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Tuesday, May 31, 2011


This is so discouraging.  Anthony Weiner is one of my very favorite Congressman and I don't want to believe that he could, in reality, be a creep!  On the one hand, I think this is a complete non-story, but on the other, his explanations have been undeniably dodgy.

Of course the endless discussion is partly because it's so funny (his name is Weiner!!) and because it's so fun to be able to say "penis" and it's many many pet names on TV.  It's very possible that Weiner is being ambiguous because he loves being in the news, and he undoubtedly thinks it will blow over, which is probably will. 

Here's an example of the coverage~

Chris Matthews has been pretty annoyed and pretty critical of the responses that Weiner have offered.

Jon Stewart said it couldn't be Weiner, because he had seen him in a swimsuit, and knew he wasn't that big.

Weiner appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show and cracked several jokes about the controversy, saying, among other things, that he has suffered from jokes regarding his name for his entire life.

ADDENDUM  6/5/11

After TEN DAYS of joking around and LYING, Weiner finally admitted that the photo is him and he sent it, and he's been sexting and flirting with women online for years, even after his marriage (just 11 months ago - he's practically a newlywed).  What a freakin' tool.  He clearly has some kind of compulsion, because his level of participation in this is not a passing activity (a bunch more photos have been released) - this analysis at BagNewsNotes is brief and illuminating.  He says his wife knew about it, but she certainly wasn't at the press conference, playing the supportive wife.  I wonder how he found the time!  He needs a new hobby and some serious therapy.  There's much speculation about whether he can hold onto his seat (despite his assertion that he won't resign), but his rising star has definitely stalled.  And he claims he did nothing illegal, which is probably true, but Congress is still going to investigate whether he used government resources for these extracurricular activites.  His constituents are noticeably not overly concerned, and if I was in his district, I would vote for him.  But I still think he's an idiot.


OMFG - it turns out his smart and beautiful wife is pregnant with their first child.  For some reason, this enrages me.  He has shit all over what should be a precious and lovely time in his marriage and his life.  What a complete jerk.  He needs to get himself together; he certainly does not deserve his classy wife!

Even though I'm completely disgusted with him as a person, I think the press is keeping this story in the news more than necessary because it's titilating and because he's an outspoken liberal who lots of colleagues, including plenty of Democrats, would like to see take down a notch or 3.  The truth is, what he did is neither rare nor illegal, and it's already gotten more coverage than it deserves.  I also agree with the many commentators who say, anyone calling for his resignation needs to show us their own computer hard drive and online search histories!


Monday, May 30, 2011

Record breaking weekend box office

I was really glad to hear this~

. . . the 2011 North American box office slump is officially over thanks to moviegoers starved for comedy. Now the official start of the 2011 Summer Movie Season has set a record for the biggest Memorial Weekend box office ever -- $275M overall for the 4-day holiday. Which easily beat 2007 as the highest grossing (when Pirates Of The Caribbean 3, and Shrek 3, and Spider-Man 3 ran 1-2-3 for $254M). And it beat last year's overall total by almost +50%.

Our family made our own contribution to this - the 3 kids went to see Kung Fu Panda 2 on Saturday and then Sudnay night the 5 of us went to the drive-in to see Pirates 4.


Friday, May 27, 2011

More surgery observations

I've now spent several days observing surgeries on the adult unit at work.  It's like a tour of hell.  Here's some of the worst stuff that I saw: skin debridement (removal of burned skin in preparation for a skin graft), hip replacement, and breast reduction.  Gag.  I certainly picked the right field - I could never do medical work - I almost threw up several times.  But I'm glad that I'm witnessing the real activity of the hospital - most of the research I've done since I got here has been analysis of existing data or surveys.  So I've been quite removed from the medical procedures.  I'm glad to be better informed, but the more I see, the more I hope I never have to have any of this done to me!


Thursday, May 26, 2011

January Jones vs Zach Galifianakis

This is the story, from the Boston Herald:

Zach Galifianakis told Shortlist.com that January Jones summoned him to her table once at an event. “I sit at her table and talk for 10 minutes, and she goes, ‘I think it’s time for you to leave now.’ So I say, ‘January, you are an actress in a show and everybody’s going to forget about you in a few years, so (expletive) be nice,’ and I got up and left.”

