Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Hard to Find Telephone Numbers

Hard to Find 800 Numbers

I was sent the link above today by a friend. If you go to the site you'll likely find the 800 number for some business that you've gone crazy trying to find some sort of number for. I had this experience with Amazon; no matter how hard I looked I couldn't find a number to call to get an order straightened out and ... well, more likely you've been there and been through it. So here you go, the Hard to Find 800 Number directory, enjoy.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

A crazy week as we head into finals, students suddenly waking up to the fact that they're failing or borderline passing, and, well, such as it is. That said, if you have some time check out:

Tangled Bank #55


Carnival of the Vanities 193

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sissy-boy Male Leads?

The Magnificent Seven

Today my wife and I were watching The Magnificent Seven the 1960 movie starting Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallace, and a actors of lesser renown today, though of the names listed how "renown" they are today is directly related to how old the person is that you're talking to.

My wife raised an interesting point as we watched the documentary that came with the DVD. Apparently Anthony Quinn was supposed to play the lead role in the movie, but Yul Brenner was cast (the reasons for this are convoluted, and the feelings attached to it are well-represented in the fact that Quinn subsequently sued the direct and Brenner for $600K for being bumped from the part - he lost), and as Quinn's picture was shown she asked how many of today's leading men look like Quinn, or any of the men in The Magnificent Seven? We brainstormed this for a bit and came up with Russel Crowe, Bruce Willis, Mel Gibson, Sly Stone (though it's something of a question as how much of a leading man he'd be taken to be these days), Ahhhhhnold (here we're stuck with trying to figure out how much he can seriously be considered an actor vice a body/personality, which many would say is also a consideration for how well he's doing as governor of California), Denzel Washington, to some degree Antonio Banderas, and ... we sort of hit a wall at this point. As it turns out we could only come up with 6 possible actors to fill out, in what we saw as the appropriate demeanor and attitude, 7 roles in a classic western. Now that's not to say that there aren't many more actors than that who could meet the bill of particulars here, but they weren't coming to mind.

It seems that today's actors are more "pretty boys" than the testosterone laden creatures that seemed to dominate the screen way back when. We tried to think through some of today's "name" actors, coming up with Brad Pitt, Jude Law, Orlando Bloom, Colin Farrell, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, Keannu Reeves, Adrien Brody (doesn't ring a bell? Late of The Pianist and King Kong), and Hugh Grant, and however much we tried we really couldn't see them filling the shoes of any of the actors in The Magnificent Seven - well, maybe Tom Cruise could be the Horst Bucchholz role in the movie (Bucchholz, playing a Mexican wannabe gunslinger who hooks up with what would have otherwise been the Magnificent 6, was a German - an odd twist of casting that seemed to work.) What each of these male leads seemed to have in common is that they're, for lack of a better way of putting it, "pretty".

When you look at Yul Brenner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Spencer Tracey, John Garfield, Clark Gable, Marlon Brando, Humphrey Bogart, Anthony Quinn, Robert Mitchum, James Cagney, and the list goes on, these guys weren't pretty. They may have been handsome, and in the classic sense not all of them were, but what they all seemed to share was that they exuded some level of testosterone, a certain scent of maleness that, for the life of me, I can't detect to any degree with the likes of Jude Law or Keannu Reeves. Far too many male leads today just aren't especially "male" it seems to me. I'm not sure what this says, or even if I'm especially right, but my definite sense (and my wife's, though she thinks Johnny Depp definitely has "maleness" about him) is that many of today's male leads aren't selected for their jobs based on their being able to convey any obviously apparent maleness about them.

Well, anyway, just a thought to share. Much better that you check out The Magnificent Seven yourself, it truly is timeless, and while you're at it check out the movie it's based on, Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai , a movie that's great and classic entirely for reasons of its own.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Well, Gee, I'm an anti-Semite? I Just Never Knew ...


Some of you may recall my blog entry from May 20th, Israel and the U.S.. The crux of the post was about AIPAC and a paper written by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago's Department of Political Science and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, entitled "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy" which was published in the London Review of Books and then posted to Harvard's The Kennedy School of Government (KSG) web site as a working paper. Without re-hashing that blog post, let me hit on something I mention in it that spoke about the reaction to the paper, specifically that both men have been accused of being anti-Semites. Well as it turns out, unbeknownst to me (isn't that often the case, though?) I'm apparently one, too, thanks to my writing about the paper and, my biggest sin, agreeing with a number of the points laid out in it, or at least as explained by Michael Massing in the NYRB (see the original post to get where I'm coming from here.)

