Monthly Archives: December 2005

A Year in Film – as seen from Lebanon

Here’s the year in film, as seen from the eyes of a reviewer for the Lebanon Daily StarTwo parts interest me:

Last year, the Middle East was grist for the mill of “Fahrenheit 9-11,” by that propagandist of America’s militant center, Michael Moore. This year militant Islam – in the form of terrorists from the fictional “Durkadurkastan” – was fodder for the vulgar wit of “Team America: World Police,” by “South Park” veterans Trey Parker and Matt Stone.

This marionette melodrama a la “Thunderbirds” lampoons both ignorant militarists and presumptuous entertainers – aka the American Screen Actors’ Guild and Michael Moore.

“Team America” will never darken the cinemas in this region, of course, but rumor has it that copies have leaked into select DVD-rental outlets and you can always download it off the net.

It’s refreshing to see an outside voice stating the obvious truth that Michael Moore is a Centrist. Fox News Fans might have a difficult time accepting this, though.

Unfortunately, while at this point in the review I have a high opinion of the author, he ruins that opinion in the final two paragraphs of the piece:

There’s always a film that should be missed and in 2005 it’s Ari Sandel’s “West Bank Story.” This 35-minute musical short, centering on rival Israeli-Palestinian fast food restaurants, recasts “West Side Story” in the Palestinian territories. It depicts “Juliet” as a doe-eyed Palestinian babe and “Romeo” as a ruggedly handsome Israeli soldier manning a checkpoint.

Many would question whether Palestine’s persistent agonies are the appropriate point of departure for a form as flimsy and jejune as the musical comedy. The screening of “West Bank Story,” though, late in the schedule of a recent film festival, afforded a much-appreciated opportunity to catch a nap between films.

Well…he considered it worthy to mention. And he considers my cousin “ruggedly handsome.”

Willam Blake and Meatloaf

I just opened one of my holiday gifts. I inserted the CD into my computer. And I installed the software.

Now I get to play with it.

What does it have to do with William Blake?

Not much, except he did write a poem entitled: The Tyger. Here’s the first verse:

Tyger! Tyger! burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

And the software I just installed is named Tiger.

I guess I could have made a reference to Frosted Flakes.

Music I Should be Listening to Right Now: Paradise by the Dashboard Lights

Dubai Film Festival: 1 short film stirs some controversy

Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates. My cousin was there at the beginning of December, as his film was selected as one of the Dubai Film Festival shorts. (Morgan Freeman and a few other members of the US entertainment industry were on hand too, most likely due to other films)Here’s a review from “The Gulf Today”

In good journalistic fashion, the opening paragraph pretty much sums it up: “Simplistic. Shallow. Wacky. Belittling. Breezy. Frivolous. West Bank Story is bound to evoke mixed reactions. And there is one word which certainly wouldn’t fit its premise: Profound. ”

The reviewer finds it difficult to laugh at most of the humor, but he does find good things to say.

Capital Punishment

Here’s a post from March of 2004 on Capital Punishment

It lists the reasons I’m against it, and also to another blogger’s post about a case in Missouri five years before when we may well have executed an innocent person.

Fortunately, the information in this old post about the execution of juveniles has changed since then. The US, on March 1, 2005, removed itself from this incredibly short list.

Death is expensive

This post is for the individual who doubted me when I told them that the cost of the death penalty is higher than the cost of life without parole.

Not that this is the strongest argument against the death penalty. But it is counter-intuitive. A study in Kansas showed:

# The investigation costs for death-sentence cases were about 3 times greater than for non-death cases.
# The trial costs for death cases were about 16 times greater than for non-death cases.
# The appeal costs for death cases were 21 times greater.
# Trials involving a death sentence averaged 34 days, including jury selection; non-death trials averaged about 9 days.

Of course, some argue the appeals process is too long, and needs to be tightened. It depends on your priorities. Shorten the appeals process and you’ll save some money, but you will also guarantee there will be a higher risk of error. When you make an error and sentence someone to life imprisonment…while they can’t have the lost years back, they are still alive.

Relearning something from my niece

My niece did something a year ago I thought was really cute and funny.
I forget the movie her parents took her to, but apparently during a
scene she found scary she watched it through her fingers. She didn’t
close her eyes, or turn away, she still saw everything. But she felt
watching it through her fingers helped.

I think I found it humorous because it had been such a long time for
me I’d forgotten. Last night, however, for a few seconds, I was
watching through my fingers just like her. (Not to suggest she was
there with me. What scares us are on radically different levels, and
anyone who brought a 7year old to this movie should be charged with
child abuse.)

I laughed, I cried, I was frozen in my seat. And if I wasn’t leaving
town on Saturday, I’d be back in the theater this weekend, and
willingly pay full price. There are only a handful of remakes in
history that have outdone the originals.

Kong deserves the five star reviews it’s been getting. Even though it
doesn’t have a teenage hearthrob in it, I think it has a chance of
challenging Titanic box office receipts. The one difficulty it might
have is there are a significant number of people who don’t like
‘horror’ movies. And Peter Jackson’s version of Skull Island is
definitely a more frightening place than the original.

Kinky Friedman is running for Governor of Texas

The same Kinky Friedman who used to be the lead singer for the
country/folk/comedy group: Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys.
Since then he’s become a writer of mysteries, where the detective is

I wonder if his ‘paper trail’ will cause him any problems.

