By Emma Teitel - Sunday, January 27, 2013 - 0 Comments
A chat about his new radio show and, of course, Spenny
Kenny Hotz is a breaker of records in (among other things) octopus wearing, semen producing, bible peddling, and gas passing. Post Kenny vs. Spenny, he’s been covering new–equally gross– ground. There was Testees, a short-lived comedy about human test subjects, Kenny Hotz’s Triumph of the Will, a reality series in which Kenny wanders a Nevada desert naked, tries to get his mother laid, and enlists a Jewish community to help him build a mosque. And now, for the first time in his career, he’s doing radio–with Testees actor, Jeff Kassel. Hotzcast, will debut this month on Sirius XM’s Laugh Attack (XM channel 160), live on Tuesdays at 5 PM ET. Kenny and Jeff will be covering politics and popular culture, with the occasional guest (including, he hopes, Martin Short some day.) Here’s Kenny Hotz on life without Spencer, Hebrew school, the NHL lockout, and his new “no mandate” radio show.
Q: Hi Kenny, how are you?
A: Surprisingly well. Still relevant, thank God. How are you? How is everyone at Maclean’s?
Q: Everyone’s fine, I think. We’re all in cubicles, so I can’t see anyone right now.
A: Yeah that’s good. You don’t wanna see those people.
Q: Tell me about your new radio show.
A: It’s funny because I’m not really a radio guy and my fans have been bugging me for years, telling me to do a podcast, but podcasts are stale and they’re dying now. But I’ve always been a really big fan of radio and I grew up with it. I’m 45 and the early part of my life I spent with headphones on in my basement listening to radio.
Q: What kind of radio?
A: Brave New Waves, 102.1, a lot of CKLN, you know, Ryerson. And then when I moved to Los Angeles I lived in a garage for five years, and it was Howard Stern every morning.
Q: Have you ever met Howard Stern?
A: No, but I heard he liked the show [Kenny Vs. Spenny].
By Emma Teitel - Friday, November 9, 2012 at 1:48 PM - 0 Comments
The Beth Tzedec Congregation’s 12th Annual Jewish Film Festival in Calgary aired an Israeli documentary yesterday about Holocaust survivors who were branded with number tattoos in the Nazi concentration camps. It’s called Numbered. (trailer below).
Israeli Director Dana Doron, who is also a doctor, (she co-directed Numbered with her friend, a well-known Israeli photojournalist named Uriel Sinai), says she was inspired to make the film while working at a hospital in Northern Israel, when an elderly woman came into the ER one day complaining of chest pains. The chest pains turned out to be a ruse; the woman just wanted someone to talk to–someone to tell her story to. Doron noticed the numbers tattooed onto the woman’s arm. She was a Holocaust survivor.
The filmmakers interviewed about 50 survivors for their documentary about what their numbers mean to them: one man played his in the lottery, others chose to have theirs removed. But it’s the children and grandchildren of some of those survivors who have generated the most publicity for the film, because of their controversial decision to brand themselves with the same numbers gouged into the skin of their parents/grandparents. They’ve done so, they say, in remembrance of the tragedy their family members endured, and they believe that getting the tattoos themselves will in some way, honour that tragedy. And ensure that the next generation of Jews “never forgets.” Imitation, however, isn’t always a form of flattery…
In an interview on CBC’s The Current on Tuesday, Doron said that some of the film’s footage that didn’t make the final cut, captures a group of survivors’ horrified reactions when they see one of the tattoos etched fresh into the skin of a young man. It’s easy to see why they were horrified. The numbers were used to dehumanize the Jewish people, and their return, no matter how well-intentioned–is probably offensive to the majority of Holocaust survivors.
Tattoos are also strictly forbidden in Judaism. From the bible:
“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”
Baruch S. Davidson, writing for chabad.org, argues that God forbids tattoos for three reasons:
1. It was common for pagan worshippers to tattoo themselves in honour of whatever particular deity they worshipped, and Jews weren’t and aren’t supposed to do anything that pagans do. “On many occasions the Torah forbids practices that emulate pagan customs,” he writes, “considering that following their traditions is the first step towards ascribing to their idolatrous beliefs.”
