Saturday, September 30, 2006

You have GOT to be kidding me

WorldNetDaily, I hate you very much.

A new study is confirming that if you want to make money in the movie business, get out your Bible and read the values it teaches.

No, see, if you're just exploiting those values to get gullible people to spend money to see the movies... oh never mind.

...Hollywood movies with strong Christian worldviews make two to seven times as much money as those flicks with explicit sex and nudity.

And we all know that C.W.movies have nothing else in them that would make anyone watch them, right? Say, talking vegetables or lions? You make it sound like Narnia was a 2-hour Billy Graham revival tape.

The assessment looked at nearly 2,700 of the top movies at the box office from 1996 through 2005, and said while pundits and advertisers like to believe that sex and nudity sells, nothing could be further from the truth.

"For example, in 2005, movies with a very strong Christian worldview, such as 'The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,' averaged nearly $65 million at the box office, but movies with extreme, explicit sex and nudity, such as 'Sin City,' and 'Inside Deep Throat,' only averaged $11.2 million or $11.7 million," the report said.

Narnia was also marketted to children. How much does the average Disney movie make? Am I just missing all the Christ imagery in "Aladdin" and "Shrek"?

"The vast majority of moviegoers, which includes the 141 million Americans who go to church every week, prefer positive Christian movies with morally uplifting content," the report said.
"If Hollywood executives and filmmakers want to make more money at the box office, they should make more movies that reflect a very strong Christian worldview with very strong moral values," the study said.

Which is how we got THIS bit of spine-tingling news.

So let's recap- Christians are now saying that they WANT Hollywood to sell their religion back to them in dumbed-down entertainment. Yeah. I wonder how long that'll last. Any bets that we'll still be hearing about Hollywood "co-opting" and "overcommericalizing" Christianity next 'holiday season'? Anyone?


I've never done it. I've never seen anyone do it. The thought of someone swinging a chicken over their head and then slaughtering it seems kind of wrong to me (though also a little funny, in a cartoony-kind-of-way).

So I'm kind of conflicted- on the one hand, part of me was cheering DovBear's rant about the "shlugging masses" a few days ago. Then I read this on Ynet- Reform Rabbis saying that doing kapporos is mean and verging on the un-Jewish, and my first thought was, "shut up, Rabbi. Get back in your yurt and pass the free-trade guacamole". I wonder if this is an example of how criticisms from within a tradition or community are somehow seen as having more validity? It's interesting; DovBear doesn't seem to say anything in his post that is substantially different than these Reform rabbis (in fact he actually goes farther, implying the practitioners are stupid and potentially engaging in idol worship), yet I only have the gut-reaction to the Reform guys. Maybe I'm more of a denomo-snob than I thought. (Or maybe this issue just plays more into the common Reform stereotypes.) Maybe it's the fact that DB is more angry and less whiny?

In principle, I support people's right to do what they want as part of their religion, but there's the sticky issue of "as long as it doesn't harm anyone else". This ritual certainly harms the chickens, but considering that they'd be slaughtered anyway (except without their complimentary 'last roller-coaster-ride'), I just don't know how to look at this one. And you also get into the problems of where the border for animal rights should lie.

Tricky, very tricky.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Haredi man dies, comes back as a dog (or so his neighbors say)

This dog looks confused. Or, you know, reincarnated.

Wait a minute, I see a real problem here- if people can come back as animals, who's to say the Messiah (Schneerson or not, take your pick) hasn't been hanging around here for a while and we just haven't noticed! Wait, did that pigeon just look at me funny?

Moschiach! Come back! I'll feed you breadcrumbs!

Hat-tip: Failed Messiah.

Path to 9/11 controversy continues

Is the Great-Uncle Milt in your life giving you grief because you still don't want to watch "Road to 9/11" on his TiVo? Americablog has a list of some of the more eggregious bits:





and More

And don't forget the Internet's favorite lady of the night.

Americablog is also pushing for various people defamed in the film (like American Airlines, whose crime was that its name sounds "too familiar" to U.S. Airways, which is the airline company that actually let Mohammed Atta onto the plane in the scene) to sue Disney/ABC. Not sure how I feel about this, but it's all very interesting.

