I always say you can tell what a person is truly like by their relationship with animals. I remember in 2008 reading that John McCain and his family have a menagerie of pets, including a couple of rescues. This did not surprise me any more than knowing that Barack Obama only has purebred dogs. That tells me a lot about both men.
Robin Williams' suicide is heartbreaking news, though I was one of many who found his comedy too manic to enjoy. I liked him in "Awakenings", though, and after his death I watched this clip of him with Koko the gorilla. He treats her with enormous respect and you can tell she knows he is good people. Since his death, one word that keeps coming up from people who knew him is "sweet". You can see that at work here. And it is such an utter shame that sensitivity and empathy got the better of him.
This is a wonderful clip of a TV show from 1967. Many things are discussed, but what was most interesting to me were the comments about Israel. Remember, this was the year of the Six Day War, so it was a hot topic. What was fascinating was that both Allen and Buckley were supporters of Israel in their comments, though politically they were extremely far apart. Which begs the question -- what in the hell has happened to the left that they are now the political persuasion responsible for so much of the anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic nonsense being repeated out there?
Back when Israel didn't stand a chance, leftists loved it. But once it made a success of itself militarily and in terms of having a free market, once it used hard work, armies and capitalism to make a glowing, thriving, pluralistic democracy out of a tiny smidgen of the Middle East, it became the focal point of an awful lot of hate from a political stripe that would normally -- given their alleged ideals -- be on its side. So is it all latent Jew-hating, or is there a factor of sort of a sophomoric anti-Western mindset involved? I suspect so, though I don't think the role of anti-Semitism can be dismissed. In fact, I suspect it is likely the larger factor of the two.
We see leftists apologizing for Hamas or Hezbollah, for Islamism in general, Islamism which is basically feudal, misogynist, homophobic, racist and theocratic. Further, much of the Middle East outside Israel has benefitted from huge oil wealth and yet is responsible for wealth disparities that would normally enrage a socialist. But Israel's detractors on the left are not screaming about that.
So many people I love are dying! My mom, my aunt, James Garner...
My mom loved James Garner, by the way, as did I. As should have any red-blooded, heterosexual woman. I once went on a date with a guy who looked like James Garner and he turned out to be a big jerk. But he looked like James Garner, so I went on a second date with him hoping I had been wrong in my assessment of his character. I hadn't been and that was that. Looking like James Garner does not mean you are James Garner.
He was in Rockford, of course, but also in so many wonderful movies: the Americanization of Emily, 36 Hours, Support your Local Sheriff and the Great Escape. Here's a cute scene from the latter, with another gentleman you might recognize (and one you might not). By the way, I wanted to use a clip from the Americanization of Emily, the great pro-American, anti-European speech -- a.k.a., the 'don't blame our Coca-Cola bottles' speech -- but I could not find it on youtube. If any of you can, do send it to me via the contact link above.
The targeting of the archduke thus exemplified one abiding strand in the logic of terrorist movements, namely that reformers and moderates are more to be feared than outright enemies and hardliners.
Clark was writing, of course, about Serbs in the early 20th century, but it could apply to what happened to Anwar Sadat, for example, and it could apply now to any extremist group in the headlines, such as, oh, Hamas, say. One weeps for any reasonable person surrounded by such barbarians.
This is rather unfair. I mean, ok, his English isn't great, or even good, but he's Italian, which means that what he lacks in skills he makes up for in showy-offy-ness. Seriously, though, I was touched when he mentioned his mother crying when the Berlin Wall fell, because I remember that mine did, as well. But mine did because she was terrified at the prospect of a reunited Germany. Given the odious winds of anti-Semitism spewing across Europe right now, of course, she needn't have worried about Germany going mad again. Plenty of other countries will do that in its place.
In 2003, I was smart enough to buy tickets (with a friend) to go and see Elaine Stritch's one woman show when she brought it to Toronto. At the time she was nearly 80. The evening was a collection of singing and stories about her raucous, hard-drinking life and love affairs. Here she is talking about Ben Gazzara (one of my big crushes) and Rock Hudson. Hilarious! If I weren't so shy, one day I think I could do a show like this about my love life (but without the singing, as a favour to the audience).
