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How To Balance Your Life

For ten years, I've been going to Rabbi David Wolpe lectures, thrilled by his eloquence.

I've read his books and I've long hoped that one day he'd read my writings.

I now think he might.

Thursday night, April 22, we had our longest chat ever. It lasted five minutes.

The first time I ever spoke to Rabbi Wolpe was after his lecture on his God book. I made a public challenge about how Conservative Judaism has led the way in removing God from Jewish life. I tried to list off a number of Conservative rabbis such as Harold Kushner, Mordecai Kaplan and Harold Schulweis, who I believed were atheists. Rabbi Wolpe shushed me, insisting I was speaking lashon hara (gossip).

Afterwards, during his book signing, I made a pest of myself inquiring about his views on the passages in the Torah condemning homosexual behavior. Rabbi Wolpe said he believed the authors of those passages were homophobic. I went so far out of my mind that I could only come down to earth by scoffing five desserts and hitting aggressively on chicks.

From my March 2003 update:

Journalist Amy Klein: 'Don't Write About Me!'

Everywhere I go I run into people who point at me and say, "Don't write about me!" Tonight was no exception. And journalists, far from being an exception to this rule, are about the group most afraid of being written up.

I was at a great Purim party thrown by Temple Sinai at Bergamont Station at 2525 Michigan Avenue in Santa Monica 3/17. About 600 people paid $25 each for entry. Craig Taubman and his band played. A trip for two to New York was given away to the couple with the coolest costumes (about a quarter of the crowd dressed up).

Rabbi David Wolpe dressed like Uncle Sam. He gave a mind-blowing interpretation of the Esther story: "We won."

Rabbi Wolpe had a difficult time quieting the crowd for the megilla reading. The place was filled with hot looking young chicks though my mind was so much on the reading of the megilla (book of Esther) that these worldly concerns meant nothing to me. Every room had food, including a flowing chocolate fountain that you dipped marshmellows and fruit in.

About 10PM I was wandering around when I saw the young female managing editor of the Jewish Journal, Amy Klein, dressed as a black cat. I waved at her and she waved a reproving finger back: "Don't write about me on your blog!" she reprimanded.

Rabbi Wolpe then walked by. Amy said to him, while pointing at me, "This man is dangerous. He has this blog where he writes about people." Rabbi Wolpe gave me a searching glance and I disappeared into the crowd.

Rabbi David Wolpe created the Friday Night Live program, my favorite night of the month (yes, I know I lead a dreary life).

Last night we discussed the dull state of Jewish journalism. I plugged my interview with Stephen Fried, author of The New Rabbi, a book on David's rabbi father Gerald. I said it was the best work of Jewish journalism in my memory.

"Did you tell Stephen that?" Rabbi Wolpe asked. I have.

With few exceptions, Conservative rabbis have marched lockstep in decrying the book, with the type of rigid unthinking uniformity that would make Stalin proud. None could me give me a cogent answer as to why rabbis who go on TV to give their opinions and frequently court publicity should be treated as private citizens while we hold all other public figures to some account for their behavior.

Here's the program note:

"In conjunction with USC Hillel, ATID is sponsoring a dessert reception for graduate students and young professionals, featuring Rabbi David Wolpe. Join Rabbi Wolpe for a discussion of how to balance all that life throws at us--school, career, social life, family obligations--and how to make Judaism a part of that balance. Meet graduate students and young professionals from throughout the Los Angeles-area. Century Plaza Hotel. Café Mystique."

The best way I've found over the years of grabbing Rabbi Wolpe's attention in a crowded room is to carry a book and to appear as though you are deeply pondering some difficult passage. He usually comes over and inquires what you're reading. Tonight it was Jeffrey Myers' superb Privileged Moments: Encounters With Writers.

Rabbi Wolpe asks where I published. I tell him about my blog at www.MoralLeader.com. He smiles.

It's a cold night and we're outside.

He begins his talk: "I asked for heat lamps and it looks like what they are about to bring out are lamps."

I turn around and there's a Mexican with a lamp but no heat.

This is a bad week for me to speak about balance. I haven't had it for the last few weeks, as evidenced by here I am out at night speaking. I've been out for several nights in a row. I don't want to present to you that I have attained this perfect balance and that if you only listen to my wise words then you too can have balance like me. I want to suggest to you something about the virtues of inbalance. Look at people who are excessive.

I remember a wonderful story about Isaac Stern, the violinist. It was at the end of one of his concerts. He was approached by a woman who said, 'Oh Mr. Stern, I would do anything, give anything, to be able to play like you.' He said, 'Would you be willing to give 12 hours a day for 30 years?' That's what he had to do. You don't become a worldclass musician with balance. You don't become an Olympic athlete with balance. You don't become a great scholar with balance. You rarely become a person of great wealth with balance. Most of the time, you can not be a great parent with balance. To accomplish something exception requires exceptional effort.

It's just not true to say you can have it all, you can be all things to all people, and still have time to rent your favorite movies.

If you ever expect to accomplish something out of the ordinary, other people will criticize your lack of balance. 'Why don't you do this more?' Their criticisms are almost invariably directed towards things that affect them. 'Why don't you call me more? Why don't you see me more?' The only proper answer to that question is an answer that nobody gives: 'Because it's not really a priority.'

Instead we say, 'I really didn't have time,' which is just another way of saying, 'That really wasn't a priority.' We always have time. The question is entirely -- how do we use the time?

When people say they've been working very hard and couldn't get back to you, how often is it that they were working so hard they couldn't find two minutes to dial the phone? Often it is not true.

Our use of our time is entirely our choice. You don't have to work the job you're working. You don't have to live in the place you live. You don't have to drive the car you're driving.

What I want to do today is not necessarily what I want to do next week. Desires are not fixed. We change by doing. I do a lot of weddings. Invariably, 99% of the time, I go through the same cycle. I'm home and I want to stay home but I've got get into a tuxedo, drive to God knows where, and do a wedding. When I get there, things are never as far as long as they are supposed to be. I think to myself, 'What am I doing here?' Then the wedding starts and I'm thrilled to be there. I love to see couples under the chuppah and I love to marry them and I come home feeling high.

Living a balanced life is impossible for someone else to prescribe to you. I don't know what you love. If you said to me that tomorrow I could do anything I wanted, but no more reading, I'd feel as though the guts of my life were just ripped out.

Everybody who has a priority will try to convince you that their priority should be the priority. It's like being in college. Every subject you take is the most important subject. But you have to be strong enough internally to know what it is that resonates with your soul and flexible enough to know that you might change.

Why do so many people go into entertainment? Because the rewards are wildly incommensurate with the effort. It's not more effort than mining, construction. We are drawn to fields where the exercise of our talents will be disproportionately rewarded. Some people are good at social life and some people are good at work. People are rarely good at both.

People who good at work tend to find relationships with people who are good at social life. One will say to the other, 'Why don't you spend more time at home? Your life is unbalanced. All you do is work. You can't be intimate.' The other will feel -- 'I get so much out of my work. I'm good at it. I get reinforced for it. I get paid for it. And the effort that I make for my work is effort that I understand. Then I come home, or I go out on a date, and I feel like I am making an effort to pick through a mine field. I don't know how to do it. I don't get it right. A big part of me wishes I was back at my desk.'

Maybe rather an inbalance in both lives, you have different gifts. Each can be cultivated.

Everybody who has a child finds it awakens something within himself that he did not know was there.

I was with a group of thirteen year olds. One asked me if somebody with a tattoo can be buried in a Jewish cemetary. It is a very common question with thirteen year olds. It's true you are not supposed to tattoo yourself in any permanent way but I have never heard of anybody being barred from a Jewish cemetary because they had a tattoo. But I think it is a bad idea to get a tattoo. At which point, she made a face.

I'll tell you why. You guys are 13. Do you want to live with the decisions you made when you were seven? Of course not. Nor at 20 will you want to live with the decisions you made at 13. And, you might not want to live at 30, with decisions you made at 20. You are going to change.

One of the things we do to ourselves that is a mistake is that we affirm to ourselves who we are with a certainty that comes out of defensiveness, not self knowledge. Lots of things that people here have said they would never do, they have done. How many people here have said you would never live in LA?

You should always remain slightly off balance and allow life to tip you. I can list off ten things I was sure I would never do, beginning with being a rabbi.

Luke asks: "Do you have any thoughts on the type of life the Vilna Gaon led, where he purportedly studied Torah 18 hours a day?"

Rabbi Wolpe: By the testimony of all his disciples, he studied 18 hours a day. There are many stories about his dedication, including one about his sister, who he had not seen in about nine years. She came to visit him and when his disciple said to him your sister has come to visit, he said, 'I have no time. I'm studying. Tell her I will see her in the world to come.'

I think he was a tad compulsive. He shares the feature of many great people [dedication]. He made a great contribution to the Jewish community. He was not exactly a warm fuzzy guy but when he died, hundreds of thousands of people followed his casket through the streets of Vilna, something that was not done for the warm, fuzzy, guys. Like man people who were great in their contributions to the world, he was either incapable or chose not to practice any kind of close human relations, with the exception of one or two disciples. Such lives are not to be evaluated by normal standards because they chose to exempt themselves.

Would the world have been better if the Vilna Gaon had studied four hours a day? I'm sure Mrs. Gaon would've been better. But the world? I don't think so.

Isaac Newton's life was wildly unbalanced. Isaac Newton's neighbor probably lived a normal life. But he didn't discover the law of gravity.

