Bob Schwartz

Category: Uncategorized

United Nations: Translating Idiot

United Nations and Trump World Tower

In honor of the United Nations and the meeting of its General Assembly, following are different ways of saying “idiot” in many world languages. (Note: It is surprising how many languages use the word “idiot” unchanged. It appears to be a globally recognized phenomenon.)

Albanian idiot

Basque idiota

Belarusian ідыёт

Bosnian idiot

Bulgarian идиот

Catalan idiota

Croatian idiot

Czech idiot

Danish idiot

Dutch idioot

Estonian idioot

Finnish idiootti

French idiot

Galician idiota

German Dummkopf

Greek βλάκας (vlákas)

Hungarian idióta

Icelandic Hálfviti

Irish leathcheann

Italian idiota

Latvian idiots

Lithuanian idiotas

Macedonian идиот

Maltese idjota

Norwegian idiot

Polish idiota

Portuguese idiota

Romanian idiot

Russian идиот (idiot)

Serbian идиотски (idiotski)

Slovak idiot

Slovenian idiot

Spanish idiota

Swedish idiot

Ukrainian ідіот

Welsh idiot

Yiddish ידיאָט

Armenian ապուշ

Azerbaijani idiot

Bengali নির্বোধ

Chinese Simplified 白痴

Chinese Traditional 白痴

Georgian idiot

Gujarati ઈડિયટ્સ

Hindi बेवकूफ

Hmong ruam

Japanese 馬鹿

Kannada ಈಡಿಯಟ್

Kazakh есуас

Khmer របុសផ្លើ

Korean 백치

Lao idiot

Malayalam വിഢ്ഢി

Marathi मूर्ख

Mongolian эргүү тэнэг

Myanmar (Burmese) လူထုံ

Nepali मुर्ख

Sinhala මෝඩයෙක්

Tajik нощисулащл

Tamil முட்டாள்

Telugu ఇడియట్

Thai คนบ้า

Urdu مورھ

Uzbek tentak

Vietnamese kẻ ngốc

Arabic الأبله (al’abalah)

Hebrew אִידיוֹט

Persian ادم سفیه و احمق

Turkish salak

Afrikaans idioot

Chichewa chitsiru

Hausa wawa

Igbo onye iberibe

Sesotho sephoqo

Somali doqon

Swahili idiot

Yoruba ode

Zulu silima

Cebuano buangbuang

Filipino tanga

Indonesian Idiot

Javanese bodho

Malagasy adala

Malay bodoh

Maori pōrangi

Esperanto idioto

Haitian Creole moun sòt

Latin stultus


Fake Candle, Real Light

I keep a flameless LED candle on a table. I frequently light the candle, by a switch on the bottom (it also has a timer). It is not the kind that is meant to look like a wax candle, or one that hides the obviously fake plastic cutout of a flame. It is what it is: a battery-powered white plastic cylinder that lights up and “flickers.”

Someone came by and suggested I might better have a real candle with a real flame burning. She called the candle “ersatz.” My first answer is that keeping real candles burning unattended is unsafe and possibly messy. But that’s not my real answer.

The light from this candle is real. When I walk into the dark room, it lights the way. When I light it, it brightens. When I turn it off, it darkens. True, if I were expecting the candle to warm me, it won’t do that, although a single candle isn’t much good for that anyway. I don’t know what more I could ask of this candle (remember, it has a timer, and so can even turn itself on and off).

That light is quite real enough for me.

Other Brothers and Sisters

I reconnected with a old and neglected friend this past weekend. When we lived nearby more than twenty years ago, we immediately knew each other as soul siblings. I thought of him as a brother then and, after a one hour conversation and learning that circumstance has place us only about an hour apart, I think of him as a brother still—despite the extended absence and silence.

Brothers and sisters are a special category of friends. I’ve never much liked the “best friends” category, because if someone is first—and they may well be—someone is second or third. And when you look at some of those who are not the best friend, but still beloved, do they really belong in a lower tier?

So even though I have only one sister—who is my “best sibling”—I have other brothers and sisters. Not many, but always enough. I am thankful for that.

The Currently Uncoolest Person in America: Louise Linton (Mrs. Steve Mnuchin)

If you don’t follow the horror film franchise that is the Trump administration (and why should you?), this morning’s story is about Louise Linton, the wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin:

New York Times:

Mnuchin’s Wife Mocks Oregon Woman Over Lifestyle and Wealth

AUG. 22, 2017

WASHINGTON — The wife of the Treasury secretary on Monday night took a page from President Trump’s social media playbook for punching down.

