Sunday, April 30, 2006

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I've been seeing a new shrink and we've concluded I suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. That's why I have such a high startle response and grind my teeth at night and am sensitive to loss, attachment and commitment.

I don't want to talk about the painful experiences of my life on my blog. Suffice to say, the last 17 times I put my arms around a woman and she rejected me, I've not gotten over it.

My shrink wants to know: "Do you toss the covers a lot at night too or get creepy/crawly feelings in your legs. Has anyone every told you that you snore?"

I cry out a lot at night, frequently uttering obscenities that would never pass my lips during my waking hours. According to informed sources, a favorite topic of mine during sleep is the Dallas Cowboys.

Serge Trifkovic - Author of Defeating Jihad - Speaks to Breakfast Club

Friday. 8 a.m. Four Seasons Hotel on Doheny Dr. in Beverly Hills.

I note with satisfaction that David Horowitz's assistant Michael Finch (the longest lasting? certainly the most easygoing Horowitz assistant) has ceased cutting himself. But the scars of working for David remain.

David's other assistant, Elizabeth, is late because she's getting a facial peel.

Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Michael claims he's never had a facial, facial peel, pedicure or manicure.

He's been sleeping well. It's his wife who bears the brunt of getting up at night to look after their 12-pound infant.

I had a girl who wanted to buy me a lavender facial spray and I really want it but I resist her offer because it's too swishy and my credentials with the Republican Jewish Coalition might be rescinded.

I find it hard to get going in the morning without an invigorating round of, "You know you're gay because..."

I sip my peppermint tea and eat fruit. My figure has been bulging alarmingly around my stomach of late. That damn lithium.

I remember what it was like to be with a woman. It was good. I want to go to that promised land across the Jordan River once more. I thought the LA Weekly cover and VH1 appearance would do it but no luck.

I'm gonna join that immigrant protest Monday because those things attract hot chicks.

I can forgive a woman for her misguided political views as long as she's hot.

Really, you know you're gay when you start refusing hot women because of their politics.

I'm practicing my Spanish-language rendition of the U.S. national anthem.

I'm determined to raise the tone of political discourse on the web.

The Prostate Cancer Review meets in the grand ballroom where the Wednesday Morning Club meets. Shelby Steele speaks to the WMC May 18.

Despite advertising to the contrary, Center Breakfast Clubs are not great places to meet hot chix in their twenties. But they are great places for a free prostate exam and to compare notes on dribbling vs a full healthy stream.

There's a full healthy stream of people pouring into our breakfast looking for the prostate cancer meeting. At least one person signs up for our breakfast.

I'm able to provide moral guidance to an impressionable friend that the hotties at our breakfast are very married.

I make a gentleman's wager with a mate over who will be the first to seduce Tammy Bruce the lesbian (she interviews Dr. Wafa Sultan May 3 for the WMC, four security guards have been hired for the evening).

Dr. Trifkovic says that no religious Muslim can be fully loyal to the United States and its oath of citizenship because Islam requires him to give his utmost loyalty to Sharia (Islamic law) and Islamic world domination.

Couldn't you make a similar argument about religious Jews? Their ultimate loyalty has to be to God, Torah and the Jewish people? We don't seek world domination except for ethical monotheism, which should rule.

Ethical monotheism rules, baby!

Serge says that in France more people will go to mosque on Friday than church on Sunday.

Serge says porn and decadent western values won't moderate Muslim immigrants. In their search for meaning, in their frustration at being on the bottom rung of Western society, they're more fanatically devoted to their religion than their Arab/Muslim brothers in the homeland.

"When a Christian returns to his religion, he finds the prince of peace. When a Muslim returns to his religion, his finds Mohammed the Terrorist.

"...More democracy in the Middle East means more political Islam and more death sentences for apostates. Look at Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan..."

Serge says the riots in French suburbs were Muslims self-rule according to Sharia.

He says we should refuse citizenship to all Muslim activists. "No Muslim can take the US oath of allegiance in good faith. A faithful Muslim can't help but strive for the introduction of Sharia. Islam introduces a cataclysmic mindset of us vs. them. It cannot rest.

"No law enforcement agency can function effectively if it admits Muslims."

We should reform immigrations laws to refuse Jihadists.

Serge is Bosnian. He says we should embrace Russia. He advocates surgical airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities. No use of ground troops.

"Nothing short of a cataclysm will help the West realize the war its in [against Islam]."

Serge says we have to get over this notion that Islam is the religion of peace and our real war is against terrorism. Nope, it's against Islam.

Instead of invading Iraq and guarding the Euphrates, we should've used those resources to guard the Rio Grande.

Serge speaks for just over 30 minutes and then takes almost 30 minutes of questions.

He says the debate on immigration is depressing because everyone is talking about the economy and nobody is talking about identity and the quality of life.

I ask: "Why should we become friendlier with Russia? Isn't it becoming more of a dictatorship?"

Serge: "Let's stop once and for all judging our external affiliations on the basis of the domestic nature of that regime. The messianic notion that only with democracies can we can be friends should be denied by Brussels (center of the European Union), because the EU is becoming a dictatorship. It is mandating gay marriage, totally bypassing national assemblies. The Czech Republic four times rejected that proposal but now a court in Luxembourg is overriding that.

"Russia is not becoming a dictatorship. It's becoming more authoritarian. That's neither here nor there in the American security calculus, which supported South Korea, Singapore, Chile under General Pinochet, and various unsavory characters around the Middle East such as General Musharraf [in Pakistan]..."

Luke: "What do we get from being friendly with Russia? What's in it for us?"

Serge: "Alternative sources of energy. After Saudi Arabia, Russia has the biggest oil reserves in the world. There are enormous natural resources in Siberia. We have common [Islamic enemies]."

My friend tells me I've matured since he met me eight years ago.

I ask him if Reform Judaism was responsible for the Holocaust.

He gets all offended and claims it was Hitler's fault.

In the mens room, I shoot him a glance and ask him if he's considered doing movies.

It takes him 15 seconds to get it.

As we walk out, my friend says, "Did you see that Asian girl? Did you see how she looked at me?"

I get anxious when I arrive home and see that I'm overdue with the following library book -- How to Control Your Anxiety.

'Sex and the City Wasn't Naked Women'

Dennis Prager: "Sex and the City wasn't naked women. It was a raunchy comedy. I didn't like it."

Sex and the City was filled with naked women, at least the episodes I saw.

Perhaps Dennis has the kind of elevated mind that remembers the comedy while I, in my base state, remember the nudity (particularly Charlotte, yummy, she's worth a mass if you're a goy).

A secular caller said that religious people should live up to their religion. Where in the Bible does God say it is OK to screw around?

Dennis does not answer him directly. Dennis says the human being is a pressure cooker and needs to let off steam.

Dennis: "Why is watching Sex and the City a sin? Why is gambling a sin? I didn't say sin was OK. I don't believe these are sins. Anyone who believes these things are a sin should not engage in it."

Caller: Is it OK for a religious Jew to eat pork once in a while?

Dennis: "I need ever eat pork, but it is an interesting question. I argue that God prefers a lot ove rnothing. Better to keep kosher 80% of the time than 0%. God has common sense. God is not an idiot."

180 Degrees to Jerusalem By Robert Raphael Goodman

On a Friday night in March 1995, I met Leonarto August aka Shimon Saadi at the Westwood Chabad. He was an Israeli movie director who made his living selling electronics. I lived with him until May 31, 1996.

He often told people he was from Italy, thus the fake name Leonarto August.

Shimon (1994-95) said he sensed something sweet about my aura. I was living out of my car at the time. He invited me to move in with him in exchange for helping him twenty hours a week with a screenplay.

Shimon (1994-95) in LA Shimon Shimon Shimon Shimon

I was amazed by Shimon's success with women. They flocked to him. I heard he had a prodigious endowment.

A couple of times I got Shimon's leftovers, for which I'm eternally grateful because these ladies were hot.

He was also blessed with some keen perceptions into life. He had a mystical gift. He taught me many practical things, including that I could call my credit card company if I felt I had gotten ripped off on a purchase (this saved me hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars).

