Sunday, July 30, 2006


This is just lovely. Mel Gibson's a tool, who's surprised there? But a woman was killed--and others shot--at a Jewish charitable organization in Seattle. Looks like the killer was a Muslim man who decided to express his anger over the Mideast crisis not in the Middle East, not even (as is traditional) in the suburbs of Paris, but in Seattle. Why did this gentleman feel the need to bring terror to Anytown, USA? "'I think his not being able to finish college had a big impact on him,'" is one mosque-member's interpretation. Interesting. If the "cycles-of-violence" rhetoric were true, then all those Jewish kids who had the audacity to head for neither law nor medical school would be off to the local Muslim federation or equivalent with uzis. Not so likely, then, is it?

Obviously this story freaks me out--when I worked at the NYC version of the place in Seattle, my only fear was that the building might fall apart from all the construction. And the first thing you notice reading the piece about this tragedy is just how bad the Muslim community in Seattle feels... for this man's family. How about Jews who don't even live in Israel, don't even live in New York for crying out loud, getting shot at because this guy's angst at never making much of himself has made him more, uh, politically aware?

Yeah, odd, isn't it, how all those Israelis are staying put. So much better to be in America, where you have no actual political power as a Jew, by which I mean you are not a citizen of the Jewish state, but you can still be slaughtered over the conflict. Although, to be fair, that woman at the Seattle federation had it coming. If only Israel--a country whose every military action, due to her presence at a Jewish charitable organization, she must surely support--had let its soliders get kidnapped and not made such a fuss, she'd be alive today. Oh, but it was also about Iraq? Well surely she ought to have stopped the Cabal in its tracks. If the killer's anything like Mel Gibson, he believes the Jews are behind all wars, so surely all murders of Jews are justified in the name of acheiving world peace.

I'd say now's the moment for us American Jews to stop smugly asking French Jews why they remain in France.

This is just so awful.

No longer leaving Las Vegas...

...but fully left, apparently, seeing as my friend Dell and I have reunited. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what can I say? I didn't gamble, didn't get married (hard to coordinate with the blog readership without the laptop), and the delights of legal prostitution remain to be discovered. Some of the many photos I took there are now online, but be warned, they are perhaps the least racy pictures ever taken in that city. But moving onto something far racier...

Thomas Friedman's From Beirut to Jerusalem made surprisingly good airplane reading. Nothing goes better with some lightning flashing alongside you than reading about the destruction and massacring of entire cities in Syria, the random killings that made Beirut what it is today (or was in the 1980s--this book's not so recent). I have more to say on the book, but will finish it before doing so. All I'll say now is that I picked it up intending to learn more about the history of Lebanon-Israel, but find myself more interested in Friedman's own relationship to Jewish political activity. He at one point refers to himself as a member of one of the "tribes" going at it in the Middle East, yet is able to remain at a distance, whether because of his status as a journalist, as a Minnesotan, or both. More than members of most other "tribes," Jewish writers often seem willing to be at least as critical of their own as of others. But what interests me more is, if the Middle East is all about tribes, and tribalism is bad news, what's there to replace that system? Does group identification need to be redefined, scrapped altogether, or what? Again, I need to move on to "Jerusalem" from "Beirut" to have a better sense of where Friedman stands.

Also worth taking a look at: A.B. Yehoshua, on life in Haifa today: "It’s a bizarre combination. It’s like Yom Kippur on the one hand, because the streets are empty and there are no cars. On the other hand, you can eat if you like." The "History Boys" fashion slide show, also in the NYT Magazine, is great as an uplifting antidote--the world may be falling apart, but there are still, somewhere, pretty boys in pretty outfits.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Vegas, various

I'm going to my cousin's wedding in Las Vegas. I'll be at the celebration for most of the weekend, but I'll have a little down time, so anyone looking to marry me in one of those drive-by, Elvis-impersonator weddings (for the record, no, my cousin's is not of that variety), holler. As a soon-to-be grad student, I'm not really in a position to get a taste for gambling, and as a straight woman, I'm not all that intrigued by the brothels.

I'm currently waiting for my super to come by and install the air conditioner, which I've grown so used to seeing at the center of my bedroom that I've begun to think of it as a rug or perhaps a very inert pet.... OK, that was when I began writing this post. The monstrosity is now properly installed, my room is amazingly cold, and my electric bill will be incredibly high. Hurray!

