Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Great Jews Playing Great Jews #1: Ron Silver As Alan Dershowitz

I'd like to introduce another feature to this blog, a critical anaylis of Jewish portrayals of other Jews on film. For the purposes of this first entry, I will call this series Great Jew Playing Great Jews because both Ron Silver and Alan Dershowitz are in fact, two great Jews.

Film: Reversal of Fortune - 1990

Brief Synopsis:
Jeremy Irons won an Oscar for his riveting portrayal of Clas Von Bulow, a disastrously eccentric, uber-rich European socialite on trial for the attempted murder of his wife. Steadily proclaiming his innocence he hires Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz (played by Ron Silver) wastes no time assembling a team and filing for his appeal, ultimately winning the case.

Silver As Dershowitz:

Silver, who I've always thought was a cool looking guy, manages to dork himself out to the point where his resemblance to Dershowitz is almost uncanny. In a cameo, where Dershowitz plays a judge, Silver looks more like the real Dershowitz than Dershowitz himself.

While the film does not go out of its way to paint Dershowitz as what Grammy Hall would call a real Jew, there are certain broad brush strokes. In one scene, the writer's desire to convey Dershowtiz's ethnicity shows no restraint. Dershowitz and his son sit in their tv room, eating Chinese food out of the container, watching a basketball game, all while discussing legal ethics. At one point, the Celtics score, and father and son give each other a huge high-five while never putting down the Chinese food cartons.

One of these themes, poor table manners, is repeated throughout the film. When Dershowitz and Von Bulow fist meet, von Bulow, after telling Dershowitz "he has long admired the intellectual cunning of the Jewish race," suggests they go out and get a "proper" lunch. As they sit down at a fancy restaurant, before the menu is even presented, Dershowitz goes in and tears apart a hunk of bread, buttering it in a most uncouth way. And while there are many reasons behind Silver's portrayal of Dershowitz's eating style (he's always thinking, he doesn't have time to sit down and have a "proper" mean) in the end, he is a Jew eating in an ugly way.

This terrible stereotype, the Jew and his ugly table manners, is not new. It has been passed down for years and years. It served as one of the primary justifications behind the Ivy Leagues' creation of a Jewish Quota policy, basically, a severe restriction on Jewish admission that was not fully lifted until the 1970's. Here is a quote form a Harvard alum attending the Harvard Yale football game:
"Naturally, after twenty-five years, one expects to find many changes but to find that one's University had become so Hebrewized was a fea[r]ful shock. There were Jews to the right of me, Jews to the left of me, in fact they were so obviously everywhere that instead of leaving the Yard with pleasant memories of the past I left with a feeling of utter disgust of the present and grave doubts about the future of my Alma Mater."

On the flip side, in Von Bulow and that Harvard asshole's world, eating is a far more elaborate affair.. Nearly every flashback centers around a dinner or lunch, and always with a number of people. The day he met his wife, at a dinner party in Austria, the day he fell in love with her when a tiger crawled towards her at a dinner party outdoors somewhere fancy, the day she fell into the coma his children and others are gathered around the table for breakfast. Perhaps this is because Von Bulow and those in his world never had or will have to work for anything, everything in the world is there for the taking, and all there is to do, one of the only ways to actually pass the time is to eat.

Moments of High Jewish Intellectual Debate:
1. When one of Dershowitz's students expresses her objections to the case and Von Bulow's innocence, a monologue begins. "Allow me to exercise my first amendment rights," Dershowitz begins, and then launches into why he feels Von Bulow, has been taken advantage of by our legal system. And he's right, even though Von Bulow is very rich, his wife's family hired a private prosecutor and conducted their own investigation. Dershowitz is "pissed off, if we allow this, then the rich will stop going to the police, they wills top being part of our legal system, they will use their own. The only people left in our legal system will be those too poor to buy them a proper defense."

2. Von Bulow is a very bizarre man hated by most people. This is a problem and causes our characters to bring up an interesting puzzle. What if Hitler never died and needed a defense. Is the right of every man to a legal defense so great it supersedes the horrific nature of one's actions? What would Dershowitz do, kill him or take the case. His son answers instantly, "no question, you'd take the case." Ron Silver as Dershowitz responds with a witty retort, "of course I'd take the case, then I'd kill him!" Where are we, the Catskills?

