Friday, March 11, 2005

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Gil Reavill: Parents Should Be Censors

Gil has a positive article on MrSkin in the April issue of Penthouse.

From the WSJ:

...[S]ome parents are ambivalent about playing the role of censor. That's one theory of Gil Reavill, the author of "Smut: A Sex Industry Insider (And Concerned Father) Says Enough Is Enough." Mr. Reavill's compelling book--coming in April from Sentinel--charts the ways that children are bombarded by sexualized imagery and messages, most of which he recognizes as migrants into the mainstream from the porn industry. Although he sees this exposure as a form of sexual abuse, he is a libertarian who believes that the main control has to rest with the end-user who decides what gets into his house, or what doesn't.

But Mr. Reavill thinks many parents have bought into the prevailing argument that resistance amounts to a form of Big Brothering, which will put them into the camp of the uncool. "Parents are caught in an ideological bind," he says. "They're concerned about the content, but our society hasn't given them any kind of model in which they can do restraints without being censors."

For parents who want hand-holding, a clearer content-ratings system could help. Let's hope a call for industry cooperation from Sen. Clinton will go down easier than a similar one, directed at music, from Tipper Gore. Twenty years after the fact, Mr. Reavill observes, you can still play "Beat the Hell Out of Tipper Gore" on a Web site that lets visitors give Ms. Gore a black eye, broken teeth and a bloody nose.

Wish Your Were Here

I went to a Britney party last night with the beautiful people...got little sleep but woke up feeling great. After doing my duty to G-d, country and readers, I took my rented Kia up the coast, across Sunset Blvd, up to Mulholland Drive, got squirrly around the corners (did I mention that it is 70 degrees and sunny here, a slight overcast), down Laurel Canyon home...

What Kind Of Lover Is Luke?

I get a lot of email inquiring what I am like as a boyfriend.

I tend to be a gentle boyfriend, with occasional drives to be provocative. I have a strong sarcastic and misanthropic streak. I am far moodier than I wish and far more sensitive to slights from those I love.

Some girlfriends handle this better than others. The best approach with me is to say, in effect, stop being a boob. With such reproof, I snap back into my normal gentle self.

I principally let my aggression out through my writing...

At my age, I am not as physically dynamic as I once was. In fact, I prefer to lie back and let the woman do the work. As long as I have access to the important things in life -- fellow writers, an Orthodox shul, books, a computer and an attractive woman -- I'm as happy as a black man in an Inglewood courtroom (a reference to my one discouraging turn at jury duty).

No cunning linguist, I prefer to preserve my dignity in certain private matters (as a recompense for the way I destroy my dignity in my writing).

I have a knack for meeting great people. It is just that once they get to know me (more than five minutes of conversations) that the wheels start to fall off of our budding relationship. I'm better in theory (that Aussie with the great car and job, he always dresse so well and acts mature beyond his years, financially stable, a sure provider) than reality.

Excited Out Of My Mind

Many seemingly superficial things can have a tremendous affect on a man's sense of masculinity such as the car he drives and the beauty of his woman.

I didn't realize how much my junky van was bringing me down until Thursday afternoon when my mechanic, free of charge to me, rented me a brand new Kia until my vehicle was fixed.

[Cathy Seipp writes: "Uh-huh. But don't listen to me. Oh, no. And here's another head's up, since you apparently need it: If you decide that same day you cannot meet someone for lunch, you CALL, you do not EMAIL, as you know perfectly well that emails sometimes take hours to get there. Jackie had not seen the one you sent her before lunch and she was at her computer all morning. So through your own foolish rudeness you have dropped several rungs in our estimation, etiquette-wise, and therefore lucky Lewis may take your place at dinner Mar 26."]

The only reason I needed it was to get to a party in Hollywood.

When I drove out of Enterprise Rent-A-Car, I suddenly felt like a million bucks. I saw that for the past few years, my sense of my self had been profoundly influenced by the ageing, rusting, hiccuping, hard-to-start and difficult-to-accelerate vehicle I've been driving.

My new Kia even had an AM/FM CD player with quality speakers.

As I zipped (I haven't had this much fun without doing something that violates my conscience in years) along La Brea ten miles over the speed limit (my van won't do that unless I'm going straight downhill), I had fantasies of picking up a woman tonight and driving her up and down Mulholland Drive, just as I had done during an earlier and simpler part of my life.

My libido raced with my engine and suddenly I was 17 again and blasting rock music and looking forward to a party.

I parked near Santa Monica Blvd, and in my excitement, got confused about the address of the party. Instead of hiking to 1340 Cahuenga Blvd, I walked to 1940 Cahuenga only to find there was no such place.

Then I remembered the party I had glimpsed when I had first passed 1340 and ran back in the opposite direction.

Crossing Sunset Blvd, I reached into my pocket for my ever-present paper towel, and wiped the sweat off my face.

I left the party after midnight and on the drive home entertained fantasies of taking the 10 to the PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and just driving north until I got tired. But it seemed pathetic to do such a thing alone, so I went to my computer instead and then my bed.

Seraphic Rules of Screenwriting

By Robert J. Avrech

Luke Ford + Cathy Seipp = Cathy Seipp

Amalek has spoken.

You really should follow more of my advice. It's your best hope out of this mess. You are in an endlessly repeating loop, always doing what you have always done, and getting the same result. 39 approaches, and look at your life, man.

I find that even ugly women reject me. I would rather be rejected by a hottie. How 'bout you?


See, I knew you'd respond to that. You are like Michael Jackson, without the pederastic urges or the money. What would you do if you got evicted from your hovel tomorrow?

Making any money these days? If I lived in LA, I'd arrange an intervention on you and compel you to get a job temping as a male secretary for Jewish lawyers and accountants.

"I am laying the foundation for success through hard work."

When do you plan on erecting something onto that foundation? You need a Chinese wife. No Chinese wife, no erections for you.

Jef Hickey Interview

I call Jef Wednesday night, March 9, 2005.

Luke: "Could you tell me about interviewing one of the lead singers of Air Supply?"

Jef: "Graham Russell. He was fully sleaved. He had a whole body suit on. It was him and his girlfriend. It was in 1994. It was for [the magazine] International Tattoo Art. He was really nice. He put my mom on the guest list for the show. They were playing up in New Hamsphire. He took care of my mom. She had a great time.

"Other than that, we just talked tattoos. A lot of tattoo interviews are just -- who did your stuff? How long did you have it? It was one of the boring standard tattoo interviews.

"It was just crazy that it was Air Supply. You would never expect that Air Supply would have more tats than Motley Crue."

Luke: "Why did he get all those tattoos?"

Jef: "He was just a big fan of the art after he got his first one. I wish I had the issue...

"We made a big joke about how if you were in a car and Air Supply comes on, you have no choice but to sing with it because you know the words anyway. So you look around in case anybody's watching because you don't want anyone to catch you. It's a guilty pleasure.

"We played a lot on that."

Luke: "So he was a good sport?"

Jef: "Yeah, they were really good about it.

"Somebody had said to me, you should check out Air Supply. They have more tats than anybody. We're like, you're lying. They do not.

"It turns out that they did.

"I did an interview too with Dennis Rodman for the same mag. The same kid who told me about [Dennis] told me about Air Supply. It turns out that they have the best ink out there.

"I remember [Graham Russell] being very gracious. He totally took care of my mom. I think he sang a song to her. His wife was covered as well.

"I don't have the Air Supply issue here. It's crazy. I wish it was on the internet."

Luke: "What were the implications to your life of that [March 12, 2004] LA Weekly cover story?"

Jef: "About 80% of the people I've met since then have seen the article. I thought it would hurt my dating, but it didn't. It didn't help it."

He’s contracted gonorrhea (six times), crabs (four times), syphilis (three times) and herpes.

Jef: "I thought it would f--- that up, but no. It still comes up in conversations. I will see somebody that I haven't seen in a long time and the first thing they will say is...

"I just worked Brides of Destruction at the Key Club. Nikki Sixx's side project band. Tracy Guns from LA Guns. He's the new guy in the band. I've known Tracy a long long time. I haven't seen him since I got out [of prison]. It was a year yesterday.

"The first day with Tracy it was like, 'Dude, I saw your article.'"

Luke: "I remember you talking in Vegas about some of the bad consequences of the article."

Jef: "The listing of all the diseases didn't help. A lot of people don't believe that I am still sober. But I don't believe I am still sober. I'm right along with them."

Luke: "How long have you been sober?"

Jef: "Three-and-a-half years now."

Luke: "How did women get past the article?"

Jef: "The girl I'm dating now, I don't know. She just doesn't want to believe part of it. She just wants to think that it really didn't happen. She just wants to not think about it. That's fine by me.

"We've been together eight months. The article threw her off at first.

"I was introduced to her through a friend of mine, after the article came out. The article was the introduction. My friend said, you've got to read about this friend of mine. She said, there's no way I'm ever going to date that guy. Somehow I charmed her into hanging out with me.

