December 22, 2008

A Jewish Holiday Review: Hanukkah

I know what you're thinking.  When you read the title of this post, you thought I would be writing about dancing Hasidics with curly sideburns a-flying.  I regret having to disappoint you.

I was invited to attend my very first Jewish holiday event.  Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah.

If you're a goy like me, you may not know that Hanukkah isn't really a very important holiday in Jewish people.  It just happens to generally coincide with Christmas, so it gets more attention than it really warrants.

I think the story of Hanukkah is recorded in the Apocrypha.  I'm not Catholic, so I can't say for sure, but if you are and you have that in your version of the Christian texts, check out the book of the Maccabees.  (For others who are more familiar with the Protestant version of the Christian mythos, the apocryphal texts are not "officially" biblical texts in the sense that they are alleged to be inspired by divinity, but are nonetheless considered important historical records which represent the acts of God in contexts beyond the acts of the saints, prophets, and all that stuff.  At least that's my limited understanding of things.)

So, basically, way back in the day the Maccabees pitched a big fit and were chased into the temple or something and they didn't have enough oil to keep the candles or whatever lit over the altar, but magically what little oil they did have lasted for eight days.  This is why Hanukkah lasts for eight days and why it's called the "Festival of Lights."

We can point to similarly implausible stories around the Christmas holiday among Christians and for non-Christians we need not subscribe to magical thinking in order to appreciate the value of Christmas.  As far as I could tell, there's no reason to be religious to appreciate Hanukkah, either.

Christmas is, by far, the superior holiday for non-religious folk even though it only lasts a single day, but Hanukkah has its virtues.  Christmas is all about spending money, celebrating productive efforts, and giving gifts to people you value.  Hanukkah seems to be about eating food.

The party I attended was hosted by a clearly non-religious Jew.  He was obviously using the holiday as an excuse to throw a party.  I brought a bottle of good, non-kosher wine, as did other guests.  He did try to serve traditional Jewish foods like latkes, kasha, blints and some other things the names of which I can't remember.

Most of the food tasted fine, but was made of things that cavemen clearly did not eat and so I had a few tastes and that was it.  I did have a few too many chocolate and mint cookies and grew mildly ill throughout the evening.  Fortunately, I made it home before it became a pressing issue.

He also had some dreidles out, but no one played the game associated with that. I opened one of his chocolate coins from the game, but noted that it was afflicted with chocolate bloom and was told that those coins were several years old and should not be eaten.  (I don't care if people say the chocolate is fine. Chocolate bloom makes it taste chalky and unpleasant.  I think it's terrible.)

I think if you threw a party for eight days straight and dedicated it to eating lots and lots of food, then this might be a holiday I could get into.  As it is, I think Hanukkah is really just an appetizer.

So, in sum, should you celebrate Hanukkah?  Yeah, maybe.  I don't think you need an excuse to throw a party like this, though.  Unless you're going to do it for all eight days or if you're going to involve some sort of choreography for Hasidics.

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February 14, 2008

A Quote for the Time Being!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.
- Miss Piggy

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June 21, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?
Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?
Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?
Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?
Then why call him God?

- Epicurus 341BC - 270 BC

Props to Chip Gibbons who quoted this first. He has the source linked on his site, so go visit him and say hello.

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June 18, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

"With Paris Hilton in jail and Mike Nifong disbarred it seems almost as if something is right with our justice system."

Chip Gibbons

Right?

If I were superstitious, I'd think something really, really bad was about to happen.

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May 14, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it may be necessary from time to time to give a stupid or misinformed beholder a black eye.

Miss Piggy

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March 19, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

"It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively, without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrue either to body or mind; -- but when a beginning is made -- when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt -- it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more."

The opening paragraph of Chapter XI, Part 2 of Emma by Jane Austen

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March 15, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

"One bleeding-heart type asked me in a recent interview if I did not agree that 'violence begets violence.' I told him that it is my earnest endeavor to see that it does. I would like very much to ensure — and in some cases I have — that any man who offers violence to his fellow citizen begets a whole lot more in return than he can enjoy." - Col. Jeff Cooper

("Cooper vs. Terrorism", Guns & Ammo Annual, 1975)

I heart badasses.

Hat Tip 2--4

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March 02, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

Yanked off of Ergo's sidebar:

You see, I’m an atheist. And I have only one religion; the sublime in human nature. There is nothing to approach the sanctity of the highest man possible, and there is nothing that gives me the same reverent feeling, the feeling when one’s spirit wants to kneel bareheaded… do not call it hero-worship, because it is more than that. It is a kind of strange and improbable white heat, where admiration becomes religion and religion becomes philosophy and philosophy, the whole of one’s life.

- Ayn Rand

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February 20, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it.

- Mae West

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February 13, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

A friend of mine pronounced his disgust for the graffiti artist Jean-Michel Basquiat to me today. It's true, he's awful, but the mention of his name got me to thinking about our contemporary graffiti artist, Banksy.

Banksy's work is at least intelligible while the same cannot be said for a majority of Basquiat's undertakings.

