Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chechen Music and Mairbek Khaidarov

    The former Soviet Union spanned 12 time zones and a multitude of languages. If I were to go there as a tourist, it would be with the desire of going on a musical tour. We read a lot about the war in Chechenya, a part of the Russian republic that wants to break away and live under their own government. The Russians are afraid that it could lead to a multitude of other non Russian ethnic groups demanding independence, inspired by the Chechens.

Any time I read about a hot spot in the news, I wonder what sort of music the people who are at war listen to.Thinking of Chechenya,I looked for some Chechen music on You Tube. Fortunately, there is no shortage of it. I was fortunate enough to find some songs by Mairbek Khaidarov, for whom there was no fan website or Wikipedia page. Chechen is also not listed among the langauges translated by Google.

I do know that Chechen, though it sounds to me like Turkish, is not Turkic at all but belongs to the Nakh family of languages, and that Islam in Chechenya is influenced by local traditions. The picture of Chechens painted in the Russian media has a lot of inaccuracies. Unfortunately, Islamic radicals from abroad will probably be all to happy to push Chechens and Chechen Islam in a radical direction.

I found some really nice songs by a Chechen singer named Mairbek Khaidarov. The audience in the video was attired in moderate Islamic attire. Some women had headscarves, but no covered faces. Khaidarov himself was dressed in a suit that was unremarkable. It was his voice that stood out.

I hope to hear nothing more in the news about Chechenya, because when I do hear about the Chechens, it is not usually good. Here are some songs from Mairbek Khaidarov. I hope it is all we hear from Chechenya for a while, and that my listeners enjoy his music.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thoughts After "Shabbos Thanksgiving"

The 19th of Kislev is observed as the "Rosh Hashanah of Chasidus". It is the day in Lubavitch when the annual reading of the Tanya is started anew. It is also the day when the alter Rebbe was freed from prison in Russia. Lubavitch and Chassidism were a wellspring of strength that kept the spark of Judaism alive under communism when faith was driven underground for over 70 years.It is observed along with the 20th of Kislev, which is the day after his release when the Alter Rebbe was able to rejoin his chasidim after his time of imprisonment.

The 21st of Kislev is a holiday in Satmar, when the Satmar Rebbe, Rabenu Joel Teitelbaum was freed in 1944 from Bergen Belsen,and was permitted to go to Switzerland. He later became a guiding force to chasidim around the world.

Both the Lubavitcher Rebbes (Josef Yitzhak and Menachem Mendel) and the Satmar Rebbe attracted "orphan chasidim", chasidic Jews who had lost not only their families but their rebbes and rabbis, as well as their entire communities. During the war were days, weeks and months in which towns died together. Both the Lubavitcher and Satmar rebbes and their respective movements gave spriritual and material support to these "orphaned chasidim", reviving broken bodies and souls. The Lubavitch and Satmar movements were among the groups that survived in sufficient numbers to take in the remnants of other chassidic groups that had ceased to exist as communities.

This year, Thanksgiving, the 19th, 20th and 21th of Kislev occurred on successive days. To me, it was a four day festival in which to thank G-d for physical and spiritual survival as well as for a peaceful and free country in which to live and worship freely. The succession of secular and Jewish holidays reminds me of a duty to light up the world and to contribute to it.The themes of all three holidays, both civil and religious, reinforce each other. To everyone, both the children of Abraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov as well as the children of Noah, I wish a "Chag Someach" a happy holiday.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Public Figures and Private Lives


   Sometimes when I read about Mel Gibson, Paris Hilton and other public figures whose private lives spill onto the front pages of our newspapers, it almost seems as though their personal lives are being packaged as public entertainment. When I pick up the National Enquirer, the Globe or other celebrity gossip tabloids, I seriously worry about what effect this has on the people who produce our entertainment. Could being "on stage" 24/7 lead to creative or personal burnout? Do the people who entertain us welcome and cultivate this scrutiny of their private lives or does it pain them? If I view gossip about my friends and coworkers to be objectionable, how should I feel about discussing Brittany Spears?

