Posted by Dennis Wilen
Philadelphia’s prestigious Franklin Institute has named JewishJournal.com contributor Judea Pearl as the 2008 recipient of the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computers and Cognitive Science.
Dr. Pearl, father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl and president of the foundation created in his memory, is Professor of Computer Science and Director of the Cognitive Systems Laboratory at UCLA.
The award has this “citation:”
The 2008 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Computer and Cognitive Science is presented to Judea Pearl for creating the first general algorithms for computing and reasoning with uncertain evidence, allowing computers to uncover associations and causal connections hidden within millions of observations. His work has had a profound impact on artificial intelligence and statistics, and on the application of these fields to a wide range of problems in science and engineering.
The bio and old photos in this embedded Franklin Institute video are great. It also explains what he does and why he got the award in language a mortal might actually comprehend, which itself is amazing!
Mazal tov, Judea!
—The Web Guy
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April 14, 2008 | 10:05 pm
Posted by Dennis Wilen
I was backstage at the Philadelphia-based Mike Douglas show twice.
The first time had to be like 1970 or so when I was the local stringer for Rolling Stone, and John and Yoko were co-hosting with Mike. I met them backstage (with Phil Spector) and then watched the show in the Green Room with Yippie Jerry Rubin where we enjoyed a skinny ‘New York’ joint.
A few years later I was back as the Under-Assistant West Coast Promotion Man for Tanya Tucker with a new country-rock crossover album (TNT), and Tanya was booked on Douglas along with Vidal Sassoon. He was polite when I told him I liked his stuff. A stupid thing to say, but I really did like that shampoo in the brown plastic bottle that smelled sort of almondy.
I knew he was Jewish, of course —Sassoon, Sasson, Sosson, etc. is a very common Sephardi surname—but it didn’t figure in our 15-second encounter.
I hadn’t thought about Vidal Sassoon much since then, until I ran across this article from the Daily Mail that described his tough Jewish boy street-fighting days in post-WWII Britain:
Hairdresser Vidal Sassoon might seem at first to be more at home with a comb and brush than a cosh and knuckleduster, but a radio programme this Saturday will reveal that when he saw his beloved Jewish community in the East End under threat from post-war Fascists, he wielded more than a hair dryer.
As a member of the tough and brave The 43 Group of Jewish former servicemen, Sassoon took the struggle against Sir Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts on to the streets of East London.
When you consider the ferocity of the clashes between the Fascists and The 43 Group in the late Forties - Sassoon likens them to “pitched battles” - it was a miracle no one was killed.
I’d quote the whole article, but that would be wrong, so here is another choice section:
Jewish former servicemen decided to sort out the matter themselves - to take the fight to the streets and defeat the Fascists there.
“After Auschwitz, there were no laws,” says Sassoon of Jewish tactics.
The 43 Group - so-called because of the number of ex-servicemen who turned up to the founding meeting at the Jewish centre Maccabi House in South Hampstead in the spring of 1946 - regularly broke the law in their struggle, and their veterans are proud to have done so.
Their philosophy, instilled into them after six years in the Services, was simple: attack all Fascists.
Armed with clubs, razors, bricks, knuckledusters, broken bottles, knives and everything except guns and bombs, The 43 Group tracked down Fascist meetings to quash them.
Battles were fought in Walthamstow, West Green, Victoria Park, Shoreditch, Hackney, Whitestone Park, Kilburn, Maida Vale, Tottenham and once as far as Brighton, where the Fascists marched only 20 yards before being set upon by a well-organised The 43 Group ambush led by Commander Barry Langford, thanks to a spy in the Mosleyite camp.
“We’re not here to kill,” a former The 43 Group veteran recalls, being told on that occasion: “We’re here to maim.”
Once, when Vidal Sassoon returned to his employers, Alfred Cohen’s hairdressers in Whitechapel, with a black eye the morning after a fight, he explained to a concerned client: “I just tripped on a hairpin.”
The biggest and most regular clashes came in Ridley Road - nicknamed Yiddley Road by the Fascists - in Dalston where the Metropolitan Police had to try to keep the peace during 1947-48.
Sasson recalls the fighting as “horrendous”, but: “You had to be involved, you had to be.”
Later, teenage WWII vet Vidal fought in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
How cool. I think I might seek out that familiar old brown bottle again.
