Monday, September 16, 2019

You're Not My Type

A recent flap in British theatrical circles flew in on the wings of an American import called Falsettos. The play, according to the Guardian, “follows a dysfunctional Jewish family as they come to terms with the Aids crisis.”(1) The problem, according to protestors in an open letter, is that the producers demonstrated
a startling lack of cultural sensitivity and at worst, overt appropriation and erasure of a culture and religion increasingly facing a crisis.
To the best of our knowledge, no one in the cast of the UK premiere is Jewish, and neither is the director or anyone on the team.
The letter, the Guardian reports, “used the term ‘Jewface’ to describe the casting of non-Jewish actors to play Jewish roles."


Now, Maureen Lipman, one of the most prominent of signatories of the protest letter, is an actress I respect. But I have to feel that the power of Ms. Lipman’s protest is somewhat vitiated by the fact that over her distinguished career she has played Enid Blyton, a character called Reverend Alicia, other characters with the surnames Shortstop, Higgins, Lucas, Dormer, Spencer, Richardson, Liddell, Whittle, Firebrace, Haddon, MacBride, McShane, and Riley—as well as the Princess of France. I would venture to suggest that one or two of those characters were shiksas.

Indeed, Jewish thespians have prospered by playing goyim. And the world hasn’t seen a protest by, say, Italians at the host of Jews appropriating their roles. A few:

Peter Falk—Columbo
Barry Newman—Petrocelli
James Caan—Sonny Corleone
Kirk Douglas—Frank Ginetta
Claire Bloom—Juliet
Tony Curtis—Sam Giancana
Leonard Marx—Chico Marx
and Edward G. Robinson, who almost cornered the market (Rico, Joe Ventura, “Big Jim” Riva, Mario Manetta, Vincent Canelli, Gino Monetti, Johnny Rocco, Little John Sarto, Remy Marco, Nick Donati and Tony Garotta).(2)


And no Vulcans, to my knowledge, have complained about Leonard Nimoy’s Spock.


It should be noted that the Jews have come late to the cultural appropriations party. There have been protests by Black, Chinese, Latin, Native American, disabled, gay, and other actors about persons of the “wrong” backgrounds playing minority characters. And just to show that there is nothing new under the sun, consider that in 1983 Egyptians went nuts when Louis Gossett, Jr., a Black American actor, played Anwar Sadat in a TV mini-series.


If I may be allowed my penchant for reductio ad absurdum, I would like to ask, when it comes to pass that characters must be played by actors who are the same stuff as the characters—who will play Hamlet’s Father?


(2) Offset slightly by Italian actors playing Jews. Such as,

Tom Conti—Adam Morris (in “The Glittering Prizes”)
Robert DeNiro—Sam Rothstein (in “Casino”)
Anne Bancroft—Golda Meir.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Comrade Stalin Is Never Wrong

The other day I stumbled upon a wonderful short, short story by Robin Jones entitled “Where is Pyotr Zhukov?”(1) In the Soviet gulag, a sharp-thinking criminal takes on the identity of a recently-deceased fellow prisoner. As it turns out, the dead man was a violinist—“a fine violinist,” declared as such by Stalin himself.

Soon the presumed violinist is released from the prison camp and transported to Moscow to “serve Russia, and to play before the leader himself.” Only one problem, the fake Zhukov can’t play a note.
On opening night, Vanya dresses in elegant black and goes to the stage and waits in the wing.  Comrades! Welcome the dear leader’s most favoured violinist – the finest west of the Urals – Pyotr Zhukov!  
Caught in the spotlight, there is only one thing to do—take the bow and scrape it across the strings.
And so, he begins to slice and stab with the bow. He cuts at the violin as if it were a weak inmate protecting a ration. He scratches and rips until the violin screams into the stalls. He tortures the violin not into notes but into shrieks and fury.  
When he finally stops his frightening attack on the instrument, what can the horrified audience do?
[T]hey were told this man was favoured by Stalin. And Stalin is here in attendance. And Stalin is never wrong. So what can the audience do? No applause for Zhukov is no applause for Stalin.
And so they applaud. They weep and stand and applaud. And the murderer hears the applause as though it were for a true Pyotr Zhukov. And no one in the audience dares stop.  . . . [A] triumph of beauty is declared and the triumph is Stalin’s who recognised Zhukov as the finest west of the Urals. A new Soviet music is born and all are blessed that hear it.
I will leave you now to read the rest of the story.


After 85 years, it was time for an update of Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parish’s classic ballad “Stars Fell on Alabama.” 