If you are going to lead that unbalanced a life, you better be a genius. If you do it and you're wrong, that's a waste.

Question: Reflections on becoming a rabbi.

Rabbi Wolpe: "I grew up in a home of rabbis. I thought it was a wonderful thing for my father to do but I wanted to be a writer, maybe an English professor. One of my professors at the University of Pennsylvania, where I went to college, who was having trouble finding a job, said, 'Don't be an English professor. The job market is horrible. You are going to end up in Podunk U, teaching the same thing over and over to students who don't care. You should only be an English professor if what I'm telling you, and it's true, doesn't discourage you at all.'

It discouraged me. I was trying to figure out what to do. I spent a year writing and teaching Hebrew school to make a living, because that was easy for me and I like kids.

I came out to California to work for Camp Ramah. A rabbi there, Elliot Dorff... He's famous for talking people into going to rabbinical school. He said to me, 'What do you want to do with your life?' I said, 'I want to write.' He said, 'What do you want to write about?' I said, 'I don't know.' He said, 'Why don't you go to rabbinical school? It's a great subject. At least you'll know you're writing about something important. I said, 'That makes sense. I'm willing to go for a year. If the study catches fire with me, I'll stay.'

I remain split. I've maintained a powerful interest in history, philosophy and literature and my reading is at least as much in that as it has been in Judaica. For that, the best thing you can do is be a pulpit rabbi. Whatever I read that interests me, I get to talk about [on Shabbos]. A clergyman is the one generalist. You're allowed to be interested in everything because it all connects to what you do. If I sit on a plane, as once happened, and have a conversation with a physicist, I've got a sermon.

Novelist E.M. Forster said, 'How do I know what I think until I see what I say.' I think by talking. I often have sketchy notes before I talk. I think verbally. I know there are people who stare at walls and think thoughts. I can't do it.

The other great thing about being a rabbi is that it really does expand your soul. You visit people when they are dying. You deliver eulogies. People come to you for advice.

Rabbi Harold Kushner came by to see me for the first time since my neurosurgery. We were talking about the rabbinate. I'd had a tough week. He said, 'Now that I'm no longer a pulpit rabbi, it is harder for me to write books, because I have not found any venue in the world that teaches me as much about where people are at as being in the pulpit. It is harder for me to find material.'

Persian Guy: I don't mean to be rude, but what's your point? What are you telling us to do with our lives?

Rabbi Wolpe: The only honest and responsible answer is nothing. It is not my job to tell you what to do with your lives.

Where Luke Grew Up

Avondale College (1966-70, 72-77)
Pacific Union College (1977-80, summers through 1983)
Sierra Community College (1985-88)

I just walked down my street under a cascade of purple jacaranda blossoms. It feels like Avondale. The college yearbook at Avondale was called The Jacaranda. The conclusion of the excellent 1988 Meryl Streep movie A Cry in the Dark (about family friends Michael and Lindy Chamberlain) took place there.

Meditations On Community

I’ve long sought a secure personal identity through ties to a community but I’ve done it in ways that have guaranteed I will not achieve what I tell myself I want. Therefore, I must now embrace the life I’ve chosen and lie down in my van in peace. I am a writer and as such I’m condemned to live in exile as long as I am authentic to my craft. My insights into life are too keen, my heart is too pure, and my intentions are too noble, to ever be accepted by the unthinking masses. I am part of the vanguard of the proletariat, the intellectual elite, onward Christian soldiers, Maccabean revolutionaries, doomed to a life of Sisyphean efforts to rouse the bourgeoisie from their moral slumber. I should not expect thanks.

Commercial Concerns
Strangle Me
I Wanna Be Free
I Wanna Be Me
I Ain't Got Nobody
I'm Just A Gigolo

Over a year ago, I watched Sunset Boulevard. Tonight I watched Breakfast at Tiffanys.

"George Peppard plays Paul Varjak, a writer who has to earn his living through a wealthy socialite, Patricia Neal, as her "kept" man."

I feel that my art is confined by my need to make a living. I could produce so much finer stuff if I had some old bag paying my way, the type of lady who'd let me run after the grad students in my spare time, study the sacred texts, and keep my holy days. I'd like to make every day a holy day where I do not touch money nor soil my hands with work.

Cathy Seipp writes:

How come you're so special to The Defamer? Do you have some sort of close personal relationship with him? Do you keep him in your van?

What do I think of what? The dedication? Uh, it's a little maudlin, and not in a good way. How did they get "hurt?" Do they all have HIV, or rectal tears from double anals or something? Because that's what readers are going to think, so I don't think these girls will appreciate having this book dedicated to them this way.

You watched B at T's at home alone tonight? What brought that on? I find it kind of an irritating film, maybe because it's such a favorite with hopeless neurotics. I don't see why all these silly girls and gay guys want so desperately to be Holly Golightly, who, after all, is a prostitute.

On the other hand, I did enjoy coming home to hearing you singing that "You're always on my mind" song on my voice mail. Is that ABBA or Air Supply?

The novel is much better. It's a perfect short novel. In the book, by the way, Holly's writer friend is gay, not a gigolo.

I was out seeing Cavalia.

Am I sure I am not the Defamer? Or is it Carly Milne, who worked with Nick Denton on Fleshbot?

David Poland writes Luke: "I know you're not the defamer... You can't write that short."

Luke Joins Learned Elders Of Zion

I'll be guest blogging on Protocols starting May 12. I'll finally join the cognitive Jewish elite taking over the blogosphere. "Those who sow in tears will reap in joy."

New Partisan On Heeb

Reading that essay by Eric Adler, I'd have to disagree with most of what Heeb magazine has published. Yet I like many of the individuals with the magazine such as Jennifer Bleyer, Joshua Neuman and Dave Deutsch.

One can enjoy the company of those with whom one disagrees much more than one enjoys the company of those with whom one agrees. I don't particularly enjoy gatherings of Republicans, for instance. I generally prefer the company of fellow writers.

I know which group of Jews over the past few years has stayed with me and which group has rejected me. I guess I dance today with the ones who brung me.

'Would You Like Balls In Your Drink?'

My attitude to modernity resembles that of Evelyn Waugh (as does my prose). Cathy Seipp writes:

Do you need a dog? A dalmation entered my backyard this afternoon and refuses to leave, although Linda is getting bored with him. He is quite friendly and handsome.

I'm kidding...I'm sure someone will show up and claim him, as he is a purebred dog, at which point I will give them a firm lecture about letting their dog run around with not collar but with testicles intact. He's got quite a stylish black-and-white thing going on: spotted black on white body, solid black ears, solid black balls...

Oh here's a funny thing I noticed at the Grove yesterday at the slushy stand: Since when did "Would you like balls in your drink?" become an OK thing to say?

Jackie writes: ""Solid black balls"? Surely Cathy knows how threatening you would find this creature. But dalmatians are notorious for having health problems, and need a lot of TLC and looking-after. In the absence of a wife, this might be just the life partner you need."

The Sweet Smell Of Success

Cathy Seipp writes:

Luke Ford came over and after dinner and presents we watched "The Sweet Smell of Success," part of a new project I have started to repair his sadly deficient cinematic education. So far, though, he will only agree to see old black-and-white movies if someone's told him the lead character reminds them of him. (It wasn't me. "Shadow of a Doubt" is in my opinion the ultimate Luke movie, which he has yet to see, although "Psycho" is probably a close second.)

"So who reminded you of me more?" he said afterwards, looking pleased. "Sidney Falco or J.J. Hunsecker?"

"Hmmm. I think I'd have to say...Susie," I said, referring to Hunsecker's sister. I didn't mean it though, of course. Susie's a boring lump and Luke is not a boring lump. Maybe the cigarette girl? Harry the fat cop?

My favorite lines from the movie:

"I like Harry, but I can't deny he sweats a little."
"The cat's in the bag, and the bag's in the river."
"I love this dirty town!"
"Come here, Sidney, I wanna chastise you."
"Susie, remember, a girl's best friend is her bed."

Luke tried to make me jealous by describing an imaginary evening on a yacht he supposedly spent with Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald, but that never works because I too think Heather is great. Whenever I read one of her brilliant defenses of the Patriot Act I have to restrain myself from doodling smiley faces and "How true!" in the margins.

Luke likes basically two types of women: (1) Very smart, in which case they can come in pretty much any reasonably attractive package, although a big bust is a plus; (2) Not smart at all, as long as they're short and brunette, although being a pushover is a plus. I actually think his predilection for this second type can be rather touching. Once he showed me a picture of some girl he'd described as "Soooo cute!!!!" and when I saw it...well, she had a winning smile, close-together eyes and a nose of Dustin Hoffmanian proportions. But she was definitely brunette, and looked pretty short. Well, as my great-grandfather used to say, there's an ass for every seat.

Maximus Pontifex writes Cathy:

More films you should make Luke watch:
1. Dr. Strangelove. Jack D. Ripper has lots of good lines in this one, as does Peter Sellers. P-O-E
2. The Battle of Algiers
3. On the Waterfront
4. Strategic Air Command
5. all the "Gold Diggers" movies
6. A Clockwork Orange (now this is a movie Luke will identify with - maniacal laughter is assured)
7. A Raisin in the Sun (to make him less hostile to people of color)
8. The Searchers (so that he might confront his views on exogamy)
9. Taxi Driver
10. M - the original, in German with English subtitles.

