Okay, maybe the older version of that title phrase (involving contempt) might still be true regarding annoying relatives. (My father used to insist there was just one small group of them who went from wedding to bar mitzvah to reunion, changing accents and clothing but otherwise identical, and including the great-aunts who commiserated about their digestive issues, the cousin who told offensive jokes, and the cocktail-swilling uncle who insisted on singing his off-key version of “New York New York” with the band. But I digress.)
However, I have noticed that when people get to know someone with a different political viewpoint, sexual orientation, or national origin, they are much more likely to view them positively. This has been strikingly true when it comes to issues like same-sex marriage, where even die-hard conservatives with gay relatives soften their views (unless they have another relative running for office on an anti-gay-marriage platform . . . . see Cheney: Dick). I know I’ve become more tolerant of conservative views with which I disagree since I found out a few of my best friends are Republicans and I took the time to listen to their reasoning. (I still disagree with them, but at least I don’t think of them as mutant aliens – remember, I live in the San Francisco area, where Republicans are as rare as Democrats were when I was growing up in Orange County.)
Speaking of growing up in Orange County, back in my day, Jews were equally rare, so I was usually the only kid in my class who could explain our holidays. I actually did have to correct one 4th grade classmate who had heard that Chanukah involved worshipping potato chips. (He’d heard something about potatoes and frying . . . love that 4th grade logic!) (Mind you, Jews can be equally ignorant, especially given the rampant commercialization of Christian holidays – when they were little, my sons were convinced that Christmas celebrated the birthday of Santa Claus.)
So in honor of Chanukah, I thought I’d offer a few pointers to help those of you who don’t celebrate it.
- Chanukah started several thousand years ago, so it isn’t part of an insidious war on Christmas
- Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday (we have TONS of them), so faux-Christmas touches like Chanukah bushes are not very authentic
- Latkes (potato pancakes) and sufignot (jelly donuts) are traditional and delicious, meaning the holiday is a great excuse to eat fried food
- Contrary to what some envious kids might think, Jewish kids don’t usually get 8 days of elaborate gifts (as a rule mine get one big present and 7 days of wrapped-up books, snacks, and socks . . . hey, I’m a working musician and this is my busy period!)
And in case you need any more clarification, here’s a little musical explanation -
“The Chanukah Cha Cha”:
If you run a business off your laptop, be sure not to leave the laptop in the seat pocket in front of you after idling on the Tarmac for 45 minutes before take-off.
It is posaible you will get in a conversation with a man from Jordan in the window seat next to you and forget to use the laptop when airborne and above 10,000 feet. (As a sidenote airplanes these days go much higher than 10,000 feet. In fact, about 35,000 –Vanessa Armstrong and Steven Riggs. Not everybody knows this but probably should. Especially of they are going to post about air travel on Facebook.)
Back to the main topic. If you do get engrossed in a conversation with a member of the Jordanian military under these circumstances DO NOT leave your laptop in the seat pocket in front of you. Also, if asked by the Jordanian member of the military seated next to you “What do you know about Jordan?” Don’t say “You mean Michael Jordan? The greatest basketball player of all time?” Because that is not what they are talking about. They are talking about a different Jordan that you probably don’t know much about. (Hint: Try Googling Jordan, the country, when they are not looking so don’t sound like a complete embecile).
And if you do leave your laptop in the seat pocket and it is a US Air flight, call customer service and ask for Roberta. She is great and can help you locate your laptop the next morning. Just don’t try to blame USAir for your memory lapse. That only ticks off Roberta and she won’t try as hard to find it for you.
Hope this helps.
Also, turns out Jordan is a really interesting place to talk about. But probably not worth losing your laptop over.
What I did over the last two hours.
On plane to NYC
Left Louisville, Kentucky this late this afternoon to travel to New York City, New York.
Not walking, of course.
Not taking horse drawn carriage.
Not traveling by boat.
Not traveling by automobile either.
But flying –soaring really–12,000 feet above the ground at over 500 miles per hour.
Over 500 mph!!
Like a giant steel bird flying confidently and safely through outer space high above the clouds and now swooping down to land in a new brightly lit up city with millions and millions of strangers just like you and me but different too.
Wheels touched down and we have arrived in New York City, New York from Louisville, Kentucky in a 2 long hours.
We are not your tired and huddled masses seeking refuge but more like well rested and well fed aliens visiting from a distant planet because we can.
