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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Marco Rubio

He's going to win a seat in the US Sentate and there's nothing anyone can do about it now.  He's handsome and charismatic and he's got a "vision."  I heard about his "generational choices" ad and thought I better check it out.

This is exactly what annoys the shit right out of me about conservative politicians (and commentators too).  He starts out with a stirring and completely inoffensive testimonial about American exceptionalism (he even uses the word) and his immigrant roots and American opportunity ("where the son of a bartender doesn't have to become a bartender").  But then we take a turn to the ridiculous - he suggests that if Floridians don't vote for him, America will become more like the country "where [he] came from."  That's CUBA.  As if Obama were a crazy communist dictator a la Castro.  It's completely surreal to suggest that America could ever become anything like Cuba, or, for the denser voters who miss the veiled reference - a country where you're forced to become whatever your father was, like it's the Middle Ages all over again.

Jesus, it's so stupid, I can hardly write it down.  He looks so reasonable and charming, but what he's saying is just as wing-nutty as Glenn Beck.  He just doesn't cry while he's saying it. 


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Best signs at Rally to Restore Sanity

These were on the NPR blog. I love the last one, made me laugh.

Just Stop Bickering And Clean This Mess Up
Calm The F*** Down America
You Don't Have To Be Nice, Just Don't Be Mean
1% Sane, 98% American, You Do The Math!
Fear Gives Me A Boehner
My Wife Is A Muslim And Not A Terrorist, But I'm Scared Of Her Anyway
Government Doesn't Suck
Don't Tread On Anyone
I Stand 4 Good Posture
God Hates Snuggies
Fear Is Illogical
I Was Told There'd Be Cookies.
We Have Nothing To Fear But Fear Itself, And Spiders.
Hyperbole Or Instant Death
Slogans Are Crap
I'm A Veteran. I'm An American. I Am Muslim.
Going Out Of Business Everything 70-80 Percent Off
I Am Moderately Excited For This
Stand On The Right, Walk On The Left
I thought Neil Young was going to be playing
Festivas For The Rest Of Us
I Heart Beck's Album Mellow Gold
Senate Math 41 > 59
Yelling Rarely Works ... I Know, I'm A Mom!
Don't Stomp On My Head, Bro


Friday, October 29, 2010


I was frustrated last Friday because the rabbi's sermon was too long and too esoteric for the 5th and 6th graders sharing the bima with him.  I thought all week about approaching him and giving him this feedback, but I didn't quite know what to say.  Then, tonight, the kids choir was on the bima (3rd - 6th graders) and the rabbi told a story and kept his remarks quite short.  It was great!  Afterwards, I told him how much I liked what he did and he said that from now on he's going to do a story when kids are part of the service.  I felt so relieved.  It's the first time is a very long time that I felt hope about this temple - where I felt like something actually got better.


Thursday, October 28, 2010


So 6 weeks ago, I moved my office from a satellite building into the main building of the campus, on the floor with my main department office, but not in the main office suite - down the hall, in a cubicle constructed in the mailroom.  Across the hall from me is a supply closet.  In the closet was a refrigerator (from its condition, it was clearly never used) and a small microwave and toaster oven.  After about a week, seeing no one using any of these, and assuming no one would be inconvenienced, I moved all 3 into the mailroom for ease of my access.  The mailroom is just as much a communal space as the supply closet, and people are in and out of the mailroom all day, and obviously after hours as well.  Imagine my surprise today when I get this message from the department secretary:

"If it is not too much trouble, could you please place the microwave and toaster oven back in the supply room? The refrigerator is okay to stay where it is. I am sure when you moved into your new spot that you thought these items were just extras because they were in the supply room; however, due to the fact that there really isn't any room in our suite to place them, they were placed in the supply closet for the admin staff as well as your use."

Of course I will move them back where they were, but I don't see how having these items in one shared room versus another could possibly make any difference to anyone.  They are just as accessible to all in the mail room as they are in the supply closet (and I certainly didn't think they were "extras" - I didn't move them into MY office, since I don't have an office, as all the other staff on this floor do, I have a corner of a communal room).  What makes this even sillier is that in the 6 weeks I've been in this office, I've only seen the microwave used twice.  Two times.  I use it every day.  This actually seems quite mean-spirited to me, but since I don't really care where the microwave is (and can't see why anyone else cares either), I will comply.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010


On Morning Joe this morning, they were discussing the Senate race in  Nevada, and Joe said that no one in the state actually likes the two candidates (he and Mika were there this week).  One of the round table members said that it's like the voters are walking down the street and trying to decide which piece of trash to pick up.  I give Joe credit (I think he's a tool about 90% of the time) because he said that both candidates are good, hard working people.  But besides being repulsed by the analogy (regardless of how evocative it was), what I found myself thinking (yet again) is that if voters had any sort of political philosophy guiding their choices, this would not be the case.  These two candidates offer very different approaches to governing and if voters knew that, there would be no issue regarding how likeable they are, or how misleading their negative ads are.  We get exactly the politics/government/candidates we deserve.  Since the vast majority of voters apparently spend no time or energy on the issues, this is where we find ourselves.  (And by iussues I don't mean who wraps themselves in the flag or who uses the word "liberty" the most often during the campaign - I mean whose policies and governing philosophy actually match your own.)


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Boring movie day

I had a couple of doctor appointments today, so I took the whole day off and shoe-horned a movie in between office visits.

