Monthly Archives: August 2010

you spelled eviscerate wrong, dear

8/29/10

All this to say: we live in terrible times. Sure, there are several things that are profoundly awesome: new technology is magical, and the culture of childhood has been quietly (or screamingly) revolutionized over the last thirty years. But there is absolutely no good news in the world, pretty much anywhere. Glaciers the size of Connecticut are cracking from the poles, our own country is caught in a political cycle of blame and lies, we swim in a culture of cruelty, there are still terrorists we can’t find, diseases we can’t cure, and a black cloud hangs over us.

Yet with our own children, we escape into a totally alternate universe. We count numbers, we marvel at birds, we see them make decisions between blue-green and green-blue, and we marvel at their acrobatics. Has there ever been a time in history when the world we describe for our kids – and the world as it really is – has been so mind-bendingly incongruent?

How long do you wait until you’re honest about the way things really are? How old must they be? What do you tell them in the meantime when the inevitable filters through? If you feel so helpless about the world, knowing full well you have no real power to change anything about the environment, or politics, or why people are so frightened and racist, what makes you continue creating little utopias for them?

Was it always this bad? Are these the questions that every sensitive parent has asked since the ages were dark?

no hair past the collar

8/26/10

Scott asked a great CODE WORD question last time, so I’ll repeat it here: “do you still feel the tension/excitement/stress building around this time of year like you did when you were in school?”

Let me be the first to say ABSOLUTELY. Whenever I see the back-to-school sales for pants at department stores, and kids at Target buying backpacks, my stomach hurts a little. I absolutely loathed school, and considered it an existential jail sentence (even if I couldn’t express it as such).

I do, however, have a deep longing for stationery and art supplies, so the thought of going through the aisle that sells protractors, Trapper Keepers and Husky Pencils still turns me on. I loved the idea of having my own little plastic pencil sharpener, and can still pinpoint the smell of wood and graphite coming to a sharp point at my little desk. You?

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the caves of altamira

8/24/10

Sure, there’s plenty to say, but… is anyone around for the next couple of weeks what with the crazy late Labor Day, high holy days, and the fact that the joyful end of Ramadan falls on Sept. 11? Chime in if you’re stuck in front of the internet instead of wallowing in summer’s verdant denouement!

hope you like jammin’ too

8/23/10

Oh yeah, I almost forgot! Lucy and I went out a couple of days ago and chose presents for the three tchotchke winners of the What You Hate Most About America contest. Actually, she picked out two of them, and I picked out the boob shirt, because it’s hard to explain that level of irony to her.

Anyway, we have:

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• for Anne, the aforementioned boob shirt, complete with the pockets peeking under the shorts, and a “Venice Beach” thigh tattoo. A perfect nightshirt to wear when you’re guaranteed to be around no other humans.

• for jp, a nonsensical lotus-flower design beach towel map of California featuring its cheesiest places. Comes pre-itchy!

• and for caveman, a tie-dye ‘WE BE JAMMIN’ T-shirt featuring three Rastafarians about to enjoy a day riding the frigid junk surf of Venice Beach. Guaranteed to bleed in the wash, turning all other clothes a faint mulberry!

Next contest to be held soon, and happy to take suggestions. As for you three, gimme your addresses (or your clandestine Mailboxes Etc™ unmarked dropbox).

one world is enough falafal us

8/19/10

Hey, remember when I said “I don’t think anything religious ought to be shadowing the WTC site”? That’s because if it’s truly a Freedom Tower, religious centers ought to be INSIDE the damned thing.

And so I bring you: my floor plan to the One World Trade Center tower!

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click for bigger

i’m sorry, who says “po-tah-to”

8/18/10

When I write blogs, I am to some degree “myself” and to another degree a “character” that tries to be interesting every time you stop by. Some entries require a bit of passion to be, in my mind, readable. To be sure: simple, short statements with bullet points would have been more accurate, but also inherently boring and pretty much the same thing you can find on Twitter and Facebook comments. As Tessa always says when we tackle scripts, “clarity is the enemy of drama.”

So when I discuss touchy subjects on here, I tend to go into character – it’s a place to let old feelings and ancient biases burst to the surface, because I figured it was my little concert hall and my precious drum solos could last as long as I pleased. Lately, since about 2005 or so, I’ve viewed the blog more as a choir, where I sing the first verse and then you guys invent your own chorus and take it from there.

