Lonely Man of Cake

June 7, 2007

Odd, But Familiar Dream

Filed under: Academia,America,Diaspora,Education,Judaism,Orthodoxy,Reality,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 8:07 pm

There must have been copious amounts of MSG in my dinner last night, because I had a dream that was off the hook. What really set this dream apart was its vividness and highly realistic feel. Here goes:

I am approached by Richard Joel, the current president of Yeshiva University. He says: “We would like for you to be the next vice-president of Yeshiva University.” I hesitate. On the one hand, this is the institution that left me bereft of a “real college experience,” sold me short on Judaic studies, and that is slowly morphing into a trade school for the intellectually challenged. On the other hand, I have a very strong familial connection with the institution, and if you know who I am and what I’m talking about, it makes Richard Joel’s proposition quite eerie.

Joel clearly senses my hesitation. “Compensation is $100,000 per-month,” he says. I accepted the position immediately.

What does it all mean?
Should I be disturbed that even though I was morally conflicted about accepting the job, it was ultimately the bottom line that tilted the scales? Does it mean that I am hesitant to serve the community in which I was raised?

Or should I look at the positives:
I must have very high self-esteem if I dream about being offered such a powerful position at such a young age. (In the dream, I was myself, at my current age, and even “mentally” questioned how it was that I was being offered the job, given my age.) I felt up to the task and never questioned whether I was qualified to handle the burdens of the position.

My current interpretation is that the dream represents the crossroads at which I stand. The job offer is the looming specter of the probability that one day, come what may, I will invariably be drafted to the ranks of Jewish communal service. This is almost fait accompli. There is then the moral question: as ideal-driven as communal service may be, there are the occasional ethical sacrifices to be made. And finally there is the question of “selling out,” which is something I battle with every day: do I abandon my ideal line of work–whatever that may be–because a healthier income from a less ideologically rewarding job might be the ticket to a “better” life?

Stay tuned. These considerations will begin playing themselves out over the coming weeks.

May 6, 2007

Selfish to the Extreme

Filed under: Israel,Reality — lonelymanofcake @ 9:02 pm

I make no secret of the fact that I hate strongly dislike Israelis, with their tactlessness, cutting in line, and general misanthropy.  Nowhere is the ugly side of the Israeli more exposed than on the road, where drivers intentionally speed up so as not to let you pass, never signal, think that looking in their mirrors before passing is optional, ride on your tail with brights on even if there is nowhere to go, etc.  I’ve hypothesized in the past about why this is the case, but that’s not the point here.

Drivers here are so self-absorbed when they drive, so militant, so unable to grasp that there are others on the road, that it comes as no surprise that a motorcyclist was in a serious accident and laying prone on a busy road for over 1.5 minutes as other drivers maneuvered their way around his motionless body without stopping and helping.  I was shocked when I saw the headline, but unfortunately, it’s par for the course here.  You can watch a video of this travesty here.  Just sickening.   If you read Hebrew, read the two schools of comments in this Ynet article: those who are sickened and those who rationalize the disgusting apathetic behavior.

During the height of the Intifada (probably sometime in 2001) I was walking down the deserted King George Street (near Maoz Falafel) when I heard what sounded like an explosion nearby.   A plume of dust came out of one of the neighboring storefronts, which was under renovation, and I quickly realized that the “explosion” was actually the sound of the collapsing second floor and that there were groans emanating from the store.  As I fumbled to dial for an ambulance with my trembling fingers, I noticed that no one was stopping to offer help.  Only a short while later, an off duty army medic tended to the hurt worker, who we stayed with until MDA arrived.

Back then, I was too much of an optimist (and Zionist) to think anything of the fact that I was the only one who initially stopped to help.  But the picture is now becoming all too clear now that I’m not intoxicated with idealism and seeing things here as they actually are.

I was wondering to myself over Shabbat how it is that Olmert successfully prevented his party from dissolving and his ministers from resigning, despite the very clear conclusions of the Winograd Report.  Now I know.  Olmert didn’t have to convince anyone.  The Israeli public is like the cyclist dying in the middle of the road.  Olmert and his government are the selfish, self-absorbed drivers of the cars who take a look at body and go on their merry way.

March 12, 2007

Message to Stanley Fisher

Filed under: General,Israel,Politics,Reality — lonelymanofcake @ 2:57 pm

PROLOGUE: The press conference was canceled. I think that it may have been a strategic semi-bluff by Fisher, who continues to impress me. Even so, my letter stands. I am disgusted by the likes of the workers of the Electric Company, who, though state employees, receive average salaries which are 400% higher than teachers; and teachers don’t get unlimited free electricity. And they still have the audacity to strike and demand more. Just like you get free electricity if you work for the Electric Company and free phone calls if you work for Bezeq, you get free money if you work for the Bank of Israel, at the taxpayer’s expense. And they still have the audacity to strike and demand more!

Dear Professor Fisher,

I found out recently that the worker’s committee of the Bank of Israel has decided to go on strike for an indefinite period, and that as a result, you will be giving a press conference this evening at 8:00 PM. Your announcement has caused the press to speculate that you intend on tendering your resignation as a result of the intolerable working conditions posed by your intransigent subordinates at the Bank of Israel.

