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My plans for March 15th

Mmmmm.... Meat.When Bruce Hill came to town a few months ago, we went to visit Wind Rider, what with Wind Rider being one of the guys who keeps Silent Running running. And he wanted Bruce and me to go to a restaurant for dinner that was vehemently shouted down by yours truly. It's a steakhouse, and they give you the raw hunks of meat (that you choose, of course), things to put them on, and let you cook it yourself. I fail to see the point of a restaurant where you have to do your own cooking, but then, I don't have that Y chromosome, and Bruce and Windrider both thought that idea was just great. Turned out we didn't have the time to go out for dinner, but now I see a use for that restaurant.

PETA is based within spitting distance of Wind Rider. So if he's got the day free, I think I'll drive out to his neck of the Tidewater and go to a restaurant that serves raw hunks of meat that you cook yourself. I'll bring the digicam, and maybe we can make up some signs that PETA would appreciate.

Come to think of it, if you folks want to make up some signs and take pictures of yourselves on International Eat an Animal for PETA Day, I'll be happy to put 'em up here.

In the meantime, I had chicken for dinner tonight. I'm planning on steak tomorrow.

Hitting PETA where it hurts: International Eat an Animal for PETA Day

Updated Feb. 14th, 2005: Jeez Louise, people. Below is the original post, but yes, we've had IEAPD for two years running, and fully intend to have it again. Check out my main page for any details about the upcoming festivities. There's more in this new post. By the way, don't bother sending PETA the letter below. It was written in 2003, folks. The campaign is long over.

If you haven't heard by now, PETA has started yet another offensive ad campaign. This one really reaches bottom—they are using Holocaust terminology, quotes, and pictures to liken the "slaughter" of animals to the slaughter of the Jews by the Nazis.

I've already received a letter from a child of Holocaust survivors who is, of course, extraordinarily offended. But here's the thing: PETA is known for this kind of outrageous publicity stunt—and that's what it is, an outrageous publicity stunt—and while I am also offended and outraged, there is absolutely nothing we can do that will make PETA change their ad campaign. I'm sure they knew exactly what they were doing, have a plan in mind, and, if they withdraw the campaign, will do it according to their deadlines and their decisions.

So let's make up our own outrageous publicity stunt. Let's designate Saturday, March 15th, as International Eat an Animal for PETA Day. Everybody set the date on your calendar, and either go out and enjoy a great steak, or cook one at home. Or cook up some chicken or fish or anything else that PETA wouldn't want you to eat. And let's let PETA know how their ad campaign has affected us.

Send a letter to PETA something on the order of this one: (You can cut and paste, but you can also write your own.)

Dear PETA,

I found your new ad campaign, "The Holocaust on your plate," offensive and outrageous. But I don't expect your organization to suddenly develop any sense of tact or human decency, so I thought I'd tell you what your campaign has wrought:

March 15th has been designated "International Eat An Animal For PETA" day. On that day, I'll be chowing down on a juicy steak, or chicken, or perhaps I'll have lobster—fresh, of course, chosen from the tank specifically for me. Maybe I'll have a plate of ribs at my local barbecue restaurant. Then there's that great seafood restaurant with the poached salmon and the delicious crabcakes. I could take my family there.

America's a free country, and you have the right to say what you want, no matter how offensive I think it is. But as a result of your insensitivity to those millions of people who died in the real Holocaust, and to the survivors and their descendants, I and my family will show PETA the same kind of insensitivity.

And have a great, meat-filled dinner, while we're at it.

Chew on that.

Fellow webloggers: Please feel free to join in and put up your own letter for your readers to grab. Here are the contact addresses. Obviously, the above letter needs to be changed for the international crowd. There are more country contacts on the page.

501 Front St.
Norfolk, VA 23510
Tel.: 757-622-PETA (7382)
Fax: 757-622-0457

United Kingdom:
PETA Europe Ltd.
PO Box 36668
Tel: 020 7357 9229
Fax: 020 7357 0901
PETA Europe Web Site:

It's like my father taught me: Don't get mad. Get even.

(P.S.: If you're not checking the main page, you're missing more information on the anti-PETA campaign.)

