Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fiddler On The Roof: Sabbath Prayer

The Sabbath Prayer from the film, Fiddler on the Roof (1971). This is a modern version of the prayer usually said as part of the Friday evening ritual ushering in Shabbat, the weekly Sabbath. It calls upon God, in his mercy and compassion, to keep and protect the Jewish people from any harm and, equally important, to not stray from the Jewish traditions found in the Torah, Talmud and its long tradition. This prayer acts as a nice counterpoint to the tension preceding it, reflecting on the normal emotions often found in families, Jewish families proving no exception.


The film is based on the stage musical (1965) which itself is based on the stories (Tevye and Tevye and his Daughters) published by Yiddish-writer, Sholom Aleichem in 1894. Aleichem has been called the Russian Mark Twain for his use of irony and humour.

Although the film is set in pre-revolutionary czarist Russia of 1905, its significance is universal. Fiddler on the Roof touches upon all the universal values and virtues that are important for all humanity, including the fight for freedom, equality, individual dignity and imagination. this becomes particularly poignant when under the yoke of oppression of a powerful and immoral State that fails to protect all of its inhabitants.

That bring said, I wanted to post this video clip for a positive reason, and this musical clip from one of my favourite films is a fitting reminder for what hopes we all carry in our hearts, sometimes secretly. This is not sentimental mush, but a view of life that carries with it dreams, hopes and happiness in the midst of struggles for survival that many, if not, most of us face daily.

And by survival I mean a survival with all the universal virtues noted above. Otherwise, it's not truly life, but mere existence. But we continue on, not giving up, playing music, like a fiddler on the roof, As is noted in Wikipedia: "The musical's title comes from the painting The Fiddler (1912) by Marc Chagall, one of many surreal paintings he created of Eastern European Jewish life, [which] often included a fiddler."

And, like the fiddler playing on the roof, life marches forward with joy and tradition, despite the very precariousness of it. Issac Stern plays the violin cadenza in the movie. No doubt, life is full of sunrises and sunsets, each new day a new beginning, full of hopes and dreams.

Other songs popular in the movie, which touch on such themes as equality, freedom, happiness and individual dignity, and which have become classics, are If I Were a Rich Man, Lechaim,Tradition, and Matchmaker.


Sabbath Prayer
Music by Jerry Bock, Lyrics by Sheldon Harnick

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May He always shield you from shame.
May you come to be
In Israel a shining name.

May you be like Ruth and like Esther.
May you be deserving of praise.
Strengthen them, Oh Lord,
And keep them from the strangers' ways.
May God bless you and grant you long lives.
(May the Lord fulfill our Sabbath prayer for you.)
May God make you good mothers and wives.
(May He send you husbands who will care for you.)

May the Lord protect and defend you.
May the Lord preserve you from pain.
Favor them, Oh Lord, with happiness and peace.
Oh, hear our Sabbath prayer. Amen.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Nicotine Vaccine Might Break Smoker's Addiction

Medical Advances

An article in CTV News reports on a vaccine developed in the U.S. that has proven effective against the effects of nicotine on mice; it might soon be available for humans trying to quit smoking:
The vaccine works by prompting the body to manufacture an antibody that is attracted to nicotine. The antibodies then move around the bloodstream, soaking up nicotine and preventing it from reaching the reward centres of the brain.
"As far as we can see, the best way to treat chronic nicotine addiction from smoking is to have these Pacman-like antibodies on patrol, clearing the blood as needed before nicotine can have any biological effect," the study's lead investigator, Dr. Ronald G. Crystal, a professor of genetic medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, said in a statement.
Researchers have tried before to vaccinate people against nicotine with anti-nicotine antibodies. But the antibodies disappeared after only a few weeks, so the vaccines ultimately failed.
This time, researchers turned to gene therapy and used the shell of a cold virus to ferry in genes to tell the body to make the nicotine antibody.
The genes also had “instructions” to harmlessly infect the mice’s livers so they could turn the organ as a factory to continuously churn out more antibodies.
One dose lasted for the mice's entire lifetime. If it works on humans, this is good news for the millions of persons who are addicted to cigarette smoking and want to quit. The findings appear in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

You can read more here at [CTV News]

Unsettling Lies About Israel

Guest Voice

In this Guest Post, Salomon Benzimra responds to an article by Naomi Chazan published in The Jewish Daily Forward ("Israel's Best Friends/June 22, 2012). Mr. Benzimra initially offered this article to The Forward, but they declined. In the interests of fair and balanced reporting and in intellectual honesty, always a good thing, here is his article. Mr. Benzimra writes: "Well, I am no legal scholar but I’d rather be on the side of those right-wing 'contortionists' than on Ms. Chazan’s, whose sympathy for the “Palestinian cause”—lamely cloaked in “human rights”—is quicker than her comprehension."

by Salomon Benzimra, P.E.

Cicero Denounces CatilineAt the Roman senate in 63 BCE, Cicero (left) denounces Catiline (right) for his conspiracy against Rome. All senators spurn Catiline and stay away from him.
Artist Credit: Cesare Maccari [1840-1919]; 1889
Source: Wikipedia

Naomi Chazan was deputy speaker of the Knesset and the dean of the School of Government and Society at the Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yaffo. Given her credentials, one would have thought that she would have a good grasp of politics and law. But in a recent article published in The Forward, she stated that “Israel’s settlement enterprise...violate[s] international law” because “colonizing occupied land is illegal [based on] the Geneva Conventions,” notwithstanding the contrary opinion expressed in “the contortions of a few right-wing legal scholars.”

Well, I am no legal scholar but I’d rather be on the side of those right-wing “contortionists” than on Ms. Chazan’s, whose sympathy for the “Palestinian cause”—lamely cloaked in “human rights”—is quicker than her comprehension. Here are a few legal scholars, including eminent ones, whom Ms. Chazan dismisses offhand, and whose so-called “contortions” strongly confirm the legality of the “settlements” and support the legitimate rights of Israel in Judea and Samaria:

