Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thoughts for Thanksgiving 2006

Boy do I have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.. First and foremost - Trophy Wife!! Then there is other stuff.. Like the new Match Game DVD which came out this week and is quite impossible to find,… and of course for FOX for canceling that absurd OJ Simpson “let me pat myself on the back for getting away with murder” special… and ... the focus of today’s column… 2 fellow Jewish men….… one who I appreciate.. The other - a man whose opponents I appreciate. Both men are nice Jewish boys.. Multi gazillionaires,…. keep Kosher, and try their best to have Shabbat meals with their family.

I’m very thankful for the first person - Sacha Baron Cohen - I’m still cracking up after seeing Borat. The movie has been out for about three weeks, and the more “lawsuits” I see being filed against him, the more I think he has outsmarted his audience with a totally scripted “spontaneous” movie, as it appears to me that these suits are all part of his shtick. USA Network should not have run that old Law and Order SVU rerun the same wknd of the film’s premiere since it looks like the actor playing the news anchor was the same guy playing the dirty cop - thus tipping me off that this movie may not quite be as ad libbed as one would think!

But even though I am still chuckling about the last shot at the rodeo some three weeks later, I still must admit that there may be some misguided fans who think the movie is Anti-Semitic. I agree that even though the actor playing Borat is Jewish, it doesn’t give him a free pass to make Anti-Semitic comments. However the context shows me that Cohen is not being a self hating Jew.. And don’t get me wrong.. we have a lot of those!. Back when Saturday Night Live was funny, Eddie Murphy did a memorable bit where he put on white makeup and watched people on a bus react negatively to the presence of other black people. That’s the same shtick Borat does - he makes bizarrely anti-semitic (or anti-gay) comments with a straight face and baits the other person into wholeheartedly agreeing with him, and expanding on the topic.. all this going on while the audience sits in shock amazed at how this kind of Jew hatred exists in 2006 America. . Its almost like getting the kind of confessions that Mike Wallace used to do in his 60 Minutes heyday… get the person comfortable and then manipulate him into speaking his mind, (And I see 60 Minutes has already removed Ed Bradley from the opening sequence!)

I only wonder who Cohen’s next undercover character is going to be… and what new confessions he will extract.

Speaking of people speaking their minds without using their brains first… can you believe Michael Richards n-word on stage meltdown last weekend? I’ve been watching the reaction to his comments that were sparked by hecklers who kept interrupting his stand up routine at a West Coast comedy club. (Keep in mind if you went to a persons place of work and kept heckling and interrupting while he was trying to do his job he would probably smack you in the head!) I had been looking to make a point in today’s column and the Richards situation is a perfect example..

With that in mind, note the reaction when Fox came to its senses and decided to cancel its 2 hour sweeps special interview with OJ Simpson. I am surprised that they also cancelled the publication of his book too. The Simpson case has been so racially polarizing… and I just don’t understand it. To this day, it still makes no sense why anyone white or black would support this guy who is guilty with a capitol G and only got off because a moronic jury just sat there blank faced and refused to even discuss the DNA evidence that pinned him to the scene of the crime.

And what is more offensive? Richards nasty comments at the hecklers, or Simpson sitting in front of a TV camera boasting about how he would have killed the mother of his children and this poor Ronald Goldman. Personally I find the Simpson commentary to be a nasty mean spirited attack on the Brown and Goldman families, yet many who still stand behind Simpson all these years later may be more offended by Richards, because he used the most offensive word in the black community. Personally, I find it strange when blacks call each other “N Word”.. but I think the c word is more offensive, except for the Cat song on the Triumph the Insult Dog CD. Do you ever see 2 women in an elevator saying.. “Hey C-word.. Whats happening sister?”…. “Oh nothing c-word.. How about you?”…

The 2nd person for today’s Thanksgiving column… is the reason why Edison and other towns are voting down eminent domain. . Now I am not singling out developer Jack Morris but he is a symbol of the problems with Eminent Domain in New Jersey. The Sunday Star Ledger did a whole profile about Mr. Morris that revealed some interesting tidbits. He graduated from Highland Park High School… just like the former pitcher Jack Morris whose 10 inning Game 7 shutout helped the Twins win the 1991 World Series. Morris the Pitcher’s school is in Minnesota and is called Highland Park SENIOR High School.. But nonetheless, it’s a nifty coincidence. He is also only 41... I always thought he was much older like in his 50s…. 41 is young.. I think that’s around my age.. but I forget.. I think I was born the same day and same year as Kyle Chandler from Friday Night Lights.

For those of you not aware of how horrible eminent domain is.. here is a quick lesson: You have a house.. A developer comes along and wants to build something there that will make him a lot of money… He donates a lot of money to politicians, next thing you know the town comes in to buy your home so it can be knocked down and then the developer gets his way. Sometimes these homes are knocked down for other alleged reasons,…. But there is almost always a more profitable project waiting in the wings. They recently tossed out a family from their Piscataway farm - now every time I drive by I see big signs erected on this farm about Open Space for Piscataway.. I wont tell you what the bookies have set for the over/under before Morris or one of his cronies get their mitts on that piece of land.

CSI Miami did a show about a crime victim who was using eminent domain to toss people out of their homes. But the developer in the episode was a bit of an extreme caricature of the real thing.. Almost like the villainous Mr. Potter from It’s A Wonderful Life, he would mock the residents as he offered them lowball offers for their homes. Developers don’t mock the residents when they make lowball offers… at least not to their faces.

