Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Kris Versteeg lights the lamp in Big D

A highlight-reel goal! (And this is the highlight reel.)

Friends show their true selves on Terminator

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Mondays 8pm ET/PT
Halcyon Productions
Episode 10

The opening scene was as exciting as the rest of the episode. John Connor’s uncle, Derek Reese (Brian Austin Green, or the BAG), discovered his back-from-the-future girlfriend Jesse (the very attractive Hong Kong native Stephanie Jacobsen) was tracking John. He confronted her in her hotel room and gave her 30 seconds to leave. She countered that the Resistance sent her back to protect John, and it is the cyborg, Cameron, John’s supposed protector, who is the problem. Jesse touched a nerve here; from his experience in the War Against the Machines, Reese can’t stand cyborgs and doesn’t trust Cameron. He decided to give Jesse more time. It gets better: John’s apparent girlfriend Riley, whom he met in school before dropping out, works for Jesse. Interesting, but they’re not really double agents. If they worked for the Machines and had wanted John dead, they have had plenty of opportunities. I thought the rest of the episode, with the high-tech company, the chip, and embezzlement, was a waste of time. Powering up Cromartie the Terminator as an extension of the AI computer John Henry? Very dangerous. I still can’t figure out what Miss Weaver wants to accomplish. I don’t think she’s after John Connor. Why did she rebuild Cromartie?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Traditional marriage in California and beyond

I sent a slightly different version of this item to the New Yorker letters to the editor.

As I mentioned in a blog post last Thursday, I stepped into a blog-comment debate on Prop. 8 with a guy after a mutual friend posted a blog entry titled “Mawwiage” on her blog. His theory, and the theory of a very wrong New Yorker piece in the new Dec. 1 issue, is that old people helped push through Prop. 8, young voters opposed it by 13 points, and once the old people die off, gay marriage will once again become law in California. “[I]t’s hard to think of a reason that getting older should change their minds,” the writer opined.
I thought of a reason. Traditional marriage. The voters’ own traditional marriage.
Getting married for the first time drastically changes one’s perspective on marriage. Before getting married, one gleans his or her concept of marriage from parents, grandparents and married friends. Some of those people have wonderful marriages, and some unfortunately have bad marriages or are divorced. Until one actually walks the plank and experiences marriage for himself, he cannot understand fully understand what marriage truly means. Once married, I think his perspective changes (and improves) in two areas:
1. If he was previously ambivalent or mildly opposed to adultery, he now sees it as abhorrent and disgusting; and
2. He realizes how special and unique his marriage is, and that it is very different from the union of a gay couple. And that it deserves its own legal distinction.
Obviously, there are exceptions. Millions of married people cheat; and a number of the six million California voters who voted “no” on Prop. 8 are married. However, a huge percentage of those under-35 “No” voters are never-married singles. If the gay marriage forces in California manage to put another measure on a future ballot, they’ll find that a large numbers of this year’s “No” voters will be married. And those young married couples will no longer share the view that gay marriage is the same.

Obamas choose Sidwell Friends for Sasha and Malia

I sent a slightly different version of this piece to the Chicago Tribune letters to the editor.

I expected the Obamas to enroll their daughters in Sidwell Friends, the Quaker school Chelsea Clinton attended during her father’s White House years. Pure hypocrisy, in my opinion—the multimillionaire Obamas can select their daughters’ school based solely on education quality without regard to cost. The President-Elect won’t permit American families to have that choice. No tuition vouchers—the public school monopoly must be preserved!
Sidwell Friends admission runs about $30,000 per pupil—roughly two to three times the cost of Jewish day school tuition in Chicago. (Day school tuition varies from one school to the next and increases with student grade level.) At that cost, only Washington elites can afford to pay full freight. Similarly, families who want to send their children to private school in or near Chicago must depend on financial assistance, make significant financial sacrifices to afford tuition, or have a qualifying income that puts them in the top one percent of American households. Why should private school be reserved just for wealthy families, or families who need to meet every year to determine how they can afford private school? It’s not right for a whole host of reasons. If an Evanston public-school eighth grader wants to go to a small high school, Roycemore charges nearly $20,000. Or she can join her 700 classmates at Evanston Township High School. Decisions, decisions.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Request: separate queue for Problem Folks

(I decided to write this in the second person. Maybe this has happened to you.) If you've gone to as many games as I have, it's certainly happened to you. You want to be inside the stadium. It's almost time for something you want to see: tipoff, faceoff, first pitch, the National Anthem, the starting lineup, the spotlight introductions. You know what ticket you want. You stand in the back of the line, looking hopefully to the box office ahead, mind-gaming how long it's going to take, hoping what appears to be a large group right in the middle is just one transaction.
And THEN what happens? Someone is at the front, and there's a problem. She wants a certain ticket price, and it's sold out. And she can't make up her mind about the other options. Or she has a ticket and wants to exchange it for something else. Or her husband is parking and she wants to use his credit card. Or, or, or.....
How long should a box office transaction last? LESS THAN TWO MINUTES. And for the purpose of this blog, I'm going to clock the next one. Number of tickets, price/seating location. Provide cash/credit card. Check tickets. Leave. Is that so difficult?
The UIC Pavilion uses TicketShafter software. I didn't ask, but it appeared the poor box office attendant needed to enter the event code for every transaction. Each ticket should be just a mouse click away--especially at the Pavilion, where for men's basketball there is just one price level other than court level seating. Why is she using the keyboard to enter a bunch of keystrokes? What a waste of time. It's like a flashback to the 1980's, before price scanners became widespread, when K-Mart cashiers punched in every item barcode. Very, very inefficient use of time. It slows up the line and keeps people from spending money indoors on food and gift shoppe souvenirs.

Bashing the President-Elect

Today, a friend of mine who made aliyah to Israel a couple of years ago sent his 250-name listserv what I considered to be a very disturbing message. I believe he had forwarded it from someone else. The message described someone who was raised by his mother, raised in one religion but became a Christian, wrote an autobiography, came from rather humble beginnings, and came from outside the political establishment to win election as leader of his nation. Does this sound like the President-Elect? Sure it does, but it also describes the German leader of the 1930's. Here we go again, another horrible email message composed by a Jew, sent by a Jew to more than a hundred other Jews, comparing the President-Elect to Adolf Hitler. Just what we need.
When will the madness stop?
I replied to my friend, who just last week very compassionately wished me the best on my current difficult situation and has been gently persuading me to make aliyah. (He promised to pick me up at TLV.) This is what I told him:

This is a waste of your time.

Good G-d, we Jews need to work with this guy for the next four years. Comparisons to Hitler (may his name be erased)--insulting, embarrassing, totally irrelevant, not helpful at all. When something serious comes up and we call the President for his help, the anti-Israel Arab-Americans who helped elect him are going to be screaming for payback. The last thing we need is for him to find out about the nasty hatred and fear emanating from our community.

Challenge: come up with a single policy initiative that Hitler and the President-Elect have in common. Just one. Empower the middle class? Come on.

I'm serious. I'm saddened. Who comes up with this crap? I'd like to have a word with that guy. BTW I voted for McCain, but he lost the election.

* * *

I was disappointed that the first time I vote for a Republican for president he lost. Like most McCain voters, I'm concerned about the President-Elect's plans for tax increases and government growth, restrictive federal gun laws, and surrender/appeasement policies overseas. That's very different from concern regarding a sudden emergence of the Nuremberg laws, G-d forbid. Are these people behind the email messages worried about Jews being rounded up, G-d forbid? Could we stop? I think a few alarmists (okay, more than a few) need to take a deep breath and think. The President-Elect does not hate Jews. Maybe we're not his favorite white people; choosing Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D.-Ill.) as his right-hand man, however, would seem to dispel that notion. In any case, disagreeing with his policies and comparing him to the most disgusting mass-murderer of the previous century are two very different approaches. I prefer the former and a "wait and see" attitude. Some of my friends are taking a "slash and burn" approach. Does that help? Let's give the President-Elect some time. The moving van hasn't pulled up to 1600 yet, and some of us are pushing the panic button. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rahmbo tells it like it is

I never talk like this. Just ask --------.

Justin Timberlake rocks Update

This is really, really funny.

24 3-5pm spoilers

7th season premiere

This was a gripping opening season premiere. Besides the typical politically correct sop--child soldiers in Africa--we see a kid murder a prisoner of a rebel army, just like in "Blood Diamond"--I think it's shaping up to be a strong season.

Roger Taylor, the president's son, looks like incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel.

I couldn't catch Jon Voight's role? Senator? Is he Hodges?

The drug addict sideline was creepy. How often do you think that really happens? That someone is murdered by allies of a high-ranking U.S. official because he knows too much?