I helped him too. One Shabbos afternoon, I bailed him out of jail. He'd been pulled over by the cops and because he had unpaid traffic tickets, he was jailed.

He had a daughter (circa 11yo) from his first marriage. She lived in South Africa.

Shimon said he'd been with about 500 women in his life.

We'd go to Jewish singles events and I'd get nothing and he'd get blown in the parking lot.

I've never been blown in a parking lot.

Shimon returned to Israel in the summer of 1996. Essentially secular when I met him, he eventually became Orthodox. He davened regularly at the Kabbalah Centre (picture) on Robertson Drive and took classes in Jewish mysticism.

Shimon had a friend named Robert Goodman, who was vastly more successful and classy than we were. Robert was finishing off a documentary (1996's Choke) on no-holds-barred fighting centered on Rickson Gracie.

Shimon borrowed Robert's money and his Mac computer which we used to write a never-finished screenplay. I also used it to write most of my first book.

After Shimon and I moved, I rarely saw Rob (the last time was probably 1999).

I always felt out-classed when I talked to him. I felt like he was leagues above me socially.

He had a girlfriend that I still see in Jewish life. I feel like she's leagues above me socially.

Shimon had a girlfriend who married a friend of mine.

Rob Goodman and I met up again Wednesday night, April 26. We talked for almost two hours at my hovel.

He gave me a copy of his 24-minute documentary 180 Degrees to Jerusalem. It's hilarious.

The old hustler Shimon, now about 46, has turned charedi (ultra-Orthodox) and now goes by "Shimon Sade." He's remarried and has four kids. He looks as grumpy as ever. In his own way, he's probably still hustling the Israeli welfare system to get by financially. The clothes change but Shimon's tendencies to mysticism and fanaticism don't.

The Hebrew version of the documentary played on Channel 2 in Israel. Now it's seeking an English-language American release.

Rob's the narrarator, and strictly speaking, most of the documentary is about him, though it's posed as a search for his old friend Shimon.

I don't have a lot of friends, so I hope nothing here costs me my chance at a new one in Rob.

"Wow," he writes me Thursday morning, "I don't think I've ever been blogged."

Rob begins the documentary: "Page one. The family photo album. My great grandparents escaping Europe."

Rob was initially going to do a documentary on the visit to Israel and search for spirituality by the adopted daughter of Roseanne Barr. He got 40 hours of footage of her over two weeks but it was dull. So by piecing together his family's photos and home movies with his wedding video and a few interviews, Goodman made something completely different.

It works.

Rob: "They came for the promise of the new world. The irony is that they only exchanged one ghetto for another. My grandfather...was just another immigrant kid trying to get uptown. And that he did. He never looked back.

"By the mid-thirties, he and his brother were the biggest rubber importers on the East Coast.

"Sidney Segal had arrived.

"Fast-forward to the sixties. My turn. [Rob's born around 1963.] Long Island homes. Summer camp. Games at the club.

"Religion? My grandfather and his pals invented the three-day-a-year Jew thing [Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur]. And that's what he passed on to us.

"The American dream -- make up the rules as you go."

The screen flashes to pictures of LA highway interchanges.

"So of course I ended up in LA -- the world capitol of calling your own shots, inventing myself as I went along. That's where I met Shimon Saadi, an Israeli ex-pat living on nothing but balls and an expired Israeli tourist visa. My grandfather all over again. I couldn't help but look up to him."

Shimon's friend: "Shimon's out there hustling around, trying to scrape together money. He thinks he's going to come over and get over. Everyone's a millionaire. He's going to outhustle everyone. But this is a city built on hustlers."

Rob: "I swore that if anyone was going to pull it off, it was him. And for a while, he did. Then it all went to hell.

"Shimon and a few of his Israeli buddies tailed a group of starlets to the Kabbalah Centre. The beginning of the end."

Shimon's friend: "He would probably tell you himself that in the beginning it was so he could meet chicks. So he could hang out. And then it took over and he was hooked."

Rob: "Was it something they were putting in the water? Because after a month at the Kabbalah Centre, the chicks were out, the Zohar was in, and Shimon wasn't returning my calls.

"From there, it was only a matter of time until he was keeping kosher, wearing a yarmulke, and praying non-stop. And before I knew it, he was on a plane back to Israel.

"That's not the way it is supposed to happen. What if my grandfather had given up and gone home? What happened to Shimon?

"I dropped everything and followed Shimon back for some answers."

Rob visits the town where Shimon grew up and Shimon's old shul. The town is a dump. Only old men go to the shul.

Rob visits "what everyone says is the heart of the new movement -- The Purple Festival [at Atlit Beach in Israel."

We see separate streams of naked men and naked women (some wear bathing suits) running into the ocean. They were organized and directed by Rabbi Mordecai Gafni.

A wave hits some of the women and they start choking on sea water. The men, 20 feet away, rush over and help their big-breasted Israeli sisters and bring them to shore.

Rob: "No wonder the old synagogue is empty. I'm all for smoking weed and dancing but when did that become religion?"

This festival is filled with hot chicks. It's presided over by homely old folks such as Gafni. Why must he get all the hot chicks? What happened to "From each according to his ability to each according to his need?"

There's great video of Gafni dancing around, waving his hand, and singing "L'cha dodi."

Gafni: "Let's say, wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Shabbat shalom."

Rob: "Me and my friends chose Disneyland over Jerusalem for our bar mitzvah trips. All Yom Kippur meant was sitting in traffic on the Long Island Expressway and going to our cousins in the city.

"My grandparents died maybe 20 blocks from where they landed."

Aish Ha Torah Rabbi Yom Tov Glaser (formerly Johnny Glaser, surfer): "This is Judaism and there's nothing else really. You're either in or you're out."

Aish Rabbi Avi Geller: "What do you really know about the essence of God?"

Rob: "Mix an identity crisis, a slick talker and a few select Bible quotes and the statistical chances are 23.7% that you'll succeed in adding a member to the team. And that's the program whether it is Aish Ha Torah, the Kaballah Centre or Scientology. Belonging feels good."

Rabbi Avi Geller: "A Jew has a more sensitive soul."

Rob: "It's not breaking news that my friend Shimon became religious after he woke up one morning in LA and saw 40-year old hustler staring him in the eye. And didn't like him."

Rob marries in Petach Tikveh, Israel. (His bride, bride, bride and groom)

Rob: "It gave Shimon shivers that men and women weren't separated and women were singing and other things that weren't by the book.

"He made his choice. And I made mine."

Shimon Saadi aka Sade (in center in black suit) in May 2002 at Rob Goodman's wedding (Shimon on left). He's glum.

Little Blue Footballs

If I ever start a political blog, I'll use columnists named Dennis Praeger, Mark Stein, and Viktor David Hanson. Subscribers will get a free copy of the beloved classic - A Tale of Two Titties.

Cathy Seipp writes: "And you can't get even ONE of their names right?"

Meet Gary Kremen

My friend is a millionaire. He's fallen in love with Israel. He wants to meet a nice Jewish girl and get married.

gkremen: At the David Citadel Hotel in Jerusalem
gkremen: You must make Aliya [move to Israel]
gkremen: I might not come back
gkremen: Thinking about the old city
Luke: I love it there
gkremen: All white stone
gkremen: Just went by the prime ministers home
Luke: the women are beautiful
Luke: I love them in army uniforms
gkremen: Know anyone here?
Luke: I have a lot of israeli readers
gkremen: Maybe post my email address: gkremen@grantmedia.com - reward if you set me up when I am here
gkremen: Or my Israeli cell phone - 0525346231

Members Of London Symphony Riot After Refused Access To First Class Lounge At Heathrow Airport

Dennis Prager says the bassoonist threw his instrument at police officers.

It took riot police over an hour to arrest the "20-stone men", who were then led out in handcuffs, with one shouting: "This is how it goes down in LA."

'If he's not into me, he must be gay'

Chaim writes: "Women are always saying stuff like that. Just because she discovered semen leaking out of his crack one night does not mean that he is gay."

