Monday, August 15, 2005

Big Three Anchormen Leave

An AP Story (Big Three Anchormen Leave Sense of Loss) makes this low-key claim:
They were the men you could depend upon, the faces you'd see every night at dinnertime. In times of trouble, they were always there. Their words rang with authority. For a generation of television viewers, it was a role assumed by Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather. Not just anchormen, they were father figures, and their sudden absence as a regular presence after more than 20 years leaves an empty feeling.
All very true. Oh, I'm sorry, I meant NOT true. As not true as it is overblown brown-nosing.

Even if we could say that these "anchors" were actual journalists instead of glorified fashion-models, why on earth do we consider them "authorities"?

Is it because I have spent my life around college professors and Rosh Yeshivas that I place the bar too high? Is it wrong to assume that an "authority" should have above average intelligence, education and good judgment?

Rather, Brokaw and Jennings do not appear/talk/act particularly intelligent.

All three are either un- or under-educated (Jennings never graduated High School or college; Brokaw had a low C average at the University of South Dakota, and Rather has a BA from Sam Houston State Teachers College).

And they don't display good judgment - Rather is a clown, Jennings a racist, and Brokaw isn't much of anything.

Don't forget, all three came into power during an world era where any White Christian Male with all his hair and teeth could rise to the top of every profession with no competition.

The fact that the United States considers these unqualified crackers "authorities" explains why journalism has been a colossal failure since the brief Vietnam era heroism.


Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Fun Site of the Day: Bunnyvision

The whole angry-alien website is awesome. This team of high-grade weirdos combines spot-on parody within a delicious standalone concept of a bunny-verse.

My favorites: Alien, The Shining, and Star Wars (where they establish their bona-fides by siding with me on the Greedo debate).

Minty-fresh new thirty second movies appear to be added all the time. Enjoy!

Monday, June 06, 2005

Cinderella Man

The new movie Cinderella Man, besides being the type of drab treacle Oscar-bait that I avoid both on principle and on the finest medical advice, presents an All-American vision of good and evil that should make Jews shudder.

The titular hero, a nice Christian family-man, is the underdog White Knight in this most recent WHITEwashing of fact to come from Ron Howard. After he simplified "A Beautiful Mind" he did the same erasing with James J. Braddock and in his opponent Max Baer.

Because the "Cinderella Man" is the hero, his life is blocked off into a puritanical dreamvision of rectitude. As such, whomever his opponent would be would be presented in a similar simplistic way. History put Braddock against Max Baer, so Ron Howard had to depict Baer as a stone killer.

As this Slate article points out (Fight Snub - How Cinderella Man sucker punches the Jewish boxer Max Baer. By David Fellerath) and confirmed by the all-knowing Wiki, Baer was nowhere near a villainous type. In fact, Baer publicly flaunted his Jewishness in response to the rise of Hitler (as seen in the photo below) by putting a huge Jewish star on his trunks.

The opposition to Baer's Jewish was explicit in the news stories of the time. Personally - while I cannot bring myself to actually praise a person whose job entailed committing savage violence for money - I can still give Baer a modicum of respect and I can feel it an affront against a significant symbol of American Jewry.

This is yet another proof for my ongoing thesis that movies which deal with historical subjects should be held accountable for their lies. It is NOT benign when they change facts to fit Movie Magic. People get hurt.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Comic Book Periodic Table of the Elements

This website is a perfect example of why the Internet is necessary - because it is the closest we have come to mimicking how our brains work. These dudes combine high and low, science, comic books, and put it together in a manner that until now has only existed in our skulls.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Backlog Backblog

I'll repost the posts I posted when I couldn't post.

p.s. speaking of post, we had a family discussion around the ol' Shabbos table a nonce back where we went through at least 8 different definitions for the word post. Only a few actually share the same etymology. It's a million dollar question - give me a million dollars, and I won't ask any more questions.

Everything is Broken

Considering how hard I use things, I should be used to how many things are broken right now. The level has gone above 'annoying' to 'crippling' - but I still maintain my smile! No, actually, I don't. Sigh. But for now, at least I can blog again.

Naturally, Two Weeks

As expected, from the moment I tried changing the blog, it took two weeks to actually get it accomplished (most of the difficult work I do gets done on Fridays). So, I've been able to change the URL and the old styx is at the URL Oh, don't bother going there yet... the same problems with publishing entries now plagues the very establishment of the blog. I'm going to try to salvage as much as I can, but I have little hope.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Technical Bad Craziness

A reader, President Ed, has recommended a wacky fix to my Blogger problem - to create a second blog, rename the older blog "archive" and then name the second blog "the styx" again. If it doesn't work, I've lost everything. But frustration is the mother of desperation! And desperation is heightened necessity and you can just take it from there.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Another Microsoft Evil

One problem I've had with my computer in writing Hebrew is that for some reason Microsoft Word insists on ignoring my commands when I try to change fonts. I have discovered it's because the brainiacs in Seattle have made an "automatic language detection" function.

Ya see, when you cut and paste, MSWord may trick you and re-translate your stuff into "English (UK)" or even sometimes "French." And in Hebrew, instead of keeping it the same language, MSWord will furrow it's microprocessor and think 'aw, he doesn't mean Hebrew, he means Arabaic" No joke. Instead of Hebrew, MSWord has been redefining my language as "Arabic (Saudi Arabia)" I get a freaky chill just thinking about what kind of partnership created *that* outcome.

