Is that what he meant by Super Ego?

I was chatting with my good friend, Alecia, who is quite the blogger/letter-writer in her own right. Lately, we've been discussing her social life issues, since they are so much more exciting in a don't-want-to-look-but-can't-turn-away-from-the-twenty-car-pileup sort of way than anything going on in my life. So, in an attempt at cultural humor and to let her know that I understood the layers that make up a woman's deepest thoughts, I attempted to reference a sometimes-quoted line from Titanic. I meant to say, "A woman's heart is like a deep ocean..."

Here's what I actually said:

ba: modern day philosopher, the old lady from titanic once said ...

ba: "a woman's heart is like a dead ocean"

ba: "deep"

ba: whoa...that was WAY too freudian

alecia: yikes

ba: yeah, you can see what my social life has been like lately

Sometimes a cigar...


Is Mistletoe a Christmas olive branch?

I woke up earlier this Sunday morning than I should have and started catching up on my blog-reading. When I came across this post from Neil's blog, which is always entertaining (no talking penis this time, but entertaining nonetheless), I read this line, "It DOES bother me that most of the complainers about the 'War on Christmas' come from conservative commentators such as Bill O’Reilly and John Gibson." Add CNN's Lou Dobbs to that list of the profoundly stupid...

First of all, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't we have a real war going on? And doesn't it diminish that little conflict in Iraq to use the retarded phrase, "War on Christmas?" It's not like people are laying roadside bombs because someone said "Happy Holidays."

And the more I think about this "War on Christmas" thing, the more I begin to feel like it's really thinly veiled Antisemitism. These aren't people who are pissed off about "political correctness" for Kwanzaa or some Islamic holiday (since there isn't really one right now) or because a Hindu doesn't have anything exciting to do this season. These are people who don't want to have to accommodate their speech because it may not be respectful of Jews, who are celebrating an entirely different holiday at this time.

And these "news commentators" aim to create stupid issues like this to drive wedges between people, to make people--not only different--but disrespectful of those differences. As though, because someone is different, it's an assault on who they are, and, therefore, by saying Happy Holidays, someone is not being respectful, but rather is giving up who they are for who I am.

And, none of that is even remotely true.

When someone says, "Happy Holidays" to me or "Happy Hanukkah," I appreciate it. When I see one of those screens they flash on TV with "Happy Hanukkah," I'm touched that they thought enough about my holidays, even though I'm in the considerable minority, to say something nice like that.

But, I'm not an idiot. I know me and "my peeps" are just 2% of the population. So, when I get a "Merry Christmas," I don't get bent out of shape. I just smile and say, "You too."

"Oh, and, you can pack those Hanukkah candles in a plastic bag."


Denial ain't just a river...

This week I've watched a considerable amount of news about Iran's Holocaust Denial Conference. Frankly, I've found it intriguing. And after viewing the diverse views espoused by such respected professionals as David Duke and Adolf Ahmadinejad in an open forum that was so thoughtful as to exclude any historian or Holocaust survivor, I've had to reconsider my views. That's right, searching the recesses of my mind, my upbringing and my history, I've had to reconsider.

And I've come to the conclusion that I've been duped.

And so have you.

That's right, we've all been led to believe in a so-called "historical event" of which there is no real proof.

You and I have been duped into believing this:

That there were earthquakes in Iran.

I know, I know. This flies in the face of years of inculcated information. But, take a second and consider the following questions:

Have you ever experienced an earthquake in Iran?

If you haven't, then how do you know they really exist?

If you believe you have, can you be sure it was an earthquake? How do you know it wasn't something else, like, oh, let's say an underground nuclear weapons test?

Sure, we've all read the articles, from the media outlets, the New York Times, the BBC, the Jerusalem Post---there was an "earthquake" in 1990 where 35,000 people "supposedly" died, that there was another so-called "earthquake" in December 2003 that claimed more than 15,000 so-called "victims."

But who's to say that this wasn't just part of the well-known Iranian media conspiracy? Who's to say these "facts" of recorded history haven't been blown out of proportion?

Sure, there may have been some shaking or something and maybe some people were injured, probably like 10-15 or so, but those reported casualty numbers are so big, they just can't be true. Geology just can't be that cruel.

So, here's the real reason. Iran has always been looking for world sympathy, a way to justify its existence, since it was just "given" to the Iranian people at the fall of the Ottoman Empire. These "earthquakes" are it. They create worldwide sympathy for the supposed victims and lead to masses of foreign aid---even from the Iranian entity's sworn enemies. In fact, if it wasn't for the brainwashed pro-Iranian U.S. Congress, the Iranian entity wouldn't even exist today!

Oh yes, we have been fooled. Fooled by Iran's desire to coddle world opinion. Fooled by our sympathy for people in need. Fooled by our belief in the "truth" of history and geology.

And, I, as one truly enlightened person, simply will not be fooled anymore.

There have never been earthquakes in Iran.


It's beginning to feel a lot like time to hit the iPod...

I realize that most people would have me drawn and quartered for this, but here's the thing.

I hate Christmas music.

It's not that I hate Christmas. Although I do feel bad for religious Christians who have had Hallmark destroy what was once an actual religious holiday, I'm really ambivalent about the holiday.

I like the lights.

Well, the white and red ones.

The rainbow colored ones, however...sorry. Gaudy.

But the red lights and the white lights, very pretty.

I like the giving nature of the season, although I wonder why the other 11 months don't matter.

I even like It's a Wonderful Life, although I don't know why Jimmy Stewart doesn't learn his lesson after seeing what his life is like without him every single year.

But the music, the fucking music, drives me batty.

It's not that I'm Jewish. I mean, my mother's Jewish and she can't get enough of the Christmas music. In fact, if I go home for the holidays, it's more likely that I'll hear the music in our Jewish home than anywhere else.

And it's obviously not that I'm a Scrooge. Like I said before, I kind of like the season.

So, today, I started thinking about why I have this viseral reaction to Christmas music and this is what I came up with. It's The Gap's fault.

When I was in high school, I worked for The Gap for two years. That annoying kid who would welcome you to the store and immediately address your needs or remember the last time you were there and what you bought, yeah, that was me. One of the side benefits of a disturbingly good memory. The reason you got "greeted" wasn't just because the company (that's what we called it, "the company" -- very 1984, I know) wanted you to feel comfortable in the store, it was because the likelihood of a properly greeted shop lifter continuing to shop lift was exponentially smaller. At least according to "The Company."

It was a good job and, frankly, I still own clothes I bought while I worked for the company. The discount was wicked good. To this day, I still feel bad paying full price for anything in the store.

However, during "Holiday"---which is what The Company calls it---everyone's schedule increased. I worked an ungodly number of hours then. And the whole time, the whole fucking time, that stupid ass Christmas music tape would blast through the speaker system over and over and over.

Nothing, and I mean nothing can ruin you forever for Christmas music than hearing it every damn day, all day, for over a month.

No one was happier for the 26th.


Reality bites...

I was going to write about those mundane things that make Sass ask me to contribute to her Carnival, but today, my mind is elsewhere. And for good reason.

I've struggled with my share of mild to clinical depression. I think most people in my age group have.

When I was in college, the world seemed to be my oyster. I could do anything, be anything I wanted. But when reality set it and the mundane world of a "job" took over, I felt trapped. Very trapped.

And sad. Very sad.

I just expected more than the daily grind.

More from my job. More from myself.

It took a while, but eventually, after discussing it with many, I realized I wasn't alone. Life just didn't meet the expectations of so many people.

And that's when I stopped being depressed about work and started looking at other things for fulfillment.

And ironically, that's when things at work started to fall into place.

But I remember those days well. How hard it was to get out of bed every morning. How impossible it was to be happy when I was so overwhelmingly depressed inside. How it seemed like my soul, my love for life, was dying a little with each passing day.

So, this week, when I found out that a family member of mine was struggling with clinical depression, it took me back to those feelings. Unlike so many times when I hear of someone's problems, I know just how she feels.