Oh, that wacky Arab League

Moammar Gadahfi and Prince Sultan of Saudi Arabia traded insults on television, blaming each other for the woes of the Arab world:

But the summit designed to show unity between Arab nations came apart at the seams as Libya's president and the crown prince of Saudi Arabia traded insults.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadahfi attributed all the troubles of the Middle East to the presence of U.S. troops. He blamed Saudi Arabia for forming "an alliance with the devil" when bringing U.S. troops to the region during the Gulf War.

Crown Prince Abdullah interrupted angrily asking Ghadafi who had put him in power and saying he should not speak about things he knows nothing about. He denied that Saudi Arabia was an agent of the United States.

At that point Egyptian television, which was broadcasting the proceedings, pulled the plug on meeting.

Boy, I'd like to see a clip of that. With subtitles. The sheer cheek of Abdullah asking Ghadafi who put him in power is—is—no, it's not funny. An unelected dictator asks another unelected dictator, in effect, "Who died and made you king?" Sad.

There's a phrase we used to see in the comments of LGFand on many weblogs that we don't see much lately. Let's bring it back: Faster, please.



Late to the party

Diane pointed this out a week and a half ago, but I only just got to it, and thought I'd share. Salam writes about the "human shields" in Baghdad:

Anyway, what really got my goat this time was finding out that they get food coupons worth 15,000 dinars per meal, 3 for every day. fifteen thousand.

Do you know how much the monthly food ration for a 4 person family is worth, for a whole month not per meal (real cost, not subsidized) ? 30,000 dinars, if you get someone to buy the bad rice they give you for a decent price. 15,000. What are they eating? A whole lamb every meal? Let's put this within context. Today in the morning Raed, our friend G. and I went for a late big breakfast we had 2 tishreeb bagilas (can't explain that, you have to be an Iraqi to get it otherwise it sounds inedible) and a makhlama (which is an omelet with minced meat), tea, fizzy drinks and argila afterwards (the water-pipe-thingy) all for 4,750 dinars, and we were not going super cheap. A lunch in any above-average restaurant will not be more than 8,000 dinars and that includes everything. 15,000 thousand is a meal in a super expensive restaurant in Arasat Street, in one of those places that really almost have an "only foreigners allowed, no Iraqis welcome unless you are UN staff" sign on it. I will stop calling them tourist when they stop taking all this pampering from the Iraqi government. Did I tell you about the tours? Today was Babylon day. You are really missing it, the cheapest way to do the Iraq trip you have wanted to do but were too scared.

And I have a tip for all freelance journalists who are not getting their Visas. Join your colleagues. It's the best way to get past the visa thing, every third one of these "shields" will be writing an article somewhere. Hurry contact your local "war tourism" travel agent.

Sorry, I just don't get it. What are they doing here?

They're saving your life, Salam. Didn't you know that? Why, they're effing heroes—in their own minds.

More on the anti-Semitism of the left and right

Jim Miller (who writes a damned good blog; go check it out when you're finished here) sent me an email on the above:

First, I thought that Podhoretz's piece summarized the state of things pretty well. At one time, I was beating up on Buchanan supporters regularly over at Lucianne's site, so I boned up on the issue. I think Buchanan's Republican opponents were slow to give him the appropriate labels, which would include racist as well as anti-Semite. One reason for this slowness, as well as the political calculations, was Buchanan's cleverness with words. Jonah Goldberg had it right, I thought, when he said that Buchanan had a way of expressing things so that his supporters heard the anti-Semitism, without it quite alerting the national media. The "Amen corner" crack is a good example. Most understood what he meant, but there was just enough ambiguity to protect Buchanan from most attacks. That's one reason why Buckley took most of a book to confront the issue. (I give Buckley somewhat less credit than you do, by the way. I think he published his attack on Buchanan hoping to get Buchanan to change, not to read him out of the conservative movement. When Buchanan did not take the opportunity to back off Buckley had offered him, Buckley did not follow through, as he should have.) Despite the difficulty, I think his opponents should have done more than they did to call him out, on this issue and others.

