Thursday, July 31, 2014

Elvis Presley: It's Now or Never (1960)




Elvis Presley sings "It's Now or Never," recorded in 1960. The melody of the song is adapted from the Italian standard, "'O Sole Mio,"a Neapolitan song from 1898 composed by Eduardo Di Capua & Emanuele Alfredo Mazzucchi with lyrics by Giovanni Capurro. (You can hear The Three Tenors' wonderful version of "O Sole Mio" here).  Thus it comes at no surprise that the song became highly popular.

Elvis Aaron Presley served in the United States Army for two years, between March 1958 and March 1960; he was posted in Germany. This song is today dedicated to the members of the IDF, who know what they have to do to protect Israel from terror. Halakhically, in accordance to rabbinical law, Elvis was Jewish. "So Elvis’s great great maternal grandmother was Jewish and had a daughter who had a daughter who had a daughter that was Elvis’s mother," Adam Chandler writes in Tablet.

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Written by: Aaron Schroeder & Wally Gold
Recorded: April 3, 1960
Released: July 5, 1960
Single: It's Now or Never/A Mess of Blues
Label: RCA Records

In 1960, the song spent five weeks in the United States at number one, and in the United Kingdom, eight weeks. The song has generated sales of more than 25 million copies worldwide.
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Elvis Presley: It's Now or Never, 1960 single sleeve.
Source: Wikipedia


It's Now or Never
by Aaron Schroeder & Wally Gold

It's now or never,
come hold me tight
Kiss me my darling,
be mine tonight
Tomorrow will be too late,
it's now or never
My love won't wait.
When I first saw you
with your smile so tender
My heart was captured,
my soul surrendered
I'd spend a lifetime
waiting for the right time
Now that your near
the time is here at last.
It's now or never,
come hold me tight
Kiss me my darling,
be mine tonight
Tomorrow will be too late,
it's now or never
My love won't wait.
Just like a willow,
we would cry an ocean
If we lost true love
and sweet devotion
Your lips excite me,
let your arms invite me
For who knows when
we'll meet again this way
It's now or never,
come hold me tight
Kiss me my darling,
be mine tonight
Tomorrow will be too late,
it's now or never
My love won't wait.

O Sole Mio
Eduardo Di Capua, Emanuele Alfredo Mazzucchi & Giovanni Capurro

Che bella cosa na jurnata 'e sole,
n'aria serena doppo na tempesta!
Pe' ll'aria fresca pare già na festa...
Che bella cosa na jurnata 'e sole.
Ma n'atu sole
cchiù bello, oje ne'.
O sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!
O sole
O sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!
sta 'nfronte a te!
Quanno fa notte e 'o sole se ne scenne,
me vene quase 'na malincunia;
sotto 'a fenesta toia restarria
quanno fa notte e 'o sole se ne scenne.
Ma n'atu sole
cchiù bello, oje ne'.
O sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!
O sole
O sole mio
sta 'nfronte a te!
sta 'nfronte a te!

English Translation

What a wonderful thing a sunny day
The serene air after a thunderstorm
The fresh air, and a party is already going on…
What a wonderful thing a sunny day.
But another sun,
that’s brighter still
It’s my own sun
that’s in your face!
The sun, my own sun
It’s in your face!
It’s in your face!
When night comes and the sun has gone down,
I start feeling blue;
I’d stay below your window
When night comes and the sun has gone down.
But another sun,
that’s brighter still
It’s my own sun
that’s in your face!
The sun, my own sun
It’s in your face!
It’s in your face!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Is Palestine Dead? Can China Provide Its People With A New Home?


Arabs In China
The idea of a two-state solution is dead. Hamas does not believe in a two states living in peaceful co-existence, but in Israel's non-existence.  Israel could never negotiate with a extremist organization that believes in violence. Where does that leave the Palestinians, notably in Gaza, who wish to escape the violence of the Islamists? One original possibility is China, says Prof George Jochnowitz, which needs both young men and young women. "Can Palestinians run away? China may well be the answer. One doesn’t think of China as a country of immigrants. Nevertheless, there are Arab immigrants who are residing and prospering in Zhejiang Province, the province immediately south of Shanghai. In fact, the city of Yiwu is the home of a growing Arabic community."




**********************************
by George Jochnowitz


Hamas has probably succeeded in preventing a deal with Israel that would create a Palestinian state. Israelis now fear that ceding more territory would simply give terrorists new launching sites. Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestine Authority, is old and not very popular. His successor is likely to be someone as extreme as the leaders of Hamas. There is no way that Israel could negotiate with extremists who persist in acts of violence no matter what the consequences.