{2009 Update: pic from here.}

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Schiavo Dies

I received a message from the Blogmaster General that I hadn't posted a message about this whole messy situation and I was liable to lose my funding. In any case, I do have a lot to say about this topic - but I did so in a public lecture for the Chevra Kadisha of New Haven. Maybe I'll get around to posting something of a review.

P.S. the Times story: Schiavo Dies Nearly Two Weeks After Removal of Feeding Tube

Megillah Hiatus

I've been spending the past few weeks working on my perush on the Megillah - and even with the leap year, I wasn't able to spend as much time on it as I wanted. The good news, though, is that I worked out a good system - what has prevented me from writing my commentaries in the past. Due to my inherent brain problems, I have a real struggle writing my comments in a manner that's easy to turn into a book. But I may have found it. Basically, I'm making a separate file for each and every verse (not simple, but I have accumulated the proper resources to do so). This method works very well for the Megillah (and other books of Tanakh) but not so well with the Haggadah (which has been my longest standing project). But I need to turn my attention to that now if I hope to get something new together.

{2009 Update: pic from here.}

Ted Koppel to Leave 'Nightline'

Wow - not that I didn't expect this to happen (Ted Koppel to Leave 'Nightline' and ABC News) but that not one month ago I told my brother that if Koppel would retire the most logical choice for ABC - and TV news in general - is to hire Jon Stewart and the 'Daily Show' to go primetime.

Mark my words - if ABC is smart, they'll do what they did with Bill Mahr (it was ABC, no?) They took "Politically Incorrect," a top-rated comedy-news program, and brought it to late-night network TV. Mahr soon imploded, true, but that's because the show was a (poor) one-man show with a (poor) one idea-pony.

Stewart is the future of journalism (ironically, by being a Swiftian retro satirist) and Stewart has often mentioned that Koppel was the only one on TV that he really respects. I hope that this synergy happens.

{2009 Update: 1. Boy, was a I wrong; 2. the pic is from here.}

Friday, March 18, 2005

Bond Marathon

We have an extensive film collection here at the Casa de Styx, and I have enjoyed showing them to my wife who was rightfully ignorant of much of the pop-culture ditchwater that I had immersed in for years.

She's a trained classical musician and successful academic acolyte, so how would she have encountered "Ghost Busters" or "Big Trouble in Little China" (especially since she was a wee child when these movies came out, if that). Alas, we have covered every movie in my collection that she would enjoy without my making a hard hard sell. "The French Connection" and "Chinatown," for example, are great films but they are also violent and shocking and who really wants to see that stuff when you want to relax; a logical point - even if I don't follow it. I mean, I often force myself to watch films that I "should" see - just to increase my education. My free time to watch is quite limited, and my desire to be entertained is such, that I am now failing in my education and feeling more like my wife's point of view.

For example, I rented The Rules of the Game (1939) by Jean Renoir because it was the top rated foreign film of all time by nearly every film critic. It's unwatchable muck. Oh, I tried - black and white doesn't bother me and normally subtitles are fine - except that I usually sort piles of my papers while watching films and I can't do that in a heavy dialogue film. But here's the thing - it's not entertaining, interesting, or broadening. Compare it with other films from that year: The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights and Gunga Din.

I tried to watch the second highest rated foreign film: The Battleship Potemkin". For this stinkeroo there's not much year comparison (1925 was not a banner year) except for "The Gold Rush," by Chaplin (which I own). For those who don't know about the "Battleship" thingy - it's a communist propaganda film that has the intellectual and emotional depth of a political smear.

All that is to explain that I am not so high and mighty (much). But we still need to find something to watch while we're half-dead on the couch, watching our son tear his way through the furniture. That's when I decided to initiate the Bond Marathon.

As an earlier post explained, I have pain-stakingly sought and individually accumulated all 22 Bond special-edition DVDs. Twenty Bond films, plus Never Say Never Again, and Casino Royale. I have showed them all to my wife, but out of order. Now we get to see them from the beginning. Considering our pace, we should finish by the time the next Bond comes out.

P.S. The best thing about the marathon is that we recognize how much of a debonair superman my son is becoming. I have begun calling him "Doodle-O 7"

{2009 update: image from here}

Friday, March 11, 2005

Day of the Timed Disasters

Tuesday was nuts. First of all, my Tuesday's are generally my busiest, with my office hours in the morning and my shiur in the evening. This week was to be the long awaited "Holiness of Israel" class that was canceled last week for sickness and postponed from two weeks ago for the conference.

Two members were in the hospital early in the week (and for a small shul, this is significant). I had hoped to get down to see them after lunch. But, by the time I left the shul, it had started to snow. By the end of lunch, a full storm had hit, sending this sleepy New England hamlet apoplectic with the Snow Freaks.

Before lunch I went to check my email and saw that the computer had frozen. Not an infrequent occurrence with Windows. I manually restarted the ol' battleship but instead of whining to life the "tower" emitted warning beeps and stayed good and dead. I tried a few times, unplugged all the peripherals, shut down all the power-strips and surge-protectors. Nothing. The computer was dead. Hardware level, dead.