I debated quite a bit about what to see and settled on Hereafter, thinking it was the most substantial of my choices and the one I most wanted to see in the theater (runner up was It's Kind of a Funny Story which is probably a rental).  I was so very disappointed.  It wasn't worth even the matineee admission price.  Hardly any "there" there at all!!  If you saw the previews, you pretty much saw the movie.  Lots of shots of people eating dinner alone and walking up the street and gazing out the window.  Ugh.  I kept waiting for something to happen, but nothing really did, until the completely tacked on ending that I thought made no sense (sweet, which I approve of, but totally fake, which I most certainly do not approve of).  Just not what I was expecting or hoping to see (I brought my Kleenex - I was ready to be moved).  Not a bad movie - the performances were good, of course, and it was pretty to look at, but pointless - really had nothing to say about life or the afterlife.  I'm surprised to see that this has a 7.8 rating on imdb - I gave it 4/10.  Most of the comments that I read had a very similar reaction to me - "what the heck?"  I thought this comment regarding how misleading the trailer is, summed it up well:

". . . it does seem to promise a certain kind of "excitement" or "thrill" that the film doesn't show. You get the sense in the trailer that these characters are rushing towards something, or trying to prevent something, and this simply is not the case.  I also don't think people should place much stock in trailers, but obviously people do, and studios intend them to."

Then, in the evening, I finished watching How to Be with Robert Pattinson (I started it last night).  Also very pointless.  Robert is good as a depressed and directionless young Londoner, but at the end I thought, "really, that's it?"  Nothing much happens, he doesn't really grow, and it wasn't funny, charming or interesting enough to justify 90 minutes of my time.  Kind of makes you wonder what scripts got passed over so that this snoozefest could be made (it felt a bit like a student film project).  My biggest objection is that they never answer the question posed by the title!  Though Rebecca Pidgeon (David Mamet's wife, who I loved in State and Main) is good as the emotionally remote mother - the only memorable scene in the whole movie is the one where she refuses to be hugged by Art, despite his extended attempt.  And she has the best line too, when Art asks her, facetiously, if she feels guilty for bringing such a useless child into the world and she says, "I do!"  Oh, and there's one other fun scene, where the parents tell Art's therapist about their own disappointing childhoods.  But those 3 minutes can't redeem an otherwise dull experience.  Actually, using the therapist's book to frame the movie's action was clever, but not used to any good effect - a totally wasted opportunity.  At imdb.com, commenters note that the film is trying to emulate Wes Anderson (e.g., The Royal Tennebaums), who I don't really care for, so that may be the major problem as far as my enjoyment of the film goes.  I suppose if you're a directionless 20-something guy, you might enjoy seeing your non-life portrayed by one of the biggest stars alive right now (though this came out in 2008, the same year as Twilight, so Rob was not an icon at the time).  For the rest of us, however, who enjoy a coherent plot and maybe even some witty dialogue, not so much.


Sometimes things work out

I was ridiculously pleased when I found out at my second doctor appt of the day that they could add the lab tests they wanted to the order for the blood they took at my first appt of the day.  Bonus - I only had to have blood drawn once for all the tests.  Yahoo!

Bad news is that I have a follow-up in 3 months with my GYN to check both my ovaries and uterus because both have potential signs of cancer (cyst on the former and thickened lining on the latter).  My doctor says not to worry, because she thinks both are nothing, but she likes to be careful.  I have always really appreciated her proactive attitude.  But I will be a lot happier when I get a clean bill of health on both.


Monday, October 25, 2010


We haven't had a major outbreak of cholera in the US for a hundred years, but it's still a leading cause of death in the developing world.  Mortality rate is 50% if left untreated.  Of course, many famous pandemics throughout history, and it's frequently incoporated into major works of literature. It turned up in Haiti last week, and is "creeping" toward the capital city.  Not good.


Election season nastiness

This has got to be one of the most discouraging election seasons that I have ever witnessed.  Besides the general lack of civility, and the complete lack of substantial discussion on any real issues, there seems to be more nastiness than I can ever remember:

Activist stomped outside Rand Paul-Jack Conway debate

The Louisville Courier-Journal reports that a female MoveOn.org supporter was attacked by backers of Kentucky GOP Senate candidate Rand Paul on Monday when she attempted to approach Paul outside his final debate with Democrat Jack Conway in Lexington.  As the candidates arrived, a group of Paul supporters pulled a female MoveOn member to the ground and held her there as another Paul supporter stomped on the back of her head and neck.

RI Governor Candidate tells Obama to "Shove It"

This coarse election season, which seems to keep outdoing itself in that regard, has taken another crass turn. Frank Caprio, the Democratic candidate for Rhode Island governor, says President Obama can "shove it" for not endorsing him.

Obama will be visiting Rhode Island on Monday to promote his small business bill and lend a hand in Democratic fundraising, but the White House said Obama would not endorse anyone in the governor's race. After hearing that news, Caprio told radio station WPRO early Monday that Obama can "take his endorsement and shove it."

Caprio faces Lincoln Chafee, an independent and former Republican senator who backed Obama for president in 2008.


Sunday, October 24, 2010

What a hypocrite!

KINDNESS  is the defining quality of Judaism???  That is such a joke coming from you.  I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud.  That certainly wasn't discernible in your approach to me- judgement and hatefulness is all you offered me.  And that's not the way other people see you either, that's for sure.  Control freak, definitely.  Kindness incarnate, not so much.


Saturday, October 23, 2010


I watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (the Swedish version) on video tonight, after I found it staring at me from the rental shelf in the library.  I've avoided it all this time, but I was starting to feel like a wimp, so I thought I better get on with it.

Ugh.  Somewhere in there is a not uninteresting murder mystery, with a surprisingly happy ending, as well as two very interesting characters ably portrayed by two interesting actors.  But the rest of it is a truly repulsive tour of rape, revenge, Nazis ritualistically murdering Jewish women, unrepentant sadists mutilating women for fun and folic, and general derangement and degradation.  Gah!  Who finds this entertaining?  It's completely unappealing to me, and makes me wonder yet again why so many people cheerfully and eagerly embrace brutality when it's dressed up as art or literature.

