New York City has always been a place of contrast and struggle. The gap between the privileged rich and the dirt poor has never been wider. Emphasized this week by the rolling, opulent bandwagon that is NY Fashion Week. A heady, shimmering display of extravagance and indulgence. As a photographer at the event, I guess I am part of it. Helping to feed and perpetuate this glittering circus and earn a living along the way.
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.
And I didn’t even know I HAD a food clock!
Luckily, my little geeks and nerdlings, the guys over at ScienceDaily.com are here to set us straight!
A recent pre-Xmas article sets it all out for us.
“If the sinful excess of holiday eating sends your system into butter-slathered, brandy-soaked overload, you are not alone: People who are jet-lagged, people who work graveyard shifts and plain-old late-night snackers know just how you feel.”
All these activities upset the body’s “food clock,” a collection of interacting genes and molecules known technically as the food-entrainable oscillator, which keeps the human body on a metabolic even keel. A new study by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is helping to reveal how this clock works on a molecular level.
Published this month in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the UCSF team has shown that a protein called PKCγ is critical in resetting the food clock if our eating habits change.
The study showed that normal laboratory mice given food only during their regular sleeping hours will adjust their food clock over time and begin to wake up from their slumber, and run around in anticipation of their new mealtime. But mice lacking the PKCγ gene are not able to respond to changes in their meal time — instead sleeping right through it.
It may also help explain why night owls are more likely to be obese than morning larks, according to Louis Ptacek, MD, the John C. Coleman Distinguished Professor of Neurology at UCSF and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
“Understanding the molecular mechanism of how eating at the “wrong” time of the day desynchronizes the clocks in our body can facilitate the development of better treatments for disorders associated with night-eating syndrome, shift work and jet lag,” Dr Ptacek added.
n most organisms, biological clockworks are governed by a master clock, referred to as the “circadian oscillator,” which keeps track of time and coordinates our biological processes with the rhythm of a 24-hour cycle of day and night.
Life forms as diverse as humans, mice and mustard greens all possess such master clocks.
The food clock is there to help our bodies make the most of our nutritional intake. It controls genes that help in everything from the absorption of nutrients in our digestive tract to their dispersal through the bloodstream, and it is designed to anticipate our eating patterns.
Even before we eat a meal, our bodies begin to turn on some of these genes and turn off others, preparing for the burst of sustenance — which is why we feel the pangs of hunger just as the lunch hour arrives.
Scientist have known that the food clock can be reset over time if an organism changes its eating patterns, eating to excess or at odd times, since the timing of the food clock is pegged to feeding during the prime foraging and hunting hours in the day. But until now, very little was known about how the food clock works on a genetic level.
What Ptacek and his colleagues discovered is the molecular basis for this phenomenon: the PKCγ protein binds to another molecule called BMAL and stabilizes it, which shifts the clock in time.
Well done and a toast with the old egg nog to the authors of the article , Luoying Zhang, Diya Abrahama, Shu-Ting Lin, Henrik Oster, Gregor Eichele, Ying-Hui Fu, and Louis J. Ptácek and appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
 Journal Reference: L. Zhang, D. Abraham, S.-T. Lin, H. Oster, G. Eichele, Y.-H. Fu, L. J. Ptacek. “PKC participates in food entrainment by regulating BMAL1.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2012; 109 (50): 20679 DOI:10.1073/pnas.1218699110
What’s the Latest Development?
A team of researchers from Duke University have combed through nearly three decades of standardized test scores concluding that the general level of American intelligence is increasing and that girls are closing the gender gap. The first conclusion drawn by the researchers, that intelligence is steadily increasing, is based on the Flynn effect which states that average IQs around the world have been rising at the rate of 0.3 points a year for the past eight decades. The second conclusion states that part, but not all, of the historic difference between the brainiest men and women has vanished.
What’s the Big Idea?
Whether intelligence is determined more by nature or nurture remains a debate in the scientific community. It is a debate that cannot escape the social implications behind it, such as whether one gender is predisposed to be more intelligent than the other. Concerning the disproportionately quick rise of female intelligence, “[i]t is clear that the rise itself must be ‘nurture’ of some sort—possibly a change in teachers’ attitudes towards girls who are interested in maths—but the subsequent stasis could have either explanation.”
Here’s a few “Hey, look what I learned” fun facts to bring home today.
Ever been curious about exactly how snowflakes form their intricate and beautiful designs? Well, just like no snowflake is shaped the same, no snowflake forms quite the same either.
But all snowflakes start out as a speck of dust floating in the sky, and the story rolls from there. This cool video from the American Chemical Society walks us through the process.
Oh, and if you want to see some of the many amazing designs of snowflakes, check out this slideshow.
Have a wonderful winter. Happy holidays!
Continued from post What is Horror?
If the Horror genre is best defined by the intention to elicit and manipulate the emotion of fear, what then exactly is the emotion of fear?
The dictionary defines fear as: a feeling of agitation and dread caused by the presence or imminence of danger.