I would have tried to take the computer in, or even summon a technician to the house, except that my wife had been hit by my kid's stomach flu. As you can expect, with me or my kid out of commission, the house can still function; with my wife poleaxed, we were all doomed.

With my computer dead, I couldn't prepare source sheets; contact online help - etc. The competing pulls and needs that day were enormous, but by taking things in order of importance (Child, Wife, Hospital, Shul, Shiur, with Computer at the bottom of the list) I managed to juggle.

Only after I got back from the shiur (which ultimately had to be cancelled when only 2 people showed up and they recommended that we all go home while the streets were being cleared, somewhat) did the full impact of a hardware-broken computer hit me.

The next day, I sat on the phone waiting for the good hour or so to speak with the Dell Sub-Continent Help Desk. It turns out that my memory cards had popped off their moorings (they discerned this through the multi-colored A-B-C-D lights on the back of the "tower" - cool). And after I cracked open the 'puter like a briefcase and fiddled with the innards, by the late afternoon, I was back in business!

Highly satisfying (to have the computer fixed over the phone) but I lost two full work days. And now that the weather was getting a bit better, it's starting a whole new storm. My wife is a bit better from her flu and my son is still the stalwart trooper.

Conclusion: Boo freakin' hoo. Poor me.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Jewish POWs under the Nazis

I was just alerted to this NYTimes piece from the end of February which describes how some American Jewish POWs were treated under Nazi Germany: The Lost Soldiers of Stalag IX-B

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Oscar Aftermath 2005

As you can see from the following day's papers (Academy Award Winners) I was again devestated by the Hollywood establishment. My ma said I should blame my influenza-feueled delirium. Sure, why not. It's not far from the truth.

Ya know how in a math test if you make one miscalculation (x=1 instead of x=2) then the whole test is bolloxed? That's what happens every year to me with the Oscars (as it did in 8th and 9th grade math, mind you). One big mistake that I would have caught had my head not been superheated to 102F was that Clint Eastwood was not given due reward last year for "Mystic River." Because of the sea of Hobbit feet, all awards went to the Lord of the Rings and not enough to Clint. He was being paid back this year. I should have caught that.

I also didn't know that Hollywood hated Scorsese as much as they obviously do. They hate him so much they spell it with three 'a's: haaaate. That's 4. But that's how much they hate him, too.

In any case, I feel like an economist; my forecasting was poor, but the analysis was still very good :)

End in Sight for the Phlegm Monsters

My flu may be over the hump. My temperature has stayed down and even though I still feel like I've been stepped on by a big boot, and my head is the current repository of our strategic phlegm reserves, my insomnia has returned!

Yes, normally I consider my insomnia to be a curse and the primrose path to madness (as seen in the documentaries Taxi Driver and Fight Club). But, in this case, it shows that my illness isn't strong enough to overpower damnation. [Which is a good way to describe the flu in any case: Stonger Than Damnation].

As it is, my waking hell is back so I may be able to get back to work. Of course, I'm still too tired to think, but not sick enough to sleep, but that's God's business.

Don't Encourage Them

Evidently some dude with too much money and way too much free time just flew around the world in an airplane - without stopping to refuel: Solitary Round-the-World Flight Concludes With Smooth Landing.

The first feeling I had when reading the account wasn't wonder, or awe, or pride in the achievement of a fellow mammal, but the disgusting realization that the pilot was trapped in a "cigar shaped" cockpit for the entire ordeal. How did eat? How did he go to the bathroom? How did he eat after he had to go to the bathroom in his, doubtless space-age, pants?

I want there to be a law that whenever some dude decides to waste his money this way, he's forced to immediately give those funds to me. I will spend it entirely on digital imaging equipment to capture my son's every move - and the world will be better and happier. Maybe I'll hire the millionaire fly-boy moron to take the pictures so he'll have something to do with his wasted life. Either way is fine with me, and with my son, who enjoys new company.

{2009 update, finally found an appropriate pic online}

Movie Review: Shaun of the Dead

Call it karma, but I saw Shaun of the Dead (2004) soon before I contracted this asinine illness and was forced to relive the basic premise of the movie over and over again. The movie is really, really good - a "rom com zom" (as it's called) - a romantic comedy with zombies.

What makes it good is that not only is it funny, smart, and quick-moving, but it's shot with a stunning verisimilitude. It feels so real; like a documentary; or just a detail-rich description of how a horrible event can happen on the periphery of your normal life.

After living through a few world shattering events, I know how that feels, and while I think I would behave better than Shaun and his pals, their behavior is all very realistic and convincing. For days after seeing the film, I had to actively remind myself that it did not happen.

The reason why the movie overlaps with the flu so well is that people infected by the Zombies would develop flu-like symptoms before they would turn into the walking dead. In the movie, a zombie is a metaphor for the brainless modern existence people consign themselves to (especially in modern Britain... a complaint that's been around for a while as seen in the Punk movement or Pink Floyd or "Synchronicity"). But being a zombie is also a good metaphor for the flu. You stomp around, the walking-dead, groaning, needing Tylenol, cursing your fate. Cannibalism is where the comparison stops, however.

