Tuesday, December 19, 2006

My Week, In Brief

Sorry I have not been posting. I have been busy, busy, busy.

Last week, I attended an American Jewish Committee event at the Polish Embassy in NYC. The event was a candle lighting ceremony, and I was able to meet diplomats from around the world. The diplomat from Finland was particularly sweet. She gave me her card and told me to keep in touch. At this event, I also met Rabbi Mark Wilde, of the "Manhattan Jewish Experience." He is a young and 'cool' rabbi. Actually, he resembled a Backstreet Boy. He spoke of the story of Chanukah at the Embassy (a BEAUTIFUL building, by the way!), and I was struck by how the story has been buried. In case you all forgot, I am an atheist, but I strongly identify with my Jewish background, and Jewish history, philosophy, and culture. I was struck by this story of a struggle against Hellenism (so appropriate today, as Jews face assimilation), and a battle against greatly superior forces. I think the story of the Maccabees is a truly inspiring tale that gets hidden behind the story of oil lasting for eight days.

At this event, I bumped into someone I knew from college, but had not seen since college. It's funny how small a world it is in the NYC Jewish scene, huh? I also met a representative from AIPAC, and I told him I was interested in joining AIPAC because I wanted to be part of the vast Zionist conspiracy that rules the world. I also asked him if he receives his weekly Zionist conspiracy checks. He said that the checks are late arriving in the mail. DAMN, huh??

The Polish Ambassador spoke at the Chanukah party, and said moving and encouraging words of support for world Jewry, and noted Poland's long (and rocky) history with the Jews. Rabbi Wilde also spoke words of ecumenicism with other faiths - words of cooperation and inclusion. I marvelled at the fact that this event was occurring while Iran was holding a Holocaust denial conference across the world. Surreal, isn't it?

On Saturday, I got together with friends and saw a wonderful movie I highly recommend - The Queen. This movie stars Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth II, after Diana's death. She was simply phenomenal in the role - every facial muscle so perfectly evoking her inner thoughts. I also was struck by the way the movie portrayed Tony Blair. It was a complex portrait that one could take in two ways. One can look at the movie and say he simply basks in the glow of tradition and power, and aims to preserve both. On the other hand, one could say that he is an independent thinker who realizes the value of certain institutions, and is able to see through the politicking of the press and the glorified portrait that they showed of Diana. I would like to see him as the latter. The movie also has a complex picture of Prince Charles. I despise this man, who kisses up to Islamists around the world. (source) One can say that he bravely attempted to stand up to his mother, the Queen. Or, one could say, as I do, that he simply attempted to throw his mother to the coals so that HE could look good. Finally, there is the portrait of the Queen. One could say she is emotionally stunted and cold, or one could say that she values tradition and had to deal with a British public who valued the cult of the celebrity.

I will admit that I was sobbing in 1997 when Diana died. I know that is funny to say now, because in retrospect, she was a silly but deeply troubled woman who I never met. Yet somehow I did sob - probably because I too did worship the cult of the celebrity. But in some ways she did bring on her troubles herself. She knew about Camilla when she married Charles, and anyone with half a brain would expect a royal to keep a mistress - this is just standard history. Moreover, she had her own affairs - yet Charles came off looking like the bad guy. (let me say that I despise him for other reasons) Then there is the courting of the press she did - Diana absolutely had a love/hate relationship with the press and did not live a discreet life. Finally, there was her affair with Dodi Al-Fayed. He was an Egyptian billionaire whose family was into arms dealings. Imagine if she married him, and the step-grandfather (Mohammed Al-Fayed) of the future king of England was the man involved in the 'cash for questions' scandal?? This somehow is never discussed and/or brushed under the rug. Yet the Queen knew all about ALL OF THIS, and I am sure this affected the way she saw Diana.

That all said, I will not give a one-sided attack of the dead - Diana was also a humanitarian who worked for MANY children's charities, was a big advocate for AIDS research, and also tirelessly worked against land mines. She also appeared to have been a good mother who deeply loved her boys. Diana was complex - you take the good with the bad.