How could it be daylight/late afternoon in Washington and be daylight in Africa at the same time? On Jan. 20, Inauguration Day?

Is Carly Pope playing Roger Taylor's girlfriend? Gee, I haven't seen her since "Popular."

I wish I could single-handedly take down a well-armed group of soldiers like Bauer.

Nice to see Tom Lennix back in action.

Twilight **½

If a vampire movie comes out, I do my best to see it. In the case of "Twilight" (Catherine Hardwicke; Summit Entertainment), a friend saw a sneak and highly recommended it, and I looked forward to my own screening. It was something of a disappointment--it reminded me of a fashion shoot, complete with moody models, masquerading as a film. And the film gets some obvious vampire legend stuff just plain wrong. To wit (minor spoilers):

--vampires don't glow in sunlight. They spontaneously ignite. DUH. Geez.
--vampires don't produce their own reflections in mirrors.

I'm sure the Stephanie Meyer book series is far superior. My brother helpfully suggested the film's target audience was 15-year-old girls, and that I wouldn't care for it as a result. He may be right. His favorite vampire film is "30 Days of Night," which is on my list. Mine is "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (Brian de Palma, 1992).

Dress up for shopping?

After my derailed blood donation this morning, I shot up the Edens Expressway to Court* to see a breakfast showing of "Twilight" ($6) and meet an old friend for coffee. I thought, "I'm going to Court, so I'd better dress up." Court seems to me to be an upper-echelon shopping centre where one should not dress like a slouch. Jeans, fine. Crappy old sweatshirt, better not. So I wore a turtleneck and sweater, with apologies to the '80's. My sister-in-law thinks the idea of a dress code for Court is hilarious. In past eras, people would dress up just to go downtown. Am I an anachronism?

*My nickname for Northbrook Court, from a tv ad campaign years back. "Come to Court. Northbrook Court."

Blood donation

No donation today. I had red meat five of the last six days. What more can I do?

Liver, apparently. 8-25 mgs of iron per 3 oz compared to 3 mgs of iron for a hamburger patty. I'm almost out of ideas. I guess I need to run the red-meat regimen for two weeks instead of one. I'll have plenty of time to plan; due to failing the iron test, I'm deferred for three months. I will be eligible on Feb. 23.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Blood donation

Unless someone corrects me, I believe donating blood can reduce one’s weight by one pound. It certainly reduces one’s blood pressure as the donation reduces the fluid level in a closed system. (Always a good idea to reduce blood pressure, gentlemen.) You can link to an online appointment here.

Weight loss update

I was about to write “153.5” on my Las Vegas wall calendar for today when I noticed that what I had written on Oct. 24, exactly four weeks ago, was visible in the Nov. 21 square: 154.5. So in 28 days I’ve lost exactly one pound.
That pace isn’t going to win me any contests.
Meanwhile, my family is begging me not to lose weight and is horrified at the thought of my ten-pound goal—despite the fact I’ve been eight to ten pounds lighter for about three of the past four years. Another friend concurred last night, saying I looked fine and had no business losing weight. My concern is the gradual weight gain over time, with metabolism changes and inactivity leading to a retired-athlete physique like Alec Baldwin. I hope I’ll never be as big as he is, but I distinctly remember a friend of my parents who developed quite a spare tire. “Let that be a lesson to us,” my dad solemnly intoned.
I still think I should work my way down to 150—148 to be on the safe side. Then I can report my results to friends and family, and they can express shock, horror or delight. At that point I can decide whether to continue the weight-loss pursuit. But I need to reach that intermediate goal first.

Heat up winter nights at Mandalay Bay

The tag line made me laugh: “It’s not too late to get on the naughty list.”

Misinformed voters

I don't think it's fair to ask voters about Rep. Barney Frank (D.-Mass.), who really hasn't been newsworthy for years. But it does concern me that so many voters don't know which party controls Congress. (If you're concerned about the sample size, the website also commissioned a scientific poll of 512 voters that strongly correlated with these results.) If voters can't identify Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) as Speaker of the House--second in line for the presidency--well, I'm very disappointed. While the guy was busy interviewing these voters, he should have asked them who the current v.p. is. Last time I checked, only 65% of voters could correctly answer that question. Another pro-Obama website could probably do a similar video on McCain voters. (The Muslim question is obvious.)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

MSNBC News Tracker

Lost returns Jan. 21

24 returns

Are we ready to save the world?

Proposition 8 aftermath

I stuck my toe in the Great Prop. 8 gay marriage debate quite by accident. One of my high school classmates posted a note on our class Yahoo! Group page, asking everyone to tell their friends in California to vote “No” on Prop. 8. I posted to the Group’s blog/message board, politely scolding her and pointing out the board had been free of political messages throughout the election season. I didn’t think it was appropriate, I wrote. I added I vehemently disagreed with her, and if anyone wanted to know why, he could email me and ask. That’s how I received a message and Facebook Friend request from the former bully (cf. earlier post). So I was dimly aware of the Prop. 8 measure on the California ballot but had no idea it had become such a cause célèbre nationwide, producing about $75 million in campaign contributions from 50 states.

Prop. 8 won 52-47 despite being outspent by about 20 percent. Barring legal objections, it will become an amendment to the California state constitution. “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” This week, a Friend and Prop. 8 opponent posted a note titled “Mawwiage” on her blog and invited comments. I jumped in and was promptly rebuffed by a series of replies, including one anonymous poster who called me an idiot and racist bigot. (He had trouble spelling “dehumanize” and did not know the difference between “compliment” and “complement.”) The one who could carry on a serious discussion, JCB, believes that once old voters die off, young, accepting, tolerant Californians will eventually repeal the amendment. I don’t agree that is what the future holds, but as a political prognosticator I’m horrible, so we’ll see what happens in subsequent elections. California wasn’t the only state that voted on gay marriage two weeks ago. Gay marriage lost in Arkansas and Florida, too.

In any election campaign, whether one is electing a candidate or voting on a measure or referendum, I think the goal of the campaign officials and volunteers is to galvanize the base to go to the polls and persuade independent voters to vote the same way. In Prop. 8’s aftermath, it appears a small but vocal segment of Prop. 8 opponents are doing everything they can to irritate and anger independent voters. The nationwide, often-ugly protests we have seen since the election, especially on the main protest day, Nov. 15, would probably make the winning margin 60-40 if the Prop. 8 vote were held today.

That is their first mistake. Their other serious mistake is attacking religious institutions that disagree with them on this issue. Michael Moore, amazingly, said it best in his book Stupid White Men. He made a list of errors that liberals/progressives make. One was the Mumia Abu-Jamal cause. (YES.) “He probably killed that cop,” Moore admitted. Another on the list was the visceral hateful stance some liberals/progressives have toward religious institutions. It’s been a few years since I read the book, but I recall Moore objected to that view and said it wasn’t helpful. Of course he’s right. I suspect even secular Americans were repulsed by the scene of a large man grabbing an older woman’s cross out of her hands and stomping on it at a protest in Palm Springs, Calif. Okay, that’s an isolated incident. Still, marching near Latter-Day Saints churches nationwide just isn’t helpful. Hey, keep it up—I don’t want gay marriage to win. But if I were working on campaign strategy, I would point to this activity and say, “Here is what not to do.”

Twilight opens Friday

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Cockroach that Ate Cincinnati

Ah-ah Don't touch that dial!

I must offer to you a confession
I like movies that give me a fright (AAAAAAAAAA!!!!)
If the subject is horror
I've got to see more or
I won't be contented all night

You may call it my ghoulish obsession
It's a subject on which I get chatty
But the worst one it seems
Haunting all of my dreams
Was the cockroach that ate Cincinnati

I've seen ghouls and hobgoblins and witches
And some moth-eaten werewolves with fangs (owooo!)
There were creatures that chattered
And others that clattered
And Japanese monsters with bangs (Ha-so!)

Frankenstein gives me the shakes
And Count Dracula's driving me batty
But they're not on a par
with the worst one by far
The cockroach that ate Cincinnati

Oh he must have needed a seltzer
It's amazing how much he got down
For lunch he'd just chew
up a suburb or two
And for dinner he at the whole town (burp!)

Willard just sent me out laughing
I thought Ben looked a little bit ratty
But they're not half as bad
As the worst scare I've had
"The Cockroach That Ate Cincinnati"

Oh my heart nearly stopped
He will never be topped
The cockroach that ate Cincinnati... Olè!
(Olè? That's dumb!)

WKRP in Cincinnati theme song

Baby, if you've ever wondered,
Wondered whatever became of me,
I'm living on the air in Cincinnati,
Cincinnati, WKRP.