Here are some tidbits from The Ledger article about Morris:

*Eats Kosher lunches prepared by his mom.

*Spends Shabbat meals with his family.

*He has donated a lot of charity to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and an organization that helps the mentally disabled.

* Seniors living in South Plainfield have been threatened with a lawsuit if they continue to oppose his new development that they feel is too close to gas lines… And when a person with deeper pockets threatens a lawsuit.. regular folks know they wont be able to afford the growing legal bills. By the way houses blow up when pipes are laid too close to gas lines.

*His old hometown of Highland Park is also being threatened by a lawsuit.. (can’t wait to see the tax bills needed to pay those legal fees)… He wants to build 22 houses in a wooded area there.. But the town wants to keep the woods just the way they are. Here come the Morris lawyers… this has been going on since 2001.

*The mysterious reappearance of PCB laced concrete from the now closed Edison Ford plant is now showing up on the grounds of other projects he is building.


*Franklin Township in Middlesex County was minding its own business…. Morris comes along and wants to build a Home Depot and a townhouse community. The town said nope, because there was other stuff on that land that Morris wanted them to take away through…. Drum roll… Eminent Domain. All subsequent Morris requests were shot down by the Mayor who was also campaigning for re-election. Well the next thing you know.. 125,000 dollars were donated to the Mayor’s opponent for his own advertising campaign …. The mayor eked out a win by 150 votes.. But the makeup of the board went from 5-4 to 7-2 giving Morris a little more leverage, not to mention a barrage of moving truck ads sent to any resident who has the audacity to live in a home on land coveted by Mr. Morris and his co-horts.

In the last paragraph of this fine fine article written by Matthew Futterman and Suleman Din, Morris says that if there was a pill he could take to stop buying and selling real estate he would take it. That pill might be the only motivator to get him to stop what he is doing. How about this for a motivation? Is this kind of lifestyle MORAL? How many people will not be at their homes this Thanksgiving, because they lost them due to eminent domain that tossed them out on their asses because a rich developer wanted to get another million dollar notch on his belt? Incidentally, this all started for Morris when he took his Bar Mitzvah money and bought his first property. How many guests from that fateful day in 1978 wished they had gotten him a fountain pen instead?

That’s why this Thanksgiving.. I am thankful for the happiness brought on by SBC… and the homes that are being saved by the people who fight Eminent Domain.

Now on to the picks….

We are now 66-88 after yet another 7-9 losing week!! For the Turkey Day Tripleheader lets go with the Lions (3 point home doggies against Miami), the evil Cowboys (11 home faves over Tampa Bay) and The Broncos.. (a pick 'em on the road over Kansas City) in the Thanksgiving Night game on The NFL Network which I don’t think I have on my cable system. I’ll probably be watching the Match Game DVD.. Assuming I can find it!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!! And if you want a profitable one.. don’t use my picks on Thursday!

1 comment:

Pumpstradamus said...

Eddie Murphy did a memorable bit where
he put on white makeup and watched people
on a bus react negatively to the presence
of other black people

Yesss! one of my favorite moments in that skit was when Eddie goes to a bank to apply for a loan, and the (white) bank president tells him, "We don't have to bother with these formalities, do we, Mr. White? Take what you want, pay us back anytime. Or don't... we don't care!" Indeed, Borat took the same approach in the movie, and also a few years ago with his song, "Throw the Jew down the well" that got a nice rousing sing-along from his redneck audience.

But shows like "Candid Camera" and "What's My Line" and "Saturday Night Live", and comedians like Andy Kaufman and Mel Brooks, and "musicians" like Milli Vanilli were visionaries ahead of their time -- they pulled this kind of shtick amusement years ago. What's surprising is how this kind of humor can actually succeed in 2006, because the American consuming public shouldn't be nearly as naive as we seem to be. We don't actually know who's watching us in the post-9/11 information and Photoshop manipulation age of reality television and the blogosphere and cell phone cameras and Monica Lewinsky and Dianna Abdala and Jayson Blair and and Homeland Security surveillance. Reality is tampered with and skewed all too often, so that we don't know what to believe anymore - even in the holiest of sacred places - the female womb - a woman could easily fake a pregnancy, just for the sake of getting attention. So taken to the extreme, lying, in a desperate attempt to gain popularity or attention, whatever the case may be, turns out to be not only manipulation, but a form of entertainment.

And Michael Richards' comments were indeed nasty -- the amateur video of his routine was painful to watch - even grotesque (much in the same way as obese naked wrestling men). Stand-up comics should expect to be heckled, and they should deal with it in a more graceful manner (Don Rickles' classic "hockey puck" insults to his audience spring to mind). But Richards is a professional comedian who admitted to playing characters onstage - much like an offensive Borat - and if a sincere Jerry Seinfeld hadn't intervened for an opportunity for Richards to publicly apologize, you'd have to wonder if this was just another "outrageous" kind of Borat publicity shtick.

Anyway, bottom line is, I think we should be thankful to artists and comedians who push the envelope - it's brilliant "comedy", because when our guard is down they expose the layers of prejudice underneath us all, and it's black and ugly, and we laugh in part because we're uncomfortable that we find the dishonesty in ourselves. My advice: be a mensch and don't take the First Amendment for granted, and don't spew all of your opinions, all over the place, all of the time, because you don't know how or when it's all going to come back and bite you in the tockhis, and you may someday end up completely disgusted with yourself when you see it all on network television (but when you do, call me and I'll file a First Amendment / invasion of privacy lawsuit for you....)