I used to think that the rockets aimed at Israeli civilians served no strategic and no political purpose. I now feel I must reconsider my opinion. The rockets, and the never-ending violence coming from Hamas, have apparently ended the possibility of a negotiated two-state solution—maybe forever. Many Israelis, perhaps most, have long felt that an independent Palestine would lead to peace. Hamas is doing its best to show that nothing will lead to peace. The rockets do indeed serve a purpose. They are echoing the Hamas Charter, which excludes negotiation with Israel. Hamas—consciously or unconsciously—wanted to make sure there couldn’t be a Palestinian state, since it might lead to peace. Peace would give Israel security and establish its permanence. Hamas made sure that wouldn’t happen.

ISIS, also known simply as the Islamic State, has released a map of its view a future Arab world. There is no Israel on the map, needless to say. What is shocking is that there is no Palestine. Palestine, the central element in Arab nationalism, would be forgotten once Arabs conquered all the land that they had once owned. Palestine has remained an issue simply to be a way of opposing Israel’s existence. Refugees have remained in camps for over 60 years in order to make them suffer so that the world would blame Israel.

To an extent, this is part of an old tradition. The Arabs rejected a Palestinian state when the UN proposed one in 1947. It did so again with the Three No’s of Khartoum in 1967. It has been doing so ever since. But Hamas has taken an additional step. It keeps fighting a war it is losing—unambiguously. It goes out of its way to harm the citizens of Gaza, by launching rockets from schools and hospitals. Hamas not only doesn’t care about the lives of Palestinians—it is eager to put them in harm’s way. Hamas is saying that destroying the lives of its people doesn’t matter in the slightest, since nothing matters except ending Israel’s existence. Both Israel and ISIS have figured this out.

Can Palestinians run away? China may well be the answer. One doesn’t think of China as a country of immigrants. Nevertheless, there are Arab immigrants who are residing and prospering in Zhejiang Province, the province immediately south of Shanghai. In fact, the city of Yiwu is the home of a growing Arabic community.

Arabs are not the only immigrants to China. The one-child policy has led to an aging population. It has also had a much more serious effect: Chinese parents have been aborting female fetuses, leading to a great disproportion of young men to young women, about 6 to 5. As a result, foreign brides have been coming to China. China needs more young women. It also needs more young men to take jobs that have been vacated by an ever-aging population.

There is a Muslim population in Xinjiang, the westernmost province in China. Its people are called Uygurs or Uyghurs. They speak a language related to Turkish. There is a separatist movement and acts of violence have occurred. One of the ways that China is trying to deal with this situation is by drawing many different people to the area. A new city called Horgos is being designed, in the hope that it can be both Chinese and international and therefore a counterweight to Uygur nationalism.

There is another and much larger Muslim minority in China. Its people are called Hui (pronounced hwey) and speak Chinese, with a few Arabic words added to refer to religious concepts, such as permitted foods (halal) or forbidden foods (haram). There was a time when the Hui people wrote their variety of Chinese in the Arabic alphabet.

The Hui people have not been involved in a separatist movement. They could be good neighbors and friends to Muslim immigrants who want to learn Chinese but keep their religion. China has been tolerant to its Hui minority. When I taught at Hebei University in 1984 and 1989, there was a halal dining room for the Muslims who wished to eat food that fit in with their religious laws.

China has well over a billion people. A million or so immigrants would hardly be noticed.

Now that Hamas seems to have killed the idea of a Palestinian state, emigration from Gaza to China seems to be a perfect solution. 

**********************************
George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

**********************************
Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the author's permission.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Understanding The Haredim

Observant Jews

An article, by Jack Wertheimer in Commentary offers another view of  "ultra-Orthodox" Jews, the Haredim, who seem to operate and appear as a monolith to outsiders with their attire and their use of Yiddish as their mame loshen ("mother tongue"), including to assimilated and secularized American and Canadian Jews such as myself. As is common with many preconceptions, based on limited information, there is much more to the Haredim and Hasidim than initially meets the eye.

Wertheimer, professor of American Jewish History at the Jewish Theological Seminary, writes:
The so-called ultra-Orthodox may be the most recognizable Jews by virtue of their distinctive garb, but they continue to be the least-known actors on the American Jewish scene. Clustering in densely populated enclaves, speaking Yiddish or Yinglish (a mixture of Yiddish, English, and rabbinic Hebrew) among themselves, consciously rejecting much of modish Western culture, and arranging their family lives, daily routines, finances, and politics in a manner entirely different from their highly acculturated co-religionists, they are a people apart. For want of a better term, they have come to be known collectively as Haredim,1 “those who tremble in fear of God.”2 More colloquially, in recognition of the preferred head coverings of their males, a different shorthand is used, though not as a term of endearment—“black hatters.” Yet rather than constitute a single monolithic body, these Jews demonstrate that there are at least 50 shades of black.