  • Stephen M. Schwebel, Professor of International Law at the School of Advanced International Studies of The Johns Hopkins University (Washington), former Deputy Legal Advisor of the U.S. State Department and President of the International Court of Justice from 1997 to 2000: "Where the prior holder of territory [Jordan] had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense [Israel] has, against that prior holder, better title.” 
  • Eugene W. Rostow, Former U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and Distinguished Fellow at the U.S. Institute for Peace: “The Jewish right of settlement in the West Bank is conferred by the same provisions of the Mandate under which Jews settled in Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem before the State of Israel was created... The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated...” 
  • Julius Stone, one of the 20th century leading authorities on the Law of Nations, Doctor of Juridical Science from Harvard and Professor of Jurisprudence and International Law at universities in Australia and California: “The terms of Article 49(6) [of the Fourth Geneva Convention] however they are interpreted, are submitted to be totally irrelevant. To render them relevant, we would have to say that the effect of Article 49(6) is to impose an obligation on the state of Israel to ensure (by force if necessary) that these areas, despite their millennial association with Jewish life, shall be forever ‘judenrein’.” 
  • David Matas, world-renowned human rights lawyer and honorary counsel to B’nai Brith Canada: “For there to be an occupation at international law, there has to be an occupying and occupied power both of which are members of the community of nations. The only conceivable occupied power for the West Bank is Jordan. Yet Jordan has renounced all claims over the West Bank.”
  • David M. Phillips, Professor at Northeastern University School of Law: “Indeed, the analysis underlying the conclusion that the settlements violate international law depends entirely on an acceptance of the Palestinian narrative that the West Bank is “Arab” land. Followed to its logical conclusion – as some have done – this narrative precludes the legitimacy of Israel itself…The ultimate end of the illicit effort to use international law to delegitimize the settlements is clear – it is the same argument used by Israel’s enemies to delegitimize the Jewish state entirely.” 
  • Jeffrey S. Helmreich, author and writer for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: “The settlements are not located in ‘occupied territory.’ The last binding international legal instrument which divided the territory in the region of Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza was the League of Nations Mandate, which explicitly recognized the right of Jewish settlement in all territory allocated to the Jewish national home in the context of the British Mandate. These rights under the British Mandate were preserved by the successor organization to the League of Nations, the United Nations, under Article 80 of the UN Charter.”
And yet, Ms. Chazan disingenuously refers to “international law” time and time again in her article–eight times, no less!—to accuse Israel of its “45 years of occupation” which, she says, brought “international obloquy” to the Jewish State and is turning Israel into an “international pariah.” I heard similar accusations at a presentation she gave at the Darchei Noam Synagogue of Toronto on May 9, 2010, where she praised the New Israel Fund (NIF, which she presides) for the support it gave to the infamous Goldstone Commission. In response to a question from the audience she said, flatly: “I don’t call it ‘Judea and Samaria’; I call it the West Bank.” That says it all. Perhaps unwittingly, she bears some responsibility for the “international obloquy” that Israel is facing, by disfiguring the truth in such a grotesque way.

And she is not alone. Many Israelis who share her “naive” mindset (to put it mildly) are eagerly quoted by the most vociferous anti-Zionists. Ilan Pappé is the poster boy of “Israel Apartheid Week.” Neve Gordon discredited his university by supporting the Israel boycott campaign. Gilad Atzmon and Avi Shlaim were quoted approvingly by Turkish PM Erdogan at the Davos Economic Forum in 2009, when he blasted Shimon Peres and the State of Israel before abruptly leaving the conference (video at min. 2:30). These Jews and others have made a career of slandering Israel and distorting the truth, as Ms. Chazan does when she claims that there are a “dwindling number of supporters of Israel’s settlement enterprise.” That statement flies in the face of a recent poll conducted by the Ariel University Center, which showed that 64% of Israelis support continued settlement activity in Judea & Samaria. Some dwindling number!

Factual evidence is the last concern of Israel’s detractors. To peddle their treacherous agenda, they must be sheltered from facts, or turn them upside down, or invent fake ones out of thin air. But Israelis and Diaspora Jews are increasingly aware of their machinations. And this is what exasperates the post/anti-Zionists who feel more and more left in the dust with the colossal failure of their ill-conceived schemes.

As Cicero was worrying, over two thousand years ago, about the survival of the Roman Republic when it was internally threatened by treacherous insiders, we might ask: For how long will the Jewish anti-Israel crowd be abusing our patience? And for how long will their unbridled madness mock and slander the Jewish State?

Salomon Benzimra is a chemical engineer based in Toronto, where he professional work includes process design of water-pumping stations, energy systems and project economic analysis. He is interested in Middle East politics, and, accordingly, he co-founded Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights (CILR), which has been in existence since 2009.
Copyright ©2012. Salomon Benzimra. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Case For A World Republic: Bad Idea

The Annals of Government

In an article, "The case for a world republic," in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Ted Daley favourably reviews Laurence Wittner's 2009 book, Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement:
Wittner describes how, in the late 1940s, the movement for world government was every bit a force as the remarkable movements that would follow, like the environmental, civil rights, and women's movements. The "United World Federalists," who aspired "to strengthen the UN into a world government," marshaled 720 chapters and nearly 50,000 members. Its president, Alan Cranston, would become a four-term US senator (as well as a Bulletin contributor and mentor to this author). University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins assembled leading intellectuals and anointed them "The Committee to Frame a World Constitution." The 1947 National Debate Tournament topic for all US high schools was "Resolved: That a federal world government should be established." And theBulletin's June 1947 cover—the first to display the Doomsday Clock—highlighted an article by Harrison Brown (future Bulletin editor-in-chief) titled "The World Government Movement in the United States."
Many of the foremost figures of the day also challenged the assumption that humanity must forever remain armed against itself: Albert Einstein, E.B. White, Dorothy Thompson, Jean-Paul Sartre, Arnold Toynbee, John Steinbeck, Bertrand Russell, Senator J.W. Fulbright, and Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas. Also on board at the time were three already-prominent young men with even more prominent futures awaiting them: John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan. They insisted humankind could govern itself on a global level just as it does on every lower level —through a legislature, an executive, a judiciary, and police to enforce the law.
Such was the fanciful and idealistic thinking when the U.S. was the sole superpower, coming on the heels of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and thus might explain the reason future presidents such as Kennedy, Nixon and Reagan were "on-board," as the article suggested. The world's balance of power changed a couple of years later. When the USSR tested its first atomic bomb on August 29, 1949, it joined the nuclear club and deepened the Cold War. 

As for a world republic, I think it's a remarkably bad idea for many reasons. For one, knowing what we know of the U.N. and its inner workings, inefficiencies, corruption and moral failings, it's a good thing that it did not eventually become the framework for a world government. Its problems are both varied and deep. Can anyone really defend the U.N.? It operates so far from its Charter that it has become irrelevant. I shudder to think of all the horrible outcomes that would have taken place if there was a world republic, notably one modeled on the U.N. No, it's a bad idea all around. 

Moreover, no nation would (or should) gladly give up its rights to self-government based on an unproven ideal. More important, there is no need for it, since no sane person or nation wants a nuclear war, and thus far international negotiation, treaties and, if necessary, sanctions have worked. It's far better to work within the existing system of independent and sovereign states. It's a far better idea, one so well-worked out that there is a high degree of confidence that it ensures the continuity of democracy.

You can read the rest of the article at [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists]

Rudolf Serkin: Beethoven Sonata No. 31

Rudolf Serkin performs from the first movement of Beethoven Sonata No. 31, in A flat major, opus 110, in a 1987 performance. Ludwig van Beethoven composed the piece in 1821, it the central work in a series of three sonatas that he wrote between 1820 and 1822.

