Hollywood Takes A Disturbingly Fecal Turn
The modern world is obsessed with death (rap music glorifying killing, bloody Hollywood movies). There was even a film about a guy who photographed dog droppings. This fecal fascination is a fascination with dead matter, which is a fascination with death.
Now we have Kevin Smith's website www.moviepoopshoot.com. Another fecal obsession, i.e., death obsession.
Now I must point out a disturbing trend on the part of David Poland. We got into a debate on LAobserved.com, where David begins a long thoughtful post: "Dear Luke, What kind of rodent crawled up your anus and passed away?"
Luke replies: "Well, I can't really disagree with anything you've written here except the vulgar beginning. You did that with Michael Medved too, accusing him of taking film criticism into the toilet. Your repeated fascination with all things fecal is truly disturbing. It's your constant referant when you want to down another man. I don't think I have to be too Freudian to understand who really wants to crawl up my anus. These putdowns are your sublimated desire to have a particular form of engagement with another man that used to be illegal and certainly against the Torah. Please use the spiritual space of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur to pray for relief from the love that dare not speak its name."
Why Single Women Vote Democractic
Producer Alex Tabrizi Likes His Pretty Girls
Molly from Las Vegas emails: I just had to laugh when I read your conversation with Alex Tabrizi! I was living in Las Vegas in '99 at a Porsche store in Caesars Palace when one night Alexander walked into the store. The first thing he did was to tell me to look in his mouth so I could see how clean his teeth were! Then he wanted to see if I had any cavities. He then told me he was a producer and asked me if I was interested in being in one of his movies. He said that if I came to L.A. I would have to sleep at his house in his bed! He gave all his numbers with TriVision Entertainment but I never called him. Thought you might like that story, I'm proof that he does go around passing out his cards to pretty girls!
The Dangerous Dance Between Journalists And Subjects
A few times I've been interviewed (out of about 200), I've published a transcript of the interview before the journalist and publisher got around to publishing. Whenever I've been asked to not do it, I have not.
I did this to Mark Glaser on the Kobe Bryant story. I waited until the time he said the story would go up, and then I published his questions to me. He published on ojr.org a day late and he was disappointed in me.
I write LAobserved: What gives the journalist asking the blogger the exclusive or the first rights to the interview? I'm tired of these journalists like Mark Glaser who think they are bestowing some enormous gift on us poor benighted bloggers by interviewing us. Sorry to break it to you, Mark, but www.ojr.org is no behemoth. It's Alexa ranking is over 28,000. It's a nice little site but you don't wield such enormous power that we should fear you.
I've been taken to dinner and interviewed by journalists from The New York Times, LA Times, three of the major networks, and from over 100 other outlets, and none of them have been so smugly superior as Glaser's comment. They took me to dinner because they wanted something from me.
I enjoyed talking with you Mark and I think you are a good journalist but enough with the "I'm doing you a favor by interviewing you" approach. I don't think it will cause a single blogger a bad day to realize you will never interview him again. You're good, Mark, but you're not God Almighty.
If you don't want the interview subject to write about your interview before you publish the story, request that. If you don't ask for it, don't whine.
Establishment journalists are sad that they no longer rule the roost and that the servant can now become the master. Welcome to the 21st Century.
Furthermore, I don't accept that bloggers Glaser interviews are yearning for his approval, and the approval of other establishment journalists. Most of the bloggers I know are highly accomplished writers, have published books (Kevin Roderick, Mickey Kaus, Eugene Volokh, etc), have published extensively in newspapers and magazines, and often do work in film and TV.
Many of the bloggers I know blog because they despise much of the traditional establishment media for its bureaucracy, mind-numbing rules, cravenness to special interests, and timidity. We're not seeking acceptance from those we despise, like the LA Times and the journalism department of USC, which is composed 100% of leftists.
I blog because I make a good living at it, have almost complete freedom, get to do the type of writing I like, make a difference in the world, and inspire books.
Furthermore, I reject the notion of Glaser's that the blogger must take great account of the feelings of the journalist who interviews him. The journalist will, at the drop of the hat, write things about the blogger that will hurt the blogger, and quote the blogger in ways that hurt the blogger. So why should this ethical stream flow one way? The journalist is ready to shaft the blogger, so grow up already.
Cathy Seipp writes: An interview is not just an interview -- it's a conversation, an exchange of ideas, an experience, a moment in time. Why would only the interviewer, and not the interviewee, have complete proprietary rights to such a thing? This doesn't apply just to email by the way. Mickey Kaus's asking old Joe Gold about Arnold's alleged gangbang at Gold's Gym, for instance, came out of a phone interview I did with Mickey for my CityBeat column...he called me back (as I'd asked) with what he found out, and then put that info in Kausfiles before my column came out. It would hardly be fair of me to resent this, and I didn't; but then, he did credit me, and obviously we both got something out of it. Probably common courtesy could smooth over a lot of journalistic ruffled feathers here. Less control freakism would be good too.
Luke replying to David Poland:
* I give an interview to everyone who asks, even if I despise them (I do not despise Glaser and ojr.org). I think it is a professional courtesy that all those (reporters, writers, novelists, etc) who rely on interviewing people for a living should adhere to.
David, I "scooped my interviewer" in your words, before I ever heard of the interviewer and before he ever contacted me. It is on rare occasions that a writer is going to be interviewed about something he has never written about. David is setting up a straw man.
Alexa rankings are no more reliable than the Dow Jones. So what is better than either for measuring their respective stats? Nothing. Deal with it.