Got kind of tired packing and unpacking,
Town to town and up and down the dial
Maybe you and me were never meant to be,
But baby think of me once in awhile.

I'm at WKRP in Cincinnati..

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Terminator on tv

This is a great show.

HRC 2012?

Newsweek’s exclusive behind-the-scenes election reporting revealed that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D.-N.Y.) held a strategy meeting with senior advisors at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last August. The subject of the meeting: running for president in 2012. Very bad form and bad taste, considering the whole party was supposed to be focusing on electing a president in 2008. Even worse, I read or heard Sen. Clinton is already planning to mount a primary challenge to the president in 2012! How gauche! Just who does she expect to vote for her? A few close friends and her daughter?
I can see why the President-Elect is considering sending her to the U.S. Supreme Court or Foggy Bottom. It would be worth it just to get rid of her—although he would need to discuss foreign policy with her regularly if she were Secretary of State.

Ludwig von Schopfergeist (creative genius)

WFMT (98.7-FM in Chicago; worldwide) just aired (at 1100 CST Tues.) Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D, Op. 61, with soloist Rachel Barton Fine. What a masterpiece. It’s easy to say, “Violin plays the tune, then orchestra follows,” but I suspect it’s far more complicated than that. I’m hardly a musical expert—more like a novice—but it’s my opinion that part of Beethoven’s brilliance was his ability to balance the soloists with the full orchestra. There is more to his œuvre than the Fifth and Ninth Symphonies, and this piece ranks high on the list.

FB should fix this cont'd.

Why is the Friend being added (the “Requestee,” which apparently isn’t a word) the person expected to provide the “Friend Details”? No, FB, the person who clicked “Add Ken Salkover as a Friend” (the Requestor) should be expected to provide “Friend Details.” When I add someone who may not know me that well or may not remember me, I include a message indicating how we know each other. The “Friend Details” option would save me the trouble. Conversely (did I use that correctly?), I’ve recently received two requests from people I hardly know. One was someone I genuinely do not know (more on her in a minute), and the other was a high school classmate. The latter replied to my “I don’t know who you are” FB email message. The former did not. I added her, noticed we had no Friends in common, and “Remove[d] as a Friend” a few days later. Then she requested me again! I told her again, “I don’t know who you are.” No reply. She would only say she lives in Virginia, further indicating we would seem to have no connection. (If she had said, “Hey, you’re hot, I’m adding you,” I’d understand. Right.) There’s no way to “Request Friend Details” to the Friend Requestor. There should be.

FB should fix this

It’s difficult to tell when someone denies a Friend request. Obviously, it’s not appropriate for the Profile or News Feed announcement—how embarrassing! But it should show up as a private Notification because it’s better to know than be kept in the dark. Sometimes people sit on the requests for weeks (still waiting, Jim) and others reply right away. Also, there should be an option for “reason for rejection.” I’m going to use “Shira Stein” as an example. I just made up that name.
“Shira Stein rejected your Friend request because she doesn’t know who the hell you are.”
“Shira Stein rejected your Friend request because she thinks you want to date her, and she’s SO not interested.”
“Shira Stein rejected your Friend request because she didn’t like you back in high school/college, and doesn’t see why she should be your Friend now.”
“Shira Stein rejected your Friend request because she didn’t like the (wall/info/photos) part of your profile.”
FB should also offer the option of adding something snarky like “Beeyotch.”
The unkindest cut of all, of course, is being un-Friended (de-Friended?) after being Friends with someone. There should be an explanation with that, too, although it’s often obvious to the Un-Friendee.

SNL Biden joke

What’s the difference between a pit bull and Joe Biden? You can teach a pit bull to keep his mouth shut.

Are those tags available?

With LaSalle Bank having been bought out by Bank of America, I wonder what those LaSalle guys with “LSNB” (plus a number) vanity Illinois license plates did. Did they turn them in? Trade them for identical “B OF A” (plus a number) plates? Hmmm.

Odd presidential statistics cont'd.

George Will pointed out from the 1964 election until now, every elected president has come from one of four states: Georgia (Carter), Arkansas (Clinton), Texas and California (the five other guys). Until this election. And it’s about time. It’s about time we broke the death-grip the South and West had on the Oval Office for 44 years.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another odd presidential statistic

Obama-Biden is the first presidential and vice-presidential pair to have no military experience whatsoever since 1940.

"Creation Museum"?

There is a "Creation Museum" ( in Northern Kentucky that mixes science with the Creation story in Genesis to reach conclusions such as medieval "dragon" myths really referred to dinosaurs. Interesting theory. A skeptic relates his visit here:

Somehow the museum managed to be listed in Cincinnati's official tourism site:

Rabbi Lopatin quoted in The New Yorker

Nov. 17 issue, Talk of the Town:

Emanuel In Full
by Lizzie Widdicombe
November 17, 2008

Rahm Emanuel

Federal Bailouts

When Barack Obama appointed Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff last week, a bunch of old stories went back into circulation, clues, perhaps, to how he’ll run the White House: Emanuel wrapping up a dead fish to send to a pollster who’d made him angry; Emanuel stabbing a table with a knife while shouting the names of people who’d betrayed Bill Clinton; Emanuel saying “Don’t fuck it up” to Tony Blair. These are memorable moments, but Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Emanuel’s rabbi at the Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel congregation, in Chicago, pointed out that they don’t capture the whole man. “I don’t know him in a political way,” Lopatin said, “but I wish all our congregants were as loyal to the synagogue and as engaged as he is.” Lopatin said he tries not to get involved with politics, since this can lead to trouble (see Wright, Jeremiah; “Sometimes we spiritual leaders say things we don’t mean,” Lopatin said), but he’d taken the liberty of leaving “a couple messages” on his congregant’s voice mail. “I didn’t push him one way or the other,” he said. “I just wanted to congratulate him and tell him it’s a good opportunity.”

Emanuel, Lopatin emphasized, is “a genius at balancing things.” A few weeks ago, Emanuel consulted Lopatin about working on the financial-bailout package during Rosh Hashanah. The rabbi gave his approval, citing the principle of pikkuah nefesh—“To save a life, you can violate almost any commandment,” he said. “There’s no doubt that somewhere in the world there would be a serious risk to lives and personal survival if the financial system melted down,” he reasoned. So Emanuel tiptoed out of the service to take a conference call. But the rest of the time he was in synagogue. “This year, I’d asked Rahm to open the ark,” the rabbi said. “We had to make sure we gave him an ark-opening time that didn’t conflict with the conference call, so he could get down from the bimah in time.” (Lopatin said that he had missed the episode of “Entourage” in which the character based on Emanuel’s brother, the Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, sneaks out of Yom Kippur services to talk to a studio head on his cell phone. “That is so funny!” Lopatin said. “I like Jewish characters on TV. I think it’s a good thing.”)

Last week around the same time, Ron Reagan (that Ron Reagan) offered his views on another facet of Emanuel—his training in ballet. Reagan, like Emanuel, is a former dancer. (Emanuel received dance training in high school, and danced for a year at Sarah Lawrence after turning down a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet School; as a freshman, he appeared in a modern-dance piece called “Desire.”) Reagan, who was a professional dancer for four years, didn’t completely buy the comparison: “I’m not trying to knock him or anything, but, O.K., it’s like if I’m a well-known actor—not a big star, but I appear in movies—and you’re talking about someone who was in the drama club in high school.” He argued that dancing and politics are “really two different parts of your brain.” He said, “Politics is the art of compromise. It’s shades of gray and nuance. There’s nowhere to hide when you’re a dancer. You’re almost literally naked, wearing an outfit that reveals everything about you.” He went on, “There are no Sarah Palins in dance—no one who doesn’t know what they’re doing. They’re weeded out by the time you get to be a professional.”

So that’s body and spirit. Meanwhile, back at Sarah Lawrence, the nicely named Jefferson Adams, a European-history professor, was discussing his former student’s mind. Adams had been Emanuel’s academic adviser. (They hadn’t communicated much except for one post-college phone conversation about the décor of Emanuel’s first Chicago apartment. “Somehow, wagon wheels come to mind,” Adams said.) He recalled that, in college, Emanuel was already raising money for political campaigns on weekends: “There was a now defunct little store, a BFO, and he was buying suits to go around fund-raising.” He loved philosophy, especially the nineteenth-century German thinkers, but, Adams said, “he wasn’t an academic.” His papers were “good, not outstanding. They showed an involvement in the material, but nothing you’d put in an anthology. He was not a stellar writer, and he’s not a great speaker. He’s very effective one on one.” Adams is one of the school’s few conservative professors, and he remembered getting into philosophical discussions with his advisee, trying to temper Emanuel’s infatuation with Hegel by showing how much Hegel had actually been influenced by Goethe—“The fact that nature is not going to be mastered, whatever the system, and that these man-made systems ultimately fail.” He would also try to explain the appeal of Ronald Reagan. Adams said, “I can remember his voice: ‘Mr. Adams, you can’t possibly believe that!’ ” ♦

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Is Dr. King "late"?