For the weekend.
I suspect that Lady Liberty in her permanently proud and protective pose is trying to defy gravity by grinning to herself and thinking “This is happening!”
Horn honking rules of etiquette:
When waiting at a traffic light that has turned green but the car in front of you hasn’t noticed yet.
1) One short honk means a head’s up to driver that the light has changed
2) Two short honks means the light has changed and the driver honking is in a hurry
3) Three short honks means the light has changed, the honking driver is in a hurry and thinks the driver …in the car in front of him is an idiot.
4) One long honk means the honking driver is a total a****le and is in a hurry because he started late and is an idiot. (
Note: if the honked at driver responds with a symbolic retaliatory hand gesture, then he becomes a bigger a***ole and idiot than the honking driver.)
I’m not talking about deliberate and demented cruelty. Like torturing little animals. I’m talking about accidental and unintended actions that lead to an unplanned cruel outcome.
Today I decided to drive into a car dealership to look at some cars….mostly to kill time. I pulled in and as I pulled toward the door I saw three sales reps waiting to greet me. So I turned left and was going to park but saw two more sales reps standing near the parking space. So I turned left again and pulled into what looked like a “sales rep free zone” but as I looked out my side window there were two other sales reps standing casually nearby waiting for me to get out and look at a car.
I was psyching myself up to get out of the car and thinking of nice ways of saying, “I’m just looking” but before I could my wife texted me. And I texted back.
There was palpable tension anyone watching could sense and each of the seven sales reps were curiously waiting to see which direction I’d walk when I got out of my car.
So, to buy time, I texted my wife something totally irrelevant and we texted back and forth about it for about two minutes. By this time several of the sales reps were getting concerned and wondering what I was up to. A few looked like they were ready to write me off as crazy. One looked like he may have to call the cops if I didn’t get out of my car soon and start negotiating pricing on a new car.
I then felt stuck. I wasn’t texting any more but pretended like I was. One sales rep walked close enough to see that I wasn’t crazy but looked really fed up with my seeming to toy with him …if not torture him.
Once I realized I had crossed over into an inadvertent kind of torture of people I had no reason to dislike or harm in any way, I got nervous, restarted my car, backed up and drove off.
And swore I’d never do anything that cruel to car sales reps ever again.
I am writing this entreaty from the back seat of my wife’s mini van. My daughter is sitting in the font seat and controlling the music and music volume (keeping it turned up just slightly higher than she knows I want it to be) and my wife is driving and the two of them are chatting away (somehow) over the music and seem to be laughing and enjoying each others company.
I, as always, am alone in the back seat. I feel like a refugee from another country who can’t speak the language and who doesn’t understand the cultural customs.
I sometimes feel the loud music is to keep me muted. I can’t engage in the conversation anyway because 1) I can’t hear well enough to understand it (even without music blaring); 2) I don’t understand it even when I can hear it, 3) I make really “stupid” comments even when I can hear and understand what is being said.
I am worried it won’t be long until I am asked to move to the trunk part of the minivan when we go out to eat—the part behind the final row of seats and the rear hatch. It is really cold back there in the winter and even lonelier than where I am sitting now. But only by a little. (Although I suspect, on the positive side, the music won’t seem as loud)
I am writing because I, frankly, don’t know how this situation happened. It wasn’t long ago that I confidently strode to the front passenger seat every time my wife drove the family out to eat. And I didn’t even have to run to get to the front seat first. At first it was an inconvenience but it was still clear (to me, at least) who the head of the household was. But it wasn’t long –maybe two weeks or less–before that sinking confidence that I was still head of the household turned into spiraling self-doubt about my status in the family— to the current state of near obsolescence. If it wasn’t for the annoying contributions I made to family outings, my wife and daughter may not even think to acknowledge me at all.
I’ve tried to turn things around by playing to my current strengths and being even more annoying than usual but that didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. I thought about offering to drive but I have a smallish compact car that the family never wants to drive in anywhere –even to circle the driveway. I’m now out of plans to reassert myself to a position in my family, not of dominance, but simply relevance. I am much more realistic now. I don’t have to actually matter…just as long as family members would be willing to pretend like I “could matter.”
Is that asking for too much? Or should I start dressing more warmly and placing pillows around the flooring and sides between the hatch and back seats, where I seemed destined to find myself any night we next go out for dinner?