Luke Ford Gets Results

Dave Deutsch writes:

First of all, just to show you the power of Luke Ford, I had several students come up to me this year and say "Is it true that you were kicked out of the army for faggotry?"

Secondly, a friend of mine met someone a few months back, and, when he mentioned my name, got the response "You mean David Deutsch the comedian?" since he had encountered me on your website.

Note to advertisers: LUKE FORD GETS RESULTS.

Who Do I Love The Most?

I used Google Desktop search to see which people I have mentioned in files (emails, cached web pages, etc) on my computer:

Cathy Seipp: 5,304
Emmanuelle Richard (friend): 5,135
Holly (ex, friend): 4,284
Chaim Amalek (friend): 841
Monica (friend): 376
Khunrum (friend): 137
Gillian Ford (my mom): 56

Dreaming Without Memory in Strangled Sleep

Monica writes:

Mental Orgasms

"There's been so much serious discussion devoted to the profound question of the vaginal vs. the clitoral orgasm. Why doesn't anyone speak about the mental orgasm? It's what's going on in your head that can make the difference, not which and how many of your nerve endings are being rubbed."

Night Terrors

...When I experience a night terror episode, often there is something faceless and unnamable that I sense pursuing me; I intuit this as death, my impending death. When, in my sleep, I sense this, I awake, and still I sense it, see it even. And so I scream until the back of my throat is raw. Sometimes I run, shaking, but with the strength of ten thousand men. Last month I kicked my hip out of joint as my leg lunged and kick toward the faceless nothing that appears only in darkness.

...Last night I told my former lover, a very small man, to stand on the palm of my hand, so that I could crush him with my fist.

...I wonder, then, if there is a way out of the lingual disaster -- a way that the two presumably doomed lovers who "touch each other with words" can continue to touch each other in that way without it becoming narcissistic. A way in which the seismic shuddering of their verbal exchanges can avoid the phenomenon of redoubling.

A friend writes: "When women begin to talk about their orgasms, I reach for my penis."

Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick

...Ozick revisits the structure of the Victorian novel, but infuses it with all the complexities of the modern world. All the necessary components of a 19 th century British work of fiction reside in this novel – the orphaned young woman who goes to work for a mysterious employer; a large, old house filled with inexplicable objects and strange characters; a narrative that is plot-heavy and laden with obscure allusions and references; even a token madwoman in the attic. Yet Ozick insightfully inverts the conventional Victorian model to reveal the darker realities of modern existence, filling her opaque narrative with images of distorted characters and carefully placed instances of theoretical analysis.

Vanity Fair: Inside Hollywood's Big Wiretap Scandal

It looks as if the wiretapping investigation consuming L.A. may bring down some of the town’s top names. From the details of Anthony Pellicano’s electronic “War Room” to the P.I.’s most damaging cases, to the impact of his divorce and his delusions of Godfather grandeur, the authors have a road map to the biggest scandal in Hollywood history.


VF: Pellicano Almost Jew for Bert Fields

Vanity Fair reports that Pellicano and lawyer Bert Fields were so close that Pellicano contemplated converting to Judaism. “Six or seven years ago, Anthony comes home one night and tells me we are going to become Jewish and that Bert Fields has arranged conversion classes for both of us,” Kat Pellicano tells Vanity Fair. “I said, ‘Anthony, with all that Italian and Catholic bullshit of yours and my being an almost atheist from Oklahoma, why the hell do you want us to become Jewish?’ He tells me, ‘Because Bert thinks it will be good for my business. Most of the lawyers out here are Jews, so it would be a good thing.’ I refused to participate, and the idea eventually went away.’’

Pellicano’s Unsung Targets

This website by Nomi Fredrick was named best website of the month by the May issue of Los Angeles magazine.

From BUZZCUTS: "Web site of the month: Go to sinhablar.com for a crash course on the hot Hollywood topic that is fallen celeb private eye Anthony Pellicano, from his 112-count federal indictment to his "plausible Mafia connections" to his ancient testimony supporting the lone-gunman theory of the JFK assassination."

Here's an excerpt from April 25:

Anthony Pellicano committed many heinous crimes, the least of which is probably wiretapping. So why is the present media hullabaloo about the disgraced P.I. concerned primarily with the rich people he snooped on for other rich people? Frankly, who really cares?

...Let me share some of the stories I’ve learned since doing this website and blog…and no, I will never give out names. There was the unwed mother who had a history of drug use who Pellicano kept in servitude to a certain producer by threatening to report her to Child Services. There was a screenwriter whose handicapped child was directly intimidated. There was an optician who knew too much and was stalked and hounded till she lost her professional license and custody of her children. There was a paralegal that was raped and desperately keeps trying to just get on with her life. There was a professional musician who was involved in a certain famous murder, who endlessly has gone on Internet discussions since 1995, searching for someone, anyone, to believe his story.

The Chaim Amalek Torah Project

As a retired/unemployed man with time on his hands, I've been looking for ways to make myself useful to future generations, and I think I've found it. I'm going to re-write the Jewish Torah, true to what liberal Upper West Side Jews like me want it to be, with all the bad parts excised or modified. This is not something that one can finish off in a weekend, as it will require of me deep scholarship, but to that end I intend to do things the wiki way, with the help of countless likeminded men and women who want a bible that they can be proud of.

Professional Victim Anita Busch Concentrates On Her Lawsuits Against The LAPD, SBC For Leaking Her Private Info To Anthony Pellicano

The impetus for the Pellicano scandal, Anita has a case to justify her longterm paranoia and should get a fat settlement.

I believe that her legal case is her fulltime occupation these days.

A reader writes:

I Googled...and tripped over your account of the Connolly story on the tactics used by Martin Singer to persuade journalists not to publish truthful but defamatory statements about his clients...and on the troubles...apparently had with Steven Seagal.

What I found rather alarming about the Singer story is that his modus operandi is drawn directly from that of quack psychologist-turned-religious leader L. Ron Hubbard. Both Singer and Hubbard approached the legal system, not as a tool for getting at the truth or reaching justice, but instead, as a means of harrassing, intimidating, and silencing their critics, by the use of dilatory tactics and prejudicial publicity. One entity operated by Hubbard's "Church of Scientology" practiced a "therapy" on a woman, which consisted of confining her to a room full of roaches, while nude, for a period of perhaps ten days, during which time she received no fluids. When the woman was found dead of dehydration and covered with insect bites, her parents brought suit against the Hubbard disciples who "treated" her. The case has remained in pretrial motions for fifteen years, and the Florida courts have yet to order discovery to begin, a process that normally commences within a month of a lawsuit being filed. It appears the Hubbard disciples expect the dead woman's parents to die before the case goes to trial if they can delay it long enough, and then to settle the claim for a pittance in probate.

Novelist Binnie Kirshenbaum Interview II

I've read all her books (but History on a Personal Note). She calls me back Monday morning, April 24, 2006.

Luke: "How do you know so much about loneliness?"

Binnie: "I grew up in the suburbs? I was a lonely kid. I always had friends but I never felt like I belonged. There was a side of myself that I kept to myself."

Luke: "When did you feel like you belonged? College?"

Binnie: "I'm not sure I've ever quite felt that way. But certainly when I got to college it was much better. I found kindred spirits. I could express myself. Existential loneliness is something we all suffer but we tend to turn away from it and I like looking at it."

Luke: "You suffer more than most people."

Binnie: "It's not something I talk to people about. Usually, when we're together, we don't talk about loneliness. Perhaps?

"I was a middle child. Middle children tend to get ignored. I had two brothers who were probably more difficult children than I was.

"The neighborhood [Westchester, New York] was all-white but very mixed with different religions. I was the only Jewish kid in my age group in my four-block radius. There was a fair amount of anti-Semitism. I felt excluded until I got to highschool, which was 50% Jewish.

"I like being alone, so maybe I feed it?"

Luke: "How did the anti-Semitism manifest itself?"

Binnie: "'Christkiller!'

"I had no idea what anybody was talking about. I was clueless as to why anybody would say that to me.

"I remember kids throwing pennies at me.

"There was one scene I used in a story about a neighbor who wouldn't let me swim in their pool."

