Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A Latke to Learn

Now that Hanukkah's in the rear view mirror — which is funny, of course, because as everyone knows Jews don't have reflections — let's see what I can do to impart some knowledge upon you poor, poor souls who have yet to enjoy a December holiday.

Alex J. Cavanaugh asks:
How many Jewish homes have caught fire due to Shabbat candles?
None. But throughout history, 482,378 Jewish homes have caught fire due to Shabbat candle owners. I tell you, we Jews are an unstable, arsonistic bunch.

Bonus trivia: In Brooklyn between 1961-1964, approximately 83 homes burned due to the Shabbat Candles, a local gang whose favored method of warfare was lobbing Manischewitz Cocktails. (They easily bested the rival Maccabeasts until the latter began wielding sharpened dreidels.)

Aunt Sharon asks:
What do you eat during Hanukkah?
On the first night, I eat latkes with sour cream and applesauce, tsimis, and a tuna curry my dad makes. On days two through five I partake in a variety of meats, fruits, vegetables, breads, and ice creams. Day six is all about Thai food. Day seven, nothing but Christmas cookies.

And then, on day eight, I finish out the holiday by feasting upon a still-beating human heart, freshly carved from the chest of a non-believer.

Of course, only the latkes and tsimis have any cultural relevance. But hey, you asked.

She also asks:
Is any one of the eight days more important then the others?

MoZ asks:
I want to know more about the yarmulke. We can start with what styles and colors are in this season. Is it common to have seasonal yarmulke(s)? When does The Professor get to wear one?
This winter, the hottest trend among fashion-conscious Jewry is a red 600-thread count satin kippah edged in 24-karat gold filigree with three small diamonds set at its center (which, obviously, represent the Jewish holy trinity: diamonds, diamonds, and diamonds).

Some prefer seasonal yarmulkes, but many choose their style based on current fads and popular culture. In recent weeks, for instance, aluminum R2-D2 and BB-8 style skullcaps have been flying off the shelves. And throughout the election cycle, the most politically conservative Jews have been sporting a Trump™. (The most liberal Jews have also been sporting a Trump™. They've just been doing so ironically.)

As for The Professor (i.e. my son), he's only half-Jewish. So he gets to wear one half the time. We have an alarm set to go off every other minute.

Naomi asks:
How upset were Mary and Joseph when Jesus betrayed their faith and converted away from Judaism?
They weren't upset at all. Two reasons.
  1. He never converted. What, do you think he became a Buddhist? A Zoroastrian? A Roman? Hardly. He was exploring other options, sure, but he was a Jew to the end. (He would have made a great Buddhist, though.)
  2. You can't stay mad at Jesus. Go ahead, try. You just can't. He was too good a guy. And his parents loved him. Sure, they worried about him whenever he ran off with his roving gang of disciples, but he was their son, and they were proud of him. Also, disappointed. What, he couldn't find a nice Jewish girl and settle down? And what does a woman have to do to get some grandkids?

And Josh brings us to a close with:
What the heck is going on with those silly Eruv strings? Or, put another way, how much string should a rabbi string if a rabbi did string string?
Eruv strings? In essence, they're a life hack. That's right, Orthodox Jews are gaming the system.

Strict Jews are prohibited from carrying items (such as babies or keys or medicine) out of their home on the Sabbath. An eruv, a ritual enclosure that acts as a shared public domain, is often defined by walls, but its borders can also be demarked by wires or strings. This allows Jews to carry things (such as silly string or a tune or on with an affair) within their neighborhood without the scorn and crippling shame they would otherwise feel.

Your move, G*d.

As for the alternate version of your question, the answer is simple: 1.72 hectares per cubic second.

And that'll do it for this year's Jew & A. Especially since my son's yarmulke alarm is going off again. Time to get it back on his head.

Monday, December 14, 2015

You've Got a Latke to Learn

A few goyim friends have kvetched about not having a Jew & A during Hanukkah this year. Clearly, they didn't realize that the Hebrew calendar is such that next year's Hanukkah actually started yesterday.*

* You may not be able to find this information on any other site. But who are you going to believe: me, or the internet?

What this means is you still get to participate in my 6th Annual Jew & A. Basically...

I will answer any question you have about Judaism.

That's right: Post any question(s) you might have about Jews or Judaism in the comments section before Hanukkah Secondah ends (i.e. sundown on 12/20), and I will answer them for you.

Perhaps you've always wanted to know how to identify if someone's Jewish just by looking. Or which styles of yarmulke are in this holiday season. Or maybe you're dying to know if the Red Sea naturally parts on the right or the left. Whatever your query, send it my way. Even if it's been asked before, don't let that stop you — much like the Jewish calendar, the answers to such questions are in constant flux.

So, what do you want to know?

The Original Primer and Past Jew & A's:

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Winners of the Heroes & Villains Haiku Contest!

If you're wondering why it took over three weeks to name contest winners, I've been busy. You know, for the usual reasons: I was attacked by a pack of rabid squids, it took ages to find that one missing sock, and of course, for a few days in there I completely forgot where I lived.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who entered! You made it tough to pick the winners; I switched sides a few times, double-crossed myself, added a bonus prize... and then went evil.