In the final analysis, I agree with David's point that it comes down to being a schmuck. If you steal someone's exclusive simply by taking from what they give you, you're a schmuck. I have not seen any scoops in anything Mark Glaser has written, certainly not in the Jeff Jarvis affair, or in the Kobe Bryant affair. Could someone please point out the big scoops that were stolen by perfidious bloggers?
I am not the friendliest sunniest person around regarding human nature. In every single article ever published about me (with the exception of four), there have been significant mistakes, usually ones that make me look bad.
Ergo, I now generally tape record those who call to interview me. I let them know I'm taping. I don't trust journalists. I don't trust people unless I know them well.
When there's something specific that I want from a stranger who I am interviewing or he is interviewing me, I ask for it specifically and try to get a clear written agreement. Those who don't, like Glaser, should learn. Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me. Glaser has this keep happening to him. And he still doesn't get it.
Mark threatens he won't call back bloggers who play these nasty tricks on him. I know our lives will be sorely incomplete.
David [Poland], it doesn't really matter whether Mark Glaser or OJR or the LA Times takes blogging seriously or not. We don't need their imprimatur. Whoopydoo. I find my work self-authenticating.
Let's say Disney does not take me seriously. Doesn't give me credentials to different events. So it is an obstacle for me to write about them. All I need is a scoop to bust through and get a serious response.
A blog is as mighty as the quality of its information. We don't need the blessing of others. I love it when people try to put bloggers down (or any writer) by saying, "I've never heard of you." Or, "I never read your stuff." If we write a devastating story about you pally, or someone you care about, you'll hear of us.
Could someone please tell me the last time the LA Times had a scoop? LA Magazine? Ojr.org? Genuine scoops are rare and precious things. And guess what? Journalists who have one of these beautiful things don't give them away.
Glaser didn't have any scoop with Jarvis. Ojr.org simply publishes thumbsuckers. They rarely break a story.
I've dealt with journalists at the LA Times, for instance, who were digging into the gay porn past of a guy who was working with Michael Jackson. The journalists pumped me for information but not for a second did they give away their scoop.
This is a tempest in a teapot. A reporter with a genuine scoop is not going to give it away to his interview subject. If the reporter does, then he's a fool. Why can't reporters who feel burned repeatedly by bloggers (that means you Mark Glaser) takes responsibility for your actions?
Real reporters with real scoops don't whine about these things. They guard their treasure. Now, I want all those of you jumping on Jarvis, that means you David Poland, to lay out the big scoops that Mean Jeff [Jarvis] stole from Poor Mark [Glaser]. If you can't lay out any, then that says something obvious.
Addendum: I do have a fight with somebody but he is not on the Internet.
Dennis Prager Supports Whites-Only Club
OAKLEY, Calif. -- Lisa McClelland says she isn't a racist. She says her campaign for a Caucasian Club at her California high school is a move toward diversity, not bigotry.
McClelland says she's collected 245 signatures of support from students, adults and others since announcing her plans three weeks ago. One person who won't be signing up is Darnell Turner, first vice president of the local chapter of the NAACP. Turner says he thinks the club will create racial tension.
On his nationally syndicated radio show, Dennis Prager says that for the first time he supports white clubs, as there are already black, Latino and asian clubs in schools. There are separation dorms and graduating ceremonies for blacks and Latinos. So why shouldn't whites have their only club? No caller during the hour could answer that question.
West Hollywood Book Fair
I don't want to waste hours watching football. I don't want to sit alone all day with my computer. I want to be a man of action.
I drive to the fair and walk around.
12:30PM, five minutes after I arrive, I compose this tentative lead:
Whenever I'm ill at ease, my bigotry wells up within me.
I'm anxious and nervous at this point, wondering if I've made the right choice in coming to the fair. I wander around. Everything is unfamiliar.
I see Karen Ocamb from the LA Press Club. She doesn't recognize me and does not return my raised eyebrows of greeting.
I ask a young blonde slender teenage girl with a Scandinavian accent for directions for the Just The Facts pavillion but she and her boss can't figure it out. My misanthropy increases.
I finally find the pavillion, and at 1:05PM, expecting the "Intimate Nonfiction" workshop, I see Gil Garcetti (former DA of LA) and the architecture crew moving in. One lady on the panel is in her thirties, with long hair and a nice figure but I leave anyway seeking intimacy in nonfiction at The Skyroom, near the restrooms.
Author Susan Perry (Writing in Flow, Loving in Flow) is a lovely lady in her fifties, elegantly put together, and using flash cards, conducts the class for an hour with lots of participation.
She tells a story from 30 years ago when Los Angeles Times features writer Bella Stumbo came to one of Susan's mothering classes. Susan had a one-year old boy. Many personal issues were discussed. Bella publicly promised not to use anybody's name or identify them in her story.
Bella's story came out and she named Susan and revealed intimate things about Susan's tensions with her in-laws. From then on, Susan had a cold spot for Bella and when Bella died less than a year ago, Susan was not sorry. Every time Susan read a story of Bella's from then on, she remembered how Bella lied to her.
Half the class is taken up by questions from the group of about 15 persons of diverse age about ethical and legal issues in writing about people, particularly intimates.
Perry says that women's magazines these days insist on real names, real people, real situations. Before you could use anonymity and considerable creative license.
Susan encourages our questions and comments. I keep mine to one. I'm writing a memoir but people who read it say the protagonist is unlikeable. We discuss ways to release my sweet side (none of the ways I prefer are mentioned).
An energetic woman who's worked as an energy therapist for eight years approaches Susan at the end of the class and says, "My name is....and you're going to be hearing from me."