Banksy is also pretty clever. I would argue that it's not art, but that is getting away from the point of this post, which was to merely present you with this quotation for the time being:

Renegade urban graffiti artist Banksy is clearly a guffhead of massive proportions, yet he's often feted as a genius straddling the bleeding edge of now. Why? Because his work looks dazzlingly clever to idiots. And apparently that'll do.

Charlie Brooker, The Guardian

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January 26, 2007

A Quotation for the Time Being

Apropos to the recent State of the Union address from Dubya.

Hand: A singular instrument worn at the end of the human arm and commonly thrust into somebody's pocket.

-- Ambrose Bierce

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November 16, 2006

A Quotation for the Time Being

The days are getting shorter and shorter and the Democrats have only been in power for a week.

-Stephen Colbert

That guy cracks me up!

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November 01, 2006

A Quotation for the Time Being

Fry: So, that's my story, Father Changstein el Gamal. Is there anything religion can do to help me find my friend?



Father Changstein el Gamal: Well, we could join together in prayer.

Fry: Uh huh. But is there anything useful we could do?

Father Changstein el Gamal: No.

- Futurama

Told ya.

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October 17, 2006

A Quotation for the Time Being

October: this is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate in stocks. Other dangerous months are July, January, September, April, November, May, March, June, December, August and February.

-- Mark Twain

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August 17, 2006

A Quotation for the Time Being

Old people don't need companionship. They need to be isolated and studied so it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use.

-Homer Simpson

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August 16, 2006

A Quotation for the Time Being

In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

- Douglas Adams

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July 11, 2006

A Quotation for the Time Being

"To mistrust science and deny the validity of the scientific method is to resign your job as a human. You'd better go look for work as a plant or wild animal."

P. J. O'Rourke

Update: A little trip to Google revealed that this quotation is pulled from Parliment of Whores

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July 07, 2006

Another Fun Quote

"Last week I stated that this woman was the ugliest woman I had ever seen. I have since been visited by her sister and now wish to withdraw that statement."

- Mark Twain

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A Quotation for the Time Being

"I don't want any yes-men around me. I want everyone to tell me the truth - even if it costs him his job."

- Samuel Goldwyn

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November 20, 2005

A Quotation for the Time Being

"Christianity ... paved the way for modern totalitarianism by entrenching three fundamentals in the western mind: in metaphysics, the worship of the supernatural; in epistemology, reliance on faith; as a consequence, in ethics, the reverence for self-sacrifice.

- Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels

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August 05, 2005

Happy Friday! A Quotation for the Time Being

The Sheryl Crow cover of this Bob Dylan song is my personal theme song. Since it's happy Friday and I was blasting it as I pulled into the parking lot this morning, I thought I'd share it with you.

Mississippi

Every step of the way

We walk the line

Your days are numbered

So are mine

Time is piling up
We struggle and we scrape
All boxed in
Nowhere to escape

The city's just a jungle
More games to play
I'm trapped in the heart of it
Trying to get away

I was raised in the country
Been working in the town
I been in trouble since I
Set my suitcase down

I ain't got nothing for you
I had nothing before
Don't even have anything
For myself anymore

Sky's full of fire
And the rain is pouring down
There's nothing you can sell me
So I'll see you around

All my powers of expression
And thoughts so sublime
Could never do you justice
Reason or rhyme
There's only one thing that I did wrong
I stayed in Mississippi a day too long

The devil's in the alley
The mule kickin' in the stall
Say anything you wanna
I've heard it all
I was thinking about the things that she said
I was dreaming I was sleeping in you bed

Walking through the leaves
Falling from the trees
Feel like a stranger nobody sees
So many things we never will undo
I know you're sorry, well I'm sorry too

Some people will offer you their hand and some won't
Last night I knew you, tonight I don't
I need something strong to distract my mind
I'm gonna look at you till my eyes go blind

Well I got here, following the southern star
I crossed that river just to be where you are
There's only one thing that I did wrong
I stayed in Mississippi a day too long

Well my ship's been split to splinters
I's sinking fast
I'm drowning in the poison
Got no future
Got no past
But my heart is not weary, it's light and it's free
I've got nothing but affection for those who've sailed with me

Everybody's moving if they ain't already there
Everybody's got to move somewhere
Well stick with me baby anyhow
Things should start to get interesting right about now

My clothes are wet
Tight on my skin
Not as tight as the corner that I painted myself in
I know that fortune is waiting to be kind
So give me your hand and say you'll be mine

The emptiness is endless
Cold as clay
You can always come back
But you can't come back all the way

Well there's only one thing that I did wrong
I stayed in Mississippi a day too long
Yeah the only thing that I did wrong
Was stayed in Mississippi a day too long
The only thing that I did wrong
Was stayed in Mississippi a day too long

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July 12, 2005

A Quotation for the Time Being

Some laws should be broken from the start/ I'm gonna have to steal your love.
-- Lucinda Williams "Steal Your Love"

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July 05, 2005

A Quotation for the Time Being

"I can hardly imagine any laws so bad, to which I would not rather be subject than to the caprice of a man," John Stuart Mill

Props to Thomas Sowell for bringing it to my attention.

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June 29, 2005

A Quotation for the Time Being

Republic ... it means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. -- John Wayne

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