The largest contingent consists of Hasidim, the inheritors of an 18th-century mystical strain of Judaism. They divide themselves into at least two dozen sects, each with its own leader. Some, such as the two warring factions of the Satmar group, are riven internally; others simply refuse to cooperate with one another and at times come to blows.

Then there are the historical antagonists of the Hasidim, the spiritual descendants of their Lithuanian opponents. These are the “Yeshivish,” men whose lives are oriented around upper-level academies of Torah study. To insiders, the subtle but very real distinctions in customs, garb, allegiances, and ways of living that characterize these different sub-populations loom far larger than their commonalities.
In my early childhood years growing up on Park Avenue in Montreal, we were mere blocks away from multiple Hasidic communities who resided in an area called Outremont, each with its own shul or more often, shtiebel, its own distinctive dress, and its own customs—the differences might be minor but reflect the traditions established in European communities long ago. What I found difficult to comprehend as a young boy, however, was how the men could wear long black coats in summer when it was so hot, notably in July. I don't consider this question anymore.

Periodically, through the course of my professional life, I have came in contact with such Jews from various Hasidic sects, and on one occasion, a few years ago, we were invited to a pidyon haben service ("redeeming of the first-born son") for our daughter's and son-in-law's child. We were eating roasted chicken and potatoes and many salads, all home cooked, at 7 in the morning; we found the people warm and inviting, and the children found our two boys a curiosity because of their different more modern attire. It was a delightful and novel experience, and eye-opening.

********************
You can read more at [Commentary].

Monday, July 28, 2014

Western Morality & Western Democracy

 Western Civilization

Freedom has cost too much blood and agony to be relinquished at the cheap price of rhetoric.
Thomas Sowell, "Political Trade-Offs," Knowledge and Decisions (1980)
 
Here is a recent article from Reuters ("China warns officials against aping Western morality; July 20, 2014):
China's ruling Communist Party will step up ideological education of officials to prevent them from aping Western moral standards and strengthen their faith in communism to help in the fight against pervasive corruption, state media said.
"Profound social-economic changes at home and abroad have brought multiple distractions to officials who face loss of faith and moral decline," the official Xinhua news agency cited a statement from the party's powerful Organisation Department, which oversees personnel decisions.

"The conviction and morals of officials determine the rise and fall of the Communist Party and the country," Xinhua added, in a report late on Sunday."Officials should keep firm belief in Marxism to avoid being lost in the clamor for western democracy, universal values and civil society," it said.

The party has warned repeatedly that its members should not be lead astray by Western concepts of human rights and democracy, saying that China has the right to promote its own interpretation of such ideas to better suit its national condition and level of economic development.
China's communist party leaders understand the wide appeal of Western morals, and thus have every reason to fear them if they want to retain power; thus, attacking them as foreign and not Chinese is one strategy to maintain the power of the party. But do we here in the West understand the connection between Western morality, ethics and philosophy and our democratic institutions and human rights, of democracy in general as well as these Chinese leaders do?

This question's importance is not always apparent or appreciated to us living in Western democracies, which have all undergone the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution and which have all well-functioning and -operating civil societies. But Western democracy (and the history it contains) not only informs our thinking, it also underpins our fundamental understanding of human rights and of human ethics & morality. In short, it gives our Western civilization a working framework of right and wrong that took hundreds of years of thought and trials and wars to develop and implement.
 
Today, it could be said with a high degree of certainty that people have a strong desire to feel good about themselves and of their views and actions; that it is often the case that emotionalism and sentimentalism informs their thoughts. It can also be said with the same degree of certainty that the West faces the opposite situation that China does—Western morals and its fundamental ideas are under attack from Leftist ideologies, notably Marxism. There is a verse in the bible that I have always found important and have taken to heart; it is found in the book of Hosea, one of the minor prophets, who makes a major statement: "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge" (4:6).

What the Chinese party officials fear, we ought not take for granted.