That said, there were other conservatives and Republicans who did directly criticize Buchanan, besides those you've mentioned. During the 1992 campaign, Richard Bond, the party chairman, denounced Buchanan "as in effect a neo-fascist", as Buckley puts it. (Almost certainly Bond had the approval of the Bush administration for his remarks.) William Bennett made similar criticisms, especially after Buchanan attacked him. Jack Kemp, Phil Gramm, Vin Weber, and Newt Gingrich all criticized Buchanan. The American Spectator published a sharp attack on him by David Frum. In 2000, John McCain, to his considerable credit, was sharply critical of Buchanan as a hater. And, though I don't know what his party registration is, it is no secret that Norman Podhoretz has been backing Republicans since at least 1980. He has certainly be a conservative of some sort for even longer.

All in all, I would say that the Republican and conservative response to Buchanan has been lacking, but still better than the Democratic and liberal response to another, even nastier, demagogue, Al Sharpton.

Well, as far as Al Sharpton is concerned, the subject is anti-Semitism, and while I agree that Sharpton is a race-baiter, he hasn't hit my anti-Semitism radar like, say, Louis Farrakhan has. Of course, it may be because when I hear the name "Sharpton," my brain immediately moves on to other things.



There's only one thing to say

Sarah Michele Gellar quit. This is the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I have but one word:



Does this qualify as a professional fisking?

Via Laurence Simon, this gem from Tech Central Station:

Suppose that you and I and Mr. Fisk were all being held in the basement of a madman, and that the madman was keeping us barely alive on a diet of bread and water. Suppose, furthermore, that from time to time the madman came down and tortured one or the other of us, simply to remind us of the power that he holds over our fates.

Now one day, just as we are beginning to despair of ever being released from the madman's custody, an individual stumbles into the basement and says, "I am here to rescue you. Follow me to freedom."

My heart would leap in joy, and I must assume that yours would as well. But what about Mr. Fisk's heart? What would his response be to the offer of liberation?

Judging by the arguments Mr. Fisk is currently using, his first instinct would be to determine what motive our apparent savior had for freeing us from the clutches of the madman. Was it an act of pure altruism, or was it contaminated with mean self-interest?

The rest is pretty funny, too.

We get the message

To: Whom it may concern
From: Meryl, speaking for many people
Re: Winter

All right. We give up. We get the point. Winter is cold. Winter means ice and snow. We already know that, actually, but thank You so much for reinforcing our knowledge of what happens when water reaches temperatures of 32 degrees Fahrenheit and below. (And by the way, nice touch, sending the blizzard and ice storm while my mother was visiting, thus enforcing an extra three days of togetherness. I thought You frown upon matricide, not do things to encourage it.)

Look, there are only so many days that an adult can take of yet another snowstorm, yet another digging out, yet another horrible, slippery drive. I really don't care how many children are begging You to send us more snow, we're the ones who drive the little—angels—to synagogue and church, so I'd say that our needs trump their wish to play in the snow. Unless You want us to start a little, um, worship stoppage in reaction to being forced to have the little—angels—around for an extra couple of weeks this winter. Not to mention all the snow tracked inside, the extra laundry due to sopping wet snowclothes, and those of us who have the misfortune of being the one with the house that all the kids love to play in and around when it snows. (By the way, remind me never to live in a house with a sloping driveway. Ever.) And we won't even talk about my slipping on the salt on the library steps and landing smack on my behind. Yes, it's finally healed, thanks for asking and no, it wasn't funny. Stop laughing.

And the way you're getting Your laughs by slamming the south with all that white stuff? If I didn't know better, I'd think You'd lost a bet with Someone else—Someone less kind than you—or something. Everyone knows southerners can't drive very well even without snow in the winter. It's sheer sadism to make those poor people learn that four-wheel drive doesn't mean you actually have traction on a snow-covered road.

As I write this, yet another winter storm watch has hit the Richmond area, and we're expecting another inch or two of sleet.

All right. We get the point. Winter is cold, and sometime ice and snow fall from the sky. Can we have spring now? Please?

Krypton comes to New York. Where's Superman?

Look! Up in the skyline! It's the planet Krypton! No, it's the Fortress of Solitude! No, it's the new design for the World Trade Center!