Rudolph Serkin [1903-1991] is one of the many exceptional pianists that came out of post-war Europe and who settled in the United States, becoming an American citizen in 1939. This is the first time I am posting any of his performances, an omission on my part, although it is no means the last. With good reason. Serkin is well-known for his thoughtful interpretation of Beethoven. In the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts site, it notes:
With his overwhelming talent and dazzle, Rudolf Serkin has amazed audiences the world over during his long career. His gentle technique has earned him profound respect, and critical acclaim.
Serkin was born in Eger, Bohemia, to Mordko and Augusta Serkin, Russian Jews who had fled the pogroms. He could play the piano and read music by the time he was four years old. Alfred Gruenfeld, the celebrated Viennese pianist, heard young Serkin play and suggested to his parents that they send him to study piano in Vienna under Professor Richard Robert. Serkin studied piano with Robert and composition with Joseph Marx and Arnold Schoenberg.
Although practicing was difficult in a one-room apartment with his seven brothers and sisters, young Serkin ignored the chaos around him and learned to play so well that he made his debut as guest artist with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra when he was only 12. He was invited to tour the continent, but declined in order to continue studying piano. He began his concert career when he turned 17, performing solo and in chamber orchestras. He also played a series of sonatas for piano and violin with Adolf Busch.
You can read the rest of Rudolph Serkin's biography at [The Kennedy Center].

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Touch Therapy Helps Cancer Patients

An article in the University of Kentucky News by Allison Perry reports that cancer patients reported less pain after receiving a touch therapy called Jin Shin Jyutsu, an ancient form of therapy similar to acupuncture:
The study found that in each session patients experienced significant improvement in the areas of pain, stress, and nausea with the first visit and in subsequent visits as well. The mean decreases experienced were three points for stress and two points for both pain and nausea.

"I was pleased to see quantitatively the improvements that patients noted in these primary areas of discomfort," said [Jennifer]
Bradley. "It was interesting to note that regardless of age, sex or diagnosis, cancer patients received a statistically significant improvement in the side effects from treatment. It is encouraging to note that Jin Shin Jyutsu made improvements in these areas without adding additional unwanted effects that so often occur with medication interventions."
Funded by a grant from the Lexington Cancer Foundation, Jin Shin Jyutsu is considered part of an integrative treatment plan available at the UK Markey Cancer Center. Bradley offers Jin Shin Jyutsu to all cancer patients at no charge. Patients may self-refer, though half are referred by their physician or Markey staff.
How and why it works needs further explanation, at least for the scientific rationalists. Can it be that the human act of touch—an act of compassion— releases endorphins in the recipient's body? Or it it just a matter of pressure points? Or it it both? I am no scientist, but I wonder. Even so, anything that can reduce the painful effects of cancer and its treatment is a good thing. 

The article explains the process, and it seems like an effective pain-management method: "During a Jin Shin Jyutsu session, patients receive light touches on 52 specific energetic points called Safety Energy Locks as well as fingers, toes, and midpoints on the upper arm, upper calf and lower leg in predetermined orders known as 'flows.' Patients remained clothed except for shoes and all hand placements are done over clothing." 

Eat, Darling, Eat

Guest Voice

In this essay, George Jochnowitz, gives us an insight into one of the pleasures of life: eating. But like many pleasures, it has its dangers. Obesity is a huge problem in the United States, Canada and other nations of industrialized world; obesity contribute to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers and obese persons have a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. In many cases the tendency to overeat starts in childhood, and remains as a habit into adulthood. As Prof Jochnowitz writes: "Human beings, like all living creatures, were designed to survive. We get hungry because we need food; we feel full when we don't need food. Grownups systematically teach children to disregard the messages that their bodies send them. Everywhere in the world, children learn to ignore natural feelings of satiety. As grownups, they cannot lose this unnaturally acquired insensitivity."

by George Jochnowitz

When I was a child, I was encouraged to finish the food on my plate. "Think of the starving children in Europe," I was told.

"Mail them my food," I replied.

"You think you're funny," I was told. I eventually internalized the habit of finishing what was on my plate. Over the years, I gained a lot of weight. When I felt full at mealtime, even though I knew I was overweight, I consumed what was in front of me. Perhaps that is why I had to undergo coronary bypass surgery in 1991.

When I was four or five, I hated fat and tried to cut it off my meat. "It's the best part," I was told. Once a doctor suggested to my parents that I wouldn't be so thin if I ate bacon. Bacon had never entered our Jewish home, but Jewish law teaches that saving a life takes precedence over other religious laws. The bacon smelled delicious, but it tasted like fat. Is there a doctor anywhere today who thinks that bacon is necessary to save a thin child's health? Nobody seems to know what the Bible says: "It shall be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwellings, that ye shall eat neither fat nor blood" (Lev. 3:17).

Human beings, like all living creatures, were designed to survive. We get hungry because we need food; we feel full when we don't need food. Grownups systematically teach children to disregard the messages that their bodies send them. Everywhere in the world, children learn to ignore natural feelings of satiety. As grownups, they cannot lose this unnaturally acquired insensitivity.

My parents were kind, generous people who loved me. They were not the principal villains. The problem was the whole world. Teachers, relatives, neighbors, friends--all were conspirators in a plot to teach me to eat more. "Try it; you'll like it." My favorite food was spinach, but there was a universal conspiracy to teach me that dessert was best. "If you don't finish your vegetables, you won't get dessert," said the world. There were other parents who were really major offenders. I saw a mother, long ago, feeding her daughter by opening the girl's mouth, putting in a spoonful of food, and holding the poor child's mouth closed until she swallowed. A friend of mine told me recently that his mother made him eat the food he had spit up.

My parents worked in the defense industry, making airplane parts. Their work week was long - it was during World War II - and I was left with a woman named Charlotte. Nowadays she would be called a nanny, but I never heard that word in the 1940s. I was terrified of her. One day she was trying to get me to eat some potatoes, which I hated. I told her my mother didn't make me eat things I didn't like.

"You're lying," she said.

"I'll call my mother. She'll tell you." I didn't think Charlotte would allow me to go to the phone, but she did. She must have been sure my mother would back her up. My mother asked me to put Charlotte on the phone. After the conversation, Charlotte took away the potatoes. She never made me look at a potato again.

The grownups who tell their children to eat have nothing to gain. In 1937, when I was born, a plump child was considered healthier than a thin one, as is shown by the story of the doctor who recommended bacon. A few decades ago, when, most probably, force feeding was a great deal more common than it is now, parents thought it was for the child's good. Parents who make an issue of food nowadays don't even have the excuse of health to back them up. Then why do they do it? Lack of originality.

The thirties and forties were the years when parents used to let their helpless babies scream rather than give them milk between their regular four-hour feedings. Letting babies go hungry while force feeding toddlers showed a certain inconsistency, but both reflected a fear of spoiling children. How this parental nastiness protected children from being spoiled and just what was meant by spoiling are unclear. However, I do remember hearing people ask my parents, in my presence, "Is he a good boy? Does he eat?"