I saw the term "late" used in print to refer to someone who had been dead for decades. I wondered about that and tried to look up its proper usage in the AP Manual of Style. I couldn't find it. Studs Terkel is certainly "late." He died within the past 30 days. President Reagan? I guess. He died in 2004. President Ford died and Saddam Hussein was executed in the final days of 2006. They're probably late. What about people who died in the 1990's? Princess Diana died in 1997. Is George Burns "late"? I think he died in 1996. Rudolph Nureyev died in 1993. Speaking of Soviet natives, is that miserable bastard Leonid Brezhnev "late"? He died in 1986. There certainly should be a statute of limitations on usage of the term in reference to how recently the person died. That seems to be the whole idea; "late" refers to someone who died recently. The most famous death in the 70's was probably Elvis Presley obm. He died in 1977. I don't think he's ever referred to as "late." Come to think of it, he's rarely referred to by anything other than his first name.

Stereo Sinai lights up Loyola University Student Ctr

Just a quick note to say that I enjoyed another splendid performance by my friends (full disclosure!) Miriam Brousseau and Alan Sufrin, who performed last Thursday night at a Loyola Hillel-sponsored coffeehouse event at the Loyola University Student Center in Rogers Park. (BTW this is not the world's largest student union. The world's largest student union is in Bloomington, Ind. Ahem. But I digress.) When Stereo Sinai FINALLY took the stage, it was a great show. Oh, Loyolacappella was great, too! Loyola Hillel (well, Laura, to be more precise) was kind enough to provide a nice milchig kosher spread--stick with the bowtie pasta and avoid the wraps, but that's just me--and drinks as well. If you can make Stereo Sinai's next gig, by all means make the trip. Miriam and Alan put on a nice show, and they even talk to and thank their fans. =)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quantum of Solace

And I had to think about spelling "Quantum." Even if the reviews are mediocre, it's still Bond.

Former aldermanic candidate moves to South Fla.

A voice for reform and change in the frozen-in-time 50th Ward Democratic politics, Naisy is moving to South Florida, where she has family and attended high school. Here is the contents of her farewell email message:

Dear Friends,

Over the past few years, there have been more than a few changes that have come along to challenge the way we were before. As many of you know, one of the biggest changes in my life happened with the sudden loss of my mother last June.

Since then, I have been spending my time in Florida, where my parents had been living, and our family has faced a new set of challenges to overcome while also finding new opportunities we have chosen to pursue.

After long consideration, we have decided to relocate to Florida to begin a new chapter in our lives to be closer to our immediate family and to build a family business.

Our decision was not easy because I know I will leave a community we built together - a community of people who believe in the fundamental value of bringing people together for a common purpose. We learned that as neighbors, friends and family members from near or far, from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, we can make a positive difference.

We are people who expect more and I know that we will continue to do more no matter where we are. Although I will no longer live in Chicago, I will take with me more than 30 years of fond memories and friendships. This city, all that makes up our home, and the spirit that each of you have shared with me, will never be forgotten.

So, if you are in the neighborhood, I hope we can share a final good-bye together. Please join me for some rugelah at (you guessed it!):

B.B.'s Bagels
Sunday, November 16th

If we don't get a chance to see each other, I do hope to meet you again.

My deepest gratitude and love,
Naisy Dolar

* * *

Naisy's decision to move away keeps the 2011 50th Ward aldermanic race open. Thirty-five-year incument Bernie Stone is expected to step aside for his daughter, Ilana Stone Fekevitch. Other candidates are to be determined.

I like Naisy and wish her well. Her loss in the April, 2007 runoff seemed to be a result of ballot fraud on the part of her opponent or a few of his supporters. Residents of the 50th Ward still need better represenatation in the City Council.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A couple of tv notes

A couple of tv notes:

The Office (spoilers)
Thursdays 9pm ET/PT

Michael Scott is such an ass, and I’m getting tired of it. I saw one item refer to him as a “grinning idiot,” and I think that’s an apt description. Michael firmly believes he is a great person, a great boss (the mug he bought himself even says so), and a great boyfriend. He is none of these things. He gets others into trouble and then absolves himself of any responsibility. He cannot keep a secret. He demands being the center of attention and cannot stand it when someone else is in charge. He behaves poorly and immaturely when his actions cause his own embarrassment. His ethics violations at the office would certainly doom any real-world branch manager. He seems to work hard at being racially and ethnically insensitive and often personally insults his underlings.
Lying to his office about being engaged, encouraging a subordinate to purchase a bridesmaid dress, and then throwing out the store receipt she gave him for the dress she couldn’t use: that’s Michael for you.
Obviously, this is a winning formula for a tv show, and people love it. I’m more interested in the interplay between Dwight and Jim, which Jim finds hilarious and Dwight finds irritating. (Dwight is no charmer either.) And I’m waiting to see how Andy’s and Angela’s wedding at Dwight’s beet farm is going to blow up. Dwight and Angela are having an affair.

The Catherine Weaver cyborg is obviously an updated Terminator version compared to Cromartie (deceased) and Cameron. Catherine Weaver can shape-shift and turn her forefinger and tongue into a metal rod of death. Unless she’s hiding ability, Cameron doesn’t come so well equipped.

Election wrapup

This is from one of the Newsweek articles in the Nov. 10 issue about the presidential campaigns:

Obama was up against McCain's strength and experience in the national-security realm, but he was also confronting a deeper stereotype, a curse that had kept the Democrats out of the White House for 20 of the last 28 years. Ever since the days of Jimmy Carter, a majority of Americans had consistently told pollsters that they trusted the Republicans more on the issue of security—not just abroad, but at home. To use ancient and more or less discredited (but still potent) clichés, the Democrats were the Mommy party, comforting the needy and weak, while the Republicans were the Daddy party, keeping the family safe from threats. In the debates, it was critical that Obama come across as looking like Dad. His hope was that McCain would appear to be the crotchety uncle who lived up in the attic.

* * *
This is an interesting dynamic that never occurred to me before. In a way, it explains why Americans are comfortable with the Democratic Party running Congress while the GOP gets to run the country from the White House. (Until January, anyway.) Sen. Obama’s election represents a real change from the past several decades. Each of the last two times Democrats were elected—1976 and 1992—we had just finished wars. In 1976, when The Worthless One Jimmy Carter beat President Ford, the Vietnam War had just ended. In 1992, when Bill Clinton beat President George H.W. Bush, the Cold War had effectively just ended. If we had suffered terrorist attacks at home in the months leading up to the election, I can’t imagine we would have trusted Obama to lead us for the next four years. Whatever the reason for the absence of terrorist attacks, Obama benefitted and McCain suffered as a result. The issue became a low priority in voters’ minds.

More interesting insights from Newsweek’s behind-the-scenes special report on the presidential campaigns:
Senior Democratic operatives often tried to give the Obama campaign unsolicited advice and wanted the operation to be run similar to previous campaigns. Obama remembered this was the same party that lost seven of the previous ten presidential elections. So he didn’t take such advice very seriously.
The Obama iPhone application prioritized the phone’s contact list so contacts in battleground states rose to the top.
The GOP-mocked Obama acceptance speech stage at Invesco Field in Denver was actually toned down from the original plan. That was toned down? Phew!
Bill Clinton often joined his friend, supermarket billionaire playboy Ron Burkle, on Burkle’s private jet. Suspicious of his extracurricular activity, Hillary’s senior campaign aides called the jet “Air F--- One.” Ouch.
After the Florida hurricane (Ike?), the Obama website linked to the Red Cross website. The Obama campaign tried to warn the Red Cross about the coming wave of contributions. The Red Cross wasn’t worried, figuring if it could handle Sept. 11, this was not a big deal. The Red Cross website crashed in 15 minutes.
One of the seven articles focused on McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin, which was similar to the New Yorker article on the same subject. It’s too bad he didn’t pick Sen. Joe Lieberman, but I don’t think it would have made a difference. As for Palin’s clothing spree, which Palin denied in a Chicago Tribune interview late last month and one of the Newsweek writers confirmed, to me it shows poor judgment on the governor’s part. Three suits for you and one for Todd, plus a hair stylist. Is that so hard?
I salute McCain for running a respectful campaign and not using attack strategies his more successful Republican predecessors, the Bushes, certainly would have employed. He ruled out going after Michelle Obama; the Republicans started their Hillary attack mode at the 1992 Republican National Convention. He refused to make Obama’s race an issue; rumors swirling in South Carolina about Bridget, McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter, ended his campaign in 2000. I was also surprised at his considerable relief that Obama didn’t pick Hillary. McCain thought that Hillary was a much more formidable opponent than Biden.
I understand McCain’s thinly-disguised disdain for Obama, whom he sees as a neophyte up-and-comer who hasn’t yet paid his dues. And I feel sorry for McCain. I really do. His big chance was 2000, but the Republican Establishment and the GOP money machine were strongly behind Gov. George W. Bush. McCain was 64 and had a great opportunity to win the GOP nomination and very likely beat Vice President Gore in November. (I probably would not have voted for McCain.) After the South Carolina debacle, he probably felt like he’d brought a knife to a gunfight. The Bush campaign, or someone close to it, went after McCain’s daughter, who was then about nine years old. Can you imagine McCain going after the Bush twins, who were then 18? Of course not. Cindy McCain still believes that was all Karl Rove’s fault and will not speak to him. (Rove denies it.)
I doubt very many people actively dislike McCain in the same way they might dislike or detest the current president or vice president. He is a man of honor who has served his country well. He may not be such a nice guy—I’ve surely been accused of same—but I do think he is a good person whose intentions are sound. It’s a shame the timing for the top job just didn’t work out.