I just hope she knows I love her very much and wish with every part of my heart that she feels like herself again soon.


I watch movie. Is nice...

I have often used this little corner of the internet to warn others of movies that are little more than a waste of two hours. However, every once in a while I see a movie that I, not only like, but would encourage other people to see. Borat was one of those movies.

If you've been living in a hole, Borat is one of Sasha Baron Cohen's characters from Da Ali G Show. Cohen, who is Jewish, plays a vehemently anti-Semitic reporter from the former Soviet province of Kazakhstan who comes to the United States to film a documentary about the differences between the countries. In reality, Cohen uses Borat to, not only display his comic brilliance, but our own ignorance of other cultures and the thinly veiled xenophobia that continues to curse our culture. The movie is comic satire at its best.

A warning is necessary. I watched a number of parts of this movie through my fingers, so embarrassed for Cohen's victims that I almost didn't watch their responses, but I couldn't bear not to. I had the feeling that I get when I watch Steve Carrell in The Office, multiplied exponentially. This movie is not for the faint of heart. Unless you entirely lack sensibilities, you'll be offended and shocked on a number of occasions. The only way I can describe the feeling is that it must have been what the audience felt when they watched "Springtime for Hitler" in The Producers.

Of course, Borat takes one aspect of Jewish humor to an extreme. Making fun of Antisemitism is nothing new for Jews. It's a cottage industry of Jewish humor that has been indulged in by Mel Brooks for years, subtly used to incredible success by Jerry Seinfeld, and more obviously used by Larry David. But what made Borat different was that, while I was laughing hilariously at Cohen's actions in the Southern city I live in, I was wondering what was going through the heads of the obviously gentile audience I was watching it with. Sure, Cohen is extreme, but does this kind of virulent Antisemitism resonate with some of these people? In other words, is everyone here in on the joke?

I got my answer the next night. I went out with a friend visiting from another city and, when he designated himself as the driver, I got absolutely hammered. And I had a blast doing it. We went to a local bar/dance club for 80's night and, frankly, I had more fun than I've had out in quite some time.

At 2 a.m., the club closed and we, along with a large group of other people, were asked to leave. I've never understood the logic of kicking a bunch of drunk people out on the street at the same time, but that's neither here nor there. As I was walking out of the bar, my friend was advertising that he and I went to the rival school (probably not brilliant, but he's a little crazy and I was drunk). After hearing we went to a rival school, a girl then said to me, "Yeah, well, you're probably Jewish too."

I instantly started to press her.

"Oh? And what if I was? What would that mean? Why would that matter?"

She didn't respond.

I kept pressing. "You said it. Why would that matter? What do you mean by that?"

When she refused to respond to me again, I started yelling at her (and yes, this clearly was the alcohol), "Zeig Heil, you Antisemitic bitch!"

While I was too sloshed to notice, at some point, she or one of her friends put gum in my friend's hair, which he took out and put in her friend's hair.

Yeah, I don't know enough about that to really write about the details, but I think you get the idea.

Today, while I was nursing my hangover, I couldn't help but think back to what I thought when I saw Borat. How would this girl respond to that movie? Would she realize that it was a Jewish comedian satirizing the absurdity of her own deep-seeded illogical hatred? Or would she see it as a more extreme view of the right perspective?

Honestly, I'm disappointed to admit that I think it would be the later.

What disappoints me most is that I don't think she's alone.

And there's nothing funny about that.


More of the Wonderful World of Home Ownership

A few months ago, I heard stories of people getting sticker shock from their property taxes. When I got my preliminary tax bill, I thought, "Okay, it's a little high, but nothing out of control."

And then today, I got the actual tax bill.

Not only did it exceed my escrow, but it was over four times more than what the preliminary bill said.

So, to my county tax collector, I ask this question:

What the fuck????

So instead of paying my taxes and insurance out of the escrow I've been paying all year, I'll be dipping into savings and hoping I get it back on my tax return.

Whoever the new governor is, he better provide some tax relief.


The Switch...

For those who are expecting a Seinfeld-ish story about how I switched from a girl I'm dating to her really cute roommate, I'm sorry to disappoint. But then again, if you've been reading long, you would know that my utter lack of game would preclude such a story anyway.

No, no. This switch is not nearly as exciting, but to me, exciting nonetheless.

After annoying the crap out of Kevin with questions, this weekend I got a Mac.

I've held off from posting on this topic because, frankly, I didn't know how much I would like it. I thought that my desire to get a Mac might be a blinded perception that I really didn't want one, but that my iPod had convinced me that life simply must be easier than dealing with a PC. Indeed, I half expected that I would return it within a few days.

But I haven't.

Instead, in the past two days, I've fallen in love.

I bought a Macbook Pro laptop last week, but didn't receive it until Saturday. At first, I thought it was going back. When I wouldn't let it restart after installing a load of upgrades (from the original version of the operating system), it freaked out a bit. Then, there was an issue with the keyboard that was apparently left over from that upgrade.

But after that, it was easier than...well, maybe that's an analogy I should avoid.

Sure, I had problems with getting my PC to "share" files over my home network. I also had some issues getting Open Office (yes, I refuse to dish more money over to Microsoft if I'm making the switch) to work with my old Wordperfect files. But it's hard to blame Apple for those issues. Their software worked seemlessly. My PC, however, was less cooperative.

What's been keeping me from the "switch?" Well, two things. First, until recently, I've been a gamer. Lately, I haven't really had time for it, but through high school and college, I loved computer games. In fact, the poor gaming selection has been the reason I've avoided Macs for as long as I have. But lately, I haven't really had time for games and, honestly, haven't had the same interest. Sure, every once in a while I like to get my fix, but I don't feel the need to have beaten the newest game the second it comes out, like I once did. So, a little time on the Xbox (yeah, I know it's Microsoft, but I love Splinter Cell), and I get my fix. And if I want to get made fun of online by 15 year-olds, I just log into my Xbox Live account. So, that's no longer an issue...well, now that the second issue is also resolved.

Second, like a kid clutching his security blanket, I simply couldn't deal with the prospect of not having Windows. Like I was in an eternal Catch-22, I hated dealing with the instability and "crap" that came with Windows, but the familiarity with it kept me there. I had too much software with Windows to entirely give up on it.

There was one other thing, that I would be remiss to mention: The right mouse button. Since Windows 95, I loved my right mouse button. I loved how, if I wanted to know everything and anything I could do at any point, that menu was just a right click away. I didn't need to memorize keyboard shortcuts. I just clicked. And the folks at the Apple store's answer was "just press the open apple button." Honestly, that wasn't a very satisfying answer for me. When you use your mouse, you don't want to have to touch the keyboard.

But I got tired and annoyed with waiting for my PC to shut down. Dealing with the programs that forced their way into my system tray. Cursing as I got an error message that I didn't know what it meant or how to fix it. And the answer that I got from my friends who were more knowledgeable about PCs than me (which, by the way, is pretty damn knowledgable), was unacceptable: "Just format your hard drive and reinstall everything."


Software is supposed to work for me. I'm not supposed to work for it.

So the "It just works" philosophy that I experienced with iTunes and my iPod resonated with me. And when games became less important and I learned about Bootcamp, the Apple software that lets a Mac run Windows as well (or possibly better) than a PC, would let me clutch my blankie, I started looking, seriously, at a Mac.

And now, two days in, I really do love it.

Wireless networking. Easy with Airport. Working with a PC. No problem (from the Apple side). Learning OS X. Less than 2 hours and I felt like an expert.

It really does "just work."

And how I've longed for a computer that does.

But here's the real kicker.

I didn't even have to give up my right mouse button.

Apparently, a "right click" is as easy and putting two fingers on the touchpad and clicking the mouse button. Who knew? Although I don't know why they didn't know that at the Apple store.

So, so far, I'm beaming.

I've even thought about putting one of those Apple stickers on my car.

Maybe I will if I continue to like it this much.

But let's not get crazy just yet.

But I will make this really big step...


Why I don't watch baseball...

With one exception, I've stopped watching baseball.

