Saturday, July 30, 2005

Matt Sherwin at Sidewalk

Last night after some perogies at Odessa on Ave A, I saw Matt Sherwin at Sidewalk Cafe in the East Village. We followed this with "milkies" from the Holy Land grocery on St. Marks. All this was done with "Y" who bought me a pencil from that tzchochke store right next to Odessa.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Today's lecture

I just finished a attending a lecture by an Israeli game theorist.

His talk was rather interesting, though the second half was quite technical. He gave a talk generalizing the solution of Rabbi Natan in the Mishna (Ketubot 93b) regarding the division of an estate in cases where there were multiple claimants and not enough assets. The mishna gives a rather odd solution, and he showed that the solution was completely consistant with (Rashi's interpretation of) the garment solution (where two people claim different percentages of a garment). Generalizing this gets technical and involves the concept of the nucleolous the kernel and Shapley values and other complicated things, but it does generate a unique solution for all bankrupcy cases. Clearly Rabbi Nathan could not have had the generalized solution worked out but the intuition is pretty clever. It is clear now that he had in mind the concept of consistency with the rest of the mishna. Rabbi Nathan's student's had no idea why he proposed it. We do now. Moreover, using this it is possible to have a solution to bankrupcy cases we could not have had until the generalization was worked out. We also now know that there are unique solutions to all of this. There was aslo an interesting physical analogue of the proof.

At lunch he was quite amusing too. We spent an hour telling each other jokes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Last night I went with my dad to see Antony Sher in the Broadway production of Primo, a rough adaptation of Primo Levi's book Survival in Auschwitz (originally called If This Is a Man). The book is often compared with Elie Weisel's Night. I always thought that Levi's book was much starker, much more raw and austere. The book had little in the way of literary flourish or fluff.

The one-man show was the same way. It was roughly a retelling of the story of Levi's tenure in Auschwitz. There was no complex cast interaction, no scenery, beyond the stark walls of a concentration camp and a chair, no fancy costumes. Sher delivered a very good performance. The words rolled off his tongue and he came off like a man resigned to his fate as inmate in a death camp. There was little in the delivery that attempted to evoke a response, leaving that almost entirely to the content.

One powerful moment was when he refers to two people in the context of an interview and states that because of one trivial incident he forever judges them. It was then that the audiences feels the pain of Primo Levi.

There are other memorable phrases from the play (and book) which stick out. He once sees a man praying, thanking God that he was saved from the selection that week. That struck Levi as so absurd. He says that if he were God and he heard that man praying, he would spit in his face.

Thw whole show was 90 minutes, and there was wisely no intermission. It was memorable and worth seeing.

Suspicion in the park

Last night I saw Hitchcock's Suspicion in Bryant Park. I generally try to take in at least one movie there each year. It was a pretty good movie. Originally Hitchcock had a better ending planned, but he went with the lame ending. Apparently, Hollywood didn't want Cary Grant to be evil in a movie. It was, as always, a fun time.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Last night

Last night, "A-" and I were learning, like we often do, fighting a valiant battle with keeping up with the daf. We managed to get a few pages done in Esperanto, and still chat with just about everone in the place - again as usual.

"L" joined us at some point, and did the daf too, though he was a bit ahead of us.

"A-" and I then went for beer afterward. First we went to this crowded snooty place that I could not hanlde in the west village. "A-" snapped the picture on Christopher Street on the way back. We made our way back to the Peculiar Pub, where we had some odd beers, and inadvertantly hit on and got flirted with by two Iraqi sisters (who averaged to pretty cute).

I made it home by 4:00ish. Fun Fun. Fun. New York in the summer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Review of An Evil Cradling

Brian Keenan's An Evil Cradling was written by a shit who it was hard to really feel bad for. A man goes from Ireland (where because he lived through things like the massacres of Bloody Sunday (where about 13 people were killed) he thought going through Lebanon (where about 400,000 were killed in the civil war) would be a walk in the park. He has the usual Irish ignorance and ability to over-romanticize the Arab world, and goes to teach English at the American University of Beirut. Against advice he lives off-campus, and gets his ass kidnapped, which he must have known was going to happen. If he didn't, he was too dumb to be teaching in a university anyway.

Even with the benefit of hindsight and the ability to actually read a book on the war, the man has the poorest understanding of the war in Lebanon that I have ever seen in print. He essentially took on the crazed revisionist history of his captors, and saves his harshest invective for Israel, who he takes to be pretty responsible for all the bad things in Lebanon.

(I have not seen anything else about him, but I'd bet anything that even after his ordeal, his politics still matches his countryman - Robert Fisk, and he frequently says stupid things in public.)

That being said, he is not someone I felt too bad for. However, the above two paragraphs were gleaned from isolated sentences and snippets in the book. The bulk of the book was about Keenan's actual ordeal as a captive of one of the Islamic Jihad groups during the Lebanon civil war for about 4 and a half years.