Luke: "What do you love and hate about growing older?"

Binnie: "Not much I love about it.

"I'm more secure and confident. I'm more confident about my own attractiveness even though I know that by and large youth and beauty are synonymous. I don't know that I got better looking as I got older but people respond to me as if I have. I believe my own attractiveness in a way that I didn't when I was younger."

Luke: "More men hitting on you?"

Binnie: "Yeah. Or better quality."

She's been married 15 years to a non-Jewish professor of medicine.

Luke: "Tell me about you and God."

Binnie: "I'm a believer in a strange little way, certainly not in an any fundamentalist way. I subscribe to evolution. The world is a miraculous place. That nature happened as it did is mind-boggling. I allow for the idea that there's some grand plan, not necessarily a grand being. I believe in inherent good and evil and that the inherent good is god. I try to live as good a life as I believe in and there's some idea of serving this greater good, this god, by doing that. I believe in trying to leave the world a better place than you found it."

Luke: "Have you had a relationship with God? Do you talk to God? Does God to talk to you?"

Binnie: "He definitely doesn't talk to me. Occasionally I've asked for a favor.

"It's more when I'm faced with a moral dilemma. When I'm less than perfect. I'm a vegetarian because of my religious beliefs but I wear leather. But when I put on leather, I get this twinge of guilt. That may be my god admonishing me for being a hypocrite."

Luke: "What's your relationship with organized Judaism?"

Binnie: "There really isn't one. My family was irreligious. We were Jewish by cultural identity. We never went to synagogue. We were Christmas Jews. One or two years we gave Chanukah a shot and everybody was disappointed.

"We didn't have a tree but we had stockings, Santa Claus, gifts, Christmas dinner.

"We didn't decorate the house.

"When I was younger, I didn't have much of a Jewish identity. I didn't like being Jewish because I associated it with being a Jewish [American] princess. It wasn't until I got older that I embraced being a princess. That people would make jokes about Jewish women wanting to marry doctors, I resented that. Misguidedly, I didn't resent the person saying it. I resented my being Jewish.

"Then I got older and read more and was out in the world more and realized that Jewish women do other things aside from marry doctors. I learned more about the religion and learned that whatever beliefs I had about the world and God, they jelled more with Judaism than with any other religion.

"I took it upon myself to observe a few rituals. I don't eat bread during Passover. I don't have a seder either. I light a [yartzheit] candle for my mother. I named my cat in memory of my mother because I don't have children. I got dispensation from a rabbi for that. A lot of the rituals about death. I never leave flowers at a grave. I always put a stone down."

Luke: "Do you think you have an eternal soul?"

Binnie: "In an abstract way.

"I abhor cut flowers. Planting things is wonderful. Using one's money to perpetuate betterment."

Luke: "How do you determine what's right and wrong and how do you know when you've done something wrong?"

Binnie: "I think a lot about what's right and wrong for me. Largely what's wrong has to do with causing suffering. I'm devoted to Peter Singer that way. To do nothing about suffering is wrong. Hypocrisy bothers me.

"You know when you're being hypocritical. Your conscience tweaks and tells you.

"I don't think I've ever done anything that causes active suffering (that I'm aware of)."

Luke: "You've never stabbed anyone?"

Binnie: "No. I've punched a few people but I'm so tiny (5'2") it doesn't hurt. I have no physical strength. In that way I'm a real Jewish girl. I've never deprived anybody of their food or their livelihood."

Luke: "What are the ways you've caused others the most pain?"

Binnie: "Withholding of love.

"I feel bad when I look at the newspaper and I see there's genocide in Darfur and I know I'm doing nothing about that."

Luke: "Do you think it is possible to be sexually promiscuous and not wreak vast amounts of hurt?"

Binnie: "Yes. Absolutely. 'Don't ask, don't tell' is probably always a good policy.

"Somebody can be faithful and more hurtful by giving affection elsewhere or other kinds of loyalty elsewhere. An example that always cracks me up -- someone once wrote an essay that was published in an anthology about how she no longer has sex with her husband, and that she wasn't having sex with anybody else either. She signed it.

"I figured everybody would've been happier if she had just been having an affair. If she had been having sex on a regular basis, she probably wouldn't have been compelled to dishonor her husband in that way.

"The humiliation, the traditional cuckolding, is far worse.

"I don't think promiscuity and adultery are such terrible things. Society has made more of it than it is.

"I don't know that I'd be terribly bent out of shape if my husband slept with somebody else. I might be bent out of shape if gave the affection he gives me to somebody else. Or the loyalty or if he left me. But if he slept with somebody else now and again, I wouldn't get worked up about it.

"I suppose emotional adultery is worse.

"We all have a multitude of relationships in our lives for different reasons. I have a best friend but she doesn't fill every need I have for friends. I have other friends that I do other things with.

"If my husband had something that he needed to talk to someone about and that for whatever reason he didn't feel like he could talk to me about, I'd rather he'd have someone to talk to about because I care about him."

Luke: "What's it like for your husband to be married to Binnie Kirshenbaum the novelist? How does your writing affect him?"

Binnie: "He's good about it all. He reads none of it, which isn't to say he doesn't know what's in there. When we were dating, I gave him a short story I'd written. He read it and told me about the three words I'd misspelled. That was probably the last time I showed him anything.

"He writes [scientific] papers I don't read. He just doesn't read fiction.

"He comes to readings I give if I ask him to. He's supportive that I do what I want. He's happy for me when things go well. He's not all that terrific when things don't go well because he's a pragmatist.

"I've told him many times that if I get a bad review, he's supposed to tell me that that person is stupid and nobody reads that paper anyway. As opposed to saying, 'Oh God, Binnie, you must feel awful.' That's what he's thinking."

Luke: "Is there gloom around the house when you get a bad review?"

Binnie: "Sometimes. It depends on where it is. If it is in a major publication, I feel bad. Sometimes it is only a few hours. Usually it gets offset if a good review comes in.

"Nothing could make me give it up."

Luke: "Tell me about you and Germany."

Binnie: "That's a strange relationship. I think it's over. My earlier books were translated there and did wildly well. I was invited over to give readings. It was just a strange experience. I never felt so Jewish in my life. In some ways very cliched. You can't help wondering what people really think. What their parents taught them.

"At the same time, shamelessly basking in the philo-semitism. A man there once said to me, 'All Jewish women were phenomenally brilliantly and unbelievably sexy.' I liked that people did think that.

"I never felt so desirable. There was a lot of electricity with German men in that this was the ultimate forbidden fruit on both sides. Yet I don't find them particularly sexy.

"It was fraught with complications. In the end, there's a culture clash.

"I haven't been over there in a year-and-a-half. From 1998 till 2004, I was going over a lot for conferences, panels, literary festivals. I made a lot of friends there. There was a time when Munich was my second home.

"The first time I went I was 16. I went on a teen tour."

Luke: "Have you had many romantic relationships with German men?"

Binnie: "None."

Luke: "Do you find WWII German military uniforms sexy?"

Binnie: "No, because what's associated with them. On the other hand, from just a purely aesthetic point of view, they had it down."

Luke: "I find tremendous despair in your writing. Am I misreading you?"

Binnie: "No, it is there."

Luke: "Where do you find your reason for being?"

Binnie: "Despairing? The same place the loneliness comes from. I think about life like being the last person at the New Year's Eve party. There's so much going on and everybody's happy and then it's over and you're sitting there with a hat on your head and the balloon is floating past and there's this ultimate emptiness. That's how I see the human condition."

Luke: "I want to shake all your protagonists and say, 'Commit to something.'"

Binnie laughs. "Yeah."

Luke: "Commit to a community or a religion or a club. Make a bunch of attachments. They are all lacking attachments."

Binnie: "They are. If you can make attachments, you are no longer lonely. Or maybe it's that all attachments are ultimately false. We're born alone. We die alone. All connection that we make is fleeting and superficial.

"I don't know that we all speak the same language, that anybody else completely understands us. That's where the desire to write comes from, the craving to be understood.

"It's hard to commit to a group when that sense of hypocrisy always eats at you.

