Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Women In Motion
I used to side with Lord Curzon's advice to his new American wife: "Ladies never move."
But I was at Temple Sinai Friday night where men and women pray together. Though fervently involved in my prayers, I could not help but notice women shuckling (swaying) around me and I noticed how much more attractive women looked when they were in motion. Even plain women became alluring. Maybe it was just the power of the prayers?
I also like the affect of long hair, moderate make-up, dresses as opposed to pants, and lingerie on women.
Chaim Amalek writes:
Alison Armstrong of Understandmen.com said on the Dennis Prager show that Valentine's Day is a disaster. It makes single women feel horrible. It puts pressure on men to read a woman's mind to know what she wants.
Men are evolutionarily designed towards hunting while women are gatherers. For women to survive historically, they've had to be attuned to what the men they need want. So women naturally remember important things about a man's preferences. Women think they do this because they love their boyfriend or husband, but they do the same thing for other important men in their lives. Women remember these things because they've been programmed to do so and it is effortless for them.
Once a man has hunted and captured a woman, he does not usually have the sensitive antennae to intuit what she wants.
The late screenwriter/novelist Terry Southern tells interviewer Lee Server of Puritan Magazine (1986) about sex in Texas in the 1930s and '40s: "This was also the era of 'forcible seduction,' which is perhaps only different from actual rape in that the girl, despite a frenzied resistance, would invariably end up 'oohing' and 'aahing' ecstatically, and in the immortal words of the Bard, 'begging for more.'"
Terry talks about his two months as fiction editor at Esquire: "...I had so refined my critical faculties that I could reject a story after reading the first paragraph. Then it got to be the first sentence. Finally, I felt I could safely reject on the basis of a title, and at last on the basis of the author's name -- if it had a middle initial or junior in it.
Chaim Amalek Watches The Grammys
It was business as usual at the Modern Orthodox shul I attended Shabbos morning.
Why Do Some Men Become Sexual Predators?
Because they can.
I'm reading Claire Tomalin's biography, Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self.
Apparently Pepys and other men who kept servants in the 17th Century regarded sexual access to their servants, even when they were just teenagers, as a right.
Men (and a small percentage of women) will screw around with whoever they can unless their values and fears prevent them.
My Dark Side
All of my life I've been fascinated with evil. At times, I've been variously interested in Nazis, Communists, Mafiosi, and sexual predators.
I've generally indulged in my fascination for evil with little respect for its effect on my soul.
Never did I want to make common cause with my subjects and act as they did. Instead I just wanted to study and understand them (and on occasions, for kicks, I'd talk or write like them just to shock people). For a couple of years in college, I loved to tell people that I was an atheistic communist.
In the past decade, I've often sought out people doing bad things to provide compelling material for my writing.
In the summer of 1999, my new friend Chaim Amalek (who takes his last name from the foremost enemy of the Jews in the Torah) introduced me to the writings of Dr. William Pierce. On a regular basis over the next two years, I read the essays of somebody who wanted me and all other minorites dead.
I became so immersed in his worldview that I could read the news and predict how he would react. I could almost see how his genocidal thoughts cohered.
Dr. Pierce, the author of The Turner Diaries, became my dark twin. Because he fought against everything I held sacred but in a way that was coherent and compelling though evil, references to him and quotes of him peppered my writing.
Dr. Pierce died in 2001 but the organization he founded, the National Alliance, lives on as this LA Times story shows:
My fascination with evil is not without limits. There are plenty of evil people and ideologies I have not studied. Most things that I once found fascinating have lost my interest while my yearning to surround myself with good people has never diminished.
I limit my exposure to the dark side by watching almost no television and being highly selective in the types of movies I see and the novels I read. When I feel the toxicity level in my psyche rising too high, I take long breaks from my research and immerse myself in things wholesome such as my religion.
Doing bad things is not something that is foreign to me. There is almost nothing that is human that is foreign to me.
I have a dark sense of humor, which is a polite way of saying that things that amuse me are often cruel.
I get great amusement, at times, out of listening to people talk to me about the ways they destroy their own lives. That's about the darkest thing I regularly feel and do.
Chaim Amalek writes:
Ini my experience as a reporter, politicians and athletes tend to give the least interesting interviews.
I can't think of one politician that I want to have lunch with. The demands of their job render them inoffensive and dull.
When Los Angeles mayoral candidator Antonio Villaraigosa spoke at Friday Night Live last month, he did nothing to change my views. He urged his audience to "plant a tree, heal a child...and speak to someone who doesn't speak your language."
I once dated a woman with whom I did not share a language, but I don't think our interactions were what Antonio endorsed.
Friday night at Temple Sinai, rabbi David Wolpe said they had a special guest. But when it came time to introduce mayoral candidate Bob Hertzberg (who went to "Sunday School" at Temple Sinai three times a week as a kid in the 1960s), he was nowhere in sight.
I found out later he was stuck in traffic. Obviously his Sinai education did not instill in him a reverence for the Torah's commandments.
I couldn't care less that the politician wasn't present. I've paid little attention to the mayoral race because none of the candidates excite me. The one thing I like in the incumbent James Hahn is that he fired the hapless Bernard Parks as police chief and replaced him with the superb William Bratton.
Halfway through rabbi Wolpe's sermon, I saw him put his hand up repeatedly and tell somebody to "wait." I turned and saw Beverly Hills city councilman (and former Temple Sinai president) Jimmy with Bob Hertzberg halting their advance down the center aisle and turning back.
Rabbi Wolpe finished his sermon and the cantor finished the prayers. Then Hertzberg walked up, hugged a bunch of people including the rabbi (who's not the huggy sort) and gave a short talk.