I wasn't aware of my anti-Semitism, and how it rang so loudly, until I received the following email from a person I'll leave as anonymous:

I have just finished reading the interview in Der Spiegel with the Iranian president, and was talking to someone about how important it is to have this interview presented in all our newspapers. Only by shining the light of day onto such darkness can the public begin to understand the true insanity of this man and the religious zealots that are in
charge of Iran at this time. From that page I went on to find your blog about Israel and the U.S. Let me inform you that only anti-Semitics and Neanderthals refer to the Jewish people as 'Jews'. From your unfortunate editorial I gather that you fall into both those categories. You share much in common with the Iranian president - how sad for both of you! Unfortunately, you state that your occupation is that of teacher. I can only conclude that it is a private school whose teachings are awash with conspiracy theories and the rantings of other madmen. We have been G-d's Chosen People for over 5,000 years, and
still there are those who do not understand the light and the beauty that our religion brings. Perhaps one day, an epiphany will occur and the truth will be before you. Until then, I think it is so important for you to keep stating your thoughts. Only by shining the light of day onto such darkness can the public begin to understand such true insanity ...

Oh, I'm sorry, I forgot to mention that I'm also a Neanderthal - thank God my daughter didn't inherit my extended, sloped eyebrows.

I love it, though, I mean really - I indulge in conspiracy theories, refer to members of the Jewish faith as Jews (I need to re-think what I'm saying when I call someone a Catholic, Muslim, Animist, or ... well, whatever, and that's just with reference to religion, I haven't begun to get my mind around the idea of the more subtle nuances of ethnicity), don't understand the truth or beauty of the Jewish faith (well, that comes with not being Jewish, and frankly with looking askance at any faith, especially when it compels adherents to write tripe like this), and ... well, you get the idea.

My response was as follows:

Thank you for your input.

People of Jewish descent are commonly referred to as Jews by many people, to include Jews, who are actually quite normal, fun loving, etc. Your own tendency
to prejudge and lecture people on the basis of knowing someone solely on the basis of a single blog entry is, to say the least, disconcerting. Mind you, the entry in question was one which clearly in no way reflects anti-Semitism, in fact indicates support for Israel, Jews as a whole, and a horror at the evil of the Holocaust, so your extreme conclusions regarding me personally puzzle me, but then, if I may indulge a facile leap of conclusion such as you have, people such as yourself find what they can in what they don't like, and attack as best they can.

My problem with Israel, which really was the point of the blog (i.e. not Jews), is flaunting the Holocaust with "Never again" while the subject of "Never again"
occurs all the time, all over the world. That, and the fact that Israel receives billions of dollars in U.S. aid and there's so little to show the American people for that money that should make them happy it was spent as it was. The first two were sort of side issues, the main thrust and concern for the blog entry was concern that American Jews, through lobbying efforts, are exerting the sort of influence on politicians here in the U.S. that should be as much of a concern to the average American as the influence of the NRA. When politicians support Israel at the cost of American interests and values, then there's a legitimate question to be raised regarding the appropriateness of this, and in the corruption of a political system so easily swayed by money.

You'll be not so happy to know that I teach at a very normal public school, one where conspiracy theories don't abound and which doesn't engage in hate rallies. Moreover, whatever my political or religious perspectives I keep them to myself
in the classroom - not because I have any reason to be ashamed or defensive of either, but because I don't teach either subject, and even if I did I can well enough differentiate between my personal perspective and what I should be teaching per the curriculum.

You're part of the problem Ms ____ - you're too busy making demons out of people you don't even know, and frankly God, who granted you your wonderful religion (amazing how many other faiths feel the same way ... God's a mysterious force in the universe, surely), couldn't possibly find this healthy, worthwhile, nor in keeping with his intentions.

You've had your say, I've had mine, I doubt any further correspondence is in order, so I'd appreciate the favor of your not responding.

Unfortunately this woman didn't respect my closing request but I shan't bore you with that.

Ok, I got that off of my chest, I feel a bit better for the catharsis, and that's good enough. Religious fanatics, with their defensiveness, G_d, and all the other garbage that comes with a single and simple minded certainty in the "rightness" of something they have no way of knowing is right, clearly comes in all flavors. My usual concern with such fanatics has been Christian here in this country, and Islamic in others, and thankfully this lady has evened the whole thing out for me and for this I'm grateful - well, maybe not quite grateful, but you get the point, I'm sure.