Stritch passed away a few days ago: may this wonderful woman rest in peace and if you have a moment, look online for 'Elaine Stritch: At Liberty' (the show of which I speak) and treat yourself to the whole thing.
The usual useful idiots are out there saying the usual nonsense. My favourite has to be the 'x number of Palestinians have died, but no Israelis have died!' It is not a crime to put time, money and effort into protecting one's citizens, and it actually is a crime to do what Hamas does -- use human shields and deliberately place weapons in densely populated civilian neighbourhoods. But I recognize that for some, there are never enough dead Jews. There is also the plain fact that Israel does everything it can to minimize civilian deaths.
I think Alan Dershowitz here is worth a read, and also Tom Doran. Above all, there is this piece by Jeffrey Goldberg. For my money, this is the key point, and one that has me going back to when I was in Gaza and Israel as a journalist in 2005, when Israel disengaged from the territory. I was able then to sit down and talk with some settlers who were being forced out and who were not happy about it, but who still hoped that the Palestinians would make a go at building a civil society and at putting down their weapons. So far, that hasn't happened.
In 2005, the Palestinians of Gaza, free from their Israeli occupiers, could have taken a lesson from the Kurds -- and from David Ben-Gurion, the principal Israeli state-builder -- and created the necessary infrastructure for eventual freedom. Gaza is centrally located between two large economies, those of Israel and Egypt. Europe is just across the Mediterranean. Gaza could have easily attracted untold billions in economic aid.
The Israelis did not impose a blockade on Gaza right away. That came later, when it became clear that Palestinian groups were considering using their newly liberated territory as a launching pad for attacks. In the days after withdrawal, the Israelis encouraged Gaza’s development. A group of American Jewish donors paid $14 million for 3,000 greenhouses left behind by expelled Jewish settlers and donated them to the Palestinian Authority. The greenhouses were soon looted and destroyed, serving, until today, as a perfect metaphor for Gaza’s wasted opportunity.
If Gaza had, despite all the difficulties, despite all the handicaps imposed on it by Israel and Egypt, taken practical steps toward creating the nucleus of a state, I believe Israel would have soon moved to evacuate large sections of the West Bank as well. But what Hamas wants most is not a state in a part of Palestine. What it wants is the elimination of Israel. It will not achieve the latter, and it is actively thwarting the former.
Remember this? Well, I ran into someone from my old Italian class with the 'Io sono scrittrice' lady in it and with the people who kept speaking English in it, and what did this person say to me? And I mean, he said this without prompting, without my mentioning the class in question or the people in question. He said, 'You were the smartest person in that class'.
Oh yeah. Fat lot of good it did me.
Of course, I don't suppose it was exactly saying much either. But I'll take it.
Paul Mazursky died last week. He directed Harry and Tonto, which for my money is one of the best American movies. I blogged about it over two years ago and you can read what I wrote and see a clip from the movie here. It seems to me that if you can create one work of art like that and leave it behind, you've done your bit on this planet. Mazursky made other films that I know some found interesting, but none impress me like Harry and Tonto, a man and his cat.
Louis Zamperini died, as well. He was the subject of this book, which I highly recommend. Some of us have very little happen to us, some of us have gothic lives. Zamperini was one of the latter. An Olympian, a war hero, a man who was lost at sea for seven weeks in a raft and a man who was tortured by the Japanese while in a POW camp...and more. What sets him even more apart from the rest of us was that after the war he forgave his captors, meeting as many of them as would agree to meet with him. Some wouldn't. The Japanese culture at the time would not allow for anything that would bring 'shame' to someone -- admitting a wrong, meeting with a conqueror (i.e., a former soldier of the army that defeated you) and so forth. But the ones who met him, I believe, must have found great peace. So wonderful.
We said goodbye to my aunt today -- a beautiful service, unpretentious and sweet and real. My cousin did a wonderful job and talked about how my aunt viewed everything as an adventure. The only thing missing was some Elvis music, as my aunt was crazy for him.
I love this guy. He is one of the street cats for whom I help provide care and he always reminds me of the Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz. Whenever I visit with him, I half expect him to burst into 'If I Were King of the Forest'. Truly a noble beast.