A note about cannibalism: for some reason, all the supernatural monster movies seem to require the antagonists to be cannibals. It's the worst part about their attack; what we find the most disturbing. A zombie is just disquieting if all it did was walk about and moan. Even vampires (my preferred supernatural enemy) aren’t frightening except for the biting fetish. I guess it's the very worst thing in the human imagination - it's not enough to be evil, the desecrated walking dead, or flying bats - the depths of evil are only reached when you eat another person. (See "Sin City" as well, but that's another topic altogether)


Can't sleep. Phlegm monsters ate my brain.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Song Hall of Fame: "My Wife", The Who

The cognoscenti have long said that "Who's Next" is the Who's best album. I can't judge well, because I would only buy the albums the cognoscenti talked about, so I don't have what to compare. I'm hoping that the new music technology revolution (ringtones? subcutaneous CIA implants?) that destroyed records will go against CDs just enough to keep them both cheap yet in circulation... so I can buy enough to judge on my own.

In any case, "Who's Next" is very good and a song that had run through my head over and over was "My Wife." I hadn't bothered looking at the lyrics, but whatever I could make out made no sense. First of all, I thought it was "My Life" and the first line was "My life is in the Chesapeake" and after that I could only make out occasional phrases "machine gun" "aeroplane" "lead boots" - which go with each other but not with the Chesapeake.

Anyway, just now I decided to get the real lyrics. They're hilarious.

The first stanza:
My life's in jeopardy
Murdered in cold blood is what I'm gonna be
I ain't been home since Friday night
And now my wife is coming after me
Not that my wife is anything like this (nor I - there's something characteristically British about weekend-long booze benders).
Give me police protection
Gonna buy a gun so
I can look after number one
Give me a bodyguard
A back belt Judo expert with a machine gun
None of these funny words are enunciated well enough to make out. But now I can chuckle with the cognoscenti.

2009 Update: Some nice dude put up the song with corresponding lyrics on Youtube.

Useful Link for Supervillians

Some kind hearted geek with way too much free time made a beginners guide to psychotic megalomaniacs: The Evil Guide. I especially like the primer on evil hideouts (preferring the hollowed out mountain/volcano above all).

For You Dafyomiites -

I've heard good things about this - a whole shas-worth of Dafyomi shiurim on one I-Pod:

Considering that I don't own an I-Pod yet, this may be just the ticket.

Genesis in Pig Latin

Either there's a sophistimacated computer program to do this or someone had way too much free time - either way, check out the Book of Genesis in Pig Latin

{2009 Update, pic from an unrelated site.}

Recent USAToday Poll

This poll, from, shows Bush with a remarkable 52% approval rating. I don't know how he does it, but it frightens me. The key is question #2 - how is Bush handling Social Security, and only 35% approve, 56% disapprove. That either means people don't like his Hooverization of America plan or they think he hasn't gone far enough.

Check out the rest of the poll for some other crazy numbers (e.g. Hillary Clinton with a 53% approval rating - which shows this poll's out of whack)

{2009 update, pic from here} 25% English Sets Sale

The sale ends Tuesday, March 8th - 25% off English sets at (The crazy thing is that I own pretty much everything I want on this list... scary)

Barukh Dayan ha-Emet

From the KJ List: 3/2/05 - 7:45 a.m.

Dr. Noam Shudofsky passed away this morning. An indefatigable personality who, in partnership with Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, literally built Ramaz School these past 40 years. He is the husband of Nechi Shudofsky, and the father of Binny, Rachel and Leora.

Funeral services 2:00 p.m. TODAY, March 2nd, in the Main Synagogue at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, 125 East 85th Street, between Lexington and Park Avenues. From KJ, the family is leaving for Israel on El Al Flight #002 leaving at 7:30 p.m. The burial will be around 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 3rd, in Sanhedria cemetery in Jerusalem.

The first half of shiva, in Israel, will be observed at 21/2 Koreh Ha-Dorot Street in Talpiot. The phone number in Israel is 011-972-2-673-1416 (be mindful of the 7-hour time differential). The family is returning stateside early on Sunday morning, March 6th, to complete shiva at the Shudofsky residence, 209 West 86th Street, Apt. 917, NYC 10024. The phone number there is 212-877-9053. Services there, beginning Sunday morning, will be Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m.; Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings at 7:30 a.m.; and Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings at 5:45 p.m. Shiva concludes on Wednesday morning, March 9th, following services.

Condolence Emails can be sent to

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

100 Day III

I don't know what's going on but the fever has not really gone away (it hasn't hit 102 but it's hovering in the C-note). I don't have the symptoms of Strep, so that's good, but my throat is very painful.

I had to cancel my halakha class tonight - the first time I've ever done so because of illness. I had a good excuse: every time I try to talk for more than 30 seconds I start coughing and hacking and ouch. Also, the Siyum Ha-Shas was tonight and a bunch of people were going to that; and also a big thing at the JCC; and ouch. I haaaaate cancelling class. Oh, also, there was another Nor'easter so it's snowy. And ouch.

The main reason why I need to get better is so I can hug my son. I miss him and he misses me. Also, so I can help hold him down while my wife changes him. He loves twirling around and acting all acrobatic on the changing table now - which makes de-poopifying him a two person job.

