Last night, I went to a Passover seder at a home I've been going to for years. It's always very enjoyable, except for one particular thing: about five years ago, the host switched from a very simple haggadah – which is the book used for the service (and unless you're with an especially serious group, people tend to prefer simple, and the simpler and more lively and fun, the better ) – to something called The New American Haggadah. In a word, it is interminable (though happily we don’t read through most of it) and in a few additional words, it's pontificatingly awful and pompous, about 100 pages long -- a preferred haggadah is about 30 -- edited by a fellow named Jonathan Safran Foer. It might be something interesting to read is you were on a desert island and feeling devout. But as a haggadah for people who want to celebrate and get through the wine, matzoh, gefilte fish, camaraderie and meal, it’s dismal, and I don’t think anyone there likes it. Even the host has started to grow weary of it. But he's determined and sticks with it, editing the service more and more each year. As is only right and proper.
But his self-awareness was especially noticeable when he himself brought up that only a few days ago, he had seen that The Onion did a satire piece about…Jonathan Safran Foer!!! Yes, the editor of the haggadah. The headline of the article alone is funny enough and I could have stopped right there, “Jonathan Safran Foer Guesses It’s Time to Give Up on Silly Dream of Becoming a Good Writer.” Hilarious. I have no idea what brought this about -- Foer has actually had a successful career, including the novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, which was made into a movie I quite enjoyed. Perhaps The Onion writer has been through one too many seders with The New American Haggadah, or if that was just a happy coincidence and a genial jibe in general. But it did my heart good. The article is very short – one paragraph, but quite funny. If you’re interested, here’s the link.
On this week's edition of 3rd & Fairfax, the podcast from the Writers Guild of America, the guest is screenwriter Steven Rogers, who talks about his films which include Hope Floats and Love the Coopers, and whose most-recent movie is iTonya.
Here's a sketch from a couple nights ago with Stephen Colbert occasionally trying to keep a straight face as he interviews Dana Carvey playing an absolutely lunatic John Bolton.
Lest anyone thing Erick Erickson is alone, there is a follow-up to my article this morning. It's an oped from Cheryl Chumley, the opinion editor of the Washington Times, who compared David Hogg to Nazi Brownshirts for calling on sponsors to pull their ads from Laura Ingraham's show, all because he had his "widdle feelings" hurt.
I would suggest that if Ms. Chumley thinks that calling for sponsors to drop their advertising is the equivalent of tactics by Nazi Brownshirts, she needs study history better before writing her next column. Even something as basic as "WWII for Dummies" would work. She could even make it easier on herself by skipping most of the book and jumping to the chapters on Kristallnacht and the Holocaust. Or just read "The Diary of Anne Frank" if she doesn't want to get too scholarly.
But further, there's something precious when Cheryl Chumley snarks that David Hogg had his "widdle feelings" hurt, yet she herself is outraged because he didn't accept Laura Ingraham's "apology." By the way, I suspect Mr. Hogg would take Ingraham's slams every single day to have his 17 friends shot to death back.
There's so much more in her harangue, which borders just on the good side of unhinged -- including her being unable to see what on earth was possible wrong about Laura Ingraham's forced "apology," made only because it was "Holy Week" and because sponsors were fleeing -- even to the point of saying it was totally unnecessary. Which is a very cavalier statement to make on behalf of someone else who had already seen eight of her sponsors leave, despite having made that weak apology. But it's not worth taking down every egregious cry, the Nazi Brownshirt garbage is plenty enough. But if you have it in you, the whole thing is here.
One thing the Cheryl Chumleys and Erick Erick Ericksons of the world, and other far-right ditto heads moaning about a 17-year-old kid who was shot at in a massacre and is not willing to accept the false "apology" of someone who attacked him don't understand is this: David Hogg and the others of the March for Our Lives movement aren't likely offended that people like Laura Ingraham say mean things about them -- they are outraged by people standing in the way of lessening gun violence.
Nell Minow reminds me that these outraged people at sponsors leaving "Fox News" hosts are the same ones who broke their Keurings in protest. And, yes, so they were, but in fairness I suspect they aren't doing that this time for one of two reasons: 1) they realized that it was really stupid because now they don't have their coffee maker, or 2) they have nothing left to smash.
Erick Erickson is a deeply conservative commentator who was CEO of the deeply conservative blog Red State. I don't agree with 98% of what he says, and am galled by some of it. But unlike so many pundits on the fringes of the far right, I find that he at least puts his own thought into topics and doesn't just parrot others around him who have their hair on fire. And sometimes, on rare occasion, I actually agree with him. in fact, a couple of years ago in a New Yorker profile, he commented, "I have said some things I regret," a few of which he lists. And that's quite admirable. Mind you, it hasn't stopped him from continuing to say them. Ideally, when someone says things they regret it causes deeper self-reflection until you stop saying them. I don't mean things where you slap your head and immediately think, "Well, that was stupid." We all do that regularly. I mean things that you know are meant to offend and rile a base.