I am no longer a boy, but I certainly eat. Even when I am full, my hunger remains unsatisfied. Years of pressure damaged my body's natural signals. Years of education taught me not to waste food. I know, consciously, that eating what you neither need nor want is wasting it. My conscious mind, alas, is too weak to overcome my conditioning.

"But if children don't eat at mealtime, they will get hungry between meals," say parents. So what? Keep lots of carrots, apples and yogurt in the house. Moderately enlightened parents, who claim they would never force feed their children, instead tempt them or encourage them to clean their plates. In terms of health, coaxing is no better than forcing. Overeating is overeating.

God, in His wisdom, gave our bodies the ability to distinguish between hunger and satisfaction. Human beings, in their ingenuity, created the garbage can. Parents should accept these gifts with gratitude. If they do, perhaps, fifty years from now, their children won't need bypass surgery.


George Jochnowitz was born in New York City, in 1937.  He became aware of different regional pronunciations when he was six, and he could consciously switch accents as a child. He got his Ph.D. in linguistics from Columbia University and taught linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.  His area of specialization was Jewish languages, in particular, Judeo-Italian dialects.  As part of a faculty-exchange agreement with Hebei University in Baoding, China, he was in China during the Tiananmen Massacre. He can be reached at

Copyright ©2012. George Jochnowitz. All Rights Reserved. This post can be found on George Jochnowitz.   Versions of this essay appeared in And Then, Volume 5, 1993; and in the South African journal Jewish Affairs, Volume 54, Number 4, Summer 1999. It is republished here with the author's permission.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hospitals Are Too Noisy

A study confirms what many patients in hospitals already know from personal experience: the background noise of hospitals, including the beeping and other non-natural sounds of electronic-monitoring equipment, is not conducive to patient recovery:
Typical hospital noises that frequently disrupt the sleep of hospitalized patients influence both cortical brain activity and increase patient heart rate, potentially having a negative impact on the patient's healing and cardiovascular health, according to research published online June 11 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
In an effort to determine the effects of typical hospital noises by sound level and type on sleep disruption, Orfeu M. Buxton, Ph.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues conducted a three-day polysomnographic study in a sound-attenuated sleep laboratory; the study involved 12 healthy volunteers.
The researchers found that the level of arousal and sleep disruption varied according to the level and type of sound and the patient's sleep stage. Compared with voices and other sounds, electronic sounds were the most arousing. Sounds presented during non-REM stage-3 sleep were less likely to result in sleep disruption than when presented during non-REM stage-2 sleep. When presented during REM sleep, however, response to sounds varied less and resulted in a more sustained elevation of instantaneous heart rate.
Given the electronic sounds were the most disturbing to a sound night's sleep—affecting both brain activity and heart rates—this knowledge provides incentive for medical-equipment manufacturers to make quieter equipment. That would be a good start.

You can read the rest of the article at [DoctorsLounge]

Berlin Philharmonic: Mendelssohn's The Hebrides

Berlin Philharmonic performs part of the overture from Felix Mendelssohn's The Hebrides (German: Die Hebriden), opus 26, with Pablo Heras-Casado, conducting. Recorded at the Berlin Philharmonie October 22, 2011.
This piece, also known as Fingal's Cave (German: die Fingalshöhle), was composed by Felix Mendelssohn [1809-1847] in 1830 and dedicated to King Frederick William IV of Prussia. The inspiration for the piece is a cavern known as Fingal's Cave on Staffa, an island in the Hebrides archipelago off the west coast of Scotland. As is common with Romantic-era overtures, this work does not precede an opera or a play but is a concert overture.

The first 21 bars were written on August 7, 1829, while the 20-year-old composer was visiting the caves in Scotland. Upon his return to Germany, Mendelssohn is reported to have said to his family about the caves:  "They are not to be described, only played about it."

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jewish Humour: One Liners

Monday Humor

Much of the Jewish humour on this site can be found in this wonderful book: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Humor, compiled and edited by Henry D. Spalding.

This week's humour is focused on One Liners:

A Jewish telegram: "Start worrying. Details to follow." 

I once wanted to become an atheist but I gave up . . . they have no holidays. —Henny Youngman

The remarkable thing about my mother is that for 30 years she served us nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.—Calvin Trillin

Doctor: You'll live to be 60!
Patient: I am 60!
Doctor: See! What did I tell you?

I don't want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve immortality through not dying. —Woody Allen

& the last a well-knowm Haiku
Is one Nobel Prize
so much to ask from a child
after all I've done?

Growing Human Organs

Annals of Science

An article in ABC News by Dr. Jessica Noonan discusses the potential of human organs grown in the lab in what is medical scientists call regenerative medicine:
To some, this may sound like science fiction—and in many ways, it still is. But the advances in the field of regenerative medicine that made headlines last week suggest such lab-grown organs may become reality in the future.
 One of these advances was Swedish scientists' creation of a custom vein that has carried blood from a little girl's intestines to her liver for a year and counting. In another, a group in Japan successfully implanted lab-grown livers made from human cells into mice -- organs that metabolized drugs the way they would in a human.
And these developments may be just the tip of the iceberg. From skin to blood vessels to solid organs, work is underway to offer more options for patients with faulty or damaged body parts.
Dr. Anthony Atala, director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., was part of the first group in the world to successfully implant a lab-grown organ into the human body. Atala's interest in the field began when he was training to become a urologist and saw numerous children who had undergone bladder replacement surgery. Many of them were experiencing leaks, and some even suffered ruptures of their new bladders.
The current thinking is to use a patient's own cells rather than relying on those of a donor, which avoids the necessity of finding a suitable match and avoiding a rejection by the recipient's body. For now the technology is many years away from everyday use and, in particular, from producing solid organs like kidneys, livers and hearts.
You can read the rest of the article at [ABC News]

I Am Never Getting Old

The Age of Politics

As I approve of a youth that has something of the old man in him, so I am no less pleased with an old man that has something of the youth. He that follows this rule may be old in body, but can never be so in mind.
Marcus Tullius Cicero [106 BCE–43 BCE]
These were the words of my four-year-old son—"I am never getting old," a declaration more than an observation. It was made after I bumped my head on the car door, also bruising my right eye. Yes, there was some blood, a bump and a the forming of a small red scar on the bridge of my nose. In his estimation, I failed to see the car door looming in front of me because of my age; I am 54. An older father no doubt, but not yet past my prime. Are we not living longer? Is not 60 the new 45? 70 the new 55?

Well, perhaps not. But life-expectancy rates have been steadily increasing in western nations, averaging over 80 in the top thirty nations. (Here are some figures: the United States ranks 50th with a life-expactancy of 78.49; Canada is 12th with a life-expectancy of 81.48 years; and Israel is 18th with a life expectancy of 81.08 years. Monaco is first with a life-expectancy of 89.68 years.)

The oldest recorded living person, Jeanne Calment [1875-1997] of France, lived to age 122. There are many others who have lived well over 100. The oldest living person currently alive, and whose age can be verified, is Besse Cooper [b: August 26, 1896], an American, living in a nursing home in Monroe, Georgia, who is currently 115. The United States has the greatest number of centenarians, with an estimated 72,000 persons 100 and older. Persons in western nations are living longer.

