Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lost Feb. 18

Bad Robot Productions
Final season
Feb. 18 episode

This episode also leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Let me say unequivocally I would never under any circumstances return to the island unless I could be assured of rescue. The Oceanic Six returned to the island with no such guarantee--in fact, they were hoping for a plane crash. (The chances of one person being involved in more than one plane crash are almost infinitesimal.)

Who beat up Ben Linus? Why? Obviously the person he was supposed to meet. But we don't know any other details.

Hurley seemed to want to prevent Ben from boarding the aircraft. But he could have prevented all from successfully returning simply by refusing to board the flight himself.

The bright light in the aircraft, and Jin's operational Volkswagen truck and crisp new Dharma uniform suggest a time warp to the mid-80's. I guess we'll see.

Locke killed himself to guarantee the others would return to the island? He really did believe it was bigger than any one person's life, including his own.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Could we take an iPhone Sabbath break?

It would be silly for me to spend a shabbos in a neighborhood with many less-observant Jews and then complain about that situation in a blog. That's not fair. I'm a guest. It's not my house/condo; I'm in no position to complain. So if people want to call the elevators, drive to dinner, take a taxi home, it's really none of my business. I'm not saying a word, and to be honest, it doesn't bother me.

But let me say this. I don't care what night of the week it is. If I'm at a dinner party, my phone stays in my pocket or on my belt. I don't whip it out at the earliest opportunity to show everyone my new Blackberry Pearl, or latest iPhone app, or Samsung PDA. If I'm expecting an important call, I'll warn my host. Otherwise, I'm just not taking calls during dinner. Is that so hard? A friend told me he could never keep his phone off for a whole day. How about a two-hour dinner/dessert party? No, it's more fun to have it on display, I suppose.

Traffic congestion on LSD: it's the trucks' fault

Stuck in traffic on northbound Lake Shore Drive last Friday, I kept looking for an open lane that may have been moving faster. I was struck (not literally, thank G-d) by the surprising number of trucks on the Drive. The City bans trucks from the Drive, except to access McCormick Place. I fell behind one pickup truck with Florida tags that may have missed the "no trucks" sign. There were at least two others. If I had been driving a police squad car, I would have had numerous easy tickets despite the heavy traffic (no speeders). Until it decides to repeal this law, the City should make an effort to enforce it by ticketing trucks on the Drive.

Six-year-old girls are hilarious

I had the following conversation at the bris milah I attended yesterday.

"What's your name?"

Ken. What's your name?


Are you six?


(To younger sister: Are you four? "Yes." What's your name? "Tova.*")

Where do you live?

"Highland Park, at (intersection I didn't recognize)."

Where do you go to school?

"Highland Park Montessori." (Naturally.) "But next year I'm going to Ravinia because I'll be in first grade."

Do you do anything besides go to school? Karate?

"I have ballet and soccer. I have friends who do karate."

Oh. Do you play an instrument?

"I'm thinking of playing the flute."

I think Sarah's schedule is heavier than mine.

*Not really.

24: Now it's getting interesting

Fox Mondays 9pm ET/PT
Imagine Entertainment
Real Time Productions
Twentieth Century Fox Television
Seventh Season
Feb. 16 episode: 4-5pm
Director: Milan Cheylov

Moles should understand that when they compromise security and loyalty, people end up getting killed. So the adulterer is a disloyal creep after all! A little surprising because typically in 24 the man we think is the spy is actually one of the most loyal guys. How many inside guys does Col. Dubaku have working for him? We're up to at least three, including the dead Secret Service agent. I couldn't figure out the official position of the guy he met at the hotel.

Would the mole have been able to figure out what Bauer and Walker were up to if Janeane Garafolo hadn't asked him for the digital key?

Euclid Street, Northwest is actually in Columbia Heights, not Mt. Pleasant. Addresses there have four digits, not five. Tracking Bauer as he followed Marika's car on Google Maps was fun. South on 14th; right (west) on R Street; left (southwest) on New Hampshire; around Dupont Circle to right (southeast) on Massachusetts. I think Bauer and Walker were apprehended at 18th and Mass.

Amusing that the pharmaceutical rep just assumed the First Daughter had White House access.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In L.A. with a few days to kill

That was the tagline, almost, for Predator II. "He's in L.A. with a few days to kill." I also thought of United Airlines' in-flight magazine, Hemispheres, and its "Three Perfect Days" series. I'll try to hunt down its article for Los Angeles. Anyway, a couple of friends asked me for advice on visiting L.A. Here is my response. Please note links for each destination:

My favorite place to visit, and most Angelenos' preferred place to live, if they could afford it and if it were convenient, is Santa Monica, a small, walkable seaside village at the end of I-10 (the Santa Monica Freeway). The beach is beautiful. The Santa Monica Pier is interesting but a little seedy. Just north of downtown Santa Monica, there's a hip shopping district on Montana Avenue. At night, the Third Street Promenade is fun to walk around, have dinner, and explore the shoppes. It's a pedestrian area closed to traffic in the heart of downtown.

At the Reagan Library, you can walk on the former president's Air Force One, have your photo taken in front of the aircraft, visit his gravesite, and see a replica Rose Garden and Oval Office. From atop the hill the museum sits on, there are stunning 360-degree views of the surrounding area. This is about an hour northwest of Los Angeles.

Malibu also has stunning ocean views; I drove through Pepperdine University's campus there just for the scenic drive. The palace guards are more than happy to let you in. It snowed in Malibu this week. That probably won't happen when you are there!