When Bob turned to this week's Torah portion, he fixed on his notes and stumbled through his remarks like a nervous Bar Mitzvah kid.
Afterwards, I wandered the halls looking to connect Jewishly with my hot female peers.
Getting nowhere with the ladies, I struck up a conversation with Hertzberg. To my surprise, I enjoyed myself.
I asked him what was the biggest fault of journalists. "Laziness," he said.
Bob said the LA Times does not have a deep connnection to LA. They keep bringing in people from New York so they can feel like they are a national paper.
I asked him what he thought of Jill Stewart. He said he admired her work.
Then he had to run off to a fundraiser.
I think I might vote for him.
The Los Angeles Daily News will probably endorse him and the Times will probably endorse Villairagosa.
A New Threat
Chaim writes: "You need to get the word out to all the yeshivas in LA of this new threat. It is only a matter of time before some slut who has been schooled in Talmud returns to LA from her trip to NY with more than a chumash in hand."
Further Questions For Reason Editor Nick Gillespie
I was inspired to ask these questions by this hot new picture of Nick on his Reason bio page:
* What would you like to say to your large gay fan base?
* Why do writers suffer disproportionately from STDs and other diseases of immorality?
* Which TV stars of your youth brought you the most exquisite pleasure?
* Are there too many Jews in publishing, and if so, how do we thin them out?
Geopolitical Commentary from Chaim Amalek
Arthur Miller Dies, But His Example Lives On
Chaim Amalek writes:
Everyday Hero: Esther D. Kustanowitz
I found that blog powerful and heartbreaking. Writing honestly about things of which we are ashamed is usually far more compelling than when we declaim from Mount Olympus about the way things should be.
I wish Jewish singles columnists would follow the examples of Lori Gottlieb and Teresa Strasser and sketch the absurd lengths we mortals go to to avoid humiliation and raise our status.
I saw myself in Esther's blog. I was always saying nasty things as a kid. Now I am old and I am writing nasty things. I've written some nasty things about Esther's writing but her writing here is great, and no matter what the quality of her prose, she'll always be a better person than I am.
I want to respond to one line in Esther's blog: "You might wonder what his motivation is."
Motivations are murky things, but often when people say nasty things to us, such as in this instance, it is with no thought of cruelty or nastiness, but simply the purest reflection of truth as that flawed person sees it. If writing you publish to the world is critiqued harshly that is fair play. If someone digs into the private life of a private figure and flings around gratuituously hurtful information, that is unfair play and a big sin.
Let me use an example. If I hit somebody fairly during a football game and I break his leg, there is nothing dishonorable in what I have done. If I hit an innocent person at a party and break his leg, that is dishonorable. If I find a love letter you wrote to one man and I critique it to the world, that is dishonorable. If I critique a blog you have published to the world, and I confine my critique to the writing and not the person, then, even though it is hurtful (just like a tackle in a football game inflicts pain), it is fair.
Many times when I am criticized it is not about me, my totality as a person, nor is it simply a revelation of my critic. Often, perhaps most of the time, it is about things I have said and done. Actions and words, rather than motivations and totalities, should be judged.
Thou shalt not stand by when your neighbor's blood is shed, nor when your neighbor is turning out shoddy prose when they should do better. Silence is not always a mitzvah [divine obligation].
Here is my problem with most of Esther's writing, and most of The Jewish Week and the rest of Jewish journalism -- it is predictable. You read the headline and the first few sentences and you already believe you know where the story is going.
When you push on through the whole thing, nothing surprises you and you feel like it has wasted your time.
Good writing continuously surprises you.
"A scene is memorable because it catches the reader offguard. It's like playing peekaboo with an infant: As soon as he figures out the pattern of your peeking, he gets bored: to continue to amuse him, you have to vary the pattern and catch him offguard." (Crafting Scenes by Raymond Obstfeld)
Everyday Hero: Kelly Hartog
I'm assembling my tribute-to-Kelly-Hartog page where she'll get a link from my Female Journalist Hall of Fame.
I've blown up that photo and have it on my ceiling above my place on the floor where I sleep.
Chicks dig it when you call 'em out in public like this. I know Amy Klein does.
The ripple effect
Kelly Hartog writes:
Luke Is Back
'I think I'm in love with you'
SternGirl: I think I'm in love with you.
Taking A Bite Out Of Kelly Hartog
I consider myself a carefree happy guy who skips through life singing Air Supply songs and dodging rain drops.
Every morning (and afternoon and evening, even though it isn't required), I thank G-d I was not born a woman.
You see, I'm glad I'm rational and capable of great scientific and artistic achievement. I'm not bothered by the monthly curse. I am a model of calm and mental health.
I'm blessed to do work that puts me in constant contact with beautiful and vulnerable young women.
You see, I'm working on a book about sex abuse in the Orthodox rabbinate. Now, you can say many things about rabbis, but 'stupid choices in chicks' is not one of them. When a holy rabbi decides to throw away his wife and family and career and reputation, he usually undergoes Talmudic calculations before he selects his prey.
Then I come along months or years later and pick up the pieces, wipe the tears away, and carry the girl away on my white horse.
Benny the Rabbinic Shark has nothing on me.
It doesn't pay so good but the benefits of my work are great. I know deep in my soul that I am doing valuable work and touching lives.
Then along comes Friday, and amidst my joyous and detailed preparations for the Sabbath (making sure I have enough raisin-cinammon bagels on hand and peanut butter), I pick up the Jewish Journal. The catchy cover always drags me in and soon I'm absorbed by the high quality of the writing and, more importantly, by its inspiring moral tone.
Then, just when I'm experiencing the peak of this spiritual high, I crash. Why? Why do I get depressed even though my life is so wonderful? Because I see all the problems confronting my community.