On Sunday night, I attended a really fun Chanukah party at a friend of mine's residence. I sang karaoke, which is not a Chanukah tradition, BUT IT SHOULD BE! Of course, I sang my signature song - "I will survive." I need to work on breath support, because my voice is not where it should be, in terms of the power behind it.

Last night, I attended a "Manhattan Jewish Experience" Chanukah party that was overwhelming. Why did I go? Rabbi Wilde talked me into it, hehehehe. Hundreds of people attended, and it was hard to breathe. I nearly had a panic attack, just from the claustrophobia. There was someone there who asked the women "Who wants to get married tomorrow?" I was HORRIFIED by that question. MARRIED TOMORROW??? I don't even know if I BELIEVE in marriage, let alone tomorrow! (remember that I am Jason's fag hag and an evil atheist, out to destroy families and terrorize little children, hardy har har) In fact, I think this is part of the problem with the modern social scene. There is too much pressure on getting married. Stereotypical Jewish mom: "When are you getting married?" This RUINS relationships by putting way too much pressure too soon upon them. I mean, I have a friend whose girlfriend started talking marriage two weeks into the relationship - this quickly broke them up. What is wrong with simply enjoying the company of the other person? Is everyone else taking crazy pills? Why this pressure to get married ASAP? Why not enjoy a relationship like a fine wine, taking long, slow sips and savouring every second of it?

Thoughts/questions/concerns about any of what I just wrote about?


Anonymous said...

LOL about marriage :)

For years the grandparents of both me and wife (we obviously weren't married back then) would give us strong hints, usually in the form of gifts. The most blunt was "For your wedding!" mugs my granny gave us :)

The thing is, this doesn't stop with the marriage. Now we're getting gifts with babies on them. And Polish remarks like "*sigh*... I don't have much left to live... ach, how I wish to see a grand-grandchild before I die... *sigh*" :)

Your average Jewish mother is a mean, lean guilt-and-gefiltefisch machine. Pressuring people into marriage and children is genetically coded into them... just wait 'till you're a mom :)

The event thing sounds uber-cool. Or better than digging in garbage cans, anyway.

And about Yehuda the Maul and the whole Hashmonean Dynasty... it is interesting to note that the final result of their rebellion was civil strife, comlpete fusion of Hellenistic and Jewish cultures and the Disapora under Roman occupation. Although it is probable that without the rebellion, we would have had not a fusion of cultures but rather a cultural annihilation.

And well... the Hellenistic culture has eventually been absorbed into the Roman one, and the Roman culture gave birth to the Western culture that we enjoy. The same culture in which Jews found themselves at the forefront of progress. And please note that arguably the greatest Jewish scholar, Rambam (Maimonides) - the prime compiler of the Halacha - worked in the framework of Judeo-Hellenistic philosophy. The Judaism we know now is the offspring of this philosophical and cultural fusion.

Red Tulips said...


So true about Hellenism. It is very interesting to see how Jews are simultaneously responsible in many ways for the foundation of Western culture - and yet the forces of assimilation from Western culture threaten to wipe out modern Jewry.

Personally, I <3 Western culture, and value it above all else. However, one of the bases of Western culture and certainly Hellenism is the concept of rationality. Rationality is inherently opposed to religion, and so it certainly is a struggle for non-Israeli Jews to maintain a Jewish identity while still adhering to notions of rationality. I already wrote about this phenomenom, and noted that perhaps it is antisemitism that keeps modern secular Jewry thriving today. (see here)

Anyway, certainly I agree with you concerning the stupid pressure Jewish parents place upon their kids! It's so counterproductive, it's not even funny! Let's say you have a kid SOLELY due to parental pressure - prior to being ready for the kid - who does THAT help??

Irina Tsukerman said...