His lyrics “mama, baby, mama, let me jump in your pajamas” and “get
your biscuits in the oven, and your buns in the bed” might upset a few

The song ‘they ain’t making jews like jesus anymore’ could offend
some, as could these lyrics:

Flyin’ down the freeway
Jettin’ down to L.A., it sets me free
Going back to Nashville in my Jew canoe
Flyin’ down the freeway all the way with you


Ride, ride ’em Jewboy,
Ride ’em all around the old corral.
I’m, I’m with you boy
If I’ve got to ride six million miles.


I saw a picture yesterday
In a men’s room near l.a.
Lying on the floor beside the throne.
Had i not recognized the cross
I might have failed to know the boss,
I thought, lord, you look neglected and alone.

I picked it up with lovin’ care,
I wondered who had placed it there,
When l saw there was no paper on the roll.
I said, lord, what would you do
If you were me and i was you,
Take a chance, save your pants or your soul ?

He might lose some votes in El Paso due to his song: *sshole from el paso

Some portions of the religious community might wonder what his book,
“Elvis, Jesus and CocaCola” is all about, and some might also complain
about his occasional use of the word “Christian” as a verb.

It should be interesting.

Christmas vs. Hannukah

There are many misconceptions about the differences between Christmas and Chanukah. This should clear them up!

*1. Christmas is one day, same day, every year: December 25th. Jews also love December 25th. It’s another paid day off work. We go to the movies and out for Chinese food.

2. Chanukah is eight days. It starts the evening of the 24th of Kislev, whenever that is. No one is ever sure. Jews never know until a non-Jew asks when Chanukah starts, forcing us to consult a calendar so we don’t look like idiots. We all have the same calendar, provided free with a donation from the World Jewish Congress, the kosher butcher, or the local Jewish funeral home.

3. Christmas is a major holiday. Chanukah is a minor holiday with the same theme as most Jewish holidays. They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat.

**4. Christians get wonderful presents such as jewelry, perfume, stereos. Jews get practical presents such as underwear or socks.

***5. There is only one way to spell Christmas. No one can decide how to spell Chanukah, Chanukkah, Chanukka, Channukah, Hanukah, Hannukah, etc.

6. Christmas is at time of great pressure for husbands and boyfriends. Their partners expect special gifts. Jewish men are relieved of that burden. No one expects a diamond ring on Chanukah.

7. Christmas brings enormous electric bills. Candles are used for Chanukah. Not only are we spared enormous electric bills, but we get to feel good about not contributing to an energy crisis.

****8. Christmas carols are beautiful: Silent Night, Come All Ye Faithful. Chanukah songs are about dreidels made from clay or having a party and dancing the horah. Of course, we are secretly pleased that many of the beautiful carols were composed and written by Jews. And don’t Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond sing them beautifully?

9. A home preparing for Christmas smells wonderful. The sweet smell of cookies and cakes baking. Happy people gather around in festive moods. A home preparing for Chanukah smells of oil, potatoes, and onions. The home, as always, is full of loud people all talking at once.

10. Women have fun baking Christmas cookies. Jewish women burn their eyes and cut their hands grating potatoes and onions for latkes.

11. Parents deliver to their children on Christmas. Jewish parents have no qualms about withholding a gift on any of the eight nights

12. The players in the Christmas story have easy to pronounce names such as Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. The players in the Chanukah story are Antiochus, Judah Maccabee, and Matta whatever. No one can spell it or pronounce it. On the plus side, we can tell our gentile friends anything and they believe we are wonderfully versed in our history.

13. Many Christians believe in the virgin birth. Jews think “Joseph, Bubela, snap out of it. Your woman is pregnant, you didn’t sleep with her, and now you want to blame God. Here’s the number of my shrink.”

* Well, my family spends Dec 25th in the Caribbean, so it’s a little more special for me.
** This isn’t true in my experience
*** Well…there is the spelling Xmas, but that doesn’t really count, because it’s an abbreviation and not an alternate spelling. All the Hannukah spellings are attempts to phonetically translate the Hebrew letters into Roman letters.
**** This list was clearly written prior to Adam Sandler and South Park. And Peter Yarrow of Peter Paul and Mary penned a serious song entitled, “Light One Candle” which is quite beautiful.

So far, so good.

So far, so good. Due to the Easy Predictions I made a couple weeks ago regarding the Movie Box Office, my ratio is going up.

The movie I predicted would debut at #1 this past weekend, did. (Harry also slipped on a patch of oil I wasn’t expecting, but the Lion roared supreme.)

I still have complete faith that PJ will be eating Turkish Delight next weekend. I am leaving town though on Saturday morning, and won’t be back until December 27. I will be separated from technology for the time period, so I won’t know if the rest of my predictions came true until the end of the year.

I will say, there is one historical movie I had forgotten about that is being released in these final weeks that might not take any hostages. But I’m still laying my bets on the Great Ape to finish on top.

update: The historical movie above is only opening to a limited release in two weeks (so it qualifies for an Academy Award). It’s main realease isn’t until the new year, so I’ll just stretch my predictions until then, and say the Great Ape will be taken hostage on Jan 6.

After that, it’s such a slushpile, I’ll go for a longshot and predict Woody and Scarlett will take the Mossad on in a doubles-match on 1/20.

(If anything, it’s fun to come up with these descriptions)