This week's cover of the Journal cries: "The L.A. Lonely Hearts Club: Why Being Jewish and Single is a Community Wide Problem."
And then it all comes to me in a rush, all the community-wide problems demanding a Jewish response according to my paper. Last week it was France. Was it hopeless? Before that: "Encino Boy ODs In Israeli Yeshiva His death highlights drug problems in schools for Americans." Before that it was the Asian tsunami.
Then there was crime in the inner city (goyim killing goyim accidentally kill a yid) and an LAX security study fails to fly...
All these things demanding a community-response exhausts me.
I know I'm single. I know that this is not what the Torah wants for my life. But while I have a lack of quality in this department, I assure you that quantity I taste has a quality all of its own. And if it is intellectual companionship I want, I can call Cathy Seipp or just dream about Heather Mac Donald.
Now, thanks to Kelly Hartog's new article (she's the Journal's new religion reporter, replacing a marrying Gaby Wenig and a refreshed Julie Fax who's switched to education), I see my bachelorhood as not just my problem, but an act of selfishness which is denying happiness and fulfillment to some desperate Jewish woman in my city who might be driven otherwise to adopting 15 cats or dating a schvartze, and thereby destroying our community.
I'm so depressed by all this that I am going to completely change my story.
Thursday evening when I sat down to my evening repast of a Fuji apple, I picked up the Journal and took a big juicy bite out of the peach of a cover story...and I was swept away by yearning. Here was a single female Jewish journalist I haven't interviewed yet about the pressing problems confronting our community. Allahu Akbar!
I dig her concluding paragraph:
Lynn, Darling, I'm Coming
Chaim Amalek writes:
Queens For A Day
Here's an all-star cast of homosexual media celebs. Though some of them are hetero, I'm willing to make them honorary queens for a day.
Questions For Nick Gillespie
What questions should I ask him? Email Luke.
Here are my notes:
* Do you think people should be allowed to have sex with dogs?
* Man-boy love. Hot or not?
* Legalizing drugs and hookers?
* How does a husband tactfully tell his wife to look better for him and drop 20-pounds?
* Francis Fukuyama. Hot or not?
* Isn't atheism simply an excuse to have sex with all the twat you want?
* Did you ever give Cathy Seipp a compliment while her shirt was on?
* Isn't there something unlibertarian about giving your employees medical insurance, particularly ones like Matt Welch who support socialized medicine?
* Do you own a gun? Do you know how to use it?
* If you ran into ten big black guys in a bad part of Washington D.C. at 2am, would you or would you not be relieved to know that they were just returning from a Bible study?
* Desperate Housewives. Do you watch it with your pants around your ankles?
* Do you agree with Plato that when modes of music change, a society's morals change with it?
* Do you prefer the workman's entrance?
* Who would you like to see become the head of the Supreme Court?
* Which novels best capture the ethos of your life?
* Clarence Thomas? A great justice?
* Do you think rock music promotes promiscuity?
* Do you find it aesthetically pleasing for one man to stick his willy inside another man?
* Do you care about how many black people are murdered in Africa or America's inner cities? If you do care, what were you doing when the Hutus were murdering 500,000 Tutus in Hotel Rwanda?
* Have you ever paid for sex?
* Did you like that motorcycle movie about Che Guevara?
* Why are chicks left of center hotter and sluttier than chicks right of center?
* Are women genetically less suited for serious scientific thinking?
* Are airport screeners groping too many women? Is this an example of intrusive government?
* Do neurological enhancements undermine good character?
* How should America combat the p---- plague?
* Do you think non-Anglo-Saxons are truly capable of democracy?
* Is it ok to tailor immigration policies for national self-interest?
* Where do you support government involvement aside from the libertarian basics?
* Do you believe there are immoral books and films?
* What do you love/hate about your job?
* Do you believe in the eternality of the soul?
* Eric Hoffer - greatest philosopher of the 20th Century?
* When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
* What can we do about all the illegal Mexican immigrants draining our social services and flooding our country?
* Do you favor undoing all anti-discrimination laws?
* In which cases would you favor affirmative action?
* Hookers on the street soliciting. The libertarian solution is?
* Age of consent?
* Which part of the government is most efficient?
* Solution to nuclear arms development in Iran and North Korea?
* The book The Bell Curve?
* Do you think it is possible different races could have different mean IQ levels?
* Why do you stick so much sex, drugs, and rock in your tawdry little magazine?
* What was David Aaron Clark like at Rutgers?
* Adam Smith did not only write Wealth of Nations, he also wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Did you ever read that or were you too busy doing blow with an illegal Haitian hooker with AIDS?
* I notice how your essay on immigration likes to use the word "immigrant" without making any distinction between legal and illegal immigrants. Do you think Americans are too stupid to notice this rhetorical sleight of hand?
* What matters of public policy last made you mad?
Chaim Amalek writes:
* Are you white?
* What can we do to encourage more mexicans to come to the United States?
* Can you ever have too much diversity?
* Breathes there a black man who dreams of the day that his son becomes another man's wife?
I call Regina Lynn (her real name) Wednesday afternoon, February 9, 2005. She writes a weekly sex-positive technology column for Wired.com.
I discovered that she is not Immanuel Kant.
Luke: "Why do you think there are so many more women sex columnists than men sex columnists?"
Regina: "A sex column arises out of a relationship column. Until recently, it was women's magazines that wrote about relationships, which includes sex. A women audience is more primed and socialized to accept how-to and advice."
Luke: "What do you love and hate about writing a sex-related column?"
Regina: "I love the opportunity to talk to people who are doing cool stuff. My beat is sex and technology. Being a geek and a big fan of sex, I get to combine two of the subjects I am most interested in and talk to other people who are enthusiastic about those subjects. There aren't that many people writing about where sex and tech come together. I'm at the forefront, part of the revolution.