*******************
All of the thoughts and ideas of this essay emanate from a western moral and philosophical point of view; I have written a number of essays on this topic, notably here, here and here.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Electro-Therapeutics For The Body

Advances in Medicine


A pictorial essay in The Public Domain review looks at some of the late 19th-century and early 20th-century uses of electrical-induced therapies or electro-therapeutics (i.e., high-frequency electrical currents) to cure a host of body ailments, including acne, lesions, insomnia, abnormal blood pressure, depression and hysteria. The treatment for the latter "disease" for women was often achieved through the use of an early form of a vibrator, where the patient was brought to "hysterical paroxysms." Or, in other words, to organisms. Pretty shocking stuff, when compared to today.

Samuel Howard Monell, an American physician from New York City, is the man credited with advancing this medical technique. One important work is Elements of correct technique: Clinics from the New York School of Special Electro-therapeutics (1900). In the Preface (September 20, 1900) he writes:
After four years of teaching physicians how to acquire skill in Electro-Therapeutic technique my general missionary work in this field ends. Henceforward the teaching that I do will be confined to my personal methods of employing static electricity which take this great agent from out the rut of routine abuse and make it an instrument of scientific precision and of extraordinary utility.
As a substitute for my clinical instruction this book is designed to furnish physicians a series of practical Home-Clinics and personal tests of current action which will transform the novice into an expert with reasonable study. Much original information is also added.

This Manual is supplementary to my other books and covers other ground. It teaches the physician to explore electric currents at home. Much of the matter in these chapters is not in print elsewhere, and is not included in either clinical or correspondence instruction at present. Accurate selection, precise dose regulation, approved methods, the art of artistic technique, progressive efficiency and superior therapeutic results, are placed at the command of the careful student of this book.
Here is a photo of a nursing mother using high-frequency current to stimulate lactation, or to increase the supply and flow of milk.


And here is a photo of a young healthy and robust-looking boy holding the electrical apparatus; perhaps he was the child of the young woman above:




*******************************
 For more, go to [PubDomRev].
A selection of images from High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry (1910) by champion of electro-therapeutics Samuel Howard Monell, a physician who the American X-Ray Journal cite, rather wonderfully, as having “done more for static electricity than any other living man”. Although the use of electricity to treat physical ailments could be seen to stretch back to the when the ancient Greeks first used live electric fish to numb the body in pain, it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries – through the work of Luigi Galvani and Guillaume Duchenne – that the idea really took hold. Monell claims that his high frequency currents of electricity could treat a variety of ailments, including acne, lesions, insomnia, abnormal blood pressure, depression, and hysteria. Although not explicitly delved into in this volume, the treatment of this latter condition in women was frequently achieved at this time through the use of an early form of the vibrator (to save the physician from the manual effort), through bringing the patient to “hysterical paroxysm” (in other words, an orgasm). These days electrotherapy has been widely accepted in the field of physical rehabilitation, and also made the news recently in its use to keep soldiers awake (the treatment of fatigue also being one of Monell’s applications). - See more at: http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/high-frequency-electric-currents-in-medicine-and-dentistry-1910/#sthash.k092KgEB.dpuf


A selection of images from High Frequency Electric Currents in Medicine and Dentistry (1910) by champion of electro-therapeutics Samuel Howard Monell, a physician who the American X-Ray Journal cite, rather wonderfully, as having “done more for static electricity than any other living man”. Although the use of electricity to treat physical ailments could be seen to stretch back to the when the ancient Greeks first used live electric fish to numb the body in pain, it wasn’t until the 18th and 19th centuries – through the work of Luigi Galvani and Guillaume Duchenne – that the idea really took hold. Monell claims that his high frequency currents of electricity could treat a variety of ailments, including acne, lesions, insomnia, abnormal blood pressure, depression, and hysteria. Although not explicitly delved into in this volume, the treatment of this latter condition in women was frequently achieved at this time through the use of an early form of the vibrator (to save the physician from the manual effort), through bringing the patient to “hysterical paroxysm” (in other words, an orgasm). These days electrotherapy has been widely accepted in the field of physical rehabilitation, and also made the news recently in its use to keep soldiers awake (the treatment of fatigue also being one of Monell’s applications). - See more at: http://publicdomainreview.org/collections/high-frequency-electric-currents-in-medicine-and-dentistry-1910/#sthash.k092KgEB.dpuf

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream: The Balanchine Ballet




Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: A Midsummer Night's Dream
 
This is a from a February 2007 production from Milan's La Scala, with Ballet and Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Nir Kabaretti, conductor. This ballet is in two acts and follows the same-titled play of William Shakespeare. Here are the particulars of this performance:

Titania: Alessandra Ferri
Oberon: Roberto Bolle
Titania's partner: Massimo Murru
Puck: Riccardo Massimi
Hermia: Deborah Gismondi
Helena: Gilda Gelati
Demetrius: Vittorio D'Amato
Lysander: Gianni Ghisleni
Hippolyta: Sabrina Brazzo
Theseus:  Matteo Buongiorno
Bottom: Camillo Di Pompo
Moth: Sophie Sarrote

Act Two
: Pas de deux: Marta Romagna, Mick Zeni
Irina Kapanadze: soprano
Kete van Kemoklidze: mezzo-soprano
Restaging: Patricia Neary, Sara Leland, and Nanette Glushak
Choreography: George Balanchine

Wiikipedia writes a little about the George Balanchine production's history:
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a two-act ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Felix Mendelssohn's music for Shakespeare's play of the same name. In addition to the incidental music, Balanchine incorporated other Mendelssohn works into the ballet including Overtures to Athalie, Son and Stranger, and The Fair Melusine, Symphony No. 9 for Strings and The First Walpurgis Night.[1] A Midsummer Night's Dream is Balanchine's first completely original full-length ballet, and premiered at New York City Ballet on January 17, 1962 [1][2] with Edward Villella in the role of Oberon, Melissa Hayden in the role of Titania, and Arthur Mitchell in the role of Puck. The ballet employs a large children's corps de ballet.[3] Act I tells Shakespeare's familiar story of lovers and fairies while Act II presents a strictly classical dance wedding celebration. The ballet dispenses with Shakespeare's play-within-a-play finale. A Midsummer Night's Dream opened The New York City Ballet's first season at the New York State Theater in April, 1964.[1]
In a 1989 review ("Magic Afoot Again in Oberon's Land"; February 11, 1989) of the ballet, Anne Kisselgoff writes for The New York Times:
George Balanchine's ballet version of ''A Midsummer Night's Dream'' loses no time in plunging into its music and dancing. The plot is not given short shrift but is compressed with cinematic swiftness into a minimum of dramatic posturing.

Thus when Gen Horiuchi, as Oberon, twisted into the air like a corkscrew at a tilt, this amazing turn brought the house down at the New York State Theater on Thursday night. The astounding aspect was not the seemingly impossible number of turns (two and a half) but the fact that Mr. Horiuchi fit them all into the music.

Mendelssohn's music inspired Balanchine as much as Shakespeare's play in 1960. This first performance of the New York City Ballet season, conducted vibrantly by Robert Irving, was led with grandeur and spark by Darci Kistler, Mr. Horiuchi and Jean-Pierre Frohlich.
It is currently midsummer.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pressburger Klezmer Band: Tants Mit Mir



In this November 30th, 2012, performance at the City Theatre Bratislava, the Pressburger Klezmer Band— Merlin Shepherd on clarinet, Miroslav Vukovic on accordion, Dalibor Martinov on percussion, Michal Palko on dulcimer, and Anita Ribar on lead vocals—perform some klezmer songs. Bratislava, with more than 400,000 residents is the capital of Slovakia, and is considered its political, economic and cultural centre; Before 1919, it was called, in English, by its German name, Pressburg, chiefly because the majority of its residents before then spoke German.

Tants Mit Mir (2012)

01 Double Moyshe 04:21

02 Wedding in Crown Heights 03:19
 
03 Di mame hot mir geshikt 02:31
 
04 Šetnja Balkanom 04:50
 
05 Kad ja podoh na Bembašu 05:58
 
06 Ciganka sam mala 03:33
 
07 Kosovski božuri 03:37
 
08 Grichesher Tantz 04:54
 
09 Di mizinke oysgegebn 03:00
 
10 Karcsibácsiho pieseň 03:41
 
11 Kolomeyke 04:34
 
12 MaYufes 06:25
 
13 Shloymele liber 03:41
 
14 Medley 07:17
 
15 Lawless, winged and unconfined

Living In The House Of Annoyingness

 Classical Music

Concert Ticket line
The Maddening Crowds:
"Fans of classical music are widely perceived as cultured and sophisticated and unfailingly polite, but this is an urban myth. The savage, conscienceless, blue-haired ladies who attend the afternoon concerts at Avery Fisher Hall will break your legs in the mad stampede for the exits at the end of Handel’s Messiah. People routinely bring sandwiches and soda and coffee into the concert hall, fan themselves with their programs, crinkle paper bags, and take an hour to unwrap the foil-entwined lozenges they should have popped into their mouths at intermission. They giggle and whisper and refuse to turn off their cell phones and just generally behave like slobs; but if they are sitting anywhere near me, I let them have it. Both barrels. Right between the eyes."
Source: TWS




















A
satirical article, by Joe Queenan, in The Weekly Standard looks at the travails and responsibilities of a sophisticated concert-goer in modern times; it is not an easy job, but someone must do it.