"Love is truly blind."

Luke: "Have you ever thought of going gay?"

Jef: "What? Never."

Luke: "What type of music are you listening to these days?"

Jef: "I've never stopped listening to anything but heavy stuff. If it ain't heavy, it ain't worth a damn. Right now I'm listening to Dimmu Borgir, an Icelandic group named after lava flow."

Luke: "When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?"

Jef: "An oceanographer. I wanted to be just like Jacques Cousteau."

Luke: "What happened to that dream?"

Jef: "I discovered album artwork. I went to school for commercial art. I saw Meatloaf's Bat out of Hell. I tried to draw that one over and over again. I won a scholarship to Mass Art [Massachusetts Institute of Art]. Then I turned it down because I discovered bands. I discovered I could load gear. That was more appealing."

Luke: "Did you graduate highschool?"

Jef: "GED." [Highschool equivalency test.]

Luke: "Were you a good student?"

Jef: "No. I was a good student up until highschool. Then I lost interest. I used to get picked on a lot. That got in the way. Then I started spending more time in-town Boston working shows than I did in school. As soon as I was able to take off legally, I took off."

Luke: "Why did you get picked on?"

Jef: "My last name, for one. That's an automatic target right there. Kids are cruel. I was a long-haired punk kid. I dyed my hair and I was wearing KISS shirts, Sex Pistols and Black Sabbath and everybody else was listening to the Grateful Dead, the Eagles... I was immediately separate from everybody. I got picked on because I was different. When I was in school, I was really smart. I had no effort in doing homework. So they'd make me do their homework for them. So I started acting dumb. It was either get beat up or do their homework, so I did their homework. Then I just decided not to come to school any more."

Luke: "What did you think of the Cameron Crowe movie Almost Famous?"

Jef: "I loved that movie. That's exactly how I felt. I was the same. I just wanted to be part of something. I wanted to be part of the big machine. I wanted to feel like I felt at home. Like you knew everybody's name. It didn't matter who you were. You belonged. That's how I felt.

"Just like other performers like to watch Boogie Nights and say, oh yeah, there's me. Almost Famous. I was like, yeah, yeah."

Luke: "Do you think think that rock 'n' roll leads to drug use, delinquency and sexual excess?"

Jef: "Of course."

Luke: "So you have no plans to get into classical music?"

Jef: "I read that they were pretty outrageous too.

"I think anything leads to it. Rock 'n' roll is not abashed about it. I hate when people try to disguise it as something else or put safe rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll is not safe. That's the appeal behind it."

Luke: "How have you been able to stay sober for so long?"

Jef: "Drug tests by the federal government. They're pretty stringent. I don't feel like going back to prison. As long as they are in place, that's a good deterrent. Maybe, by the time those are done, some of the feeling good about staying clean will rub off. I like waking up in the morning... I still believe in the freedom to destroy your body any way you want. I still believe that consenting adults should..."

Luke: "What are your ambitions for your life?"

Jef: "I don't know. I'm almost 37 and I have no fallback plans. I don't have a nest egg. I'm living day-to-day. I'm sure I'm headed for a midlife crisis. I wish I knew. If anybody has an idea, they can call me."

Luke: "How was your time in prison?"

Jef: "It was the worst time I've ever had. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy... Well, yeah, I would.

"I was in for two years and four months and 15 days."

Luke: "Is prison divided on racial lines?"

Jef: "It can be. The federal wasn't so bad. I started out in D.C. jail. I was the only white guy among 200 blacks. There I was considered black. I was mistakenly identified as black on my wristband. I thought that was funny. They weren't used to having white people through...

"Everybody got along until something bad happened and everyone would separate to their own [race] quickly.

"Everyone would be cordial and happy and play spades together and then if something went down somewhere else involving two different races, that line would be severed. Blacks go to that side. Whites go to that side."

Luke: "Do you think that applies to the real world as well?"

Jef: "Yeah. Absolutely. A great example of that is the show Punk'd. If you watch that show and see the episodes with the black people, like the rappers, and the black actors. They act totally different. That show is pretty revealing."

Luke: "The white actors and the black actors act differently?"

Jef: "Absolutely. When they're getting caught... When they're in a crazy situation, oh man. Watch the show and you'll see exactly. That show is a great example of how things really are, especially with celebrities."

Luke: "What are the differences?"

Jef: "The blacks always try to play off their situations. They act angrier. In the Brandy episode where she's pulled over by a black cop. She says, 'You know me? We all know each other. We're all black. Right? You're not going to do this to me because we're all black, right?'"

Luke: "So you're not surprised that there are a lot of white porn stars who won't have sex with black guys?"

Jef: "No. There are tons of white trash. That's how they were raised. You can't blame them for how they were raised."

Luke: "How has prison changed you?"

Jef: "I'm more patient now. I've had my fair share of disappointments. If something doesn't happen now, I don't get all bent out of shape over it. It's given me much more respect for the federal government. I believe there's a hierarchy out there and they've got control over certain things. I don't want to poke at the hornest nest."

Luke: "What's your relationship like with your family?"

Jef: "It's great. My parents are cool. They're in Massachusetts."

Jef still loads gear for bands at the Key Club.

Luke: "Have you made much progress on the novel you were working on?"

Jef: "No. It's all done. I've just got to put in to a disk. I don't have the time. It's all handwritten out. I have to transcribe it."

30 Years Ago Air Supply Formed

On May 12, 1975, Sydney Opera House singers Russell Hitchcock and Graham Russell met during a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. They eventually created Air Supply, the greatest pop group ever, and the prism through which forever I will hear love.

Passé pop bands resurrected as Christian acts

LOS ANGELES — In a victory for nostalgia and evangelism, rock and roll acts of yesteryear are finding new life in church venues.

Backstage at Calvary Community Church in Charleston, S.C., aging members of Air Supply nibble on crackers and Cheez Whiz, waiting to go onstage. But this "green room" is lined with choir robes and overlooks the backside of the baptistery. The muffled sound of cheering fans comes through the wall.

"We wanted to keep playing," says Graham Russell, one of the band's longtime leaders. "Our songs still have life in them. So you tweak a few lyrics, memorize some scriptures, get yourself a testimony, and viola, you've got a fan base again."

For years, bands like Air Supply and REO Speedwagon plied the county fair circuit, playing old hits and trying to pump up dwindling audiences. But as competition for county fair slots increases, and older bands fade further into the past, more are finding success playing churches, youth conventions, even acoustic sets at prayer gatherings.

Ninety minutes into their show, Air Supply wraps up with their biggest hit, "Here I am, the one that you love, asking for another day." Only tonight, they sing, "Here I am, the one that you love, asking for your heart today."

As part of an agreement with the pastor, the band is giving an emotionally-charged altar call. People stream forward, raising their hands and crying. Some hold lighters aloft. Some don't know why they've come down front. One man receives a booklet for new converts from one of the church's prayer partners.

Khunrum writes: "Luke....Do people actually endure 90 minutes of puke rockers Air Supply without being strapped down or held at gun point? Is this what Christianity does to people? It is a tribute to Jews, Buddhists, Animists and Moslems throughout the world that they have not invited Air Supply to play at their houses or worship..Gag me with a crucifix...reach in my oxygen tent and quickly turn off my Air Supply. PLEASE."

A Q&A With Reform Leader Rabbi Eric Yoffe About Rabbi Marc Gafni

Somebody writes:

Dear Rabbi Yoffe: I would like to call your attention to the lecture series being presented by the above mentioned "rabbi" at the Stephen S. Wise Temple in Los Angeles, California. The man is a sex offender and his presence in any Reform Temple is a disgrace to our Reform community.

Eric Yoffie replies:

The rabbi of Stephen S. Wise Temple, Eli Herscher, has informed me that the allegations against Rabbi Gafni have been investigated again and again and have been proven to be simply untrue. Rabbi Herscher is a man of great integrity and I rely on his judgment in this matter.

I believe Gafni has moved to California where his wife lives.

Rob Spallone In Pain

I call my buddy Rob Wednesday afternoon. He sounds in great pain.

Luke: "What's the matter?"

Rob: "I don't know. I'm dying. I'm laying down."

Luke: "You're not in the office?"

Rob: "No. It twisted wrong last night. My side."

Luke: "You pulled a muscle.

"Are you dating?"

Rob: "Of course I'm dating. A few women [not in the industry]."

That must be how Rob pulled a muscle.

Luke: "Do the women know you're in the industry?"

Rob: "No. I tell them I'm a rabbi. And I'm afraid the rabbi's going to find out."

Luke: "What's going on with your divorce?"

Rob: "Tomorrow the analyst goes to her house and then Monday she comes to my house when I have the boys. She's going to see how I interact with the children. Do you think I'll pass?

"I got my first A, Luke."

Luke: "How?"