The exception being, when I'm bored, I like to watch Florida Marlins games. But really, that's because I was there for the birth of the team and will probably be there when they leave Florida for a place that will help fund a retractable roof stadium. But that's a different issue.

But, other than that, I don't watch baseball.

The reason is, I just don't see a need anymore.

Like so many other people, I was attracted back to the sport after the strike by the home run contest between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. Then, I wanted to know if Barry Bonds would shatter that record by hitting 73 home runs in a season.

I admit it. It was exciting.

Until I realized that it was all bullshit.

When the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, hit 60, he wasn't visiting Balco. When Roger Maris, every man's slugger, hit 61, he wasn't on the cream and the clear. When Hammerin' Hank Aaron slugged 755 home runs over 22 glorious seasons, he wasn't injecting himself with Human Growth Hormone.

But that's what baseball is now.

It's not about seeing how the players of today match up with the achievements of the past. It's not about history meeting present. It's not about love of the game.

It's about cheating.

Sure, we've all seen Exhibit A: Watching Barry Bonds blow up like a Goodyear blimp with muscle from his 20's to his 40's. But take a look at Exhibit B: Kenny Rogers.

Kenny Rogers was the starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers in last night's Game 2 of the World Series. After players complained of the "abnormal" flight of the balls he was pitching, Kenny was discovered to have a "substance"---a likely illegal substance---on his hand, he wasn't disqualified. He was asked by an umpire to "do [the umpire] a favor" and "wash it off." Later, Rogers said it was "dirt."

So instead of being thrown out on his keaster, he went right back to pitching.

ESPN then began searching old game film from the playoffs. Apparently, Mr. Rogers's neighborhood is close to an oil rig, because that same substance appeared in not one, not two, but at least FOUR different game films.

So, in the face of this probable cause, in the face of yet another embarassing scandel, in the face of another player who is shaming the game loved by our parents and grandparents, what did Major League Baseball do?


That's right. Nothing.

They put on their blinders and let yet another player cheat.

They told all the kids who were watching this game, "It's ok to cheat. It's even ok to get caught. Just lie about it and everyone will cover it if it's important enough."

I've come to expect it from Congress and corporate America, but now is it so bad that the American game can just be a home of rampant cheaters?

Well, now that I think about it, maybe that's where Congress and corporate America learned the tricks of the trade.

Either way, that's why I don't watch baseball.


I hate Auburn

I had what I hoped would be an interesting post to write. Something moderately witty that I hoped you would have enjoyed.

But now I don't feel like writing it very much.

In fact, only two words come to mind:

Fuck Auburn.

I'll be back when I can think of something else.


...I Am A Jew.

I was at Yom Kippur services last week, asking for forgiveness for skipping the second day of Rosh Hashanah services. Since I'm not allowed to eat all day, I usually stick around for the whole service. Near the end of the service is a part of the service called martyrology.

Martyrology is the part of the service where Jews remember the people who were killed for no reason other than being a Jew. While much of the service at the conservative synagogue that I attend is in Hebrew (half the time I have to look at the translation, but it just feels more religious for some reason), the martyrology service is not. In fact, much of it is stories and poetry.

For example, one story is one that many Jewish kids learn in hebrew school, that post-school school I suffered through on Tuesdays and Thursdays that screwed me out of being able to play any sports. That story is about Hannah and her seven sons. To give you the gist of the story, Hannah and six of her sons are killed, one at a time, when they each refuse to bow down to a king, because only G-d can be bowed to in the Jewish faith (and even then, Jews only bow to the ground once a year, on Yom Kippur). After killing Hannah and her six sons, the king, presumably in a sense of mercy, tells the youngest son that he will drop something on the floor and the youngest son can simply pick it up, making it look that he has bowed before the king and sparing his life. Yet, the youngest son refuses. Rather, he decides that it is more important that people not get the impression that he will bow before anyone other than G-d, even at the expense of his life.

Hearing it for the first time, the story is a powerful one, but after hearing it all your life, you become a bit desensitized to it. Particularly because it seems so far off, with a story that is so inapplicable to living in a democratic country, where there aren't all-powerful kings and instantaneous death sentences.

But the martyrology service doesn't just tell old stories, it tells of one of the most significant recent events in the Jewish cultural zeitgeist: the Holocaust. There's a recitation of the death camps and a remembrance of those lost.

But this year, something stuck out at me. It was a poem written by an anonymous author and found engraved in the wall of a ghetto. It said:
I believe in the sun, even when it's not shining.
I believe in love, even when I don't feel it.
I believe in God, even when He's silent.

What was so different for me about this poem was that it wasn't an event I couldn't relate to. It was the Holocaust. It wasn't even a generation ago. And there are people who are still alive who suffered unimaginable horrors in it.

So, as I imagine it does with many Jews, its an event that resonates with me. But I can't help but think of the Holocaust as something in the past, even though it was the recent past. So, I didn't really consider what it was to be a martyr after I heard the shofar blow ending Yom Kippur.

Until today.

Today is Daniel Pearl's birthday.

Daniel Pearl was a journalist and he was Jewish.

In 2002, when Daniel Pearl went to the Pakistan to report on the war for the Wall Street Journal, he was kidnapped and likely tortured. Before his captors murdered him by beheading him while he was still alive, they videotaped him saying the following: "My name is Daniel Pearl. I'm a Jewish-American. My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am a Jew."

And that's what's so strange. Daniel Pearl wasn't even a religious Jew. In fact, if you had asked him, Daniel Pearl would probably have rated being Jewish pretty low on the list of things that identify him.

Yet, he was viciously murdered for no reason other than his religious culture by ignorant savages who blamed him, and me, for all the world's ills.

Like all real martyrs, he was a reluctant one.

No, that's too much. Actually, he didn't even want to be one.

But, now, he is.

And the fact that he is a martyr, rather than a journalist, father and husband are the things that test belief.

Yet, it would be so much better not to have to believe in the face of such deafening silence.


In Memoriam of Peter J. Carroll, 42

This post is part of the 2,996 Project originated by D.C. Roe. (The tributes are mirrored here.)

To any of Mr. Carroll's family members who may read this, this story is based on information I was able to gather from September 11th information on the internet. While I included as many confirmed facts as I could, I used dramatic license based on publicly available information and your published descriptions of Mr. Carroll to fill in any gaps. I hope you believe I did Mr. Carroll justice. It's what a hero deserves. -B.A.

Pete Carroll was at the firehouse for Squad 1 at Brooklyn's Park Slope on a temperate, clear September 11th when the alarm bell rang. Pete was always the joker, keeping the other guys laughing with his jokes and impressions and, before the alarm went off, today was no different. Pete had just finished one of his signature stories and the guys thought this story, like so many of his others, was just hilarious.

But when the alarm went off, everything changed.

Pete became a different person when the fire alarm bell rang. The humor melted away like ice in an inferno.

"Okay boys, time to get to work," Pete said matter of factly.

When the fire bell rang, the firehouse, much like Pete, changed. The usually relaxed atmosphere transformed into an organized chaos. While anyone not familiar with the rush of firemen to their station may not be able to make sense of the static activity, to the trained observer it was a symphony, a symphony of sights and sounds of everyday heroism.

Pete not only took his part in the symphony, but seemed to lead it, as one of the first to grab and equip his gear and make his way to the fire engine.

And while Pete was all business, he was concerned. It was just before nine o'clock and Pete hadn't called his wife, ToniAnn, yet this morning.

Pete called ToniAnn almost every morning, often just to tell her that he loved her. Pete and ToniAnn were recently married, but had their own Brady Bunch. Between them, they had six children from previous marriages. Pete had four: Nicole, Michael, Peter, and Christopher. And ToniAnn had two: Anthony and Dana. And ToniAnn's children loved Pete like a father.

Pete and ToniAnn had spent much of the past ten months together, because Pete simply couldn't bear to leave ToniAnn's side. ToniAnn had been diagnosed with a rare nerve disorder, fybromyalgia, and with her chronic fatigue syndrome, at times, she was simply too weak to move.

