The scientific study of kissing is “philematology.”
I’m afraid I have to vent about something.
This year, the Jewish festival of Purim (commemorating and celebrating the events of the biblical book of Esther) falls on Sunday February 24th. If all goes well, I will be in Israel then and for the first time (hopefully) will avoid the subject matter of this blog post.
Many non-Jews, in an attempt to wrap their well-meaning minds around Jewish concepts, ideas, holidays, customs, food, themes, etc., often try to compare or connect them to things with which they are familiar.
“OK, now… Hanukah. That’s like the Jewish Christmas, right?”
“Mezuzahs? Those are good luck amulet things on your doors, right?”
“Passover… is that the one where you sit around eating crackers for a week?”
G-d bless their little cotton socks. This is normal. This is to be expected.
This is also a bit tedious yet kinda tiresome, usually. In a way. Well… it depends, really.
I’ll try to explain.
In the interests of multiculturalism and understanding (not to mention peace and love) between ethnic groups, I try to be sort of an ambassador for Judaism and the Jewish people, if you will, whenever I can. Most people who ask questions like this above genuinely mean well, generally. They just need a bit of Jewish education. I am happy to help put them in the picture… if for no other reason that to stop even one more person saying that Hanukah is the Jewish Xmas.
If the person is asking a sincere question and wants to know something about Jews and Judaism, believe me, it’s my pleasure. If they are genuinely interested… I am there with both feet.
But… every once in a while, we get the wise guys with their smarmy, smarty pants questions.
“Why do you spell it ‘G-d?’ Is it because you’re afraid you’re going to hell if you get Him mad? If it’s ’cause you’re not supposed to say His name… umm… you know that G-d isn’t His real name, right?” <insert self-satisfied smirk here>
“Kosher laws were like ancient biblical food health and safety regulations from before you guys had refrigerators, right? So… why do you still do it?” <unsaid: It’s because you’re an idiot who blindly and unquestioningly follows outdated customs, isn’t it?>
“Do you seriously think an ‘almighty deity’ cares if you turn on a light switch or scribble a note on Saturday?” <add raised eyebrow and/or condescending sneer>
These aren’t really questions. These are statements (e.g. “you’re stupid!”) masquerading as questions.
Because they’re not really questions I don’t really answer them. I just give the person the patient sigh and the pressed smile. It’s not all that difficult ignoring the non-questioner. They’re annoying but… that’s all. Just annoying.
I don’t engage with these types of people for the same reason I don’t play chess with pigeons. They knock over the pieces, crap on the board and then strut around like they’ve won the game.
And I won’t even get into the whole hostile evangelical questioner thing!  
So… bottom line. Purim is not the Jewish Halloween. Hanukah is not the Jewish Xmas. Passover is not the Jewish Easter. Moses is not the Jewish Jesus. If you want to know the real authentic answer to your questions, as your friendly neighbourhood Orthodox Jew. 
In a few days, I will be flying to Israel for two weeks. I’ll let you know if any secular Israelis or born again tourists ask me anything!
 The loud, arrogant and downright rude biblethumper who points his finger an inch from your face or chest and says, “You Jews rejected your Messiah!” (No… we rejected YOUR Messiah. BIG difference!)
 I had one enthusiastic born-again preacher literally walk over a picnic table and run out to me on a sidewalk in Hot Springs, Arkansas, in order to pick a fight with (aka ‘witness to’) me. I must have stuck out like… well… a Jew walking along the sidewalk in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
 NB: ‘Messianics’ or ‘Hebrew Christians’ (e.g. Jews for Jesus) do not practice Judaism. That’s because what they believe in is Christianity. The answer you’ll get from them is basically no different than the one you will get from any other born again evangelical fundamentalist Christian.
19-year-old Japanese artist Chooo-San incredibly transforms bodies of volunteers using just acrylic paint.
In her series of non-digitally altered works, she creates realistic, eye-catching illusions that make her volunteers look like they got creepy body modifications.
Check out these and other body paint creations at Chooo-San’s site.
Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns.
Please note that I did not say it was the irrational fear of clowns.
Nothing could be more rational than being afraid of a guy in floppy shoes, fright wig, garish make-up and a red nose.
It is not unlike my fear of bad Irish drag queens. Perfectly reasonable.
I don’t know who first came up with the idea of clowns. I’m sure it was the result of some drunken Graeco-Roman stage gag gone horribly out of control.
It is interesting to note that I don’t have a fear of mimes. I harbour a deep-seated loathing for them, of course. Who doesn’t? But not fear.
I’m also not afraid of the old commedia dell’arte clowns. I do not lie awake at night knowing that Pulchinello or Arlecchino is hiding under my bed just waiting to get up to no good.