"If I had committed to what you had committed to, I would think, 'This is wrong. That's wrong. This is bulls---. Look at how you live your life. You're telling me how to lead my life.' I don't think I'd be able to reconcile it well enough.

"Writers are always outsiders and have to be. It's the only way we can write and it is the reason for our writing. We're outsiders and we need to connect, but we can't connect because we write."

Luke: "What about you and joining things?"

Binnie: "I'm not a joiner. Somebody I know is doing a book on clubs. He emailed me. I said, 'Not since six weeks of Girls Scouts in fourth grade.'

"I go my own way.

"I belong to the Democratic party."

Luke: "Do you do things with them?"

Binnie: "No. I give them money. That's the whole of my affiliating and belonging.

"I was a member of PEN. I believe in a community of writers doing favors, sharing contacts, work. I don't go for the formality of groups. Once you organize and set down some rules, things are bound to go wrong. Once you have a power structure, things are bound to go wrong.

"I see it as a tribe as opposed to a family, and a loose community as opposed to an organized one."

Luke: "How does your family like your writing?"

Binnie: "They don't. I'm sure my brothers have never read anything I've written. They're not literary. Years ago, I gave my younger brother a book that was wrapped. He said, 'This isn't one of yours, is it?' It wasn't.

"Before she died in 1998, my mother was mixed. She was nervous that I would tell family secrets. If there was a lot of sex, she'd roll her eyeballs. 'What are people going to think about you?' At the same time, she was kinda proud.

"I don't think my father has read anything specifically but he knows what's in there. He's proud like my husband. If I get a good review in the Forward and his friends call him and tell him, he's pleased.

"It pleases him that I am more Jewish because he was raised more religiously than my mother was. Even though he's not observant, he has more of an attachment.

"I'm not especially close to my father. I'm not at all close to my brothers. Friends were always more important than family."

Luke: "All of your characters are alienated from their families?"

Binnie: "When I was young and wrote stories, people told me that all my characters were orphans or only children.

"I don't fully get family."

Luke: "Was there anything autobiographical in any of your mourning scenes? Not showing up to the funeral? Or not being notified."

Binnie: "My father had a stroke a few months ago and it was three days later before anybody told me. When my mother was dying, I was in Europe. When I left for Europe, she was in remission. I didn't get the call that she was dying until she was in the hospital and no longer conscious and that I should come back. She'd been in the hospital for several weeks and nobody called to tell me to come back.

"I always felt like an afterthought.

"My mother used to tell stories that they'd be halfway home and realize I wasn't with them. There was always that feeling that I didn't quite belong to that group."

Luke: "Did your family sit shiva for your mother?"

Binnie: "Yes. We didn't cover the mirrors but we did stay in and spend a week of mourning. I even gave the eulogy at her funeral. That's because my brothers couldn't write.

"There's a scene in a book I'm working on now about sitting Shiva for the mother."

Luke: "Your publisher concludes in its blurb for your book Pure Poetry: 'Lila knows that she has to take action, and in doing so learns some startling truths about herself, her capacity for love, and the nature of true freedom.' Is that true? I don't remember her learning startling truths about herself."

Binnie: "Those things get written by somebody else. If she learned anything, it was that any freedom she's going to have is from within herself. Maybe she learned that loving someone does come with commitments and maybe she wasn't the one to make them."

Luke: "She seemed as lost as ever. It's not like there was redemption."

Binnie: "No, except that she's ready to rid herself of the ghost."

Luke: "There's not a lot of redemption in your books?"

Binnie: "Yeah. I don't believe people really change."

Luke: "Can you give any turningpoints in your life where you were never the same afterwards?"

Binnie: "I always likened going to college to someone who was gay coming out of the closet. There was so much of myself that I kept hidden growing up. There were political awakenings. But no."

Luke: "Surely you had to let some things die to get married?"

Binnie: "Sort of. I always put weddings and funerals in the same box. When somebody marries, lots of things die."

Luke: "There are aren't dramatic realizations in your books."

Binnie: "No. I'm thin on plot. For me, it's the people, not even so much what they do but learning about who they are."

Luke: "I always want them to change their lives, be redeemed and have dramatic realizations."

Binnie: "Hester has one."

Luke: "She doesn't belong in Germany and that German."

Binnie: "And she's no longer ashamed of her parents."

Luke: "All your books are depressing."

Binnie laughs. "They are. I write black comedy."

Luke: "What about you and therapy? Have you had a lot?"

Binnie: "On and off over the years. I'm tired of it. Now I see somebody periodically because I'm medicated. To get my drugs, I have to spend a little time chatting. This is the first person I went to who I think is smarter than me. It's only been nine months.

"One I stayed with for five years but I was definitely smarter."

Luke: "Did you ever put off going on medication because you thought it would diminish your creativity?"

Binnie: "Yeah.

"I remember getting a book accepted by a publisher and thinking, 'I should be really happy now and I'm not.' That was the catalyst [for getting help].

"A friend of mine who went on medication says, 'She's completely the same person only she used to have a headache and now she doesn't.'

"I think that's true. I'm very moody still. I have very dark periods."

Luke: "How long do they last?"

Binnie: "Anywhere from a few days to a year. I just got out of one that was heavily on and off for the last year-and-a-half. It would go away for a few days and come crashing back again.

"I don't worry about killing myself.

"I'm more productive when the medication's working. My work is as dark as before."

Luke: "How does your husband handle you being in a dark place for months?"

Binnie: "He's good about it.

"I remember when Primo Levi killed himself, somebody wrote an op/ed about how terrible it was that somebody who survived what he survived then killed himself and that this was a terrible message to survivors. My husband said, 'What a moronic thing to say. The man was sick.' I remember thinking that was a lovely compassionate way of looking at it.

"He sometimes became impatient with me when I would resist going for help.

"My cycles of depression got worse when I first got married and I resisted going for a couple of years."

Luke: "How much has therapy and medication helped your happiness?"

Binnie: "Medication a lot. I don't know that the therapy has made any difference. I know that is not a Jewish thing to say.

"I hoped that therapy would unlock something in my unconscious that would make a difference in writing but that never happened."

Luke: "Have you had phases of hope in your life that this is the meaning of life?"

Binnie: "No."

Luke: "You've never been a true believer."

Binnie: "I'm a true believer that there are many paths to happiness."

If A Man Appears On The Cover Of LA Weekly, But Does Not Get A Girl, Was He Really There?

A female friend writes: "Racy little article! I would say that it definitely makes you seem like a bad boy to a certain extent. You will probably get a lot of attention, just from the wrong kind of gals. A good Jewish girl is not going to run to mommy and daddy about the man who has lawsuits against him, sleeps with a gun under his pillow, has death threats against him and has an extensive ---- publication past. BUT, you are pure in your faith, so you have that for sure. It HAS to be tough living in between a rock and a hard place Luke. I don't know how you do it."

Cathy Seipp calls me on her cell phone Monday at 1:38 p.m.

Cathy: "Why did you call last night?"

Luke: "About your LA Times article."

Cathy: "What do you think?"

I believe in an unfettered free market in medicine as in other things but I'm not going to argue this now.

Luke: "It was a good solid piece."

Cathy: "Obviously. Is that it?"

Luke: "I can only imagine the reactions you got."

Cathy: "On Daily Kos, they say, 'She deserves it because she's a Republican.'

"Hold on, they're taking my temperature. Do you want to talk to Lewis?"

Luke: "Sure."

Cathy: "Lewis is being sulky and awful. He's here to keep me company but he refuses to keep me company and call you. He won't talk to you. He won't get on the phone and say, 'Miss Seipp is on the line.'"

Luke: "I feel like the magic has gone out of my relationship with Lewis."

Cathy: "He's given up on therapy. He thinks he's perfect."

Luke: "What did you do yesterday? Bask in your glory?"

Cathy: "No. There's no glory. I'm a professional. I just need to get my opinions out there.

"Howie Kurtz called me and interviewed me. It was stupid. I said, 'You know everything I think from my column.' He said, 'I just want to have it in quote form.'"