—Dennis Wilen, The Web Guy
April 10, 2008 | 10:23 am
Posted by Jay Firestone
video by Jay Firestone
Can you taste the difference between two different matzahs?
For some, it may be quite a feat to positively identify one matzah from another. But I know that each matzah is unique in texture, flavor, scent and shape.
Here are a few tips to follow, in case you ever find yourself in the position to be a professional matzah taste tester.
1) Look at the matzah. How many holes to each row? Is the matzah square or round. If its square, its usually machine made; if its round, its usually handmade.
2) Feel the matzah. Check its smoothness, or lack there of. Are the sides sharp or smooth?
3) Smell the matzah. What flavors do you smell (egg, grape, onion, wheat)?
4) Break the matzah. How brittle is it? A crisp, clean break can certainly prove advantageous when making a Hillel sandwich.
5) Finally, taste the matzah. Take a small bite. Allow the crumbs to fall to the back of your mouth, while you gently take short quick breaths. This will allow the matzah to aerate…wait for the explosion of flavor.
Using these tips, you should be able to determine if a matzah is worthy of afikomen status or just good enough for matzah pizza. Don’t be alarmed if you can’t taste the difference yet…give it a few months, visit a few matzah factories, buy a few boxes.
In time you, too, can become a matzah connoisseur.
For more information, visit JewishJournal.com or email VideoJew@jewishjournal.com
April 7, 2008 | 4:13 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
They call themselves the Kitniyot Liberation Front on Facebook, and they are fighting for beans.
Name: Kitniyot Liberation Front
Type: Common Interest - Religion & Spirituality
Description: To all eaters of kitniyot during Pesach, and to all who believe that kitniyot are not forbidden and can not be - the Kitniyot Liberation Front has come to Facebook!
I’m all for it, as I find that turning Sephardi every Pesach is alarming my family, which has been Ashkenazi since always.
Moral of the story: When you’re building a wall around the Torah, make sure you don’t wall ordinary Jews out.
—The Web Guy
April 3, 2008 | 4:53 pm
Posted by JewishJournal.com
I can’t feature this video on our home page yet because it’s only in Hebrew and French (no English) but this hip-hop version of ‘Hatikvah’ by Francky Perez et Broadway is stunning.
Stay tuned for a subtitled version in two weeks, Francky says.
Meanwhile, here are my subtitles:
As long as in the heart, within,
A Jewish soul is yearning,
And to the edges of the East, forward,
An eye gazes towards Zion,
Our hope is not yet lost,
The hope of two thousand years,
To be a free nation in our land,
The land of Zion and Jerusalem
Kol od baleivav p’nimah
Nefesh y’hudi homiyah
Ulfa’atei mizrach kadimah
Ayin l’tziyon tzofiyah
Od lo avdah tikvateinu
Hatikvah bat sh’not alpayim
Lihyot am chofshi b’artzeinu
Eretz tziyon viyrushalayim
Francky Perez raps:
If you knew how I love her, you’d see how I feel
If you know where I’m from then you know what Is-real
If you’ve bled like we’ve bled, died like we’ve died
Seen what we’ve seen and cried like we cried.
You know how we love her, treat her like a son does his mother
Or a father does his son, and the brothers do each other
For every stone we move, and all the land we lose
As life get hot like the desert sands in June
And everywhere is the same, and the only real change is
Everyday new faces that feel the same hatred
It’s like we’re caught in the Matrix, we need The One to save us
The can bomb us, the can kill us, but they will never break us
The beach air is so clear, and the sand is like cotton
In a land that’s been foresaken but has never been forgotten and
I turn to the East and pray as the sun warms my skin
The voices of my elders and the places they have been
We have overcome the wait, overcome our fate
Underestimated and overcome the pain
5000 years of history, whether you know it or not
That’s why we defend the Land like it’s all that we’ve got
‘Cause it’s the only safe place to raise my kids
The family how can it be so hard to let us live
They welcome me with open arms, even though times are hard
As peace is like a memory that drifts between the songs
We built this city out of blood, made buildings out of mud
That’s why I wrote this song—for respect and out of love
For my descendants, every like every sentence
It’s time for us to celebrate our independence
This is God’s city, Jerusalem—Yerushalayim
The only place where we live without the fear of dying
Doctor, mothers, sons, prophets and teachers
Believe is what we do—od lo avda tikvateinu
—The Web Guy