"History Boys" was excellent. It rings true even if your high school was not filled with gorgeous British boys who periodically remove their pants during class. The oh-so-sympathetic veteran teacher who discourages his most promising students from trying to get into top universities certainly seemed familiar--I never understood what such teachers were getting at, seeing as it's a largely immigrant, public high school, and a major channel of social mobility would have been destroyed if they succeeded. Even some of the most eccentric, learning-for-learning's-sake teachers, when the time came, offered their support in the college process. The ambiguously inappropriate teacher-student relationship, this also seemed about right, although I much prefer the Stuyvesant version, where teachers are removed from the school in handcuffs, culminating in a cameo performance on NY1, to the fictitious fondling astride a motorcycle. But the best part of the play, aside from the far-too-brief (did I say "brief"?) pants-free scene, was Posner, the gay character's, use of the word "like." Not in the Valley Girl sense, but as in, this teacher likes this boy, this boy likes this other boy, and so on. Posner uses "like" to describe everything from a teacher's pet to an intense crush. There's something appropriate about using the same, not-all-that-precise word to describe a variety of different relationships, seeing as, in this play, the lines are so blurred anyway. The use of "like" just adds to the confusion.

And finally, I'd like to start a new blog, either scrap this one and start a new one, or add on a new one in addition to this. My reason for this is it offers a chance to come up with new and needlessly obscure blog titles. "What Would Phoebe Do?" happened to be my column beginning freshman year of college, so it might be time for an update. Possibilities include:

1) Neoconservative Mugged By Reality (oh, but not catchy enough)
2) Kartis Echad, Bvakasha (reason being that Herzl vetoed Hebrew as the language for the Jewish State, as no one, he asserted, could so much as order a train ticket in that language. I need keyboard stickers for the Hebrew keyboard, I now realize...)
3) Le Fumier de Fobe (in order to combine my favorite book about anti-Semitism with a nickname Kate gave me, inspired by an economics teacher's mispronunciation of my name)
4) Zionist or Paranoid? (paraphrases my mother's interpretation of my political beliefs)
5) Perhaps To Begin (from "Portnoy" of course)
6) Cheese-Eating Monkey Against Surrender (in other words, I'd better stick with WWPD)

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Perfect substitutes

On West 72nd, woman on cell: "Should I pick up some wine or some Tasti-d-lite?"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

UChicago in NYC

I might not have been quite such an avid, if inadvertent, haggler had I not gone to the New York UChicago alumni party, where drinks were a whopping $11. Welcome to NYC, Chicagoans, and get ready to spend more on a night of drinks than you did at Jimmy's your entire time in Hyde Park. The veteran New Yorkers in the crowd assured the newbies that drinks are not usually this expensive. I mean, it was sort of pathetic, given that a) this was for young alums, not all of whom had the good sense to major in economics, b) any event filled with people you kind of remember but not really is one where it's best to go one drink over your usual, and most importantly, c) this event was many people's first impression of the University of Chicago as an alum, and if there was a time for the University, Alumni Association, or whichever entity to splurge, this would have been it. I brought along two non-UChicago guests, one of whom, much to my amusement, referred to the UChicago newspaper as "The Crimson." I'm pretty sure at least a third of those present are now in therapy.

One thing I did get out of the event was that you're supposed to network. A key part of this "networking" thing is that you're supposed to have a business card. I do not have a business card, although I learned from a bona fide Rhodes Scholar (and UChicago alum!) that it's perfectly acceptable for graduate students to have business cards. And that's just what I'll be in a little over a month, which sheds some light on why I'm not currently signing up for the IDF, much as I'm tempted to at the moment.

You have to haggle

Yesterday I broke down and bought an air conditioner. I calculated that the cost of infinite iced coffees out at air-conditioned coffee shops all summer long is probably higher than that of the machine and the increased electric bill; that it's not worth renting an apartment if I end up moving back with my parents, who have air conditioning; that my fan is loud and pointless; that I am weak and pampered and can't take the heat.

So I went to PC Richards, near the Atlantic Center, and asked what they had that fit what my building's super said I should look for. The cheapest such model was out of stock, and the next up, which had all sorts of useless functions, like you can program it to turn on ten minutes before you get home, cost far too much. I wavered, asked about cheaper models, and otherwise, in my decade-old rain jacket, looked somewhat the worse for wear. The salesman knocked the price down a bit. I was surprised, and desperate, so I said fine, let's do business.