Pete wouldn't have it. He would pick ToniAnn up and carry her from room to room, anywhere she wanted to go. Pete would carry her to the ends of the Earth if she wanted him to, but she never asked for that. Being together was all they both needed.

And when ToniAnn was hungry, Pete happily cooked her favorite steak dinner to help her gain back the weight she had lost to her illness. And when ToniAnn cried because she couldn't bear the pain, Pete cried along with her.

As hard that it was for ToniAnn and Pete, it was easier for them to deal with because they had each other. So that was why Pete always called ToniAnn, just to make sure she knew how important having her was to him.

But, as concerned as he was, Pete couldn't call ToniAnn right now. He had work to do.

"Come on boys, let's go!," Pete encouraged as his slower, but still rushing brothers in arms made their way to the engine.

And in a blink of an eye, the red lights were flashing, the siren was blaring, and Squad 1 was on their way.

Their destination: The World Trade Center.


"Oh my goodness," Pete said aloud, unaware that he had said anything at all. Pete's head was tilted back in a way he had witnessed many tourists look at the city. His eyes were transfixed on the tallest buildings in southern Manhatten, the Twin Towers. For the first time he had could remember they were smoking. They were both smoking. Spouting smoke like giant Roman candles, as if they were part of some perverse fireworks show.

Again, to himself but unknowingly aloud, Pete said, "We've got to save those people."

As Squad 1's engine approached the foot of the complex, a mass of people watching this surreal scene parted for the engine to park. And as the engine approached, it joined a chorus of police and fire sirens and a lightshow of red and blue lights.

As Pete stepped off the engine, he felt something light hit is face. Then he felt it again. And again.

Pete looked up and saw snowflakes raining down under the perfectly blue sky. A perfectly blue sky except for the smoke coming from the towers.

How could it be snowing?

Then Pete realized, it wasn't snow at all. It was paper. Flakes of paper. Flakes of paper snowing down from the towers and flicking him in the face as they made their way to the ground.

Pete ran. With seventy pounds of gear, Pete ran like people's lives depended on it. Because he knew they did.

Pete ran right into the South Tower lobby.

Once he was in the lobby, Pete ran to the stairwell, and there he began helping people down the stairs.

And there he stayed.

"You gotta get out," his radio crakled.

But he ignored it. There were too many people. Too many people who needed help. A scared woman. An older man who needed assistance.

Pete was there. Helping them. Helping them all. One after the next. Ignoring any warnings from his radio, as time faded into nothingness, Pete helped anyone and everyone he could.

As he was helping an old woman down the stairs, Pete heard a rumbling. At first he thought it was an earthquake, but then he realized it wasn't coming from the ground. It was coming from above.

And it was coming quickly.

And Pete thought to himself, I hope the kids know how proud I am of them and ToniAnn and the kids know just how much I love them.


As most of us stopped, to see the fire in the sky,
you were in the trucks, passing us by.

As the unthinkable horror, makes us shed a tear,
you entered the building, in your rescue gear.

As we sat in panic, praying for no more
you were climbing stairs, floor by floor.

We sat confused, awed, and in strife
you were looking, hoping, and praying for life.

As the building came down, we feared you would too.
But God gave you wings, and instead you flew.


Yakko goes to the other "Sunshine" state...

Last week I was pleased to discover that I was taking a business trip to California. Although I was initially disappointed that I would have to take this trip alone, I was happy to have a traveling companion, Yakko Warner.

You see, Yakko and I go pretty far back. Much like Yakko, I am also an oldest child. Also like Yakko, I have a younger brother, who's crazy (but in a good way) and a baby sister, who's just damn cute. And most importantly, like Yakko, I'm sarcastic enough that people can't decide whether it's more appropriate to laugh or smack me in the head.

Yes, Yakko and I are quite the duo.

So I was quite pleased to learn that he would join me on my trip to San Francisco.

That is, of course, until I remembered just how much of a ham he really is.

Here he is on the plane in Florida:

Of course, he wouldn't shut up the entire way to California. He told me about how he and his sibs used were put in the WB water tower in the 1930's, about how he met Steven Spielberg, about how he helped Einstein discover the theory of relativity by singing the "Acme" song backwards ("The E comes last, the m comes next, the c we're almost done, the a that's last...uh, that a looks like a 2").

Yeah, I know Yakko, I watched the show.

Geez, I thought he wouldn't shut up.

I was so relieved when we finally got to San Francisco:

Of course, Yakko immediately noted that this wasn't "his part" of California, but commented, "It is San Francisco, so I'll make dew." Ugh...again with the puns Yakko?

I checked into the hotel and Yakko decided it was a great opportunity to relax and put his feet up.

After all, traveling can be grueling for cartoons.

After a long day of traveling, I wanted to head to sleep, but Yakko wanted to stay up. Thankfully, there weren't any pay-per-view movies on the hotel receipt when I checked out, particularly the pay-by-the-minute kind. The bosses aren't too happy about those.

I should have guessed that he would be a pain in the ass the next morning when it was time to get up.

So then, we headed off to court. With some coaxing, Yakko decided that sitting on the Judge's bench while I made a court appearance probably wasn't appropriate, even for him.

I guess contempt of court can even persuade cartoons to be on their best behavior.

After court, we went back to my hotel room and while I checked out, Yakko got some California rays on the front of the rental car.

Hey, Avis never said you can't lay out on the vehicle!

So, instead of wandering around aimlessly in San Fran while we waited for the redeye home, Yakko persuaded me to take a drive and visit PostModern Sass, who recently moved to nearby San Jose.

Sass was busy with the new job, so Yakko and I entertained ourself in San Jose, seeing some of the sites.

We visited The Fairmont:

"Why doesn't work put you up in digs like this?"

Just gut the wound, why don't you?

We visited the Museum of Art:

(note the little red circle at the toe of the statue)

And Yakko showed the California bear just who's boss:

After Yakko had his way with the bear, we headed over to Gordon Biersch, Sass's new Banknote, to meet up with Sass.

Sass ordered Yakko a drink and Yakko was more than happy to oblige:

Much more than happy:

Of course, he only passes out when the check gets to the table...

And when we get outside, he's wide awake to get attention from the ladies:

"Heeeelllloooo NURSE!"

After his libations and female attention, Yakko was pretty rejuvenated, so much so that he went to check out Sass's new super chic apartment complex.

He spent some time soaking in the fountain:

And playing an old English favorite:

"Why no, that's not a croquet mallet in my pocket."

Geez, Yakko, is that really necessary?

Yakko was so rejuvenated, he decided to put together Sass's desk:

He's much more useful around the house than I am.

So when Sass said, "What else of San Jose do you want to see?"

Yakko chimed up with, "We don't have Safeway in Florida!"

Yeah, well, we don't have earthquakes either, but I don't want to experience one while I'm here.

But since Sass was hungry and sans vehicle since getting to the States and Yakko was up for a unique California grocery experience, I was outvoted. And I have to admit, Yakko was pretty happy when we got there:

Particularly when he found the beer section:

No, Yakko, TSA won't let us take liquids on the plane home.

"No problem! It'll be gone before we get on the plane!"

Geez, didn't you have enough at GB? Lush.

Yep, Yakko was so happy at Safeway, particularly with the alcohol selection, he even joined the membership club:

But then it was time to go. We wished Sass the best on her new home and headed back to San Fran, where Yakko and I were shocked by the prices at SFO's airport restaurants:

"Wheel of Morality, turn, turn, turn, tell us the lesson that we must learn. Today's lesson: Morally Bankrupt."

So with less in my pocket than when we went to eat, Yakko and I caught the redeye home. And you simply can't take a redeye without a neck pillow:

Would have been nice if he hadn't hogged it the whole time.

"No pain, no gainy..."

Keep it up and this might be the last time I take you anywhere.


Do we have our priorities up-fucked?

Dear Ms. Perrson,

Can I call you Cecilia? Great.

