Thursday, August 31, 2006


Really excited about condensing these thoughts.

Feeling good about it.

So good, I don't want to ruin the surprise, but what if the separation between shabbas and the rest of the week was...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The highs and lows of Elul (Institute reunion and other craziness, pt I)

Several personal crises have me quite distracted. But not so distracted that I will wait any longer to talk about ecstatic/stressful/crazy blur that was this weekend.

Really, it all started Thursday night. Thursday night, met up with SC, JM, and J from my activist camp and we went out for drinks... this particularly drinking excursion was to the Gin Mill (good onion rings) for JM's 10 dolla' all you can drink law school partay. Being that SC and I arrived late (and I promised SC a ride to the JMZ later) we didn't partake in the "all you can drink" aspect, though J and JM did their share to keep the costs of our bartab down. Lots of great music to get people singing and jumping up and dancing and whatnot. Mix of 80s, motown, it was good stuff. "We took the midnight train to anywhere". Dropped off J and JM, and as SC and I were about to split the gas station, she has a (what usually is my) surreal nyc moment; where she meets an old acquaintence from HS, who's randomly getting married to someone he's been dating for a few months. They are eloping to AC, and seem totally cool with it. Not jumping up and down happy, mind you, almost resigned to it. SC and I catch up some more, talk about the space and distance between high school and current life (which I'm a little ashamed to say is a much wider gap for me than SC). Get home to sleeping Knucklehead's around 3ish and collapse. I'll just sleep in...

...OH CRAP! No I won't. It's Rosh Chodesh Elul, and I'm cosponsoring a minyan at Knucklehead's place. No sleeping in for me, as the crew will be here for minyan momentarily. We are surprised by BK being our first visitor! Had no idea he was coming in for THE WEEKEND, but glad he made it; he had tales and photos of Bellar-ness. The minyan files in, and BZ leads us in Shacris, including a couple new tunes (I've davened with this guy how many times in the last three years, and he's always got some cool new tunes for me); some rooftop stylee hallel (where we have someone who facilitate the prayer to keep it moving, but anyone can pick a tune) which was great; I also had the privellege of davening alongside AS, who I'm excited has joined us here in NYC. JJ leyned, and then I ran like hell to move Brain to a new spot. Got back in time for bagels and bentching.

After lunch, I thanked knucklehead profusely for taking on massive amounts of cooking so I could go see Don in the hospital. I run to the store to pick up what he needs (phone card, beverage, lunch), hop a series of buses over there. I get up to see him, and he's not in good spirits. Hoping the meatball marinara will help cheer him up, I pass him some lunch. Of all the times I've seen him, this is the most disspirited. He's been over a week, and is still dizzy and nauseous. He barely held down a bagel for his breakfast. He still has the juice to talk about his book, his poetry, the Yanks and a long overdue steak dinner, but something's not right.

Knowing that I still need to get going to get ready for Shabbas (and KZ/TLS II, electric bugalu), I force myself to leave. Knowing I left late, I think cab, but my wallet and the presence of a nearby bus told me it's bus time. Apparently, the driver is leaving his route after years on this specific route (don't they make movies about people who have bad stuff happen to them on days like this? i think to myself as I grab a seat near the front), so we ride up. I sprint into Knucklehead's house to get ready for Shabbas...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

RIP Maynard Ferguson

In a calendar year that seems jam packed with the passing of musical legends, we lost an amazing trumpet player over the weekend. He was 78.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Wit's end.

On one hand, today is a landmark day in my life. On the other, I sit with my cell phone besides me, waiting for a call from Don. I've been getting a lot of life lessons in what I can and cannot do for my friends recently, and it's been a little frustrating to say the least.

He now says he's going home and doesn't want me to come to the hospital to help bust heads. I don't really comprehend what's going on here.

you can't make this stuff up.

The hospital wants to send Don home early. Again. Again. And by again, I mean againagainagainagain. as in, this shit has been a regular occurance in his life for the last 3 plus years. I cannot begin to lay out the anger and frustration I have with this situation, but it's got me thinking strongly about my next political project being once again about healthcare. Fuckers.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

“We’ll make sure your money is being spent wisely. And we're going to make sure that the money is spent honestly."

As we inch closer to Katrina's 1 year anniversary, the neverending story of how badly this government screwed up flows onward.

The title of this post are the words of President Bush from almost a year ago, at the Republican Jewish Coalition's 20th Anniversary. Well, other folks are saying that his quote might not be so accurate. Today, House Democrats released a report on just how bad the process of awarding post Katrina contract has been. How bad, do you ask?