As he was ringing me up, I noticed what the price was with tax. As I was in fact born yesterday, I hadn't taken sales tax into consideration, so before handing my card over, I said I'd go across to Target before making a final decision. At this point, he lowered the price once more, and said he'd keep it that low even once I'd returned from Target. Which I did soon enough, once I learned that the Target did not have any air conditioners. I'm not going to say how much this monstrosity ended up costing, other than that it would have been a really, really, really great pair of shoes at the Barneys Warehouse Sale.

So I'm outside of PC Richards, waiting for a cab to take me the millimeter to my apartment. No cabs in sight going in the right direction. A man with no particular identification asks me, "Taxi?" "Yes," I say. "Ten dollars." That is not a $10 cab ride. "Sorry." I would just wait for a normal cab. That was absurd. "Eight dollars." "Sorry." I stood for another maybe fifteen minutes, when he finally said, "Six dollars." I caved, and was it worth it? Hard to say--I now need to haggle my way to an air-conditioner installation-- I neither own nor know how to operate a drill. At least I now have a use for the remaining two square feet of floor space in my room.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Couscous UPDATED

Today at Sahadi's I couldn't quite get myself to buy Lebanese couscous. I can't imagine much of the tiny amount the couscous costs ends up in the hands of Hezbollah--and the store itself is Lebanese, so obviously I wasn't going all the way with this-- but I couldn't quite picture, when there were so many couscous-name options, getting one so controversial. Part of it, most of it really, was that the couscous so labelled is the kind usually called "Israeli couscous." As confirmed by different sources, Israeli couscous--the large, tapioca-like couscous that's gummier and thus better than the normal kind-- is not technically couscous, and is in fact an Israeli, or at least Jewish, invention. This is not like those cucumbers, sometimes called Persian and other times Israeli depending upon how deep into the Upper West Side your supermarket is, this is a question of accuracy. So it looks like Sahadi's was not just making a point by calling their large couscous "Lebanese." They were lying.

Rather than doing right thing and leaving the store, I went for the neutrally-named but slightly smaller "Mediterranean couscous." It was most delicious, with chopped arugula (origin unknown) and Bulgarian feta. That said, perhaps for next time I should seek out an alternative. Since I'm pretty sure it's my once-a-year grain purchases deciding this whole thing.


The culinary aspect of the Israel-Lebanon conflict is expressed most clearly--and tragically--in the best movie of all time, "Yossi and Jagger." The army cook is extremely talented, so much so that the highest-ranking official wants him to stay in the army forever. (His creation--"meatball sushi," aka "sashkimi," is apparently quite tasty.) The cook will have none of it, and invites his superior to the French-Lebanese restaurant he plans to open after military service. All of this is being discussed, weirdly enough, as the soldiers prepare for a standoff on the border with Lebanon. Peace is when we can all cook and eat whatever we please, and when cute boys can share queen-size beds in Eilat. I don't want to ruin the movie for anyone, so I'll just leave it as the French-Lebanese restaurant is rendered, if not impossible, unlikely.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More Woody

Why do the trailer and commercials for "Scoop," the new Woody Allen movie, refer to the film as, "from the director of 'Match Point,'" when they ought to say, "the new film from Woody Allen"? Was "Match Point" that popular, or is Woody Allen now a liability to himself?

Woody is everywhere. On the "Daily Show," the fake-dubbing of Ehud Olmert discussing the war his country's currently dealing with was Allen's voice, explaining how a relationship is like a shark. The Diaspora-versus-Israel debate has never been more clearly articulated.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

70,000 pierogies

The New York Times reports that "among the statistics city officials proudly announced as the [Taste of Chicago] festival closed after a 10-day run: 20,000 servings of fried dough were sold, as were 70,000 pirogies and 150,000 plates of fried cheese." To quote Kramer from Seinfeld, in reference to the mystery behind Elaine's neighbor's door, "That's a lot of potatoes." Chicagoans are by and large large, which is great for anyone looking to be skinny by association, less great for those wishing to scout for models, dancers and the like. The most disturbing thing in this article-- which is ostensibly about Chicago's efforts to cut down on unhealthy foods but is really a smug reminder to New Yorkers, as if we needed such a reminder, that we are thin and fabulous--is the revelation that Chicago deep-dish pizza, at least some of the time, is made with trans fats. I can't quite get behind the local-organic craze, think it's not worth the bother to make your primary moral concern to be your food's life story, but trans fats in pizza, that's just gross.

Monday, July 17, 2006

If you could meet anyone...

I've decided to create a wish list, in four categories. If you feel inspired to do so on your blog or in these comments, by all means.


