Saturday, October 31, 2015

Killing Cancer

Human Diseases

An article, by Vincent DeVita and Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn, in Aeon gives an excellent overview on why the “war on cancer” has not achieved the level of success it could. There have been many successes, as I have written about here, but there can be more according to this article. As is the case with all battles, it is not so much about money (although it is necessary), but about the allocation of resources and how to effectively harness collected human knowledge.

It is also about putting aside the need for personal aggrandizement, always a difficult if not impossible task for smart people. In short, some human desires, such as protecting turf. employing outdated ideas, and fearing change defeat the over-all intentions of winning the war.  While this article reflects on the system in the United States, it likely has resonance elsewhere.

When someone writes an article like this, it is important to know who they are and why they are doing so. For one, Vicent DeVita is a former director of the National Cancer Institute and the Amy and Joseph Perella Professor of Medicine at Yale Cancer Center and Yale School of Medicine; Elizabeth DeVita-Raeburn is is a journalist and author who writes about science, medicine and psychology. They have co-authored a book, The Death of Cancer (2015). One of them had a personal encounter with cancer, as many of us have recently had. When this happens, your perspective changes.

In “Death of Cancer,” (October 23, 2015), the article starts with a confession:
Six years ago, I (Vincent) was diagnosed with life-threatening prostate cancer that would have killed most men. I survived because I was able to call on colleagues to deliver aggressive surgery outside the standard of care (hormone therapy) for my type of disease. Without a doubt, the operation saved my life.
What happened in my case should be how things happen as a matter of course, but it’s not. That more people than necessary continue to die from cancer has nothing to do with ‘the failed war on cancer’ – a familiar refrain in the press – or a lack of scientific tools, which have begun to accumulate at a breathtaking pace. Rather, obstacles take the form of not using the tools we already have to cure more; a reluctance to drop outdated beliefs; bureaucratic battles among physicians and medical groups; and outdated regulation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) whose policies hinder the innovations wrought by cancer drug‑development in recent years.
These issues are well‑known to doctors and researchers, but many are reluctant to talk about them overtly for fear that they could damage their colleagues or their chances of getting a grant or drug application approved.
This can be boiled down to the ideas of conformity, notably to a system that is no longer relevant today; this includes the protocol to testing new or experimental drugs and therapies, which in the U.S. falls under the control and protection of the F.D.A. Such protocols are rigid, lengthy and costly, all the enemies of eradicating cancer. The article says:
Recently, at a dinner for the FDA Commissioner, I sat next to an outstanding clinical investigator who works with the exciting new drugs recently available for advanced melanoma. For the first time in my long career, we are seeing remissions that are likely cures of this ferocious disease. I asked my dinner companion how he was affected by all the regulations that have been piled on the FDA and the NCI. He said: “Vince, if they would leave me alone, I could cure so many more patients.”
This is the end game; truly, nothing else matters. The human desires, so to speak, have to catch up to the technology. Individual achievement, no matter it being the trope of movies and fiction books, will not bring about breakthroughs. Neither will regulation. I have never heard of regulation winning the Nobel Prize in medicine.

For more, go to [Aeon]

Friday, October 30, 2015

Processed Meats Carcinogenic To Humans, WHO Says

Human Digestion

Unhealthy Bacon: The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) says: “Processed meat was classified as carcinogenic to humans (Group 1), based on sufficient evidence in humans that the consumption of processed meat causes colorectal cancer.”
Photo Credit: Joe Raedle; Getty Images
Source: NYT

In a WHO research finding that has already proven controversial, an article, by Peter Whoriskey, in The Washington Post and many other media sites worldwide says that foods like hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats are classified as carcinogenic and thus increase the risk of colorectal cancer; and, moreover, that the consumption of red meat might cause cancer. Not surprising, beef and pork producers do not agree with the findings of the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. [see monograph here.]

In “Hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats cause cancer, World Health Organization declares,” (October 26, 2015), Whoriskey writes:
In reaching its conclusion, the panel sought to quantify the risks. It cited studies suggesting that an additional 3.5 ounces of red meat per day raises the risk of colorectal cancer by 17 percent; eating an additional 1.8 ounces of processed meat daily raises the risk by 18 percent, according to the research cited. It also quoted figures suggesting that 34,000 cancer deaths a year worldwide were attributable to diets high in processed meats.
“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed,” says Kurt Straif, an official with the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, which produced the report. “In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

The research into a possible link between eating red meat and cancer has been the subject of scientific debate for decades, with colorectal cancer being a long-standing area of concern. But by concluding that processed meat causes cancer, and that red meat "probably" causes cancer, the WHO findings go well beyond the tentative associations that some other groups have reported.
This is an important announcement from the world health body, which involved an international panel of 22 experts in the field, who conducted a meta-analysis of 800 studies looking at cancer on humans in the last 20 years. And while it was not unanimous, there was sufficient agreement to raise sufficient concern on the consumption of processed foods and of red meat. This news ought to give people information on how to make healthy food choices, just as knowledge about cigarette smoking has done.

I am delighted by this report, not only because, about a year ago, I made a decision to give up the consumption of processed foods and red meat, but that it confirms my reasons for doing so. I did so primarily for health reasons, having made such a decision (after reading similar scientific-medical reports) and after going through chemotherapy for colorectal cancer. Although I initially thought it would be difficult to give up hamburgers, steaks and smoked meat, it actually was fairly easy.

I feel better for it and am much healthier. Now that is good news, indeed..

For more, go to [WashPost]

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Jews Of Poland

War Stories

A book review article, by David Mikics, in Tablet reports on how Poland viewed the Jews before the Second World and coming to terms with it decades later. It seems that although many things have improved in Jewish-Christians relations in that country, some have not. Even so, the Poland of today is thankfully not the Poland of yesterday. (My father was born in Poland, and came to Canada after the Second World War.)