Cathy writes:

Here are ten more that I love, and need to be added to your special list:

1. Christmas In July
2. -30-
3. To Sir, With Love
4. Georgy Girl
5. Tomorrow, the World
6. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
7. Footlight Parade
8. A Patch of Blue
9. Mirage
10. Bachelor Mother

Producer Michael Z. Gordon

I spoke by phone to producer Michael Z. Gordon August 16, 2002.

Michael: "I've been in the music business almost my entire [adult] life. I was working on a couple of projects such as Pulp Fiction. Through Pulp Fiction, I made some contacts that led me to [producer] David Glasser. He was raising money for the movie The Devil and Daniel Webster. I represent an investment group and we decided to put some money into the movie. It became a two-picture deal with Narc. We were mainly in it for The Devil and Daniel Webster but it turns out that Narc may be the one that saves us on this thing. We've had many problems on Devil but with Narc, you couldn't ask for more.

"We've completed principle photography on Devil. We've finished a producer's cut. Alec Baldwin was the director. His first film. He had taken on much more than he could handle. It was nothing but problem after problem. He walked off the set in the middle of shooting to take his family to Hawaii for two weeks. Then he filed a lawsuit against David Glasser to get some director's money supposedly owed him. Meanwhile, Alec had invested a sizable amount of money in the film. It was like cutting off your nose to spite your face. There were some other sordid details that held up the film.

"Now we're looking for a domestic distributor."

Luke: "You've got many big stars. Alec Baldwin, Dan Akroyd, Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Love Hewett, Kim Cattrall."

Michael: "It's a $30 million independent production. It really isn't a bad movie."

Luke: "What was your role on the project?"

Michael: "Anybody who put in money got to be a producer. We came in during principle photography to salvage the thing when it looked like it would go over to the bonding company. I knew somebody who put a million dollars into the film. It still wasn't enough. The film was like a big black hole that kept eating everything up that we put into it. It took a year to edit the thing. It took Baldwin months to finish his cut. Then it took months for us to do a producer's cut."

Luke: "The director's cut wasn't commercial?"

Michael: "It had a lot of problems."

Luke: "And Narc?"

Michael: "Whoever puts in money gets to be a producer. There are 17 producers on Narc. He who puts in the most money wins. David Glasser did everything he could to get these pictures done. I didn't give much credence to Narc at first. Devil was such a big film with such big names. Narc didn't seem to be in the same league.

"Tom Cruise saw the film Narc and liked it so much he went to Paramount, who bought the domestic rights on his behalf. He became the executive producer."

Luke: "You've been in the music business most of your life."

Michael: "I've written and produced music for movies, TV and commercials. I wrote my first song when I was 20 and it was a hit called, "Surfer's Stomp". I wrote many hits including, "Out of Limits." I toured as leader of the Marketts and The Routers. My first movie was with the Routers in "Surf Party" and second was with the Marketts in, "The Name of The Game is Kill". I have produced music for movies such as "Pulp Fiction", "Angels In the Endzone", "From The Earth To The Moon" and for such commercials as The National Car Rental Commercial "Let's Go!" and more."

Luke: "And what has been your principle contribution to Devil and Narc?"

Michael: "Financial. Keeping these projects afloat."

Luke: "Have you put your own money into them?"

Michael: "Yes, unfortunately. Well, I shouldn't say that. At first it looked bleak but now it looks better."

Luke: "And you are credited as a producer on the movie Angels in the Endzone. What was your role?"

Michael: "I did the music."

Luke: "And you're credited as a producer on From the Earth to the Moon. You did music as well?"

Michael: "Yes."

Luke: "What do you envision for your movie producing career from here?"

Michael: "To be honest, I'm thinking about just getting out of the business soon when I have all my commitments fulfilled. I went to the doctor after a year and a half of this and my blood pressure was through the roof. And my cholesterol was sky high. He said, 'What happened to you?' I said, 'I'm in the movie business. That will do it every time.' A lot of sleepless nights, like you can't believe. You can't believe what people tell you. They'll say anything and it doesn't come through when you're counting on it.

"We were involved with a picture called Northfork, with a great cast including Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah, James Wood, Peter Coyote. They were filming in Montana. I'm waiting for a wire to go through so they can continue the principle photography. And the wire never came through. I don't know if this sort of things happens just to me."

Luke: "Other people have told me similar stories."

Michael: "That's comforting. I have to tell you that it is an exciting business."

Luke: "Exciting like cancer."

Michael: "I wanted to graduate into films from music. I thought this would be a great opportunity. In a sense it has been. I've gotten a lot of offers and a lot of projects sent my way.

"I'm not 20 anymore. I've got a family. I just discussed this last night with my wife. They want me to go to Europe for six weeks for another film. I said I didn't know if I could do that. I have two boys, aged six and nine. This is my second marriage. On my first one, I was a raving lunatic for 20 years. This time round, I'm much more settled. I enjoy being home and working around the house.

"I've sold two scripts but neither have been made."

Luke: "Did you visit the set of Daniel Webster?"

Michael: "One time. It was trying to plug holes to keep the ship from sinking. It wasn't a question of whether the shoot was going well..."

Luke: "I've always wondered why people invest in movies."

Michael: "It's a terrible investment. Terrible. The difference between me and 99% of investors is that the money I put in personally was in the form of a loan backed up by personal guarantees and collateral. My wife is a conservative person and she wouldn't talk to me for the first six weeks after I first loaned the money..."

Luke: "Yet you still couldn't sleep and your blood pressure went way up."

Michael: "After we did more due diligence, it was frightening to look at the whole situation. I had to do some drastic measures to make sure that I got my money back."

Luke: "I thought the music business was a rough business."

Michael: "This is terrible. I come from a conservative background, despite being in the music business. It just blows my mind that people get away with this. But I'm taking it easier now. I'm on blood pressure medication and at least my blood pressure is normal now."

Luke: "Didn't you know about Alec Baldwin's reputation as a troublemaker?"

Michael: "I didn't. To be a director, you have to be a people person to get the most out of your cast and crew. He is the most anti-social person I've met in my life. He had a disagreement with the editor and he decked him."

Jews and Guns

Bernard writes:

Shalom, I agree with Mr. Shulman and have even read one of his books "The Mitzvah" about a Jewish boy who was saved from the Holocaust by Catholics and never knew he was a Jew. In fact, the books starts with the main character as a RC priest. I don't want to spoil the plot for you. Look the book up, if you haven't already.

Jews should own guns. No discussion is necessary. The Jews' number one priority is the preservation of his own life. No mitzvah can be performed, no berachos can be said, G-d cannot be served if the Jew is dead.

I just said that Jews should own guns. I mean ALL of them - even those Jewish girls involved in ----ography (may they continue their special version of tikkun olam).

For home defense, a 12 guage shotgun is superior to all other guns. No kidding. I can shoot someone in the arm with a .45 cal bullet and it will hurt him, but the blast from a 00 Buck will literally twist him around and send chunks flying. It will stop a home intruder dead in his tracks.

You are a convert from Seventh Day Adventistism, right? Are you considering writing your conversion story? If so, where can I find it?

To Cecile du Bois On Her Birthday - My Sternest Regards

Jane writes:

I wasn't too keen after the first chapter of your memoir, but then I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting, and crying my eyes out at the end.

You were a topic of conversation at dinner tonight with some libertarian bloggers. I spoke all too highly of you, so try to hold off on the racist posts for a day or so, until everyone to whom I gave your URL has checked you out.

I understand if you are unable to control your negro hating for even one hour, but would be grateful if you could try.

Dave Deutsch, Heeb Magazine Humor Editor, Dreams Of Luke

Read the treatment, and here's my feeling about it: You need the thing to be a dark comedy. I understand your position, because on one level, you and I are very similar. We're very funny guys (although, of course, I'm funnier), who have serious things that we want to say (although of course, I'm on the side of good, and you're on the side of evil). But to a certain extent, we need to play to our strengths, especially in early endeavors. Make this thing funny, give yourself some greater publicity and clout, and then get into your message on your next project. To that point, ditch the whole Dennis Prager bit. Unless this is running on the proposed gay cable channel, that angle is a dead end. You want to talk about your serious issues? I'd make a successful film, and then parley that into a book deal for your memoir. Your opening scene is a real waste, because you lose the contrast in too much detail. Start with you already being Luke Ford, ---- reporter. You wake up, you go to shul, everything seems kosher, and then you go to a ---- production site, schmoozing with the talent. You've got to make the contrast stark, right from the start: you're a frum guy who is the Matt Drudge of ----. That's fantastic, don't waste it. After you establish who you were, and how messed up it is, then you can jump back to how it started. You do need some serious things--your trip to Israel is powerful, and should be here--but the general tone should be dark comedy, capturing the real absurdity of your life. The fact of the matter, yidl, is that your life, for a time, really was like something that Philip Roth would have dropped from Goodbye, Columbus because it simply was too unbelievable.

Be absurd, don't take yourself too seriously, don't get caught up in your quest for a father, and that's the best advise on this that I can give. Oh, and writing about Philip Roth reminded me that another great book is The Russian Debutante's Handbook, by Gary Shteynberg. A great book, and even a great Jewish book. I highly recommend it.

Incidentally (and somewhat disturbingly) I dreamt that I visited you last night (perhaps that's why I'm writing now--sort of like Achashverosh dreaming about Mordechai). Your apartment was actually set up like an antique warehouse, full of tchotchkes very tidily set up on supermarket-style shelves. And I discovered that you, despite your criticism of comic books, had actually written several Marvel Comic Books. Also, your apartment led to a cafeteria that sold, among other things, Miller's Kosher Cheese. I think this means either I'm gay, you're gay, or I just want some cheese.