Speaking of Evangelicals...

Is this a good thing? Is the Evangelical movement really likely to change, at least in how it gets its message across? Or is it more likely that this will be used as a PR move to help encourage more people to join the movement and to try to blunt criticism? I for one know that it's sure more difficult to go after Rick Warren than Jerry Falwell.

What a world.

Passion, p.2? The son of the Trinity Broadcast Network's founders is making a movie about the Book of Esther. Well, sort of about the Book of Esther. Don't get me wrong, creative lisense is a wonderful thing (remind me to tell you sometime about my idea for a comic book based on the Book of Judges), but am I the only one who hears something like this and gets a little, I don't know, alarmed?

Crouch concluded his talk by plugging his audience’s power to shape the destiny of his newest movie. “I can’t get New Yorkers to see this film,” he said, “but you can.”... Crouch, 44, is the CEO of Gener8Xion Entertainment Inc., a Los Angeles-based production company that creates what he calls “value-based” — code for Christian content — films. His latest project, “One Night With The King,” features Esther, the Jewish queen of Persia who saved her people from annihilation, as its heroine and is set for nationwide release October 13.

... “It’s Christian money paying for a Jewish film,” he added.

Taking the opposite tack as Gibson, Crouch — who may have learned a lesson or two from the icy reception in Jewish circles to “The Passion of the Christ” — is going out of his way to court Jewish support for his film in advance of its release. Screenings for rabbis and leaders of Jewish organizations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are in the planning stages, according to Juda Engelmayer, a public relations executive with strong ties to the Jewish community who is in charge of organizing the previews. A screening before the Knesset, which Lapin facilitated, had to be canceled following the outbreak of the war with Hezbollah, Crouch said.

That's funny, I didn't know "Knesset" meant "multiplex." Thanks, Rav. But wait, Lapin says it's kosher, right? So what's the problem? Oh yeah, Lapin's a crackpot.

Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a close ally of Christian conservative leaders and one of the most vocal Jewish defenders of “The Passion of the Christ,” has also lent his support. The debate surrounding Gibson’s movie, which drew fierce criticism from some Jewish communal leaders and commentators, is not something Crouch or his film’s advocates would like to repeat, they said.

...During the editing process, Crouch turned to Lapin — whose defense of Gibson and attacks on Jewish communal leaders have made him a controversial figure in the broader Jewish community — for guidance on biblical accuracy. Lapin, who in recent years was the host of a television program for TBN, said that while fictional elements that don’t appear in the Book of Esther are woven throughout the film, as they are in “Haddassah: One Night With the King,” the novel by Tommy Tenney on which the script is based, it is done “sensitively in a way that no Jew can take offense.”

Translation: if you're offended, you're a whiny "oversensitive" type. Probably even a PC-er, you dirty pinko, you. How dare you impede the great art being done here? You're probably the same type of "Biblical-accuracy" Nazi that yelled at Mel for having Jewish Temple guards toss Hay-seuss off a bridge. It was totally in the Bible- in his MIND! Duh! (See Book of Mel, chapter 5: the Deadening, now with Jews!)

Back to Lapin:

“This is the only blip on the radar screen of history where Christians are making a dramatization of a book of the Bible that is totally respectful,” said Lapin, calling the film “historical.”

Hey Rav, first, dramatizations and historical generally don't jive together too well. Also, how are you an authority on this? I must have missed the spot on your wall that mentions your "Near-Eastern archaeologist/cultural anthropologist" degree (though I'm sure if you spend some time on it, you'll be able to come up with a nifty template in Photoshop). Reading the Book of Esther really doesn't give you the qualifications to determine whether of not a given depiction of Esther's world is "historical", particularly since it, you know, happens in PERSIA.

And again, "respectful" is a really tricky term. Mel thought he was being respectful (and you agreed with him) when he said "we all killed Christ". Sorry, that's not my idea of respectful, we simply have to agree to disagree there. But you don't get to say, "Yes, on the basis of me being a rabbi (rabbis get quizzed on ancient Persian history all the time, as I'm sure my educated readers know), I'm positive that my OLD BOSS' kid has done a fine job on his dinky movie. Anyone who says otherwise is a self-hating Jew, or even better, a Christian-hating liberal."