Over the past few weeks, politicians, comedians, and the lamestream media have joined in what can only be referred to as The Shandah of the 21st Century: the trenchant desecration of the sacred holy day of Thansgivukkah.
In case you missed the Stephen Colbert satire, the Bostonian turkey-shaped menorah, or even the Presidential shout-out; millions of Americans have been exposed to the rare and historic confluence of Thanksgiving and Chanukkah with snide laughter and tweeted snarkery, treating Thanksgivukkah as just some ironic day of mock-celebration — akin to The O.C.‘s lame interfaith mashup, “Christmukkah,” or the brilliant, yet secular Frank Costanza inspiration of “Festivus.”
Indeed, while Thanksgivukkah has been only celebrated formally twice before in our nation’s history — in those extraordinarily rare cases in which a late November fourth Thursday coincided with an early winter Hebrew lunar calendar — the holiday once served as an integral thread that wove together the Jewish and American fabrics.
And yet, there is a dark, forgotten undercurrent to this Festival of Turkey Light.
I’m here to set the record straight and remind my fellow Jews and my fellow Americans of the secret, sordid history of the holiday of Thanksgivukkah:
In a global conspiracy rivaled only by the fake Moon landing, the coverup of Paul McCartney’s death and the transparently fabricated long-form birth certificate of our Kenyan-born President, the anti-Semitic textbook industry has scrubbed all records of America’s first Jewish citizen, Shecky Howard.
Escaping religious persecution as a Jew in late 16th century Europe, Shecky pretended to convert to Christianity, and chose the faith with which he seemed most comfortable — the big black hats, mother-inspired guilt-trips, and victimization of Separatist Puritanism.
OK, not a great choice for a guy fleeing religious persecution…
But Shecky made the best of a bad situation. And after serving as the mohel, pediatrist and the stand-up entertainer on the Mayflower (Sample joke: ”Take my wife’s apron…please!), Shecky was primarily responsible for the early peaceful entente reached among the Pilgrims and Native Americans in Plymouth, after he quietly confided to the Indian leadership that he too was a Member of the Tribe. Perhaps most poignantly, the Puri-Jew Shecky convinced both sides that turkey was the appropriate protein of choice (and carved the first bird with his circumcision tools), by arguing that pork chops would be inappropriate…because…uh…well…applesauce hadn’t been invented yet.
The official American holiday of Thanksgiving was first declared in 1862 by our first Jew-ish President, Abraham Lincoln.
(OK, I said Jew-ish, not Jewish. Read the difference here and consider his black hat and beard, his über-protective wife, his passion for minority civil rights, his Kentucky birthplace (we’re all Jewish here), and most of all, HIS NAME WAS ABRAHAM, FOR MOSES’ SAKE!)
It’s no wonder, then, when the second official Thanksgiving coincided with Chanukkah, Lincoln invited Shecky Howard’s great-great-great grandson Mordechai to officiate the very first Thanksgivukkah ceremony at the White House.
And it was then that the Thanksgiving dinner as we now know it took formal shape — a family event loaded with Jewish influence — mothers insisting that their children eat every last morsel of food (THINK OF THE STARVING CHILDREN IN AFRICA!); participants guilted to travel long distances to spend agonizing hours in cramped quarters with their neurotic extended families; even the dreaded cardboard folding Kids’ Tables, a remnant of overcrowded Passover seders.
The Black Friday shopping tradition arose from the rush to purchase Chanukkah gifts before the Jewish Sabbath began that evening. And most significantly, the modern mythical ethic of Thanksgiving — the Pilgrims’ supposed quest for religious freedom — was lifted by one of Rand Paul’s ancestors directly from the story of Chanukkah’s brave Maccabees: Archeological evidence recently revealed that the Mayflower was actually a Gilligan-esque three hour boat tour gone horribly, horribly wrong.
The most recent Thanksgivukkah occurred on the eve of the 20th century, when an elderly Mordechai Howard took the invitation of President William McKinley to introduce merged holiday themes at their White House celebration: turkeys stuffed with sweet potato latkes, jelly doughnuts filled with pumpkin sauce, hora dances circling piles of green bean casserole.