Yet, our political leaders are getting younger. Consider a few of the following leaders: President Barack Obama of the United States is 50 (b: August 4, 1961); Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada is 53 (b: April 30, 1959); Chancellor Angela Merkel (b: July 17, 1954) of Germany is 57; President François Hollande (b: August 12, 1954), of France is 57; Prime Minister Vladimir Putin of Russia is 59 (b: October 7, 1952); and Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is 62 (b: October 21, 1949). Mitt Romney (b: March 12, 1947), who is 65, should he win the U.S. presidential election in November, would be the senior member of this group of leaders.

As a comparison, consider that Ronald Reagan [1911-2004] was 70 when he became president of the U.S in 1981 and served two terms; Charles de Gaulle [1890-1970] was 68 when he became president of France in 1959 and served until he was 78; Winston Churchill [1874-1965] was 65 when he first became prime minister of Britain in 1940, and was 77 when he took office for the second time in 1951; Lester B. Pearson [1897-1972] became prime minister of Canada at 66 in 1963; and Golda Meir [1898-1978] was 70 when she became prime minister of Israel in 1969, serving until she was 76.

Today, the leaders leave office young. After such modern youthful and often energetic leaders serve their time, they tend to drift off to public lectures and book promotional tours, their many years devoted to things other than matters of state. At least not officially. It used to be thought that older leaders were wiser and more mature, using their collected years of experience in politics to make good decisions, Now, in a culture that values youth above all, our leaders are becoming younger. Much younger. Do we fear older leaders? Do we look at them as senile? Or is it a matter that in a culture that equates youth with virility that the opposite is true?

Perhaps my son is right in his youthful declaration. "I am never getting old."

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Enfold Me—A Novel Of Post-Israel: Part 2

Fiction SUNDAY

Last week, we posted Part 1 of Steven Greenberg's first novel, Enfold Me—A Novel Of Post-Israel. On the bus to Nazareth, Daniel meets David, an Oxonian professor. As non-Muslims, both are under the Dhimmis system of servitude. "As CNN looked on, Dhimmis had been mandated to pay the Jizya (at a yet-unspecified time and place), to maintain separate residences from Muslims, to study in separate schools, to limit public religious displays, and to carry their blue Israeli ID cards as a temporary Dhimmi identification"  Here is Part 2.

There are moments when life becomes a movie, a flimsy celluloid veil which – if only pushed aside – could reveal the actual. It is as if the human psyche throws up a translucent scarf as it retreats to a safer haven – attempting perhaps to delude itself that the phantasmagoric is only the surreal.

A filter of this sort descended over Daniel as the bus stopped at the Nazareth municipal stadium, not far from the new government compound. Tires crackling on gravel, the bus turned into the parking area, and it was like when the ophthalmologist clicks the wrong lens in place – the letters on the chart go just blurry enough to become unidentifiable, but still clear enough to be recognizable as letters.

Their rooftop perch afforded David and Daniel a view of the scene in the soccer stadium. There, the Jizya officials had set up a stage at one end, and marked out two paths in lime  from the parking-lot gate to the stage.

Recognizing individual aspects of the scene, yet still unsure of their holistic meaning, Daniel’s eyes found and focused on the first item they could identify. It was to remain the defining image of the entire experience. Industrious municipal employees, lacking plastic garbage bags to serve the refuse needs of the substantial crowd in the stadium, had diligently created an environmentally-friendly, reusable alternative. From simple steel frames located every several meters around the stadium hung grease-stained cloth trash bags, hastily fashioned from sewn Israeli flags.


The Jizya had been fixed at PD 2000 for this first collection, around US $500 at current exchange rates, and was to be payable in any currency, including the now-defunct Israeli Shekel.

For Safuriya  residents, the early-morning bus-stop meeting took place on less than a day’s notice, following receipt of notes in Arabic deposited in the mailboxes of all residents the evening before. A thoughtful local Arabic-speaking resident had quickly posted a Hebrew version of the order by the mailboxes, which sent Daniel and the other Dhimmi residents scrabbling to gather or borrow enough cash to meet the household tax. According to the notice, a Dhimmi bus would arrive at 6:00am to transport the male taxpayers. Attendance was, of course, unquestionably and unpardonably mandatory.

Clambering down from the bus rooftop, Daniel and David found themselves in a sea of Dhimmis, and were quickly separated in the throng of kippah-wearing religious Jews, white-capped Druze elders, and Christians or secular Jews who wore nothing definitive except their fear. Music was blaring festively from the stadium’s tinny loudspeaker system, and the giant TV screen on the scoreboard was alternating between white-on-green Arabic text, video of children making the “V” sign climbing on burnt-out Israeli tanks, and live action shots of the Dhimmis themselves, thronging in the parking lot.

The Muslim crowd had taken advantage of the government-declared holiday and turned out en masse to witness the spectacle. Daniel could see the crowd from his position in the mass of Dhimmis – these people who had been nothing to him previously, and with whom he now shared a common, uncertain fate. How ironic that the people in the stands, many of whom he undoubtedly also knew, had meant equally little to him in pre-Fall Israel. For now, they held the power over his life, or were at least part of the power that controlled his life. Had he once held such power? If held, had he abused it, and would he have come when bidden to gloat in their misery, even that of former enemies?

The Dhimmis shuffled forward toward the crowded stadium, where the Jizya collection had already begun. Pushed and herded by heavily-armed Hamas guards into a chain-link chute, which had been erected outside the gate, they awaited their turn to approach the Hamas official on the stage.


Despite a fundamental disregard for international convention, a tight communications and media blackout, and the Western powers’ profound silence and inaction in the face of the events leading up to the Fall – the Nazareth-based Hamas government was not entirely inept at public relations.

Objectively, Daniel had to admit that they had initially implemented the anachronistic practices of the Dhimma – fundamentally unjust and warped as they were – in an intelligent way. As CNN looked on, Dhimmis had been mandated to pay the Jizya (at a yet-unspecified time and place), to maintain separate residences from Muslims, to study in separate schools, to limit public religious displays, and to carry their blue Israeli ID cards as a temporary Dhimmi identification.

Some of these requirements differed little from de facto practices in the former Jewish state, where segregation had existed, albeit undeclared. It was easy, therefore, for both the world media and the local Dhimmi populace to accept the changes – the former because the regulations so closely resembled past practice, and the latter out of pure gratitude for not suffering the outright slaughter that many of their ranks had met during the Terror.

It was only with the second round of Dhimmi legislation – passed quietly in January, without media fanfare, and slated for gradual implementation – that the true nature of the Northern Liberated Palestine Dhimmi system was revealed.

