Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Astroland and Wal-Mart

Yesterday I read that Astroland, the Coney Island amusement park, is closing, and only the Cyclone roller coaster will remain. The rest has been sold to developers.
I felt a horrible blow in my gut upon reading the news. I felt like the world is coming to an end.
Everything is changing (to a bank) in this city, but why mess with Astroland? Why Coney Island? What's going to happen to Nathan's Famous? NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
Apparently there will be a fabulous amusement park (and condos) and I'm sure it will be much better and nicer than rickety, dirty, nasty ol' Astroland, but that is precisely the point. Not that Astroland was such great shakes, but it is one of the few places in this city that welcomes the great unwashed. It's one place in this city where the great unwashed rule. And now what? What overpriced, generic hell is gonna visit us now?
Some of us have heard the almost mythical stories of the Coney Island of old, which was the most splendiferous amusement park ever. Well, without quite understanding the unfairness of why we couldn't get to experience the old one, we learned to love the seedy one that remained. Now that is going too, and I feel not only sadness, but deep anxiety and malign discomfort at the pit of the stomach. Is this a sign of aging, where at my ripe old age I start bemoaning the loss of nostalgia? Are they really going to make the poor people of this city go away? Does absolutely everything have to be about more profit? Of course for the children of the future, the new place is going to be cooler. They will never understand what anyone sees in Coney Island's decrepit glory. Well, fuck the children of the future. I like decrepit.

I don't want Astroland to go.

As for Wal-Mart, I'm perfectly content to live without it, but couldn't we oppose the demise of Astroland with the same gumption and passion and histrionics we devote to hating Wal-Mart?

I'm sick of hearing that the podunkization of this city is due to market forces. Market forces are ruthless and relentless and they threaten everything in sight. Aren't there counter forces to stop market forces? Can people put a stop to this frenzy of spending and destroying and putting up banks in every corner?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Cool it

I'm the first champion of environmental responsibility. I have not driven a car in 15 years. I turn the lights off every time I leave a room and I think people who leave the air conditioning on while they are out all day should be put up against a wall and shot. But I'm getting sick of Al Gore and his shtick, and I'm getting sick of people like that asshole who lives in 5th Ave and is reducing his "carbon footprint" by not using toilet paper for a year. I would be delighted if he could reduce his footprint so much that he would stop existing.
In any case, Gore sounds like a broken record and like a schmuck even if what he is saying is true. And I'm afraid that people like him and Mrs. Larry David end up doing more harm than good to the cause because they appear to be fanatical and lunatic about the topic. Mrs. David, who gives a fuck, but Al was supposed to have been the prez and he just seems like a clown with a mission.
This country needs to understand in no uncertain terms that we are guilty of criminal waste of resources, that like the fat asses we are becoming, we also consume energy like a supersized Big Gulp. Our gluttony of energy is obscene, criminal and irresponsible. And measures need to be taken to save energy, but Gore saying in the Oscars that the Oscars are "green" is not going to convince anyone.
He seems like such a loser.

ps: you will notice, dear readers, as and if you scan to the more recent posts, that this Sunday's topic is losers. Everybody is a loser, except for moi. I guess Sundays bring out the worst in me. Enjoy.

Land of the fat

Some "restaurants" like TGIF are doing "right size" portions with one third of the food because their gargantuan platters are way too obscene. I think it's great, even though you wouldn't catch me dead on one of those places. Apparently, it is a known fact in the restaurant business that people, for all they complain about fat and calories, don't want small portions; they want to pig out and waste food. They want a 42 oz bucket of soda. If you consume a 42 oz bucket of soda you are a pig and there is no justification for you. You deserve to be a fat ass slob.
This country's demise is going to be brought about by inertia and lardassness, perhaps before we are done in by WMD's. People are going to be too fat to stand up, too fat to talk and too fat to think.
Fat ass losers.

Sue Ray Kelly's Ass

The New York Times reports today that the NYPD spied broadly on activist groups when the Republican Convention came to town.
I think we forgave Mayor Bloomberg too soon and too easy on that one. Those people should have never come here. Except for mayor Bloomberg, nobody wanted them in this town.
But what boggles the mind is that the NYPD spied on many activist groups, which to judge from the marches I attended, are for the most part a bunch of utterly inoffensive, anachronistic, quaint even, lefty loonies. Yet they were being spied upon as if they were actual terrorist threats.
It 's really fucking pathetic.
But this is what happens when more power is given to those who can wield it. Like the dog that scratches his balls, they'll abuse it simply because they can.
And talk about spying on the wrong people. Somehow it doesn't add up that the police used illegal surveillance tactics against people who had every right to disagree with the convention and every right to express that disagreement with for the most part, stupid asinine tactics, embarrassing slogans, and a lot of heartfelt enthusiasm. Not one of them could be seriously considered a threat, except to wit and good taste.
I hope these groups sue the NYPD's ass until it's sore and I hope they win.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pu pu platter

