The Story Behind…

Over the last few weeks, I’ve accumulated a number of news stories that tell “the story behind the story”. I hope you find them as fascinating as I have:

  • The Story Behind… Damaged Voices. An interesting article from the Guardian explores why so many singing stars have been losing their voices. The answer, on the surface, is that they have damaged their vocal cords. The solution is microsurgery and vocal rest while things heal, and they hope that their voices return to normal. But is that the cause? According to the article: “The rise in vocal injuries is linked to a change in what we consider good singing. Across all genres, it has become normal to believe that louder is better. (One reason that Adele is such a big star is because her voice is so big.) As a result, singers are pushing their cords like never before, which leads to vocal breakdown.” Why didn’t this happen earlier? Artists were taught to sing differently. Two artists quoted in the article, Brilla and Paglin, have been saying this for years. “You cannot solve the problem by simply relieving the symptom,” Brilla said. “It’s a motor problem. The singer has to understand it’s the way you’re running your engine” – the techniques they’re using to sing. “If you don’t fix the engine, it’s going to happen again.”
  • The Story Behind… The Brooklyn Dodgers Moving to LA. Los Angeles celebrates some of its sports teams such as the Lakers and the Dodgers. But neither started in LA. An article from the NY Daily News explores the Dodgers move to Los Angeles. The person to blame: Robert Moses, who designed much of New York’s highways, who didn’t want the new ballpark proposed by the boys in blue.
  • The Story Behind… Jewish Codebreakers. Many folks — especially cryptographers — are familiar with the story of Alan Turing and Bletchley Park (told in the recent movie “The Imitation Game”). But Turning wasn’t alone, and much of the hard work at Bletchley breaking the code was performed by a cadre of Jewish cryptographers. Here is their story. It is written by a former director of GCHQ, who notes: “Their role in codebreaking and in our “signals intelligence” mission was out of all proportion to the size of the Jewish community in Britain at the time. In turn, Bletchley’s contribution to winning and shortening the course of the war and therefore bringing to an end the Holocaust in Europe is clear. Less well known is the role of some of these staff in establishing and building the new state of Israel. This is a fitting time in which to remember and to celebrate their story, and to remind ourselves of the enduring values and unbroken line which links these great individuals and our work today.”
  • The Story Behind… Civil War Statues. Most of us (OK, well a few folks) believe that the civil war statues in the news today were erected to commemorate the civil war, and were put up right after the war. That’s not as true as you think. The reality is that the civil war statues were mass-manufactured, often with generic soldiers, erected half a century after the war (in the first two decades of the 1900s) when organizations like the United Daughters of the Confederacy were looking to reframe and glorify the Confederate cause, and in many states, the descendants of slaves had been stripped of the right to vote, which impeded their ability to effectively voice opposition.
  • The Story Behind… Hurricane Reporters. This really interesting article is a collection of tips for reporters reporting from inside or near a hurricane. My favorite? “Don’t stand in standing water. Let the other idiots get electrocuted — we don’t need them anyway. You, we can’t replace because we’re in a hiring freeze. Also, if you die, we need to fill out a lot of messy paperwork.”
  • The Story Behind… Adult Survivors of Childhood Abuse. This is a really interesting article that explores common behaviors in those who have experienced emotional abuse as a child.



Something I Thought I Would Never Do

I guess there’s a time for everything, for I’m about to do something I never thought I would do publicly, on my blog. Recommend a porn site I recently visited; a site that was truly spectacular and astounded and excited me.

I learned about this site while reading my regular RSS feeds: one of the sites I read pointed to a podcast about the site and its founder.  From there, it was easy to follow the link to the site itself, and to the site’s Facebook Page. Last night, I spend a fair amount of time perusing both sites, and I even brought my wife over to join me in the activity. She was equally engaged with the sites.

Here’s the amazing thing: these porn sites are SFW. And yes, I’m talking about human adult porn, not food porn or horse porn or pet porn or any of the odd picture porn you see on the net.

Of course, I should make clear I’m talking about Porn for Jews. And before you bring in your stereotypes or tropes, don’t bother. This doesn’t play on those stereotypes. It is, however, intellectual porn — and porn that you will only get if you have a deep enough immersion in Jewish religion and culture. If you have that, you will find it hilarious.

Who knows? It might even turn you on. As for me, it’s time to polish the Yod.

(No, that’s not a Boston reference. That’s Yahd. Yod refers to the pointer one uses to read from the Torah. Erin made us one many years ago, and we need to regularly clean it. Get your minds out of the gutter.)


Degrees of Removal | When Are We Going Too Far?