The Spire of Solitude       Kryptonopolis

Oh, I dunno. It could work. Well, okay, it could work in Kryptonopolis (that's the main city of Krypton, or at least, the city where the Els lived. As in Kal-El, sone of Jor-El and Lara (she had no last name, the sexist bastards.)) Kal-El, of course, is better known to the world as Superman (I really hope none of his enemies read my blog; I've just outed the Man of Steel. Dang.). And of course, it's frightening just how many websites you can find on a Google search of Kryptonopolis. I am so not the only comics geek on the web. But, uh, yeah, I knew all those facts by heart. Sigh.

Doesn't that second picture really look like the Fortress of Solitude from the old Richard Donner film? You almost expect to see Christopher Reeve start flying around the island. (I prefer Dean Cain, but hey, taste is subjective. And he's much hotter than Reeve ever was.)




I completely forgot: Carnival of the Vanities is over on Kesher Talk. Judith, you need to send out another email asking people to plug you. 'Cause if you did, I didn't get it.

And from the list, go check out BloggerRabbit, who has a couple of funny posts. This one's about making up your own email (and answering it). This one's disgusting, but funny. (I feel your pain. I had an upper respiratory infection like that in November.) And this one says (sigh) that the rabbit may be done blogging. I always catch the good ones too late.

Terry Oglesby, as usual, is not on the list, but I couldn't stop laughing over his post on the origin of the blog.

Oh, I'm tired. Go read for yourself and click on any links that look interesting.

Yeah, yeah, I said I was tired, but then I got over to my fiancé's place, and, well, he's funny and sarcastic and out-and-out entertaining, as always. So go read this one on Robert Fisk. Then read this one about one of the fatuous twits desperately in search of relevance (that's Bill's phrase, not mine—I told you he's good).

Once again, it's the wrong message

MEMRI has some real gems today. One, via LGF and President Arafish, is a sweet little holiday message from Yasser Arafat to Saddam Hussein, avowing eternal love and putting in a dig for more money (you have to read between the lines) while promising to march together "hand in hand" to Al Quds Al Sharif. That's Jerusalem. Yes, this is what the EU thinks should be Israel's partner in peace.

But the kicker is this translation of a column in the Egyptian opposition daily newspaper:

"It is the disease of our glorious Arab nation that all domestic and foreign problems are examined in only one way - the way of falsehood, hypocrisy, slogans, personal caprices, and all the other ills of the world. I will restrict myself here to one example, namely, the so-called martyrdom operations, in which a young Palestinian blows himself up among the enemy."

"No benefit comes to the Palestinian cause from these operations, on the contrary: They have caused, still cause, and will continue to cause grave human and material losses, because the enemy's revenge for each such operation is terrible... Furthermore, we have lost the sympathy of the world, which, because of these operations, saw us as terrorists and murderers deserving nothing short of the severest of punishments."

"Considering all this, can any reasonable person accept the continuation of such operations, while there is no spark of hope, in the short or long range, that through these actions a solution will be found for the Palestinian problem?"

"However, our glorious Arab nation - whether out of lack of knowledge, willful ignorance, hypocrisy, indifference, lack of awareness, or any other shortcoming - finds no fault in continuing [these operations]. All that occupies the minds of many of the Arab clerics, intellectuals, and politicians, in their symposia, interviews, and speeches, is the [semantic] question of whether these operations should be considered martyrdom or suicide. A number of fatwas have been issued on this matter, and some(2) claimed that these were not to be considered martyrdom operations because they targeted civilians, not military personnel. But afterwards they reneged on this position, and argued that they were nevertheless considered martyrdom operations."

[...] "Has anyone claimed or can anyone claim that the Palestinian people is dead, while it has been struggling for its cause for over half a century, and will continue to struggle until the Day of Judgment... Oh, geniuses of bygone days, if we want to send a message that the Palestinian people is alive, can't we find a way other than martyrdom operations, that have caused us all this unbearable damage? Can't your minds come up with another way of sending a message to the world - if in fact it really needs to be informed that we are alive, as your shameful sterile thinking suggests?"

Once again, the Arabs get the message wrong. Nowhere in the article is there the concept that suicide bombing is wrong, or that deliberate targeting of civilians is immoral. The only discussion of civilians is whether or not the killing of such constitutes martyrdom or suicide. The Pals should stop this practice, the author says, because "No benefit comes to the Palestinian cause from these operations."

