Wednesday, December 30, 2009

How long will Soldier Field last?

I watched the end of the Chicago Bears' thrilling overtime victory over Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings Dec. 28 from the comfort of my bedroom. I'm sure it would have been quite thrilling to have witnessed the game in person, but I really can't see sitting for four hours in a 20-degree night (plus wind chill) to watch a truly terrible football team. A friend and Bears expert told me the Bears still rank in the top ten (of 32 teams) in terms of stadium revenue. How long will that last? It seems to me that Mayor Richard M. Daley cheated the city by caving into the McCaskey family (Bears owners) demands for a renovated Soldier Field in 2001 after having told the McCaskeys "you can go to Alaska" for years. I'm no fan of public funding, but the total cost of the Soldier Field renovation was $632 million. At about the same time, Houston built Reliant Stadium from the ground up for $425 mil, and that stadium has a retractable roof! So Bears fans continue to pay top prices for tickets (no discounts after nearly three decades of consecutive sellouts and a huge waiting list) to freeze outdoors for nearly half the season. Retractable-roof technology has existed at least since 1989, when SkyDome opened in Toronto.

After another World Series was marred by bad weather in 2008, Sports Illustrated sharply criticized Major League Baseball for allowing numerous new ballparks to open without retractable roofs. Subsidies for the additional cost, which SI estimated at $100 mil each, could come from an MLB fund, the magazine said. I can't vouch for the magazine's math, but I agree that with baseball running from April to November (including the full postseason), keeping players and paying customers comfortable makes sense.* That would seem to be even more important for pro football, with much higher prices and much colder temperatures.

Chicago could have built a retractable-roof stadium, which could have attracted an annual college bowl game, Men's and Women's NCAA Final Four basketball tournaments, and one Super Bowl. (The NFL gives cities cold-weather climates one Super Bowl per stadium built. Keep in mind the Super Bowl is for rich men who play golf, which means Miami, Tampa, Phoenix and sometimes New Orleans. St. Louis is still waiting.) We have none of those tourism-generating events because we don't have a facility that can host them. And Bears fans continue to sit in the cold in a stadium quickly headed toward obsolescence.

Thanks again, Your Honor.

*Except in freezing Minneapolis, where the baseball team is moving from an indoor stadium to an outdoor ballpark. Good luck with April and May ticket sales, Twins.

The East Coast Establishment marries in

It started in the White House.

Karenna Gore, oldest daughter of Vice President Al Gore and granddaughter of former Sen. Al Gore Sr., married Andrew Newman ("Drew") Schiff on July 12, 1997. Drew is Jewish. Karenna comes from a wealthy Tennessee family that has been part of the Washington political establishment for decades. The Schiffs have three children.

Ivanka Trump, whose billionaire real estate developer father Donald is one of the wealthiest and most famous men in the world, converted to Judaism and married Jared Kushner Oct. 25, 2009. Kushner works in his family's successful publishing business.

A month ago, former President Bill Clinton's family announced the engagement of their only child, Chelsea, 29, to Marc Mezvinsky. Mezvinsky's parents, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky and Edward Mezvinsky, are both former U.S. Congressmen. While Chelsea's father soaks up millions in speaking fees, her mother continues to firm up her political resumé as U.S. Secretary of State. Mezvinsky's uncle, Professor Norton Mezvinsky of Central Connecticut State University, is vehemently anti-Israel and possibly antisemitic. Chelsea plans to convert to Judaism. Marc is not Chelsea's first Jewish beau; she had one at Stanford University as well.

Not too long ago, a child of an Establishment family marrying a Jew would have been absolutely unthinkable. Here we have three beautiful, successful young women who have married in to Jewish families or are planning to do so, with the blessing of their world-famous fathers.

These are just three examples. More such unions occur all across America without the tabloid coverage. It's another step of American Jewry becoming further entrenched as part of the American fabric.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wanted: a Cubs owner who cares

Could the Chicago Cubs buy a decent owner?

The Wrigley family managed to field competitive teams in the 1930’s and 1940’s, winning the National League pennant several times. But the Wrigleys didn’t have the passion or the finances to compete with the big boys in New York or Los Angeles. Gee, they couldn’t even compete with the little boys in St. Louis or Cincinnati. The Cardinals and Reds have won 13 World Series championships between them since the Cubs won a pair in 1907 and 1908. The small-market river towns 275 and 300 miles away? How embarrassing.

It’s probably better that the Tribune Co. didn’t build a new ballpark in the early 1980’s after its 1981 purchase because that ballpark would now be obsolete. Still, failing to insist on a full night-game schedule is costing the Cubs dearly, in my opinion, both at the box office and on the field. The ballpark is worse than ever. (Seriously.) The Cubs were never financially competitive, and the team’s popularity with the fans may have induced laziness on the part of the ownership to be aggressive with front office and on-field talent. Some Cubs teams in the 1990’s and 2000’s were quite awful.

Now we have a new ownership, and after some initial optimism, I fear more of the same. I was excited that the Ricketts family wanted to renovate Wrigley Field extensively in preparation for its centennial year and the 2014 All-Star Game. Then I read the men’s restrooms will continue to be a public health hazard—no renovations are planned. I also read the Ricketts want to play 50 night games a year, up from the current schedule, limited by Chicago law, to 30 night games and none on Friday or Saturday. (Other teams typically play 55 night games at home.) But the Ricketts have not held meetings with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) or with neighborhood groups to discuss the issue. Despite the standing law (which expires after the 2018 season, I believe), Ald. Tunney could amend the law to allow more night games. He would probably receive City Council approval since Council protocol is to allow aldermen to set policy in their own wards.

The Ricketts’ inaction at baseball’s recent winter meetings in Indianapolis was a serious tactical error. The Cubs missed out on upgrading any number of positions where they are desperately vulnerable. Milton Bradley will probably be playing Monopoly or Uno on the Cubs’ bench this season since the Cubs’ general manager was unable to deal him.

The biggest shock to Cubs fans, especially those who have seen the Cubs play in March, is the Ricketts may move the Cubs’ spring training facility from Mesa, Ariz. to Naples, Fla. Everything I have read about spring training in Florida (the Grapefruit League) is that it is crowded and kitschy with awful traffic. Add the arrogant Yankees and Red Sox fans to the mix, and it makes for misery in Alligator Alley. The Cubs and their fans were right at home in Arizona’s Cactus League, which now includes the White Sox (who moved from Sarasota) and the Dodgers (from Dodgertown/Vero Beach, duh) sharing space in Glendale.

The late Ron Luciano was the American League’s most famous umpire in the 1970’s. He was a fan favorite and wrote a best-selling book, which is a great snapshot of the era: The Umpire Strikes Back. He wrote that every off-season, he would beg his American League bosses to send him to Florida for spring training. Every year, they would send him to Arizona—which was exactly what he wanted. Ha! Very smart man.

As an aside, a Cubs move to Southwest Florida would fundamentally change the relationship Chicagoans have with Arizona. The Grand Canyon State becomes less desirable as a winter destination. The second-home market and spring-break vacations in the Phoenix area would never be the same without the Cubs in town. Unlike replacing Wrigley Field (great idea), leaving Arizona would be a sad end to a great tradition.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Skokie Park Dist.: Jews like to skate at night too

Realizing I haven't laced up my skates since Fred's Erev Super Bowl skating party (Jan. 31), I picked up public skating schedules at my friendly neighborhood skating rinks: Robert Crown Community Center and Ice Complex in Evanston and the Skatium in Skokie. Both feature midday weekday skating. Both offer Friday night and Sunday afternoon skating.

Other evenings? Happily, the Crown Center offers Saturday nights, 8-10. That's perfect for shabbos-observant Jewish skaters who can hit the ice at that time all winter long. But the Skatium, which has many more Jews in its vicinity and contributing to its upkeep via local taxes, only has evening public skating 6-7:15 on Saturdays. That works for a few weeks in November and December for shabbos-observant Jews. There's also 7:15-8:30 Friday nights. Thanks, Skokie Park District. I'll be right over.

Shabbos-observant Jews who work for a living and want to skate at the Skatium must compete for space with the kids and families on Sunday afternoons. Really, Skokie Park District--is that the best you can do? How about a couple of hours after 7pm on a Sunday through Thursday night? Between the figure skating and hockey, there must be some time available.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

V: The Visitors Return

abc television
Tuesdays 8pm ET/PT

This note assumes you have seen the first three episodes (through Nov. 17).

Just when you thought the planet was safe: Guess who is back? The 1983 miniseries on NBC was fantastic. Intelligent lizards dressed as humans who come here supposedly to take some water, but they actually needed food (us). We figured out how to make a virus that kills them, and they went home. Now they're back and better than ever. There are some similarities--cool uniforms, for example. We don't know what they want yet, although their initial claim is the same. There are new, subtle differences that make this full-length series much more interesting than the miniseries that started it:

--They've really been here for 20 years? Living among us? And none of them have died and been autopsied with surprising results? Come on.
--Where are all the half-breeds? Interspecies kids? Remember when the nice Jewish girl in the original miniseries gave birth to twins--a normal-looking kid and a disgusting lizard gremlin? That was hilarious.
--In the original miniseries, "Fifth Column" referred to human betrayal--not a Visitor cell dedicated to saving humanity. Too shocking for tv, I guess, for us to see the black guy (someone we like) executing the guy who betrayed him to a Visitor assassin team. That was certainly a threatening note (in blood) he left on the door.
--the Visitors have sweeper teams just like The Centre in The Pretender.
--The last time I saw that seeker ball, it was trying to kick Skywalker's ass aboard the Millenium Falcon.
--FBI Special Agent Dale's comments to the ship doctor about living with a human: do they all think we're disgusting and smelly? All of us? (Some of us--well, they may have a point there.)
--a seriously kick-ass mothership with shuttles to and from the Earth.
--Can they really beam back and forth? At that meeting of Visitor leaders, were they really there, or was it a virtual meeting?