Louise Linton, the labels-loving wife of Steven Mnuchin, replied condescendingly to an Instagram poster about her lifestyle and belittled the woman, Jenni Miller, a mother of three from Portland, Ore., for having less money than she does.

The brouhaha began when Ms. Linton posted a photograph of herself disembarking a military jet emblazoned with official government markings. She had joined her husband on a quick trip to Kentucky with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell.

“Great #daytrip to #Kentucky!” Ms. Linton, 36, wrote under the photograph. She then added hashtags for various pieces of her expensive wardrobe, listing #rolandmouret, #hermesscarf, #tomford and #valentino.

Ms. Miller, 45, wrote under the photograph, “Glad we could pay for your little getaway. #deplorable.”

Instead of ignoring Ms. Miller, Ms. Linton — whose account had been public — replied with snark. (Ms. Linton changed her Instagram account to a private setting soon after the photograph was posted.)

“Aw!!! Did you think this was a personal trip?! Adorable!” she wrote. “Do you think the US govt paid for our honeymoon or personal travel?! Lololol. Have you given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?”

Ms. Linton went on: “I’m pretty sure we paid more taxes toward our day ‘trip’ than you did. Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours.” After that, she included emojis of a curled bicep and a face blowing a kiss.

“You’re adorably out of touch,” she said, later adding, “your life looks cute” before concluding, “Go chill out and watch the new game of thrones. It’s fab!”

Mr. Mnuchin is a wealthy businessman and a former executive at Goldman Sachs who worked on deals with Mr. Trump before Mr. Trump became president. Ms. Linton is an actress who posed with the diamonds she wore at their June wedding for a Town and Country magazine spread.

Here’s Ms. Linton/Mrs. Mnuchin talking about all the jewels she wore at their June wedding:

The engagement ring: “We were at Art Basel in Miami a few years ago and we walked past a jewelry store. We stopped to admire the shape of an oval engagement ring in the window. It’s quite an old-fashioned shape but I love it. Three years later he proposed to me with an oval ring just like the one we saw in the window.”

On her pearl drop earrings: “I love how easy pearls are to wear with anything and everything. Pearls are elegant and demure. They remind me of the femininity and grace of the ’40s and ’50s. They make me think of Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder and The Birds. Those women were so chic.”

On her diamond necklace: “The stones are brilliant cut which makes them sparkle at night. It fills me with awe to consider that before they were found, these diamonds had been sitting undisturbed beneath us for hundreds of millions of years over 100 kilometers deep in the earth’s mantle.”

On this pair of earrings, converted to a ring: “A friend gave me these pave earrings for my law school graduation. When I put them on I felt very serious. I got creative and took them to a local jeweler to turn them into a cocktail ring. He just cut off the posts and soldered them onto a band! They sit diagonal to each other on your finger which is unexpected and kind of cool. It’s great to be able to make something new you love out of something old.”

(Note: With all due respect, it appears she attended an unaccredited law school in L.A., which may explain why it took earrings to make her feel “very serious.”)

On her cluster earrings: “These date back to the 1920s. They’re starburst and reminiscent of Old Hollywood glamour. I love to think about who wore them over the generations… I can imagine them on Eva Marie Saint, or Ava Gardner, or Lauren Bacall. Where did they go from there? What did they signify to the women who wore them before me? Who will own them in the future? You never really own a diamond. You just get to keep it for a while before it begins a new journey with someone else.”

On her diamond eternity band: “I love the emotional symbolism of the eternity band as a wedding band. It’s like wearing the infinity sign on your finger and represents the cyclical and enduring aspect of love.”

On her asscher cut stud earrings: “These small Asscher cut studs were a Valentine’s gift a few years ago. We took our dogs to a little ranch hotel in California for the weekend. The earrings always remind me of that trip.”

On her diamond necklace: “This necklace looks like a large diamond pendant but if you look closely it’s made of lots of little stones in differing shapes. My character in Serial Daters Anonymous [2018] wears it through most of the film!”

On her pearl earrings: “I bought these freshwater pearls from the gift shop at the Kennedy Center when I went to see the ballet curated by dancer Misty Copeland in April. I arrived early and was browsing the gift shop where a local artisan was selling her handmade jewelry. They’re so natural, simple and pretty.”

On her “ten to ten” engraved necklace: “As a child, my mother and I always used to look at the clock at ten to 10. We’d find one another and say, ‘It’s ten to ten!’ and it became our little thing. She died when I was 14, but I always remembered that tradition. One of my friends gave me this silver necklace engraved with this as a simple reminder of my mom. I feel very close to her when I wear it.”

The Trump administration specializes in remarkably uncool people, starting with Trump himself. It just happened that my music this morning veered towards one of the coolest people, with a track that seems perfectly appropriate.