Rob: "In my whole life. I did Bob's school project. He read a book and then he had to pick a theme from the book and build it in a shoe box. The scene was a courtroom. So I built him a courtroom. On the roof, I put a watch like a clock. And I got an A."

Luke: "You'd know a lot about courtrooms."

Rob: "I knew what it looked like."

Luke: "You've been in quite a few."

Rob: "Yeah. Because I'm friends with you..."

Luke: "I thought you were going to say you read the book and wrote his paper for him."

Rob: "Then we would've got the F."

Luke: "Maybe you should go back to school."

Rob: "I'm thinking about it."

Luke: "What would you study?"

Rob: "I don't know."

Luke: "Reading and writing?"

Rob: "That'd be the first. It sucks being illiterate. Do you think it's easy? For a dumb guy, I do ok though.

"Let me call you back."

Five minutes later, Rob calls. "That was the Maury [Povitch] show. They wanted to know if I knew anyone who had footage of a boyfriend catching the girlfriend and another guy cheating. How would I have that footage? If you want me to make it, I can make it. They said, if you make it, it won't be real. I said, I can make it look real."

Chaim Amalek Continues to Pitch Hard Proposals to Flaccid Luke

Chaim Amalek writes:

You are not becoming successful fast enough for my purposes (in fact I fear regression), so to move things along, consider the following.

It would be a good thing if your life story were the subject of a graphic novel, but for that you need a good cartoonist, and you don't know any. Neither do I, but I know of one who is the best: R. Crumb. "But Chaim," you ask, "How can I reach such a Gadol of the cartoon world?" Through one of his ex lovers. I think you know one of them, the former editor of both Leg Show and Juggs (the latter of which I used to hide in copies of Commentary magazine when I was a yeshiva bachur at the Samover Yeshiva in the Bronx): Dian Hanson. Next time you see her, casually suggest that your life would make a good graphic novel, and steer it from there. (Or you could join the Illuminati, but that is another story.) "But Chaim," you ask, "I'm too self-effacing to approach someone like that with so nakedly self-serving a proposal." That's because you really don't think like a Jew. But fortunately for you, I do, all 350 hairy pounds of me. So give it a shot, and see what happens. Think of it as a personal favor to me if that helps.

All Of Linda Chavez's Sons

Evan Gahr writes Linda Chavez, his former boss at the Hudson Institute who now works at the Center for Equal Opportunity:

Why does your bio mention your three sons but omit that two of them "work" for you at CEO?

Per previous inquiries, if their work is not up to par do you give them a bad performance review? Or just send them to bed without dinner?

How much do you pay them? Does the salary for Rudy and David include their allowances? Or is that calcuated separately?

Do you want to write a re-make of the classic Arthur Miller play, All My Sons?

Wendy Shalit Satire Forcibly Removed

Shmarya Rosenberg writes:

Six Apart has removed the following satirical image from my blog because it uses author and social commentator Wendy Shalit's name without her permission. The United States Supreme Court has definitively ruled that this type of satire is protected speech and is not legally actionable. The frightening thing is that thousands of political and news blogs use this company's products – MoveableType and TypePad. So if a sexual predator like Rabbi Baruch Lanner or a Catholic priest didn't like the way he was represented, he could simply complain to Six Apart and the "offending" material would be removed. But, following Six Apart's logic, the purge would not stop there. Hillary Clinton or Alan Greenspan could make the same complaint, and Six Apart would purge the post. In effect, because Six Apart makes no distinction between mentioning a public figure like Wendy Shalit and a private party – your landlady, for example – all political and social discourse is open to censorship. This is an Orwellian situation that pulls the blogosphere into a strange Pravda-like twilight zone, where convicted abusers and public figures – not the little people they damage – control the discussion of and free-flow of information regarding their foibles. Welcome to the world of Wendy Shalit – ultra-Orthodox apologist, humor-phobe, anti-free speech social commentator. Queen Pravda in a sheitel.

A source writes:

Six Apart bought Livejournal, you may know. Last fall letters were sent to Livejournal abuse to make them aware that Rabbi Hershy Worch's Kabbalah_101 was in essence a web for a predator. They stated they couldn't remove it without a letter from an attorney----so they got one. Then they stated it couldn't be removed without a crime report.

Are The Germans Fascists At Heart?

I returned to USC's Annenberg School for Communications Wednesday to have lunch and take in a panel discussion between USC professor Murray Fromson and three German television journalists:

* Aryan blonde Monika Schafer from Hamburg, a hotter version of Renee Zellweger.

* Susanne Rabsahl from Berlin

* Matthias Stormer from Leipzig

The subject for the day is: "Can we be friends again?"

A few minutes into the discussion, Matthias says with a smug smile: "Many Americans think that America is the greatest country in the world."

Everybody makes nice until I raise my hand and ask: "Do you think democracy will last in Germany or are other modes of government more suited to the German soul?"

There are gasps all over the room. The German assure me that democracy is going to stay in Germany.

There's no discussion of Germany's plummeting birthrate and massive importation of third world labor.

Monika asks us if security is our number one concern. She says in Germany it is unemployment.

Monika says she has no fear of terrorism.

That's because she's so young and hot she can take refuge anywhere there are heterosexual men.

I forgot to ask if Germans have terror sex.

Laying Eyes On Janine Zacharia

I had only heard about her olive skin, silky black hair and Semitic nose, but Tuesday night at the West Coast premiere screening of the hour-long documentary Press Pass to the World, I got to lay eyes on The Jerusalem Post Washington correspondent Janine Zacharia. When she spoke about the difficulty of balancing a relationship with her relentless commitment to work, I about broke down in tears.

I'm going to start putting up posters of her on my ceiling and removing the ones of Sharon Waxman (as she is a married mother of three after all).

LA Times South Korea correspondent Barbara Demick, a single mother, is also profiled. When I think of the aggravation she has taken of late for her 1100-word puff piece on North Korea, I just want to give her a big hug.

I Tried And Failed To Finish Rochelle Krich's Dream House

I got a quarter of the way through and gave up. I'm not a fan of the genre and this novel's plot, characters and scene were not compelling.

My First Interview With Cathy Seipp

Afterwards, I felt insecure. She tried to reassure me. "Of course you were my first," she said. "Why do men always ask me that?"

I always like Cathy in something long and flowing...like the river.

She asked me if I was against naked women. "Not as often as I'd like," I said. (All jokes stolen from Benny Hill.)

Murray Fromson Equals Captain Video

No, I don't mean that the venerable Murray prowls around campus with a cheap videocamera and seduces young coeds to taking their tops off.

No, my point is much darker and it has to do with the decline in American education, and the way we are amusing ourselves to death. As novelist Norman Mailer says in the documentary Inside Deep Throat, Americans will sell their soul for a giggle.

My story begins, as it so often does, with car trouble. I couldn't get my van above 25mph Monday unless I was rolling downhill from Mulholland Drive. Somehow the automatic transmission wouldn't kick into a higher gear.

This had a particularly pernicious affect on my psyche because this lack of acceleration and lift in my life is not confined solely to my vehicle. Rather, it is a psychosomatic symptom of my inability to raise my social station.

Also, my wipers don't work, just like my prayers don't wash away the smudge of my sins.

I crawl to the service station where I've spent $2000 on my van (it's worth about $400) in the past three months.

By the time I pick it up at 11:30AM Tuesday, my van is running again, though the acceleration thing is still sticky, jumpy and unpredictable.

I have a noon appointment with Cathy Seipp and Jackie at Cocos at the Farmers Market on 3rd Street and Fairfax. I tell them I can't make it because of car trouble.

It's true. No matter how much I try to steer in their direction, my van has a mind of its own and heads towards downtown.

The meticulous Kevin Roderick (I always trust what he reports because he brings the lofty standards of The Los Angeles Times to his blogging) published on LAObserved Tuesday :

LAT Baghdad bureau chief Alyssa Rubin and the New York Times' Dexter Filkins and John Burns will speak at USC Annenberg after a screening of the PBS Frontline documentary Reporting the War. That's at 12:30 pm. in Annenberg Room 207.

According to the USC website:

Journalism professor Murray Fromson presents a screening of the PBS Frontline documentary Reporting the War. Discussion following features Alyssa Rubin, Los Angeles Times Baghdad bureau chief; Dexter Filkins & John Burns, New York Times...

(It turns out the mistaken information was due to a carelessly worded email by Murray to the USC Annenberg website.)

My van wants to meet John Burns. The problem is I'm running out of gas and there's no gas station on my side of Pico Blvd from La Cienega to Western. What do the colored people do? Why does nobody provide them with gasoline?

When I approach USC, I fill up my tank for $42 and find street parking. I sit in my car and read a book until a parking cop comes by and I think she recorded an electronic ticket for me. I didn't know you had to fill up a meter if you're still in a car.