Alert the media! Stop the presses! Chinese food is fattening and full of salt! OMG! You don't say!
The penchant in this country for turning the obvious into hysterical revelations never ceases to amaze me. As if nobody who has ever been inside a Chinese restaurant didn't know this.
Some individual named Bonnie Liebman of a dubious outfit called Center for Science in the Public Interest, has deemed also that the most unhealthy foods after Chinese are Mexican and Italian.
Boy, do I take issue with this.
1. We all know that Chinese food is a barrel of salt and fat. That is precisely why we like it. And no, we're not going to hold the soy sauce or ask for brown rice, because that is like going to Disneyland and skipping the rides. Instead of giving idiotic advice like that it would be better if they just told you not to eat it. On the other hand, anybody who is against Chinese food is against me. I don't see how my intake of Shanghai style soup dumplings or sticky rice is in the public interest. Screw you, Bonnie Liebman. I challenge you to a duel to see who can eat more soup dumplings. (I once ate 12 and had to walk the length of the Manhattan bridge and back to digest. Two weeks later I still felt like I had eaten the Great Wall of China). Plus, let the record state that the aforementioned Chinese food is best washed down with coca-cola (not diet coke, ever).
2. How dare Bonnie Liebman say that Mexican and Italian food are unhealthy? Perhaps what passes for Mexican food in these parts is unhealthy; it also mostly sucks. And perhaps Bonnie's idea of Italian is Pizza Hut, where, not content with ruining pizza, they put cheese inside the crust (barf).
Let me point out that Mexican food, when done right, is always made with fresh ingredients and lots of vegetables and good things. A typical Mexican main dish has like the entire food pyramid in it. As for Italian food, yes if you only eat calzone and cannoli you may get as big as Tony Soprano. But good Italian food is part of the mediterranean diet and you don't see that many fat asses in Italy as you see here. So don't be blaming the foods.
3. This is nothing but a conspiracy to take the pleasure of eating away from us. There are people in this country who think that enjoying food is sinful, and they will do their utmost to thwart the happy, healthy pleasure of eating well.
To which I say, fuck 'em. Eating well is the best revenge.

Somebody stop George Packer...

... from breaking my heart every time he writes his excellent dispatches from Iraq.
I mean this rhetorically, of course. We need George Packer to keep illuminating us about the appalling mess going on over there, because here we only get the very tiny tip of the iceberg. We don't really know squat about the ugliness of the situation and here everything conspires to keep us in the dark as much as possible.
This time, the article is about the incompetence, ignorance and ingratitude the American government has shown towards those Iraqis that have chosen, with enormous risk to their lives, to side with the US because they used to believe that America was going to bring freedom and prosperity to their country.
It is a brilliant article, but it will make you gag. Your stomach will turn at the appalling lack of vision, the narrowmindedness, the banality, the incompetence, the sheer idiocy of the official policy of the Bush administration in general in Iraq and in particular towards the Iraqis who have tried to cooperate with the US, mostly as translators. They know the culture, they can bridge not only the language gap, but the more important culture gap, but no one wants to hear what they have to say. They need protection and nobody is giving it to them. I can understand a certain measure of caution, but if somebody has risked their life every day for four years to work with you, surely they deserve some respect. You can't use these people and treat them like shit.
And then there are the refugees we don't hear about because they are certainly not going to be welcome here.
Sure, as Packer points out, there are decent Americans out there, Americans who are ashamed and outraged, but they can do little against the bureaucracy and against the official policy that dictates that everybody should pretend that things are coming up roses in Iraq.
Broken record: It all comes from the top. The policy mirrors those who are in office. The ugliest, nastiest, most callous, stupidest bunch of people ever to be in power in this country.
Maybe now that Bush has finally relented and appointed some disgruntled critics of how the war has been handled, instead of people who may have sucked his dick once or are yet to do so, maybe these people will be able to reverse some of the damage that has been done by establishing better policies. We can only dream.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Book report 2