I am so not reading that book for the next book club.  I'll have to think about whether to see the American remake of the movie, because I'm quite curious how they will handle several elements, including the very unconventional romantic relationship.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Obama posts video for Dan Savage's It Gets Better project

WOW!  This is so cool.  It helps me (a little) to forgive him for waffling on Don't Ask Don't Tell.  It also made me think about a great West Wing episode where an activist (played by Bob Balaban) tries to get Barlett involved in gay rights advocacy and Bartlett says (essentially), whatever I say gets projected through a bull horn and draws huge fire - do we really want me to weigh in on this topic right now.  But here's Obama, casually weighing in.  It gives me a tiny bit of hope that progress has actually been made.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Congressional races

My uncle Dan loves to send me these emails from Dick Morris, who I think is mostly full of shit (Dick Morris, not my uncle) - he pretends to be a neutral observer, but he's been carrying water for the Republicans for years.  In this email, he lists 11 NY Congressional seats (out of 29 total) that could switch parties, constituting a "virtual purge" of Democrats.  Though some of these races are genuinely considered "toss-ups," I think his list may be more wishful thinking than anything else.

In terms on upstate seats on the Morris list:

Dan Maffei is my congressman and no one I've talked to locally thinks that Buerkle is a serious threat - local polling shows him up by over 10 points.

Bill Owens (in the Watertown district) just got the endorsement of the Republican who held the seat he took over last year (Dede Scozzafava) and local polling shows him ahead in his race.

Michael Arcuri (whose district is between Syracuse and Harrisburg) is ahead in polls as well.

I think some of the editorial comments in the Morris email, like "Arcuri cooked his own goose by backing the Pelosi agenda 91 percent of the time" is an attempt to influence voters rather than just report on the state of these races.

I think polling results are getting less reliable, but when polls consistently show a double digit lead, I think you can conclude a fairly solid trend.

Overall, the picture is distressing.  Credible analysts have said 50 - 80 Congressional seats may switch from Democrat to Republican.  That's not good.

On the other hand, the latest jobs report showed positive trends, which can't hurt.

I think that having all three governing bodies (White House, Senate and House) in the hands of the Dems is problematic, because it allows the Repugs to blame everything that's wrong on them.  Having the House switch is actually a good thing, in the sense that it makes Obama's reelection more likely. 

I also think that when angry voters install new candidates and then see that they are no better at fixing every problem than the folks that got tossed, it's a good reality check.  Many of the seats that are likely to switch are held by freshmen, who were elected in the same spirit of change two years ago.  I think it's rather sad, but there's rarely any substantial political philosophy underlying these voter choices.  It's just a response to a clever negative ad, or a blind desire for change. 

Frankly, I would love to see some of these fringe Tea Party candidates get elected, so that voters can see how inept they really are, once they're faced with the difficult work of legislating.  Look at Sarah Palin - she talks a good game, but she couldn't even finish one term in actual office.  It's a lot easier to whip up a crowd with fiery rhetoric than it is to do the hard work of governing.

I'm also getting really annoyed at this argument that the government hasn't fixed the economy, but at the same time arguing that government is too big and is doing too much, especially with regards to the economy (screaming about TARP and other attempts to stabilize the economy).  You can't have it both ways!!!  I love a good political disagreement if the person I'm talking to knows something about the issues and has some sort of coherent political view.  Just parroting empty slogans and catchy sound bites bugs the crap right out of me.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Military discussion

Rabbi Fellman sent out an article written by a Marine about being a Jew in the military (in Commentary magazine).  I was not the only person who wondered why he chose it, but he made the point that we have Ft Drum right up the road and he gets calls regularly from Jews serving there.

It ended up being quite an intersting discussion, mostly in terms of being a token Jew in any situation, something we have all experienced.  And it turns out that Rabbi Ain was a Navy chaplain for a couple of years, though she ultimately left to pursue civilian opportunites.

Several people in the room (from Beth Sholom, of course) felt that the author wasn't very Jewish (i.e., observant), so somehow his opinion wasn't relevant (articulated first by Mike).  I found that interpretation a little shocking - you're still a Jew, a curiosity, an "Other," even if you don't participate in specific rituals like keeping kosher.  Even more so in a milieu where the average person is less familiar with Judaism than Jews are used to encountering in their own communities (where there is at least one Jew - you!)  I thought that they missed the author's (and Rabbi Fellman's) point.

Rabbi Fellman forbid me from answering the question he posed about knowing someone in the military (quite unnecessarily, I thought), because he knew that Larry had served.  He seemed quite surprised (though surprisingly incurious) about my own service. 

At the very end of the conversation, I admitted that I always wonder why a Jew (or anyone) would choose a career in the military when they have so many other better choices (thinking specifically of Cliff and Danny).  Lois said that military service can be a character-building experience.  But I don't really think so, not for most people (certainly not for a Jew, who was already raised to have character!), and certainly no more so than law school or med school or other opportunities for personal development.  My personal experience is that the Army is a training ground for sexism, racism, and xenophobia, and teaches people to value human life less than they did when they arrived - hardly an enhancement to anyone's character, and not an environment that I would encourage someone I cared about to spend time in.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

15 Authors

Another fun Facebook game. "The Rules: Don't take too long to think about it. 15 authors (poets included) who have influenced you and will always stick with you. List the first 15 you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. They don't have to be listed in order of relevance or importance to you."