My Final Words With Edgar J. Scherick

7/15/02, at the bedside of the Jew who converted to Roman Catholicism in 2000 under the influence of his devoted Filipino nurse:

Edgar: "How's world Judaism?"

Luke: "Things have been better in Israel lately. We have Tishu'Bav Wednesday night, when we mourn the destruction of the two temples."

Edgar: "I may vacillate in my religion, but I've always been proud of my heritage. I have the blood of heroes in my veins."

Luke: "I've met this genius rabbi at shul who studies ten pages of Talmud a day. That's unheard of."

Edgar: "That's tricky stuff. It never says exactly what it means."

Luke: "It's the most difficult material I've ever studied."

Five months later, he was dead.

Author Marty Beckerman: Generation S.L.U.T.

I call Marty Beckerman April 20, 2004, about his new book Generation S.L.U.T.

Marty: "Did you have a good Passover?"

Luke: "Yes. How about you?"

Marty: "I didn't really celebrate it this year. Some years I do. I always do Yom Kippur out of guilt."

Luke: "Did you have an Orthodox Jewish roommate for a year?"

Marty: "Are you typing or recording?"

Luke: "I'm recording."

Marty: "That's cool. I probably shouldn't talk about him. That's libel. Let's just say our lives weren't Heaven that year. Sometimes I would pin bacon to the door so he couldn't come in."

Luke: "What are you planning to do after graduation?"

Marty: "I'm trying to find a magazine gig, a book deal."

Luke: "Where are you politically?"

Marty: "I'm libertarian. I've drifted more to the right in the past couple of years."

Luke: "Did you really take a prostitute to your Senior Ball and introduce her to your parents?"

Marty: "That was all true.

"Did you enjoy the book?"

Luke: "Yeah, yeah, yeah."

Marty: "Cool. Thanks.

"[Both parents are Jewish.] My mom was really nervous about [meeting the whore]. I get my sense of humor from my dad. One of his favorite things to do in high school was to fill a decongestant bottle with [bleep] and then go speak to police officers... My mom is from a town in Arkansas where the most exciting thing that happened every year was a turtle race down Main St. I grew up in Alaska. My dad was an optometrist with the public health service. It's like the Army where they can tell you where to move. I guess he pissed off one of his bosses and got sent to the frozen north."

Luke: "Do you get impatient with dumb people?"

Marty: "Sometimes. Everyone thinks they're good, right? They think that what they're doing is right, for whatever reason. I don't believe anyone thinks he's evil or stupid."

Luke: "Was the repulsive rich kid author character in your novel named Trevor coming from your dark side?"

Marty: "I think I was more making a statement about young authors. Not that I know any young authors who rape young girls by the dozen and hand out drugs at parties to knock people out... The comment was more about how we can get away with anything in this country if you are a celebrity. I was never the teen author the girls wanted to f--- in high school. I was the teen author girls wouldn't call back in high school."

Luke: "How many interviews have you done in the past three months?"

Marty: "A s--- load. I came off badly in Salon. I won't say the [female] reporter was vindictive or didn't like me. I don't think she captured my sense of humor. I think she misinterpreted me as anti-sex. I'm getting better at it. I've developed these little soundbytes that go over well. But the message of my book is not soundbyte friendly. I'm not in the abstinence camp. The aspect of the female liberation movement that was freedom from monogamy and how that's trickled down to 12, 13, 14 year old girls. I'm questioning that. With a lot of far left types, you are not allowed to question anything about the movement of the 1960s and sexual liberation and the womens' movement.

"The reaction I expected to get from the book was that Christians would hate it. Fundamentalists would be all over me because I have graphic sex scenes and violence and drugs and profanity and s---. But they really haven't had anything negative to say about the book. I've found conservatives like it. Most of the hate mail I get is from the womens liberation types."

Luke: "Have you learned anything about reporters?"

Marty: "I try to do all my interviews on tape now. I've noticed that they can kinda get it right when they're writing it down but they're going to make up some of it. Most of the time that's harmless but some of the time it makes me look like an idiot."

Luke: "What percentage of the time do you think they are emotionally invested in making you look like an idiot?"

Marty: "Not very much. It's more when they come in with their own preconception of what the book is. I think the Salon reporter was a feminist who thought the book was misogynist and chauvinist and white heterosexual member of the patriarchy keeping down women and minorities across the globe. I'm not getting trashed by the media. It's more the blogger types. Everything I've heard from anyone under 21 is enormously positive. Kids love the book. The Gen X snooty literary crowd in NY that hates anything that's not pretentious poetic s---... Normal people like the book and that's who I wrote it for. I didn't write it to gain literary credibility. I didn't write it to be popular with the LiveJournal set. I wrote it to entertain and provoke thought."

Luke: "Did your mother read it?"

Marty: "No, she's going to need to be pumped up with some Thorazine before she lays a finger on it. My dad enjoyed it. He wishes I would've done more innuendo than flat out..."

Luke: "You mean like the rape scene where she was passed out..."

Marty: "That's one of the criticisms I get. Did you really need to depict things the way they are? Yeah. What would be the point of watering it down and just alluding to things. I'd say a majority of young Americans are seeing sex as this anonymous, violent, detached, emotionless, soulless activity.

"Once the [post Janet Jackson boob] crackdown hit, MTV got nervous about promoting this book. No radio station would interview me. They all said we would've loved to have done this a year ago but now we're too scared of something slipping on the air and people complaining. It's a tough time to be an independent thinker."

Luke: "Jealousy. Few writers have published a book..."

Marty: "I get a lot of that. Especially the blogger crowd. You wrote a book about sex. Anybody can publish a book about sex. MTV probably gave him two million dollars. A lot of these guys are in their thirties and they've wanted to be writers since they were younger than I am now. A lot of young writers get publishing contracts by whoring themselves to the top. I started writing at 15 and I self-published my first book. I paid my dues. I built myself from the ground up by working really hard. My [last] book contract paid for one semester of college. I'm looking for a job now. I'm not swimming through my vault of gold coins.

"I think when I meet people, they have a different impression of me than when they read me in interviews or read my writing. I play a character in my writing, like Neal Pollack does. I'm a polarizing writer. I can't do anything about that except try to be a nice guy to people who are assholes to me."

Luke: "Has your writing cost you friends?"

Marty: "Sometimes. Not in a while. I went through a dark couple of years after high school where a lot of my friends became addicted to drugs and became self mutilators. That's when I started writing the book. I wrote the book as therapy. A lot of people criticize me for ripping off Brett Easton Ellis. I never even read Brett Easton Ellis until I was 75% through this book. I think he's a genius who's never written a good book. He writes great scenes but criticizes superficiality with superficiality. I try to give my characters more soul.

"Girlfriends usually want to change me. The one I've got now, today is our seven month anniversary, is great because she doesn't try to change me. Sometimes I push it too far with her. She gets my sense of humor. The last couple of girls I dated were on a mission to turn me into a feminist. I've been known to write about my own sex life in graphic detail. People are really sensitive to being written about, even if you portray them well. If you give them any shades of gray, if you depict them doing any things they don't like to think of themselves as doing. It's not that they get offended but really hurt. Sometimes I'm reckless. It's not worth losing a friend over a column. I've done that before.

"I've had three or four serious girlfriends in my life.

"I'm not being that funny tonight. In some forums, it's fine to make rape jokes and it is fine to make women jokes. In other forums, I have to watch it."

Luke: "When a woman says no, does she always mean no?"

Marty laughs nervously. "I think I answered that by email."

Luke: "I think you shied away from it."

Marty: "That's the territory where you've got to walk on eggshells. Unless they are screaming no and slapping... I like vanilla sex. I'm not too exciting in bed."

Luke: "A boy and girl, nineteen years of age, are alone in a room, naked and lying on top of each other and making out. She says no softly as he tries to go all the way. Does she definitely mean no?"

Marty: "There's an art of persuasion and seduction. If she says no right before he puts it in her, I guess that's..."

Luke: "He puts it in anyway and she keeps saying no softly while he pumps."

Marty: "Ahh, if she's not fighting back. There has to be some kind of physical conflict unless he's got a knife to her throat. That's the f---ing way to do it."

Beckerman complains that some of his teachers grade on beliefs rather than scholarship. "I had one feminist professor who told the class that there should be affirmative action to ensure that half of Congress is female because half of America is female. I challenged her. She replied, 'You don't know what you're talking about, young man. Sit down.' Sorry that I like the idea of democracy. Maybe we should legislate the gender and race of all our leaders. You're not allowed to disagree with a lot of these people. It's a speech code violation if you disagree with them."

Luke: "Do you think the average black graduate of your university does as much work as the average white graduate?"

Marty, who comes from Alaska, about the whitest state around: "I don't know. I might know if I had any black friends."

Luke: "What do you think of affirmative action on the basis of race?"

Marty: "I don't agree with it. Maybe I would accept it for class. I don't see the need to put your race on your application."

Luke: "Do you think the average black person is as smart as the average Asian?"

Marty gives his nervous laugh. "I guess stereotypes have to come from somewhere."

Luke: "Do you think the average Asian thinks the average black person is as smart as he is?"

Marty: "I have one Asian friend. Asians are my favorite minority group."

Luke: "Mine too."

Marty: "I like their outlook on life. They have the same thing going on as a lot of Jews, where the parents base their love on grades.

"WASP culture is so much more pronounced on the East Coast. They say, 'My parents call me once every few weeks. I don't really like them.' The point of the family on the East Coast is to destroy one another.

