Friday, November 19, 2010

Picture of a Fall

Dedicated to my mom, Chaya bas Yehudis, a speedy and complete recovery from her fall. Go figure - the one chapter in the entire Torah when someone is wounded on their hip and walks with a limp, and that's when it happens to her. Fortunately, like Jacob after wresting the angel, she is only temporarily lame, and on the mend.

Did you ever see a painting that was so compelling, you just wanted to step into it?

Once-friendly once-green giants saying farewell,
their grande finale competition
flamingly yellow, pumpkinly orange, shockingly red
their paint splatters crunch
in a proverbial way
and crisp oxygen revives your crusty brain
but the the gloves, for the moment, lie in the winter box.

Here's the question for your table - What's more beautiful, spring or fall?

(Sorry.... just trying to distract you from being driven mad by your inlaws....;-) Send in your favorite fall impressions and appreciations, I'll post them next week and we'll make a random drawing of all submissions for a special Hannuka present.)

Speaking of Hannuka....

If you have a local Jewish bookstore or shop, PLEASE patronize it. But if you don't, use these links to get the goods:

Dairy Chocolate Gelt -
Parve Chocolate Gelt -
Big Adult Channuka book -
Book for toddlers -
Book for kids -
Book for adults -
Stickers -
100 dreidels -
Silly Bandz -
Noah’s Ark Menorah -
Safe-T Oil Menorah -
Sterling Menorah -
Artscroll Channuka Page -
Channuka Blessings Puzzle -

Here is a link to my previous missive on the Jewish take on Thanksgiving.

Happy Thanksgiving, Chappy Channuka and.....

Shabbat Shalom

PS, have you seen my amazing new iPhone/iPad app? (it can now be given as a gift, even if you don't have an iphone)

PPS - Have long been a fan of Dennis Prager; here's a good one from him:

Friday, November 12, 2010

It Is Personal

In honor of Lawrence and Amy Gallant, who were married last week in Boston and planning to live in San Jose.

In honor of my sister, Tzipora (and family) who welcomed a baby boy into the world this week, in Jerusalem. Mazal tov!

A strange thing happened to me a few days ago.

Perhaps you or someone at your table can explain it.

Maybe my confusion is because I'm biased.

I'm biased because I believe my own PR. The PR says that this book has changed many people's lives and helped them find what they were looking for. I get emails from Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, Orthodox, Orthodox-Hasidic, Conservadox, Reformative and even plain ol' Jews, even from non-Jews, telling me that the book has helped them. After awhile you start to believe this stuff, know what I mean?

So here's what happened.

There is a certain rabbi who runs a certain educational program with hundreds of participants every year. Months ago I asked him if he would like to use the book as a follow-up tool, for his participants to take home after the program. We sent him a sample book, and I showed him how the book dovetails perfectly with his programming.

But he hemmed. He hawed. Via email and phone calls, he would not commit.

Then I heard he was going to be in New York. So last week I made a one-day drive to New York and back (actually New Jersey, so the train was not an option). I found him in his hotel five minutes before he was about to leave for the evening. We talked for those five minutes, and closed the deal. He will use the book for his next program.

This is my question for your table: What is it about the face-to-face meeting?

Shabbat Shalom

Meeting Franklin Roosevelt was like opening your first bottle of champagne; knowing him was like drinking it. - Churchill

PS - have you seen my amazing new iPhone/iPad app?



Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Happy birthday to 3 friends in San Francisco this week: David, Harmon and Stuart. May you live to 120 in health and radical amazement.

Want to create an animated discussion anywhere in the country this weekend? Ask the following question:

Besides the fact that they happened to have concluded the same week, what do elections and the World Series have in common?

I can think of a few things....

- They both result in winners and losers
- Winners rejoice and losers feel bad
- Some people work themselves into a frenzy over them, while others yawn.

Q2: But why the frenzy, why the yawn?

I'll be interested to hear what answers you get from the Table.

It seems to me that the common denominator is that in both cases, some people feel that the outcome is terribly important, while others feel that the outcome will not affect their lives too much.

And what's really interesting is how people who are passionate (about baseball or politics) can't really understand why anyone could be apathetic, yet the apathetic folks can't understand why anyone could be so passionate about something that "doesn't really matter".

This failure to communicate leads us to Q3:

Does passion around a contest REQUIRE that there always be winners and losers? Is there any way to choose leaders or to enjoy baseball without making half the participants feel like losers? And even if there is such a way, would that necessarily be desirable?

(Soapbox alert: I ordinarily like to leave these questions open, but some people always ask for MY answers....)

Here's what I'm thinking on this issue. In both politics and sports, during the process our news media have for some reason always focused on the outcomes rather than the substance.

Think, for example, is how much we have heard in the weeks leading up to the election about what the polls are saying. I ask you: how does reporting on polling assist the democratic process one iota? Should I cast my vote based on the polling? Or should I vote based on issues? If the latter, then I need to hear as much reporting as time will allow on the issues. Hearing the latest polling data may help the candidates, but it doesn't help the voters. Yet the pollsters have somehow wrested control of the news.

Moreover, in races that technically have more than 2 candidates, the news media routinely ignore minor-party candidates. They would rather portray a race as a simple 2-person match than a more complex dialog that it really is. This is because they want to make their reporting as sensational and entertaining as possible, and complex issues require the hardest of human efforts, thinking.

Sports are the same - the entire media focus leading up to and during the World Series is on forecasting the outcome - “Who's going to win?” as opposed to helping the public appreciate the beauty of the game and the skill of the players.

Perhaps if our news media shifted their focus to substance rather than winning and losing, both politics and baseball would create fewer "losers" and enjoy more people participating in and sharing the pleasure of the game.

Shabbat Shalom

PS – speaking of grappling with issues of passion, check out this innovative new book on Israel:

PPS – here’s a video of the SF victory parade:

Shabbat Shalom