Monday, February 28, 2005


I'm down to 100 during the wonderful window when Tylenol and Advil overlap. I'm still feeling like a bus hit me. The clinic said my lungs are clean so no worries about Bronchitis, Pneumonia, or Pterodactyl Syndrome. The worst part is that I need to be quarantined away from my son… and it's a medical fact that I need to play with him every day or I'll go nuts. He misses me, too. Durn you, virus!

Sunday, February 27, 2005


My temp is now 102, guess I'll watch the Oscars from the clinic. Wish me luck.

Fever Alert

Fever has hit 101.2. A record for at least 2 decades. We'll see if I need to go to the clinic.

Oscar Predictions 2005

Ya know, I had a grand plan as to how I was going to predict this year. Every year I have a grand plan, I know, but after reading a bunch and analyzing even more I realize that: (a) I've been doing it all wrong, and (b) almost everyone else does too.

Ya see, Oscars are voted by an electorate that is largely unknown and many of them do not express their opinions in another forum. Academy members are all professional Hollywood workers; the largest category are actors, but the next highest are Producers.

Only a few of the other awards given for movies overlap with the Academy electorate. All the guild awards, for example, are good indications for some direction, but not one guild has enough voters to be a sure thing.

The majority of voters are "Old Hollywood" - money people who are and were the idiots that turn out sequel after numbing sequel. The smartest people in Hollywood are Directors; the dumbest are actors, but a close second are producers.

Moreover, even though the nominees are chosen from the particular industry (cinematographers choose Best C, actors the 4 awards, writers the screenplay awards, and everyone the Best Picture), everyone in the Academy votes for the winners. The same meathead Producers who make movies of talking toasters and toilet monsters are allowed to choose Best Editor. They have no idea how editing is done, nor cinematography, etc. So they vote Best Picture all over again. Or, big "or," they could split their ticket based on sentimentality for the underdog. It's anyone's guess because the voters are so stupid.

This is why there are sweeps - because the lazy geriatrics in the Academy will just vote one movie across the board when they are overly enamored with a film (something that doesn't look likely this year)

The only way to have a really good idea of where the Oscars are heading is to be a Hollywood/Los Angles insider. To know who is popular to the electorate. That’s why critic awards (e.g. Golden Globes) are largely useless. Who in Hollywood likes critics?! If anything, the critics' awards can backfire because the Old Guard wants to demonstrate independence or the wonderful trait of Stupid People to assert their ability by being contrary.

A romp through past races shows that the Critics awards are anecdotal and useless.

There have been many upsets in recent years (e.g. Roman Polanksi for Best Director in 2002, Adrien Brody for Best Actor in the same year; Marcia Gay Harden for Best Supporting in 2000) that I haven’t heard good explanations for except that there was some politicking on the ground in LA.

For example, if an actor is criticized by the White House between when the electorate receives their ballots and when they are returned, that could tilt the votes. Million Dollar Baby was attacked by conservative critics for advocating euthanasia during this period - was that enough to tilt the voters? No idea.

So for my predictions, I will start from the standpoint of the Guild and then gauge how the Academy Old Guard will manifest their Idiocy this year.

The Producer's Guild voted for Aviator.

Directors Guild: Clint Eastwood

Screen Actors Guild
Best Actor: Jaime Foxx
Best Actress: Hilary Swank
Best Supp Actor: Morgan Freeman
Best Supp Actress: Cate Blanchett

My predictions:

1. Best Picture: Aviator
2. Best Director: Martin Scorcese
3. Best Actor: Jaime Foxx
4. Best Actress: Annette Bening
5. Best Supp Actor: Morgan Freeman
6. Best Supp Actress: Cate Blanchett
7. Best Original Screenplay: "Eternal Sunshine"
8. Best Adapted Screenplay: "Sideways"
9. Best Animated Film: "The Incredibles"
10. Best Documentary Feature: "Super Size Me"

I choose 10 because that makes the tzedaka easier.

Why these?

I think "Aviator" is Oscar bait and the Academy bit. It's perfect irony that Scorcese is overlooked for his real masterpieces, but if the Academy will redeem Polanksi, so they'll support Scorsese. It’s an epic film, a bio-pic, and fuels nostalgia for the bygone era of the majority of Academy electorate. Bada-bing.

Bening over Swank. As one critic put it - Swank isn't one of the greats, why would they award her with 2 awards in 5 years? Bening is Hollywood royalty (married to Warren Beatty) and the very fact that the movie she's nominated for was disliked and unknown shows how the academy is trying to rescue her. I think Winslet deserves it for the awesome "Eternal Sunshine" but Jim Carrey was even better than she was and he was ignored, so I think the academy will ignore her. I've heard good things about Vera Drake, which will be ignored for the same reasons.

Foxx is everyone's "shoo-in" so who am I to argue?

Freeman hasn’t gotten an Oscar yet, would you believe that? A crime.

Blanchett is the most nostalgia driven character in "Aviator" - and has built up an impressive career. I'm banking that Aviator is stronger than Million.

"Sunshine" may not win Screenplay - because the movie is too too good. But I'm hoping that after five high profile films, (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Adaptation, Human Nature, and Being John Malkovich) Kaufman's genius will penetrate the Geriatric Boneheads.

"Sideways" for Best Adapted because the critics' darlings are never given top awards but they seem to be recognized in the screenplays. My theory is that in non-sweeps years, the Geriatrics don't vote for this category, allowing the Young Turks to win.