There was once a ship that attempted to sail between our two countries that didn't exactly make the voyage. Perhaps you've heard of the little boat. It was called the Titanic. Now, one of the stories of the Titanic, and indeed one of its greatest ironies, was that while this ship was sinking, after having its side ripped off from an iceberg, the musicians were playing classical music, pretty much until the end. Some people have found this quite noble, believing that it calmed the passengers. I, however, have always thought that even the greatest composer would find it almost impossible to stop a full-fledged panic, like that likely to come over me as I die drowning in freezing ocean water. So, basically, I subscribe to the opinion that musicians playing on the Titanic was slightly more useful than polishing the brass as the ship was going down.

Which brings me to my point.

I understand that things must be difficult out there in Boomerang, finding appropriate programming for children. And, goodness knows that in today's world, finding anything appropriate for children can be a challenge. The cartoon reels that you have in your files are probably from periods of time with humor that simply isn't funny anymore, as it is, rightfully, considered offensive and generally inappropriate for children.

So, imagine my surprise at reading this article this week. Evidently, you've determined that Tom and Jerry episodes which "glamorize" tobacco products might have a negative impact on children.

Let me begin by saying, I am no friend of tobacco products. I've never had one and anticipate that I never will. I find the smell of cigarettes disgusting in every sense of the word. I can't stand next to people who have just smoked, and I've actually refused to date a rather attractive girl because she smoked. Simply, I believe the less smokers there are, the better.

However, I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge my concerns with your position here. You see Cecilia, I believe the reason you are objecting to tobacco products on Tom and Jerry is because, well, I think you are concerned that children may...and call me crazy for thinking this...emulate what they see on a cartoon.

I know, I know. I too am shocked by this Cecilia, but honestly, it appears to be the only premise from which your tobacco cartoon ban appears to have spawned. But you, yourself have stated that Tom and Jerry smoking "could be seen as glamorizing smoking." The only way I can see this to be the case is that you anticipate children to emulate this activity.

And, you see Cecilia, this is where I have a problem. Now, don't get me wrong, I think getting rid of Tom and Jerry smoking scenes is probably not a bad thing. However, if you are so deeply troubled by children emulating scenes from Tom and Jerry, I can only ask why you haven't directed your efforts to, well, for example, this:

Now Cecilia, as a Southerner and a gun owner, I of all people understand the importance that some Americans place on their Second Amendment rights. However, I'm inclined to think that Tom pointing a firearm at not one, but two, other living beings (which, as gun owners know means he's made a decision to kill them) is, well, less than ideal firearm responsibility.

But perhaps firearm responsibility, or lack thereof, isn't your bag. After all, you are on the other side of the pond where the cops carry whistles and sticks. So, let's look at a different example:

I'll grant you that it's possible that Tom could simply have a toothache and is being helped to keep his mouth open by that little yellow bird. Indeed, Jerry may be investigating with that rather painful looking hammer in an effort to relieve Tom of his obvious pain. Of course, Jerry may just be waiting for an opportunity to clobber Tom too.

So let's try a different example:

Again, I'm sure you'd tell me that it is certainly a possibility that Tom isn't thinking of kicking the crap out of this little mouse. I must confess, it's possible that Tom may be daintily placing the mouse on the windowsill. However, that awkward angle of Tom's foot and his winked eye, in an effort to aim, makes me somewhat doubtful of that explanation.

Okay, let's look try yet again:

While this may look a bit bad, I'm sure you would tell me that Tom could simply be taking care of his friend Jerry's place while Jerry is in the Poconos or Cancun or something. Sure, Tom could be concerned, but I'm inclined to think that a cage, three mouse traps, two fox traps, a spring gun and an axe trap may be a bit of, excuse the pun, overkill.

So let's shift the subject a little. I'm sure people who would consider this frame offensive are just being "oversensitive":

After all, how many Pacific Islanders are there in Great Britain? Four, five? So, surely their opinions aren't all that important. And I bet they'd be pretty touched to see a mouse dressed this way.

And, of course, I must bring your attention to this:

Now, I know what you're going to say Cecilia. You never see Mamie's face, so how could anyone be offended or claim that Mamie is perpetrating a blatantly racist stereotype? I can see how you might find it perplexing how a faceless black woman with a large chest and ass in slippers and an apron could be seen as offensive. I guess people who felt that way were probably also just being sensitive.

Cecilia, I must confess, I grew up watching Tom and Jerry cartoons. Frankly, I found them genuinely funny as a child. And despite watching them, I never became a smoker; I certainly don't consider myself racist or to harbor any other type of discrimination; I'm not at all violent with other people (well, with the exception of some well-planned sibling torture, but let's just ignore that shall we?). Other than the somewhat disturbing things you may learn about me in the archives to the left, I consider myself a relatively well-balanced individual. And, although I was entertained by Tom and Jerry, I didn't spend my life emulating them.

But if you're going to engage in censorship of cartoons from another era under the auspices that children will learn the wrong things from them or emulate the activities within them, I ask you this: Is "glamorizing" smoking really the biggest problem, or is banning smoking scenes in Tom and Jerry just polishing the brass banister on the Titanic?

Yours truly,

Blundering American

P.S. Tell Tony, "Yo Blair" for me!

Yes, this is a repost of what I posted on the 22nd. It didn't get much front page time and I didn't have the compelling desire to write anything else. If you didn't catch it the first time, I hope you like it, I reposted for you! If you did, don't worry, I have a feeling something new is coming soon...


Blogger Appreciation Day

A good idea is a good idea. No two ways about it. I'm going to break a few rules though. So, with that caveat, here's to a few folks that I try to stop by each day:

The man who started the holiday...

The wonderful woman who started me blogging, and in case you're wondering, she's even more beautiful than she is talented, which is saying a lot. Even though she's not around the blogosphere anymore, I wish she'd clean those damn parasitic ads off her site...

One of my first and favorite morning stops who reminds me of the guys I hung out with in college... Starting your day with prehistoric porn, that's just damn funny...

Sometimes you need a little Sass, sometimes you need a lot. And when you need a lot, you can be sure there are a lot of links...

Where I learn more of what the fairer sex thinks...(although the country music, I'll never understand)

Where I get my cultural taste for the day (and yes, that girl in the I heart Ha'shem shirt is extremely hot)...

Where I realize there are people just as fucked up as me...

Where I get my gossip fix...

Where I go to be inspired...

Where I've been stopping by lately, because, well, I just want to know what she would do...

Happy Blogger Appreciation Day!!!

UPDATE: Sweet, I'm appreciated!!! Thanks Kevin!!!


I am Jack's elusive REM

One of my favorite authors, Chuck Palahnuik, said in best in one of my favorite books, "With insomnia nothing's real. Everything is far away. Everything is a copy of a copy of a copy."

Lately, I've been having trouble falling asleep. I've been hiting the Tylenol PM bottle when this problem is accompanied by a headache, and that seems to do the trick. But since I am sans headache tonight, I decided to try to get some natural sleep. And, well kids, here I am. Typing away atwhat is, for me on a work night, an ungodly hour.

Of course, the problem with insomnia, besides that observed by Palahnuik, is that I then begin to think about why I have insomnia, which only keeps me awake. Thinking.

Mental note: Stop thinking.


Well, I give up. I'm going to read Lullaby. Maybe that will do the trick.

Yeah, a book about a poem that kills those who hear it. That'll definitely work.

Of course, if I'm not awake in the next eight hours, call someone...

A post war story everyone can enjoy...

This is one of the best news stories I've seen out of the Israel-Hezbollah war (thanks to Bangitout):

Breast implants saves woman after Hezbollah attack
Aug 15 8:07 AM US/Eastern

One Israeli woman has received an unexpected boost from her breast implants during the Lebanon war -- the silicone embeds saved her life during a Hezbollah rocket attack, a doctor said.

"This is an extraordinary case, but it's a fact that the silicone implants prevented her from a more serious and deeper wound," Jacky Govrin, of the hospital in Nahariya that treated the woman, told army radio Tuesday.

"The young woman went through surgery two years ago to have a larger chest," he said. "During the war she was wounded in the chest by shrapnel" that got stuck in the implants instead of penetrating further.