Theodor Herzl
Hannah Arendt
Marcel Proust
Monty Python's Graham Chapman


The remaining members of Monty Python
Philip Roth
Amy Sedaris
Israeli actors Lior Ashkenazi, Yehuda Levi, and Ohad Knoller

Entre la vie et la mort:

Ariel Sharon
Real-estate suicide Nicholas Bartha (just to know why, why?), but he now counts as fully dead.
Mystery blog-comment-maker "Petey"


George Costanza
Alex Portnoy
Adrian Mole

Mamma Mia!

In breaking news, here's a fascinating 1990s New York Magazine piece by Barbara Lippert on the connection between Philip Roth and Woody Allen. Was Roth really both the model for Harry in "Deconstructing Harry" and Mia Farrow's rebound? I'd never thought about the fact that Harry is played by the actor Richard Benjamin, "who played Alexander Portnoy, the original non-master of his own domain, in Portnoy’s Complaint, and also starred as Neil Klugman in the film of Goodbye, Columbus." I'd always understood that Allen and Roth shared a number of themes, possibly even a general worldview, but had never imagined such deep ties existed.

Sunday, July 16, 2006


There is an immense amount of confusion on all sides over who's an Israeli and who's a Jew. The "Zionist entity" and the "Jewish people" both can be used to refer to that general grouping many hate and some seek to defend. There's also, of course, confusion over which people are Arabs and which are Muslims. These two terms are often used interchangeably in the American media. Whenever this happens, someone inevitably points out that many Arabs are Christian and many Muslims non-Arab. So what's one to make of this, from a NYT piece on the conflict?

"Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah urged Arabs and Muslims worldwide to support his guerrillas, saying Sunday that his group is fighting Israel on their behalf and that the battle has just begun."

Did the Times get it wrong, or is Nasrallah just casting a wide net?

"Virgin hillsides"

Nick Thorpe of the BBC wants to present a balanced piece on the war in Israel and Lebanon, but this article is such a self-righteous, linguistically self-indulgent joke, I don't even know where to begin.

Let's start with Thorpe on the rockets Israel has so rudely refused to invite into the country:

The Qassams mostly needle the Israelis, like pinpricks in the ankles of a giant, taunting him to stamp back with his big, US-issue army boots. The Katyushas are like poisoned arrows. They drive him mad.

So, justice-via-asymmetry. Were some entity to throw pins or poisoned arrows at Britain--also a big-boot country as countries go-- presumably that nation would remain calm, cool, and collected. I don't know enough about the story with Ireland, but maybe someone who does could fill me in.

Now this would be more a question for the fashion-oriented among my readers, aka Julie Fredrickson or my mother, but who makes IDF uniforms? A Google search suggests that the IDF does its own couture, and that the boots are not made by Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, or anything else issued by the US.

But moving on. Thorpe gives the Israeli side of the story, which he's only just discovered:

Driving through sleepy mountain villages in northern Galilee this week, along Israel's border with Lebanon, I began to understand Israel's fear. Different Arab peoples in this region are vying with one another to become Israel's greatest enemy.

For lack of other possible responses: no shit.

And, on the other side:

Driving down Highway 60 - the spine of the superstructure Israel has built on the West Bank - one understands the resentment and the sense of oppression the Palestinians feel. Smart, middle-class Israeli settlements have sprung up on virgin hillsides, watered by springs often diverted from Palestinian villages. Tunnels and fences have been erected by the occupier to keep Palestinians away from Israeli roads, Israeli settlements and Israeli soldiers. Increasingly confined by barriers and checkpoints into little reservations, it is little wonder that Palestinians applaud Sheikh Nasrallah, the spiritual head of the Hezbollah, when he calls for the release of some of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

"One understands" and "it is little wonder"-- Thorpe understands, and finds it little wonder, that so many perfectly reasonable people are out to destroy the Jewish state. I suppose the assumption is that these thousands of prisoners are innocent on all counts. The language Thorpe uses is really special-- Israeli houses were crudely erected on "virgin hillsides"--because of course the Palestinian villages were built on hills that have been around the block a few times.