"Jewish families may be more neurotic but more closeknit. WASP families are quiet. They don't talk about things so much. Social status with WASPS is about keeping up appearances more than getting a good education and a high paying job. There's no attention span here. They have two minute conversations instead of two hour conversations. At the same time, the kids here have more ambition.

"I started majoring in journalism but I switched over to media and society. The sociological side of journalism. How the media affects society. Every journalist I ever spoke to said to not go to journalism school. I went to j-school, paying $30,000 a year, to sit in a room and be taught Associated Press style.

"I think I pissed off the administration. You'd think they'd promote the fact that they have a published author in their lit department at age 21. The subject matter. That I talked about the frat boys and criticized aspects of the school. When I do a signing at the book store, the manager says, 'The guys from the administration said we shouldn't be letting you do this.' I put up posters for the book and they get taken down. I ask the lit department to send out an email to their students about the book and they say they were told to stay away from this kind of content."

Luke: "Is there any expose you are going to write about the school when you graduate?"

Marty: "No. This kid Ben Shapiro, 20, is writing this book called Brainwashed, about UCLA and its liberal professors who grade on beliefs rather than academics.

"The girls are f---ing disgusting. Playboy voted us one of the ugliest campuses in America. Then you go to Georgetown and the women are Olympic goddesses. My girlfriend is pretty good. I like her anus."

Luke: "I'm sure she will be pleased to hear that.

"What are the books that most influenced your life?"

Marty: "The Perks Of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I had the honor of doing a reading with him in New York over Spring Break. His book was published by MTV and that was one of the main ways I justified signing with them. Some of my fans called me a sellout for aligning myself with MTV. Well, I wasn't paid enough money to sell out. I lost a couple of nights of sleep over MTV culture. It's about a semi-autistic kid who can't control any emotional responses. It made me want to write a book that affected people as deeply.

"The difference between my first book, Death to all Cheerleaders, and Generation S.L.U.T., was that Death was just a collection of my humor columns. I was going for something deeper with Generation.

"Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas gave me a new outlook on what you can do with writing. He is my old hash buddy. It is so extreme but there's this powerful message underneath that. He is the first humor writer I saw who had a lot more to say than just Dave Barry, who's the guy who made me want to be a writer. I got a chance to meet him. I've done well to meet my heroes in the past couple of years."

Marty names off some punk musicians he's met. He wants to meet Paul McCartney.

"I love movies but none have affected my life. Another book I loved is Brave New World. I don't think I've ever listened to an album, put it down, and thought, 'I am a different person now.' I don't think I've ever put a book down and said, 'This changes everything.'"

Luke thinks, "Dennis Prager's Nine Questions People About Judaism forever changed my life."

Luke asks: "Any writers you hate?"

He laughs. "I hate some feminist chic lit."

Luke: "Prozac Nation?"

Marty: "That was terrible. Two to three hundred pages of people bitching how horrible it is to be white and rich. I hated Nick McDonald. He's 19 now. He's at Harvard. His book was called Twelve and it was a piece of s---. He got it published because his godfather was the president of Atlantic books. I wrote a review of it for New York Press. He met my ex-girlfriend at one point and he told her, 'He's such a [blinking] asshole.

"Gen X grew up with so much political correctness, so scared of offending anyone, that instead of biting, scathing humor, we got Dave Eggers, David Sedaris, Janeane Garrafolo, who don't push the boundaries. They just make fun of everyday life things. Irony got boring. I think what broke that for good was [the TV show] Southpark. It killed PC for good in the hearts and minds of the common American."

Luke: "Do you think people with AIDS should be tattooed so they don't spread the virus to the unsuspecting?"

Marty starts preaching in a sarcastic tone: "I think people with AIDS should go to hell. That's why God created the AIDS virus. To send the faggots to hell."

Luke, joking: "That's what I wanted [to hear].

"Do you find one man putting his penis in another man's buttocks aesthetically pleasing?"

Marty laughs hard. "No, I find it revolting. I've seen gay porn in passing. Seventy five gigabytes on my computer. I think everyone goes through that little period of doubt when they are 14, 15, and can't get a girl to go out with them. They think, 'Something's wrong with me. Maybe I'm gay.' I'm pretty sure I'm not gay at this point."

Luke: "Do you think a man should be allowed to marry a man?"

Marty: "That's a tough one. Honestly, I don't give a s---."

Luke: "How would you feel about someone with Hepatitis C preparing your food?"

Marty: "I guess that would be bad. I guess I'd like healthy people preparing my food. By healthy, I mean Caucasian."

We laugh.

Luke: "Do you like Monty Python?"

Marty: "I never got it.

"I'm going to this big pro-abortion rally this weekend in D.C.. Called the March for Womens' Lives. I'm going to write a column entitled, 'Bitch Nation: My Visit To The March For Turning Human Babies Into Scrambled Eggs.' I'm pro-choice but those people deserve a kick anyway.

"All young writers want to be famous. I want to write books that are going to keep people loyal, like Hunter Thompson. Maybe he hasn't written a great book since 1976. He could show up to any one of his fan's houses and live there for a year and the fan wouldn't complain. I want to be one of those writers people are dedicated to. I want to write something that good.

"My friend Ned Vizzini had his memoirs from high school published when he was 19. He's got a huge fan base compared to mine. He speaks at high schools and conventions. He's flown everywhere. He's going to outsell me and be a more famous writer.

"I'm nervous that I am going to become like Thompson, or McCartney or Bukowski, and turn 50 and just lose it."

Donna writes: "Luke, Ok, I guess everyone else is too calm and controlled and mature to react to your writings, but blogs are still new to me and I get emotional, and someone should say something. This slut guy is boring and juvenile and a showoff. Just because he can talk about sex graphically and in detail doesn't mean he's interesting, you know. All of us could do that, but we choose not to. But the got me part is saying he liked a particular part of his girlfriend's anatomy...was he drunk? That is something an eight year old would say. And it puts a picture in my mind that I don't want there, so I'm mad at both of you. I don't know why you don't use your hyphens here on words like this, and the reference to rape, too -- or just hyphen out the whole interview, that's a good boy. People are more critical than not on blogs, but I think your writing is hysterical and also thought-provoking. So when something like this pops up like a pop-up, I hate it. I sell cartoons regularly to Penthouse, but wouldn't sell for anything to Hustler. This slut guy doesn't have boundaries, just ego. Where is Chaim Amalek when I need him?"

Repeatedly Scheduling Lunch Six Weeks In Advance

I have a platonic female friend who leads a busy life and repeatedly schedules lunch with me six weeks to two months in advance. This eldest child then often needs to reschedule. As a spontaneous youngest child, I think this is weird and I recently put my foot down and said I would not schedule any lunches with her more than a week in advance (even though her company is excellent and we get drunk and blow the shofar together, if you know what I mean). What say you? I can see scheduling special events, such as Bar Mitvahs etc, in advance, but a casual meal?

I think it is a high status claim to be constantly busy and to need to schedule such casual things way in advance. It is not in keeping with the egalitarian Maoist Cultural Revolution I'm leading, a complete re-evaluation of the way we relate to each other and to literature based on open-heated fulsome encounters and back massages.

Cathy writes: "I would feel that I was being told to take a hike and I would probably quit wasting my time."

In a Pillow's Stitches, The Clue to Forgiveness

By Rochelle L. Levy, special to The Washington Post

Sewing was the last place I ever imagined I'd turn for comfort.

Last year, I found out my mother might be dying. There were long-distance conference calls with my father and my four sisters and brother; many heated discussions about diagnoses and treatment options and long-term-care alternatives. This was the first time since I'd left Maryland 16 years earlier that a family crisis was bringing us all together. And forcing me to examine my feelings about my mother.

Growing up with eight people crammed into a three-bedroom house didn't leave much room for individuality. I was punished for singing in the house, for railing against rigid rules, for begging to be noticed.

Go North, Not-So-Young Man

I saw my bio-feedback guy Tuesday morning. He worked extensively on my liver. "You've got a lot of anger in there. And we just released a lot of anger last week."

"I've been angry the last five days," I said. But now I feel calm.

I'm preparing to drive north, lean and mean, to see my friend Joe in Rocklin, and, on the way, to win the hearts and minds of the people, to live among the peasants and eat their food (so long as it is organic and without yucky vegetables and salad dressing) to launch a Maoist-style cultural revolution wherein a thousand flowers of self criticism will bloom, returning the Internet to the glory it once knew in 1998-2000.

I wonder if Vancouver Kendra will be as hospitable as she was in early September 2001.

Job Hunting

I'm feeling surly lately and been telling chicks and employers to take hikes.

In past moods like this, I've published my nastiest material.

Helpful writes: "How about sendin' a resume to Sixty Minutes? You have the fashion sense of Morley Safer and all of Andy Rooney's sex appeal."

Cathy writes:

I don't see why you were in such high dudgeon [over R.J. Smith in LA Magazine, to whom I sent a nasty letter]. You were upset because he called you a self-styled expert on ---- and Orthodox Judaism right? Well, you are a self-styled expert on ----...I mean, it's not like you went to the DeVry school of ---- reporting; you created your own web site at Lukeford.com...and obviously he was just trying to write a sentence that connects the two, like most people would in any story that mentions you. Probably a more graceful, careful way to put it would be the way I did in my UPI story...I think I said ---- and Orthodox Judaism were among your obsessions or something...but Geez, I along with most readers can see what the guy meant so cut him some slack.