So many surprises. The ship doctor? OF COURSE he's a Fifth Column member! OF COURSE Lisa is Anna's daughter! (The actresses are 25 and 30 years old.) OF COURSE Dale is an evil Visitor!

Curious what Anna and Lisa have in mind for Tyler. And how does a Visitor get reconnected? He gets to go home and shed his human epidermis?

Of course I'm terribly curious how long it is going to take for humanity to wake up and realize what we are up against: sleeper cells; assassin teams; advanced weaponry; secret motives. Evans is right: they show up and we issue tourist visas without asking too many questions? Come on. It should be deeply disturbing for the U.S. government to be in the presence of a group that is militarily and technologically superior.

Very much like Elizabeth Mitchell ("Juliet" on Lost) as FBI Special Agent Erica Evans and Scott Wolf ("Bailey Salenger on party of five) as Chad Decker. BTW did anyone notice when Matthew Fox (Jack Shepard on Lost) and Scott Wolf were playing brothers on party of five that their surnames referred to midsize mammalian predators? Just curious. Christopher Shyer is delightfully evil as Marcus, Anna's right-hand man.

I'm hooked, and I don't say that about tv very often. Looking forward to the next episode, and I hope V manages to hang on.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

How many more stop signs does Chicago need?

This letter was in response to this article that appeared in the Chicago Tribune Oct. 18:,0,6304244.story
A four-year-old girl was killed while in a crosswalk at Lincoln Park Zoo by a motorist whose license had been revoked. He ran a stop sign and hit her. The editor cut my favorite part--the bullet points.

Dear Editor:

Motorists shouldn't run stop signs. ("After Maya," Page One, Oct. 18.) That is absolutely true.

Unfortunately the sharp increase in stop signs in Chicago over the last decade, especially at intersections that hardly warrant four-way stops, causes some drivers to ignore them or slide through them. Consider just a few examples from West Rogers Park, where I lived for several years:

* A sign stopping traffic at the alderman's condo tower, but not the other three identical towers.
* A sign protecting a baseball field used perhaps a dozen times a year.
* A sign stopping traffic on Touhy Avenue--the only one for about 10 miles--protecting a school a quarter-mile off Touhy. There is a crossing guard helping children across that intersection anyway.
* A sign on congested Devon Avenue for no apparent reason that backs up traffic for a block in either direction while the cross street has neither traffic nor pedestrians.
* A sign next to a park at a T-intersection at which the cross street runs one-way away from the intersection.

All over town, stop signs protect children near schools and parks a few hours a day, half the days of the year. Electric or temporary stop signs would ease congestion and save motorists time and fuel. I understand the Hirsch family's focus on enforcement. But reason and careful consideration with regard to stop-sign installation would also be helpful in drivers' observance of the law.


If you like, you can comment on my letter online: Someone already made a nasty comment and called my opinion "nonsense." He sarcastically suggested that I believe the few seconds it takes me to stop is worth more than a four-year-old girl's life. No. I don't believe that. I do believe that the very high number of stop signs in Chicago actually makes intersections more dangerous for pedestrians. Furthermore, it's not just a few seconds for me. It's thousands of hours and thousands of dollars of wasted time, money and fuel as thousands of drivers per year must slow, stop and accelerate at each stop sign. These signs often exist for no reason at all other than the neighbors who wanted a stop sign installed there. I have seen several instances where stop signs facing major streets create congestion where there previously had been none. A number of streets that were once major thoroughfares across neighborhoods are now almost impassable with stop signs at every block.


If you have time: an op-ed piece about how the recession personally affects the writer and her family, by someone I know, who went to my high school, appeared in the Oct. 25 Chicago Tribune:,0,809561.story

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Cop admits lying in special-unit probe

If I limited this blog to "bad cop" posts, it would practically write itself.

The Special Operations Section of the Chicago Police Department was supposed to be the good guys. Instead, as this Chicago Tribune article reveals, one officer after another is pleading guilty to lying to Internal Affairs Division investigators about breaking the law and covering up by filing false police reports.

How do you know? How do you know this couldn't happen to you?

The cop behind you sees your nice ride, runs your tags and decides to pull you over. In the story, this happened to someone driving a Cadillac with upgraded rims--despite the fact he had not committed a traffic violation. This is a violation of the driver's constitutional right against unreasonable search and seizure. If a cop wants to pull over someone who is driving legally, then he must set up a roadblock and stop everyone.

So the cop pulls you over. (As any cop can tell you, if he had followed you for a few blocks, he probably could have come up with a traffic violation anyway.) He gives no reason for the "traffic stop" and insists on a complete search of your vehicle. He takes what he wants, intimidates you in case you might want to report the incident, and lets you go on your way. Or he forces you to let him into your residence and takes more stuff. According to the article, that's exactly what happened. Then the cop files a false police report.

Except that one of the officers was female. Since she did not profit financially and is cooperating, her sentence was 60 days in jail.

Cops take advantage in ways big and small. Free coffee at convenience stores. Free passes at the movies. (Working at Golf Mill Theatres, I was instructed to comp Niles cops.) I don't have a problem with that.

Free off-duty metered parking by putting the checkered hat on the dash? Not (officially) permitted. And now, as we see, they freely take advantage of their badges and guns to take the law into their own hands by helping themselves. We are at their mercy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Toronto Film Fest's link to Tel Aviv enrages haters

I was a little surprised when I read that the Toronto Film Festival's first City to City choice would be Tel Aviv. The festival is running right now (Sept. 10-19). "That's an unusual first choice, especially considering so many leftists despise Israel, and I suspect that includes not a few in the film industry," I thought. Reaction was swift and nasty. A director withdrew his film and began circulating a petition to "protest TIFF's complicity with the Israeli propaganda machine." You don't say! (And we all know what a splendid job that propaganda machine is doing.)

In his pathetic, simpering response to this opening shot, TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey capitulates to the leftists by agreeing that Tel Aviv "remains contested ground." Contested by whom? By the Islamists and leftist extremists who believe Israel has no right to exist. And Bailey feels the need to acknowledge such extremist views? Consider the source, and his field of work, I suppose.

The petition critical of TIFF's choice of Tel Aviv gained traction and 50 signers, including Jane Fonda, Danny Glover and Alice Walker. After heavy criticism of the petition from Hollywood heavyweights (and Big Jews) Jerry Seinfeld, Natalie Portman and Sacha Baron Cohen, Fonda apologized. The petition says in part, "[W]e object to the use of such an important international festival in staging a propaganda campaign on behalf apartheid regime."

Here we go again.


And "regime," of course, is a code word for "totalitarian dictatorship."

It seems like comparing Israel to apartheid South Africa is a new development because The Worthless One President Jimmy Carter sealed the comparison with his 2006 book title Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. (During his subsequent book tour Carter conceded the Israeli government does not practice apartheid. Liar? You tell me.) I remember in the late 80's pro-Israel advocates trained us students how to combat and debate such comparisons. There were five main laws that set up apartheid in South Africa. The African National Congress, Nelson Mandela's opposition party, wanted those five laws repealed. Obviously, Israel never had any such laws and gives its minority Arab citizens more rights than they would enjoy in any Arab state.

The nasty, visceral reaction to Israel at every turn--academia in London, a film festival in Toronto--calls the liberal agenda's integrity into question especially when liberals are strangely silent on real human rights violations elsewhere around the globe. Burma/Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi's house arrest? This should be a cause célèbre (with celebrities), but Suu Kyi's democracy movement is almost a secret in the West. North Korea's prison work camps? Worth investigation and publicity; only briefly famous because Pyongyang got lucky when it captured two pretty American women, thus forcing a visit by a former president. China's illegal occupation of Tibet and gradual elimination of Tibetan culture? The People's Republic considers Tibet an internal matter, and no one seems to mind.

And that's just Asia.

Israel's neighbors are some of the worst human rights violators in the world. Penalty for wearing a cross necklace in Saudi Arabia: flogging. Penalty for Driving While Female in Saudi Arabia: flogging. Penalty for being outed as a gay man almost anywhere in the Arab world: torture and public execution. (Yet you see a Queers for Palestine sign at every anti-Israel rally. The cognitive dissonance is astounding.) Arranged marriages of underage girls. Female genital mutilation. Honor killings. No consequences for rape. These are all common in the Arab world and duly noted by the State Department's annual Human Rights Report. No one seems to care.

The organizations that are supposed to care are the Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGO's. They are repeatedly shown to have the same nasty anti-Israel bias that is prevalent across the West. They are silent on terrorist war crimes against Israel but fire up their laptops at the first sign of Israel daring to defend itself. "You're shooting back? No fair!" This is how Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch operate. HRW suffered two recent embarrassments: a discovery that it raises funds in Saudi Arabia by promoting its anti-Israel work; and a discovery that an analyst at HRW is a Nazi memorabilia collector. After initially defending Marc Garlasco, HRW suspended the analyst today.