* Full and Open Competition is the Exception, Not the Rule. As of June 30, 2006, over $10.6 billion has been awarded to private contractors for Gulf Coast recovery and reconstruction. Nearly all of this amount ($10.1 billion) was awarded in 1,237 contracts valued at $500,000 or more. Only 30% of these contracts were awarded with full and open competition.
* Contract Mismanagement Is Widespread. Hurricane Katrina contracts have been accompanied by pervasive mismanagement. Mistakes were made in virtually every step of the contracting process: from pre-contract planning through contract award and oversight. Compounding this problem, there were not enough trained contract officials to oversee contract spending in the Gulf Coast.
* The Costs to the Taxpayer Are Enormous. This report identifies 19 Katrina contracts collectively worth $8.75 billion that have been plagued by waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement. In the case of each of these 19 contracts, reports from the Government Accountability Office, Pentagon auditors, agency inspectors general, or other government investigators have linked the contracts to major problems in administration or performance.
Read more »

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

this war never came to our shores.

Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center.

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing!! [...] Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq.

Since I continue to be in a props giving mood, (and since my baby cousin just woke up, looked at me, and went back to sleep for the second time in the last twenty minutes), Kos regular Bill in Portland, Maine does some more math for us, summing up how wrong Bush's mini tempertrantrum at monday's presser was.

Mo Knows Math.

Or, as FullBoat would say, in reference to our old Disneysweatshop tee shirts, "Do the math, mutherfucker!"

I'm tired. Had an amazing weekend where I co-lead Kol Zimrah on saxophone with avahatcafe, saw LastTrumpet, my new baby niece along with mommapoet and DD, my cousin in from France, my cousin and my baby cousin moved back from Texas, Snakes on a Plane and a delicious dinner with the NefariousOnes, a Yankees FIVE GAME SWEEP OVER THOSE SUCKERS, and am still somehow disappointed, depressed, and exhausted.

Don't have a lot of words, and so I figure I'll instead give some props to Mobius, who's clearly done the math in his genius o'clock in his post from yesterday. Peep it:

See to be a “good Jew” today, you don’t have to care about Torah. You don’t have to practice Judaism. You don’t have to believe in G-d. You don’t have to be educated in your history. You don’t have to be educated in our source material. You don’t have to learn gemara. You don’t have to lay tefillin. You don’t need to know a word of Hebrew. You don’t have to keep a single mitzvah or even know what a mitzvah is — sorry to tell you, it doesn’t mean “good deed.” No. You just need to unyieldingly, unquestioningly support Israel in every military decision (unless those decisions aren’t brutal enough against our supposed enemies, in which case, feel free to dissent). You need to perceive of a black and white world in which all Arabs and Muslims are evil and all Jews are good and innocent and worthy of your unconditional support. Nevermind what the Torah says about provoking both the wrath of G-d and the wrath of the nations. Nevermind capital-T Truth at all. Sieg heil, sieg heil, and “you’re okay in my book.”

You know — it’s not even that I don’t support Jewish emancipation or self-determination, because clearly I do. And I obviously believe there are psychotic pricks in this world who have a lust for Jewish blood who need to be confronted head-on. But it’s not even the point.


nice to have folks out there who are also saying this stuff. it reminds me i'm not crazy.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

New (old) poem, v 1.2

So this one got some love at the Institute's open mic, and so I figured I'd throw it out there.

Presently Untitled

I threw words at you
like they were free.

like there was a neverendingstoreroom

of circles and lines
of pens ink paper
oxygen, vocal chords,

do you know how hard it is to keep
individual closets
of I's and U's,
of A's and Eees,
and, Of Course,
O's sorted into

O! and o(we)

man, this shit is complicated!

I'm not just a poet,
I'm a verbal taxonomist.
I can separate words into philum,
different letters into
genus and species
and I threw all that
at you

like it was free.

I threw words at you like


pebbles for the extra protection
you installed around your ears

rocks to knock
the phillistine stubborness
out of you

to chase the spectres
from your shoulders

maybe a boulder big enough

to break you from your rut,
explode in your gut

as you exhale generations of tears
waiting to burst through

your eyedoors and
slide down

I went to my armory,
loaded up like Neo and Denzel,
packing as many syllables as I could carry
because you can't be too careful these days.

the right combination of
letters can make all the difference.

I layered letters like I was

flying to Iceland
with a layover in Ecuador.

My words stood ready
to attend you.

they would've been your servants and
your kingdom.

they would've blown down doors
and carried your luggage.

They would've cut down adversaries
and cooked you dinner.