Here’s Sia with Cheap Thrills:

Come on, come on, turn the radio on
It’s Friday night and I won’t be long
Gotta do my hair, I put my make up on
It’s Friday night and I won’t be long
Til I hit the dance floor
Hit the dance floor
I got all I need
No I ain’t got cash
I ain’t got cash
But I got you baby
Baby I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight
(I love cheap thrills)
Baby I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight
(I love cheap thrills)
But I don’t need no money
As long as I can feel the beat
I don’t need no money
As long as I keep dancing

Everything you need to know—literally everything—in one not bright moment: “Trump celebrates solar eclipse by looking up without special viewing glasses.”

Washington Post:

Like many Americans across the country Monday, President Trump gazed at the first solar eclipse in a century to cross the continental United States, coast to coast.

Emerging with first lady Melania and son Barron on the Blue Room Balcony of the White House shortly before the eclipse reached its apex, Trump waved at the crowd and responded to a reporter’s question — “How’s the view?” — with a thumbs up, according to the White House pool.

Then he tilted his head upward and pointed up, prompting a White House aide standing beneath the balcony to shout “don’t look,” according to the White House press pool.

People Evolve Slower Than Things

People evolve slower than things. Sometimes much slower.

This is not the only or ultimate key to understanding this modern world.

But faced with one puzzle after another—How could this be happening?—it explains a lot.

People evolve slower than things.

Knowing Back Not Going Back

Sources: An anthology of contemporary materials useful for preserving personal sanity while braving the great technological wilderness

Now there’s more to do than watch my sailboat glide
But every day can be a magic carpet ride
A little bit of courage is all we lack
So catch me if you can, I’m goin’ back
Goin’ Back, Gerry Goffin & Carole King

You can’t drive a car forward looking in the rear view mirror. That’s how you crash.

But if you are someone who swam in the idiot wise sea of a different time, not really so long ago, you look at some of the riches that you caught floating by, open this or that broken-binding book and say: we might use this now. They might use this now, if it wasn’t considered so old and out of touch with now. Not to mention out of print and out of mind.

What goes round comes round, or might just go away. Too bad, because great tools don’t go out of style. People just forget they’re there.

Syria Again (Weary and Helpless)

I’ve stopped counting the number of posts I’ve written about Syria. The most recent back in December, right before Christmas, was Syria: Things Fall Apart: “This is a season of light for many people, but in Syria it is getting darker every day.”

More than three years ago, the post was Syria and the Fog of Or Else:

Hints of chemical weapons allowed Obama to employ his own red line: no chemical weapons—or else. Because of world history and established international agreement, certain weapons of mass destruction are deemed so out of bounds that action is semi-automatically called for. That is, using chemical weapons trumps sovereignty. The international community might stand by for the internal slaughter of thousands, no matter how inhumane, but it is quasi-obligated to answer when certain civilized conventions come into play. In other words, the chemical weapons would offer a license to act, even if the other inhumanities didn’t

A license to act—if we knew what we could reasonably achieve, if people believe that it is worth losing lives to enforce the ban on chemical weapons, if it is actually about chemical weapons, if acting doesn’t make matters worse, if we knew exactly what we planned to do and how we would deal with all the possible aftermaths. None of which is clear now. None of which is likely to be clear anytime soon.

Welcome to the fog of or else.

The “hints” of chemical weapons aren’t just hints any more. They are being dropped in bombs. If it was dark in December just before Christmas, it is darker in April, just before Passover and Easter. Why mention those holidays? I could try to explain by making some clever intellectual and theological connections, but I’m really not sure, and anyway I’m not up to it. I am weary of writing about Syria. And I am weary of nonsense, and of comfortable leaders making others suffer, and of comfortable leaders pontificating and politicizing and pretending to be more moral and smarter than they actually might be. They may mean ill or well, but meanwhile, there is the fog and the darkness and things falling apart in Syria. And most of us are helpless to make it better.

Heschel for Passover (or Any Time)

A reader reminds me that a year ago, I posted about including readings from Abraham Joshua Heschel in the Passover seder (A Heschel Haggadah).

You will find the readings I included in last year’s seder below. As regular readers know, I’ve mentioned Heschel a few times in this blog, and more frequently in my conversations and discussions. He may be the greatest of modern masters of Judaism or of any spiritual traditions. He is not always easy, but he is accessible, inspirational, mind-and-soul-stirring at a depth that lasts. His is not fast food; it is a long, rich, delicious meal that nourishes you for a lifetime and that you never forget—kind of like a seder. In addition to Elijah, who we expect at every seder, Heschel would be so welcome any time.