Near Pasadena in San Marino is the Huntington, a beautiful garden and art museum paradise. Very peaceful, and the foliage (varies by season) is breathtaking. Old Town Pasadena is very historic and is like an old towne square; I was not particularly impressed.

I have not been to the Descanso Gardens in La CaƱada. I've been told it's better than the Huntington. It is farther away.

The Getty is almost an automatic tourist stop now. Regardless of how you feel about the art, the views of the Los Angeles Basin are amazing, and the buildings are beautiful. Make sure to reserve your parking spot in advance! If you don't, or the parking lot is full, you can park in Santa Monica for free off Bundy Drive and take the Big Blue Bus to the museum at the top of the hill. Admission is free. Parking is $8 or $10.

Just north of downtown Los Angeles, Griffith Observatory has stunning views of the Los Angeles Basin at night. It's where you can shoot photos of the city lights going to infinity in the distance. No charge to visit. Scenes from Rebel Without a Cause and Paula Abdul's "Rush, Rush" video (a Rebel tribute) were shot here.

I would stay away from Hollywood, but I did check out the Walk of Fame once because my gf wanted to. There are bus tours as well. I did see a show at the Improv once--very good--because I thought in Hollywood I could park for free, and parking on the Sunset Strip near the Comedy Store would be expensive. I was right! Sunset Strip parking was $20 last time I checked. Could be $25 or $30 now. The Strip and surrounding West Hollywood have numerous restaurants and entertainment venues. I like to drive along the Sunset Strip and then Mulholland Drive at night--more stunning hilltop views. (Take Sunset Boulevard to Benedict Canyon and head north up the hill to Mulholland.)

Want to see stars? One of my tour guides proclaims, "Beverly Hills delivers!" It's not a guarantee, but they live, eat and shop there. Parking in BH is very reasonable. Rodeo Drive is fun to walk, and the Two Rodeo Drive Italian-like pedestrian shoppe area is pretty and has al fresco dining. BH is very close to downtown L.A.

Almost every ethnicity in the world is represented in greater Los Angeles, and that goes for the restaurants, too. You can find anything to your heart's desire. My gf and I ate at a great seafood restaurant on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. (I don't remember the name. At a street corner--maybe Ocean and Arizona or Ocean and Wilshire.) I think we found it in this travel guide. Vegetarian, kosher, California cuisine....anything you want.

My gf found a beautiful B&B minutes from LAX. So, so romantic! For my cousin's wedding in 1999, my family stayed at a beautiful beachfront hotel in the South Bay. Pricey. There are hundreds of places to stay around town. Nicer places on the Westside (west of Fairfax Avenue), near the ocean. Airport area is kind of seedy and industrial, but airport hotels--nice and not-so-nice--abound. You could also stay farther south or in Anaheim--obviously there's Disneyland Hotel. If you stay in Orange County, a trip to San Diego is well under two hours on I-5 (Golden State Freeway). I loved SeaWorld. I thought the Wild Animal Park was strictly okay, but most people love it. The zoo is world-famous, too.

If you're in a desert mood, I love Palm Springs. I almost cried at how beautiful it was the first time I saw it. Two hours without traffic east of L.A. on I-10 (San Bernadino Freeway). Even closer from Anaheim. The Spa Casino has reasonable room rates. It has two properties: one in downtown Palm Springs, and one about 15 mi. east, in Rancho Mirage.

Websites: (beachfront/Strand skating permitted!)

Why Olympic opposition matters

Case study: Berlin.

Berlin city officials wanted to host the 2000 Olympic Games, which ultimately went to Sydney and turned out to be a huge success there. A major reason the bid failed was due to local opposition to hosting the Games. In the 1993 selection process, Berlin placed fourth (out of five) in the first round of voting but finished last in the next round, which meant elimination from the voting. Its rivals were Sydney, Beijing, Manchester and Istanbul. The Chinese were furious after their final-round loss, especially since they had the most votes in the first three rounds! They regrouped and won eight years later. The British changed their bid to London and won 12 years later.

Opposition works. Solid local support of the Games is a major component of a city's bid. Strong opposition is embarrassing, and the International Olympic Committee doesn't like it. In Chicago's initial proposal, the City proudly proclaimed, "There is no organized local opposition." Well, there is now.

Another Olympics fan weighs in

Mark writes:

I've been following the Olympics issue with some interest. To be honest, I've been torn on the subject, mainly because I come at it from the perspective of someone who was a resident of Lake Placid, N.Y. from 1968 through more than half of 1980. Lake Placid, you'll recall, hosted its second Winter Olympiad in 1980. It is true that anybody who is able to cash in on the Olympics makes out like a bandit, and that includes owners of restaurants, hotels, and other businesses in and around wherever the Games take place. It is also absolutely true that the public gets saddled with the debt. Ironically, it's a Republican style implementation of redistribution of wealth, from the public coffers to private pocketbooks. (Note that Lake Placid, like most of rural New York State, is heavily Republican, and both the 1932 and the 1980 Winter Olympics were welcomed with open arms.) An Olympiad always leaves behind an infrastructure that can be publicly beneficial, assuming there were practical plans in place from beforehand to make that benefit happen. For example, Lake Placid's Olympic Village was destined to become a medium-security prison after the games were over. (Yes, the Soviet propaganda machine had a field day with that when they caught wind of it!) Without that forethought, though, you end up with structures that just sit there and rot afterward - isn't that what happened in Atlanta? The best-case scenario is that amenities like the CTA and Navy Pier see vast improvements that we enjoy, albeit at a cost, after the games are over. My concern, of course, is that since this is Chicago, the games will end up costing the public 10 times as much as they should, and the primary beneficiaries will be Mayor Daley's cronies, who will be allowed to double-dip by getting sweetheart contracts to build the stuff in the first place and then be handed title to the unneeded facilities to dispose of as they like for additional profit.