The reporting on this story generally implies that January Jones is an uptight bitch, despite the fact that ZG is absolutely famous for being a crude jerk (as demonstrated by his response to her).  I just read a profile of him in Time magazine, where they call him the new Don Rickles - insulting his audience is a big part of his standup comedy act.  During most of the time that the reporter spends with him, he's being deliberating provocative - in restaurants, with fans, etc.  Is it possible that ZG gave JJ a reason to ask him to leave?  Hmmm.  It'd be nice to get the full story before writing off JJ as a snob with no sense of humor.  And why is ZG telling this story anyway? 


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Poor baby

Hard to feel sorry for John Edwards, who's facing indictment for allegedly using campaign money to pay off Rielle Hunter.  He's such a tool, and you want him to be punished on general principle.  However, this charge does feel a little trumped up, and sort of kicking him while he's already down - what's the point?

Though here is a refreshing second opinion, saying that the money elicits more outrage than the sexual misconduct, not just in this case, but Strass-Kahn also:  "Put your hands where you like — but keep them out of our pockets."


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

NY 26 goes Democrat

Sweet sweet victory!  Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul beat state Assemblywoman Jane Corwin for Jack Kemp's seat, covering the area between Buffalo and Rochester, which hasn't been held by a Democrat since the 1800s!  The margin was small - 47% to 43%  and there was a third party candidate, who definitely helped.  But the big issue was the Paul Ryan budget and Medicare.  This was a special election to replace Chris Lee, who resigned earlier this year after he was caught sending a provocative photo of himself to a woman who ran an ad on Craigslist (what a tool!!)  That little scandal probably helped the Democrat also.

And I just love listening to the Repugs crying and moaning about "Mediscare" etc, and how the Dems won by manipulating the voters. Oh boo hoo!  They've used those same tactics relentlessly for 2 decades, especially with that family values crap - abortion and gay marriage and other issues. Turnabout is fair play, bitches!  How does it feel to be outmaneuvered at your own game?


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Latest movies

Been busy so haven't had a chance to watch much ~

My Sassy Girl (2008) - I got this video because I really like Jesse Bradford, and because I love offbeat romantic comedies, which this certainly qualifies as. I wanted to like this movie, and I did, but I didn't love it.  I think it gets better in the second half, especially after you find out more about Jordan's character (Elisha Cuthbert). Before you understand her, she's just a really annoying person, and I couldn't imagine what this kind and gentle young man could possibly see in her, and I got a bit sick of watching her abuse him.  Ultimately, I think the movie works, but just barely, and it's pretty far along the continuum of offbeat.  I liked Maze and Dedication better, though in those movies, the man is the annoying character and the women are sweet and just a bit screwed up . . .

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2009) - I only watched this because the video was on the shelf at the library and I needed at rom-com to watch with my friend Dawn.  What a pleasant surprise.  It follows the Christmas Carol structure pretty closely, which is more of a plus than I expected.  The promos for this movie made it look really stupid and that's a shame, because it's actually quite good, and surprisingly sentimental and sweet.  Maybe I enjoyed it because my expectations were so low, but I don't think so.  Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner have great chemistry, and the movie fulfils the cardinal rom-com requirement - you really are rooting for the couple to end up together.  I also loved the relationship between MM and his younger brother, played by the always adorable Breckin Meyer.  I think it's much better than other MM movies that did better, like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, which is more contrived and less fun than this one, but made twice as much money ($105M vs $55M).


Friday, May 20, 2011

"The Twitter Trap"

I read this terrific essay by executive editor Bill Keller in the NY Times Magazine and found myself thinking about it a lot afterward and discussing it with several people.  Here are a few key paragraphs:

My father, who was trained in engineering at M.I.T. in the slide-rule era, often lamented the way the pocket calculator, for all its convenience, diminished my generation’s math skills. Many of us have discovered that navigating by G.P.S. has undermined our mastery of city streets and perhaps even impaired our innate sense of direction. Typing pretty much killed penmanship. Twitter and YouTube are nibbling away at our attention spans. And what little memory we had not already surrendered to Gutenberg we have relinquished to Google. Why remember what you can look up in seconds?

Basically, we are outsourcing our brains to the cloud. The upside is that this frees a lot of gray matter for important pursuits like FarmVille and “Real Housewives.” But my inner worrywart wonders whether the new technologies overtaking us may be eroding characteristics that are essentially human: our ability to reflect, our pursuit of meaning, genuine empathy, a sense of community connected by something deeper than snark or political affinity.

The most obvious drawback of social media is that they are aggressive distractions. Twitter is not just an ambient presence. It demands attention and response. It is the enemy of contemplation. Every time my TweetDeck shoots a new tweet to my desktop, I experience a little dopamine spritz that takes me away from . . . from . . . wait, what was I saying?