In apartheid South Africa and the Jim Crow American South, we saw how racial/ethnic hatred prevailed over economic self-interest. South Africa suffered serious economic pain due to its apartheid system and the subsequent worldwide boycott. Societal segregation gave white Southerners the lowest quality of life of anyone in the U.S.--except for their black neighbors. Now, human rights advocates ignore their own principle and ideology to attack Israel...just because.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The speed of fame

Sony Pictures Classics
Fyodor Productions
Wild Bunch/Green Room Films
Defiance Entertainment
directed by James Toback
Now available on DVD

Who were the two biggest stars of the 1980's?

Mike Tyson and Michael Jackson.

The film opens with the roar of the crowd at the Las Vegas Hilton on the night of Nov. 22, 1986 when Mike Tyson TKO's Trevor Berbick to become WBC heavyweight champion of the world at age 20. (The short fight is here.)

Who would have known at that point the trajectory Tyson's life would take thereafter? This film examines that, with Tyson himself doing all of the talking. As we watch the fights and videos of him from the 80's and 90's, Tyson narrates with the perspective of time.

It's very sad. I was a fan of both Tyson and Jackson--the Heavyweight Champion of the World (he did unify all three belts) and the King of Pop. I think both men suffered because they had no true friends. Neither had someone to say, "No." As in, "No, Mike, you're not going to be heavyweight champion forever. Instead of having three ridiculous mansions, have one or two nice homes. One sports car instead of a fleet. Two bodyguards instead of a posse. Let me find someone besides Don King to manage your money because there really isn't a money printer in your basement."

Or, "No, Michael, you shouldn't continue to mutilate yourself with endless plastic surgery. Fine, you hate your father. So talk to a therapist about it instead of trying to look like Plastic-Man. And the kids can't stay overnight. It's not appropriate, and it makes you vulnerable to criminal charges. We'll send them home in limos if their parents don't pick them up."

No friends. Just hangers-on who try to suck as much of the fame and riches as they can. Tyson's monthly expenses, which became public in bankruptcy court, were a joke. Six figures for cellphones? I guess he hadn't heard about AT&T Unlimited for $99.99. Who are all these people?

Whoever they are, once the arc of fame and fortune descends, they disappear. I don't know what Tyson's current financial situation is. I hope he's all right. It appears that most of the film was shot at a beautiful home above Los Angeles; it's unclear whose home it is. Scenes of Tyson walking alone on the beach at dusk contrast with the home's bright interior.

I highly recommend this film.

Not that there's anything wrong with that

A co-worker told me that because of my strict kosher observance, he assumed I was gay.


If one were to ask friends and acquaintances about me, that exercise may produce numerous adjectives. I suspect "gay" would not be one of them. A bully who lived less than a quarter-mile from me (hey, John!) would frequently call me "fag," but I doubt even he thought I was gay.

I was really surprised. I thought back to reading about a recently published book, Guyland. I thought, "This guy lives in Guyland. He and his friends must prove to each other on a regular basis they are absolutely, positively not gay. Having a relationship with a woman sounds gay, so instead they just hook up and have sex."

And he makes this assumption based on my kosher observance? I tried to explain that most people who keep kosher are heterosexual and that it's a tradition going back three millenia. But to my (Jewish) co-worker, it's a foreign concept that implies homosexuality.

What a difference maturity makes. I hope he grows up. Some people never do.

Bully Beatdown on MTV

Where was this show when I was in school?

The premise is that bully victims contact the host, Mayhem, at his MTV office pleading with him to help them with their problem. Mayhem investigates and invites the bully to fight a professional MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter in the MMA octagon. The bully can pocket a portion of the purse (provided by MTV) for each round if he is successful but must personally hand his cash losses to his victims.

I just watched the episode above, which includes one victim relating that he had anal surgery to repair a tear after this particular bully gave him an atomic wedgie (pulling his underpants up on his body). This is brutal physical abuse that suggests the bully has deep-seated psychological problems, including, in my opinion, doubts about his own sexual identity. The other victim is the bully's own stepbrother, whom he has been tormenting since the victim was five years old--when they met as a result of their parents' marriage. I truly feel bad for the stepbrother, who should have been shipped out of town for school when it became apparent the situation would not resolve itself. According to the stepbrother victim, this situation continued for 20 years.

The show is played for laughs, with the host and victims whooping it up as the MMA professional administers an old-fashioned ass-whuppin'. (In this episode, the pro outweighs the bully by only eight pounds, or less than 4 percent.) But this situation is serious, and I hope the handshakes at the end were genuine and heartfelt.

Thanks, MTV.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Liberal Agenda through the years

It struck me how central gay marriage has become to the liberal agenda over the last five years or so. Should this really be a top priority for liberals, I wondered? I thought back and tried, objectively, to make a list of liberal priorities in my lifetime:


Opposing President Nixon
Opposing the war in Vietnam
State-by-state ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) ratification


Defending legal abortion
Opposing aid to Contra fighters in Nicaragua
Nuclear freeze movement
AIDS research and awareness
Mobilizing against/sanctions against South Africa apartheid regime


Advocating national health care

2000's (first decade, not the whole century):

Opposing President Bush
Opposing the buildup to the war in Iraq and opposing the subsequent war
Opposing efforts to crack down on illegal immigration
Advocating national health care
Advocating nationwide and state-by-state legalization of gay marriage

So gay marriage is worth all this time and expense? Maybe it is. Maybe if I were gay, I would agree. The impetus for this piece, which I've been meaning to write for some time, was Eric Zorn's blog post about the couple who walked the plank (well, almost) at the top of Willis Tower Aug. 27. Willis Tower's observation deck on the 103rd floor has a new feature, the Ledge, in which tourists/guests can step out over downtown Chicago in a glass box about the size of an elevator cab. So this couple got married there, and Zorn thinks getting married at the top of a skyscraper is ridiculous and degrades marriage.* He doesn't understand why this is acceptable and legal, but gay marriage is not. It's an "outrage about which I will never hold my peace." Tell us how you really feel!

Gay marriage proponents nationwide spent about $40 million to defeat Proposition 8 in California on Election Day last November. Prop 8 is an amendment to the California State Constitution that says "Only marriage between a man and a woman is legal and valid in California." It doesn't ban civil unions, which California has. Prop 8 passed by four points after its opponents easily outspent its advocates. In analyzing the exit poll data (fascinating, by the way), gay marriage proponents, Zorn included, quickly concluded, "Well, once the bigoted old farts die out, we'll be able to repeal Prop 8."

Not so fast.

Besides gay people, who were the anti-Prop 8 movement's most dependable voters? Young people. Specifically, single young people. What happens to single young people? They get older, and they get married.

I'm making a proposal, and I know I'm not alone on this one: once people get married in traditional marriages to members of the opposite sex, they realize how special and unique marriage really is. They realize it's nothing like dating and nothing like shacking up in a love nest with someone. It has real responsibilities and real challenges, especially with raising children. It is about celebrating the differences between husband and wife, man and woman, and it is a truly rewarding experience.

When people get married and are utterly surprised and shocked by the special bond they just made, I think they realize that the relationship they share isn't possible between two men or two women. Some married people think that's okay and remain strong advocates for gay marriage. But I think there's a significant percentage of people who take another look at gay marriage after getting married themselves. "Maybe it's not the same. Maybe it doesn't deserve the same label." The relationship between husband and wife can't be duplicated in any other relationship. Zorn can stamp his feet all he wants--perhaps changing the law in the process--but he can't change that basic fact.

*Judging from the comments, some people thought this aisle walk degraded marriage too. It's not traditional--that's for sure--but I like it.

Yanks, Red Sox avoid Kol Nidre conflict

It was quite a bit of news earlier this year when the New York Jets appealed to the NFL on behalf of their Jewish fans to reschedule their Sept. 27 home game. The NFL originally scheduled their game on NBC's Sunday Night Football with an 8pm kickoff, going head-to-head with Kol Nidre services across the East Coast and Midwest. The NFL gave the Jets a break, allowing them to kick off at 1pm EDT. Jewish Jets fans could enjoy the game at Giants Stadium or on tv without missing out on yontif.

The Yankees-Red Sox weekend series finale was originally scheduled for Sept. 27 at 1pm EDT at Yankee Stadium. Major League Baseball and ESPN moved the first pitch back to 8pm EDT to accommodate the national Sunday Night Baseball telecast on ESPN. A U.S. Congressman from New York and the Yankees appealed to Bud Selig, (Jewish) commissioner of baseball. Selig and ESPN allowed the game to be rescheduled to its original start time. It will still be broadcast on ESPN. This last part is rather startling. ESPN insists on broadcast exclusivity for its Sunday Night Baseball telecasts. Other MLB games may proceed at that time, but they may not be on tv. (Teams prefer to be on tv and as a result play Sunday matinées instead.) ESPN is going ahead with its high-interest game in the afternoon, competing with other games, to accommodate Jewish fans. Very impressive.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Cook County's finest vs. my Cobra

I had wanted one for years. After Thanksgiving 2007, I saw one on sale--unbelievably, less than $50. So I splurged and bought my first radar detector.