Loud Jewish Vulgarity:
Never to be one to care about letting swears fly in public (but never in front of children) Dershowitz is no stranger to the more than occasional "fuck" or "shit." At one point, while having a drink with Von Bulow at a fancy club, Dershowtiz screams, "I don't fucking care, I don't give a fucking shit..." and on and on. The rest of the club looks in horror while Von Bulow to his credit smiles, quietly admiring his lawyer's ability to say fuck and not give a fuck in a stuffy room.

2. After fighting with a lawyer on his team, she accuses him of bringing their romantic history and personally debating her, not debating the legal strategy. They have a fight and he finally tells her, "you're on this team because you have talent and you're supposed to be looking up such and such a thing, so come on, CUT THE BULLSHIT."

Ongoing Pursuit of Civil Rights And Social Justice:
When we first meet Dershowitz, he is fighting to save the lives of death-row inmates in Texas. When he tells Von Bulow tells Dershowitz he's innocent, he tells him "I'm defending two black kids in Texas facing the death penalty for something they didn't do, they're innocent." Later, he tells the judge in the case, if he puts these kids in the chair, he's next.

Reference to Tough Upbringing:
At one point, Dershowitz meets with a rather sketchy character. A friend objects citing the meeting is "arrogant, unprofessional, and dangerous." Dershowitz responds, come on, I can manage, I'm from the streets of Brooklyn.

Occasional Use of Yiddish:
Dershowitz beleives the DA "schmeared" his client.

I'm done, I'm sick of typing the word Dershowitz.

That's about all of this I can take.

Timothy Geithner, They Don't Like You

Today, Tim Geithner, one time President of the New York Fed and current Secretary of the Treasury was the first piece of meat to thrown to a wolf pack of lawmakers sent out by the taxpayers eager to gnaw away on anyone responsible for having anything to do with anything bailout related.

If only they sold tickets to shit like this, we'd have our bailout paid for in no time.

Geithner has the dubious position of being scapegoat #1. From what I've read, it sounded less like a run of the mill congressional hearing and more like a shitty, mid 90's courtroom drama that you catch three am after waking up on the couch and can't pull yourself away from. And it has some of the quintessential elements of the genre too, an attack on the defendants personal character, a group of people ganging up on him (pause), testimony that goes off into the hinterlands of irrelevance before using it to make a point, and the poor, mistreated defendant finally reaching his boiling point and responding to questions with shockingly bitter yet underplayed insults.

The heart of the issue wasn't the bailout, but rather the method and manner in which the money was shelled out. Basically, the first 85 billion dollars AIG got went right into the hands of investment banks caught up in all of AIG's tomfoolery. But the more offensive way to look at this is to consider why an equally evil entity like Goldman Sachs deserves to be paid 100 cents on the dollar on every AIG related contract.

It's infuriating. It's offensive, it's shameful, but Geithner argued completely necessary. For starters, Geithner felt he had no authority to demand banks take anything less that the full amount owed. And when Dennis Kucinich asked him if the NY Fed gave Goldman Sachs a "better deal than it would have expected from AIG or any other market player," Geinther told him point blank,

"Under the law of the land, we did not have the ability. So we faced a very simple choice: Let AIG default or prevent it. There was no way, financial, legal, or otherwise we could have imposed haircuts, selectively default on any of those institutions without the risk of a downgrade and default." Or, once the New York Fed sat down and started asking for those affected for a deal, AIG's ratings could downgrade, and the ripples would spread far and fast and there would be no point of this bailout in the first place.

Kucinich of course disagrees.

His other argument basically runs along the lines of, "I didn't have time." Geithner believed, rightly or wrongly, the financial apocalypse was going to happen on November 10th. The bailout had to go through or it would be curtains. From his statement, here's a brief rundown Geithner's AIG doomsday scenario:

"...We saw not just an escalating run on banks, but also a broad withdrawal of funds from money market
funds. These funds, always thought of as one of the safest investments for Americans, had begun
trading at a discount. The run on these funds, in turn, severely disrupted the commercial paper
market, which was a vital source of funding for many brick and mortar businesses.

The panic spread. Major institutions such as Washington Mutual and Wachovia experienced
debilitating deposit withdrawals, eventually collapsed, and were acquired by competitors. These
pressures spilled over to virtually all credit markets. Markets for instruments backed by
consumer loans, such as auto loans, credit card receivables, and home-equity lines of credit
collapsed, and in response banks tightened standards and sharply curtailed the issuance of new

Air’s failure would be catastrophic. AIG was much larger than Lehman, it was spread across more countries than Lehman, and while it posed many of the same basic risks as Lehman, they were actually greater because of Air’s role as an insurance company. AIG was one of the largest life and health insurers in the United States. AIG was also one of the
largest property and casualty insurers in the United States, providing insurance to 180,000 small
businesses and other corporate entities, which employ about 100 million people. History suggests that the withdrawal of a major underwriter from a particular market can have large, long-lasting effects on the households and businesses that rely on basic insurance protection.