From the beginning of February, all adult and child Dhimmis would be required to wear the orange Dhimmi armband. Separate public transportation was mandated, as were strict rules of conduct in Muslim-Dhimmi interaction – notably forbidding Christian and Jewish Dhimmis from operating motor vehicles on Muslim roads, forbidding interaction of Dhimmis with Muslims except in necessary business matters, delineating Dhimmi  behavior upon meeting a Muslim, and setting up the first annual Jizya collection.

To assuage the international media's occasional scrutiny, and the occasional Red Cross outcry, the Hamas government spun the new regulations as part of its magnanimous campaign to protect the minorities that had fallen under its care. The armbands – to assist security forces in differentiating law-abiding citizens from insurgents. Segregation – partially a natural result of wartime emigration and population movement, and partly to alleviate sectarian frictions. It all made perfect sense, given the mitigating circumstances and recent upheaval. Curiosity appeased, passing pangs of guilt eased, the world moved on to the next human-interest story.


As the bizarre and terrifying scene before him resolved itself in Daniel’s reeling mind, it became clear that the Hamas government was making the most of the Jizya collection. Traditionally, collection of the Jizya had both financial and symbolic significance. On one hand, collection of the Jizya was a serious boon to Muslim economies; on the other hand, it was a very public affirmation of the Dhimmis’ state of absolute subjection – saghir.

As each Dhimmi arrived from the crowded chute to the stadium gate, two guards, one on either side, forced him to his knees at the origin of the lime-delineated path. Daniel had the sinking rollercoaster feeling he always felt when entering a situation utterly lacking control – an operating room, a dentist’s chair, the army induction center, a trans-Atlantic flight. He was pressed forward by the crowd, which was being herded – yes, herded was the right word, Daniel thought – like sheep by whip-wielding Hamas soldiers, and then kicked or prodded in the direction of the stage. 

Daniel watched the line of Dhimmis on the field waddle forward slowly, clumsily – like a wounded worm writhing earthward, away from a marauding child. Every now and then, a roar went up from the crowd as a Dhimmi tripped or fell, often causing a domino effect that knocked down several meters of the line, or when the Hamas official on the stage delivered a particularly resounding blow with his cane.

Arriving at the stage, still on painful knees, each Dhimmi was forced to kiss the holy Koran held out to him. Each then handed over ID card and the tax, and – following a careful counting and rubber stamping of the ID card – received either a blow to the back of the neck or a kick in the buttocks, depending on the whim of the Hamas soldier.  Due to the large number of Dhimmis, several officials, and a small group of soldiers, were working on processing the arrivals.

Daniel was swept forward, rollercoaster feeling supplanted by something more removed, yet more ominous in its distance. As he watched, a young man – perhaps 25 – arrived on his knees at the stage. Ignoring the threats, shouts, and blows from the Hamas guards, and the pleading from the other Dhimmis – he defiantly rose to his feet. The crowd fell silent almost immediately, anticipating. Staring directly at the officials on the stage, and then looking around to ensure the eyes of the crowd were upon him, the man ripped off the orange armband, and then turned and spit luridly onto the Koran which had been waiting, extended, for him to kiss.

Absolute silence. After several seconds of collective shock, the crowd, soldiers, and Hamas officials broke the silence simultaneously with a roar that filled the air like a flock of birds scared off a smooth African lake by a predator – voices beating the air, arms flapping like wings, as if struggling to break gravity’s stifling hold over their outrage.

They took him to the side of the field, within full view of the crowd, and beheaded him without ceremony. At the Hamas official’s bidding, soldiers crossed from both sides of the field, closing in on the line of Dhimmis. An officer came forward, and counted off the next twenty Dhimmis in line. Marching them to the sidelines, the soldiers lined them up, backs to the line. Bearing a still-dripping bloody sword, the executioner and his assistant, who held the heads, worked their way down the line. The sword bearer was visibly panting from exertion and covered in gore by the fourth or fifth head, but persevered to the end of the twenty. While this was going on, the crowd remained respectfully, perhaps fearfully, silent.

The line began to move forward again. An hour had gone by since Daniel had arrived. Another thirty minutes passed. The guards became bored, the blows became more and more theatrical – growing in crowd-pleasing and humiliation value, if not in pain infliction. Still the Dhimmis kept moving forward to the stage, then shuffling back slowly, still on their knees, to the gate. After that, they were free to go.

Daniel had grown up in a culture that veiled its underlying distaste for Jews, cloaking it in guises ranging from curiosity to disinterest. Having survived the Fall, the Terror, and the following months in the ranks of the Resistance eating stringy wild Carmel boar – hardship, suffering, and fear were no longer strangers to him.

However, as he eased forward with dew-damp grass soaking his gravel-racked knees, he saw the hard eyes of the guards tracking their progress with the aloof bemusement of schoolchildren watching a line of ants. He saw the line of still twitching orange-armbanded bodies to his right. And he saw in the spectators’ eyes not silent outrage, not indignity, not pity, and not even mild surprise at the extremity of the abasement – but rather, pure, undeniable Schadenfreude.  As he approached the stage, bent his head to kiss the Koran, and handed over his money, Daniel realized that fear has an older brother – one who, in the absence of mitigating motherly hope, is far more powerful in the family of emotions. As he felt the stinging slap of the soldier’s hand on his cheek, he met, and truly came to know, despair.

I am a professional writer and an Israeli. I am also a full-time cook, cleaner, chauffeur, and work-at-home Dad for three amazing young children, and the lucky husband of a loving and very supportive wife. Born in Texas in 1967 and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana, I emigrated to Israel only months before the first Gulf War, following my graduation from Indiana University in 1990. In 1996, I was drafted into the Israel Defense Forces, where I served for 12 years as a Reserves Combat Medic. Since 2002, I’ve worked as an independent marketing writer, copywriter and consultant.

Copyright ©2012. Steven Greenberg. All rights reserved. This work is avaialble in digital form on This excerpt is republished here with the author's permission.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Efim Alexandrov: A Yiddish Performance In Russia

Efim Alexandrov dedicates a one-hour show to Yiddish music, performing in front of a Russian audience, where between songs he explains the historical significance to the Jewish community of Yiddish music and language. It's a well-performed musical tribute.

In 2001 under the auspices of the Yuri Bashmet Fund the large cultural musical project "The Best Songs of the Jewish Shtetle" was launched, and Efim Alexandrov became its soloist and director. As its website says:
Mums sang these songs to their babies, and those gave births to their children who in the evenings, leaning over their kids, sang these songs to them again. So the wheel of time made turns, surrendering itself to a rhythm of Yiddish language, to the melodies, which became eternal, having extended all over the world—the Old and the New one — and having united hearts of people, irrespective of their nationality.
Despite the fact of being major such a song is always written in a minor —like many Afro-American blues songs where white hides black and laughter means negation of sorrow. Therefore songs of the Jewish shtetle are quite similar - courage of mother just like courage of people always touches your heart and causes respect.
These songs could become history and having fallen asleep die in vinyl, in records of performers of the last century who were last collectors of these melodies because music constantly develops - technologies of records change, there are new carriers and quality of sound comes nearer to that divine line where the listener or the performer is not important anymore and in the end only harmony remains.