Or you could have written him a pleasant one-line note saying, just for the record, that you don't fancy yourself any kind of expert on Orthodox Judaism let alone a self-styled one. Something like that.

For some reason you seemed awfully ready to fly off the handle last week, which really doesn't seem like you. But I can't say that you were right in either case.

Oh, maybe it's not the lithium. Maybe there are other things going on. But I can't see that he's a moron or a liar, or that he meant any offense. He just used a term that touches some buttons with you, and that many people would probably have used also. And I see nothing wrong with being self-styled. I have little respect for journalism schools. Although, uh, one thing I do remember from a journalism class I took at age 16 was you don't secretly tape-record telephone conversations in this state.

I Did It All For A Hug From Dennis Prager

I've doodled out a treatment for a movie about my life.

Heather Mac Donald's Secret Previews raves: "A fable for our time. Heart-breaking yet uplifting. You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll study your Torah!"

Fred writes:

Luke, Very funny. Kept thinking of Woody Allen in Take The Money And Run...the running gag of people pulling off his glasses and stepping on them. I think you have something here. It would be funny if your final goal--the reason you go through all of these trials and tribulations-- is simply...wanting...a hug from Dennis Prager.

I like the shame factor throughout the piece. And that one line..where they watch the tape...and they "think I'm scum." But the person I picture playing you would look nothing like you....but more of a younger Woody Allen.

Ari writes:

The "sigh" in the subject line is what I did while I was thinking about what to put in the subject line, before giving up. Today I found your webpage, and therefore, apparently, you. I was googling for Dennis Prager information. My wife and I have been big Prager fans for some time. She is a convert to Judaism, and we currently make up a Jewish community of two.

I started to read your autobiography. I was drawn to your story by two things, the psychological and philosophical parallels with myself, and the exquisite tension of impending doom that you may or may not have intended. Here was another Jewish, Prager-listening, ethically-passionate narcissistic angry bastard. What a small world. I wonder what will happen to him?

After a short time I started to skim. I discovered a new technological manner of skimming using the find command. First I skipped along finding each instance of the word "Jew." Then, after you converted, I switched to the word "Prager." The sense of lurking disaster became uncomfortable for me, as did the feeling that by reading your masochistic self-exposure I was becoming one of your army of enablers.

Given that I was skimming, I don't know when the ---- thing started, and I don't know what exactly you were doing or looking for. I stopped reading and started this email instead. As I'm still in your peculiar gravity of self-flagellating revelations I want to tell you that I am worried about you as an extension of worrying about myself (is empathy any more than this?).

I doubt you will be reassured in knowing that I'm doing okay, but I think I might feel better knowing that you are. Although if the best way to find out is to keep reading, it's not worth it. Perhaps you would be good enough to send me a three-sentence summary of the last 7 years of your life? A cut-to-the-chase, sort of. I hope to read something happy.

I'm glad to hear you're okay, though I wish, without malice, for the swift death of your movie project. It would be a tragedy if you were to turn dwelling on rejection into a permanent livelihood.

So I read your Prager biography. I do think it was out of line, but you must have had hundreds before me try to explain why what you do isn't social fair play. Two brief specifics:

1. "As of year 2000, the Micah Center has accomplished almost nothing beyond..." Why highlight Dennis' setbacks? Why quote the dislike of coworkers and acquaintances? Because you wanted to draw yourself nearer to Dennis by seizing upon familiar failings: Look, everybody, Dennis alienates people too. (And I hope it's clear that psychoanalyzing you in an email is different than you psychoanalyzing Dennis on a webpage.)

2. Speaking of psychoanalyzing, that bit about Dennis' relationship with his father and therefore God was both clever and unfair. Argumentum Ad Hominem. However nicely the pieces might fit between a person's trauma and his philosophy, he deserves to have his philosophy respected on its own merits, as if it were freely chosen.

I'm angry, too. They kicked me out, too (I was a teacher at a Jewish school). I'm in school again now, and I can't make a point without being called arrogant (too). Like you. Like Dennis. It's not a badge of honor. It just slows us down.

Shimon writes:

It needs more plot, less character. And it needs to have a major character other than you. Like a love interest or two. And having people talk about the business isn't interesting, it's a documentary. Make Kendra the girl who's bodyguard pushes you away at the convention. You need a reason to be there, by the way. There's none given. (Drop the flashback). And you need to get both the orthodoxy and the convention into the first 10 minutes.

I don't think your clothing should shift over time; maintain the visual contrast throughout the piece. Backlight the orthodox.

You may have trouble using Prager by name or identifying traits; its legal, but your producer won't want to take the expense/risk.

OK, this thing desparately needs:

1) A three-act story arc, that a) Sets up, and then resolves, tensions that drive the story
2) More than one character.

Now, all of this is hard because there was no "good girl" in your life. So, we'll make Judaism the good girl. Most of what you have down all sounds like act one; act two shouldn't start until you get the website up and running and start pulling in ads. The tensions are: religion/----, symbolized by whether or not to screw Kendra, and success/poverty.

So in act two, the site is up and running, you can socialize with the people you admire. You burn them, but you're still socializing with others. You have screw ups (the movie you shoot, but maybe you leave that out of the script; its hard to integrate with the rest of the story). You screw Kendra. The tension develops as you can't seem to find a nice jewish girl to settle down with. Then -- bang -- you're kicked out of shul:

Act 3. I don't know what happens entirely in Act 3. But you have to give up ----, reconcile with not-Prager, etc.

Also, the additional characters are: The regulars on your site, but amalgamated into one or two people. Kendra.

Not-Prager - make him the same as the rabbi character; just a famous rabbi who'se written a lot of books and is half the reason you moved to LA.

Ron J, because he'll play himself and everyone loves Ron J. He can represent the industry when you need a character to do that.

Cindi writes: "Luke, Can you tell me where this is going? Where do i stand? What is happening with you? Hope you are okay. That is my biggest worry. We are both a bit on the psychotic side. LOL"

Khunrum writes: "This is nothing less than riveting stuff Luke even though I am already familiar with this particular story...If/when it comes to ..... I promise to spend the 50 bucks to have cable TV installed...BTW...Who do you suggest play Luke Ford? Fred Nek has been taking acting lessons."

Joseph Joyrides writes [edited by Luke for his family audience]:

I occasionally wish I was more interested in ---- than I am, because I am generally a rebellious person, always interested in the flight from an oppressive condition, and I see lots of oppression in this realm. But in truth I simply am not all that interested in ----, although ---- typically in fact makes me laugh, whereas sex rarely does.

I don't associate ---- too strongly with sex, in which I am much more interested. I would certainly not be presumptuous enough to say that this is more desireable or even more wholesome; it is simply a choice based on predicting enjoyment, like cherries rather than strawberries.

But I believe that ---- has a very appropriate and even dignified role in society.


As for your religion, I don't believe that there is something inherent to Judaism that predisposes it to producing oversexed men and career ----ographers. What I do think is that mind set into any strong cultural tradition will produce an eagerness to explore tensions. Culture helps us cope with tensions, even hypocrisies, and the stronger the cultural experience, the more desirable forbidden fruit becomes. That you are coming to a strong cultural tradition relatively later in life makes you nearly schizo with these tensions, but also more resilient in reconciling them. (Even simply to state "I'm conflicted" is but a reconciliation strategy).


It may interest you to learn that though I have never been involved with the ---- world, last year I felt compelled to put myself on the line over it. This wasn't really heroic and I contacted no media about it, but it would have made a decent story, and as for the larger facts surrounding the incident, I was very surprised not to read of them in any local press.

About a year ago, I quit a job I had taken--in truth, I had taken it not so much out of interest in it but to help a friend out of a tight spot until she could find someone else (it may have taken a year). The job was in marketing at a Jesuit university (Loyola).

In my third month into the job Larry Flynt was coming to campus, to speak during "First Amendment Week" there. The administration at Loyola cancelled him. I was shocked that a university could cancel even a ----ographer during something called "First Amendment Week".

After that event, I could no longer work effectively there. I quit my job a couple of weeks later, giving myself a period to see if I could adjust--but I never could, and I let the administration know twice what my feelings were--once in the school's newspaper, and a couple days later in a resignation letter to my boss, an Academic VP.

Funny thing is, I've never even seen a Larry Flynt magazine except its cover. I don't even know if he produces films or not. But I was very grateful for this ultimately, because it made me realize, even as a practicing Catholic for many years, that my real "Creed" was the First Amendment.

I even didn't realize this until I got out into the suburbs and started talking to an old high school friend's family and they began responding so sharply to me that mine was even a socially untenable position for many.


Before this, there was one great moment involving ----ography in my life that I was very glad to have witnessed.

I went to Columbia University, a liberal arts school, but there used to be one great journalism (not a classic liberal art) class taught to undergraduates there. It was only offered once every two years, and taught by the great Fred Friendly, Edward R. Murrow's producer and onetime President of CBS News, as well as a great defender of the First Amendment (see his old book, "The Good Guys, the Bad Guys, and the First Amendment").

I enrolled in this class. If Friendly was a legend in journalism, he had access to other legends. Ben Bradlee and Morley Safer came in the second and third week. Then the class took an intriguing turn...

At the time, the so-called "Deep Throat case" was being tried--I think there was a verdict in Tennessee and it was being appealed. Friendly invited Alan Dershowitz, Harry Reems' (?) defendant, to class. And Friendly said he'd also screen the film in class. Dershowitz came, and sort of spoiled the fun. He said that to show the film was irrelevant, that the choice to see it existed outside the theater, and if you decided to see it, it couldn't be indecent. (I remember him expressing his argument succinctly in the following formula: "No indecency is possible past the cover.")