Luke: "I wonder if Michael Hiltzik will get fired."

Cathy: "I hope so. It's interesting that his column wasn't there today. He may be having a nervous breakdown as we speak. He calls me a tool?"

The Source Of Temptation?

Captain Carmen writes:

There are millions of lonely, unhappy people in the world. I'm one of them. The Internet has given us a 'line in the sky' to reach out and touch one another's lives. This blog is dedicated to exploring online relationships, sex, and society.

I saw a sefer over yomtov that asserts, quite boldly, that the reason men have unhappy marriages and are preoccupied with sex is that we were and are exposed to women. Either at an early, impressionable age (if you're modern) or during the dating process (if you're yeshivish), you've engaged and interacted with more than one or two women, and this will leave you with 'hirhurim,' or 'thoughts.' The implication is that these are impure thoughts which may lead to more serious transgressions.

The author avers that the chasidish method, where one is completely sheltered from any and all external stimuli, and married off young to the first girl deemed an appropriate match, ensures that the man will not be spending the rest of his life wondering what could have been. He'll know that there's such a thing as sex, and it's for procreation and it's a mitzvah, and that's it. He won't know anything beyond that, and his ignorance will be blissful. The assumption is that he'll remain in the sheltered community for the rest of his natural life, and will remain thus protected until 120.

My question is: Is this author correct? Can I blame my 'problems' on exposure?

No moral backbone

From a letter to San Francisco's Jewish weekly, published April 7, 2006:

"Enjoying a cardinal moment" (March 31 j.) displays a rather prominent photograph of Rabbi Stephen Pearce, and other Jewish dignitaries attending the elevation of William J. Levada to cardinal in Rome.

It was disappointing to see that Pearce lacked the moral fortitude exhibited by Mayor Gavin Newsom, by boycotting Archbishop Levada's elevation. Perhaps, Pearce has papal envy.

Newsom courageously announced that he would not attend the elevation of Levada, after the Vatican, and Levada's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, reiterated its opposition to gay adoptions. While it's nice that Pearce's Reform movement, and synagogue, supports the elevation of gay clergy, it is troubling that Pearce lacks the moral backbone to condemn Levada for this blatant rebuke of human rights.

Joel H. Siegal | San Francisco

Longtime journalist and Orthodox Jewish resident of San Francisco, Yisroel Pensack, writes Rabbi Zarchi (a Lubavitcher who is the rabbi of Cong. Chevra Thilim) and a couple of other people:

In its current Book of Remembrance for 5766, Congregation Chevra Thilim lists a "Joel Siegal" (without any middle initial) as a member of its board of directors. I think, but I'm not quite 100 percent certain, that the Joel Siegal on Chevra Thilim's board of directors is an attorney. The SF phone book lists an attorney named Joel H. Siegal.

I saw the list of Chevra Thilim's board members in the Book of Remembrance during Yizkor on the last day of Pesach (April 20).

Before Pesach, on Sunday April 9, after I had read the Siegal letter in J, I asked Chevra Thilim's Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi whether he had read that letter and he said that he had. I asked him whether the Joel Siegal on Chevra Thilim's board spells his name with an "al" at the end, and Rabbi Zarchi said no (meaning the letter writer was not on the shul's board), but he praised the letter writer for criticizing the Reform rabbi. In reply I told Rabbi Zarchi that was not an appropriate way to react, since the letter writer was criticizing Reform Rabbi Pearce for not sufficiently distancing himself from the Archbishop-turned-Cardinal's and the Vatican's stance against gay adoptions, which also happens to be the Torah position on this issue. The letter writer also, of course, looks favorably on "the elevation of gay clergy," but I did not specifically discuss that issue with Rabbi Zarchi.

In any case, whoever this "Joel H. Siegal" may be, he certainly does not properly belong on the board of directors of an ostensibly Orthodox synagogue. I hope he's not the person on Chevra Thilim's board, although I fear that he is.

Joel H. Siegal responds:

Dear Mr. Pensick [sic]:

Your e-mail to my Rabbi, and to others, has been forwarded to me. You are right, I am an attorney, please view this as a letter from a lawyer. You are also correct, I am the author of the April 7, 2006 letter to the J. One more thing that you are correct about, I am a member of the Board of Congregation Chevra Thilim.

You will note that my letter to the "J" is signed by me individually, not as a member of the Board of Congrgation Chevra Thilim. My views do not puport to be those of the board of my shul, or those of any other community or segment of the community. They are my views, and I am entitled to express them. I want to remind you that this is America and not Taliban controlled Afganistan or Saudi Arabia. We have first amendment rights here, and we are not required to submit our views to religious censors before publishing them.

Your letter writing campaignagainst me suggest that you have set yourself up in judgement of me. What gives you the authority to be my judge? I know of nothing in the Torah, that gives you that right. You may think that you understand my religious or moral committments, but I can assure you that you do not. More importantly it doesn't matter what you think about my religious commitments. If you had an issue to raise with Rabbi Zarchi, your inclusion of Mr. Serya into the discussion was not only inappropriate but a very serious Halachic breach.

Since you purport to take your authority from Torah, I would suggest that your letter (which is intended to damage my reputation and standing in the Jewish community and is actionable defamation under American law) is vicious Lashon Hora, which a purported observant Jew like yourself should realize is a very serious avera. If you are indoubt about the what seems to me to be a very obvious Halachic point, you might consult with the sources, or perhaps a qualified Rabbi, who perhaps could assist you in performing an appropriate Tikkun.

Finally, I want to remind you again that the publication of your disparaging comments (and they are disparaging in that they impugn my qualifications to serve on my synagogue's board as well as my religious principles) not only to my Rabbi, but for no reason at all to Mr. Sereya, constitues defamation under American Civil law, and may well expose you to monetary damages. Please understand that if your wrongful defamation results in damages to my reputation, I will take approrpiate action.

My opinions to J are mine to publish as I see fit. If you don't like me, you don't have to sit next to me at the synagogue. If you are offended that I am on the Board, you can go to a different synagogue. But I urge that you desist in your campaign of disparagement against me.

Yisroel Pensack emails:

Rabbi Zarchi called me now [April 21] to say that when I originally asked him (on April 9, during the pre-Passover busy rush) about the Siegal letter in J, he didn't realize that the letter writer was the Joel Siegal who is on Chevra Thilim's board and he didn't have time to look into the matter further at that time because of the upcoming holiday. Rabbi Zarchi says he asked Joel Siegal about the letter when he saw him in shul on Pesach, and that he also has and intends to discuss it with him further.

Compare Siegal's letter to J criticizing Pearce with his email letter to me (both may be found above). Siegal is apparently too obtuse or self-righteous to have done that himself, or even to have thought about that. Interestingly, he's the one who tried to intimidate me and suppress my freedoms of speech and religion by implied threat of legal action. A true credit to his profession. I'm thinking of reporting him to the State Bar for using unethical, improper tactics in an unjustified, wrongful attempt to silence me and vitiate my constitutional rights. For someone who writes "this is America and not Taliban controlled Afganistan or Saudi Arabia," Siegal seems to exhibit a tendency to want to suppress speech he does not like, something I did not and generally would not try to do. I see him as just another bully hiding behind the facade of the law.

An Exchange With White Nationalist Thinker Yggdrasil

I write to him: "I read your entire section on white nationalism. As a religious zionist, I see striking similarities. Do you?"

Yggdrasil responds:

Of course I see similarities! However, zionisim is based on the idea that jews are special and exceptional. If you take the right of jews to their ethnostate and generalize that into a universal human right for all identifiable groups of humanity including white europeans - you are advocating a model for the world that most diaspora Jews would find terrifying.

The fact that their fears are irrational is utterly beside the point. They have power, and the longer the irrational fears inform the exercise of that power, the more compelling the case for non-Jews to confront and contain that power.

That is the nub of it: all the rest is mere commentary.

After reading your web site, I conclude that you have either (a) accomplished what I never though possible, namely transforming flattery of Jewish vanity from what I had always considered a lowly craft into a rarified art form (and I mean that as a compliment) or (b) concealed from your readership the fact that you are a remarkably devious rascal.