War is sick and I'm sick of war. And luckily, I, nor any of you, I assume, have suffered it in our lifetimes yet. We should count ourselves lucky and blessed and hope that it never comes to our doorstep.
A Woman in Berlin is the anonymous diary of a German woman who lived through the "liberation" of Berlin by the Soviet troops at the end of WWII in 1945. Apparently it is not a generally known fact, because it was in the interest of both the Soviets and the Germans to suppress it, that when the Russians rolled into the Germany they raped everything that moved, in some estimates up to 130,000 German women and not once, but almost usually several times. They raped in exchange for food and in exchange for safety from other rapists. They raped as revenge for the horrors the Nazis inflicted on them and they raped under the permission of their leaders. In order to rape they had to get drunk first and so they drank like cossacks and they raped their way through Germany.
So this woman, who used to be a journalist and who spoke a little Russian, apparently wrote a diary of her life under the Russians in Berlin. One wonders if it is authentic. It certainly sounds so, too intelligent and subtle to be a work of propaganda. The history of how the book was received after it was written is as interesting as the book itself, because it came out in 1954, first in English and other languages and only in 1959 in Germany, where it was received "with hostility and silence". "Some accused it of besmirching the honor of German women". The nerve.
The Germans simply didn't want to know about the massive rape of their women. They did not want to know that many of the babies born were not of the pure aryan race they had cheered for. They did not want to know that these babies were the product of drunken rape, and they did not want to be reminded of their humiliating defeat. And as Hans Magnus Enzenberger points out in the preface, it didn't help that the author shows no self-pity and she casts a cold, hard look at her fellow citizens. It wasn't until the seventies that the book was rescued and reedited.
Her account of survival boils down to how to stave off hunger and rape. She is a strong, smart woman, and meticulous in her accounting of the endless routine of survival. Her observations about her fellow Germans and about the Soviets are sharp. Basically, most Soviets are portrayed as backward, primitive peasants, except one or two higher ranked soldiers who are educated and polite.
Under duress, every German turns into a stealing, conniving wolf, even formerly regal dames. The German men are either all at the front, or old and withered and useless (and hiding, for many are card carrying nazis) and not one steps in to prevent a rape. The women, according to her, are resourceful and strong, but if there is any sense of community it is only when there is a chance for survival. The minute somebody becomes a threat to the common survival, they are sometimes cast away. She shares the plentiful food she gets from sleeping with Russians with a widow and an older guy who is just a pathetic leech. When the Russians leave and there is no more food, the widow and the leech cast her out to near starvation. So much for good neighbors.
At this stage of perdition, people finally turn bitterly against "Adolf", once they realize they've been sold a terrible bill of goods (which they happily bought, not too many questions asked). They've been left to die and fend for themselves by their nazi leaders, who were so crazy arrogant that they refused to evacuate the women and children of Berlin when it was clear that the Russians were coming and there was no more milk for the children. The Nazis destroyed their own people. Which is logical; anybody with such abhorrent ideas about others is inherently self-destructive.
This woman's account is quite harrowing, and for those people who think the Germans didn't pay for their crimes, it provides a small, chilling comfort. It looks like some of them paid. It is an interesting companion piece to If This is a Man, aka Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. Levi was a great writer and a man with a solid moral conscience and a heart. But also, he was an innocent, and this woman knows that she and her nation cannot feign innocence. And that is a major difference in the telling. Still, hunger is hunger, whether experienced by a Jew or a German, and the fight for survival is the same in the lager and in the bunker, though the lager was obviously much worse.
I find it fascinating that Jews are barely mentioned in this book. Perhaps because of shame. She mentions twice in passing that the Russians transmit news of the concentration camps. Her reaction:
Our German calamity has a bitter taste -- of repulsion, sickness, insanity, unlike anything in history. The radio just broadcast another concentration camp report. The most horrific thing is the order and the thrift: millions of human beings as fertilizer, mattress stuffing, soft soap, felt mats...
She is constantly amazed by the German need and capacity to obey. She keeps saying, with no little irony, that Germans are so orderly, that someone gives an order and there they are, following it.
I guess obedience without conscience is a mark of evil. And the Germans obeyed, most of them without giving it a second thought, for which they deserve whatever destruction came their way.

Monday, March 19, 2007


As our increasingly retarded POTUS has the gall to ask for patience in Iraq, you can read a very disturbing article in the NYT magazine about the fallout for women soldiers in this hellish, civil war made in the USA.
It is not news that women in the military suffer constant sexual harassment and abuse. This should be punished with the most draconian measures and it usually isn't. But if this happens even in enemy territory in wartime, the damage is multiplied to the nth degree. Soldiers raping civilians is horrifying. Soldiers raping their peers is mindboggling. And yet it happens. All the time.
According to the article, this Iraq war has seen the number of women in combat grow exponentially. In this war there will be about 40,000 women performing combat duties, more than ever before. Many of them have started experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, not only because of what they've had to deal with on a par with their male counterparts, but because in many instances these army males abuse them, demean them and rape them on top of everything. And the Army, although it has tried to improve on the way it handles this matter, still hasn't found an effective way to prosecute and punish offenders, and worse, to prevent rape from happening at all. It is a disgrace.
Rape is a fact of war, as we now sadly know from barbaric acts committed in the name of ethnic cleansing in places like Bosnia, Darfur and Rwanda.
I am reading A Woman in Berlin, an anonymous diary of a Berlinese woman who captures the "liberation" of Germany by the Soviets at the end of WWII. The Soviets raped around 100,000 German women, many of them repeatedly, as revenge for the suffering inflicted on them by the Nazis. There will be a report coming soon on this fascinating book. In the meantime, all I can say is war seems to be a particularly male habit of destruction and reading this book you just lose all faith in humanity (if you happen to have any. I don't).
Rape is a form of deep humiliation and subjugation, and in war it is used to inflict damage on the male side of the population as well. As far as I'm concerned any rapist should be shot in the balls and left to bleed to death. But again, if rape happens between peers I can only imagine the bewilderment of the victims, who are sacrificing so much already, who are putting their lives at risk, who are sharing the experience with soldiers of their own country, only to be destroyed by them.
And what is it about men that they can't keep their cocks in order? Is it so terribly impossible not to force yourself into violent sex with an unwilling partner? Can't you use your fucking hand? Are you worse than an animal?
The article gingerly touches upon a reality of this particular war. Iraq is no Vietnam. That is, there are no local whores to be had by servicemen, no brothels, no women prostituting themselves for favors, like in other wars.
Maybe the Army should provide prostitutes (God knows we have plenty of them here at home) to service these randy assholes if they can't keep their dicks in. Draft some whores and have them do something useful for a change. Soldiers will be thrilled, whores will travel and get paid, female soldiers will hopefully be left alone. But the Army should protect its female soldiers from that kind of harm. It is not what they sign up for when they join.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The myth of the nerd