"The Incredibles" for Best Animated Film because even though "Shrek 2" made more money than the European Union, it was hackneyed trash. The Incredibles is for the older, more staid crowd.

"Super Size Me" for Best Documentary Feature because it was the second most famous doc this year (after "Fahrenheit") and is widely credited with making McDonalds drop 'super-sizes' from their menus. Hollywood likes that kind of power.

I don't know if I'll be awake enough to watch the show. Let me know how I did…


I've been fighting colds on and off this whole winter but a week of no-sleep finally brought me down. A mild fever, a hacking cough, and epic languor are perfect to round out this unhealthy season. I've been trying to sleep all day and get plenty of fluids. I'm heading into a heavy speaking season so I hope I can lick this quickly.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Square K

Does anyone know anything about the "Square K" - from Seattle? Square-K Kosher Services POB 18915, Seattle, WA 98118. (206) 878-1065; Fax: (908) 370-0467. Rabbi Moshe Londinski.

The hekhsher is left off some good lists and included in some bad ones, but I know very little about the West Coast Scene.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson, 67, Author, Commits Suicide

Tuesday afternoon, in the middle of the conference, I finally get to look at a Times - the only source I have when I'm in hyper-focused conference mode - and I get floored by Thompson's suicide.

Hunter S. Thompson, by all accounts, was a paranoid degenerate and deeply weird person who nonetheless had an immense effect on my writing and literary worldview. Even deeper, I felt a kinship with his outlook - that were he to have been born an orthodox Jewish redhead in 1972 he'd be me instead of being a godless coked-out gun-crazy superfreak. The converse is true, because I felt he was a brother under the skin, I was long afraid that there but for the grace of God go I. I feel the same way about Belushi.

Thompson was an outlaw, a unique voice, and one of the most important writers in the 20th Century. His concept of "gonzo" journalism is based on the phenomenological philosophy of the breakdown between subjectivity and objectivity - his most important contribution to literature, epistemology and that rarefied nexus between ethnography and journalism that the greatest non-fiction writers inhabit.

I was very worried that his suicide came from the inevitable depression inflicted on we who see too much - a depression that may have been fueled by his mythically enormous drug consumption. Thank God, sorta, it turns out that he gunned himself down for all-too-understandable reasons for someone of his Libertarian freaky-deaky worldview: he was getting too sick.

We didn't think he was going to die quietly. A profound egotism drove his appetites for narcotics, pornography, guns, explosives, the fourth amendment, Freedom and is the very basis of Gonzo Philosophy. It's that same egotism that drove him to go out in a blaze of glory.

The gifts of family and God that I was given have kept me away from that egotism and those appetites, but I still mourn the loss of a person who spoke to my mind with an eerie resonance.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

That's My Idea!

I've had this idea for a while - that Election Day should be a national holiday. First of all, it would make it much easier for people to vote. But also because Election Day is greater than even the Fourth of July to demonstrate what America is all about.

Now I see that Hillary has the same idea and is sponsoring this in the Senate (Sen. Clinton Pushes for Voting Holiday). Well, that's the *perfect* way to kill it.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Democracy, Cheap!

This is one of the most important stories out there - that the Bush Administration has been paying journalists to shill government policy under the deceptive face of 'objective' journalism. You'd think that since the RNC basically owns FOXNews would be enough, but nooooooo.

Already, the journalists Armstrong Williams, Maggie Gallagher, and Michael McManus have been found selling out their integrity. Now we have a newer, and more twisted, tale.

Frank Rich (who has redeemed his idiotic op-ed career by becoming a real journalist in his weekly columns) reports on the case of "Jeff Gannon" (The White House Stages Its 'Daily Show').

Basically, a dude calling himself Jeff Gannon has attended many White House press conferences and was responsible for giving McClellan (the press sec) and Bush lowball partisan questions - for example (quoting from Rich):
In the last clip [on MSNBC], "Jeff" is quizzing the president himself, in his first post-inaugural press conference of Jan. 26. Referring to Harry Reid and Hillary Clinton, "Jeff" asks, "How are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?"
Gannon, it turns out, does not exist. His real name is James D. Guckert. His news credentials came from a website "Talon News" which is actually a partisan Republican PR machine.

McClellan says that he had no idea that Gannon was under a false name and credentials. Rich quotes "Bruce Bartlett, a White House veteran of the Reagan-Bush I era, wrote on the nonpartisan journalism Web site Romenesko, that "if Gannon was using an alias, the White House staff had to be involved in maintaining his cover." (Otherwise, it would be a rather amazing post-9/11 security breach.)"

How low will Bush go? How low will we let him??

{2009 Update, pic from here.}

The Perfect Candidate

Michael Chertoff was the perfect choice for Homeland Security - I have no idea why Kerik came before him. Chertoff was confirmed as DHS Secretary last Tuesday (Feb 15) which makes him the Bush's first Jewish cabinet secretary. Bush is such a friend of the Jews that it took him 5 years to find someone qualified enough to be in his cabinet, but he chose well.

Ya see, while Kerik was merely a rapacious crook, Chertoff is a moral midget. I mean, who else should be head of Homeland Security than the man who wrote the execrable Patriot Act?