The woman did not emerge from her ordeal completely unscathed, however.

"The shrapnel was removed but the implant had to be replaced," Govrin said.
Of course, this will be next week's article:

Israeli Women Contribute to Post-War Effort By Getting Implants
Aug 22 8:07 AM ET/US

After one woman's life was saved by her breast implants, Israeli women everywhere are going to their plastic surgeons, not just to make their men happy, but as their patriotic duty.

"I just finished my IDF service, and I figured implants were the most natural way to defend myself and my country," said one woman, who then added, "okay, maybe not the most natural."

Another woman, who is actually in the IDF explained her reasoning, "Body armour is only so dependable. If Hezbollah attacks again, I want all the protection I can get, and if it happens to turn some of the hot soliders' heads, so be it."

While men all over the country are rushing to plastic surgeons to protect their mates from any future rocket attacks, the reaction among the male members of the IDF is mixed on the new "defense measures." Most of them approve overwhelmingly. As one male solider stated, "Are you kidding?!?! I can't wait to see those girls in uniform! With those guns, I won't ever look at a shiksa again!"

But at least one male solider expressed some reservations. "I'm more of an ass and leg man," he said, "Personally, I was more interested in having women soliders cut their uniforms into low riders."

Just watch, it's only a matter of time...


Blundering Through Israel - Epilogue

While I was in the middle of this series, I was asked, as someone who just spent some time in Israel, to write about Israel's war with Hezbollah. But, besides not wanting to interrupt the flow of the series (except for the need to warn about that horrible M. Night Shamylan movie), I didn't really know how to begin to discuss it.

Until last Sunday.

Sunday I was visiting friends from my Israel trip and, since I left their phone numbers at home, I called my roommate from Israel and left a message asking him to call me back.

Until last weekend, I had been a CNN addict since the beginning of the Hezbollah war. I watched intently, concerned about my family and friends in Israel, concerned about the people and places I had just seen, concerned about the homeland I love.

But this weekend, the news got away from me. I had spent a lot of time traveling and, frankly, the iPod's more entertaining on a long drive than NPR (except the Car Guys and Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me, those kick ass).

So, when my roommate called me back, I was a bit surprised when he said, "I know why you called me."

"What are you fucking psychic?"

"Dude, I can't believe it either."

"Uh, what the hell are you talking about?"

"Haven't you been watching the news?"

"No. I've been out of town. Shit. What happened?"

"Did you see that Katushas fell and killed 12 Israelis?"

"No. Shit. Where did that happen?"

"Yeah. This is the worst part.... Kfar Giladi."

Kfar Giladi is a kibbutz kilometers away from the Lebanese border. One of the businesses the kibbutz runs is a hotel. It was that hotel where we spent our first two nights in Israel. And it was where my roommate and I met and forged our incredibly strong friendship.

I spent half of the reunion lunch I was having with people on my trip that day discussing the surreal feeling of having just been in Kfar Giladi, Sfadt, and the Golan Heights. And how, now, everyone there is listening to air raid sirens and making their way to bomb shelters.

And, honestly, I didn't know if being home in the states was really where I wanted to be.

Since I've gotten back, a number of people have made comments to me like, "Wow, you just got out of there in time." And, yes, it is clearly safer here than it is in Nothern Israel. But, in a strange way, I feel powerless here.

Don't get me wrong. I'm well aware of the fact that if I were over there, I'd be, not only powerless, but, other than my debatable blogging skills, pretty much useless. But the feeling is a feeling from my heart, not a feeling from my head.

And any comfort I'd be to my friends and family in Israel would be overwhelmingly countered by how scared my own family would be.

But it doesn't change the emotional attachment I have to that little country on the Mediterranean.

To more directly answer the question, I think the fighting is, as it is every time, a tragedy. The fact that Israel's neighbors simply will not accept its legitimacy and its right to exist is incredibly unfortunate. The fact that organizations like Hezbollah, dedicated not to settling disagreements or resolving disputes over land, but to the complete and total annihilation of Israel and the Jews that live there, not only continue to exist, but to thrive, is appalling. The fact that these terrorist thugs use innocent Lebanese civilians as shields for their weapons and themselves in the hopes of creating pictures that will turn public opinion against Israel at the expense of their own people is disgusting. And the fact that these murderous zealots are not only allowed to exist and occupy Southern Lebanon, but remain a part of a supposedly democratic government nauseates me.

I wonder if these events would have been avoidable. What if Israel had continued its buffer zone in Lebanon? What if the UN had actually taken the steps to disarm Hezbollah and demilitarize southern Lebanon that it should have? What if we had dealt with the real imminent threats in the Middle East, Syria and Iran, rather than Iraq, and eliminated the shadow supporters of this war against Hezbollah?

But, despite the media shift against Israel (much of which has been the result of media manipulation), I don't think Israel's reaction has been inappropriate. The fact remains that when we had our own passenger planes used as missiles against us in New York and Virginia, I didn't want a "proportional response," whatever the hell that means. I didn't want three of the perpetrators' strategic targets taken out. I wanted fire and brimstone. I wanted the perpetrators to think that the fury of G-d was being brought down upon them. I wanted the perpetrators to sleep more scared than the families of the victims, fearing that each moment could be their last and knowing that it was the United States that would decide when they would meet their maker. And above all, I wanted a clear message to anyone that would even consider anything like 9/11 again, if you try to attack us, you will feel our pain one-hundred fold.

And this was one coordinated attack against the United States.

Israel, however, is the only country that is surrounded by neighbors who want it destroyed and who will seize (and have seized) any opportunity, any perceived weakness, to attack. And, what you can't tell by reading the news, is just how close, how incredibly close, those people are to where Israelis live and work every single day. Frankly, it's like living in Manhattan and having hostile governments and terrorists living in and firing rockets from across the river in New Jersey.

So, yes, I believe that Israel's reaction has been appropriate. Entirely appropriate. And, just as I would expect the United States to protect me with overwhelming force if Mexico or Canada or Cuba were firing missiles at where I live, I believe Israel is entirely justified in doing the same thing with Hezbollah.

Certainly, I feel for Lebanese civilians. Lebanon, like the vast majority of Middle Eastern governments, has a populace of brainwashed, uneducated masses. Rather than have real debates about their political direction and invest in the betterment of their own people, to answer their people's questions about why their lives are so difficult these leaders point to Israel the United States and say, "You are the blessed ones. You are the ones honored by Allah. Why do the Jews and the Americans live so much better than you? Because they are infidels. Because they are the cause of your problems. Because they are holding you down and suppressing Allah's true will."

And rather than, at minimum, question or, at most, revolt against their own corrupt and woefully deficient leadership, rather than recognize the better lives of their neighbors are the result of valuing education and implementation of democratic institutions, they buy what their "leaders" are selling them, hook, line, and sinker, support their zenophobic agendas, and even electing these demagogues into their governments.

And they keep these hate-mongers in charge. These demagogues continue to use their people as pawns, to keep them ignorant, and to direct their anger outward, so they won't take the time to look in their own mirrors.

And, when these hate-mongers attack Israel or the United States, they use their own people as human shields, indiscriminately ignoring the inherent value of human life in order to exploit them to enrage their own ignorant masses and to sway world opinion. And when they die in disproportionate numbers, the hate-mongers point their finger again, conveniently ignoring that they placed these people in front of a loaded weapon to being with.

So, I feel for the Lebanese people. I genuinely do. I wish that they would look inward, question the general premises that are forced upon them, ask whether having Hezbollah, not only on their Southern border, but in their government is truly in their interest, and truly explore whether their neighbor to their south should be demonized and labeled as a threat or simply acknowledged as people who just want to live their lives in peace and let them do so as well.

So I will always, always feel that Hezbollah is solely responsible for what is happening now. And I will continue to see the blood of innocent Israelis and Lebanese on Hezbollah's hands.

Blundering Through Israel - Part X - July 5, 2006

Yes, I know it's been a month to get this whole trip blogged. I couldn't overwhelm you crazy kids all at once, could I?