I finally deposit 35c to cover the next two hours and run over to Annenberg room 207. On the plus side, there's a free lunch from Quizmos. On the downside, my vegetarian sandwich is filled with mushrooms and I can't adaquately shake them out. I make peace with the chocolate chip cookie, nacho chips, and Diet Mountain Dew.

I look around for John Burns. I want to compliment him on his huge balls. I don't see him, though I do spot USC guest lecturer Richard Reeves.

I see Murray sitting up front and whispering to the students around him.

I think I am the only person in the room not a USC student, faculty member or staff.

It turns out that Murray believes he's lecturing to all of us, even though his voice rarely rises above a whisper, even after he's been prompted to speak up.

It reminds me of when somebody yelled out to Sam Kinison to speak up. "That's what your mother said," Sam replied, "when my....gurgled..."

Murray's tired from judging the Pulitzers. He says he was in Selma, Alabama yesterday. He says that President Johnson's Civil Rights 1964 legislation was the most important legislation of the 20th Century.

I thought it was the guarantee that people could cross-dress at work. Rights for the transgendered (including special bathrooms) are the civil rights issue of the 21st Century.

After five minutes, Murray turns into Captain Video and turns on a Frontline report on war journalism.

After an hour, with no panel discussion in sight, the room has emptied. Murray looks asleep in his chair at the front when I walk out.

I ask professor Larry Pryor what happened to the panel discussion. He's as confused as I am.

Now Murray has covered about ten wars and he should be able to mount a splendid chat with Richard Reeves. Instead Fromson goes Captain Video on us and what could've been a stimulating lunch time was a dead waste (the cookie wasn't that good).

I can't believe I blew off my friends Jackie and Cathy to drive to USC to watch TV with Murray.

Now I enjoy walking around a college campus and checking out girls as much as the next guy. Before lithium and my puffy cheeks and sagging gut, I took flight with a few of these birds.

I remember the blonde Christian I met at Flagler College at the end of 1993 and that glorious Sunday afternoon we spent necking in the backseat of her car. What an intimation of the joyous unity that a Jew can experience when he lays tefillin.

Today I didn't even get a chance to protest that only my lawfully wedded wife will have the opportunity to taste of my sweetest delights.

Cathy Seipp writes: "There is no "Coco's" at the Farmer's Market, you idiot...and if there were, we wouldn't go there. If you wanted to meet whoever for lunch instead of us I don't know why you just didn't say you weren't available...no skin off our noses."

Prager Says Boeing Was Wrong To Fire Adulterous CEO

On his nationally syndicated radio show, Dennis said he understood the arguments for firing the CEO but that people who supported that do not understand his arguments against it.

Do you want companies to fire employees who have extramarital affairs? Do you want companies to fire employees who disrespect their parents? Was it ok for Harvard to fire a dean who had pornography on his computer?

Why didn't G-d fire King David, who not only committed adultery but murder?

This is part of a larger trend of companies monitoring the private behavior of their employees, including whether they smoke at home.

Prager quoted approvingly from a policeman who says that people have three lives -- public, private and secret.

Boeing Co. said Monday that it dismissed President and Chief Executive Harry C. Stonecipher, who came out of retirement 15 months ago to restore the company's tarnished reputation, for having an extramarital affair with a female executive.

The company's board demanded Stonecipher's resignation after concluding that his relationship with the executive represented poor judgment on his part and "would impair his ability to lead." Stonecipher, 68, has been married for 50 years and has two children and two grandchildren.

Debra Hill Dies

I tried to interview her for my book on producers. Like a dozen others, she turned me down saying she was working on her own book. I guess it was never finished.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Debra Hill, who co-wrote the horror classic "Halloween" and was one of Hollywood's pioneering woman producers, died Monday, according to a family friend. She was 54.

Hill's big break came in horror films when she and director John Carpenter co-wrote the genre's modern classic, "Halloween." The 1979 film, also directed by Carpenter and produced by Hill, starred a 20-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis as the baby sitter terrorized by a murderous psychopath. Made on a modest $300,000 budget, it grossed $60 million worldwide, a record for an independent movie at the time, and launched a seemingly endless chain of sequels.

Hill, Carpenter and Curtis returned for "Halloween II," and Hill and Carpenter were involved in the writing of several later sequels, including "Halloween: Resurrection,""Halloween 5" and "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers." A "Halloween 9," also written by Hill and Carpenter, is reported by the Internet Movie Database to be in production.

After her "Halloween" run, Hill joined her friend Lynda Obst in forming an independent production company in 1986 that made "Adventures in Babysitting" and "Heartbreak Hotel," both directed by Chris Columbus, and Terry Gilliam's "The Fisher King" with Robin Williams and Jeff Bridges.

In 1988 she entered a contract with Walt Disney Pictures under which she produced the feature "Gross Anatomy," short films for the Walt Disney theme park and an NBC special for Disneyland's 35th anniversary. Films she produced included "The Dead Zone," 1983; "Head Office," 1985; and "Clue," 1986.

"Back when I started in 1974, there were very few women in the industry, and everybody called me 'Honey,'" she recalled in 2003. "I was assumed to be the makeup and hair person, or the script person. I was never assumed to be the writer or producer. I took a look around and realized there weren't many women, so I had to carve a niche for myself."

When she was honored by Women in Film in 2003, Hill said, "I hope some day there won't be a need for Women in Film. That it will be People in Film. That it will be equal pay, equal rights and equal job opportunities for everybody."

Blacks and Jews Documentary Director Kevin Page

Kevin plays the character John Wilkins in Friday Night Lights. He's Micajah Autry in The Alamo.

Three years ago, he decided on Josh Alan Friedman as the documentary subject for his first feature-length film.

I call Kevin Monday morning, March 7, 2005.

Luke: "Is it ok if I call you Kevin?"

Kevin: "If you don't, I'll kick your ass. That's how we do it down in Texas."

Luke: "How did you come to select Josh to make your first movie about?"

Kevin: "We were shooting a pilot for a reality TV series on singer-songwriters at an open-mic night in Dallas. Through a series of misadventures, Josh showed up. We were huddled over our cameras trying to film people playing guitar and suddenly the most bombastic single acoustic guitar thing we'd ever seen took place. We looked up and thought, who the hell is that?

"We interviewed him for the background of this television pilot. After the interview was over, I looked up on the wall and there was what appeared to be an original R. Crumb frame. I said, ohmig-d, where did you get the R. Crumb?

"He said, that's not R. Crumb. That's the Friedman brothers.

"It started from there. We got intrigued with Josh's multi-faceted cultish career. We got hooked."

Luke: "How did you come to make your first film?"

Kevin: "I've been a film and television actor for about 25-years. This wasn't our first film. It's the first thing we've put out in the festivals.

"We put together a production company about four years ago. On a whim. It got way out of control. Now we have three producers on staff. We're in the process of four different films. Much of the material we work on now has to do with highly complex scientific issues that we're trying to bring to the general public.

"Josh was a great workout in taking a complex story and trying to articulate that in a way a broad audience could appreciate. We've taken that skill set and extended it into trans-personal psychology, the Dallas gay-lesbian-bisexual-transsexual prom for highschool kids. We have a series of interviews with psychologists who study spirituality scientifically."

Luke: "What were the principle obstacles you faced in doing this documentary on Josh and how well do you think you overcame them?"

Kevin: "Gosh, there weren't many obstacles other than that we had no idea where we were going when we set out on the path. We had to find our way through the story of the film.

"Having been a writer for many years, I look at documentary filmmaking like writing with video.

"It took a lot longer than you would hope and it always costs a lot more than you would hope. Other than that, we have a film that we are reasonably pleased with and we have a few skills as a result."

Luke: "How come you didn't interview more people about Josh?"

Kevin: "I felt like the story was about the arc of Josh's artistic career. We interviewed several people (including Kinky Friedman) but we ended up deciding the story was the affect of early experiences on the artist's story."

Luke: "Why did you make the final act going back to his childhood?"

Kevin: "We felt like that was the answer to the question of what Josh is. It was a gutsy choice. It's a non-traditional structure for a documentary film. If the thesis was that Josh had been influenced by his childhood, both as the son of a famous figure, and the racial element, to be revealed as the answer to who the hell is this guy."

Luke: Why did you have long excerpts of Josh reading from his experience at the black school?

Kevin: "The idea of the reading toward the end of the film was not only to reveal the background to the question of -- who is Josh? -- in some ways it was a tip of the hat to Spalding Gray. It was a concept I had from earlier projects on how to integrate the words of writers into a viable film.

"It was a bit experimental to have your documentary subject do a 17-minute reading. We'll either be noted for it or slammed.

"The hook of calling it Blacks and Jews and using that thesis came to us after about a year-and-a-half on the project."

Kevin worked on the film for about two-and-a-half years. "That was not intentional. It never is. On the other hand, I think the film the could use it. If we had come out earlier, the film would've been less interesting."

Luke: "What was the context for Josh saying at the beginning, am I some kind of insect that you guys are going to look at under a microscope?"