Still, Lapin acknowledged that some would undoubtedly use the film as a tool for proselytizing Jews.


But on the whole, he praised the movie’s producers and the evangelical population in the United States for their friendship with the Jewish people. “Exactly the same people who made and support this movie are the same people keeping Bush’s toes to the fire on his support of Israel.”

Because that's totally topical. Has your check come yet, Danny-boy? Well, if the Rav's on board, I guess this film must be good for the Jews. After all, he's never steered us wrong before.

The ADL comment is interesting, too:

Eric Greenberg, associate director for interfaith affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, said he had not seen the film, but expressed skepticism that a movie based on a novel by a Christian pastor could accurately portray the story from a traditional Jewish perspective. Greenberg said that the film should not be presented as “either historical or biblical.”

It's a great point, but it also makes me wonder if an evangelical could ever make a movie about a Jewish theme (or character, or story) that I or many other Jews would accept. I think it would ultimately depend on how willing they were to sublimate their own POV (which would quite likely be heavily informed by their belief system and, in particular, specific interpretations of a given narrative that they were taught as children or adults) to mainline Jewish ones.


-Effi Eitam decided he'd rather be more like Meir Kahane than Rav Kook. But the Forward's J.J. Goldberg suggests that Eitam's suggestion that Israel kick out its Arab citizens has more to do with fear of "giving up the 40-year-old dream" of the settlements than anything else. What's really interesting is the reaction (or non-reaction) of Eitam's Religious Zionist peers. "Eitam? Who? Isn't that a kind of pancake?"

-Turns out Senator George "Macaca" Allen is half-Jewish. Even better, he's also black (well, Sephardic. Half-there.)! But, you know, he doesn't want to talk about that, because for him, politics is supposed to be about the music issues:

“To be getting into what religion my mother is, I don’t think is relevant,” Allen responded angrily. “Why is that relevant – my religion, Jim’s religion or the religious beliefs of anyone out there?”
...“ We in the Allen household were simply taught that what matters is a person’s character, integrity, effort, and performance – not race, gender, ethnicity or religion. And so whenever we would ask my mother through the years about our family background on her side, the answer always was, ‘Who cares about that?’"

Yeah, you Jewbag reporters, have some common decency! Wait, no, it's ok, see, he's Jewish, so it's really just an inside joke!

I wonder if he'll find out he's Indian next?

-The Jewish Journal has a fun article about Jewish pirates. Not bad, but we all know the REALLY cool black sheep are Jewish ninjas (and the occaisonal Jewish clown). Come on, Kaifeng was, like, right next door! Also, enough about the Sephardim already. BO-ring!

- The whole "90% of Americans" believe in God thing is stupid and inaccurate. Tell all your idiot friends, neighbors and relatives (hi, Uncle Milt!) to stop referencing it in order to justify burning a Christmas tree on your front lawn. You know the ones.

[A new study] went further by asking respondents what sort of God they believed in. The results put the perennial debate over the role of religion in public life in a new light.

The survey identifies four conceptions of God, which it labels A, B, C and D.

In your face, F! That's right, Fafnir, Norse God of arm-wrestling, you're officially out of the running. But thanks for coming out.

The WSJ has more on this. (Hat-tip: Conservadox.)

-Lastly, if you're like me, you've probably heard a few Hitler (or Holocaust-era) jokes in your time. (I can list five right off the top of my head- the bicycle-riders, the fake tiger, the man who rescues Hitler from a car crash, the left-handed can-opener, the Jewish boy in a classroom, and the Jew who wanted to change his name. Come to think of it, that's six.) Anyway, there's a new book out about Nazi-era humor (no, not NAZI humor, stupid, that would be different and cater to a much different audience). It looks pretty interesting- and it also offers some fascinating insight into the "Hitler hypnotized the Germans" theory that's so often trotted around. Apparently, during the middle-years of the war, a fair amount of the population was already starting to think twice about "der Mustache"- and one of the safe(er) ways of spreading this discontent was through humor. Worth a look.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Middle Ground, I'm sure it's around here somewhere.