. . . As a kind of masochistic experiment, the other day I tweeted “#TwitterMakesYouStupid. Discuss.” . . . Almost everyone who had anything profound to say in response to my little provocation chose to say it outside Twitter. In an actual discussion, the marshaling of information is cumulative, complication is acknowledged, sometimes persuasion occurs. In a Twitter discussion, opinions and our tolerance for others’ opinions are stunted. Whether or not Twitter makes you stupid, it certainly makes some smart people sound stupid.

. . . The shortcomings of social media would not bother me awfully if I did not suspect that Facebook friendship and Twitter chatter are displacing real rapport and real conversation, just as Gutenberg’s device displaced remembering. The things we may be unlearning, tweet by tweet — complexity, acuity, patience, wisdom, intimacy — are things that matter.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Surgery observations

I spent the day observing surgeries on the children's unit at work.  Though most children are getting procedures that will help them, it's still incredibly sad.  I told Larry when I got home that not a single case that I witnessed was a result of what I would consider "normal" childhood activities, like falling off a bike.  Everything was a result of some tragedy, or terrible chronic health conditions.  Depressing.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thoughts on Jewish identity

Today's conversation at the monthly Lunch and Learn meeting was on the topic of convenant.  We read a Torah commentary on parasha Behar (Leviticus 25:1) by Rabbi Marc Wolf from the JTS (Jewish Theological Seminary).  In it, he includes several topics around the relationship between God and the Jews.  He also mentions comments by Israeli author A.B. Yehoshua, who has asserted that Diaspora Judaism does not cover the "full spectrum of Jewish reality" and only Jews in Israel are living a full Jewish life.

I have a whole bunch of thoughts from our discussion and from several conversations that I've had recently.

My favorite comment during today's discussion came from one of the members, who said that their choices of Jewish behavior, like worship and keeping kosher, are a reflection of their convenant with the Jewish people more than with God - more of a "horizontal" convenant rather than a "vertical" one.  I really liked that imagery and it applies to me as well.  [The rabbi noted that her choices come from God's words in Leviticus 11:44 -  "be holy because I am holy," Which is probably the best "religious" explanation I've ever heard.]

Another thought I had is a response to Yehoshua's assertion in the commentary we read.  Back on May 1, I wrote about an Israeli speaker whose presentation generated a rather heated interaction regarding American Jewish support for Israel.  The next night, I attended another presentation, by that speaker's spouse.  He gave a totally boilerplate Powerpoint, sort of Israel 101, the kind of thing you would show teenagers before their first trip to Israel.  (The guy is a tour guide in Israel and works for Birthrite, Israel tours for teens.)  I was a little surprised at the presentation because it was so unsophisticated.  I also noticed that it contained several tossed off, purely PR lines like "We always have our hand extended for peace." (meaning, as opposed to the Palestinians). Whatever.  He also said that Israeli Jews completely accept American Jews, which I know is not true, partly because of the presentation that accompanied the movie about marriage in Israel wherein it's clear from several people in the movie that not all Israeli Jews see American Jews as their equals (see my post on October 7, 2010).  So my point is that when I read this reference to Yehoshua's comments, it reminded me of the Israeli speaker and confirmed that what he said is basically bunk (though to be fair, his comment is part of a PR effort to promote Israel to Americans, and is not a statement of fact, might not even be an accuate statement of his own feelings).

Another thing I found myself thinking about was a recent conversation about Jewish practice (in the context of bar mitzvahs - there's been lots of conversations about that lately), when one of my friends, who was raised Orthodox but now attends the Reform synagogue, said that she considers us (Reform Jews) to be secular Jews (the same way we would be considered if we were in Israel). And I have to admint that her comment bugged the crap out of me and stuck in my craw for weeks afterward.  I made the point at the time that it's all relative - my brother, who affiliates with no religion and provides his children with no religious instruction at all, considers me almost a fanatic, because I attend services and send my kids to Sunday school.  But more to the point, in a country where the majority of people do not affiliate with any religious institution, and provide no religious instruction to their children, I just cannot accept the label of "secular" when I put so much of my time and energy into exactly those things.  It almost seems bizarre to me - if I'm secular, what's my brother?  Because we're not the same thing, not at all.  It similarly irritates me when Conservative Jews and other Jews imply that I'm "less Jewish" than they are, because I'm less observant of certain rules and rituals.  The fact that I live a Jewish life and raise my children Jewish makes me all the Jewish I need to be.  And the fact that I've had to explain Judaism and defend Judaism my entire life also means I've earned a label other than "secular"!