Once again, ladies and gentlemen, these are the Arabs: Israel's would-be partners in peace.

The return of civility

Mike Sanders is back, and back on my blogroll. His current role appears to be the existentialist of the blogosphere.

In Blogging, the question to answer is "Why Blog?". Glenn Reynolds often states that he blogs because it is fun. My suggestion is to go a little deeper than that. Go beyond fun, and think of the pleasures of blogging:

Go say hello to Mike and read the rest, and the ones down the page.

Fact-checking my ass

That's the thing about this Internet thing. Make one little mistake, and you get an entire back issue of the Weekly Standard in PDF format emailed to you, one article of which is written by Norman Podhoretz and denounces Pat Buchanan's anti-Semitism. It's not available online except as a PDF for subscribers, but Jonathan Last said I could quote liberally. (The use of the word "liberal" by a Standard editor, of course, without a negative adjective, is duly noted.)

A consensus seems to be developing among conservatives opposed to Patrick J. Buchanan that the best way to express their opposition is to avoid “name-calling” and “ad hominem attacks,” to treat him with “respect,” to acknowledge the validity of the issues through which he seems to have struck a responsive chord, and to provide better solutions than his to the problems he has succeeded in placing at the very center of this presidential campaign.

In other words, we are to cease and desist from bringing up Buchanan’s record of hostility toward Jews, and not only are we to stop denouncing him as an anti-Semite, we are even to avoid such euphemisms as “extremist” in describing that record.

A few of the people who offer us this counsel privately believe that Buchanan is an anti-Semite, but they think that saying so will at best do no good and at worst will drive his supporters out of the Republican coalition and make Bill Clinton’s reelection even more probable than it already is. There are, however, others who, while sharing this fear of alienating Buchanan’s constituency, at the same time flatly deny that he is an anti-Semite, or declare themselves unconvinced.

My own impolite opinion is that deep down (or maybe not so deep) many of these conservative deniers and putative skeptics know very well that Buchanan is an anti-Semite. But if so, why are they reluctant to admit it? One reason, I would guess, is that they like his stand on abortion or some other issue and do not wish to see those stands tarnished by association with anti-Semitism. Another reason is that some of them may even be preparing to support him in the no longer inconceivable event that he becomes the Republican candidate for president in 1996—something they would be unable to bring themselves to do if they admitted, even or perhaps especially to themselves, that he is an anti-Semite.

Four years ago, the charge of anti-Semitism against Buchanan was so thoroughly documented in articles by Joshua Muravchik, Jacob Weisberg, William F. Buckley, Jr., and others that no one who remained, or chose to remain, unpersuaded then is likely to be persuaded now. Nevertheless it is important, if only for the sake of political hygiene (not to mention the simple truth), to go over the evidence yet again before it is willfully forgotten or sanitized or buried under an avalanche of tactical electoral considerations that threaten to besmirch the honor of the conservative movement.

Okay, Jonathan. I was wrong. Some of the right did take Buchanan to task, particularly the Standard and the National Review. Which leaves CNN, the network that claims to be impartial, still guilty of saving Buchanan's seat for him after each failed presidential attempt but the last (if memory serves again). I'm pretty sure no CNN producers read my site, so I don't think I'll have to eat crow twice in one day.

But I don't recall any politicians taking Buchanan to task for his anti-Semitism. If someone can send me information on a major politician speaking out against Buchanan's anti-Jewish views, I'll chew on some more shoe leather in public today. Unlike some bloggers I could name (but won't), I don't have a problem admitting when I'm wrong.

However, the above still doesn't change the main thrust of my post. And it's still the thing that bothers me the most about the chasm between the left and the right: The polarization of every issue. On both sides of the aisle, bloggers make me turn from their pages in disgust, because it seems to me that they're far too busy throwing insults at the other side to notice that there are issues on which both sides should be working together. Like, say, decrying anti-Semitism.

A new voice

Dixie Flatline is a fairly new blogger with an excellent piece on Israel.

Before the mid-1990s, I did not often consider the Palestinians. They were a thorn in the side of Israel, bastard children of ’67, an issue to be deferred, safely ignored. After Olso, after Camp David, I paid greater attention, marveling at the rehabilitation of Arafat, inveterate murderer, in the arms of an American president. I did not support any return to pre-1967 borders, the strategic vulnerability too great, the risk too high. But still, the issue no longer deferred, resolution possible, preferable.