The other day, I saw an article about the potential renaming of a “Jefferson Davis Highway” to something that didn’t celebrate the President of the Confederacy. It got me thinking about the cost of renaming things, and created the urge in me to explore it with a post:

  • Removing Statues. What is the cost of removing a statue celebrating a son or daughter of the Confederacy? First and foremost, there is the surface cost of removing the statue and moving it somewhere that places it in historic context. This, in general, is a cost incurred by government, not private organizations. There likely aren’t significant other references to the statue; it is relatively straightforwards.
  • Changing a Mascot. The next step up is changing a mascot, such as is common with schools that have a “Southern Rebel” as their mascot. In general, this would involve getting a new costume, perhaps renaming a building and changing a few signs. The impact on tradition is harder to cost.
  • Renaming a School or Building. A step up the cost ladder happens when we rename a building. What happens when we rename a public school from “Robert E. Lee Elementary School” to “Sojourner Truth Elementary School”. There is likely the cost of new stationary and new websites, and the cost of resigning the school. There is the association of the old with the new, and how one might deal with old yearbooks and such.
  • Renaming a Street. Here we see a significant cost increase. Changing Jefferson Davis Highway to Emancipation Highway impacts much more than a map. There is significant cost to government: street signs must be changed, directional signs on freeways require update. Property mapping databases require update. Similar updates must occur in all mapping services — an impact not to just the government, but many private organizations. Then there are all the businesses on the street that must update their advertising material and stationary, orders, and such. Homes must order new checks and such. This is a significant impact on private citizens, with no recompense from the government. How do we balance that cost against the impact of the name? Can there be a compromise of changing it to a less offensive name (perhaps dropping “Jefferson”)? This is a much harder question.

Then, of course, there is the overreaction renaming, such as ESPN pulling a sportscaster from a game because his name was “Robert Lee”, or similar reactions to the numerous folks named Jeff Davis and such. That is clearly stupid, and an overreaction (deserving of ridicule).


Feeling Crafty

This collection has taken a while to ripen to fruition:

  • Knitting as a Patriotic Duty. Here’s an interesting article on how knitting helped us win the war. From knitting for the troops to encoding information in garments, knitting has been vital.
  • The Welcome Blanket. Here’s an interesting knitting project: The Welcome Blanket. The aim of the project is to use 2,000 miles of yarn to knit blankets. The significance of that staggering number? It’s the approximate length of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Those participating in the project are asked to knit (or crochet, or sew) a blanket that is 40 inches by 40 inches, which averages 1,200 yards. That means about 3,200 blankets will be needed to meet the goal. Participants are encouraged to make their blankets “something you would like to receive” and think of it as “a gift to a neighbor.”
  • Baby Hats. Don’t want to knit a blanket? How about baby hats? Oklahoma needs 5,000 of them, all in purple. Why? The campaign is part of an effort to raise awareness of Shaken Baby Syndrome, a form of abusive head trauma that’s a damaging parental response to excessive crying and can result in serious brain injury. The effort, dubbed “Click for Babies” after the sound knitting needles make, is intended to highlight the potential hazards of improper infant care. Why purple? Because the National Center for Shaken Baby Syndrome refers to an infant’s period of prolonged crying as the PURPLE period. The word is an acronym for reminders about the syndrome: L, for example, stands for Long-Lasting. Babies can cry for five hours a day, up to four months of age.

Don’t knit. Here’s a non-knitting item:



Of Historical Interest

Over the past few weeks, there have been quite a few articles I’ve uncovered related to California and Los Angeles history:

Speaking of going away….



Household Chum

Sometimes news chum is just useful information. Here’s a bunch of items, all related to your house or your household:



Sex and Drugs

We’ve had the rock and roll, so how about some sex and drugs before the next writeup. Here’s is some news chum I found particularly interesting in these areas:


Three interesting articles related to the subject of sex:

  • Bespoke Porn. Technology changes the porn industry. As free porn has become increasingly available on the Internet through sites like Pornhub, the primary industry in the San Fernando Valley — porn — has been hurt. When people don’t pay, how are actors to earn a living? The answer is a bit of a surprise: Bespoke Porn. What this means is porn specifically made for one individual for their particular tastes. This isn’t always the sex you think. The article notes cases of women fully clothed swatting flies or destroying stamp collections. To each their own; I find this interesting less for the sex aspect and more for the statement it makes about the larger industry.
  • Cosplay Capers. The second article I found explores the trend for cosplayers (usually buxom young women) to create patreon pages where followers can pay to see even more risque photos (usually at the edge of R towards the S T U, but not getting as far as X or multiples thereof). I see this on FB: I have one friend that has befriended a bunch of cosplay models and comments on their pages; thus I see them promoting their patreons. It bothers me what such comments telegraph to others, but that’s neither here nor there. As for the evolution of cosplay, as long as this is the player’s choice I guess it is OK, but I can also see how such images play to the troublesome double standards we see in society.
  • Sex on Stage. Here’s a fascinating article on intimacy directors: that is, those individuals whose job it is to choreography intimacy onstage to make it believable, and yet not cross actors’ personal boundaries.