Along with the readings below, I urge you to take a look at some of the collections of readings available and then, if you like what you find, check out some of the many books (I am particularly fond of The Sabbath, but there are so many worthy ones).

Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings

The Wisdom of Heschel

I Asked for Wonder: A Spiritual Anthology  (“Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.”)

THE MEANING OF EXISTENCE is experienced in moments of exaltation. Man must strive for the summit in order to survive on the ground. His norms must be higher than his behavior, his ends must surpass his needs. The security of existence lies in the exaltation of existence.

This is one of the rewards of being human: quiet exaltation, capability for celebration. It is expressed in a phrase which Rabbi Akiba offered to his disciples:

A song every day,
A song every day


THE TABLETS ARE BROKEN whenever the Golden Calf is called into being. We believe that every hour is endowed with the power to lend meaning to or withhold meaning from all other hours. No moment is as a moment able to bestow ultimate meaning upon all other moments. No moment is the absolute center of history. Time is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose periphery is nowhere.


THE WORLD COULD NOT EXIST at all except as one; deprived of unity, it would not be a cosmos but chaos, an agglomeration of countless possibilities … Life is tangled, fierce, fickle. We cannot remain in agreement with all goals. We are constantly compelled to make a choice, and the choice of one goal means the forsaking of another.


THE PROPHETS PROCLAIMED that justice is omnipotent, that right and wrong are dimensions of world history, not merely modes of conduct. The existence of the world is contingent upon right and wrong … The validity of justice and the motivation for its exercise lie in the blessings it brings to man … Justice exists in relation to a person … An act of injustice is condemned, not because the law is broken, but because a person has been hurt.


THE HEART IS OFTEN A LONELY VOICE in the marketplace of living. Man may entertain lofty ideals and behave like the ass that, as the saying goes, “carries gold and eats thistles.” The problem of the soul is how to live nobly in an animal environment; how to persuade and train the tongue and the senses to behave in agreement with the insights of the soul.


HUMAN LIFE IS HOLY, holier even than the Scrolls of the Torah … Reverence for God is shown in our reverence for man. The fear you must feel of offending or hurting a human being must be as ultimate as your fear of God. An act of violence is an act of desecration. To be arrogant toward man is to be blasphemous toward God.


TO PRAY is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments. Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live.

To escape from the mean and penurious, from calculating and scheming, is at times the parching desire of man … Prayer clarifies our hope and intentions. It helps us discover our true aspirations, the pangs we ignore, the longings we forget. It is an act of self-purification … It teaches us what to aspire to, implants in us the ideals we ought to cherish.


THE MOST MAGNIFICENT EDIFICES, most beautiful temples and monuments of worldly glory, are repulsive to the man of piety when they are built by the sweat and tears of suffering slaves, or erected through injustice and fraud. Hypocrisy and pretense of devoutness are more distasteful to him than open iniquity. But in the roughened, soiled hands of devoted parents, or in the maimed bodies and bruised faces of those who have been persecuted but have kept faith with God, he may detect the last great light on earth.


WHAT WOULD ART HAVE BEEN without the religious sense of mystery and sovereignty, and how dreary would religion have been without the incessant venture of the artist to embody the invisible in visible forms, to bring his vision out of the darkness of the heart, and to fill the immense absence of the Deity with the light of human genius? The right hand of the artist withers when he forgets the sovereignty of God, and the heart of the religious man has often become dreary without the daring skill of the artist. Art seemed to be the only revelation in the face of the Deity’s vast silence.

“‘People are scared’: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House”

This from today’s Washington Post:

 ‘People are scared’: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House

Staffers are leaving their phones at home, using secret apps and monitoring each other’s social media.

A culture of paranoia is consuming the Trump administration, with staffers increasingly preoccupied with perceived enemies — inside their own government. In interviews, nearly a dozen White House aides and federal agency staffers described a litany of suspicions.

The report is essential and surreal reading.

There have been two parallel concerns about the trump presidency:

It would be ruthlessly effective at remaking America in an unrecognizable and un-American form.


It would be totally ineffective at getting anything done, even that which is necessary. In other words, the government would be in leaderless chaos and falling apart.

Many of the stories up to now have been evidence of the first. This story, though, is on-target about the second.

The American ideal is a government led by three branches, each one reasonably aware and capable, each one taking its role as a check and balance seriously. Right now:

The Supreme Court, thanks to the Republicans refusal to fill a vacancy last year, sits one Justice short.

A Republican-controlled Congress is caught between loyalty to the supposed leader of their party in the White House and the realization (something they knew from the campaign) that the president has…problems.

The executive branch? You can watch and read the news, including the above-mentioned report, as well as anybody.

As political theory, some say they want less government. But what if, in effect, we end up with none?