I don't like leaving it connected in the car because I think it invites theft. I know at least one person who has had her car broken into numerous times, and she doesn't have any accessories like a radar detector or GPS. So I only set it up when I'm taking a long drive. Sunday was one of those times. I took I-294 to I-90 northwest to Randall Road, down to North Avenue in St. Charles--a distance of about 50 miles.

On expressways, tollways and freeways, Americans typically have two choices: exceed the speed limit or get run over. While most speeding tickets are for 9+ mph over the limit, the traffic court judge issues the standard warning at the beginning of her court call: one mile over the limit is still illegal. So if a police car wants to ticket a motorist, he almost always can. I saw on YouTube a boast by a police officer that he can identify a traffic violation by any driver after following him for just four blocks. My point is: I don't use the Cobra specifically so I can break the law without being punished. It really doesn't work that way. If a police officer who is not using radar sees me speeding, he can probably paint me with his gun before I have a chance to slow down. I use it to fight back against cops lying in wait for unsuspecting motorists who are truly following the flow of traffic. The resultant ticket is "arbitrary and capricious"* if everyone is going 75mph. McCormick Boulevard, at Albion: on a grassy knoll. Farther north, at Dempster: behind a park sign. Dempster Street, in Morton Grove: Shoe Carnival parking lot. Yesterday, on I-90 near Sears Centre: behind an old building. This trap was set up in advance with Cook County Sheriff's deputies in at least three separate squad cars, most likely using the Wisconsin Play**: one would hit motorists with his gun and radio to his colleagues, who would chase then down the speeders. Fortunately, thanks to the Cobra having a panic attack, I knew the cops were there. Others were not so fortunate.

Is lying in wait for motorists on a pedestrian-free roadway (I-90) where most drivers are safely driving approximately the same speed (until they realized the police presence, anyway) really a positive way to raise revenue for a government entity?

*The U.S. Supreme Court has deemed such punishment unconstitutional.
**Wisconsin state troopers employ the Wisconsin Play on northbound I-94 between the Illinois state line and Milwaukee, hitting mainly Illinois drivers. Speeding isn't really necessary here as the limit is 65mph.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rosh Hashanah menu at Di Pescara

Di Pescara is an upscale Italian restaurant in Northbrook Court. It is part of the very popular Lettuce Entertain You chain of Chicago-area restaurants. These restaurants are very popular with Jews. A relative told me last night Di Pescara is offering a Rosh Hashanah menu.

To me, this is deeply offensive. Aside from the shomer yontif concerns of driving to the restaurant and paying for the meals, Di Pescara is a non-kosher restaurant that includes crab legs on the menu. (Are crab legs on the Rosh Hashanah menu? I hope not.) If the restaurant stipulated: new/cleaned equipment dedicated for this menu; all-kosher, dairy-free ingredients with kosher wine; by prepaid reservation only--that would be all right. Not strictly kosher without supervision, but at least following the spirit of traditional Jewish cuisine. But we know that will not be the case. The restaurant will welcome Jewish diners right around candle-lighting Friday night (6:35), for lunch on Saturday and dinner on Saturday night. The restaurant will offer the Rosh Hashanah menu. Round challah too?

I realize most Rosh Hashanah celebrants will not be eating a strictly kosher meal. But at least families should have the meal at home, away from the distractions of a non-kosher restaurant where it's just another Friday or Saturday night.

I saw an ad in a Jewish newspaper in 2003 for a Yom Kippur dinner (after sunset, on Kol Nidre/Yom Kippur night) for secular Jews. The ad explained, "Most Jews aren't religious. This dinner is for Jews who don't observe Yom Kippur." I was very curious about the response the advertiser received. Perhaps he didn't know that the percentage of Jews who fast on Yom Kippur is actually higher than the percentage of Jews who believe in G-d. (Hedging their bets.) And just his luck: the Chicago Cubs played the decisive Game 5 of the National League Division Series that night, beating Atlanta to advance to the National League Championship Series. So I suspect most secular Jews were too busy watching the game to attend his dinner.

I thought of that dinner when I heard about Di Pescara. I see a distinction between targeting Jews with non-kosher food; and labeling a restaurant's non-kosher food as a Rosh Hashanah menu. Remember the photo of the ham at the deli labeled "Chanukah special"? Let the Jews make their own holiday food.

Monday, August 24, 2009

District 9 (spoilers)

District 9
Tri-Star (Sony)
Opened Aug. 9

District 9 is notable for being shot almost entirely on location in Johannesburg, a first for a major motion picture release. My South African friends were surprised and impressed, and one pointed out to me how the Republic was a pariah among the nations for decades due to its apartheid system. All the actors were South African--either Afrikaners or black South Africans. Sharlto Copley stars as Wikus ven der Merwe, a friendly, low-key employee of a large, private company, MNU (Multi-National United) that operates the District 9 slum. Wikus reminded me of William H. Macy's character in Fargo because both have powerful, wealthy fathers-in-law who see their sons-in-law as weak. Wikus' physical transformation reminded me of Jeff Goldblum in The Fly.

The eviction procedure that set the plot in motion was a military-style operation, and that's why I found Wikus' poor preparation so troubling. He should have been wearing full body armor and should have left alien contact to the soldiers who accompanied him. The aliens have the strength to project a human 20 feet in the air, and they're just wearing bulletproof vests? Come on. Instead, walking around unprotected and inadvertently spraying the fluid canister is what got him into trouble. He pointed out he didn't know what the canister was except that it was alien; he should have bagged it and tagged it without trying to operate it.

Also, the door-to-door notice could have been accomplished with bilingual leaflets dropped from the air, but I suppose that is beside the point.

The movie didn't make Nigerians look very good, did it? Prostitutes and slum profiteers.

Did the movie suggest that the aliens' planet was dying when they arrived? I missed that part. A slave ship's arrival over Los Angeles in 1988's Alien Nation set the scene for the humanoid aliens in that film living among us. It was unclear whether the District 9 residents would have been permitted to leave District 9 to go home if given the chance.

I'm glad I did not see the trailer until after I saw the film because it really gave away a lot.

Speaking of mass murder....

Communism was responsible for the deaths of over 100 million innocent people in the previous century.

Vladimir Lenin. Josef Stalin. Mao Tse-Tung. Pol Pot. Heroes of Communism. All were mass murderers. The reason Pol Pot's personal death toll was "only" two million was because his small country had only seven million people. His colleagues were more successful.

These men are still celebrated as heroes in left-wing political groups. They meet at conferences on a regular basis (always in Chicago) to bash Israel and extol the virtues of their political system and their deceased leaders, who were surely misunderstood by the democracies that eventually prevailed.

I saw Joel Pollak speak at a political meeting Aug. 13. His focus was health care, but he spoke briefly about Communism. He pointed out that there is a Holocaust Museum in Washington which teaches children and adults too young to remember about the evils of Nazism. There should be a Museum of Communism, he said. I think he's right. Someone needs to remind us of the evils of a murderous political theology that specialized in arresting and murdering those who dared speak out against the dictatorship. For some reason, Jews always suffered under those dictatorships, too, and modern Communist groups continue to be terribly antisemitic. (Ask them why. They'll insist they're just anti-Israel. Right.) In a triumph of this century's moral relativism, Communism doesn't receive the widespread criticism, disdain and vitriol it deserves.

Remember who the Nazis were

Comparisons of Israelis or the President of the United States to the most horrific genocidal maniacs in human history are insulting to the memory of the victims of Nazi terror.

Posted on Wed, Aug. 19, 2009
We need a history lesson about Nazis

I hope this column makes you sick.

See, we'll be talking about Nazis, something many of us are doing lately. Indeed, just this week a fellow named Joseph e-mailed me about a caller he heard on a radio show. The man, vexed over healthcare reform, likened President Obama to Adolf Hitler. Asked why, he said, ``Hitler took over the car companies, then healthcare and then he killed the Jews.''

Said Joseph: ``I almost swerved my vehicle off the road when I heard that.''

But the caller is hardly unique. Google ``Obama + Nazis'' and you get almost seven million hits. Nor is the phenomenon new. Substitute President Bush's name and you get nearly 2.8 million.

An invasion of sorts

Even granting that many of those hits are benign, it seems obvious the Nazis have invaded American political rhetoric in a big way. As in Rush Limbaugh declaring healthcare reform ``a Hitler-like policy,'' swastikas popping up at protest rallies, a poster depicting Obama with Hitler's moustache and a pamphlet that says: ``Act Now To Stop Obama's Nazi Health Plan!

It's important to remember that the Nazis are passing out of living memory; U.S. soldiers of that era are said to be dying at the rate of 1,200 a day. Which makes it too easy, I think, for a nation of notorious historical illiteracy to remake the Nazis as some kind of all-purpose boogeymen for slandering political enemies and scoring cheap rhetorical points.

So I thought it would be good to make you sick, i.e., to spend a few minutes reminding some and teaching others what you invoke when you invoke the Nazi regime.

For the record, then: It was Nazis who shoved sand down a boy's throat until he died, who tossed candies to Jewish children as they sank to their deaths in a sand pit, who threw babies from a hospital window and competed to see how many of those ``little Jews'' could be caught on a bayonet, who injected a cement-like fluid into women's uteruses to see what would happen, who stomped a pregnant woman to death, who once snatched a woman's baby from her arms and, in the words of an eyewitness, ``tore him as one would tear a rag.''