But alas, the ceremony went totally, awfully awry. Mordechai’s three toddler grandsons were playing a robust — some say vicious — game of Spin the Pilgrim Dreidel. After losing all of his cranberry sauce-flavored gelt, the oldest son poked the youngest in the eyes, then banged him on the head with a Star of David engraved musket, accidentally knocking over the brown gravy-fueled menorah, setting fire to the White House curtains, and ultimately killing Vice President Garret Hobart.
The Howard children
With the pogroms furiously raging in Eastern Europe, and the wave of Jewish immigrants desperately finding refuge at Ellis Island, an anti-Semitic backlash was rearing its ugly head, and the notorious Thanksgivukkah fire added (brown gravy) fuel to the hatred. A multifaceted coverup ensued; even the history books were altered to claim that Vice President Hobart died of “ill-health.” (Look it up here.) No one knows what happened to the three Howard children, although one colorized picture of them remains and is posted here.
So alas, we come to today, as we celebrate Thanksgivukkah for the last time apparently until the year 79,811. I urge my fellow Americans — particularly my fellow Jews – to refrain from the easy jokes, and instead honor the great Howard family…Shecky, Mordechai, even the three clownish grandsons..and remember what this holiday is truly about: religious freedom, family togetherness, delicious food, and most soi-tenly, the miracle of laughter.
If you like this piece, please read How Adam Sandler’s Chanukkah Song Saved the Jews and The Five Most Jew-ish Gentiles in Pop Culture.
Winston is a several month old Ocherese weighing all of 2 1/2 pounds but with lots of confidence and spunk–and an annoying habit of making a 6:30am donation in my home office beside my work chair.
Me: (Le…aving for work.) “Hey Sweetie. Good morning.”
Winston (tail wagging and prancing outside my home office): “Check it out. I did it again.” (With evil puppy grin)
Me: “Come on, man. That’s not cool.”
Winston: “What?”;Laughing in mischievous way to self “Oh, yeah. That. Sorry. You gonna pet me?”
Me: “What if I did this to you every morning in your little pin? It would get old and you’d eventually stop licking me so much, right?”
Winston: “John, C’mon…I am a puppy. What do you expect?” Adding, “Pet me. Or I’ll do it again when you’re gone.” (Laughs mischeviously to self again and barks)
Me: “Whatever” as I reach down to pet Winston goodbye.
Politics and show business make interesting but strange bedfellows – and one could say that’s both a metaphor and a literal statement (Jerry Brown & Linda Ronstadt, anyone?) For starters, there is substantial cross-over betwee the two fields – elections often seem more about show-biz glitz than issues, while actors complain about the ‘politics’ of casting. Plus celebrities frequently endorse candidates, who in turn may solicit those endorsements, or quote from plays and songs (or in the case of Herman Cain, lyrics from a Pokemon movie).
My career has been a hybrid of both, starting when I was a child trying to decide if my goal was to be a concert classical pianist or the first female president. (Yeah, I was an unambitious kid.) I wavered between going to law school or becoming a starving artist, and while I settled on the latter, I never lost my interest in politics. So it’s been great fun to combine both issues in these weekly videos, which has let me weigh in on current issues without having to mount a campaign. (I opted out of politics because of my thin skin and propensity to burst into tears at everything from Kodak commercials to being put on hold, not because of any skeletons in my closet – I have an embarrassingly unembarrasing past!)
But every now and then, a politician comes along whose entire career seems too theatrical to take seriously – sort of like the presidential campaigns of either Pat Paulsen (if you’re old enough to remember him) or Stephen Colbert (for everyone else). And we’ve had some doozies in this country – I’ve particularly enjoyed the hypocrites like Larry Craig, with his ‘I wasn’t playing footsie in an airport bathroom, I just have a really wide stance,’ or anti-gay activist George Rekers with his ‘rent-a-boy’ travel companion. However, nothing compares to Toronto’s Rob Ford – from denying he smoked crack to claiming he didn’t lie because reporters didn’t ask the right questions, to insisting that if bike riders get killed by cars, it’s their fault. In fact, more than a few people have wondered if his antics are just a giant performance art piece. – and I’m sure Anthony Weiner is wishing he’d run for mayor in Toronto, where his measly texted crotch shots would be child’s play. Meanwhile, Ford is defiantly staying in the public eye, despite being stripped of most of his authority and despite the additional allegations that come forward daily (from arrests for domestic violence to the checkered records of his driver and gym trainer). (And yes, “Rob Ford’s Gym Trainer” does seem like an incredible oxymoron.)
