Entries tagged with “Judaism”.


Caveat lectorem: When readers submit comments, they are asked if they want to receive an email alert with a link to new postings on this blog. A number of people have said they do. Thank you. The link is created the moment a posting goes online. Readers who find their way here through that link can see an updated version by simply clicking on the headline above the posting.

If you like wildlife, state government wants you to kill some of it.

California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced it will try “to recruit new hunters and anglers throughout the state” because hunters provide 60 percent of the funding for fish and wildlife conservation through license fees and taxes on guns and ammunition, The San Francisco Chronicle reported three months ago. 

That funding has been steadily declining. “Only about 5 percent of Americans 16 and older hunt — a 50-percent decline in just five decades,” The Chronicle explained. “The decline is attributable to urbanization, the rise of media entertainment, restricted access to hunting territory, and a lack of free time. Additionally, hunting declines as the population ages, and as the Baby Boomers grow ever older, the number of hunters will continue to plummet.”

Hunting doesn’t appeal to me. As I see it, the state’s encouraging hunting — accompanied by purchases of guns and ammunition — in order to bolster license fees and taxes makes as much sense as it would to encourage double parking in order to collect more in parking fines.

Solar panels.

The curse of solar panels. Solar panels are becoming popular in Afghanistan, The Economist reported last week, but they’re not being used primarily for homes. They’re mostly used for growing opium to make heroin, which “helps fund the Taliban, as well as pro-government warlords who are scarcely better.” The panels provide the electricity for opium farmers to pump water from deep wells, and that’s lowering the water table, the magazine noted. “Shallow wells have gone completely dry.”

Judaism’s Star of David

Still another, but happier, surprise. In a review of the book Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom, the same Economist also reported that in contrast to historic anti-Semitism, “Jews are now the country’s best-liked religious group — but the warm attitudes transcend philo-Semitism.” What’s happened? “By 2010 around half of all Americans had a spouse of a different religious tradition. Neighborhoods, workplaces, and friendships have become more religiously diverse.” It’s clearly counterproductive to be prejudiced against one’s friends and associates.

The Victorian-era poet Robert Browning (1812-1889).

One of the English poet Robert Browning’s most memorable lines is: “God is in His heaven, all’s right with the world,” which is from the poem Pippa Passes. “But,” as the linguist/journalist Bill Bryson points out in his book The Mother Tongue, “it also contains this disconcerting passage: ‘Then owls and bats/ Cowls and twats,/ Monks and nuns in a cloister’s moods,/ Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry.’

“Browning had apparently somewhere come across the word twat — which meant precisely the same then as it does now but pronounced with a flat a — and somehow took it to mean a piece of headgear for nuns. The verse became a source of twittering amusement for generations of schoolboys and a perennial embarrassment to their elders, but the word was never altered, and Browning was allowed to live out his life in wholesome ignorance because no one could think of a suitably delicate way of explaining his mistake to him.”

The rainbow flag of the LGBT movement.

Another racy surprise. Researchers had concluded that gay men tend to have more older brothers than straight men. Harper’s magazine, however, last October reported further research has found that “holds true only for those who are prone to be the receiving partner during anal sex.” Make of that what you will. I won’t hazard a guess.

We just went through a whirlwind of seasonal celebrations — so many that I sometimes became confused. When I wished another customer in the bank a Merry New Year and a Happy Christmas, a teller laughed, “You got it backwards.”

A week or two before Christmas, Richard Kirschman of Point Reyes Station and I got into a discussion about seasonal greetings. “Merry Christmas,” of course, is traditional among Christians while Jews wish each other “Happy Hanukkah.” But how do blacks greet each other during Kwanzaa (which has been a celebration for 45 years)?

“Have a Quality Kwanzaa” Richard suggested, but I was skeptical and looked it up. Turns out the correct greeting is “Heri za Kwanzaa.” Kwanzaa runs from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, with each day devoted to one of seven principles of African heritage.

A Kwanzaa ritual of lighting a candle in the Kinara.

When someone greets you with “Heri za Kwanzaa,” your response depends on which day of Kwanzaa it is. On the first day, for example, the response is “Umoja,” which means to strive for unity in your family, community, nation, and race. On the second day, your response should be, “Kujichagulia,” which means to stand up for yourself and speak out. The words are in Swahili because it’s a pan-African language.

As it happened, I was born to Christian Science parents while my girlfriend Lynn was born into a Jewish family. Both of us are non-practicing, but we have been learning a bit of each others’ traditions. When I stumble over the Christmas tree, I now exclaim, “Oy vey iz mir.”

And when Lynn feigns chagrin that she’s lost her menorah, she’s likely to mutter, “Jesus H. Christ!”

Among Jews, it’s common to refer to each other as “members of the tribe,” which makes sense given the 12 tribes of Israel. In my home, we referred to other Christian Scientists as “CS.”

Unfortunately, some of my non-Christian Science friends used “CS” as shorthand for “chicken sh-t.” I can still remember my mother asking one of my classmates, “Are you CS?” The poor fellow was offended and also very puzzled why mom would ask him such an impertinent question.

All this makes me suspect that if the whole world spoke the same lingo, there would be far fewer cultural clashes. But we don’t, so I’ll use this opportunity to wish my Spanish-speaking readers, “Prospero año nuevo.”