29 December 2013

Beginning a Tanya-Reading Project

For a few years, I've been wanting to read through the Tanya (a/k/a Likkutei Amareem), written by Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, since it is a fundamental work of Lubavitcher Hassidim (a/k/a Chabad). This particular sect of Hasidim is not only the most well-known, but also the most financially successful group in Jewish life in recent years, enabling their further growth.  My interest in understanding what makes Chabad tick was also fueled by there being a large amount of Lubavitcher Hassidim in my area.  So, I decided I wanted to read through the Tanya/Likkutei Amareem and decided to buy a Tanya/Likkutei Amarim and, a little over a couple of years ago, I did.  However, aside from getting together a few times with a local Chabad rabbi, I haven't read much of it since then.
So, I realized that I needed to make a project out of it for me to write about it in order to keep me reading it.  So, I decided I'm going to start reading through the first part of the work, the Sefer shel Beinonim, chapter-by-chapter alongside writing about each chapter, so look for those posts to go up on my new blog :)  Wish me luck this time....

26 December 2013

New Blog! Launching Today!

Since beginning to blog exactly 101 months ago (yes, that's 8 years and 5 months) today, I have posted up over 600 posts on this blog (and yielded over 100,000 page visits!), which has been great.  However, over the past few months, I've been yearning to share my views in a different forum (with a bit of a different voice), with, hopefully, a broader audience.  

So, a few weeks ago, I began preparations for my new blog and today, it officially launches/launched! ---> http://DrewsViews.info.

This doesn't mean that I'm shutting down this blog or even stopping blogging on this platform.  It does mean, though, that posts I'm hoping are for broader consumption will be there, whereas more personal posts will go up here.

Yes, I had some issues with my blog in the spring and the summer of 2006 (7.5+ years ago!), where I had been faced with pressure from some rabbis at my rabbinical school about my blogging, so I began to ponder my blog's existence and my continuing blogging (you can tell from the posts that spring that I was trying to not get myself in trouble...)  That then led to two further posts, wherein I enunciated my frustrations with blogging and tried to figure out my blogging voice.  Eventually, I decided, that summer to step back from blogging (considering retiring from blogging entirely), but fortunately, I couldn't stay away and decided to continue sharing.  (Yes, I haven't done much meta-blogging since then, continuing on to blog, but I don't know that anyone really misses it.)  

Anyways, I recently realized that although I want to generate content (especially Star Wars-related (but not only)) for a broader audience, I figured this particular blog is not necessarily the place for it, thus I decided to separate my blogs (and my writing voice on each of them).  As such, there are actually a fair amount of posts on this blog that I decided are worthy of sharing on my new blog.  Thus, I've been sharing collections of links to posts on this blog on my new one that are relevant for that blog, as well, and will continue to do so.

Of course, I still have my professional website up at RabbiDrew.info as well as my quotes blog :)  Feel free to come back here, but definitely check out the new DrewsViews site!

25 December 2013

Talmud Tuesdays?

Yesterday, I posted a few posts up on my new blog (to launch tomorrow) listing posts I've posted up on this blog about the Talmud (feel free to check them out!). They are
As well as Thursday's
Just as yesterday was Tuesday and I posted up a bunch concerning Talmud (and rabbinic literature), I may decide to post about the Talmud and related topics on my new blog on Tuesdays, thus Talmud Tuesdays (or, better, #TalmudTuesday)!  We'll see how I move forward....