Update on Concealed Carry bill in Illinois

Here is a synoposis of H.B. 245, the Family and Personal Protection Act:

Creates the Family and Personal Protection Act. Establishes statewide uniform standards for the issuance of permits to carry concealed firearms in this State. Vests in the Department of State Police the authority to issue concealed firearms permits to qualified applicants. Requires an applicant to complete a training course in handgun use, safety, and marksmanship. Also requires instruction in the law relating to firearm use. Creates the Citizen Safety and Self-Defense Trust Fund administered by the Department. The moneys in the Fund shall be used to administer the Act. Establishes restrictions on carrying concealed firearms. Establishes standards for the training course and for certifying instructors. Amends the Firearm Owners Identification Card Act. Provides that the Family and Personal Protection Act supersedes an ordinance of a unit of local government inconsistent with that Act. Prohibits a home rule unit from regulating the issuance of permits to carry concealed firearms. Amends the Criminal Code of 1961. Exempts, from an unlawful use of weapons and aggravated unlawful use of weapons violation, persons who carry or possess firearms in accordance with the Family and Personal Protection Act. Effective immediately.

* * *

On Jan. 20, H.B. 245 was referred to the Rules Committee, where bills often die a quick death. There it received three "Chief Co-Sponsors" plus three "Co-Sponsors" and was referred to the Agriculture and Conservation Committee. The Ag Committee has 13 members, including Rep. Julie "Taxaholic" Hamos (D.-Evanston). I'm not an expert on the Illinois House, but I would assume the bill needs seven supporters in the Ag Committee to have a shot at a floor vote.

The best way for a bill to hit the floor, go through the Senate and head to the governor for his signature is to have a top lobbyist like former Gov. Big Jim Thompson to support the bill and call some of his friends in the Statehouse. In this case, the problem would be sneaking the bill past House Speaker Mike "It's My Money" Madigan, a notorious gun ban hardliner.

I would encourage all Evanston gun ownership supporters to call Mrs. Hamos at 847-424-9898. You may ask her how she's planning on voting on the bill.

Chicagoans Opposed to the 2016 Olympics

I started a Facebook Group yesterday, Feb. 16, called Chicagoans Opposed to the 2016 Chicago Olympics. We're up to eight members in just one day! Feel free to join! The International Olympic Committee (IOC) will announce the winning bid Oct. 2, 2009. Some of the reasons I hope Rio, Madrid or Tokyo wins the Olympics:

1. Traffic. For 17 days during the Games and for about a week beforehand, Olympic tourists, media, athletes and security will make roadways almost impassable for residents.

2. Security. Chicago will be Lockdown City in a way similar to Washington is when a major international conference is in town. Per tradition, the president will attend the Opening Ceremonies. Beyond that, security is always the primary concern after the 1972 Munich tragedy and the 1996 Atlanta bombing. The world is watching, and terrorists love that.

3. Cost. The official effort to bring the Games here assumes $1 billion in revenue above and beyond every other bid city's estimate, yet there is no guarantee against revenue shortfalls. Where is all this extra money going to come from? Who knows? Will people shell out $1645 for top tickets? The mayor and everyone else involved insist, promise and swear taxpayers will not bear any costs whatsoever. Right. When has that ever been true? Furthermore, the organizers are assuming a massive influx of tax revenue associated with international visitors to Chicago without accounting for thousands of residents leaving town for three weeks. Locals who aren't home aren't spending money, either.

4. Cost overruns associated with upcoming Games. Both the Vancouver 2010 (Winter) and London 2012 (Summer) Olympic Committees are struggling with massive cost overruns. Their costs are soaring with no end in sight. London organizers are quietly regretting their decision to bid for the Games. Why would the 2016 Games be any different?

5. Security cost. The federal government provided security at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City at a cost of $250 million. The security bill for the 2016 Olympics in Chicago is estimated to be $1 billion. That $1 billion would buy a lot of ____________ (pick your favorite federal program, or invent your own).

6. Construction of white elephant buildings we don't need, don't want and won't use. The Chicago bid is planning a number of temporary structures and new construction of permanent buildings near some of Chicago's worst neighborhoods. No one will want to go down there once the Olympics end. Furthermore, permanent buildings along the lakefront will do more damage to our once-proud lakefront skyline. We only need to look at Soldier Field to realize how a bad decision by Hizzoner Da Mare can ruin our skyline for decades.

7. Hassle, headache, nuisance. Why should we put up with all the commotion? Our city regularly and proudly inhales conventioneers, sports fans and visitors of all types on a constant basis, and no one really notices. If the Olympics were to come to Chicago, everyone would notice, and putting up with it would be a major hassle. Going to work downtown or near any Olympic venue would be a major event in itself. Most of us would be unable to acquire tickets for any but the most minor events, so we would watch the Olympics the way we normally do: on tv or online. Does it make a difference if it's in Chicago or elsewhere?

8. Very poor planning. A top Chicago 2016 official referred to Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City in a discussion of transportation. Either he has no idea what he's talking about, or he thinks we're stupid. With guys like transportation director Doug Arnot in charge, the Chicago Olympics is going to make the Iraq war look like a well-executed strategy. Here is why the comparison makes him look so bad:

Los Angeles: the 1984 Games was about one-third the size of the modern Summer Olympics. And L.A. has a much better roadway system.

Atlanta: the 1996 Games was by all accounts a logistics disaster. The transportation failed numerous times. Media, fans and even athletes were stranded, unable to reach event venues.