This damage would have rapidly spread beyond Wall Street. Borrowing costs for businesses
would have increased dramatically, the value of pension funds would have fallen even more
sharply, and job losses would have skyrocketed. We were witnessing these effects in the wake
of Lehman’s failure. Without assistance, the AIG parent holding company would have been forced to file for
bankruptcy protection like Lehman Brothers, resulting in default on over $100 billion of debt, as
well as trillions of dollars of derivatives. Such a filing would have caused insurance regulators
in the United States and around the world to take over Air’s insurance subsidiaries, potentially
disrupting households’ and businesses’ access to basic insurance. And since many of the
insurance products that AIG sold were a form of long-term savings, the seizure by local
regulators of Air’s insurance subsidiaries could have delayed Americans’ access to their
savings, potentially triggering a run on other institutions.

So he had to do it because he had no legal authority and no time. In regards to not having time to bargain, I believe Geithner gets the benefit of the doubt. We were in the midst of a massive financial meltdown with worldwide consequences never before seen. I believe Geithner was terribly frightened of what could realistically happen, and I'll accept he honestly believed we were headed for the economic Rapture. So yes, if you believed we were headed that way, and quickly, I'll allow you the time defense.

What I can't accept is the first excuse, because the only logical conclusion to draw from it is that our Treasury Secretary is an enormous pussy. A huge fucking pussy this guy. Rather than forcing Goldman Sachs to accept less than 100 percent, he hides behind his excuse that he had no authority, "legal or otherwise" to do so. Buddy, you are the Secretary of the Treasure, of the United States of Fucking America! Are you fucking kidding me? If you didn't have the time to negotiate with them, then you should have never negotiated. The conversation shouldn't have lasted longer than three minutes.

Geithner: Here's what I want you to do.
Goldman: Nah, we won't settle for less than everything we are owed.
Geithner: You'll take what I give you or.
Goldman: Or else what?
Geithner: Excuse me?
Goldman: It sounded like you were about to threaten me.
Geithner: Fucker, I don't need to threaten you. You will fucking take what we give you and be happy at that. I'm about to be the motherfucking Treasury Secretary and when I get that position, I will force every single regulatory committee to look into every single transaction you make. I will drown you in a see of paper. I will have the IRS look into everything, every bonus you've ever handed out, every per diem never filed for, everything. I will be in that ass forever and ever.
Goldman: You don't have any legal authority.
Geithner: Fuck legal authority. I will own you. I don't need to. I will make sure that the American people know if AIG fails and we fall back into the stone ages, the one thing people will know is you were the bad guy. I will do everything I can to change the story. I will rewrite what went down. There will be no Madoff, no Lehman, even AIG won't be the bad guys anymore. Instead, the story will be simple, Goldman Sachs could have stepped up and saved the American economy, but they chose instead to ruin it.
Goldman: Well I don't...
Geithner: Fuck you, you're taking 40% and you'll be happy with it. Or else you don't even wanna know the hell that will reign on you.

That's what should have happened. This is a circumstance where might would have made right.

Unfortunately all the blame game and hoopla it generates distracts from probably the most important issue in moving forward, mainly, what systems of regulation are going to be put into place to prevent a situation like this from ever happening again? So far, our government has done nothing, and instead of trying to enact a system of vital and urgently needed reforms, the only bipartisan energy being spent is to crucify those responsible for the bailout. I don't see how this serves us as taxpayers. I'd much rather have both sides come together to prevent the type of hysterical greediness responsible for this calamity rather than blaming those who spent their efforts on our rescue. And Geithner, whose job is very much in question, even spoke out at the end of his hearing, off the cuff and off his script, imploring the Obama administration, the same Obama administration that appointed him, to get their act together:

"If are outraged by A.I.G. — and you should be — if you are outraged by what happened with A.I.G., then you should be deeply committed to financial reform. The United States of America should never have let institutions like A.I.G. take on a level of risk that threatened the stability of the financial system.”

Meanwhile, the hearing continues, blocked emails and more will be discussed.

check this video out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Road vs. Book of Eli

Which Post-Apocalyptic world would I live in?