My words
would've rubbed your feet
while running your meetings
and making theater reservations.

You could have had them,
supped on them so much
you got sick of them.

But you chose another vocabulary.
Another reservoir
Another language.

and I always lose
in the translation.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Confluence and Perversity in my head.

Okay. Let me start this article by saying, for those of you with a fresh case of hateraid, that this is NOT me praising Hezbollah. In fact, I should be able to clear that up with the first moments of my piece.

We are quickly approaching the 1 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and, as I noted on jspot, we are ringing it in with landmark federal cases protecting insurance companies, sending their stocks up almost whole dollars at a time and no doubt setting off the clinking of highball glasses in offices everywhere. All this while thousands of Katrina survivors still haven't put the pieces back together, while the Ninth Ward looks like it could pass for a war zone.

I'll come back to that in a second. But first, this:

My bud and Jewschool honcho Mobius compiled a few mainstream media pieces a few weeks ago that detailed instances of how Hezbollah would fire its rockets from civilian locations and then disappear when in the ensuim moments, IDF warplanes would bomb the locations where the missiles were fired from. Using Lebanese citizens as human shields seems horrific to me. While I'm not saying I agree with all the actions Israel took, I also think picking someone's house, firing a long range rocket from it and then disappearing is a great way to put civilians in danger. But it makes for great press, is a real easy way to say Israel is targetting civilians.

This would seem like a pretty bad way to build support for yourself in a country, or at least in the sections where you're using human shields without their permission/approval. So aside from waging a popular war against a hated enemy, how do you build support for yourself?

How about like this?

Nehme Y. Tohme, a member of Parliament from the anti-Syrian reform bloc and the country’s minister for the displaced, said he had been told by Hezbollah officials that when the shooting stopped, Iran would provide Hezbollah with an “unlimited budget” for reconstruction.

In his victory speech on Monday night, Hezbollah’s leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, offered money for “decent and suitable furniture” and a year’s rent on a house to any Lebanese who lost his home in the month-long war.

“Completing the victory,” he said, “can come with reconstruction.


While the Israelis began their withdrawal, hundreds of Hezbollah members spread over dozens of villages across southern Lebanon began cleaning, organizing and surveying damage. Men on bulldozers were busy cutting lanes through giant piles of rubble. Roads blocked with the remnants of buildings are now, just a day after a cease-fire began, fully passable.

In Sreifa, a Hezbollah official said the group would offer an initial $10,000 to residents to help pay for the year of rent, to buy new furniture and to help feed families.

Genius o'clock on Hezbollah's part. Sure. It is the IDF that actually bombed Lebanon, and Hezbollah, with a little help from its friend Iran, swoops in immediately to begin reconstruction. These folks are angry, hurt, devastated, confused. They were used and targetted. Some are undoubtedly angry at both sides, and there are those that may never forgive either side. But with Israel already depicted as the aggressor (although for me and a lot of us, this conflict has been going back and forth so long it's like the scene in Tim Burton's Batman where Jack says "I say you made me, you gotta say I made you.") and they're the ones that actually bombed your house, who are you going to believe?

So Ruby, what does this have to do with Katrina? Glad you asked.

In the Times piece sited earlier, several professors talked about why this is significant, because Hezbollah succeeds where the Lebanese Government does not.

“Hezbollah’s strength,” said Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a professor at the Lebanese American University here, who has written extensively about the organization, in large part derives from “the gross vacuum left by the state.”

Hezbollah was not, she said, a state within a state, but rather “a state within a nonstate, actually.”

Hezbollah is actually acting on this where the Lebanese government has previously failed, and many believe will continue to fail. Hmm, can you think of any other governments that have failed to show with their actions that they are serious about restoring life after a disaster? Is it crazy that underfunded (but amazing!) non-profits like Common Ground are the ones really taking the lead on dealing with Katrina and not the largest government in the world? Again, Hezbollah uses awful fighting tactics that endanger the lives of people who didn't sign up. I'm not saying they're good. But it seems that when it comes to rebuilding, they've actually got some competancy:

Sheik Nasrallah sounded much like a governor responding to a disaster when he said, “So far, the initial count available to us on completely demolished houses exceeds 15,000 residential units.

“We cannot of course wait for the government and its heavy vehicles and machinery because they could be a while,” he said. He also cautioned, “No one should raise prices due to a surge in demand.”

Think about that. Can you see this American administration saying hey guys, don't price gouge?