The prose is good and the descriptions are pretty horrifying. It was not a pretty ordeal, and having thought about this once or twice myself, it is not a position I relish finding myself in. He describes in very vivid detail the conditions, treatment, and life of a prisoner of that time and place. He describes himself, and his captors - how they acted, and treated him. There is some psychobabble about his captors here and there, and in a number of flashes of Stockholm Syndrome, he understands them, pities them, and actually identifies with their cause. (Sorry for my own psychobabble there.)

Most importantly, the book is really about friendship. For most of the 4.5 years Keenen was with John McCarthy, also a do-gooder English bloke who was taken captive, ironically after doing a documentary about Keenan. Living together for all that time with no other contact apart from their captors, one learns a lot about what it is to be a good friend. Keenan and McCarthy apparently became tight, and the friendship is well described. Keenan's discussion of his interaction is the soul of the book and also its saving grace.

Despite my introduction, I would recommend people look to this book to get some insight in to male friendships. It is worth understanding better, and there is nothing like a friendship formed in a pressure cooker to test what kind of people we are.

Review of Gwynn Nettler's Explanations

Theoretical sociology books from 1970 are interesting sometimes, but not very good, and pretty out of date.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


I am now in Washington DC, decided to take a quick trip to see some friends. Gloomy weather here, but otherwise plesant.

I just found out that I became an uncle for the seventh time. Good news. All appears well.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Last night

Last night "Y" and I went to hear Nada Surf in Housing Works Used Book Cafe. Once again, a do-gooder move on my part. But they were pretty good. They were preceeded by two awful openers.

Then on nearby Mercer Street we stumbled in to a Harry Potter book launch thingy where we got to make magic wands, and see Socrates the owl, and did all sorts of other stuff. It was fun.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Philharmonic in Central Park

I'm now listening to the New York philharmonic in Central Park. Very beautiful. I love this city. Wagner and Lalo. Free too. I can fall in love to this music.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

London Bombing

I find it sadly Ironic that the London bombing took place at the same time as the Prime Minister of England was attempting to get $3 Billion for the people that the terrorists are trying to free from "western opression" - the Palestinians.


Last night I went with "Y" to see a pretty decent performance by Aqualung in the Housing Works Benefit show. Some group called Augustana opened for them. They were OK too. It was pretty good, and it was for one of them good causes. Nice place. Intimate venue.

I am such a do-gooder.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Boycott Tom Cruise? No! Boycott the media! SIGN PETITION!

I totally do not get this: There is a petition online boycotting the New War of the Worlds movie. This petition is in response to his interview with Matt Lauer. Am I the only one who thinks that the petition people are completely misguided?

Tom Cruise is a pretty good actor. You may like him a bit more or less, but his acting skills are movie worthy, at least as Hollywood standards go. His knowledge of psychaitry is sad, pathetic, wrong, and probably nuts.

Now we have two organizations that allow Tom Cruise to appear. The first is Steven Speilberg and Hollywood. They let Tom Cruise act and show off his acting skills. The second is the media. The media lets Tom Cruise show off his psychaitry skills.

So when CNN does the stupidest thing in the world, and passes off Tom Cruise's views on psychaitry as news, we hail CNN for telling us what is going on. We then go and punish Hollywood. This is backward. We should threaten the news media that gives him a forum.

CNN should not have abuse its forum as a somewhat trusted news source to allow Tom Cruise to shoot his mout off.

It is about time we put the blame in the right place. I created a PETITION against CNN to stop this practice of allowing anyone with a TV station to give actors forums to talk about non-acting things. SIGN IT!!

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Favorite waitress

My favorite waitress in my favorite restaurant now works somewhere else. sigh.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor retires -a prediction

I have a prediction. When it comes time for the White House to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice the left will fight really hard to oppose whomever gets put in and it will be a futile fight wasting $30 or $40 million belonging to the left. The fight will amount to a pathetic smear campaign that will repeat over and over again some obscure-ruling the person made that when you think about it 15 years later seems unenlightened, or perhaps they will find that the person once had an affair with a secretary, or that the justice had once hired an illegal immigrant as a maid for 6 weeks. This will do no good for anyone except allow the left to spend the next 20 years talking about how Bush stole the Supreme Court.

The Democrats will not offer a plausible substitute, and when you ask one who they would prefer will say something like "Michael Moore would make a good justice" or some such no-witted proposal.

What responsible democrats need to do is identify a conservative who you can live with, and push for that person. Make sure the person you push for really is conservative, and is someone the left will not complain too much about. Then convince the Bush Administration that when a Democrat comes to power you would of course take in to consideration the feelings of the right-wingers in this country in appointing supreme court justices.

I am very much not interested in seeing some psychotic right-wing lunatic in the supreme court. I hope the Democrats have a strategy that will convince the White House that it is in its best interest to get a moderate conservative instead of a radical one. I suspect that the Democrats will not be able to resist the opportunity to expend all their energy on embarrassing the one that Bush puts forth, instead of coming up with a good alternative. They did that with the last election, let's not fuck this up too.