Ideology over reason

That's who the Nazis were, ladies and gentlemen -- those obscenities plus six million more. They were the triumph of ideology over reason and even over humanity, the demonization of racial, religious and political difference, the objectification of the vulnerable other. And the authors of a mass murder that staggers imagination, still.

You would think, then, that where they are invoked to draw a parallel or make a point, it would be done with a respect for the incalculable evil the Nazis represent. You would think people would tread carefully, not because of the potential insult to a given politician (they are big boys and girls) but because to do otherwise profanes the profound and renders trivial that which ought to be held sacred by anyone who regards himself as a truly human being.

But in modern America, unfortunately, rhetoric often starts over the top and goes up from there. So fine, George W. Bush is ``a smirking chimp.'' Fine, Barack Obama is ``a Chicago thug.'' We have a Constitution, after all, and it says we can say whatever we want. It doesn't say it has to be intelligent.

Historical amnesia

And yes, you are even protected if you liken Obama or Bush to Hitler. Yet every time I hear that, it makes me cringe for what it says about our collective propensity for historical amnesia and our retarded capacity for reverence. Once upon a lifetime ago, six million people with DNA, names and faces just like you and I, were butchered with gleeful sadism and mechanistic dispatch. Six million people.

You and I may no longer respect one another, but is it asking too much that we still respect them?

© 2009 Miami Herald Media Company. All Rights Reserved.

How anti-war is the anti-war movement?

I was listening to the Michael Medved Show last week when I heard Jonathan Leaf talk about his new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties. He made an interesting point: the anti-war movement wasn't really anti-war. It was anti-America-winning-a-war. I thought of that while thinking of Chicago ANSWER, the local arm of the national left-wing extremist group Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. ANSWER was very successful in organizing marches against the war in Iraq during the Bush Administration. The Chicago chapter is now jumping into the parking meter debate. How does the city's parking meter lease connect to an anti-war movement? It doesn't. I believe Chicago ANSWER is using the very unpopular parking meter lease--an easy issue to latch onto--in order to publicize its more extreme views. For example:

--ANSWER continues to blame Israel for Gaza's problems despite the fact Israel has not controlled Gaza since 2005 and has not had a presence in Gaza at all except for a brief period in 2008. This incursion was intended to stop the rocket barrage from Gaza into the Israeli town of Sderot.

--anti-war ANSWER opposes any U.S. intervention in the Darfur conflict, preferring to allow the Sudanese government to continue its massacre of innocent black Africans by Arabs. Sounds pretty racist to me.

--ANSWER supports the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe--a dying nation with worthless currency and a corrupt government in desperate need of reform. But ANSWER supports the dictatorship.

Let's be perfectly clear. ANSWER is not absolutely opposed to war. If Syria invaded Israel, ANSWER would gleefully support Syria's actions against "Western imperialism." If Cuba brutally suppressed a revolt, ANSWER would celebrate another victory for the Revolution. ANSWER's opposition to war depends on which side is winning.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mr. Ricketts: Demand 55 night games at Wrigley

As the Ricketts family takes control of the Chicago Cubs, an ownership era comes to a close (1981-2009). A new one begins, and the owner has a large stack in his in-box already. Among the issues that confront him: what to do about that dump Wrigley Field.

A Sun-Times article said the new owner has a plan for a $250 million renovation for the main grandstand that would be complete in time for the renovated ballpark to host the 2012 All-Star Game. (I believe the next two are scheduled for Phoenix and Anaheim.)

My suggestion for the owner is to call a meeting with Ald. Tom Tunney (44th--the ballpark's ward) and Hizzonerdamare Richard M. Daley. As calmly as possible, Ricketts should explain to Ald. Tunney and Mayor Daley he will not put one dime into the ballpark unless the night game restrictions are lifted. There are two restrictions: the number of night games per season (30) and the days of week (Monday through Thursday only, with exceptions permitted for ESPN Sunday Night Baseball). I believe very strongly these restrictions wear the Cubs down in the heat of the summer and are actively keeping them from pursuing a world championship. I also believe very strongly a majority of Wrigley residents favor more night games. The neighbors who originally forced the restrictions on the Cubs when the Cubs installed Wrigley's lights in 1988 have had 22 seasons to make peace with night games. It's high time the Cubs' home schedule look like its rivals' home schedules.

I wouldn't object to a gradual lifting of the game limit, by five games per season. But the Friday/Saturday night ban must be lifted immediately, in time for the 2010 season. If the alderman and mayor refuse, that's fine. The Ricketts can afford to build a 21st-Century replica of Wrigley Field in the northwest suburbs. Then the mayor would need to figure out how to replace that missing geyser of tax revenue the Cubs produce: property taxes, entertainment taxes (tickets), excise taxes (beer, hard liquor), and sales taxes (tickets, concessions). There's even a parking tax when the Cubs operate their night-game parking lot at Lane Tech.

With its fantastic new scoreboard and new upper deck, Wrigley Field was state-of-the-art in 1938. Now it's an aging dump with abhorrent restrooms and substandard facilities and amenities. If the Ricketts can renovate the ballpark and make it look new, more power to them. If not, it's time to move on.

Rosh Hashanah is less than 4 wks away

This is a short piece the Lubavitcher Rebbe z"l wrote about preparing for Rosh Hashanah. Copyright 2009 The Shluchim Office of Lubavitch.

A series of five fantastic days of dazzling Creation from light to solar systems to grass and trees--yet none of those days were designated as the Head of the New Year. Why isn't Day One of Creation designated as Rosh Hashanah? Why Day Six, the day on which G-d blew the breath of life into the very soil to create Adam?

Chassidic thought explains that G-d created the universe for a purpose and equipped the universe for that purpose. And only when Man was created could the purpose of the universe begin to be realized.

We may often wonder why G-d created a universe in which we spend most of our time on rather ordinary pursuits, not spiritual treks. Life finds us stuck in traffic far more often than it finds us contemplating infinity.

But that's precisely the plan. G-d wants us in that traffic, on the go, pounding that pavement, to make it all a place where He is welcomed and not feared or shunned.

For maximum results, G-d needs partners, not well-wishers--people who put aside what they want and do what He wants. G-d pledges the same: He will move heaven and earth (literally!) for your sake.

As a new year begins, we commit ourselves to more than loyalty--we commit ourselves to partnership with G-d in His plan for the Universe. On Rosh Hashanah we make G-d's objective our personal objective, doing for Him what only we can do for Him.


I found that piece beautiful, inspiring and spiritually uplifting. Thank you, Rebbe.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Miley prances on stage; parents surprised?

Here we go again.

Parents allow their children--well, daughters--to idolize (worship?) a teen icon--in this case, Miley Cyrus. Then they are shocked, shocked, when this icon starts to look and sound like a sexy adult starlet.

Welcome to the land of fame and sex
am I gonna fit in?

Full lyrics are here. I would like to see Miss Cyrus explain to the ladies on The View how she plans to fit in to the land of fame and sex.

That couplet is from the song "Party in the U.S.A.," which Miley Cyrus sang at the Teen Choice Awards Monday night, Aug. 10. While giving shout-outs to LAX, Britney Spears and Michael Jackson, the song also mentions arriving at a club in a taxi. Cyrus is 16 years old. Um, what club would that be, Miley?

According to this story from L.A.T., parents are upset over Miley's sexy dance moves and her choice of shorts. Look, I wish she had picked a full-length skirt, too. Which decade is this? As I mentioned in a previous post, skirts and girls'/women's shorts are shorter than ever. Parents, puh-lease. You let your little girls pick role models from the Hollywood entertainment industry--a world very different from yours. Don't be surprised when these singers and actresses "go Hollywood." Here's an idea: if you must allow your daughters to watch, forewarn them: "Miley sings and dresses like that to attract attention. You and I live in the real world."

Hmmm. What if Cyrus had worn a full-length skirt--not unheard of--and minimized her dance choreography? Would it have made a difference? Maybe the buzz surrounding this story will end up helping her career and her transition to adult roles.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Send PayPal any phishing email msgs you recv

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How many haredim saw The Devil Wears Prada?

How many haredim (ultra-orthodox Jews) saw the 2006 smash hit from Twentieth Century Fox, The Devil Wears Prada, starring Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway?

Supposedly, none of them. Haredim don't watch tv or go to the movies. As to whether haredim are permitted personal DVD players to watch DVD's without the additional benefit of a tv signal: consult your LOR (local orthodox rabbi). Some would say that's all right. Some would say absolutely not.

A scene from The Devil Wears Prada occurred to me when my ba'alas habayis (my hostess for last shabbos) told me about an article she read in a magazine with an all-frum (orthodox Jewish) readership. Every week, she told me, there is an article about the worldwide shidduch (matchmaking) crisis. One week, my hostess read a quote from a shadchan (matchmaker) who said she would not "red a shidduch" (suggest a match) to a single woman larger than a size 2.

Now, I don't know much about women's dress sizes. Fashion designers Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen wear a size 0, which is the smallest size. Former First Lady Barbara Bush famously wore a size 14. She was quite large. When her husband George H.W. Bush, as president-elect, said, "America is going to love Barbara Bush," I think he meant, "America hates Nancy Reagan because Nancy wears a size 2." The average woman has hips and breasts, which a size 2 barely permits.