It's ironic - our current Attorney General (Hispanic) allowed torture and the DHS (Jewish) allowed our civil liberties stripped. At least they should switch jobs!

{2009 Update: pic from here.}

Cingular Blues

So, ya see, the synagogue wanted to get me cell-phone that can be an exclusive 'all-points' way of getting in touch with me. Great idea. Cingular was having a massive sale, so I felt it was the best option - also beause they could get you a phone number immediately and the phone soon after.

Well, turns out that Cingular had just merged with AT&T Wireless and was in the process of integrating their computers. After two days of waiting, one of the poor saps who works their customer service told me that because of the computer trouble, there were unprocessed back orders from two weeks before me. At that point I started cursing in Jedi. They took my point and rushed my order through and I got the number soon after and the actual phone in a few days.

But the phone didn't work. I tried vainly to get it set up, but it didn't budge. The phone said that I lacked the SIM chip (short for simian, I suppose) and it was supposed to have come with the phone. My office, never in a full state of organization, was turned upside down in my search for the chip which runs the phone and which supposively came with the package. No dice (or chip).

This morning, my wife went to a Cingular Authorized Dealership Emporium to get a replacement SIM chip (and to holler at them for not sending me one). She just called to tell me that Cingular did send me one - and installed it in my phone as a courtesy. They just installed it upside down.


{2009 update: pic from here.}

Headless Conference

We're leaving soon for this year's Wexner Alumni Conference, held in sleepy Tarrytown. Trivia buffs know that Tarrytown became famous as the setting of "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" by Washington Irving (or Irving Washington)- the first sentence being:
IN the bosom of one of those spacious coves which indent the eastern shore of the Hudson, at that broad expansion of the river denominated by the ancient Dutch navigators the Tappan Zee, and where they always prudently shortened sail, and implored the protection of St. Nicholas when they crossed, there lies a small market-town or rural port, which by some is called Greensburgh, but which is more generally and properly known by the name of Tarry Town.
So, we'll be gone til Wednesday. Any of you who live in New Haven want to drive by our house to make sure it's still OK, be our guest.

Terror Alert Review

While I like to see Burt's smiling face, telling me all's Yellow in the US, I'm wondering if I should keep the terror alert up. First of all, the java-mojo mechanism that runs the alert slows down the blog's loading. Second of all, and most importantly, the terror alert is unlikely to change now that (a) Ridge is out of a job, (b) Ashcroft has left, and (c) Bush has been re-elected.

Even though we are far more vulnerable now than three years ago, Burt will not help us despite his mighty powers.

If you have opinions on the matter, let me know.

Movie Review: Shark Tale (2004)

Rented and saw Dreamworks' Shark Tale (2004). It reminds me of "Matrix Reloaded." Actually, it reminds me of the movie review I wrote for Reloaded (see below) - the critics savaged "Shark Tale" for reasons that I cannot understand.

What's wrong with these people? Have all journalists been taking stupid pills with their whiskey? The older I get, the more I realize how much I need other people to help understand the world yet the more I realize most other people have the minds of dumpsters.

Check out this review from the once reliable Onion A.V. Club:
"the real, uncredited architects are a bunch of kids in the mall: Every single joke, character detail, music montage, and pop-culture reference looks extensively market-tested, whether via screenings, focus groups, or other box-office successes. With dollar signs in its eyes and nothing in its heart, Shark Tale calculates each moment for the broadest appeal, but its impact couldn't be more impersonal. The filmmakers are convinced people will like it because the spreadsheets and pie charts tell them so, not because they've invested it with originality or passion. "
What on earth is he saying? The movie was very smart - the amount of detail that went into the Fish World and the fast, frequent inside jokes that NO kid would understand show that this movie wasn't a cheap knockoff of "Finding Nemo" (a claim almost every review made), e.g. from the Onion: "Shark Tale steals shamelessly from Finding Nemo"

OK, first of all, these animated movies are so long in pre-production that there's really no way they stole from Finding Nemo. Second of all, "Nemo" had almost nothing in common with "Shark" except that they were under water. The movie industry has this weird tendency to put out two movies from two studios on the same theme (e.g. "Volcano" and "Dante's Peak"; "Armaggeddon" and "Deep Impact"; and most relevant for this discussion, "Antz" and "A Bugs Life")

The comparison to Antz/Bugs Life is apt because "Antz" was from Dreamworks and "Bugs" from Disney-Pixar and it was seen as the first stage of the battle of animated giants (which sounds like another good movie idea, by the way). Critics of all brain-capacities have weighed in on which movie was better (or "won") but they are very different films. They are both remakes, "Bugs" of "Magnificent Seven" and "Antz" of "Love and Death" (roughly). But Bugs was G, Antz PG - and that's just the beginning. Antz was adult oriented and had a A-list celebrities parodying their personas in a knowing, mature way. Woody Allen, Anne Bancroft, Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Jennifer Lopez, Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, Christopher Walken in a plot about betrayal, government genocide, and headless bugs. Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin playing WASPs was funny for me but would fly over the head of a 16 year old. "Bugs" was a cute movie about believing in yourself.