Continued from Part IX

We have concluded our trip with a wonderful time in Tel Aviv and while I have enjoyed my first time in Tel Aviv, I wanted to revisit something I said earlier.

Early on, I discussed how I had hoped my first trip to Israel would be the opportunity to make friends that I would have my entire life and, how, at the end of that month, I was disappointed. I didn't connect with anyone and, while I loved my time in Israel, it was, in essence, a rather lonely and isolating experience.

That led me to a resolution on this trip, one that probably sounded a bit rude and selfish. Namely, that this trip was for me. Just me. And if I made some friends along the way, fabulous. If I didn't, no biggie. I was going to enjoy this time for myself and myself alone.

How wrong I was.

Recollecting her experience, one of my friends wrote that meeting people on this trip was like meeting them in dog years, it was a seven to one ratio.

And she was right and wrong. Right in that, as if we had traveled near the speed of light, time really did slow down and my relationships with so many of the friends I made on this trip evolved much more quickly than they did with people I've known in other contexts. Wrong in the ratio. Within these ten days, I've met people that I feel like I've known for my entire life. And even though I haven't, I certainly know I'm going to know for the rest of my life. Some because we call one another whenever something happens overseas. Some because we call one another whenever we're in town. And some, very special ones, who we call whenever we want someone to talk to.

And, as you read early on, this was not the way I anticipated things would end up. After my first Israel experience, I didn't think I'd see any of these people againe. But now, I'm talking to them, with calendar in hand, looking for the opportunity to see one another again. I call them when we are in different terminals of the airport, just to tell them that I miss them already.

So, while so much of this trip was building my spirituality and my bond to Israel. It actually built something much more important. Something I've been missing for some time.

It built me a Jewish community.

It's a community of people throughout the state and the nation.

And it's a community that, no matter where I am, is always there for me.

And, perhaps that the real value of this experience. Knowing that there are so many other people like me who are so different. Knowing that we may disagree and have different values and argue like family, but, when it comes down to it, we're there for one another when we really need help.

And that enormous, unbreakable bond extends out of each of us, winding together like tree roots, and extending over the vast oceans to a little country that's smaller than New Jersey and the people who live there.

A little country with a simple blue and white flag with a Magen David in the center, built on blood, sweat, tears, and most importantly, eternal hope.

Some final shots of Eretz Yisrael (transl. "The Land of Israel"). A shot from my balcony in Tel Aviv, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea...

A sign at the Marina in Herzelia, in case you're curious how far it is from Moskow (2620 km) and Tokyo (8000+ km). Just don't ask me how much that is in miles...


Blundering Through Israel - Part IX - July 4, 2006

Continued from Part VIII

I had hoped to write about something else today. I had hoped to write about the experience that Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, has had on me. I had hoped to write about how, for the first time in my life, I seriously weighed the prospect of making aliah. I had hoped to write about the unique experience of being here on U.S. Independence Day. I had hoped to write about how this experience, and I can only call it an experience, was not just a break from the ultimately unimportant bullshit I deal with on a daily basis, but refreshment of my soul, a reminder that my dedication to Israel genuinely helps people, people I had never met, but who couldn't have been happier to see me.

And above all, I had hoped to write about how, despite my efforts to experience this solely for myself, the people I spent this experience with crept under my initially defensive exterior and genuinely touched my heart.

I had hoped to write about all those things.

But, even here, life intervenes.

I have a number of friends who were hurt by a woman in the past and have allowed it to dictate how they treat women. While I've certainly had my heart ripped out and stomped on until it's a bloody pulp on the floor, I've made a concerted effort never to fall into that trap. While one friend has indicated that the respect with which I treat women is because of my close relationship with the women in my family, I believe that's only one of the reasons. Another one of those reasons is because of an experience I had in college.

One night, I was out with a number of friends at one of those random parties at someone's house that are all too common in college. Among the friends I was with was M____. M____ had been having a hard time with a guy she was seeing and was looking to drown her problems for the night, not surprisingly in alcohol. Copious amounts of alcohol.

M____ spent a considerable amount of time that night hanging on this guy, J____. I had known J____ previously and had had a few discussions with him, often about the random bullshit that guys usually talk about. So, while M____ was clearly inebriated, she seemed happy, having what seemed to be a drunken college night.

I, however, was pretty tired. I had spent most of that day working on a presentation and had only wanted to make an appearance. So, when I was offered the opportunity to leave, I quickly checked on M____, who drunkenly told me she was fine, and left for the evening, hoping to catch up on some much needed rest.

The next day, I called M____ to make sure she got home alright and see if there was any funny story from the night I may have missed.

"Hey M____, how are you? Have you recovered?"

"Um, no."

"Okaaayyy. What exactly does that mean?"

And then the words I'll never forget hearing. Ever.

"J____ raped me last night."

The words tore my heart out of my chest. Once I got over the initial shock and what must have been a good five to ten seconds of silence, I started questioning her about her well-being. While I don't remember much else of the conversation, as I was pulling my jaw up from the floor, I do remember that we spent the next G-d-knows-how-long with me repeatedly asking what I could do for her and her saying "nothing."

Simply stated, I felt incredibly guilty. Incredibly guilty.

I felt like if I hadn't made the decision to leave, if I had properly recognized that M____ had had way too much to drink, if I had been there a little longer, things might have been different.

And I've carried that guilt since that day.

And it's one of the other reasons I treat women the way I do.

Because I remember what it's like to see the scattered shards of a woman who was treated so horribly.

Earlier, I mentioned that I wanted to write about the people I have met on this trip who touched my heart, but am saving it for another day.

That's not entirely true. Today, I'm writing about K____.

K___ and I met on the first day of this trip and it was like we had known each other forever. On every activity, K____ and I were together, cracking jokes, learning from one another, discovering Israel together. To borrow an analogy from Forrest Gump, K___ and I were like peas and carrots. Strangely, even though I was on a trip where I knew no one, thanks to K___, I spent the entire time with one of my closest friends.

Yet, our relationship was plainly platonic. While K___ is absolutely adorable and sweet as sugar, for some reason, we just struck the friend vibe from day one. But it was one of the very rare times that I struck such a strong "friend vibe" with someone that I knew I could let down those defense mechanisms I have spent so many years developing and immediately give her my complete trust.

And, time after time, K___ proved me right.

After our last full night in Israel, I went out with my family friends, realizing that I probably wouldn't see them for years. However, K___ went out with the rest of my group, hitting the Tel Aviv bar scene.

Evidently, it was a crazy night, because at 2 a.m., I was sitting with my Israeli family friends when the parade of taxis began pulling up to the hotel. And with each taxi, the drunken passengers stumbled their way onto the sidewalk and into the hotel.

Each one had a slurred story to share from their evening out, some of which were entirely incomprehensible. But one of my friends said to me, "Dude, K___ is really hammered."

I knew I had to see this.

About fifteen minutes later, I had said my goodbyes to my family friends and walked back to the hotel. Soon thereafter, K___ arrived, with B____, pretty much pulling her out of the taxi.

Yeah, "really hammered" didn't begin to describe that scene.

I ran up to K____ and immediately grabbed her other arm, trying to ensure that she didn't fall onto the ground. She turned her head, brushed her hair from her face and said, "Hey honey!"

As the perennial designated driver, I've seen a lot of drunk people in my days. A lot of drunk people. But something was different. Very different.

When I looked into K___'s eyes before, I could always see her. The real her. The person I knew and trusted and adored. But, when I looked into K___'s eyes at that moment, she wasn't there. Sure, it was her face and her voice, but her eyes were no longer the deep pools to her soul. They were glazed mirrors, reflecting my bewilderment back to me.

And I couldn't figure out why.

Despite this, K____ began having a conversation with some other people from the trip in the hotel lobby, often joking about her inability to stand up straight. Yet, as she wobbled from side-to-side, she continued to hold what appeared to be a drunken, but cogent conversation.

While I was distracted by another one of my friends, B____ and K____ started walking to the elevator. I immediately excused myself and got into the elevator with them.