Which brings me to another weird situation - several times over the last few years I've had non-Jewish people ask me if I keep kosher, when the topic of me being Jewish comes up.  And of course I say "no, we're not that kind of Jews."  And no matter what I say after that, you can see that they don't really believe me, and don't put me in their category "Jewish" because apparently a necessary condition for that category is keeping kosher, I assume because that's the only thing they know about Jews.  I can talk about what Jews believe, or our holidays, or other things that make me "Jewish," but I don't think it changes their perception that I'm not really a Jew.  It's kind of sad, because I'm left with the feeling that Jews have done a very bad job of communicating to the rest of America what we're really about - it's a whole lot more than what we eat.  Certainly for me, it's absolutely nothing about what I eat, partly because I'm a Reform Jew and my spiritual life does not depend on my diet, and partly because what I eat comes from a totally different aspect of my identity - that of having Celiac disease.


Monday, May 16, 2011

Powerful men do whatever they want

Ick.  So disgusted to hear about Schwarzenegger fathering a child with a member of his household staff.  Just ewww.  And the IMF chief who was arrested on Friday for raping a hotel maid - it's now coming out that there have been many complaints about him, and not just from low status domestic help (I'm not implying anything about her credibility or saying that she was "just" the help - I'm suggesting that Strauss-Kahn  preyed on all kinds of women, not just ones that had no power, no recourse, and no one to turn to).  Barely a month ago, Neveda Senator John Ensign resigned from Congress just before the report about his flagrant abuse of power surfaced (he had an affair with an aide's wife and paid the couple a large amount of money to keep the story quiet).  Endless stories about powerful men who abuse women or abuse their position in order to do whatever they want with women.  It's sickening and it just never stops.


Funny side note - the cover story of Time magazine the next week was exactly this topic, an excellent story written by editor Nancy Gibbs.  So I anticipated a major scoop!  Ha!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Komen for the Cure

Me and the kids have walked with my friend Patti's team for the past 2 years, but this year, she wasn't walking.  The daughter of the facility manager at our temple put up a sign, asking for support of her team, Millie's Marchers, so Alana and I signed up with her, and so did Dawn.  I only got 4 donations, but they were substantial - over $200, which was almost half what Millie's Marchers raised in total! Cool!

In the photo, Dawn and I are wearing all the stuff we got on site - tshirts, scarves and these weird stickers that are supposed to cut the sun glare (though it was cloudy, as usual, during the walk).

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Lack of originality is ruining the movies"

This essay by Roger Ebert in the latest issue of Newsweek is so interesting but also so depressing.  Here are some key paragraphs:

This is more evidence, not really needed, that a majority of modern big-studio releases are marketing decisions yoked however reluctantly to creative ideas somewhere farther down the food chain. The majors in general make good films either (1) for Oscar season or (2) purely by accident. Weekend releases between May and September might better be covered by marketing specialists than film critics.

According to Brandon Gray of Box Office Mojo, who ran his own numbers, 2011 will see a record 27 sequels. [Including 5 fourth sequels such as Scream 4, and a record-setting 5 fifth sequels such as Fast Five.]

. . . Some studio divisions have been forthright about their decision to stop making grown-up movies at all, focusing on superhero comic-book franchises, 3-D animation, and raunch romps. It doesn't really take a movie person to approve such films.

Complicating the situation is the increasing reliance by Hollywood on foreign markets, which are thought to be impatient with dialogue and hungry for action. That results in an irony: while European nations, for example, produce excellent films that play here in art theaters, we are represented over there by American films suggesting we are a nation of violent or moronic fanboys. I see nearly as many films about grown-ups from France alone as from mainline Hollywood studios. Our tradition of quality cinema is being abandoned.

. . . Paul Shrader: "The quality of theatrically released films has been dropping so precipitously in recent years that the Academy Awards are no longer a fair gauge of audiovisual entertainment. Several decades ago audiences could expect a film such as The Social Network every week; now we are lucky to have one or two a year. Add to this the fact serious dramas have more or less migrated to ["long form"]television [meaning mini-series on HBO, etc], and it's clear that the Oscars have become progressively less relevant."


Friday, May 13, 2011

"Wherever You Go"

Wherever You Go by Joan LeegantI finished this beautiful book by Joan Leegant last night and I loved it.  It was very cleverly written from 3 people's perspective, and quite effectively examined issues of American Jews' relationship with modern Israel without being preachy. I loved the way she included Torah and Talmud quotes here and there - nothing too heavy, just a few little jewels to make a point a bit more strongly.  And I loved the ending, it made me cry.  It's a book that will definitely stick with me, and it's one I will recommend to everyone.