At last, Thorpe makes his point, loud and clear:

In Jerusalem I met my old friend, Dov, who works for the Jewish People Planning Institution - a think tank trying to forecast and defuse new sources of danger to Jews the world over. "As we try to protect the Jews in Israel from attack," he told me, "we're increasingly afraid of attacks on soft targets abroad - like Jewish schools and synagogues in Europe and beyond." One of his institute's initiatives is to try to influence young Muslims in France, whose grievances are sometimes expressed in anti-Semitism and who drew world attention during last year's riots in the suburbs of French cities. "On your travels, you must often be asked to justify Israel's policy towards the Palestinians?" I asked, innocently. "We don't engage with that question at all," he said. "We just ask people to tell us about their own lives, their own problems." I disagree, as gently as I can. Until there is a broad peace agreement in the Middle East, it seems to me, not imposed by Israel, but agreed by all sides, I fear his people, and for that matter mine, will be the targets.

Ugh. Agree with it or not, what on earth does Israel's policy towards the Palestinians have to do with how French Muslims--a decent number of whom are in no way Palestinian--treat French Jews--Jews who are constantly told to leave for Israel but who nevertheless choose to stay put? This diversion makes clear not only which side Thorpe is on, but also that he considers it perfectly reasonable, innocent, even, to assume that French Muslims should seek revenge for injustices (real and perceived) on the streets of Paris. How can general grievances, with no particular relation to Jews or Israel, be "expressed in anti-Semitism"? It's as if I said, "I had to wait a while for the subway today on a hot platform--I'm really going to give to those Koreans!" French Muslims certainly face a number of challenges at the moment, but in France, not in the Middle East.

Nothing done by Israel could possibly justify the destruction of Jewish schools or synagogues in France or elsewhere in the Diaspora. And regardless, such actions lead not to greater French-Jewish sympathy for the Palestinian cause, but rather to greater numbers of francophone Israelis.

What's key in this last passage is Thorpe's notion of "his [Jewish friend Dov's] people" as "the Jews." Not only are the Jews in general seemingly responsible for providing world peace, but they are a people apart from that of one Nick Thorpe. Jews worldwide are certainly treated as a single entity by anti-Semites, and so any Jewish self-defense organization is correct in defending the Jewish people as such. And Thorpe is right in referring to the Jews as a people-- throughout Jewish history, a Jewish nationality separate from any physical Jewish state has existenced, such that a person can be nationally, say, Jewish-American without having any particular ties to the state of Israel, beyond an understanding that Israel is the Jewish nation's geographic center. That said, it should be obvious that not all Jews share responsibility for Israel's actions. Israel is the Jewish state, not the Jewish people.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Categorical imperative

I've been asked to post my thoughts on the new war in Israel. I don't have thoughts other than that I hope above all that the state survives this, that the smallest number of people on all sides get killed, and that I feel ashamed, given my beliefs, to be living in America and not Israel right now. As for that last part, it's something I've given much thought to, and believe I can get the most accomplished here for the time being. I could explain more, but it's complicated. Not "I'm actually in Mossad" complicated, but a combination of too rambling and personal for this blog, or at least this post.

But no, I do not have the solution to this latest Mideast crisis. I can argue eloquently for why Israel needs to exist; it's self-evident that war is tragic; beyond that I'm at a loss. My best attempt: world's crises, not just that region's, could best be solved if everyone on this planet got a Samoyed. Thoughts of violence and revenge would melt away. It's our only hope.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Still more Dreyfus

This Special Edition of WWPD concludes with a look at what's on the front page of Le Monde, 100 years after France acquitted the French-Jewish officer. There's a mention of the centennial, but the big story is the, well, war happening in Israel at the moment. So on the one hand, justice for Dreyfus and a state for those not willing to wait things out on Devil's Island, so to speak. On the other hand, that state's existence--and the right of Jews to leave peacefully as such while remaining in France--are continually under attack. Still, that a Jewish state was created in the first place, and that the French-Jewish reaction to the Halimi tragedy was so much more outspoken than the one to the Dreyfus Affair, should both be cause for optimism.

More Dreyfus UPDATED

I figure this blog is a good a place as any to keep track of who's doing French-Jewish research these days. Via Arts and Letters Daily, I found another great article about the Affair, whose 100-year anniversary, in a sense, comes so soon after another French Jew, Ilan Halimi, ended up in a situation that would suggest that the Affair never really ended. Ronald Schechter, a professor at William and Mary doesn't see the Halimi and Dreyfus cases as identical. I don't either, but for different reasons. But the main point we can all agree on is that the "justice" achieved at the official end of the case was limited, to say the least, and that the Affair itself--the debates over everything from what it means to be French to whether torturing people just because they're Jewish is acceptable-- is not even close to resolved.