"Finding Nemo" vs. "Shark's Tale" is the same story. Nemo has all B-listers and the protagonist is the irritating Albert Brooks. The theme? Finding yourself (and your son). Actually it has the adult theme of not being as uptight as Brooks and more uptight than the fish Dory. I liked the movie, no doubt, but it's not in the league of "Shark's Tale" for references and easy humor.

How would 'focus group kids' get the trivia? e.g. "When Lenny coughs up the objects on the table, one of them is a license plate with the registration "007 981." This is the same plate found inside the tiger shark in Jaws" or that the fish voiced by Renee Zellwegger responded well when Will Smith's fish nonsensically said "You had me at hello"

Now, if you want to trash focus-group trash, take out "Shrek 2." Yeeeeeeeeugh.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Latest in Leadership from the Free World

The head of the Judiciary rules for life - a way to remain impartial and above politics. The Supreme Court justices are the last ones who are appointed by the old system of double-elections; i.e. the used to be chosen by electors (and even though we still do that, there's bunches of laws restricting electors from changing their votes, so it's meaningless) and the Senate was elected by the state legislatures. SCOTUS justices are appointed by the president and voted by the senate - thrice-removed and in it for life - a remnant of the 18th Century fear of a craven government, affected by the passions of the moment.

How ironic that all those great Enlightenment brains couldn't have protected us from the Rehnquist court, or Rehnquist himself. Who would think there'd be a further embarrassment after Bush vs. Gore (2000) - a landmark case of craven momentary passions on the level of Dred Scott.

But we have it as seen from today's story: Rehnquist Won't Be on Bench When Supreme Court Convenes… but "The chief justice has given no indication that he plans to step down."

Oh yay.

Rehnquist - who personally designed his robes with gold stripes - has taken his role as American Pope too literally. Just like the real Papist, Rehnquist will cling to his catherda until he bites in on the bench. I'm not happy about term limits nor age limits but do we really need to have this joker still in office?

Summers' Blunder

What Summers' did wrong was substitute a conclusion for a hypothesis. This happens all the time in the social-sciences. Summers is an economist (I believe) and all they *have* are hypothesis so who can blame him for just repeating the intellectual guano he's been trained to shovel.

Are women innately worse than men in math and science. Don't know. But it's a hypothesis (to answer the question 'how come there are way more men than women in engineering/math/physics'). If you stop at the hypothesis - and its a quick fix - then you'd be able to share your conlusion with your bar buddies but not with scientists and the rare intellectual.

Summers should have said 'Are the centuries-old prejudices true? Are women worse at math than men? I sure hope not, but if not we need to find a compelling reason why my Physics department has 10 men to 1 woman, etc etc).

And another point; speaking as a non-math dude; why is it an insult to suggest that women are worse than men at math? I am a verbal whiz and a math sloth and I am quite happy with that arrangement. The fact that people are angry at the suggestion means that they have incorporated the real prejudice - that because men ruled the culture, they (we) claimed that whatever we were good at was the right and superior set of skills. Anything non-masculine became sub-standard.

Thinking that math skills are inherently better than verbal skills is something that only a math-oriented person would say - or someone immersed in a male values dominated culture.

Ironically, the biggest display of chauvenism in this whole mess comes from Summers' critics who cling to the hierarchical prejudices of an arachaic system.

Harvard's Choice

As you may know, Larry "Lounge Lizard" Summers, President of Harvard is in deep trouble after he said the most terrible things anybody has ever said about women.

Not even getting into whether Summers has a valid point about women in the sceinces is the way the University "community" is handling it. [University Community is simultaneously a tautology and oxymoron; both mean 'all for one' yet universities are by degign fractious. Whenever a University's denizens unify you should run to the hills; academics who agree only do so in order to squash a third person]

According to the Times, Summers said (according to the now released private transcript):
"My best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon - by far - is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity; that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude; and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination,"
According to his critics, he in fact said "Women are stoo-pid" in a Gomer Pyle voice.

More importantly, the University may throw him out on his pasty white rump. I love this - Harvard is showing its true colors; in the battle between academic freedom and political-correctness, PC will win.

Bye-bye Summers, next time run a real school.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

SOY Sale and My Lists

Living outside of The City for the first time in 8 years, getting to the SOY Sale is very difficult. I haven't missed the sale for all those years; it's like a religious experience!

In any case, going to a booksale unprepared causes me much anxiety. Actually, that sentence made me sound like Yoda, which I guess proves the point. I have stacks and lists of books to buy and smaller stacks of files of the books I own. The danger of buying a book I already own is very high - there's just not enough time for me to keep track of my holdings. I don't know if it's pretentious or pathetic, but I think I need a private curator. My kid is too small for the job (and he eats every single book he gets in his fisty mitts).

My ethic this year is when in doubt, I will not buy a book - which will make my family happy (except for my kid, naturally).

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

N.H.L. Commissioner Cancels Rest of Season

I don't know what is more of a shock - that the NHL is, in the words of the Times story "the first major pro sports league in North America to lose an entire season to a labor dispute" or the fact that I had absolutely *no* idea that the hockey season was supposed to have begun. Does anyone outside Canada know when hockey season starts anyway?

Except for the movie "Slap Shot" (which we just acquired, thank you very much) hockey means oh so little to my world. But I love the Slap Shot (especially the Hanson brothers ... did you know that it was basically a true story! no joke!)