Hotel Honolulu: A Novel by Paul Theroux

This is a great book which begins with a great opening sentence: "Nothing to me is so erotic as a hotel room, and therefore so penetrated with life and death..."

Hotel Honolulu is filled with love, sex, jealousy, drama, and adds a gay quarrel and an adorable kid who says she's "stoked."

The story line: A blocked writer becomes a hotel manager and finds love and great stories from his guests' secret lives.

I can't get a room in a hotel without developing excitement (even in a two star hotel). Next door you often hear people getting to know each other. Usually you're in a strange city and you feel like the ordinary moral rules no longer apply to you. You can do what you like without running into someone from your religious community.

Rabbis Who Grandstand

People grouse to me about rabbis who grandstanded on controversial issues and get media coverage for it.

As someone who usually enjoys attention, I can't find it in my heart to blanketly condemn grandstanding. My whole life is a grandstand.

The word means "to play or act so as to impress onlookers."

Yes, it is not an attractive quality, but what matters is how it is done and for what cause.

Wanting to impress people is a terrific motivator to doing good things. Much of my motivation for blogging is that I want to impress certain people (hot fertile Jewish chicks ready to marry an Aussie eccentric).

Judaism tends to be an insular religion focused on the performance of detailed and minute commandments of daily living within a tightknit community. But there's nothing wrong with raising a ruckus about human rights issues abroad as long as you are right and what you advocate does good (and not just feels good).

People expect too much of their rabbis (and clergy). I know people would cross the world to see my father. I have many issues with my father but in all the cases I know about, he gave good advice (or at least not bad advice). Still, most of the time, I think these petitioners could've found just as good advice closer to home. They just wanted to get it from my father because he was such a dynamic, charismatic and eloquent public speaker who turned their hearts upside down.

Partly as a consequence of being constantly hunted down, my father had a part of his personality that hated people. "Hell is other people," he often said, quoting Sartre.

Most clergy are not going to be your friend. Most dynamic public speakers are cold fish in person. I'm a cold fish in person unless I'm with that tiny percentage of people that I really like (Cathy Seipp, etc). Most effective clergy are not going to be the type of person you want to have a beer with and share stories about your life.

I remember a woman I knew in temple who was profoundly moved by our rabbi's teachings. She wanted to go up and tell him how appreciative she was of his sermons. After a few months, she finally realized the rabbi didn't really give a damn whether or not she or 99% of people loved his sermons. He just wanted to keep the synagogue's bills paid and his wife from having a nervous breakdown.

One of my big problems is that I seek too much from my romantic relationships. When I fall in love with a woman, it shatters me and turns me inside out. All my repressed feelings pour out and it's usually too much for the poor chick. I become insecure and clingy and jealous.

Battling Cancer -- and Blue Cross

Cathy Seipp writes in The LA Times:

I was diagnosed with advanced, inoperable lung cancer in 2002 and so now typically reach my $2,500 individual deductible by January and my out-of-pocket cap by February.

...But that oncologist's report clarifies what is the crux of my current problem with Blue Cross — and the problem any health insurance company has with cancer patients who just don't hurry up and die already. These new therapies may be great for humanity but not for WellPoint executives who don't like the thought of a $2.5-billion annual profit reduced to, say, $2.499 billion.

Now, at this point you may be thinking, as people often do when they hear frightening stories about medical calamities and try to imagine reasons it won't happen to them: "Lung cancer … hmm, well, people shouldn't smoke." And you're right, they shouldn't. That's why I never did, not even one cigarette. Nor did I ever live or work with smokers. I also am one of the mere 3% of Americans who have always had completely healthy habits: exercising vigorously more than an hour each day, eating the recommended seven-plus servings of fruits and vegetables, never being overweight or drinking to excess. And I was prudent in picking my family, with its cancer-free history. Three of my grandparents lived into their 80s; the fourth died at 99.


Khunrum writes: "Quote of the week comes from a long term reader and contributor to the site. He was talking about Phuket, but the comment applies equally as well to Thailand in general. "This is a great place to live, but only if you have no ambition.""

Helen Reddy Writes About Jeff Wald In Her Forthcoming Memoir

She says she married him out of desperation over her right to work and live in the United States.

Jeff started out as charming. He said he'd take care of her. She was a divorced mother.

At a meager salary, Jeff worked as a secretary for William Morris, but he was funny, bright and handsome.

Jeff tracked her down. He beat her at chess. He was great with her three-year-old daughter Traci.

He lied about his age (he was only 22 but said he was older).

He got her to move in with him.

He wasn't threatened by her intelligence and drive.

Traci began calling Jeff "daddy."

[pg. 170] In the space of thirteen months, I had given birth, had three number-one bit records and my own television series, won a Grammy, lost both parents, my aunt, and my closest friend, and faced death myself. On the stress scale, I was off the chart, but it was my husband/manager who was unable to handle the pressure. As bullies tend to do, he took advantage of my vulnerable state and, four weeks after Aunty Nell's death, he became verbally abusive. I did not have the emotional resources to cope.

[pg. 228] The recording in Los Angeles of my last album for MCA, called Imagination, was to coincide with the end of my second marriage and the dissolution of our business partnership. It was not to be an amicable divorce, and I had to constantly remind myself that I was not dealing with a human being in the normal sense; I was dealing with a human being under the influence of a powerful chemical.

There have been many moments of blinding truth in my life. One was during the dying days of my second marriage. Despite all the denials, it was obvious to me that my husband still had a cocaine problem. He had been treated before for his [229] addiction but his behavior indicated that he was still using- as did his pillow which, by morning, had blood spots, bone fragments and gristle from his nose embedded in it. After he had left the house one morning, I went through the clothes in his wardrobe, something I would never have normally done. Sure enough, I found a vial of cocaine in one of his coat pockets. As I angrily poured the contents into the toilet bowl, I had flashbacks of myself-emptying Mum's hidden brandy bottles down the kitchen sink as a young girl; pouring out my first husband's cheap whiskey the same way; dumping Number Two's diet pills down the toilet; and here I was now with the cocaine doing it again. Obviously what I was doing wasn't working and, as the only common denominator in every scenario was me and my reaction, it would seem that I had a problem. Different city, different person, different substance, but old Helen was still coping in the same way and it didn't work. I needed professional help. I called the wife of a colleague I knew to be in a twelve-step program and went to my first Al-Anon meeting the same night.

I had often been threatened that if I ever left my husband/manager, he would "bad-mouth me out of the business."

[233] He planned to accuse me of child abuse, even though I had never in my life raised a hand to my son. It was beyond devastating. He had struck at me where I lived-as a mother.

Several of my performing contracts were canceled, and one promoter told me he couldn't book me in case a certain someone "came after him with a shotgun." It seemed to me that this person was trying to destroy my livelihood. Why was he doing this, when he was taking away money that his children stood to benefit from? I had hoped that with me no longer acting the role of the enabler financially, it would put brakes on his gambling and drug taking. What I had underestimated was the "old boy" network and the extent to which others were willing to fill the void in his finances.

[241] In between his father's drug-fueled rants about what a terrible person his mother was, Jordan was being subjected to viewings of Kramer vs. Kramer and The Champ, two tear-jerking, emotionally manipulative father-son films.

[244] My wedding to Number Three was a happy day in a sea of misery, despite Number Two's efforts to disrupt the occasion. Although he was in Europe at the time, Number Two arranged for me to be served with a subpoena as I was walking down the aisle.

The cover of People magazine about Helen's divorce from Jeff read "Hollywood's Dirtiest Custody Case."

Gary James' Interview With Helen Reddy

Does Helen Reddy really need an introduction? Probably not, but we're going to give her one anyway. She came to this country from Australia, landed a record deal with Capitol Records, and had a hit with the first song she recorded "I Don't Know How To Love Him". The song that put Helen Reddy over the top, the song that made her a household name was "I Am Woman". That song went to Number One, and earned Helen a Grammy Award. Other hits followed, including "Angie Baby", "Delta Dawn", "Leave Me Alone (Ruby Red Dress)" and "You And Me Against the World". In short, Helen Reddy ruled. You might well ask what Helen Reddy is doing these days. Today, she's an environmental activist who served three years as Commissioner of Parks and Recreation for the State of California. She recently formed her own record company, Helen Reddy Inc. and released a new CD titled "Feel So Young". The CD sleeve uses ninety per cent less plastic, and seventy per cent less paper than traditional packaging. We spoke with Helen Reddy about her career, her life today, the environment, and one of her earliest gigs, in Syracuse, New York.