In The Devil Wears Prada, Nigel (played superbly by Stanley Tucci) tells Andi (Hathaway) "Size 2 is the new size 4," meaning the fashion industry has even higher expectations for women to be smaller. That's fine for the fashion industry, which is truly an upside-down world. But the frum community has no business following the fashion industry's lead. My hostess told me single women are making themselves sick (implying to the point that they are missing menstrual periods) in an effort to lose weight.

This is how we wait for Moschiach, our messiah? By demanding that women starve themselves in hopes of getting married?

There are two male ideals: the boy and the man. There are two female ideals: the girl and the girl with implants.

The frum community often prides itself on marching to the beat of its own drum, without regard to current trends--skirt length included. This should apply to waist size as well. I'm not saying it's okay to be overweight--quite the contrary, as obesity is terribly unhealthy. I am saying there are limits to weight loss, and that common sense must be a part of any discussion thereof. Some women will never be a size 2. And that's okay.

I don't suffer idiots well

We've been through this before.

If you are going to eat at someone else's shabbos table, dominate conversation, annoy the other guest, demand everything be repeated, chew with your mouth open, hum while you chew and ask the hosts inappropriate least have the decency to show up on time.

Ned doesn't do that. He knocks at the door just as we are settling down to our scrumptious lunch. Besides asking our hosts how long it takes them to drive to New York and quizzing them about the Pennsylvania Turnpike, he asked me something, too. (I don't remember.) I declined to get into a major discussion with Ned, knowing doing so would only cause problems and drive me crazy.

I should be thankful I haven't seen him for quite some time. I wish my visits to this particular host were not also The Plague of the Annoying Guests. I was really going to criticize Ned sharply here, and then I remembered The Other Side of the Story. Let's look at his situation. He's divorced/widowed or NBM (never been married)--an older single with no children. He probably doesn't have much of a social life; and if he doesn't work, he doesn't have much to do. Maybe lunch at my hosts is the highlight of Ned's week. (I know a guy like that; I tried to help him. His social life doesn't extend beyond his shabbos meals.) Maybe he's hard of hearing, and that's why he needs everything repeated. Maybe he's a nice guy who just needs a friend.

So I shouldn't be judgmental. But Ned still drives me crazy.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Attacks on men in Lincoln Park continue

It happens every few months in Chicago. The typical situation: women walking alone at night are sexually assaulted in North Side neighborhoods with high concentrations of white women, such as Lakeview and Lincoln Park. Last week and yesterday, men were the target--just robbery. In Monday morning's incident, apparently the victim used a bike lock to fight off his attackers while giving up $137.

These perpetrators know they are preying on an unarmed and disarmed populace. Possession of handguns in Chicago is illegal. When the handgun ban ordinance went into effect in 1982, handgun owners were allowed to keep their weapons, avoiding an unpleasant situation of mandatory turn-in or possible door-to-door confiscations. I do not know if "grandfathered" handgun owners are permitted to replace non-working weapons. I do know Chicago Police Headquarters in Bridgeport, at 3510 S. Michigan Ave., has a "Handgun Registration" window.

The biggest proponent of the handgun ban is Hizzonerdamare Richard M. Daley, who has 24-hour armed, taxpayer-financed Chicago Police protection, as well as a taxpayer-financed Chicago Police squad car in front of his South Loop home at all times.

I sympathize with the victims and anyone who must walk alone at night in the Windy City. From my days of being Carless in Lakeview, there were a few very scary incidents. Fortunately, none resulted in violence or the loss of my wallet/cash, thank G-d. But I know I would have felt so much safer if I had been able to carry a handgun with me, on my person. (Concealed carry is illegal only in Illinois and Wisconsin. The other 48 states respect their citizens' constitutional rights.) Thanks to Chicago law, I was only permitted my wits and pepper spray. Pepper spray is ineffective on attackers under the influence of controlled substances, and many of them are, desperate for cash to fuel their addictions.

The sexual assaults are obviously more serious than robbery attacks, although one victim last week was hospitalized with a broken jaw. I keep hoping that one night, a potential victim will whip her handgun out of her purse and blow her attacker's head off. I would pay to see Mayor Daley's press conference the next morning. What could he say? Would he congratulate the heroine? Would he be furious at her for daring to defend herself in Daleyland, his imaginary crime-free metropolis? Would such an incident encourage the aldermen to consider repealing the handgun ban, against the mayor's threats to their cushy taxpayer-financed jobs?

One of my Facebook Friends posted a news story today on the attacks to warn her male friends. After I suggested someone ought to defend himself with a weapon, another Friend teased me for using the term "pack heat." A loaded phrase, perhaps--pun intended. But the situation is absurd. The city with one of America's highest murder rates has a handgun ban. Exactly how does the handgun ban reduce street violence? It doesn't. It just makes it more difficult for us to defend ourselves against the violent perpetrators who prowl the city, looking for hapless victims.

Friday, July 31, 2009

District 9 opens Aug. 14

Non-humans create an overcrowding problem on the blue planet a few years from now.


This was the most vile, vülgar and disgusting movie I have ever seen. Some parts were hilarious. For much of the movie, I had to cover my eyes with my hands to avoid having full frontal male nudity super-sized on the movie screen. Note to MPAA: If this is rated R, how does a movie get an NC-17* rating for sexuality? I'm thinking of Lust/Caution, a movie that came out in 2008 or 2007. My guess is that the answer is related to the company releasing the film. Sony/Universal released Brüno. Sony/Universal is one of the seven Big Studios in Hollywood, along with Fox, Paramount, MGM/UA, Warner Brothers, Columbia and Walt Disney. These studios control the MPAA and generally receive the film ratings they want. Perhaps an independent studio without any clout released Lust/Caution and received the NC-17 rating as a result. (I did not see the film and cannot comment on its content.) An NC-17 rating means many theatres won't screen it, many newspapers won't print ads for it and Wal-Mart and Blockbuster refuse to carry it on DVD. So NC-17 puts a big hurt on a film's chances for profitability.

I have a high tolerance for bad taste and sexual content in movies; this one really pushed the limit. Recommended only for mature audiences who are not easily offended. I can't imagine an "unrated" DVD version of this film since just about everything one could imagine being cut from the theatrical version was actually in the film. If you think the R-rated trailer is crude....

*NC-17 No children under 17 admitted regardless of parental escort.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Guns in the City

From Chicago Tribune Voice of the People, July 18:

Make city safer

July 18, 2009

Make city safer
This is in response to "Weekend sees rash of killings; 11 people slain, dozens injured in city violence" (News, July 7). Most were shooting victims.

The prevalence of shootings in a city with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country shows that these restrictions are meaningless; they also provide the best argument for Illinois to join the majority of the states by permitting qualified citizens to carry concealed weapons.

Mayor Richard Daley is busy rhapsodizing about the virtues of blowing taxpayer dollars to host the 2016 Olympic Games in the city. Why would the committee that decides where the games will be held want to put athletes and staffers in Chicago where the odds are too high that they will be shot or killed by some moron?

I truly love Chicago and I fully acknowledge that our suburban enclaves wouldn't be worth much if they were not located near the city. However, my trips to the city have dropped sharply as the sales taxes have soared, as parking lot and parking meter prices have spiked, as the potholes have become more numerous and deeper, and as violence soars out of control. I suggest that the mayor forget the Olympics and redirect his considerable enthusiasm toward casting a new marketing plan for the city. The new plan should focus upon making the city a safer and more economical venue for those who want to come into town for recreation and fun. Ideally they could do this while legally packing a pistol in their belts or purses -- just in case.

-- Charles F. Falk, Schaumburg

Monday, July 27, 2009

Six Flags: Such a bad environment?

For the first time in more than a decade, I drove up to Six Flags Great America Thursday morning (half-hr. drive). I had been meaning to go up for a number of years, and a great deal on admission and parking ($27 inclusive) convinced me. I arrived at 10:20, 20 minutes after the park opened, and waited about 10 minutes to acquire a parking space. (I parked in Robin 54.*) There is Preferred Parking for an extra $10. From regular parking, it's a five- or ten-minute walk to the entrance. Be prepared to walk all day; Six Flags is really big.

I was about to channel the President of the United States: "There are some who say...." Yes, some orthodox Jews advise against going to Six Flags because other guests are not appropriate dressed or may not behave in an appropriate manner. Allow me to address that. Most people are dressed for summer--i.e., t-shirt and shorts. Six Flags is pretty strict about what people wear and how they behave. For example, someone wearing Drew Peterson's favorite t-shirt, "It's not my job to blow sunshine up your ass," would be turned away at the gate. Profanity and unruly behavior are prohibited, as is smoking--a huge plus. Yes, cleavage is often visible. Yes, some guys have tattoo sleeves. Yes, ladies' shorts have become shorter over the past two or three years. All that is on display at Six Flags. On the other hand, the bare midriff trend of the 1990's has all but disappeared. I saw many more headscarves than bare midriffs. There were plenty of church groups and one Jewish Council of Youth Services camp, all of which were proudly wearing their group t-shirts. On Raging Bull, I sat next to a trio of girls from East Chicago's Christian Revival Center, whose initials, hilariously, are cRc. The girls were wearing frum denim skirts and looked at first glance like orthodox Jewish teenagers. So there is a mix of "shopping-mall America" and religious groups, all having a great time. I should note that I did not go to Hurricane Harbor, a water park about one-sixth the size of the rest of Six Flags. Admission to the water park is included with Six Flags admission. July 23 was not a particularly warm day, and it ended up raining between 5 and 7pm. Six Flags strictly prohibits swimwear outside the water park, so there are no women wearing bikini tops instead of t-shirts outside Hurricane Harbor.