"I don't hate anything about it. Sometimes I get flamed. Someone will read my column and write that I am corrupting America's youth. I've been told that I am deluded and working for Satan. But even when I am called names, it is interesting to me to hear what other people think. And that I touched somebody deeply enough that he wanted to flame me reminds me that people are out there reading and thinking about this stuff."
Luke: "What price does your life pay for your column?"
Regina laughs: "I still have a day job [freelance tech writer]. The price I pay for writing my column is working all the time."
Regina giggles. "I'd be working all the time anyway."
Luke: "And that's about it?"
Regina: "Are you looking for -- have I lost a relationship because the man couldn't handle that I was writing about us? Or something? That's never happened."
Luke: "Do you think men feel threatened."
Regina: "I have not felt threatened."
Luke: "Not you. They."
Regina: "I really respect my friends, my boyfriend [of one year] and my family. I've not been in a position yet where I've had to choose between -- this needs to be said or I need to expose so-and-so. I realize that people may be sensitive about being in the column. I haven't been stuck so far."
Luke: "Your boyfriend is ok with your sex tech column?"
Regina: "Yes. He gets great benefits. As the column gets more widely known, interesting products start showing up at our mailbox. It's nice to have a willing volunteer to test some of these things out."
Luke: "Have you ever been married?"
Regina: "I have. I was a child bride. I met my husband when I was 15. We married when I was 21 [it lasted six years]. It was an amicable split-up."
Luke: "Did that [exclusive ten-year relationship] fuel your desire to sow your wild oats?"
Regina: "I hate that expression, but yes. We were each other's first sexually [he was two years older]. Here I was in my mid-twenties never having dated. Online dating was just getting started. After my split, that's when I fell into...experimenting with cybersex."
Regina: "I can't remember if it was 1997 or '98, because that whole period of my life is dim for me. Even if it is mutual and amicable, divorce is huge. We were sad. Our families were sad. I moved from San Francisco to Los Angeles. I'm fuzzy on when I first went into that chatroom."
Luke: "Why do you hate the saying -- sowing your wild oats?"
Regina: "Because it trivializes your experience. It's like you are just out there spreading stuff around. A man spreads seed and a woman spreads legs. I didn't take the people I was with for granted."
Luke: "Were you having sex for fun?"
Regina: "I think you should always have sex for fun."
Luke: "Some people think you should only have it within a loving committed relationship."
Regina: "Casual? Yes."
Luke: "Do you think that did anything to your soul?"
Regina: "I think it expanded my soul. I learned a lot about my own sexuality and theirs. I spent time with interesting people."
Luke: "Have you had sex that you've regretted?"
Regina: "No. I've had sex that wasn't very good. But no, I was safe. I made sure that every year I got tested for STDs and went with people I trusted. So even when it turned out that it wasn't the best idea, I wasn't hurt by it, physically or emotionally. It's not like I went to the bar and met a stranger and went home with a stranger and didn't know where I was with no one to call. I was playing with people I had known for a while. With friends or friends of friends."
Luke: "Do you think sex is fire as a metaphor for how dangerous it can be?"
Regina: "I tend to use earth and water metaphors. I went into my experiences thoughtfully. For me, the fire metaphor would be more about passion."
Luke: "What about danger?"
Regina: "I'm not into danger. I ride a motorcycle, but not dangerously."
Luke: "Could you give me a brief sketch of your upbringing?"
Regina: "Middle class. Small town. Farming community [in the Sacramento valley]."
Regina got a BA in Writing from a UC school.
Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"
Regina: "I always knew I'd be a writer. I did have other things I wanted to be in addition, like, a paleo-biologist. And an astronaut. I wanted to be a jockey.
"My parents never told me, 'You better think of something else for your day job because you can't support yourself by writing.' Some teachers said that."
Luke: "You wrote in your column that sex-technology-chat stuff helped you overcome childhood sexual trauma. Do you care to elaborate?"
Regina: "Cyber gave me a safe place and a medium where I feel natural (writing and reading) to interactively write about activities I was uncomfortable doing in real life.
"When I was six, somebody [about 13, not a relation, forced Regina to do things]. My parents found out about it right away and there was a big to-do and it was all over.
"When I tried to do these things as an adult, it would be like a warehouse door shutting in my brain and my body would shut down and I'd go into this whole fear thing.
"Practicing in cyber was a desensitization therapy. It got really exciting. I took the confidence and excitement I was finding in writing with another person and bringing that into my relationships. I rewrote the part of my brain that had been scared and angry. I had a blast."
Luke: "We're not likely to see some slashing, devastating, critical columns from you on people who traffic in sex technology?"
Regina: "You never know what people are going to get from me. If someone is doing something that horrifies me, I'll probably write about it, unless I don't want to give them any publicity at all."
Luke: "I haven't seen you do that yet."
Regina: "So far there is so much to write about that's not whiny but I don't really feel drawn... I don't really feel the need...to...give a whole bunch of publicity to something that disgusts me. I haven't found out that much that disgusts me either.
"You could say that not only am I sex-positive, but I am tech-positive."
Luke: "How do you like the people that you mix with at Internext and AEE and people who make their living in sex technology?"
Regina: "They're great. They're smart fun people who can joke around and make fun of themselves and their industry, who are far enough outside of the holier-than-thou media. I especially like at AEE talking with middle-aged couples who come up with things."
Luke: "How do your parents feel about your sex technology column?"
Regina: "They're proud of me. My mom is shy about talking about sex with me. She doesn't want to hear about -- 'When I was having cybersex, blabla...' We have a running joke that mom is only allowed to read the column if I send her the URL."