Thanks to Cynthia for sending me this fascinating, albeit deeply troubling article in Newsweek about how exercise makes you smarter.
Deeply troubling because 1. that means that we're going to have start hitting the gym like there's no tomorrow and that is a prospect that needs some getting used to. 2. What about the myth of the brainerd that is constitutionally incapable of anything resembling physical activity? How come they're so smart? And how come some athletes are so dumb? The article doesn't really explain.
I will confess that since I freelance, I hit the gym two or three times a week and I have the luxury of staying for about an hour and a half, for which I feel like a virtual Conan the Barbarian (without the biceps, yet).
Once I'm there, I enjoy it, sort of. Exercise definitely lifts up my mood and makes me want to whistle, sing or horny (sorry, folks, scientific fact). But "once I'm there" is the operative phrase. It's the dialectical argument I have with myself every morning between staying in bed or going to the freaking gym that exhausts me even before I put on my sports bra. Still, I go dutifully because that way I can continue eating like a pig and keeping my weight more or less under control (less and less) and 2, because I want to have biceps like Madonna and 3, because it's supposed to be very good for you.
And I'm afraid it is, empirically: I'm less tired during the day, I sleep much better at night and my mood is much improved. So why is it such a drag to go to the gym?
I used to have a fantasy that the US Surgeon General saw the light one day and announced that they were wrong, that smoking is really good for you, that it erases cellulite, is an aphrodisiac, it makes you lose weight and helps you retain your memory, and will make you rich and famous, etc. I have sort of the same fantasy with exercise. One day they'll wake up and announce that it's really bad for you, and the best you can do is lounge around in your pajamas and either read or watch movies. Same with ice cream, mac and cheese, nutella, bacon, and desserts. Until that happens, I guess it's not quite safe to take up smoking or completely abandon exercise just yet. Our day will come. Just don't hold your breath.
Well, it turns out that aerobic exercise in adults actually generates new neurons in the frontal lobe, which is the lobe for memory. I'm not a scientist. Read the article, which is why I link it here.
And then start running.

This week I had time to come home from a freelance gig, and veg out and watch TV. I was curious about some of the programs people talk about, since I never watch them. My experience and my verdict are the following:
No wonder this is a dumbass country. TV will literally make you stupid. You sit Albert Einstein in front of an hour of sitcoms and he will emerge a moron. It's not only that most of the programs are inane and utterly devoid of any connection to human reality, but that there is something inherent to the watching that lobotomizes you. I emerged from an hour of TV in a stupid daze.

Friday, March 16, 2007

This is what 205 million dollars looks like

The Mexican police recovered $205 million dollars in CASH, from drug traffickers.
I wonder what's going to happen to the money? Where does it go? Who gets to spend it?
How could people keep so much dough in cash in one place? These people were manufacturers and dealers of metamphetamine, the drug of choice of the American suburb (hey, if I lived there I'd want to kill myself too) and/or American white trash. I'm glad President Calderón told Bush to stop giving Mexico so much grief and like start curbing the voracious demand for drugs at home, for a change.
I also watched one episode of the Addiction series in HBO. It looks like America is so bored out of its wits, life is so hard in this stupid country, everybody wants to get high as a kite with drugs. What is wrong with these people? Is this what happens when you have too much of a good thing? If you look at less fortunate countries where the poor are walking sticks, not huge globs of fat, and where there are no jobs, and where there is no democracy and no freedom and no mall and no nintendo and no American Idol, and not so much mindnumbing TV, people don't seem to be so moronically self-destructive, or so whiningly unhappy (they are unhappy, they just don't go crying to Dr. Phil about it). People in poor, unfortunate countries can hardly afford to be addicted to anything but glue or home freshener. And those people lead truly desperate lives. They don't live behind the white picket fence in Frontierland.
I've had it with the suburban meth users, as I've had it with the American penchant for self-victimization. What could possibly be so bad? Get a life, you fucking morons. Turn off the TV for once in your life. Read a book.