Q - Would you have been as successful as you were/are if Jeff Wald had not entered your life?

A - When I met him, he was 22 years old. He was working as a secretary at the William Morris office. He was a secretary for one of the agents there. He wasn't an agent himself. He was living with his mother in the Bronx. To infer that he made me, when I already had so much success, is, I think, misleading. I think we were able to help each other for awhile there. I would say that the association professionally was mutually beneficial for a time. But, I think ultimately it became destructive.


From her publicist:

Helen Reddy's riveting story of her rise to international fame-and her triumph over illness, abusive husbands, and the pitfalls of the music industry

"You can still see the woman who woke up one day with the line 'I am strong, I am invincible' running around her head."-Catherine Keenan, The Sydney Morning Herald

"From the age of four when she first appeared on stage, it was clear that Reddy's star would rise. She set her heart and mind on becoming famous in America (and therefore internationally) and nothing short of dogged determinism, hard work, and her talent got her there." -Lucy Clark, books editor, Sunday Mall

"Reddy's autobiography, The Woman I Am, offers frank insight into a woman who first took the stage at the age of four and who evolved into an artist and individual sustained by her strong spiritual faith." -Miranda Korzy, Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin

Here is the inspiring life story of the woman whose song "I Am Woman" became an international hit and the anthem of 1 970s feminism.

In The Woman / Am (a Tarcher/Penguin hardcover, May 4, 2006, 1-58542-489-7; $24.95) Helen Reddy gives readers an intimate account of her musical career, her often tumultuous personal life, and her steady spiritual growth, from her first childhood performances in Melbourne, through the height of international stardom, to a contented life as a hypnotherapist in Sydney, Australia.

Born into a show business family in Melbourne-both her parents, Max Reddy and Stella Lamond, were vaudevillians-Helen Reddy seemed destined for fame. Her mother taught her to sing and revealed to her an invaluable truth, that what set the human voice apart from every other musical instrument was its ability to "tell a story."

More than twenty years later, Helen Reddy would use her voice to tell a story that millions of women were hungry to hear, a story about their own strength, their own courage, their own self-worth. But reaching that pinnacle was not easy, and realizing her own self-worth would not come without a cost.

After winning a talent contest in 1966, Reddy set off with her three-year-old daughter and $230 to make it big in New York City. She had seen the destructive effects of alcohol on her parents, and her first husband's abusive behavior while under the influence led to their divorce. Now she was a single mother, a female vocalist from Australia, trying to make it in New York at a time when male rock groups were all the music industry seemed to want.

More success and more grief would come to Reddy, hand in hand. Just as she reached the height of her career in the early 70s-when "I Am Woman" climbed to number one in the pop charts and she became the first Australian to win the Grammy for Best Female Vocalist-both her parents died and she was diagnosed with a rare and incurable illness.

"In the space of thirteen months," Reddy writes, "I had given birth, had three number-one hit records and my own television series, lost both parents, my aunt, and my closest friend, and faced death myself."

Reddy had contracted Addison's disease (a disease from which John F. Kennedy also suffered), a rare disorder linked to malfunctioning adrenal glands, which can be fatal if left untreated but can be managed with cortisone injections. But like so much else in her life, learning of her disease only deepened Reddy's resolve and energized her to fulfill the assertion of her most famous lyric: "I am strong, I am invincible." Only an invincible woman could come through such suffering with such grace.

Throughout The Woman I Am, Reddy explores with unflinching honesty the emotional highs and lows that shaped her life as an artist and deepened her spiritual faith. We learn of her earliest musical influences-Lena Home, Peggy Lee, Marlene Dietrich, Lana Cantrell-her near death from Kidney failure in 1959, and an out-of-body experience when she was a young girl that would initiate a spiritual exploration that would lead her to study reincarnation, past-life regression, and hypnotherapy.

We hear of her bitter divorce from her second husband and manager, a man who became addicted to cocaine and sought to undermine Reddy's career and turn her son against her. But we also see Reddy's great love of singing, her triumphant performances before Kings, Queens, and Presidents, and her quiet and but steady spiritual growth.

The Woman I Am gives us rich insight into the inner life and outer circumstance of the singer who boldly claimed "I am woman, hear me roar."

Gay Conservative rabbi to teach tolerance at S.F.’s Beth Sholom

Rabbi J.B. Sacks is many things: a Conservative rabbi, a father, a student. But he has also been called an activist or agitator, which “is a badge I wear proudly.”

“‘Justice, justice you shall pursue,’ does not mean maintaining the status quo at all costs, especially when the quality of life of human beings are at stake,” he said.

Sacks was the first openly gay Conservative rabbi in the country.

The Senator Joe McCarthy Of Blogging

I'm a very private person -- modest, polite, self-effacing. I write of the quiet, contemplative playful moments in life. I eschew the sensational, and I refuse to discuss blogging in anything but the most simple, straightforward language.

When asked about my blogging, I'm terse and direct. "I really don't have much to say about that, because in a way I work organically. I don't have any fixed ideas about style or form. When the impulse comes and I have an idea or a perception, I let it take me wherever it will go. The form follows that."

I'm a pale cocksman -- a poet of the gentle, comic, grandfatherly demeanor and pastoral tone and setting always close to the sexual impulse. (Meaning and Memory by Gary Pacernik, p. 22)

'Any Kids In This Shul?'

A stranger is early for mincha (afternoon prayers). He asks if there are any kids in this shul.

I laugh. It's overrun with kids on Saturday mornings.

The stranger says he's from San Francisco. Some Orthodox shuls there don't have kids.

"There's no Torah in San Francisco," I say.

Orthodox Rabbi Meets Fear Factor Live

"Because I've had only one day's rest," said the rabbi Saturday morning (Passover ended Thursday night), "I'm only pitching four innings today and maybe one batter in the fifth."


He said he won a trip to Universal's theme park in a silent charity auction so he took his family over chol chamoed (one of the intermediate days of the eight-day Passover festival). He took his family into Fear Factor Live.


Any time an Orthodox rabbi talks about doing anything worldly, from listening to the radio to mentioning some pop culture figure such as Britney Spears, it's funny.

I started listening intently.

"I figured it couldn't be too bad with all the kids around," said the rabbi.

But it was very bad. The contestants ate disgusting animal parts and one risked electrocution.

"I've never been in an audience so far from God," reflected the rabbi.

"What a giant opportunity for teshuva (repentance)." Only there was no opportunity to bring the audience to repentance because nobody seemed disturbed, or even ill at ease, by how far they were from God.

The rabbi reminded us that in every conversation, in every email, we had the opportunity to choose between holiness and profanity.

God, I got some great bon mots from this sermon I will pervert and use on friends. "Cathy, you don't seem in pain, or even disturbed, by how far you are from God."

Or, "Do you realize that this is an opportunity to choose between profanity and holiness?"

Or, "Every moment is an opportunity for a mitzvah."

Or, "I don't boast about my study of Torah, for why else was I born?"

I'm going to be insufferable.

Claude Broedesser On LAT Columnist Michael Hiltzik

Claude blogs:

And at the root of online discourse is anonymous posting. It enables the public, and indeed, newsmakers, to safely share in the dialog that a free press produces.

Should or shouldn't reporters enjoy that same freedom when posting anonymously? Aren't we (with apologies to kids everywhere) "people, too?"

Hiltzik might have cloaked his identity - something seemingly at variance with the Times' policies - but what he did was hardly lying or for that matter, extortion.

You can't post anonymously to praise yourself and to attack others and maintain credibility. Only a weasel acts as Hiltzik did. He's scum for numerous reasons such as this. He deserves to get fired.