In “The Day We Burned Our Neighbors,” (October 20, 2015) Mikics writes about what took place in the Polish town of Jedwabne, in northeast Poland, more than 70 years ago, on July 10, 1941. This was a few weeks after the German invasion and occupation of eastern Poland, which until then had been under the control of the Soviet Union:
“I can’t sleep at night. I see it as if it were yesterday. … That terrifying scream that probably didn’t last for more than two minutes, it’s still inside me.” The woman speaking these words was 10 years old on July 10, 1941, when she saw her fellow Poles driving their Jewish neighbors into the barn. Schoolboys jeered at their Jewish classmates, hounding them toward death. Mothers wrapped their babies tight as they tried to shield them against the blows. Within minutes nearly all the town’s Jews—hundreds of them, from infants to old people—would be burned alive. The 10-year-old girl at the window watched the townspeople of Jedwabne pour gasoline at the barn’s four corners and set it alight. Then came the scream.
This account comes from Anna Bikont’s book The Crime and the Silence, which appeared in 2004 in Polish and six years later in French (it won the European Book Prize in 2011) but has just now been translated into English by Alissa Valles. In her work as a reporter for the Gazeta Wyborcza, the liberal Polish newspaper, Bikont has done obsessive, heroic work, interviewing witnesses, perpetrators, and survivors of the Jedwabne massacre and similar mass killings of Jews in the nearby towns of Radzilow and Wasosz. She has discovered a bizarre psychological phenomenon: The townspeople of Jedwabne still insist that they are the victims of Jewish slander. The massacre, they say, was perpetrated either by a few thugs, probably people from out of town, or by the Germans.
Bikont uses the townspeople’s own words to demolish their claim to innocence. She shows that virtually all of Jedwabne knows who the leading murderers were, who stayed home that day in July 1941 and who joined the bloodthirsty mob. These truths were passed down for decades in hints and whispers at kitchen tables and over rounds of vodka. What happened in 1941 was, as Polish President Krasniewski bravely called it, not a pogrom but a genocide, Jedwabne’s wholehearted effort to shatter every trace of Jewish life. Minutes after the killings the town went on a massive looting spree, robbing Jewish homes of silverware, furs, and furniture. These were their neighbors, people they had known for years.
How could an atrocity like Jedwabne happen? Looking for an answer, Bikont confronts the troubled depths of the unequal relationship between Poles and Jews. The trouble stems from Poland’s sense of itself as a perpetual victim nation, crushed over and over by greater powers like Russia and Germany. Until the news about Jedwabne spread, 60 years after the killings happened, it was hard for Poles to think of themselves as the doers, rather than the sufferers, of historical evil.
This is understandable to some degree, given Poland’s history of being conquered. Jews have resided in Poland since the 10th century, and for the first 500 or so years of their residency in Poland it was among the most tolerant nations in Europe, a nation where Judaism and Jewish thought flourished. Poland was the undisputed centre of Jewish religious life. symbolized by the golden age of Jagiellonian Poland. But this did not last. The many partitions of Poland in the late 18th century, notably when it fell under the control of Russia, changed the nation in ways it then could not foresee. As did the hardships of the Polish-Ukrainian War, the Polish-Soviet War and the First World War during the early decades of the 20th century.

It must also be remembered that Poland was the first nation that Germany invaded (on September 1, 1939), setting off the Second World War; and that Poland was also invaded by the Soviet Union 16 days later (on September 17, 1939). Eastern Poland was occupied by the Soviets; western Poland by the Nazis. This was the case until the summer of 1941, when the invading German army conquered the eastern half of Poland, as well, part of  its Operation Barbarossa (that began on June 22, 1941). Such is the background to the massacre.

Yet, how Poland confronts its past, including discussions on its declining and deteriorating relationships with its Jewish history, most notably and recently after the First World War, and admits its responsibility in what took place in Jedwabne, a small village 85 miles northeast of Warsaw will reveal how Poland will be able to honesty progress beyond it.  Dialogue with its Jewish community is necessary and good.

This story was suppressed, ignored and swept under the carpet of history for 60 years. until, as The Forward says, “Jan Gross exposed the atrocity in his seminal book, “Neighbors,” published in 2000.” Now that the painful truth has seen the light of day, it does not mean that it is easily accepted. For example, there is the Catholic Church in Poland, which not only is in denial about its culpability in the massacre at Jedwabne, but remains anti-Semitic, the article notes.
The Church is the black hole,” said Bikont when I talked to her on the phone a few weeks ago. She told me that the Polish Church is “still anti-Semitic, and those who disagree with its anti-Semitism are ostracized.” In her book Bikont highlights the courageous exceptions. She quotes Catholic priests and bishops who speak honestly about Jedwabne and similar massacres and who pray for the Jews murdered in the land of their ancestors by Poles. Father Stanislaw Musial says about the Jedwabne killings, “It’s hard to find a more despicable or cruel crime in human history,” and he marvels at the fact that the Polish Church busies itself trying to find extenuating circumstances for the massacre. But men and women like Musial go against the Church’s message. It’s the Jewish Communists who are guilty, the Church insists; and the leaders of Chicago’s Polish community repeat the same anti-Jewish charges, according to Bikont. Such are the distortions that extreme nationalism requires, all the more disturbing when they don the cloak of religion.
Assuredly so. There are some positive signs, however, emanating from the Catholic Church in Poland, reports an article in The Jerusalem Post:
The Polish Episcopate has declared Anti-Semitism is a sin just ahead of the 50th anniversary of the issuance of a Papal proclamation that revolutionized Catholic- Jewish relations.
According to Radio Poland, the local branch of the Church issued a pastoral letter asserting that “anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism are sins against the love of thy neighbor” and that “Christian-Jewish dialogue must never be treated as ‘the religious hobby,’” but rather “should increasingly become part of the mainstream of pastoral work.”
I find it heartening and noteworthy that the letter says that both “anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism are sins against the love of thy neighbor.“ I could not agree more.

For more, go to [Tablet]

For another personal perspective, see Prof. George Jochnowitz’s essay, “My Trip To Poland.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Good Must Associate

Heaven & Humanity

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”
Edmund Burke
Thoughts on the Cause
of the Present Discontents
Volume i, page 526

“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. ’ ”
—Paul’s Epistle
to the Romans 3:10-12

The New Testament says that no one, no human, is good. Thus, this suggests, on first reading, that the default human position is to not seek righteousness, and by implication no human goodness exists in the world—a thought that leaves the world without any hope for humanity. The point of such a polemic is that Christians ought to first place their faith not in humanity, but in heaven, which is the source of all goodness. Yet, this is only part of the story, since a faith is bereft of good for humanity if it does not lead to righteous actions.  A faith without knowledge is blind, indeed.

Is it not possible to believe in the merits of heaven while also believing in the merits of humanity? Does the former annul the latter? I do not think so. One can have a faith in heavenly ideas as the inspiration for human justice and apply these accordingly, rightly and with knowledge. Edmund Burke, the eighteenth century philosopher, said that good people do make a difference, and their absence in confronting evil leads to failure. That is, inaction in the face of evil naturally leads to its continuance.  This is never good. For Burke, a conservative Christian, Wikipedia says, “religion is the foundation of civil society.”

In many cases, humans desire to do good, especially when it seems in short supply, when the world seems overrun by evil men with their evil plans. This is the case in many parts of the world, the places on which the news media focus, sometimes unintentionally (or unwittingly) aiding the very evil they are supposed to stop by not discouraging (and thus emboldening) the evil-doers. What is evil, but the absence of good. Evil flourishes when good is not present, when good is asleep.

This brings to mind Israel and the failure of most of the world’s media and western nations, led by the United States and western Europe. This is a failure in getting the story right, portraying Israel’s attempts to protect its citizens from Palestinian terrorists as wrong and “disproportionate.” Is it wrong to stop men and women with evil intentions, with murder on their minds and hearts. Or is it wrong only for Israel, the world’s only Jewish nation, to protect its citizens? Some things beg for simplicity; such is one case.