Step down, old fart

Wondering whatever happened to Comandante Supremo Fidel Castro?
After all it's been months since we last saw him trying to push some elevator buttons at the hospital quite unsuccessfully. Or since we saw his wannabe number one fan Hugo Chavez spoonfeeding him yogurt... never mind.
Well, the BBC reports that Fidel is in good enough shape to run for elections next year.
I don't know what is funnier, the "elections" bit or the fact that he's still holding on, el muy cabrón.
Some people never know when to quit.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bad Mexican

Alberto Gonzales is a bad Mexican (and a bad American). An ass kisser, a toady, a person unfit to hold the job he holds, which is only some form of payback from the idiot criminal who put him there. Jon Stewart showed a clip of Gonzales excusing himself by saying that he went through a lot to get where he was now, implying his Mexican origin, which is not only a lame ass excuse for the freaking US Attorney General, but so pathetically, grossly inappropriate, undignified and tacky I feel my fingers are stuck to the keyboard from so much tackiness. Revolting.
The appointee, looking like a deer caught in the headlines, emboldened by the example of the idiot bully who is his boss, can stand his ground, because only Bush can have him fired and of course no such thing is ever going to happen. Gonzales is abominable, but as you are probably tired of reading, he is there for a reason and it's the reason we should ultimately fault.


I was home yesterday night and I started hearing way too many sirens and helicopters hovering overhead, and since that brings a faint, disturbing echo of 9/11, I was wondering if there hadn't been some horrible attack in a subway station or something. I could see neighbors looking out their windows and so I turned on the news. Fox news was on (sorry) and they had to talk first about some inane shit about somebody's hair on American Idol and other prerecorded segments before I learned that a crazy gunman had gone on a shooting spree that left him and 3 innocents dead. This happened about three blocks away from my house. Too close to home. One imagines, what if I had gone down to buy bananas from the Turkish guy in the corner? Or had been walking on Bleecker St on my way home?
The gunman, an ex-marine, emptied fifteen bullets on the back of a 33 year-old Mexican bartender from Puebla, at Pizzeria De Marco's. He then killed two volunteer police officers who were unarmed, before armed police shot him dead. Asshole.
I feel terrible about the young police volunteers, 19 and 28 years old. And I feel particularly sad about my compatriot, who I can imagine was a hard worker who minded his own business.
I hate guns.