Sometimes, there is a connection between the private lives of public figures and their later contributions to public life. Josip Broz Tito, the leader of Yugoslavia was of Croatian and Slovenian descent. Was his devotion to Yugoslavia, a collection of South Slavic nations related to his mixed ancestry?

Hitler and Stalin both grew up in harsh family environments. How did their familial experiences shape their approach to government? Were there common denominators that explained their genocidal common denominator? The OSS, the forerunner of the CIA commissioned a psychological biography of Hitler that focused on the link between the private life of Hitler and his public persona.

In the entertainment world, episodes and aspects of Eminem's personal life have fueled, coloured and influenced his creative output. Despite this, he does not turn his life into a reality TV show. Day to day events in his life still take place behind a curtain of privacy.

Some public figures attempt to maintain a shield of privacy. Woody Allen and Paul McCartney are known to dislike being approached by fans despite instances in which their private lives spilled onto the pages of the tabloids. Other people open a window into their private lives. Art Linkletter, who produced "Kids Say The Darndest Things." discussed publicly his daughter Diane's suicide in 1969 at age 20 with the hope of educating people about the dangers of drugs.Ronald Reagan and his family were very open about his affliction with Alzheimer's disease.

Is there a place for celebrity gossip? I would say that celebrities should be discussed with their consent. We should not be prying our way into their personal lives.Hitler, Stalin and other public figures who present a danger would constitute an exception to this rule.For those who must discuss the lives of others, there are soap operas and sitcoms.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Channeling Elvis In Czech


  Today is just one of those days when I lay awake remembering with fondness some of my favourite Czech pop music. Pavel Bobek, singing a Czech version of "Lord Have Mercy On A Country Boy" by Don Williams makes my day every time I hear it.. He also does a good Czech version of "My Home Town".The Czechs are strongly influenced by American political values and culture. There is a country music station in the Czech Republic that broadcasts mostly Czech country music. Because I don't understand Czech, it is possible for me to write articles while listening to it without being distracted by the lyrics in my own language.They pick the best of American country as well..

When looking up Karel Zich, who is known as the Czech Elvis, I was saddened to learn that he had passed away in Corsica  at the age of 55. Back in the 70's, he did a beautiful rendition of "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.".

He also did a lively rendition of Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock". back in 1983. I wonder if Vaclav Havel or any of the other czech dissidents listened to it when they were doing time?

Why do I like hearing American songs in Czech or other foreign languages.? When I was living overseas, it was a reassuring touch of the familiar to hear "Wildes Wasser" to the tune of the Moody Blues "Nights in White Satin" and other tunes rendered into local languages. Now, at a time when America is scoffed at, criticised and condemned, I hear in thes songs an underlying fondness for some aspects of American culture that as an American I find reassuring.

Most of these songs have completely different meanings to their lyrics. Very seldom are they a direct translation of the original song. With Google Translate it is possible to get song translations of varying qualities.

What most fascinates me in these songs derived from  American music is the mix of the strange and the familiar. I hope my readers will enjoy them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My New Site Is Up And Running


     For almost 3 years, I have written on my sites Rudi Stettner.com and Magdeburgerjoe.com. For various reasons outlined in an "Announcement To Readers About My New Web Site",I stated my reasons, not the least of which is the desire to present news as well as writing my own articles.

I am pleased to announce that my new site is up. Although it reflects my limited technical skills, I will be working on improving it with time. The name of the site is "The Globe Tribune.Info". As far as promoting it goes, I am on ground zero. It's not even up on Google yet.

I am determined to reach out of the mainstream, to fellow bloggers and to less read publications to call to the attention of the public news, opinions and trends that I consider worthy of note. Since I personally get paid per thousand hits, I will not reprint entire articles but will link back to the original article.

When I vote, I am one of millions of voices. Similarly, when I write and present the writing of others, I am making a positive statement about what is newsworthy and how it should be presented. It feels a lot more constructive than complaining about the mainstream media.