Superman: Ultimate Flight - lots of fun. Spectacular and worth the wait in line. After loading, in which riders sit upright in the seats, the metal floor drops, and the seats rotate 90 degrees, so riders are facing the ground (to give the illusion of flying like Superman). The girls sitting in front of me left their flip-flops at the boarding area, so I was treated to watching their feet for the entire ride. Thank you.

Vertical Velocity - I'm still trying to figure out the physics of this ride. How does it propel and accelerate the train so quickly? The ride simply sends a train full of riders straight up, backward, straight up, and so on a few times. It shook me up a little bit.

Batman the Ride - Still lots of fun. Riders are suspended from the track rather than sitting in normal train cars.

Does the train that loops the park only have one stop, at the front of the park? That's not very practical. At one time, Six Flags had a skyway (with cabs that held 2-4 people) that ran between the front of the park and the American Eagle, in County Fair at the rear of the park. Now the skyway station in County Fair is a funnel cake shoppe. Oh well. Walt Disney World took down its skyway, too, which ran from Adventureland to Tomorrowland. Very convenient.

Buccaneer Battle - not a roller coaster but a pirate ship ride in which riders (and spectators) can shoot water at each other. Unfortunately the pumps are hand-powered, not electric. Quite a workout!

American Eagle, the Demon and Iron Wolf - I did not ride because I was worried about motion sickness.

Dare Devil Dive - free-fall from 125 feet - $35 single rider, $25 double, $20/ea for three riders. Fun to watch people strap in, hoisted up on a pulley system and dropped. Not worth it in my estimation. I think when MGM Grand Adventures existed behind MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, it only charged $18 or $20 for a single rider.

The Viper - fun wooden roller coaster.

Raging Bull - fantastic roller coaster with huge initial drop.

Giant Drop - Vertical drop, like Twilight Zone Tower of Terror or The Edge, a ride that Six Flags installed in 1983 and removed after an accident. Fun to watch. (I did not ride.)

The Dark Knight - boy, was this disappointing. I advise against waiting longer than 30 minutes for this ride, and I waited for more than an hour. Remember Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World? (It still exists at Disneyland Resort. At Disney World, it's a shoppe for Snow White.) It's like Mr. Toad with a small vertical drop. Instead of an electric car, the car is propelled by gravity from that initial drop. Lots of sudden twists and turns. The concept is excellent--the Gotham subway run amok after being overtaken by the Joker and his crew. But it doesn't last long enough for riders to enjoy it.

Flash Pass - Walt Disney World doesn't charge for its "Fast Pass" (yet). Six Flags charges $27 for one person to use the Flash Pass; the cost decreases incrementally to $87 for six. The pass, which looks like a Tomagochi toy, allows guests to enjoy the park while "waiting" in line. Probably worth it, especially if the park is crowded. It was not crowded on Thursday, and some of those roller coaster lines were pretty darn long.

The digital screens showing Six Flags ads to the ride queues get annoying very quickly.

My family and I had at least two unpleasant experiences from theme park guests smoking cigarettes near us. One family member was burned waiting for a parking tram at Walt Disney World. Standing in line for a ride next to someone smoking is so unpleasant because there is no way to avoid his noxious odor. I am so pleased that Six Flags took care of that. Every employee wears a button that says "Smoke-Free Park." That's not 100 percent true. Smokers can light up in designated areas all over the park, but they are strictly forbidden from smoking on the walking paths and in the ride queues. That makes all the difference. There's no need to worry about people sneaking a puff because the penalty is ejection from the park. Thank you, Six Flags.

Kosher: Well, there are several very expensive Ben & Jerry's locations, Cold Stone Creamery and novelty ice cream sold at concession stands. One restaurant, the Pink Flamingo, has fresh fruit. And Six Flags says food can be brought in if guests demonstrate a dietary restriction. So leave it in the car or bring a note from your rabbi.

*People who deliberately take more than one space should have their vehicles booted. It just means a longer walk for everyone else.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Dr. Joe Cytrynbaum 1972-2009

"Cerebral aneurysm?"

WTF, G-d?

Joe's parents, sisters and wife, may they be comforted in their sorrow, must be asking themselves that very question, albeit in slightly different form. What did he or we do to deserve this?

I hadn't gone to a memorial service since my father died in 2002. I wanted to go to my high school classmate Kevin Foster's funeral, but it was on a Saturday, so I could not attend. Joe and I had a close friend in common--whom I saw at the service--and I felt like I should attend.

Joe's family's synagogue, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregration, hosted the service. I had never been in the "green synagogue," which opened in this decade. Why is the sanctuary on the third floor? So the view from the seats is the tree canopy? And is the synagogue so green it's not air-conditioned? The lobby felt cool, but people in the sanctuary were using the shiva guides as fans. Yeesh.

I shouldn't complain. Not here--not now. As the obituary in the paper indicated, Joe was quite an accomplished individual who touched the lives of hundreds of people. I was lucky to grab a back-row seat as about a hundred people stood against the walls. "This room has never been so crowded," the rabbi told us.

It feels like G-d slamming the door shut.

That occurred to me as I walked into the building at Evanston's southern border. How could this happen? Why do bad things happen to good people?

It's a great, classic challenge to G-d. We don't know the answer. (And yes, Rabbi Kushner, G-d does control the world, including life and death.) We are mere mortals. G-d's infinite wisdom is far beyond our comprehension. The loss of an infant--a tragedy a friend recently endured--the loss of a child, the loss of a young father and husband in the prime of his life--what is sadder than that?

One of the several qualities I admire about the Lubavitcher rebbe z"l is the potential he saw in every Jew. This leviya service on July 16 served two awesome purposes: it humbled and inspired me. Humbling to see how one person could accomplish so much and touch so many. Inspiring for the same reasons--what Joe had in his neshama, his soul--is in all of us. We are all capable of maximizing our potential and making a difference in people's lives. That would be the best way to keep Joe's memory alive.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Does Emirates allow Jews to board?

I just finished reading Dick Morris' best-selling book Fleeced. In discussing former President Bill Clinton's profitable speaking fees and Clinton Presidential Library contributors, Morris mentioned Dubai and wrote that Dubai does not allow Jews to enter the country. So I wonder what the policy of the national airline of Dubai is. This airline, Emirates, operates nonstop flights between JFK International Airport and Dubai. I would think that the U.S. State Department would require airlines operating from American gateways to observe American non-discrimination laws. That would mean that Jews and passengers with Israeli stamps in their passports, as well as Israeli citizens, would be entitled to seats on Arab state-owned aircraft. I guess I'm wrong. (For the record, I had a problem with South African Airways operating in Atlanta until the apartheid regime abandoned its rule.) Emirates does allow passengers to make connections at Dubai International Airport (DXB) without holding a visa to enter Dubai. So I tried to find clues on the Emirates website that would suggest its Arab boycott participation: no Jews on board, no Israelis on board, no one with Israeli stamps in their passports on board. It's very subtle. Here are stated reasons for refusal to board. See if you can read between the lines:

7.1.1 refusal to carry is necessary in order to comply with any applicable government laws, regulations, orders or governmental policy; or

7.1.5 carriage of you and/or your Baggage may endanger or adversely and materially affect, or has endangered or adversely and materially affected, the safety, health, or security of the aircraft, other Passengers or members of the crew, or the comfort
of other Passengers aboard the aircraft; or

7.1.12 you appear, in our exclusive opinion, not to meet requisite visa requirements or not to have valid or lawfully acquired travel documents or to have acquired them by fraudulent means or you wish to travel to or enter a country through which you
may be in transit for which you do not have valid travel documents or meet the requisite visa requirements, or you destroy your travel documents aboard the aircraft or between check-in and boarding, or you refuse to allow us to copy your travel documents, or you refuse to surrender your travel documents to the flight crew, against receipt, when so requested; or

7.1.13 we have been informed (orally or in writing) by immigration or other authorities of the country to which you are travelling or through which you may intend to transit, or of a country in which you have a Stopover planned, that you will not be permitted entry to such country even if you have valid travel documents;

All these excuses give Emirates an "easy-out." The airline can say:

1. Our government does not allow us to seat you.
2. Your presence would make our Arab and Muslim passengers uncomfortable.
3. Your presence would make our aircraft a target for Arab (I mean, international) terrorism.
4. You do not qualify for a visa into Dubai, so we will not seat you, regardless of your intentions of entering Dubai.
5. Even if you possess documents allowing you to enter Dubai, by 7.1.13 we reserve the right to refuse to seat you.

I wonder how often this happens at JFK--every flight?--and if the airline springs for the $45 taxi ride back to Manhattan.

The Emirates' website accepts inquiries (or "enquiries," as it would probably call them) in limited subjects, and "Jews on aircraft" is not one of them. I selected "Booking query" and asked about Jews and Israeli passport stamps. I also posed a question to the Twitter feed of the Burj Hotel, that supposedly only-one-in-the-world seven-star luxury hotel in Dubai. No reply.

