Tuesday, March 31, 2009

If God Had Blogged

If God had had the Internet, he could have rested on the fourth day. (Unless he had service from Time-Warner.)

Adam would have been computer-generated, photo-shopped, j-pegged and pinged in an HTML. His rib? Cut and pasted into Eve’s virtual pecs.

If the Disciples had blogged, the Gospels would have been posted--every four years… or so. In 400 word chapter and verse. Spell-check would have suggested replacing the begats and the haths. Would Matthew
et al have auto-corrected? Without asking the Writers Guild if they had to?

If Moses and the Israelites had possessed “Final Cut Pro” (user’s manual on two tablets), the Red Sea would have parted digitally, perfectly. The polls, reflecting it, would have predicted another three or four centuries of cyber-sway for the Jews, give or take a margin of error of two or three tribes. YouTube would have offered five or six different videos of it.

The Black Plague might have been deleted. Hitler, isolated as a devastating virus. Hoover, spammed.

If Lincoln had twittered, the entire Gettysburg Address would be:

4 score & 7 yrs ago our fathrs brought 4th on this continent a nu nation
conceived in liberty and dedicated 2 the proposition that all men r
r what for God’s sake? dont leave me hangn there, abe!

If FDR had texted, we’d have had nothng to fear xpt fear itslf.

If Congress created the world…………..

…we’d still be waiting for it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Wonderful Town, Installment Two

A man boarded an elevator in a Los Angeles building and chose the button for his floor. Even before the elevator had climbed to the second floor, he pushed the button three more times. A lady on the elevator said, “You must be from New York.”

New York, New York is “A Wonderful Town.” It’s a small town where Adolph Green, co-lyricist with Betty Comden of the song, “Wonderful Town” (not from the show “Wonderful Town” but from “On the Town”—got it?) became a wonderful New York chum. Adolph Green was a Jewish leprechaun to me, “spritely” and mentally mischievous. He was the best “drop-the-needle” player I ever encountered, meaning he could identify a piece of classical music faster (I suspected) than even the composer of “Wonderful Town” and “On the Town,” his collaborator on both shows, Leonard Bernstein. Adolph once sang a movement of Mahler for me (unsolicited) on the corner of 63rd and Central Park West. That’s not likely to happen at Hollywood and Vine.

A tourist from L.A. stops a New Yorker to ask, “Pardon me, could you tell me how to get to Times Square or should I just go fuck myself?”

My friend Herb Graff and I shared passions for New York quirks [see “A Wonderful Town” entry below], New York anecdotes and incomparable New York characters like Adolph Green. Profiled in The New Yorker for being one of the city’s great raconteurs, Herb could break up any room with his punchy, borscht-belt delivery, but when we dined with Adolph, it was Adolph who provided the often-suppressed laughter, often inadvertently. When Adolph typically couldn’t make up his mind—in this instance about what entrée to order—he looked at the next table to see what they were having. But he didn’t stop there. First he praised the way a certain dish looked, then asked what it was and was it good, and then, only faintly commended by the uncomfortable diner, he ordered it.

Herb dined out for years on this one: A man approached Adolph saying, “I’ll bet you don’t remember me.” Adolph screwed up his face and whined, “Don’t make me guess.” According to Herb, Robert Redford, on the town, when asked exactly the same question by a fellow who prefaced it with challenging remarks like “You’re a big man now” and “After all, you’re a star,” and the capper, “We went to school together,” replied, with initial feigned warmth, “I DO remember you! You were an asshole then and you’re an asshole now.”

It is a wonderful town. Herb had two California acquaintances who came to New York, excited because someone had given them, gratis, an unoccupied East Village pad to use. An un-air-conditioned pad. In the dead of August. On their first night here they tossed and turned until dawn in a one-hundred degree chamber until one of them suggested they put on the clothes they’d strewn, piece by piece, from beds to floor and go for a walk to get some air. Ninety degrees outside felt good to them when suddenly, at the crack of dawn, a man came charging down the street toward them… and past them… in a low-cut evening dress and stiletto shoes. These two Californians had never seen such a thing! They couldn’t wait to see Herb to tell him and couldn’t get the words out fast enough. Herb’s reaction? “He was probably late for work.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

No Republican Left Behind

I keep promising myself and others not to do any more “political” pieces for awhile. Then another Republican opens his mouth.

I’m learning that every time one dunderhead says something dumber than anything I believe I’ve heard before, I can bank on a new one who won’t keep the public waiting 24 hours to say something even stupider. They surface like seaweed.

I know Republicans don’t have a corner on stupidity, but they’re making a grand old effort to make it look like they do.

Enter Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa, U.S. Senator. Dumb as grass.

Publicly airing his outrage with the AIG mega-bonus babies, Senator Dumbassly declared:
“…They would make me feel a little bit better towards them if they’d, uh, follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say ‘I’m sorry,” and then either do one of two things--resign, or… go commit suicide.”
But mesmerized by a shiny object—a microphone—he couldn’t stop there.
“It’s irresponsible for the corporations to give bonuses at this time when they’re so suckin’ the tit of the taxpayer.”
Classy doesn’t rhyme with Grassley. (We’ll leave “Chuck” alone.) When the most intelligent thing a man says in 66 words is “uh,” you have to wonder: Why can’t Republicans teach their brethren how to speak? Whenever I encounter Rush Limbaugh gorging on trash talk, I wonder that he puts food in that same mouth.

Some cultures characteristically speak in poetic or flowery phrases—on the face of it a cultured and all in all admirable trait. But I believe they seduce themselves with it. I’ve always thought that was a major part of the problem in negotiating with the Arabs—what they say sounds so good to them as they say it, it becomes gospel. So it is with Republicans, teachers’ pets all, who lingered in the classroom long after the bell tolled, hanging on the precious rhetoric of Ronald Reagan and the absent syntax of George W. Bush with the same awe-baited breath when they should have taken a few extra-curricular speaking lessons from the likes of someone who speaks sense, not spin. Enter Barney Frank.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Wonderful Town

As out of hand as St. Patrick’s Day in New York can be, it used to be worse.