Salt Lake City: the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City were Winter Games. It is a much smaller set of events and offers no reasonable comparison.

9. We don't need the attention. Cities vie for the Olympics because they want the world's spotlight for 17 days. Is this something we really need? When people living outside the U.S. think of "the States," as they call us, they think of Manhattan, Hollywood and Washington. So Chicago is a second thought. And yet the crowds come anyway. Most visitors live within a 500-mi. radius. They visit for shopping, museums, sports, and the beautiful lakefront. A Chicago Tribune contest in 1987 asked for a new slogan. "Hometown heart, big-town beat" won. Thanks to Al Capone, Michael Jordan and more than a century of government corruption, we're still famous worldwide. There's no reason to pay for additional exposure.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Letter to the Editor

I wanted to respond to a number of items in the news and in the Chicago Tribune's Voice of the People (letters to the editor) column:

(News item: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) decided McDonald's isn't executing poultry properly.)

I. Why does anyone still pay attention to PETA? This is a group that wants veganism to be enforced by Congress. What credibility does it have with regard to animal cruelty?

(Chicago Tribune Voice of the People, Feb. 13: a senior citizen defends former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's free rides for seniors on CTA and Metra. Naturally, he believes he's entitled to them.)

II. Proud senior citizen Paul Straka may be "tired of hearing people calling for dumping the free rides on CTA for senior citizens." (Voice, Feb. 13) I'm tired of hearing their pathetic justifications. "Seniors have earned their rights to free rides," Mr. Straka tells us. Just like they've earned their right to help themselves to 15 percent of my paycheck, I guess. And "they may choose to pay for their rides if they want to"? The next senior citizen who voluntarily gives up a senior citizen discount will be the first!

(Chicago Tribune Voice of the People, Feb. 15: a writer objects to Manny Ramirez turning down the L.A. Dodgers' offer of $25 million for one year and insults those of us who attend games, believing we're in need of being told to wake up. I truly resent that.)

III. I appreciate Richard C. Buielski telling me, "People: it's time to wake up," in regard to sports salaries (Voice, Feb. 15). Now I know what he thinks of my intelligence because I choose to attend professional sports events. I know the salaries are obscene and that the ticket/concession prices are outrageous. I enjoy the games. Mr. Buielski, I know what I'm doing, and I'm wide awake. Thanks for the insulting heads-up.

(A Chicago 2016 Olympics official stupidly compared the Chicago transit situation with three previous Olympics that have absolutely no relevance whatsoever.)

IV. Doug Arnot's comment in Jon Helkevitch's article about the Chicago Olympic bid's transit plan speaks volumes about how woefully unprepared the plan is. ("Olympic Transit Plan Could Go the Distance," Main, Feb. 15) He refers to plans that "worked" in Atlanta, Salt Lake City and Los Angeles. Atlanta 1996, by all accounts, was a logistical disaster, with media, spectators and even athletes unable to reach venues on time. Salt Lake City hosted a much smaller Winter Games, and Los Angeles hosted the Olympics a generation ago that was one-third the size of the modern Summer Games. If Argot is using those cities as a reference, the Chicago Games will suffer from truly poor preparation.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Terminator returns to Fox

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Fridays 8pm ET/PT
Bartlesby Productions
Halcyon Productions
Warner Brothers Television
Feb. 13 episode

This wasn't such a great episode, but I'm glad Terminator returned to Fox. I was afraid after Fox dropped it from its Monday lineup that it wouldn't come back. Now in the Friday tv ghetto, Fox is hopeful that pairing Terminator with Dollhouse will give it a noticeable Friday night lineup with strong female leads.

Watching Sarah deal with her gunshot wound was grueling. (I could feel her pain.) Aside from that, there wasn't much else for the characters to do. John Henry the machine figured out Miss Catherine Weaver (Shirley Manson from the group Garbage) is a machine. He found an unsecured audio clip online, so Weaver went to the source and wiped out everyone in attendance--apparently about a dozen people. I was waiting for her to come out of the urinal again.

Are Reese, John and Cameron going to figure out why Riley is hanging around so much? Especially Reese. He doesn't realize Riley and Jesse, his girlfriend, know each other. As usual, Summer Glau is more like a prop in this episode than a character.

Websites for gun legalization - tracks gun bills in the Illinois House and Senate - Jews for the Protection of Firearms Ownership! A website that brings together Jews and guns, possibly for the first time. I hesitate at any gun group that views law enforcement as the enemy. To me, the cops are just doing their job if they arrest someone for possession. We need to change the laws and support law enforcement.

Concealed-carry press release by Illinois State Rifle Association

Every day, hundreds of Illinois citizens are raped, robbed, murdered, bullied and brutalized by lawless criminals who, thanks to Illinois' ineffective justice system, roam our streets with near impunity. This unfortunate situation is made all the worse by the fact that the Illinois General Assembly refuses to allow law-abiding citizens to carry defensive firearms. In fact, under current Illinois law, citizens who use a defensive firearm to protect self and family from violent crime could spend more time in jail than the thug who attacked them.

The good people of Illinois are sick and tired of having to make the daily choice between becoming a victim of violent crime, or becoming a felon for exercising preparedness. On November 4th, voters in 14 Illinois counties went to the polls to vote on referenda advising the general assembly to pass a concealed carry law. When the votes were counted, 10 of 14 counties had voted in favor of allowing law-abiding citizens to carry defensive firearms.