“A Hurricane Will Fall on Alabama” doesn’t quite scan, but President Trump proclaimed it—and comrade leader is never wrong. And soon the presidential truth machine went to work to quash any dissent. 
President Trump, seeking to justify his claim of a hurricane threat to Alabama, pressed aides to intervene with a federal scientific agency, leading to a highly unusual public rebuke of the forecasters who contradicted him, according to people familiar with the events.
In response to the president’s request, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, told Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary, to have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration publicly correct the forecasters, who had insisted that Alabama was not actually at risk from Hurricane Dorian.(2)
And Ross hopped to it. calling
Neil Jacobs, the acting administrator of NOAA, at home around 3 a.m. Friday, Washington time, and instructed him to clear up the agency’s contradiction of the president.
Then Wilbur (I-Am-Vying-For-Chief-Grifter) Ross went even further, displaying an admirably-dictatorial fist:
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross reportedly threatened to fire some of the nation’s weather officials if they refused to lie to the public about the projected path of Hurricane Dorian.(3)
It’s a rule of this administration that everyone must fall in line. After all, comrade leader is never wrong.

And the dissenters can consider themselves lucky. In another time and place, they’d be on a transport to the gulag.


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Water, Water, Everywhere

One of the most horrid events of the late summer was the fire aboard the vessel Conception off the coast of Southern California. Thirty-four persons lost their lives. Investigations by the appropriate authorities are continuing, in an attempt to determine the cause of the fire. Possible ignition sources, according to Jennifer Homendy of the National Transportation Safety Board,
include the electrical system, photography equipment, batteries, cameras and phones that were plugged in and charging when the fire broke out.(1)
Investigators have determined that all crew members were asleep at the time of the blaze, despite a commitment to have someone awake.
“According to its certificate of inspection, the passenger vessel Conception was required to have a roving watch,” said Lisa Novak, a spokeswoman for the United States Coast Guard.(2)
As part of her investigation, Jennifer Homendy toured the Vision, a sister ship of the Conception. In order to examine the bunk room and emergency hatch, 
she had to climb a ladder in the back and maneuver over the top bunk. She then tried to crawl through the hatch."In order for me to really get at it I had to kind of twist around and push it out," she said. She also said she tried to find the hatch with the lights off, simulating an escape during the middle of the night, and couldn’t see anything.
In the course of her examination, she learned that 
[t]he only two ways to exit the bunk room each led to the same place -- the galley that was on fire. 
The need for a possible design change for safety’s sake is
now part of the investigation, and, ultimately, could lead to a change in federal regulations.

Yesterday it was announced that the Trump administration was revoking “an Obama-era regulation that shielded many U.S. wetlands and streams from pollution.”(3) Trump’s Anti-Enviromental Protection Agency is removing certain waterways from previously-established regulation.
Environmentalists contend many of those smaller, seemingly isolated waters are tributaries of the larger waterways and can have a significant effect on their quality. Denying them federal protection would leave millions of Americans with less safe drinking water and allow damage of wetlands that prevent flooding, filter pollutants and provide habitat for a multitude of fish, waterfowl and other wildlife, they said. "By repealing the Clean Water Rule, this administration is opening our iconic waterways to a flood of pollution," said Bart Johnsen-Harris of Environment America. "The EPA is abdicating its mission to protect our environment and our health.”

Let’s examine what we’ve got here. 

On the one hand, the National Transportation Safety Board may propose new regulations for boats that will—hopefully—prevent a recurrence of the Conception disaster.

On the other hand, the A-EPA will loosen water regulations, allowing more pollution, which will surely result in more disease and death for American citizens.

I guess it all means that in future when you see water, for your safety, jump onto a boat; just don’t drink it.



Friday, August 30, 2019

"Der Rebbe Sagt . . ."

The rabbi is standing at the head dinner table giving a speech in Yiddish. His associate endeavors to translate the rabbi’s remarks into English—“Der rebbe sagt, that is, the rabbi says . . . .”

It’s a funny joke that I can’t retell here because it needs to be performed. Racking my brain, I believe that I heard it performed by Harry Richman* on the Ed Sullivan Show. 

I bring it up now because I think we’re in a “Rebbe Sagt” moment in time. 

* On second thought, it could have been Lou Holtz, who appeared once on the Sullivan show.


“My favorite moment in Donald Trump’s trip to France,” Gail Collins wrote the other day in the New York Times,”
came when our president was doing a little riff about North Korea and Kim Jong-un. Not only had he come to know Kim well, Trump told reporters, “the first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong-un and I think she’d agree with me, he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential.”(1)
As Ms. Collins went on to note, however, Melania Trump has never met the North Korean boss. “Paging the cleanup crew.” Or, get some toady to offer a Trumpian version of “Der Rebbe Sagt”:
“President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim,” his press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, explained. “And while the first lady hasn’t met him, the president feels like she’s gotten to know him too.”
Ms. Collins gave us another example of a “Rebbe Sagt” moment. Questioned about his wavering position on China trade, Trump replied, “I have second thoughts about everything.”