If you substitute America or Britain or France or Germany for Israel and read the same news reports, would you have the same response? Somehow, I doubt it. One nation is viewed more harshly than others; one nation has a majority Jewish population; one nation has been given rules of engagement to ensure its failure.

How does someone from the outside, residing safely a long distance away from the scenes of incitement and terror, decide how much force another nation must use to protect its citizens from violent and dangerous attacks? There is no calculation or equation to determine this, as far as I know. The response of the international community in regards to Israel and its Jewish People is remarkable, not only for its failure to understand the situation “on the ground,” but equally important, for its failure to support a long-standing and faithful ally.

There is a lack of desire to get the facts, a lack of desire to separate fact from fiction and a lack of desire to support good. There is a belief, a faith, if you will, in the Palestinian narrative, no matter how much it deviates from reality and historical evidence. One can almost come to the conclusion that this is not so much support for the Palestinians as it is animus for Israel and for its Jewish citizens. Recently, hundreds of British academics decided to boycott Israel. Such describes a blind faith, a failure in knowledge.“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out” (Proverbs 18: 15).

This is a requirement to do good, to ensure that evil does not continue unabated. And, until good men unite and associate themselves with what is right, the evil in the Middle East will continue. It is in the interest of those “Christian nations” to do what is good and right. It is time for those Christians who say they “love Israel and the Jewish People” to come out of the closet and declare publicly what they say privately.

Perhaps some think this is asking too much, but moral choices have to be made, which means taking sides. Neutrality is not an option in the face of evil; in such cases neutrality is a sign of consent. Otherwise Christianity, as a religion of love, of compassion and of tolerance, will fail once again to pass the test of goodness.

Or, then again, Christians could emulate the righteous example of the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon during during the Second World War, notes the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
From December 1940 to September 1944, the inhabitants of the French village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon (population 5,000) and the villages on the surrounding plateau (population 24,000) provided refuge for an estimated 5,000 people. This number included an estimated 3,000–3,500 Jews who were fleeing from the Vichy authorities and the Germans.
Led by Pastor André Trocmé of the Reformed Church of France, his wife Magda, and his assistant, Pastor Edouard Theis, the residents of these villages offered shelter in private homes, in hotels, on farms, and in schools. They forged identification and ration cards for the refugees, and in some cases guided them across the border to neutral Switzerland. These actions of rescue were unusual during the period of the Holocaust insofar as they involved the majority of the population of an entire region.
The State of Israel recognized the collective actions of the village, and in particular the pastor and his wife, deeming the citizens of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon as“Righteous Among the Nations.” The citizens of the village downplayed their actions as heroic, only deeming them as necessary, Yad Vashem says, “as having empathy for Jews as the people of the Old Testament,” summing up their convictions as follows “Things had to be done and we happened to be there to do them. It was the most natural thing in the world to help these people.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Israel Dance Theater In Poland (2013)

Israel Dance Theater of Ramat Gan (Tel Aviv) are here performing in Suwalki, Poland, at Podlasie Octave of Cultures—The International Festival of Music, Art and Folklore on July 26, 2013. Suwalki is a town in northeastern Poland, about 30 km from Lithuania. During the summer festival, events take place simultaneously in Białystok and 20 other towns of the district, like Łomża, Hajnówka, Bielsk Podlaski, Drohiczyn, Tykocin and Suwałki.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The World Of Richard Feynman (1973)

“The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain.”

—Richard Feynman, The Value of Science, 
Public address at the National Academy of Sciences (Autumn 1955)

This is a Yorkshire Television interview with Richard Feynman [1918-1988], the Nobel Prize-winning theoretical physicist (1965) from the New York City borough of Queens, which was shown in Great Britain in 1973. Called “Take the World From Another Point of View,” it was also shown on PBS-TV’s Nova.
The famous American physicist Richard Feynman used to take holidays in England. His third wife, Gweneth Howarth, was a native of West Yorkshire, so every year the Feynman family would visit her hometown of Ripponden or the nearby hamlet of Mill Bank.
In 1973 Yorkshire public television made a short film of the Nobel laureate while he was there. The resulting film, Take the World From Another Point of View, was broadcast in America as part of the PBS Nova series. The documentary features a fascinating interview, but what sets it apart from other films on Feynman is the inclusion of a lively conversation he had with the eminent British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle.
A native Yorkshireman, Hoyle did groundbreaking theoretical work on the synthesis of elements in stars and was a leading proponent of the Steady State theory of cosmology. In the film, the British astrophysicist and the American particle physicist walk down to the local pub, Ripponden’s historic Old Bridge Inn, for a lively conversation on physics and the nature of scientific discovery. You can read along with a transcript of the film at the Caltech Web site.
Before the term, “thinking outside the box” became familiar and famous, Feynman was already doing this for years; this has its benefits in problem solving. If anything, Feymann had the ability to explain complicated material in a way that an educated non-physicist could comprehend; he was a story teller.

His curiosity, described as insatiable, was among his best qualities as a human being; he was also known as an avid bongo player and a picker of locks—both for amusement and challenge. After a few years at Cornell (1945–1950), Feynman spent most of his professional life at the California Institute of Technology, or Caltech, in Pasadena, preferring the mild weather of California over the harsh winters of  Ithaca in central New York.

Feynman died of a rare form of cancer on February 15, 1988; he was 69.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Pediatric Cancer: Science Is Making Headway

Childhood Diseases

More Work: Ossola writes:“Researchers test samples as part of the St. Jude Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.”
Photo CreditSt. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, Tennessee

An article, by Alexandra Ossolain Popular Science has given me a good reason to (re)think my views on childhood cancer, which I have long considered as a dreaded disease that robs young children of life, and unfairly so. And while I still view cancer as unfair, particularly when it affects children, there is some good news mixed in with the bad: pediatric cancer has a higher five-year survival rate than adult cancer: 80 per cent.