Rob Ford is larger than life, both literally and figuratively, and someone really should write a song about him. So I did.
Is the stop light becoming the abacus of transportation technology?
Maybe I am just restless and hate waiting.
Maybe I am a complete fool when it comes to technology and logistics.
Maybe I have no right or qualifications to comment on topics, like traffic control, that I know nothing about.
Well, there’s the thing. Even if all those things are true they haven’t stopped me before.
So here goes. I was sitting at several stop lights today for very long periods of time. Several minutes which is a long time in stop light time. And there was no other traffic because it was very early. This happens to me most days and got me thinking that I probably spend about an hour a week sitting at stop lights when there is no reason to —if we had the proper smart technology. For some people sitting at stop lights unnecessarily for 50 hours a years is a huge loss in production and an inefficient use of their time. (In my case, it is probably a good protective measure and prevents me from screwing things up, but that isn’t true for everyone).
Which got me thinking about the abacus as I stared (leered, really, at the stop light). For centuries, even millennia, the abacus was considered an advanced and ingenious discovery for making mathematical calculations. And is still used today in many countries that haven’t moved over to hand calculators. (Which are actually much superior in terms of speed and efficiency).
At the time the abacus was invented, it was a breakthrough technology right up there with fire and the wheel…..but that doesn’t mean we should never try to improve on the abacus.
Hence hand calculators. So, is there a “hand calculator” like advancement on the horizon for smarter stop lights? Or is this truly the best we can do? I don’t know.
I would just hate to find out that every time I was sitting for several minutes unnecessarily at a stop light with no cars in sight it was because someone somewhere was operating the stop light from an abacus-like system. That when it was invented was an utterly brilliant breakthrough but over time could have been improved on.
Please!! Seriously! Would someone just contact this poor guy from Malaysia and take the $10M he has been trying to give away for the last decade —so he’ll quit filling up my (and others) email inbox and Facebook message box?
Here’s the latest from him. (see below) He’s been pursuing me under various identities for years. Sure, I’d love the money but it seems like such a hassle and then there are the tax consequences and having a new lifelong friend (named Godfrey Lau??). What would that entail? I am not ready to make that kind of commitment but am sure someone younger and more adventurous would. So, please, have at it. And help this poor Mr Lau out so he’ll leave the rest of us alone.
“My name is Mr. Godfrey Lau, an external auditor working with MayBank Malaysia. I have taken pains to find your contact through personal endeavors because a late investor who bears the same last name with you has left funds totaling a little over ( $10 Million ) with Our Bank for the past Eight years and no next of kin has come forward all these years. To affirm your willingness and cooperation to my proposal, I will like you to get back to me as soon as possible and treat with absolute confidentiality and sincerity.”
Ok. I don’t know what to think about this!!
In my post above I asked for someone to please, please help the poor guy from Malaysia who has been working feverishly for years to give someone in the US $10M for a little help on a minor matter.
I finally got someone to offer to do the job.
But her response seems suspicious to me:
“Hi,you got a nice looking profile picture that interest me to write… you for a mutual benefit,I must confess you look very attractive.I hope we can be friends?my email is(email@example.com)Regards,Tracey Fujikawa”
Heck, I can’t even be for sure she is responding to my request to help out this Malaysian feller. They both seem crazy as loons, though, if you ask me— and like they deserve each other.
Bad habits are like spam emails.
We sign up for them (both spam emails and bad habits) motivated by a belief we are getting some reward without paying the usual price.
You can unsubscribe and think that the bad habit won’t return. But somehow the level of spam (bad habits) stays fairly consistent. And we don’t really know if the bad habits are the same old ones or some new and recently devel.ped bad habits.
Same with spam email. We aren’t sure if the unsubscribe didn’t work or if we signed up for a new bad habit. I mean spam email. What I suspect is really going on with spam emails is that it is much harder to shake them off….to end them for good…with just a simple unsubscribe click after we have finally had enough.
Unsubscribing from spam emails —or ending a bad habit–is never that easy. And there always seems to be a disappointing number of them in my inbox at the end of each day. Spam emails, that is. And the filter to eliminate them works about as well as just trying to stop a bad habit. We may need to just embrace the fact that spam email will always be with us and focus instead on just eliminating our bad habits Or vice versa.