If your entry isn't highlighted below, know that it was still super. Unless you're my dad. And if you haven't done so already, make sure to check out all the entries.

Honorable Mention

As usual, Joelle found a way to work in pantslessness.
Being a hero
Means having courage to wear
Underwear outside.
And as usual, someone found a way to go sophomoric. In this case, it was j. james (who, interestingly enough, also had the most literary entry).
Wonder Woman plane
Has Invisible bathroom
Hard to poop in there
And my nephew Solly had by far the best haiku of anyone under the age of 30. (He's 4.)
Superheroes fly.
Superheroes have power.
They land on the ground.

First Place - Humorous

j. james eked out the humor win with his crack at the dark knight.
Batman likes his tights
Powder helps to slip them on
Robin thinks they stink

First Place - Traditional

Christine takes this prize with a bit of duality.
I have both in me
Push off the cliff and rescue
Always wear my mask

First Place - Delicious

Yup, I decided to go with a third winner after all. Like Winnie the Pooh, I always follow my stomach. This one goes to Marian Allen for her different take on the topic.
Turkey, ham, and cheese
Within a cloak of fresh bread --
My kind of hero.

First Place - In Which I'm Evil

And lastly, my sister Naomi entered one of my favorites of the competition, in part because it resonates so much with the writer in me...
Who intends evil?
No one. Your villain may be
Somebody's hero.
...however, I'm biased against her, so I decided she doesn't get a prize. Which means I'm being evil just to be evil, and thus negates her haiku. Ha!

And that brings my 6th annual haiku contest to a close. Marian, Christine, and j. james, if you haven't already heard from me, please write me at so I'll have your email address and can send the Amazon gift cards your way.

One final haiku
Not for any real reason
Um... Excelsior!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Haiku Contest: Heroes & Villains!

*** The contest has ended. Check out the winners! ***

Up on the blog: It's a beard! It's a plane! It's my 6th annual haiku contest!
We've previously honored ninja, pirates, robots, space, and the ocean. But now it's time for our haiku to honor those who have done so much for (or against) us: heroes and villains.

It's not difficult.
You know what syllables are?
Just use seventeen.

Simply follow standard haiku structure (5 syllables, then 7, then 5 again) and make it have something to do with heroes and/or villains. However you interpret the theme is entirely up to you.

To enter, write your haiku in the comments section below. Two or three lucky winners will receive $25 million in unmarked bills $25 Amazon gift cards.

I will be selecting the best haiku in each of two categories:
  • Humorous/Creative
  • Traditional (i.e. eloquent, evocative, etc.)
In addition, I may also reward a third entry. Or I may not. Because I am maniacal, and like to keep you guessing.

The deadline to submit a haiku is this Thurssday, May 7 at 5:00pm (Eastern Time). Official "rules" are below.

Official "Rules":
  1. To enter, post hero- and/or villain-themed haiku in the comments section below. Multiple submissions are allowed, but if you submit more than five (5) entries, you'll have introduced too many characters and won't be able to protect all of them. The newest additions will slashed mercilessly.
  2. Standard haiku rules apply. To qualify, each entry must be a three-line poem, the first line containing exactly 5 syllables, the second line 7 syllables, and the third line 5 syllables. If you miscount and fall short, your poem will enter battle vastly outnumbered and will not survive. If you run long, I'll start cutting before you finish. (In other words, don't start monologuing.)
  3. The contest is open until Thursday, May 7, 2014 at 5:00pm, Eastern Time. If an entry arrives after the deadline, it'll make me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry. HAIKU SMASH!
  4. Entries must be in English. (i.e. Using Japanese kanji will not help you win for best traditional haiku.) If I can't understand your entry, it proves you're a creature of unknown origin hell-bent on world domination. I'll give the prize money to others, so they can finance our planet's defenses against you.
  5. Anonymous entries will not win. Heroes have alter egos, so if you provide no name it means you're a villain, and I can't trust anything you say. You won't poison me with your lies. And you will never win.
  6. Prizes will be awarded in each of two (2) categories: Humorous/Creative and Traditional. A third prize may be awarded if the mood (or a muscle-bound guy in tights) strikes me.
    • First place winners will each receive a $25 Amazon gift card.
    • An indeterminate number of Honorable Mentions will receive both mention and honor. Not necessarily in that order.
  7. I will act as sole judge, and select the winning haiku based on the aforementioned criteria, as well as other criteria I make up as I go along. All decisions are final, and will not be changed under any circumstances. Unless you can give me some sort of superpower. Then I'm totally changing my mind.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Pop Quiz

  1. What is the proper response for someone upon first seeing I have a new blog post?

    1. "Excellent! Some Nately humor is exactly what I need today. Make me laugh, you crazy monkey."
    2. "I'll click, but there'd better be some pictures and stories of his son." [clicks on link] [scans post] "Great. That's ten seconds of my life I'm never getting back."
    3. "Wait — people still have blogs?! That is so 2011. Get out of the stone age, you troglodyte!"
    4. [keeps scrolling through feed, looking for cat videos]
  2. This is my first blog post in three months. Why haven't I blogged at all during this time?