And then the second intifada, the second “uprising for statehood.” No longer merely boys with rocks, futile gesture of impotent revolt. Now boys with nail-studded Semtex belts, on a Jerusalem bus, targeting Jerusalem schoolchildren. Settlements infiltrated, a mother’s desperate, failed effort to shield her young sons, their blood mingling together on bedroom floor.

Rallies, marches, self-sacrifice glorified, self-sacrifice demanded, Palestinian children and Israeli children offered up to bloodthirsty god. A popular movement, this death cult, support in the streets, homes, mosques, schools. Proud mothers, framed portrait of a now-dead son, traveling to paradise soaked in Jewish blood.

Mike N. sent me a letter and asked that I recommend it with "Read the whole thing." Yeah, he was right about that.

Not-so-instant karma

A few months ago, I had laryngitis, and Heidi, who is my dearest friend, was, well, less than sympathetic about it. Last night, after my third message in two days, she finally called me back. And, well—she sounds almost exactly like I did in November. Some relevant portions of our conversation, with my laughter removed (it was, uh, in nearly every sentence):

"No wonder you didn't return my calls."
"Yes, I thought you'd take entirely too much pleasure in my being unable to speak."
"Well, if talking is too much trouble you can always send me emails."
"Shut up."
"You know, there's a concept known as karma—"
"I know what karma is."
"I'd say this is a perfect example of it."
"You are having entirely too much fun with this."
"Yes, I am. I am grinning from ear to ear.
"I knew you would be."
"I should let you go now. I know it's hard for you to talk."

Yeah, I know. Just like Bugs Bunny: Ain't I a stinkah?



Anti-Semites of the world

Trent Telenko wrote an essay partly in response to this David Brooks piece in the Weekly Standard, decrying the perceived increasing anti-Semitism of the left. Each of them cites examples and tries to make it seem as if anti-Semitism were some kind of partisan issue. The underlying theme of both pieces, is, I think, "See? The left is anti-Semitic, and the right isn't!" Or perhaps it's "The right isn't nearly as much!" It's difficult to tell when one tries to polarize an issue that is by definition already polarized.

For the past few days, since Trent first emailed me that I may be interested in his post, I've been thinking over a response. I started digging around a bit, doing some research. No, Trent, no high-ranking Republican other than William F. Buckley ever publicly denounced Patrick Buchanan for his anti-Semitism. The Republicans shied away from Buchanan because he kept running against their guys, stealing their votes, and pummeling their platform—not because he was down on Jews. He doesn't like Mexicans or blacks or other nonwhites, either, which also puts him on the fringes.

Neither did the left do much about Buchanan. CNN cared so little about Buchanan's anti-Semitism that they kept his seat warm for him on Crossfire after each failed Presidential bid, and Michael Kinsley, his liberal Jewish partner on the show, said he'd never personally felt any anti-Semitic vibes or heard Buchanan utter anything against Jews. I guess Kinsley has a blind spot. Buchanan was the one who popularized the phrase "amen corner" to mean American Jews that support Israel. It wasn't a compliment.

So I had this post going, and it would have been a pretty long and involved one, and probably would have started a cross-blog dialogue, if not a battle. But then today, my friend called me and asked if I wanted to go see the James River at floodtide again. We wound up on the same railroad bridge near the Tredegar Iron Works that Tom Paine and I walked on in November to look and take pictures of the river. Today, we marveled at the current and the height and the waves and the noise of the river, and then Andy said, "Don't look down there" as I was about to walk over to him. Of course I looked. And saw this:

Anti-Semitic graffiti

So what do you think? Was the person who wrote that a liberal or a conservative? Was it a man or a woman? Muslim or Christian? Black or white? Young or old? And more importantly: Does it matter?

Here's the thing, Trent. Here's the thing, David Brooks: It makes no difference to me, or, in the end, to any other Jew, whether the person who hates us is a liberal or a conservative. It doesn't matter if they're Republican or Democrat or independent. Anti-Semitism isn't an ism of the left or the right. It doesn't discriminate against anyone but Jews. Is the level of anti-Semitism on the left rising? Or is it just being noticed more? Is the level of anti-Semitism on the right going down? Or are we just not noticing it as much because we're too busy staring at the left side of the aisle?