In “Learning From The Children,” Ossola begins by writing about the story of Maggie, who about 20 years ago was diagnosed at age four-and-a-half with with stage 3 nephroblastoma, a kidney cancer diagnosed in just 500 kids per year. After many rounds of chemo, at age six she was officially in remission, with no evidence of disease (NED)—the best news a person (or the parent of a young child) with cancer can hear.
Maggie is one of thousands of children who develop cancer and, through rigorous treatment and holistic care by doctors and families, beat the disease. Treatment for cancer has increased dramatically since the 1950s, and nowhere is that more evident than in pediatric oncology; of the thousands of children treated in the U.S. for cancer every year, 80 percent of them will go into remission and go on to live productive lives—significantly higher than the five-year survival numbers for general oncology, which are 63 percent chance of survival for female patients and 66 percent for men.
This disparity exists in part because of biology—the types of cancers that kids get, the strength of their immune systems—and because pediatric oncologists treat patients very differently than do general oncologists. The field isn’t perfect; some of the kids who survive have health issues later in life, and curing the remaining 20 percent of patients won’t be easy. But general oncologists can learn a few things about how pediatricians achieved this remarkable cure rate, and may be able to collaborate with them to discover new, less toxic treatments to benefit patients of any age.
“Childhood cancer is a different animal. Even though it has a similar end point [as adult cancers], the body in which it occurs is quite different than that of an adult,” says Alan Gamis, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Mercy Hospital.
This article is nicely written and researched; my only quibble is that when it comes to a disease like cancer, the word “cure” is incorrect, in that cure implies that there is no possibility of the disease returning, that it has been eradicated. It is true that once a person has reached five years without any evidence of cancer, that its likelihood of returning is diminished.

Other than this, the article explains well why children generally fare better than adults. One reason is that the cancer is different in children than in adults; another is that children are generally more resilient and can take more chemo drugs than adults. Such is important, but the greatest difference might lie in the protocols revolving around pediatric cancers; Ossola writes:
From the start, pediatric oncologists created a unique culture of collaboration that exists in few other places in medicine. Childhood cancers are rare diseases, affecting around 16,000 children and adolescents per year but making up only 2 percent of all cancer cases. Over the past three decades, this collaboration has coalesced most clearly in clinical trials. About 60 percent of all kids with cancer participate in clinical trials, and have done so for decades.
Work has to continue on reducing the use of chemo drugs, which have long-term deleterious effects on the human body. Medical science has to continue looking at newer and better treatment options like immunotherapy, which aids and allows the human body’s immune system to take on cancer.

For more, go to [PopularScience]

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Robert Palmer: Bad Case Of Loving You (1979)

Robert Palmer performs “Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)” in this 1979 video; the song is the first track on his album, Secrets, released by the British label, Island Records, in June 1979. The song was written by Moon Martin.

Wikipedia writes:
The main difference between Moon’s version and the cover by Robert Palmer is that Palmer’s version is in major key while Moon’s in minor, making the song sound more ominous. It was remixed with heavier guitars and drums for Palmer’s greatest hits collection Addictions: Volume 1. The song was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance at the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards.[1]
Palmer was born in England (1949), but grew up up in Malta, where his father, a naval intelligence officer, was stationed. While there, Palmer listening to the American Forces Network, in particular, Billie Holliday, Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole. The influences are apparent.

He is known for his smooth soulful voice, and the first to make a flashy but tasteful music video, “Addicted to Love,” in 1986, featuring high fashion models. This became his signature song.

Palmer died of a heart attack in 2003 at the age of 54.

Bad Case Of Loving You (Doctor, Doctor)
by Moon Martin

A hot summer night fell like a net
I've gotta find my baby yet
I need you to soothe my head
Turn my blue heart to red

Doctor Doctor, gimme the news I got a
Bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill I've got a
Bad case of lovin' you

A pretty face don't make no pretty heart
I learned that buddy from the start
You think I'm cute, a little bit shy
Mama, I ain't that kind of guy

Doctor Doctor, gimme the news I got a
Bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill I got a
Bad case of lovin' you

I know you like it, you like it on top
Tell me mama, are you gonna stop?

You had me down twenty-one to zip
Smile of Judas on your lip
Shake my fist, knock on wood
I've got it bad, and I got it good

Doctor Doctor, gimme the news I've got a
Bad case of lovin' you
No pill's gonna cure my ill I got a
Bad case of lovin' you

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Cantor Helfgot & Itzhak Perlman: A Yiddishe Mame

This is a video clip from the PBS-TV’s Great Performances: Rejoice with Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Yitzchak Meir Helfgot, which was broadcast from New York City on August 28, 2014It is introduced on the PBS site as follows, spelling Yiddishe with only one “d.”:
Songwriter and pianist Neil Sedaka introduces the song “A Yidishe Mame” (A Jewish Mother), a popular Yiddish classic with Vaudeville roots. Violinist Itzhak Perlman and Cantor Helfgot perform it, backed by The Klezmer Conservatory Band and The Rejoice Chamber Orchestra.
While Perlman is internationally known and acclaimed, and requires no introduction, Cantor Helfgot is equal to the musical task at hand. He currently serves as Chief Cantor of the historic Park East Synagogue in New York City, which was founded in 1888 under its original name, Congregation Zichron EphraimIt is modern OrthodoxAs a comparison, you can compare this rendition to that of Cantor Yossele Rosenblatt [1882-1933], who was called the Jewish Caruso.

The full musical program consisted of the following:

Yism’chu (They Shall Rejoice)
Romanian Doyne
Shoyfer Shel Moshiakh (Ram’s Horn of the Messiah)
A Dudele (A Song to You)
Sheyibone Bays Hamikdosh (May the Holy Temple Be Rebuilt)
A Yiddishe Momme (A Yiddish Mother)
Adir Hu/Moyshe Emes (Mighty Is He/Moses is True)
Yism’chu (closer)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Nature’s Palate Of Autumnal Colour (Oct 2015)

Urban Nature

Here are a few photos taken in the last couple of weeks; they are all of the park near our residence, and all are taken from our sixth-floor apartment:

October 7 at 7:30 a.m. around sunrise. The haze is a result of an early morning fog. The temperature was 12°C (54°F)

October 12 at 7:50 a.m. around sunrise. Thanksgiving day in Canada. The temperature was 14°C (57°F). Clear skies ahead. Fiery oranges are appearing, both in the foreground and background.

October 13 at 2:50 p.m. More reds are in view intermixed with the oranges, yellows and light greens of the deciduous trees. The dark greens are the evergreen pines, spruce and oaks. The temperature was 15°C (59°F) and as is evident here, the skies were cloudy.

October 15 at 3:50 p.m. The temperature was 17°C (62°F) with overcast leaden skies.

October 16 at 11;15 a.m. The temperature was 11°C (51°F); and the skies partly overcast, with patches of blue exposed.

All Photos: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Solar Neutrino Problem & The Standard Model

Particle Physics

Sudbury Neutrino Observatory is 2,100 metres (approx 6.800 feet) below the earth’s surface,
where the solar neutrino problem was solved.
ate Allen of The Toronto Star writes: “To solve this problem, McDonald and his
colleagues dreamt up SNO. Deep in an INCO mine (now owned by Vale), protected
from cosmic radiation constantly bombarding the earth’s surface, the scientists installed
a 12-metre-wide acrylic vessel filled with 1,000 tonnes of ultra-pure heavy water.
The vessel, surrounded by a geodesic sphere equipped with 9,456 light sensors.
The scientific facility measures 5,000 square metres (approx 54,000 square feet).
Photo Credit: SNOLAB
Source: Women In Science & Engineering, Sudbury

The co-winners of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics are not only deserving of the award, but also are increasing our understanding of our Sun. The prize was awarded to Takaaki Kajita for the SuperKamiokamde experiment in Japan and Arthur McDonald for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), in Canada, the Nobel Prize release says, “for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass.”

