Wednesday, February 15, 2006

On Monsters

"We know that a man can read Goethe or Rilke in the evening, that he can play Bach or Schubert and go to his day's work at Auschwitz in the morning." -- George Steiner

Interviewing a young physician over the phone, I discovered that his two passions were (1) Beethoven and (2) hunting. I was shocked. But it's true -- you can appreciate art and still be a monster.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bleak House

What a wonderful program!

Much better than the earlier version, even though the earlier version had the divine Diana Rigg in it. The photogaphy is sharper--the music more involving--the scene changes better--the characters, in some cases, not so repellent and better drawn--

Watching the two versions, one after the other, is an unusual pleasure--

For Sky...

Everything is so complicated these days--I want to leave a comment on Sky's blog but my password keeps getting rejected! Phooey on you, Google!

So here's the comment: To me spring arrives when the baseball players go to Florida and start working out.... Spring is my favorite season. But I must admit that an occasional blizzard, such as we're having in NJ now, is interesting--

Saturday, February 11, 2006


I remembered something--that an Irish fellow complained to me that Matchpoint's villain was Irish. This was before I saw the film.

But the protagonist's being Irish is needed for the plot--someone who's something of an outsider in English society, but not so much of an outsider that he cannot marry into an upper-class family. There was nothing especially Irish about the villain--whom I sympathized with.

--- I really hate Wilkepedia, or whatever it is, and I shall express my anger shortly.

Friday, February 10, 2006

An American Tragedy

Matchpoint, the new film directed and written by Woody Allen, is similar to Dreiser's An American Tragedy and the movie that followed. Only this time, Scarlett Johansson is playing the Shelley Winters role, and someone else Elizabeth Taylor's role. The fall guy in the older film was Montgomery Clift.

The Dreiser story: An ambitious young man gets involved with a plain Jane, who becomes pregnant; then he connects with a rich woman; he drowns the Plain Jane--only to be charged with murder.

In the film, the Plain Jane is a sexpot, engaged to the brother of the rich young woman whom our amibitious young hero marries. Our hero is smitten by the sexpot, who eventually becomes smitten with him--just when his lust has dwindled and he decides he doesn't want to sacrifice the Very Good Life. So he murders her. Cleverly. I won't reveal whether he's caught or not.

Something remarkable: having to do with luck, with whether a tennis ball that hits the top of the net will go over or not.

The similarities in the plots are acceptable. There are important, interesting changes. The movie itself is intelligent, the writing topnotch.

But...the movie is pretty slow. A half-hour could have been excised.

And there's a deus-ex-machina coincidence at the end.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Q. If women with big bosoms work at Hooters, where do one-legged women work?
A. Answer: IHop.

Every month, I tell a joke at the meetings of the Hobbyists, a social group of older men in the Ridgewood, NJ, area--after I report on the Investors Club and on ROMEO (Retired Older Men Eating Out), two clubs that I run. I'm proud that I have gained a reputation for telling really funny jokes.

But my inventory is growing bare. I keep track of the jokes I've told and the jokes I haven't told, and I have only about six jokes left. One of them--a killer joke--is, alas, full of curse words, one of them very strong, and bear in mind that I give my talks in a church. A little intimidating.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Pure Evil

Anthony Lewis, reviewing a biography of Martin Luther King, refers to J. Edgar Hoover as either mentally disturbed or, that rarity, an evil person.

I've met evil people. They are forever laboring to propel themselves forward and others backward. They enjoy other people's pain and discomforture--Schadenfreude. They have no conscience. Glen was/is was such a person. So was/is Karen. Probably Jennifer.

Is there such a thing as motiveless malignity, as Iago says of himself? Is enjoying other people's pain motiveless?

Are these villains mentally disturbed? Who said it is not "normal" to compete against everyone else? Do they have a "personality disorder"? Hitler and Stalin were two of the worst human beings who ever lived. Were they mentally disturbed -- or just products of their times? Erik Erikson said Hitler was a "hysterical adventurer."

Maybe the apt term to use is simply, as Churchill said of Hitler, "wicked."

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Founding Fathers

From "The Passions of Andrew Jackson" by Andrew Burstein:

What George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson--the three traditionally "great" early presidents--had most in common was the perception that virulent enemies were plotting against them.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Roe vs Wade

With Alito on the Supreme Court, freedom of choice is doomed--

I feel very strongly on this subject--among other reasons, I once helped Sheri Finkbine's husband write an article, "The Hate Mail of Sheri Finkbine"--she was a TV personality in Arizona who took Thalidomide and wanted an abortion--she went to Scandinvia--

The horrible letters she received!

And the poignant letters from cripples--saying...

Don't bring a cripple into the world--

I felt so sorry for one, I almost wrote to her--

I should have--she probably wouldn't have answered--but I should have made the effort--

I once saw a disfigured young woman (auto accident?) playing tennis in Fort Lee, and I tried to get her to agree to play tennis sometime with me--I gave her my card--but she never called--

Fact magazine ran an article, How a Middle-Class American Housewife Gets an Abortion--in the 1960s--

One of these days, I'll put it on this blog--