"The message is clear," commented ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson. "Illinoisans are weary of living in one of only two states that denies citizens the right to protect themselves and family with the most effective means available - the defensive firearm. We've all heard over and over again this morning that Americans have voted for change. Well, yesterday's referenda votes were all about change as well. It's time for the General Assembly to abandon its mistrust of average citizens and allow them to provide for their own defense."

"The lack of a concealed carry law in Illinois is not for lack of trying," continued Pearson. "Year in and year out, the ISRA and its supporters in the General Assembly have introduced bills to authorize concealed carry. And, year in and year out, House Speaker Michael Madigan has seen to it that those bills never get out of committee. Denying the General Assembly the opportunity to debate the issue does a great disservice to the citizens of Illinois."

"When the next legislative session convenes, yet another concealed carry bill will be introduced," said Pearson. "We hope the success of this week's referenda will prod the Speaker to allow this issue to get the attention it deserves. No government should force citizens to choose between a hospital room and a prison cell."

The ISRA is the state's leading advocate of safe, lawful and responsible firearms ownership. Founded in 1903, the ISRA has represented the interests of millions of law-abiding Illinois firearm owners.

Jews and guns

If one conducts a poll among Jewish-Americans and asks about guns, the response is reflexive. They should be banned; of course I don't own any; Americans should be allowed neither to own nor, it follows, carry them; gun control works.

In 1982, Chicago Mayor Michael Bilandic signed the city's handgun ban into law. Chicagoans who owned handguns at this time were permitted to keep them but not replace them. The city was not about to employ police or security to conduct house-to-house searches for confiscation. State Assemblyman Roland "Tombstone" Burris, of course, who had campaigned tirelessly against handguns, kept his piece until 1994. The ban stands to this day. Furthermore, Illinois and Wisconsin are the only states to prohibit concealed carrying of weapons by law-abiding civilians.

After the Supreme Court ruled against Washington, D.C.'s gun ban last summer, it seems apparent* that outright bans are unconstitutional. Some suburbs near Chicago that had handgun bans on the books, such as Morton Grove and Evanston, changed their laws to allow law-abiding citizens to own handguns.

Eventually, Chicago's handgun ban will be as enforceable as a slavery or adultery law. Concealed carry, the right to arm oneself outside the home, will come into play. It will be up to Jews to participate in this fundamental American right.

Jews are always so worried about an accidental shooting. Does anyone know anyone (or a family member) who G-d forbid actually was involved in such an incident? Maybe, but it's highly unlikely--like knowing someone involved in a fatal commercial aircraft accident. Yes, there was one last week (Feb. 12), sad to say, but that was the first one in two years, after several million flights with a perfect safety record.

However, plenty of people are either victims of violent crime or know people who were. In the religious Jewish communities of Milwaukee (Sherman Park) and Chicago (West Ridge, to the city; West Rogers Park, to the people who live there), violent street crimes and home break-ins occur all too often. What's the solution? 911? Emergency response is rarely fast enough to respond to a robbery or violent assault. Criminals think of Jews as soft, as passive victims who will let criminals do whatever they want. Firearms inside and outside the home will quickly dispel them of that notion.

It is a weakness in our character that we have been victims for more than two millenia. What happens when we dare to fight back? Two results: we win; and we are hated for our survival even more. (That last part gives me some satisfaction, frankly.) Cases in point: the Purim story; the Passover story; the Chanukah story; and the establishment of Israel in 1948 as a sovereign state. Each of those events was on a national level. On a personal level, I believe the same holds true, and we should do whatever we can to protect ourselves and our families. Criminals who prey on Chicagoans are confident that they are, by law, unarmed. When they see a mezuzah on a doorpost, their confidence is raised even higher. They know a Jewish home, even in a municipality where gun ownership is legal, is unlikely to have a firearm inside. West Rogers Park has a gang problem, a street crime problem, and a home break-in problem. The solutions offered by Chicago Police and the community are the same, and I'm sick and tired of them. Walk in pairs; walk in well-lighted areas; leave lights on; lock your doors and windows. And pay $20/mo. to ADT to call police if there's a break-in when you're not home. Thanks.

Once the gun ban is rescinded, criminals would be put on notice: law-abiding citizens in Chicago will be permitted to protect their homes with firearms. That fact alone will help us fight crime. The Jewish community occasionally holds CPR classes and other safety seminars at synagogues. How about gun safety classes? How about field trips to shooting ranges? How about rabbis saying it's a mitzvah for every able-bodied man to learn how to shoot a gun? I'd like to see the Jews of Chicago moving from a reputation of being passive victims to being among the most armed citizens of the city. That will show 'em.

Some community members have taken matters into their own hands. Attend a large synagogue gathering--a shabbos kiddush, a tehillim meeting, or a simcha (wedding or bar mitzvah). Who's packing heat? Can't tell. But someone probably is. Someone is protecting the assembly by keeping a loaded handgun inside his jacket, in the unlikely event, G-d forbid, an intruder enters and wants to start trouble.

Unfortunately, c'v, about every other year, the city of Chicago suffers a series of outdoor sexual assaults of women. Women live in fear as they walk home at night. They are given the same tired advice: well-lighted streets, carry Mace, blah blah blah. They are not permitted to protect themselves properly. I am waiting, waiting, waiting, if this G-d forbid recurs, for a potential victim to blow her assailant's head off. I would love to see her arrested for handgun possession, and then I would pay to see Mayor Daley's reaction at his next press conference. Case closed: the s.o.b. got what he deserved from his next victim (or so he thought). Seriously--what could the mayor possibly say? And under the law, she would be arrested for possession and would face jail time.