1. Marge Piercy
2. Judith Guest
3. Barbara Kingslover
4. Margaret Atwood
5. Frances Hodges Burnett
6. Gloria Steinem
7. Elinor Lipman
8. Molly Ivins
9. Stephen King
10. James Clavell
11. Thomas Frank
12. Mattt Taibbi
13. Michael Kinsley
14. Paul Krugman
15. Jon Krakauer


Monday, October 18, 2010

Mad Men Season 4 finale

Wow, a little soapier than I would have expected or even really wanted, but still a great hour of TV.

Another poster on Basket of Kisses (Meowser) said:  “. . . it’s meant to be seen as Don marrying someone he hardly knows, so we hardly know her either. He’s doing exactly what he did with Betty 13 years ago — this woman is beautiful and happy! And she has no idea I’m a big faker!”
That was exactly what I was thinking (though stated more articulately than I would have put it). I like Don a lot and I cut him a lot of slack because he got dealt a shitty hand and he’s trying to make lemonade (excuse the very mixed metaphor). We've watched him for 5 years (of his life), and during that time, he's done some incredibly mean and thoughtless things, often to people who did not deserve it, but somehow this latest action seems worse to me. With all the swimming and journaling, he’s learned nothing and he hasn’t grown one bit. "Who is Don Draper?" He’s a little boy, deluding himself and grasping at straws. He knows exactly what Megan's getting into, even if she doesn’t. He's tying her to him, just so he can be with someone who makes him feel like he wants to feel. For 5 minutes anyway. Until the self-loathing kicks in again. In the final scene, he's looking at the window – already checking out the escape routes!!  He was infatuated with Suzanne’s innocence and sweetness also, but he left her **sitting in the car** when the time came to deal with his real life. God knows how he’ll throw poor Megan under the bus when the fantasy is confronted by reality, as it undoubtedly will be.  I found myself thinking about what Allison had said to Peggy a few episodes back, along the lines of, "how can you stand it - he turns on the charm and then turns it back off."  He's so charming and appealing with Megan, but we all know it doesn't last.

Someone on the blog said that the episode should be called "Dr Faye Dodges a Bullet."  Tee hee.  And lots of people thought Don's proposal was a dream sequence, just like I did - funny.

I think Heather Havrilesky on Salon.com nails it (though Deb Lipp also has an excellent post on this topic):

. . . What Faye doesn't know is that there's nothing Don Draper fears more than "trying to be a person like the rest of us." Accepting that he's just another man on the face of the Earth is the last thing Don wants to do. He is oppressed by his own overwhelming compulsion to play the dashing hero, even when there's nothing at all heroic about his actions and he knows it, even when he simply takes cowardice and dresses it up with a shiny cape. "When a man walks into a room he brings his whole life with him. He has a million reasons for being anywhere. Just ask him for one," Don wrote in his journal back when he was sobering up. "If you listen, he'll tell you how he got there, how he forgot where he was going, and then he woke up." In the season finale, Don forgets where he's going, and he decides to tell a brand new story.

. . . Megan is fearsome because she's far craftier than Jane. In fact, Megan is the Don Draper of love: She says exactly what her client wants to hear. She decides what she wants to believe and then sticks to that story and doesn't waver. But can Don possibly respect someone who believes in him religiously when he hardly believes in himself?

. . . The central identity parable of "Mad Men," which seemed like a simple act of deception in the first few seasons, has deepened into something richer and more ominous. Don Draper reflects the American compulsion to sidestep the hard work of living a flawed but authentic life for the empty illusion of perfection, as shiny and skin-deep as an advertisement that promises the impossible.

Other thoughts:

I was sincerely surprised that Joan didn’t abort – I thought that theory was CRAZY and I was sooo wrong. I did not see that coming. A little soapy, but whatever. Probably more true to life this way.  Does make her line to Roger a couple episodes back "we avoided a tragedy here" seem very odd.  Is that some sort of pro-life message?

Loved Betty making a play for Don just before he drops the bomb on her. She was a lot more dignified over that "good news" than I expected.

Loved Peggy in this episode (as always). Loved her confidence and her success.  Loved her exchange with Joan - best moment in the entire episode. Some folks on the blog said she was crushed by Don's engagement because she's in love with him, but I agree with others who said she was disappointed in what was clearly an immature choice and one that does not continue the progress he was making toward a more authentic life.

Faye just broke my heart - hunched over her desk crying after she hangs up the phone.  I knew she and Don would never end up together, but she was a terrific character and role model (and a psychologist to boot!) and the way he ended with her was just awful.  I wonder if they're going to ever show her finding out it's Megan - she'll flip!

One more comment – about half the ads during the show were for the new AMC show, The Walking Dead, about zombies.  I got pretty sick of it - how can AMC think that Mad Men fans are going to watch this show? Ridiculous. Kinda insulting too. (I'm sure some will, but I can't believe there's much overlap between MM fans and people who like zombies. Just sayin')
Best lines:

Faye to Don: “I hope she knows you only like the beginning of things.”

Peggy to Joan: "I just saved this company . . . but it's not as important as getting married.  Again."

Henry to Betty: "There is no fresh start. Lives carry on."

Roger, about "Miss Callvieu" (Megan): "Who the hell is that?"

Pete, when he hears Don and Megan are engaged: "Reeeally?" (More the delivery than the actual line!)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weekend and friendships

Had a really nice visit with Matt for Family Day at WCU.  Got to see his new apt-style dorm and the chemistry lounge where he spends a great deal of his time.  Went to the "Solo Circus" performance sponsored by Student Activities, which was fun.  Stayed in a terrific hotel in KofP and even managed to have lunch with some Philadelphia friends on Sunday before we headed home.  A very good trip.