Luke: "Is there an exhibitionist element to your writing and is that dangerous?"
Regina: "I'm not conscious of one. You can probably tell from this phone call that I am a very extroverted person. When I bring my own experiences into the column, I do not intend it as - whoohoo, look at what I've done! I just want readers to know that I'm not making this up. I've done what you've done."
Luke: "How do you decide what is right and wrong?"
Long pause. Regina repeats the question. I assent.
Regina: "That's a really big question."
Regina: "I try to be open and listen to what people have to say, especially when I feel that kneejerk reaction to go, that's bad! I can always learn from what [intelligent] people have to say. In terms of judging what is right and wrong as in, this kind of porn is right and this kind of porn is wrong: I know what I personally feel. I don't put that in the column. The column isn't about that. I don't think the column is a judgmental column."
Luke: "Beyond the column, how do you decide what is right and wrong?"
Regina: "I have a set of values that I compare things to."
Luke: "Where do the values come from?"
Regina: "They are your standard values. Is anybody getting hurt? Did George Bush say it? It must automatically be wrong. That is one of those things that takes an awful lot of effort just to listen without immediately rolling my eyes and going geez, does anybody really believe this crap.
"Are you wanting something simplistic like, murder is wrong? And excrement in sex is disgusting."
Luke: "No. I'm asking how do you decide [right from wrong]."
Regina: "I think about stuff, see how it feels. I can't just define it in a soundbyte here. I don't try to decide it for anybody else, other than that I vote. How I make that actual decision is a combination of logic and emotion."
Luke: "Do you believe that you have a soul that will go on after your death?"
Regina: "That's one of those questions I can't answer."
Luke: "You either believe it. You don't believe it. Or, you're undecided."
Regina: "It's one of those questions I don't answer."
Smiling Arab writes:
Smelly Monkey writes:
Bornyo writes: "Luke's online persona has never, ever exhibited a sense of humor... I like his stuff even though he'll be rolling right along for weeks then f--- it up by advertising for a wife or somesuch."
My First Blog
The first blog I read was my own (July of 1997).
A drunk friend says he heard at a party from somebody whose first blog was Tiffany Stone's.
Eden in Exile
Working Out My Friday Night Live (FNL) Strategy
When it comes to the holy Sabbath, it is always important to plan ahead.
Cathy's friend Lewis phones Tuesday night. I say he needs to come to FNL with me and be my wingman so I can recover from the ravages of a broken heart.
"You need to dress up as an Orthodox Jew when you go," says Lewis. "In full regalia. You need to tilt your head when you're talking to these girls. And when they ask, 'What are you doing?' Just say, 'I'm picturing what you'd look like with your head shaved. Yes, I think it might work.'"
What To Do About Imposter Cops
This year I've twice had three men claiming to be cops stop by my home shortly after I had left it and harassed my landlady. One time they claimed to be LAPD and flashed badges. Another time the same men flashed badges and claimed to be LA DA investigators. Neither time did they leave a card. Both times they lied and claimed they would call me (no such call ever came in). The last time one man left his name as "Ron Robinett" and his phone number as 213-974-3622.
I gave Ron a call and got his answer machine. I left him a message February 3. He couldn't be bothered to call me back. I guess he prefers to harass women and children rather than speak to me directly.
Both times the men wanted to get access to my place. They had no search warrant.
This all came down on me when I started writing again about Anthony Pellicano.
A real LAPD detective advises:
Chatting About Wendy
Here's a selective transcript of a chat I had with Alana Newhouse, Arts and Culture editor of the Forward, on Monday night, February 7, 2005.
Luke: "Do you remember when there was this much discussion about an essay on Jewish fiction?"
Alana: "When was the last time The New York Times did something really big on Jewish fiction? I don't know. You're right to say that there's been a lot of chatter in the past week-and-a-half about Jewish fiction. But I'm looking at the quality of the chatter, not the quantity."
Luke: "And the quality of the chatter is what?"
Alana: "Wendy put something out there. People either come out one side or the other. I'm not sure that anyone's learning anything."
Luke: "Did Wendy Shalit's essay surprise the hell out of you?"
Alana: "No. I'm still perplexed about the process behind it...
"I still didn't find it that compelling."
Luke: "Because she doesn't critique literature qua literature?"
Alana: "That's primarily it."
Luke: "Because she judged it morally."
Alana: "Well, my position is more nuanced than saying that literature has no moral value. Stories have affected my life. But what affects us personally is different from making broad moral judgments [about literature].
"Soviet art was bad because they put the moral first. When art comes second to the message, it loses value."
Luke: "Do you think novels can be moral or immoral?"
Alana: "No. Can it be offensive to certain people sense of morality, including my own?"
Luke: "Of course. That goes without saying."
Alana: "There's plenty of art out there that offends me."
Luke: "No, no, no. Don't worry about that. Can a novel be immoral?"
Alana: "No. I attach morality to actions."
Luke: "Did you read Lolita?"
Luke: "And you don't think that's immoral?"
Alana: "No. I can't say it's immoral. It happens to be one of the books that changed my life."
Luke: "I hate to think which way."
Alana: "In a very good and important way."
Luke: "How old were you when you read it?"
Luke: "Thank G-d.
"I think Wendy Shalit believes that fiction can be moral or immoral."
Alana: "I imbue human beings with agency."
That's a fancy way of saying that Alana holds people, not books, responsible for human behavior.
Luke: "Do you believe that movies can be moral or immoral?"
Alana: "No. It's like people saying that a Marilyn Manson song made them kill someone. It didn't do that. It may have inspired something that existed in the person already but the song didn't make you do it."