LOL! Your marriage points really remind me of my mother, who attempts to hide the issue behind her "When will I have grandchildren question!" When I was dating, she made strong hints that *scared* my ex! (No, that's not why we broke up, but still!) : D Personally, I'm very conflicted on marriage. I could see why it can be a very good thing - IF it works. But the problem is, I see so many marriages fail that I'm not sure why it should work for ME of all people...

Kevin said...

In regards to marriage we live in a different age now, where our wants and needs change on an almost daily basis. Some people are influcened by the cult of the celeb (i hates it) and lifestyle quacks.

As for the Queen, she is extremely fierce about protecting the status of the King or Queen of England. She want's the institution to survive and to be honest it looks as though she's taken William aside and given him personal instruction for the time when he becomes King (theres been talk of the Queen passing charles over for William as King when she dies, though that would need a privy council thing).
And Diana is the perfect example of the excesses of western culture at it's worst. I'm not a big of fan of western culture as it has in recent years started to turn away from reason and logic when dealing with the world's problems. People are much more concerned with getting the latest phone or following a certain famous person's troubled personal life.

And i believe it's good to immerse ones self in ones culture and history. Even if you don't follow pictcular aspects of it. It gives you a sense of where you come from. However i'm a firm believer in the notion that we are all the same, but with different perceptions of reality which comes from the tribal and cultural nature of human kind.

Anonymous said...

I remember the day when Diana died. I was on a vacation on Channel Islands. My first thought was: "who cares?". My second thought was: "has the world gone crazy"? That was when I learnt of all the fuss and tears. I think most people who cried were crying for themselves - a lot of them could remember what they did on Diana's wedding day.

As for marriage, I've just seen statistics that
a) 60% of husbands are unfaithful
b) 40% of wives are unfaithful
c) 80% of all families have at least one unfaithful spouse.

I assume this statistics is worse for atheists.

Am I missing out here?

Thomas Forsyth said...

I guess since my mother is a yenta, but a shiksa yenta, I don't have to worry about that speech, especially since she has been emotionally castrating me since my father left and I was a convenient vent for her anger at her ex-husband and men in general.

My father told me he wants grandchildren, but only when I directly asked him. Granted, I am the last male Forsyth of Nydrie and Tailzertoun, but he doesn't care about that at all. My cousins do, but they are more in tune with their Scottish roots.

Anonymous said...

The one character not developed in the film was Diana herself. While she remains the poster girl of superficial popular culture, it was a very different Diana--behind the facades of glamour and pseudo-compassion--whom the Royal family knew personally.

Both Diana and her brother, Charles Spencer, suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder caused by their mother's abandoning them as young children.  A google search reveals that Diana is considered a case study in BPD by mental health professionals.

For Charles Spencer, BPD meant insatiable sexual promiscuity (his wife was divorcing him at the time of Diana's death).

For Diana, BPD meant intense insecurity and insatiable need for attention and affection which even the best husband could never fulfill. 

From a BPD perspective, it's clear that the Royal family did not cause her "problems". Rather, she brought her multiple issues into the marriage, and the Royal family was hapless to deal with them.

Her illness, untreated, sowed the seeds of her fast and unstable lifestyle, and sadly, her tragic fate.

Red Tulips said...


I agree with you re: BPD. Kitty Kelley's The Royals was most illuminating about this all!

Personally, as I said, I think Elizabeth II has gotten a bum rap, and is a far better queen than she is given credit for! I also think Diana was overhyped to death. (literally, sadly)

ratherdashing said...

I don't follow the Royal Family news since the tabloid readers have that covered. I figure 1776 saved Americans from that nonsense. Still, it was upsetting to hear of Diana's untimely death.

Marriage however is a topic that is dear to me since I was married at 19 years old. My girlfriend and I thought at the time "We are going to get married sometime; why wait?" There was family pressure to NOT get married at a young age. If one is emotionally mature enough and has chosen a mate that is 80% satisfactory, then get married and begin really enjoying life. It's not as big a deal as some make it out to be.