Twenty years ago, I was escorting an Israeli couple through mid-town Manhattan. The husband, a friend of mine from Israeli Intelligence, had been to New York many times. It was his wife’s first visit.

We were supposed to be showing her the town he raved about and loved returning to. Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral. But, as we walked, he and I were so involved in an intense conversation about conditions in Israel and the Middle East we lost total track of her… until, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed her head bobbing and swiveling left, right, left and right again, repeatedly and swiftly. I interrupted my conversation with him to ask her, “What are you so busy looking at?” In halting, heavily-accented English, she asked, “Why is everyone wearing green and why is everyone vomiting?”

I had thought to point out St. Patrick’s Cathedral, but had forgotten—had completely overlooked—that it was St. Patrick’s Day.

My intelligent Intelligence friend said, “What amazes me more about New York than the crazy, eccentric things that go on in the streets here every day is that you New Yorkers don’t even notice!

He was right. Heads don’t turn. (Did they ever?) We who live in New York City live so long among some things so bizarre we fail to notice anything different about them. A man wearing only a cowboy hat, jockey shorts and a guitar struts in Times Square and never frets even in the dead of winter, posing for tourists who take photos of him and with him, never noting that the midday cowboy never strums his frets because he can’t play guitar. But New Yorkers?... pay him no mind.

My dear departed friend Herb Graff and I started taking note, and once we did, we never stopped. If we weren’t together when we marveled over what we encountered, we would call one another as fast as we could to share and savor “what I just saw… wait’ll you hear this one!”

We had just left the (old original) Russian Tea Room when we heard--to our astonishment, beheld--a man with a metal wash tub over his head belting an opera aria at the top of his voice. After watching in morbid fascination for a few minutes with me, Herb said, “I’m going to ask him why.” He walked over to the man, lowered his head and stuck it underneath the tub. After a few moments, he ducked his head out from under the tub and returned to me. “What did he say?” I asked. Herb answered, “He said it sounds better.”

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fools Rush In

An angry child says, “I wish you were dead.” Even to a beloved parent, in cuttingly measured tones, “I/ wish/ you/ were… dead! That’s a child speaking.

Every mother and father knows that two minutes later they get their loving, caring child back. Every child knows that in less time than that he or she is forgiven.

In the world of adults, it’s different. Or at least it’s supposed to be. The Sixth Commandment should have a VI-a. to it: Thou shalt not kill off others. People can get into serious trouble by wishing someone dead.

So, what is it with the Republicans?

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning chose an annual Lincoln Day Dinner (of all occasions) to pronounce Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg “half-dead.” As reported by Joseph Gerth in Louisville’s Courier-Journal:

“Ruth Bader Ginsburg … has cancer. Bad cancer. The kind that you don't get better from. Even though she was operated on, usually, nine months is the longest that anybody would live after [being diagnosed] with pancreatic cancer," Bunning said.

GOP-Leader-By-Default Rush Limbaugh polluted radio airwaves again by ranting about the passage of health care reform legislation:

"Before it's all over, it'll be called the Ted Kennedy memorial health care bill.”

Rush-To-Judgment’s dittoheads justly point out that he didn’t specifically mention death. Anyone with half an education should point out to them that memorials are not held for the living. Except, perhaps, for the living dead, under the guise of caucuses (dangerously close to carcasses), conventions and the Conservative Political Action Conference (dangerously close to falling off the right side of the Earth). Which brings us to the Republicans’ death wishes for themselves, and for the once-grand old party.

Is it premature to pronounce the GOP DOA? Probably. Still, there’s a quasi Jim Jones’ Jamestown quality to their rapture.

When Paul Krassner, the creator of the irreverent 60s and early 70s magazine, “The Realist,” was asked on British radio if, based on a satirical piece he had written, he condoned necrophilia, he answered, “Only between consenting adults.”

Friday, March 6, 2009

Oh Johnny, We Never Knew Ye

Let’s put it to rest once and for all—John McCain is not a nice guy.

None of the multiple-personality John McCains are company you’d want to keep. He’s a malevolent senator who was a duplicitous presidential candidate who was a self-promoted maverick who, aided and abetted by his self-promoting, syntax-fracturing running mate, made maverick a dirty word. When I think they might have added their four years of loutish stupidity to George Bush’s eight years of homogenized stupidity, I break into cold sweats.

Where were the legs on which you ran, McCain, hurroo,
When you stood for being your own man, hurroo, hurroo,
With your drums and guns and wagging thumbs,
Your gnashing teeth and your flashing of gums,
And the Palin-drone “maverick” slickly becomes
Oh Johnny, we hardly knew ye.
Let’s skip to the beginning: young John McCain was a son of privilege who was the black sheep of a family with a distinguished military legacy who distinguished himself by finishing fifth from the bottom of his 899-member Naval Academy class and crashing three U.S. military planes—before getting shot down in a fourth, which led to his capture and torture by the North Vietnamese. By all accounts he was stoic and heroic, and I have no doubt he deserved the awards and decorations and hero status he received for the physical abuse he bravely endured from his captors. But I can see how he could get under their skin. He gets under mine.

John McCain is toxic. (In school, he was known as "McNasty.") He may, by any definition, be a hero, but he serves John McCain. And it serves him now to rail and posture about the few issues he can sound knowledgeable about—earmarks and wasteful spending.

Wasteful spending is the President of the United States spending and wasting good time reaching across the aisle for a man who is a toxic waste.