Having founded the web site of my dreams, I am looking forward to getting back to writing. Hopefully, I will have need of additional bandwidth and be able to customise my web page design a bit more. I look forward to serving the public with thought provoking news and commentary

Friday, November 12, 2010

Priority 7 Vouchers To Be Cancelled 6 Months Early

Priority 7, a program that provides child care vouchers to working couples was unilaterally terminated by the Bloomberg administration as part of a series of ad hoc budget cuts that are taking effect 6 months earlier than planned, in2010 instead of the end of the school year. After tense negotiations, an extension of the program to December 31, 2010 has been reached. The program provides day care to lower income families in which both parents work. The budget cuts disproportionately affect the orthodox Jewish communities of Boro Park and Williamsburg. Yeshiva World.com describes the impact of the budget cuts as follows.

"In fact, a 2008 report published by ACS noted that the heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of Boro Park and Williamsburg, where the majority of Priority 7 vouchers are distributed, had the largest unmet need for publicly funded childcare. And, by ACS’ own admission, 92.1% of the 2,200 children receiving Priority 7 vouchers are living below 100% of the poverty level."

The discontinuation of this program will make it difficult for working families to provide child care for their children while they are working. This is in addition to the possible loss of jobs created by the elimination of the Priority 7 program. When you factor in possible loss of employment resulting from people who can not work without day care, you already have a reduction in the savings created by elimination of priority 7. Parents who must quit jobs will be drawing unemployment and other forms of government help to cover their loss of work.

In actuality, there will be very little savings resulting from the discontinuation of Priority 7. All that will happen will be that parents will sign up for other programs that partially replace lost income. Money saved with these budget cuts will more than be lost elsewhere. Parents in Priority 7 are trying to work and contribute to society. By cutting out daycare for the working poor, we are telling them to stay at home and collect government benefits instead. Is this the message we need to convey in these tough times?

To contact Mayor Bloomberg and other members of the City government, click here.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Amazon Champions "Free Speech" For Pedophiles

Amazon, the mega merchant that sells everything from electronics to clothing as well as its well known line of books has taken its support of free speech to a new extreme. Although it is understandable that a bookstore would be loathe to limit free speech, there are times to draw the line.

Amazon.com has decided that "The Pedophile's Guide to Love and Pleasure" should come under the umbrella of free speech protection. Fox News quotes a paragraph promoting and describing the book as follows.

"This is my attempt to make pedophile situations safer for those juveniles that find themselves involved in them, by establishing certian [sic] rules for these adults to follow," a product description reads. "I hope to achieve this by appealing to the better nature of pedosexuals, with hope that their doing so will result in less hatred and perhaps liter sentences should they ever be caught."

The book takes the jump from providing psychological insight into pedophilia into advocating the behavior and providing information to facilitate it being carried out successfully.

Amazon defends the book, saying that it does not fit the legal definition of child pornography, since it has no illustrations. Fox News quotes as follows the high toned statement by Amazon defending its controversial marketing decision.

"Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable," the company said in a written statement. "Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions."

Amazon may well have the law on its side. Despite this, there is still latitude within the law to refuse to sell books that might be harmful to the well being of the public. Amazon can and should do the right thing by dropping this book, just like they dropped "RapeLay" a video game about a man who stalked and raped a mother and her daughters.

Amazon has a record of promoting destructive books such as "I Am the Market: How to Smuggle Cocaine by the Ton, in Five Easy Lessons" by Luca Rastello and "Understanding Loved Boys and Boylovers."

There is another freedom that might interest Amazon, and that is the freedom of consumers to shop where they please. There are plenty of alternatives to amazon.com, such as Barnes and Noble and Borders. Amazon is not the only merchant that provides an outlet for used booksellers either. Barnes and Noble serves the same audience just as well.