I'm not so bold. I think I will wait for email to introduce myself by name to Susan. The three of us chat outside the classroom, by the water fountain, about by misanthropy.
The next workshop is phenomenal - former Los Angeles Times columnist Gali Kronenberg conducts it (he runs numerous writing groups for gays and straights and those who are confused, email@example.com). We do a ton of writing in 90-minute workshop and Gali finds something encouraging to say to everybody.
Good thing Cathy Seipp's not running this thing or there'd be a lot of bruised egos.
We begin by writing down two truths and a lie about ourselves. Half the class reads out their's. I do not.
The entire class sits in chairs behind tables. I give up my seat to an enormous woman, find another, then give that up for a beautiful woman, who leaves five minutes later before she can properly thank me.
I stay sitting on a shelf, at the back, looking down on everyone else.
Gali gives us an exercise of rolling up a piece of paper and concentrating it on somebody or something in the room and then writing about it. I write a few paragraphs.
When Gali looks for volunteers to read, his eyes linger on mine. I don't move a muscle. I'm not voluntering. He moves to someone else. By then, I've gathered some courage. I raise my hand. He calls on me.
I get off the shelf and stand up. Blushing and stammering, I say to the class, "Please stop me if I am being offensive." I cover my face with my notebook and I read aloud about a girl sitting three feet from me.
Gali (a nice Jewish boy into Indian religion) compliments my piece. Nobody boos or makes rude remarks. The girl in question never looks at me. Ever. She makes no visible reaction while I read or afterwards.
Next exercise: Write about what the voice in your head tells you about you writing:
Gali suggests we ask - who's voice is that in our head talking to us about our writing?
A psychoanalyst told Gali that we treat our writing as were treated as children. For Gali that meant, sporadically and with neglect.
Why do I write?
Gali's next assignment, choose one of three:
* A food you love or hate
* A beloved pet
* Intereact with a character from a favorite book
I choose the food angle.
I read it to the class in a loud voice. On the last line, I unexpectdly choke up. There's stunned silence. Gali loves the piece. He zeroes in on the line, "rather than submit." He thought that symbolized the animating force within me. He likes how a boy who lost his mother finds control by asserting what goes in his mouth.
I realize I'm near tears. Usually, writing is more of a distant thing for me.
Gali does not make one critical dispiriting remark the entire class and the people love him. There's excitement and creativity in the room. We're fired up and enjoying ourselves. I can't believe how emotional I've become, how needy I am for a crowd to get fired up in my writing.
I love this fair thing, such a beautiful gift from the city of West Hollywood, or "WeHo" as some call it.
The fair attracts a diverse crowd - about one-third gay, about one-third couples, about 20% blacks and Latinos.
I leave a better man and a better writer. Alone.
I would've thought that chick would've gotten so turned on by what I wrote about her that she would've hunted me down and demanded that I make her feel like a woman on the spot.
That's my last journalist painted on the computer screen,
Watching Women Play Sports Is Like Watching Men Crochet
I don't understand why major networks and big newspapers devote much space to women's sports.
Over my shabbos lunch, my host says he's buying tickets to soccer's World Cup.
Luke, incredulous: "The women's World Cup?"
Luke: "Why would anyone want to watch women play sports? It's like watching men crochet."
Woman, about 25yo: "Are you serious? What about women's tennis?"
Luke: "I would have no interest in watching women's tennis. Any of the top 1000 men in the world could beat the best female tennis player. Why watch something inferior?"
Woman: "I'm not talking to you anymore."
Luke: "Wait. I like watching Anna Kournikova. What a stroke."
Later, the discussion turned to raising money for a yeshiva girls' sports team. I suggested a kissing booth.
Luke Gets Mail
Dave Deutsch writes:
Michael Louis Albo writes Luke: You really need to stop hanging out with these self-satisfied, no-talent know-nothings who've never had to struggle for anything in their lives and for whom a rough moment means they can't get a good cell phone connection. I hope "the help" sensed your contempt and spat in your food.
Just remember, son, there are more poor folks in this hard old world than your greedy and grasping middle-class and upper-class pals and one day they'll wash over all of you like a righteous tide and you'll all be drowned. I'll be with the have-nots.
Just for future reference, it's MEChA, not "mecha," you gabacho. If you're going to rag on a group of people, and compare them to Nazis, Mr. "But-I've-Got-a-Museum-of-Tolerance-Tote-Bag" (which is, you've got to admit, nothing more than a big purse), at least give them the respect of spelling the name of their organization correctly. It's an acronym. You can look up its meaning.
As far as the "Nazi" charge goes, at both the Catholic and public high schools I attended, ANYONE was welcome to join MEChA. I had a couple of high school girlfriends who were members. Me? I've never been one for officially joining anything, though I went to MEChA meetings. I liked hearing about the Revolution of 1910, Emiliano Zapata, Pancho Villa, the Bracero Program, Cesar E. Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union of America...and sometimes the food they served was pretty good depending upon who was in charge of supplying it. If my memory serves me correctly, I think there's a photo that might be in one of the yearbooks of a MEChA chapter gathering with me and another "hippie," standing in the crowd. Not once did I ever hear anything remotely resembling "Nazi ideology." Oh, and "Latino" is a proper noun. Use an upper-case "L" the next time.
Jeffrey Wells writes Luke: How come you haven't weighed in on the Mel Gibson/THE PASSION/THE GOSPEL OF JOHN/"Did the Jews kill Christ? Of course they did!" debate going on these days? Slacker! This is kind of up your alley...no?