Cook County's obscene and disgusting tax rate

It is a strategic mistake to walk willingly into a policy debate with a master debater, political genius, American University alumnus, Democratic policy wonk, and former senior class president like, say, Matt DeLeon. However, I felt Matt’s comment about my intent to shop out of state deserved more than a one-line clever comeback.

Matt's comment:
Can't have reform without revenue. Just ask the new Health Board, which submitted a budget that is $40 million more than last year's.

And be honest--what other taxes have been raised by Cook County other than the sales tax?

And when was the last time the sales tax was raised?

How about never, since its inception--in 1992.

When was the last time your Cook County share of property taxes was raised? Try 1996.

Maybe it isn't Stroger?

Better hurry on that out of state shopping--other governments are raising their sales tax now, as well.

I can't disagree with you more on tax policy. I feel like “Toddler” Stroger rammed through his tax increase just to hire more of his friends and relatives to numerous high-paying jobs under his control. What else would he do with an extra $192 mil (in the black)? Oh, hire another 1000 workers. I read a whole list of tax-free revenue adjustments in a Tribune editorial of which Stroger could have taken advantage to avoid a tax increase, suggested by a Cook County Board member. Sales taxes are regressive and hurt low-income families more than anyone else. Why are sales taxes here the highest in the country, Matt? Do we deserve that? The rate increased 133 percent, from 0.75 to 1.25 percent. That’s excessive, egregious and outrageous—and smaller than what Toddler wanted! Okay, so it had been at the same rate for 15 years, but my tax philosophy is different from yours: I don’t think it should ever be raised. In fact, I’d like to see a tax cut, thank you very much. Toddler is going to lie low about tax increases until his 2010 reelection, and then he’ll announce another tax hike, to 1.75 or 2 percent. No, I really think it is Stroger and his yes-men underlings. I was horrified by his 2006 election that convinced me more than ever the voters here absolutely love big government and higher taxes. (Not to mention nepotism and replacing one taxaholic—John—for another.) Are the schools any better? Is Stroger Hospital any better? In Chicago, Cook County and Illinois, I think taxes pay for more greed, corruption and stop signs.

I believe the Cook County entertainment tax (on movies, sports events, concerts and even non-profit theatre productions) is currently three percent, and yes, that was a recent increase.

Hamilton County in southwestern Ohio has a tax rate of 6.5 percent (including Ohio sales tax). Even if the City of Cincinnati tacks on an extra one percent (not sure about that), it’s a bargain for Chicagoans accustomed to paying 10.25 percent, plus a one percent penalty for eating out, plus a 0.25 percent penalty for eating out downtown, plus more for alcohol, plus more for soft drinks, plus 8 percent (city) and 3 percent (county) for entertainment tickets, etc., etc.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Terminator Episode 8 (spoilers)

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Fox Mondays 8pm ET/PT
Air date: Nov. 10, 2008

The bloody assault on the rural Mexican police station eerily recalls Arnold Schwarzenegger’s attempt to kill John Connor while Connor was in police custody in the original film.

Cromartie, the cyborg Terminator, told Sarah that she and Cameron were making mistakes. Then he’s the one who walks into a building (the local church) where he can be targeted from multiple positions above him. That’s just a fatal error (as it turns out), regardless of his mission priority.

Sarah wanted John to stop seeing Riley because she felt their dating put the Connors and Riley in danger. Sarah wasn’t able to convince John, so Cameron, John’s cyborg protector played by 27-year-old Summer Glau, gave it a shot. Cameron walked up to John’s bedroom, found him lying in bed, removed her jacket (sleeveless top) and joined him. “Why are you taking your jacket off?” asked John.
“I’m hot.”
“You don’t get hot.”
“Yes I do.”
No, she doesn’t. She’s a machine. John went on to ask if she was in bed with him just to “weird out” his mom. Cameron said no and then pressed the Riley issue. John acquiesced, Cameron thought, so she went downstairs to tell Sarah the good news. “I don’t like the way you convince John,” said Sarah, or something to that effect.
“I get results.” Well, not this time. John sneaked out, leading to the Mexico showdown. Let’s see if Cameron tries that again. It actually was a little weird.

Could U.S. humanitarian aid to Israel be cut off next year?

I received an email message from the Jerusalem Prayer Team warning me that Jerusalem residents were in a panic, afraid that humanitarian foreign aid from the U.S. State Department would be cut off under the new administration.


Could we breathe for a moment?

This is what I told the emailer:

Please assure Jerusalem residents that U.S. humanitarian and military funding for Israel is safe. During his one Senate term, President-Elect Obama always voted for foreign aid bills that included funding for Israel. Furthermore, foreign aid to Israel is so popular in the U.S. Congress that even if the president were to veto such a bill, G-d forbid, Congress could override the president's veto with a two-thirds vote. Believe me, that won't happen. The President-Elect is not the slightest bit interested in reducing his massive 77%-23% edge in the Jewish vote. With the imminent appointment of a Jewish, very pro-Israel U.S. Congressman from Chicago as the new White House chief of staff, Israelis should breathe easier about qualms they may have had about the new Administration.

* * *

It’s also worth pointing out that since Israel’s 1948 independence, both elected U.S. presidents voted out after one term were perceived as anti-Israel. (Perceived correctly, I think.) Successive presidents, including the next one, have surely taken careful note of that record.

Any action our new president would take against Israel would doom goodwill he had built within the American Jewish community, where he enjoyed a 77%-23% voting edge. He’s way too smart to make such a grave error.

Will the President-Elect move to divide Jerusalem?

My latest “Jerusalem Prayer Team” email message warned that the new White House Chief of Staff, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D.-Ill.), was a proponent of a divided Jerusalem when he last worked in the White House, in the Clinton Administration. Would Emanuel push again to divide Jerusalem, including possibly ceding control of the Temple Mount/Kotel area to the Palestinian Authority? (Good luck walking down and davening there if that happens.)

To me, that’s a concern. We don’t know how committed the President-Elect is to an undivided Jerusalem. He told the AIPAC Conference in June that Jerusalem should remain undivided. One day later, he said he was just kidding—the status of Jerusalem is subject to negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. So which is it? We don’t know. Kind of like gay marriage. Kind of like the right of Americans to own guns. The President-Elect can’t make up his mind.

Back up your cellphone's data bank

In the last three weeks, two of my friends told me that they lost their cellphone handsets and the contact information databanks that they had built up over a period of years. I cannot stress this enough: back up your data to the Internet! Sprint charges $2/mo. for this service. (Thieves.) It’s complimentary with verizon for customers who sign up to view their accounts online. Even if a handset is insured, there is no way to recover the data from a lost, stolen or destroyed handset unless it’s backed up elsewhere. An additional benefit is if a customer renews his account online and asks the provider to send him a new handset via overnight delivery, there’s no need to visit the provider store to transfer the data bank from the old handset to the new one. The customer simply downloads the data bank from the Internet. This takes about a minute.

A very good idea.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Not so fast, Newt and Sarah

There are reports that former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R.-Ga.) and Gov. Sarah Palin (R.-Alaska) are considering running for president in 2012.

