatorships, Michel's father became alarmed by the events leading to the war. So, when Brussels was attacked, the Margosis family did not wait; they fled.

"We began our saga as we kept one pace ahead of the Nazis. We headed toward the overcrowded railroad station, missed one train connecting to a ship that was subsequently sunk in the Channel on the way to England, but got onto another train to the bombed out city of Mons." They spent seven days and seven nights traveling, bombed and strafed on the way, until they arrived in Southern France. Michel's father was forced by the events to flee to Portugal. Michel went hiding in a farm and in Marseilles for many months with his mother and siblings. They were hoping to rejoin his father.

When the Nazis seized the rest of France, the family headed for Spain. En route by train, they discovered that were traveling with German troops. "My mother with her thick Eastern European accent became mute instantaneously and promptly 'learned' sign language, while my brother, sister and I were audibly indistinguishable from other French natives." The next day they hired two gendarmes as guides, who for a sizable fee led them over the 11,000 foot Pyrenees mountains to the safety of Spain. They were arrested two days later by the Spanish carabiñeros and incarcerated separately. Later on, they were released and subsidized to live in a forced residence and then in Barcelona.

Michel was enlisted in an American program for children and made it to the United States in June 1943. His siblings went to Palestine, and his mother smuggled herself into Portugal to finally rejoin her husband.

Michel's parents came to America in 1946, but it took ten years until the entire family was reunited. In the meantime, Michel attended high school and college in Brooklyn, and enlisted in the US Army. He served as a medic in France during the Korean War. After returning to the States, he worked in pharmaceutical and research laboratories and as a senior research chemist for the US Food & Drug Administration. He became a world-renowned expert in the analysis of antibiotics and retired in 1990. He has been widowed for nearly four years, father of two children, and grandfather to two boys, nearly two and four and an almost eight year old girl.

Michel now spends his time as a volunteer for a variety of organizations including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, the National Parkinson Foundation, Public Broadcasting System, and as a Commissioner of the Fairfax Human Rights Commission. His memories, he says are his legacy. "As I have borne witness to the Holocaust," he says, "it is up to you to ensure that it will be remembered".

(Revised 12 October 2004, MM)

Please focus, after you've taken in the breadth of the drama presented above, on these sentences:

He became a world-renowned expert in the analysis of antibiotics and retired in 1990. He has been widowed for nearly four years, father of two children, and grandfather to two boys, nearly two and four, and an almost eight year old girl.

For every victim of genocide, there is the potential that they could have become an expert in some area that could save the world.

For every victim of genocide, there is no life-long, loving marriage like Michel's.

For every victim of genocide, there are no succeeding generations of two children and three grandchildren.

The genocide in Darfur must be stopped.

Never Again, Goddammit.


My friend Michel tells me the Kindertransport Project was not responsible for his arrival on these shores, as I incorrectly posted below.

He's a remarkable guy who, apparantly "...arrived in the States alone and penniless in 1943. We saved ourselves and I came alone as I describe briefly in the attachment."

With his permission, I hope to soon post his brief bio. He's a special person and his story too is special.

I'll post more once I get clearance from him.

I apologize for the error, both to Michel and to you folks out there in the ether.