Luke says: I haven't weighed in because I think others have said it better than I can. Also, I think the controversy is insoluble. Portions of the Christian Gospels hate Jews and are designed to deflect hatred from the Romans towards the Jews for the death of Jesus. If Mel Gibson is authentic to his Gospels, which it sounds like he is, he's going to produce a film that makes Jews look bad, which he has, and will result in more hatred of Jews.
Victor Davis Hanson Speaks To Wednesday Morning Club Friday Afternoon
I park my van on Beverly Drive south of Sunset Blvd and run across several lanes of traffic and a couple of crosswalks and finally up the long driveway of the pink Beverly Hills Hotel.
It's 11:30AM, September 19. I get my name tag and ask the lady for the paperwork to join the Wednesday Morning Club.
"It's $500," she says, looking me up and down and judging I can't afford it.
"I know," I reply. She fetches me a packet. I stuff it in my Museum of Tolerance tote bag.
My friend Debbie Gendel taps me on the shoulder. Five minutes later, Cathy Seipp arrives. The three of us are an inseperable team for the next two hours. Author and TV writer/producer Rob Long sits at our table as does TV producer Mike Sullivan and his wife. All we're missing is Mickey Kaus whose razor-sharp Slate.com blog illuminates many of the issues we discuss today.
We chat with executive director of the Wednesday Morning Club, Michael Finch, the MC who recently married.
I ask Cathy how many of her ex-boyfriends are in the room. She gives me a dirty look.
The girl gets around.
Cathy's temporary tattoo on her shoulder gets a lot of attention, as intended. Just the thing to shake up a stodgy Republican crowd. A slithering lizard.
I show Cathy and Debbie the new book I'm reading - The Whore's Child by Richard Russo. A superb collection of short stories.
As I look through the materials on our seats, I count six pictures of David Horowitz, founder of The Center for the Study of Popular Culture. Probably three pictures would've satisfied my appetite. How many pictures of Horowitz would you need to help the digestion of your lunch?
I see four acquaintances from various Orthodox shuls around the neighborhood. One, who I thought disdained me, gives me a thumbs up and shakes his fist in a gesture that means "Way to go!"
Later he explains that he was watching a panel discussion at the LA Times Bookfair where I took after author Johnathan Kirsch on his hatred of Orthodox Judaism. I learn that I was respectful, but coherent and devastating in my approach. Kirsch completely avoided my question. I worked hard on my question and this was the first time anybody noticed.
Any single woman who wants to meet guys should come to Republican gatherings like this one. There are no single young women but many single young men. There's a table of UCLA Republicans and they are all male. Most people appeared to be married, as is the Republican custom. Married people take care of each other, notes Dennis Prager, and therefore do not look to the government to take care of them. A solid family structure is the enemy of the Democratic party.
Actor Robert Davi (from Israel) gives the longest introduction in the history of the Wednesday Morning Club (a right-of-center Hollywood group started by David Horowitz). "Let an actor speak without a script and you get incoherence," somebody mutters.
I make a run for the mens room. Outside the Sunset Room, I spot three WMC assistants eating their lunch at a side table, able to just barely peak in on the program. I feel jarred.
I wonder how many of the swarthy immigrants serving us our lunch are legal immigrants?
Cathy and Debbie teach me table manners. They instruct me to tell my waiter, when he brings my salad dressing, that I want a vegetarian entree. I feel too chicken so Debbie calls the guy back to our table and makes the request.
I really want a vegetarian entree without vegetables. I just eat the pasta.
I eat the salad with my fingers, which Debbie and Cathy frown upon. I think I am the only person in the room, which is filled to capacity (about 150 persons), pulling my lettuce apart by hand and carrying shreds of it to my mouth. Feeling barbaric, I use a knife to cut out the good parts of the lettuce. When the waiter clears my salad plate and utensils, I see I've used the wrong knife, because he leaves it, messy and dirty, before me while clearing the clean salad knife.
Debbie instructs me on what to do with the bread rolls but I skip them for the cheese toast, which crumbles all over me.
I tear into the berry tart desert but it tastes coffee-like and I should not eat caffeine. I eat the whole thing anyway. It didn't taste as good as it looked. It should've been more chocolatey.
I sit about 50 feet from the lectern. I put my tiny cell phone-size brand new Sony ICD-ST10 digital recorder (my first digital recorder after 18 years of using tape recorders for journalism) on the table and point it at Victor Davis Hanson. Set for the lowest and longest recording mode, I put DIRECTNL on the microphone and hope for the best. When I get home and play it back, the quality is amazing.
Victor Davis Hanson gives an eloquent 30 minute speech followed by 15 minutes of questions.
Hanson recently spoke on Capitol Hill to congressmen and staffer about his new book Mexifornia. Dr. Hanson is a classics (Greek and Roman language, history and culture) professor at Cal State Fresno. He's introduced correctly as a "classicist."
Shortly after he begins talking, a congressional staffer stands up and starts ranting that Dr. Hanson is a racist and xenophobic. Then the staffer runs out, but not before stealing the pizza that the entire group was supposed to enjoy afterwards. The staffer had to be tackled in the hallway.
It turns out to be a staffer for the leader of the Democratic party in the House, Nancy Pelosi. When a spokesman for Pelosi was questioned about the incident, he said that the staffer was offended that Hanson was a "classist" (meaning someone who believes in a class system, like Hindu culture used to maintain, or Britain, where there were clear demarcations between upper, middle and working classes).
Victor mentions threats to his life.
Hanson says that over the course of a lifetime, an illegal Mexican immigrant costs the American government about five times what he contributes in taxes.