In particular, both research groups, working independently, solved the solar neutrino problem. The problem, simply stated, was that less solar neutrinos were detected than calculations suggested or predictions. When this happens, scientists look for reasons why the two differ. What they found is that the Standard Model of particle physics, which states neutrinos have no mass, is no longer true.

During their  journey from the Sun to Earth, neutrinos can change identity (in what are called neutrino oscillation), and come in three “flavours”— electron, tau and muon. In “Canadian physicist wins Nobel Prize for work on neutrinos,” (October 6, 2015), Kate Allen writes in The Toronto Star:
Canadian physicist Arthur B. McDonald has won the Nobel Prize for discoveries about the behaviour of a mysterious solar particle, teased from an experiment buried two kilometres below Sudbury.

The Queen’s University professor emeritus was honoured for co-discovering that elusive particles known as neutrinos can change their identity — or “oscillate” — as they travel from the sun. It proved that neutrinos must have mass, a finding that upset the Standard Model of particle physics and opened new avenues for research into the fundamental properties of the universe.

McDonald, 72, shares the prize with Takaaki Kajita, whose Japanese collaboration made the same discovery with slightly different methods.

To measure solar neutrinos, McDonald and a 130-person international team built a massive detector in an operational copper mine southwest of Sudbury. The location allowed the experiment to be highly sensitive but created enormous logistical challenges. Construction on the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory — SNO — began in 1990. The experiment collected its first data nine years later.

“I think we all knew that if we could manage to do it, it would be a very significant measurement. And that’s the way it turned out,” McDonald said Tuesday, 10 “crazy” hours after he was awakened by a telephone call from Sweden telling him he had won the prize in physics.
These experimented were confirmed at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in 2001. A bit about the observatory. Sudbury is a known mining city in northern Ontario, about 340 km (about 200 miles) northwest of Toronto; the SNO detector is situated deep in the ground of an INCO copper mine in Copper Cliff, which is a few miles outside Sudbury.

Now known as the SNOLAB, the facility used a geodesic sphere—it surrounds an acrylic container of 1,000 litres of heavy water (deuterium oxide) supplied by AECL—that contains almost 9,500 light sensors to detect neutrinos created by fusion reactions in the sun. When neutrinos hit the heavy water, an event that took place about 10 times a day, a flash of light resulted.

Here is an added note about the mass of neutrinos from the American Physical Society (Physics) news site in an article (“Neutrino Oscillations Nab Nobel Prize;” October 6, 2015), by Emily Conover:
The exact values of the neutrino masses are still unknown, but physicists do know that neutrino masses are oddly tiny — a millions times smaller than the electron mass. Some physicists believe there may be different physics underlying the masses of the neutrinos than of other particles. Massive neutrinos could also be a key to understanding the source of the matter-antimatter imbalance in our universe. And there may be other types of lurking, undetected neutrinos, known as "sterile" neutrinos.
So, the search for understanding neutrinos, and thus more about our universe, continues. For now, this ranks as one of the most important experiments of the 20th century. More tp follow.

For more, go to [TorontoStar]

Friday, October 16, 2015

Eating Fruits & Veggies Can Encourage Weight Loss

Heath & Wellness

Boxes of Berries: Our family enjoys picking all kinds of berries, as we did last summer. Raspberries not only are easy on the eyes and taste delicious, but also are healthy and help to maintain one’s weight. Counting calories might not be as important as the kind of calories one consumes.
Harvard School of Public Health writes: “The good news is that many of the foods that help prevent disease also seem to help with weight control—foods like whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. And many of the foods that increase disease risk—chief among them, refined grains and sugary drinks—are also factors in weight gain. Conventional wisdom says that since a calorie is a calorie, regardless of its source, the best advice for weight control is simply to eat less and exercise more. Yet emerging research suggests that some foods and eating patterns may make it easier to keep calories in check, while others may make people more likely to overeat.”
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

I read two articles this week in Medical News Today that are related to health, in particular to what we eat: the first article, by Honor Whiteman, reports on the serious concerns raised by the World Obesity Federation of a worldwide obesity epidemic; and the second article, by Yvette Brazier, which says that certain fruits and vegetables can not only help individuals maintain a healthy weight but also aid in weight loss.

About 13 per cent of the world’s people are considered obese, and the obese federation predicts that this rate will rise a further 4 per cent by 2025 if no government action is taken. In “Obesity rates will soar by 2025 if governments fail to take action, says report,” (October 11, 2015), Whiteman writes:
What is more, the report - released in line with the first World Obesity Day— reveals that 177 million adults across the globe will be severely obese and in need of treatment in the next 10 years unless more is done to combat the problem.
Overweight and obesity can raise the risk for a number of health problems, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer. A recent study reported on by Medical News Today also links overweight and obesity to earlier onset of Alzheimer's disease.
Since 1980, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled worldwide. This increase has been largely attributed to a rise in consumption of foods high in fat, an increase in sugary drink intake and lack of physical activity.
Fast food advertising, a rise in sedentary working environments and increased numbers of people residing in urban environments have also been cited as contributors to the obesity epidemic.
What is also true is that genetics alone can’t account for the the doubling the amount of individuals classified as obese, since the gene pool has remained relatively steady during this period. Humans are not destined to become obese or overweight. Fast foods, processed foods, fried foods, sugary drinks and and other junk foods coupled with inactivity are a sure recipe for weight gain.

The key point is that not all foods are equal and it is not just about counting calories, says an article in Harvard School of Public Health discussing the latest research. If left unchecked for years or even decades, the result is obesity. All of these are known contributing factors to obesity, defined as a BMI of 30 or higher; overweight is defined as a BMI between 25 and 30.

I have always been on the slim side, but I have gained weight as I have aged: my BMI is currently 23.3, within the normal range. (You can calculate your BMI by using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention BMI Calculator.) The World Obesity Federation, based in London, England, says on its site that it “represents professional members of the scientific, medical and research communities from over 50 regional and national obesity associations.”

As for what governments can do, I have noticed in the last few years here in Canada (both in Quebec and in Ontario), schools teaching more about making healthy food choices (my older son, who’s in Grade 8, often finds these lectures “boring, advising students of the importance of steering away from empty calories; moreover, my younger son’s elementary school (he is in Grade 2) has instituted a healthy snack program.

The schools physical-education programs do encourage physical activity. I am not sure what more governments can do other than to continue to encourage and educate its citizens, particularly when they are young. Being healthy is not at all boring, and its benefits are numerous. For example, there is a correlation between being healthy as a child and having good health as an adult. This is especially important when one considers what a recent article (“When Should Parents Worry About Their Child’s Weight Gain?” October 14, 2015), by Dr. Marc Michalsky, in U.S. News and World Report says: “Current estimates are that about 17 percent of American children and adolescents–or 13 million, ages 2 to 19 years–are considered to be obese.”