Luke: "The Passion."
Alana: "It's a work of art but it's an example of someone using their art to send a larger message, and as a result, the art lost some of its value. But it is not an immoral movie."
Luke: "The movie Gloomy Sunday is based, in part, on a true story about a 1930s hit song that dozens of people committed suicide listening to."
Alana: "That's a terrible thing and I'm sorry it happened.
"We all come to art with our own experiences. I don't know why the song inspired people to do that. Something can inspire people to act but art itself doesn't act. I can walk out into a forest and feel supremely lonely and be overcome by despair and want to kill myself but nobody is going to cut down a forest because it inspires somebody to commit suicide.
"Art can have the power to impart morality or immorality but art is an inanimate object neither moral nor immoral."
Luke: "Do you think something with the power to impart morality or immorality is moral or immoral?"
Alana: "You decided the definitions of things here. I'm willing to concede that certain things may impart immorality. That's a different discussion. I don't know that Wendy was making that point. I don't think she was saying that any of this fiction would inspire Orthodox people to go out and not be Orthodox."
Luke: "Her criticism of the fiction is that it enables people to say to a group who purport to a higher moral law, a ha, they pretend to be so holy in public but it is all pretense."
Alana: "Yes, and to be fair, that's a better argument than saying that we don't want to write this because it is going to inspire kids to eat shrimp salad, which is not what Shalit wrote."
Luke: "I wonder if somebody could believe that Orthodox Judaism is divine truth, superior to all other religions, and write a compelling novel about Orthodox Jewish life?"
Alana: "I wonder too. I don't know if they haven't written that novel already. I don't know what goes on in these writers' heads. I don't know that Tova Mirvis, for example, isn't the person you just described."
Alana admits that she spent Shabbos afternoon thinking about Wendy Shalit's essay.
Luke: "Did Wendy's essay intellectually excite you?"
Alana: "Yes, but I'm easily excitable.
"One of the reasons you saw pieces in Jewish newspapers about Wendy's essay is that her piece touches on a cultural divide that goes beyond literature -- the rightward shift of the Orthodox community and the fear that Modern Orthodoxy is dying. It may have touched a nerve far beyond the effect of literature.
"One of the nerves it touched for me was my fear that Orthodoxy is becoming more provincial and less permissive of art and what the world has to offer."
Luke: "Are you disturbed by the amount of hubbub over the piece?"
Luke: "Wendy didn't see her story replicated in the pages of Orthodox Jewish fiction..."
Alana: "Yes. I agree with her on that."
Born in 1951, Brian Grazer grew up in Northridge, California. His father was a criminal defense lawyer. Grazer describes his upbringing as the TV show "Leave it to Beaver".
Brian was a poor student. He made it to law school at USC, working nights as a short-order cook on the night shift at Howard Johnson's.
He eventually got a job as a law clerk at Warner Bros. He dropped out of law school in 1972 and was hired by Edgar J. Scherick.
"He was alert, he was cute, he seemed ambitious," says Scherick. "He seemed like a nice young man with a good future. Turned out he was very opportunistic. He was always expanding his range of contacts, always cultivating people. He was very aggressive. The minute he started working for me, he was out to work for Brian Grazer. Nothing wrong with that. One day, he told me he was dissatisfied. We talked for half an hour and I gave him a raise. The next day, he quit. Why? You tell me." (The New Yorker, 10/15/01)
Larissa MacFarquhar writes: "What set Grazer apart from everybody else was his crazy tenacity. People insulted him, ignored him, and rejected him, but he persisted. He could take a level of humiliation that other people couldn't. When he was trying to sell Splash, he so infuriated an executive at United Artists that she told him him to go away, lose her number, and never, ever call her again. Ten minutes afterward, he phoned her back as though nothing had happened, and she was so astounded that she talked to him. Later, she bought the movie." (TNY, 10/15/01)
After landing a TV production deal at Paramount, where he met actor-director Ron Howard. They formed a production company, Imagine Entertainment, in 1986. "Grazer is the bad cop who cajoles, threatens, and punishes, allowing Howard to live with his family on the East Coast and be the nicest guy in the business.
A Hollywood player says: "Unlike his Ivy League educated peers, Brian Grazer is essentially a street hustler. He doesn't read much. There's a feral (wild, savage, not domesticated) quality about him."
Chris Mankiewicz says: "I remember associate producing a movie that Brian Grazer produced - 1986's Armed and Dangerous. It was a real piece of caca doodoo. And Brian Grazer was never there except for when we had a really dirty sexy scene with a girl he was interested in taking a look at... And when they were doing a studio publicity thing about the making of the movie, suddenly he wanted to be there because he wanted to show everybody he was the producer."
Until the remake of the The Nutty Professor and Liar, Liar, Grazer had not produced a hit that was not directed by his business partner Ron Howard. Grazer has long been known for broad comedies while Howard has been known for making middle-brow movies.
"Grazer likes to make movies that are both hip and wholesome, but, if there is a conflict between the two, wholesome will win. Grazer does not make films for the peevish cosmopolitan. In his movies...the main character always possesses some noble attribute, and his flaws are always redeemed by love. The classic Grazer movie is a sweet but brisk comedy that is structured like amusical: a simple story line provides connections between scenes in which the star spins free of the plot into the thrilling, maniacal spasms that exhibit his particular genius.
"Grazer's taste is consistent through every aspect of his life. Even his house is like his movies - simple, colorful, big." (TNY 10/15/01)
Brian son Riley, was born in 1986, daughter Sage, was born in 1988, and son Thomas in 1999.
Grazer likes to wander on this his film sets incognito and see how people treat him. Often they are rude. He enjoys firing such people, or at least seeing the expressions on their faces when they learn who he is. (TNY)
Grazer has said that he is "completely impervious to rejection."