Queenan writes:
A few years ago, I was offered two very good tickets to a New York Knicks game at Madison Square Garden. I invited my daughter to the game, but almost immediately my wife complained, “Why don’t you ever let me go?” So I gave them the two tickets and went to see the legendary pianist Alfred Brendel at Carnegie Hall instead.
Even though my wife and daughter were rooting for the visiting Philadelphia 76ers that night, Knicks fans were very nice to them, and they came home saying that they had had a wonderful time. Nobody spilled beer on them, nobody swore at them, nobody in any way detracted from their fun. Which was awfully nice of them, considering that the Sixers won by 30 points.

Meanwhile, 25 blocks north at Carnegie Hall, I was having an entirely different experience. From the time the geriatric-but-nimble Brendel began tickling the ivories, the three tourists seated in front of me started running their mouths. In German. That was bad enough. Worse was when one of them lifted his right arm and began playing air piano right along with the virtuoso on stage. He did this straight through the Haydn and straight through the Mozart. He did it in languorous, theatrical, ostentatious fashion. At intermission, I leaned forward and asked the woman if she and her friends were from the House of Annoyingness.

“No,” she said. “Does such a thing exist?”

When the second half of the concert began, she and one of the men were gone, but Herr Air Piano was back. Worse still, he was now seated directly in front of me. The first time he lifted his arm to simulate a luxuriant glissando I tapped him on the shoulder and told him to stop. The second time he did it, I grabbed him by the forearm, forcefully yanked it down and said, “If you do that one more time, I’ll break your arm off at the shoulder. I swear to God.”
Perhaps you have had a similar experience and thought to do something equally drastic.Yet, you resisted such impulses because it would make you equally gauche; and besides it would ruin the evening for you and, possibly, others. Perhaps, there ought to be some sort of test to screen out boors and bad behaviorus; there is an article I read elsewhere that discusses the advances in artificial intelligence (AI), that is, machines that would think and act intelligently, and which (who?) would "know" how to appropriately respond to classical music and the other enlightened arts, possibly surpassing humans in all areas of quantifiable social mores. This might be the ticket to a better concert experience.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Math Teachers, Go Back To School

Schools & Education


Math NonSense:
Carefully taught, the assignments can help make math more concrete. Students don’t just memorize
their times tables and addition facts but also understand how arithmetic works and how to apply it to real-life situations. But in practice, most teachers are unprepared and children are baffled, leaving
parents furious. The comedian Louis C.K. parodied his daughters’ homework in an appearance on
“The Late Show With David Letterman”: “It’s like, Bill has three goldfish. He buys two more. How
many dogs live in London?
Photo Credits
: Andrew B. Myers, Randi Brookman Harris, Tim Boelaars.
Source: NYT


In an article  in the New York Times, Elizabeth Green writes that much of the problems stem from teachers' inability to convey math to students in a meaningful and fun way.  Many students find math boring and tedious. This means that teachers need to return to school so as to learn how to teach math; one area that needs to change is to allow more discussion in classrooms among students, and to allow them to discover ways to solve the math problems on their own; this translates to less rote learning- It also means that teachers have to give up their authoritarian ways.

Green writes:
When Akihiko Takahashi was a junior in college in 1978, he was like most of the other students at his university in suburban Tokyo. He had a vague sense of wanting to accomplish something but no clue what that something should be. But that spring he met a man who would become his mentor, and this relationship set the course of his entire career.

Takeshi Matsuyama was an elementary-school teacher, but like a small number of instructors in Japan, he taught not just young children but also college students who wanted to become teachers. At the university-affiliated elementary school where Matsuyama taught, he turned his classroom into a kind of laboratory, concocting and trying out new teaching ideas. When Takahashi met him, Matsuyama was in the middle of his boldest experiment yet — revolutionizing the way students learned math by radically changing the way teachers taught it.

Instead of having students memorize and then practice endless lists of equations — which Takahashi remembered from his own days in school — Matsuyama taught his college students to encourage passionate discussions among children so they would come to uncover math’s procedures, properties and proofs for themselves. One day, for example, the young students would derive the formula for finding the area of a rectangle; the next, they would use what they learned to do the same for parallelograms. Taught this new way, math itself seemed transformed. It was not dull misery but challenging, stimulating and even fun.
Speaking as a parent of a student entering the seventh grade, I have witnessed the uneven abilities of my son's math teachers here in Canada. My son says he "hates math,' and "finds it boring." I am not surprised he finds it boring; I would also find it boring. It is taught precisely the way this article says it should not be—as a series of unconnected and unrelated problems; some do not make any sense and are nonsense.