In that light, I’ve tried to be mindful when it comes to religion, but it remains a bugaboo. And it’s impossible to describe my resentments against “organized faith” without people thinking I’m talking about them, even though I really mean “the collective influence of organized faith”. I mean, I frickin’ LOATHE what the Mormon Church stands for, but I absolutely adore and love love love my cousin Wendy.

I’ll save that line of thinking for later. When it comes to the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, I will have to resort to bullet points:

• Many of you are confusing the belief that it should be built with the emotion that goes with it. It’s right here in the Siena poll of New Yorkers: 63% don’t like the idea of the center, and 27% support it. But at the same time, 64% believe that Muslims have a Constitutional right to build the mosque and develop a community at Ground Zero (as opposed to 28% who don’t). Which leads to…

• In the comments section, Scott wrote something that many people also thought: “to oppose the construction for any reason, indeed to be opposed to it at all, is a sign of internal bigotry.” I agree to some extent. But the world is an analog place, not a digital one. It’s messy, and we’re animals, and things get complicated. You’re asking someone to feel something they don’t feel. That’s why we have laws, to keep our demons in check, and the law (thank goodness) is clear on this one.

• I personally don’t care if the Islamic center is built or not. I simply have very complicated feelings about religious institutions and very complicated feelings about 9/11. That’s a personal issue that I chose to disclose on the blog for reasons stated in the first paragraph.

• To answer once-a-heel’s excellent question: No. I don’t think admitting that you’re a dick absolves you of being a dick. To me, the proclamation is a road sign on the way to healing that part of yourself. But I openly admit that religion still fills me with anxiety and anger, and it’s proving very hard.

• I’ll say it again: that mosque-interfaith community center will have to have the best baba ghanouj kebabs and 3D Imax Koran experience in HISTORY to make up for all the interfaith enmity this brouhaha has caused.

though i walk through the valley of the shadow of murray st.

8/17/10

After reading all of the impassioned and amazing comments from yesterday’s blog, I realized that my own take on the so-called “Mosque at Ground Zero®” was based on parts of me that I’m going to have to learn to subjugate. It’s not about Muslims and it’s not about 9/11, it’s about two things: the national dialogue, and my problems with religion.

Do I believe they should be able to build a Muslim interfaith center two blocks from Ground Zero? I feel unqualified to answer a question so stupid. It’s so obviously “yes” that to even have to say “yes” feels embarrassing. Do I think it has proven to be a good idea? Well, if the builders were trying to bridge an “understanding gap” between followers of Islam and other belief systems, it has been a devastating failure before a brick has been laid.

Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic studies professor at American University in Washington, said:

“I don’t think the Muslim leadership has fully appreciated the impact of 9/11 on America. They assume Americans have forgotten 9/11 and even, in a profound way, forgiven 9/11, and that has not happened. The wounds remain largely open…”

Which I think is probably right, but it’s probably right because cynical wingnuts – as well as the Bush Administration – fomented and cashed checks on those fears for seven years, and the Republican Party continues the tradition. (Yes, I know Bush spoke admirably of Islam in the days immediately following 9/11, but his regime behaved otherwise.)

Whether you like how America got bigoted or not, it’s still bigoted, and in some cases, sidestepping an obvious PR disaster can pay big dividends. You can opine about the 1st Amendment, but the fact is, a lot of American idiots out there think there’s going to be minarets towering over the Woolworth Building and shifty-eyed jihadis wandering around Liberty Street.

I appreciate the builders’ resolve in the face of these right-wing assholes, but all things being equal, would it ultimately served their purposes better if it had been built farther away? I have to say… probably? Maybe far enough that morons couldn’t say “AT Ground Zero”? You want a precise number of blocks, fine. Let’s say five. I used to work three doors down from the proposed Islamic Center site, and anything north of Chambers Street would have been impossible to connect to the WTC.


View blog example wtc in a larger map

To those saying “there’s already been a mosque in the neighborhood for 27 years” and “they sell falafel at the WTC site just like they always did” and “New York is a melting pot with all religions and bizarre rituals”, I say sure, but that’s missing the larger point. These things have always been there; the Islamic center has not. It’s a new construction built near an oozing laceration in America’s skull.

It’s human nature to “grandfather in” the things that were always thus, which is why the other mosque doesn’t bother anybody. But if you think the “newness” of this project shouldn’t make a difference, you’re right, but you’re also being disingenuous. It’s okay to have feelings about this Islamic center, given the mood and timbre of our culture. It’s okay to oppose it, even against all rational discourse proving otherwise, as long as you admit you’re being a dick.