Nor am I afraid of Shakespearean clowns… other than the not-unreasonable fear that they might bore me to death.
(Bring on the waterworks!)
Nor do I fear the heart-broken clown in Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci, although I am embarrassed at the fact that I cry every effen time I hear him sing “Vesti la Giubba.”
Truly, I do. It’s sad yet pathetic. Can’t stop the waterworks. Really.
Nope… the source of my greatest nightmare is the 19th and early 20th century Barnum & Bailey style ‘modern’ circus clown.
Scares the crap out of me.
I get the sinking feeling that the moment I turn my back, the psychotic sociopath who is masquerading (literally) as a clown reveals his true self, thrusting a knife into my neck.
So parents, for the love of all that is good and decent, don’t inflict clowns on your kids. Don’t take them to the circus thinking they’ll have a blast as they watch an ever increasing hoard of serial killers come out of a tiny clown car.
All you are doing is guaranteeing them years on some psychiatrist’s couch, blaming you for why they break into a cold sweat whenever they see Ronald McDonald.
I’ve been asked on occasion by well-meaning and genuinely interested gentile friends about the Jewish holy days of Shavuot or, as I pronounce it, Shavuos.
(Shamelessly taken from Chabad.org)
The Torah was given by G‑d to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai more than 3300 years ago. Every year on the holiday of Shavuot we renew our acceptance of G‑d’s gift, and G‑d “re-gives” the Torah.
The word Shavuot means “weeks.” It marks the completion of the seven-week counting period between Passover and Shavuot.
The giving of the Torah was a far-reaching spiritual event-one that touched the essence of the Jewish soul for all times. Our sages have compared it to a wedding between G‑d and the Jewish people. Shavuot also means “oaths,” for on this day G‑d swore eternal devotion to us, and we in turn pledged everlasting loyalty to Him.
Women and girls light holiday candles to usher in the holiday, on both the first and second evenings of the holidays.The holiday of Shavuot is a two-day holiday, beginning at sundown of the 5th of Sivan and lasting until nightfall of the 7th of Sivan. (In Israel it is a one-day holiday, ending at nightfall of the 6th of Sivan.)
Well, there you have it my little geeks and nerdlings. You now know more about Shavuos that most run-of-the-mill (i.e. non-Orthodox) Jews know!
This year, Shavuos starts immediately after the Jewish Sabbath (i.e. this Saturday night) and goes until Monday night. I, therefore, will not be posting a blog article this Monday May 28 but will be back at it, hammer and tong Wednesday May 30.
Until then. TRY to behave!
What Is Love? 
(And no, it’s not that ‘A Night at the Roxbury’ song by Haddaway)
We live under a massive cultural delusion about the nature of real love.
Propagated by mainstream media, from the time you’re born you’re inundated with the belief that love is a feeling and that when you find “the one” you’ll sense it in your gut and be overcome by an undeniable sense of knowing. When the feeling and corresponding knowing fade (for the knowing is intimately linked to the feeling) and the work of learning about real love begins, most people take the diminished feeling as a sign that they’re in the wrong relationship and walk away. And then they start over again, only to find that the now-familiar knowing and feeling fade again… and again… and again.
If love isn’t a feeling, what is it?
Love is action. Love is tolerance. Love is learning your partner’s love language and then expressing love in a way that he can receive. Love is giving. Love is receiving. Love is plodding through the slow eddies of a relationship without jumping ship into another’s churning rapids. Love is recognizing that it’s not your partner’s job to make you feel alive, fulfilled, or complete; that’s your job. And it’s only when you learn to become the source of your own aliveness and are living your life connected to the spark of genius that is everyone’s birthright can you fully love another.
It’s a crushing moment when the infatuation drug wears off and they’re left to begin the real work of loving. And it’s even more devastating when this happens during their engagement, a time our culture hammers into their head as the happiest in their life. It’s time to send a different message to young people about the difference between infatuation and love. If we’re going to restore marriage to a place of honor and respect, we must teach that the role of one’s partner is not to save you from yourself and make you feel alive, fulfilled, and complete; only you can do that. It’s time to teach a different message. Let’s begin the conversation here.
 This piece is a re-blogging of most of a blog article by Sheryl Paul in the online edition of the Huffington Post (yeah, I real all kinds of things).
 Sheryl Paul, M.A., has counseled thousands of people worldwide through her private practice, her bestselling books, her Home Study Programs and her websites. She has appeared several times on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”, as well as on “Good Morning America” and other top media shows and publications around the globe. To sign up for her free 78-page eBook, “Conscious Transitions: The 7 Most Common (and Traumatic) Life Changes”, visit her website at http://conscious-transitions.com.
