When Grown-ups Went To See Films About Grown-ups

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The NYT Magazine had an article about how divorce sucks much more than how popular culture is now representing it few weeks back and it included an interesting sidebar about one of the most famous divorce movies ever – “Kramer Vs. Kramer”
The net/net is that it seems that we’ve regressed a bit, which is pretty obvious if you look at fashion these days: 50 year olds and 15 year olds are both in jeans and sneaks.

“Of the many notable things about ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’ – nine Oscar nominations, five wins – perhaps the most surprising is this: It was the highest-grossing film of 1979.” To repeat: ‘Kramer vs. Kramer,’ a film about divorce, was the highest-grossing film related that year. To further illustrate how tastes in blockbusters has, er, evolved, here are the five top-grossing films of 1979 and the five top-grossing films of 2010:”

1979 2010
“Kramer Vs. Kramer” Toy Story 3
Rocky II Alice in Wonderland
Star Trek – The Motion Picture Iron Man 2
Alien The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Apocalypse Now Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1

‘Nuff said.


The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire…

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The way that the chant usually goes, which I heard for the first time when I was 15 and my neighbor (a DJ) threw a gigantic house party, is “we don’t need no water let the motherfucker burn!” Well, nothing could have been further from the truth when a little over a week ago my wife’s Facebook news feed informed us “KJ’s roof is on fire!” Water was definitely needed, however not enough came in time.
KJ, for those not in the Tribe and/or the know, stands for Kehilath Jeshurun and its synagogue is located at 125 East 85th Street – directly next to my old apartment. It’s roof caught on fire around 8:30 PM on Fri, 7/15 and an intense fire raged for over 2 hours which wound up basically destroying the temple. The fire was so powerful that it took 40 fire department vehicles and over 170 FDNY personnel to battle to blaze.

A pic posted to the FDNY twitter account
A pic posted to the FDNY twitter account

I walked past that shul almost every day for over 5 years making sure every time that Bingham never peed on its walls – if he tried he got a solid yank on his leash and an admonishment from me. My old building’s yearly all resident co-op meeting was held in the shul’s large meeting room and it was at one of those meetings where I first approached my next door neighbor with the proposition that he buy my apartment (which he would up doing to my delight, saving me time, money and the hassle of preparing for who knows how many open houses). Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, the principal Rabbi who was giving interviews all night long assuring everyone that the Torahs were safe (the fire was due to some construction and the Torahs had been removed due to this construction) was present at my youngest daughter’s baby naming. While I never attended services regularly there, it definitely not an overstatement to say that it played a large part in my UES married with dog and kids NYC experience.
Coincidentally that night, I was trying to contact my old neighbors to see if we could meet up considering I had family had plans to be in the city that coming Sunday. We wanted to see what they had done with our place (they combined their apartment with ours) and wound up emailing back and forth getting status updates about how the building was evacuated, how they “grabbed the kids and just ran” and how bad the fire was. The beautiful stained glass windows that overlooked my old building’s garden either melted or were blown out. My old building suffered some smoke and water damage though not as much as you might believe if you saw video / photos of the fire. My old E line apartment faced east and looked directly down at the roof and when it was Sukkot we would see the large feasts that were held in the sukkah that was erected on the roof (and hear the noise, and were always happy when 11 PM came around and everyone went home). You can see my old building – 111 East 85th Street – in the background of the pic below. My apartment was right by where the tip of the crane on the left is located in the photo.
The FDNY inspects the damage one day after the KJ blaze
The FDNY inspects the damage one day after the KJ blaze

It was completely surreal being out in burbs yet being so mentally present while the fire raged as I could easily imagine what the fire would have looked like from 24E. I thought about how I would have noticed the fire – “Sweetie, is it hot in our apartment? Is our air conditioner working? I’ll go check…holy shit! KJ’s on fire!” – and how I would have grabbed the kids, the dog, the portable hard drive, our wedding photos and would have bolted down the 24 flights of stairs and then out.
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein reading a prayer a day after the fire
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein reading a prayer a day after the fire

In the day and days post the fire, especially with the Kletzky horror in Brookyn, it was clear that as Lookstein said,

We did not suffer a tragedy. We suffered a calamity. Tragedy is what happened to that boy in Brooklyn and his family. A building that can be rebuilt. You can’t rebuild that life.

On a separate occasion he said,

“There are two ways you can look at this. You can cry over the loss, which is a very very real thing. But the most important thing to do in the face of something like this, is to ask yourself, ‘How do we respond? Now, what do you do when you have just had a loss?’ I have complete faith that our community, which is 140 years old, will respond. We will rebuild what has been lost, and with God’s help, we will go on.”

For those who are sitting shiva for the restrained neo-Classical design that

“speaks of a turning point in the early 1900s when Jews no longer felt bound to incorporate Moorish elements in their places of worship as a way of distinguishing them from Christian churches”

and who celebrated various holidays and life events (births, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings, funerals), my heart goes out to all of you. To my former neighbors who are dealing with the aftermath, both physical and mental, my heart goes out to you as well.



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Today NYC hit its hottest temperature since July 1977 when my Mother-in-law was 8 months pregnant with twins – yikes! When I was walking around the streets, and/or waiting for the train, as they say in Yiddish, I was schvitzing like a haza…
I was also getting instant messages from LI that were tracking the weather that sounded like someone was changing the radio dial – 101.5, 102.3, 102.7, etc. New York City hit 104, its highest total in almost 35 years. This can only call for one of my favorite quotes:

In case you were wondering, the highest temperature ever recorded in NYC was 106 in July 9, 1936. Stay cool everyone!