Book Report

As promised: I finished reading the very polemical The Wicked Son, by David Mamet. It is a deeply flummoxing book.
It is meant as a polemic against American Jews who are so disconnected from their Jewish roots that they root for the Palestinians instead of for Israel, who don't know anything about their own religion and who, according to Mamet, practice antisemitism and self-hate. Obviously an Israel hater like Noam Chomsky comes to mind, but I wonder who else?
There is a lot in the book to inspire serious soul searching, which is a good thing and which I believe is its main purpose. Now, Mamet makes some points with which I am in total agreement.
1. For the most part, the world hates Jews. This is so ingrained, some of the world doesn't even know it.
2. Hatred of Israel is a socially acceptable form of antisemitism.
3. As Jews, we really need to look closely at the reasons why Israel is routinely demonized and we need to identify and fight every instance of intolerable bigotry against us.
But I have several problems with the book. One, it is written in a most peculiar style. Not only is it an authoritarian harangue, but it is by turns logical and inscrutable, peppered with wild pronouncements that seem to come out of nowhere, weird verbs like "cathect" or spellings like "impugnity" (is that the same as impunity?). And there is stuff that I just don't buy.
For instance, Mamet acts as if there is no shading of Jewishness between irreligious self-hatred and his own embrace of Judaism, which if I'm not mistaken, came not too long ago, and with which I have no beef whatsoever. But who, pray tell, appointed him as an arbiter of what's the right way to be a Jew?
Jews like me are not antisemitic self-haters just because we are not religious or because we may fret about the occupation now and then. At least Mamet concedes that you can disagree with some Israeli government policies and this does not mean you are disloyal to the State of Israel; and that there are people of compassion who are not self-haters. But he seems rather authoritarian, indignant and arbitrary in some of his judgements.
The fact (and one of the reasons why we will be forever misunderstood) is that it is indeed possible to be an atheist Jew (See: Me). Judaism is more than just a religion, it is a people with a culture and a history. It is a race? I still don't know. But I don't like to be called names because I choose not to believe in God.
I am, unlike many lapsed American Jews, somebody who was brought up as a Jew with strong traditions. I went to a Jewish school from age 3 to age 18. I speak Hebrew and Yiddish. I lived in Israel for almost 4 years. Three of those in Jerusalem. I gave Israel a shot. I worked several years for the Jewish community in Mexico. And I will be a Jew to the day I die and after that too. I'm not a Jew by choice, a late blooming Jew. I was given the whole megillah from the day I was born, and today I choose to live in a broader world comprised of Jews and non-Jews.
As I have said before, this is probably one of the few and far between moments in history where Jews can live freely in the world. We have to deal with those idiotic antisemitic remarks, but we don't have to live in a ghetto, we are not branded and humiliated and we are free to do whatever we please. It's a darn good feeling as far as I'm concerned and I'm not about to ostracize myself in the name of fear. When it is time to be fearful, believe me, I'll tremble.
I choose to be committed to my history and my culture, but not necessarily to my religion. I love the ritual (sometimes, some of it) but I don't believe in God. This does not make me wicked in the least. What does and would make me wicked, as Mamet rightly points out, is to stand there like a lox and be silent when confronted with antisemitism.
You can be an ultraorthodox davener and this doesn't make you a decent human being, and you can be an agnostic and a very good Jew, a mensch. And a Jew, first and foremost, and this is what my atheist Jewish father taught me, is a mensch. For me, that's where the spirit of Judaism lives, not in God but in human decency.
Judaism is complex and it is splintered. There are fanatically religious Jews, people who follow ancient ritual to a T, people who change the ritual to suit their needs. This I can't bear. Paradoxically, as an atheist, I much prefer the orthodox ritual than the newfangled new agey Reform hodgepodge. I agree with Mamet that p.c mishegoss like yoga shabbos and shit like that is inane. I don't, for instance, believe in Bat Mitzvah. That is an American invention. People should know the real tradition, not what is appealing and convenient for them.
Speaking from his high horse, Mamet decides, because it suits his story, that marrying outside the faith can be the best thing that can happen to a Jew, because that is what happened in his case, to which I say Mazel Tov.
But this is self-serving. I have nothing against his marriage or his wife (except I'm not a fan of her acting) but who are we kidding? There is a dramatic and unquestionable religious prohibition against marrying outside the faith. Where I come from, the threat of intermarriage was, and for many Jews still is, catastrophic. Enough to have parents disown their children, rend their garments, sit shiva, serious drama (like in Fiddler on the Roof). So I'm not buying it. You can marry a gentile and find your way back into the faith, but you can't be holier than thou and marry a gentile. Does not compute.
I don't know what Jews he's been frequenting, but obviously he hasn't been in the synagogues and community centers I used to frequent, where it was repeatedly repeated that the worst threat against Jewish survival is intermarriage. He chooses to believe, it is convenient for him to believe, that the worst threat is self-hating Jews. But intermarriage is one of the main reasons why the wicked sons don't know dick about their own religion, and they shun it, because nobody taught it to them.
This is not mentioned.
Me, I'm of the opinion that you can marry whoever you damn well please as long as they are a mensch. And if you are a Jew and you marry the Dalai Lama it behooves you not to lose your Jewish bearings. But we cannot all of a sudden pretend that intermarriage is allright by the God of Israel because it ain't.
I close the book with the quirky feeling that Mamet is expiating some kind of guilt or trying to make amends with his faith; rather curiously, by bullying others, but even though he raises legitimate concerns, he is not being quite honest with the reader nor with himself.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fire the boss

Why don't we just skip the charade and the brouhaha and fire the one person who is ultimately responsible for this mess: POTUS. While we're at it, we should fire Cheney and Rove as well. Of course Gonzales has got to go, but let's just cut to the chase. The rot comes from the top. Enough with fall guys like Scooter Libby and even Rummy, who deserved to have his ass fired long before it actually was.
Impeach the prez, incarcerate the VP. They're the ones to blame for everything.

If they can't serve openly...

...they shouldn't serve at all.
It is the height of hypocrisy for General Pace to call homosexuality immoral and to expect the 65,000 gay people who serve in the Army to shut up and stick it out. If every workplace in America is non-discriminatory in terms of gender, religion, sexual orientation and race, why can't the Army be the same? The Army employs people: those employees need to have the same rights as all other employees in the US. Or more. We give our time, they give their lives.
If the rest of America has learned to live and work with gay people, the Army should do so as well.
There must be many soldiers in the Army for whom this idiotic behavior from the Pentagon must feel particularly humiliating. And if they didn't have to make a living, I would tell them to screw the fucking Army. Let's see if it can afford to lose 65,000 servicepeople right now. It's not like we have a surplus of volunteers signing up to get blown to pieces in Iraq. It's not like the Army is having such a freaking day in the country that it can afford to alienate the gay people who serve in it. Not only do they treat all their soldiers like shit, they treat the gay ones even worse. The Army is supposed to be a place of non-discrimination. That is the least that soldiers can expect from it, the chance to be treated equally and with dignity for their sacrifice and their commitment.
What's wrong with these people?
And if the Army is so hot and bothered by having gay people serve, they should simply ban them. And stop the hypocrisy. Assholes.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Right to Privacy