Or perhaps the level is going up on both sides. I don't know. But I do know this: When you get into your pissing match over which side hates the Jews more, you're forgetting that while you're arguing, the anti-Semites are pissing all over me and mine. So maybe you should dump the blame game on this particular subject, and remember that anti-Semites are equal opportunity haters: They don't care where you're from, so long as you hate the Jews.

How about not making Jews your ideological kickball on this matter, hm? It's bad enough that they hate us. We don't need you arguing over who hates us more.

Hitting my teaching stride

Long-time readers know that I teach the fourth grade class in my synagogue's religious school. I just happened upon the job. The fifth grade teacher was trying to talk me into discussing the opening with the director of education, and I didn't push, because although I've looked into becoming a teacher in the past year or two, I didn't see how I could just jump right in. But the rabbi's wife found out that I was interested, dragged me to the director at the Oneg after services one Friday night, and one appointment later, I was the new fourth grade teacher. There were a few surprises along the way. The kids said and did some unexpected things. It took me a while to get the routine down. Early on, one of the kids actually told another teacher that I was too soft on them, which is why I was having classroom control problems. He was right.

But those days are behind me. I've figured out the balance between lack of discipline and being overly strict, and I've even bonded with the one student that didn't care for me from the first day. Or at least, if not bonded, we've got a truce that has been kept these past couple of months and looks to last the rest of the year. I'm finding that I'm fond of that student, too, and will miss him/her as much as I'll miss the rest, I think.

Yesterday, I didn't walk into class with a carefully printed out lesson plan to hand to my assistants. I wanted to try flying by the seat of my pants and declared it "Student Lesson Plan Day," where they would decide what we were going to do. I told them they had to read from a chapter in the book they hate the most. It's called Living As Partners With God, and the reason they hate it is because it's a book about concepts and philosophy, and nine-year-olds want to deal with things that have results they can see, like learning to read and write Hebrew. In order to make the lesson more palatable, I waited for the groans to stop and told them I had an idea to make the book more fun: Read from it in funny voices. I also suggested we do it first and get it out of the way. They liked both ideas, though we did have to stop the lesson from time to time because the teacher was laughing too hard. We got through a good bit of the chapter, and discussed it until all of us got bored with it and moved on to Jewish Jeopardy and reading.

I gave them about a ten-minute indoor recess (too muddy outside), ending with "Walk like a freak" because a couple of the kids who weren't playing whatever game they were playing with the ball in the other room complained they needed exercise. I told them to walk around the room. They said that would be boring. I said then walk in a strange way. "Like a freak?" one asked. "Sure," I said. I've noticed that I tend to say yes to a nine-year-old without really understanding what s/he means. I figure if it doesn't involve violence, I can always tell them no if it turns out to be really inappropriate. (I've also learned to warn the children that fart jokes are inappropriate for beginning-of-class joke time. Count on a child to go for the bodily eruption jokes every time.)

The "Walk like a freak" thing lasted a bit longer than I'd wanted. There's a one-minute egg timer that came with a game one of the parents gave the class for Chanukah, and I use it in cases like that. "One minute left," I declared, starting the timer. While my back was turned, one of my students flipped the timer. I missed it. But I caught him the second time, and he cheerfully told me that I'd missed him the first time. Not in a "ha-ha, we got you" kind of way, just a confession of mischief. They do that every time they manage to put one over on me. They haven't yet figured out that I remember what they do, and make sure they don't get to do it a second time. Hey, they didn't even figure out that the Student Lesson Plan Day looked almost exactly like a day when I planned the lesson. But they sure felt like they ran the show on Sunday.

You would think that the kids would catch on to the fact that, well, I've caught on to them. But they don't seem to have made the connection. I know when they're going to go off topic. I know when the wiseguys in the class are going to make a smart remark instead of giving me the answer to a question, and have learned to say, "Everyone with a sarcastic comment put your hands down" and watch all of the hands in the class go down. I've figured out how to make a student forget that she just bumped her arm and it hurts and she wants to tell me how much it hurts or just sit and cry. (Just ask them a question about themselves, and off they go, every time. If it's a serious hurt, you'll know the difference.) I can gauge when I've lost their attention and it's time to switch to another lesson. I've figured out how to make their most hated lessons palatable. I can tell when they need to physically blow off steam and get a longer-than-usual recess, or some kind of physical activity instead of a simple read-from-the-book lesson.