Brian Grazer did not answer my repeated requests for an interview.
Grazer told the 2/5/01 edition of Newsweek: "After my first success - after Splash - I was intoxicated to the state of just about euphoria for six months. And then I realized that people were still going to say no to the things that I wanted, no matter now smart I thought I was. This is what put it in perspective for me. At the time, Steven Spielberg was getting put into turnaround [i.e., put on hold] for E.T. - after Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark. And I thought, 'Wow, even this guy is getting put into turnaround.'"
Grazer says he's a nervous wreck on the day his movie opens. "I just have anxiety the entire day. At night I go from theater to theater. I get drunk usually every time, because I am so neurotic about the whole thing. And then I wake up at 5 or %;30 the next morning, and they either say it worked or it didn't work.
"Because The Grinch was unusually successful, I got a lot of people that called and wrote letters. I don't know if I really buy it, but it feels better than the other... When I've had a movie that didn't do well at all, I've had people call and say, "How are you feeling? How are you doing?" I had one person try to develop an intimacy with me because, "I don't want to be there just when things are great." And it's like, "Well, you weren't." People just want to know: what does the pain feel like? They're dying for you to show your pain."
At the beginning of his career, according to the 10/15/01 issue of The New Yorker, Grazer pondered what sort of man he should be. "Should I be liked, or not? Should I comb my hair and wear a suit, or should I wear jeans and be quirky? I saw that powerful people in Hollywood want to talk about themselves and have a ton of opinions, so I thought, Should I be that guy? Or should I be the guy who asks questions all the time? Which guy should I be?"
Grazer decided to be the listener. He decided to charm rather than intimidate. He went on to make movies that grossed over four billion dollars, making him one of the the industry's three most powerful producers along with Gerry Bruckheimer and Scott Rudin.
In the year 2001, Grazer was developing a movie about the life of Hugh Hefner. Brian was fascinated that Hugh could sleep with thousands of women and they all seemed to like him afterwards. Most guys couldn't break up with one woman without making her hate him, he thought.
"Grazer is a man of maxims. He believes that the game of life has rules, and the person who discovers the most rules and observes them faithfully will win. Over the years, Grazer has developed a detailed code of conduct that covers nearly every aspect of his life, and even now he rehearses his rules with a superstitious fervor." (TNY 10/15/01)
Todd Jones writes on alt.video.dvd: "The perfect example of why the Producer is NOT a creative force: Gale Anne Hurd. She was the Producer of The Terminator, Aliens, and The Abyss. Wow, sounds impressive, right? Wrong, she was JUST the Producer. After she had a falling out with James Cameron, the director of the Terminator, Aliens, and Abyss, Cameron went on to direct T2: Judgment Day, True Lies, and Titanic. Gale Anne Hurd went on to produce such classics of modern cinema as Switchback and The Relic. Watch any making-of documentary or listen to any commentary track with a Producer on it to realize that Producers are just shmoozing phone jockeys who don't have an ounce of talent in them, except maybe for finding money. A recent favorite is the Lost Moon documentary, in which Producer Brian Grazer basically says that he didn't [know] that there was an Apollo program, and says, "I don't read much. I'm very intuitive.""
How Does A Husband Ask His Wife To Look Better?
How does a husband nicely say to his wife: Honey, you are dressing like my grandmother. Or, honey, you've lost your figure. Or, honey, you don't smell good. Or, honey, I love you. I wish you'd lose weight. It would be good for our marriage.
Dennis Prager says: If you say he should say nothing, then you are saying that a man should not say anything about something that is of staggering importance to him.
There is the usual trade-off of her looks and his income. How about a man who is the sole breadwinner deciding to stay home to watch sports and earn less money? How would the wife like it?
Remember how frumpy Newt Gingrich's last ex-wife looked (when he was Speaker of the House of Representatives)? Then he divorced and a few months later, she looked good. She worked on herself and it showed.
Should a man say nothing and just hope for the best?
Good men are frightened out of their minds about saying anything like this.
A woman caller suggests: Buy her a new outfit.
So a man does that, and then she says, what's the matter? Don't you like how I look?
Woman caller: "You can't say anything to women. We're irrational emotionally about how our husbands feel. I feel sorry for you boys. Men are expected to accept everything about their wives but women are not held to that same criteria."
Chaim Amalek writes:
The Luke Ford Effect
Marc W. writes:
Dennis Prager Thinks He's Funny
While I think Prager is often funny in person, I've never found him amusing (except for unintentional slips) on the radio (during the 17 years I've been listening to him). And when he keeps insisting on the radio how funny he is, I find it annoying (as it is when he insists repeatedly on other virtues, some of which he does have).
Amalek Speaks Truth to Feminism
Chaim adds his two cents:
Shalhevet Should Embrace Its Inner Slut
Teachers at the Orthodox feeder schools have actively discouraged students from going to Shalhevet. Parents and students report of hearing a teacher at a day school call Shalhevet girls “sluts,” and of getting the heart-to-heart from concerned teachers when a student professes interest in Shalhevet. One parent said his daughter’s eighth-grade mentor refused to write a recommendation when she wanted to go to Shalhevet, and others report transcripts being withheld.I think that the answer to Shalhevet's enrollment decline is to embrace its sluttiness and advertise it. Teenage boys with flexible Torah observance will flock to its institution.
The people I talk to say that almost all graduate of YULA (and unmarrieds from Yeshiva University in New York) are virgins but only about half of Shalhevet kids are.
In the Mishna (the oral law transmitted from Sinai according to Jewish tradition), Rabbi Eliezer says that teaching Torah to one's daughter is like teaching her wantonness, while another Mishnaic rabbi, Ben Azzai, says one is required to teach Torah to a daughter (Talmud Bavli, Sotah 20-21).