Advertising, culture and peer pressure all have a strong pull on people. Perhaps, there needs to be more ads showing the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, but I think this has been done in the past. Parents also to need to keep at it, by providing healthy and nutritious meals and reducing going out to fast-food places.

The second article has some hopeful news, despite the fact that more than 66 per cent of Americans are classified as either overweight or obese, The CDC further reports that more than one-third (34.9 per cent), or 78.6 million of U.S. adults, are classified as obese. The rise in obesity correlates with the rise in type 2 diabetes; and now medical researchers understand  what is taking place at the molecular level.

A change in diet can contribute to weight loss and also reduce the health risks associated with the body carrying extra fat, not only in your midsection or hips, but also in your organs. Any loss in weight can prove beneficial to one’s health, but it will require what nutritionists refer to as “lifestyle changes,” which includes being physically active and eating more healthy foods.

In “Fruits and vegetables that can aid weight loss revealed,” (September 24, 2015), Brazier writes:
Fruits were categorized into citrus, melon, and berries, and vegetables into cruciferous, green leafy, and legumes based on similar nutritional content.Only whole fruits were included, as fruit juice tends to contain added sugar. Unprocessed potatoes were counted as vegetables (baked, mashed and so on), but not fried.
The researchers examined data on weight and diet changes and the association between change in intake of specific fruits and vegetables and change in weight.
Adjustments were made for lifestyle variables, including smoking status, physical activity level, hours of sitting or watching TV and hours of sleep, as well as change in intake of other foods and nutrients such as fried potatoes, juice, whole grains, sweets and alcohol.
Starchy vegetables led to weight gain
The researchers found that overall, eating an extra portion of fruit a day led to a weight loss of 0.24 kg, while eating an extra daily portion of vegetables brought a weight loss of 0.11 kg. Greater weight loss was linked to higher-fiber, lower-glycemic vegetables, especially cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower.
Fruits overall, particularly berries, apples and pears, contributed to greater weight loss, compared with vegetables
Perhaps an apple a day can keep the doctor away.

For more, go to [MedNews1 & MedNews2]

Thursday, October 15, 2015

J. Geils Band: Freeze Frame (1981)

The J. Geils Band perform “Freeze Frame,” the title track of the 1981 album, also called Freeze Frame. The song, written by Seth Justman and Peter Wolf, plays on the cinematic and photographic terms related to time and motion and relates these to erotic love, or desire in this fast-paced song.

Technically speaking, a freeze-frame shot is, Wikipedia says, “used when one shot is printed in a single frame several times, in order to make an interesting illusion of a still photograph.” The effect is used often in TV and in film to draw in the viewer’s attention. It is also often done in black-and-white to act as a contrast to current events occurring on the screen.

This was a popular song. reaching No. 1 in both Canada and the United States. The members of the band are as follows: J. Geils, Magic Dick Salwitz , Danny Klein, Peter Wolf, Stephen Jo Bladd and Seth Justman. The band formed in 1967, with its core members hailing from Worcester, Massachusetts

Freeze Frame
by Seth Justman & Peter Wolf

I could see it was a rough-cut Tuesday
Slow-motion weekdays stare me down
Her lipstick reflex got me wound
There were no defects to be found
Snapshot image froze without a sound

Thursday morning was a hot flash-factor
Her face still focused in my mind
Test-strip proof-sheet love is hard to find
Friday night we'll dance the spotlight grind
Stop-time heart for me if she's not mine

Freeze-frame! (Freeze-frame!) [Repeat x2]
Freeze-frame! Now Freeze!

Now I'm lookin’ at a flashback Sunday
Zoom lens feelings just won’t disappear
Close-up darkroom sweet-talk in my ear
Her hot-spot love for me is strong
This freeze-frame moment can’t be wrong

Freeze frame

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Guilt, The Voice Of Conscience

Human Behaviour

“Guilt is a personal phenomenon. It has nothing to do with what others might say if they knew what we have done, and everything to do with what we say to ourselves. Guilt is the voice of conscience, and it is inescapable. You may be able to avoid shame by hiding or not being found out, but you cannot avoid guilt. Guilt is self-knowledge.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
“The Scapegoat: Shame and Guilt (Acharei Mot – Kedoshim 5775),”
April 20, 2015

Wheel of Conscience: Joanna Smith of The Toronto Star writes: “Steve Markus and his wife, Marta, look for family names on a sculpture called the Wheel of Conscience at Pier 21 in Halifax. The monument commemorates Canada’s decision to turn away a ship carrying Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany in 1939.” But the public does not today have access to the memorial piece, which was designed by Daniel Libeskind, himself a child of Holocaust survivors,. The same article says that after being sent out for repairs, the monument has been sitting in a warehouse in Toronto.
Photo Credit: Andrew Vaughan: CP
Source: Toronto Star

Guilt is unpleasant. It has often been deemed counter-productive and a label of religious judgment, an old idea that has no proper place in the modern world. So, the complex human emotion that has often led to positive change in human behaviour is no longer deemed acceptable in some quarters. Everyone and everything, with few exceptions, now in some way, and by some use of internal logic, is justified; and self-doubt and lack of self-assurance is considered counterproductive to achievements of success.

Yet, was it not Freud who said that guilt can be a moderating influence on social behaviour; and that feelings of guilt can lead to regret and self-reflection?  One reason that people want to deny guilt’s place in society, other than the obvious reason of inconvenient truths, is that  guilt is often mixed up with shame, another powerful human emotion, which has no positive benefits.

In an article (“Guilt can do good;” November 2005) on the site of the American Psychological Association, J. Daw Holloday makes a good distinction between the two powerful and similar emotions:
The difference between the two emotions is best described as public and private, according to June Tangney, PhD, a George Mason University psychology professor and author of several books on moral emotions.
“You feel shame when others know what you’ve done; you feel guilt when only you know,” she said in an invited address at APA’s 2005 Annual Convention. “When people feel shame, they focus on the self--they often feel powerless, worthless or exposed,” she explained. “When people feel guilt, they tend to focus on behavior. Guilt is more proactive.”
In her research, Tangney has found that guilt goes with empathy, and shame goes with anger. “Shame-prone people are more prone to anger and don’t manage their anger constructively,” she noted. Shame, she added, is associated with virtually every DSM disorder.
Does the long-term holding in of unexpressed, unrepentant guilt also lead to mental problems? I think so. How about self-justification of unethical, illegal or immoral behaviour? I also think so. For an excellent peer-reviewed article on moral emotions and moral behaviour, including the difference between guilt and shame, see here. (“Moral Emotions and Moral Behavior,” by June Price Tangney; U.S. Library of Medicine)

Judaism, like many moral religions, views guilt as a necessary emotional corrective on human behaviour. Guilt is good, but one should not wallow in it. As one site ( puts it: “Guilt is good! Lingering guilt is not. Guilt is to the soul what pain is to the body.” No normal person likes pain, but pain is a message that something is wrong with our bodies, our minds, our souls. Guilt acts as the friend that does the hard job of telling undesirable but necessary truths. Not happily welcome, but welcome, nevertheless.