Gingrich was Republican Whip before engineering the GOP takeover of the House in 1994. His grateful Republican colleagues elected him Speaker following the November, 1994 midterm elections. Following the disastrous impeachment hearings and the GOP’s loss of numerous congressional seats in the subsequent 1998 midterm elections, Gingrich resigned his Speakership and his suburban Atlanta congressional seat (to which he had just been reelected). A professor by trade, he has been writing books over the last ten years.

Because of his combative partisan approach to politics, as well as his brilliant successes during the Clinton era, Gingrich was Dr. Evil in Democratic circles. Just ask Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who repeatedly named him in fundraising letters. His marriage history may actually be worse than Rudy Giuliani’s, which is saying something. (And I think he paid for an abortion, too.)

Newt could try to run against President Obama in 2012. I doubt he’ll get very far. What I’d really like to see—also far-fetched—would be for Newt to be Secretary of State. In this new Administration! It’s high time someone in charge rooted out the decades-long history of anti-Zionist bias that permeates the State Department. Newt could pull it off.

The limited success of candidates attempting to kick out a sitting, elected president is evident. It’s a short list: Clinton sent George H.W. Bush back to Houston in 1992; Reagan sent Carter on his current world tour in 1980; and FDR bounced Herbert Hoover in 1932. If you want to go past 1932, please send me your results. But my point is that only three men succeeded in 13 attempts to unseat a sitting, elected president. That’s a terrible 23 percent success rate.

I think Gov. Bobby Jindall, (R.-La.) could beat Obama in 2012, but it would require an electorate terribly disappointed in its president. With an expected economic recovery starting in 2011 or so, that’s extremely unlikely in my estimation.

Zabasearch; Intelligus

Most people have run their names through to see what pops up. Maybe a family tree; maybe one’s Facebook page; maybe a mention in media. It’s worth running to see the results in case anyone else tries the same search.
Ever tried
The results are revealing, and that’s what scares me. Age. Phone number. Current address. Previous address. A link to for more information.
At a previous position a few years ago, I refused to tell a co-worker my age. He simply ran me through and then told me my age. Nice.
In Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger went back in time to 1984 to kill Sarah Connor so she wouldn’t give birth to John Connor, who ultimately won the war against Skynet and the machines. Schwarzenegger didn’t have Sarah Connor’s contact information; he only knew she lived in or near Los Angeles. So he looked up “Sarah Connor” in the L.A. phone book and hunted down each listing. I don’t believe a Terminator is coming after me, but I am concerned about contact information being even more readily available. Obviously, is a lot more accurate than a phone book. A few years ago, I read a magazine article about a guy who didn’t like being so easily identified, either. So he worked hard at disappearing, legally. He unlisted his phone number and had mail delivered to a private rented box. Since it wasn’t a PO box, he could list it as his “street address” without people knowing it wasn’t real. He registered a shell company (legal) that owned his home and his car so his name couldn’t be traced to them. He advised against voter registration and entering any contests/sweepstakes, as they are just market research tactics designed to allow companies to learn more about the entrants.
I am a big proponent of voter registration, but it is a problem for me that it makes one’s address a matter of public record. (Hollywood stars get around this by registering at their agents’ downtown offices.) I registered my name and email address at so it emails me anytime someone runs my name. Thankfully, Zabasearch can’t figure out where I live. It’s just a few steps behind. HA! The only reason it has my Fitch Avenue address is because I connected a land line for dial-up use for a few months and didn’t bother to have it unlisted. In terms of hiding one’s real street address: I do have a real problem with the three huge credit-reporting agencies being in possession of that information. With identity theft being the scourge it is, I don’t believe we’re safe in a situation in which anyone with a few pieces of information about someone suddenly has access to so much more.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Ho ho ho

Now that the election is over, we can get down to business: the upcoming holiday season.
I wish there were a way to promote further Chanukah’s own identity and its importance in Jewish history. “Minor holiday,” one hears way too often. So Christians have a big holiday—the genesis of their faith—and we celebrate “just” another military victory? But like any other military victory of ours, if it had gone the other way, we wouldn’t be here. And if one studies the dominant Syrian-Greek civilization of the time, it’s chilling to consider their moral code continuing to our current era. So all beneficiaries of Western civilization—based on “Judeo-Christian values,” as our friend Pat Buchanan liked to say—should tip their hats to the Jewish heroes who fought so valiantly to preserve their Torah belief system.
It’s difficult to compete with the traditions associated with Christmas over the last several decades. The colors, the parties, the gifts, the decorations, the tree, the weather—when does Bethlehem ever get snow?—and of course, Santa Claus. With so much of the holiday aimed at children, it’s understandable that a Jewish child whose family doesn’t celebrate Christmas can feel lost or cheated. This means it’s even more important to demonstrate to a Jewish child that our tradition does matter, that we made a difference when we beat the Syrian-Greeks 2100 years ago and continue to do so.

I asked my friend and noted wise man Adam Davis about Chanukah in our modern era. His commentary:

I don't think we need a marketing ploy ala Santa Claus for Judaism as a religion. It might work, but it’s not needed. No matter where you fall in the denominational, observance or philosophical spectrum, Judaism itself has plenty of meaning that 'sells itself." The modern institutions and organizations purveying it in myriad forms, for a number of complex reasons, increasingly face some challenges with our generation and may well do so anyways. It doesn't hurt.

Our culture, a civilization, our Jewish aesthetic frowned on creating fixed images of specific individuals, lest our heroes be caricatured and lose esteem or worse, be mawkishly semi-deified.

That said, in this day and age, it should also be understood that marketing isn't simply a set of ploys. If we speak of it as putting smart strategies in place, then yes, it is needed. We can and should create tokens or platforms for Judaism, Jewish culture, life and community that affirm them, promote them in order to make our heritage more approachable, accessible and understandable.

Whether in tactical form it's Hanukah Harry, Zohan or Hebrew Hammer or something more tasteful is a more complex question that needs to be considered according to the audience, but the more meaningful touch points we offer, the more likely folks will connect with their Jewish identity.

New stoplight at 2300 W Irving Park Rd

Driving to Lakeview on the 30th, I noticed a new stoplight ready to go online at Irving Park Road and Oakley Avenue, halfway between Western Avenue and Leavitt Street.

Sitting and sputtering along at about 6 mph on eastbound Irving Park that night, I can say with absolute confidence the last thing Irving Park needs is yet another stoplight. Irving Park tends to be heavily congested between its Kennedy Expressway ramps (at Pulaski) and Lake Shore Drive, and often for several miles west of the Kennedy as well. It’s bad for everyone except residents of Oakley Avenue who want to turn left. So thousands of motorists, truckers and bus riders are stopped daily for the convenience of a few.

This is so Chicago. I haven’t been able to track down online the approximate cost of a stoplight installation, but my guess is it is around $100,000 or more. In Chicago, this usually involves three or four posts into the ground, plus the overhead arms.

Having lived in Chicago for more than a decade, I have long decried the explosion of stop-sign installations as they sprout like weeds. Every excuse—a school (kids), a park (kids), a condo complex (old people)—is used, regardless of the actual number of pedestrians. The alderman signs off on the petition, and there’s another 24-hour traffic stop. There are several intersections in Chicago—either T-intersections or bizarre one-way configurations—in which cross-traffic is impossible. So the stop sign is there just for fun or just for the convenience of the occasional pedestrian. If you don’t believe me, I can show you in Rogers Park and the Gold Coast, respectively, these intersections.

(A park is here.) y>>>>One way east>>>>>>>>
a Fig. 1. A T-intersection with a worthless stop sign.

<<<< 1-way west < >>>>One way east>>>>>>>>
a Fig. 2. An intersection with no cross-flow traffic
f and a stop sign.