Unfortunately, her only other book is a collection of short stories called An Hour in Paradise.  I'm not a huge fan of short fiction, but in her case, I'll make an exception and check it out.


Thursday, May 12, 2011

More thoughts on growing up female

Back on April 27 I discussed at length Kiki Kannibal and Peggy Orenstein, and their object lessons on growing up in America (a terrifying prospect for the mother of a girl these days)!  Today I was talking with a friend of mine, whose daughter just turned 21, and she was describing her daughter's first romantic breakup, a couple years ago, and how difficult it was.  It struck me that part of what has changed since I was that age, is the very public nature of these emotional events.  When I was that age, I could make poor romantic choices (and I made several) and, except for a few close friends, they played out primarily in the privacy of my own life.  Nowadays, all these events are witnessed, and often commented upon, by a huge Greek chorus of spectators on Twitter and Facebook and so on.  I had the great, great luxury of growing and maturing largely on my own - the mistakes and experiences that have lead me to where I am now, older and much wiser, were not seen or noticed by many other people.  But young people today must cope with the most wrenching and most formative moments of their lives in full view of their every acquaintance and relation.  It can't be easier.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Integrity and leadership

I went to an interesting workshop today (which is actually part of a faculty development series, but staff are allowed to attend if there's room).  Of course I loved the speaker's premise - that integrity and authenticity are more important tools for successful leaders than, say, strategic planning.  But I'm also cynical enough now to feel like those values are not especially useful for today's leaders, or their minions.  I'd go so far as to say that the prevailing attitude toward integrity in our socieyt today is that it's just for suckers.  I don't want to think this way, but my experience in leadership positions has lead me to firmly believe that trying to hold people accountable to their own commitments or the commitments of the organization make you the most hated person in the room, bar none.  Trying to operate with integrity elicits suspicion, derision, hostility, and gets you dismissed by virtually everyone you interact with.  I would have liked to challenge the speaker, not just to be contrary, but to really get a response regarding "how that integrity thing is working out" (not my words, the words of someone in my small group during the workshop).  But there was no opportunity, so I'm stuck with my misgivings for the time being.

Monday, May 09, 2011

"Heart of the City"

Heart of the CityI really enjoyed this book.  The author, Ariel Sabar, struck by the role of Washington Square Park in his own parents' unlikely pairing, sought out stories across the decades of couples who met at NY landmarks like Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum.  The result is quirky and charming. I thought the premise was adorable, the stories were interesting, and the final product was super readable.

I was quite surprised that my fellow book club members were so much less enthusiastic than I was.  They grumbled that the book was contrived and smarmy, and that these couples could have met anywhere.

But I thought the stories Sabar chose did an admirable job of supporting his treatise, laid out in a lengthy introduction, about the role of places in heightening our emotions, and the particular qualities of urban spaces in creating a place where people can let their guard down and be open to connecting with someone special.  Certainly several of these couples would never have met if they hadn't both been in Times Square at that moment, or taking the ferry to visit the Statue of Liberty on that particular day, or riding that train out of Grand Central Station together.

In fact, a number of the couples struck me as quite unlikely - the cop from NY who eventually marries the tourist from Minnesota, the prickly musician who eventually marries the rather aimless young man she meets outside the Met, the French visitor who eventually marries the dancer he meets in Washington Square park, the German tourist who eventually marries the grounded single mom from Virginia, and especially the homeless girl from NJ who eventually marries the sailor she meets in Central park.  I assume that Sabar chose these stories from many others, because they best represent the serendipity of their unlikely meetings.

I'm really glad I read it, but I'm regretting getting the Kindle version (done to save a few dollars), because it's exactly the sort of book that you like to flip through and find favorite passages, and that is much harder to do with an ebook!


One of the book club members found a youtube video of the author speaking at The Strand bookstore in New York earlier this spring.  It's about an hour long, and well worth watching, though he doesn't cover much that isn't in the book.


Sunday, May 08, 2011

Latest movies

Water for Elephants - Good, but not great. I agree with the Rolling Stone reviewer that the movie is very pretty, but somehow a bit remote - you should be more involved and more moved; I certainly was reading the book. I think having read the book definitely dimishes some of the magic of the story - both from knowing what happens and from getting a broader picture of the circus and the characters.