Yet, children, including teenagers, are today given excessive protection from such value judgments, lest their developing psyche (or minds or brains) become scarred, or damaged beyond repair. Or so, says much of parenting magazines and sites. Does it not start with child rearing? Is anti-social behaviour the products of bad parenting? Unlikely, but parents who spare children from such lessons might be sparing them from something that they will have to learn as adults.

It is also true that genetics has a different story to tell, giving some reasons why some children turn out as anti-social adults, why some become sociopaths and psychopaths. Some persons, for reasons that are not completely known and understood, have greater resiliency to bad events, to hard knocks and to failures that beset humans. Long-term anger might be the result of failing to admit wrong or of deep feelings of shame. Anger is also a complex human emotion, and an unpleasant one, too. The key is to understand the roots of such anger.

It is true that some people have an overactive conscience and are weighed down by guilt, feeling guilty for the collective sins of others. While others have none, shut off from any self-doubt, seen as a form of weakness and a denial of their desires for power. This does necessarily equate with sound mental health; it could actually show an inability to admit wrong-doing, the opposite of good mental health.  This also might reflect a society that punishes such revelations of wrong-doing, even if the infractions are deemed minor. A society that punishes candor (to the point of shame) ensures that such admissions of guilt become rare. The harsher the punishment, the less possibility of candor.

So, given such cultural norms or rules, it is not surprising that such “open” and self-aware people are rarely seen at the pinnacles of power; such self-correcting behaviour, such periods of self-doubt would likely work against achieving such positions of power. Ideally, admissions of guilt would be followed by actions of forgiveness.

It is important to discuss openly the difference between guilt and shame, the latter destructive and the former a necessary self-corrective to societal improvement. Guilt is the quiet friend of sympathy and empathy. A society that allows open, sincere and genuine admissions of guilt—and its corollary, forgiveness— is much more healthier than one than does not.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Yaacov Shapiro: Yankele

A Yiddish lullaby, Yankele, sung by Yaacov Shapiro and written by Mordechai Gebirtig [1877-1942]. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe writes of Mordechai Gebirtig, born Markus Bertig:
In Kraków, Gebirtig frequently performed his songs, typically with audience participation. In 1936, a group of friends and admirers published a second collection of them with sheet music, entitled Mayne lider (My Songs). One thousand copies of this collection were printed and distributed, an impressive number for a book of contemporary Yiddish poetry. In 1938—probably influenced by increasing antisemitism and pogroms in Poland—Gebirtig wrote his song “S’brent” (It is burning [listen here to a recording]). Initially, the song did not draw much attention, but during the Holocaust it became popular among young people and in Jewish resistance movements. It was erroneously assumed to have been written during the Holocaust.
Until 1940, Gebirtig lived in Kraków with his wife and family and continued to write songs that reflected the dark mood of the time, although his songs still contained a note of hope for a better future. In October 1940, his family was expelled, with other Jews, to a village on the outskirts of the city, where Gebirtig, whose health was deteriorating, continued to write. One of the songs he wrote then was called “A tog fun nekome” (A Day for Revenge), a song of solace and encouragement about the future downfall of the persecutors. In April 1942, the Gebirtig family was transported to the ghetto, where Mordkhe still continued to write. On 4 June 1942, while being marched to the Kraków train station on the way to the Bełżec death camp, Gebirtig was murdered by random Nazi fire.
You can read more about Gebirtig here.

by Mordechai Gebirtig

Shlof zhe mir shoyn yankele mayn sheyner,
Di eygelach di shvartzinke mach tsu.
A yingele vos hot shoyn ale tseyndelekh,
Muz nokh di mame zingen: ay lyu lyu

A yingele vos hot shoyn ale tseyndelekh
Un vet mit mazel bald in cheyder geyn
Un lernen vet er, Chumesh un gemore,
Zol veynen ven di mame vigt im ayn?

A yingele vos lernen vet gemore
Ot shteyt der tate, kvelt un hert zikh tsu,
A yingele vos vakst a talmid-chochem,
Lozt gantse nacht der mamen nit tsuru?

A yingele vos vakst a talmid-chochem
Un a geniter soycher oych tsuglaych
A yingele a kluger khosn bokher
Zo lign azoy nas, vi in a taych?

Nu shlof-zhe mir, mayn kluger khosn bokher -
Dervayl ligstu in vigele bay mir,
S'vet kostn fil mi unen mame's trern,
Bizvanen s'vet a mentsh aroys fun dir!


Sleep, sleep, Yankele, my handsome son.
Close your little black eyes.
My little one, now that you have all your teeth -
must you make your mother sing you to sleep?

The little boy who has all his teeth
and who, God permitting, will soon go to kheyder
And learn Torah and Talmud -
must he cry when his mama rocks him to sleep?

The little boy who will learn Talmud -
and how glad and proud in his heart
your father is that you'll be learning Talmud -
must he make his mother stay awake all night?

Sleep then, my little one, my clever one
who will be a bridegroom yet.
Sleep while you are still in your cradle by my side.
It will cost your mother many tears to make a man of you.

Women At War: The Photography Of Lee Miller

Resistance To Evil

FFI Worker: Paris, France, 1944. 
Photo Credit: © Lee Miller Archives, England 2014
Source: Aesthetica 
This woman is part of the Forces Françaises de l’Intérieur, or FFI (French Forces of the Interior), as noted by the patch on her sleeve, which shows the Croix de Lorraine, chosen by General Charles de Gaulle as the symbol of the Résistance. The FFI as a resistance group became more prominent during the latter stages of the Second World War.

The war also acted as a catalyst for further women’s emancipation from the roles they previously held; with men off fighting, women worked in factories and conducted espionage and did what was deemed necessary to win the war against fascism. Lee Miller [1907-1977] and her photographs tell a certain story about the war; like many artists, Miller herself is a fascinating and complex figure, very much a product of the 1920s generation in search of something grand.

Complexity is more often than not a result of unresolved internal conflict, which affect those nearest and dearest with a host of human emotions. It is not easy being an artist or the children of one. Anthony Penrose, has written a book about his mother, revealing sides of her personality that he was unaware of while growing up.

The Second World War was a turning point in human history, and its affects still reverberate today. Aesthetica writes: “2015 marks 70 years since the end of the Second World War. When war broke out in 1939, women embarked on a continuous process of change and adaptation. For some, including Miller herself, the war brought a form of emancipation and personal fulfillment, but its many privations caused widespread suffering. Miller’s photography of women in Britain and Europe during this period reflects her unique insight as a woman and as a photographer capable of merging the worlds of art, fashion and photojournalism in a single image.”