With the massive increase in vehicles and miles driven in Chicago over the past several years, we need fewer traffic controls, not more. I’m not suggesting uncontrolled intersections, like in Lincolnwood. I’m suggesting far fewer four-way stop signs. Let drivers drive! If an intersection doesn’t warrant a traffic signal, remove it and post stop signs at the minor street so the major-street traffic can continue in peace. If kids are crossing the street for a park or a school, then install an electric stop sign activated either by a timer or a janitor. There’s no reason hundreds of Metra commuters driving eastbound on Lunt to the Rogers Park train station at 6:30am in December need to screech to a complete stop for a playground used after school and on weekends when it’s nice out. (There are two of those on Lunt: near Western and near Ridge.) For one driver on one day, it’s no big deal. But the cumulative effect is thousands of dollars lost in time, gasoline and brake decay over the course of a year.
Part of the problem in Chicago is that no one pays attention to crosswalks. If police aggressively ticketed crosswalk violators—and CPD has tried enforcement zones recently—there would be no need for the flurry of stop signs, and “No Turn on Red 7am-7pm” could change to “Turning vehicles yield to pedestrians.” So much friendlier, so much time and gas saved.
Two other complaints about commuting in Chicago:
1. Chicago has no “Yield” signs. They would make slowing for an intersection legal; that’s what most people do at stop signs anyway. There are so many stop signs now they are no longer taken seriously.
2. At intersections with sparse late-night cross traffic, let the signals flash yellow on the major street and red on the minor street 11pm-6am. How much gasoline is wasted sitting at lights with no traffic? It’s outrageous.
Major Chicago streets that were once pleasant thoroughfares with lights every half-mile or so have become stop-sign minefields:
1. Sheffield Avenue
2. Halsted Street
3. Clark Street (the Grace and School signs back up traffic for blocks)
4. Sheridan Road
5. Inner Lake Shore Drive between West Sheridan Road and Belmont Avenue
6. California Avenue
7. Diversey Avenue
8. Randolph Street
9. Lake Street
10. Broadway (that Melrose stop sign is a killer)

Friday, November 7, 2008

Terminator Nov. 3 (spoilers)

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Mondays 8pm ET/PT
Episode : Brothers of Nablus
Air Date: Nov. 3, 2008
Spoilers below
Some material described below is pretty gross

In the opening sequence, LAPD Sgt. (Ret.) James Ellison reaches to open the door, and the door swings open, knocking him to the floor. Facing him is someone who appears to look exactly like him. Knowing that cyborgs can take the form of any human they choose, we know the intruder is probably another Terminator. “James Ellison?” the intruder asks. Ellison nods or says yes, the intruder reaches for his gun, and then….
….a metal rod protrudes from the intruder’s chest. We see Cromartie, a Terminator charged with killing the Connors, behind the cyborg Ellison, reaching inside him and ripping out his power source. “I believe in you more than Skynet does,” Cromartie explains to Ellison, still on the floor. “I believe you’ll lead me to the Connors.”
It’s rare that a tv episode opens with such a gory sequence. I was comforted with the thought that it wasn’t a human being impaled like that; it was just a cyborg pretending to be a human. Still. Gross.
Before heading over to Ellison’s house to take him out, the cyborg apparently strangled someone shortly after he reached this time period. LAPD arrested Sgt. Ellison because he looks just like him, but he was released when Det. Kaplan (Kaplan?) showed the judge a written statement from the witness, which made the witness sound crazy. As I suspected, Det. Kaplan turned out to be a shape-shifting cyborg Catherine Weaver, who dropped her Scottish accent for her brief role. The shape-shifting is a lot more impressive than the voice imitation that cyborgs can do.
Apparently when Weaver arrived in L.A., she took the form of a woman, killed that woman and her husband, and is now raising the woman’s 7-year-old daughter as her own. Creepy. I can’t figure out Weaver’s mission. I think she wants to track down the other cyborgs. (From what I can tell, she has plenty from which to choose.) Anyone?
It’s not often we see frum Jews on tv series that are not about frum Jews. The last time I remember such a sequence was a couple of episodes of NYPD Blue, and that was more than a decade ago. It’s probably better that way. In this episode, part of the plot—burglary of the Connors’ home—led them to a jewelry dealer/fence, who was “Moshe,” wore a kippah, and discussed the Torah and Hashem’s plans for him. He turned out to be pretty sleazy, and Jesse (Reese’s girlfriend, played by the talented Stephanie Jacobsen) shot him in the head.
Antisemitic undertones were mild or nonexistent. I caught Moshe’s kippah once, but no one commented on his Jewish identity. The discussion between Cameron and Sarah of Jacob, his daughter, and her rapist’s hometown’s mass circumcision and subsequent massacre didn’t mention Jews.
It seems the show’s writers decided to sideline Cameron’s character in favor of the Connor family unit. John decided to drop out of school, so there’s hardly any interaction between John and Cameron. She just stands around acting as the Connors’ security detail. I understand that’s her job. Still. The show drags with Cameron in the background.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election wrapup

As Michael Medved frequently notes on his radio show, it’s more fun and interesting to talk politics with someone whose views disagree with one’s own. I certainly had that opportunity last night at AIPAC’s Ballots and Beer biannual election party at John Barleycorn in Lakeview. Most of the attendees were Obama partisans, and I enjoyed the chance to discuss their choices and the president-elect’s plans for his first term.

It was a big night for tax-and-spend liberal Democrats in Illinois. Sen. Barack Obama for president: a 3-2 margin. Sen. Dick Durbin: re-elected to a third term, G-d help us, by a 2-1 margin. Rep. Jan Schakowsky: re-elected to a sixth term, G-d help us, by a 3-1 margin. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, perhaps the new White House Chief of Staff: easily re-elected to a fourth term. Illinois Rep. Julie “Taxaholic” Hamos: unopposed for re-election. The constitutional convention, opposed by every politician, desperate to protect his job: handily defeated.

I was pleased that the people of North Carolina sent Sen. Liddy Dole (R.-N.C.) off to a happy retirement. Her speech last night was gracious and polite. That was not the tone of her campaign in its final days, however. Her “G-dless Americans” attack ad, accusing her opponent, a Christian, of being an atheist, was one of the worst I’ve seen. Instead of gracefully stepping aside when she realized the campaign was lost, as she did last night, she “approved this message” of nasty mudslinging. I’m not familiar with her performance in Washington during her one term as U.S. Senator. For her sleazy, embarrassing campaign, Mrs. Dole deserved to lose her job.

I’m delighted Minnesotans returned Sen. Norm Coleman (R) to the U.S. Senate, defeating commentator Al Franken. Franken can do hilarious Henry Kissinger and Rush Limbaugh imitations, but he’s a left-wing extremist and shouldn’t be Senator. And thank G-d, after both sides spent about $74 mil, it appears that Prop. 8 passed by four points in California, preserving traditional marriage in the nation’s most populous state.

McCain's campaign plane: a 737, not a 747

I caught a typographical error in Chicago Tribune reporter Jill Zuckman's missive from Sen. McCain's campaign plane yesterday, Election Day:

----- Original Message -----
From: Kenneth Salkover
To: Zuckman, Jill
Sent: Wed Nov 05 11:58:57 2008
Subject: McCain's plane a 737

Ken Salkover

Ms. Zuckman:

In the "Swamp" blog version of your story aboard the McCain campaign
airplane yesterday, you referred to it as a 747. Was that a typo?
Air Force One is a B747-400, and any aircraft in the 747 series would
be almost as large. I was pretty sure that was incorrect, so I looked
around and found this article, about the launch of McCain's B737 in

I follow passenger aircraft as a hobby, so this is of great interest
to me. BTW, a B737 has two engines, and a B747 has four, plus an
enlarged widebody fuselage with a telltale upper-deck hump.

I hope Sen. McCain didn't wear you out over the final days and that
you're ready for your next assignment. Good luck!

Her reply:

Thanks, Ken - good catch. That was a typo. Appreciate the note.


McCain's concession speech

A classy, gracious speech that called for all of us to unite behind the president-elect. Too bad it had to end this way.

Sen. Liddy Dole (R.-N.C.) concession speech

Mrs. Dole did not conduct her campaign to the standards of the elder stateswoman her constituents elected six years ago. (Mrs. Dole is the same age as her colleague John McCain.)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Barack Obama on Prop. 8


In a letter to the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, Sen. Barack Obama said:

“As the Democratic nominee for President, I am proud to join with and support the LGBT community in an effort to set our nation on a course that recognizes LGBT Americans with full equality under the law…And that is why I oppose the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California Constitution, and similar efforts to amend the U.S. Constitution or those of other states.”

As a strict constitutionalist, I normally oppose constitutional amendments. I opposed efforts to put a traditional marriage constitutional amendment referendum on the ballot in Illinois in 2006 because I thought it was a waste of taxpayers' time and money. Gay marriage was and is not legal here. In California's case, however, the Supreme Court overruled a previous referendum of the people, Prop. 22 from 2000, which passed 61% - 39%. So the people are entitled to take action. The Obama-Biden ticket is ostensibly opposed to gay marriage. Yet Sen. Obama opposes efforts to protect traditional marriage in the California constitution. Prop. 8 says, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California." Which is it? It's not just that the senator (president-elect?) and I disagree on gay marriage (maybe) and gun ownership rights (definitely). It's that he won't take a definitive stance on the issue. If he opposes gay marriage, then he should favor efforts to ban it in California, where it is currently legal. If he believes it's an issue best left to the states, then he should say so. If he thinks gay marriage is a fine idea, then he should say so and stop lying to us.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Blackhawks at home on Saturday nights

Since the late ‘80’s—for a generation—the Bulls have been the top attraction at Chicago Stadium and United Center. As the top attraction, the stadium gives the Bulls the preferred dates, including most Saturday nights throughout the winter and spring. Saturday night, Oct. 25, United Center’s other major tenant, the Chicago Blackhawks, hosted the Detroit Red Wings in a key early season matchup. The fans responded with a record regular-season turnout of 22,690. That figure includes almost 1200 standing-room tickets! Unfortunately, the Blackhawks will host just one more Saturday night regular-season game this season, on Valentine’s Night.