The Hebrew Scriptures warn us not to follow our hearts or our eyes because they will lead us astray.
Science is trying to understand why and how our eyes deceive us.
Researchers at the University of Sydney have thrown new light on the tricks the brain plays as it struggles to make sense of the visual and other sensory signals it constantly receives.
“We tend to regard what we see as the real world,” said Dr Mareschal from the University’s School of Psychology.
“In fact a lot of it is distortion, and it is occurring in the early processing of the brain, before consciousness takes over. Our work shows that the cells of the primary visual cortex create small distortions, which then pass on to the higher levels of the brain, to interpret as best it can.”
A common example of this that is often exploited by artists and designers is known as the tilt illusion where perfectly vertical lines appear tilted because they are placed on an oriented background.
(In this tilt illusion, the lines in the centre of the image appear tilted counterclockwise, but are actually vertical) 
“The brain seeks more contextual information from the background to try to work out the alignment of the object it is seeing.”
“These illusions happen very fast, perhaps in milliseconds,” Dr Mareschal says. “And we found that even the higher brain cannot always correct for them, as it doesn’t in fact know they are illusions.”
This is one reason why people’s eyes sometimes mislead them when looking at objects in their visual landscape.
The brain uses context, or background, to interpret a host of other visual signals besides the orientation of objects. For example, it uses context to tell colour, motion, texture and contrast. The research will help study how the brain understands these visual cues adding to our overall understanding of brain function.
So the old adage is true… don’t believe anything you hear and only half of what you see. Your eyes and brain may be plotting against you.
 Image adapted from University of Sydney image
I knew it!
The Geek Gang over at ScienceDaily.com have confirmed what I have long suspected!
As a recent article states, “Thinking about death can actually be a good thing. An awareness of mortality can improve physical health and help us re-prioritize our goals and values, according to a new analysis of recent scientific studies. Even non-conscious thinking about death — say walking by a cemetery — could prompt positive changes and promote helping others.”
Past research suggests that thinking about death is destructive and dangerous, fueling everything from prejudice and greed to violence. Such studies related to terror management theory (TMT), which posits that we uphold certain cultural beliefs to manage our feelings of mortality, have rarely explored the potential benefits of death awareness.
“This tendency for TMT research to primarily deal with negative attitudes and harmful behaviors has become so deeply entrenched in our field that some have recently suggested that death awareness is simply a bleak force of social destruction,” says Kenneth Vail of the University of Missouri, lead author of the new study in the online edition of Personality and Social Psychology Review this month. “There has been very little integrative understanding of how subtle, day-to-day, death awareness might be capable of motivating attitudes and behaviors that can minimize harm to oneself and others, and can promote well-being.”
Thinking about death can also promote better health. Recent studies have shown that when reminded of death people may opt for better health choices, such as using more sunscreen, smoking less, or increasing levels of exercise.
One major implication of this body of work, Vail says, is that we should “turn attention and research efforts toward better understanding of how the motivations triggered by death awareness can actually improve people’s lives, rather than how it can cause malady and social strife.”
Write the authors: “The dance with death can be a delicate but potentially elegant stride toward living the good life.”
Pam De Beaufort!
What a delicious part!!
The writers of the HBO television show True Blood really outdo themselves when it comes to providing dialogue for Pam, masterfully played by Kristin Bauer.
Here’s a bit of background on the character Pam for those who are not familiar with the program.
A former prostitute during her lifetime, Pam was ‘brought over’ (i.e. made a vampyre) by Eric Northman in the late 1800′s in London, England. She was released from Eric sometime in the early decades of 20th century. She has resided in the USA from the beginning of the last century. After the Great Revelation when vampyres came ‘out of the coffin,’ Eric called for Pam’s service in the newly founded Fangtasia bar in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Nowadays she serves him willfully and is his second-in-command. She has never sired a vampyre.
Here are some of the precious gems that True Blood’s writers have fall from her beautiful, smirking lips.
“I don’t know what it is about me that makes people think I want to hear their problems. Maybe I smile too much. Maybe I wear too much pink. But please remember I can rip your throat out if I need to. And also know that I am not a hooker. That was a long, long time ago.”
“I am so over Sookie and her precious fairy vagina and her unbelievably stupid name. F**k Sookie!”
“I’m gonna shove my fist up your ass and use you as a hand-warmer.”
“Did I miss something? Are we girls now? Did we join a book club and read some queer chick lit memoirs and are bound together by estrogen or sisterhood some other feminist drivel?”
“This is not just about your relationship, you infatuated tween. There’s a bigger picture.”
Each year, her character becomes stronger, more fleshed out and more interesting… and a lot more fun!
Can’t wait for True Blood Season Five, expected to premiere in June 2012.