But back to Dreyfus vs. Halimi: Schechter argues that Dreyfus was about universal ideas of justice while Halimi was about specific group discrimination. While the Jewish museum in Paris, the Musée d'art et d'histoire du Judaïsme, has called its exhibit commemorating Dreyfus's acquittal, "Le combat pour la justice," and there was certainly a fight for justice, the Affair was at least as significantly the beginning of Western European Jewish nationalism, of otherwise content, highly assimilated Jews up and becoming Zionists, as if that were the most normal thing in the world, as though they'd grown up in the America of Birthright Israel and AIPAC and not in the Paris or Vienna of a pre-Israel, pre-WWII world. The legacy of the Affair is that justice in a particular case, while important, is ultimately not everything--Dreyfus won, but the Jews of France lost so soon after. Universalism, human rights, and all that were not enough to defend the Jews of Europe. The way I see it, what makes the Halimi and Dreyfus cases different is that people today--and French Jews in particular--are less inclined to affix all causes to the universal, and are willing to fight, as specific groups, against specific prejudices. Basically what I wrote in February. There is also the more basic fact that being against Halimi's killers hardly makes one anti-French, whereas fighting Dreyfus's detractors meant just that. But this doesn't strike me as the crucial point. While Zola is by far the best-remembered dreyfusard, Bernard Lazare and the obviously better-known Theodor Herzl both treated the Affair the way it would most readily be treated today, and were thus ahead of their time. The "fight for justice" aspect of the Affair--and of the Halimi case, for that matter--were obviously important and can be applied to situations not specific to Jews.

In any case, Schechter says a whole lot more about all this--and about why a 21st century American Jew might find French Jewish history interesting--in a 2004 interview.


Via Sam, a NY Sun piece by Adam Kirsch that absolutely gets it right:

One hundred years later, the Dreyfus Affair has lost none of its power as a human drama. But its moral and political legacy is no less vital. Its first lesson, which Herzl learned (and Dreyfus himself never did), had to do with the failure of Jewish emancipation in Europe. No European country had granted its Jews legal equality earlier than France, or prided itself more on the power of its secular, republican ideals. Yet even in France, anti-Semitism had the power to pervert justice, excite violent mobs, and almost overthrow the government. There were anti-Jewish riots in many cities at the height of the Dreyfus Affair, and a wave of killings in French Algeria; the poisonous Drumont was elected to parliament. The French fascists of the 1920s and 1930s, and the collaborators of Vichy, were direct ideological heirs of the anti-Dreyfusards. As Hannah Arendt put it in "The Origins of Totalitarianism," "the Dreyfus Affair in its entirety offers a foregleam of the twentieth century."

The one thing no one seems to have mentioned, though, is that the Dreyfus Affair was huge especially in proportion to the violence it caused--practically none. When one considers the two world wars that followed, the Affair was all talk and no action; no one aside from the major players in the Affair was under any kind of physical threat. That's probably the aspect of the Dreyfus story I find most fascinating, that a conflict so definitive could take place without, say, wiping out the male or Jewish population of Europe. Was war averted when justice prevailed, or might a physical showdown (rather than a J'Accuse and a dreyfusard Charles Swann) in which the "correct" side had one have led to a more permanent resolution? Or can the fight for justice not be won by violence?

Lesbianism's sudden appeal

Between this and this, it's time for womankind to reconsider the opposite sex.

Via Gawker and Amber Taylor, respectively.

Things French

Happy Dreyfusversary, mes amis, chaverim, whatever!

In most exciting news, I found a giant, shiny, Chanel billboard-ad-type thingy on the West Side, which is now on my wall, and which has improved the appearance of my room 500-fold. I'm assuming the poster was garbage--it was certainly lying unattended like garbage--but if you happen to work for Chanel and were intending to put up this ad, I might consider giving it back. "Might" being the key word, it's so awesome.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Place Theodor Herzl

Lookie here! They've just gone and named a square in Paris, in what appears to be the Marais, after Theodor Herzl! Now I know where I'm moving. Or, now the countdown begins to when this square gets the full, car-burning treatment.

OK, so I'm more excited about the Herzl square than I was disappointed that France lost the World Cup final, although I did cheer for France and refrained from singing Hatikvah at any point during the game. I also saw a guy on the subway before the final wearing a Jewish-themed t-shirt (star of David and so forth) and with "Allez" written down his arm. This suggests that you can, in fact, have it all, that a French-Jewish identity is perfectly acceptable... in New York City, where you can also have a dual Nazi-Communist identity and no one will give you a hard time.

Stop kvetching, go to Dusseldorf!