Small wonder, then, that I often have trouble understanding the problems assigned to him, and I say this as someone who always enjoyed math and who has successfully taken university-level math courses in my engineering studies. It is always easier to blame the students, but as this article points out, the problem is more with the teachers who are ill-taught themselves and who are following a poorly designed and restrictive curriculum. Time for the teachers to return to school.

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For more, go to [NYT}

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Dying To Kill


Israel Affairs

Gaza has been in the world news once again. It seems that the only time it and its inhabitants receive such sustained media coverage is when Israel, after receiving continued and sustained rocket attacks from the Islamist group Hamas, decides to use military force to defend its citizens and to stop the attacks. Then, on cue, like a bad chorus in a Greek tragedy the international community cries with sustained hypocrisy and hatred that Israel's response is not proportional, as if it would only be acceptable if Israelis suffered as many deaths and injuries as those living in Gaza do. It's an irrational response, no doubt; but it both exists and persists. Rarely brought up are the thousands of rocket attacks that Hamas (and, at times, other Islamist groups) have launched at Israel since the Disengagement in 2005; and rarely discussed by those pro-Palestinian (and possibly Hamas) sympathizers are that Hamas has openly declared its intention to "destroy Israel," a horrible thought. It does not want peace, or an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, but something else altogether, a point noted by Prof. George Jochnowitz: "Hamas is doing its best to see that the descendants of the refugees remain refugees forever. It is rejecting the possibility of any kind of peaceful solution. Its Charter rejects Israel, but more to the point, launching rockets aimed at civilians leads necessarily and inevitably to responses from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The number of deaths in Gaza is perhaps 200 times higher than the number of Israeli deaths. Is it worthwhile to sacrifice 200 Palestinian lives to kill an Israeli Jew? Obviously, the actions of Hamas say that it is."

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by George Jochnowitz

We all know about suicide bombers, who kill themselves in order to kill others. The Boston Marathon bombers were one of many recent examples. But do we know about nations that want to destroy themselves in order to destroy another nation?

Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, in the annual Al-Quds (Jerusalem) sermon given on December 14, 2001, said that if one day the world of Islam came to possess nuclear weapons, Israel could be destroyed. He added that the use of a nuclear bomb against Israel would leave nothing standing, but that retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely damage the world of Islam (reported in MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 325; January 3, 2002).

In other words, Rafsanjani was saying that Iran should turn itself into a suicide bomb—a nuclear suicide bomb. No one noticed. However, he did add the important words, “retaliation, no matter how severe, would merely damage the world of Islam.” In fact, in all likelihood, he expected that Iran too would survive horrible and severe destruction. Like most suicide bombers, he expected his cause to survive.

ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is a friend and ally of Hamas. Nevertheless, their vision of the future includes a Middle East Not only without an Israel but without a Palestinian state, according to their recently released map of how the world will look in five years. They don’t care about the survival of the Palestinian cause.

The popular world-wide opposition to Israel comes from sympathy with the Palestinians. Nobody stops to think what would happen If Israel were destroyed, God forbid. All its citizens—Jewish, Muslim, Christian, Druse, Bahai—would be killed. The neighboring states would then divide the territory, and the issue of a Palestinian state would vanish. The surviving Palestinians would then be persecuted by the Arab states as they have always been.

Rival groups of Muslims would blow up al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, preferably when lots of people were in them. The world would blame Israel (even if it no longer existed) and respond with an outburst of anti-Semitism leading to massacres of Jews in Europe.

The Palestinians are victimized because they won't accept an independent Palestine. The Arab world rejected a state in 1947. It did so with the Three No's of Khartoum in 1967. It did so at Taba in 2001. It did so in Gaza when Israel withdrew. It is doing so today by refusing to recognize that almost a half million Jewish Israelis live in places like Maale Adumim. The Palestinians are the only independence movement in history to reject a state of their own because of a boundary dispute.