2. Circumcision is apparently the only body modification a man needs. “The covenant of circumcision is unique in its being a sign in our bodies of our relationship with G‑d,” Davidson writes. (some relationship). “Making other signs in one’s body would weaken and cheapen this special sign.”
3. ”The human body is G‑d’s creation, and it is therefore unbefitting to mutilate G‑d’s handiwork,” he writes. “It is especially unbefitting for members of G‑d’s chosen nation to mutilate their bodies.”
It’s number 3 that solidifies for me, what is so fundamentally weird, and wrong about getting your own Auschwitz ink. God’s “chosen” people (my people too) may have been forbidden to mutilate their bodies, but history shows that the only thing they’ve been chosen for is exactly that: the systematic mutilation of their bodies, at the hands of the Egyptians, the Spanish, the Nazis, etc. Holocaust tattoos are scars of that mutilation, and there’s something bizarre and frankly, disgusting, about reapproprating another person’s scar. Especially when it’s linked to an experience that is–fortunately–worlds away from your own.
Or as Jonathan S. Tobin writes on the subject in Commentary Magazine:
“Drawing a number on your skin may have meaning to individuals (or, as in one case, serve as a reminder to a young man to call his grandfather) but Jewish identity can’t be rooted in a vain attempt to relive a tragic past. Judaism is an affirmation of life not death. Seen in that light, the attempt by some secular Jews to grab onto a symbol of the slaughter as a way to connect with the past seems more like a futile provocation than a method of perpetuating the memory of this great tragedy.”
Tobin is right. It is a provocation. Worse: it’s a talking piece. Imagine the exchange between a survivor’s freshly tattooed grandson and a girl at a party. Girl: “Cool tattoo. What is it?” Guy: “Oh it’s my bubie’s numbers from Auschwitz. I thought it would be a good way to remember what she went through.” Girl: “Cool. Can I touch it?”
I understand and know the impulse to remember, but I think we can come up with something better–and already have– than the cheap and provocative re-imagining of an atrocity we’ll never understand.
By Julia McKinnell - Thursday, September 6, 2012 at 3:04 PM - 0 Comments
Common fears include fainting, laughing and dropping the Torah
Imagine you’re 13 and all of a sudden your parents want you to stand up in front of a bunch of people and bow, chant and sing for hours. If you’re Jewish, you’ve heard of this. This is called a bar mitzvah ceremony if you’re a boy, a bat mitzvah ceremony if you’re a girl.
For most kids, it’s so nerve-wracking that Matt Alexrod, a cantor at a New Jersey synagogue, thinks it sounds like an angel’s prank. In Axelrod’s new book, Surviving Your Bar/Bat Mitzvah: the Ultimate Insider’s Guide, he imagines a meeting between God and the angels in which an angel raises a wing and says, “I’ve got it! Let’s take young people when they’re just starting to go through puberty, their voices are changing, and they’re socially awkward and self-conscious. We’ll make them stand up in front of all their friends and family and make them sing for hours.” “Splendid idea!” agrees God as he rushes off to another meeting. The angel looks around sheepishly, and says, “Actually, I was joking.”
“But now we’re stuck with it,” writes Axelrod, whose job includes helping kids study for the rigorous coming-of-age ceremony. First, know that the term “bar mitzvah” is an adjective, not a noun or a verb, he tells kids. Don’t say you’re going to a bar mitzvah. Don’t say you bar mitzvahed. To get a handle on its proper usage, insert the term “of age” in place of “bar mitzvah” and use it like this: “Because she is bat mitzvah now, she is able to lead part of the service.”