The exhibit, at the Imperial War Museums (IWM) in London, England, is scheduled to run from October 15, 2015 to April 24, 2016.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Barbed Wire: A History Of Denying Human Freedom

Human Misery

Trapped: Zaretsky writes: “It does not take a great stretch of moral imagination to portray great swaths of North Africa and the Middle East as one vast concentration camp. It is a region where suffering, disease, and despair are the rule — a camp whose walls of barbed wire have been strung up not by the failing and murderous governments inside, but rather by us along its edges. The barbed wire fences uncoiling in France and Hungary, Italy and Greece are not keeping undesirable elements outside of Europe. Instead, they are keeping those same elements inside zones where death, not life, is commonplace.”
Illustration Credit: Jeremy Traum; for the Boston Globe. 

An excellent article, by Robert Zaretsky, in The Boston Globe looks at the history of barbed wire, including its uses to both keep out and keep in both predators and people. It seems that the history of barbed wire is linked to a misapprehension of whom is the predator. By interpreting and then defining certain groups of people as predators, it becomes easier (on the conscience, it seems) to use and justify ways, even if otherwise inhumane, to keep such persons contained or concentrated outside the gates of humanity.

In “The tangled history of barbed wire (September 27, 2015), Zaretsky, a professor working in the field of modern European intellectual and cultural history. at the University of Houston, writes:
EARLIER THIS MONTH, the Hungarian government, scrambling to seal its southern border against the influx of North African and Middle Eastern refugees trying to reach Germany, placed a bid for 10,000 rolls of razor wire. Though the deal was worth hundreds of thousands of euros, a German manufacturer, Mutanox, wouldn’t sell to the Hungarians. “Razor wire is designed to prevent criminal acts, like a burglary,” explained the company spokesman. “Fleeing children and adults are not criminals.”
Had you doubts about the cunning of history, lay them to rest. From Germany’s welcoming of refugees to its outrage at Hungary’s violent efforts to stop them, the country that, 75 years ago, made barbed wire into the symbol of man’s inhumanity to man has done much to overcome its past.

Yet, the Mutanox spokesman did not fully uncoil the history of barbed wire. Contrary to his claim, one of the hallmarks of our age is that fleeing children and adults have often been considered criminals. Entire peoples, by dint of their race, religion, or social class, have been judged as standing outside either the law or humanity. Stretching between them and us, figuratively and literally, has been barbed wire, whose history tells us much about the plight of today’s refugees. 
Not coincidentally, South Africa was also the birthplace of the modern concentration camp — the demarcation of space by barbed wire, but this time to keep people in and not out. When the British rounded up families from their farms and villages to throttle support, material and logistical, for the commandos, they needed to build camps for the civilians as quickly and cheaply as possible. Barbed wire was as versatile as duct tape: ideal for a thousand different emergencies, only all of them far more insidious. The British turned to barbed wire to serve as the walls for the camps where the civilians were relocated. Though they soon became breeding grounds for disease and despair, these camps, were devoted to the control, not demolition of a people. Nevertheless they gave not only a name, but also a blueprint to the camps that erupted across the European continent in the decades to come.
One of the enduring images of the Holocaust is of individuals, notably children, standing behind barbed wire. Nations today that elect to use barbed wire, whether to keep people out or persons contained within, have decided to use a cheap tangled piece of metal (typically steel), but one so laden with powerful imagery that it defies human reason why it would be considered necessary today. It would seem a foolish choice to make. But, then again, such nations have no recollection of history, or a a desire to look into and grapple with their dark past. Germany has, to a large degree; most of Europe has not.

For more, go to [BostonGlobe]

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Yuri Suhl: One Foot In America

Jewish Life

Kosher Butcher in NYC, 1933: Kenneth Sherman of Tablet writes: “While often charming and whimsical, One Foot in America deals with the most perplexing aspect of the Jewish American experience—the tension between the Old World and the new. Several poignant scenes center on Sol and his ineffectual father, the Talmudic scholar Chaim Kenner. In Europe, Chaim’s erudition and spirituality were praiseworthy; in America, where immigrants are rapidly moving from believing in monotheism to believing in money, otherworldliness is inconvenient baggage.”
Photo Credit: J. B. Lightman; American Jewish Historical Society
Source: Tablet

A book review article, by Kenneth Sherman, in Tablet Magazine looks at the forgotten work of Jewish-Polish writer, Yuri Suhl [1908-1986], and his One Foot in America, a novel originally published in 1950. The story is set in the 1920s and ’30s; Suhl himself arrived in America in 1923, settling in Brooklyn, New York

The book, out of print for decades, has been republished thanks to the efforts of Toronto writer Bill Gladstone, which the Jewish Free Press recounts in a 2011 article. This is a wonderfully descriptive title of the immigrant experience of many Jews, including my father, who immigrated to the United States and Canada before and after the Second World War.

In “Homecoming” (July 13, 2011), Sherman writes:
Henry Roth’s Call it Sleep—a masterpiece of Jewish immigrant life—was published to considerable acclaim in 1932 but soon vanished from literary consciousness. It languished until 1960, when Alfred Kazin and Leslie Fiedler named it “the most neglected book of the past twenty-five years.”
Make it the second-most-neglected book: One Foot in America, Yuri Suhl’s recently reissued immigrant novel, covers much of the same territory as Roth’s masterpiece, but whereas Call It Sleep is dark and brooding, Suhl’s book is a fast-paced, entertaining picaresque.
Published by Macmillan in 1950, the book garnered enthusiastic reviews but has been out of print for over 60 years. It tells the story of Sol (Shloime) Kenner, a good-natured and strong-willed immigrant who relishes his passage from “greenhorn” to fully fledged American in the mid-1920s. The new edition was published in paperback by Now and Then Books earlier this year.
The novel tells Suhl’s largely autobiographical story. He was born in Galician Poland and came to America in 1923. Like his narrator, he settled in Brooklyn and worked at menial jobs while attending night school, eventually graduating from college and making a living by teaching the children of Yiddish-speaking immigrants. Later, he edited the left-leaning magazine Jewish Currents. His interests were broad: He published poetry, children’s books, several works of nonfiction, and two novels. And unlike many of his contemporaries, he gravitated not toward the psychological complexities of the immigrant’s experience but toward its more lively, Dickensian aspects.
I gravitate to such novels, reading them (devouring them, actually) all despite their similarities. But similarities do not equate to sameness. Each story has something to say. adding a piece of the puzzle of what is called the Jewish Immigrant Experience in America (which includes, in my books, Canada), These books tell me as much about life in the Old Country as they do about life then in the Goldene Medina. Therein lies my interest.

For more, go to [Tablet]