However, it was marred by a weird misunderstanding with an old friend of mine in Philadelphia, who got very angry at me when we changed our plans to visit her on this trip.  A few weeks before the trip, I emailed her about staying with her over the weekend, as we had done on some previous trips.  About a week before the trip, I sent her another email, because I had reconsidered the whole schedule and I was willing to bite the bullet and just pay for both nights in a hotel closer to Matt's campus (I found a somewhat better price online). Apparently she never got that second message, so she thought I had just "blown her off" at the last minute.  We had an unpleasant email exchange culminating in her saying "have a nice life."

I was rather stunned that she would end our almost 10 year friendship over such a minor misunderstanding, especially after 4 years of me living in NY and still visiting her and staying in touch very regularly. I tried to explain how the miscommunication happened, but all she did was insult me. I can't imagine why she would turn this into such a big deal. I would think that we could just move on from it - everyone gets frustrated by friends once in awhile, but what's a friendship worth? Worth letting go of your disappointment over one little incident?

Just recently, I had a similar missing-each-other incident with a local friend.  I was annoyed at being essentially stood up, but I would never consider such a minor frustration to be a complete deal breaker.  Everyone screws up occasionally.  I figure friends are allowed to be jerks at least 10% of the time (it's only when they get into 90% territory that I run out of steam!) 

I don't have so many friends in my life that I can afford to write people off for one incident of being inconsiderate or insensitive.  And I would hope that my friends would have the same standard when it comes to me and my mistakes.

It may still blow over.  I certainly hope so.  I value my friendship with this woman - she's a character and someone I enjoy talking to and staying in touch with.  I can't say that about everyone.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Interesting movies

So I finally watched the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, just called The Invasion (I probably saw "the Donald Sutherland version,"which is what everyone calls the 1978 remake, but I don't really remember it; there have been 2 other versions - in 1956, just after the novel came out, and in 1993).  Now the aliens have brought a virus that turns humans into calm, affectless beings who all share one mind.  The movie is creepy as hell, but the message is fascinating.  In an early scene, a Russian diplomat says the following, and the passage is repeated in voiceover at the end of the movie:

"All I am saying is that civilization crumbles whenever we need it most. In the right situation, we are all capable of the most terrible crimes. To imagine a world where this was not so, where every crisis did not result in new atrocities, where every newspaper is not full of war and violence. Well, this is to imagine a world where human beings cease to be human."

The movie is clearly saying that, while we don't want to give up free will and the other (positive) things that make us human, the trade-off is violence and destruction and cruelty and the other (negative) aspects of humanity.  It was intriguing and I thought about it long after the chills that the movie evoked had faded.

I know this movie was not a critical or financial success, and I assume that has much to do with trying to blend an action/horror movie with a message (not really political, but more like commentary on humanity).  People who wanted more horror were probably irritated and people who would have liked the message probably stayed away (like me!)

I thoroughly enjoyed The Social Network - it was witty and involving, topical as hell, and packed with great performances.  The people seemed so real to me - flawed, but not caricatures or types.  Mark seems petty, but he also worked his ass off.  Eduardo has integrity, but he completely misjudged what would be the best business model for the site.  Sean is an arrogant jerk, but he's also right about the site's potential.

I've heard Aaron Sorkin interviewed a couple of times for the movie, including on NPR and on CNN's Reliable Sources.  He clearly feels bad for portraying Zuckerberg so negatively (his trademark rapid-fire dialogue is a big factor in making the movie so compelling).  The movie is at least partly based on Ben Mezrich's notoriously exaggerated book, The Accidental Billionaires, but the script relied heavily on actual court transcripts and extensive interviews, with a little dramatic license (which can only be expected).  Even if the movie isn't "true," it's still a fascinating story about our modern age.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Tea and Crackers"

Matt Taibbi wrote a scathing piece about the tea party in the lastest issue of Rolling Stone.  I've been thinking about it ever since.  Here is the key passage, though the whole thing is great:

At the voter level, the Tea Party is a movement that purports to be furious about government spending — only the reality is that the vast majority of its members are former Bush supporters who yawned through two terms of record deficits and spent the past two electoral cycles frothing not about spending but about John Kerry's medals and Barack Obama's Sixties associations. The average Tea Partier is sincerely against government spending — with the exception of the money spent on them.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Talmud study

Trying this class again.  I went to the first class last year, but then I got busy at work, and never got into the swing of attending it.  This year we're focusing on holidays, which I thought might be a bit less esoteric.  However, after a couple of sessions, I'm finding it very esoteric . . . we spent a whole session discussing the definitions and rules around the new year, and while it was historically interesting, it turns out that the rules were written down at least 100 years after the temple was destroyed and the described rituals were no longer observed.  So why are our lives incomplete if we don't learn this stuff?  I'd like to give it another session or two, but I'm not sure this is a meaningful use of my time and brain power right now.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Weekend movies

The Town - Larry and I took advantage of his mother's visit for Alana's BD party to get out to the theater without having to pay a sitter!  I loved this movie - it was intense and intelligent and just chock full of terrific performances.  Actually worth the price of a ticket, which I haven't be able to say about theater movies that I've seen lately.

Toy Story 3 - Cal saw this over the summer, but Alana and I missed it.  It arrived at our local second run theater (just $2.50 a ticket!) so we took advantage of the kids being out of school on Monday and went to an afternoon show.  I really liked the movie a lot, but it was a little intense for Alana - the toys being threatened by scary toys and almost being incinerated!  Too much for her.  But the scene where Andy and Bonnie play with the toys at the end of the movie had me wiping away tears.  Sweet as heck.  Really glad that I finally saw this.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Clinton rally in Syracuse

I heard about this on FB and then from several friends over the weekend.  I debated about it, but since my sitter was available, I decided I would regret it if I didn't go. It was great and exciting to be there. But overall it was a bit disappointing. I was hoping to get a blood-pounding speech (I think, like a lot of Dems, I'm seriously in need of inspiration), but Clinton was very restrained and wonky, talking about the deficit and such. And there were very few speakers before he arrived, so there was a lot of just standing around - I thought they would have lined up some local politicians to keep the crowd engaged while we waited (as has been the case at other events like this that I have attended in other places). Also, they turned people away because there were supposedly too many people there (I only got in because I knew a guy, Dan from the Miner campaign, at the entrance, thank goodness), but it wasn't really that crowded, and they had part of the hangar blocked off for no discernable reason. I didn't bump into any of my local political friends who I usually see at these things, like Donna, Barbara, Michelle, Joe, Terry, or Mike, or even the people who had told me about the event.  I did see Dan Fellman from our synagogue there, but all he did was insult my tshirt (just kidding).