For the first time, I now see Katrina not only as a massive human rights issue, not only as an environmental issue, but yep, a security issue. Millions of Americans were devastated by that storm and most of them have still yet to recover. Our government cuts housing subsudies, clsoes down volunteer camps, suspends wage standards laws in the region, and declares thousands of public housing units unlivable. In Lebanon, Hezbollah declares money will be made available immediately for rent and furntiure, that their army will fan out immediately to help rebuild, and that businesses souldn't price gouge. Who's doing the right thing in this specific situation? This is insane to me, that I watch an organization who uses human shields pledge to do more than this US Administration has done to this day in the Gulf?

This type of vacuum is one that could easily be preyed upon by some other country or organization as well; what's more loyalty building than helping someone rebuild their home? it's a year later and the Gulf is still devastated. I wonder how lower Lebanon will look in a year.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

"next time he kisses bush, it should be in his ass..."

the title is an eloquent quote from my moveon enabled Lamont phonebanking while at the 'Tute; I don't know whether the man I had spoke to was Jewish, but he had a pretty serious yidden sounding name. My brotha ZT lowers the boom on Bush Lite and Rabbi Marc Gellman's RIDICULOUS piece about why Lieberman lost the primary (blaming the Jews). You don't think Joe's swift and continuous abandonment of the liberal values many of Jews see as pivotal to our world view has anything to do with it, Marc?

Props, Brother ZT.

39.9 years in the desert (version 1.2)

Hey all, check out this poem I've been working on. and feedback is welcome (not that i'll listen to it all)

39.9 years in the Desert

(nign from tradition)
ya nai nai nai nai naaaaaaaaaai
yai nai nai nai nai naaaaaaaaaaai

yai nai nai nai nai naaaaaaaaaaaih
yai nai nai nai

We're coming
whether you like it
irrespective of position
or permission
breaking down traditions
so you can understand em,
Oild leaders lose their vision and
it's up to youth to see, See?

Wash away our ancient grudge
in the rising tide of new blood

i have already wasted too many moments
on sectarian whims
and when we begin
the final fight
between right and fooled,

squandered opportunities will leave us schooled,

so i say NO MORE!

Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,

so its tme we stand and
stick our shoes in the gears
fabricating our fears.

We're coming.
Fiery gaze in hand
Blazing across the land by house by house
by block by street

by the strength of our feet
and the fury of our hearts

What force on earth is weaker then than the feeble strength of one?

We're coming to take what it is ours, and Baruch Hashem,
You are not going to fuck it up

The floors shake in the wake of our footsteps,
But the Eart rises to greet us when
she thinks we're going to stumble

We're humble but proud
Raucous and loud,
but you'll never see us coming till it's time

tick tick tick tick

Traditiooooooooooon, tradition!

History dictates that leadership must change
the movement rearrange
for us to build a future
so it is time for you to step aside
put your leadership myths away

Revolutioooooooooooooon, revolution! Tradition!

Acheinu veAchyosaynu,
You don't need to wait for Moses
You are Moses.

WE are Moses.
And it's time to grab the staff, part the sea,
and step through receeding waters,

Breaking down traditions
so you can understand em,
Time to unhand em, along with the keys and the leadership
to the helm of this personship,
because irrespective
of your position,
or your permission
We're coming.


I feel so strange right now. Last year, upon returning from the institute, Knucklehead and I went to an awesome Black August show that featured Mos and Kweli. Mos performed some Rock stuff that pushed the audience and then busted out some rhymes. He seemed a little off kilter that night, and so was I. Going from huggy-jew-lovefest in the middle of nowhere, NH to serious hip hop show in the middle of times square was jarring.

but even as I ease back into life, working from cocoabar in Brooklyn, hanging with AF and going over stuff for Brooklyn Funk friday, seeing Schedule1 briefly in the AM, I just feel very out of place and disoriented right now...

Maybe it's just the sleep depravation. More likely, I now understand the Brigadoon/Institute comparisons even better. This crazy community appears for a week, mostly, and evaporates. Now, I'm lucky, as I've got some great communities I'm plugged in to here in New York. And if I had to eat the FPC food all year, I'd probably freak out. But it just felt like home. And now home feels like someplace else.

it'll be easier when knucklehead is back from NH. But right now, exhausted and disconnected.

Monday, August 07, 2006

The work.

Did a 45 minute phonebanking set from NH for Ned Lamont via Moveon just now. in my very poor sample set, crazy joe got 3 supporters, Ned got 2, and most everyone else played it close to the vest/didn't want to talk to me.

quote of the night?

"tell Lieberman the next time he kisses Bush, he can kiss him in the ass for me." from one of my two Lamont supporters.