So we have our little discussion and crank up the film anyway. Friendly watches about three minutes--Linda Lovelace is shaving, as I recall. Three minutes, a little shave. Nothing we college men haven't seen in 1977 a thousand times. But Friendly turns white as a sheet, even in the protective cover of darkness. He's already sweating, and he throws his hands up in the air and he says, "Jesus Christ! I'm outta here!" And he gets up and leaves.

Don't know what the hell he was expecting. Everybody on campus from that year knows this story, I think.

o be honest, I left about twenty minutes later. I was bored. I was screwing this incredible paste-up for the newspaper at the time--there were more interesting things than watching a movie.

PS, "Rebel without a Shul" is a little PG-kitschy. It could be about Warner Brothers cartoons. You should aim far lower.

Howard Stern Calls Cathy Seipp a moron. MP3

Big Sunday Is Mitzvah Day, But Where Are The Orthodox?

Thousands of people from dozens of synagogues and other groups around Los Angeles will work together May 2nd to improve our community. Only one Orthodox synagogue is participating -- Bnai David.

As a professor at the Reform seminary in Cincinnatti said in the 1930s -- "There are two types of Reform rabbis -- those who believe Judaism is social justice and those who can read Hebrew."

In other words, Jews that can read Hebrew tend not to devote themselves to the wider community but rather concentrate their efforts on their own Orthodox community.

From the Internet's Number One Luke Ford Fan Site:

We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful

In a recent column, Dennis Prager argued that the world has gone mad:
I feel that I am living in a world that is morally sick. Good is called bad, and bad is called "militant," "victimized," "misunderstood" and "the product of hopelessness," but rarely bad. Only those who fight the bad are called bad.
More evidence of our mixed-up world came to light this week. Luke Ford has been named Los Angeles's 10th best blogger. Even more shocking, Luke is now the subject of a major research study at Stanford University into Internet celebrityhood. If his friends thought Luke was difficult to put up with last week, just imagine how unbearably obnoxious he must be this week. I feel especially sorry for Cathy Seipp and Cecile DuBois who inexplicably didn't make the top ten list, and won't be hearing the end of it over the days, weeks, months, and years to come.

Just think of what this means. There are 3 million bloggers in the United States. Probably about 500,000 of those are based in California, and perhaps half of those in Los Angeles. Luke is apparently superior to 249,990 of his fellow LA bloggers. To put it differently, Luke is more profound, charming, witty, insightful, and amusing than 99.996% of all Los Angeles bloggers.

As a public service, I thought I would try to deflate Luke's head a few inches. I've been far too kind to him lately. It's time Luke got fisked.

When I stopped blogging Luke for a couple of months, I also quite happily stopped reading his website. But a few weeks ago I noticed that there really wasn't much going on in the blogosphere. Cathy Seipp is focusing her energies on making the transition to radio, television, and, eventually, motion pictures. Cecile DuBois has gone mostly non-political, not to mention undergoing a curious metamorphosis into a cat. Jackie D. is on an extended hiatus and has left behind a thoroughly garish web page that I have thoughtfully reported to the appropriate Internet authorities as an aesthetical transgression. With some free blog reading time, I thought I would go slumming and see what the Internet's premier vanity blogger has been up to.

One entry that I found particularly compelling was Luke's recollection of a year he spent in Australia as a young man, before his present middle age and physical decay:
I spent the year after high school in Gladstone, Australia, with my older brother Paul. I met these twin brunette 16-year old sisters (LeeAnne and Rachel) who worked 100 yards up the street from my brother's office.

I fell in love with Rachel.

One long weekend, my brother went away. I had his car to myself. I could not work up the courage to ask Rachel out. I went home Friday evening discouraged. Then I decided to drive the 30 minutes into Gladstone to a nightclub. Sad after a couple of hours, I walked out and up the street.

My heart leapt. I saw Rachel and a friend walking out [of] a school play. I was overwhelmed with emotion. Scared, I crossed to the other side of the street.

"Luke!" Rachel called out. I smiled and ran to her.

We walked down the street to the jetty and out to the edge of the harbor. We talked for over an hour. It was glorious. I volunteered to drive Rachel home.

It was a ten minute drive. The radio played "Drive." We loved it.


The next week, I called Rachel to ask her out that night. She wasn't in. I talked to LeeAnne and asked her out.

"I thought you were interested in Rachel?" she asked.

"I'm just looking to go out," I replied.

I picked LeeAnne up a couple of hours later.

After the party, I drove to the beach and we lay in the sand and watched the sun rise. It was the latest LeeAnne had ever been out.

I never got to go out with either of them again.


I was last in Gladstone in 2000. I asked about the twins. They'd married. One of them died in a car accident. My brother didn't know which one.

A few weeks later, I visited my parents' home for the last time. They were selling it and moving back to Australia. In my box of stuff was the gum wrapper with Rachel's phone number scrawled on it.

I realized it was time to throw it out.

Who's going to drive you home tonight?
If I were the type of person capable of feeling empathy for anyone other than myself, I may well have cried after reading this story. But I can't. So I didn't.

Next I read another one of Luke's reminiscences of the good old days, this one titled "I Was a Jewish Gigolo," which began: "There was a time when the demand for my writing talents was not as immense as it is today."

Luke goes on to chronicle his days as a toyboy:
Sometimes, a rich woman, after taking me to several temples, would ask me to spend the night. Sometimes a silly old fool would lose her head and I'd get new clothes, a car, and a wrist watch. One of my gigolo pals married a woman old enough to be his mother but she gave him a Mercedes and money to gamble with. I was not so fortunate. Just a few all-expenses paid trips to the Upper West Side in Manhattan.
When the ravages of time began to catch up with Luke, he had to pack it in. But fortunately "I'd been honing my writing abilities so I was able to successfully transition to the position of Moral Leader, where I stand today without peer."

After spending a few moments thinking about Luke banging the elderly for nickels it finally hit me: Luke Ford is a big fat liar. No, not about selling his body, or even about being a Moral Leader. Rather it occurred to me that Luke's "Drive" story is pure fiction. It's too emotionally rich and symmetrically perfect to be true. Let's look at it more closely:
I spent the year after high school in Gladstone, Australia, with my older brother Paul. I met these twin brunette 16-year old sisters (LeeAnne and Rachel) who worked 100 yards up the street from my brother's office.
I believe that Luke does occasionally return to Australia, if only to brush up on his Australian accent. Luke clearly likes to trade on his foreign "otherness" to woo American women. The names LeeAnne and Rachel sound plausible. Luke was smart enough not to give his love interests porn names like Porsche and Mercedes, although, as an inside joke, maybe he should have named one of them Holden.
I fell in love with Rachel.
Luke sees a 16-year old girl and falls immediately in love. This passes the smell test.
One long weekend, my brother went away. I had his car to myself.
Here we have the introduction of the car, the reoccurring theme of the story.
I could not work up the courage to ask Rachel out.
Plausible. After all, consider the legal ramifications of a grown man trying to date a young girl.
I saw Rachel and a friend walking out [of] a school play. I was overwhelmed with emotion. Scared, I crossed to the other side of the street.

"Luke!" Rachel called out. I smiled and ran to her.
Ran? More like skipped.
It was a ten minute drive. The radio played "Drive." We loved it.
This is where the story begins to fall apart. Everybody knows that pretty boy Luke Ford lies about his age. Astute reader OTB observers: "Luke is several years older than his driver's license indicates. Way back in the day, when he was serious about acting, he was advised to fib a bit about his age, and has ever since ... now that he has crossed into his fifth decade (no, that does not mean he's 50), he's doing his forties: viagra, hair dye, propecia, dieting that just doesn't take, younger and younger girlfriends, minoxidil, and reading glasses." To be true, therefore, Luke's story would've had to have taken place in the 1970s, yet the song "Drive" by the Cars didn't come out until 1984.
The next week, I called Rachel to ask her out that night. She wasn't in. I talked to LeeAnne and asked her out.

"I thought you were interested in Rachel?" she asked.

"I'm just looking to go out," I replied.

I picked LeeAnne up a couple of hours later.
The story regains some plausibility here. Luke is revealed as a smarmy, two-timing playboy.
I was last in Gladstone in 2000. I asked about the twins. They'd married. One of them died in a car accident. My brother didn't know which one.
Paul's car. The Cars. "Drive." A car accident. See the pattern. Good storytelling, but in all probability bad history.
A few weeks later, I visited my parents' home for the last time. They were selling it and moving back to Australia. In my box of stuff was the gum wrapper with Rachel's phone number scrawled on it.

I realized it was time to throw it out.
Luke doesn't just need attention. He's desperate for sympathy, too. It's not difficult to appreciate what was going through Horrid Boy's mind as he composed the above lines: "I will make up a story that includes keeping a gum wrapper of a lost love for twenty-five years to show my little army of Internet girlfriends what a romantic, compassionate, and sensitive soul that I am. Each one will then write to me and ask 'What can I do for you my sweet love?'"
Who's going to drive you home tonight?
Luke's story ends predictably enough with another friggin' car reference. We all know about Luke's favorite musical artists. He constantly writes about Air Supply, Abba, Peter Allen, and the Village People but never the Cars. Ric Ocaseck is far too masculine for Luke's musical tastes. No, I don't believe any of it.