As B____ pressed the tenth floor, I was searching for a coothful way to try to determine whether or not K____ knew what she was doing, whether she was consenting to what I knew was going to happen. Also at the forefront of my mind was that, although I felt like I knew K____ forever, the fact was that I didn't. I had only known her for this week and, she was a grown woman who I only knew for that amount of time, I couldn't help but think, what right do I have to stop her from doing anything?

When we got to the tenth floor, K____ and B____ walked off the elevator and K___ said, with a giggle, "I don't live here!" Before I could muster the courage to interject, K____ waved back at me and giggled, "Okay! Bye!!!"

As the elevator doors closed, my stomach twisted into a knot I hadn't felt since college.

Disturbed and concerned, I went back to my room, where I learned my presence wasn't welcome due to my roommate's plans that evening.

Ultimately, I ended up at the empty hotel bar until 5 a.m., sipping water like it were vodka, literally worried sick about K_____.

The next day, K____ wasn't at breakfast or at any of the morning activities.

While I tried to tell myself that she was probably fine, when I hadn't heard from her by noon, I called her cellphone.

We had a short, pleasant conversation, but one of those conversations where you each know the other person is holding back. She asked me about my evening and I told her, "Why don't you meet me downstairs and I'll tell you all about it," knowing that I was going to discuss nothing of the sort. Rather, I had decided that I needed to talk to her about the events of the night before and, in order for her to truly understand the concern that led me to raise the issue, we needed to talk face to face.

"Great!," she said, "I'll meet you down there in ten minutes."

I sat down on the hotel patio overlooking the Tel Aviv beach, staring into the beautiful blue water, thinking of how I was going to discuss what happened with K____.

Eventually, she came onto the patio. And before I could utter a word, she looked around and seeing no one, stated, "Someone slipped me a mickey last night!"

My jaw dropped.

When I could muster words, I said, "Then you need to sit down, because we need to talk."

I told her the story about what happened to M___ and college, how it made me feel, and how I always regretted those events. Then I told her that I didn't mean or want to infringe on her decisions or her life, but that I was deeply, deeply concerned about the events of the night before.

Then I asked, "Do you remember talking to me last night?"

"I saw you last night?"

Oh shit.


"What happened? I don't remember anything."

Then I told her everything. I told her how she came into the hotel, how she had a glassy look in her eyes, how she could barely stand. How I went with her in the elevator. How I wanted to take her, but didn't know if I could or should.

"Then why didn't you take me to my room?!?!"

I heard each word in slow motion. And each syllable struck the center of my chest and pried my heart out of my body.

K___ had just vocalized what I had been agonizingly saying to myself for the past ten hours.

I told K___ that I wanted to, but that I had never seen her drunk and didn't know the difference. I told her that I didn't know if she was making a conscious decisions, but I didn't know that she wasn't either. I told her that I didn't even know what floor her room was on. I told her that, even if she hated me, I wish I had intervened now, but that I couldn't change what happened.

And, in many ways, I wasn't explaining it to her. I was justifying my inaction to myself.

K____ looked out to the same sea I looked at before, her thoughts deep as the water, her blonde locks brushing her face and floating in the ocean breeze.

Accompanied by the sound of crashing waves and never looking away from the water, she told me how she was, for all practical purposes, unconscious that evening. She told me that her only memory after being at the bar was waking up in B____'s room, naked, but not bruised or hurt. She told me that she understood why I didn't take her that night and I had no reason to feel badly. And, most importantly, she told me she was fine, a little embarrassed, but fine.

I told her she had no reason to feel embarrassed. I've come to hate when wrongful actors blame the victim, so much so that it's one of things crawls under my skin like few other things. And I repeated it over and over, hoping that she would truly listen to that point.

And as we sat and stared at the Mediterranean together, watching the foam tops and listening to the sounds of waves crashing, all I wanted her to know was how sorry I was that I wasn't strong enough when she needed me.

And how I promise to be there from now on.


Sorry, no pictures this time. Sometimes words say enough...


An important interlude...flush the Lady in the Water...

I've been working on Part IX of Blundering Through Israel when I've been able, but sometimes intervening events require an immediate response. Sometimes people need to be warned of dangers that are lurking.

And so, to sound such an alarm (and distract you from noticing my blogging failures), I offer you this review of the new M. Night Shyamalan movie:

Let me start by stating that I am a fan of Shyamalan's work. I've seen every one of his movies and, even when I've found them predictable, I've enjoyed them.

That streak ended with Lady in Crapper.*

To say that this movie was terrible would be to give it too much credit. The story was muddled, self-involved, and, ultimately, downright dull. Shyamalan gives us a fairy tale/bedtime story, but reveals the parts of that story as he needs more to establish something resembling a plot. Indeed, the "understory," which is presumably supposed to captivate the audience, is less interesting than the actual story of the movie (which is saying a lot). The end result is a confused and resoundingly boring mess.

I also think it's incredibly trite to have the writer/director cast himself as an author whose work will influence the world. Plleeaassee! As Shyamalan recognized in the DVD features of the Sixth Sense, he is not a very good actor. While I appreciate the "director cameo" made famous by Hitchcock, anything more than three lines should be left to those with some semblence of acting talent. He ultimately comes off as self-involved and vain.

And speaking of self-involved, having a movie critic who hates everything wrongly predict his own future based on his knowledge of movies is incredibly trite. I expect more than Scream-type (no offense to Scream, which did a wonderful job of being what it was) entertainment when I lay down $8 for a Shyamalan picture. This character appeared as nothing more than an extended middle finger to movie critics. Critics, by the way, who are quite rightfully lambasting this mass-produced monstrosity.

Furthermore, the directing talent that I have come to expect with Shyamalan's work was entirely vacant. While Shyamalan use of unique camera angles is often used to develop characters and perpetuate the story, here it was as if he was simply searching for opportunities to use these "camera tricks." At times, I felt myself saying, "Just fucking stop and put the camera where it's supposed to be!"

The only redemption for this otherwise disasterous piece of garbage was good (although I would certainly not label them exceptional) performances by two actors, the main character, Cleveland Heep, played by Paul Giamantti, and the water sprite, Story, played by Bryce Dallas Howard. Although the dialogue was sometimes stilted (why can't water sprite's use conjunctions? Don't they have conjunctions in the Blue World or is that something else we're not allowed to know?), those two actors were the only reason to stay in the theatre at all. Because it certainly wasn't the trite, dull, and, ultimately, predictable story.

So if Shyamalan is reading this, feel free to use that link to the left and drop me an email so you can send me my $8 back. My only regret (besides seeing this movie to begin with) is that I can't get back the hour and fifty minutes of my time that you completely wasted.

* Sorry, I can't bring myself to create a link. You'll just have to google it.


Blundering Through Israel - Part VIII - July 3, 2006

Continued from Part VII

Today was caucus.

In caucus we discuss our experiences, our thoughts, and our personal beliefs, particularly how they have been affected and influenced by our time in Israel. And then we make our financial commitment to Israel for the next year.

If you're wondering what happened in caucus, what I said, what other people said, what my thoughts and recollections were about it, sorry. Not this time.

Some things are better left remembered rather than said.

If your curiosity simply requires more, here are some more pictures. These are from the Dead Sea, which has a 33% salinity. For comparison, ocean water is 7% salt and Salt Lake in Utah is 14% salt. The high concentration of salt and minerals literally forces you to float...

A model of Jerusalem during the Second Temple period. The Second Temple is the tall building surrounded by walls with the rays of sunlight reaching towards it. The retaining wall to the left is the Western Wall today...

A replica of the Dead Sea scrolls...

Totally illegal photos of the actual Dead Sea scrolls (breakin' the law...). The things I do for you crazy kids...

The portion of the museum housing the Dead Sea scrolls. It was constructed with Kabbalistic influence...

One of the sculptures from the sculpture garden...

Jerusalem at dusk...

Shots from our private concert with top Israeli recording artist Idan Raichel...

Our time with the Israeli Bukhari community...