Friday, June 22, 2012

China's One Child Policy Unfairly Applied

An article in The Economist shows how unevenly Chinese authorities apply its long-standing one-child policy, a family-planning initiative to control the growth of its large population. A forced abortion done on  23-year-old Feng Jianmei, residing in a remote village in the north-western province of Shaanxi, went viral in China, thus making the issue more prominent.
Prominent voices joined in the criticism. “The outrageous and violent forced- abortion incident in June is not unique to Shaanxi”, wrote Liang Jianzhang, on Sina Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. Mr Liang is chief executive of Ctrip, one of China’s most successful travel companies. “Abolition of the absurd family-planning policy is the only way to root out this kind of evil,” he went on. Mr Liang’s post has been retweeted more than 18,000 times.
The scandal is a blow to the one-child policy’s public image, says He Yafu, a demographer and critic of the policy. That image has never been good, even if in recent years many learned to live with it. In 1983, 14m women had abortions organised by family-planning committees (many of them coerced). In 2009, there were 6m. The number has declined in recent years as local officials have more incentives to impose fines on extra births rather than prevent them altogether.
Thus, persons of means can elect to pay a fine that varies by region and by family income; in many cases it is way beyond the ability of the average citizen. Known in China as the "social maintenance fee," it can be negotiated downward by having the right political connections. For the rest, chiefly the poor, it seems their options are limited: undergo forced abortions, all in the name of state family planning.

The rest of the article can be read at [The Economist

Erich Salomon: Discreet Photographer Of The Political Class

Great Artists

The work of a photojournalist who wants to be more than a mere craftsman, is a constant battle, a battle for the picture, and as in hunting, he gets his game only if he has an obsession for the chase. 
Erich Salomon, in Masters Of Photography 
by Beaumont and Nancy Newhall, 1958, p. 134

Erich Salomon [1886-1944]: "What’s a meeting that isn’t photographed by Salomon? People won’t believe it’s important at all! said French Prime Minister Aristide Briand in 1930.
Source: e-flux

Erich Salomon would walk into a room of powerful politicians, take their pictures in unguarded moments, and then publish the photos in a national news magazine. Today that would be unthinkable, if not impossible, with arranged photo-ops the norm. That is what makes Salomon's photos all the more compelling and attractive; they give us an insight into a world that few see. It was with good reason Salomon was called the "The King of  the Indiscreet." Salomon was undoubtedly a pioneer of German photojournalism.

It is important to note that Salomon was at first trained in engineering before graduating with a degree in law—both professions sharing a high degree of mental ability. And then there is the intellectual and scientific aspect that informed Salomon's thinking and work. In his writings, Salomon said that his was an attempt to take a scientific approach to photography, so as to reveal or capture the true sense of humans, particularly those in power. The psychology of the mind, as it applied to individuals and to crowds, was in vogue then—as it is now—giving such photographs a scientific patina of respectability. As one site put it:
Erich Salomon’s group and individual portraits can be viewed as studies of different milieus, forming an inventory of the psychological and behavioural tendencies of people, captured unawares. In this sense, his approach belongs to the German tradition of encyclopaedic investigation. In 1931, Salomon published Famous Contemporaries in Unguarded Moments, by Engelhorn Verlag, Stuttgart, presenting himself as a hunter tracking down the true face of personalities, and detailing the exact circumstances in which the photographs were taken. Taken at just the right moment, his images avoided the frozen expressions of posed photography.
Now, a photograph is fun to look at; it can sometimes reveal something of the person or persons within its frame, including stories and conjecture if it is filled with emotion and expression. Unfortunately, photographs can be manipulated, and they do not always tell the "truth"; thus facts are necessary to accompany a photo. Even so, they can reveal something hidden, perhaps of an immaterial nature, when taken by a skilled artist. Such explains the appeal of Salomon's spontaneous unadorned photos, when compared to the staged photographs of world leaders today, the so-called photo-ops, stage managed under the tightest of security. It is no wonder that under such strictures, the photographs appear stiff, unnatural and unrealistic, as if these are not people but mannequins. They couldn't be otherwise, could they?

Some of his most well-known photos include the Second Hague Reparation Conference (January 1930) where the heads of the Great Powers met to discuss German reparations demanded by the Treaty of Versailles, Quai d’Orsay in the French Foreign Minsitry with French Foreign Minsiter Aristide Briand pointing (August 1931), Albert Einstein in animated conversation with British Prime Minsiter Ramsay MacDonald in Berlin (1931), and the United Supreme Court in session (1932), one of the only two persons known to have achieved that distinction.

The Early Years

Erich Salomon was born into a Jewish family in Berlin, Germany, on April 28, 1886; his family was well- assimilated and prosperous, the Comesana site puts it:
His father was a banker and a member of the stock exchange; his mother came from a line of prominent publishers. As a youth he had the time and money to explore a variety of possible careers. He first studied zoology, then switched to engineering before finally settling on law and taking his degree in 1913. With the outbreak of World War I, he was drafted into the Kaiser´s army and soon thereafter was captured during the first Battle of the Marne. He spent the next four years in prisoner-of-war camps, where he served as an interpreter and acquired the fluency in French that was later to prove invaluable in gaining entry to conferences.
The rampant inflation after the First World War resulted in many business failures and the loss of family fortunes. His family proved no exception, and Salomon scrambled for ways to earn a living. After two failed business ventures—a piano factory and a electric car & motorcycle rental service—in 1923 he joined a large publishing house, Ullstein, where he worked in its advertising department. He became a photojournalist in 1928, at the age of 42. The first step was to find the right camera for what he wanted to achieve. He settled on an Ermanox, one of the first miniature cameras equipped with a high-speed lens, which enabled him to photograph in dim light.

The next step was to take candid photos. His first photo was taken at a famous murder trial—photographs were not allowed in the courtroom, as is the case today—where he hid his camera in a bowler hat, cutting a hole for the lens. Again, Salomon was fighting against the easy tendency to just get the picture. Any Picture. His first photo was published in 1928 in the Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung, a pictorial weekly with a circulation that would hit a record 2 million by 1930.

By 1931, Salomon, self-taught, became one of Europe’s most famous photographers. Until 1933 he worked mainly as a freelance photographer for Ullstein, the Berliner illustrierte Zeitung, the Münchner illustrierte Presse, Fortune, Life and the Daily TelegraphMuch of his success had to do with both the camera and the method he used. The camera, which professional photographers shunned, was itself well-suited for the job [see photo]. "It was a 645-format plate camera with a focal plane shutter that could shoot up to 1/1000 second (also not new), but it had an incredibly fast f/1.8 lens," says Kevin Moloney in his blog post on influential photojournalists of the 20th century. Erich Salomon influenced another great photojournalist, Alfred Eidenstaedt.