Kevin: "Josh has a way of starting video sessions with controversial statements. That was just one of them. It was meant, I assume, as a smart-ass aside.

"It was in our second interview and I think it was the first thing he said when the cameras were rolling."

Luke: "How did Josh like it as you started showing him various cuts?"

Kevin: "He liked it. Wouldn't you like it if you were a performer and somebody made a feature-length film about your life? He had some excellent creative feedback. We would not have made the film if we had not had complete cooperation and access to Josh's life.

"We've only had a couple of test screenings. We haven't premiered the film yet."

Luke: "Did you wince before you came out with the subtitle: 'A life obsessed with negroes.'"

Kevin: "We liked it a lot. We had some high-end advertising people help us with our graphics. They had been writing some marketing copy for the one-sheet and that was one of the loglines they came up with. This was before we had landed on the 'Blacks and Jews' concept.

"We thought it was an interesting and attention-grabbing subtitle. Josh says that repeatedly. It's a component of his personality. We thought it got to the heart of the truth of it."

Luke: "I would suspect that 'negroes' is not a word you would use in your daily life."

I don't use it.

Kevin: "Not me. No. As a filmmaker, it is one of the thematic hearts of the film. That's one of Josh's areas of journalistic study. The film is about Josh. It's not about me.

"I don't think there's anything offensive in the film."

Luke: "Did you work on this so long that you grew up hate Josh?"

Kevin: "Yes. But we still get along. It is trying to spend two years watching someone else on video."

Luke: "Why has Josh not been more successful?"

Kevin: "It's the way of the world. To my mind, he has been quite successful as a cult figure."

Will Cathy Seipp Violate The Oral Law On Behalf Of A Dog?

Chaim Amalek writes: " I am pretty sure that the Talmud addresses the matter of a person who finds a stray animal and then takes care of it. You need to research the issue."

Who Cares More, Right or Left?

Tom Giovanetti, President of the Institute for Policy Innovation, writes:

Wow. Ron Owen and "Jane" are both correct on this.

But it's deeper than just the right caring about individuals and the left caring about groups.

Truthfully, the right cares about people, and the left cares about their respectability.

You see, it's hard to care about a real, individual person. You have to look them in the eye, and you are confronted. It's a confrontation, and it requires something of you. It requires some of YOUR money, or a disruption of YOUR schedule, or YOUR family. On the right, we do this not because it's easy, but because it's incumbent upon us because of our belief in moral absolutes.

The left doesn't really care about people. They care about what people think of THEM, which is why they'll pontificate about why we need to do things, and they'll vote to spend gobs of money on programs, because it's a sign that "they care" without them actually having to inconvenience themselves. It's easy to have an air of respectability by caring about "groups."

It's all about creating the APPEARANCE of caring, without having to actually do so.

It's obvious that the right long ago gave up trying to be respectable among the intelligentsia. We know we'll be ridiculed for our traditional values, for believing in God, for holding to moral absolutes. We'd have caved on this stuff generations ago if we cared about what others thought about us.

Wendy Shalit Strikes Back

Shmarya Rosenberg writes:

Wendy Shalit has apparently complained to my service provider about the following post. She claims I have used her name "without permission." Ms. Shalit, so quick to pontificate about and judge others deemed less moral (i.e., less ultra-Orthodox) than her, apparently is unfamiliar with protected speech – and with satire. For those of us who have read Shalit's work, her lack of a sense of humor should come as no surprise. That Shalit was too cowardly to approach me directly and instead resorted to a base attempt at censorship only reinforces her image as a bullying ideologue. An objective observer, an honest reporter Ms. Shalit is not.

Why does traditional girl Wendy Shalit still go by her maiden name? I guess she's happy to cast aside modesty and tradition when it comes to advancing herself. Sort of like that born-again Christian Herbert Streicher in Utah who still uses his stage name Harry Reems. Or abuse victim Nora Louise Kuzma who still uses her stage name Traci Lords.

Yes, I Knew I Would Look Even More Like A Narcissistic Shmuck...

...for doing this. Honestly, it was not my idea. Ok, now I must go sprinkle lithium on my icecream (a la a Sex in the City episode I saw on HBO last night, great show).

Blacks and Jews

Josh Alan Friedman: A life obsessed with negroes.

I got a DVD of this feature-length documentary by first-time director Kevin Page. The film is on the festival circuit hoping to get picked up for broader distribution.

The film begins with Josh on the modern 42nd Street and Broadway in Manhattan. He says the word "Jews" rhymes with more words than any other word in the dictionary yet it is very rarely used in pop music.

Josh says he started writing for Screw in the summer of 1976. His first published story was headlined "Schtupping A Spic."

Standing on Times Square today, Josh says "it's all Japanese. It's all Disneyfied... It's retailtainment. That's the new pornography of Times Square."

Josh: "I would've been 21. My first publication came out. It was the only time my mother threw me out of the apartment and I went forlornly dejected down to Times Square with a Royal typewriter and a suitcase. I found myself a $5 flophouse [on 47th Street off Eighth Avenue]. I was thinking, this is where I belong. I went out late at night to the newsstand and copped a copy of Screw. And found my story [November 22, 1976 issue] that I had submitted months before. I was on cloud nine. I might've even killed myself if it wasn't for seeing my first published piece in Screw.

"Most people assume that I left New York after [Tales of Times Square] was published because the Mob was after me. The Mob was not after me. They were not very pleased with the book."

Josh's brother Drew does not appear in the film. He doesn't like being interviewed, especially on camera.

Josh: "Our comic books were an attack on celebrity. It's a sickness throughout our culture."

Cartoonist Robert Crumb called Drew Friedman the "Robert Crumb of the '80s.

"Drew and I lived [the race question] in a way that few people have.

"Somebody coined us 'investigative cartoonists.'

"The sensation of laughing and being frightened is my favorite emotion entertainmentwise.

"Every time we had a comic strip, it seemed that a few months SCTV had a similar sketch with the same sort of non-sequitir style we had.

"Everybody thought it was Drew. I always felt like I didn't get any credit. He was the star. I would've liked to have kept doing comic strips.

"Drew had no interest in movies based on our cartoons. He believed in the anti-celebrity message. I would've loved to have done a Friedman Brothers movie but he didn't. That's why we broke up."

Josh's mom Ginger: "I wanted to be a professional artist too but I had children, one after the other after the other. I had done a lot of modeling. When you're constantly pregnant, you can't go out and audition. So I gave it all up. I've written three acting books. I've been teaching acting for quite a while."

Josh was an out-of-control kid. Drew was sedentary.

Josh wears sunglasses in the documentary, even at night. I thought he was a poseur, but he writes: "The sunglasses are prescription, more comfortable than regular glasses, and can't see well without 'em."

Josh: "As far as success goes, the parallel ends right there because he's had best-selling books, hit plays and hit movies. I ain't had that. I've had cult success. When my father was this age [48], he'd already hit the best-seller list and had a hit play and I'm still shlepping along. I think about that sometimes."

Bruce Jay Friedman: "My aspirations were to be a serious writer. I kept a strict separation between the magazines [Men, Man, For Men Only, True Action] and my 'serious work.'

"Our books had the name without the game. 'Nympho' was the word we'd use whenever sales were slow. They weren't terribly sexy but there was a little promise of it. Gradually they got nakeder and nakeder.

"I didn't write any of those stories. I was preserving that time to do something you could argue was better.

"If I had been working at Time/Life, writing Time/Life stories, I doubt seriously whether I could've written fiction. The records show that few people from Time/Life over these many years have ever done the kind of thing that I do, that Mario [Puzo] did, and George Fox did and so many others [who worked for these men's magazines]."

I see an article in one of Bruce's magazines entitled "A Gentleman's Guide To Girl Pinching." It was by the late A. C. Spectorsky.

Ginger Friedman: "We were very social. We were out at Elaine's every night. It was terrible. I should've been a better mother. I just wanted to go out and have fun. So did Bruce. He wrote every night. We saw every Broadway show. We saw every off-Broadway show. Every movie. Parties."

Bruce: "I don't think anybody in the history of Hollywood had more fun than I had. Every time I got out there I felt like I was turned loose in an adult candy store."

Josh's parents say they would've preferred him to write for The New Yorker rather than Screw. "I suppose I should've been upset, but I really wasn't," says Bruce.

Adam Parfrey writes in his superb 2003 book It's A Man's World:

Speaking to the several extant writers and editors of the men's adventure magazine genre, I was surprised by how little they were aware that their publications put across themes that might be interpreted as being racist, misogynist, imperialist, or any other postmodern academic construct today.

"That was the way things were," said Bruce Jay Friedman, editor of several Man's Management Publications. "We didn't think twice about it."

Most scribes laboring for Martin Goodman's Magazine Management firm and other repositories of adventure magazines spoke of feeling like well-compensated slaves of a very particular style ["man triumphant] that was not their own.