Persons experiencing fear display increased alertness, concentration on the source of fear, attack and fight-or-flight behaviors, and evidence of sympathetic-nerve stimulation such as cardiovascular excitation, superficial vasoconstriction, and dilation of the pupils.
These people drive me up the wall and across the ceiling!
The ones who hover around or lurk somewhere near you.
They are silent, sneaky and they make me crazy.
People who walk up behind you at the computer and then start looking at what you are doing, pretending that if it is on your monitor, then obviously it is open to the public.
And it doesn’t matter if you are reading the news or composing a personal email. Everything is open season for the hoverers and lurkers.
They can’t be that oblivious. I refuse to believe they have no concept that what they are doing is an invasion of privacy.
And it’s just creepy!
It’s not exactly stalker behaviour. They don’t concentrate their lurking and hovering to one person – they are more ‘free range.’ But it sure feels like it sometimes.
It’s weird. Stop it. Now!
The other day, I picked up a copy of The Raven.
I like Edgar Allen Poe, especially his short horror stories. Not everyone knows that Edgar Allen Poe basically created the detective thriller genre. And this is what we have at the heart of The Raven… Poe himself involved in a detective thriller, with the killer using Poe’s stories as inspiration for the murders.
Here’s the blurb…The macabre and lurid tales of Edgar Allan Poe are vividly brought to life – and death – in this stylish, gothic thriller starring John Cusack as the infamous author. When a madman begins committing horrific murders inspired by Poe’s darkest works, a young Baltimore detective (Luke Evans) joins forces with Poe in a quest to get inside the killer’s mind in order to stop him from making every one of Poe’s brutal stories a blood chilling reality. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues, which escalates when Poe’s love (Alice Eve) becomes the next target. Intrepid Pictures’ The Raven also stars Brendan Gleeson and Oliver Jackson-Cohen.
OK, here’s the deal… American poet Edgar Allen Poe is broke and down on his luck in Baltimore, in 1849.
Mayhem ensues… when a serial killer uses Poe’s tales as inspiration for his murders. The police enlist Poe’s help. Serial killer kidnaps Poe’s love and buries her alive, taunting Poe and the police with clues left on (or in) a series of murder victims.
My two cents… It’s basically a gothic version of ‘Law & Order.’ It’s ‘Saw’ meets ‘Sherlock Holmes!’
The movie looks great. The costumes, sets, props… everything is wonderful. Even Cusack as Poe (with a goatee instead of just the trademark Poe mustache) is sufficiently and wonderfully pale and fevered both at the same time. The acting is good too, in my opinion.
But the movie fails to grip me. I want Poe to grab me and never let me go until the last ghastly minute. And this movie doesn’t do it. The elements are all there but somehow it just falls short. And I am not even sure why.
The guys over at RottenTomatoes.com were also whelmed. 22% on the freshness scale but with 48% approval rating.
“The subject matter screams out for cleverness and depth, the sort of mind-bending twists and satisfying darkness that Poe himself would love. It finds them only in small doses.” (John Wenzel, Denver Post)
“Basically a well-researched but formulaic mystery centered on one of those nyah-nyah serial killers we’ve seen a thousand times.” (Rafer Guzman, Newsday)
“Director James McTeigue has no feel for humor or terror, making what could have been a witty pastiche into another cheesy slice-and-dice horror flick.” (Colin Covert, Minneapolis Star Tribune)
That seems to be the general tone of many of the reviews. “It could have been… should have been… so wonderful. But they blew it!”
The premise of The Raven, the cast, the production values, all had such great potential. This movie should have been great. It should have been riveting. It would have been a real tribute to Poe and his invention… the detective thriller. But it isn’t. And the sense of disappointment is tangible.
Bottom line… You’re better off curling up with a copy of The Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe.
One Tell-Tale Thumb up.
As a public defender, there are people I represent… and people I don’t usually get to represent.
These are some of the people I serve.
I call them the Damsels in Distress.
They get screwed (figuratively or literally) by their families. Their boyfriends steal their money and break their hearts. Their best friends betray them and steal their boyfriends. Children’s Aid wants to apprehend their kids. The police and prosecutors want to convict and sentence them. And it sometimes seems to them that the only person willing to listen to them and help them… is me.
They’re not all angels. Believe me, they’re not. They are not actually thankful or appreciative. In the years since I’ve become a lawyer, I can count on two hands the times some of them said “thank you” to me.
But that’s not why I do it. I don’t do it for their appreciation. There is no prestige in what I do, that’s for sure. I certainly don’t do it for the money. Public defenders are the lowest paid of all lawyers. Despite what some arrogant, ignorant people may say, public defenders are not awash in the princely sums lavished upon us by the Legal Aid system.
I do it for the same reason that I can’t just sit in my deck chair sipping margaritas while watching an unsupervised toddler waddle precariously at the edge of a swimming pool. And should the tiny little terror fall in, I can’t sit there and say, “Well… I COULD help the little squirt. I just don’t want to.”
I do it because it is the right thing to do.