Information taken from Emirates' website.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Dan Proft for Illinois governor

This is from Eric Zorn's Change of Subject blog, available at I think Proft directly addresses the problem of the tax increase that has gotten me into trouble with two of my now former Facebook Friends.

Proft is running for the Republication nomination in 2010. He said:

When something is broken, it does not do what it is intended to do. But these government systems – our schools, our health care, our transportation -- are in fact doing exactly what they are intended to do. They create dependent and dependable voting blocs that sustain and advance the political careers of those in charge. They provide secure jobs and guaranteed pensions for the patronage armies of the political establishment....To un-fix Illinois, we must take the fight to The Chicago Nine* who control this state. We must make them defend systems whose performance is indefensible.

*Presumably a reference to

Gov. Patrick Quinn
Atty. Gen Lisa Madigan
Secretary of State Jesse White
Comptroller Dan Hynes
Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias
Illinois Senate President John Cullerton
Chicago Mayor Richard Daley
Cook County Board President Todd Stroger
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan

[Me again] These government systems end up causing millions of people to be dependent on them, demanding more and more revenue from a strained government budget. Rather than slimming down, the legislature takes the easy way out, raising taxes. That will probably recur at some point this year.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Rebbe on the branches of Judaism

"I must first point out that the division of Judaism into 'orthodox, conservative, reform,' etc. is a purely artificial one, for all Jews have one and the same Torah, given by the One and Same G‑d, though there are more observant Jews and less observant Jews. To tag on a 'label' does not, of course, change the reality."

--Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, z"l. His 15th yartzheit on 3 Tammuz is today, June 25, 2009.

Mazel tov! The wedding last night

I felt quite honored to be invited to the wedding last night of the daughter of a couple I know casually from the orthodox Jewish community I frequent in Chicago. The happenstance of my invitation indicates how some families make weddings here: the invitation list not only includes family, friends of the happy couple and close friends of the parents, but it also includes people the parents may know only casually. In some cases this could mean the entire membership list of the parents' synagogues. If the father of the bride or groom were the synagogue's rabbi, that would make sense. In any other case...I can't criticize a family for inviting whomever it wants. If they think my presence will enhance their simchah, I'll make an effort to attend. I was genuinely pleased by the invitation. I told them as much. But they don't print money in their basement. I would not have been hurt had I not been invited.

Large orthodox Jewish weddings in Chicago are often held at the Midwest Conference Center, a Jewish-owned facility that has the capacity to handle large weddings AND free parking! My understanding is the wedding costs there are quite reasonable. The main drawback is its distance from the main concentration of orthodox Jews in Chicago. My driving distance was 22 miles, so the Conference Center (or Concord, as it's also known) is probably about 17 miles from Rogers Park, near Lake Street and Mannheim Road. Also, the southbound Tri-State Tollway exit for Lake Street only goes westbound, necessitating an awkward turnaround in a residential neighborhood for most wedding guests. ALSO (there's more), construction on the Tri-State makes traffic worse. Should one take the temporary-for-construction express lane (and emphasis on "lane," because there's only one, so one slow guy can ruin the experience) or the two locals? I bit for the express, and I think that worked out better. One can't go wrong with free parking, and it's a very nice facility. It would be much easier to attend a wedding at an O'Hare Airport hotel, but parking there can be $18 or more if it's not validated. The hosts were kind enough to spring for the parking for guests at the last airport hotel wedding I attended. Airport hotels are easier to drive to but probably about the same distance from Rogers Park as the Midwest Conference Center.

I saw two other people besides me (and besides band members) wearing earplugs. Why does the music at orthodox Jewish weddings need to be so loud? Loud enough to be dangerous? Is that a recent development? I sat next to friends of mine, which was nice. I handed my camera to strangers several times to pose with friends, whom I typically see only on the Sabbath, when photography is strictly prohibited. Each time I gave someone my camera, he had the same reaction: "This takes film?" YES, my camera takes film. It's a 35-millimeter camera. I don't own a digital camera. Yeesh!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The FB comments that got me into trouble

Gov. Pat Quinn's proposed income tax increase/money grab: The proposal is that Illinois' state income tax be raised from its current 3 percent, where it has been since Gov. "Big" Jim Thompson raised it in the late 80's or early 90's, to 4.5 percent. This represents a 50 percent increase in the income tax. By law in Illinois, the income tax is flat, not graduated. All residents pay the same rate regardless of income. The governor has floated the idea of a larger personal deduction to help low-income families.

Here is what I wrote in the comments section of a couple of Friends' FB pages that caused them to Remove me as a Friend:

The last thing this state needs is another massive tax increase. As I told my friend, who works in a state-funded facility, simply beating the drum for a tax increase ignores the reality that a tax increase reduces consumer spending, depresses income and scares business away from the state. Furthermore, additional revenue doesn't solve this state's funding problems. It just allows our spend-happy legislators to spend more of our hard-earned money on their pet projects. Over the past 20 years, our legislators have spent OUR money at twice the rate of inflation. If they had kept their spending just to inflation, we would probably either have a balanced budget or a surplus. The legislature never says "no" to a tax increase, so you'll probably win this one. I feel like the madness needs to stop. Numerous non-profit groups have made legitimate suggestions about relatively painless budget cuts the state could make without jeopardizing programmes like yours. Gov. Quinn won't acknowledge such options. For him, it's all about hurting kids and seniors. (And he won't make seniors pay for cta rides, either.) If you think they're suffering financially now, wait until that 50% income tax increase flies through the legislature. Do you really think working-class people can afford another one-and-a-half points sucked from their income by the greedy bastards who represent us in the legislature? (And that means, you, Ira Silverstein, you self-righteous taxaholic bastard.) The long-run consequence of tax increases is jobs and people moving out of Illinois. I can't imagine starting a business in Illinois, let alone Chicago. The tax burden is already too high.

A screed full of personal attacks, profanity, vituperation and nastiness, as you can see.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sunday, June 21, 2009

I may never have time

William Shakespeare's Othello and Merchant of Venice; and Macbeth, Julius Caesar and Hamlet for the first time since high school.
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer.
The Power Broker (Robert Moses) and Master of the Senate (LBJ) by Robert A. Caro.
White House Years, Years of Upheaval, Years of Renewal and Diplomacy by Henry A. Kissinger.
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman.
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli.
Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (for the first time since high school), by Mark Twain. Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray (who is apparently not a Ph.D.). The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
The Books of: Jewish Values, Wisdom and Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin.
Anything by Michael Medved, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach or Alan Dershowitz. The Babylonian Talmud by Chazal (our Sages).

The Bicycle Thief.
Godfather; Godfather II.
The Last Picture Show.
Last Tango In Paris.
Out of Africa. Dangerous Liaisons. Million Dollar Baby. The Aviator. Sideways. Good Night, and Good Luck. Juno. Definitely Maybe. The Departed. The Ten Commandments. Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Dog Day Afternoon. All that Jazz. Raging Bull. The Verdict. Prizzi's Honor. Sweeney Todd. Walk the Line. The Last King of Scotland. Dr. Zhivago. Wall-E. Bolt.

Those two categories are "Books I'll Probably Never Read" and "Movies I'll Probably Never See." When you get to be my age....and I don't even have a family. There just isn't so much time. I do feel bad because some of the books are gifts from my siblings, and if I don't read the gifts, I feel like I've let them down. So those are my priority books. I've heard wonderful things about most of the films listed and would honestly like to see them all. But I'll be lucky if I see one-tenth of the list.

I haven't done so badly. As noted, I've read three of the Shakespeare plays listed, plus Romeo and Juliet. I have read Tale of Two Cities, often considered one of the finest works of English literature, and Moby Dick, the Great American Novel (panned upon release, by the way). I have read works of political and cultural non-fiction from differing points of view. My dad obm was a political bookworm and made his way through the Kissinger quartet (although maybe not the lightly regarded Renewal), which is impressive because the former diplomat is in dire need of an editor. His books extend beyond 1000 pages apiece. As a youth, I made it through much of Beverly Cleary's and Judy Blume's books, the entire Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis), and about halfway through the Laura Ingalls Wilder Little House series. I also read a number of books about horror films that were popular at my school, which of course kept me up nights. Mad Scientists: a classic! Back to adulthood: I think I can say with a high level of confidence I have read every word of the Torah, given my annoying habit of showing up for shacharis every Sabbath of the year. So that's a worthwhile accomplishment. Daf Yomi (Page-a-Day Talmud; takes 7½ years) is not so easily achieved.

Until the last several years, I had been a voracious moviegoer, often seeing 50+ movies per year. I have slowed down a bit, cutting that in half or so. Using Netflix requires dedication and a time commitment. With job search and a current period of upheaval, to borrow a phrase, it's not easy to watch a DVD all the way through.

"There just aren't enough hours in the day." --my cousin Betsy

As I noted in a recent Chicago Tribune article, one must prioritize one's time: career, learning, family, and leisure actitivies: social networking, real socializing, exercise, playing outside, meditation, books, music, tv and movies. There's a limit to what we can squeeze in. Will it be worth two hours of my time to see Transformers 2? I certainly hope so. Because that time could be spent doing something else--like reading a book, seeing a far superior film, or catching up on my learning.