GOP Congressman is German SS re-enactor

I keep thinking these Tea Party candidates can't get any creepier, but they keep managing to do it.  This is quite repulsive.  The history professor's remarks pretty much sum up my feelings:

"What you often hear is that the [Wiking] division was never formally accused of anything, but that's kind of a dodge," says Prof. Rob Citino, of the Military History Center at the University of North Texas, who examined the Wiking website. "The entire German war effort in the East was a racial crusade to rid the world of 'subhumans,' Slavs were going to be enslaved in numbers of tens of millions. And of course the multimillion Jewish population of Eastern Europe was going to be exterminated altogether. That's what all these folks were doing in the East. It sends a shiver up my spine to think that people want to dress up and play SS on the weekend."


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Latest paper

When it rains, it pours - we were just notified that yet another of our papers was accepted for publication:

Surgeons' and anesthesiologists' perceptions of turnover times
Danielle Masursky, Franklin Dexter, Sheldon A Isaacson, Nancy A. Nussmeir

This is the one I did surgeon interviews for, which was fun and interesting.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

"The Iron Daughter"

Finally finished this book, the sequel to The Iron King.  It didn't really take me long at all, but now that I'm on a roll, I want to rocket through the many books I want to read (I still have a huge stack of books by my bed and now two books to read for book club meetings in November - The Help and one other, probably Juliet Naked). 

I liked the book a lot.  I must be PMSing, because I got pretty upset reading Ash saying "kill me" - it struck me as so sad and hopeless.  I hate that.  But the book rebounded from that low point, I thought it was a very creative and interesting story.  A terrific and worthy sequel.

One minor complaint - I thought the love triangle story line was awfully similar to New Moon - Ash realizes that he can never be with Meghan, so he leaves.  In the meantime, Meghan discovers that her longtime friend, Robin, has been in love with her all along.  They share a very compelling kiss.  Then Ash returns, only to help Meghan in an important quest and to protect her during a dire showdown with his mother.  And then, well, you can imagine who she ends up with.  I realize that Stephenie Meyer did not invent the love triangle, and Julie Kagawa might have plotted out this story long before New Moon (though that's unlikely - New Moon predated it by almost exactly 4 years - September 2006).  But even if JK has never read the Twilight series, its such a part of the culture now, I thought she made an error in copying the story arc so closely.

The bad news is that now I have to wait for the next one - The Iron Queen due in February 2011!  (I wondered abot the title, which I had known about when I read the first book - now it's clear who the Iron Queen is - it's Meghan!!)  Maybe Julie Kagawa will write another bridge story in the meantime.

As a total aside, I picked up a cute book at the library, called The Family Fortune, a modern retelling of Persuasion.  But the more I thought about it, the more I'm convinced that I actually read this years ago, when I was obsessed with Persuasion.  I wish I'd had goodreads years ago, so I'd know for sure!

Friday, October 08, 2010

"Blessed be the nation"

The rabbi read this Pete Seeger poem tonight during his sermon.  I almost started crying.  I want to live in this blessed nation.  Clearly I'm not the only one.  It doesn't look like America is going to get any closer to this in our next election.  Hatred and lies permeate the election process and we never get to really consider what kind of country we want to build together.

CURSED be the nation of any size or shape,
Whose citizens behave like naked apes,
And drop their litter where they please,
Just like we did when we swung from trees.

But blessed be the nation and blessed be the prize,
When citizens of any shape or size
Can speak their mind for any reason
Without being jailed or accused of treason.

Cursed be the nation without equal education,
Where good schools are something that we ration,
Where the wealthiest get the best that is able,
And the poor are left with crumbs from the table.

Blessed be the nation that keeps its waters clean,
Where an end to pollution is not just a dream,
Where factories don't blow poisonous smoke,
And we can breath the air without having to choke.

Cursed be the nation where all play to win,
And too much is made of the color of the skin,
Where we do not see each other as sister and brother,
But as being threats to each other.

Blessed be the nation with health care for all,
Where there's a helping hand for those who fall,
Where compassion is in fashion every year,
And people, not profits, is what we hold dear.

Note that this often (incorrectly) attributed to
Studs Terkel.

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Thursday, October 07, 2010

"The Faces of Israel: A Discussion of Marriage, State and Religion"

Went to Temple Concord to see this movie tonight, made by Amy Beth Oppenheimer, who came for the evening.  But instead of the traditional Q&A after the film, she has developed a presentation that involves watching a few segments of the movie and then she leads a discussion.  It was very interesting, and she was very articulate, and I learned a lot.  But at the end, I felt quite dissatisfied.  Partly because I actually wanted to see the movie.  Also, I ended up feeling like she wasn't very respectful of the audience.  She told us that she's given this presentation about 100 times, so she knows exactly how the audience will respond at each point.  She doesn't show us hardly any of the movie, but she makes a point of telling us that even secular Jews in Israel don't think Reform Jews are authentic Jews.  Why even tell us that?  It made me really upset.  Not only because its offensive for any Jew to tell another Jew they don't count.  But especially because the Jews in Israel seem happy to take Reform Jewish money, and let us plants trees for them, and repair their torahs, etc.  As if this wasn't enough, she also insisting on making a point about the need for the Chief Rabbinate, even after audience members noted that the Chief Rabbinate doesn't think we count as Jews, and also pointed out that they don't respect women's right to worship.  I'm glad I went, and I bought the movie to be supportive and so that I can watch in its entirety, but I felt like it could have been a lot better and a lot more satisfying evening.