Again Ms. Grisham had to clear her throat and explain what the rebbe president

meant to say:
The president responded in the affirmative — because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.
Perhaps Trump might have more success speaking in Yiddish.


Friday, August 23, 2019


David Koch kicked the bucket the other day. 

I cited Koch as a notorious polluter in a recent blog post:
Should one boycott the New York City Ballet, which calls the David H. Koch Theater home? Named after one of the notorious polluting Kochs, who also give gillions of dollars of tainted money to efforts to undermine our republican form of government.(1)
Here’s a photograph of Koch being applauded for handing over some of his tainted bucks to the New York City Ballet:

Notice the complacently smug mug.

According to Christopher Leonard in the New York Times, David Koch and his brother Charles “built a political influence machine that is arguably unrivaled by any in corporate America.”(2) And one of the major tasks of that machine has been to undermine any government effort to enact climate control legislation that might fight the disastrous effects of global warming, such as action to control greenhouse gas emissions. Koch, a graduate of MIT with a degree in chemical engineering, turned his back on science and supported a baying pack of climate change deniers. As Leonard reveals, 
in 1991, the Cato Institute, a Koch-funded think tank, held a seminar in Washington called “Global Environmental Crises: Science or Politics?” This was part of a decades-long effort to cast doubt about the reality of climate change.
David Koch worked tirelessly, over decades, to jettison from office any moderate Republicans who proposed to regulate greenhouse gases.
To hell with the planet—as long as Koch Industries could keep raking in its dirty money. 


David Koch won’t be around when this sphere of ours becomes a burning cauldron. But one can only hope that, in the spirit of divine justice, he will be spending eternity in an even hotter place.



Also worth reading:

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Comes the Revolution . . .

Let’s once and for all put a stake through the heart of it—the myth that Donald Trump is a leader of a populist movement. 

Unless one believes that the sans-culottes who were at Southampton last Friday were representative of a surging underclass. In truth, what was represented among those in attendance, according to The Hollywood Reporter,* was the usual Trumpian mix of grifters, sexual predators, and brownnoses. There was Wilbur Ross, the conflicted Secretary of Commerce, Steven Mnuchin, the Secretary of the Treasury, famed for kicking people out of their houses, Phil Falcone, who somehow never figured out that he has to pay taxes, Bill O’Reilly, who got booted off Fox News because of sexual harassment charges, and the ever-lovable Rudy Giuliani and Geraldo Rivera. 

Not a Madame Defarge among them.

Those in attendance, who have never missed a meal in their lives, were able to bag another for a mere $100,000 or $250,000, filling their bellies with a buffet lunch of sirloin steak, shrimp with lemon chili and charred broccoli. 

There was no mention of entertainment, so I imagine the peasants in attendance were not offered a rendition of Bach’s cantata “Ich habe genug.”


Monday, August 12, 2019

For Whom the Bell Tolls

The bell rang this weekend and the Pavlovian dog of the Trump administration responded.

The death of his old pal Jeffrey Epstein gave Trump some new baseless material to spew out into the Twitterverse. He re-tweeted nudge-nudge, wink-wink conspiracy inanities that pushed the Clintons into the middle the Epstein suicide story:
Died of SUICIDE on 24/7 SUICIDE WATCH ? Yeah right! How does that happen#JefferyEpstein had information on Bill Clinton & now he’s dead. I see #TrumpBodyCount trending but we know who did this! RT if you’re not Surprised#EpsteinSuicide #ClintonBodyCount #ClintonCrimeFamily* 
When rational people raised protests against Trump’s actions, there came Kellyanne "Alternative Facts" Conway (Bow Wow) to defend her labmeister: it was “clear what he was trying to say. I think the president just wants everything to be investigated.”**

 (That statement is just a teeny bit disingenuous; Trump refuses to allow his administration to investigate climate change, for example.)

Anyway, we probably should welcome the open inquiry stance that Conway (Woof Woof) has enunciated. I, therefore, have prepared a little list of questions that need resolution. The reader who can tie in one or another of the Clintons to the most conspiracies will win a year’s supply of Alpo or Ken-L Ration.


Who killed Cock Robin?

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Where is Judge Crater?

What happened to Jimmy Hoffa?

Who put the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder?

How the heck am I gonna wash my neck, if it ain’t gonna rain no more?

Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight?

Whatever happened to Baby Jane?

Where’s Waldo?

Why a duck?