23 December 2013

"Firefly" Re-Enters My Life

Having not seen "Firefly" in eight years, I've been recently desiring to watch it again, especially when people make occasional references to it...  Fortunately, a catalyst entered the picture, resulting in my re-watching it!
Originally introduced to "Firefly" on a visit to my sister in the fall of 2005, I then watched the series that fall and finished up with watching "Serenity" eight years ago.  However, a lot of time has transpired since then and I decided to re-watch it.  Granted, one of the aspects that makes it easy to watch, in addition to the quality of the show, is that it is not a significant time commitment, having been cancelled after only a dozen or so episodes airing.  I imagine that's one of the aspects of it that has helped turn the show into a cult classic.
However, this past Hanukah, my sister (again) and her husband gave us, for a gift, the recently-released "Firefly The Game".  I am not much of a board game player, so it was kind of a strange gift, not to mention that I haven't seen the show in eight years.  Although I have greatly enjoyed playing the game, it has been kind of frustrating that I don't remember most of the show. Nevertheless, I am glad that they gave us the game as a gift, since it has re-sparked my interest in watching the show.  Fortunately, my wife has agreed to watching it with me, so that is great :)  
We began watching "Firefly" last week and it is, indeed, a great show and is helping me understand the game ;)

09 December 2013

How I Got Started Getting Into and Making Cocktails

Holding a Canadian Cocktail (from my video series)
A couple of years ago, while visiting some friends, I noticed a book in their apartment building's vestibule (as part of a pile of ownerless books) about cocktails.  Being on a trip (I was in NYC for the first of four sessions of the Rabbis Without Borders fellowship), I was looking for interesting reading material and my interest was piqued by seeing the book.  Part of my initial interest was seeing the cover of the book with its nostalgic look back at the perceived heyday of cocktails.  So, I picked it up and began to learn about the cultural   of cocktails in America, which was fascinating enough.
Now, I had not been new to alcohol prior to then, but I would have the occasional drink or beer, but I wasn't particularly knowledgeable about options (there are several times when I would go to bars with people and have no idea what sorts of drinks I should get). I got interested in and started liking wine in my young-20s after having seen Sideways with my family. In my mid-20s, during rabbinical school, I began to tolerate and even sort of like beer (well, more specifically, lagers). And I had some cocktails with my wife in my upper-20s (although she would advise me what to order, since I wouldn't know what to order (usually, she recommended an amaretto sour (which I enjoyed!)).
Holding a Caipirinha from my video series
When I began reading this cute cocktail book, one thing I read about was about the interest in it and how people were into them in the middle of the century and that although they had gone away in popularity,  they were making a comeback. I also realized that the instructions to make them were simple enough to manage,  so I decided I would take it up as a new hobby.
From November 2011 through April 2012, I explored cocktails as a passion and learned a lot not only about  , but also about making them.  This process included not only building a decently-sized liquor library, but also involved a lot of learning about the constituent elements of cocktails: spirits, liqueurs, as well as mixers.  
Then while leaving the last of the four sessions of Rabbis Without Borders, my colleagues wished me well in my cocktail-making and I wondered if there was a way that they could experience them in some way.  So, on the spot, I decided I would do a video project. The video project upon which I embarked was 30 Days of 30 Videos of 30 Cocktails by a 30-Year Old.  This project consisted of roughly six weeks of five cocktails each, with videos posted daily, Sunday through Thursday.  And it was great!  The project was very enjoyable for a number of reasons: 1) It was structured, 2) It forced me to learn how to make new cocktails (so there was an educational component to it), and 3) It got other people interested in what was going on with the cocktails :)
Once that concluded, I felt a few things: 1) I felt accomplished (in seeing the project through), 2) I felt glad to have had some more video experience, and 3) I felt relieved.  I felt relieved since I had experienced something I had never experienced before: the need to not drink.  My body was not used to consuming alcohol on either a daily basis or with such regularity (and with some videos being filmed twice in one night, I was consuming more alcohol than I was used to).  So, I was very glad/relieved that, shortly after completing my project, I then went away to staff a summer program at a dry camp for a few weeks!
My first-ever daiquiri (from video series)
Upon my return, while I enjoyed making cocktails, I realized that cocktail-making can be tedious just to get a drink and that bourbon was tremendously enjoyable on its own!  So, that fall, I frequently began to turn to bourbon when I wanted a drink rather than a cocktail.  Although I still make cocktails on occasion - especially if there are people over - my interest began turning towards bourbon late summer 2012.  Then, of course, my interest in beer last fall began to take off....  