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Joanie Mahoney endorses Andrew Cuomo for governor

Karl Palanido is a crackpot, but her lack of party loyalty is causing much consternation among state Republicans. 

Saying she’s “proud to put aside party affiliation,” GOP rising star Joanie Mahoney formally supported New York’s attorney general in the Nov. 2 election.

“We need a governor who will help reduce our tax burden, empower Upstate and make New York an affordable place to work and raise a family,” she said in a statement.

Mahoney is the Onondaga County Executive, and her endorsement gives Cuomo strong support in the central part of the state.


Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Michigan attorney targets gay college president

This has been going on since March, but Anderson Cooper just thrust this sordid little story into the national spotlight.  You'd think a working attorney wouldn't have quite this much free time.  The following summary came from this blog:

Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell recently took a paid leave of absence after his favorite hobby became subject of a media frenzy. That hobby? Stalking and harassing a gay college student.  Shirvell claims that he's just a concerned Christian UM alumni.

The student, 21-year-old Chris Armstrong, is the University of Michigan student body president. Shirvell maintains a blog called Chris Armstrong Watch that tracks the student's every move, obsessively following Armstrong and his friends in real life and on Facebook and Twitter. Shirvell's blog includes a photo with a Nazi swastika-adorned rainbow flag superimposed over Armstrong's face along with the word "resign."

This is from the CNN website:

In an exclusive interview on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, college student Chris Armstrong said the recent rash of headlines about gay teens who have committed suicide has motivated him to break his silence about his own experience of being targeted online.

For months, Armstrong has been the subject of the blog “Chris Armstrong Watch” which is published by Andrew Shirvell, a lawyer in the Michigan attorney general’s office; Shirvell and Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox have both maintained that the blog is a personal project of Shirvell’s done during non-work hours and without any official resources.

Armstrong, a college senior, is University of Michigan’s first openly gay student body president, and Shirvell is an alum of the university who has taken issue with what Shirvell calls Armstrong’s “radical homosexual agenda.”
After his blog garnered national media attention in the past week, Shirvell placed it behind a privacy firewall, making it only available to invited readers. Shirvell has also been barred from University of Michigan’s campus, and Armstrong is seeking a personal protection order against Shirvell.

In his first national interview about the situation, the college student told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that he did not ask to be the subject of Shirvell’s attention on- and offline. But Armstrong said he has decided to use the spotlight to try to reach other gay teens who may be going through something similar.

“Given what’s happened in the past week, and given the suicides that have happened in the past few weeks, it’s been, it’s been – it’s hard not to say something,” Armstrong explained.

He added, “I felt like it was important for me to speak out as well just because I think that it’s important for them to understand that things can get better. And it’s important to know you can reach out in your community, you can reach out to friends and they can support you.”


Monday, October 04, 2010

Rick Sanchez gets the boot from CNN

I feel for Rick Sanchez, I really do.  But blaming his problems on the Jews who run the media is insulting and stupid (the Jews who run the media were offended!)  Now he's out of a job, and the sad part is, Jon Stewart is still mocking him.

Here's how the WaPo television writer summed up the story:

CNN fired Rick Sanchez on Friday afternoon in response to a radio interview on a SiriusXM radio show during which Sanchez called Comedy Central late-night host Jon Stewart a "bigot" and implied that the media as a whole are controlled by Jews. Appearing on "Stand Up! With Pete Dominick" to promote his new book, "Conventional Idiocy," Sanchez went on to assert that he has been the victim of discrimination at the cable news network.

 . . . Sanchez paraphrased what he said a CNN executive had once said to him: "I really don't see you as an anchor, I see you more as a reporter. I see you more as a John Quiñones -- you know, the guy on ABC. . . . Now, did he not realize that he was telling me. . . . An anchor is what you give the high-profile white guys, you know. . . . To a certain extent Jon Stewart and [Stephen] Colbert are the same way. I think Jon Stewart's a bigot."

Later in the interview, Dominick noted Stewart is Jewish, which he said is "a minority as much as you are."

"Very powerless people," Sanchez said, with a laugh. "He's such a minority, I mean, you know. . . . Please, what are you kidding? . . . I'm telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they -- the people in this country who are Jewish -- are an oppressed minority? Yeah." In the audio, which circulated online Friday, Sanchez's sarcasm was evident. 

During the Sirius interview, Sanchez told Dominick he was discussing Stewart because he was sick of "The Daily Show" host's repeated needling. One example of Stewart's derision came on March 2, when Stewart's show ran clips of Sanchez anchoring CNN's live coverage of a Chilean earthquake and the accompanying fears of a tsunami. In the clips, Sanchez is seen mistaking the Galapagos Islands for Hawaii and asking an expert to explain to him what nine meters means "in English." Stewart called CNN "the most trusted name in overcaffeinated control freaks," and Sanchez's photo was shown above an identifier that read "The Uninformant!"

"I just realized something," Stewart jabbed. "Rick Sanchez delivers the news like a guy at a party who's doing a lot of coke and traps you in a corner and explains really intensely how an ant is the strongest animal on Earth."