Something Borrowed - adorable, mostly because Ginnifer Goodwin is so darn cute.  But it's a little hard to root for the couple, who are cheating on her friend/his fiance.  Kind of a risky premise, because it's really easy to feel like the guy is a jerk and why would Rachel want him anyway.  But they pull it off, without too much slight of hand. Not a waste of 90 minutes of my life.

Avalon High - this Disney offering based on the Meg Cabot book is not a perfect movie - it's a little slow in parts and edges into campiness more than once.  But overall I just loved it because [MAJOR SPOILER ALERT] it turns out that the GIRL is the reincarnation of King Arthur, not the cute boy/football team captain that everyone assumes is The Chosen.  The ending definitely made the whole movie experience better.  (Side note: I notice that this movie is not nearly as popular as other Disney fare, like HSM and, sadly, I assume that has a lot to do with the refreshing girl-power storyline.)


Friday, May 06, 2011

Christian Side Hug

Caleb loves this internet show called Equals Three - the guy, Ray William Johnson, shows videos that have gone viral and comments on them. He's pretty funny and of course the videos are pretty tame stuff - pranks and funny animals and people falling off skateboards and foreign ads.

I happened to be watching over Cal's shoulder and was surprised to see RWJ mocking this Christian rap video (this link is the rap song with lyrics and some commentary on the screen ) - the rap was part of the introductory session of a Christian youth conference called Encounter Generation. It's so silly, it's almost impossible to satirize, but it's generated a fair amount of internet commentary, which I discovered when I did a search, trying to find the lyrics.
Here's the comments at the HuffPost comedy page  ~

Christian youth groups finally have an alternative to normal, aka "front," hugs. As we all know, face to face embraces run the horrific risk of a clothed crotch graze. The Christian Side-Hug (or the CSH, as the kids call it) rids us of sin, as the only below the belt contact will be some good old-fashioned hip on hip action.

To help the side-hug fad sweep the nation, let us present this hardcore rap song. Yup, side-hugging has hit the streets. The group has as many emcees as the Wu-Tang Clan and as much power as a barbershop quartet.

Look out for the ominous sirens blasting on the track. Clearly, these are gangsters on the run from the law - probably from side-hugging up a storm! One emcee (wearing his bandanna Tupac-style no less) admits to taking part in the forbidden front-hug. But don't worry, God. He's married.

At the end, they all simulate getting shot and dying. We can only hope there are side-hugs in heaven.

Here's another commentary where I think she kinda nails it - by bringing attention to what you're avoiding, you just bring more attention to it! ~

Attention, Christian kids: If you like not having sex, not speaking the Lord's name in vain, and not being gay, then you'll love the newest trend in policing typical adolescent behaviors in the name of God. It's called the The Christian Side-Hug, and it's here to help the devout avoid the temptation of full frontal hugging. Don't worry—it's cool, because they made a "rap" song about it.

The Christian Side-Hug strikes me as almost skeezily chaste—I'd much rather have a brief normal embrace with a stranger than a hip-tap from a person who I know sexualizes even the most mundane forms of human contact. But the Side-Hug itself is slightly less offensive than the medium being used to promote it: An appropriated version of "rap music" performed by a bunch of white youth pastors who think that mixing in some gang-ish hand signals, tying on a bandana, and securing some fake bling will bring the youth to God.

The Christian Side-Hug rap comes courtesy of the Encounter Generation Conference, an annual Christian youth gathering which hopes to "bring the power, authenticity, and relevance of Jesus Christ to their culture." I'm afraid that this potent combination of absurd chastity and mock hip-hop will be more likely to bring the power of a school-yard beat-down to these kids' faces.


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Last week's movies

Saw a couple of videos over the weekend, but I've been so caught up in the middle east news that I haven't had a chance to blog about them ~

You Again - This is such a perfect scenario, about a successful young woman forced to confront the girl who made her high school years miserable when said girl gets engaged to her beloved brother; it almost seems like it can't miss, with such a winning setup and a great cast, I especially liked Sigourney Weaver and Jamie Lee Curtis; the movie had some good moments, but wasn't as captivating as it could have been; not a dud, but not too memorable either.

Salt - Not a bad movie, though I agree with the many critics, including my friend Suzanne, who noted that it requires a bit too much suspension of disbelief, so the extremities of the plot gets distracting pretty quickly.  But it was clever, and rather fresh, and of course Angelina is such a powerful screen presence, you don't mind going along for the ride, no matter how improbable.


