Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category


Sunday, December 20th, 2009

As the year winds down, it’s time to consider the highpoints and hand out kudos to top performers.

Best text messager: Andy House, who drove his $2 million Bugatti Veyron into a lagoon because he was texting at the wheel and what was left of his brain was allegedly distracted by a low-flying pelican.  The link’s headline says “$1 million,” but other sources put the price at around $1.8 million.” Although–what are a few zeroes among friends?images

Best explanation of why we need to have our handguns with us AT ALL TIMES.  The gun enthusiast’s website, Frontsite goes through how to do just this. What about when you go to the bathroom? their newsletter asks.  A question that has often worried me.  And the answer is both logical and practical.

“If your gun is in a holster attached to your belt, keep it there.  When you pull up your pants, the gun will still be there.  Where you get into trouble is when you are not using a holster and set your gun aside in the bathroom. THIS is at least an embarrassment and at worst a tragedy waiting to happen. Do people leave guns in bathrooms? ALL THE TIME simply because they set their gun aside rather than keeping it in the holster or (if not wearing a holster) placing it on top of their dropped trousers between their legs…Private citizens, law enforcement, and government agents leave their guns in hotels, airports, and restaurants on a regular basis… DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU.  The result of your carelessness will cost you and can be tragic.” images-1

Or ludicrous, depending  on your sensibility.

And, while we’re on the topic, Most creative marketing plan of the year goes to beer vendors at the Washington, DC, pro football stadium.

Best book moment of the year: Amazon’s decision to remove some 57000 authors it deemed riské or offensive, from its rankings and search engine.  These included most LGBT authors, including James Baldwin. Just a computer glitch, they assured us after 18000 people signed up for a boycott.

Best politician of the year.  This is such a crowded field I wouldn’t presume to decide, especially since I’m biased in favor of my own Rod Blagojevich, who shook down a children’s hospital for campaign contributions, and wanted to put Barack’s Senate seat onto the market.

South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, flying to Argentina to see a lady friend, claimed he was hiking the Appalachian trail instead.  The state recently fined him $73000 to cover the cost of using the state plane for the flight, which seems kind of cheap, but the cost of living is lower in the south.

Jenny Sanford, who decided to divorce Mark is much duller than Patti Blagojevich, who ate tarantulas on TV–she says she did it for her family.

And then, New Jersey, which is always stealing Chicago’s corruption thunder, gave us some Brooklyn  rabbis and the mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, involved in a money-laundering scheme so complex that V I Warshawski threw up her hands in despair over trying to unravel it.  Suffice it to say that a yeshiva’s papers were taken as part of the evidence, and that human kidney trafficking played a role.

Please let me know the many wonderful stories I missed.

More Light

Friday, December 11th, 2009

Chanukah begins at sundown on December 11.  It’s a child’s holiday, with candles, songs, and, in the affluent west these days, presents.  For adults, at least for me, it’s a bit more problematic–it’s a holiday that celebrates confusing things, the triumph of religion over reason, the cleansing of the Temple, the start of a theocracy not unlike current-day Iran’s.

Religion and politics in the Middle East in 167 BCE were just as complicated and deadly a combination as they’ve remained today.  As David Brooks reports in the New York Times, many 2nd century BCE Jews embraced Greek culture, including elevating the power of reason over blind faith.  Others were furious at the way in which science and art had taken the fundamentals out of that old time religion.  And the Macabees belonged to this second group.  When the Graeco-Syrian rulers took a step too far in defiling the Temple, the Macabees were able to rouse local opinion and begin a revolution against Syrian rule.

The history, with the restoration of the Temple, makes me proud, sad, appalled, breathstruck at the beauty and misery of it all.  Yes, the lights burned again in front of the Holy of Holies, the sacrificial pigs were cleansed from the sacred space.  But a century of enlightenment crashed to an end as religious rule was restored first with an iron, and then with an inept and corrupt fist.  And within another 200 years, the Diaspora ushered in 2000 years of suffering, culminating in the Shoah.  During those years, lighting Chanukah candles became a statement of courage.  You put them in  your window, even though that could invite the destruction of your home and the murder of your family, to show that you were not ashamed to be a Jew.chanukah3

The parallels to American and Iranian religious fundamentalism are so pointed that I won’t dwell on them.  (No, we don’t believe in evolution!  Yes, climate change is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the American people! rousing statements by members of Congress, candidates for President, and ministers.)

Meanwhile, some people are trying to make political hay out of the Obamas’ invitation to a holiday party in honor of Chanukah.  The Obamas invited 50 fewer people than did the Bushes–they must be dissing the Jews.  They didn’t say “Happy Chanukah” on the invitation–unlike the Bushes, who put a Christmas tree on theirs.

This time of year exhausts me with its fights over who is holier than thou.  On the Christian side of the aisle, a member of the Tea Bag Party is trying to put a law on California’s books requiring every public school in the state to force all children to sing Christmas carols.  The proposed law includes an enforcement clause requiring the state to litigate against schools that don’t comply.  California is sinking under its budget deficit, but surely it can find room to put Christmas Carol Inspectors on the rolls.

The only way I can cope with the season is to turn away from the history of bloodshed, the warfare over holiness, and focus on the lights: the flame on the candles, the twinkling of the Christmas decorations.  More light.  More and more light.  And with it, as the US ramps up for year eight of its own Middle Eastern wars, as the desolation continues in Darfur,


in Congo, Zimbabwe, and in Gaza, may we please find some little flame of peace that we can blow on and turn into a true fire–not of zealotry, but of justice.  And may the One who makes peace in the High Places grant peace to us all.

Kaddish, by Rex Sexton

Kaddish, by Rex Sexton

A Quiet Week

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

in Lake Woebegone, Garrison Keillor’s home town, but not so much so in Chicago.  We started with a gang of housebreakers who targeted our area.  They would come to the front door; if anyone answered, they’d say they were looking for yard work.  If no one answered, they’d hustle around to the back and break in through the second story windows–they even carried ladders with them.  We haven’t seen them for a few days and don’t know if they were caught, or simply cleaned out our street and have moved on.

Two days ago, while walking my dog in the park south of the Museum of Science and Industry I came on a man torturing a dog.  I called the University of Chicago security, since they usually come faster than city cops, but they said, out of their jurisdiction.  By the time I actually spoke to a Chicago dispatcher, the man realized I was on the phone and had packed his dog up and taken off.  I feel the kind of helpless rage you feel when you haven’t been brave enough to save a small creature in need–but I knew my golden retriever and I could not get close to a man with a tortured bull dog.  I’m trying to find a direct line to the animal abuse unit at the Chicago Police so I can put it on speed dial if, Gd forbid, there is a next time.

And finally, while walking home with my dog this morning I managed to fall and impale myself on my cellphone.  Somehow neither the phone nor I broke but I am badly bruised and will be pretty gimpy for a week or two.  Meanwhile, my dog is definitely not Lassie: she thought the sight of me on the ground was hysterically funny.  She snatched my hat from my head and began barking and lunging at me, daring me to try to catch her and get the hat back.  When passers=by stopped to help, Not-Lassie tried to entice them into tug of war with the hat.


And that’s all the news from Lake Michigan.  Don’t have a catchy paraphrase of Keillor’s tagline, but you get the point.


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December 2009