On Nostalgia

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One of my all time favorite Onion articles is from 1997 and it’s titled “U.S. Dept. Of Retro Warns: ‘We May Be Running Out Of Past’.” It starts with:

“At a press conference Monday, U.S. Retro Secretary Anson Williams issued a strongly worded warning of an imminent “national retro crisis,” cautioning that “if current levels of U.S. retro consumption are allowed to continue unchecked, we may run entirely out of past by as soon as 2005.”

I thought the idea was hysterical at the time and in subsequent years, as I went to “Culture Club” in NYC and saw how quickly the 80’s seemed “cool” again, I’ve thought more and more about it. Walking home from the train today I saw a kid rocking Reebok Pump sneaks with a Seattle Supersonics hat that looked straight out of 1989 and boy was I taken back to Junior High. Nowadays, people are walking all over NYC with hot pink and electric blue Ray Ban-ish shades that make them look right out of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” and I’m wistful for own “youth” at the ripe old age of 34.
While it seems that the Onion’s 2005 date in the article was off a little bit, their vision of a nostalgia gap is coming true, and it’s not just evident by looking at what the “kids” are wearing these days. The kids themselves are pining away for their own “childhoods.”
Case in point, today’s NY Times has an article titled “The Good Ol’ Days of 20 Years Ago” which talks about how Nickelodeon, bowing to Millennial pressure on FB and other places, will be airing “classics” from the 1990’s. Yup. Classics from the ’90s. The gap is closing, and closing fast!

“Are 18- to 34-year-olds too young to be nostalgic? Evidently not. Starting next Monday, TeenNick, part of the Nickelodeon family of cable channels for children, will start rebroadcasting old series from the 1990s that are considered classics by young adults. That’s right: classics from the 1990s.”

Art imitating life imitating art. Love it.


More Wugazi

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The “13 Chambers” album was finally released and I’m making my way through the tracks now. Rolling Stone has a good review of all of the songs which lists which Fugazi and Wu-Tang Clan songs are sampled.
For instance, the song that I like the most right now is “Another Chessboxin’ Argument” because it uses lyrics from what might be my favorite Wu-Tang Clan song, Da Mystery of Chessboxin.” To me, “Homicide is illegal and death is the penalty” is one of the best lines in any song ever. Rolling Stone says,

RZA snares run into a chopped-up “The Argument,” the title track from Fugazi’s final album. Wu’s three iconic verses from “Da Mysteries of Chessboxin'” sound still more panicked under the mellow riff. MacKaye takes the chorus: “Here comes the argument/Folderol” is not a bad description of some of Wu’s knottier verses. Bonus punchline: MacKaye’s lilting “Here’s what’s striking me” into Meth’s demand: “Hey, you, get off my cloud!”

List to “Another Chessboxin’ Argument” below or check out all the “13 Chambers” tunes on Soundcloud.


One of the Best World Cup US Goals Ever

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The ladies just love to show up the men, huh? Not to be outdone by Landon Donovan’s injury time goal against Algeria in the Men’s World Cup last year, below is one of the most exciting footie goals that the US, men or women, has ever scored in the World Cup. Period. The fact that they won today and are in the finals this Sunday is even better!
That being said, San Jose Mercury News wrote “Suddenly, we care a bunch about a soccer team that doesn’t involve our own children.” which shows how far footie still needs to go in this country.
I know where I’ll be on Sunday. At my aunt’s house, ignoring my family while the Japan / US championship match is on. I



Zen and the Art of Hot Dog Eating

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I read a wry and witty joke yesterday that made me chuckle. It’s been around for a while – eBaum’s World posted it in 2007 – but this was the first time I heard.
What did the Zen Buddhist say to the hot dog vendor?
“Make me one with everything.”
The Zen Buddhist payed with a $20 bill, but received nothing back. He asked the hot dog vendor, “Where is my change?”
The hotdog vendor replied, “Change must come from within.”
Love it!


Is the GOP the PLO?

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David Brooks to me just (thankfully) called the GOP the PLO. Please read the passage below and/or the full op-ed piece and you’ll immediately see the parallels between Arafat walking away from the deal that Clinton put together between Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat in 2000 (where basically Arafat got 99% of what he wanted and he still said ‘no’) and the deal that the Republicans are walking away from right now – bold my emphasis:

“If the Republican Party were a normal party, it would take advantage of this amazing moment. It is being offered the deal of the century: trillions of dollars in spending cuts in exchange for a few hundred billion dollars of revenue increases.
A normal Republican Party would seize the opportunity to put a long-term limit on the growth of government. It would seize the opportunity to put the country on a sound fiscal footing. It would seize the opportunity to do these things without putting any real crimp in economic growth.
The party is not being asked to raise marginal tax rates in a way that might pervert incentives. On the contrary, Republicans are merely being asked to close loopholes and eliminate tax expenditures that are themselves distortionary.
This, as I say, is the mother of all no-brainers.
But we can have no confidence that the Republicans will seize this opportunity. That’s because the Republican Party may no longer be a normal party. Over the past few years, it has been infected by a faction that is more of a psychological protest than a practical, governing alternative.”
Click here for the full op-ed

The whole ‘debt ceiling’ issue is a red herring. The current and future Republicans will stop at nothing to ensure that the ultra rich get richer. Rome is burning and they want to dance in the flames.