Jon Stewart said that he was planing to mock Rick Sanchez on his subsequent broadcast, but in the meantime, CNN fired him, so Stewart (sort of) stuck up for him instead:

“I think the guy’s probably got a good heart. . . . I want to clarify something here - we weren’t making fun of Rick Sanchez because of some slight to his ethnicity. It’s just that we here see him as kind of a complex television character who is flawed but fascinating to watch every week. . . . If CNN got rid of Rick Sanchez because they didn’t like his show, fine. We weren’t that crazy about it either. But if they fired him for making some intemperate statements and some banal Jew-baiting, I gotta tell you, I’m not even sure Sanchez believes what he was saying .”

To be fair, I think that Rick Sanchez probably (hopefully) meant powerful media people like Stewart are biased against Hispanics, and Jews are not oppressed, but the way he said it conflated the two, making it sound like he was saying Jews run the media. He also probably has no idea how touchy Jews are on that particular subject.  On the other hand, insulting your employer, in any way, doesn't tend to be good for your career.


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Banned book week

Just in time for this annual event sponsored by the American Library Association, some college professor (!) in Missouri is urging schools to ban Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson (a local author) and 2 other books:

In September, a Missouri State University professor, Wesley Scroggins, in an opinion column in the Missouri News-Leader, encouraged schools to ban “Speak” and two other books, which he said “should be classified as soft pornography.”  Scroggins called for also banning Kurt Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse Five” and “Twenty Boy Summer” by Sarah Ockler.

A full-page ad in The New York Times last Thursday encouraged people to read Anderson’s book “Speak” and decide for themselves if it should be banned from young readers.  “Speak” tells the story of a teen girl struggling to cope after being raped at a party. The newspaper ad was placed by the book’s publisher, Penguin Group.


Saturday, October 02, 2010

Disappointing movie weekend

Little Ashes.  About Dali and his contemporaries in 1920s Spain.  A truly beautiful, affecting movie, but not as involving as it could have been. About halfway through the movie, I turned on the subtitles, because I was having a hard time following what was happening because I couldn't always understand what the actors were saying (I'm hardly an expert on Spain or surrealism). Once I had the subtitles, that helped a lot, but it also made me realize what they did in the film, which was regularly throw in a French or Spanish word or phrase without any translation. I suppose a really sharp person could get the meaning from the context, but I thought it created a strange barrier between the audience and the film. I liked the movie a lot and I thought Garcia Lorca's and Dali's relationship was shown in a very honest and heartfelt way, and the artistic expressions were also wonderfully portrayed, especially the painting and the poetry. But the movie was unnecessarily confusing, and I was left with the feeling that I needed more history on  the characters and the period to really enjoy it (like Cache and The Secret in Their Eyes, the Foreign Film Oscar winner last year).

Legend of the Guardians, the Owls of Ga'Hoole.  I was very frustrated at this film because the marketing campaign made it look like a family-friendly movie and it really isn't.  It's way too intense and mature for Alana, who loves animals and expected something quite different - the ads say  "From the producers of Happy Feet"!!!  That's a cheat right there.  She sat on my lap throughout the movie and hid her face several times.  The movie was lovely and well-made, but I never would have taken her to see it if I had known more about it than I got from the very pretty trailer that I saw while attending other family films. I don't think parents should be hoodwinked in order to bolster the box office receipts!!  The trailer certainly didn't show battle scenes and young owls being kidnapped etc.  It just showed beautiful owls flying through beautiful skies with a peppy song playing, laughter and cuddles, etc.  Not a fair portrayal at all.  Next time I need to find out more about a movie before I spend over $20 on it!


Friday, October 01, 2010

Young photographer moves on from Twilight

I heard this story on NPR yesterday - the photographer who created the movie poster for the original Twilight movie was 18 years old at the time!  His name, hilariously, is Joey Lawrence (not to be confused with the actor!), but he goes by Joey L. His latest project is photographing a vanishing tribe in Ethiopia. He's really impressive - he's done more in 20 years than most people do in their whole lives!

Here's an excerpt from the original story on the MTV website (from 2008) about the movie poster:

MTV: Before you were approached, were you aware of the "Twilight" phenomenon?

Lawrence: No, I didn't know much about the books. But when I told some friends of mine that this next assignment coming up was "Twilight," I had one girl who was like, "Oh my God! You've got to bring me! I love 'Twilight'! I love Edward! He's so hot!"

MTV: There are a lot of people who feel very passionately about this universe.

Lawrence: That's right. And you have to be careful when dealing with a movie like this, because if you make the fanbase mad, they're going to, like, trample you. [Laughs.]

MTV: Take us through your thought process as you were trying to design the first-ever poster for that fanbase.

Lawrence: Well, obviously the main thing for this poster was the interaction between Bella and Edward. Because in the movie, he's protective of her, he plays a more protective role, so that was why in the poster, you see he's kind of looming over and watching out for her. Also, she can't appear to be weak of character, and it can't look like a normal kind of love poster, because obviously he's a vampire. [I decided to] light it pretty dark as well, to match the mood of vampires.
MTV: Why do you think Catherine Hardwicke, or Summit [Entertainment, the production company behind "Twilight"], picked you over all the other people who do this for a living?

Lawrence: It was Summit. I think the reason why they chose me is because they have such a young cast, and they really wanted a young photographer as well. In my portfolio, I have one picture of a guy who's in a car; it's lit the exact way that they wanted [the poster]. So they saw that picture, and this [became] my first movie poster.

MTV: As you walk into movie lobbies and see your poster, or know that it's thumbtacked to the walls of a thousand teen bedrooms, how much of a dream come true will that be?

Lawrence: It's cool. I got to check out the set ... and they had it set up where it was that scene, I think it's the final scene of the movie, where they get to crash through the floorboards. I got to see the floorboards messed up. It was cool to visit the movie set and see how it all goes down.