Boycotting Amazon until they come to their senses may be what is required to remind them to use common sense and decency in the way they interpret the constitution. The courts should only be the last resort in enforcing free speech and its parameters. Private citizens can and should use their discretion as well. A boycott of Amazon.com is in order until they come to their senses.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kristallnacht and Berlin Wall's Fall Remembered Today

November 9th is a day that stands out on the calendar, roughly and abruptly torn between joy and sadness. On November 9, 1989, in what seemed at the time to be an almost surreal turn of events, the crossing points between East and West Berlin, tightly controlled since August 13, 1961 were opened to all East Germans who wished to cross them. Before the night of November 9, 1989 dissolved into the sunrise of November 10, people were dancing with joy atop the Berlin Wall.

As many as 200 people had been killed trying to cross the Berlin Wall during its grim 28 year history. So desperate were people to escape from communist East Germany that even the sewer system connecting East and West Berlin had to be secured by the communist authorities to stop its use as an escape route. To those who lived in the shadow of the Berlin Wall, its ultimate fall was an impossible dream come true.

November 9 is also another anniversary in German history that is shrouded in sadness. On November 9, 1938, there was a nationally coordinated pogrom that unfolded all across Germany. Ostensibly a "spontaneous" reaction to the assassination of German diplomat Ernst vom Rath in Paris by a Polish Jew, it was orchestrated, aided and abetted by the Nazi government. During that national pogrom on November 9, 1938, synagogues, Jewish businesses and homes were plundered and destroyed from one end of Germany to the other. Jews were beaten, murdered and sent off to concentration camps. Any hope that German Jews had of a future in Germany died on that day.

21 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and 72 years after Kristallnacht, their respectively joyous and tragic memories continue to echo and to resonate. From the Balkans to Rwanda, from the Congo to Sudan, the desire to demonize and kill those whose language, faith or race differ from the dominant majority is a sickness that continues to blight the globe.

North Korea remains one giant prison, its borders fortified to protect it not from invaders but from the escape of its own citizens. With the Berlin Wall but a memory, the fortified borders of North Korea remain a monument to the failure of communism to capture the hearts and minds of those forced to live under it.

The Berlin Wall is no more. Its original construction of cinder blocks and concrete grew malignantly into a complex of free fire zones and motion detectors over its 28 year history before it collapsed splendidly on the night of November 9 and 10, 1989.

The frightening echoes of shattering glass, the smell of buildings put to the torch and angry mobs running through the streets back in the grim time of Kristallnacht back in 1938. have long since faded into collective memory.

The desire to protect a failed political system with barbed wire and guard towers remains an affliction of our time. The desire to obliterate those who do not resemble in language, creed or skin color us is a sickness that has broken out with sickening regularity around the globe. Rwanda, the Congo, Darfur and the Balkans are among the portions of the globe that continue to remind us of the human capacity for hatred and intolerance. November 9, a day forever torn between joy and sadness, is a time to reflect upon how far the human race has yet to travel before it reaches its true potential.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bring Back Keith Olbermann

There is a petition to hire back Keith Olbermann after his suspension by MSNBC for making undisclosed political contributions. The petition has over 250,000 signatures. Despite my total lack of sympathy with Keith Olbermann's political views, I want him to have the same freedom I would want for myself, and signed the petition that he should not have to utter an abject mea culpa.

It should be common sense that journalists should disclose financial contributions and interests that would sway their journalistic impartiality. For a news reporter who purports to deliver "just the facts" this would be more pressing for viewers to know his hidden loyalty. But for those journalists and commentators who are overt and open in expressing their political preferences, it would seem almost superfluous to demand of them full and rigorous disclosures of political contributions. Keith Olbermann fits into that category. It does not take psychic abilities or great education to guess which type of candidates he supports.

Keith Olbermann should be restored to his positition on free speech grounds. By firing him, MSNBC is making a hollow gesture of respect for impartiality that is convincing to no one. It is no sin to have a political bias. It is, however disgraceful to deny others this right.