We'll see how my interest in cocktails will continue....

03 December 2013

My Star Wars Editing Projects

Boba Fett got me started on these projects
In June, while my wife was out-of-town, I decided to have people over to join me in watching something about which I had been curious: Why were people so into Boba Fett?  I knew that he was the bounty hunter who had captured Han Solo in episode V and was part of Jabba the Hutt's partying in episode VI, but why else is he so interesting?  So, I did what any curious person would do: I collated all of the appearances in either cinematic release or television appearances.  Of course, I had to find out all of the places that Boba Fett was shown first.  Then, I gathered them, which was a fun and engaging project.  So, I had the Boba Fett showing, which was great.  
One of my Projects: Removing JarJar from Episodes I and II

I felt good about my Boba Fett Project, however, I then realized "Why stop there?"  I find myself frequently defending Episodes I & II and I realized JarJar Binks had to be removed.  So, I created versions of Episodes I & II with as little JarJar Binks as possible and I also removed the horrible romance scenes in episode II and most of the podracing scene in episode I.

I was satisfied with those outputs.  That is, until I read Nicholas Carlson's Business Insider posting, wherein he writes that people should not "watch the first prequel. It turns out you don't need to. That's good, because that movie is historically awful."  I realized that, yes, most of episode I is useless in the overall scheme of things, but there are some redeeming features that are worth watching in it.  So, I had to do something about that.

I realized that my removal of certain elements in Episodes I & II did not go far enough.  I then removed most of episode I and a minority of Episode II: Episode I becomes entirely about the battle for Naboo and about the Jedi discovering the existence of Sith while Episode II largely remains intact, minus the romantic stuff between Anakin and Padme.  This yields 2.5 hours of screentime, roughly the length of either of these movies.

Whoo!  For the time, I am pretty satisfied about this last project :)  
However, my next one will be to gather all of the Darth Maul material in the Star Wars: Clone Wars series....

02 December 2013

Quoting Rabbinic [and Other] Authors (The Importance of [Rabbinic] Citation IV)

Books don't write themselves
{Previous posts in this series: The Importance of [Talmudic/Rabbinic] Citation, Quoting the Author, "In the Name of"?: A Brief Clarification of Citation in the Babylonian Talmud}

As someone who values the importance of rabbinic citation (รก la the Talmud) (see link above), it is important to me who contributes an idea or is responsible for a statement.  Taken to it's logical conclusion, this leads one to quote someone who wrote a book or generated new thoughts by making mention of their name.  So this means not only quoting those rabbis in the Talmud by name (and, of course, as people are wont to do, to also quote the tractate and page number on which their statement has been preserved), but also those that are post-Talmudic.

Something that bothered me when I was in different yeshivot was that people frequently quoted books, unaccompanied by their authors.  That isn't inherently a problem, of course: if someone says "Such-and-such is in the Shulhan Arukh", it's clear that that idea is found in the book that Rabbi Yosef Karo composed, just as, for instance, one would say "Such-and-such a line is found in The Hobbit", and one would know that JRR Tolkien wrote it.  However, what was difficult to process was when people would say "The Mishnah Berurah wrote such-and-such" - that's a book; it doesn't write itself.  It's just the same as "War and Peace wrote such-and-such" - didn't Leo Tolstoy actually write it?

 I decided, whilst in rabbinical school to buck this trend, and actually quote those who contributed their ideas, spent time, ink, and more on getting their books out there and contributing to the intellectual richness of our people's heritage.  So, I decided to quote not only the books in which certain positions or ideas are taken or espoused, but also those rabbis who made them.  For an example of this move, you can check out a responsum of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein's that I translated (and taught).

I did receive some pushback from my push to cite the authors and not just their book titles, due to it not being how those in the Orthodox community speak.  Sure, it's a lot easier to just say different ideas are written in books - and I can certainly speak that way - but it's more honorable to those authors to quote them.  That, and it makes more sense when hearing it.