He relates a story about a businessman friend who hires illegal aliens. The friend was on his way to a familiar restaurant when he saw seven aliens standing outside in their boxer shorts. It was laundry day. The Mexicans had put all their clothes in the laundry but their boxers. The offense of having to look at such an ugly site is a small example of the social price we pay for limitless illegal immigration into California and Texas.
"At least they were wearing their boxers," says a relieved Seipp.
Hanson recently engaged in a public dialogue in Washington D.C. with the Mexican consul, who piously proclaimed how sad it was that his country was losing millions of its citizens to the US. "What can we do?" he sighed, and with his passive voice and gesture, showed there was nothing his country could do.
Hanson: "You could tell them to stay."
Mexico wants millions of people, particularly its lower class, illiterate mestizos (mixed-race) to go into the US to find work, otherwise it would have a revolution on its hands from its internal pressure and might have to clean up and reform its government. The second biggest source of hard currency from abroad for Mexico, even higher than tourism, is the $12 billion dollars a year that illegals in the US send back to family in Mexico.
Mexican elites say that their mestizos who cross into the US are Mexico's revenge on the US for losing their war 150 years ago.
Hanson said farmers he knows don't want to employ Mexicans with tattoos, shaved heads and who speak English. They want the first generation Mexicans because they work harder. The second generation is corrupted by America and embittered by the lack of progress its illegal peers make into American society.
Hanson took a lot of dead-on potshots at Cruz Bustamente, a third generation Californian. Bustamente was Mike Bustamente when he entered Fresno State but decided, after joining MEChA (the Mexican supremacist organization), to change his name to something more latino. Mike did not attend his final year of Fresno. He just took courses by correspondence.
MEChA resembles Nazi ideology. It's a silly pernicious organization that has driven latino politics left.
Debbie, Cathy and I kvell over Hanson. "He's compassionate," says Debbie, a political eclectic. She and her husband Morgan will attend a fundraiser for Democrat John Edwards this evening.
It is 1:30PM. Time to go home.
Dennis Prager interviewed author Rachel Greenwald. "Interviewed" is the wrong verb. For much of the hour, Prager interrupted and lectured his guest as he usually does. Dennis can never keep himself in the background in an interview. His own views must be foremost and the guest must constantly respond to and cater to Prager's thoughts and feelings. I can't recall one guest out of hundreds who has appreciated being repeatedly interrupted by Prager so Dennis can lecture.
You'd think Prager's 15 hours or so a week on the air alone would be enough for him so that for a handful of hours a week, he can leave his ego in the background and concentrate on his guest. He's a lousy interviewer. He's particularly bad with women, particularly young women, because they are most likely to allow him to ride roughshod over them, and be left speechless by his pompous "asides."
I remember near the end of an interview with British journalist Paul Johnson, Dennis Prager interrupted to say he'd attended the University of Leeds. Johnson and the audience did not care at that moment. Prager has had plenty of other times on air alone to talk about his experience in England for one year.
Prager talked about his $30 singles afternoons. A man got up and said he didn't understand - women want him to be decisive and come up with a restaurant for a date. After he does, they always say they want to go someplace else. Prager made a good comeback - welcome to life with women. They want you to come up with something, but it is rarely good enough.
I am 37 and have dated a lot. I have rarely experienced that restaurant syndrome.
Prager said he was favorably disposed to the book because of the politically correct criticisms in Publishers Weekly. "The book takes a reactionary, conservative approach to dating: she emphasizes the importance of femininity and of letting the man make the first move; "men are usually more attracted to women in skirts than in pants... literally as well as figuratively.""
Why Cathy Seipp, Emmanuelle Richard Are Mad At Me
I cause people who love me tremendous pain.
My two biggest defenders in Los Angeles journalism circles are Cathy and Emmanuelle. They frequently claim that I am not insane. Then I write an insane satire of Mickey Kaus, who runs in our media circles.
Cathy maintained an icy silence with me for a couple of days. Emmanuelle said things in French and English that should not be published on a family website like this one. What was I thinking?
I claim it was funny. That's not the point they say. It was insane. It was dirtying the nest.
No word from Mickey Kaus. He has an excellent sense of humor but tremendous dignity.
Cathy writes Monday: "WHY did you have to do that fake Mickey Kaus interview? I really wish you hadn't. Thus my icy radio silence these past couple of days."
Emmanuelle Richard writes Sunday: "Luke, if I were Mickey, I would probably call one of my friends of Gold's Gym to knock on your door! This thing is insane!"
JustMrT writes: "The Kaus thing was good. Sort of reminiscent of the stuff Woody Allen used to write for the New Yorker. (Don't get a big[ger] head.) Not even slightly insane. Those two broads must have some kind of hidden agenda."
I arrive at the English restaurant Cat and the Fiddle at 6530 Sunset Blvd at 12:50PM Wednesday, 9/17. I order a large orange juice. Cathy Seipp arrives at 1:05. She says my punctuality overshadows many of my defects.
I remind Cathy of a doting uncle in an Alfred Hitchcock movie Shadow of a Doubt who is revealed to be killing off a string of old ladies. She agrees with my critics that I have tendencies to psychopathology (no sense of right and wrong). She says I'm too free with my use of the excuse - "I'm not spiritually there yet" (when my deviations from Orthodox Judaism are pointed out).
Cathy says it is bad manners to go to a party and have intimate relations with someone you meet there on the bed of the host next to a sleeping guest. I guess I should bow to Cathy on this but I'm not spiritually there yet.
I want to read Roger Scruton's new book on sexual morality.
Despite my pretensions to Orthodox Judaism, Cathy has me admit that she is more moral than I am.
I did go to prayers almost every evening last week and was chaste.