This was not the style with which editor Bruce Jay Friedman felt most comfortable, and when editing publications for Martin Goodman he unsuccessfully tried to talk him out of running advertisements for trusses, an ad signalling the magazine's target audience: blue-collar yahoos. It would be years before he could raise his head at industry cocktail parties, when his acclaimed examples of "black humor fiction" were seen as appropriate material for a hipper, more monied crowd.

Josh turns to his mother: "You didn't want me to name my album 'Blacks and Jews.'"

Ginger: "I was afraid for you. I was afraid somebody would come after you.

"I had a relationship for several years with a wonderful black man who the boys loved."

There's a ridiculous video of Josh wearing his sunglasses, a yarmulke and a prayer shawl playing his guitar and singing his song Blacks and Jews at Temple Shearith Israel before 8-12th graders.

Josh: "I had no awareness of Jewishness when I was a kid. My father was bar mitzvahed and grew up in a whole different era when anti-Semitism was prominent in America. I thought 'Jew' was just a dirty word you call someone. I thought it just meant 'you sonofabitch,' or 'you bastard.' I had no Jewish consciousness other than the showbusiness consciousness."

Bruce: "In the 1950s, there weren't any people with Jewish names who had careers as writers. You changed your name. Irwin Shaw wasn't Irwin Shaw. There were a few. Henry Roth. A lot of them wrote that early book and went out to Hollywood."

Josh talks about the story he wrote in highschool -- "Black Cracker" -- about his experience as the only white kid at an all-black school in Glen Cove, Long Island. "To this day I haven't gotten a solid answer from my parents about what I was doing there."

Ginger: "You caused a lot of trouble in that school, not them. You were a bad boy. I didn't want to send you there. Dad and I fought about that. He said, I thought you were a liberal. I said, yes, I am, but I don't want my kids to go to that school..."

Bruce: "I was lax about it and irresponsible. It was probably a bitch. It was an era when men took care of the big picture... and women took care of the small stuff like where you send your kids to school."

Josh: "I didn't know I was white until I was ten years old.

"Drew went to the school for two years."

Bruce shakes his head. "I didn't realize that."

Josh: "I've been obsessed with negroes ever since."

Bruce: "I had a powerful civil rights conscience. I kept pretending that there were two-or-three other semi-white kids... There was something morally wrong with switching on that basis."

Josh: "I seem to recall that the first time Drew got beat up there, dad said, 'Get my kid the hell out of that shvartze school.' All of a sudden you weren't a liberal."

Ginger: "Of course. Once we saw that your lives were in danger..."

Josh eventually published the story Black Cracker in Penthouse in 1978. A young black female editor quit in protest.

At the end of the documentary, Josh returns to Glen Cove and finds out that the most memorable blacks he went to school with were dead from narcotics.

At the end of the film, Josh reads from his unpublished unfinished novel Black Cracker. He may turn it into a memoir a la Angela's Ashes.

Where Can One Buy A Good Truss These Days?

I weigh 180 pounds thanks to the lithium, which puts on 20 pounds (as do the TV cameras). I'm 6'. My stomach sags and I need something to hold my paunch in. I'm looking at ad from For Men Only [in It's A Man's World] from the 1950s. It says a good truss can make you look years younger. At 38, I need this.

Maybe I should wear baggy pants and pretend that I am a black rapper. Or I could drink more cranberry juice.

Seraphic Secret Blows Up

I fondly recall the late 60's and Nasser and all this Pan Arabism. It was fun, watching all these bug-eyed, gnarly Arabs in absolutely filthy robes, screaming and crying after they lost the Six Day War.

And say what you will about Arabs, they are dumb but they do notice patterns.

A Grandiose Delusion

I've had an awful fright. I've just reread Don Quixote, the first novel, and seen myself.

I had always considered my virtual mission to be that of a chivalrous knight galloping forth across the Internet on a white horse righting wrongs and redressing grievances. But now I see that I've destroyed myself in a grandiose delusion. Oh, the horror, the horror.

Rabbinic Plagiarism

This kind of theft is rampant among rabbis yet they never seem to get called on it. Why?

Dennis Prager, as well as rabbis Joseph Telushkin, Elazar Muskin, and David Lapin, come to mind as Jewish speakers who are meticulous about attributing their sources.

Luke Ford Literary Salon

Some friends of mine had such a good time with my diverse group of friends at my August 19, LA Press Club party for two of my books, that they want to start a regular Luke Ford literary salon. If you want to come, email Luke (what you do for a living, what you read, etc).

I'm not organizing this because I am not an organizer. I'm an observer. But I can get you in if you're cool. Or if you're hot.

I want to keep the jerks out. One bore can ruin the evening for 100 good people.

I envision a gathering where I (or the author) give some 5-10 minute comic riff on a selected book and then leave the rest of the time for shmoozing. Or I might have a guest that I would interview and insult for 20 minutes.

I want to raise the intellectual level of discourse in Los Angeles just like I did with my Nick Gillespie interview.

Voice of Reason: Why the Left and Right Are Wrong

One of my favorite talkshow hosts of all time is Ronn Owens of KGO radio in San Francisco. In 2004, he published this book. It's mediocre. I don't think it will stand the test of time. But I find his comments here important:

I have found that arch-conservative Republicans have a great deal of concern for the individual, but don't seem to care about the group. One on one, they come across as caring, decent, even fun people, even as they support issues that either take away our rights or otherwise work to the disadvantage of large bodies of people.

A typical right-wing Republican sees a poor little Black kid panhandling in front of the Capitol. He's likely to stop, pull out his wallet, hand the kid a buck...then promptly vote against a bill that would fund a Head Start program or affordable housing for minorities.

Radical liberal Democrats, on the other hand, are very passionate when it comes to the group, but can't be bothered with the individual.

Senator Orrin Hatch is about as right-wing as you can possibly get. I watch this man whenever I talk to him, and I'm always impressed by how he deals with others and the genuine attention he pays to what you have to say. He is one of the nicest people you ever want to meet.

On the far left side, Representative Barney Frank comes off like someone who really cares about the group as a whole... Yet when you try to talk to him on a personal level, when you sit and watch him get ready to be interviewed, he comes across as really arrogant. He's pompous, he screams at people, he's just unpleasant to be around.

Pat Buchanan is another classic extreme... And yet on a personal level, he's terrific. You sit down for an interview...you joke and shmooze...

Ralph Nader...is the quintessential champion of the underdog. And yet when you first sit down with him one on one, it's as if he doesn't even know you exist.

By and large, extreme conservative Republicans are more pleasant to be around.

Jane writes: "Ronn Owens is dead-on in that quote. Back when my child was an infant and I (wrongfully) lost my job, had to resort to welfare for awhile. Interestingly enough, it was a group of arch-conservative Christians who befriended me and helped me out, while my former artsy liberal friends scattered to the wind and were nowhere to be found."

Shalhevet Crybabies

A few weeks ago, the Jewish Journal ran a fair story by Julie Fax about the Modern Orthodox dayschool Shalhevet trying to get its act together. The story quoted a teacher from another school as saying that Shalhevet girls were "sluts."

Eversince then there's been much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Shalhevet crowd. Its director of admissions, Beatrice Levavi, writes in this week's Journal:

The article departs from Friedman and goes on to repeat a vulgar, slanderous term that had been used by a teacher in a feeder school to describe Shalhevet’s young women. The initial use of this slur constituted lashon harah (gossip); its gratuitous repetition in the body of the article constitutes not only lashon harah, but rechilus (slander) as well. It was this that elicited tears from many of our seventh- and eighth-grade girls and outrage from their high school counterparts.

Does anyone seriously doubt that there's more sexual promiscuity at the less religious Shalhevet than the more religious Orthodox schools of Los Angeles?

If Shalhevet kids are crying over the term "sluts," then its teachers and administration should teach them to grow up. But how can Shalhevet kids be expected to grow up when its leaders, such as Beatrice Levavi, are such crybabies.

Three thousand years ago, I bet there was a Beatrice Levavi who whined to the prophet Nathan, "Why are you giving our holy King David a hard time about his adultery and murder? How dare you say he is the man. That's lashon hara."

I'm glad the Beatrice Levavis of Jewish history never got to censor the Torah and the Talmud for unkind remarks. They would've left us with colorless documents of little use to our lives.

Orthodox Babysitting For Swingers

Brianna, an 18-year old Orthodox Jew, writes:

There are some things that should bother me but don't. I try to stay out of a family's business when I babysit, but sometimes it's just obvious. Or the couple is to comfortable and open with me since I've been babysitting for them for 3 or more years. Do I have to stop babysitting at certain families if there's funny business going on (not involving me or the kids - the parents)? Or can I just look the other way and take my money?

One couple I recently started babysitting for (about 3 months ago) does some 'swinging', wife swapping whatever you want to call it. That's why I made this thread.

I did babysit for a pothead couple a couple of times. The kids were so cute about it. Little girl: "My daddy gets happy when he breaths that smoky stuff." Kind of sad, actually.