This isn't about one of those. In fact, by comparison it's rather benign. But I just wanted to give a certain perspective on the fellow. Because he's a high profile figure on the far right, and yesterday I saw one of his comments about the Laura Ingraham controversy on her ridiculing 17-year-old David Hogg about the colleges he didn't get into. This has caused a lot of consternation and frantic response on the far right, since the general public reaction has put Ms. Ingraham back on her heels and at risk of losing her TV show on "Fox News." In a desperate attempt to keep her ship from sinking, she put out a tweet that had the word "apology" buried somewhere in it, to which Hogg replied with what he said it would take for him to accept it.
That brought about Erickson's comment, not different from others on the far right, but more prominent and carrying more weight. He wrote, "Having someone apologize to you then refusing to accept it unless conditions are met is what bullies do."
That sounds thoughtful and meaningful, but only until you reach the period at the end, and stop and look at it. When one doesn't remotely believe the sincerity of a forced "apology," which itself was made with conditions (as in this case, with her saying she was only making it because this was "Holy Week") and done purely out of personal desperation to placate sponsors from leaving -- and then goes on to get in some self-promotion for her show not just once, but twice -- I don't think anyone is required to accept it. An "apology" without meaning, understanding and correction is just a group of random words strung together. If you take a metal pipe to someone's head and bloody the person, and then when you see the police and lawyers closing in, you say a day later, "Oh, okay, out of the good spirit of my religious heart, sorry about that, but remember I once said I liked jacket you had just bought," you should not expect a hug back.
But there's something else that's head-shaking here. It's whimsical to see someone, anyone, though most especially a 17-year-old shooting victim being described as a "bully" against the National Rifle Association, the gun manufacturer corporate-owned terrorist organization. A group which has defined bullying in American politics by using terror tactics to frighten both the public and politicians to getting their way. Not just raising the specter of minorities rising in the streets to kill and destroy society, but spending many tens of millions of dollars over the years in threats to politicians to support them or they will set out to ruin you. (And raising money, we are now finding out, that appears to have come from Russia to illegally influence the U.S. elections.) To see anyone chastised for being a "bully" against the NRA and those supporting it is the height of disingenuous pathetic whining.
(Not to mention, indeed, seeing a 17-year-old shooting victim being described as a "bully" as he goes up against the career-long bullying tactics of Donald J. Trump, who threatens lawsuits to push opponents into submission, lives by the philosophy that if you hit him he'll hit back 10 times as hard, regularly expresses his admiration for dictators, and uses the power of his present position as the most power man on earth to bully not just organizations but individuals who dare criticize him -- as Trump himself acquiesces to defending the NRA on anything and near-everything, assuring the public that he knows the NRA leaders are all Good Americans who will do the right thing, something which has never been in their manifesto.)
Not accepting a meaningless "apology" does not register on the Bully Scale. Laura Ingraham is not being forced to apologize by David Hogg. The only people she might realistically see as forcing her to apologize are the sponsors leaving her show. And her employer, "Fox News" wanting her to stop the bleeding. They're the ones who want her to apologize. I wouldn't be surprised if David Hogg couldn't care less if she "apologizes." Though he might appreciate it if she actually, seriously did it. And meant it. And lived by it.
But even, for the sake of argument, if there are ever "bullying" tactics by any of the leaders of the "March for Our Lives" movement, when you have chosen to bring AR-15s to a snowball fight, don't feign angst if people being attacked realize what is required in order to fight back. Because sometimes understanding the battle you're in and responding appropriately is necessary to rid yourselves of the pack of 800-pound gorillas bullying and terrorizing a community. Because Visigoths tend to accept only the kind of response they understand, and will dismiss any other as merely the actions of a "snowflake."
And so, to such marauders, a 17-year-old shooting victim is a "bully" because he didn't accept the fake apology of a thug and explained what it would take.
The avalanche may be coming.
Before today's Opening Day the game, Bleacher Nation reporter Michael Cerami sent out a tweet that he would jump into Lake Michigan if the Chicago Cubs outfielder Ian Happ lead off the game with a home run. Happ hit the first pitch of the game into the seats.
The water temperature was 41-degrees.
We return you now to Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This is from 2012 when he threw out the first pitch at a Cubs game.