I don't know how we can possibly change a centuries-old Jewish mindset of "no guns." I do know it's in our best interest to do so. It means safer homes and safer children. It means when antisemites go hunting for people to assault, they'll think twice before hitting a Jewish community if we're as well-armed as the white supremacists. We need to stop pretending the police can protect us. They can't. They're several minutes away, and that's if we can manage to make the phone call. More often, they respond after the crime to fill out paperwork.

*not apparent to Hizzoner Da Mare Richard M. Daley of Chicago, who will spend millions of dollars the city doesn't have to defend in court a gun ban that looks a lot like Washington's.

Sinbad at the Genesee Theatre, Waukegan

Genesee Theatre, Waukegan
Feb. 14, 8pm (one night only)

Found a metered spot about a block south of the theatre--close enough to leave my coat in the car. (And the meter stopped working at 5pm.) It doesn't feel like a downtown, but it is--even Sinbad made fun of this. Everything is dark. Amusingly, there is a small comedy club very close to the theatre. The theatre is very nice and very lit up--it's visible for several blocks in either direction on Genesee Street. It's only about a 10-minute drive from U.S. 41 and just a couple of minutes farther to I-94.

Sinbad walked onstage at 8:20 and walked off at 10pm. Great show--really enjoyed it. I've seen three HBO Specials he did years ago--one at Morehouse College in Atlanta, one in Denver, and one in the Caribbean. Those were hilarious. Maybe at 52 he's lost some of his edge; I'm not sure. I was actually a little worried about that before going, but I've always wanted to see him live. He shaved his head but has kept the weight off. He may be 200 lbs. but is no longer over 250. I enjoyed some of his discussions of families, kids and relationships. I remember him making fun of latecomers at his Denver show: "Like you got something to do in Denver." Right after he mentioned how things are different because of the new president, some people walked in, and he exclaimed, "You know things are different! Now white people are late!" Hilarious. Very diverse crowd--quite a mix of white and black people. I wish the Asian woman next to me had stayed awake through the entire show. Past her bedtime, I guess. AFter the show, I took U.S. 41 back to Skokie, which is 15 miles of occasional stoplights before merging with the Edens Expressway. I'm not sure if I saved time by not driving out to the I-94 Tollway, but I did save 50 cents.

Weird guys: what to do?

You've seen him before.

At shul. At a host's home. Possibly overweight. Possibly unemployed or underemployed. Definitely single. His social graces are poor or inappropriate. He may make a comment that makes everyone at the table feel uncomfortable; or people pretend not to notice. The host is apprehensive about inviting him back. The host isn't concerned for his children's safety, but he does worry that the guest will do or say something inappropriate--perhaps something the child will remember. He can't quite put a finger on it, but he doesn't want the guy to return. As a result, the guest's hachnachas orchim (overnight/meal hosting) choices are increasingly slim--almost as slim as his dating prospects.

I don't know what the answer is. I wish there were some way to reach out to these men. "Meeting for weird guys: Sunday, 3pm" probably isn't something that one might see in next week's Likutei Peshatim. I wish his hosts--friends who know him well--would reach out to him and try to tell him, in a nice way, "It would be helpful for you--in career, in dating, in this community--if you would ________." And that could be a number of possibilities. "Stop talking to young women." (I'll get to that in a minute.) "Use a more direct tone rather than a sing-song voice that might sound gay." "Dress nicer for shabbos, and find better-fitting clothes." "Don't stand so close to people." I've seen guys in the communities in which I spend time, and my heart goes out to them, for the most part, because I believe they just don't get it. They don't realize how "off" they are, or how strange they appear to others. My sense is that most people don't like "strange" because they associate "strange" with "surprise," and people don't like surprises or situations they cannot control. And the latter is something they fear. So these guys remain outside the mainstream.

* * *

I need to do some polling on this. Here is what I think: young women, and especially beautiful young women who are noticed often, are easily creeped out by men much older than they are who try to chat with them. Regardless of how they feel, here is also what I think: it's not cute, it's not appropriate, and these weird guys need to shut up. Here's a clue: you're pushing 60, and she's 24. "Gut shabbos" is enough. She doesn't want to tell you how she is, as much as you'd like to hear it. Way too many weird guys get an ego boost by playing "20 Questions" with young women. "Oooh, she talked to me," he'll say to himself. Well, she wasn't happy about it. It puts the shul in a difficult position as well. Here's a guy who doesn't have other shul options. Or if he does, the shul doesn't want to make another shul angry by dumping this difficult member on another shul. Meanwhile, the guy is making young women uncomfortable in shul, which is supposed to be a safe area.

So it can't be the rabbi's problem. It should be the Membership Committee's problem, in conjunction with friends of the guy or friends of the women he likes. They need to lay down the law, or layeth the smacketh down, if it comes to that: stay away from her.

Traffic to MDW

Is T-3 hrs. really the right time to leave for MDW from Skokie?

My mom's flight was 1653 hrs Friday. She wanted to leave for MDW at 1400, but I thought that was ridiculous. We ended up leaving at 1447. At 1458, we entered the Edens Expressway. About a minute later, we passed the sign north of Touhy, which read "60 MINUTES TO CIRCLE.*" We didn't have that kind of time. We wanted to be at MDW by 1600. We took Touhy to Lincoln to Peterson to Ridge to Bryn Mawr to Lake Shore Drive. That wasn't so bad. The Drive was fine until we took the ramp to I-55. One mile after we entered the Stevenson Expressway, the backup began, and the sign said "27 MINUTES TO HARLEM." We were moving about 5mph. After about 15 minutes, we exited at Damen Avenue and took Damen to Archer to Kedzie to 47th to Cicero. All streets were awful except 47th. Airport arrival: between 1610 and 1615. Driver and passenger both exhausted. Passenger very concerned she would miss flight. Driver has plenty of experience dropping people off at airports and replied, "I've never lost a passenger!" The streak continues. No tickets, no red-light camera shots, thank G-d.