Both spounses are involved and very willing. My problem is this: Untill I knew for sure, I rationlized it thinking that it's probably not what I think.

The wife would pick me up in the van with the two little kids (one baby, one 2 year old) fast asleep in their car seats and they paid me more generously than other people just to stay in the van with the kids for 3 hours or so. When she'd get to the house, she'd get out of the car and another car would be waiting there. Each time, the couple would laugh and talk a bit and then the wife would get into the car and a different woman would get out of the car and the two (the husband and the other woman) would go into the house together. Sometimes it was the other way around. The husband would get into the car and a different guy would come out and go back into the house with the wife. It was pretty hard to be dan l'kav z'chus altogether, but now they're pretty open about talking about it in front of me, so it's weird to say the least. The thing is that it makes me uncomfortable but doesn't bother me per se. I dunno, it's not like either spounse is cheating on the other. Yeah, they're breaking halacha big time - but is that my business? After all, I'm just the babysitter!

If only Brianna had a strong moral leader in her life who she could turn to for answers to questions like these.

I Am a Racially Profiling Doctor

The New York Times | May 5, 2002

By Sally Satel

In practicing medicine, I am not colorblind. I always take note of my patient's race. So do many of my colleagues. We do it because certain diseases and treatment responses cluster by ethnicity. Recognizing these patterns can help us diagnose disease more efficiently and prescribe medications more effectively. When it comes to practicing medicine, stereotyping often works.

But to a growing number of critics, this statement is viewed as a shocking admission of prejudice. After all, shouldn't all patients be treated equally, regardless of the color of their skin? The controversy came to a boil last May in The New England Journal of Medicine. The journal published a study revealing that enalapril, a standard treatment for chronic heart failure, was less helpful to blacks than to whites. Researchers found that significantly more black patients treated with enalapril ended up hospitalized. A companion study examined carvedilol, a beta blocker; the results indicated that the drug was equally beneficial to both races. These clinically important studies were accompanied, however, by an essay titled "Racial Profiling in Medical Research." Robert S. Schwartz, a deputy editor at the journal, wrote that prescribing medication by taking race into account was a form of "race-based medicine" that was both morally and scientifically wrong. "Race is not only imprecise but also of no proven value in treating an individual patient," Schwartz wrote. "Tax-supported trolling . . . to find racial distinctions in human biology must end."

Will Cathy Become Luke's Chinese Wife?

Rabbi Gadol writes to Cathy's blog:

If you live in New York City, you have the opportunity to attend the monthly meetings of the Junto Society, which is the creation of a rather eccentric Wall Streeter with the spare change to indulge his interests. (Think "roomful of Objectivists forever loyal to the memory of Ayn Rand who also look as though they are looking forward to next month's Star Trek convention.") The question of premarital sex with dogs has yet to arise at their meetings, but the issue of marriage between and among varied groups of siblings and their pets has. Favorably. Kudos to Luke for being quite the attack dog on this matter, for it is only a matter of time before the concept of marriage is extended to include the more sentient of our animal companions. (Luke himself will tell you that once the moral bearings of the Torah have been shunted aside, anything is possible. Would that PETA had his moral courage.)

Luke Ford is the Argentina of American journalism, the Journalist of Tomorrow about whom we will always wonder "why didn't he ever make it big, what with all that topsoil?" The reason is that he has no adult woman in his life to drive him onward to success, no children to support, not even a girlfriend to nag him. (If only Luke had a proper Chinese wife.) Still, the potential is there, and if you applied yourself to him, Cathy, just think of the many possibilities. Luke Ford should get his own talk show. Between cable, AM/FM radio, XM and Sirius, there must someone out there who would give Luke a slot that he could fill, with the proper support of his friends.

Cathy, won't you become Luke's Chinese wife?

Who Let The Dogs Out?

Cathy Seipp writes 3/3/05:

Reason editor Nick Gillespie... is smart, accomplished, logical, and (as we shall see) incredibly patient, while Luke Ford, as everyone knows, is often insufferable, as well as basically out of his mind. Still, I have to admire Luke's reporting skills in his long, faintly deranged interview with Nick. Because say what you like about Luke and all his insanity, he will not let his subject off the hook, which has become something of a lost technique these days.

Most interviewers would have granted Nick that clever "ask the dogs" comeback and backed off at that point, and I salute Luke that he didn't -- especially because pointing out "but you can't" embroiders the point of weakness in pure libertarianism; if everyone can say and do whatever they like in all circumstances, then only the strongest and richest and noisiest have a real choice, and the whole world becomes like Times Square 20 years ago. Also, Luke isn't just blowing smoke here, because I do believe he knows people who've had sex with dogs, and I'll bet the dogs didn't like it.

I've often wished that some editor here in L.A. would have the imagination to assign a regular feature, "Ten Rude Questions From Luke Ford." It would be a must-read!

Risque Business

Writing a sex column for your newspaper may be cute on campus, but how does it play on a resume?

The bumper crop of Sex and the City-inspired sex columnists that surfaced in college newspapers several years ago is now infiltrating the work force - and wondering how their racy campus personas will play in the buttoned-down professional world.

Most say the notoriety they developed on campus paved the way for a variety of careers, particularly in publishing, where the hunger for younger readers and chick lit is great. But they've also slunk into the stodgiest professions, some in disguise, others as brazenly as literary Jezebels - with mixed results.

Lara In Laval

Ford says that he's noticed something "dying within" ... starlets after a while. "The more I see, the more I've become hardened and negative in my views. At first I thought it was just consenting adults doing risqué things. Now I see it as more damaging."

Rabbi Mordechai Tendler and several Monsey colleagues impersonate the RCA in an attempt to intimidate witness

Gary Rosenblatt writes:

While the case has gone on for almost a year, the RCA committee heading the inquiry has been criticized for sharing with Rabbi Tendler information containing the identity of at least some of his female accusers, causing them to lose faith in the confidentiality of the process. More recently, there were reports that Rabbi Tendler helped arrange and took part in questioning, along with several Monsey colleagues, a non-Jewish woman who is a potential witness in the case. The woman was led to believe that she was summoned as part of the RCA investigation, which was not the case. The purpose of the meeting, it is said, was to dissuade her from testifying.

Steve Sailer Interview Via Email

Luke: * Is race such a big deal in America that we can't talk about it publicly?

Steve: Well, we talk about race all the time, but in private. You're also allowed to joke about race in public if you are a comedian. You're just not supposed to write seriously and honestly about it in public.

For example, take the connection between race, crime, and real estate. Try this experiment: Go tell your most politically correct friends that you've found the perfect house to buy. It has a very cheap price and it's in a conveniently located neighborhood … right on Martin Luther King Blvd. (The nice thing about this experiment is that it hardly matters what city you live in.). Your friends will make very clear to you that you would be a fool to move to Martin Luther King Blvd.

Stand-up comics are socially allowed to talk about race in public. For example, Chris Rock famously advised: "If a friend calls you on the telephone and says they're lost on Martin Luther King Boulevard and they want to know what they should do, the best response is 'Run!'"

But, you aren't supposed to write seriously about race in public, other than to repeat the usual cant. For example, a fine reporter named Jonathan Tilove wrote a book in 2003 called "Along Martin Luther King: Travels on Black America's Main Street," but practically nobody besides me would review it, apparently because of discomfort over the "stereotypes" associated with MLK Blvds.

Of course, serious public debate in print or on-line is far better than private talk to figure out how to ameliorate our country's problems. So, public understanding of race remains crude because writing frankly about race just isn't done in polite society.

Much of the censorship stems from the following logic (if you can call it logic): "If different racial groups tend to behave somewhat differently, then -- oh my God -- Hitler Was Right! Therefore, we must never allow this fact to be mentioned in print, or the public will learn the horrible truth and they'll all vote Nazi."

Well, that's just nuts on so many levels.

It's one big non-sequiter: Of course, there are different racial groups. And of course their members tend to inherit certain different genes, on average, than the members of other racial groups. And that means racial groups will differ, on average, in various innate capabilities. But that also means that no group can be supreme at all jobs. To be excellent at one skill frequently implies being worse at something else. So, there can't be a Master Race.

Sports fans can cite countless examples. Men of West African descent monopolize the Olympic 100m dash, but their explosive musculature, which is so helpful in sprinting, weighs them down in distance running, where they are also-rans. Similarly, there are far more Samoans in the National Football League than Chinese, simply because Samoans tend to be much, much bigger. But precisely because Samoans are so huge, they'll never do as well as the Chinese in gymnastics, on average.

* What have been the repercussions to your life from your writings on race?

I guess it's made me a cult figure, which is bizarre because I'm just about the most boringly conventional guy I know: a middle-aged, golf-playing, Republican family man with an MBA.