The major networks may have a political bias towards liberalism. Talk radio is inclined towards conservative views. And the blogosphere is truly a free for all. As a whole, a wide spectrum of views and persuasions is available to anyone who cares to seek them. Perhaps if we are honest with ourselves about the biases that exist in news coverage, we can move forward with a firm resolution to allowing a wide, open and frank exchange of opinions across all media outlets.

Keith Olbermann's suspension does nothing to ameliorate media bias. It is a charade that should come to an end.

Here is the petition link.


12 India Factoids You Might Not Know [Now With Obama In India]

1. "Namaste" is one of those words like "Shalom" that people who don't know any other words from India pick up. It translates very roughly as "I salute the divinity in you".It's a nice concept.

2. India has a population of about 1.2 billion, which makes it the world's most populous nation.

3. When British India gained independence from Britain in 1947, it split into India and Pakistan. Pakistan was divided into East Pakistan and West Pakistan, separated by 1000 miles of India. East Pakistan seceded from Pakistan in 1971 and became what we now know as Bangla Desh.

4. Hindi and Urdu, major languages of India and Pakistan respectively, were referred to by the British as Hindustani and considered one language. They are mutually intelligible in the spoken form, yet are written with two different alphabets Hindi has a higher percentage of indigenous content, while Urdu borrows considerably from Arabic and Persian. Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, and Urdu is written in a script based on Arabic.

5. Hindi and English share the stage as the numerically predominant languages in India. 21 other languages have some level of official recognition on a local level. There are literally hundreds of other languages spoken in India. If Obama tries to give a speech in each of these languages, he'll end up staying in India until 2012 and will probably blow a fuse on his teleprompter.
It should be noted that English provides a common tongue to many Indians who otherwise do not share a common language.

6. The Christian community of Kerala, India claims to have been the world's first Christians, converted by Thomas the apostle of Jesus between 68 and 70 AD. They often refer to themselves as "Thomas Christians" and have Aramaic as their liturgical language.

7. Many Indians who come out on the losing end of the caste system in India convert to Christianity or Islam to escape caste discrimination. This has angered some Hindu nationalists, who have responded with violence against converts from Hinduism.

8. Although caste discrimination is outlawed by the Indian constitution, it persists in actual practice. The Indian government actually has a form of affirmative action in which seats are set aside in university and jobs set aside in government. This has been a source of vexation to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other Hindu nationalist groups who feel that upper caste Indians who are poor are left behind by the measures.

9. The largest film in the world is not Hollywood but "Bollywood". People in culturally conservative countries, particularly in the Arab world find the lack of nudity and sex to be more compatible with their values and social mores. There is in Israel a Bollywood channel that is popular among both Arabs and Jews from Arab countries residing in Israel.

10. Although Pakistan was founded as a homeland for India's Muslims, India, with a Muslim population variously estimated from around 138 million to about 160 million. Pakistan has over 170 million Muslims. Despite its lower percentage of Muslims, India is one of the top 10 Muslim countries in the world by population, if not by percentage. Pakistan by contrast has a little over 3 million Hindus, with complaints of persecution that goes unpunished and that some say tacitly condoned.

11. We think of India as one country, but it has many languages, a few major religions and internal border controls at which truck drivers actually have to stop and present papers. If India can streamline its governmental regulations, optimise the climate in which business functions and facilitate foreign investment, it will likely continue current trends and become a world economic power to eclipse China.

12. English has drawn from Indian languages. Here are some words that come from Indian languages. Shampoo came originally from the Hindi word Chumpi, which refers to an oil massage of the scalp. Pundit comes from "Pandit" meaning scholar or priest. There is a long list of such words, which came in good part into our language through the British colonization of India.

My favorite quote from India's 1913 Nobel Prize winner, Rabindranath Tagore, a Bengali who composed India's national anthem.

“Where the mind is without fear, and the heart is held high, Where the world is not broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, Where the words came out from the depths of truth, Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection; Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habits, Where the mind is led forward by thee into everwidening thought and action - Into that heaven of freedom, My father, let my country awake.”


One of favorite Bollywood songs from the 2003 movie Baghban.