Shalhevet is the only Orthodox high school in Los Angeles that is co-ed and teaches girls and boys an identical curriculum. That means girls get taught some Talmud, which is traditionally not a subject for the fairer sex (rather they get tales from the Bible and the rabbis as well as husband-pleasing classes and housekeeping instruction).
Hi Luke, as a former student of YULA and current sibling and friend to many inhabitants of Los Angeles Jewish private schools, I have to say
A member of a women's prayer group that Julie belongs to sent out a fiery email to all members of the group claiming that Julie (in this Jewish Journal article) had called her daughter [I've changed the girl's name to Jane] a slut:
Journalists don't generally do a good job of explaining the importance of journalism, but here is why it is necessary, and a superior way to share information than shooting off thoughtless angry emails like the above: People make better decisions when they are better informed. If we don't make information available publicly, people will rely on ranting emails and gossip to make decisions.
I sometimes feel that I ought to be the Frank Capra of Jewish journalism, and make films explaining to others why I soldier on exposing sin and depravity when the easier course of action would be to take grants, write sniveling suck-up pieces and otherwise keep my mouth shut. But speaking of sucking up and keeping ones mouth shut, just consider the following stories...
Words of Praise from Chaim Amalek
The Journalist And The Attorney
I emailed the attorney ("Jack") from a former hosting company of mine to find out which threat caused my hosting to be pulled.
Jack: "I am not calling to pass along which of different people's complaint had moved this along. It's not a big deal to get a new host. I would hope that you would find more constructive use of your time and talent. I've talked to you before. You seem like a bright guy. There just might be something better to do with your time than getting enough people to the point where they might want to sue you and you don't even know who it is. There are a bunch of idiots out there. People are hypocrites. Wheels turn and you can grind them all under and you'll probably outlive a lot of them."
Luke: "I appreciate you calling me because you didn't have to."
Jack: "I don't dislike you. You've got energy, sometimes. What to do? It would be cool to hook up with [some news organization]. If you find something good to do with some of that time instead of banging away at people. It's easy to not give a crap what people think. You're good at stirring them up. It's too easy.
"Frankly, what's going to happen? They're going to sue you? Yeah, they might. It's the luck of the draw with the people you're choosing to f--- around with. If you had f---ed around with some of my clients, granted they might've been fat hypocritical targets, you would never have been heard from again. You know what I mean? Like, death. You push some of these people to the point where... Life would've gotten them anyhow, but they see you as a convenient target for their frustration and rage.
"With us, it's one strike. The billing rate vs your value to my client is completely out of whack... (Laughter) We got a few nibbles. I was going to go look but I don't have the time. I can certainly understand your desire to do it. Does that make any sense?"
Luke: "I've been doing this since the summer of 1997. I've had a lot of death threats. I've been [knocked around]. I've been sued."
Jack: "Why are you doing this? What's the deal?"
Luke: "It's what I've done since high school when I got on my high school newspaper. I've always been interested in going after what I thought were important stories, stories that other people were afraid to touch."
Jack: "Are you doing stuff that is true?"
Luke: "Yeah, unless it is clearly satire."
Jack: "Part of your site seems to indicate that you are willing to make s--- up."
Luke: "Only when I am clearly doing satire."
Jack: "Ok. I might've misunderstood. It sounds like you have a good handle on where you're at. There are important stories and there is stuff that is... It doesn't surprise me that you've been beaten up. Depending on the realms, you would never have been heard from.
"You're going to do what you're going to do. I wish you a more productive life. If this stuff is true, does it matter?"
Luke: "For me, it matters. For me, it is vital. It gives me the energy to go through the day."
Jack: "I wish you could find something else to get you through the day."
Luke: "A lot of people do."
Jack: "Are you pissed when you're doing this stuff and writing it?"
Luke: "Almost none of it is personal. It is not people who've done me any harm."
Jack: "I don't mean that."
Luke: "For me, it's just about a good story. I am not a social crusader or an activist. I get a good story and I say, wow..."
Jack: "Off you go."
Luke: "Damn the consequences."
Jack: "I get wind of when you get your teeth into something and drag it around the track."
Luke: "Most of the time, it comes to me out of the blue. I had never thought about this person. I put something out there and the story takes on a life of its own."
Jack: "I've got a lot of inventors as clients and it is a similar creative process. They're bipolar or whatever... When the highs are rolling in, these people are more productive than any group..."
Luke: "I am prone to those manic highs where I think that nobody can touch me. Then the crashing lows... But I'm on medication."
Jack: "When you're up there on the highs, that's probably when you are most likely to start teeing off on people... When you are down in the dumps, you are not doing anything.
"Keep in mind where you are and why f--- with the ants. Give 'em a break.
"I'm not doing this for my client. It's my minor contribution to world peace.
"Why don't you do something on local politics? Someone who's had their funding cut off. Do something that will help people out. Live well. Your faith provides you with the values to make life work."
Dennis found the Super Bowl game boring. He had guests over. He didn't learn anything from the announcers. Instead, they confused him. For the second half, Prager turned the sound down.
Prager got tears in his eyes watching the salute to the military prior to kick-off. The salute to our troops in Iraq and the cheering that went up. It was as loud as for the support for our troops in Afghanistan. "This is a turning point in America. I didn't know I would live to see a day when the American military would be so honored."
Khunrum writes: "The reason most everyone loves the milatary now is because the government suspended the draft many years ago. Before then they would send a letter to your home and before you knew it, it was "hup two, three, four, don't step on the punji stick." It's easy to love someone who is doing all the work for you."