My true personal feelings? I’m a dick. But I’m not a dick because I have something against Islam in particular, or because of my oft-expressed experiences around 9/11, or even because I loathe the amount of airtime this story has given to some of the worst Americans we’ve got. I’m a dick because I have problems with religion in general, and I don’t think anything religious ought to be shadowing the WTC site. In my mind, fundamental religion is how the towers came down, and on that day, I remember thinking this is how it would all end, if not this religion, then another.

I know this lumps my cousins and some of my best friends in with the abortion doctor killers and Timothy McVeighs of the world. I know this lumps Al Qaeda in with other friends of mine, not to mention billions of peaceful followers. I know many of you profoundly hate this quality in me, and I recognize my inability to fathom religion as one of my biggest failings. My virulent, occasionally angry agnosticism has consistently separated me from people I love and has done me no favors.

And yet, like a lingering worry, it persists.

nimby pimby

8/16/10

I’ve been asked to put up a blog about the “mosque” (actually an Islamic Cultural Center) that’s being put up (actually just proposed) at Ground Zero (actually two blocks away), and I suppose I have some fairly unpredictable feelings about it that don’t normally mesh with my usual political leanings… but before I do, I’m more interested in how you, the general reading public, feels about it.

Be honest, pick an anonymous animal if that allows you to speak more freely, and bust it wide open.

shiver in my bones just thinking

8/15/10

We’ve got 2 or 3 more weeks of vacation left – depending how Jewish you may or may not be – so I’ll try not to tax your molasses-like synapses here in the sloggy drench of late summer. I will, however, bitch and moan about something guaranteed to make you think I’m an ungrateful chucklehead.

There has essentially been NO SUMMER IN LOS ANGELES. And at the beach, where we are, it has been, on average, colder than the average temperature in January. I thought I was on crack, or perhaps not remembering previous summers here correctly – after all, I grew up in places where heat indexes of 110 degrees were quickly replaced with 6-foot snow drifts.

But then the news got official: the L.A. Times weighed in on the phenomenon (by the way, the “heat wave” in the article never materialized here), and then the National Weather Service actually issued a bulletin called WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO SUMMER IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA?

Parts of the coastline are, on average, 10 degrees below normal for the last two months, which is hard to pull off. But they don’t mention the worst aspects: first of all, the marine layer moves in each night, making it colder than shit, almost getting into the 40s a few weeks ago. Then it hangs around all morning until 1pm, making it freezing, gloomy, gray, windy and miserable.

At 1pm, sometimes – sometimes – the clouds part, and it is sunny and in the lower 60s. Like clockwork, at 3pm, the marine layer moves back and the cycle repeats itself. Every fucking day since January.

Look, I know most of you are roasting under the most cruel sun imaginable, your body unable to release sweat because the air is already thick with hazy water. I know it has been the 2nd-warmest worldwide July ever, and the warmest year-to-date global temperature on record, but this is mind-boggling. I can’t get any plants to grow, and it feels like we’re living in the Ornkeys off the north coast of Scotland.

Okay, I said it. Now everyone else can complain about their weather.

out on the wiley, windy moors

8/12/10

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I’m sorry, but how the fuck am I supposed to go on, knowing that Cathy is no longer going to be on the goddamn funny pages? I mean, come on – somebody please tell me this is a hoax. They’re just screwing with us, right? There’s NO WAY they’re letting my Cathy off the bathroom scale of our hearts and putting her (and her enormous ass – tee hee!) out to pasture.

For 34 years she has been there for me, for you, trying on swimsuits in a cruel world, engorging on chocolate bon-bons force-fed to her by an angry patriarchy… oh Cathy, will you ever measure up? If you’re not there to shed light on a woman’s inability to resist blowing hundreds of dollars on dog sweaters, who will be?

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The problem was Irving. What a pusillanimous twat. When you two got married in 2005 (friends kept asking: where were you when you found out?????) a little piece in all of us died – I mean, come ON, Cathy! He was clearly from Mars and had NO APPRECIATION for your Venus!

Sure, there were haters. Some said you did nothing but further stereotypes about women and their credit card debt, their complete inability to balance a checkbook, their freakish attachment to diet fads, their moronic pampering of pets, and their complete failure to behave rationally about men. You know what? They were right! But nobody’s perfect, especially not a cartoon character (just ask Ziggy!)

I know we’ll always have syndication, and like everyone else, a copy of Shoes: Chocolate for the Feet. But a day not spent in your chocolate shoes can only mean one thing: the universe has just let out a collective AAAAACK!

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click above for the 1995 Pink House Halloween party invitation