I realize there are more important things to blog-- mansions toppling, France losing-- but has anyone else found all those bus-shelter ads for vacationing in Dusseldorf, now all over the Upper West Side, a little odd? Who had the brilliant idea that Upper West Siders would be a good target audience for these ads, that Dusseldorf is to be the Fairway shopper's travel destination of choice?

I think this might be the work of the other Philip Roth...


Both Katherine and my mother thought I might be interested in this article about the Dreyfus Affair. They know me well. Alan Riding called the message of the Affair "disturbingly topical," and I've in a sense chosen what I want to do on the basis of this fact. Riding says everything I wish I could say that concisely about France and Jews, then and now, so by all means read his article and don't bother with this blog. All he misses is the Dreyfus Affair-Herzl-Zionism connection--while Herzl may or may not have become a Zionist on account of witnessing Dreyfus's degradation, that's at the very least what Herzl himself claimed, and it's indisputable that the Affair helped to point Bernard Lazare and other intellectuals in Herzl's direction.

Riding makes the important point that the Dreyfus Affair and fate of French Jews during WWII are not only connected ideologically, but also chronologically--the anti-dreyfusards basically transitioned into the Vichy regime. Stating the obvious, but perhaps not for the NYT audience, Riding notes, "In a sense, then, today's Dreyfus Affair is the Halimi case, and both illustrate how easily a civilized society can slide into uncivilized behavior." Also worth thinking about: "Evidently it is easier to celebrate the centenary of that triumph of justice than it was to spotlight earlier anniversaries of less heartening moments in the affair."

Conclusion: French Jews, hmm? Haven't got anything better at the moment, but I'm working on it.

Spoilers with Candy

I have taken care not to totally ruin the movie for those who haven't yet seen it, because I don't know how to set up a post so that the bottom part of it is hidden. But don't read on if you want to go into the theater with no backround knowledge whatsoever.

"Strangers with Candy," the movie, is the nightmare you have about high school that seems almost real enough to be true, but then there's just that something a bit off. The teacher's lounge is an actual, wood-panelled lounge. The two teachers who seem like they might be gay and might have something going on not only are and do, but pass each other obscene notes between class. An "expert," played by Matthew Broderick, is called in to help the school win a science fair project. Some aspects of the film seem not the least bit exaggerated--I swear I had Mr. Noblet for social studies, and for those readers who were in my class, you know exactly what I mean. The crying, the weird leg-on-chair gestures followed by an ominous "stay after class!", goodness that seemed familiar. But for the most part, it truly does look like what you see right before the alarm goes off, when you're running late to class, yet for some strange reason you're not 16 anymore, and for some even stranger reason, your guidence counselor is Carrie Bradshaw, and she expects a tip. For this alone, the movie is amazing. That, and Amy Sedaris is a genius. But these are two separate things--the alternate world of nightmare-high-school is worth seeing even if you find Jerri Blank's offensive, hideous, racist persona hard to take.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Boerum replaces Murray as yuppie Hill-of-choice

Hipster Brooklyn has been taken over by frat boys. I know because Katherine and I just got back from a new "beer garden" that opened down the street, and it was chock full of beefy guys in baseball hats; a screen played MTV by the bar; and there was so much heterosexual, non-ironic, non-hipster scoping going on that it might as well have been Lincoln Park in Chicago. Katherine mentioned the frattiness of the place, and as if on cue, a robust young man in a SUNY Geneseo t-shirt said hello, thus beginning and ending what might have been a productive conversation had we been more sorority-ish ourselves. Apparently there had been free shots earlier in the evening, but we'd missed them, although we did come away with a free Jagermeister t-shirt and a free flashing bike light--a chipper female bartender was passing all this around, who knows. Another new place opened, "Flatbush Farm," which promises organic-local nonsense and a more upscale bar setting, more Swann than Odette, so to speak. (So close to finishing the re-read, so close!)

Continuing on that Francophilic note, I'm excited to see the Italians and the French kick around a soccer ball, whenever that's happening. Furthermore, for those concerned about my lacking Francophilia (Godard, one of these days...) watching "Life of Brian" and "Jules et Jim" in quick succession taught me that I understand British English and French French equally, a sign either that I'm way better at undertanding French than I'd imagined or that I need to stop thinking a subway pulling into the station is a signal to turn up the iPod volume to full blast. American English is also starting to get a bit incomprehensible, now that I think of it...