Wednesday, May 04, 2011


I've seen this quote several times since Sunday night ~

"I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” - Mark Twain

But it turns out that it's both mistated and misattributed ~

"All men have an emotion to kill; when they strongly dislike some one they involuntarily wish he was dead. I have never killed any one, but I have read some obituary notices with great satisfaction." - Clarence Darrow

The issue is discussed quite humorously here  - there are some funny folks lurking on the web!  I especially liked these:
"It seems that, whenever people have a clever, folksy quote and don’t know who said it, they ascribe it to Mark Twain. If they have a clever catty quote and don’t know who said it, they ascribe it to Oscar Wilde. If they have a sort-of-stupid quote and don’t know who said it, they ascribe it to Yogi Berra. If they have what they think is a profound, inspirational quote, they’ll ascribe it to Gandhi or to some Native American chief."

"The trouble with quotes on the Internet is that you can never know if they are genuine." --Abraham Lincoln

"I have had many emails from young Russian women seeking to marry a rich American, but I can never tell if they are genuine." - Ben Franklin

"It was Thomas Jefferson who put it best:

Dear Mr. Nigerian Prince,
Your business offer intrigues me, and I would like to send you my bank account information post-haste.
Right after you kiss my ass! What, do you think I was born but a fortnight ago?
Yours, Thomas '2nd most badass president after Teddy Roosevelt' Jefferson"

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Ancillary OBL stories

Lots of odd little tidbits coming out.  One of my favorites is the guy in Washington state who had pledged not to shave his beard until OBL was captured or killed - it was down to his waist when he shaved it off on Sunday night!

Another weird story is the $27 million dollar reward that the State Department had offered.  Since the info about the courier came from Guantanamo prisoners, it's not likely that anyone will get that money!

But probably the strangest is this one; this report is from Olbermann's blog (FOK):

Bin Laden Death Was Live-Tweeted

Sohaib Athar of Abbottabad, Pakistan (@ReallyVirtual) around 4 PM Eastern time:
Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).

Closer to 5 PM Eastern:

A huge window shaking bang here in Abbottabad Cantt. I hope its not the start of something nasty :-S

Details begin to come in to Mr. Athar:

the few people online at this time of the night are saying one of the copters was not Pakistani…

Since taliban (probably) don’t have helicpoters, and since they’re saying it was not “ours”, so must be a complicated situation #abbottabad
Mr. Athar’s growing awareness:

Two helicpoters, one down, could actually be the training accident scenario they’re saying it was

The next one, about 10 PM Eastern:

Interesting rumors in the otherwise uneventful Abbottabad air today

Monday, May 02, 2011

More middle east drama

Holy crow, after the hullabaloo Sunday morning, I was just getting ready for bed when Larry got home and asked me if I'd heard the news.  Like probably most people, I was quite taken aback to hear that Osama Bin Laden was killed by American soldiers in Pakistan.

Of course we turned on CNN right away and watched the President's speech and some of the reporting.  I must admit that I thought the celebrating, while understandable, was rather unseemly.  It's certainly a human impulse, but not a very civilized one.

While there were many of the standard comments by my friends on Facebook that night and the next day(like "proud to be an American today" and "ding dong the witch is dead" and even "yes we can motherfucker"), I was pleased to read a number of comments that closely expressed my own thoughts:

Here's my local friend Donna (whose daughter was killed on 9-11 and who has been active in an organization called 9-11 Families for a Peaceful Tomorrow) ~

"How many were killed because of this man and for what was made of 9/11? Ten years of tragedy across the globe. I am not celebrating this death anymore than I would celebrate any death. I trust that too much will be claimed. I pray that there is some reason to the response. May we all put down our hate."

Here's my friend Angela, from Philadelphia ~

"Feeling really disillusioned right now... First, I think celebrating the "death" of Bin Laden, is a waste of energy and a media construct that will falsely give some American's a feeling of "safety" and victory. There is no victory, as terrorism does not exist within the confines of Osama Bin Laden alone. Doesn't anyone understand what happens when you cut off one head of the Hydra?  I'm just always amazed at how easily some Americans compartmentalize certain news. Do yourselves a favor and don't read comments on CNN. Also, I'm not looking forward to the partisan shitstorm over why President Obama does or doesn't get "credit" for this that will no doubt occur."

And this from a friend in Arizona, Michael ~

"How does this change anything? 10 years and how many lives lost to get him? Just doesn't make sense to me.  Just let me know when I can wear shoes and bring my toothpaste on an airplane again."

