Sunday, November 26, 2006

Giving Thanks

(I had to flip the words, at least- can't have the same title twice!)

It's still Thanksgiving Weekend, right? At least for a few more hours, even if I sleep through them. So: No rants, no negatives. Let us give thanks, and links:

-For O. Henry's wonderful language, and for the thrills of recognition of the details of Old New York, still around a hundred years later, that he unknowingly provides.

-For Mark Steyn, somewhat more depressing, but whose felicitous turns of phrase are just as enjoyable. (One does wonder at the sheer stupidity and self-destructiveness of actors. Ah well.)

-For our troops, making it all possible, and keeping to tradition in an untraditional age. See the photos as well.

-For all the people who made this weekend so great, especially Ms. Beck, for the dinner invite, and Rav K., who arranged for it. In fact, for all my friends, acquaintances, and family, about none of whom do I have the slightest reason to complain. Throw in some kudos for some good shiurim and some good movies, and we have good times all around.

Nice to have a positive post. I guess I'll have to struggle to bounce back to ranting from this sunny mood, but I'll try. (Lord knows I have topics.) Perhaps, please God, I'll have even more reasons to stay happy, and won't even bother. As always, till then!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Out of the blue, a good friend asked (to my everlasting shame) when I'm going to post something new. Oh, I've got stuff- some serious, some, not so much. Just not much time lately. But a nice long weekend is coming up, and perhaps I shall be able to post then. In the meantime, have yourselves a great Thanksgiving, enjoy- and, most importantly, give thanks!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Salad Days

Back when I was at university...all right, sorry, back when I was in college, I became (thanks to a roommate of a friend) a big fan of Spy Magazine. (Warning: Scroll-down NSFW.) What a great publication! I must have started reading it in about 1995, and bought every issue from about a year after that. I still have them, years after I got rid of most of my other magazines. Then, in early 1998, it stopped appearing. I remember seeing the last issue, with JFK Jr. on the cover, on the stands for quite a while, as if they were waiting for the next issue, which never came. Much later, I was IMing with Mugger, of the New York Press, and thought to ask him about it. He told me that they'd stopped publishing and why- something to do with the magazine market being in a slump around then. (Interestingly, I think it's his review, for the New York Sun most likely, of a posthumous biography of John-John that I tucked into that last issue.)

Anyway, last week I saw a note in the paper that a new book, "Spy: The Funny Years", had been published, and the authors were speaking about it, unfortunately on a Friday night. Earlier this week, I was in Barnes & Noble and chanced across it- a nice big coffee-table book, 'tis being the season for coffee-table books. "The Funny Years", apparently, are 1986-1991, after which the founding editors, authors of the book, sold the magazine and, soon after, left it. There's even a spread inside the back cover showing the covers of every single issue of Spy, and there's a break at one point with an arrow indicating as "The Funny Years" all the issues before the break.

Turns out the magazine had folded and restarted just around the time I started reading it, and the subsequent issues and even many preceding (according to the authors, who, of course, are very likely biased) were nowhere near the quality of what came before. And here I thought it was among the funniest stuff I've seen! There's worlds to be discovered out there, not that I'm too interested in "The Funny Years."

The local Barnes & Noble, by the way, has finally lined up their flags the way I wanted them to, nice and symmetrical. (And no, I didn't tell them.) Good for them.

And I have my paper poppies, but no lapel to wear them in. A moment for our vets, God bless them.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Biased, Or Just Plain Ig'nint?

Well, that was certainly expected, if not desired. So this morning, CBS radio merrily informs me that the last time Congress changed hands was in 1994, "In an anti-incumbent surge just like this one."

Well, if they're talking about incumbents in Congress, that's just wrong. The big anger against those had peaked a few years earlier, and to no effect, as I wrote a few days back. And if they mean Clinton, that's plain ridiculous. Clinton was quite popular, coasted to reelection, and would remain so popular through all the scandals that would follow that he would've been reelected yet again if he had been allowed to.

Why did the Republicans win in '94? Simple: They had a clear-cut, popular, conservative agenda (which they delivered on) all mapped out. The Democrats, in 2006, have no such thing.

And, in fact, that's one silver lining for me. With no agenda, hopefully they'll be able to do little to no damage in two years. (And, of course, George W. Bush is thankfully still president.)

Note that I, ever the optimist, said two years. One good thing I've kept in mind ever since 1994 is how that election disproved any idea (believed somewhat before then by all) that any party "owns" Congress. (Republicans, alas, seemed to forget this in only twelve years, while Democrats, in power much longer, also seem to be unable to absorb it.) So how's that for another silver lining? Maybe the equally agenda-less Republicans will see how they have to wise up now. I doubt it- politicos are politicos-but one can always hope. (JPod makes a related point here.)