In 1931 Salomon published a book of his work, Famous Contemporaries in Unguarded Moments and in 1935 he held an exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society in London. After racial laws against the Jews took effect in Nazi Germany in 1933, Salomon was no longer able to publish in German magazines, so he moved with his family to The Hague in the Netherlands in 1934, where his wife was from. He had an offer to come to  America, invited by Life magazine. He considered it but kept putting it off until it was too late. 

The Last Years

In 1940 the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, and that changed things forever for Erich Salomon. From the toast of Berlin society, he became the "Jew Salomon." After the Nuremberg Laws were enforced in the Nazi-occupied nations, Salomon went into hiding with his wife and son, Dirk. (An older son was in England.) They were betrayed by a meter reader in 1944, who noted an increase in gas consumption in the place where they were hiding. They were at first sent to Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia and then in May 1944 on to Auschwitz, Poland, a Nazi concentration camp, where Erich Salomon died on or about July 7, 1944, according to Red Cross records. He was 58.

The elder son, who had survived the war in England, took about one-third of his father's 10,000 negatives with him. Another third were hidden in a house of a friend; and the remainder hidden in the library of the Dutch Parliament. In 1971, the German Society of Photography established the Dr. Erich Salomon Prize, a lifetime achievement award for photojournalists, and the nation's most prestigious award for photography. What a fitting tribute.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vivaldi's Concerto For Four Violins & Orchestra

This clip is from the first movement of Antonio Vivaldi's Concerto for Four Violins and Orchestra in B minor, opus 3, No. 10. The violinists are Ivry Gitlis, Isaac Stern, Ida Haendel and Shlomo Mintz accompanied by the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of  Zubin Mehta.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra provides excellent background notes on this work:
Vivaldi developed his ideas about concerto form during his tenure, beginning in 1703, as the music director of the Ospedale della Pietà, in Venice. The Pietà was a state sponsored institution offering musical instruction to illegitimate, orphaned, and indigent girls, yet its artistic standards were exceptionally high, and Vivaldi’s concerts there earned him an international reputation. His first published set of concertos, L’estro armonico, Op. 3, appeared in 1711, and comprised 12 of his best works for one, two, and four solo violins. Reprinted many times and performed all over Europe, L’estro armonico was perhaps the most popular and influential music publication of the eighteenth century.
 Like most of Vivaldi’s 500-odd concertos, the B Minor Concerto for Four Violins, Op. 3, No. 10, is in three movements (fast-slow-fast), with the outer movements in ritornello form — that is, unfolding as series of alternating orchestral and solo episodes. But this is also a highly original, even experimental work, not least because its novel instrumentation — four solo violins, solo cello, strings, and continuo — stimulated Vivaldi’s imagination. (Bach was so impressed with this work that he arranged it as a concerto for four solo harpsichords.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Patents & Intellectual Property A Good Mix

The Annals of Science

In an article in Nature, Amy Maxmen writes that patents protecting intellectual property (IP), ideas shaped in the mind and leading to invention, help develop the biotech industries, even in developing nations:
There’s been active debate about whether stronger intellectual property rights are a help or a hindrance to developing industries,” says Joseph Damond, vice president for international affairs at the Biotechnology Industry Organization(BIO), which commissioned the report to add evidence to the argument.
Questions about IP’s impact on research are particularly critical to countries that are beginning to invest in biotechnology. In order to advise those countries on IP regulations, BIO asked for an assessment of IP trends in nations around the world. In response to their request, Pugatch Consilium, a consultancy group based in Israel and the UK, combed through publications and databases for associations between IP rights (IPR) and measures of economic development and biotech health.
“In the literature we found that no, patenting does not stand in the way of research,” says David Torstensson, a senior consultant at the Pugatch and an author on the report presented 19 June. At the talk comprised of biotech fans, the audience appeared to agree with his pro-IP conclusion. 
This makes perfect sense. Laws protecting IP go a long way in ensuring that people and companies will continue investing in newer projects. It takes a lot of money to conduct good research. Thus, it is no surprise to find a correlation between nations that have strong IP laws—all things being equal—and their success in innovation and research and development. This goes for biotech and all other research-intensive industries.


Pinchas Zukerman: Vivaldi's Four Seasons—'Summer'

Pinchas Zukerman and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra perform from the first movement of Vivaldi's Four Seasons: L'Estate/Summer, in G minor, Op. 8, RV 315, with Zubin Mehta conducting. The Israeli-born Zukerman is currently the music director of the National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) in Ottawa, a position that he has held since 1999. Zukerman has announced that he plans to step down in 2015,

Summer begins in the Northern Hemisphere tonight at 7:09 P.M. (EDT).

Antonio Vivaldi composed the four violin concertos in 1723; it was first published in 1725 as part of 12 concertos known as Il cimento dell'armonia e dell'inventione ("The Contest of Harmony and Invention") Each movement evokes a sense of the season, or at least how Vivaldi imagined it when he composed the work in his native Venice, Italy. For summer, it ends with a thunderstorm. The "Four Seasons" remains one of the most popular works, not only of Baroque music but of all musical forms and traditions.

Each concerto is associated with a sonnet, ascribed to Vivaldi, describing the scenes depicted in the music. For "Summer": 

Summer: Concerto in G minor
Allegro non molto
"Sotto dura Staggion dal Sole accesa
Langue l' huom, langue 'l gregge, ed arde il Pino;
Scioglie il Cucco la Voce, e tosto intesa
Canta la Tortorella e 'l gardelino.
Zeffiro dolce Spira, mà contesa
Muove Borea improviso al Suo vicino;
E piange il Pastorel, perche sospesa
Teme fiera borasca, e 'l suo destino;"

Adagio e piano - Presto e forte
"Toglie alle membra lasse il Suo riposo
Il timore de' Lampi, e tuoni fieri
E de mosche, e mossoni il Stuol furioso!"

"Ah che pur troppo i Suo timor Son veri
Tuona e fulmina il Ciel e grandioso
Tronca il capo alle Spiche e a' grani alteri."

[English Translation]

Summer: Concerto in G minor

Allegro non molto
Beneath the blazing sun's relentless heat
men and flocks are sweltering,
pines are scorched.
We hear the cuckoo's voice; 
then sweet songs of the turtle dove and finch are heard.
Soft breezes stir the air….
but threatening north wind sweeps them suddenly aside. 
The shepherd trembles, fearful of violent storm and what may lie ahead.

Adagio e piano - Presto e forte
His limbs are now awakened from their repose 
by fear of lightning's flash and thunder's roar, 
as gnats and flies buzz furiously around.

Alas, his worst fears were justified, 
as the heavens roar and great 
hailstones beat down upon the proudly standing corn.

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi [ 1678-1741]: He was nicknamed il Prete Rosso ("The Red Priest") because of his red hair, and had many talents" an Italian Baroque composer, priest, and virtuoso violinist. Vivaldi is credited with composing 500 concertos.
Artist CreditFrançois Morellon la Cave; painted in 1725.