As you can see, I'm back in my ranting mode. Too much art can be deleterious to ranting.
But come Monday, safely away from art and its side effects, I'm in top ranting form again.
In the movie Maxed Out, some smart lawyer explains that the right to privacy is guaranteed in the Constitution, but it is the right to privacy from the Government; not the right to privacy from the corporations or sundry organizations who hound us by mail and by phone and by internet and by lists. And basically there is little we can do about it.
The Do not call registry is a joke. It is as much of a joke as any legislation designed by corporations to assuage our anger and safeguard their practices.
I'm not only tired but afraid every time I give out my credit card info, for I know I will start getting mail from a zillion organizations I have no interest in joining. It is a fact that if I pay for a show at Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center, soon I am getting mail from every person who ever blew a horn or plucked a string.
I don't want anybody to sell my name to put me in a list. But there is no way of stopping it.
Why the fuck do I get Christmas catalogs? Why do I get Lubavitcher publications? What do I want with garden furniture? Why has someone decided that I am a philantropist on a par with George Soros? Why do I get a catalog that sells sweaters with reindeer?
And one could be dead for years and there is no way anybody will take you off their list.
Thus, the bulk of my mail belongs to three deceased people, the most recent one gone only since 1998, the other two since 1992. For a time, I'd write "return to sender" with a big DECEASED sign and the date of death, but nobody took heed. I wrote a letter to my postmaster. No response. And no abatement.
I can screen my calls and I usually don't answer anything that comes with an 800 prefix, but these people are crafty and now they appear as "unknown caller", which is what long distance calls look like. So when I fall into the trap, I treat the poor sods at the other end of the line to my venomous contempt. I hope it is indeed true that the call may be recorded for quality assurance so that somebody can hear my anger and my frustration.
I think people are starting to feel powerless in the face of routine abuse. We're powerless in the face of Bush, powerless with the phone and cable companies, powerless with the airlines, powerless period.
But who is to blame but us.
Had I been one of the passengers of Jet Blue, I would have staged such mayhem that they would have had to throw me off the plane. Then I would sue their ass forever. Or that at least, is my fantasy.
Recently I had a doctor's appointment. The referral form that I needed to bring with me listed the wrong address. Then this doctor made me and every other patient wait 2 hours. 2 hours.
It's not that this is like the third world. It is uniquely first world in its utter disregard for the consumer or the patient or the passenger. They just don't give a fuck because what are you going to do about it?

Home of the Brave?

I was reading about how our soldiers are being sent to be maimed and killed and everything you already know and then they are treated shabbily by the VA when they come home.
Nation, prepare for a generation of very fucked up Iraq war veterans when they finally come home en masse. It will be horrifying.
As I have said too many times, callousness trickles down from the top, so as long as we have that unspeakable moron for President, don't expect much to change. All his appointees are political and so they do his bidding, which is usually revolting. So it is no use to fire the guy in charge at Walter Reed or the Army Surgeon General, we need to fire Bush. I can't understand how we have allowed this man to continue in office thus far. It gets worse and worse and there he is. Untouchable. It's nobody's fault but ours. A horrid collective lack of balls. Worse, just plain indifference and complacency. Revolting.
But I was thinking, these poor soldiers, underpaid, underprotected, overtaxed, expl0ited, ignored. The ones that are being wounded are being blown up to pieces in horrible, traumatic fashion, by bombs and shrapnel. And the conditions and the bureaucracy at some military hospitals leave much to be desired, as we now know.
So here's my idea: if a veteran comes home and he doesn't get adequate care from the VA, in my view, they should be able to go to the very best hospital in their area and get treated for free. And if not for free, maybe the bill should be sent to the Pentagon. I don't think it is that much to ask from private hospitals, is it? They are used to taking care of people with no means. They cannot refuse treatment, in theory, to those who need it. So why not do a civic duty, chip in, and treat the soldiers who are not getting enough treatment from the Army?
Newsweek says that only 1% of Americans is at war right now: the smallest number ever. As I'm already tired of suggesting we bring back the draft, I guess the least we could do for the soldiers is to give them excellent medical care. Since the Pentagon won't do it.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I don't want to hear your drama

Lately it happens with increasing frequency that I'm walking down the street, minding my own business, and I hear people having horrible personal conversations on their cellphones. People crying, people screaming at other people, people having arguments etc.
I know how obnoxious it is to listen to unwanted neutral conversations, so these dramas really creep me out. I think it is rude and inconsiderate for people to think that the street is their bedroom.
I suggest that we innocent bystanders don't need to be subjected to your personal dramas on the street. Take it inside.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

If I were a rich man...