So yeah, I think I've hit my teaching stride. During the winter break, I had no intention of teaching a second year. Now I think I'll stay.



It's a big day for other bloggers

Not here. But it isn't writer's block. I just want to keep on doing non-writing things today. (Almost caught up on three weeks' worth of The Gilmore Girls. Got those errands done. Took a nap.)

So instead, go wish Diane a happy one year blogiversary.

It's Susanna Cornett's blogiversary, too.

And go wish Stefan Sharkansky a happy birthday. It's also today.

And then send your congratulations to Sasha and Andrew, who are now officially married, after a whirlwind courtsthip that began, of course, because of their weblogs.

The agenda

Life intrudes into my blogging career. How dare it?

Gotta run to deliver the synagogue newsletter before the admin has a coronary waiting for it, then return a pillow that smells like mold, then I think I'll head out to River Road and see how much higher the James has risen. (And let me tell you that the weather forecasters, once again, got it wrong. Sunny and low fifties my ass. It's just as cloudy and chilly today as it was yesterday.)

In the meantime, two separate Winds of Change authors have mentioned Trent Telenko's article about anti-Semitism to me, asking me to comment. Best be careful what you ask for, fellas. I've been working on it in my head. (Comment number one: Ah, hello? Returned? It never left.)

On another note, there's a poseur Hulk weblog on Blogspot. It's not me, as you could tell after reading one entry. I won't point to it, because, well, it sucks. I won't give it the traffic. But I wanted to let you know that the real Hulk, the genuine, bonafide article, has been spotted in the Richmond area. I expect to hear from him soon.



Are we in a time warp?

Okay, I loved and love Simon and Garfunkel, and seeing them open the Grammy awards with "The Sounds of Silence" was wonderful, but, um, could someone tell me something, please?

When did folk rock come back into style? I mean, gawd, James Taylor? Isn't he dead yet? And that guy that won the pop award—hey, I'm not that old, but I couldn't understand one word in two that he was singing. Good job, dude, you've got the mysterious folk singer down so pat you're guaranteed chicks by the gazillion. And now I have to (sigh) hear the Dixie Chicks do Stevie Nicks. The song was cool when I was in college, and then I grew up and got taste. Ladies, you're better than that!

(By the way, Tony Bennett may not be near death, but the man is flirting with senility. Get him away from the microphone. Please.)

The river is rising! The river is rising!

No swimming

My first Virginia winter, which is far colder, snowier, and icier than I had expected (knowing full well that Richmond tends to be less wintry than New Jersey, and let me tell you, I'm damned disappointed in my new home), has even worse results from all this bad weather. The James River, which this summer was so low as to be causing fish to keep scraping their bellies on the bottom, is overflowing. A friend and I went out to River Road (a neighborhood of very high-priced homes) and brought back a picture show. And the peak isn't supposed to hit until Tuesday afternoon. Ut-oh.

Regarding the picture on the left: We decided we probably wouldn't go swimming even before we saw this sign, and also discussed whether it should read "15 really stupid people have drowned here," instead of "15 people." Yeah, well, that's me. I like my humor dark and my waffles light.


No road! No road! Where's that little Dutch boy when you need him?

Top left: The road is washed out. We were going to take it back to the main street. We changed our minds.

Above right: The river breeched the aptly-named River Road.

Right: That same breech, about fifteen minutes later, from a wider angle. There was plenty of dry blacktop on our trip down to the dam, but not so much coming back.

More pictures to come later.

James River, meet River Road


Last week's blogs are archived. Looking for the Buffy Blogburst Index? Here's Israel vs. the world. Here's the Blogathon. The Superhero Dating Ratings are here. If you're looking for something funny, try the Hulk's solution to the Middle East conflict, or Yasser Arafat Secret Phone Transcripts. Iseema bin Laden's diary and The Fudd Doctrine are also good bets if you've never been here before.