1. Color of the world

Grey, very grey. There's is no sun, or the sun doesn't come out, or it wants to come out but hasn't since the world turned grey. There still is a very big difference between day and nighttime, so there has gotta be a sun somewhere underneath the dark grey cover of clouds.

It's kinda grey, but also tends to be blueish and greenish and sometimes yellow. And there is a sun, if I recall, even a sun that you can see setting at some point, unless I'm remembering the fantastic sunset I saw after the film as being in the film. Either way, it's a much brighter grey, and you can see where you are going.

2. Topography
The dirty grey world of The Road finds the man and the boy (pause) walking through the woods, then the forest, then a city, then the woods, then into a house in the woods, then back into the woods, then on top of a highway that comes out of the woods and leads back into the woods, then through the woods where trees explode, then through the woods with trees on fire, then through a city with broken windows and bows and arrows and then back into the woods and to the beach. And while it is nice to see a post-apocalyptic world having trees and shit* the lack of topographical variety is upsetting.

Oy, this post-apocalyptic dessert society is making me thirsty! There's so much dust in the air! You want to talk about "lack of topographical variety" (no homo) all there is a desert. Granted the movie takes place somewhere in the southwest because he does make it san fran on very little gas towards the end, but come on, I lived in Albuquerque, and two years ago, that place was damn near post-apocalyptic and that shit wasn't even close to as dusty as Gary Oldman's town. What is it with the the apocalypse and dust. I understand if you have a cataclysmic event, a nuclear holocaust, a huge war, a meteor crash, it kicks up a little dust air. But come on, Mila Kunis was born after the destruction, and she's at least 25, so you're telling me 25 years later, there's still that much dust in the air? I can't even imagine what it must have been like when the shit went down. You've survived the end of the earth, and now you can't breathe. Ain't that a bitch?
Actually, the opening scene, Denzel kills an animal in the forest. And in the end, you do see the pacific, so I guess there is some variety, but not much.

3. How the world ended.
The Road
Don't Know

Book of Eli
Don't know, but there was some type of war, then wars plural after and Denzel once talks about as the sun falling out of the sky.

4. Things you get to have otherwise known as possessions.
The Road
A gun, three bullets, a shopping cart, and not much else other than misery, hunger, and fear.

The Book of Eli
It's like Denzel had a shopping spree before "the sun fell out of the sky." He has a mini sword that is extremely sharp, two guns, a kuffia (you don't think people still wanna rock a little fashion and protest the mistreatment of Palestinians in the post-apocalyptic future?) and a goddamn ipod. Also, a bow and arrow, and a huge green jacket with many pockets to put these items in.

5. Diversity
The Road
In the world of The Road, we see two black men throughout the course of the film. One is Micheal K Williams, the other is the guy that shoots Viggo with the arrow. Viggo kills him and leaves Michael K on the side of the ocean with nothing, so it's very possible he winds up dying too. The implications are huge. Having killed two black men, we can only assume there are very few left, and the diversity of the world is in danger.

Book Of Eli
Nothing to worry about here, many blacks, Asians, even one of Gary Oldman's main henchmen is an Arab. And when Denzel kills people, he kill people of all races, thus preserving the future melting pot and making this a far less racist film.

6. Music
The Road
Apparently, shortly after the end of the world, there was a lot of chanting and banging coming from the hillside. Now, every time you walk around a tree Nick Cave is humming in the air.

Book of Eli
Al Green's "How Can You Mend A Broken Heart" seems to be the only song on Denzel's ipod.

7. The Kindness of Strangers
The Road
Not so kind! If you see another person it means they are going to kill you and eat you. Or chop off parts of you to eat while keeping you alive. Or chop off parts of you to eat while keeping you alive and raping you. There are very few people who show humanity's more generous side up until the end, and even that's a little questionable. It's a world where a father would kill his own son in an act of mercy before letting the bad men get to him, I wouldn't count on the kindness of strangers.

Book Of Eli
Yes, there are killers, and bad men, and evil-doers out there, but there's some good in the world. Gary Oldman is not a nice fellow, but he did build a town and rations out water and tries to keep a little bit of order. And even though they go to that house where the old man and lady eat people, it doesn't seem like they kill and eat the good guys, and I think there is an important distinction to be made there, you only eat people who tried and failed to kill you.

8. Hope
The Road
Not so much here. One family with a dog and some kids try and help the boy, but like I said, they could have eaten him after all.

Book of Eli
Yeah, a little too much hope. If you haven't seen it I won't even begin to tell you about all the hope in the air.