I was thinking what would I do if I won the megamillions like that truck driver from Georgia who won over 100 million dollars.
I would save some, I would give some and I would spend some.
And then I engaged in a wild fantasy: with some of that money I would try to buy the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. Maybe I should put it differently: with that money I would campaign to have these two travesties of power impeached, and relieved of their jobs. And thrown into jail for life, if possible.
I don't know if the money would help, but somebody's got to do it.
Abuse always comes from the top. So to hear that 8 prosecutors were fired from their jobs because of political reasons comes as no surprise.
Bush and Cheney are shitting, defacing, smearing the Constitution everyday, condoning torture, taking away people's rights, holding people hostage illegally, trying to out CIA people who do not toe their evil line, creating civil wars with spurious reasons, mistreating and abusing the very soldiers that are WASTING their lives for nothing in Iraq, why is it any wonder that they think they can do whatever the hell they please?
Because nobody is stopping them. Look at the Enron guys, they got punished for their misdeeds. Why can't we punish Bush and Cheney for theirs?
I have news for you, this is not a democracy anymore. Anybody who thinks we still live in a lawful, democratic country is sorely mistaken.
So I would spend some millions trying to get them out of office. Money buys everything in this country. Why wouldn't it buy impeachment?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

So what else is new?

According to the BBC, Israel tops the list of most negatively perceived countries, followed closely by Iran and the United States in a poll conducted in Europe and some Middle Eastern countries.
Oh, please. Let me feign surprise. Let me open my mouth in wide disbelief.
It amazes me, but it does not surprise me, that Israel is perceived more negatively than Iran, a theocratic repressive dictatorship run by insane, medieval zealots.
One of the things I have been able to glean from David Mamet's enigmatic rant about assimilated Jews and with which I concur, is that the hatred of Israel is nothing but socially permissible antisemitism. Note that I say the hatred, the exaggerated hostility, the endless nitpicking against the only fucking civilized country in the entire region.
As for Europeans hating Israel and the US, please tell me something I don't know. As for Muslim countries feeling the same way, it's not surprising since their citizens are routinely poisoned with antisemitism, from the media to schoolchildren's textbooks.
The self-righteous Europeans who treat their Arab immigrants like scum and then have the gall to give grief to Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians and its right to defend itself from violence not only are the zenith of hypocrisy; they are really barking up the very wrong tree.
But we're used to that. This is nothing new.

Sleazebag nation

I have been trying to control the urge to publish this for months, but I think it's time my loyal readers knew that there are unrepentant sleazebags in this world who prey on professional, decent people like yours truly for only a fistful of dollars. Beware of people who don't pay for the work they commission. You will fall into a vortex of sleaze that will leave you shaken and soiled and make you feel like you stink of human rot.
There is a certain porcine, disgustingly obese sociopath liar who neglected to pay me for a translation I did for him in record time and on deadline. He didn't pay me for more than six months and when I complained, he said I was breaking his balls. He sent a bad check and I had to pay for the bounced fee. He claimed that he had mailed the check to me three times and there was something wrong with my mail, as if my mailbox had caught the cooties, something that nobody who ever sends me bills to pay or junk mail has ever had any reason to complain about.
It was not and it is not about the money, which was in the low three figures. It was and it is about the principle. If you ask people to perform a job for you and you agree to pay them, you must make good on that agreement when they deliver.
So I hired a collection agency and they promised to collect. I was hoping they would do it Joe Pesci style, with a baseball bat and twirling around some heavy chains, like I dreamed of doing myself. But I did not inquire about their methods.
So finally today I get a check from the collection agency, where they have subtracted the commission they charge for collecting the money. And lo and behold, the check is not made to my name and it is not signed. The fat fuck must have coughed up the dough somehow and I'm hoping that this egregious mistake by the collection guys is an honest one. As you can imagine, I have a bad feeling about it. But the lesson I have learned is that sleazebags are contagious, and they soil and smear everything that is remotely connected to them with their filthy, excremental paws.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Push the button

In the US nobody even knows what it is, but in Europe the cheesy song contest Eurovision is a big deal. Countries compete, sending the cheesiest imaginable songs (if you know Europop, you can just imagine how cheesy). Well. now, because last year the contest was won by Dana International, an Israel transsexual, the contest takes place in Jerusalem this year. Yay! Everybody gets to have that feeling of impending doom while walking down the street in fear some idiot may blow himself up right in front of you. Feel the fear, mofos.
In any case, the ultra-orthodox are plotzing over Dana International greeting people in the old city of Jerusalem. Tough.
And the Israeli public overwhelmingly voted for a horrid song called "Push the Button", which basically deals with their collective fear of a nuclear attack by Iran.
I just wish the song was better, because it truly sucks. A song so ugly, it could only win as a massive riposte to Ahmadinejad. A song so ugly, they should use it for torturing people at Guantanamo. I'm sure the Israelis know it is an ugly-ass song, but they are making a statement to the world. What other country on Earth is being threatened by nuclear anihilation?
I've been reading David Mamet's polemical and just plain weird The Wicked Son, where he chastises assimilated Jews very authoritatively and humorlessly and I will get back to you with the book report as soon as I finish it. But he makes some quite interesting points at times about the hatred against Israel. At other times I find him as enigmatic and mysterious as the sphinx. But more on that, when I finish the book.
In the meantime, I hope Push the Button wins, even if it is probably the ugliest song ever written ande even if here in America nobody knows or cares about Eurovision (not necessarily a bad thing).