I sincerely hope that it is not your intention to leave, and that, in reality, you will announce at the press conference that every striking worker is to be summarily terminated with no compensation. Plenty of talented workers in this country could fill the coveted positions at the bank; and due to their merits, not their connections.

If you do announce that you will be tendering your early resignation, then you will have confirmed for me what I have feared all along:

  1. That socialism still pervades even in what should be the bastion of Israeli capitalism, The Bank of Israel;
  2. That Israel, despite its renown for high-tech, is still a third world country, with more control exerted by racketeering labor unions than the government;
  3. That even the idealism which would lead an economist and executive of your caliber to leave behind the prestige of Citigroup could not overcome the stifling bureaucracy inherent in every Israeli institution.

I hope that you prove me wrong this evening.

Yours truly,
Lonely Man of Cake

February 28, 2007

Reverse Logic

Filed under: Automotive,General,Israel,Reality — lonelymanofcake @ 9:50 am

A lot of things piss me off about Israeli drivers: aggression, road rage, not checking blind spots, the idea that a turn in either direction can be made from both the left and right lanes, failure to respect the driver with the right-of-way, honking as lights change, not signaling, etc. Those of you who have spent any time with me have already heard my rant about why I think this is so: I think that because Israelis have to pay double for their new cars (and significantly more for used cars as well), they drive with a smug sense of entitlement which basically says, “I paid $40,000 for this Honda Accord; I’ll drive in whichever way I choose.” If the anachronistic car tax was ever lifted (and being that it’s the number two source of revenue for the government behind income tax, it won’t be), we would be able to test the validity of my theory.

But I digress. Israelis are not only bad drivers. They are terrible parkers as well. I do think that parking spaces here are too small, but that’s really no excuse for taking two spaces or leaving three feet of the car jutting out into the driving lane. And there’s one thing about how Israelis park that’s plain astounding: in a “lot” type setup (i.e., not parallel parking), everyone backs in, as if it’s a frigging firehouse or car showroom. The whole world has to wait as Dudu throws the car into reverse and wedges his car between the neighboring Mazda 3s.

(More after the photo, which was taken this evening at a local supermarket.)

dsc00063.JPG

Now some will say that spending a few more moments parking when you arrive at the store means that you will be able to leave that much faster. Fine. But let’s say you’re at the parking lot for a supermarket. Going to the supermarket usually means coming back to the car with a cartload of groceries. Dudu has backed in his leased Ford Focus/Mazda 3, knowing as he buys his hummus that he will save three seconds on the way out. But then Dudu gets to his car, and can’t get to the trunk. Why, you ask? Because he backed his car in, and the cars parked next to him are too close to pass the cart through to the trunk side. So Dudu curses, and has to walk all of the bags over to the trunk. Funny thing is that about 75% of cars parked at supermarkets here back in. Complete idiocy. Classic Israeli.

Why the rant? Because a survey of accidents among high-tech firms here has shown that over 30% of accidents involving company cars occur in parking lots, specifically because of Dudu’s inability to maneuver the car in reverse. And as usual, it looks like nothing is being done to change the trend.

UPDATE: Two more rants to add:

  1. Gas prices will be going up tonight by over 5% to 5.47 NIS per-liter ($4.92 per-gallon).
  2. The infamous Ayalon Freeway will apparently not be a “freeway” for long, as the CEO of the road (yes, there is such a thing) declared this morning in a radio interview that the Ayalon will become a toll road within the next 1.5 years. (Here’s the Ayalon Freeway Wikipedia page. I guess I’ll update it to include the toll news.)

February 15, 2007

Temple Mount Excavation Video

Two videos of note regarding what’s really going on at the Mugrabi Bridge:

Dumbing Down the American Mind

Filed under: America,Faith,General,Politics,Reality,Religion — lonelymanofcake @ 9:29 am

I pretty much agree with this article, which outlines a rationale for what the author terms “a nearly willful tendency for Americans to forgo reality in favor of believing what they want to believe.” (I can’t vouch, though, for the website on which in appears).

The author’s approach is nowhere nearly as well developed as that of Ron Suskind‘s magnum opus article “Without a Doubt,” which appeared in the NY Times Magazine in October 2004. Suskind’s eye-opening, and profoundly disturbing, article gave me some insight as to why religious voters were more prone to vote for Bush in 2004. It wasn’t just his support of faith-based initiatives and his erosion of the separation between church and state. It is, I believe, a function of how people perceive Bush’s policymaking.

Supporting Bush entails committments akin to those required by religion:

  1. Unquestioning faith in policy and the motives behind it.
  2. Acceptance of reality as described by the leadership, even if all indications are otherwise (e.g., we’re winning the war in Iraq).
  3. Clear dualism differentiating the righteous from the damned.

Thus the religious crowd, be it Evangelical Christian or Orthodox Jewish, finds solace not only in the purported “Judeo-Christian” values of the Bush administration, but also in the way that their continued support of the administration has required committment to a belief system not unlike what is dictated by religion.

30% of Americans still subscribe to the Bush-religion. The remaining 70%… Well, I guess they’ve decided to become political atheists.

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