Here are two articles related to … well, not quite drugs, but something that acts like a drug for the current generation: smartphones.

  • Smartphones and the iGen. As I wrote in my last post, we’re dealing with a teen who constantly has her face in her phone: snapchat, youtube, constant selfies. We don’t think it is healthy, and this article gives some facts and statistics to confirm it. It leads to significant sleep deprevation and depression, and serves to isolate the generation from personal contact and interactions with friends (not in all cases, but as a general statistical sample). It really is an interesting read.  Here’s an example of such a statistic: “All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness. Eighth-graders who spend 10 or more hours a week on social media are 56 percent more likely to say they’re unhappy than those who devote less time to social media. Admittedly, 10 hours a week is a lot. But those who spend six to nine hours a week on social media are still 47 percent more likely to say they are unhappy than those who use social media even less. The opposite is true of in-person interactions. Those who spend an above-average amount of time with their friends in person are 20 percent less likely to say they’re unhappy than those who hang out for a below-average amount of time.”
  • Sinister Screens. Here’s a shorter article that addresses the same subject, and again an interesting quote: Brain-imaging studies have shown that the dopamine released when users are getting their technology fix is akin to what is seen in other forms of addiction — one of the reasons Peter Whybrow, director of UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, has referred to digital technology as “electronic cocaine.”

Bringing It All Together

Now, think about these articles in the large. Are we creating a generation that finds intimacy online through individualized porn and patreon girls? Is this an unanticipated side effect of the growth of the Internet? What does that say about society as a whole?


Very Interesting….

Here’s a collection of articles that I found to be quite interesting (and worthy of comment), and yet ones that are unlikely to fit into a themed post:

  • Garfield is Not Meant To Be Funny. We’re all familiar with the lasgane-eating cat. We read the script, and scratch our heads. Some of us even find Garfield minus Garfield to be funnier.  Turns out there is a reason. Garfield was never meant to be funny; it was specifically designed to be marketable.  That is, Garfield was designed to be able to create plush toys, trite sayings, kitchen magnets, T-shirts, and such — not to be a funny strip.
  • Judaism Isn’t Cheap. The LA Times has an interesting op-ed today on the high cost of Judaism. This isn’t even talking about the cost of living Judaism — kosher food and the like. Rather, it refers to the high cost of Jewish community services, the high cost of synagogue membership. It posits that this is one reason behind declining synagogue membership. I know that at our large synagogue in the ‘burbs, membership dues are high, there are regular additional appeals because dues don’t cover all, and accounting errors lead to additional assessments … plus all the various fundraisers and events that have their fees. If you’re not lucky enough to be middle-class, what do you do. You join with dues assistance, which then makes things even worse for the rest of the congregation. There are some answers, but they take, so to speak, a leap of faith and assumption of a certain amount of risk. They take making synagogues be more than dues for service, rather a relationship you want to support. It’s not an easy question.
  • Dealing with ADHD. We have taken in a cousin who is dealing with ADHD. This is something new to us, and is leading us to be more attentive to the various posts that go around on the subject. Recently, a FB friend brought to light this wonderful ADHD survival guide. I think it has some really good tips that we are going to try.
  • You Are What You Drink. Coke Zero is rebranding itself as Coke Zero Sugar. Why? The new name is intended to make clearer that the drink has no calories, and a new recipe is intended to make the drink taste more like regular Coke. The company isn’t specifying what it’s changing aside from saying it tweaked the “blend of flavors.” It says the drink will use the same artificial sweeteners. Mainly, they are making it look more, and taste more, like Coke. Why? Because “Diet Coke” doesn’t taste like Coke (remember, Diet Coke replaced Tab, which was saccharine based). The push behind Coke Zero comes as people continue moving away from Diet Coke in the United States. Coca-Cola in the past has blamed the declines on concerns over the aspartame used in the drink, though the ingredient is also used in Coke Zero, which has enjoyed growth globally. Note that last bit: aspartame is used in Coke Zero. That’s why I don’t drink it. I either drink water or plain black tea. With respect to that, alas, Starbucks is closing down all Teavana locations. Starbuck has never had a commitment to tea. Note that both Peets and Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf have also been reducing their tea selections, likely because there’s no profit in tea as people don’t doctor it as much as coffee to make it drinkable, and thus they can’t charge the extra $$$. Let’s hope David’s Tea stays around.
  • Dealing with Dementia. Unfortunately, many of us are having to deal with the mental decline of our aging parents. We get diagnoses of cognitive impairment, and often leave it at that. But it turns out that the type of dementia is important to know, for it can impact the approach to treatment. So, for me, this article was interesting simply because of all the dementia we’re dealing with these days.