I order a vegetarian Shepherd's pie. Later, the waitress doesn't even ask me if I want desert. She must've known I'd gained 20 pounds in the last few months.
Cathy downs a pint of English beer. She wears a red dress that keep unbuttoning from top to bottom and from bottom to top. In addition, her dress, about six inches above the knee, keeps riding higher when she's seated, not that I noticed.
Luke: "You look like you exercise a lot."
Luke: "Why do most of your dresses travel down to within a hand's length of your knees?"
Cathy: "Almost all women should not wear skirts any shorter. Emmanuelle could get away with it."
Richard looks particularly ravishing today. Cathy spotted her walking down Sunset Blvd carrying a big LA Press Club sign. Cathy thinks Emmanuelle should be the next club president. She works hard and is skilled at soothing hurt feelings (frequently created by the pithy remarks of Cathy and Amy Alkon).
Richard suggests her husband Matt. He says he hates people too much.
Cathy wrote about fashion for years. She explains a make-up tip to me. If you're going to wear lipstick, take it easy on the eyeshadow, or vice versa. If you don't, you'll look like a hooker. I'll have to remember that. I wouldn't want to give the wrong impression.
Once I was hanging out with a girl at temple. When I went to get more cookies, three different persons warned her that I was the male equivalent of a whore. The girl married someone else. I see them in Republican circles.
At 2:40PM, Cathy and I move my car to a new parking spot and then we walk to the debate hosted by the LA Press Club between four candidates for governor - Cruz Bustamente (Democrat), Peter Camejo (Green Party), Arianna Huffington (Independent), and Tom McClintock (Republican). I'm not into politics and most of the discussion bored me but the candidates seemed relaxed and they all handled themselves well, and rightly beat up on the absent Arnold Schwarzenneger (there stood an empty seat on stage with his name on it) who doesn't have the courage to face a real debate. Not that debates are good ways of deciding how to cast your vote.
I walk up front and snap 50 photos. Then I walk back to Cathy, look at my photos in my camera, and erase them all.
Cruz seemed friendly and affable, like a doting father. I find Arianna and Peter's politics so repulsive, I can't appreciate their humanity. Arianna is a skilled debater and Peter is filled with fire. Tom McClintock was the most efficient and businesslike, constantly citing chilling numbers. He's got my vote. And Cathy's. Maybe Matt's too.
Arianna Huffington gets the loudest applause. Maybe she brought more people. Why would journalists applaud? The lines that homosexuals deserve the same rights as everyone else, including marriage, get the loudest applause of the afternoon. Journos overwhelmingly support this.
Cathy and I start clapping for Tom McClintock. It's a lonely gesture.
Many ugly people clap for Comejo. McClintock is the best looking person on stage.
There's loud applause for Arianna's strong opposition to Bush's war in Iraq.
Afterwards, I stand in the reception area with ten feet of all four candidates and I have nothing to ask any of them. I have no desire to take their picture with my fancy new Nikon D100 digital camera.
Cathy and I stop by the Cahuenga newsstand near Hollywood Blvd. She buys several Los Angeles magazines, most of which I have not heard of, including Angeleno and Hollywood Life (formerly Movieline). They're so heavy I carry them for her back to her car.
Cathy and I talk about something disconcerting. We receive friendly email from people who can help us. We reply in a similar tone, only to meet with silence. What happens is, people will read one thing we've written, like it, write to us, and then realize how evil we are and end all communication.
I now have almost three hours to kill before the Mary Carey movie premiere and campaign appearance at the Vine Theater. I walk to a Starbucks, drink a large hot chocolate with whipped cream, and a large Tazo Berry frapuccino. I read a book on digital photography. It does me no good.
At the premiere, I spot a friend from shul with his date. There are two TV trucks and about 50 members of the news media. About 25 people, as of 8:20PM Wednesday, shell out $20 to see the movie.
Cathy Seipp writes: Luke doesn't really [like politics], so his mind began wandering to things like my hemline and temporary tattoo -- which he thinks is bad for society, as impressionable people might see it, think it's real, and decide it's OK to get real tattoos. (Although if they think a Marvin the Martian tattoo is real, they're probably lost causes anyway.)
Luke Ford Is Too Big For All You Loser Bloggers
Chaim Amalek writes Luke:
Cathy Seipp does not like me using the term "rack" for a woman's bosom.
Dave Deutsch writes Luke:
Friday Night Live Syndrome
I was talking over my shabbos lunch with an Orthodox Jew who goes to many non-Orthodox synagogues. What are the biggest changes he's noticed over the past ten years?
* Friday Night Live syndrome. More synagogues want to make services a grand performance with many musical instruments and get everybody participating, clapping, dancing and singing along with their arms around each other.
* More goyim. About half of the participants at Reform services are not Jewish, and about a quarter of the participants at Conservative services are not Jewish. Within a generation, half of Reform and Conservative rabbis will not be halakhicly (Jewish Law) Jewish (following the trend among their congregants).
* Should you attend the wedding of a family member who has married a non-Jew who converted to Judaism through Reform of Conservative? A strict Orthodox Jew would say no.
* According to a Los Angeles Times article a month ago, an Orthodox women has written an opera. I've heard more Orthodox Jews talk about following suit. Maybe it is ok. Most operas, like most of English literature, are about immorality.
Where Have All The Bloggers Gone?
Miguel writes LA Observed:
Where have all the bloggers gone?
-- LAExaminer.com has withered away
-- Ken Layne is on hiatus to pursue his music
-- Matt Welch is "taking a break from (his) blog for a short while" to join Layne on the music gig
-- Emmanuelle Richard is shutting down her blog because it's "too much like work."