By Jaime Weinman - Friday, December 2, 2011 at 6:07 PM - 16 Comments
The Israeli government pulls a controversial ad campaign warning Israelis in the U.S. their Jewish identity is at risk
We expect the Israeli government to warn its citizens against the dangers of intermarriage. But the Netanyahu government has been warning Israelis against marrying or associating too closely with other Jews–American Jews. One of the 30-second television ads, pulled from U.S. TV after an outcry among American journalists and bloggers, shows a young Israeli woman living in a U.S. city with a man who is implied to be Jewish-American. The guy, an American hipster if there ever was one, doesn’t understand why his girlfriend is sad on Yom Hazikaron, the Israeli memorial day. “They will always remain Israelis,” the announcer says in Hebrew. “Their partners may not understand what they’re talking about.” Steven Weiss, who first reported on the campaign for The Jewish Channel, summed up the message as “Marrying American Jews could make Israelis lose their sense of identities.” Or as the Netanyahu government sheepishly put it when announcing the cancellation of the project, they “clearly did not take into account American Jewish sensibilities.”
After receiving tips from viewers across the U.S., Weiss collected together several of these ads last month, announcing that “a concerted effort is targeting Israeli expatriates in at least five cities to convince them that their heritage will be lost if they don’t soon leave America to go back to Israel.” The campaign, created by the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, uses every technique imaginable to make Israelis feel that their identity is in danger. One billboard urges people to leave America before their children start calling them “daddy” instead of addressing them in Hebrew. In another TV commercial, an Israeli couple is appalled to discover that their American-raised granddaughter thinks that she’s supposed to celebrate Christmas. The message is clear: Jews born and raised in America might just as well be goyim.
The Atlantic’s Israel specialist Jeffrey Goldberg, who translated some of the ads for his blog, was appalled at finding an anti-American message emanating from official Israeli productions. “I don’t think I have ever seen a demonstration of Israeli contempt for American Jews as obvious as these ads,” he fumed. But Sofa Landver, the minister who runs the department responsible for the ads, thinks that American critics are showing “foolishness” by taking offense, and that the response has been great from its target audience of expatriates: “We managed to touch all the right emotional buttons,” she enthused.
Talking to the Jewish Journal of Greater L.A., Landver said that she has “the highest respect” for American Jews, but that the campaign had nothing to do with Jewishness. “Minister Edelstein is the one who needs to communicate with the Jewish Community,” she said, referring to the Minister of Information and Diaspora. “I’m in charge of returning Israelis.” In other words, these ads aren’t saying that American Jews are less Jewish than Israelis; that’s someone else’s bureaucratic department. They’re just saying, as Landver put it, that “Israelis who linger too long in the Diaspora risk losing their Jewish roots.”
But some observers find it ironic that at the same time the Netanyahu government demands maximum American cooperation and respect, it is signing off on advertisements that portray America as an alien country, sapping the uniqueness of Israelis. “The message is: Dear American Jews, thank you for lobbying for American defense aid,” Goldberg wrote, “but, please, stay away from our sons and daughters.”
By Kate Lunau - Wednesday, November 2, 2011 at 1:10 PM - 1 Comment
An Israeli computer science professor is trying to prove that several different people wrote the Torah together
To Jews and Christians, Moses was the author of the first five books of the Bible, also known as the Torah. But an Israeli computer science professor is trying to prove that several different people actually wrote them together. Working with a team of collaborators, including his son, Tel Aviv University’s Nachum Dershowitz developed computer software that searches a text for hints like word preference—using “said” instead of “spoke,” for example—to divide it up according to how many people probably helped write it.
To test out the algorithm and make sure it was working, the team deliberately mixed up passages from the two Hebrew books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, then had the computer separate them. It did so with 99 per cent accuracy. The software still can’t decipher exactly how many people worked to write the Bible, but it can flag transition points, where one voice shifts to the next.
Experts say the algorithm could have all sorts of applications, such as shedding new light on other mysterious or very old writings, like the nature of Shakespeare’s collaborations, for example. Dershowitz said that providing new detail to Biblical scholarship was gratifying in and of itself.