So, confidentiality and the war on terror. I get it. Some things need to stay classified. But there needs to be a way of determining and enforcing that secrets are actually, you know, secret-worthy, and not just people in the govt or armed forces trying to cover their asses. Cause, you know, that's not cool and stuff.

Case in point: Mike Spann. It's two months shy of five years since Spann was killed, and the CIA
still won't tell his parents how he died. Now, I'll fully admit to not having worked for "the Agency". I don't even watch it on TV. So it's possible there's something here I'm missing. But I don't see how, half a decade after the revolt at Mazar-e-Sharif, there could be that much sensitive info for evildoers to exploit.

And then there's this secret prison thing. Again, I get the idea- but this really doesn't sit well with me. First of all, I don't see why the prisons had to be secret- it made no practical difference. Khalid Sheikh Omar was still sitting in a cell.

There's the torture stuff- not cool. Yes, I am glad we are not pulling body parts off, but waterboarding is right on the line of acceptability, and I'm not sure that it isn't crossing the line,
either. Yes, I realize these are bad people. Awful. Evil. And we're getting information that's saving lives. But... damn. I just don't know.

Tie the CIA's hands? No. Use all means at our disposal? I can't make that call. But politicians and agency vets should be looking at this information and making clear-cut distinctions on what is and isn't permissable. Should the US follow international law? What happens if we don't? These are important questions and conversations to have, but we aren't talking about them, instead we're getting into mudslinging bullshit all over again.

And please- stop the BS doublespeak. People supporting these programs should at least have the balls to call it by its name- sorry Mr. O'Reilly, but yes, waterboarding is torture,
keeping someone up for however long without sleep is torture, too. It doesn't matter if you don't think it counts as torture, it meets the legal definition of it. (You also don't think certain things count as sexual harassment *cough*) It's immaterial. This is not a matter of opinion, but of law. Now, if we want to talk about breaking the law, that's one thing, but we have to at least start by acknowledging what the hell we're doing in the first place. Covering up the real discussion with crap like "Coerced interrogation" and "Persuasive force" is counterproductive. Call it what it is. Torture. No, it's not a nice word, but if you're going to advocate using it, at least have the honesty to call it what it is.

Oh Lazer, we can always count on you...

For a laugh. Or eighteen.

The dear rabbi (who obviously means well) has set his sights on yet another... um... interesting, target: World of Warcraft. Before we start, let me just state that I had a friend drop out of school because of WoW, so I'm well aware of its effects.

That said... this is stupid.


expressly forbidding the use of a computer for anything other than commerce or word processing, and specifically prohibiting the use of a computer for games and movies by adults and children alike. In addition to their sources in the Gemorra and Rishonim, they write: "Allowing a child to absorb himself in computer games turns his mind from Torah and his heart to idleness… this creates a drastic setback in a child's spirituality."
Hey, what about fun Christian games like Saints of Virtue? Just because the rabbis don't KNOW about games that combine spirituality with... um... computers, doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You know, like how the Talmud says lice come from sweat. Same thing.

As far as movies go, the Rabbeim cite Shulchan Oruch O.H. 307:15 that prohibits "war books" (adventure stories) because of tomfoolery
So, no book of Judges? What about the upteenth story about how the Baal Shem Tov defeated the Wolfman, the Mummy and Shabbetai Zvi, or how Reb Nachman convinced a prince that he was really a reverse-vampire rooster trapped in the body of a moron? Or Joseph Karo and his daemon? Or Nachmanides winning a disputation with the Inquisition, or Rambam doing pretty much anything? Hey Lazer, what about this, or this? Berel Wein says they're kosher. Does that make him a heretic?

But don't trust the rabbis, let's go to Rav Lazer's own favorite kind of compelling evidence- anecdotal!

In every single case I ever handled of a boy or a girl that went off track, the parents were viewers of DVDs and/or the kids owned computer-game or watched DVDs themselves.