And this great quote, posted by another Arizona friend, Marty~

"I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.” - Clarence Darrow

After the celebrating had gone on for about 48 hours, several friends posted this quote from Martin Luther King, Jr. ~

"Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

I was getting pretty disgusted with all the chest beating and flag waving.  During a discussion on Diane Rehm's show on NPR, a caller said, "Americans need to grow up.  We're acting like we just won the crosstown football game." I thought that was a very apt description of the atmosphere.
Angela posted this analysis, which I think is better than most ~

Mark Kimmit, Military Analyst/US Army Brigadier said, "This is not the end of the movement, this is not the end of the terrorism but this is the end of the chapter Capturing or killing bin Laden has more iconic... value. It will have symbolic value, because it has been a number of years since bin Laden has exercised day to day control over operations. We still have an al-Qaeda threat out there and that will be there for a number of years. This organization (al-Qaeda) is more than bin Laden, it may be symbolized by bin Laden, but it definitely is more than him."

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Middle east fireworks

Attended a discussion about Israel this morning and of course it got very heated after the guest speaker made the usual argument that Israel and Israelis are great and Palestinians are stupid and they suck (why American Jews need to hear this over and over is kind of beyond me - talk about preaching to the choir) and then Brett, who shows up at everything and makes the same apparently outrageous argument every time, which is that the Palestinians are human beings too (the same argument presented so eloquently by Peter Beinart earlies this spring), but Brett doesn't wear and suit and tie so he immediately got shouted down by the group, one woman practically had a stroke. 

I said to several people afterwards that I thought it wasn't very constructive, or even very American, to tell someone we disagree with to Shut Up (I don't disagree, but they did).  I think the whole event would have been a lot more interesting if we'd actually engaged in a conversation about these issues instead of immediately started calling names like "self-hating Jew" (my personal favorite).  Makes me feel completely disgusted about my people.  We're so weak when we do this.  As I also pointed out to a couple of people - there are a wide variety of opinions in Israel and they talk about these issues all the time.  So tedious that we can't do the same here.  The guest's husband is speaking at a forum tomorrow night, so hopefully we can have a more civilized exchange, which allows a variety of viewpoints to be aired.

The other thing that really put me off was what the guest speaker said when she was challenged by Brett ~  "there's no such thing as Palestinians."  As soon as someone resorts to that, I pretty much lose all respect for them.  Besides being cruel and foolish, it's completely counterproductive.

It's also stupid - if you know anything about modern history, you know that many Arab nations were political creations of the 20th century, before and after WWII. Saying "there's no such thing as Palestinians" is as true as saying "there's no such thing as Jordanians, Syrians, Lebanese or Iraqis" . . . true, but not too useful. Most Americans don't know that there's no such thing as ethnic Iranians either - Iranians are Persians (not Arabs), and Iran as a country is another political creation. These are from Wikipedia~

With the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the end of World War I, the League of Nations and the occupying powers chose to redraw the borders of the Eastern Mediterranean. The ensuing decisions, most notably the [SECRET] Sykes–Picot Agreement, gave birth to the French Mandate of Syria and British Mandate of Palestine. In September 1922, Transjordan was formally created from within the latter, after the League of Nations approved the British Transjordan memorandum which stated that the Mandate territories east of the River Jordan would be excluded from all the provisions dealing with Jewish settlement.  The country was under British supervision until after World War II. In 1946, the British requested that the United Nations approve an end to British Mandate rule in Transjordan. Following the British request, the Transjordanian Parliament proclaimed King Abdullah as the first ruler of the Hashemite Kingdom of Transjordan. Abdullah I continued to rule until a Palestinian Arab assassinated him in 1951 as he was departing from the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the five provinces that comprise modern Lebanon were mandated to France. The French expanded the borders of Mount Lebanon, which was mostly populated by Maronite Catholics and Druze, to include more Muslims. Lebanon gained independence in 1943, and established a unique political system, known as confessionalism, a power-sharing mechanism based on religious communities - Riad El-Solh, who became Lebanon's first prime minister, is considered the founder of the modern Republic of Lebanon and a national hero for having led (and died for) the country's independence. French troops withdrew in 1946.

Iraq's modern borders were demarcated in 1920 by the League of Nations when the Ottoman Empire was divided by the Treaty of Sèvres. Iraq was placed under the authority of the United Kingdom as the British Mandate of Mesopotamia. A monarchy was established in 1921 and the Kingdom of Iraq gained independence from Britain in 1932. In 1958, the monarchy was overthrown and the Republic of Iraq was created.