The Germans forced out of the areas annexed by Poland in 1945 found homes in East and West Germany. The Poles forced out of areas that became part of the USSR and today are Belarus and Ukraine found homes in western Poland. The Serbs forced out of Slavonia by the Croatians are finding homes in the remaining Serbia. What is being done to the Palestinians and has been done for over 70 years is without precedent. If there were an independent Palestine that lived in peace with Israel, this situation could conceivably end. Hamas is doing its best to see that the descendants of the refugees remain refugees forever. It is rejecting the possibility of any kind of peaceful solution. Its Charter rejects Israel, but more to the point, launching rockets aimed at civilians leads necessarily and inevitably to responses from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF). The number of deaths in Gaza is perhaps 200 times higher than the number of Israeli deaths. Is it worthwhile to sacrifice 200 Palestinian lives to kill an Israeli Jew? Obviously, the actions of Hamas say that it is.

The Arabs on the West Bank and elsewhere in the Arab world who celebrated the recent kidnappings with a three-finger salute are in effect calling for murder.

Israel has consistently made sacrifices for the sake of peace. After winning the Sinai War of 1956, with a bit of air assistance from Britain and France, Israel surrendered Sinai—partly because Eisenhower joined with the USSR to pressure Israel. In the Six-Day War, and again in the Yom Kippur War, Israel reconquered Sinai. But when Anwar Sadat visited Israel in 1977 and signed a treaty in 1978, Israel withdrew from Sinai.

Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005, removing settlers kicking and screaming, thus creating an independent Palestinian state. Where are the Arab analogs to these withdrawals?

Hitler murdered as many Jews as he could. If the Nazi Party hadn’t been anti-Semitic, Jews would have remained in Germany, where they were typically assimilated and generally very productive German citizens. Hitler could have enjoyed Mahler’s music, which he would have loved. Germany would have been the first country on earth to develop atomic weapons. Hitler could have established a German Empire and ruled most of Europe—and maybe even the world. But even if he had known about the possibility of an atomic bomb in the early days of his rule, he wouldn’t have been able to accept Jews as German citizens. He destroyed the Nazi Party by losing a war that he could have won. That was a price he would have been willing to pay. Hamas may well destroy the possibility of an independent Palestine. So what? ISIS has already abandoned that possibility.

Destroy. Destroy. There is joy in destruction.

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George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937. He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects. As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at george@jochnowitz.net.

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Copyright ©2014. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. It is republished here with the author's permission.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Justice Of Israel's Battle

The Jewish State

If Israel's military operation in Gaza to root out terrorists and its infrastructure has shown anything it is that anti-Semitism is alive and well in the world, notably among those who call themselves Leftists. But they have loss the argument, which makes them more nasty, and more brutish. In the realm of mid-east politics, their arguments are not only dangerously foolish, but also irrelevant, which is what Jonathan S.Tobin has pointed out rather persuasively in Commentary:

Tobin writes:
That is why the energy expended by so many American liberals on behalf of projects designed to pressure Israel’s government to make more concessions to the Palestinians is not merely wrongheaded. It’s utterly irrelevant to the realities of both the Middle East and the global resurgence of anti-Semitism. Groups such as J Street that are predicated on the notion that Israel must be saved from itself by principled liberal critics are treated as both serious and representative of Jewish opinion by the mainstream media. But that group has little to say about the current conflict that requires our notice. Nor are its efforts to distinguish itself from far more radical anti-Zionist groups that openly support efforts to isolate Israel economically and support protests against its right of self defense of any importance any longer.

At this moment it is no longer possible to pretend that the conflict can be wished away by Israeli concessions that would, if implemented, create another 20 Gazas in the West Bank. Nor can one rationally argue that more Israeli forbearance toward Hamas in Gaza and a less vigorous effort to take out its vast system of tunnels shielding its rocket arsenal and terror shock troops would bring the region closer to peace when the only way to give that cause a chance is predicated on the elimination of Hamas.

If, at some point in the indefinite future, the Palestinians turn on Hamas and its less radical allies and embrace a national identity that is not inextricably linked to Israel’s elimination, perhaps then we can resume the debate about settlements and borders that J Street craves. But until that unlikely event happens, it is imperative that Americans realize that the J Street critique of Israel that is often echoed by some in the Obama administration and throughout the left is over. The only question to be asked today is whether you stand with Israel’s right to defend itself or not. Jews and others who consider themselves friends of the Jewish state must find the courage to speak up for the justice of Israel’s cause in the current crisis against the forces of hate. Viewed from the perspective of the last week’s events here in Israel, anything else is a waste of time.
Nothing further can be added, other than if you care about the values of democracy and classical liberalism—as I strongly and passionately do—then you, as Tobin says, " must find the courage to speak up for the justice of Israel’s cause in the current crisis against the forces of hate." Now is not the time to be silent.

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For the rest, go to [Commentary]