Hey, Rav, I have bad news for you- you know that whole "Haskalah" thing? It happened before computers. Before TV, even. See, it turns out people have this thing called a voicebox... well, never mind. Besides, what about the rate of people who return to Judaism from secular lifestyles (or, God forbid, are even raised secular) who are raised in homes with computers and DVDs? The way you're talking, you'd think only Amish kids became Baal Teshuvahs.

Computer games and DVDs kill time and murder brain development.

Arguable. It depends on the game, the gamer, and how they play, as well as a whole list of other things. You can make almost any activity into a brain-suck if you try hard enough. Even studying Torah. Just ask the kollel-prisoners in Israel, haredi men who could care less about learning Talmud and who are stuck there because they don't have job skills and don't want to serve in the army.

A passive brain – like a passive body – becomes flabby and lazy.

Ah yes, I forgot about the world famous "Shlomo's Gym", of Bnei Brak. Tell them the Vilna Gaon sent you (in a dream, of course) and get half-off your first weight-training session.

You can't learn Gemorra with a flabby and lazy mind, so if your child is a computer game or DVD freak, forget about sending him to a Yeshiva; it's a miracle if he or she will remain Shomer Shabbos. Computer games/DVDs and Torah simply don't mix.
You know, Lazer, this would be a lot easier to swallow if your site didn't have this nice sidebar that hawked EVERY single CD you've ever accidentally touched. As a tech-savvy person, presumably you understand that the media itself is not the problem, it is how it is used. Any hobby can become an addiction, any activity can potentially become a time-suck. (And yes, opinions on exactly what constitutes a time suck can be relative.)

I'd post more on Lazer's actual WoW post, but having read his newest quiz, feel I should really go to bed. (Will next week's quiz will be "Is your beard out of control? How untrimmed is too untrimmed?" Oh, the joys of a post-Cosmo magazine world.)

More tomorrow.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Nothing's Sacred (or so I'm told)

Apologies for the slow-down in postings- it's been a busy few weeks. But eventually something would get my goat enough to post. And don't worry, this one isn't about crap in Israel. No, lucky me, I found bullcrap right in my good ol' USA.

9/11 5 years after. I hate it. I hate every news network splashing a graphic showing a plane hitting a tower. I hate them playing that fucking clip over and over again. I hate the nonstop American flag montages. I know what all these things look like, thank you.

I hate that we still don't have Bin Laden, that Iraq is still a shithole, that Afghanistan is verging ever further out of control, that Iran and North Korea are tooting their war horns, that Putin is engaging in fairly shady-dealings over in Russia, that we're all still driving gas-guzzlers, praising the "moderate Saudis" and that the best Bush and his people can come up with is "people who disagree with me might have maybe liked Hitler, maybe."

I hate that the response to a fraudulent and defamatory movie about 9/11 and the Clinton Administration is to point to that dumb-ass Reagan movie incident. I hate that the collapse of Air America is being used as evidence to suggest that somehow liberalism is an unsuccessful ideology- (half the country voted Democrat in the past two Presidential elections, I don't think Air America going the way of the DoDo really reflects that Democrats are suddenly "waking up").

Am I ashamed of my country? No. But I am saddened by the fact that the political discourse is such that the only way to address questions about the War on Terror (is Iraq a success? Will it be? Is torture justified? Is what we're doing torture? Should US troops be able to be tried for war crimes?), Patriotism, (can you criticize the President? Can you criticize the administration? Can you criticize his opponents? What can you say? What can't you say? Who can you call and not call Hitler? What if you simply think the US flag is ugly?), and basic issues of common sense, accurate research, issues of objectivity, and just plain decency in the media, government, and general society in America today, are being reduced to a zero-sum game.

I don't want to call anybody Hitler. I don't want to pass problems around like the proverbial "doobie". I want to help fix them. I want to have a conversation, understand the other side... and, God forbid, fix something. That's all.

More to come when I have time.

(And no, this doesn't mean I won't still be fisking people. I just might be a little more gentle about it. And stop calling people things like "Chamberlain" or "Goebells-esque".)

Hey, now there's an idea!

I wonder if this would work in the Middle East, too?