Luke Ford’s Failed TV Shows

Dave Deutsch writes:

I send you pure gold, and you talk about your five minute conversation w/a Conservative rabbi? I was pretty enraged, but I found out that there seem to be problems with opening my attachments, so I'm embedding it here in the text: a complete list of all the TV shows that Luke Ford (who supposedly loathes the medium) proposed to assorted networks in the years before he found his true calling:

Luke Ford’s Failed TV shows:


Whyte’s Australia (drama): Luke Ford plays Luke Whyte, a tough as nails Australian immigration official fighting a lonely war to preserve Australia from foreign, and often criminal, interlopers.

Two-Point Conversion (comedy): Luke plays a recent convert to Judaism who explores the new world of Los Angeles Jewish community with the help of his wacky friends, all of whom seem to be either female journalists or Dennis Prager.

Cooking Halachically with Chef Levi (cooking): Luke teaches kosher cooking intermixed with lessons from the weekly Torah parsha.

The Gospel According to Rabbi Luke (comedy): Luke plays an Orthodox rabbi, who, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, becomes the rabbi at a Reform synagogue.

War Against the Amalekites (action): In a future dystopia ruled by the Amalekites, Luke leads a small band of Jewish rebels.

Countering the Feminist War Against Women (lifestyle): Luke features stories and guests that question the ideas and actions of feminism, and advocate the Orthodox lifestyle.

A Luke Ford Chanuka (holiday special): Luke’s Chanuka special, featuring an all-star cast of Luke’s favorite Jewish celebrities (essentially, Dennis Prager)


La Migra (drama): Luke plays a tough but caring INS agent, fighting a lonely war to preserve his beloved Mexican-American community in Boyle Heights from the ravages of illegal immigration.

Far From the Tree (comedy): Luke plays a baal teshuva who is constantly bickering with his father, a Conservative Rabbi (played by Dennis Prager).

Luke’s Vegetarian Cuisine (cooking): Luke prepares meat-free delicacies.

Way Down Under (comedy): Luke plays a liberal Australian protestant minister from an unspecified denomination, who, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, becomes minister at a conservative unspecified Protestant church in Alabama.

Ford For Hire (action): Luke Ford plays a former member of Australia’s SAS who now serves as a soldier-for-hire with a particular animus towards large corporations, industrial polluters, crooked real-estate developers, and bigots of all kinds.

Modest Women’s Wear (lifestyle): Luke showcases the latest and trendiest in modest women’s clothing.

Luke’s Holiday Extravaganza (holiday special): Luke celebrates the holiday season, as only Luke can.


Luke’s Hope (drama): Luke plays Luke Esperanza, an illegal Mexican immigrant trying to support his large family back home while avoiding deportation and fighting for the rights of his fellow migrant workers.

Ecumenical Affairs (comedy): Luke plays Gary Steinberg, a liberal, atheistic Jewish journalist from New York who has a love-hate relationship with his new coworker, a supershiksa conservative Laura Ingraham/Ann Coulter-esque columnist (played by Dennis Prager).

Luke Eats Treyf (cooking): Half an hour of Luke consuming bacon, shrimp, spam, etc.

Luquisha (comedy): Luke (in blackface) plays Luquisha Ford, a jive-talkin’ inner-city preacher who, through a series of wacky misunderstandings, becomes the minister at a lily-whitebread suburban congregation.

Police Officers, Reno, Nevada (action/police): Luke plays a cop in Reno who has to go deep undercover to investigate Nevada’s adult film industry.

Luke Ford’s International Spring Break (lifestyle): Luke travels around the world, filming hot coeds gone wild.

Mr. Ford’s Very, Fairy Christmas (holiday special): The ghost of Paul Lynde teaches a dreamy but curmudgeonly homophobe the true meaning of gay Christmas.

I Just Found Someone's Panties In My Underwear Drawer

They must've gotten mixed up in my last trip to the laundry. They're black and enticing. Too bad it is the closest I've been to a woman in many a year.

Are Gentile Girls, Without The Sanctifying Power Of Judaic Conversion, Hors d'Oeuvres On My Meal Of Life?

A shiksa told me today she didn't want to be my hors d'oeuvre.

Christopher Hitchens, Martin Amis Party At W

My life has improved since Cathy Seipp entered it and started introducing me to great gatherings and great people such as Heather Mac Donald.

Tonight she picked me up before 10PM and we drove to the W hotel in Westwood for the party thrown by the Atlantic magazine. Cathy's due for some writing assignments from them.

We spend much of the night chatting with its literary editor Ben Schwarz. Steve Wasserman, LA Times book editor, joins our conversation. Ben and Steve rave about a great book review by Jim Sleeper.

When they were '60s radicals, David Horowitz and Steve Wasserman would go down to the basement together and smoke dope from a bong.

Ben says it is hard to find good female writers who are right-wing. (Cathy agrees.) He regards Ann Coulter as not serious.

Ben stands about 5'7". He says Tom Wolfe's book A MAN IN FULL was "silly and bloated." I was about to deck him when I remembered Cathy's admonition that I had to behave tonight so she could write for The Atlantic and mix with a better class of people than her Penthouse compadres (she may not have phrased it exactly like that).

I spot a woman who I believe is NY Times Hollywood correspondent Sharon Waxman. As I make my way over to her, I realize it is actress Annette Benning. She's with her husband Warren Beatty. I stop.

Christopher Hitchens is bigger and younger than I expected. He had a public dialogue with Martin Amis tonight at UCLA. The moderator was writer Mona Simpson who got horrible reviews for her wooden work.

Hitch talked about the revival of piracy. There was the film Pirates of the Carribbean. There was Paul McCartney marrying a woman with one leg.

I don't care for the work of Hitchens and Amis and other atheistic leftists. They talked a great deal in their dialogue about religion, which neither of them have practiced as adults. It's like listening to a couple of old whores talk about chastity. I'm sure they could have some provocative intellectual insights but what's the point?

As Judaism is a people as well as a religion, and a religion primarily directed towards behavior rather than belief, I find that Jewish atheists (such as Eric Fromm and his book You Shall Be As Gods) tend to have more thoughtful insights into religion than goyim (exception, Ernest van den Haag).

A statuesque blonde tries to get by but Cathy's big ass blocks her. I move but there's still not room.

"Move, Cathy," I say kindly, "so this lady can get by. And stop eating so many desserts."

Cathy and I spend most of the night talking with Berit Campion from Idaho. A product of Andover, Dartmouth (English), UCLA (Masters degree in film), she's an aspiring screenwriter and an associate producer of documentaries. She's poised, funny, and fun.

She does not believe in screenwriting rules. She does not believe that movies require three acts.

She does not work as a screenwriter. I wonder if there's a connection?

XXX writes: "I don't know why you guys don't take me places! Berit Campion is a granddaughter of a stinking rich Colorado mining family. She's from Ketchum where the Kerry's have a monster house. You should have asked her about Kerry."

It was either me or you. I think Cathy made the right choice of who to take to make her look good.

XXX replies: "Or she took you to look even more fabulous--that whole Demi Moore thing."

Our concerns with Berit were not of this world.

It's no wonder that Berit tips more than I do. She tips 15-20% while I stick to 10-15%.

I wonder if Berit would be willing to embrace the HaKodesh Barchu (the Holy One, Blessed be He, Master of the Universe)?

While pondering such lofty matters, I devour a chocolate cake and three enormous chocolate-covered strawberries.

Cathy and I are rarely intimidated but tonight we feel small compared to the high level of the crowd. We initiate conversations with almost no one.

Midnight, we leave with an inferiority complex, glad not to have made any foupes.

We see Berit chat with Hitch. "I would never have had the confidence to introduce myself at her age," says Cathy, who still doesn't have that chutzpah at her present age.

Cathy drives in a plodding careful fashion. I keep nudging her that the light is green, that we can go faster. It is not easy for me to be driven by a woman. Cathy was right. We should've taken my van.

We wonder how Tiffany Stone would've written up this party. Normally I have no interest in people in their twenties except to sleep with them. I find many kids cute but I tend to find young people annoying unless they are particularly smart, funny, religious or courteous.

Cathy agrees with me and a recent unauthorized biographer of Warren Beatty that womanizers tend to be good with kids. We have an impish sense of fun, a badness and lack of maturity that kids enjoy.

Cathy Seipp writes:

We met a really nice girl from Idaho named Berit Campion, who agreed with me that we should all be grateful to Hitchens for articulating the pro-war on terror position so brilliantly.

We started talking to her because she'd overheard Luke going on about how much he liked Tom Wolfe's "Bonfire of the Vanities" and exclaimed: "I loved that book! I read it in 9th grade!"

I liked Berit for making Luke blanche a bit at that, as he's always trying to make me feel old by saying smugly, whenever I mention some favorite movie I saw as a teenager: "No, Cathy, I didn't see that when it came out. Because I was only three at the time."

OTB writes Cathy: "I'm not one to spread idle gossip, and please keep this on the Q.T., but Luke is several years older than his driver's license indicates. Way back in the day, when he was serious about acting, he was advised to fib a bit about his age, and has ever since. You're still older than Luke, but not by much.

"Luke "did his twenties" in his thirties. But now that he has crossed into his fifth decade (no, that does not mean he's 50), he's doing his forties: viagra, hair dye, propecia, dieting that just doesn't take, younger and younger girlfriends, minoxidil, and reading glasses. Just take him to a strange and dark restaurant with a hard to read menu and see what he does. (I was with him in temple when he attempted reading the commentaries of Rashi, which are printed with a very tiny type, and it wasn't a pretty sight. But we are all vain, are we not?)"