Years ago when I was working on a deal alongside a wise investment banker of the old school, he told me, "Always tell the truth. It's much easier to remember." At my age now, my memory isn't getting any better. Besides, I figure that the truth is better for the human race than lies, ignorance, and wishful thinking. At minimum, it's more interesting.

* Can a society ever have too much diversity?

Personally, I like ethnic diversity a lot. I lived for many years in the Uptown neighborhood in Chicago, where something like 100 different languages are spoken. I enjoy observing different kinds of people, and because I'm rather shy, the fact that I couldn't converse with most of my neighbors due to the language barriers wasn't much of a problem to me. And I didn't worry too much about crime because I'm a big galoot and muggers don't mess with me much.

But, just because I like diversity doesn't mean everyone else necessarily should. When you get right down to it, most intellectuals' prescriptions for how to improve the world is for the human race to Be Like Me. Well, I try not to be that dogmatic about imposing my tastes on others. For example, among all the professional film critics in this country, I probably spend the least time in my reviews explaining my opinion of the movie and the most time analyzing the issues it raises. I like understanding how the world works more than I like.

For example, precisely what I liked about Uptown was what made it a lousy place to raise a family due to it lack of neighborliness, crime, and public schools completely overwhelmed by the challenge of educating children speaking 100 different languages.

Ethnic diversity isn't of much interest or value to little kids. They need to learn to deal first with all the human diversity that is found in even the most mono-ethnic communities: young and old, boy and girl, and all the different personality types that you see even in one extended family. Further, kids need some homogeneity and safety so they can learn independence. Before the great crime wave began in the 1960s, kids used to walk or ride their bikes everywhere. Now, moms chauffeur their kids everywhere, which is bad for kids and bad for women.

Overall, like everything else in life, increased ethnic diversity comes with tradeoffs. The funny thing is that a lot of its side effects are precisely the ones that liberals say they oppose: for instance, diversity makes free speech less popular; it lessens community solidarity and support for welfare programs, and it vulgarizes the arts. That probably why so many liberals have moved to Howard Dean's and Bernie Sanders' Vermont, which is the whitest state in the country.

* What do you think about the flood of illegal immigrants into the US? Is that good for our country?

It's good for some people, bad for others. The problem is that most of the Americans it's good are already among the most privileged people in America -- factory owners looking for cheap, nonunionized labor; corporate farmers wanting to bust the UFW with scabs from south of the border; movie stars looking for cheap servants; Democratic politicians, ethnic activists, people who eat out at sit-down restaurants a lot (such as journalists), and so forth. In contrast, illegal immigration tends to be bad for the poor and working class of America -- it cuts their wages, messes up their public schools, increases the cost of health care because so few illegals have insurance that the cost of their care gets passed on by hospitals to the rest of us, and increases crime in their neighborhoods.

But while the victims of illegal immigration outnumber the beneficiaries, they don't have much influence compared to the privileged. If you look at poll results, the divergence between elite opinion and mass opinion is greatest on immigration. The privileged maintain their privileges by demonizing anyone who calls for the enforcement of the laws against illegal immigration as a "racist," "xenophobe," "nativist," etc.

* Which public figures talk about race honestly?

Minority comedians, mostly.

As the film critic for The American Conservative magazine, I've noted that you can show an honest view about race, but for talking about it, well, you might have to go back to Ron Shelton's comedy with Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson, "White Men Can't Jump." Writers? Not too many … Heather MacDonald, the boys at GNXP.com, Randall Parker, the amazing prose stylist who calls himself the War Nerd, John Derbyshire … You can find a lot of the best free thinkers on my iSteve.com website under "Links".

* Is it good to be proud of being black? Is it bad to be proud of being white?

I don't have too much of a problem with either, but I think it's healthier for our country to inculcate non-racial loyalties, such as being proud of being an American citizen, which is a legal concept, not a racial one. I'm a "citizenist." I try to think about: "What is in the best overall interests of the current citizens of the United States?" In contrast, so many others think in terms of: "What is in the best interest of my: identity group / race / ethnicity / religion / bank account / class / ideology / clique / gender / sexual orientation / party / and/or personal feelings of moral superiority?" Precisely because basing loyalties upon a legal category defined by our elected representatives -- citizenship -- is so unnatural, it's the least destructive and most uplifting form of allegiance humanly possible on an effective scale. I believe in looking out for my fellow citizens, especially the ones who didn't get lucky in the genetic lottery for IQ, even if it means I have to pay a little more to have my strawberries picked. And that's one reason why I'm against illegal immigration -- the elites have trashed the concept of solidarity with our fellow American citizens in order import more cheap labor.

* Is race a concept that has a basis in reality? In genetics?

First, the human race is clearly one single, interbreeding species.

Second, there's a huge amount of confusion on this subject since the standard scientific model of race we've had since Linnaeus -- race as subspecies -- doesn't work very well in theory, although it turns out to be surprisingly close to adequate in practice, as the findings of population geneticists L.L. Cavali-Sforza and Neil Risch show. Risch, who is with the UC San Francisco Medical School, compared the racial self-identification of medical patients to what their genes said their background was and found over 99% agreement.

Third, the logical problems with the Linnaean taxonomic model of race, however, allow many people to advance the trendy Race Does Not Exist dogma by throwing difficult questions at supporters of the race as subspecies model, such as "So, how many races are there?" "What race is Tiger Woods?" "How can you belong to more than one race?" and "Can races change over time?"

But this conceptual fuzziness inherent in race is common in the natural world. The best example of the fuzziness of natural categories is the "extended family." All the criticisms made about the fuzziness of racial groups apply in spades to extended families. How many extended families do you belong to? Well, at least two: your mom's and your dad's. But they each belonged to their parents' two extended families, so maybe you belong to four. And your grandparents each belonged to two …

And what are the boundaries of your various extended families? If the question at hand is who you'd give a spare kidney to, you'd probably draw the limits rather narrowly. But, when making up your Christmas card list, you probably toss in the occasional third cousin, twice removed. And exactly what's the appropriate name for all these extended families anyway?

In fact, extended families are even less clear-cut than racial groups. Yet, nobody goes around smugly claiming that extended families don't exist. I dislike the Linnaean model, with its implicit assumption of "A race for everyone and everyone in his race." All the Linnaean categories both below and above "species," such as "subspecies" or "genus," tend to be highly arbitrary. So I've been exploring an older definition of race, which has the advantages of both being almost undeniable to the point of tautology, and fitting closer with what people around the globe think of as race: lineage. By far the most useful definition of a racial group is "a partly inbred extended family."

Why is extended family such a perfect analogy for race? Because it's not an analogy. They are the same thing: kin, individuals united by common descent. There's no natural law defining where extended families end. A racial group is merely an extended family (often an extremely extended family) that inbreeds to some extent. It's this tendency to marry within the group that makes racial groups somewhat more coherent, cohesive, and longer lasting than smaller-scale extended families.

For example, oceans slow down intermarriage. The same is true for the Sahara and the Himalayas. Social barriers of language, religion, caste, class, etc. get in the way of the whole world turning into beige Tiger Woods-look-alikes.

* What do you think of the famous chapter on race and IQ in the book The Bell Curve?

Something that always kills me is how liberals denounce IQ as utterly meaningless, except when they claim IQ scores prove that they are smarter than conservatives. Right after the election, millions upon millions of liberals visited web pages reassuring them that the blue states had much higher average IQs the than red states (such as Connecticut 113 and Utah 87). But, as I pointed out, it was a complete hoax, an utter fabrication.

As for The Bell Curve, even though it is one of the biggest selling social science books since Kinsey, it is now out of print, which says a lot about the intellectual climate these days. As for the backlash against the book, well, as my friend Greg Cochran says, "Nobody ever gets that mad at somebody unless they are telling the truth."

In many ways, though, what interests me more in The Bell Curve is its analysis of trends that transcend race, such as the stratification of American society by IQ, a process that allows the clever to wage a clandestine class war against the clueless. Nobody on the higher IQ right half of the bell curve is very interested in the welfare of the left half of the bell curve, per se. I wrote a long series on how to help our fellow citizens on the left half of the Bell Curve, but I've never seen anybody else interested in the subject.

* Can a racial or ethnic or religious group only have good characteristics? Is ascribing only good to a group patronizing?

These days we're supposed to celebrate diversity - but not notice it! The reality is that life is about trade-offs. For example, in the last six Olympics, all 48 finalists in the men's 100-meter dash to determine the World's Fastest Man have been of West African descent. On the other hand, the kind of massive muscularity and minimal body fat percentage that allows people of West African descent to dominate sprinting makes them very bad at, say, English Channel swimming. Sprint champions tend to sink like stones.

Nobody can be best at everything. There's no such thing as racial supremacy. Nobody can be above average at everything either. We don't live in Lake Wobegon.

Chaim Amalek writes: "The interview you did with Steve Sailor is one of the best discussions of race I've ever seen on the internet. They could build a course around it at Stern College. Kudos to you for asking, and to him for answering."