Okay, so it's a small and extremely incestuous sample. And OK, Welch is still mini-blogging over at Hit and Run. But when protobloggers like Welch and Layne decide blogging just ain't as interesting or fun as it used to be -- or as profitable as they thought it would be -- is it a first sign that the blog "revolution" is in decline?
Joseph writes LA Observed:
Doesn't anyone do anything out of love anymore? One thing I've always had a pet peeve about is writers who insist on making money for every thought that springs from their fingertips. I hope finances aren't the reason these bloggers quit. But then again, I've always thought that writing was more vocation than profession, and certainly others see it differently.
To me, blogging is best--and most fun--when it's off-the-grid anyway. I would guess that someone who turns it into a chore is ambitious in the Elizabethan sense of the word, and maybe would be better off in a more structured format.
Religion As Therapy
I won't repeat all the glowing reviews for the book and I promise not to use the words "lyrical" or "moving" in this article, even though the book brought me to tears. It struck too close to home.
Ari grabs a cup of tea. It's 8:15AM my time. I've been up since 7AM. It's Ari's office hours and his journalism students drop by to see him.
Luke: "I picked up your book as I was walking to shul last Friday night and you grabbed me by the third page and you held me close to tears the whole way and then you killed me at the end. I was grabbing people in shul and telling them they must read this book.
"What did you love and what did you hate about writing this book?"
Ari: "As with my first book, The Search for God at Harvard, which was about a year I spent at Harvard divinity school, I wanted to hold on to the experience. Being a mourner was not something pleasant, but something significant in my life. I wanted to remember the feelings. I wanted to remember how I mourned for my father."
There's another student at Ari's door. We take a 30-minute break. Ari calls me back.
Ari: "I can't think of anything I hated."
Luke: "How about the tsures (trouble) from family members because their memories differ from yours?"
Ari: "That wasn't so much in the writing of the book as in the reaction to the book. Some family members are not happy with my portrayal of events. I have my interpretation of what happened. Writing this book was cathartic. This isn't anybody else's memoir. I will put up with the tsures from family."
Luke: "It wasn't a crippling thing as you were writing it? Oh no, what will Uncle Joe or cousin Sarah say? Did you have to fight that fear?"
Ari: "I thought it was important to make my points without unnecessarily hurting people. I did tone things down. I left some stories out. I write about the uncle [at the funeral] who forgets to mention me in a eulogy for my father. At first I wrote his name. At the request of one of my cousins, I took it out. I thought that story was emblematic of when there's a divorce in the family, some people pretend it never happened. That the issue [children] of that marriage is not worth mentioning."
Luke: "How many people did you see permission to write about them or to check their recollections of events?"
Ari: "I showed it to various family members as I was writing it. Some corrected me. Some said I was way off the mark. Some asked that I not publish the book. I tried to be sensitive to their feelings but I felt my own inner-need to say this overrode anybody else's feelings."
Luke: "How has your life been affected since your book came out?"
Ari: "It's been out two weeks. Overwhelmingly the response has been good. There have been a few unhappy people, but I didn't write it for them. I've gotten responses that the book was helpful, comforting... And there was the Christian friend who said the book was about forgiveness. I don't think I intended it that way."
Luke: "Christians love that. Everybody sees the book through their own prism."
Ari: "I found that [remark] comforting. Yes, it is about forgiving my father and forgiving myself for not being the son I could've been. It's about coming to terms."
Luke: "The picture of your parents together happy - has it had a lasting imprint on your life?"
Ari: "I find solace that my parents were my parents. I wasn't always allowed to feel that they were my parents."
Luke: "How did your wife react to your writing this book?"
Ari: "My wife is incredibly open about her own life and her own history. She's adopted. She talks a lot about finding her birth mother. She was an inspiration for this book. She validated my feelings and encouraging me to give voice to them."
The Mexican gardener outside has been operating his leaf-blower at full volume the past ten minutes and I can barely hear Ari let alone my own thoughts. Luckily, I've written down my questions and I'm taping the interview.
Luke: "How is your Judaism changing over the years?"
Ari: "I will be 54 next week. I'm still on a spiritual journey but I've found my rhythm in a way that I did not five years ago.
"I feel my commitments as a Jew are solid."
Luke: "Are you becoming more popular or less popular with the Orthodox Jewish community?"
Ari: "That remains to be seen. I was unpopular after I wrote The Search for God at Harvard because I became my own rabbi after the rabbis let me down. In the book, I describe an experience with a black-hat shul that was afraid of me because of my New York Times experience.
"What I do here is validate an Orthodox practice. On the other hand, traditionalists might take offense at my reasoning. The traditional Orthodox point of view on the Kaddish might be - it is not for you. It is not to make you feel better. It's the halacha [Jewish Law], you have to do it. It's not about trying to say Kaddish, it's about saying it. It's not about going once a day, it's about going three times a day. I can see an Orthodox critique of this book but I didn't write it to make friends."
Luke: "As most of Orthodoxy moves right, there's also a stream, of which you are a part, moving left."
Ari: "The more progressive Orthodox are small. I think it is important for those of us on the left to speak about what we do and not be afraid that our Orthodox credentials will be taken from us."
Luke: "What do you think now about your daughter turning 13 and having to go over to the other side of the mehitza?"
Ari: "I feel the same. I miss her next to me in shul. I would like to see Orthodoxy be more inclusive of women."
Luke: "Do you think Orthodoxy can ever accept men and women sitting together at prayer?"