    1. I've been lazy. I mean busy. Or in a coma. Yeah, that's it: a coma.
    2. I haven't had anything interesting to say. Sure, that never stopped me before, and it's not stopping me from writing this post, but... um... I had a point. No matter, it's obvious this is the correct answer.
    3. I've been working on a top secret project for the U.S. government. I can't share the exact nature of my work, but I will say it involves weapons-grade plutonium and ten dozen free-range chickens.
    4. Other: ____________ (insert answer in the comments)
  3. After this extended hiatus — the longest I've ever taken — why did I choose to return to blogging?

    1. Blogging is fun! Wheeeeeee!
    2. I figured I should alert people to that fact that I still have a blog, seeing as how I'm going to announce a new haiku contest next week.
    3. Revenge. Revenge on whom, you ask? Oh, you'll find out soon enough. Yes you will. Mwahahahahaha!
    4. I could no longer stand idly by while the world suffered through such a horrifying shortage of footnotes.1
Okay, pencils down. Now tally up your scores and consult the chart below to see how you fared.

0-3: You sicken me.
4-12: You were just guessing, weren't you? Admit it.
13: You win!2
14-18: Ooh, you overshot the mark. Stop trying so hard.
19+: Damn overachiever.

1 And with this meager offering, the Great Footnote Famine of 2015 officially comes to an end. #NeverForget
2 What do you win? This magnificent footnote! (To place it in your trophy case, simply chisel it out of your screen.)

Monday, January 26, 2015

"...So, I Get Ten Ninja Clowns"

Over the holidays, my son branched out. He's still enthralled with construction trucks, but now he's equally into Legos and games. And thanks to one of the latter, he's also getting good at telling stories (which never stay on plot, but always include a boy seeing a burning building).

Anyway, these aren't even the craziest things my son has said the past couple months. They're just the craziest ones I remembered to write down.

We're starting dinner, but he's still in the living room. I know nothing we're eating that night will entice him to stop playing, but there's also a bowl of fruit on the table. So I call out, "I'm eating one of your graaaapes."
From the living room: "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO(now keep in mind he's never seen The Simpsons or Family Guy or anything like that)OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO(so we have no idea where he got this from)OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO(but he kept going for 8-10 seconds)OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!"

And then he comes to dinner. Five minutes later.
I have just left the room. My nephew turns to my son.
"We need to see Uncle Nat."
"No, he's gone forever."
"Why don't I have brothers or sisters?"
"Because Mommy and I haven't had any other kids yet. Do you want a brother or sister?"
"I want Nick and Alex [his cousins] to be my brother and sister. I want Nick to be my sister and Alex to be my brother."
I'm trying to explain the concept of English.
"We speak English."
"I don't."
"Sure you do. The language we speak is called English."
"No, I speak Normal."
"Can I PLEASE eat the head of Santa?"
He stands next to one cousin, who is 7" taller, and looks up at him.
"We're the same size!"
To a cousin, while in said cousin's house:
"Did you know you have toys in your basement?! Come on, I'll show you!"
Explaining the rules of a game we're "playing":
", I get ten ninja clowns."

As you might expect, the game has absolutely nothing to do with clowns, barely anything to do with ninjas, and he had just rolled a 6.
He holds up something built out of Duplo-style Lego blocks. It looks like a top-heavy tower.
"I made a pewer with a window."
"A what? You mean a tower?"
"No, a pewer."
"A pewer?"
"With a window."

It took another 20 seconds of back-and-forth before I figured out what a pewer is. (It's something that you point at people as you go "Pew! Pew! Pew!") (Duh.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

For the First Time Ever

My first 13 Christmases were spent at home, without any sort of celebration (unless the day happened to coincide with Hanukkah). I spent my next 16 Christmases in movie theaters and Chinese restaurants. Then I met my wife. The past 8 Christmases have been more "traditional" in their yuletide cheer: trees and gifts and ham and cookies and gifts. And for some reason, myrrh.

And yet, despite this year being Christmas #37 (of a sort), I still managed many Christmas firsts...
  • For the first time ever, I saw It's a Wonderful Life. Wow. Jimmy Stewart is an amazing actor.
  • For the first time ever, I saw Elf. Wow. Will Ferrell is an actor.
  • For the first time ever, I performed a christening. Only afterward did I learn it's not traditionally done with two bottles of wine, and also there's no reason to ever christen a driveway. But in my defense I'm still relatively new to all this stuff.
  • For the first time ever, I watched grown men battle for victory in perhaps the most hotly contested game of dreidel ever — a game that did not involve real money or real chocolate. The lone Jew (me) was ousted first, leaving six Catholics to vie for the crown — and there wasn't even a real crown.
  • And for the first time ever, I watched my three-year-old son receive a Nerf gun that shoots darts up to 100 feet, weighs nearly 5 pounds, and is 4 inches taller than he is. Thanks a lot, Tim.