I've been thinking about the work alot. Knucklehead and I went out to dinner last night with BZ, ER, and Itinerant Rabwhat, where we talked about how we do the work, make a difference, and keep from burning out. Found myself talking to IR about how she can have a positive impact organizing in the Jewish community, that we need people at all fields of this battle.

In the meantime, reading Kos, thinking about CT Sen and NY-19, I've been starting to feel the itch a little bit, missing the foxhole comeraderie and instant reactions and feedback of the political work. Saw JNK at the meters show, where we inevitably started talking about '08 and his involvement with the Edwards folks, which inevitably led to him saying, if you want in, lemme know. Now, he knows I still hold Feingold pipedreams, but realistically, with him and the Flamingo both down with JE, I imagine that's where I would end up if I went Presidential. But do I want to be on the road? Doing the work? Away from Knucklehead and everyone again? And realistically, the heavy lifting is in two pieces; getting the nomination, and when our guy wins, then the general, or folding into 527s if our guy loses to go after the repugnants.

'08 could be our last real chance. Could I live with myself if I let that go? Could I survive another 6/9/12 months on the road, away from Knucklehead and everyone I hold dear? Will I even find work with my new feelings about shabbas?

Time has come today.

In 30 minutes, the first program of this year's institute that I play a role in begins. and in about an hour and change, the Institute offically kicks off.

I feel nervous. BZ and ER have put a whole lot of work into making this year's institute huge. We've got 20% more people than last year, coming in at roughly 300. And some great people from my life in the last year are here. Should be slammin. Knucklehead and I are just doing what we can to pitch in and keep things moving, while avoidng any requests that we be co-chairs of next year's institute (maybe '09, people). In additon to the new/newish person orientation, I've got a hand in a Klezmer Jam, the Coffee House, a poetry open room, and the musical instrument space for shabbas. Some of my favorite musicians to jam with have already returned, it should be awesome.

Shabbas with Knucklehead, ER and BZ was great. Saturday night, we were reminded of how things close on saturday nights in non major cites and that if you're making havdalah, you really should just ahve dinner at/near home. Ended up at a bland (but not tottally horrible) mexican place nearby.

Also at this year's insttute: Knucklehead's parents. and come to think of it, Bz's parents, ER's parents, and myfavoritejewishdrummer's parents and sister.

Alright. Here we go.

Friday, August 04, 2006

A crazy week ends right (Just Keep On Struttin)

First NH(C) post up in NH(C). After an absolutely hellish week involving three major work meetings, 8 subletter interviews, moving my stuff out of storage, moving my stuff back to Brooklyn, picking up random things from the homestead and Knucklehead's place, problems with my current subletter's check, getting my landlord rent in the 914, and driving to and from Philadelphia to pick a truckload of stuff for the Summer Institute, all while doing full work days, I got to end this week on a serious positive note.

or should I say nasty downbeat.

blessed us for a second time in less than a calendar year. I don't know what I did to deserve such a blessing, but I'll take it. And as JK pointed out, they were even tighter than last time. I expected nothing less. After all, a year of playing together will do that to you, and especially when you're one of the sickest four person musical units to ever walk the earth. They were firing on all cylinders last night.

What I really liked about the set is that, back in November, they played all the great, well known tracks they do. And it was incredible to hear them doin those songs propah. But this time, they did a bunch of tracks they don't play live all that often, like Just Kissed My Baby, The World, Be My Lady, and the one I was calling for, Chicken Strut. Even gave Knucklehead a little bit of Chicken Strut on her voicemail. The band took a whole bunch of songs, really letting it flow out. It was great to see that comeraderie, which was there in November, but even more so last night.

Art seemed to be in better health, and his voice was back, it was a little hoarse in November. Leo, every bit the clown and guitar mastermind was on fire most of the night. Seeing George and Zigaboo playing together is an experience though, they absolutely mesh into a crazy polyrhymthic single unit. Their pocket is tight as hell and just plain filthy. Someday, I hope to have the chops these gents have in their toenail clippings. I would love to do music like this on horn; not so much like Maceo, who I also love, but like a sax player weaved into a constantly moving syncopated masterpiece; not soloing constantly, but adding to the whole piece.

Again, with much love in my heart to Brian Stoltz and Russell Batiste, seeing the original four back together is incredible, and I would cheerfully join the rest of NYC in seeing them every damn time they would come here.

And now, after a ridiculously early morning, Knucklehead and I have joined BZ and ER for some pre-institute Shabbas. It's going to be awesome. mostly, it's going to be spent sleeping, with some food, music, and great company. Then, the pre-institute madness begins. So excited. But first, what i really need is a day of rest. How convenient! it's almost here.