Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When They Say Yes They Mean Yes . . .

 I remember, not long after the overthrow of the Shah, a demonstrator in Teheran telling a reporter: "Americans are rude people. When they say yes, they mean yes. When they say no, they mean no." 

Monday, June 29, 2015

Now I get to lose friends . . .

Yes, Obama's spiel at the Charleston church was spectacular, artful, wonderful. God's grace is great — if you qualify and can get it. But here's my problem: after all that forgiveness and grace, how many seriously committed Christians — including black Christians — are going to allow for gay marriage? And, further, stand up to say so? 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Big O's Presidency

Not to put too fine a point on it, but those on the Republican right who have jumped to a kneejerk, sight unseen rejection of the Iran deal are the same people who brought us the Vietnam War and the invasion of Iraq. I don't mean the identical individuals, though there's carry over; I mean they are governed by the same impulse, including the assumption that there are no limits to what American military force can achieve in reshaping the world.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Starting at 2:30 pm today. . .

Getting Back

Starting at about 2:30 pm today it took me an hour to drive from Whole Foods Fresh Pond back to my apartment a block off Mass. Ave on Rindge, and I had to break a few laws to do it.

Police had blocked off the turn from Mass Ave to Rindge. City workers were laying black top — or something. (In Yiddish, this is technically known as oysgevarfeneh gelt — literally "thrown away money." Watch, it will happen all summer long, even where it happened last year, hence the oysgevarfeneh).

Friday, June 19, 2015

Monster Centralism

There's a very good English word for Dylann Roof, the Charleston S.C. murderer — "monster". (The word is derived from the Latin "to show", a root of "demonstrate". I think it was meant once upon a time to indicate monsters were God's demonstrations of something, though what God was showing, or differentiating from, I do not claim to know).

Still, why, exactly, has "monster" fallen out of usage?

Because it's not reducible to the detailed legal specifications of "crazy"?

Because "monster" is not listed in the current DSM?

Because the question remains, is Dylann Roof a terrorist monster or some other sort?

Let these definitions be debated as they politically, legally, and psychologically must.

In the meantime, let there be no doubt that:

1) Dylann Roof is nothing less than a monster

2) And that he is a particularly American, gun-toting, racist breed of monster.

But neither American racism, sickeningly persistent as proves to be, nor the sick American friendliness toward guns and their toting, comes close to explaining monstrosity, which is not, at the end of day, a uniquely American phenomenon.

Think of Anders Behring Breivik, the guy who in 2011 in the social-democratically enlightened country of Norway, bombed to death eight of his countrymen in Oslo, before moving on to shoot down as many as he could on the island of Utøya (he got to 69.)


Thursday, June 18, 2015


The basketball player formerly known as Ron Artest Jr. now goes by the handle Metta World Peace. I hope the basketball player currently known as Lebron James does not follow in this path and formally rename himself "I am the Greatest Basketball Player on the Planet," much as he took to calling himself that during the NBA finals.

For one thing, "I am the Greatest Basketball Player on the Planet" is a mouthful. For another, it detracts from rather than underlines or adds to the respect James is definitely due — not only as a player but also as man of some political acumen, as he's shown with regard to turmoil on the streets of Cleveland and with regard to NBA issues, such as racist remarks by octogenarian a'hole Donald Sterling.

Besides, the NBA is in danger of choking on spectacle, as if basketball on the highest level isn't enough, as if the sport doesn't more than justify itself. Especially when it comes to the finals, you've got to get through a lot of spectacular nonsense to arrive at an actual game.

So James should stick to being James, or Lebron, or even King James, since that says it too. Though, wait, wasn't King James ejected for good, as in beheaded, or something? No, he wasn't. That form of ejection was the fate of several other English kings, not one of whom could ever dribble or play defense.

So Lebron, stick to the known and tolerable monikers, and better luck next year.

Now here's where I get in my special pitch: there is, in the NBA, a separate statistic for the one point shot. It's called free throw percentage.

Time to get rid of field goal percentage, which no longer describes the game, and split it into a statistic for the venerable, though increasingly outmoded, two point shot and another for three-pointer, upon which so many teams depend.