Heading north was tricky as well. Candle-lighting was 1701, and I barely had 45 minutes to make that. After crawling along Cicero from 57th to 47th or so, I flew up the Stevenson at speeds up to 89mph. I was hoping the Drive would be a breeze as well. No such luck. Eighteenth Street to Chicago Avenue was sluggish, and the S-curve north to North Avenue was about 5mph. I exited at North and moved through the Park to Belmont. It didn't go well, but faster than the Drive. I didn't have time to search for parking near my host's apartment, so I pulled into the shul parking lot at 1703. The security guard locked it a few minutes later. Phew!

*The location just west of downtown where three expressways meet, and still a considerable distance from Midway Airport.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

That store Trader Joe's

For all my friends, and my mom, who are crazy about the place.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

RedEye's Israel problem

RedEye,the free Tribune Co. tabloid publication aimed at people who ride the bus and/or train to work in Chicago, frequently prints international news in a couple of column inches. An item on Israel is limited to this coverage with what is often a very misleading headline. On Feb. 10, the headline was "More airstrikes in Gaza." No context as to what prompted the airstrikes. The first sentence said, "Israeli aircraft struck two targets in the Gaza Strip and a militant died in a clash with troops on the border Monday." Why did the "militant" (terrorist?) die? Maybe because he attacked the troops or was seen launching a rocket toward Israel? Or was it ruthless Israeli aggression? Yeah, right. We just don't know, and the casual news observer is left to draw his own conclusions. So first I criticized RedEye in my Twitter feed, saying, "Your 'More airstrikes in Gaza' item 02-10 gives no context for reason--Hamas rocket attacks. Your editor keeps doing this." This reached my 68 followers (wow! =)), plus a RedEye editor. The editor replied that context is difficult with only 30 words. I replied that context is necessary as far as Israel is concerned, and if RedEye doesn't have enough room, then the story should be dropped. In my Twitter comments, I have a 140-character limit. So I emailed and wrote:

Dear Editor:

Twice I have complained to your Twitter writer about items in the RedEye news roundup about Israel. The latest was yesterday's very biased headline: "More airstrikes in Gaza." Obviously there's much more to the story, but the Twitter writer explained, "Context isn't always easy in 30 words." Actually it was 46 words including the headline. Here's my version: same word limit, different angle:

Hamas terrorists attack Israeli troops in Gaza

A Hamas terrorist attacked Israeli troops in Gaza Monday, forcing them to respond, fatally wounding him. Due to Hamas terrorists in Gaza shelling Israeli civilian areas, Israeli aircraft launched a defensive response, striking two Gaza targets.

I'm sure you noticed the difference. Your story, perhaps pulled from anti-Israel media such as Reuters, euphemistically refers to "The violence" when the reality is "Hamas terrorist violence" and "Israeli defensive response." My story's perspective is different and yet retains the basic facts, in 43 words. Please be more careful when adding Mideast stories as anti-Israel bias frequently comes into play.

* * *

I think I made my point, and I hope RedEye pays attention.

TicketMaster, Live Nation to merge

TicketMaster and Live Nation will merge unless the White House decides the merger would violate anti-trust legislation. I'm not familiar with Live Nation since I rarely attend concerts. But I have much experience with TicketShafter, as I call it, and I don't care for it at all. The fees are outrageous. There's a surcharge added to each ticket, plus a surcharge per order. The merged company will wisely drop the TicketMaster name. It will also hide the fees under a single price. This is what concerns me--I have long gone to box offices to save the ridiculous fees, and now it sounds like that won't be an option. I would still be able to purchase tickets at the box offices, but it may not save me any money.

Not a good situation for concert and sports fans.

24 3-4pm (spoilers)

Fox Mondays
Imagine Entertainment
Real Time Productions
Twentieth Century Fox Television
Seventh Season
Feb. 9 episode: 3-4pm

The switch to Washington has really enlivened this season, in my opinion. I never really got tired of all the L.A.-based locations. The difference between 24 and most other shows shot in or near L.A. is that except for the scenes at CTU, 24 is mostly shot outdoors. Now the FBI takes the place of CTU, but there have been plenty of scenes in or near the District. It's a fresh change of location. I've been trying to track Bauer all over the Beltway on Google Maps! I wish Fox had a link like

Is that affair the FBI couple is having going to affect the plot one way or the other? If not, do we care?

I don't know if SWAT would have saved Mr. Taylor from being shot. Impressive takedown without a team.

Kiefer Sutherland is 5'9" or 5'10". He frequently is on screen with men over six feet. I just noticed.

I felt bad for Mrs. Vossier, the rogue agent's wife. As my friend Hank pointed out: what did Vossier really have to gain by attempting to fight Bauer? He knew Bauer and Walker had his family. He had already given up Dubaku's position. So let's say he was able to subdue or kill Bauer. And then what? He would still risk Walker killing his family. So warning Dubaku probably wouldn't be such a good idea.

I think/hope Mr. Taylor will be all right. As Hank noted, he's already had a hell of a day: drank a paralytic, fell over a balcony, rode in a car trunk, had a finger crudely amputated with a serrated knife, and then shot. Ouch!