I find it adorable that Muti seems to love the Cubs, particularly since he's from Italy and didn't grow up on baseball or perhaps ever played it at all. But we know now that he's a lefty. Not the same form on the mound (or front thereof) as on the podium, but he did get it to the plate.
By the way, listen closely in the background as he walks to the mount. The P.A. is playing Beethoven's 5th Symphony.
How cool, I went to reply to a a tweet by Laura Ingraham, and it turns out I've been blocked by her. (The only thing I can figure, since I rarely pay attention to what she says and have only commented on her a couple of times, is I wonder if it was the one that I wrote about her perhaps making a Nazi salute to Trump at the Republican Convention...)
That aside, it turns out that the dear one has just slammed a high school kid for not getting accepted into four colleges. And not just any high school kid, but one who was a victim of a mass shooting where 17 of his friends were killed. No, really, and yes, she's an adult.
Two things though: 1) Ms. Ingraham left out that he actually did get into three schools. And 2) ace commentator that she is, she got his GPA wrong! And made it lower than it is. The article she quotes from says very clearly "4.2". And yes, you're reading this correctly: his grades are 4.2 (on a scale of 4.0) and she's slamming him! I mean, seriously, 4.2 is great. And even if had merely been a "paltry" 4.1, that would have been absolutely terrific. (Oh, and never mind that she singles out him not getting into UCLA, which last year only had a 14.6% acceptance rate for out-of-state students, which he is.)
By the way, not getting accepted in every school one applies to is no big deal. For the record, when I applied to colleges and grad school, I got accepted into Northwestern, Stanford and UCLA -- but I was rejected by my safety school! I have absolutely no idea why. And I didn't care, it was my last choice. It happens.
What doesn't tend to happen is for high school kids to get ridiculed for it in the national media, especially after being a victim in a mass shooting.
Ahhh, dear Laura. What a gem.
And to help honor the occasion, here are the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and their conductor Riccardo Muti (in a Cubs jersey, mind you) playing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I think this was done in honor of last year’s World Series since it was posted by the CSO on November 6, 2016. Also adding to the last-minute sense of quickly throwing this together is that the musicians are in street clothes -- though many are wearing Cubs paraphernalia or Cubbie blue.
What I particularly like about this, regardless of who'sperforming, is that It's a fun arrangement, too, not trying to overwhelm such a small, charming song with full orchestral bombast, but arranged with an almost old-timey feel. And maestro Muti seems to be having a good time with it all.
I tend to enjoy watching a show called Bar Rescue, which is on the newly-renamed Paramount Network (formerly Spike TV). If you’ve never seen it, this bar expert Jon Taffer is called into failing bars, and revamps them. The show can get confrontational – actually, sometimes intensely so – though honestly, I prefer it when it’s not overly angry, and you like the owners of the bars he’s rescuing. (He’s a confrontational guy himself, though in fairness it’s often needed because many owners are not only so head-blocking stubborn, but have let their bars get run down to such serious levels that polite suggestions aren't the answer.)
Anyway, I just finished watching this week’s show that I had recorded. It was an L.A. bar and in the Valley, and as they showed the place from the outside, I thought, “Wait, that looks familiar, I think I may actually know that place…” And – yes! For the very first time since I've been watching the show, I've actually been in the bar they're rescuing.
It’s Paladino’s in Tarzana, which has been around since the '60s. I've only been there once, two years ago, but it was seedy enough to remember. My friend Jeff Melvoin, who I've mentioned here a few times -- the showrunner on such TV series as Designated Survivor, Army Wives, Alias and others -- is in a friendly band called The Mavens, which occasionally plays around town, and Paladino's is the first place I saw them. They only played there once, I believe. I could understand why. And the episode shows it, too.
Actually, the episode doesn't fully show that. Because when The Mavens played there, they packed the place. But most bands don't, and the bar is a near-empty cavern for most of the show.
Happily, it’s a fun episode, because the owners are good guys. Just totally clueless. Their day job is as medical research scientists. Because they are very decent folks and people who's work is pretty noble, researching a cure for cancer, Taffer likes them a lot. But he's utterly frustrated by them. So, it’s less confrontational than most, and a whole lot less yelling. But particularly enjoyable for that.
If you’re interested, it repeats next Sunday, April 1. Set the DVR. It’ll be on the Paramount Network, airing at 9PM Los Angeles time. The episode is titled ‘Weird Science.’
Here's a clip. It's fun watching Taffer's bewildered frustration build, trying to remain polite which is not his natural state. Around the 1:00-mark watch his expression as the two owners (John and Jonathan) debate the minutiae of whether someone got a pizza slice.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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