I just checked some schedules for comparison’s sake. So the Blackhawks scheduled two Saturday nights this year. The Bulls have 12, plus two Saturday matinées. That’s outrageous. Two other major cities with shared venues have a more balanced allocation of its Saturday nights: in New York, the Rangers get five, and the Knicks get four, plus a Saturday matinée. In Philadelphia, the Flyers get ten Saturday nights and one Saturday matinée, while the Sixers get six plus one. Why the unusually large discrepancy between the two teams in Chicago? It’s not fair, and it should stop, beginning next season.

Proposed Constitutional Convention for Illinois
(I could not find the “No” website that former Gov. Jim Edgar is helping out.)

I received a ten-minute explanation at dinner Friday night (thanks, Mitch—and dinner was delicious, BTW, thanks, T) on why a constitutional convention is a horrible idea. The 1970 convention lasted 17 months and cost $31 mil (in 1970 dollars), according to Mitch. If the sleazy taxaholic Jim Edgar is opposed to it, along with every other Illinois politician, that suggests to me it’s a great idea. If the Chicago Tribune and Tribune columnist Eric Zorn endorse it, that suggests to me it’s a great idea. But Mitch’s argument certainly gives one pause. Mitch added that the members of the Illinois House and Senate and their lobbyists would be in charge of the convention.

Prop. 4 in California – another parental notification law

Pregnancy is a hardship for unmarried teenage girls, and abortion is a tragic option. I still believe it’s a private decision between the pregnant girl/woman and her doctor, and that government should not intervene.

Prop. 8 in California – the Marriage Protection Amendment

While reviewing the websites of both positions, with their video ads, arguments, and clothing for sale, I thought, “Here is democracy at work.” The “No” website complains, “Out of state special interests are pouring money into the ‘Yes’ effort.” Well, DUH. There are no gates at the California border—physical or financial—and Americans have a vested interest in whether gay marriage remains legal in the nation’s most populous state. Like it or not, California sets trends for the rest of the country, and that’s true in politics as well.
Prop. 8 states, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” The text of Prop 8 doesn’t appear on the “No” website.

Prop. 2 in California

I can’t see how giving farm animals more room in confinement would lead to avian flu or a host of other problems. And I can't imagine that eggs will need to be trucked into California from other states. That just sounds like an empty threat.

Prop 2

Yes on Prop 2


My friend Mark Zemelman was in town last week, and we met for coffee in Evanston. I have known Mark since first grade, and the topic turned to people we once knew or have known for a long time. I mentioned my struggles with bullies at Boy Scout camp one summer and then at Camp Echo, a YMCA camp, the following year. One of the top bullies from each camp turned up a few years later in my high school drivers ed class. Either they didn’t remember who I was, or they didn’t let on. “They didn’t remember,” Mark said. “It wasn’t personal.” Mark is probably right, and a more recent exchange reminded me of his wisdom once again.

When I tell people, “I went to Evanston,” I think there’s an assumption that a problem with bullies would come from students from low-income backgrounds. That wasn’t the case with me. For three consecutive years, plus summer school, I had one class with a kid at least one-and-a-half times my size from a wealthy family. He would tease me, make antisemitic comments, and physically threaten me in class. I should have told someone but did not. This harassment mercifully ended senior year, when we did not share classes. The memories of this continuous nastiness remain vivid in my mind. I’m over it, but bullying doesn’t go away easily.
Last week, I posted a comment to my high school class Yahoo! Group and invited comments and queries by email. The bully, who once before had attempted to add me as a Facebook Friend, emailed me, saying, “I’m curious as to why you’re in favor of Prop 8.” I couldn’t believe he was sending me what appeared to be a friendly, innocuous message. I replied, “I’M curious as to why you bullied me for three years at Evanston.”
He replied and suggested I had the wrong guy. He insisted, and I believe him, that he doesn’t remember any of it. I was stunned. But then I remembered what Mark said. It wasn’t personal. I was there, and I was convenient. So he picked on me.
My new bully policy:
1. It is not fair to spread gossip about bullies for transgressions committed decades ago. You will not find this person’s name here, and I won’t repeat it when I see my classmates. I now regret mentioning other bullies’ names, as it’s quite possible they have improved themselves. I certainly hope people don’t judge me by my high school persona, and former bullies deserve the same clean slate.
2. It is fair to demand an explanation, as I did. An apology is warranted, in my opinion, regardless of whether the bully remembers the incident(s).
Should I “Add him as a Friend”? I haven’t decided yet. I guess I could if he makes another request. Since I responded via FB to his message, he has two weeks to view my FB profile--the main advantage of being added. If he lived nearby, I suppose we could be on good terms. But he took delight in making my life difficult for three years. I can’t pretend that didn’t happen.

Should the GOP lose the White House?

Visiting with the Ryners about 11 weeks ago, I asked them about their top three issues facing America in this election. Besides mulling over the economy and Iraq, they listed "Getting the Republicans out of the White House" as one of their priorities. I must admit they have a great point.

In 2004, I felt the president deserved to lose his job for how badly he bungled the Iraq war effort. Now, I'm afraid the U.S. will suffer for years the aftereffects of this failed Administration. The Republican Party, I think, should be punished for foisting George W. Bush on us at a time when we deserved a candidate of far higher caliber. I'm not saying Vice President Gore should have been anointed in 2000. That's not how democracy works. But I felt like GOP insiders had a bet going (for a dollar, like in "Trading Places") to see if they could nominate the most unqualified candidate for president and win, based on his presidential name and good looks.

I was afraid that losing the White House in 2000 would set the Democratic Party adrift, with no direction and no leadership. I think I was right. Now, the Democrats face the unlikely prospect of losing the White House in three straight elections. Such a rejection by the electorate--12 years out of power--forces a party to rethink strategy and start in a new direction. After the last time this happened (1980-1992), the result was a centrist philosophy and the election of Bill Clinton to president. Another loss this year will weaken a party set to take over but devoid of ideas, in my opinion. I'm still voting for Sen. McCain (doesn't mean much in Illinois), but I suspect a McCain upset victory would shock the Democrats into a deep sense of loss, malaise, and soul-searching. Where would the Democrats go from there? Unfortunately, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.) and Sen. Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) are the party leaders if Sen. Obama is not elected president. That's a bad sign.

The polling place: not a movie theatre

On a particular night, a person may decide to go to a movie. He or she peruses the listings in the newspaper, or goes online, or calls Moviephone. If he or she doesn't come across a movie to his or her liking, he or she decides to do something else.

Every four years, a great number of voters look solely at the presidential candidates. If they don't see a candidate to their liking, they stay home on Election Day.

It's not a movie theatre!

This isn't Europe or Israel. We don't have a dozen parties that form voting blocs in Parliament or the Knesset. We have primaries with their slew of candidates instead. Voters have the opportunity in the primaries to make their voices heard regarding nominating candidates. Once the two major parties nominate candidates, the voters' choices are down to two. Yes, staying home is an option. But it's also a copout.

I don't remember his exact words, but R' Moshe Feinstein z"l, one of the greatest Torah sages of the 20th Century, said, "It is incumbent upon every Jew to exercise his right to vote." Damn straight, Rabbi. That's also true of everyone else smart enough to make an intelligent decision. (If a voter is voting based on which candidate he would rather have a beer with or play basketball with or go out to dinner with: please stay home.) Democracy is not a spectator sport! An active electorate makes our representative government more responsive to us and more responsible in action. High turnouts make incumbents nervous; they count on a sleepy, compliant electorate to help them stay in office. If you haven't already voted, please show up tomorrow, despite the long wait, and show them who decides.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

G-d vs. the Scientists - A contest

From Chicago Torah Network's "Shabbat Fax" of Oct. 31.

> They said that they could do whatever He could.
> So He does a miracle. Splits the sea.
> ... And through the wonder of modern science they do it as well.
> He brings the ten plagues.
> And amazingly, so do they!
> It goes on and on.
> Until finally G-d takes a handful of earth, breathes into it a breath of
> life ... and creates a man.
> ‘Okay’ G-d says. ‘Can you do that?'
> ‘Sure’, one of them says. And he picks up a handful of earth ...
> ... And suddenly a voice comes down from heaven:
> “Excuse me.
> ... Use your own earth.”