So silver linings there are, all well and good. (One particularly delicious one is the loss of Chafee, who probably would've switched anyway. As Mark Steyn pointed out here in his usual felicitous manner, "If only 100 citizens from a population of 300 million get to be senators, Lincoln Chafee should not be among them.") However, all those silver linings have a very dark cloud indeed: This isn't 1994, or 2000. As I wrote below, we have enemies who want to kill us (and quite a few others), and they watch the news- and they know what happened, even if the Democrats stop with the infantile behavior. So you'll forgive me if, among all the smiles and linings, I show a bit of gloom now and then. We will see what happens. Happier post next time, I hope!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day

So after yesterday's post, I open today's paper to discover that there's a special screening, with Q&A from all the leads, at Lincoln Center tonight. I went online to see if tickets were for sale. Oh, yes: for ninety bucks. Fuggedaboudit. I'll just buy an already overpriced ticket at the theater. And the DVD, 'cause that's who I am. I wonder if, like there was the complete concert on the last Guest movie, there'll be the complete movie on this disc. I doubt it, for a number of reasons. (Like, if you could make an actual Oscar-winning film, you would. Although I hear people are already talking about O'Hara.) I do note that in each movie, the characters seem to be successively higher on the "fame" ladder. Probably doesn't mean anything, but it's a thought.

Eh. Too tired anyway. I'd like to go to Stern tonight, hear this speech on Kohen genetics, maybe ask some embarrassing questions about Jewish genetics in general, tired. Maybe it's my eye, my zero-free-time schedule, I dunno.

Voted today! With brother Sam right behind, and Pat right ahead! Of course, all the local offices were uncontested. The Queens County Republicans are always inviting me to their dinners, but they never seem to actually, y'know, run any candidates. Well, less levers for me to pull. Still never pulled one for a Democrat.

Monday, November 06, 2006

"For Your Consideration"

I knew it was coming out, and, of course, am planning on seeing it, but just seeing the poster for the new Christopher Guest movie on a construction site fence this morning was enough to bring a smile to my face.

Want to join me? Leave a comment.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Remember, Remember...

...the Fifth of November...

Well, not for the famous reason: This is an American blog. But Happy Half-Birthday wishes to a former (?) reader of this blog, belated birthday wishes to my brother, estimated birthday wishes (I don't know the exact date, tsk, tsk) to one of my brothers-in-law (come to think, the other's birthday is around this time as well), and slightly-premature wishes to someone who probably doesn't even know this blog exists.

Wow! Lots of reasons to be happy, including a very nice Kollel Yom Rishon today. So let's have a little rant:

There's a popular sheet distributed called "MeOrot MeHaDaf Yomi," which is exactly what its title says it is. This week, they have a full page advertising a new book they have out about Shabbat. Here's a picture from the book they use in the advert, twice because my photography ain't so good:

Yeah, it's a family sitting around a Shabbos table in der Heim. Father, random dude (Oyrech?), son. Notice anyone missing? Oh, yeah, a mother. There is a vague humanoid shape in the shadows at the left (of course, since the candles are at that end of the table, that should be the most lit area) which, I think, we can safely assume is the woman of the house, the She who must Not Be Seen.

No, I don't think I'm being paranoid. This is, I'm afraid, par for the course in Charedi publications today. Chassidim especially have, shall we say, a somewhat odd view on the image of women, and it seems like even the velt has a right shoulder to look over. For example: A set of "Mitzvah Cards" recently was released, I think to tie in to the "Encyclopedia of the Taryag Mitzvoth" that is now being published. My rabbi happened to have the one for Sippur Yetziat Mitzrayim- in two versions. One showed a yeshivish father, in a hat (like anyone wears one at the seder, but we'll let that go) and beard (natch), merrily explaining the Haggadah to his son and daughter. The other had the same picture, except the hat had become a shtreimel, the beard and payot were longer, and the daughter...had been replaced with another boy. After all, who knows what znut the tayereh kinder might be driven to if they see a drawing of a little girl on a card.

And, of course, it's much worse. A little while back, one of those "Help a family in need" letters (I think this one was an insert) went around. (The actual narratives usually make me quite mad in and of themselves, but once again we can let that pass.) Very slick, color photos of the family in question. Except all the women's faces had been pixellated out. Even the babies, although how they know the gender is beyond me. (Something similar happened when they reprinted The Bamboo Cradle.) I kid you not. After all, who knows where it can all lead? Who knows where our society will be if we allow women who write for Charedi newspapers (and books, etc.) to use their first names instead of an initial? (Never mind that the same society is the very one that, perversely and yet logically, requires those women and not their spouses to work, among other mishegas, but yet again we'll let that go.)

Well, I guess I should be grateful that all this is is a pandering (for money?) to the lowest (and I do mean lowest) common denominator (I hope), and it's not, say, Iran or the Taliban. Problem is, as Europe is finding out, you start by pandering and pretty soon they want to take over. Look at the streets of Jerusalem.

Eh. Enough Charedi-bashing. The latest issue of Tradition only serves to remind me that we MO don't have much to brag about either. It's one of my "statement" subscriptions, but this issue has me wondering about even that. Too much ranting here- maybe another time. Or maybe I'll just stick to Sherlock Holmes next time. There's always plenty there!

Have a great week, all!