Ari: "No. It's come to define Orthodoxy. The best you can do is make women feel comfortable in shul on their side of the mehitza. Separate seating has come to define Orthodoxy, for better or worse. I would like to see the women who come be equal partners. Maybe the service shouldn't start until there are ten men and ten women. There's got to be more of a partnership."
Luke: "I wonder if your book is part of a trend of therapeutic religion?"
Ari: "Interesting point."
Luke: "Meaning religion as personal therapy, clergy as spiritual therapists, religion serving the needs of the individuals rather than the individuals primarily serving the religion."
Ari: "I think it has always been that. I don't draw a big distinction between what I do for God and what God does for me. I'm in a relationship with God and it's all part of being a Jew. If Judaism didn't do these things for us, we wouldn't be in the game. If we subscribe to a faith, it's because it gives us meaning. I would challenge your question. It's like saying, Is there a trend towards therapeutic medicine? No. Medicine is supposed to be good for you. Sometimes it hurts and stings but its purpose is to heal. With religion as well, we may not always understand it or enjoy it, but its purpose is to heal and to improve my life. I make no apologies for religion being good."
Luke: "Would you hold by what you just said as a single sentence that stands alone? The purpose of religion is to improve my life."
Luke: "Would people have said that in Orthodox Judaism 40 years ago?"
Ari: "Maybe not in that sense, but in that context of a relationship with God. I don't have to apologize for benefiting. I don't know if people would've articulated that way but they certainly would have those feelings."
Luke: "I don't want to say that you should apologize, but there's been a sea change in religion in the last 40 years, becoming more therapeutic and psychological and oriented towards healing and individual fulfillment."
Ari: "I think that's a good thing."
Luke: "Would you agree that shift has taken place?"
Ari: "I don't know. I wrote an article in Sunday's New York Times week in review section talking about religious commemorations of death. I say that modern psychology confirms that all the ancient religious rites are good for you. You can't just have closure and move on. You have to grapple with your loss. Religion has been doing this for ages. I think that's the purpose of religion - to give us comfort and meaning."
Luke: "If your child came to you at age 19, and said, 'Dad, I'm finding more meaning and comfort in Buddhism than Judaism.' How would you react?"
Ari: "I would say, 'Good for you.' But I would feel like I failed. I have brought my children up to find meaning in Judaism, to love Judaism and to serve God. I couldn't argue with a child who said that and I'd wish them well."
Luke: "If religion is primarily about comfort, then if your kid..."
Ari: "But I have given them a Judaism of comfort and of obligation as well. Ultimately, I want it to be meaningful for them. I wouldn't want them to do this if it wasn't meaningful."
Luke: "What do you think of Dr. Laura leaving Judaism because it is not comforting for her?"
Ari: "I have no opinion."
Luke: "You weren't intrigued by it?"
Ari: "Nope. I've never listened to her. She's never been a significant character in my worldview. I don't think we gained anything and I don't think we lost anything."
Luke: "Did you ever read Lauren Winner's book and what did you think of her journey?"
Ari: "I was sad to see her go but I wish her well. Her publisher just asked me to blurb her new book and I declined because I don't want to endorse what she's done. I'm happy that she found something meaningful in her life. I'm sorry Judaism couldn't fulfill her."
Luke: "She found something more comforting."
Luke: "She found that closer personal relationship with God. You don't hear much talk about personal relationship with God in Judaism."
Luke: "What do you think of Rabbi Avi Weiss's new yeshiva and what it could mean for American Orthodox Judaism?"
Ari: "That's not my book. I do mention him in my book. I do like him. I do like what he's done. I think he's a terrific pulpit rabbi and a good friend and a comforting presence. I would rather see him try to change Yeshiva University [bastion of Modern Orthodoxy that's shifted right over the past 30 years] than set up an alternative to it."
Luke: "Do you have hope for Yeshiva University with its new leader?"
Ari: "Absolutely. I am not enthusiastic about Rabbi Avi Weiss's yeshiva."
I wanted to ask Ari to disparage the book Kaddish by Leon Wieseltier but I chickened out.
Dave Deutsch writes:
I found your comment about Judaism lacking a personal relationship with God to be interesting. I'm teaching the Puritans in American History now, and a lot of what I'm reading from them is all about the God of Israel, because they saw themselves as being the True Israel being delivered into their Promised Land. This is very different from what people write about a century later during the Great Awakening, which was all about personal salvation. Jesus is envisioned as the god of personal redemption, while God is envisioned as the god of national redemption. The truth is that in traditional (at least Ashkenazic) Judaism, God was a very real, personal, anthropomorphic force in the lives of Jews. A lot of that has, I think been lost through contact with a modern, rationalistic world view that led many Jews (including the Orthodox) to be embarrassed by the idea of God as an old man in the heavens.
There was an interesting essay written years ago by Rav Chaim Soloveitchik (son of the rav) that dealt with some of this stuff, and there was this powerful anecdote about how his father, who was the intellectual leader of modern orthodoxy, preferred to daven during the Yomim Noraim at this little Boston shtibl composed of old immigrant who most of the year were not particularly observant. The reason? Because these were people who really believed that God was old man who knew them and cared about them. They might not observe much during the year, but when they davened on Yom Kippur, they were children pleading with their father for forgiveness for all they'd done wrong, and they really meant it, as opposed to some modern black hats who are punctilious in their observance, but its all abstract. I'm glad that I have the same kind of belief in God that I did when I was six. It may be the egomaniac in me, but I believe God actually cares about what I do, and that the good things that have happened to me have been because He wanted them to. My problem is that I presume that God is as forgiving of my mistakes as I am of my own son's, which doesn't necessarily make me diligent about correcting them.