By Brian Bethune - Friday, February 11, 2011 at 7:00 AM - 36 Comments
From evolution to safe sex, Benedict revealed himself to be a surprisingly activist Pope
In this story first published in 2011, Brian Bethune considered the ways Pope Benedict XVI was changing the Catholic Church:
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, not according to confounded Vatican watchers. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was already 78 years old when he became Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. He was widely seen as the arch-conservative doctrinal enforcer, the sharp spear point wielded by his charismatic rock star predecessor—Joshua to Pope John Paul II’s Moses, in the words of one Jewish scholar. The consensus opinion was that Benedict would provide a quiet, business-as-usual continuance of John Paul’s 27-year reign and, given his age, a brief pontificate that would allow the 1.1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church time to catch its breath and consider its future options.
No one, it seems, asked Benedict what he thought of the caretaker idea.
From inflaming the Islamic world by quoting medieval anti-Muhammad remarks to welcoming disaffected Anglicans into the Roman fold, becoming personally embroiled in the clerical sex-abuse scandal, endorsing the (sometimes) use of condoms, writing a passage in his newest book exonerating Jews from the charge of killing Christ, and a host of less headline-grabbing initiatives (including a casual acceptance of the theory of evolution), Benedict—as he celebrates his 84th birthday and sixth anniversary as Pope (April 16 and 19, respectively)—continues to be far more active, innovative, and outright newsworthy than expected.
By Michael Coren - Thursday, September 9, 2010 at 3:00 PM - 0 Comments
If any one entity epitomizes the new, postwar Germany, it’s this Passion play
There are two explanations as to why the plague didn’t devastate the small Bavarian town of Oberammergau. The first is that, in 1633, the residents made a sacred vow that if they were spared they would repay God by performing a Passion play for as long as the town existed. The second is that the astute Germans who lived in this picturesque settlement at the foot of the Alps posted guards in the area and refused entry to newcomers. The romantic to the prosaic, the theological to the medical. Either way, it worked. While most of Europe was losing large chunks of its population, Oberammergau remained healthy.
And ever since they have kept their word—who would be brave enough not to?—and, with a handful of exceptions for the odd war, the villagers have gathered together to recreate the last days of Christ. It’s usually performed every 10 years, and in 2010 (this year’s play opened May 15 and runs until Oct. 3), more than half a million people will sit for six hours as 2,000 actors, all of whom have to have been born in the town or have been a resident for at least 20 years, continue the plague-defying and God-thanking tradition. It’s a big production and it’s a big business: $40 million in tickets and goodness knows how much in sales of books, hats, bags, pictures, carvings and statues. I write this, by the way, while wearing a deluxe Passion play T-shirt.
By Brian Bethune - Wednesday, October 28, 2009 at 10:47 AM - 19 Comments
An academic looks at how Adam and Eve appear in pop culture
You don’t have to be Christian or Jewish to know the story of Adam and Eve; in fact, you can hardly have escaped it if you lived within reach of Western media over the past 2,000 years. Everyone has a store of expressions alluding to the first humans (whether actual or mythic), from fig leaves to forbidden fruit. We know what that fruit was—an apple—and what it signified: choice, knowledge, sexual temptation. And we all know that Adam and Eve lived in immortal innocence in a paradise called the Garden of Eden. Until, that is, they were tempted by a snake (Satan’s mouthpiece) and “fell,” out of grace and into human life as it’s been ever since—nasty, brutish and short.
We are far less aware that most of the above is unsupported by the brief Biblical narrative (Genesis 2:4 to 4:1), and some of it isn’t there at all. But it hardly matters, as Theresa Sanders notes in Approaching Eden: Adam and Eve in Popular Culture. The story of Adam and Eve—including its centuries of embellishments—is embedded in our deepest cultural DNA. For Sanders, a theologian at Washington’s Georgetown University, “It’s as if the story holds the same allure that the forbidden fruit held for the first couple.” Continue…