Hmmmm, nice people from all ethnic backgrounds, ipods, Tom Waits as your local mechanic, and and a high diversification of topography, I"m going with the the world of the book of eli. Even if I have to brave the dust.

*When I was 12, Mike Jacobs said, "you know, some people think there's not enough trees in this world, but that's a bunch of bullshit."

Monday, January 25, 2010

Game of Games

New Orleans Classic

Words from Deadspin:
"Then it happened. In the most crucial moment of the Vikings' season, with a path to victory laid out before him, Favre had one more chance to be the hero ... and threw it away. When running for five yards might have given his team a chance at victory, he decided to throw for ten and denied them even the opportunity. As we'd seen him do before, he tried to do a little too much, take the big risk, make the dangerous throw. All the qualities that the blowhards of the world praise him for, turned out to be his downfall. Again.

It's not often that someone gets to see their nemesis fail in exactly the manner they long dreamed of. The fact that he got the Vikings as far as he did only makes the sadistic glee even sweeter. For those who were desperate to see Favre screw everything up, his season could not have had a more perfect ending..."


Friday, January 22, 2010

Get Well Soon Waka Flocka Flame

Waka got shot three days ago when he opted not to relinqush his chain at gunpoint. Telling a dude with a gun you're not giving up your chain and getting shot for it=definition of gully.

Waka 101:
Signed to Gucci's So Icey Entertainment.
Wants his music to get people buck and make girls dance.

And it goes off when he performs.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teddy Pendergrass

2 Pieces of Trivia:

The guy in Die Hard who played the asshole, cocky, coke-head, bearded prick that tried make moves on Holly Genaro and told Hans Gruber, "this guy running around the building, Hans, bubbe, I can give him to you," is also the guy that directed PCU. A shocking bit of trivia I know.

Equally amazing: Harold Melvin was never actually the lead singer in Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes. Teddy Pendergrass was the drummer in the Bluenotes backing band and eventually replaced John Atkins as the lead singer. So when Teddy Pendergrass became the singer, he replaced the old lead singer that was not even Harold Melvin.

Knowing this tidbit, Snoop's baffling interlude on Doggystyle is made all the more confusing, after exclaiming that he'll "treat a bitch like 7-Up I never have I never," (only theory that has held water over all these years is that he really does not like 7-up) he proudly tells his friends that he will "tell a bitch like this 'Bitch, you without me is like Harry Melvin without Bluenotes You'll never go platinum.'" Clearly, we all know this is highly inaccurate, as Pendergrass was key to the Bluenotes platinum sales. And after his departure for a solo career, the Bluenotes would never again match the success they enjoyed in their Pendergrass heyday.

There's not much to say about Pendergrass that hasn't been said or written in the last few days. I think most conversations can start and end with his voice. His voice and the way he used it. Pendergrass didn't just have a powerful baritone, but he could make it a smooth and as gruff as he wanted. One obit I read mentioned there really "hasn't been a real raw, gospel-influenced, deep-voiced adult black male star since Teddy's peak.” I never really thought about that, but I guess there's a point to it. Since Teddy Pendergrass most R&B singers with any level of longevity tend to sing in much higher voices. Is the baritone a thing of the past?

But his baritone, man, he could whisper in it, and he could shout, and shout loudly, without ever loosing the momentum of the song. Most of his songs reward the listener's patience, after a few vocal theatrics in the very beginning Teddy waits till the end to start shouting, pleading, begging, and pleasing. (no homo) It's unfortunate many of his songs end with a fadeout, as that's when he really gets going.
Also, Love TKO is one of the greatest songs of all time.
So here's a few songs.

1. I Miss You. Pendergrass really came with it and let the world know with If You Don't Know Me By Now, I Miss You is the first song on that album, and it's equally good. The only difference is I Miss You features a five minute long answering machine message, which is mos def worth the listen.

2. Turn Off The Lights
Around the 4.40 mark he just goes off. And the bit about the hot oils is always shocking.

And the greatest smoothed out slow jam of all time

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Jay Electronica - Exhibit C

They call me Jay Electronica
Fuck that
Call me Jay elecHannukah
Jay ElectYarmulke
Jay ElectRamadaan Muhammad Asaiaamica RasoulAllah Supana Watallah through your monitor.
My Uzi still weigh a ton check the barameter
I'm hotter than the muthafuckin sun check the thermometer.


Cause it's not all Gucci and Lil' Boosie all the time.