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sports coverage

The question on everybody's minds this week is of course which soccer team is best-looking. I have seen only glimpses of the games, but enough to form some opinion. Italy comes to mind. Portugal is also decent. France, argh, not so great. Germany is impressive. And finally, a link to what appears to be the official sports site of Francophilic Zionism. Proof that there is a website for absolutely everything.

Not that Israel is especially relevant to the World Cup this year, but if this man is at all representative of Israeli soccer players, then perhaps it should be.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

"Jules et Jim"

In some ways, this film is a great deal like all-time greatest movie ever, "Yossi and Jagger." One of the guys is blond, one has dark hair; both are gorgeous, foreign, and in a state of emotional upheaval; both men in both movies go to war; and, at the end of both, the more classically handsome, dark-haired one dies. But the only kissing Jules and Jim do is the ceremonial French kiss on both cheeks--they are friends in love with the same woman. While their willingness to live as a man-woman-man trio suggests a certain degree of openness to things man-man, "Jules et Jim" is a straight movie, and thus does not fall under the category of "two beautiful foreign men find themselves and each other." That said, it's a tragic and stunning film, set at just the time I need to be thinking about for what will soon constitute work, and serves as further evidence that I do, contrary to my great fear of the moment, understand spoken French.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Food and shelter

Tonight I had dinner with Masha and Katherine at Song, a Thai place on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope. For some reason, while the typical restaurant on that strip has dishes in the $12-$18 range, Song's rarely exceed $7. Yet the portions are enormous, the food delicious, and the usual incubation period of pad see eww-derived illness has passed, yet I feel if anything revived. Cheap, Asian-inspired stirfry with the word "eww" in it can be quite wonderful.

Unrelated to see eww yet highly relevant to life in this fair city, damn the real estate situation is a disaster. I am the very first person to notice this. Craigslist presents a series of options each more pathetic than the next. Want to live alone? Ready to shell out a couple thousand a month for a room with a slanted floor, a shared bathroom down the hall, and a loft bed a foot from the ceiling? Ready to introduce strangers into your life? How about the man who will only live with a gay white male who keeps kosher? (Shouldn't that be a personals ad, not one for a roommate?) Or the two unemployed recent college grads (redundant, as any "recent college grad" who refers to himself as such is by definition unemployed) who require a roommate under 26 who's similarly unoccupied, as a gainfully employed individual would be too much of a show-off? What about the many otherwise reasonable-sounding apartments which come with several cats, allergy-shot fees presumably not included? Am I "420-friendly" enough for the good people of Craigslist, or even friendly enough, period? I'm guessing not. Where is the Song of apartments, the inexplicably half-price one-bedroom, complete with window, horizontal floor, kitchen, and bathroom?

That last question was not the least bit rhetorical. Comments welcome.

Monday, July 03, 2006

More "Prada"

Me: It was so unrealistic, no one smokes, no one does drugs.
Masha: And no one's Jewish, it's a cleaned-up version.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Current cinema

Unlike the atonal opera I intend to compose based on my experiences as an unsuccessful interviewee at a major political magazine, "The Devil Wears Prada," one woman's tale of a low-level job at a fashion magazine, is kind of entertaining. Not just because I was able to compare and contrast long, dark hair with bangs and shoulder-length bright red hair (I go back and forth on this), but because it wins the Rhoda Morgenstern Award for most distractingly thin "fat" character. No way is Anne Hathaway even the slightest bit wider than the typical actress, but there are continuous remarks about her weight. While the joke is supposed to be that in the world of fashion, even a size six is considered too large, suspension of belief is required if one is to accept Andi wearing even that size.

Otherwise, while it was by no means painful to sit through, the "moral" of this movie was quite off. First, there's that old NYC-versus-Heartland contest, with Andi's native Ohio as a stand-in for all that's upstanding, and the big, bad city as the place where people with no qualms about getting ahead bash one another with abandon. Because of course back in Ohio, say, at a high school, the popular kids were probably kind and gentle compared to those who work at Vogue. More centrally, there was the problem that the allegedly awful job looked quite enjoyable--varied, active, and stimulating, with possibility for advancement and, oddly enough for fashion, ample opportunities to meet nice-looking straight men. Plus, there are worse bosses at plenty of jobs that don't involve any perks or glamour, plenty of devils running around town in Talbots. So what made being Anna Wintour-ish's assistant so objectionable? Not enough time remained to spend with the boyfriend. I'm waiting for a movie in which a young male investment banker gets all teary and tosses his Blackberry into a fountain because his job doesn't allow him enough time with his girlfriend.

Next up: Strangers with Candy, for which I have much higher expectations...