Did you notice that "Dennis Haysbert" (former President David Palmer) sounds a lot like former Speaker of the House "Dennis Hastert"? Before he played the president, Haysbert played a Secret Service agent in the movie Absolute Power. Assigned to protect the president, he went after Clint Eastwood in an attempt to cover up the president's murder of his lover. In the book, the conspiracy murdered numerous people loosely connected to the conspiracy, including the Clint Eastwood character, before being ultimately exposed and brought down. The Haysbert character committed suicide. Suicide is always a copout, author David Baldacci! That book was so good I was caught reading it at work. I still remember that--very embarrassing.

Is the rest of the season going to be this interesting?

IDF explains Israel's position to its Arab neighbors

This video has subtitles for those of us whose Arabic is rusty.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"Really?" on Michael Phelps

It's not the same now that Amy Poehler left the show but still very funny with Seth Meyers.

Monday, February 9, 2009

24th District allows gang shrines to stay 48 hours

This just in, from this neighborhood blog, which apparently pays much closer attention to neighborhood issues than I do: it is the policy of the 24th District of Chicago Police (Rogers Park) to allow shrines to deceased gang members on public property, including graffiti, to remain in place for 48 hours. The shrine can include teddy bears (litter in the public way) candles (fire safety and child safety hazard), graffiti (illegal and a neighborhood scourge), and various other items.

This is a shocking concession to gang activity in the 24th District--an area that includes large sections, if not all, of the 49th and 50th Wards. Community members have been engaged in an extended debate with 24th District Commander David Sobczyk over this issue.

Sitting shiva would be too private, I guess.

Facebook in real life

Apparently FB doesn't like this video on its website. Quel dommage.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Oscar urban legend

With Marisa Tomei receiving her second Oscar nomination this year for her role in The Wrestler, it's time to attempt to put to rest one of the top Oscar urban legends: "Marisa Tomei didn't really win the 1992 Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role in My Cousin Vinny. One of the four British nominees really won the award, but the announcer said the wrong name, and the Academy wouldn't correct him in front of worldwide live tv, would it?"

Well, yes. Yes, it would.

Contrary to popular belief, the TelePrompTer does not have the name of the winner on the screen because the person writing the presenter's script does not know the name of the winners. Any of them. Only two guys from the accounting firm AMPAAS retains know the names of the winners. They fill out the cards in the envelopes the presenters take on stage. They stand on either side of the stage during the awards presentations. If, G-d forbid, a presenter says the wrong name as the winner, the accountants would indeed stop the show and correct him or her. Tomei's triumph was a huge upset, but the Britons she ran against probably offset each other, allowing Tomei's vote count to rise to the top. Also her romantic drama Untamed Heart opened Feb. 13, 1993, just as AMPAAS announced the nominations. This helped her immensely. Good for Tomei. She deserved it.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Dibs: the last word from

Hey Moron! Get That Crap Off My Street!

Hey moron!

Yeah, I’m talking to YOU.

Don’t look around like you don’t know who I’m talking to, you goofball.

Yeah, you, the selfish dumbass who’s just dumped two plastic lawn chairs, or milk crates or orange cones or whatever crap you have lying around your garage, onto the street in front of your home, to try to save that parking space.


It’s OK, you say. Because you shoveled out that space all by your lil’ ol’ self!

Wow! Now it all makes sense to me, it’s so transparently obvious now…

Ummm, no, not really.

Boo-F@cking-Hoo! Cry me a river you pansy!

Let me slap some sense into your thick skull.

First, you do not, I repeat DO NOT, own the street–no matter how much snow you shoveled off the pavement.

The streets are owned by everyone. You, me, all the taxpayers. We pay for the streets via gas taxes and city vehicle stickers we purchase every year.

Street parking is first come, first serve. No matter the season, no matter the conditions, no matter if you happen to have your junk out on the street. No exceptions.

It’s like standing in line, or waiting your turn. It’s something you should have learned in kindergarten. It’s a societal tradition that is so deep, so ingrained, it trumps this so-called Chicago tradition of using trash to save your parking spot.

I don’t care if Mayor Daley and most of the alderman give you a smile and a wink and look the other way. They’re a bunch of lilly livered, frontally lobe challenged sissies as well.

So unless you’re old or sick or feeble, you have no excuse for being so pathetic.

Second, you’re from Chicago. You live in the city. You’re not some milquetoast suburbanite, who pulls into their three car, heated garage every evening. You live in a city where you have to park on the street. You’re tough and strong, damnit!

Chicagoans used to be a brawny, hard scrabble bunch. Remember? Chicago is the “city of the big shoulders”, Carl Sandburg says. People with character, strength and resolve. Individuals with a strong backbone and not a limp wrist. NOT a city of faint hearted people and weak spirit whom are bothered by a little bit of snow shoveling.

What the hell happened? When did you go soft Chicago?

Have you been reduced from the “city of the big shoulders,” to the city of “crappy lawn furniture on snowy streets”?

Third, it’s not neighborly to hog a parking spot and throw a bunch of your personal flotsam and jetsam onto the street. It’s unsightly, it’s ugly, it’s littering, it’s uncool.

What happened to chivalry? What happened to a sense of community in our neighborhoods and on our blocks? Are you that self-centered, boorish and immature that you’re gonna try to save that parking space with a folding chair? C’mon now!

So listen up nitwit! Here’s what you’re going to do.

You’re going to take all that crap you left on the street and put it back in your yard or garage or basement or into a dumpster where it belongs.

Next, you’re gong to take your show shovel and dig out ANOTHER space. That’s what good neighbors do. That’s how kind and considerate neighbors behave. That’s how Chicago should act.

Now that you’ve reclaimed your self respect and manhood, you should feel better about yourself. Stand tall, stick your chest out and walk like you’re from that big city called Chicago.

Got it?!?